Saturday, December 22, 2007

Shallow Fog

I'm all packed and ready to go. I'm excited to be heading out. This semester has been both rewarding and challenging but given the crazy turnover we experienced I think we've made out about as well as could be hoped for under the circumstances. As always I check the weather forecast obsessively. So far so good. The weather out at Nanisivik is calling for "shallow fog". Well, as long as it stays shallow I don't think I'll have too many flight issues.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Shortest Day

Today we reach shortest "day" of the year. For the first time since moving to Nunavut 4+ years ago I have the good fortune of being around to witness the event. In past years, I was either leaving the day of or the day before the Winter Solstice. At any rate, I had hoped to get a decent picture but after a span of clear days, it was cloudy with a hint of wind today which put the axe in that plan. Not that it matters all that much. I could just as well take a picture tomorrow and there would be no appreciable difference in the amount of light. All the newbies on staff here marvel at the phenomenon of 24-hour dark. I do my best to play the part of the cagey veteran and pretend not to notice though I think they are catching on. At any rate, we can all look forward to the sun's return around February 6. The sun will rise above the horizon on that date and while I'm not sure if the sun will be visible here in town because of the mountains on the other side of Adams Sound, I can always "cheat" (as I shamelessly did last year) by heading up the bluffs behind town for a sneak peak.

We are now all finished for Christmas Break at the school. This morning we braved the chilly weather by going around town in small groups to sing a few carols to local elders. We visited one of the elders (who comes into our school quite a lot to help out with the cultural program) inside a traditional dwelling called a qammaq. These were traditionally made of earthen walls with a roof of caribou skin or sealskin. Today they are often made of wood as this one was and resemble a small cabin. It was my first time inside one and I regretted not having my camera with me. It was small and cozy. Two qulliit (traditional lamps) kept the interior toasty warm.

After lunch Santa made an appearance to hand out Christmas presents to children. Exams were all finished up in the high school so I did a bit a "getting ready" work for the next semester and helped my younger colleagues supervise the students. Some played games or watched movies and many were undergoing insane sugar highs. But it is that time of year. It was a lot of fun to see all the smiling faces.

Here our principal, er, Santa hands out presents to a class of primary students.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

For the Curious

I inevitably get asked what the temperature is like here this time of year. Here is your "aha" moment. Unlike Toronto, we don't call out the army here. We just reach for the parka and the sealskin mitts and take it all in stride. We usually don't get much in the way of wind. It seems to pick up a bit at night but I still find it quite tolerable.

I did have to chuckle this morning at the CBC. They were discussing what parts of Canada would experience a "white" or a "green" Christmas. The map graphic they put up on the screen showed much of Baffin Island in a green shade. I know of course they meant we likely won't have snow on Christmas, not that we'll have a green Christmas, but it gave me a smile.

I also see that they will be doing a story tomorrow night from aboard the CCGS Amundsen on what its like to live and work in 24-hour dark conditions. I can tell you its interesting. I don't really think about it that much because I'm more or less used to it. Several people have remarked to me this past week that it doesn't seem to be as dark this year as in past years. When I thought about it, it seems to me it was darker here last year too. Its been clear here most of the week, thus the lower temps, slightly brighter skies and the good prospects of catching my Christmas flight out on Saturday.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Interesting Company

Sigh.....33 today. Just for the heck of it (ok, I'm a die-hard history buff) I decided to do a bit of digging to see who else shared a birthday with me. Lets see.....

1. Franz Ferdinand (1863) - uh oh......wasn't he assassinated? I'm not off to a good start here.

2. Joseph Stalin (1878) - hmm, this wasn't what I envisioned when I started this list.

3. Ty Cobb (1886) - ah....that's better.

4. Romeo LeBlanc (1927) - gotta have at least one Canadian on this list.

5. Keith Richards (1943) - Rock on.

6. Steven Spielberg (1946) - cool.

7. Brad Pitt (1963) - well, I think he's a good actor.

8. DMX (1970) - ARGH!!!

9. Trish Stratus a.k.a Patricia Anne Stratigias (1975) --WOO HOO!

10. Christina Aguilera (1980) - ARGH!!! x10

Hmmm.....quite an interesting list.

Well, this is the best I can come up with at the moment. My concentration level is waning which is either 1. a sign of my growing anticipation of seeing my family at Christmas or 2. an early sign of senility. I suppose only time will tell.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Happy Birthday!

Happy 237th birthday Beethoven!

