Sunday, April 30, 2006

Two Frying Pans

We don't usually experience foul winter weather here in Arctic Bay. As the community is surrounded on three sides by some rather large hills, we are generally spared the worst of winter's furies. Last evening proved an exception, with pretty stiff winds. I checked the Environment Canada website which reported a 30km/hr wind, though it seemed much stronger than that. Apparently, we get are strongest winds here in the springtime and the fall.

I could hear the wind howling around the house last night and again this morning after I awoke. In the past I've gauged wind speed by watching phone wires and the flag at the RCMP detachment at the bottom of the hill. Today I had a new measure by which to "guesstimate" wind speed. This morning the roads were scoured of snow and a few curious objects lay helter-skelter down the hill from my house. Among them 2 large gerry cans (which were quickly retrieved by their owners), a cardboard box, a yellow plastic container and two frying pans(!)

I'm sure the last items there were blown off a neighbours qamutik (wooden sled) but it made for a curious sight.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Can Someone Please do Some Research Here?!

I came across an interesting news article from Nunatsiaq News this afternoon while making the daily news rounds. It really had me shaking my head.

http://www.nunatsiaq.com/news/nunavut/60428_02.html

I really wish people would get their facts straight and do some research before they write and publish silly drivel such as this. Before coming I came to Nunavut, what I didn't know about here could have filled a small library. So I decided to read up on things I find out as much as I can. Surely, if one person can do this then a major publishing company, having many more resources at it disposal than I, should be able to do the same. Scholastic Inc., a major supplier of textbooks and educational materials across Canada and the US, should know better.

Predictably, the authors of this literary trainwreck have never been to Nunavut. It leaves me to wonder how many school children in the South will be influenced by this nonsense. Yes, some may argue this is only a simplistic children's book but all propaganda must start somewhere.

So the authors have written books entitled "Do Whales Have Belly Buttons?" and "Can It Rain Cats and Dogs?" To this I would suggest the title "Do Animal Huggers Have Common Sense?"

Friday, April 28, 2006

What's in a name?

One of the things I've come to admire is how traditional Inuit names served to identify a person. Besides being a way to identity a person, traditional names also provided information about family connections and could act as descriptors of that person's personality or other noteworthy aptitude. I always thought it would be neat if I had my own Inuit name but not knowing the language at first caused an obvious problem.

During one of my Northern Studies classes we were discussing the contributions of James Houston to the north. Houston was a documentary film-maker and artist who is credited with popularizing Inuit art in southern markets. Houston first visited the Nunavik region in Northern Quebec in the 1950s and lived for many years in what is now Nunavut. I mentioned to my students a book that Houston had wrote about his adventures and that he had subtitled it Saumik, meaning left-handed in Inuktitut.

Being a south-paw myself, a few students jokingly used this name for me. I said that perhaps I should have a name of my own since I'm nowhere close to Houston in the annals of northern lore. I thought that would be the end of things, but the next class a student said I should have an Inuktitut name. Since she seemed interested in not seeing me go nameless I told her she could name me anything she wanted. Thinking quickly, I then made 2 provisions. First, no names that I wouldn't use in front of my mother and second, the name had to begin and end with a "q" (The reason for this being that "q" in Inuktitut has a different pronunciation than a "q" in English and it was the one sound that took me the longest to sound out properly.) So off she went to find a name.

The name she decided on fulfilled my little requirements. The name was "qavvigaarjuq", meaning wolverine. Of course the students thought this was quite funny though I didn't quite grasp the full meaning of the name. Qavvigaarjuq is a term sometimes used by adults when referring to children. Just like wolverines, small children can be quite active. As an Inuit colleague explained to me, an elder might say to a young rambunctious child - "Hey qavvigaarjuq, slow down.....climb down from there."

Of course I then recognized the good-natured tease. I can get quite animated in the classroom at times when I teach because teaching is a passion for me. Outside of the school, I know I'm a pretty quiet, private person. Sometimes when I get on my skidoo out on the ice I just like to head everywhere like a wolverine. I'm quite taken with the name and appreciate how my student took the time to find a good one for me.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Arctic Bay Cadets Inspire Me

Tonight I went to the army cadet corps' final parade of the year. Final inspection was moved up a week because a number of students were involved with the dog team races and other goings-on down in Iglulik. At any rate, the hard work and dedication of these young men and women has really paid off this past year.

