As part of Nunavut Literacy Week, our school took part in the "Read for 15" Challenge, an event organized by the Nunavut Literacy Council. I'm not sure how how many years this has been done but it has occurred annually at least for the 6 years I have taught in the territory. At any rate, we had 162 students and community members participate this year. Nunavut partners with the other two northern territories in a challenge to see who can garner the most participants. Nunavut was dethroned last year by the Northwest Territories but hopefully we will recapture the crown this year.
Tuesday, September 30, 2008
My young nephew just turned 13 at the start of the month. I really wasn't sure what to get him to mark this important benchmark but I decided in the end to contribute the the "goalie equipment fund". I haven't seen the goalie pads Cole picked out. Apparently, though, they are red, to match the New Jersey Devils. My nephew picked up another shut out on Saturday against York-Simcoe in his Triple A Division, a wonderful birthday present for my sister. I love the fact that this is the second Toronto-area team that he's shut out. (I tend to look on the entire "905 belt" like you would look on a rotting piece of meat stuck to the bottom of your fridge......but anyway, I digress.)
I'm not sure what the team record is off the top of my head (little help sis'?) but this latest victory makes for the team's third and shut out for number 2 for Cole.
You rock buddy!
Link to Part 4
Sopron (Shop-ron) was one of my "must see" places during my summer travels. It began life as an important Roman town along a trade route linking Venice with the Baltic states, therefore Roman remains abound and it sported one of the best preserved old towns in the country. My guidebook referred to the place as a "mini-Prague" and having been to the Czech capital the previous summer this struck me as an appropriate nickname. The city will always be stuck in my mind as the place where I had two interesting encounters, one with a rather revealing sunbather and the other with a relic from the Cold War. But those tales can wait for another time. In the meantime, here are a few photo highlights.
Old Roman foundations along the city wall.
Trinity Column from 1701.
14th-century Goat Church.
Interior of the Goat Church.
Street scene from the Old Town.
Tinodi Castle, a privately-owned castle on the outskirts of the city.
Bust of Franz Liszt.
Monday, September 29, 2008
So far, this is far from a normal Monday morning. Classes were cancelled here this morning and now I'm sitting here trying to think of what to say. Another young person in our community (the grandson of a staff member) committed suicide last night. I'm sitting watching the news and hearing a lot of politicians talk....and talk....and talk. Why isn't this a political issue? Why do they talk about a "war on terror"? Where are the resources for a "war on suicide"? I suppose then leaders might actually have to do something. I've been in the North long enough to realize that this is a complex issue with no quick fix solutions. But still...
I have a strange feeling that if a major city were experiencing the same crisis then the shit would hit the proverbial fan. But I guess when you're North of 60, issues like suicide fly under the radar. Is anyone listening?
Posted by Way Way Up at 09:46
No one likes a bully. In my day they were the small group of tough kids that sat at the back of the room. Today, they don't just push, punch or insult. Some make good use of technology. But really, its the same old problem. I would invite my readers to read up on Jared's Story. How sad that this young man was so depressed that he felt his only option was to take his own life - 10 years ago today.
Bullying is not a new phenomenon. It is definitely not simply a case of "kids being kids". As an educator, one thing that boils my blood is hearing things like "they will sort it out", "s/he will get over it," that kid needs to toughen up" or even "it's part of growing up." These attitudes simply excuse the behaviour. Bullying is harassment. Bullying is assault. Parents, students, teachers....all have the power to do something about it. I don't mean to get on a high horse or go on a rant here. The above-mentioned website is loaded with valuable links and helpful information for anyone who is in the unfortunate position of confronting a bully.
Information is power. Turn on a light and bullies (like the proverbial cockroach) will flee.
Sunday, September 28, 2008
Hear Hear!! Now you don't have to suffer through my bad poetry.
I thought I had last year's problem of constantly running out of water licked since the man that was my neighbor has left and I no longer have to worry about him draining our tank. Fellow Arctic Bay blogger, Kendra, is now my neighbor, and coordinating water usage and calling for trucks has been a darn sight easier. We've only been burned a couple times so far but it was really minor stuff, unlike last year where we were frequently out of water for 2 or 3 days at a time. And so, I felt as if I had dodged a major bullet here. However, lately a new problem has burst forth on the scene.
