Saturday, May 31, 2008

Papa Haydn

Today marks the 199th anniversary of the death of Franz Joseph Haydn. I'm very much looking forward to next year's 200th anniversary. With a little luck I'll be in Austria for it next summer. Haydn was greatly respected by Mozart and taught piano and composition to a young brash kid from Bonn by the name of Beethoven (although the relationship was a bit strained.) Papa Haydn is known by many monikers "Father of the Symphony" and "Father of the String Quartet". While he didn't invent these genres, he was instrumental (pardon the pun) in the development of these forms. Haydn lived at a time when the Baroque style was quickly going out of fashion. It was a time of great musical experimentation and many of his pieces are unique. Many of his symphonies form an important part of the standard repertoire of any respectable classical orchestra today. And of course, as I know from personal experience, any piano student will bump into at least a couple of his piano sonatas before too long.

His well-known "Farewell" Symphony was written in F-sharp minor, the only known symphony of the 18th century to be written in this key. I suspect why this key was avoided like the plague by major composers was that it is a difficult key to play in when it comes to fingerings. Horn players needed a special set of crooks fashioned just in order to play this one piece. Anyhow, Haydn wrote 106 symphonies and 68 string quartets, one of the largest bodies of 18th work for these genres.

Haydn was a bit of an anomaly for his time. For one, he never married. He also spent much of his professional life with a single employer. The Eszterhazy family was among one of the most important families in what is now Austria and western Hungary. At a time when Mozart was without a patron, Haydn had access to an entire court orchestra and choir. Haydn also lived a long life (77 years), more than twice as long as his contemporary Mozart and two full decades longer than Beethoven.

By all accounts, Haydn was well-liked and respected by other court musicians and he was a great practical joker. His "Surprise" Symphony is so-called because he places and loud chord in the second movement just to make sure his listeners didn't doze off during a performance. Haydn is on my list of composers I'd love to be able to go back in time and spend a day with. For me, he was one of the quintessential classical composers and his works form a vital part of my own musical library.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Lucky 13

Things may be winding down at the school here, but for some students there are big changes ahead. Kendra mentioned our upcoming graduation ceremony for this year's Kindergarten class. I can also report that as far as high school graduation goes, we have 3 definite graduates this year, and potentially as many as 10 others, pending the results of their English Departmental Exams. Lucky 13! For our school, this would most certainly be some sort of record. I've only been in Nunavut for 5 years and in this time, the largest graduating class I've dealt with personally was six. I really hope we get a big group this year. It would be a great accomplishment for such a small community.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Indecent Proposal

My laugh of the day without doubt comes as a result of this article on Nunavut's proposed Education Act. Specifically this little quote concerning Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. -

"Also unhappy are Inuit organizations such as Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., which maintains that bilingual education from Kindergarten to Grade 12 ought to be introduced by 2011, or "immediately," even if this means replacing qualified teachers with Inuit who lack formal credentials."

Great. I laughed so hard when I read that I fell off my chair and broke my arm. Now, if you'll excuse me I have to go see my unqualified doctor.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Here's Hoping!

This little tidbit of Mozartiana caught my attention tonight. Here's hoping indeed. True the odds are slim but you just never know. My hope is that this collection of manuscripts might contain the lost trumpet concerto I've always heard about. Scholars know he wrote at least one one knows what happened to the manuscript. For now, trumpet aficionados like myself have to content ourselves with the 3-and-a-half horn concertos Mozart wrote. (Or alternatively, gape in astonishment at the trumpet concerto by Haydn or Hummel). Sigh.....yes here's hoping. You just never know.

Thanks to Kendra for the scoop.

We're Sorry...Your Plane Cannot Be Completed As Dialed

7a.m. and I was out the door (pretty early for a teacher huh?) and headed to the school to catch our ride to airport to Mary River. The first little glitch was that I got to the school before the custodians, the alarm was still set and I couldn't remember the code for it off the top of my head. I waiting around until students showed up who seemed a bit surprised I was standing around outside. I told a couple of them I would unlock the door but since I wasn't sure of the alarm code I let them know to "clear a path for me quick if you see me come running out the door." Turns out though the alarm had been disarmed anyway by the breakfast cook who was down in the school kitchen. So I had stood around outside for 40 minutes for no reason. Good one Darcy.

Shortly after 8am we were all set to depart when the school got a call informing us the plan that was to fly us out was unavailable due to mechanical problems. I felt especially bad for the students who now had to write exams they would have been excused from for the day had the trip been a go. Turns out that the students writing my exam this morning did just fine in the end so I am very happy for them. I was scrambling myself to get back into classroom exam mode. I also had to scramble back to my house across town to retrieve my lunch and my laptop. I had made my lunch the night before, creature of habit that I am, but I was expecting to eat out at the mine cafeteria later in the day. Now that all the chaos and confusion was out of the way first thing in the morning I figured the rest of the day would be just fine.

