Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Most Beautiful Things

I think that the most beautiful thing in life is the purity and enthusiasm that makes up the hearts of children. The children in Iqaluit take up a huge amount of the population. It seems that every woman in sight has a baby in the hood of her amauti.

Unfortunately the sad truth of the most beautiful things is that they aren't always appreciated for the gifts that they are.

There are social problems here that I could not have fathomed while living in the South. The reality here is that teenagers don't seem to be getting the education that they need about sex and preventing pregnancy. It seems as if the government and the school systems have almost given in to the fact that the kids will do as they please. Instead of teaching methods of safe sex, they post fliers to send the message out that we should "help women and babies by encouraging alcohol free pregnancy." The message is fantastic and needs to be retained but it is devastating that the message wasn't "help women prevent pregnancy."

Pregnancy and bringing another human being into the world is incredible and beautiful and miraculous. Here, the young women are offered the birth control pill free of cost, and as sad as it sounds, many refuse it because they are worried it will make them "fat." Instead of taking the pill or wearing condoms, so many young women use abortion as a form of birth control. So many more women find themselves in a hard spot with a new baby or a baby on the way and walk around town trying to find someone to adopt their child. The women approach other women and literally offer them their babies.

I think that these children having a chance at a better life is fantastic. I also believe that for individuals or couples wanting to adopt that this is an incredible opportunity but it simply breaks my heart to see a woman approach others and offer her child away.

Yesterday at work Matt was standing with two female co-workers when a young woman, who had already had multiple children, approached them with an offer of her soon to be born child. The story tore my heart to shreds. I'm not sure I would be strong enough to say no. Every day I think about the sweet, tiny babies who never got a chance to choose for themselves what kind of life they would be born into.

I have a new friend at work who is five months pregnant with her third baby, a baby girl. I found out today that she has already found a family for her baby and will be giving her away. My heart nearly stopped beating. This girl is a loving, caring mother to her two babies and is the sweetest girl you've ever met. I feel so sad for her. I feel physically sick knowing that this could have been prevented and maybe she wouldn't have to go through the experience of parting with her baby. I know that although she could have taken precautions, this situation isn't entirely her fault.

I am learning to accept the culture here and embrace the different way of life but if I could change anything here, I would teach the women here to love themselves more. I would teach them to take care of themselves so that they would never have to feel the heartache of giving away their newborns. I would flip the education system on its ass and teach every child, boy and girl, to respect each other, themselves and what happens when you aren't careful.

On a more cheerful note I am trying to find a local woman who can make me my own amauti, so that in a couple of years if I move back to Ontario and have babies of my own I can take such a beautiful tradition of Nunavut with me to carry my children in. The amauti in the picture is a very old traditional seal skin version but you can have them made in almost any fabric and pattern. They are also usually made to be more form fitting than the one in the picture. They are incredibly beautiful and a lot of Inuit women have them made in bright colours like red and yellow.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Strip Show

Let me start this post off by telling you that today, while I was on my lunch break, it snowed. Today was the first time in my entire life I have seen real snow in September. I practically jumped out of my seat with excitement. Today was a surprisingly thrilling day. I couldn't sleep last night, I found some ridiculously unwanted burst of energy and wanted to chat Matt's ear off about everything I'd seen thus far. Due to the lack of sleep, it was extra difficult to drag myself out of bed this morning at seven. It didn't help that until this morning, our heat has been off. We turned it off the day we got here because it was a sauna when we walked in... it was also hovering around 10 degrees outside. Today however was cold and windy and classified as one of those days that you would rather spend in bed. I turned the heat on, shivered my way through breakfast and walked to work with my manager and the only other person in my department, Ellen.

Thriller number one was obviously the snow.