Recently the cadets were in Yellowknife competing in the Northern Region Marksmanship Competition. There were cadets corps from across Nunavut, the NWT and Yukon. Our team of 5 cadets finished first in Nunavut, beating competing teams from larger communities such as Iqaluit and Rankin Inlet. Out of the entire northern region, including large centres like Whitehorse, Yellowknife and Hay River,the Arctic Bay cadets finished 3rd out of a field of 15. One of the senior cadets placed 5th overall in the competition and will soon head down to Regina SK, to compete in a national competition. Another junior cadet finished 3rd overall.

So needless to say I have felt very pleased to be involved with the cadet program this year. It just goes to show the character of these kids. As the commanding officer had said, these young people choose to use their free time to get involved with parade nights, physical fitness training, shooting and a lot of boot polishing rather than engaging in destructive behaviours. It has been amazing to see how they have matured and changed over the past school year.

One particular cadet stands out in my mind. When he first came out to in-door soccer practices, he was so timid he would barely touch the ball, kicking it away like it was a hot potato. When it came to cadet drill, I never thought I'd live to see the day when he would stop bear-marching. Fast forward a few months and this same kid is on my 14-and-under soccer team and can run and block shots from much older students. He is a leader rather than a follower. He knows how to read a play, anticipates an opponent's moves and knows where he needs to be on the court. The best part for me is that with his young age he will remain eligible to play at the big regional tournament for another 3-4 years.

Even though Arctic Bay is one of the smallest communities in the northern region with a cadet corps, we can boast 4 cadets with their National Star, which in terms of cadet training is the highest level attainable. This is more cadets than any other corps and indeed more than all the other corps in the region put together. Two cadets tonight were given their badges for Master Cadet, meaning they can instruct other cadets at summer camps and participate in international cadet exchanges.

To the cadets of #3045 Corps Arctic Bay - you guys are truly awesome. Yes, we may be a small town here but its not the size of the dog in the fight but the size of the fight in the dog. It was a great year and I can't wait until the next! Quyannamiik!

Monday, April 24, 2006

More Gems for My Collection

Usually I don't get too excited about mail since it's mostly bills and fliers. Today, however, I received a long awaited for parcel. I had ordered a CD set of the complete works of W.A. Mozart which I can now add to my growing collection. I started ordering CDs last year as I've been a connoisseur of classical musical, having studied it in my university days. Not only do appreciate the relaxation it provides, it also helps me occupy my time during the dark, cold winters when I'm not busy with preparing for classes. A nice glass of Cabernet Franc and I'd be all set.
Over time my collection has grown to well over 600 CDs....to the point where I sometimes feel they rent my house and not vice versa.

I cringe at the thought of how I'd ever have to move them. Getting them all the way up to Arctic Bay was not an easy task but I managed to get them all here without damaging any of them. I've told my parents I'll finally settle down when one of two things happen - 1. I get hitched or 2. my collection just becomes too cumbersome to cart around the arctic. At the moment, its looking as though the latter option may happen quite soon. While I've heard quite a bit of what's out there over the years, I know I it's humanly impossible to year it all, thought that doesn't stop me from trying. I slowly worked through the entire opus of J.S. Bach in 2-3 months. The last big collection I finished shortly after Christmas was the 555 (count 'em)Scarlatti keyboard sonatas. My personal favourite was K545, which was a gem.....frenetic and virtuosic. It just took listening to 544 of these pieces before I found it...but still worth the trouble.

I don't know which is crazier.......recording all 555 of these pieces or actually listening to them all in one shot. At any rate, I think I can safely say I own the largest classical music collection north of the Arctic Circle (someone call Guinness......or a psychiatrist).

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Qikiq.......what?....Where the heck are you?!

One of the things I've found both a challenge and an annoyance at times is trying to explain exactly where I am to people who are unfamiliar with northern geography (in my experience we're talking most people here).