As for our trip, it's still on though I'm not sure if it will happen this Friday or the following Monday. It's all good though. Since we were going to a mine, I had planned to bring along a big shovel (just in case, you know, there's gold out in them thar hills). Now I have extra time to go fetch one.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

My Rendezvous With A Bikini Model

One of the things I was looking forward to seeing last summer was the Capuchin Monastery in Brno, specifically its crypt full of mummified bodies. I headed out in the afternoon to enjoy a day of sunny weather after several days of rain and cloud. Of course the crypt building itself was a pretty unassuming place from the outside and I had to wander around a bit before I finally happened upon the entrance, tucked back in courtyard at the end of an alley. I guess it was the sadist in me or my 5-year-old mentality coming out but I just wanted to see real mummies without having to travel all the way to Egypt to do it. Anyhow, as it turned out it was a living body that gave me the most awkward moment of my entire trip.

I recall walking through some park areas just along the edge of the old town, navigating the twists and turns along the old city walls and generally enjoying a Bohemian existence. I rounded a corner and at the bottom of a set of stairs, my poor North American sensitivities beheld a sight. I noticed a young lady, a very attractive young lady, rather scantily-clad, posing by a section of city wall in front of a photographer. She sported a short white dress, a big smile and um...very little else. My goodness, I certainly didn't recall seeing this in any travel brochure I had consulted. The funny thing was, a few other people were in the vicinity and passed casually by the young model without so much as turning a head or batting an eye. I tried to play the part, though I'm sure my backpack gave me away as the awkward and now somewhat embarrassed tourist I was.

I continued my walk but I was forced to double back as the path I followed dead-ended and of course I passed the same model and photographer again. I continued on my way, naturally not pausing for a peek, but became disoriented and turned back. Once again, I passed our little scandalous duo. They had moved to a slightly different location this time, a giant crucifix made out of stone (oh heavens), and also the model seemed to have changed rather speedily into a revealing bikini. By now, I was a bit paranoid, thinking that since I had now passed them 3 times they might think I was some creepy guy. And it didn't' help that I also had my camera out as I had been taking a few pictures of the city walls along the way.

I really wanted to take a picture of this stone crucifix as it looked to me very much like an inuksuk - a nice reminder of home after being out of the country for a month. I couldn't exactly take the picture while SHE was standing in front of it so AGAIN, I circled around hoping by the time I returned, she would be gone. Luckily by the time I returned both the bikini model and photographer had moved off to another (hopefully less public) location. I was able to get my picture of the crucifix before finally finding the crypt entrance. There were people in there too. And also a sign at the entrance which read "No Photography Allowed."

Surprise! You're Leaving!

Usually I get a bit nervous when an administrator walks into my class and says, "Surprise!" That's what happened this afternoon. Its not necessarily a bad thing though. I mentioned a few days back I was going to be taking a few students out to the Mary River mine site. Initially this was supposed to be tomorrow. Now, I had already drawn up the exam schedule and the trip happened to fall during this time. With a little fancy re-scheduling however, the trip was still a go. Then, some genius then contacted the principal to tell him the the trip was being postponed until June 2. Excellent, I thought. Now, we don't have to worry about changing the exam week. Back to version 1 of the exam schedule.

As it turns out though, the genius who told the school the trip was postponed was mistaken. The mining company called the school this afternoon to confirm that everything was a go for tomorrow. So now the principal and I had to change the exam schedule AND get in touch with the students how were going. Of course since are exams are held in the mornings and this was now well into the afternoon, there were few high school students if any in the school. One further complication was how to get the students to the airport as the taxi is tied up with the court party in town this week and there have been a few problems with the school bus.

Fortunately, as I write this, it looks like the trip is a go. My principal was able to arrange transportation to the airport and contact pretty much every student on our list to inform them of the change of plans. So.....provided this overcast weather clears out early tomorrow morning and the plane can get off the ground, we'll be all set to go.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Nunavut News

I just wanted to post an update on a couple of events I had mentioned earlier this month. Sorry for the delay if I left you hanging. I just wanted to make sure I had my facts straight. Plus of course, I hate loose ends.

Meeka's Walk - I wrote a few days ago about an Igloolik teacher who was using her May long weekend to walk from her community to neighboring Hall Beach. Neighboring is a relative term as the direct-line distance is 75km. Meeka successfully walked the 75km to Hall Beach and then 75km back to Igloolik. This was done to raise money for a much-needed daycare in her community. Again, for anyone wishing to make a donation to help Meeka out, here is the address below.

Meeka's Walk
Ajagutaq Daycare Society
Box 234
Igloolik, Nunavut
X0A 0L0

Nunavut Quest 2008 - As I had thought, this year's race was won by a local man, Moses Oyukuluk, in a time of 41 hours, 10 minutes, 5 minutes ahead of the second-place finisher. Moses is well-known in town as he is a former mayor and currently operates a local hotel. To the students at our school, he is a familiar face as our bus driver. I will also be able to write another installment next year for Nunavut Quest 2009 since that race is set to start here in Arctic Bay and finish over in Pond Inlet.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

My OCD Is Kicking In

I've been slightly distracted lately with the whole "off to Hungary" thing hence my lack of posts. I did start a post Friday night. (Something to do with how happy I was now that this season of Grey's Anatomy is over. But, I have a funny feeling I'd have gotten killed by my female co-workers had that little piece of writing seen the light of day.) All I remember is eating some excellent chip dip and following the rule of only talking during commercials. Since men are visual creatures, the green mute sign would flash on the screen during commercial breaks, clearly indicating to me I was allowed to speak so long as I did not, under any circumstances, denigrate the show.

