Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Welcoming an NHLer

Here are a few examples of some of the welcoming posters the students made up yesterday in advance of Tootoo's arrival. I found myself down in the gym at the end of the day to help put them up which gave me an opportunity to get a few pictures before the place filled up with chairs and eager fans.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Jordin Tootoo

A little taste of the NHL was in town tonight as Nashville Predator Jordin Tootoo was here to sign autographs. The school gym was abuzz with anticipation to meet the first ever Inuk to play in the NHL. Tootoo is originally from Rankin Inlet in the Kivalliq and is in the midst of a mini-tour of a few Baffin communities. Things kicked off a bit later than planned due to flight delays but once he arrived there were draws for hats, t-shirts and sweaters followed, of course, by an autograph session. Tootoo also delivered a strong message about the importance of finishing school. Being an Inuk, he has grown up in the reality that many kids here face so this message I'm sure would have much more meaning coming from him than a middle-class Qallunaaq like myself.

It's not often that a celebrity makes it this far north so it was a rare treat to see him in person after catching a few of his games over the regular season. I'm not really a Nashville fan but it was good to see them have a good season and we all look forward to when Tootoo can bring the Stanley Cup up to Nunavut.

I saw this as a good opportunity to get an autograph for my nephew (future NHL goalie). Eager kids stood in line to get shirts, hats and even a crutch signed by Jordin. I wanted something more than just a piece of paper for him to sign and I thought about getting my sweater signed until I remembered the large Nunavut flag I had hanging in my classroom. So up into the school I raced to retrieve it. I strategically placed myself at the back of the long line for autographs under the theory that no one would take my spot and I wouldn't get run over by the throngs of youngsters. So here is the result of my patience - a close up shot of his signature on my flag.

I hope to put up a few more pictures of some of the welcome banners the students made shortly.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Traditional Headwear

Here is an example of a traditional headpiece that a few high school girls were working on this afternoon. I've seen a few examples of these in pictures and on television but never close up before. I think they are quite stunning.

Science Fair

This afternoon was our school science fair for Kindergarten to gr. 8 students. One particular project from the grade 4/5 class caught my attention. Based on the idea that women have a lower centre of gravity than men, the students set up a physical challenge involving kneeling on the floor with your hands behind your back. Then you had to bend forward and try to knock a small ball (set up on a glue stick) over with your nose. So it was men vs. women. For the record, I did try the challenge. I almost knocked the little ball over but lost my balance and had to catch myself with my hands.

I wasn't around to see the final results but I know that the ladies won by a fairly large margin. In defence of the "Y" chromosome, however, there were a few girls who found this challenge pretty difficult to accomplish too.

I found these write ups the kids did priceless!

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Tough on Vehicles

There's nothing like a little gunk lining a wheel well as the snow slowly begins to melt.

Growing up, I always remembered it as an annoying slush. Here, its a bit more stubborn to get off. Look closely and you'll see the hammer in the background. That's what one of our staff members had to use to clear out her wheel wells so it wouldn't kill the treads. It was just like heavy concrete.

Monday, May 21, 2007

A Blast From The Past

It never ceases to amaze me how small our world has become in this age of mass media. Normally I would decry how technological our times have become. Escaping the rat race of traffic, cellphones and other gadgetry was one of the factors in my decision to come to Nunavut.

The weather over this long weekend was just not conducive to outdoor activity so I must confess spending much of it indoors looking up old friends and acquaintances from high school and university on Its unbelievable the number of people I came across and how different everyone looks 15 years or so after our high school years ended. It's definitely been quite the nostalgic journey down memory lane. Shamelessly, I gave out my blog address so on the off chance they swing by here and peruse, I say a big hello to you all. I have an awesome location in mind for a 20th anniversary reunion if you don't mind a little snow and the odd bear.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

The Seven Wonders of Canada

With the CBC holding a contest to determine "The Seven Wonders of Canada" I thought I'd take the plunge and put in my two cents. I just finished casting my votes and narrowing the short list of 52 down to a mere 7 was much more of a challenge than I thought. As with any such exercise, there will be disagreement over the final choices (the contest to determine Canada's greatest Canadian springs to mind here) but it will get Canadians talking and ruminating about the diverse spectacle which is Canada.

Like anyone else's choices, mine naturally reflect my own Southern Ontario and Northern biases and experiences. This is perhaps forgivable given our diversity, history and just how honking big our country is. I'm very confident in the majority of my choices making the final cut. How could anyone not vote for say the CN Tower, Niagara Falls or the Northern Lights? Anyhow, here are my selections in random order.

