Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Spilling the Beans

As far as 'eventful' goes in the North, today was a wonderful, eventful day. I woke up to a beautiful sunny day. We don't leave the blinds open when we're at work, so I long for sunny days off so that my withering plants might soak up some rays. Sadie and Jack also love the sunshine that beats in through the windows.

I had a scrambled egg breakfast and took a long hot shower. I have been meaning for a month to get my drivers license switched over from an Ontario license to a Nunavut license. I got dressed and put on some mascara to prep for the possibility of a drivers license mug shot and I left the house to walk aimlessly until I found the right building.

As I got up to the other end of town I saw my friend Kathy walking on the opposite side of the street. Her husband John recently had his licence switched so she joined my mission, thinking that she had some idea of the right direction. Long story short, we found the building, I surrendered my shiny new Ontario licence for a slip of paper that is currently serving as my temporary licence. I laughed because if I were to get pulled over in Ontario anytime soon, they would have to take a second and probably a third look at the slip as half of it is written in Inuktitut symbols.

Kathy and I had a wonderful afternoon. She took me to her new favorite little coffee shop and treated me to tea. We had banana bread that reminded me of my mommy's recipe and chai tea lattes. The sun had already started to go down when I left the house at three pm. By the time Kathy and I were at tea the sun had sunk to just above the mountains and was blindingly bright. Between the dust thrown up by passing vehicles and the sun, it was nearly impossible to see thirty feet in front of us. She shares my desire for snow that stays to hold the sand down.

We came home, popped in for a quick visit with Jen who lives directly above Matt and I and then we parted ways.

I ran over to the Iqaluit visitors center, they were closing at five and I wanted to get home before it got too dark and any colder. I grabbed some free reading materials and headed back to the warmth of our building. Excited to settle down with my Iqaluit pamphlets on hunting, wildlife, adventure tours and local parks.

I walked in the door to find a note on the table that said 'call Eldon.' For those of you who don't know, Eldon is one of our store managers, and one of the kindest men I have met here. Normally a message to call the store manager would have my nerves going crazy but not this time. Ladies and Gentlemen, I have been sitting on a secret that has me impossibly excited.

About a week ago I was called up to Eldon's office for a quick meeting. He told me about the Inuit manager that they hired for the Tim Horton's that they started putting into North mart yesterday. Then he told me he thinks that I am the right person to work along side her to run the Tim Horton's. He asked me if I would fly to Ontario for training. Then he said it would be in Oakville. Excitement times three. I will be working to open the very first Tim Horton's in all of Nunavut, which happens to be the last place in Canada that the Tim's franchise has yet to touch.

I didn't want to say anything, because nothing is set in stone until airline tickets have been booked. I just got off the phone with Eldon and I will be flying out on Sunday. This coming Sunday. Halloween. Which means I will be home to go trick-or-treating with baby Gabriella for her first Halloween. Shes going as a lady bug. I couldn't be happier.

 I start training at Timmie's on Monday morning and at some point during my two weeks will have a date with the Oakville beaver to share my story with my home town.

I am already nervous about leaving my new home. I will miss Iqaluit almost as much as I will miss Matt, Jack and Sadie. Matthew isn't so excited about my leaving. I know he will be okay without me for a couple weeks and he'll be happy to have less dirty dishes around.

I am going to settle in on this chilly night with the readings I picked up from the visitors center.

I'll be seeing the beautiful faces of everyone I love in Oakville on Sunday. Hopefully I get the chance to celebrate a belated birthday with my dear friend Stephanie Maie. Who celebrated her twenty first birthday yesterday. I hope it was fantastic love.

Until then, all my love from Iqaluit.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


When you work constantly the days begin to blur together. I find myself asking what day of the week it is. The hours, however, seem to crawl by most of the time. We have both begun to feel much more comfortable in our positions at work. Becoming an important part of our community is a great feeling. Its also very nice to know your way around your department and get along with your co workers. A couple of days ago, Betty, a very sweet grandmother of seven, joined our bakery team. And then there were three.

