Tuesday, August 05, 2008


Increasingly I get asked how I've been able to put in 8 years teaching in the North (5 years and counting in Nunavut.) I don't presume to have some magic formula or possess some magic gene in my DNA. I'm not sure if I have any solid answers but I do have some ideas.

1. An appreciation for difference. Nunavut's culture is definitely unique. I challenge myself to learn more about it each day. Five years on and I'm still learning. I make my mistakes but at the same time, those experiences provide me valuable insights and understanding about the world around me. Picking up a bit of Inuktitut has definitely helped. I'm no where near achieving fluency but again, I try to learn a little everyday. Whether its language, a land trip or trying a new food, my experience is that if people see you are trying and not coming across as a condescending Southerner, they will be much more receptive. They will offer good advice and gently correct your mistakes (in my case, this happens quite frequently.)

2. The single life - Yes ladies, I am single. Unlike couples or couples with children there are a lot fewer things I have to worry about...food costs, clothing costs, schooling, health care and so forth. Some days looking after Darcy can be a full-time job. Joking aside, however, lack of family responsibilities frees me up to focus on my work and focus on the culture around me. This is not to say that couples with children can't experience the North just as well as I have. I'm not sure I would be able to move around as easily and do some of the things I have done if I had familial responsibilities.

3. I can function well without many so-called Southern "conveniences". I've never had a house, car, boat, cell phone etc. to worry about. Actually with the possible exception of a house, I really couldn't care less if I ever owned any of the other "stuff". Its exactly that - stuff. And I find it just gets in the way. I can live without shopping malls, movie theatres, bars, fast food joints and the like. This is not to say I'm a complete stoic. I do try to hit Chapters a couple times during the year when I'm South visiting the folks. But if I don't see the inside of a mall on a daily or weekly basis, I hardly feel deprived. I'm actually finding as time goes on that I can only stand to be confined in those places for short periods of time before feeling a wee bit claustrophobic.

4. I'm stubborn. True not every place I've lived and taught in was a barrel of roses but I refuse to give up and quit (and those who know me best know I've had some pretty rough experiences in my pre-Arctic Bay days). I'm a firm believer in the notion that if you're going to commit to something, then finish the job.

5. I was an Army Cadet and a Reservist. Growing up I spent much of teenage years in either Army or Sea Cadets. You meet many different people, go to many different summer camps and face many adverse situations. Really, my summer camp experience was preparation in many ways for life. The Cadet summer camp and Reserve experiences helped me become super organized (even to a fault), accustomed to long distances from familiar faces and able to work in stressful conditions sometimes with very little sleep. Not to say that all my days are long, stressful and wrought with little sleep, but I have found that when the stuff hits the fan and I have to dig down really deep inside to get through a rough patch, I always find a little gas left in the tank.

I'm sure I could come up with a few more reasons. But since 5 is a nice, tidy number, I'll leave it at that.


Anonymous said...

I can remember giving advice too a young cadet who was feeling a bit down because they were away from home at a camp and were having a bad day. I said there will be good days and there will be bad days and when you are having a bad day just remember" You might have 1 or 2 bad days together but you will find that there will be more good days 4,5,6,7,8,9 10 days etc. between those bad days".

Way Way Up said...

Oh grief! Now the whole internet knows that little story!

'Tis very true though.