1. The CN Tower - a shoe in

2. Niagara Falls - another shoe in

3. Northern Lights - nature's reward for standing motionless in -40C

4. Northwest Passage - the search for and discovery of this opened up vast portions of the country

5. Rockies - millions of European tourists can't be wrong

6. Stanley Cup - Go Sens Go!

7. Vimy Ridge - a finer example of sheer bravery, determination and cooperation I can't think of

There were a few more I agonized over including in this august list including the canoe, Ice Roads, igloo, Old Quebec Ciy, Prairie Skies, and Trans-Canada Highway, all of which I have experienced. In the end though I tried to come up with a list which reflected a mix of physical, cultural and historical importance. Some may disagree, but these are my choices.

What say you Canada? What "7 Wonders" are you rooting for?

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Long Weekend

I watched a steady parade of skidoos and qamutiks heading out earlier in the day for the big fishing derby over this long weekend. Last year for the long weekend I made the big trip down to Ikpikittuarjuk for the derby. I didn't really do much fishing but it was definitely an experience of a lifetime. Three years ago for the long weekend I was somewhere between Qikiqtarjuaq and Kivitoo slowly going snow blind as I related in a post a few days back. This year I decided to be domestic and just kick around the house.

I made a few cosmetic changes to my blog and went for an afternoon stroll around town with my camera in tow.

There are two big bluffs behind us with the names of the community spelled out with large white rocks in English and Inuktitut. The English sign was still partially snow covered. Here we have the Inuktitut version in syllabics - Ikpiarjuk, Nunavut. (Ikpiarjuk means "pocket")

Here we have our school - Inuujaq Ilinniarvik

A random shot from the east side.

Looking out over Arctic Bay toward Adams Sound.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Screened Out.....but........

I'm okay with it. A couple weeks ago I had put in a resume for the principalship at the school here. I figured I had a decent shot, given the high turnover rate among administrators that Nunavut will be experiencing come the new school year. I was hoping my northern experience and familiarity with the community would carry me far. Unfortunately, my lack of administrative experience was my Achilles Heel, as I suspected it would be. At any rate, my superintendent gave me a call to break the news and offered me some helpful suggestions to improve my candidacy for the future.

But when I think about it, it's all good. Someone has to hold down the high school end of the school for the new year and truth be told, I wasn't sure I'd be able to juggle the added duties along with my community involvement with the kids. I take all my little "war wounds" from being accidentally hit with a soccer ball as little badges of pride.

Exams have finished up here now and town is clearing out for the fishing derby over the long weekend. In other news, some high school students had been working on a video production a few days back and posted it on Youtube. APTN (Aboriginal Peoples Television Network) picked up on it and showed it on a broadcast last night. I missed the show but there were some pretty big smiles in the hallway this morning.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Getting Some Exercise

An unexpected day off gave me the opportunity to head out and stretch my legs. I decided to head up toward Victor Bay on the northern side of the peninsula. It's been way too long since I have been out there so I headed out with my camera just to see some views.

A view of my neighbourhood from about half way up the ridge.

Some views along the way.

Victor Bay. This is a popular place to set up camp and embark for points further north. The area is also frequented by polar bears and narwhals later on in the spring season.

A ribbon of road across the landscape.

The steep road down.

Here is another picture of the Anglican Church from Nanisivik, now safe on dry land by the breakwater.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

And The Mystery Visitor Is.....

A couple weeks back I was tipped off that Arctic Bay will be having a mystery guest sometime over the next few weeks. I was sworn to secrecy and didn't want to jinx things by mentioning it. (The weather can be notoriously fickle this time of year when it comes to flight schedules.) But seeing as the mystery visitor's arrival was mentioned during morning announcements I can now let the cat out of the bag. At the end of the month our community and school will be paid a visit by Nashville Predators forward Jordan Tootoo. While not a marquee player, he is definitely a role model for kids up here in Nunavut. I'm hoping to get an autograph for my young nephew...future NHL goalie! Hopefully the weather cooperates. It was difficult to tell it was spring with the nasty bit of wind we had today.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Midnight Sun

It's been pretty cloudy much of this past week but the cloud lifted today so I was able to get a few quick pictures. We are now well into the 24-hour daylight period. These shots were all taken at about 1am. All the light tends to mess up your circadian rhythm though I find myself better adjusted than I used to be.
The kids seem to have no problem with the extra daylight. I saw quite a few of them out on the bay playing a game (soccer, of course!).