Our dear furnace has quit on us 3 times over the course of the last two weekends. The first time was due to a scheduled power outage, which was no big deal. However, for some odd reason, the furnace died of its own accord the following day. A call to Housing had it up and running after about 12 hours of no heat so all was well with the world.
Early yesterday morning the heat up and died on us yet again. I made sporadic use of a small floor heater and thankfully the house retained the heat pretty well. It didn't cool down as much as it had last weekend. Unfortunately, it seemed everyone at Housing was out fishing (literally) yesterday so no came by to look at the furnace. Eventually our messages got passed along and a pickup showed up outside the furnace room last night. From what Kendra told me the furnace was fine but we were out of heating oil.
No sweat, I thought, get the fuel truck over here, fill the tank and everything is peachy fine. Well, not quite. Turns out the truck was broken and our fuel tank would have to be filled manually. By that time, it was quite late in the evening so our tank wasn't filled. I just bundled myself up and went to sleep. (God bless my 3 duvets!) Housing had someone over here until at least 2am tinkering in the mechanical room as I could hear a lot of banging and thumping going on behind the house. But since this man was tying to do us a big favour, I certainly wasn't about to go out there and tell him to keep the noise down.
And so, this morning, we are still without heat. The inside temperature is about 17.5C....not too bad. But still not warm enough to be able to relax. Housing has been in and out of the mechanical room this morning. My housemate Monty, has come down with strep throat. I haven't seen a fuel truck yet. I may just have to encourage it to show up through poetry, as I did with the sewage truck back in January.
Saturday, September 27, 2008
Even though I was a young teenager when the Iron Curtain fell, I saw plenty of reminders of the Cold War mentality during my travels overseas. Sopron, Hungary is very close to the Austrian border. Although the barbed-wired and electrified fencing is long gone, a giant observation tower remains, visible from a great distance in all directions. Originally this tower was for border observation. Today it serves as a communication tower for radio and television. Some tourist literature I came across mentioned a tower you could climb for some fantastic views of the surrounding hills. From the heights above Sopron you can easily see Lake Ferto (Neusiedlersee in German) along the border.
After climbing up some narrow streets through a residential neighborhood, I expected to eventually see this tower.
After a nice stroll through some parkland and a few steep trails, I reached my goal. The area outside the tower was surrounded by fences and barbed wire. Hmm......was this a tourist area? Ignoring a little red sign with a white line and several signs in Hungarian which said "Tilos" (Hungarian for "forbidden") I eventually found some stairs and made my way into the tower. Funny, I couldn't find the tourist desk. Also, there didn't seem to be any other tourists around. These should have been my second and third hints that I was somewhere where I shouldn't be. I didn't see anyone, tourist or otherwise, so I wandered around aimlessly. I passed a few rooms full of communication equipment that look like something left over from the 1950's and a few smaller rooms with beds in them. The whole place seemed very cold and impersonal - very Cold War and "military-ish".
Eventually I found myself back at the top of stairs from where I had first entered. A 60-ish year old man was in a small office at the top of the stairs and when he saw me pass by the open door, he came out immediately. The ensuing conversation unfolded something like this:
Me: Hi.........um......[pointing at the maple leaf on my t-shirt with a big grin]........Canada.
Him (with a puzzled, rather severe look]: Oh.......Canada......angolul? (English?)
Me: [smiling a little bit less] Igen! Angolul (Yes, English)......um....is there a tower?....tourist.....?
Him: [pointing]......Ah.....other tower.....350 meter that way.
Me: [relieved] Oohhhh! Sajnalom! (sorry) I go now. Sorry to bother you.
Him: (smiling) Bye Bye Canada.
Eventually, I found another trail which, very shortly led to this tower...
Not quite as tall as the first one, although it still had some nice views.
It's funny how much Europe and society have changed. I pondered this as I made my way back to my hotel. I had gone into an area I clearly was not supposed to be in, ignoring my better judgement and feeling especially adventurous instead. All I bumped into was a perplexed old man who kindly pointed me on my way, even though technically I suppose I was trespassing. I remember thinking that if I had made this exact same mistake back when I was in high school I have may just have been shot at, or at the very least arrested.