I think my OCD is kicking in. I tend to focus on something and's a few days later and I'm left wondering where the time went. That pretty much sums up the last 2-3 days. I've spent too much time playing with Google Earth hammering out trip details. (Why did those guys have to build soo many castles? Many more than a poor social studies teacher could see if he lived 10 lifetimes. Ah, its all part of the adventure I suppose.) This trip has been in the planning stages for a year now, so forgive me if I get a tad obsessive at times. Just remain calm and it will pass. Honest. The trick for me is to figure out enough of what is out there so I can have a general idea of what I want to do but at the same time I don't want to over-plan and adhere slavishly to a schedule. I'm pretty sure I'll eventually strike the right balance. But I do hope to get back to my regular posts once my little Google Earth affliction passes. Just bear with me.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Hello Hungary!

After a great deal of procrastination and delay on my part, I finally booked my summer flight to Europe. And I'm ecstatic. I'm pretty sure I talked my housemate's ear off for a good hour after getting all the arrangements made. I'll be flying to Zurich a month from now with Swiss Air (sorry Air Canada, but did you really think I'd want to fork out an extra $200 for the "privilege" of flying with you?) I'll visit my aunt in Zurich before hopping a train to Hungary for a 4-5 week sojourn.

This lousy photo shows the Lake Balaton region of Hungary where I will be spending the bulk of my travels, soaking in the wine, castles, and Hapsburg and Ottoman architecture. Ah bliss!

(The big red blotch in the above photo is Budapest and the long skinny blue thing is Lake Balaton. Austria and Slovakia lie across the western and northern borders respectively.)

Here is a closer view of the lake on my travel map.

Now I must sit down and learn some basic Hungarian so I can pronounce place names such as this tongue-twister below. There is a strong likelihood that I will pass through this place on my way from Budapest. Hopefully I learn the correct way to say it so I don't catch a bus and end up heading to another place by accident.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Wind Down

Its hard to believe that we've reached this point in the school year already - the point where things are really beginning to feel like they're winding down. It always seems to sneak up on me too. I've known a few teachers in the past that for some odd reason seem to start counting down the days either at the start of the school year or once January rolls around. I'm not sure why they do this. It all seems a giant exercise in futility to me. (I mean, you know you're in trouble when...) Now, high school exams are right around the corner and the idea of the academic year soon being complete is sinking in fast.

So where does that leave us? Time for my big near-to-the-end-of-the-year retrospective I suppose. In many ways, this was a very challenging year. A large part of that was due to the big staff turn over we experienced. It was an adjustment for me so I can imagine all too well what it was like for the students. Ten new colleagues to work with. All in all, though I think things went about as well as one could reasonably hope to expect, given all the changes. This year, we have a much smaller turn over. Only three positions will be vacated but as far as I know, they have already been filled for August.

Attendance was also a big headache but I could see it coming. I can't complain too much about this. Yes, it was a tougher year than most but, returning in the fall, I knew exactly what I was getting myself into so really, I can't complain about not knowing. Last year's grade 9's were just one of those groups where attendance problems seemed to be a big issue all the way up through school for a good many of them. You do what you can to help out of course, but ultimately, in the end, we are all responsible for the consequences of our actions.

A couple weeks ago I mentioned that other teaching opportunities had popped up for me. I can say definitively now that I will be returning to Inuujaq School. While tempted, I found that I've carved out a nice little niche for myself here. I've grown attached to the community and have forged bonds with the students. This is not always easy to do given cultural and language differences and high staff turn overs. No sense in building the house all over again from the foundation. That, plus I don't relish the prospect of taking time away from my summer break to move all my junk to another community.

I took a break from coaching after Christmas and I hope to get back into it. I'm also planning to get out on the land more. I will most definitely have a skidoo after the sea lift comes in. I'm really looking forward to working with next year's cadre of grade 10's. I've coached a great many of them, their attendance is phenomenal and they are keen to learn. I've known them since they were in grade 7 and have been patiently waiting for 3 years now for them to get into the high school end. We also have all the course scheduling sorted out and I LOVE my schedule for the new year.

So now we are pretty much down to exams and then 3 days of school activities the following week to wrap things up. Yes, it's that time of year again. Things are winding down.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Musical Pedigrees

Back in university I once tried to trace my musical pedigree just to see where I might end up. I remember with the help of a couple other students tracing our pedigree back from our piano professor all the way to Beethoven. For the life of me however, I can't recall a couple names in the chain but I'm hoping to get that figured out. It will take some big time sleuthing but really, it's just too tempting to leave it be.