Thriller number two - Babies in mukluks and parkas. Anyone who knows me, knows how much I love babies and tiny baby accessories, so if this isn't a thriller for you, too bad, I love it. I need to find someone to hand make me some of these adorable garbs so I can send them home to my honorary niece, Gabriella, who is nine months old now and will be almost two next time I see her during my vacation time. This is probably biased but I'm not kidding when I say that she is the most adorable child I've ever loved and she would kill with cuteness in the traditional outfits the Inuit babies rock. Absolutely stunning.

Thriller number three - Loss prevention in full effect. Its not unusual for people to try and steal anything and everything they can from the store, in fact, its rather common. Today a young man who had apparently been kicked out of the store multiple times decided he would try his luck on a five finger discount. The boys, including Matt, who work on the opposite end of the store from me, caught him on his way out. They dragged him into the customer service office and once the RCMP had been called he pulled a knife out. The threats he made didn't put out the excitement for them. My favorite part was the excitement in Matt's voice as he re-told the story to anyone who asked. Boys...

Thriller number four - Ellen smiled an excited little grin and said, "follow me." She led me to a wall of windows in the "food court" at the store, where a whole gaggle of men were sitting and watching something outside. A fight. One man, a known trouble maker, stole money from another man. The other man obviously wanted his money back. We watched... everyone else amused... me worried. He held the man up against the wall of a house and lectured him, he then started to search the mans pockets. One pocket at a time he retrieved his money but he wasn't satisfied. He took his coat, shook it out and kept yelling. He turned the man around, put him against the wall and patted him down. Then the real kicker.... the snow had just stopped falling and the man who stole the money, in an effort to prove he had nothing more, dropped his pants. At that moment I stopped worrying and started laughing. I wonder if he knew he had an audience?

Well folks... "Welcome to the North."

Other than the trouble makers, I loved today because for the first time I feel comfortable. Ive been feeling out our surroundings, avoiding anyone who I didn't know I could trust. In the last couples days I've started to feel at ease, probably because Ive met enough people to know I've got "people," and probably because we got the deadbolt on our front door fixed. I am less worried now and more comfortable. I am recognizing friendly faces and allowing myself to enjoy where I am and what I'm doing. I am even starting to fear the small-dog-sized Ravens a teeny-tiny bit less... Sort of. And life is beautiful now that Matt's luggage arrived and he has something other than shorts to wear.

Cheers to all the beautiful days to come,
With love from Iqaluit.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Little Yellow Airport

As I hugged my parents and cried like a child, I felt the sadness I was expecting. I knew it would be one of the harder things Ive done in my twenty one years. They watched through the door way as we dropped our belts, glasses and coats into bins, took the cats out of their carriers and walked with them through the metal detectors. We re-dressed, re packed and walked away slowly, waving and blowing as many kisses as I could, we left our lives in Ontario behind. The flight to Ottawa from Toronto was a half hour long. It felt like the plane had only just leveled out when we began descent. We waited only a minute or two to board our connecting flight to Iqaluit. The plane was the same size as the first one, only it was half full. I was surprised to see that so many people were travelling to Iqaluit. The woman sitting in front of us was texting on her cell phone in Inuktitut, I felt my heart flutter, we were getting so close.

This flight was about three hours long. As we took to the air I said a silent good-bye to the trees. Though I thoroughly enjoyed Sex and the City 2, I took time to glimpse out the window, every time holding my breath nervous to see the green thin out. The clouds blanketed the earth so it was a long while before I saw the water. The pool of blue was massive, I guessed that we were somewhere over the Hudson Straight. I watched, and watched, and watched until I started to see rocks in the water, little Islands and my first ever Ice burg. With my face glued up to the window, I cried a few tears, the excitement and freshness of this adventure was turning my stomach round and round. I turned to Matt to say,"Look babe, no trees!" Then the main land came into view and we started to land, seemingly in the middle of nowhere. The land looks like the weathered skin of a dirt covered elephant from the sky. When the plane hit the ground it was pouring rain. The little yellow airport looked exactly as it did in the pictures. The door opened, and we walked out straight into the rain. Everyone ran to shelter, Matt and I walked, taking in the rock and dirt that surrounded us.

