Thursday, November 29, 2007

Home From Rankin Inlet

With badminton Territorials finished for another year I am now back home in Arctic Bay tonight. We ended up spending one night longer than planned in Iqaluit on the way back. Our flight was about 20 minutes out of Iqaluit when it had to turn around and fly back to the airport. Apparently there was a problem with getting one of the hatches closed. I was a bit irritated but I suppose feelings of annoyance are much better than being sucked out of an aircraft in mid-flight. Ah the joys and adventures of northern flying.

Anyhow, the tournament went quite well. I thought it was very well organized and the community of Rankin Inlet should be commended for its fine effort. We were treated to some great competition and I definitely learned alot about the game this past weekend. I took five players along and while no one from town qualified for the Arctic Winter Games, I have to say they did quite well for themselves. A couple of our boys lost round-robin matches to the 2 kids who ended up qualifying for AWG so I was pleased with that. 5 of the 12 medals went to players from Repulse Bay. Those kids were amazing and really put on a clinic for the crowd. We have one young lad here who is just 13 yet held his own against 15- and 16-year-olds. Give him some time and I know he'll be a force to reckon with in the future.

I didn't get to see much of Rankin while I was there but I did manage to get a few pictures that I'll try to post in the next couple days. I did get a chance to meet a couple other bloggers on my sidebar during my trip....small world.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

A Matter of Perspective

Sedlec Ossuary, just outside Kutna Hora was by far the most macabre place I've ever been to. I had been itching to visit ever since I had seen it on the DVD series "Long Way Around", a round-the-world motorcycle odyssey by British actors Ewan MacGregor and Charlie Boorman. It was one of places they visited in the Czech Republic that were featured on the DVD set, the others being Prague Castle and the Charles Bridge.

I was fascinated by how this place came to be and why so many people (or rather their remains) ended up there. The ossuary was built over a small church several centuries ago. As the story goes, one of the abbots, a man named Henry, paid a visit to the Holy Land in 1278. While there, he colected some earth from the site at Golgotha and returned with it, sprinkling over the graveyard beside the church. As word of this spread, many people, being the good little Catholics that they were, wanted to be buried there. The ensuing Black Death, along with the Hussite Wars of the 15th century, meant the church grounds were soon jammed packed with bodies. So many bodies in fact that the graveyard could hold no more. So an ossuary was built. When that filled up a man was hired to find a creative way of dealing with all the bones. The result is some rather bizarre bone ornaments decorating the wall of the ossuary.

All this got me thinking, especially after bumping into Greenpeace protesters on a hot, stuffy day in Brno. The bones, at Sedlec, while considered gruesome by some, are there in part due to the cultural leanings and belief system of the time. Inuit hunt seal as part of their culture and belief system. People often pass knee jerk judgements on the Inuit seal hunt. But I wonder what Inuit would think of human bones hanging off the walls. So really, which is more gruesome? Is either situation really "wrong"? Its all a matter of perpective.

Rankin Inlet Bound

Weather permitting, I will be heading down to Rankin Inlet this Friday for a few days to chaperone for Badminton Territorials. I wasn't originally supposed to go. In all likelihood I'm the worst badminton player in Nunavut. However, Monty has used up all his special leave days due to Indoor Soccer Regionals earlier this month. (We are only alloted 5 special leave days a year). I, on the other hand, have a number of days banked from previous years. So I'm quite excited to go (weather permitting). I have yet to visit any communities outside of the Baffin Region.

For those readers not in the know, there are 3 regions in Nunavut: Baffin (or Qikiqtani), basically all of Baffin Island plus a handful of other communities, Kivalliq (central Nunavut, which includes Rankin) and Kitikmeot (in the west). I will be in Rankin (weather permitting) Friday to Monday and spend a couple nights in Iqaluit on the trip home. As an added bonus, Territorials for Indoor Soccer will take place in Rankin Inlet this same weekend so I hope to catch a few games and learn a few things. It won't be the same without Arctic Bay of course but we'll get there.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Arctic Afternoon

This is what our sky looks like this time of year at about 2:30pm. See? It's not so bad.

A Big Mess

The water tanks at our school hold something in the neighbourhood of 7000 gallons. After a few hours of flooding some of it made it outside, creating a mini skating rink.

This year's sealift brought in a lot of badly needed phys. ed. equipment. I hope it hasn't all been destroyed by this mishap. Here's hoping that as things dry out its not as bad as it looks.

Its starting to look a little better. Hard to believe that this morning a small waterfall was cascading down through these ceiling tiles.


I've learned to avoid the phrase "Now I've seen everything." During my career I've seen schools closed for many reasons - no heat, no water, blizzards, funerals and fire. I can now add flooding to the list. It was quite the mess that greeted us this morning. A window was left open in one of the primary classrooms. The high winds we experienced here over the weekend led to a pipe freezing which eventually burst, flooding the classroom and part of the hallway. The landing at the bottom of the stairs leading to our gym was also inundated with a few inches of water.