It never ceases to amaze me how much the world has changed within the span of my own lifetime.
Happy birthday day wishes go out today from way up here to way down in Ontario to my sister. Little sis turns.....well, in the interest of sibling harmony, I won't say. Happy Birthday Amber!!
Friday, September 26, 2008
Last night was the big candidates forum down in Iqaluit. I just finished reading an on-line CBC article on it and was impressed that one of the issues discussed was whether or not Nunavut's MP would be more effective as a member of the Opposition or a member of the Government. I was glad this topic was raised since I had actually submitted a question asking candidates whether, if they were elected as an Opposition member, they would attempt to work with government (regardless of which party forms the government) or would they play an obstructionist role. I think it is very important our future MP be part of the government since we only have one MP. This is something I had never paid much mind to in past elections when I lived in other provinces. According to the CBC article, the Green Party candidate felt it would be better if our new MP was part of the Opposition. Clearly, this man is out to lunch.
There is one candidate running that is so good that even our current MP (who is from a different party) supports her. I recall a radio interview within the past year in which our Liberal MP, Nancy Karetak-Lindell was asked to name the qualities of the ideal MP to replace her when she left politics. Ms. Lindell stated the ideal candidate, in her opinion, would be:
1. an Inuk
2. a female
3. from the central part of the territory
Conservative candidate Leona Aglukkaq is
1. an Inuk
2. the only female candidate
3. from Gjoa Haven (in the central part of the territory)
Therefore, I can only assume that a Liberal MP will be voting for a Conservative candidate in the coming federal election. Politics makes strange bedfellows indeed.
I recently came across a new blog, Alex Is Up North . One thing that appealed to me about this particular blog, other than the fact that its author, like me, also coaches soccer, is that it is a Northwest Territories blog. I started my career there so I always appreciate news and views from that part of Canada. The author is in Fort Simpson while I began teaching in another "Fort", Fort Smith. In a couple of recent posts you can see a sampling of different signs around his community.
This reminded of an interesting little sign I came across a couple summers ago in the Czech Republic.
No parachuting? That was a new one for me. After all the effort it took me to get to the top of the hill I was climbing, and coupled with the scorching +38C temperature, the last thing I wanted to do was jump off. The other symbols were all ones I've seen many times before but not "no parachuting".
Thursday, September 25, 2008
Today is a red-letter day for pianophiles, Bachophiles and Canadian nationalists in general. Today marks the anniversary of the birth of the incomparable Glen Gould. Yeah, I can't hide it. I LOVE GLEN GOULD. In my humble opinion he is the greatest technically proficient pianist of the 20th century. Unfortunately Glen died shortly suffering a stroke in 1982, just a year after yours truly starting plunking around on an old upright.
I only have 2 Gould recordings in my CD library - but they are both gems. In the past couple years I've been able to get my hands on Gould's recordings of Bach's Goldberg Variations from 1955 (which pretty much launched his career) and from 1982. I can't really say that I prefer one recording over the other. I tend to lean toward the 1955 recording but, really they are both excellent. I've listened to a massive amount of Bach in the past 5-6 years alone and nothing from any other artist comes close to matching Gould.
Okay, one criticism of Gould's recordings if I can be so bold....and no its not his habit of humming along quite audibly with the music as he plays. Perhaps I'm just a boring old purist, but if I'm hearing a recording rather than a live performance, I much prefer to hear it as played all the way through and not spliced together from several different takes as Gould was wont to do. But then again, Glen Gould was a genius. Its hard to argue with that.
Ask the average Canadian to name a Canadian pianist and Glen Gould immediately springs to mind. Yes, Gould is a true Canadian icon and its good to know that Europeans don't have all the best concert pianists.
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
Starting this past Monday and continuing for the next couple weeks our gym will be taken over with all things scientific. Our high school science teacher secured some funding through the Kakivak Association (an Inuit community and economic development organization) to bring up a science educator from Elephant Thoughts. Over the next several days students will get to check out a planetarium, learn about electricity, learn about solar-powered cars and weather formation. Community members will also get an opportunity to see the planetarium next week.
