Monday, January 31, 2011

139 days left

With only 139 days to go until I escape this frigid City for vacation, I am somewhat proud to say that I am experiencing my coldest day yet. We currently have a day time temperature of negative FIFTY EIGHT. It is nearly impossible to see outside. Even wearing two pairs of wool socks under my baker’s shoes, I cannot feel my poor toes.

I just came home from dropping Katie, Stephen and baby Shemekia off at Iqaluit’s little yellow airport. Every time I go in side of the building I am reminded of the rainy day when we landed here. The day that would change my life. That day seems so long ago but on the same note, the time slips by more quickly than I imagined it would.

It didn’t seem like their Canadian North flight would leave anytime today, especially considering it hadn’t even landed in Iqaluit after an hour of waiting. And we were even late getting to the airport. The flight was stopped in Kuujjuaq, Quebec because of weather conditions. All of my closest Inuk friends run late for everything. This makes me laugh because my Jamaican family is also fashionably late for any occasion (including their own weddings) and we blame it on Jamaican blood, living Island time. It seems the Inuit appreciate a laid back approach to life as well.

Miss Katie Inukshuk in the airport shelter

After waiting in the cold airport for a toe-numbingly long time, my friends were transferred to an Air Canada Jazz flight and if it hasn’t taken off yet, hopefully it will at some point today. I don’t particularly want a reason to have to go outside again, let alone get back on the roads with such awful visibility.

Since our store manager, Rick, has been gone, Katie inherited his work truck for Tim Horton’s related purposes, and now that she is gone, I have inherited it to get my girls back and forth from work, do deliveries and check in on our satellite stores.

I cannot even begin to explain how good it feels to be back behind a steering wheel. I love driving the truck. It makes me feel a little bit honky tonk and a whole lot free. The feeling of entrapment vanishes, lifts right off of my shoulders when the key is in the ignition, even when I can’t see a thing and the blowing wind makes the journey a constant fight to stay on the road.

I find myself growing more comfortable with the temperatures, the snow, the winter driving and my surroundings. I also find myself lifting my eye brows and letting off soft moans as if to say ‘yes’ the way that the Inuit do. I laugh at myself every time I do it without thinking. I think I am starting to fit in too well. I am coming to feel pride in my new home and as badly as I want out, once I sew my wild southern oats, I know I will miss the snow blanketed tundra.

I will also miss the Northern Lights. This time of year we see them every night that the sky is clear. I get asked everyday from my southern friends if I’ve seen them. Then they ask, “What are they like?” They’re hard to explain, there are no words for the way they make you feel.

I have done lots of reading about the science behind the borealis but still, when I look at them, the science goes out the window and they are simply a miracle, a gift that needs no rhyme or reason just an incredible display. They literally dance across the sky, smoothly and gracefully. Like a pair of dancers who are putting on a show just for you, they glide around the dance floor and when they come close to where your standing they seem to acknowledge you watching them. They glow and then they fade.

Katie and I once stepped out of work to catch a glimpse of them. She saw the disappointment in my face when they began to fade away. “Whistle and they will come closer,” she told me. So I whistled, no tune in particular, just the way you would beckon an animal. She laughed as I kept whistling. Slowly I turned to her and said, “I thought it was a bad thing to whistle to the lights?” She smiled her devious grin and said, “In our stories, it has been told that if you whistle at the Northern lights, they will come down, chop off your head and play soccer with it.” I followed with a smile, “I forgot about that story... I’ll be inside.”

Cheers to unspeakably cold days and a third pair of wool socks.

All my love, from Iqaluit

Friday, January 28, 2011

Green Grass

Let me first share with you the for casted temperature for tomorrow as found on environment Canada, a whopping minus 42 degrees Celsius, BEFORE windchill.