So where am I going with this? Since I can't recall my own pedigree with absolute certainty I thought I'd see if I could connect a Popular musician-songwriter back to one of the great composers of old. It started out as just some quirky thing to kill time on my lunch hour. I was actually quite skeptical I'd be able to do pull it off. Just to warn you there's a few individuals in the chain I've never heard of but there might be a few recognizable names to some. goes.

So I started off with Burt Bacharach (70 Top 40 Hits). Bacharach studied composition in New York City with Bohuslav Martinu. (Martinu was a Czech-born composer known mainly for his operas and orchestral work who emigrated to the US.)

Martinu studied with Albert Rousel while in Paris and Rousel studied for a time with one Eugene Gigout. Who were these guys? I don't really know much other than Rousel was a naval midshipman at one point and Gigout was evidently a very gifted improviser.

Gigout studied under Camille Saint-Saens who studied piano for a time with Camille-Marie Stamaty (hehe girl's name!). Stamaty was a pupil of Felix Mendelssohn, a child prodigy much like Mozart. When Felix was eight, he took composition lessons from a German by the name of Carl Friedrich Zelter. Now, if we go through two more people, a son and father by the name of Fasch, we arrive at a very familiar name - Johann Sebastian Bach.

So there you have it. Roughly 200 years of musical pedigree from Bacharach to Bach.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

The Curse of the 9th

Many years back in my music education I became aware of this horrible curse - something known as the Curse of the 9th. Since the curse is said to have started with Gustav Mahler and since today marks the 97th anniversary of his death, I thought this was just as good a time as any to do a little digging into this curse.

This superstition runs something like this - Any composer of symphonies from Beethoven onward, was doomed to die soon after completing a 9th symphony. Granted Mahler was a pretty superstitious fellow. He believed so strongly in this curse that after completing his 8th Symphony, he waited an entire year. He then entitled his next big orchestral work, not his 9th, but rather "A Symphony for One Tenor and One Alto Voice and Orchestra." He then finished off his 9th Symphony later that same year (1909) and began his tenth the following year. Unfortunately, he died before completing it. (As an interesting little quirk, Mahler was one of Hitler's favourite composers. The unfinished draft of Mahler's 10th had 1,945 bars of music. 1945 of course was the year Hitler died.)

Another composer supposedly afflicted by this curse was Franz Schubert, a younger contemporary of Beethoven. Perhaps Schubert's best known symphony is his "Unfinished" Symphony. This was not the last symphony he wrote however as today it is counted as his 8th. (He lived another 6 years after beginning this symphony and why it remained incomplete is not completely known. This actually screwed up the numberings for the remaining symphonies he wrote but I'll leave that little controversy for the musicologists to sort out.) He eventually completed his 9th, and was working on a draft score for a 10th, when, you guessed it, he died.

Antonin Dvorak also composed nine symphonies. He then lived another 11 years but never got around to number 10. Another, lesser known 19th century Austrian composer, Anton Bruckner probably could have finished a 10th symphony, but took his sweet old time composing his 9th. It took 18 months to finish the thing. Plus, he had a habit of taking time off from regular composing and heavily revising earlier works. Finally there was Alexander Glazunov, who began writing his 9th in 1910 and for reasons unknown, let the fledgling work gather dust until his death 26 years later.

While I find this all interesting, quirky reading, I don't really read much into this curse. 19th century orchestras steadily increased in size until the outset of World War One. Symphonies also became longer. Beethoven's 9th pushes an hour in length and Mahler's 3rd (probably the longest in standard repertoire) takes anywhere from 90 to 100 minutes depending on the conductor's exact tempo. By way of comparison a typical classical-era work by Haydn typically lasts 18-20 minutes.

Of course there are many exceptions to this "curse", but the composers I could come up with aren't exactly household names. Kurt Atterberg? Alfred Schnittke? Looks like all the famous ones really did die by this "curse" afterall, perhaps. The only major composer I can think of after Beethoven to have beaten the "Curse of the 9th" is Shostakovich, who wrote ten symphonies. Perhaps there IS something to this curse. Maybe all the famous ones really DO die shortly after number 9. It's all so confusing.

Ahhhhhhhh!! This is why I love least with him the symphony hadn't been invented yet.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Dead Dog

I took another venture out to Dead Dog Lake this evening just to see what I could see. There was only a handful of people at Dead Dog but several more at the next lake a little further down.

A small auger.

The auger used to drill this hole had to have an extension put on it. I wasn't able to get a shot of the auger and its extension once it was hauled out of the hole. I can tell you that this hole was easily 8-10 feet deep. Lakes up here get some serious ice on them over a long winter.

I tried out a little fishing but predictably I didn't have very good luck. For the most part I went up to chat it up. My friend Sheba tried her luck. I think I may have jinxed her though.

This is the second lake I walked down to before taking a leisurely stroll back to town. If you click and enlarge this picture you'll get a better view of the people scattered around the lake.