I was able to duck down to the gym toward the end of the day to see a student from our grade 8/9 boys class have a little fun with electricity. I will try to get some more picture up in the coming days as the demonstrations roll along.
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
Seems I've be slighted....besmirched even. Seems a fellow can't give an honest opinion on a topic with without being personally and professionally insulted. Initially I was going to let it slide until I recalled a small article I read not long ago about how technology can sometimes bring out the worst in people. There's some truth to it. I find it ironic that someone who accuses me of being ignorant and intolerant because I may support a certain political view can then turn around and hurl invective at me....true class. Disagree with me fine. But don't swear at me. I don't swear at you. It's all about respect. As a philosopher once said (Rousseau if I remember correctly), I may disagree with your opinion but I will defend to my death your right to speak it. And no, in case you're wondering the person I'm referring to isn't a recent commenter on one of my political posts. While the two of us obviously stand at polar opposites of the political spectrum, I always welcome debate, and the debate is quite civil. It helps clarify my thinking and its a healthy thing in a democracy. I wish I could say the same thing about the ignoramus (upon whose blog I offered a respectfully worded opinion) who saw fit to smite me. I assume the guy is a professional. Perhaps I ask too much at times. So, no links to his potty mouth. I vent and move on.
Wow...for a political rant of sorts, that was a short one. I must be ill or something. :)
Monday, September 22, 2008
This sign represents
a) the most northerly posted speed limit on Baffin Island
b) a convenient shooting target
c) the total number of votes the Green Party will win in the up-coming federal election
d) my brain speed after a very busy Monday
Posted by Way Way Up at 18:27
Sunday, September 21, 2008
Late yesterday we got our heat and water back. It was nice to have a bit of heat. I can only drink so much coffee and consume so much stew to stay warm. So I slept like a log last night. Of course, sometime early this morning the power went out and it didn't take long for things to cool down again. By 9:30am or so, our power was restored. (The power plant here has 4 generators and last time I was told, only one of them was operational.) Cue furnace to conk out again. Luckily, this time I remembered the small space heater buried away in the hall closet. It didn't take long for that little gizmo to make an appearance. I used it sporadically (didn't want to blow the power again) but by just a little after the noon hour the furnace was behaving once again. Hallelujah indeed!
Saturday, September 20, 2008
A pretty interesting start to the weekend at Palais chez Darcy. The fun began when we ran out of water yesterday afternoon. At least I have a good excuse for not doing dishes this morning though a morning shower would be nice. Fortunately, we had enough water sitting in a jug in the fridge so that we could at least make a nice warm coffee this morning, which was a particularly good thing because...
The giggles continued late last night as I noticed the heat starting to die off. At the moment its about -2C outside and last time I checked it was +17C in the apartment...so a tad cooler than I prefer for a Saturday morning. Monty tried calling housing this morning before he went off the guard at the RCMP detachment but I'm not sure if he was able to get hold of anyone there. It could be the case where the furnace up and died on us or we could be out of heating oil. I'm not sure which but this would be the first time I've run out of heating oil in this unit.
The piece de resistance, however, had to be last night when Monty and I were accosted outside our front door by a neighbour from across the street. Initially we thought the guy was just out for a spin on his 4-wheeler and we engaged him in casual conversation before quickly realizing the guy didn't seem all that coherent. (And no, in case you're wondering, he is not an Inuk.) As far as we could tell he was upset over the fact that my housemate actually did his job by reporting the fact that this man's son had been truant from school for longer than 3 days. This Rhodes Scholar, who had stopped his 4-wheeler in front of our door, had what appeared to be either a pipe or a golf club in his hand. After telling us to "take our pay cheques and go home", "and to stay the (bleep)" off his property, he then proceeded to do several doughnuts on his 4-wheeler in the middle of the street, before heading into his house.
Link to Part 3
A little side trip I was able to pull off was a day trip out to the Benedictine Abbey in Pannonhalma, a little south of Gyor. It is the second largest abbey in the world after Monte Casino, Italy. The hill upon which it stands was seen as a sacred place dating back to ancient times. Today the abbey functions as a private school attracting students from all over the world.
The view was impressive and worth the climb.
Of course I couldn't travel 7000km without taking a picture of a least one organ.