Ah good old King George! These two shots didn't turn out quite as I had hoped but still, I never tire of the view.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Why I Never Drink Tea

Move over old "the-dog-ate-my-homework" excuse! I've got a topper. I mentioned in a recent post that it had been quite awhile since I'd been away from the classroom - other than the odd meeting and tournament. The last time I was out was just after the Victoria Day long weekend in 2004. My reason for being absent for the day was snow blindness, so here is the rest of the story.

Every year for the past few years (I'm not sure when it started), a group of community members from Qikiqtarjuaq had been getting together and doing walks to raise awareness about the issue of suicide. As a teacher, I was asked if I wanted to participate and having lost students to suicide, and wanting also to see more of the landscape around me, I only had one answer to the invitation.

These "walks" were more like mini-expeditions. That year the stroll was 50km. A group of around 30, along with a small support team, left early on the Friday evening of that long weekend and made a 6 hour trip north of Qikiqtarjuaq to Kivitoo, a site once used back in the whaling days as an on-shore processing point. The plan was to overnight at a cabin right on the edge of Auyuittuq National Park and then head out the next morning on foot back to Qik, overnighting a second night on the sea ice.

I had done a few long marches while I was in the reserves so I figured since I was still on the sunny side of 30, I shouldn't have too much of a problem. How wrong I was. I neglected to bring along with me the one thing that I now seldom leave the house with on a bright spring day - sunglasses. I did have a traditional pair of Inuit goggles carved from caribou bone along with me that I was hoping to try out. But during one of our stops for a mug-up I accidentally put them in a small pack that ended up on a qamutiq pulled by one of the skidoos along with the support team.

I did notice a slight burning sensation around the corners of my eyes as the day progressed but I ignored it, thinking I just had a headache. It actually felt better the following day after we had camped out on the ice so again I paid it no mind. I was reunited with my traditional goggles eventually but foolishly neglected to wear them.

These goggles were traditionally carved by a hunter to custom fit his own face of course. The ones I had were ones I had picked up in Iqaluit that I was hoping to test out in real-life conditions. I also found the small slits rather restrictive to my vision. ( to put this delicately? When one makes a pit stop along the trail it is hard to see where you are going. Anyhow, the process of taking off my sealskin mitts, lifting my parka hood and removing and then replacing and repositioning the goggles became a pain so I decided after awhile to just not wear them.)

Anyhow, by the time we reached town, many people were commenting on how red my eyes looked. I just figured it was sunburn. The pain however, did not subside this time and only got worse. I went to bed that night in the comfort of my own bed but with a major headache. When I woke up early the next morning, it felt as if someone was jabbing needles into my eye sockets. The pain was so intense and my eyelids so swollen that I could barely open them. I fell back asleep and was woken sometime later by a ringing phone. I stumbled to it and found my principal on the other end. He told me that he had heard I had had a bit of a rough time so he understood if I wouldn't be heading in that morning. (In addition to the eyes, my left leg muscles had harden up like a brick and I could barely end my knee). Of course I had to tell him that fatigue was the least of my concerns at the moment. I could barely open my eyes due to my snow blind condition.

I spent the rest of the day chiding myself for my stupidity. Fortunately, after 24 hours, my eyes felt quite a bit better. A local staffer had phoned and suggested I use tea bags on my eyes. They worked quite well to dull the pain, but I think my nose can still pick up a mint green tea scent 3 years later. The following day I was right as rain again but I definitely learned some important lessons - sunglasses are a must in spring, walking over sea ice for 2 days is not as easy as it might seem and, I'll never drink mint tea again.

Thursday, May 10, 2007


I've been tagged by Matt and Kara, bloggers from Kugluktuk. Hopefully I can pry myself away from the playoff game here long enough to type some coherent answers. Actually, on second thought, I'll blog and watch the game at the same time, multi-tasker that I am. So here goes:

10 years ago I was -
Finishing off the first year of my history degree at the University of Windsor.....Go Blue!

One year ago I was -
Living across town, putting the final touches on my exams and finishing off my 3rd year in Nunavut.

5 snacks I enjoy -
gingersnap cookies, peanut butter cookies, chocolate chip cookies, salt and vinegar chips, cheese and crackers

5 songs you know all the lyrics to
Hmmm....I was a piano major in university for my music degree so there was the old joke that piano majors were tone deaf but.....Carl Orff's Carmina for sure since we performed in Windsor. Yes, the lyrics are all in Latin and old French and German but the translations of some of these old tunes aren't as innocent as you may think!

