Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Sam I am, I am Green Haired

The mornings are driven by pure adrenaline. The sun, as I've said many times, barely comes up anymore. Life is exhausting. My emotional state pulls every last bit of energy out of me. I have to find new ways to keep my mind occupied and my soul energized.

"Emily, what time is it?"

"6:03 am, why?"

"Good, 6:03 am sounds like a good time for a dance party."

Emily is my new Pat. The joy in my morning. She keeps my mind off of the fact that there is no light outside and she appreciates a good dance party. So in true dance party fashion, she turns off my country music, which she so graciously lets me listen to before I truly wake up, and she turns the Ipod to 'Shots.'

If you don't know 'Shots,' you've been missing out. When I lived in Toronto with my best friends, we would blast this song and dance like all the energy in the world was centered in our little yellow kitchen. 'Shots' sends a message that is both immature and offensive, but it revitalises my cold, arctic-morning, sleepy mind.

We have also started a new trend. Not eating Tim Horton's product. We keep carrots, and grapes, and baby cucumbers close to the kitchen and we eat them all day to keep full and to provide energy for the kitchen party that literally lasts all day. Every third song on my Ipod is Taylor Swift, so we slow it down, get serious, and do some work for the duration of the song. Then a - oh my goodness! I love this song! - song comes on and we turn up the volume and we dance like nobodies watching, because we're alone in the World between 4:30 am and 7 am. Its like the cities sleeping, and in reality when your stuck in Frobisher Bay, the rest of Canada feels like its a world away. You feel alone in the wee hours of the morning. Like you could scream bloody murder and no one would hear you.

I saw the Northern Lights the other night, for the first time. I should have been sleeping but our friend Robert messaged to say the lights were shining. In all of my pajama glory, I threw on my boots and coat and ran out into the night. They were dull, shiny, pale green, but beautiful all the same. They really do dance across the sky. Its like they want to sweep you up and sing and dance with you all night.

"Seeing the Northern Lights," is written on my bucket list. I'd like to see a brighter more vivid display but for now, I feel like I accomplished something worldly.

Something that also speaks volumes about being worldly, is being able to say that I've lived in the Arctic long enough for the hard water to turn the blond in my hair completely green.

I hate to whine and don't get me wrong, I absolutely love it here. Forgive me but I have to let this out. I miss hair dressers, I miss nail polish, stilettos and dresses. I miss wine, I miss bars and cities where the local Legion isn't the most pumping hang out.  I miss church, I miss the people who make church fantastic. I miss book stores and all of my books! I miss sleeping alone. I miss beds that two people can actually fit in without touching each other. I miss my cake stand collection, my fondant rollers, my cake pans, my Chef kit. I miss hiking under trees, my cottage, sitting on grass, camp fires and watching my friends laugh, beers in hand. I want to go to the mall, and I am not even a shopping kind of girl, I just want to shop with a friend and be an advisor. I want to hold hands with people I love. That's right, I want to be able to touch you all. Heh.

Tomorrow is my day off, so tonight I am going to bury my face in one of the few books I actually brought with me. When the morning comes (because I will no doubt be up before six am) I am going to make a huge breakfast, banana pancakes perhaps? Then I'm going to get a library card and hit up the post office because its been closed since Christmas eve and I am hoping to find some written love.

Goodnight World.
With love from Iqaluit.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Land of Misfits

The flower bouquets that were brought in to sell as Christmas centerpieces were chucked in the trash today, before they hit the bag Melvin, who works in the deli and shares kitchen space with me, grabbed a couple flowers and brought them back so I could smell them. Some times I miss home so much that I lose track of why I came so far. Then something like smelling a couple dying flowers reminds me that I am here to embrace moments like this. Little pieces of life that bring immense beauty and joy. When you live in a place like Ontario and you have flowers to smell for such a large part of the year, you don't realise what you have until you move somewhere like Iqaluit. The sweet smell on those flowers reminded me of a thousand things at once and literally made my day. Memories of my mothers overflowing gardens, summers at the cottage, spring time hikes. I've always been the type to stop just to smell a flower or listen to birds singing but to be able to do it here is painfully heart warming.

