Sunday, September 30, 2007

Scenic Shot

Just a scenic shot of a sunset from a couple weeks back before all the snow showed up.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Notes from the Week

We now have enough snow cover that you know will now be sticking around until June. Slowly, but surely skidoos are appearing on the roads. My housemate Monty got his skidoo started yesterday after work plans to head off shortly with his 30.06 to find some targets to shoot at.

As for myself, I've been busy in the class with some testing this week. Our high school graduation ceremonies are set for next Friday so I've been lending a hand with planning for the big event. I've taken on the tasks of organizing the banquet and helping with decorations. Cooking and decorating......two areas I am quite clueless in. Fortunately, I am only organizing it and we have lots of help so I know things will go off without a hitch. We have 4 grads and we are all looking forward to the big day.

Earlier this week I had an opportunity to participate in a conference call from the University of Windsor. Windsor's Fac. Ed. magazine was working on an article on northern educators so I was contacted along with a principal from Yukon and another from the NWT. Unfortunately, the NWT principal was unable to take part in the conference call Wednesday night but it was very interesting to hear about the state of education from another experienced educator. (Incidentally, both the Yukon administrator and my own principal haved asked me this week whether a principalship was in my future plans. I definitely am, though for the moment I am quite happy to contribute as a classroom teacher.) At any rate, it was interesting to get a snapshot of education across the north. Having spent a bit of time in the NWT, I could see many similarities but also many differences. Nunavut still lags behind the other two territories in many ways. I've talked about many of these issues in the past so I won't rehash them here. The Government of Nunavut has big ears and big teeth.

Happy belated birthday to Amber (ha ha......29!) and Grampa Cliff.........sorry I missed your special day.....I've been a bad blogger this week.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Gotta Love Little Old Ladies

Jindrichuv Hradec wasn't originally on my list of places to go while I traveled the Czech Republic back in July. Truth be told I couldn't even pronounce the name. I only found out about it about halfway through the trip. The town had the 3rd largest castle complex in the country though so when I realized this I just had to go, having already seen the two largest castles in Prague and Cesky Krumlov. As it turned out, I'm glad I made it there. I met random strangers who made my trip.

I was poking around the castle trying to get some pictures of a rather interesting-looking rotunda. As I fumbled with my camera I walked by a couple elderly ladies seated on a park bench. They beckoned me toward them in Czech and being a friendly guy I obliged. I had no clue what they were saying but it seemed as though they wanted me to follow them. So off I went. They led me across a bridge and up a small hill on the other side of the river across from the castle. I was a little apprehensive at first since I couldn't communicate with them and I was gradually walking away from the areas of the town I was familiar with from the maps I had studied. But hey, I thought, how intimidating can two kindly old ladies be. Besides, one of my aims of doing this trip solo was that I would be forced to interact with local people rather than be herded along as part of a tour group. Up hill we went, through an area of old houses, down an alley and between a few houses to an old narrow laneway. Pointing back across the river I saw some great views of the castle and was able to get some photos I otherwise would not have.

One of the photo challenges I faced during the trip was trying to find vantage points from where I could get entire buildings into a shot. This is not something easily done given how cramped, crowded and tree-filled Europe can be. I was happy with how these photos turned out. And I owe it all to the kindness of two kind old ladies.

A short time later, I was gazing into an old church, quietly enjoying my escape from the crowds of Prague. I stood at the churhc entrance which was barred with a large metal gate, admiring the baroque architecture inside the dark interior. After a few minutes I noticed an elderly lady came slowly climbing the steps behind me. She had to have been no more than 4 feet in height with the most wrinkled face I've ever seen, and moved slowly with a cane in each hand.

"Dobry den," I offered, greeting her in Czech and pointing at the maple leaf on my t-shirt. She smiled back before producing a large key from her cape that I swear was almost as big as she was. She unlocked the gate and invited me in for a look-see. I spent a few minutes, gazing at the altar, frescoes and the organ loft while she looked on smiling. It was a surreal experience and I only wish I knew more Czech so that I could thank her properly for letting me into an area few tourists get to see.

Just two random acts of kindness I experienced, bumping into the right people at the right time. Two memories from my trip I will not soon forget. I wish the world had more people like these lovely old souls.

