Friday, December 29, 2006

Give Me Some Snow!

I find myself at the moment in southern Ontario hoping for snow - any snow. I appreciate the extra daylight but really wish we had snow here at the moment. I would dearly love to borrow the neighbour's skidoos and go for a spin. It seems odd to see two nice looking snowmobiles up on a trailer in a driveway surrounding by nothing but dead brown grass in late December.

My flight home was pretty uneventful other than arriving late into Ottawa so that I missed my train to Belleville. So I ended up spending an unscheduled night in our nation's capital. No worries though. I'm sure if this would have happened to me 3-4 years ago I would have been all stressed out about it. Now, I just accept it as a matter of course. My flight landed in Pond Inlet on the way to Iqaluit so I got to see a bit of that community, if only from the airport. I didn't really see that much with the pitch black but it is a treat to travel to communities other than Iqaluit if only for a stop-over.

I've had an enjoyable week relaxing with family, shopping and trying not to laugh at my fellow Ontarians as they bundle up and try not to freeze with the cold weather here. -10C passes for cold weather in Ontario at the moment. Pfft.......wimps!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Finishing Up

Today was our last school day before Christmas break. I spent the morning tidying up the classroom, doing a bit of reading for my grade 11 course and meeting with students about exam results and final marks. ( I actually had a grade 10 student, a very bright girl, almost ace her exam. It looked like she second-guessed herself a few times but even so I have to say I was very impressed with the resulting score.)

We had our Christmas concert last night which went over quite well. The grade 9's recruited me to prove a few sound effects on my trumpet during their performance - Super Sammu Saves Christmas. My playing notwithstanding (I haven't picked up my horn in months), their performance was definitely the audience favorite.

I also got the good news today that we have a 6th graduate. He had been waiting for transcripts with his departmental exam mark from a course he had taken from me back in the spring. For whatever reason, the results were very slow in coming back. However, he nailed the course and has been accepted into the IT program at Nunavut Arctic College in Iqaluit this coming January. I felt bad for him that he had to wait so god-awful long but needless to say I couldn't be happier for him now.

Our mean Santa, was into the school this afternoon to hand out Christmas presents to the students (gift certificates for high school students) and it was a treat to see all the smiling little faces. Then it was time for goodbyes and well wishes. A nice way to finish off the first half of our school year.

My flight looks good for leaving on Friday so I will be down in a milder-than-normal Ontario for a couple weeks. Barring any last posts until then, my blog will be quiet for a couple weeks. Taima.

Quviasukgitti Quviasukvingmi!

Monday, December 18, 2006


Well, another year older, another year wiser (yesterday's post not-withstanding of course). What better way to mark your 32nd birthday than with a blizzard? Well, not really a full blizzard. The winds were up to maybe 20km/h but it was enough to create a lot of blowing snow and produce a windchill around -45C. Not exactly blizzard conditions, and I've seen much worse, but certainly the closest I've seen to a blizzard in the time I've been here in Arctic Bay.

At any rate, it was enough to close the school for the afternoon. Hopefully things calm down so we can get the rest of the high school exams finished up, not to mention the school Christmas concert.

So it was a quiet day at home, though I'm already looking forward to the new semester. My afternoons are year-long courses and my mornings are semesterized so in terms of my teaching schedule, there won't be any drastic changes in January. Thankfully, new high school social studies courses are being phased in starting next year (or at least that's what they say). I know I couldn't keep teaching the same courses for 20 years.

I did traipse down to the store just to prove to myself that I can still handle arctic weather. We had a pretty mild fall and I find myself spending more time indoors this time of year than I would like. It is now pretty much dark all the time so I sometimes feel as if I'm working one loooong night shift. I don't really mind it too much. It helps if you can keep busy so you don't think about it.

Southern readers may find this funny but I did manage to overdress for the -45C weather outside. Mom would want me to wear a scarf in this weather and I did but I found on my return trip from the store that I actually needed that strong wind to help me cool down.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

My Genius Move (of the year)

I had planned to write up a great post on how I had survived the past 3 and a half days with no water, carefully rationing out the 6 liters I had saved up in the fridge for emergency situations....stoically going without a shower. Alas, it turns out the ordeal was completely of my own making.

I ran out of water Wednesday morning (thankfully right at the end of my morning shower!) I couldn't get any water out of the taps in my sink which told me that my sewage tank was also full. I had to wait until after I got home from work Wednesday (after soccer practice) to call for a sewage truck so that my water would start running again.

When I didn't see the sewage truck show up Wednesday I figured I would be okay going without a shower the next morning (its happened to me before). I simply called for a sewage truck when I got to the school. When I got home that evening and still no water I began to get a little nervous. I called for a truck again that evening and again in the morning.

Friday came and still I was getting no water. Now I began to sweat things out a bit as laundry and dishes were starting to pile up. I called again yesterday and nervously paced the house waiting. Normally, I haven't had to wait this long so I assumed that possibly there was a problem with the trucks. The temperature has been steadily dipping here which can be murder on engine parts.

Anyhow, I was digging around in my back room yesterday looking for a Mozart CD when I thought I heard a truck close to the house. At first I just ignored it as I had had several false alarms. However after a couple minutes I heard the water going in my tub. What in the $%#@! That was wierd.