Today the sun came out, which was exactly what I needed. Nadine and I ran outside in our North mart coats just in time to see it going down behind the mountains. I try to sneak out for a couple minutes on days that Mr.Sun actually graces us with his presence, to breath in the light. Its too cold to feel the warmth but if you stand in the glow of the weak light and close your eyes you can almost feel your body soaking it up. Each and every time this opportunity arises I am blown away by the sight. The sky above the mountains looks like its on fire, with golds and pinks. The lights reflect off of what is left of the water near the back of the bay.

Nadine and Emily, I should mention, are my new girls, the answers to my prayers. They came up from Ottawa and are an incredible part of my production team which is now made up of four. Emily, Nadine, myself and Jennifer, who works part time with us a few times a week. We make up a solid team.

Emily and Nadine have been thrown into meeting everyone and joined us for Christmas dinner last night. Dinner was originally to be hosted in our apartment. As the numbers ballooned we decided to set up a long dining table in the hallway. It was a great time. All the ladies seemed to beat the men home, so we opened the apartments on the main floor and danced between apartments, sharing ovens and knives and Christmas spirit. We borrowed collapsible tables from the store, threw them in the back of Ricks truck and set them up all the way down the long, narrow hall way. We had 22 people here for dinner and a few stragglers followed the meal. It was tight and felt like the land of misfits, but it was fantastic and spirited and Christmas shots have never been so much fun.

Christmas morning was interesting. My exhaustion from the previous weeks caught up to me. I slept until 10, opened gifts, ate breakfast and went back to bed for the entire day. Matt played his video games. The sun never really came out for Christmas, but it did snow, light, beautiful, soft flakes all morning.

I got so many gifts from home, pictures and memories wrapped up. I want to thank my family and friends so much for making my first Christmas away from home so warm. I wish I could have been home but sharing the holiday with my Iqaluit family was really wonderful.

With love from Iqaluit

Thursday, December 23, 2010

PenPal Love

I took my first painful fall a couple of days ago. I got all the way home and right outside the door to our building I slipped right down the hill and smacked my head on the ice. The package I had picked up from the post office slid all the way down the road and I just stayed there and listened to it, thinking, 'please stop.' I checked to make sure no one saw the fall, then put my head back down. I felt old. Remember when you were little and you could take the most dramatic falls and bounce right back from them?... This morning I realised how far behind me my childhood is.  I am in pain.
I've been having these thoughts a lot lately. I'll be wrapped up in a dirty joke with the old men I work with or be talking business with management and I stop to wonder when I became an adult. When did I go from being a little girl taking direction from grown ups, to calling the shots and having adult conversations. When did I cross the line between wanting to live with my parents forever and getting on a plane to move 1472 miles away to the arctic. When did 'someday' become the present? When I was little I wanted to grow up and have a house full of babies, I said I would start when I was twenty. I'm almost twenty two now and I still feel like the twelve year old girl who never thought her sixteenth birthday would come. Where did the time go?
Since I want to be in one piece for the years to come, I am going to head over to Arctic Ventures and buy a pair of shoe spikes. The ground is so slick here, like a City wide skating rink. I thought my Baffin boots would cut it but even they don't grip. Most of the people here wear spikes, like removable cleats. It also helps to walk on the dirt trails. They don't use salt here to melt the ice, they simply sprinkle a trail of dirt along the walk way. I like the lack of salt, my boots stay the colour they were made to be. The roads also get "dirted," (rather than salted, heh, that made me laugh) and they become this slick, cappuccino colour. Some mornings they look almost like marble. The people here are used to skidding and sliding around on the roads but as a pedestrian it terrifies me. It seems that the vehicle of choice during arctic winters is a snow mobile, often with a large sled tied to the back. I see them zipping by our living room window and every time it makes me think about how different life is here. Sometimes I get comfortable and forget what the life I came from looked like. Which is one of the many reasons I need to fulfill my goal to successfully keep pen pals. I know the art of love via letter is almost dead but I feel like its a really cool way to build and keep relationships with people I adore. I know most of my love letter recipients wont write back so I simply send up dates. Other than Christmas cards, I wrote my dear friend John Sanfillipo this month and my newly recruited pen pal, Mr. Patrick Clancy, who thus far is the only person who has agreed to the writing part of this kind of exchange.
If you'd like to write me, and you should know that getting mail is often the best part of my day, my address here is, PO BOX 130, Iqaluit, Nunavut, X0A 0H0.
My hope is that no post office trip for the remainder of the winter will result in bad falls, and every trip will result in feeling love in an envelope.