Friday, September 19, 2008
After a great deal of consultation, hand wringing and anticipation, Nunavut finally has an Education Act to call its own. This is a huge step forward from the past where the Education Act of the old Northwest Territories was grandfathered over until a new "made-in-Nunavut" Act was passed. Among other things, Inuktitut-language instruction is now set out in law. As I noted in my previous post, this new Act won't make everyone happy but it is definitely a step in the right direction. (Like, NTI, there are a few things in the Act that concern me but since I work for the Department of Education here and since I don't have a death wish when it comes to my job, I will keep those thoughts private.)
To give you an idea of how long the wait has been, bear in mind that Nunavut officially came into existence April 1, 1999, almost 9.5 years ago. As for myself, I began my 6th year of teaching here last month. I'm sure there will be a fair number of poo-poo'ers and naysayers but you have to start somewhere. Of course, much work remains to be done but it is days like today that remind me how lucky I am to be here during such an important time in the territory's history and development.
Thursday, September 18, 2008
When I see things like this I often wonder what goes through the minds of the leaders of Nunavut Tunngavik Inc.......apparently not very much.
Someone ought to tell them that there are things called "amendments" that can be passed to change things if need be. NTI....you do realize there is a territorial election coming up right? And if Bill 21 is not passed then the new Legislature has to start work on the Bill all over again right? Please tell me you grasp this basic political concept because I doubt there are very many people here that want to see another 9 years go by before an Education Act is actually passed.
Probably my favourite TV show as a kid was Mr. Dressup. It's one of the first shows I can remember seeing on television and always brings back fond childhood memories when I sit and ponder the show. I remember when I was really young being very sad when I learned that Casey and Finnegan weren't actually a real boy and dog. The show was just one of those things you thought would go on forever. I couldn't imagine a world where Mr. Dressup wasn't on TV somewhere.
Ernie Coombs (aka Mr. Dressup) was a true Canadian icon. Sure he was born an American, but us kids loved him all the same, regardless of nationality. How fortunate I was as a child to experience real children's television through the magical art of puppetry rather than the computer-generated tripe I mostly see today. Sadly, the show isn't on TV anymore even as a re-run.
Yes, Mr. Dressup was my favourite kids show. It still is. Ernie Coombs died 7 years ago today and I'm man enough to admit that when I heard the news of his passing, I cried.
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
I read Elizabeth May apologized for NOT having smoked pot. What!? Are you kidding me!? Thanks for setting such a wonderful example to Canadian youth. (Umm...you do realize that your one seat in Parliament is a temporary thing right? You do realize it will be gone come election day right? Don't get too big for your breeches there Liz!)
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
After all the supply ships and coast guard ship I've seen enter the bay here over the past 4 fall seasons, something a little different showed up this morning (last night actually but it was a bit dark to get a decent view). This is the closest I've seen an iceberg get this close to shore since my days in about 4-5 years since my time in Qikiqtarjuaq.
This is the same iceberg I visited and photographed last spring out in the Sound. Having now partially collapsed I've watched it over the past month as its been pushed around Adams Sound by wind and tide, occasionally entering the bay here before being dragged back out.
This is what the above iceberg looked like back in March. One of our relief RCMP members stands next to it along with her snowmobile to provide a sense of scale.
Today marks the anniversary of the birth of Nadia Boulanger, a pioneer in a traditionally male-dominated profession. Boulanger was a very successful music teacher, composer and conductor. The list of students she taught over her career is a "who's who" of 20th century musicians (at least 600 in the United States alone) - Burt Bacharach, Daniel Barenboim, Leonard Bernstein, Diane Bish, Jean Coulthard, Aaron Copeland, Phllip Glass, Quincy Jones, Thea Musgrave - all of whom went on to leave their mark on both the classical world or Hollywood.
She found great success at the podium as well as the first female to conduct the New York Philharmonic, the Boston Symphony Orchestra and the BBC Symphony Orchestra. She was a gifted pianist and so, while I didn't study any of her compositions, her name often came up over the course of university studies. She also was an important figure in the teaching of J.S. Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier, the bible of piano students the world over.
