Thursday, April 30, 2009

Hungarian Highlights - Part 19 (Pal-volgyi Cave)

Link to Part 18

The Pal-volgyi Cave was a huge treat for me. I didn't think I would get a chance to see it since it was a bit of a hike from my hotel. On my way back through Budapest, a few days before my return to Canada I decided that it didn't matter how far of a hike it was, I had to see it. Not seeing it might turn out to be a huge regret. It was a hot day and a challenging walk through the outskirts of the city (much of it uphill) but in the end my persistence paid off.

A little background on the cave - 40 million years ago Hungary was covered by a tropical sea. 15-20 million years ago the hills around Budapest began to elevate which created a network of faults and cracks below the surface. Eventually thermal water from deep below the earth found its way into the system of faults where it easily dissolved the limestone, eventually resulting in the caves we see today. Pal-volgyi Cave was discovered in 1904. (Another large cave nearby, which I didn't get a chance to see was found to be connected to Pal-volgyi quite recently, around 2001 if I recall). It served as an air raid shelter during World War II before being opened as a tourist attraction.

The Pal-volgyi Cave is the country's second longest cave system at around 19km. (The longest cave system in the world also lies in Hungary, although part of it stretches under neighboring Slovakia.) The cave temperature is a constant +11C, which I didn't mind at all given that it was at least +35C outside. During my tour, I got a kick out of the fact that I was the only one in the group (including the guide) that wore shorts.

Anyhow, without further ado, I give you some views of this wonder of nature.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

A Pox On You

The "Black Death" of the mid-14th century wiped out anywhere from 30%-60% of Europe's inhabitants depending on what source you choose to cite. The Plague of Justinian at its height killed perhaps 40% of the population of Constantinople. The "Spanish Flu" of 1918-19 led to the deaths of perhaps 50 million world-wide. In 2003, the SARS epidemic, according to the World Health Organization, took the lives of 774 people globally. During the 2008 listeriosis outbreak, there were 57 confirmed cases and 21 deaths. Swine Flu.....8 confirmed deaths to date.

I really wish the media circus would add a little perspective to things.

AND...since I'm on a rant of sorts, I find it funny that our enlightened animal rights friends love to dictate to subsistence hunters about how awful hunting and trapping are. I would humbly submit that the domesticated animal industry is much more unsafe and unhealthy. Perhaps these people would be better off protesting the pork industry. Interesting how we have Swine Flu, Mad Cow Disease yet no Seal Disease or Caribou Flu.

Interview Season

It's gotten a tad busier the past 24-48 hours with the official start of job interview season. I started sending out resumes a couple weeks ago and had my first interview yesterday evening. It went pretty well. I was generally pleased with it. I haven't had much practice with interviews lately having been teaching here 4 for years - perhaps 3 interviews in the past 4-5 years so getting some practice is always welcome. I know well that you can have a solid resume but blow it all during the interview. I'll hear back on the results within the next 48 hours and while I don't see myself going to this particular community, the interview was still a good start to whole job searching process. I have another interview set up Friday afternoon and I'm waiting to hear back from a few more places of interest. So far, my plan is working well: Get as many interviews as possible to build up confidence for the positions I really want to go after. My goal is to remain in the North. It's early in the hiring process for school boards. There are plenty of positions out there and plenty of time. It's a stressful time but also an exhilarating time as I ponder all the possibilities.

Monday, April 27, 2009

I Flew The North

Through random chance, I fumbled across a website promoting a new series on The History Channel. You can check it out here. One of the things about the North I've always enjoyed is the great stories, particularly relating to air travel. Come to think of it, I'm surprised I haven't written a few posts on some of the little adventures I've had over the years simply trying to get from Point A to Point B. I've frozen on a Twin Otter over Wood Buffalo National Park en route to Hay River, spent an hour crammed between two bulky pilots on a Cessna 172 somewhere over northern Alberta, almost lost my lunch on a very turbulent flight into Thompson, Manitoba and been delayed countless times. I decided to try my hand at it and submitted a show idea about a memorable flight delay in Iqaluit just a few years ago. Who knows if it will get picked up for an episode or not. Even if it doesn't it was still an experience I won't soon forget.