5 things I would do if I was a millionaire -
invest, pay off my student loan, build a house with a huge room for my CD collection, donate to charity, build a huge drop-in centre here in town for the kids

5 bad habits -
biting my nails, falling off skidoos, forgetting to send birthday and holiday cards until its too late, losing things, leaving the dishes until I run out of spoons for my morning coffee

5 things I like doing -
listening to my music, photography, getting out on the land, helping others, trying new things

5 things I will never wear again -
wool socks, shorts, hoodies, sandals, a stud in my ear (and especially not all 5 of these items at the same time)

5 favourite toys -
stereo, digital camera, ipod, skidoo, my CDs

......and there you have it.

Man of Steele

Sometimes I really live up to my last name. My little year-end leave report was waiting for me in my mailbox at work this morning and I saw I have banked a pretty comfortable number of sick days (58.5 out of 60 allowable days over the past 4 years).

Thankfully, I've been blessed with good health. It's been almost 3 years since I took a full sick day. But I had a very good, and from a southern perspective, most unusual reason - I was snow blind. The story behind this really deserves a post of its own which I will leave for another time. Suffice it to say however, that in springtime, sunglasses are a very smart idea.

I'm hoping my good fortune lasts through the Victoria Day weekend so I can hit the 3 year anniversary of my last day off work. Perhaps I could celebrate the event by taking a day off.........

I also failed to mention that yesterday I ran into another fellow blogger from my side bar - Jennifer, I believe it was, from North of Nain. I probably had a pretty stunned look on my face when she introduced herself. Its pretty normal to bump into a lot of names up here. Meeting the face attached to that name is a fairly rare occurrence. Anyhow, she was visiting our school, along with a few other individuals from Nunavut Fisheries Training Consortium to discuss employment and training options with our high school students.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Taking Stock

It's hard to believe that high school exams are just around the corner. They start next week. After that, the remaining 2 weeks of the school year will be spent teaching CTS courses (Career and Technology Studies). These are little one credit courses from the Alberta curriculum system we use here that are needed for a student to graduate. I plan to offer some trumpet lessons in the morning and do a module on contract law in the afternoon. Its hard to believe things are finishing up.

Looking back, my first year of teaching seemed to last a million years. In contrast, the past 2-3 years seemed to have just flown by. Must be a sign of getting older. I know this statement would seem ridiculous to most, coming from a 32-year-old "young 'un". Here in Nunavut, the median age is only 19 so it makes me feel a bit older in comparison. At any rate I now no longer poke fun at my parents for having hit the big 5-0. But I'm not complaining in any way. Today was a good day.

Soccer practice was pretty small which gave me an opportunity to scrimmage with the kids. I'm not exactly a fast runner, so I delegated myself to goalie so that I could observe and provide direction/encouragement as they played. Man, those kids have a pretty hard shot. I'm nursing some sore fingers at the moment. Nothing major that won't be gone by morning. At least my knees held up okay.

Anyhow, where was I headed with this long ramble? This is usually the time of year that I take a look back at things and take stock of what worked this year and also what didn't. On the positive side, I continue to have a good rapport with students which is half the battle right there. I didn't have too many big dust-ups with students, always a good thing. One young fellow I had big problems with at the start of the year has turned out to be quite the asset to my soccer practices. He came by my unit after one particularly rough day in the classroom and we had a great little chat. It's amazing what kids will tell you when you take time to listen to them. Giving a kid an out or a chance to explain their side is one of the most important things I've learned since I began teaching. In my first year of teaching I was pretty quick to adapt an "I'm right, you're wrong attitude" which looking back really didn't accomplish anything other than frustrate both myself and the student.

The other big positive this year is that my level of spoken Inuktitut continues to improve. Finding opportunities to use it can be frustrating when work keeps me busy. But I find it useful to learn the language. I live here so it just makes sense. I've found that I can relate to students' frustrations with expressing themselves in English. The big positive for the year of course was the soccer team's success at Regionals. Topping that next year will be quite the challenge indeed.