Monday, September 15, 2008
Apparently, someone somewhere out there typed "pictures of 40 year old men" into a search engine and was directed to my blog. I'm not sure if I should shudder, cringe, laugh, or scream and run away.
Here are a few of the pictures I took this past Sunday during a community outing to a picnic spot outside Arctic Bay, a place known locally as "First Bridge". The afternoon was an opportunity for our new teachers (only 3 this year) to meet community members and vice verse.
Link to Part 2
Gyor (pronounced something like Dyeur, but run it all together) was a place I initially was going to give a pass. But since I had to pass through it on the train on my way to Budapest I decided it might be good to start out here after heading off from the capital. At least I would already have an idea of what the train station looked like once I got there, I reasoned. At any rate, for a city of its size (4th largest) it had a surprisingly laid back and walkable old town. There were more than enough sites to hold my attention for the 3 days I was there.
A shot from across the Raba River. The Bishop's Castle and Basilica stand behind the old city walls.
Carmelite Church. While in Gyor, my hotel was actually the former nuns residence which is tucked away behind the church here.
As luck would have it, there was a big folk festival held over the weekend I was there. These 3 guys delighted the crowds with some fantastic folk music. I could have listened to them for hours. In fact, over the course of that weekend I'm sure I did.
Interior of the Church of St. Ignatius Loyola.
I thought this was the Bishop's Castle but I'm pretty certain it isn't. I can't remember what its function is now but it was pretty impressive to see.
Napoleon-haz. A small sign out front announces that Napoleon once spent a night here on August 31, 1809.
Sunday, September 14, 2008
I don't get as many chances as I would like to have some good seal meat so I when the opportunity arises I chow down.
Good stuff! Keeps you warm on a cool autumn day like today.
(more pictures of this afternoon's outing will follow shortly)
Saturday, September 13, 2008
While the mountains of Baffin Island may not be as well-known as the Rockies or the Alps, and while they can't compete with them for height, I'll never tire of gazing at the snow-capped majesty. They have a raw beauty to them that I just love.
Friday, September 12, 2008
Its an interesting and easy way to start a conversation in the North. Simply ask "who's been furthest North?". Its like the Northern version of "Well, my father can......." It is kind of neat (to me at least) to see where the northernmost of something is. Most northernmost buildings sit not in Canada but in the small Norwegian town of Longyearbyen in the Svalbard Island group. Anyhow, since I've bumped into a few people who have been to either Grise Fiord or further north on Ellesmere Island I can't really compete with them. Barring the opening of a school in Alert, my chances of making it all the way to the top of Canada are pretty slim.
I can make a couple claims that are pretty solid. I can't quite prove the first but I can prove the second. The chances of me having the largest CD collection north of the Arctic Circle are very good. (At least 818 at last count). I'd be surprised if my collection wasn't the largest, northernmost in Canada. (and an ooh and an aww goes up from the crowd.) I'm pretty sure I'm the only one crazy enough to have that many CDs stored in their house up here. If I ever had to move them at some point in the future....well, that is a logistical nightmare I'd rather not contemplate.
My second claim is easier to back up. Again barring a blogger from Resolute or Grise Fiord, and again I'm not aware of any at this point, I'm the northernmost blogger on my blog list (possibly in Canada). Ooh.......ahhhhh! I had to use Google Earth to check this out though. I live on the same road as Clare and Kendra . The 4-plex I live in is just slightly north of Clare's and really its just blind luck that I happen to live on the end of the 4-plex that puts me just slightly to the north of my neighbor Kendra. The difference in latitude of course is miniscule .
Its all quirky stuff I suppose, akin to a city dweller boasting to a neighbor about living on a higher floor in a Toronto highrise. Of course, to the Inuit, North, no matter how you define it, is just another dot on a map, not necessarily more important than any other point. But still, it is something unique I can say about myself.
....And I have to live up to my blog name afterall.
This year marks the busiest sealift season I've seen here in Arctic Bay. Our third supply ship of the season pulled into the bay here mid-morning. I don't really think it has much to off-load though. A couple colleagues at work said it was mainly here to on-load empty sea cans and some heavy equipment.
Shortly after 3pm, a coast guard ship also made an appearance, possibly the same one I saw here the day I returned from summer vacation although I can't say for sure.