So, if you're feeling creative (and I know there are great stories out there flying around - excuse the horrible pun) check out the show's website for more information and tell your story.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Little Boys and Broken Bones

My parents told me last summer they figured it would only be a matter of time before my little nephew Carson broke a bone or something of the sort before he reached school age. He's a very active kid - always on the move. Talking to my sister today, I learned that my parents' prophecy has come to fruition. Poor little guy. Apparently it was quite the nasty break too involving some surgery and a couple of screws.

Carson was standing on a wooden chest in the living room in front of the window imitating big brother Cole who was outside washing the window. When Cole moved to wash the far corner of the window, Carson, in the words of my sister,"tried to copy and down he went." The chest wasn't as long as the window. The break was bad enough to break his right humorous and 2/3 of the joint at the elbow. But he's a tough little guy. Last week's surgery went well and I don't think the screws will be in for very long.

Heal up quickly buddy. And steer clear of window washing for the time being!

Student Artwork

A drop cloth which was completed this past week by our high school art class.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Education and Politics

As I was doing some reading this morning, I came across the following math problem -

The iniquitous Treaty of Versailles imposed by the French and English enabled international plutocracy to steal Germany's colonies. France herself acquired part of Togoland. If German Togoland, temporarily under the administration of the French imperialists, covers fifty-six million square kilometers and contains a population of eight hundred thousand people, estimate the average living space per inhabitant.

For the curious, this math problem comes from a 1930's German textbook mentioned in a book entitled "The Black March" by Peter Neumann. The book is an autobiography of a young German student who served in WWII. An interesting example of the mixing of education and politics and the dangers of ultranationalism.

Friday, April 24, 2009

A Sure Sign Of Spring

Yes, I know. It's a road. But...after walking on snow- and ice-covered roads for the past 7 months it was exciting to see patches of road starting to show through during my morning walk to work.


Sitting here watching the morning news I saw a few pictures of a dog on a catwalk in Europe sporting a diamond-studded tiara its owner had made for it. And it wasn't some little out-of-a-box snap-together assemblage either. We're talking a price of something like $4 million. Are you kidding me? How sad to live in a world where animals are treated better than people.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

A Premier, A Minister and a Teacher

Sure the title sounds like the beginning of a bad joke but one of my goals during the dog races was to get a picture of me with some of the visiting VIP's. Our Premier, Eva Aariak, was in town along with Nunavut's new Education Minister, Louis Tapardjuk. I was hoping to get a good picture of them and even managed to fit myself into the shot as well. They were both very busy but very obliging when I asked if I could take get a photo taken. I can now boast that I've met both of Nunavut's Premiers and the current and former education minister. Our MLA was also in town for Nunavut Quest and I had hoped to get a picture of him as well but I wasn't able to locate him in the crowds. But I've known him pretty much since the first day I moved to Arctic Bay and see him fairly often so I'm sure there will be other opportunities.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Nunavut Quest 2009 - Part 2

A few more pictures from the start of yesterday's race for your viewing pleasure.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Nunavut Quest 2009 - Part 1

As I mentioned a couple posts ago, this afternoon saw the start of Nunavut Quest 2009, traveling from here to Pond Inlet. I believe there are 15 teams (with between 8 to 12 dogs per team) participating in this year's run. I took quite a number of pictures so I decided to do up a couple posts. Clare and Kendra (both of whom possess photographic abilities that far surpass my own) will also make mention of the event on their respective blogs too I'm sure as I saw them down on the ice this afternoon.

Some of the teams.

The racers have a staggered start with about 2-3 minutes separation between teams. They are preceded by a support party of skidoos which will set up the camps along the way. Here the support teams set out, accompanied by a big cheer from the spectators.

I just thought this was a bit of a funny picture - dogs pulling a qamutiq AND a skidoo.

The crowds out on the ice...with the town making a graceful appearance in the background.

....and as long-time readers of my blog will know, King George just HAD to sneak in there somehow.