Fishing Derby

Victoria Day Long Weekend marks a bit annual event as the community empties out for the big fishing derby. Yesterday marked the beginning of a mass exodus to the many lakes down Admiralty Inlet to the South. Needless to say, the school hallways had a tomb-like quality about them by yesterday afternoon. One such popular place where many families go is Ikpikittuarjuk, 5-6 hours south of here. Some will even head off further down to the very end of Admiralty Inlet to a series of lakes there. A few places are located closer to town like Dead Dog Lake in the picture above here. I hiked up there earlier this afternoon on my way out to Victor Bay. A lone tent stood sentry duty by the road. (You should just barely be able to make out the yellow dot against the white background, I hope.)

I haven't been out to the fishing derby for a couple years now and I find I really miss it. I have every intention of going next year when I have a skidoo of my own. I like to be as self-sufficient as possible when I go out on the land. My land skills aren't exactly terrible but here, I'd rather not just head out with passable skills. Although I know that sharing is a large part of Inuit culture I'd feel a bit guilty imposing on them to take me along. This is a pretty important cultural and family event and I'm a bit cautious of my lack of land experience taking away from other people's enjoyment of the land and time with family. Next year, though, with my own machine and, hopefully, my own qamutik, I'm bound and determined to get out there. Now, whether I'll actually catch something decent is an entirely different matter.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Meeka's Walk

Earlier this week I received an email from Jenn and Ian about one Igloolik teacher's plan to help improve her community. Meeka's goal is to walk from Igloolik to the neighboring community of Hall Beach to raise money for daycare facilities in her community and also to raise awareness of women's issues in Nunavut. The distance between Igloolik and Hall Beach is about 75km as the crow flies. Remember, there are no roads here between communities. Igloolik is on an island in Foxe Basin and Hall Beach is a little further south on the mainland. The walk will take place almost entirely over the sea ice, through areas frequented by polar bears.

About 4 years ago in Qikiqtarjuaq I participated in a community walk to raise awareness of the problem of suicide which has claimed too many young people here. That walk involved setting out from Kivitoo (a former whaling station) and walking back to Qikiqtarjuaq. It was not easy. My legs gave out about 5km from town and I had to go to the nursing station for muscle relaxers for my poor legs. So, I can tell you from my own experience that what Meeka is attempting is no simple walk in the park.

I would like to take this opportunity to wish Meeka (a fellow teacher!) all the best in her journey. Her goal is indeed a noble one. Nunavut needs more Meekas. She now has a website you can visit for updates on her quest - Meeka's Walk . She left Igloolik last night and is now underway.

Anyone interesting in making a donation can do so through her website or through the address below.

Meeka's Walk
Ajagutaq Daycare Society
Box 234
Igloolik, Nunavut
X0A 0L0

Good luck Meeka!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Residential School Apology

Last September came the news that the federal government had finalized a compensation deal with former residential school students. While I saw this as welcome news, I also argued in a post that the government should take things one step further and issue a formal apology. Finally, it would appear that this is about to happen.

When I commented on the compensation issue back in September some commenters brought up the issue of how the settlement money may or may not be spent by the recipients. Fair enough. It is important that this money not serve to cause further problems in aboriginal communities. Perhaps some recipients will spend the bulk of their payments unwisely. However, I know people in my community that have plans to put their settlement money to very good use. The point of that September post, however, was that the government would be wise to go one step further and issue a formal apology.

In many of the communities I have worked in, people have bad feelings toward the entire education system because of the problems that occurred in the past with the residential school system. My hope is that a formal government apology will in some small way start to heal the rift that still exists to some extent between former students, many of whom now have children of their own in the education system, and schools.

Apologies and settlement payments of course aren't magic bullets that will solve this complicated issue over night. The first step toward healing however, is always the two words, "I'm sorry."

Politics aside, its nice to see that this long overdue apology is finally going to happen.

Use of Firearms

Excursion forms for our upcoming trip to Mary River have been passed out over the last couple school days and the trip is a go. The only things that have changed were the number of students going (potentially 14) and the date. We are now heading out June 2. (Which I like since it doesn't interfere with exams.) There was one interesting thing I noticed on the parental consent forms for this trip. Initially it caught my attention only because the section was crossed out with a big "N/A" written over top of it - a section at the bottom entitled "Use of Firearms on this School Sponsored Excursion."

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Darcy Does A Sealift aka Hopefully I Don't Screw This One Up As Badly As The Last One

I hadn't put in a sea lift order for about 4 years now, so I was rusty. After a lot of slothfulness I finally got around to figuring out an order this afternoon. My first sea lift order was an experience. I ended up ordering A LOT more rice and pasta than I could eat in a year. As a matter of fact, I finally finished off the last of the pasta from that first order just before this past Christmas. I still have plenty of bars of Ivory soap left to use up. I figure there's enough there to last me another 3 to 4 years. Ah well, at least I'll smell good. And I know there's one last half-full box of Minute Rice kicking around in a kitchen cupboard here somewhere. Needless to say, I've learned a few things from last time. I worked in a grocery store during university so that little experience has helped me out a little even just in negotiating the big on-line catalogue I got through Marche Turenne.