Sunday, September 23, 2007


My pictures from my summer trip to the Czech Republic are finally least some of them. I've set up a separate blog and put it on my sidebar (see My Trip to Czech Republic under "Other Links"). I took something like 1360-odd pictures with my digital so I'm skimming off my favorites for this little side-project of mine. I've put a few pictures from my time in Prague and the rest will gradually follow. Enjoy.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Just Say Sorry

While today's announcement of a final compensation package for victims of residential schools is welcome news, it is my wish that the Canadian government will go further and issue a formal apology. It is the least they can do.

While what happened at these government-run train wrecks does not personally impact me I have met a few survivors over the years. Recollections of their experiences are something I doubt I will ever forget. What was done in the past is partly responsible for the sorry state of aboriginal education today. Heck, I wonder how I would have reacted growing up if I had been whisked away from sunny southern Ontario and plunked down in front of aliens speaking a strange tongue. Its shocking to think that at the system's high point there were 80 federally-funded residential schools in operation.

I wonder how many residential school survivors our federal politicians actually know. I'm sure I could count the total on one hand. Really, they need to get out of Ottawa and meet some of these survivors. Each survivor I have talked to has beared no ill-will toward me though I certainly couldn't blame them if they did since I am a teacher by profession. Canada's political elite should sit down with a residential school survivor for an afternoon, get to know them and their story. Maybe then, the government will finally have the guts to stand up and make a formal apology for this national embarassment. An apology.....its the right thing to do. Mr. Harper, do the right thing!

Monday, September 17, 2007

Arctic Waterfall

A leisurely afternoon stroll across the tundra this past Sunday revealed some interesting sights. I was invited to go along with our RCMP members and a handful of teachers to visit a waterfall pretty close to town. 2+ years here and I never even knew this place existed. I really must get out more.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Merry Christmas!

Stepping out into a winter September.

Snow in the 'hood.

The last fuel ship of "fall" calls on Arctic Bay.

I watched from my living room window as a few kids from the neighbourhood made some giant snow balls. They rolled them all over the field behind them and then down the hill and out of sight.

Note to self - Buy a decent snow shovel tomorrow!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Gearing Up For Regionals

Its that time of year again. Our recreation coordinator dropped by the school yesterday to drop off registration forms for Regionals. The lead up to Regionals is one of my favorite times of the year but also one of my busiest. Our school should have at least 4 soccer teams this year: Nick will coach 16-and-under boys, Monty hopes to do 18-and-under girls and yours truly will be taking a 14-and-under girls and 14-and-under boys team. Plans are also in the works to have a badminton player or two and a boys hockey team later on this winter.

This year is also Territorials, so the various regional winning teams will participate here with the winning teams heading off to Yellowknife in March for the Arctic Winter Games.

I've blogged before about the challenges of coaching sports teams in the North. I wish all our athletes well though I will admit I am a bit partial to my 14-and-under players. I've coached many of these kids for over 2 years now and would dearly love to see them reach the next level by winning Regionals and getting to Territorials. (There are no Territorials for the 13-and-under division.) We definitely expect some great competition this year. I have a feeling that 14-and-under will be the most competitive of the age divisions. There are a lot of talented teams. I haven't made too many changes to the roster of last year's gold-medal 13-and-under squad and feel confident we have the best possible team that could be put together. It's very satisfying to see how far they have come and how their skill-level has developed. Our 14-and-under girls teams is one to watch. For the first time in 3 years, we will actually have enough 13- and 14-yr olds to make a full team rather than having to top up our team with a few 12-year olds and play in a 15-and-under division as happened last year. The girls had a good challenge against the bigger schools but it made for a few mismatches.

Win or lose, tournament time is always a blast and I love being able to work with such a fantastic group of kids.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Polar Bear Dip!!!

Finally.....I can cross #7 off my life's "to do" list!

air temperature: +1.3C
water temperature: +0.6C

I thought I was past the age where testosterone clouded my better judgement and I'm not sure how I got talked into this but it really wasn't as bad as I thought it might be. At least our little polar bear dip gave the small crowd of kids and recently-arrived tourists something to talk about.

Nine of us braved the waters of the bay for a few seconds of insanity - including 4 fellow staff members. Actually, I found it pleasantly warm once I ran back to the shore. I just wish I had shucked my snow pants before rushing in. At any rate, I do get a t-shirt out of the whole deal.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Remaining Incognito is Oh So Hard

When I began my blog I had little idea of the direction it would take me. Initially, I thought I would limit it to strictly educational matters. However, educational theory is not something I find terrible interesting. I tend to approach it with the same level of enthusiasm as I would say, cleaning out my kitchen stove. I also suspect most of my readers would have bailed pretty quickly on me had I stuck to this limited approach.