Sunday, April 19, 2009


Occasionally I've got the odd question about the amauti (plural, amautiit). These are the traditional Inuit parkas which a person uses to carry a baby. (They can be worn by both women and men.) I haven't posted on these iconic (and ingenious) inventions in the past namely because a) I've never worn myself since I do not have a baby, am not currently pregnant nor will be any time ever and 2) for the longest time I was a bit dense myself as to how exactly these things worked. I happened across a couple of well-written and well-composed posts this morning while reading through some Northern blog posts. Check out these two posts courtesy of Jen Of Nunavut and Fawnahareo's Place.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Nunavut Quest 2009

Today marks the kick off of Nunavut Quest. Think of it as Nunavut's version of the Iditarod. Each year I have been in Arctic Bay, the community has been involved with the race in some fashion, either as the start or finish of the race. This year's race will see the teams (not sure how many are involved this year) start here, head down Admiralty Inlet and then cut across the Borden Peninsula to Milne Inlet and Pond Inlet before finishing in the community of Pond Inlet. I caught a quick glimpse of the race course on a map over at the Hamlet Office early this week. I believe the teams will make for camping stops along the way. As far as I know, last year's winner, our current mayor, will be competing again this year. I will try to post updates as the race progresses and I learn more information. Below are a couple quick pictures of the teams and spectators gathering on the ice around an hour ago.

UPDATE - I neglected to mention that while pre-race festivities kick off today, the actual race will commence on Monday, April 20. Classes at the school will be dismissed early so students can watch the start of the race. Stay tuned for more (and hopefully better) pictures.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Susan Boyle

I gave up on pop music loooong ago. Sure I still listen to it. It's hard to avoid radios, tv's and kids with ipods. But really, I don't go out of my way to hear it. Grief!!....(c)rap music.....hip hop (isn't that what fuzzy little bunnies do?) Truly, it makes my ears bleed. One of my biggest criticisms is that music is all show. Sure, I understand there is an aspect of showmanship to it but it just seems that somewhere along the way we went overboard and the pendulum has swung too far the other way. Seems to me its all about hair, make-up, celebrity gossip, bling....give me a break. How pathetic, how pathetically fake.

.......then I happened across a video from the British television show "Britain's Got Talent" and saw this unassuming but amazing little Scottish lady.

Now, I'm not a vocalist by training but ........HO-LY!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

One Strange Onlooker

Picking up the territorial weekly on my was home from work I noticed something strange in this photo from last week's events here in town commemorating Nunavut's 10th anniversary. I seem to have been attacked by a big inky spiral.

Hungarian Highlights - Part 18 (Szesceny)

Link to Part 17

The drive through the hills of northern Hungary was very scenic, though at one point I was convinced the bus was going to cross over into Slovakia (not that I would have minded.) At any rate, once I arrived in Szesceny, I pretty much had the main tourist attractions (a mansion and a monastery) to myself. The hotel room left a little to be desired but since it was a) a 2-minute walk from the mansion and b) the only hotel in town I could find, I couldn't complain.

Franciscan Church and Monastery, dating mostly from the 17th century.

Monastery Church

Inside the monastery church.

My hotel.

No crowds - perfect.

One of the manor's outbuildings. At one time, it functioned as the servants' quarters. I'm not sure what purpose it serves now though there was a pretty nice restaurant on the basement level.

The Forgach Manor, dating from about 1760, made for a great afternoon of exploring and gawking.

"The Leaning Tower of Szesceny" aka the town's old fire watch tower. It was built sometime in the 1800's if I recall correctly. Anyhow, if you take a close look at it, you might should be able to notice a slight lean to the tower as a result of ground subsidence and Allied bombing damage in 1944.

Monday, April 13, 2009

This Story Is So Obviously Fake

Ok, ignoring the fact that it comes courtesy of my media heroes at FAUX News, this polar bear story can't POSSIBLY be true. I mean come on, if years of listening to animal rights' activists have taught me anything, it's that polar bears are all cute and cuddly. All wild creatures in fact are practically harmless. Surely, in a state of nature they would never attack anyone.

Thank God we have Europeans and animal rights activists to point us all in the right direction.

"I Thought I Saw The Face Of God."

In a strange coincidence (or perhaps not, given that it is Easter), I found myself listening to Handel's oratorio "Messiah" yesterday afternoon and here we have today Easter Monday, April 13, the date of the work's Dublin premiere. This piece has always been a personal favorite of mine. I'm not the most religious of people but I've found the work's central theme of hope and of surmounting obstacles apropos given what I've gone though in the past week.