I recall trying to book a train ticket with VIA Rail back in December where I spent several minutes trying to explain to the phone operator where I lived. Apparently on her computer, the territorial short form for Nunavut - NU - had not been put on it yet (its only been 7 years since Nunavut's creation). At any rate, we settled by using the letters NT, for the Northwest Territories, instead. The conversation went something like this:

VIA Rail -"So where exactly are you again?"
Me - "I'm up on Baffin Island....in Nunavut."
VIA Rail - "Baffin Island? Is that a territory?"
Me - "No. It's part of Nunavut."
VIA Rail - "Is that in the Northwest Territories?"
Me - No it's a separate territory now."
VIA Rail - "Really? When did that happen? 'Cause my computer says you're in the NWT. Are you sure?"
Me - "Yes. I'm definitely in Nunavut."
VIA Rail - "Oh. I've never heard of that place."

Now I can understand if this conversation took place in say, downtown Toronto. But VIA Rail is a Crown Corporation here.

When I taught in Qikiqtarjuaq, I received mail with all sorts of variations on the spelling. I joked I should start keeping a "10 Ten List" of the spellings.

Among them - Quikiktarjuak, Qikigtaqjuaq, Qikigtaquaq and my personal favorite....Quikigtarjuarjuag.

Moving to Arctic Bay, I thought my problems with all this were solved. Afterall, this community usually goes by its English name rather than by the Inuktitut Ikpiarjuk (the pocket). Although, this name is still used quite a bit within the territory, which is rather nice to see.

Earlier this week however, I received this gem from my old alma mater - a letter thanking me for a charitable donation. The letter was addressed to Artic Nay, NU.
Now I don't know about you, but I'm hoping my donation gets put towards a good atlas, or failing that, a spell-check program.

Note - Interestingly, while I was performing a spell check for this blog post, the computer informed me that NU doesn't exist either....go figure.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Future Plans

Sunrise today - 4:30am.......Sunset time - 10:49pm. The amount of light we are getting at the moment is almost to the point where it seems one long continuous day that will last several weeks.

I have decided to take the plunge and apply for a summer course in Cambridge Bay in July. The course is called the Educational Leadership Program, a professional development course for Nunavut school administrators. It is a required course for all Nunavut principals but open to any interested teachers as well. I had applied for the first phase of this course last year and had been accepted, but since I was anxious to return to Ontario to see my family and I was transferring to Arctic Bay at the time, I decided to put it on hold. I've spent several days trying to get a superintendent's signature on my application form - a fairly simple procedure I thought. After several cracks at the fax machine my application finally made it over to Pond Inlet. The signed form was sent back to the Arctic Bay nursing station for some reason but eventually found its way into my hands whereupon it was placed in another envelope and mailed down to Pangnirtung, hopefully its final destination.

I found out earlier in the week that there will be a co-principal position available at the school here for next year so I've decided to apply for it. My only apprehension is that I may be a little short on teaching experience and there are days when I'd much rather be in the classroom dealing with students than dealing with adults. But, this is a goal I've held since teachers college and now an opportunity has come up.

I can't very well try to impress on my students the importance of setting goals and following up on them even though they may feel they have a large mountain to climb when I don't walk the walk myself.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Arctic Goings-On

The Nunavut Quest dog race got its start today under fairly clear skies. A number of teams will race down to Igloolik for the $10 000 grand prize. School was let out in the afternoon so students could see the racers off. It seemed most of the community had come down onto the ice to see the teams off. I spent much of the afternoon zipping around on my skidoo with my camera, and carefully watching for doggie land mines as I walked between the teams. (We're talking a lot of dogs here) At any rate it was a good social event for the community. I had heard talk about this race ever since I arrived here back in July so it was nice to finally see the big day come. I was pleasantly reminded of how small Nunavut can be at times as I bumped into a few kids from Pond Inlet and Hall Beach that I had met at an in-door soccer tournament in Iqaluit back in November.

One thing that I am very proud of at the moment is that 3 young army cadets here have recently received their National Star. This is the highest level a cadet can attain. I am very proud of all of them, especially as I have the privilege to teach these young men this semester. What makes their accomplishments even more outstanding is the fact that only 5 cadets in the entire northern region passed the series of tests and 3 of them are from Arctic Bay. Arctic Bay's cadet corps now boasts a total of 4 cadets with their national star - more than all the other cadet corps in the northern region COMBINED.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Off to the Races

Spring is definitely in the air. This week a number of people from Pond Inlet and Igloolik are in town for the sled dog races from Arctic Bay down to Igloolik. Yesterday there were games down on the ice off the breakwater and all this week there are dances scheduled to the wee hours of the morning. So the school can expect a lot of sleepy students in the morning.