Don't Blame Me

My family in Ontario always kids me that whenever I visit I bring the cold weather down with me. This year, from what I've seen on the news, Mother Nature has jumped the gun on us and dumped tons of snow on Ontario and the Maritimes. In past years, almost without fail, I arrive at my parents, and within a few days either the mercury takes a nosedive or the skies open up with several inches of snow. I can only recall one Christmas break in recent years when this wasn't the case. It was +10C with nary a flake on the ground and there I was in Belleville searching for a pair of cross-country skis. By the looks of things, there will be more snow down there when I arrive (weather permitting of course) then there is here. (I could make a smug comment about how Ontarians need to toughen up but its a myth that the North gets huge snowfalls. Its too dry for large amounts to be produced.)

At any rate, I'm watching pictures of the carnage on tv here and it looks pretty surreal. But don't blame me. :)

Friday, December 14, 2007

Missing: Journalistic Integrity and Common Sense

I tried to ignore this. Honestly I really did try. We usually don't get Nunatsiaq News up here but I did bump into this unhelpful letter to the editor earlier in the evening. I could ignore it but really, in the end, there is a part of me that just can't let insane stupidity like this go unchallenged.

NLCA Benefits "white Nazis" only?

My fellow Inuit, the white man is now laughing joyously.
He wants us to fight a fight amongst ourselves.Come and join our
new fight, the fight to regain our independence and autonomy.
Yes, they will say that we cannot control our destiny and desires
because we are only good at fighting amongst ourselves.We are to
them that our ancestors had managed to survive for centuries
without any assistance from the nations of this planet. My fellow Inuit,
in less than a century the white man has managed with calculated
motives to wipe out what held our nation and families together. What we
must now realize first and foremost is the notion that "fighting for a nation"
and "running a country" are two completely seperate entities. We must
not depart from this proven ideology. The Nunavut land claims agreement
is only for the benefit of the white nazis not for the Inuit nation.
Join the good fight that is coming soon.

Lootie Apak Kooneeliusie

I'm not really sure what this ignoramous hopes to accomplish by penning this trash. Does this individual know anything at all about Nazism?? I'm sure Hitler would have stuffed this writer into an oven had he been given the opportunity. I have a grandfather that enlisted to fight against the Nazis. An old highschool buddy of mine just returned from Afganistan where Canadian troops are fighting against an intolerant regime.

Who is the idiot that even saw it fit to publish this nonsense? Certainly, the "journalists" at Nunatsiaq News must have slept through their ethics classes at journalism school. As for the writer's disatisfaction with the NLCA, I do know this much: it was voted on by Inuit from all three regions of Nunavut before coming into being. I assume this included the writer of this diatribe as well. I am not a land claim beneficiary. Heck, I was still in high school back in Ontario when this vote took place. So I'm not really sure how I can be blamed for this.

Perhaps the writer is frustrated at the stalled devolution talks. But let's face it, the feds won't devolve any powers to the territory until it gets its financial house in order. Given that the finance minister has recently resigned over failure to disclose his connections to companies that have received GN loans........I guess it doesn't take a Rhodes Scholar to connect the dots on that one.

Snide remarks aside though, I'm not really sure what else to say. I live in Nunavut. I am NOT a "guest". I am NOT a visitor. Nunavut is my home. And it deeply sickens and saddens me that there are people out there like this goof that feel this way.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

A Little Behind

As one of the new teachers reminded me today, we are now almost (almost) half way through the dark season. Every year, I always feel a bit lethargic once December rolls around and this year seems to be no exception. My circadian rhythm is a bit screwed up but luckily Christmas Break is just around the corner, a welcome opportunity to recharge the old batteries. I feel a bit irritable and sluggish like everything is running in slow motion. It's as if someone snuck up and jabbed me with a needle of ether. But I always get through it. I have to admit that Christmas Break has really snuck up on me this year. I was out of the community a couple times last month so it hasn't seemed like such a long haul from August to Christmas as in past years. It still hasn't dawned on me that I only have a couple teaching days left before next week's exams and Christmas festivities at the school. Where has the time gone?

For the curious, the "little behind" in the picture above was on the side of a church of all places that I came across in Brno last July. One of the many masons involved in the church's construction created this small figure as a parting shot toward a fellow mason who took over his job after he was fired.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

An Interesting Discovery and an Election

I've finally managed to read through a really good book I picked up in Iqaluit over a year ago. I started it a few times but now that its the dark season reading time faces stiff competition from my music collection, the odd DVD, poker night, blogging and my work (of course). It was a great read, a biography on RCMP Sergeant Harry Stallworthy. The book makes the point that it is unfortunate Stallworthy isn't as well known in the annals of Canadian history as say Sam Steele (no relation to me) or WJD Dempster. For all his northern experience though, you think he would be. He spent a number of years leading patrols on Ellesmere Island, participating in the Ellesmere Land Expedition in the 1930's, searching for a lost German expedition, and reaching some of the northern-most regions of Canada.