The highlight of my day today... two of my three boxes arrived! They were sent on the 13th. It only took one week for them to arrive. Matt's box however, took much longer. From now on I think packages will be sent via UPS. What can brown do for you? Well, they beat out the competitors when it comes to getting boxes to the arctic in good time. Now I'm just waiting for box three of three, the heaviest one. I honestly don't even remember whats in it. I was most eager to get my hands on the Q-tips, my Uggs and the coffee crisp/ after eight/ rolo hot chocolate that we picked up at Costco before we left. I was really excited to see that my parents had snugly packed away forty ounces of Polish Vodka in one of my boxes. It feels a little bit like Christmas! (Which I have started my shopping for but cant tell you what Ive purchased until after the holidays so that I don't give the surprise away to some of my biggest fans - my beautiful family)

I particularly wanted to have my Uggs a couple cold nights ago. I got off work at nine in the evening and had planned on walking home with a couple of girls from work. When they suggested taking a taxi I literally laughed out loud, thinking, 'I don't care how bad the weather is, its a five minute walk to the apartments.' Kayla made me come to the front of the store to attempt to open the front door... It took every ounce of my strength. When I realized that the noises I had been hearing from inside the bakery were being made by the wind outside, I gave in and agreed to the fifty second drive. The wind was blowing at 98 km/hr that night. Being that the buildings here are built on stilts, we could feel everything shaking and swaying. We were literally rocked to sleep that night. It was terrifying and exciting all at once. That was the same night our heat was out. We were huddled around space heaters for the evening. People complain about nights like that but I thoroughly enjoy them. Sometimes they act as the spice of life. And to be honest, when the days are blurring and you cant remember what day of the week it is, its nice to be able to refer to a specific date as, 'the windy day.' Some other memorable dates around here are, 'the day the schools closed because of the dump fire,' 'the day of the fire drill,' 'the day we got the box that held our boots,' 'the day the cable went out,' and most recently, today, 'the day the cable came back on!'

Now that I have both pairs of my boots, my winter ensemble is almost complete. We have two beautiful 'pang' hats that Matt and I will be sharing or fighting over since both of our coats are black and only one of the hats has black in it. I have gloves and a neck warmer. My beautiful new Canada Goose, Arctic Program Coat. Which I paid five hundred and thirty something dollars for. I went for the 'Trillium' and I bought it at our store instead of ordering it in because I figured I would need it sooner than it could be sent. All I really need now is a pair of snow pants, which I will probably buy at a later date. Matt has his boots and hat but is much less prepared for the weather. He told me today that he thinks he might make it through the winter with just a sweatshirt under his spring jacket. I laughed but decided to avoid the argument... he'll have proof enough when winter hits.

Before signing off I just want to say happy birthday to Doris Davidson! Hoping your day was brilliant <3

Happily waiting for snow that stays,
With love from Iqaluit.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Dog Days of Fall

I may have mentioned that high speed Internet here is the speed of dial up back home. Knowing nothing about the science behind the Internet I purchased the cheapest and smallest bundle possible from Qiniq. Luckily when you go over your bundle specified amount of "high speed," you don't have to pay extra to continue using the Internet for the month. You are simply down graded to dial up speed... meaning it took me twenty minutes to load this page to write this blog. Let me apologize now for my brief blogging hiatus. I am sorry, it pains me not to be able to keep you all updated and from here on out I will try to keep my 'facebook-creeping' time to a limit.

I came home from work almost every day this week, over come with exhaustion, only to throw my blogging intentions out the window in exchange for some much anticipated sleep!

I mentioned to my store manager the other day that I was feeling oddly tired all the time. He suggested that it could be because of the lack of trees and plant life here. We don't get as much oxygen as we are used to having in the South, which in turn tuckers us out.

I thought to myself that maybe if I adopted some plants it would keep my mind off of adopting babies and stray puppies and perhaps keep my oxygen levels up. Matthew wasn't happy about spending so much of our food allowance on greenery but he gave in and I know he secretly likes the way the plants look in the apartment. It feels a little more like home now.