We are getting very close to having 24 hour daylight which I still have difficulty adjusting to, even after 3 years of it. If it wasn't for my watch, I'd have little sense of the time of day. Fortunately, I quickly learned to cover my bedroom window with tinfoil which, with the door closed, gives a feeling of darkness for a good "nights" sleep.

A colleague mentioned to me today that there are only 37 school days left in the school year....wow only 37.....where does the time go?

Monday, April 17, 2006

The State of Education

One of the things I've been giving a great deal of thought to the education system in Nunavut. This was brought to mind with the recent publication of the Berger Report. This is a report by former justice Thomas Berger on how to fulfill Article 23 of the Nunavut Land Claim. Article 23 states that the Government of Nunavut, as the territory's largest employer, should be representative of the Inuit population and aims to have a workforce which is 85% Inuit. Unfortunately the GN is a long way from this goal. Inuit have never accounted for more than 45% of the GN workforce.

The supply of qualified Inuit is now exhausted and the report recommends massive spending on education in order to deal with this problem. Unfortunately there are no easy answers to this dilemma. Schools are simply not graduating enough young Inuit to fill the gap.

Generally what happens is that students enter the school system as unilingual Inuit (with the exception of Iqaluit where English, inspite of what government likes to tell you, is the working language). Students are taught by Inuk teachers and are generally introduced to the English language anywhere between grade 3,4, or 5 depending on the community. Of course by this time they are not even proficient in Inukititut before taking on a second language which becomes the language of instruction until grade 12. So by grade 5, students already lag behind and are force to play catch up for the rest of the school careers. The result is that by the time they reach high school they are proficient in neither Inuktitut or English. (It seems the GN cannot even foster/promote Inuktitut. I've lost track of the number of times our school has received documents/manuals/posters etc. which are in English only.)

Making matter worse is that Nunavut currently follows the school curriculum from Alberta and is not always very relevant. When you consider that the drop out rate in Nunavut is 3 times the national average - around 76% - and that the birth rate is currently 2 to 3 times the national average, you can see a looming social disaster in the future.

When I taught high school in Qikiqtarjuaq the most graduates saw was six. I recall a newspaper article from 2000 stating that in that year Arctic Bay was holding its first high school graduation in five years - for two students.

All of this is quite unsettling to someone in the field of education. Certainly something needs to be done and done soon. It remains to be seen if the current government will act on the recommendations of the Berger Report and commit to the massive new spending on education - a whopping $20 million. In the meantime, we await a Nunavut education act which is supposed to be tabled sometime this year from what I've heard in the Nunavut Legislature. There are also major changes coming to the curriculum due to be introduced in the 2008-09 school year. Or at least that's what I keep hearing.

Personally I feel the GN may have to reconsider its priority hiring policies in order to fill the many positions it lacks. My own employer, with a $50 million budget, has been without a financial officer since October, 2005. Now that's kind of scary. We can be politically correct all we want but we still must live in the real world. Perhaps this may slow down the numbers of qualified Inuit that get out of education in order to take up government jobs, thereby denuding our schools of a vital Inuit language and cultural component.

I also feel that children should be introduced to both languages starting in kindergarten. Experiences from other jurisdictions around the world have shown that this is a logical and, in the long run, beneficial. This is one of the recommendations of the report, but let's not wait on that. This is something that can and should be done NOW.

A lot of quick fix solutions have been tried over the years while nothing has seemed to work effectively. Usually I see alot of short-sighted suggestions from people I doubt have even spent one day of their lives up here. At any rate, I do by best to remain an optimist otherwise I wouldn't be here. I do take some comfort in that at least the train wreck of a system we have at the moment is FINALLY being given serious thought.

I for one try to do my part in the best way I am able. It is not always easy, however. I don't have the patience to wait around for government to do something. When it comes to government in Nunavut I am reminded of the saying, "The bureaucracy is expanding to meet the needs of the current bureaucracy." Perhaps it is time the bureaucracy began to meet the needs of Nunavummiut.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Kids Learn the Strangest Things From Maps

One thing that I like to incorporate into my classes as much as I can is map work. While I am no cartographer, I find they make for good visual aids for the kids. Often it is easier to make a point using a map than a boardnote. Students also take away interesting facts from the maps and frequently ask questions about what they see which adds to their learning experience. Sometimes, as second language learners, their young minds don't quite take away from the map what the map-maker (or the teacher)intended.