I'm sure I can be forgiven for not knowing how much I might consume in a year. Afterall, does the average person really give a lot of thought to this sort of thing? Sea lift was made a bit easier this year since my housemate and I decided to put in an order together to save shipping costs. We'll figure out for our own food and split on things like cleaning supplies. I guess once the ship arrives in August I'll see how well I did.

Monday, May 12, 2008

OK......This Is Just Plain Weird

Sometimes weird, quirky things happen that just make your jaw drop. I had one of those moments earlier this evening. It seems I met my very first Inuk years before I even had the slightest inkling of living in the North - long before Nunavut was to become such a big part of my life, long before Nunavut was even created.

I was poking around on Facebook, getting playoff updates from Kendra (since our CBC reception at our places leaves just a tad to be desired at the moment) and I bumped into a girl I once went to high school with, way back in 1988. I think we even sat beside each other in a grade 9 geography class. I didn't really know her that well since after that year she moved to a different school. In the few conversations I recollect from those early high school years, I remember her mentioning that she was aboriginal.....but I couldn't remember for sure. I seem to recall her having an Inuit surname but I had long forgotten what it was.

Anyhow, we got to shooting the breeze, catching up on the last 20 years. Facebook now has a chat application but since my internet connection was a bit slow we had to content ourselves with sending a series of messages back and forth in each others' mailboxes. We shared a laugh over how, kids being kids, we used to bug each other in class, though I'm certain most of the bugging came from me. And, yes, I'm man enough to admit I was a bit of a shit-disturber to the girls in class back then at times.

Turns out she was half-Inuk and had family in Sanikiluaq. Sanikiluaq for those unfamiliar with Nunavut's geography, is located in the Belcher Island group down in Hudson Bay. (It is sometimes referred to as Sunny-kiluaq since it is Nunavut's most southerly community.) Turns out my principal is from Sanikiluaq and has a lot of family there through his wife.

We spent several minutes messaging each other and catching up on old times. In another little quirk, she is also a teacher, working with grade 5 and 6 students "out West". My brain is still trying to comprehend this very random, chance encounter. Its just plain Who knew I'd end up working in a place with family ties to a girl that used to sit right next to me in a grade 9 geography class in a small southern Ontario town 20 years ago? Its like I was just somehow predestined by some magical force to be here.

Life sure is interesting.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Being True To My Redneck Roots

I'd like to say I own a nice firearm like this 30.06. But for now I have to live up my redneck roots by being envious of my roommate's gun here. Don't worry Mom. I looked but I didn't touch. Happy Mother's Day! ;)

Slow Warm Up

Temperatures are slowly starting to warm up here (flirting with the freezing mark now!) which means a lot more fog. I don't really mind it. I even caught a wet dirt smell Friday as I trudged through a field on my way home from work. Its just another sign of approaching spring.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Triple Eh!

My nephew Cole is becoming quite the little hockey player and he's only 12.....make that 12-and-a-half now. I'm not sure off the top of my head when he decided to make the switch from playing forward to playing between the pipes but it was a smart move on his part. It seems whenever I'm in touch with my sister in Ontario, Cole is either heading for a game, returning from a game, practicing for a game or participating in a goal tending clinic of some sort. He's a busy kid, for sure, but its starting to pay off.

Earlier this spring he backstopped his Pee Wee team to the Ontario semi-finals. At the year-end awards, he was named his team's MVP. The biggest news yet was that a couple weeks ago, he was invited to try out for Triple A Bantam. This would give him an opportunity to play against more skilled talent in a bigger pool of fish so to speak. (Belleville's population has to be at least 60 000, while Campbellford sits at more modest 3800). If I know my minor league hockey divisions correctly, this is the next one up from Pee Wee. Anyhow, he was invited to try out for the Quinte region which is the city of Belleville, Ontario and surrounding area. Four goalies were invited to try out for the team and Cole ended up with the number one ranking. Good job buddy!!

Dog Team Pictures - With Actual Dogs

It occurred to me yesterday that my Nunavut Quest pictures seemed to lack the one ingredient essential for this whole big event - the dogs. I was in a bit of a rush when I posted my first pictures of the race and I didn't get as many shots up of the dogs themselves as I would have liked. It was pretty overcast that day so many shots didn't turn out as I had hoped. But I also wanted to add in a few more pictures here from my archives of the dogs themselves. So here you go. (And....for more pictures from Nunavut Quest 2008, be sure to check out Clare's blog and Kendra's blog. )

For the curious, the team in the shot above is still attached to the sled. As opposed to Yukon, where dogs are hooked up in tandem, here, the fan hitch is used. Each dog is attached by its own individual trace which allows the dogs to spread out when negotiating areas of rough sea ice.