I have the weekend off again, which is such a beautiful thing! I had big plans for this weekend. There is another mountain that I'd really like to climb, there is a gift shoppe down the road I wanted to visit and I wanted to go play with the dogs at the OSPCA. However, I am not allowed to go out wandering on my own for awhile because the RCMP came in with a warning that a woman had been raped very recently. They say that this type of crime starts to get worse as the night begins to fall earlier. I was also told that this time last year, women were being raped and a few were murdered. The thing around here is, you seldom hear of the outcomes that these things have. No one really knows who is wandering the streets that shouldn't be, and in a city this size, the thought of it makes you shudder.

On a much brighter note, our friend Kayla took Matt and I on a walking tour of the other end of town on Wednesday. Before then we had never walked back out the way of the airport. She took us to the outskirts to visit the Humane Society/OSPCA. Its not a big one like the ones down south and it didn't have a sign or anything outside. It was a simple little blue building with a door that looked like the front door would look on any other house. They had only a handful of cages and housed only dogs. The dogs, all mutts, were beautiful and we wanted to take them all home. It was especially hard to leave one behind. It was the husky-wolf dog who walked me to work the other week. I guess the city found him wandering the streets. The poor thing cried as we walked away. Matt and I are huge animal lovers and have had to practise saying no. We did however, take two of them out for a walk. Both were crosses of some sort. One looked mostly like a little German Sheppard, she was six months old and her name was Jenna. And another puppy looked like he was half husky, and perhaps half lab. He had an Inuktitut name meaning, 'little brother.' So we took one puppy to remind me of my little sister Jenna and one who reminded me of my little brother Brett. Walking dogs right now is not the cleanliest of activities. The last time it snowed, I blogged about it and since then the snow has melted away and it has been raining on and off. The sand sidewalks are mud and coming home from a walk feels like coming home from a day at the beach. I discover the grit of sand in my teeth every time.

We walked the dogs down the road a bit to see a field that Kayla had found where dozens of sled dogs were tied off just behind the air port. The dogs are known to be less than friendly and they get jealous if you show any single one affection. The sight of them was something to see.

The day was a dog day. Earlier that morning Kayla showed up at our apartment with the tiniest little bundle of fur. A six week old puppy who remains nameless for now. His mother is a cross between a German Sheppard, a husky and a lab and his father is believed to be a husky but trust me when I say that there are next to no pure bred dogs in Iqaluit. The puppy looks like a husky and is terribly handsome.

We spent the rest of the day together and he left after peeing on our carpet three times and pooping once.

I am happy to say that twenty minutes before I sat down in my blogging station it did start to snow again. Big white, fluffy flakes. Sadie is loving sitting in the windows and watching the snow fall.

I'm sure the white wont last though, not until it gets a little colder. The locals say that by October last year they had a full ground of lasting snow, we must have brought Ontario's warmth with us.

Other than warmth, some things I wish I had brought from home...

-Rain boots, every single day I wish I had a pair.
-A rain coat to match
-More movies, we brought 65 and I'm learning that you can never have too many movies... sad to say, but hey, it gets dark early.
-More than one razor because I didn't anticipate that boxes would take more than three weeks to arrive (and some were only sent a few days ago) We have yet to see a single box.
-A Brita filter. We are having ours sent up but for the first couple of weeks I was drinking tap water and it made me sick so I wish I had packed it in a suitcase. The water is very hard. It makes your hair wiry and turns everything it sits on a beautiful shade of turquoise. We are now boiling our water, letting it cool to room temperature and transferring it to a jug in the fridge, which seems to be doing the trick.
-Picture frames. I decided not to bring any because I figured it was too dangerous to risk them all breaking in my suitcases. The picture frames at North mart are ridiculously expensive. The cheapest one is seven dollars and its the kind you get at the dollar store that doesn't have a frame.
-Booze, booze and more booze. I am not a big drinker but I already miss the LCBO. If you smoke, I also suggest bringing a carton or two with you. Cigarettes here are expensive. (Although I suggest even more strongly, quitting!) It seems that every person in Iqaluit smokes, all of our friends here do and they all complain every day about how much their habit costs. That's one thing I will never pick up.
-Smells from home. I had to go out and buy air fresheners that remind me of home. I put apple cinnamon in the living room because it reminds me of moms house at thanksgiving. One thing I didn't bring was any perfume or body spray. I even bought different types of shampoo and conditioner. I don't smell normal and I'm having some sort of mini identity crisis.
-Q-tips... packed in the suitcases! My family gave me so many things that I thought I would need before I left, 2500 Q-tips were among them and I packed them away in boxes to be shipped. Ugh, our poor ears.