If this wasn't bad enough the water seeped down through the floor and into my house mate's room on the lower level. Water was still pouring through the ceiling when we arrived this morning and it felt like a sauna in there. Much of the ceiling tile was warped and sodden and the carpet was a soggy mess along with much of the school's brand new gym equipment which is stored there. A light fixture was dislodged from the ceiling and the school's electrical system was shorted out. Water was pouring out through the wall and outside the school as well. It sounded just like a waterfall. Thankfully our computer lab in the adjoining room was spared but it looks like quite the mess to clean up. I went searching for a mop and bucket to help get some of the water off the floor in the upstairs hall but was advised against this due to the hazards of electrocution.

With the power flickering off and on, there was little we could do at school this morning so most of us headed home for the day. So we get an unplanned day off, extending the weekend. I cringe to think about the state of those affected classrooms however, and the clean up that will be needed.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Blizzards Blizzards Everywhere

....except for here. Tonight it seems every Baffin Island community is under either a blizzard warning or a snowfall warning with the sole exception of Arctic Bay. A massive storm front is on the move. Environment Canada hasn't issued any warnings for us but we have been experiencing some pretty fierce winds throughout the day along with snow, blown down off from the heights around town. The wind is only up around 30km/hour or so according to the Environment Canada website but it is enough to shake and rattle the house.......and wreak havoc with the satellite. Thank goodness for good old cable. Tonight is definitely a good night to hunker down indoors.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Fast Week

This week seems to have just flown by. I can't believe tomorrow will be Friday. We don't get much light here this time of year so perhaps my inner concept of "day" and "night" is all fouled up and that's what makes it feel as though the week has just evaporated on me. I was at the school until after 6pm because of parent-teacher interviews but the day didn't really seem any longer than usual. My meetings went well. As in the past I pretty much see all the parents I expect to see and I found the afternoon to be a positive experience. I'm a pretty familiar face around our school by now so parents and teachers know my expectations.

On another positive note, our basketball team returned this morning from Territorials in Baker Lake. The boys did quite well for themselves, placing 4th out of 12 teams. Most of the teams they faced were from communities with twice our population so for our size they did quite well for themselves. Good work boys!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

All Good Things Must Come to an End......

I rarely take sick days. It's been awhile. I had a good little streak going but.....finally it came to an end today. I felt a bit queasy come lunch time so I decided to take the afternoon to recuperate at home. Nothing serious. I suspect the past month has just caught up with me as I've had a lot of things on the go with administrative duties and tournaments. I'm right as rain now but streak of around 3 years without a sick day is in tatters. I suppose I am a bit of a workaholic (I've been accused of that in the past) which I attribute to the strong work ethic my parents instilled in me. I've reached the age though where health has become more important than silly records which I know mean nothing to no one other than myself. But hey, it was only a half day. For those of you keeping score, I think I'm now up to 4 full sick days spread out over 7 years. Its been about 3 and a half years since I took a full day off. That's got to count for something. :)

My principal offered to sub for me this afternoon since my afternoon classes tend to be quite small this time of year. This is the first time I've had a qualified sub in for me since my first year of teaching..........7 years ago.

I took a few short naps. Short is the important thing here. I was weary of falling into a deep sleep too early and messing up my circadian rhythm. The sun has been hidden by the mountains south of Adams Sound for the past few days and now I believe that as of yesterday the sun no longer rises. 24-hour "darkness" is now upon us. I use quotations here because even though the sun will remain below the horizon we will continue to get short stretches of usable outdoor light during the "day". Anyhow, I'm not sure where that little ramble came from.......perhaps as a result of not posting anything the past few days. is quite dark now so perhaps I should just clam up here and head to bed. No worries of sleeping in with my alarm clock. Yup....I'll do that.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

At the Going Down of the Sun......

......we will remember them.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Following in the Footsteps of Giants

The Bohemian spa town of Karlsbad has drawn a number of important visitors over the course of its history. Monuments to some of the greatest figures in Western history adorn the town.

A plaque to Czech composer Antonin Dvorak.

German poet Goethe.

The Czechs' greatest king Charles IV.

Czech nationalist composer Bedrich Smetana.

Beethoven statue in Karlovy Vary (Karlsbad).

A special thank you to the kindly American gent who offered to take this picture of me with my boyhood idol! It made my trip!

Strangely Familiar

I passed by this interesting object while wandering by an old Capuchin monastery in Brno this past summer. It reminded me of home.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Notes from the Day

My time as Acting-VP is drawing to a close. We expect our Principal back here either tonight or tomorrow. The past two and a half weeks have been unique in many ways. I hope to post my thoughts on this in the near future when I can think a little more coherently. Needless to say, there were times I enjoyed it and times I did not but overall I have to count it as a positive experience. Having said this, I am anxious to get back into my regular routine. Its a challenge to plan for unqualified subs and try to stick to my long-range plans. Plus, I'd rather deal with kids than paperwork and silliness during my day.