I was teaching a grade 6 class in northern Saskatchewan and since we were doing a social studies unit on Spain I had a very colourful historical map of the country on my classroom wall. One afternoon I was working with a group of students while a second group had gathered by my map.

Ah, the perfect classroom environment - everyone was on task and the noise level was conducive to a production lesson. Its the type of moment that, as a young teacher, you hope your principal pops his head in the door.

As we were all working away, I overheard a fit of giggling coming from my students by the map. At first I ignored them. It wasn't particularly disruptive. After several more minutes of this however, my curiosity got the better of me. What could possibly be so entertaining about a map of Spain?

I went over to the map and one boy started pointing at it. "No, no that little green country is called Portugal," I explained. "Its a different country from Spain." I thought I had perhaps cleared up some questions. Ah what a perfect lesson.

No sooner had I said this then he started chanting "Lesbian, lesbian." Oh grief, I thought, praying a parent (or my principal for that matter) didn't happen to pass by my open classroom door. Bewildered, I looked to where he was pointing. He had found the capital of Portugal. Underneath the word "Lisbon" was the Portuguese translation of the city - Lisboa.

"See teacher? Look - lesbian."

Well not quite. In addition to knowing the capital city of Spain, the students had no problem remembering the capital of Portugal after that lesson.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Long Weekend

Well, after my rant the other night, perhaps it is good we have the Easter long weekend upon us. I'm looking forward to getting outside and making use of my skidoo and my camera.

I'm hoping to do some land trips with some of the high school students later on in May. The students will be able to use these outings to pick up additional high school credits. With this in mind, I went out down Adams Sound a few miles to scout out possible camp sites. We found a good one 12-15 miles down the fiord so slowly we are starting to make some plans. The past few years spring camp was handled by the teacher whom I replaced last fall. I was hesitant to take it on at first as I only had rudimentary outdoors skills but it amazing how fast my old training from the reserves and army cadets comes back when you need it. At any rate I'm now looking forward to it very much indeed.

I'm hoping we have good weather for it. Arctic Bay hasn't seen much in the way of strong winds the past few months but yesterday was an exception. It was hard for me at first to gauge the strength of the wind by simply looking out a window. In the past I've always looked at how much the trees were moving to get an idea of conditions. In a land of no trees this becomes a little more difficult to do without actually going outside. Flags and telephone wires make decent subtitutes in town. It is an awesome experience to live in a place where Mother Nature is such a force.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

A Genius Arguement from the Anti-Sealing Crowd




Well, for all those anti-sealing whiners out there, here's one for you. No baby white-coats here. As a matter of fact, after 3 years in Nunavut I've never seen a whitecoat......until today actually - a couple of student art projects up on the wall at school with baby seals on them.

I came across perhaps the most ridiculous of arguements this evening on an anti-sealing website. The gist of it was that if Inuit wanted to hunt seals as they have always done traditionally, they should revert back to a totally traditional lifestyle of igloos, harpoons and shamans. Apparently, according to this genius, it would be only then that Inuit could have the right to hunt seals.

What Einstein fails to realize however, is that his Southern culture, through colonization, residential schools and Southern manufactured goods, has impacted traditional life to the extent that it cannot return to its former ways. I don't see all of these seal-hugging celebrities returning to the days of horses-and-buggies.

The fact is that cultures change. Inuit are simply trying to reclaim and hang on to a part of theirs. Anti-sealers babble on incessantly of "mass slaughters" -- what colour was Hitler, Stalin, or Pinochet?

Anti-sealing groups are just another example of a dominant culture trying to control the debate by making value judgements and setting the rules. I am not so arrogant as to suggest what they should believe or how they should live. Northerners of all shades simply ask for the same show of respect in return.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Close Encounters of a Polar Kind




I was once told that in Nunavut I wouldn't have to worry about going out to find a polar bear to photograph......the bears will come find you. I've certainly seen my fair share the past couple years.

The first time I saw them I was actually in a boat with a local wildlife officer so I was quite safe. Most times, the bears were quite a distance away when I saw them in Broughton Island. However, other times........