Things I wish we did before we left...

-Send our boxes! ! !

Things we are working on doing now...

-Switching over to Nunavut drivers licenses
-Obtaining Nunavut Health Cards
-Enjoying days off when you are locked up in the apartment because your boyfriends at work and you cant roam the streets alone...

I hope your days down South are beautiful and sunny and enjoyable.

All my love from Iqaluit

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Things That Make Me Smile

Yesterday morning I woke up to be at work for eight o'clock. When I stepped out the front door I was greeted by the most gorgeous puppy. He looked like a perfect cross between a wolf and a husky. I work with a man named Mel who has warned me not to get too friendly with the dogs around here. They roam the streets and seem to be almost wild. It took everything in me not to play with the dog. He joined me at the front door and walked me all the way to work, never leaving my side. He wanted to play so badly. He dove into the snow drifts, catching snow in his mouth and throwing it in my direction. The look on his face broke my heart as I walked into work, shutting the door behind me. I haven't seen him since, although I haven't been out of the apartment today. It was my day off so I decided to spend it cleaning. It was snowing when I fell asleep last night and when I woke up this morning but the snow turned very wet at some point in the afternoon which made me feel glad to be in the warmth of the apartment.

The dogs wandering around make me think of my good friend and old house mate, Lauren. Animal lover and advocate extraordinaire. Before I left Ontario I told Lauren all about the adventures I was heading out on and that same night she applied for a job with the company I work for. You can imagine my excitement to hear that she has an interview date later this month!

I was thinking of suggesting to the company that she could move in with us. We are currently living in a two bedroom apartment (we haven't even stepped foot in the second bedroom since the day we got here) and were told when we arrived that they would be moving us if a one bedroom became available. Last night we helped our neighbor Annie move some of her things into a one bedroom "suite." I call it a suite because it is a step up from the one bedroom she was in next door. Her new place has private laundry and is on the top floor of a neighboring building, so she can feel safe sleeping with her windows open for ventilation. I am now thinking that we will be moving into her old place right next door to the one we're in now, which is also an exciting prospect. Its been hard for me not really being able to settle in here, knowing that we could be uprooted at anytime. It would also be nice to only have to move down the hall. We really like the building we're in and are loving the people in the apartments around us.

On Monday we will be having Thanksgiving dinner at Zara's. She lives across the hall from us and has invited a group over for the evening. The turkey is stashed safely away in our freezer. Due to the fact that we are the newbies, we haven't accumulated a lot of extra food and had some extra room in our freezer. I have volunteered to bake a pumpkin pie and an apple pie. I am also making death by chocolate, by popular demand. It will be another first for me, being away from my family for thanksgiving. It is so wonderful to have the people we have met become a part of our lives and because of them we are looking forward to the festivities.

On the theme of excitement, Mel told me the other day that his wife wants me to try on an amauti she has at home so she can figure out sizes! I think that means I've found my seamstress. I am LOVING the art work in Iqaluit. First I bought my polar bear which I paid $120 for which was apparently a great deal. Yesterday Matt bought two "pang" hats for us off of a very sweet and talented woman who comes into NorthMart to visit. They are green, brown, and black. They both have inukshuks around them and one of them says 'Nunavut' across the front. I also put in an order for a couple more... potential Christmas gifts?