My interest in his career was especially piqued when I learned he had spent time in a couple places my teaching career has taken me. He served as a Staff Sergeant at the detachment in Fort Smith and also spent time on the DEW Line at FOX-5 located near the community of Qikiqtarjuaq (Broughton Island). Small world - and a very interesting read.

The only other big happening in town this week was the municipal election. Normally these are quite muted affairs and I generally don't pay a great deal of attention to them. Actually I'm pretty sure this is the first local election I've ever participated in. Since this is the longest I've lived in the same community since leaving Windsor and since I knew a few of the people who were running I figured I'd go sign my "X".

I have a bad voting record. Usually the person I vote for doesn't win. Okay, I can't remember the last time the person I voted for ended up being the winner. (Sigh.....there's democracy for ya) My choice for mayor wasn't successful though I'm sure the winner will do a good job. There were 4 councillor positions up for grabs and only one of my choices made it onto council. Granted I only actually voted for 2 people since these were the two I knew best but still, it is a pretty lousy record for me. I'm thinking though this could be useful in the future if I ever lived in a place where candidates constantly harrass you at your front door during the supper hours for your vote. I'll just tell them I might be the last person they want to vote for them. So for any political hopefuls out there...its less of a headache for both of us if I don't vote for ya.

Monday, December 10, 2007

There's Just No Help For Me

I admit it. I love cookies. If I don't have any, I buy, beg or bake, usually in that order. My favourite kind are gingersnaps. I love my mother's gingersnaps and one of the things I look forward to at Christmas time is the inevitable plateful that will find its way across my palate. I could seriously down an entire plate of the tastey little critters and not bat an eye. I'm not exactly sure where this weakness for cookies came from. Certainly this weakness isn't hurting my girlish 32-inch waistline. I am the only person I know of that can eat as many cookies as I can and not gain a single ounce of weight. Woman are jealous of this. In fact, I've mentioned this little ability of mine to many women throughout my university and working years. (This likely goes a long way toward explaining why I remain single.) At any rate, I'm working through a plate of peanut butter cookies at the moment. I made them myself. I wish I could say I they were whipped up from scratch, a product of my own creative imagination. But I can't. They're nothing fancy but still, they could just be the ultimate comfort food to while away the dark season.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Ye Old Milk Run

After a hectic November month I've finally managed to book my travel home for Christmas break. (Even more impressively, I did this on-line for once.) Barring any weather-related delays I should be back in southern Ontario on December 24th. Flying in the North is still a bit of an adventure despite the onset of modern air travel. It can also be a bit of a marathon. In order to get back to good old Campbellford, Ontario I have to negotiate the following:

1. take a cab from Arctic Bay to Nanisivik
2. hop a 3 hour flight from Nanisivik to Iqaluit
3. overnight in Iqaluit
4. fly from Iqaluit to Ottawa with stops along the way in Kuujjuaq, (northern Quebec) and Montreal
5. overnight in Ottawa
6. take a train from Ottawa to Belleville
7. meet my folks in Belleville for the 40 minute road trip to Campbellford

Returning to Arctic Bay, I pretty much do the same thing in reverse except that I have a direct flight from Ottawa to Iqaluit and will make a quick stop-over in Pond Inlet on the way up from there. (Of course this nice neat schedule operates under the assumption that the weather will be on my side.) So there you have it. Perhaps a little more complicated than the average trip but always worth it during the holidays. In my next life I think I will be some sort of travel agent.

PS - Happy Birthday Scott! Don't worry, I won't mention any numbers! See you all very soon!

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Top Secret

The past couple days have been tied up with meetings so my blog has been pretty quiet this week. Regular classes resume tomorrow and I'm finally starting to feel like we are in the home stretch. Only a couple more weeks until Christmas Break. (And as of yet I still haven't finalized my travel plans). Our meetings haven't been all that exciting. Nothing I haven't heard before. Once Nunavut's new education act comes into being, communities will have to choose which model of language instruction they want for their community. We also had to consider the supports our school would need to implement the chosen plan. So that was the crux of our meeting. Each community is in a different set of circumstances so a "one size fits all" solution isn't realistic. At this point it looks as though Nunavut will have its own education act by June of 2008. So its been a long time coming. Patience is the key word I suppose. The plan is that a 100% "made in Nunavut" curriculum will be fully in place by.......wait for it.........2019. With luck I will have the chance to implement it in my own classroom before I retire. I'm looking at a retirement sometime between 2025 and 2030 so there's still hope.