I was at a staff pot-luck one night when a local came to the door. "Did anyone want to see a bear. There's one down by the breakwater right now." The place cleared out pretty quick. I remember rushing home to grab my camera.....finally, I thought, I would get my Pulitzer-prize winning shot. I recall leaping into the back of a pickup truck along with a couple other teachers and a group of kids and off we sped to the shoreline. Now, I think I was out of the back of that truck before it even came to a complete stop.

A bear was at the shoreline by the RCMP station snacking on some seal that had been left behind by a local hunter. Stealthily, I crept along a row of houses, seeing how close I could get with my camera. It didn't take long before a rather large group of on-lookers had assembled. As I was slowly closed the distance I was startled by a scream coming from the window above me. I looked up to see the shocked face of a lady, awoken from her sleep who said she thought I was the bear.

Undeterred and emboldened by the size of the crowd (hey that thing can't eat all of us in one shot can it?)I crept closer. I got within 30 feet of the bear as a dose of common sense over-powered stupidity. This was close enough boy-o.

It dawned on me I was only feet away from something that wouldn't hesitate to make me an evening snack. The only thing between me and that bear was the local RCMP constable armed with a shot-gun and some bear-bangers (non-lethal fire-cracker devices used to frighten away bears). All I was armed with was my camera.

The bear reared up defensively on its hind legs several times, towering up a good 7 feet. A group hunters pulled up on an ATV with a large box I knew didn't contain harmless bear-bangers. I turned away as I feared what might come next. Fortunately having finished its meal, the bear turned and ran back out onto the sea ice. Of course some might say the bear had encroached on human territory but in reality we had encroached on his.

I felt fortunate to witness such an awesome display of nature before my very eyes but when I returned home that summer I did lay down some money for a very nice zoom lens for my camera. (As it turned out, the my pictures from that night never turned out.....a little justice for the bear perhaps). As I later recounted to a neighbor, who asked me for a quote for his weblog - "My first thought was, man that's a bloody big bear! My immediate second thought was, being here right now is bloody stupid!"

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Long Walk Home

My principal asked me the other day if I preferred taking my skidoo over flat terrain or hills. This got me thinking about all the crazy adventures I've had with it. (Luckily I can laugh about them now.) I've taken to referring to my skidoo, a sleek 2004 Bombardier Skandic 550, as the Black Bullet, though on some days I call it other names which I really shouldn't repeat here.

I responded to my principal's question by saying I preferred flat sea ice where I can run flat out and have little fear of hitting anything. Arctic Bay is quite hilly and I've learned there are hills I can climb and some that are better left to experts. Actually my skidoo has made it up most of the hills around town - the problem was that I was not always still on my skidoo when it reached the top!

Last spring after traveling all 4 or 5 roads of Qikiqtarjuaq I began looking for more of a challenge. I enjoyed heading out on the ice where I would travel a few miles up to the north tip of the island to see the icebergs and the odd seal. One afternoon I managed to get stuck in some rough ice and after several minutes of trying to pull my machine free I resigned myself to a long walk back to town. (The thought that I was the only edible thing for polar bears popped into my mind.) Now walking for 10 miles over sea ice under a hot sun is not something you want to try. Even though this is a land of ice and snow for much of the year, it can get quite warm out on the ice under a clear blue sky. I saw an iceberg in the distance and decided I would head for it and rest there before continuing.

Well it didn't look that far away....no problem. An hour later I finally reached it, dripping with sweat and very thirsty, and found I had company. As luck would have it, three ladies from town had come out to the 'berg to catch some sun (don't worry, its not THAT type of story). I still remember our conversation like it was yesterday.

Me - "For the love of God, am I ever glad to see you guys!"
Them - "Darcy, what the heck are you doing way out here?"
"Uh, why are you walking?"
"Where's your skidoo?"

"Way the hell back there," I pointed meekly.

Luckily for me the 3 ladies I bumped into were the town social worker, the nurse and the RCMP corporal. Three of the exact people you'd want to run into in a situation like this.

"Well ladies, should we girls help this guy out?," one asked the others. Fortunately they took pity on me and the 4 of us managed to rescue my poor skidoo. It can run over a small ledge of ice and was lodged in at such a crazy angle it was difficult to pull on the cord to start it. We soon managed to lasso the back and pull it out much to my relief.

"Now, just remember," I said on the triumphant return back to town, "please, not a word about this to anyone."