We were picked up by our new HR Manager, who waited while we took in the new faces, the art and waited on our luggage. I was extremely excited to get to the new apartment, let the cats free from their tiny carry on pet carriers and take a long nap. It turned out, that's not the way it would happen. We waited for what felt like forever as Matt got his information into the airports computer system in hopes we would have his missing suit case returned to us. We dropped our bags off at the apartment, took a trip to the Northmart for grocery's and got a quick tour by truck.

Our apartment is fantastic. Although we may be booted into something smaller when a couple with children is hired, for now, we have a two bedroom apartment. As the HR Manager said, "it's not the Ritz," however it is comfortable. We have a very large living room, bigger than what either of us had at home, a small kitchen and two small bedrooms. We also have 4 large closets, and a big utility cupboard. Jack stays hidden during the day and comes out to lick our faces at night. Sadie loves it here, we've never seen her so cuddly.

We're almost settled in. The fridge has food in it, the closet has clothes in it and I only have one more suitcase to unpack. Today was my first day off since we got here. We landed on Sunday and started work at eight am on Monday morning. The work days are long, ten hours a day, five days a week. However exhausted the days make us, we aren't overworked. There is a mentality here, life is slow, things don't get done and the one thing you hear over and over again is, "Welcome to the North." This is not a greeting, it's said with some degree of sarcasm and used by everyone as an excuse to do things tomorrow. My mentality today was, 'screw the procrastinators mentality.' My goal was to drop the money necessary to change my cell phone number over to an Iqaluit number, hook up the Internet and hook up the house phone. You would be amazed at how long it takes to accomplish anything. I walked around the city, freezing my butt off, wishing I had worn mittens and sunglasses to block the blowing dirt. I got my number changed and I walked over to the NorthWesTel, the only home phone service provider in the city. It was 2:18pm when I got to the front door, the store hours said 'Monday to Friday 1 pm - 3 pm.' The door was locked... Welcome to the North. Then I went over to Qiniq to hook up the "wireless" that we were told about. Here wireless means at least one wire. Still, Qiniq came highly regarded, probably because they were more likely to be open at 2:18pm on a Wednesday afternoon.

We work with people from all walks of life, a lot from down south. I am still a little uncomfortable with the customers, like a newcomer to a country where no one speaks your language. If its not Inuktitut, its french or "Newfanese." I want to open myself up to the world and share all the love I have to give with every person that I meet. The warnings we've gotten however, keep me nervous and make me want to spend some quality time as an observer instead. Lock your windows, lock your doors, lock up your valuables, don't walk alone at night, look out for thieves, drug dealers and kids. We've heard its the younger generation you cant trust, they'll take whatever they can get. The elders, for the most part, bring a new kind of joy to life. They almost never fail to smile and sometimes they laugh this uncontrollable, comedic, heart felt laugh that we couldn't force if we tried.

I came with very low expectations yet still nothing is what I imagined it to be. The natives put so much value into "their land" yet the first thing we noticed in town was the amount of garbage littering the streets. I also hoped that Iqaluit would have a small town charm, and that everyone would be welcoming and warm but the vibe isn't all that different from home. They say that its a different kind of lifestyle here and that if you hope to change it, you might as well go home. I believe that anywhere and everywhere you go, you should leave your mark and it should ALWAYS be a mark for the better. My expectations are shifting and changing, my goals are growing larger and the list of people I want to speak to is growing. I always have these almost unattainable pipe dreams and currently my dream is to change the world, starting with the garbage floating down 'River Jordan' that runs outside our living room and bedroom windows. Ive been told the garbage will re-appear in the blink of an eye, but hey, a girl can dream.

As a side note, I was told yesterday at work that we should be expecting a good snow storm anytime now and that they are talking about the terrible storms to come this winter. It has been said that they are thinking of evacuating Iqaluit because once the power outages start, the generators wont be able to keep up. What excitement!