Here's to a fantastic Christmas Eve spent with people we love. Although I will be spending tomorrow evening in an intoxicated blurr with my family away from family, I will be thinking of all of you and missing each and every face in Oakville.


Saturday, December 18, 2010

Super Glue

Saturday is finally here. Although it doest mean a weekend for me, it does mean one day off. This morning I woke up at six am. Matthew still snoring away beside me actually has to get up "early" for work and is still sleeping. This is what happens when you wake up everyday to be at work before the rest of the City even enters REM sleep.

I tried to fall back into my dream, I just couldn't do it. I think there is a certain romantic quality to being up so early. A chance to embrace the entire day. Like when Jesse Tuck makes Winnie Foster promise him that she'll get up with the sun everyday while he's gone. Mind you, getting up with the sun in Iqaluit would mean sleeping until ten or ten thirty at this time of year.

The Sun Rising, Wednesday December 15th just after 10 am

 I like the peace that the morning brings, and the peace of mind it brings to know you haven't wasted precious minutes. Ask me how I felt about mornings a couple years ago and the story would be entirely reversed.

I find that being a creature of the night also brings with it some dangers. I am probably the biggest day dreamer that you will ever meet. When I spend half of my day alone, I spend a lot of time in my head. Creating dreams for big things to come, plans for retirement. I also find myself narrating my movements, not like a sports caster but more like a writer. I think in full sentences and re think them as edited versions, the way I would write them on paper. Maybe that's the reason I feel so intelligent in my head but so silly when I speak things that hardly make sense... I never had time to edit those thoughts.

Everyday, at least once a day I remind myself to think of something to blog about. This week has been slightly dull. My biggest blog worthy thought... the importance of super glue in my life.

If you are moving far away from home, take with you some super glue. It has come in more handy than anything I have purchased. Every single one of us receives boxes from home, and every single one of us has pulled something out of the boxes that has arrived in multiple little pieces. Zara's parents sent her little glass tree ornaments, angels who had lost their wings in transport. Ellie's best friend sent her a little ceramic sign that reads 'believe,' or at least it does now that its been super glued back together. My biggest project on the go... a candle holder. I bought it down south for four dollars, it has a partner who is shorter and whose stem actually stayed intact while it travelled from Oakville to Iqaluit. Obviously, I purchased them for a reason. I wanted them to sit side by side as a centerpiece at Christmas dinner. So the stem on this holder broke, but really, it didn't so much break as it did shatter... into tiny little pieces. The holder stands about ten inches high and the stem on it is about as thin as my thinnest stiletto heal. I sat for hours puzzling the shards back together and I thought it would work. Finally I had the pieces in the right places and was left with the two halves. Sadly, even super glue cant solve this. The bottom and the top now sit together on my desk because although I've given up hope, I cannot bring myself to admit it out loud and I certainly don't have the heart to send them to the dump.