As I was told, it is easy to spend money here. Matt has spent a lot on necessary household items and both of us have been saving our dough to buy new Canada Goose Arctic Program parkas which will run us just under $600 each. I'm buying mine tomorrow because Iqaluit is beginning to look like winter wonderland!

So here's to Christmas in October and to two of my favorite people in the world, Andrea Latendresse who is celebrating her birthday today and to one of my best friends, Sara Detlor whose birthday partying we missed out on this week. Happy Birthday ladies! Sending all of my love to you and everyone else back home.

Missing you all, from Iqaluit.


Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Road to Nowhere

Until today I have been beyond excited by the sight of falling snow. The first day I saw snow, it fell for five minutes, the second day I saw snow, I woke up to a thin layer of it covering the ground. Today was another first. Today I experienced a blizzard in October. Probably sixty mile an hour winds with snow blowing everywhere.

I'm feeling a little bit over worked and tired. It's difficult to see everything you want to when you literally need to spend your days off recuperating from the pain of your legs and feet and mind.

Today the exhaustion sort of hit me at the same time the winds did. Maybe they threw me off a little... or maybe they knocked some sense into me.

For the first time, after sixteen days I am starting to feel a little bit homesick. I felt the sadness today that the darkness brings. I began to miss the yellows, oranges and reds of the fall trees back home... in fact, I began to miss trees in general.

As fantastic as it is to have an entire apartment between the two of us, living in harmony can be difficult. Matt is discovering my prejudice against dirty dishes and I have figured out that he was never taught to change an empty toilet paper roll.

We have made plenty of wonderful new friends but still I find myself longing for a hug from the arms of someone who represents home.

I have however, made a commitment, not only to my employer or to Matthew, but to myself. I am going to stick this out and appreciate it for all the new and exciting opportunities it will continue to offer me.

I find that its not the vitamin D that helps my spirit to combat the darkness but the memories that make me want to embrace this experience for everything that it has to offer.

Memories like those of my grandfather. Before my gramps passed away last year, he suffered from Alzheimer's Disease. I constantly wondered if he had lived the life that he'd hoped he would and if he'd had any regrets along the way. When I remember my grandfather, I remember to make memories for myself that I will someday be able to share with my grandchildren. I remember to try and live every day to the fullest, without compromise.

Some days I forget to think these thoughts first thing and it takes me until later in the day to pick myself up but no matter what, I carry his memory with me always.

Saturday night was our first night out in Iqaluit. We had dinner with Ellen and another coworker named Saky and headed over to a very small bar called the Elks Lodge to join a group from work for a diabetes fundraiser. It was a fantastic night that brought with it a not-so-fantastic morning after.

Jimmy, Matthew & Smiley

Regardless of my state on Sunday morning, I spent the minimum amount of time recovering and hauled Matt out for a "hike." Let me first point out that Matthew is not really the hiking type, nor does he have proper foot wear, as his shoes (and our winter boots) have not yet arrived in the mail. We finished the remainder of the Apex trail and found the old Hudson's Bay buildings!

Incorporated May 2nd 1670

We also found some Inukshuks out on the water.

We thought we would take the road back into town, assuming it would be an easier trip... unfortunately, nothing in Iqaluit is what you would expect, including the almost entirely uphill trek back to our apartment. The majority of the walk was an empty stretch of road that seemed to go on forever in the middle of nowhere. Funny enough, we knew we were almost home when we found the road to nowhere... which literally leads to nowhere but we know as a landmark that is close to home.

So here's to snow storms and for the first time in our lives, actually landing ourselves in the middle of nowhere. More adventures to come!

With love from Iqaluit

Saturday, October 2, 2010

No Mans Land

There is a small mountain, or perhaps it would be better classified as a very large hill, that provides a fantastic veiw from my bedroom and living room windows. Since the very first day we arrived I had been saying, "when I have a day off, I'm climbing that thing." I heard that if you climb over the hill and through the graveyard you'll end up at the Apex trail, or as Ellen calls it, the path to no mans land.