I have a few different recordings of "Messiah". One of my favourites of the bunch is this 1988 recording by the English Consort led by Trevor Pinnock...

I'll leave the whole story about the custom of standing for the "Hallelujah" Chorus for now since I'm sure I've blogged about it in the past. I will say that my favorite explanation continues to be that King George II simply stood because he was at that moment hoping to sneak out to relieve himself.

The title for this post comes from an incident (apocryphal I'm sure) whereby one of Handel's assistants found the composer, score in hand, weeping uncontrollably in his room. When asked what was the matter, Handel simply responded, " I thought I saw the face of God."

Sunday, April 12, 2009

The Easter Bunny Hates Me

(I just couldn't resist this one.)

Saturday, April 11, 2009

It Really Is A Small World

Recent online conversations with other Northern bloggers have reminded me of just how small the North can be. Some examples -

Kara, formerly from Kugluktuk, knows a woman who is now on staff here in Arctic Bay. Kara of course now blogs from Faro Yukon. When I was growing up in little Campbellford, Ontario, my parents knew a couple who moved there back in the '80's to teach at the school in Faro. Small world.

Lindsay from Niedzielski Family Blog happens to know a girl (from when they both lived in Chesterfield Inlet) who went to grade school with my one sister in Ontario. Small world.

Then there's Tina and Rob from Just Below 63. I used to teach not very far from where they find themselves in northern Saskatchewan. Man, I miss ice fishing.

The one that really freaks me out though is fellow blogger Clare. Through some strange quirk, he was an RCMP member in each of the same provinces and territories I've taught in (although we weren't there at the same times). Now, if memory serves me correctly, here's the run down: At one point in his career, Clare was in Fort Providence, Northwest Territories, not too far from where I started my career in Fort Smith. Heck, the two places are just down the road from each other. He's mentioned spending time in Thompson, Manitoba. I taught in a small community about an hour by air north of Thompson. He has also written some good real life crime stories from his time in La Ronge, Saskatchewan. La Ronge just happens to be where the board office is located of the school board I worked for when I was in La Loche, the year before I moved to Nunavut. And now in Nunavut, we live down the road from each other here in Arctic Bay. Yes, it's a small world.

And, no, in case you're wondering, I'm not some freaky stalker. These are just blogs I've pretty much read all the way through and I happen to have a pretty good memory for detail. Honest.

Friday, April 10, 2009

On The Land

Increasingly, the rhythm of life here begins to change. Families head out on the land with the arrival of long daylight hours and warmer temperatures. I was able to take a trip down to Ikpikittuarjuk (72.12N 84.35W), a popular fishing lake in the springtime during my first spring here. The trip took about 6-7 hours by skidoo. You can make it there faster than this but at the time I was pulling a very heavy qamutiq with my skidoo and traveling with a large group. At any rate, it was easily the furthest distance I've ever traveled by skidoo. At the risk at over-romanticizing, I should add that there were times I was cold, thirsty or generally confused over exactly where I was in this vast expanse of frozen ice and snow. However, I look back on it with a sense of pride and accomplishment and it was one of the highlights of living here in Arctic Bay.

First stop at Iqalulik (72.65N 85.70W, Eqalulik in English), a river mouth feeding into Admiralty Inlet.

The first large ice crack we had to pass over. This isn't the greatest picture and it wasn't the largest crack I had to cross on the trip but it was my FIRST. I may or may not have taken a spill off my skidoo while crossing it.

A stop along the way. I think this was still in the vicinity of Iqalulik.

Views of Ikpikittuarjuk.

The qamutiq I was towing.

The second morning a couple of hunters arrived with 3 caribou they had harvested. You get a pretty nice fur off the animal once it is dried and cleaned up a little.

You also get kummaq (spelling?) These are small grubs about the size of the top joint of your thumb. They start out as flies, warble flies, which burrow into the animal and lay their eggs underneath their coat. These eggs eventually turn into small grubs which can be picked off the carcass once the hide is removed. They can then be picked off and eaten. I have to say that they tasted really good. Once you get over the crunchy outer skin, your mouth is filled with a wonderfully sweet liquid, not unlike the taste of honey. Originally, I ate this little guy on a dare but ended up eating 5 more. They became my breakfast for the morning along with my coffee.