In other exciting Christmas news, I received a box recently, from my dad and step-mom Stacey. It was a fantastic, magical little box that had me on the verge of tears. Inside it were cards from family members, my grams, aunts, uncles, cousins and parents. Little individual gifts all packaged together. In each card was a tiny envelope and each envelope had a number on it. Everyone in my family had taken a small tree ornament and put their pictures inside of it for me. I am opening them as a count down to Christmas. Stacey got lots of people that I love involved. I received days one, two, three and four from my aunts, uncles, cousins and dad. Five came in a Christmas card from Andrea and Dale. Six through ten came in Stacey's box and are here waiting to be opened. Eleven and twelve must still be out there somewhere. What a heart warming gift. I will keep you posted on the rest of my countdown. Thank you to my wonderful family.

All my love from snowy, slippery Iqaluit

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Iqaluit's Children

When we were children we learned not to talk to strangers. Now that I am a woman I have discovered that the best way to get the most beauty out of life is to talk to every stranger that I possibly can. I coo at every baby and tell every mother how gorgeous her children are. I smile a grin from ear to ear for every stranger who looks me in the eye. The best part about it is that it feels so good to smile and mean it. I meet people everyday in Iqaluit with incredible stories. I hear about what brought them to Iqaluit, where they came from, and what keeps them here. I hear cultural stories and the stories of the families and children who have lived a lifestyle that is completely different from the way that I grew up.

I was having dinner with some friends the other day, when Cassie from work asked, "How do you describe Iqaluit to your friends and family?"

I laughed because describing Iqaluit to anyone is one of the most difficult things I've ever tried to word. Cassie is a beautifully spoken woman. Who also happens to be another Jamaican blooded girl in the Arctic. Cassie said, "I tell them one thing... Iqaluit is as beautiful as it is horrible."

Those words are perfect.

Which takes me back to embracing the strangers in my life, the people who show me the extents of beauty and horror. If I hadn't been open to meeting strangers and welcoming them into my life, if I hadn't wanted to be part of my community, I would never have met anyone like my eleven year old friend Qalaapik.

Qalaapik is an innocent soul, trapped in a lifestyle that I wouldn't wish upon any child. She is brilliant and talented and so incredibly loving. She has learned from every single mistake that her parents continue to make. She will be a guiding light for her generation, a roll model.

The beautiful part is the soul behind every story. The horrible part is the story.

Last night I had her shower, I made her a meal that covered every food group. I gave her my pajamas to put on and keep warm in and I made her a bed on the couch the way my mom used to do when I was staying home sick. Before I tucked her in to sleep, she hugged me, she held on so tightly and she said to me, "I wish you were my mommy."

I could barely hold back my tears. I bundled her up in blankets and turned the light out. She was happy to have so much room to herself to sleep. She is used to sharing her bed with her younger brother and sister.

I got in bed because I had to be at work for five am this morning. No matter how hard I tried I couldn't sleep. I couldn't stop thinking about how this eleven year old girl spends so much time knowing that she isn't welcome to come home. I couldn't and never will be able to comprehend the way that her parents told her to spend the night with me, without even asking my name. I have never met this child's parents. They don't know if I live in a house or on the street. They don't know my heart or what I could have done to their daughter had I been someone else. These people tear my heart to shreds. I am weeping as I write this.

I got out of bed, I stood in my doorway and I watched her sleep. I felt so much love for her, in that moment I wanted to give her everything I have to offer.

My family down South advises me not to come home with babies I've taken from parents who don't want them. Although I can understand it, it hurts to hear. I would give anything for everyone to experience this. I wish everyone knew how it felt to see these children and know that even the least we could offer them is more than what they have now.

It was so easy for me to take her in and love her for one night. I would do it every night for every child if I could.

I have a wish to share with all of you who are reading this entry. I wish that you would please pray for Iqaluit's children. Pray that even if they are stuck in a home with no love that love will find them when they need it. Pray that God will hold them while they sleep. Pray that somehow life's most important lessons will be taught to them. Pray for them.