After hearing all the stories we've heard, I should probably take better care not to venture out on my own but Matt and I have yet to have a day off of work together. Because of this I have taken it upon myself to be my own company. I am not in Canada's arctic to stay inside and watch TV. The cable has been out anyway, which helps to keep me motivated to be out exploring.

I got out of bed, had a good breakfast, climbed the very large hill, and descended down the other side. This is where I found the Iqaluit graveyard. The yard is incredibly small in comparison to the ones we see down South. I sat and admired it for some time, wondering how this could be all of Iqaluit's dead. Some people have told me stories of other graveyards but no one seems to know where they are and some have told me stories of elders, placing themselves on ice rafts and floating away when they knew the time was coming... I have yet to decide which are just stories. In the past they placed their deceased in wooden boxes, modest caskets if you will. The boxes would be left above ground because most of the ground cover here is made up of rock and the rest is frozen for a large part of the year. In more recent times they would simply place the bodies on the earth and bury them with rocks. I am told that now, no doubt because of modern machinery, they actually dig graves that are three or four feet deep. They dig them where the earth is soft enough to dig out. The Iqaluit graveyard is located just off of the Koojesse inlet shore line. When the tide is out, the water is probably a couple hundred feet from the yard but when the tide is in it is only about forty feet away. From this angle the water is off to the left.

The land beside the graveyard is fairly barren and as I walked over it I stumbled upon all kinds of bones, large and small. Ive been told they could be anything, arctic fox, seal, dog or cat. The ravens here will actually attempt to swoop down and pick up a small dog or a cat and have been known to kill and eat them. Still, somehow, the locals seem to be proud of them. Raven lunatics.

Just past the graveyard I found the Apex trail that Ellen had told me about, it was cute and had been built up with rocks edging it. The trail led over a newly built bridge and up to a look out point.

Beyond the trail was a softly beaten path. The same path that the locals would take hundreds of years ago and that the military used when they built their air base here. It used to be that the military used Iqaluit (Frobisher Bay back then) and the people lived in Apex, which some refer to as "the old Iqaluit." The economical opportunities brought the locals into Iqaluit and each and everyday they would walk the length of this apex trail.

It is without hesitation that I say, I am my mothers daughter. I inherited her thirst for adventure and the kind of wild spirit that will take you into no mans land alone. I walked and walked enjoying every second of the view and the cold crisp air. It got so quiet and the sun sparkled through the cloud cover just enough to let me catch glimpses of the snow that covered the mountains across the water. I sent up a prayer of thanks for the moments that I had found myself loving.

As much as I loved where I was, I had to turn around, firstly because I had no method of self defense should I have come across something larger or scarier than myself, secondly because in Nunavut there is nothing to hide behind, only short rocks, and thirdly because the ravens started circling my head like I was some sort of easy target for lunch. Mostly, I turned back because of the ravens. These creatures make sounds that send chills down your back and you can hear the wind under their wings from twenty feet away. It doesn't help that before I came up here, my girlfriends and I were reading a series of novels that expanded upon Cherokee legends and beliefs, ravens being one of them. In the novels, the ravens embodied evil and were half man half raven. When I'm alone in no mans land with nothing but giant ravens, I get a little antsy.

Ive been told that if I had walked just a little further, I would have found a grouping of Inukshuks... I cursed the ravens and swore I would go back.

Today is my day off and to my delight I have a full weekend. Saturday and Sunday with a late start on Monday. Tonight Matt and I have tickets for our very first social outing! I cant even explain to you the overwhelming excitement I feel.

This morning Matt ran into the apartment just after leaving for work and told me to look out the window. I opened the curtains to a snow covered ground. October second. If the snow holds off tomorrow then I will make it my mission to find the Inukshuks. Hopefully Matt will join me. It will be our first day off together since we arrived so I hope to make the most of it. Perhaps a breakfast buffet up at the Frobisher Inn (for $40 a head) and then a good hike. 

Cheers to the weekend and to my oldest cousin Paul who is marrying his beautiful fiancee Melissa today. I'm sorry I'm missing it. My heart, love and all my best wishes are there with you.

With love from a snow covered Iqaluit