I wasn't able to get as many close-up shots as I wished. My digital doesn't have a lens. Also, up here, sled dogs are considered working animals and not pets so I was wary of getting to close to them if it wasn't really necessary. Particularly at meal times like in the picture below here. Still, they are very beautiful animals and it was a very exciting event to have seen.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

A Chance To Dig For Gold

....well not exactly, though I am tempted to bring a shovel - just in case. I was asked this morning if I would be interested in accompanying a group of 10 high school students out to Baffinland Iron Mines' Mary River Project toward the end of the month for a day. The future mine is located approximately 160km south of Pond Inlet.

Although, the ore body there has been known of since the early 1960's, the massive amount of capital required to realize a mine made development a pipe dream until now. Samples show the rock there to contain iron ore concentrations in the neighbourhood of 65-66%. The mine itself doesn't exist quite yet. Construction is slated to begin in 2010 and the mine will send out its first shipments to Europe beginning in May 2014 if things stay on schedule. The mine will then produce an expected 18 million tonnes of ore every year over the life of the mine, projected to be 25 years. As the project moves forward, the mine will look increasingly towards the surrounding communities to supply labour. The idea behind our upcoming excursion is that students will look toward a career in skilled trades once they finish high school.

I don't know any more details of the trip at this point but I'm really looking forward to getting out there. Last spring came an announcement to build a deep water port out at Nanisivik. That, plus the future iron mine out at Mary River, promises to make the North Baffin a hive of activity over the next few years.

Assuming the weather cooperates, I plan to take my camera along with me and - depending on the size of the aircraft - maybe a small shovel.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Nunavut Quest 2008 - The Finish Line

Excitement has been building here all week with the anticipated arrival of the dog teams for Nunavut Quest. Officially the school was still open, although the building emptied out with kids of all ages spilling out onto the ice. By early afternoon a large crowd had gathered out on the ice. A convoy of snowmobiles, accompanied by a Canadian Ranger patrol arrived in the early afternoon. Later on I noticed the far off shape of the first dog team entering into view on the far side of the bay. That was all the motivation I needed to grab my camera and head out onto the ice.

The first four pictures were taken a little before the arrival of the dog sled teams.

Here is one of the arriving teams. I believe this was about the 4th team into town. I was actually at home washing up some dishes and keeping an eye out the living room window when I noticed what seemed to be the entire town gathered out on the bay. It could only mean one thing - the teams were here!

A qamutik sporting the Nunavut flag with King George as a backdrop.

.....and for your daily dose of cuteness, some sled dog puppies - future Nunavut Questers!

It seemed the entire community was out on the ice, along with visitors from Pond Inlet, Igloolik and Hall Beach. About the only person I saw who was not out on the ice was one of the water truck drivers driving down the hill from my little neighborhood.

Many times I've seen pictures of people being hoisted up in the air on their sleds. It always seemed to me to be one of those iconic images of the North. I'm happy now to have a few of these pictures of my own.

And the winner is? Actually, in all the excitement and confusion I'm not sure although I'm certain I will hear about it eventually.

Update - As I had suspected, Nunavut Quest 2008 was indeed won by Moses Oyukuluk from Arctic Bay.

Double Shocker

I'm not sure what shocks me most about this little political gem, the fact this guy actually resigned or the idea he was actually elected in the first place. I'm curious to know if he used any catchy political slogans during his election bid. "Don't be an idiot, vote for one!" or "Vote for me or I'll beat ya!"?

Monday, May 05, 2008

An Unexpected Phone Call

This morning I had a rather unexpected phone call that I took in my classroom. A phone call of opportunity. I had submitted a resume two or three weeks back for the music position at Inuksuk High School in Iqaluit. After a good week passed following the closing date for resumes without hearing anything, I passed it off as a good opportunity for practicing writing application letters and updating resumes and soldiered on. As it stands currently, the principal called apologizing for the delay and wanting to know if I was still interested in having an interview. Of course, I just couldn't pass up the opportunity, come what may. Teaching music in Iqaluit for me is a real plum position. And I like to think I am up for the potential new challenge. Time will tell.

And so I find myself facing an interview time. Today. At 4pm. I'm taking time this afternoon to clear my thoughts (through blogging about it), making a few notes to prepare and a little time pacing anxiously and anxiously pacing.

Ok, Darcy, time to focus.

UPDATE - I had my interview after work. It was a few minutes late getting started as the office can be a pretty busy place at times. I think I did okay. I wouldn't say it was the best interview I've done but I suppose time will tell. The worst they can tell me is no.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Happy Birthday Bart!

Considering the immense impact the piano has had on the musical world over the past couple centuries, it amazes me that its inventor languishes in obscurity. Bartolomeo Cristofori was born on this day in 1655 and invented what we know as the piano circa 1700 in Florence. Prior to this, organs and harpsichords were the instruments of choice.