So where I am I going with this? My blog has definitely led to a few things that were pleasantly unexpected. Its nice to know that I can help prospective new Northerners out as I have been contacted by a few over the past few months to answer their queries. I have also had the chance to get an article published in a western Canadian periodical as a result of my blog.

But I was most excited to receive a friendly e-mail from the Faculty of Education back at my old alma mater in Windsor Ontario (GO BLUE!). An upcoming Faculty of Education publication will be aiming its spotlight on some of its Northern alumni and I was contacted to see if I would be interested in being spotlighted. My blog was specifically mentioned in the e-mail. (woo hoo!) It would be great to get my hands on a copy of the Fall 2007 issue of the magazine. Part of me is also quite curious to find out who the other Northern teachers from Windsor are. I know we must be a very small group. I'm only aware of one other lady who graduated from Windsor who was teaching in central Nunavut a few years back, but I believe she is no longer in that community.

At any rate, I'm looking forward to getting the questions for the article.

Monday, September 03, 2007

(sigh)...Jack, Jack, Jack

I try not to make my blog overly political...really I do. It just seems that whenever Jack Layton opens his mouth, I can't help but grit my teeth to some extent. And given my last dentist bill, I should either just ignore the guy or hope for his early retirement from Canada's political landscape.

To be fair, there are a few things on which I agree with Layton. But really, most of his response to Harper's recent announcements on how to enforce arctic sovereignty are to my mind pure political opportunism.

Quoting from a recent CBC article - "Canada's best claim to sovereignty is the fact that Inuit communities have been established across the North for thousands of years." -- gee, Jack, I never realized Arctic Bay, for example had been around that long. The community only sprouted up in the 1960's. Actually there are quite a few islands up here that are totally uninhabited. What Layton fails to mention about the whole Canada/US debate over the Northwest Passage is that the US has no issue with Canada's claim to the northern islands. Its the WATER between those islands which the United States claims as an international passageway. Therefore, Jack, ships of some sort are a smart idea......unless of course you want to come up here and start walking on water to help defend the Northwest Passage. Of course, no politician of any stripe could flatter themselves by making a claim like that.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Long Weekend

I finished up my first full week of the school year yesterday and can say things have gotten off to a good start. I have to admit that it has been a pretty exhausting week. It's been a big adjustment with all my new colleagues and no familiar faces from last year in my end of the school. But I knew from the get-go it would be a long first week back so you just roll with it.

At any rate, I'm totally soaking up this long weekend to re-charge my batteries. Our sea lift ships arrived over the course of the past week. Monty's skidoo was off-loaded so I went down to the shoreline to lend a hand in getting it back up to the house. As it turned out, my services weren't required. My main occupation consisted mostly of plodding around in some rather thick mud by the breakwater and avoiding getting squashed by all the heavy machinery driving around. I watched with unbelieving eyes as a very obliging forklift driver delicately slid the skidoo, crate and all, onto the back of the RCMP truck for a short haul up the hill to the house.

Of course, now that Monty has his shocks and skis attached to his shiny black Arctic Cat, I have spent the past couple days deciding what machine I will get for this year. A number of new skidoos came up on the barge so I was down to the Northern to take a peek at what was there. I'm not sure yet which one I'll get but I have a couple in mind. I considered a sleek red 800cc in order to keep up with Monty's fast machine (boys and their toys). But I'll likely settle for a 550cc. At any rate, we don't have any snow (yet) so I still have plenty of time to decide.

We've also turned our place into Poker central the past couple Friday evenings and to my housemate's chagrin, I'm picking up the game pretty fast. Poker is a game I didn't really know anything about until about two weeks ago. I was able to put my quiet, introverted personality to good use the other night as I managed to pull off some great bluffs early on and take the first game. Naturally, the law of averages (and my inexperience) soon took over after that and I was crushed in our second game.
But I still managed to escape with a grand total of $25 by the end of the night.

So yes, it was been a pretty quiet weekend so far. I did read an annoying (to me at least) CBC article about Jack Layton flapping his gums over northern sovereignty. I'm tempted to throw in my rebuttal but its getting late so I will save it for another time.