Saturday, April 08, 2006

The Big Island...no, I don't mean Hawaii








Before coming to Arctic Bay I spent a couple of years in Qikiqtarjuaq (Broughton Island) which is located along the south east coast of Baffin Island, roughly 100km north of the Arctic Circle. Qikiqtarjuaq means "big island" in Inuktitut. Actually I found it wasn't that big......you can boat around it in a couple hours.

The first photo shows the hamlet office the day after a March blizzard. The month definitely went out like a lion and closed the school and the entire community down for the day. Walking from my house to the school took a good 10 minutes rather than the typical 3-4 minute stroll. I know this because I foolishly tried it.....just to say I once walked in a full-blown blizzard. Being 2 years older and (hopefully) a little wiser, it is not something I would repeat.

The next shot shows a typical sight around Broughton. Many large icebergs travel the ocean currents slowly down the coast. Sometimes they get stuck in the sea ice once freeze-up occurs. My second year there, several large 'bergs were visible from town out on the ice. Qikiqtarjuaq has been referred to as the "Iceberg Capital" of Canada and it is not hard to understand why.

Sunsets are always spectacular....especially here in Nunavut. So I have included one of many. I'm sure I could fill several photo albums just with sunsets.

The strange contraption in the next picture is part of the Distant Early Warning Radar Site(DEW Line). This complex was part of a line of radar sites built back in the 1950's during the Cold War. These sites were made obsolete when the Russians developed ICBMs and the sites were slowly decommissioned through the 1980's. The few remaining ones are now automated. At any rate, they make for some interesting site seeing and provide a "living museum" of the past. Poking around I discovered a number of old coins from the 1920s, '30s and '40s to add to my collection.

The last picture is the March blizzard in progress that I mentioned above. Not only was visibility abyssmal, the 100+ mile per hour winds actually broke the wind gauge at the airport and blew the satellite dish off my neighbour's roof. The dish ended up next to their front porch and was crunched up like a taco shell. I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't seen it with my own eyes.

Anyhow, Broughton Island certainly was an interesting place. This is where I got my start teaching in Nunavut. While I found working there a great challenge, I am left with many memories.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Picturesque Arctic Bay

















Here are a few pictures of Arctic Bay.....hey I can see my house!

Monday, April 03, 2006

How Much Food Can A Person Eat in a Year?!

Have you ever stopped to think about how much food you eat in a year? Today I picked up the new sealift catalogue from the Northern store - sealift order time.....you can just feel it in the air!

So what is sealift? Basically what happens is I fill out an order form with all the food I want to order from a catalogue and in September, a ship arrives in Arctic Bay with all the heavy supplies, building equipment and food orders for the community for the coming year. Anything that cannot be delivered by plane is instead shipped up to the community from the south.

There are a few different suppliers you can chose from but I've always dealt with the Northern Store. There's been a Northern in every place I've taught in so I'm most familiar with them.
At any rate, I have a couple of months to figure out how much food I can eat in a year. This is something I've never really spent much time contemplating but by placing a sealift order you can save some money on groceries so its worth looking into if you're going to be around awhile.

I'm hoping to have better luck this time. When I first placed a sealift order 2 years ago, I admit I didn't really know what I was doing. Granted, I had an idea of what might need. I'm a teacher, so I should be good at planning right? Well, let's just say I didn't need to put in an order last year. Part of that was due to the fact that I was tranferring from Qikiqtarjuaq to Arctic Bay and was afraid my order might not find me here but possibly wind up in Resolute or Kugluktuk.

I ended up ordering WAY too much spaghetti and rice and though I did manage to sell a bit of it before leaving Qikiqtarjuaq I never really put much of a dent in it. I quickly realized there are only so many ways to eat rice.....rice and tuna, rice and char, rice and soy sauce...one disastrous attempt at rice pudding. Any pot luck I went to everyone knew I was the one that brought the rice dish.

On the bright side I have enough bars of soap to last me another 4 years at my estimated rate of consumption and I have not had to buy toothpaste for almost 2 years now. Of course, I did order some treats like cookies, chocolate bars and chips but those things never lasted through the first winter. Anyhow, its all still a learning process for me. I plan to go over my order with a fine-tuned comb this year before sending it off. I know in some ways it will be easier for me this time around. As I mentioned earlier in the day to a friend, I know what I WON'T be ordering this year.