It only took me a few seconds for me to realize that I had forgot to turn off the taps in the tub Wednesday morning so when I was at work the sewage truck came and pumped me out which of course caused the water to start flowing again....into the tub and down the drain, filling up the sewage tank so that when I would get home the tank would be full again. I cringe at how much water was used up in this manner the past 3 days. I believe the water tank holds 250 gallons if I'm not mistaken so if the sewage truck did show up each time I called for it....that's.....oops.

At any rate, I had a good chuckle over it and a good shower afterwards. And I double checked to make sure the taps really were off a couple times before heading to bed last night.

Friday, December 15, 2006


Things are now in winding down mode. I had my first exam today (or rather my students did) for my grade 11 socials course and I was quite pleased with the results. The school gym will be set up over the weekend for the yearly Christmas games and dances over the break. As for myself, I plan to fly back to my parents' in Ontario (weather permitting of course).

Our staff, along with DEA members and some community elders, held a potluck dinner at the school this evening. It was a good opportunity to unwind, eat a good meal and not have to "talk shop". Even though we are a small community I find that with my schedule I can sometimes go a few days and manage not to bump into staff members during the course of my day. This is particularly true with our primary teachers. Our school is basically one long, winding corridor and, being a high school teacher, my class is at the far end of the school from the younger grades. In addition to some good banter, I also discovered couscous, which I had heard of but never tried and I discovered I liked it.

To finish off the evening, we held a gift exchange. Every year the staff has a "Secret Santa" gift exchange. I was given 3 guesses to figure out who had drawn my name and like last year, I failed miserably. I was quite thrilled though with a gift of traditional sealskin mitts (pualuuk). They were given to me by our Kindergarten teacher and I took a bit of good-natured ribbing about how they were the perfect gift for me because I'm single and can't sew to save my life and need to stay warm over a long, cold winter.

Anyhow, I must say I was very happy to have them. They fit perfectly and were greatly appreciated during the walk home. Pualuuk are infinitely better than anything I've ever purchased in any store - even places that specialize in cold weather gear. The forecasted high for Sunday is around -36C so what a opportune time to test them out.

Qujannamiik Abby! The mitts are awesome!

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Qujannamiik Anonymous

As a follow-up to yesterday's post, I'd like to thank my anonymous comment poster for correcting my Inuktitut. I'm usually hesitant to write in Inuktitut though I know that with short phrases I'm usually pretty close 9 times out of ten. Turns out this time I was only off by a couple letters.

Inuktitut spelling has been butchered over the years by many a southerner so I am quite conscious of incorrect spellings (must be the teacher in me). However, I do like to use the language if and when I am able to. I hope that in some small way I can be part of the solution rather than perpetuating past errors. I do find that the more I use it, the more people help you out and correct you. So thank you anonymous. I did re-visit yesterday's post and corect my errors.

I'm hoping to take a week of Inuktitut language instruction this coming March and I was racking my brain on what I wanted to work on. So now I know I can add spelling to my list!

Friday, December 08, 2006

Graduation 2006

Inuujaq School held its graduation ceremonies tonight. It was a bit later in the year than usual due to some screw ups with getting the correct courses and marks on transcripts. Thankfully our grads are more on the ball than government bureaucrats and it was an inspiring evening. Students here face so many obstacles when it comes to completing high school and it is wonderful to see their successes.

We had 5 graduates this year......2 more than last year. Unfortunately, a couple of them couldn't make the ceremony. But they had great reasons. One is now working down in Iqaluit and a second is finishing up her first semester at Brandon University in Manitoba, taking psychology and sociology.

I was privileged to have taught 4 of them over the past year and a half. The school staff and indeed the entire community of Arctic Bay is very proud of each of them. Upigivassi Grads of 2006!! Ikpiarjurmiut quviasukpunga!! Congratulations Grads of 2006!! The people of Arctic Bay are very happy for you!! (Hope I spelled that right).

Thursday, December 07, 2006

I've Been Published

My little blog has certainly taken me in some interesting directions. I've had it in mind for some time to write a book about my experiences in the North, many years after retirement. I've only been in Nunavut 4 years so I figured it would take awhile to build up enough interesting tales to warrant a book. I certainly didn't expect to see anything from my keyboard in print anytime soon. However, as I've come to learn, life can take you in all sorts of unexpected directions.

It began a few weeks back when I received a comment on a post from the editor of a magazine out of Nanaimo, BC. The magazine is entitled "Dialogue"." It features independent submissions on social and political issues from across the spectrum and across the country. The editor asked me if I might be interested in submitting a story or two since they received few submissions from the North.

I jumped at the opportunity, dashed some stuff off along with a couple photos and mailed it off. I had almost forgotten about it (graduation ceremonies are this Friday and semester exams are just around the corner) when an issue arrived in the mail today. With my memory jarred, I flipped through it eagerly to discover that they had run my story. I was pleased to see the pictures had turned out so well, especially the colour shot on the inside cover.

I will try to get my submission on my blog in a future post. My computer has been a bit cantankerous lately. The only drawback is that I was referred to as Ms. Darcy Steele (darn my sexually ambiguous name!) as you can see in the picture below.

I never really fancied myself a writer so I was quite pleased and flattered they ran the story. At any rate, I'm toying with the idea of submitting another story. "Dialogue" publishes 6 times a year so I have time to hopefully come with another decent story.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Dark Sky

Since I have no particularly original or insightful thoughts in my head at the moment, here are couple pictures of the arctic sky at about 1pm this afternoon. They turned out a bit on the dark side. We still get a decent amount of twilight between 11am and 1pm.