Cheers to change and discovery,

With love from Iqaluit

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Getting Ready for Nunavut

Welcome to our blog! I've been meaning to write our first blog post for weeks now but as you can imagine, getting set for the big move has been crazy!

For starters, we currently live in the burbs in Oakville, Ontario and both just recently moved back to this home town of ours after finishing school down town Toronto and in London, Ontario. We were looking for interesting jobs, something to spice up our lives and found an ad in the classifieds of our local paper. To make a long story short we applied for a job, got the job, and are now moving to Iqaluit to work as a bakery supervisor and a general merchandise supervisor at Northmart. As of now we plan to be there for two years and will fill you in if that changes. We have lists and lists of things to do and see and are incredibly excited about them!

Matthew and I have had so many loved ones to say good-bye to and even more shopping and researching to do. To be honest, neither of us have even started packing yet. I do however have a designated "packing area" that my wonderful mom set up for me in her dining room. The dining room table is pushed up against the wall with all of my toiletries, non perishable foods, and way too many accessories on top of it. All of my clothes have been neatly folded and are sitting on the dining room chairs waiting patiently to be sorted and packed away.

Getting ready for this trip started out as a huge excitement as I searched any information I could find on Iqaluit, Nunavut. Stores, pass times, people, blogs! It was an Internet scavenger hunt. Blogs have been my saving grace. Especially a blog belonging to Jaime, shout outs, because everything of value that I know about travelling to Nunavut has come straight from her blog at http://newnavut.blogspot.com/. She lived in Nunavut for four years and recently moved back to the South. My greatest hope is that Matthew and I will be able to follow in her foot-steps and keep the details from the North coming for anyone else who wishes to transplant to Iqaluit.

The other night we had a bon voyage dinner with my dad's side of the family. They were wonderful to us! We got all sorts of much needed accessories... tampons, q-tipps, dryer sheets, brita filters, stamps, burned dvds, and a small stash of chocolate to name a few, along with so so much love! Tonight we had our final family dinner with Matt's family... which also served as my last farewell to East Side Mario's Cheese Capaletti. During dinner Aunt Janet gave us battery powered heated socks! Which I'm guessing will come in incredibly handy. Family is by far the hardest thing for us to leave behind.

My mind is so all over the place! We've been editing, crossing off and re-writing packing lists for months. I think my list is finally down to a few essentials that Walmart has inconveniently been out of stock of, and a few things that I plan to order off the net when we arrive at our new apartment in Iqaluit. Of course all this running around and stress has pushed Matt (who has been playing 'Melissa's personal driver') to near snappage.

The worst part of checking off things on the packing lists has been hunting down cat carriers to take on the plane! Who would have thought? We hit up the two biggest pet stores in Oakville and Mississauga, Rens Pet Depot and Petsmart and neither had a cat carrier that fit Air Canada's specifications. (10.5 inches high and soft sided - and the hard sided carriers have to be an inch and a half  shorter than that!)  We spent an hour on hold waiting for an Air Canada representative, hoping that she would tell us they would be lenient by an inch but alas, no such luck. She read us the sheet of details that we had already read over a hundred times off of their website. Eventually we found one! for $45.99 at Ryan's Global Pet foods. They even had someone bring over a second carrier from their other location and we got to pick it up the same day. For the trouble we've gone through I pray all will go well with my babies Jack and Sadie on the flight. After reading Jaimes blog, I knew I couldn't go through the nervousness of having my cats in cargo, so I am hoping with every ounce of my being that they are quiet and well behaved while stowed under our seats.

We are taking the cats as our carry ons and taking two suit cases each. Matt is a huge hockey fan so will be having his equipment shipped up to us and I am an avid baker and cake decorator so will probably ship some essentials to myself, along with all the fantastic things I picked up on my Costco shopping spree the other day.

Our flight leaves on the 19th, so wish me luck as I attempt to cross off the last items on my check lists and to-do lists and pack pack pack.

With love from... Oakville, for now.