I say it all the time. I say that my life is crazy and hectic. The truth is that I welcome it. I welcome all of these incredible, terrible, wonderful experiences that I've been having. I am so humbled by where my life has landed. I have never felt so compassionate and engaged. I have been a very lucky woman. I feel that for the first time, I am really truly experiencing life and I thank God all the time for showing me this place, this experience that honestly is as beautiful as it is horrible.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Chocolate Countdowns

One of my very favorite things about adventure and travel is having opportunities to meet incredible people. I have this overly sentimental side that allows me to become attached to people quickly. It also allows me to love beyond what some would think normal. It helps that I think life is too short not to love to the best of our ability. Last month when I was in Oakville, I was walking out the front door of my dad's house with him. I was telling him how much I loved someone, I cant remember who, just someone I was feeling particularly fond of at the time. My dad looked at me and said, "is there anyone you don't love?"

I stopped in my tracks, and thought really hard about his question. There is no one that I have met in my lifetime that I don't feel some amount of love for. Even the people who have royally screwed me over hold some space in my heart.

Today was a big day for us in Iqaluit. Tim Horton's grand opening took place today. We witnessed a really fantastic ceremony. Every big wig from both Tim's and NWC was present. We spent extra time perfecting donuts for the showcase that was the backdrop for the gathering. Susan Aglukark graced us with her presence and has teamed up with Tim's and NWC to raise awareness for projects geared towards children's benefits. Her band flies in tomorrow for a benefit show tomorrow night.

Tomorrow is also a big night for our immediate Tim's family as two of the five store opening team members are leaving us and heading on to other projects. Moe, Kaila, Amanda, Brad and Pat have been an absolute gift to have around. Brad actually trained me while I was in Oakville and I knew how badly he wanted to come up to Iqaluit for this store opening. I was so excited for him when I walked up stairs to find him in the office. (He holds a special place in my heart because he reminds me exactly of a grown up version of my little cousin Ty. I think about it every time I see him and it brightens my day)

Lucky for this bunch, we had to push back our opening because cream and milk didn't arrive on schedule and these guys got three days off to explore our city. Once the cream came, it was down to work. I've spent almost all of my working time baking with Pat Clancy. Whose mother's name is Nancy Clancy. (I couldn't write this blog without including that fun fact) This guy has literally been my rock while I've re-adjusted to four o'clock am alarms. His ex-girlfriend's excellently diverse Ipod on high volume combined with his often lame, sometimes dirty but mostly hilarious sense of humour has kept me from falling asleep during production. This is an official shout out to my new friend Pat.

Pat and Moe are leaving on Sunday, which made today my last shift with Patrick. Luckily, the stay for the rest of the group has been extended until my two new girls move up here from the South.

Needless to say I am going to miss these guys.

While we're on the topic of missing things, lets talk about the sun and the snow... again. The sun continues to go down earlier and earlier. I get to work when its dark and its dark by the time I leave. I have no windows in my bakery. For the last week I have missed the sun like I've missed my beauty sleep. I am also missing snow. It seems that it will snow for days and when I finally sit down to blog that I think I've seen lasting white stuff, it rains or gets warm enough to melt it. Don't get me wrong, the hills and surrounding area are almost completely blanketed in snow but I cant help longing for surroundings that remotely resemble my life long mental picture of what the arctic should look like.

Even if the outdoors doesnt look like Christmas should just yet, our apartment is starting to fit the part. Matt and I put the tree that we bought at the store up last week and I decorated it yesterday. Presents from home line the bottom of the tree and have created a new kind of cat tree fort for the kitties. Of course, our chocolate advent calendars are stationed on the kitchen table, leaning against the wall, courtesy of momma Grigg. Mine is pink and boasts all of Disney's princesses while Matt's celebrates the NHL.

So here's to Tim's, new loves and chocolate countdowns.

Life is beautiful.

All my love, from Iqaluit.