Our two new staff members arrived in town while I was away in Iqaluit. Our grade 4 and 7 positions are now filled........finally. They seem to be fitting into the community nicely. Both students and parents are relieved to have qualified teachers in these classrooms. I popped over to see the new teachers the other night after my plane got in. Our grade 7 teacher spent a year teaching in Cape Dorset 6 or 7 years ago so it didn't take long to discover a few names of other teachers from around Nunavut that we both knew. Nunavut can be such a small place. On this same note, I was checking in my luggage at Iqaluit airport and discovered that the lady at the First Air counter is related to the owners of one of the grocery stores back in my home town. Small world.

The sun is quickly disappearing here. Very shortly from now it won't rise above the horizon. The sun will remain below the horizon until it reappears around the first week of February. I remember standing outside Inuksuk High School between soccer games and staring mournfully up at the glowing orb of the sun, knowing it will be awhile before I see it that high up in the sky again.

It is now the official start of long underwear season here - at least for me. Temperatures are sitting in the -20s at the moment making for a chilly walk to work. My big winter parka made its first appearance this morning as well. I bought a winter coat 7 years ago when I first moved north and had been wearing it for a couple days but I find it just doesn't cut the mustard like my big Resolute parka. Perhaps I'm not getting soft in my old age. I find I don't notice the cold as much as I used to. My tolerance must be rising. One new staff member remarked yesterday on how brave she thought I was for heading out for work without my snow pants. I don't know if its toughness or just laziness. I find it's a pain to constantly put them on and take them off. But even a few Inuk colleagues have remarked on the falling mercury. When an Inuk tells you its cold then you know it must be a wee bit nippy.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Team Players

Our bronze medal boys after receiving their medals in Iqaluit. A few faces have a changed from last year's team but essentially this is our most successful sports team at our school - not that I'm partial or anything.

Group shot of the 3 Arctic Bay teams - 14-and-under boys and girls teams along with our 18-and-under girls coached by my housemate Monty. Two or three are missing due to the chaos that was the Inuksuk High School gym but most of the troops are here. I told my two teams they all graduated to playing in the 15-and-under division for next year. In addition, I'm hopeful of also having 13-and-under boys and girls teams for next year.

I'm really looking forward to building on their success. A fellow blogger commented on an earlier post of mine that "success breeds success". How very true. We have a few younger boys that told me today they would be interested in being part of a 13-and-under team for next year. I'm excited to see what happens and how how far they can go.

Tragedy in Kimmirut

LIke many other Northerners I was quite shocked this morning to learn about the shooting death of Cst. Scott in Kimmirut last night. A few other Northern bloggers have posted on this so I don't know that I have too much more to add. Cst. Scott grew up not far from where I did. I pass close by his hometown of Lyn, Ontario when I take the train to my parents in June. It bothers me to think that this man was so young. At 20 years old your life has only just begun.

In small communities its pretty difficult not to get to know your RCMP members. They do tremendous work under difficult conditions. The RCMP as an organization may have taken a few knocks the past few years but having met many Mounties individually, I have nothing but respect for them. Many smaller communities only have 2 members and are basically on-call 24 hours a day. I can't imagine what it would be like to get call outs at any hour of the day. I've had my share of frustrating days teaching over the years but at least I can go home and not worry about having to wake and head over to the school at 3am.

I hope the community of Kimmrut doesn't get stained with a bad reputation because of this incident. I personally don't know anyone from there. I'm sure it has its problems just like any other community in Canada but it always struck me as a quiet out of the way place. It was for this reason that I considered transferring there a couple years ago to teach high school before moving here to Arctic Bay.

I have an uncle and a cousin who are RCMP officers and tonight my heartfelt condolences go out to the Scott family.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Another Successful Soccer Tournament for Arctic Bay

Our soccer teams returned tonight after another exciting and highly competitive Regional tournament. Both my teams played very well. The boys were expecting to finish a little higher but I was very proud of their efforts. They got knocked out in the semis in overtime in a tough match with Cape Dorset but managed to take the bronze. We definitely have a really good rivalry on the go with them as we beat them in a shootout last year to take the gold. There were a few tears after the match but being the good group they are they shake it off and look forward to competing in the 15-and-under division next year.

The 14-and-under girls held out well against some very stiff competition from the bigger communities, toughed out some bumps and bruises and were awarded with a bronze for their efforts. This is a group that has great potential for the future and I can't wait to see how they do next year. Iqaluit's team didn't seem to be the powerhouse this year and the smaller communities have really got their game going so I can't wait to see how the competition shapes up for 15-and-under next year. The girls faced them in the semis and only lost 2-0 which is awesome when you consider Iqaluit has 10 times our population. The days of getting blown out 10-0 our well behind them now and they know what they have to do to compete successfully Baffin's power house teams. We also had an 18-and-under girls team this year which brought home bronze as well. Congrats girls!

This was the biggest tournament yet, certainly the largest one I've ever been to. The competition was fierce. Iqaluit, as expected won 5 out of the 6 divisions. BUT........Arctic Bay was the only one out of the smaller communities that medalled in every division in which it had a team and that's a first for us. Pretty impressive when you consider that most of the communities we faced were twice our population.