Most of my frustrations this year have come from bureaucracy. I can't really comment as freely as I'd like to at times about this but suffice it to say I just wish that people that are supposed to do certain jobs would do them. Fax machines and e-mail are cute toys but speaking to a real person from time to time would be nice. I really wish information was passed along in a more timely fashion but given the size and distances involved up here, I try not to let the glacial slowness of things get to me. Two of my courses are due to be replaced with two new courses starting this fall but I've heard precious little about resources, implementation etc. The only reason I know about the changes is that I snooped around the Alberta Education website and came across the new curriculum docs. Other than that, I feel like a mushroom.

The only other real disappointment was that I was not able to keep the Student Council afloat. It more or less folded a couple months into the school year due mostly to general disinterest. Next year will have its challenges too with the big staff turnover we are expecting to have. In the past I've joined a staff as part of a big turnover and left a staff as part of a big turnover so now I will remain on a staff as part of a big turnover. Full circle I suppose. A little change can be a good thing though so I'm committed to looking at this from a positive point of view.

Time to take a look back, make plans, adjust, adapt and soldier on.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Arctic Bay on YouTube

I had a chance today to see the new video on Youtube that some of the highschool students had been working on. The newest video is a rap production titled "Don't Call Me Eskimo".

Using some newly purchased Mac laptops and a camera borrowed from the Arctic College building, they put together some interesting stuff. A couple staff members in charge of this project have been contacted by the CBC and APTN (Aboriginal Peoples Television Network), which have both shown some interest in the students' work. One of our teachers was doing a telephone interview with the CBC as I was leaving work this afternoon if I'm not mistaken.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Things Nunavut Taught Me (That University Didn't)

Over the past 4 years, I have learned many things I never learned during my student days in Windsor, Ontario....things practical and things that have made me a better person.

1. How to dress properly for -50C weather
2. A healthy respect for polar bears
3. How to change a spark plug
4. The value of the natural world
5. "Progress" isn't necessarily best
6. Canada has a unique Northern culture
7. How to safely fall off a snowmobile
8. Warmth is more important than fashion
9. How easy city life is
10. How to avoid large rocks when tobogganing down a hill
11. -30C is not cold; +10C can feel darn hot
12. "Traditional knowledge" is not synonymous with "out of date" knowledge
13. Your water tank has a cap on it for a very good reason
14. Tinfoil makes excellent curtains during the summer months
15. Experiencing new places surpasses just reading about them
16. Skidooing over rough ice is dumb
17. Inuit sports are much harder than they look
18. A new language
19. Nature has some mysteries I will never fully grasp
20. There's no other place I'd rather live and work

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Proof of My "Tall Tales"

I caught this interesting sight at the end of the day while I was getting set for a soccer practice - a lumber mechanical giant slowly making its way across the bay ice. It's not the best picture since I had to get it quick before this behemoth disapeared behind some buildings. But I suspect there are times when people back home don't believe me when I tell them about the sea ice up here. So I had to get a little proof.

I'm not sure where this fellow was headed, perhaps across the bay to where the new airport is being constructed. At any rate, we hope to have an school outing tomorrow afternoon, taking the school bus out into Adams Sound to an iceberg. So this picture is good reassurance. If the ice can support this contraption then a school bus should be a cinch.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Super Soccer

Super Soccer is the Mecca for young soccer players in the North. What is Super Soccer? It is a huge multi-day tournament held in Yellowknife every spring since 1993. This year's tournament will be underway this week with a total of 120 teams, mostly from the Northwest Territories, participating. It is encouraging to see a few Nunavut teams participating. Iqaluit will be there as well as Rankin Inlet, Cambridge Bay, Baker Lake, Taloyoak, Arviat and Pangnirtung and a few others. Pangnirtung is sending a team which may be the same team our boys played against at Regionals last November. These tournaments are fantastic fun for players and do much for developing the sport here in the territory.

My big dream for next year is to send a 15-and-under boys to team to Super Soccer. I'm fairly certain this would be a first for our school. I e-mailed the tourney chair this afternoon with a few questions and got a pretty speedy response back which I took as a good first sign.

The biggest challenge for us will be fundraising. Flight costs alone are pretty insane. The tourney website advertises flights from Iqaluit for $699 so I cringe when I think of what the costs for getting to Yellowknife from here might be. Nevertheless, getting a team to Super Soccer is one of my major goals. In my mind, it is the next logical step for our boys' team after their big break-through at Regionals.

So I will be making my list of fundraising ideas to get us started. Readers of my humble blog can feel free to pass along any ideas they may have. All great ideas and dreams start out small and then grow from there. My dream is to take our boys' team to Yellowknife next May!