The piano as we know it today didn't acquire its cast-iron frame until the 19th century when they grew steadily larger and acquired that full, modern sound familiar to us today. J.S. Bach once criticized the instrument as too loud and difficult to play. It just didn't fit with instruments of the time like the harpsichord did. No worries, enter the likes of Beethoven, Schubert, Chopin and Liszt who picked up the instrument and ran with it. To think though, that Beethoven's and Schubert's sonatas, Chopin's preludes and Liszt's nocturne's may never have seen the light of day were if not for Cristofori's great gift to the world.

Better Late Than Never

Although normally I wouldn't watch a Baroque-era opera other than for purely historical interest, I found this little article interesting. Opera, when I do see it, (and in the Arctic this of course is a huge challenge) tends to be from the Classical era onwards. I had heard of Vivaldi's Agrippo, only vaguely during my university studies, but really, I knew nothing about it other than a few scattered references.

Lord knows, I think it would be cool to be in Krumlov next month to see a performance, since I had been there last summer. As an aside, I think whoever wrote this CBC article got a good chunk of their information from Wikipedia since I popped by there just to see what other information I could dig up about this opera. At any rate, I'm starting to think I should start planning a future summer trip to Italy, the birthplace of opera. (sigh)

Friday, May 02, 2008

I Bet This Penguin Supports The Seal Hunt!

Kendra brought this odd story to my attention. Rather timely given the big bruhaha in recent weeks over the east coast seal hunt. Just a thought: Has anyone ever asked King Penguins for their opinion on seal hunting? I wonder what this one would have to say?

Nunavut's Education Act - The Hilarity Continues

I happened across a news article this afternoon about Nunavut's proposed Education Act. Now, I don't know about you, but every time I hear something, (and really at this point, it could be anything), about this new Act slowly grinding its way through the gears of government, I can't help but envision a pile of clowns jumping in and out of a very small car. Nunavut residents will know well enough what I am talking about. It's mind-blowing that it has taken 9 years for a proposed bill to reach 3rd reading. While I can grasp the concept of wanting to be thorough in your approach to a major piece of government legislation......9 year?! (Actually, they aren't quite there yet but 3rd reading should take place this summer from what I've been told.)

What I find laughable about this article are some of the criticisms of the Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. (the body responsible for overseeing that the provisions of the Land Claim are carried out) and the District Education Authorities (DEAs). Kids up wandering the streets? Government's fault. Kids are playing Guitar Hero 3 until their arms drop off? Government's fault. DEAs are apathetic, acclaimed or face low voter turn-out? Government's fault. Underwear on too tight? Government's fault.

I mean come on people, really now. Far be it from me to defend the GN, but seriously, I don't see the point of simply blaming the government for every little problem. It's an easy out. And it's not like some of NTI's or the DEAs' solutions are any more helpful. The NTI's proposal to immediately have 80% of instruction in Inuktitut is hardly realistic. School's can't even find enough qualified Inuit teachers as it already is. How does this prepare a student if they wanted to attend a college program in Ontario for example. NTI suggests lowering the teaching requirement for Inuit in order to attract sorely needed Inuit teachers. No seriously. This is akin to blindfolding myself and then leading you (blindfolded as well) across 8 lanes of Highway 401. Any takers? Exactly. You don't make progress with the blind leading the blind.

DEAs want the power to hire and fire teachers. Thankfully, this won't see the light of day in the new Act. Honestly, at the start of the school year, I introduced a new colleague of mine to our DEA chair here and the man thought I was a new teacher as well, even though, I HAD BEEN HERE FOR TWO YEARS ALREADY. Okay, granted, it could have been just a brain fart on his part. (Regular readers will know I am prone to this myself). But seriously, if the DEAs held this power it would make teaching the only profession where the possibility exists that an individual with no education background and possibly lacking even a high school diploma, can make a hiring/firing decision affecting that teacher's career. Insane. I'd be happy if DEA's would spend time addressing attendance issues rather than simply blaming the Minister. After all, it's their kids!

The DEA rep. mentioned in this article suggests teachers can promote Inuit culture by decorating classrooms in northern themes (something I already see being done) or by building igloos or lighting traditional lamps with students. Isn't this a parental/community responsibility? Apparently, the lady is unaware that we do have cultural instructors for these kinds of activities. Oops. Little Johnny blew himself and his igloo up because (following the NTI suggestion of immediate 80% instruction in Inuktitut only) he couldn't read English well enough to read the warning label on the fuel container.

Okay, Darcy, you've poked your fun and made your points. What is your suggestion? Simply this. Get the Act passed. It may not be perfect but let's not start building the wagon all over again. Its not like governments never go back and tinker with them. Sure the Act probably won't please everyone (myself included). BUT........We've been waiting 9 years for an Education Act. Let's not wait 9 more due to constant contention and wrangling. There simply isn't time. Our kids deserve better.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Battling the Bear

Normally I like to start out a new month on a positive note. Unfortunately, try as I might, I am unable to do so this evening. Its disheartening when you feel your opinion and input is not wanted. But, hey, I've been in the game now for 8 years. I've learned a few things. Life can be tough. Life can seem unfair. You deal with it and move on.