Speaking of long-term things, I have been giving a lot of thought to the future the past couple weeks, specifically my future in Nunavut. No worries, I don't have plans to go anywhere soon. I have, however, been giving a lot of thought to buying a piece of propety in town. There are 2 or 3 lots I like, one in particular. Of course I wouldn't really "own" the property outright. According to the land claim agreement, I would only be leasing it from the hamlet for a period of 99 years. Even should I defy the law of averages and see my 132nd birthday, something tells me that I won't care all that much about legal minutiae by then. Anyhow, for the moment its still a bit of a pipedream but we'll see how things develop. Lots sales don't happen very fast here but I still won't divulge the location of the lot of my dreams. Its top secret for now. True, it doesn't have a picket fence, green lawn or garden out the back but it is spacious and it does have a hell of a great view. And that suits me just fine.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Mighty Sun I Salute You

Though the big lightbulb in the sky disappeared here in Arctic Bay almost a month ago I did get a chance to reaquaint myself with the glorious orb during last week's little jaunt to the Kivalliq. So this shot from the plane was the last sunset I'll see until I head down to Ontario for Christmas break. This shot was taken on our flight somewhere over Hudson Bay heading back to Iqaluit. Year five in Nunavut above the Arctic Circle and the dark season can still get to me. Don't worry, I'm not about to start drooling on you and reciting the alphabet backwards or anything like that. I'm sure I'll be just fine. I tend not to notice the darkness so much during the week when I'm in a (relatively) well-lit building. Weekends though, I do notice especially when cold weather tends to keep me indoors. Spending Christmas back in Ontario does break up the long stretch of inky darkness nicely, as the break falls just past the halfway point of the dark season. I'd like to think I'm made of tougher fibre living so far north of the treeline but still, there are times when I miss seeing the sun.

You Ought to Be in Print Baby!

A few weeks back I was contacted by a young lady from the Education Faculty of my old alama mater, the University of WIndsor. The next issue of the faculty's magazine was focusing on issues of aboriginal education and they wanted to hear from someone "in the field." So I sat down for a conference call along with a principal from a small school in Yukon. I had read a draft copy of the article earlier on and was looking forward to seeing the finished product. Today it arrived in the mail. The inside cover featured two inuksuit and it was interesting to compare them. One was an inuksuk I photographed back in August at the top of King George and the second was from a sculpture garden along the Detroit River. As an adopted Northerner I love to see inuksuit in the different places around Canada I've visited (even if they do look a little out of place among trees and flowers). Anyhow, I was quite pleased with the article as it highlighted some of the unique challenges faced by northern educators.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

More Views from Rankin Inlet

Outside Rankin's airport.

Rankin is one of the few Nunavut communities with jet service. Most other communities are serviced by older Hawker-Siddely 748' s or the newer ATR's which entered service a couple years ago.

A twin otter braving the fierce winds.

Airport terminal. The terminal was built about 10 years ago and is surprisingly roomy.

Take-off. Rankin Inlet in all it's glorious flatness.

MUI has a fantastic gym. It was a great venue for badminton. The school is in fantastic shape and I was quite shocked to learn the building is around 30 years old. Not all that old by southern standards but structures in the North quickly show wear due to the elements and high usage.

Its difficult to tell where the town begins and the tundra ends when everything is covered in ice and snow but Rankin is in there somewhere.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Pictures from Rankin Inlet

Maani Ulujuk Illiniarvik - the high school we stayed at during badminton Territorials.

Afternoon moon over the town.

One of Rankin's biggest tourist attractions - the giant inuksuk. It wasn't quite as large as I thought it was going to be but still made for an interesting landmark. I would have climbed up closer to it if it wasn't for the deep snow around the rocks and the running shoes I was wearing.

Really Freaky

An unusual sight greeted my eyes as I waited for my flight to take off from Rankin Inlet. I was standing in the terminal shooting the breeze with one of the other coaches when one of the kids piped up, "There's like 3 suns outside there.....really freaky." I popped my head out the door for a look and saw this......

I'm not 100% sure here, but I believe this "really freaky" thing is called a "sun dog". They are unique phenomena formed through some process of refracting or reflecting light or some other miracle of physics that my brain cannot grasp. I've seen the odd picture of these things over the years (mostly from up in Resolute Bay) but I never thought I'd actually see one in person. The picture doesn't quite do it justice. I had to stand out on the very edge of the parking lot to fit everything in and doing this in -30ish weather ain't one of the most comfortable of photo-taking situations.