Back to the topic of the day... I moved to Iqaluit with a goal, to better myself. I didn't know how I would do it but I came and opened myself up to opportunities, people and places that could change me. I have been finding myself getting extremely tired. I work really awful hours. I start before the world wakes up when I work an opening shift and then I throw my body completely out of whack to work a closing shift. The insanity that is the hours of a baker money maker is keeping me from my social life which I think drains me even more.
I decided that to help keep myself refreshed and energized, I need to change some things up. Obviously I cant do anything about my work schedule, but I can do a few other things. Currently I am keeping my ears open for the opportunity that is a part time job. I am thinking about applying for weekend night shifts as a guard for the RCMP but I'm not sure if that might be too bad ass for me. It has also been a very cold week. Much to cold to walk to the RCMP building which is on the other side of town.
As well as the possibility of working another job I decided I need to work on my activity level. I am laughing out loud at the thought because it has been so long. I know it has a lot to do with my laziness, that, along with winter, the lack of oxygen here, which my body cant seem to adjust to, and the darkness.
So on top of utilizing the fitness room at work, I ordered Hip Hop Abs online. I know it's silly and you can laugh all you want. Here's the even funnier part... I already own it. However, I lent a couple discs out in one direction and couple more to someone else and then I moved here and figured it would be easier to re-purchase then try to have them found and shipped to me by family.
I don't plan on rock hard abs, perhaps just a little more energy and a change in routine, I'd also like to feel half decent about rocking a bathing suit on vacation in June. Yes, that's right, as long as our request is accepted, we will be leaving Iqaluit on June 19th for a few weeks. My plans include the cottage, my niece, every single one of my friends, including a night with my felstead sisters, family love fests and perhaps a last minute all inclusive somewhere VERY hot. Date nights, camp fires, church, and laying in green green grass. The grass that I know is greener over there, three hundred and sixty five days a year. I cannot wait to run my fingers through it and roll in it and just lay in it, under the heat of the sun. I am so looking forward to hearing birds chirp and having sidewalks to walk on. Curbs! Curbs exist in Ontario, so do supermarkets, seat belt laws and health foods. Ground flax and seeds. I miss having ground flax and cinnamon on my oatmeal, we don't sell the stuff. I also make a really fantastic loaf of seed bread, which has been missing from my life since my arrival to Iqaluit.
I think I could write a novel about the things I now know how to appreciate. But instead I'll stick to writing a vacation countdown and working on my hip hop abs.

So here's to coming home to you all, the nights I'm going to spend in the bars and bikini weather.

All my love from Iqaluit at -35 with wind chill

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Warmth of January

It's negative 44 Celsius with wind chill today in Iqaluit. It's only a number and when we were getting ready to move here I thought I would laugh in the face of it. I enjoy the weather. I enjoy experiencing the things that make the arctic the arctic. I'm not as tough as I thought I was though. I smile through the tears that the cold drags out of my eyes but still it always wins.

Today was a big day at the store. Rick and Barb are an important part of our Northern family here. Rick is our new store manager and Barb is his lovely wife. She has been holding down our front of house happenings at Tim Horton's. Today is Barbs last day at work before heading home.

When someone I love leaves this cold icy place it leaves a void in me, however small, a piece of me feels empty. Its a confusing feeling, where I am unbearably jealous but also terribly pained to see my friends go.

Last night Rick picked me up and I spent the evening with Barb and a few of the ladies from work playing Skip-Bo over drinks and spinach dip.

This morning, Kathy and I walked down to the store. I had to pull the hood of my parka over my head and down to my chin. Then, through the most narrow gap, I watched the ground move beneath my feet as I walked almost blinded down the side of the road. I used the wooden posts that stick out of the ground every fifteen feet or so along the road to keep me on the right track.

We picked out the only suitable card in the store, filled a handful of pastel coloured balloons with helium and set them up in the break room with the cake I made yesterday. A baby blue cake because its Barb's favorite colour. It was the colour of the suit Rick wore at their wedding and when we talked about why she loves the colour, her eyes lit up. Barb is a passionate woman with a love for life that made me appreciate her right off the bat. She cried at the sight of her cake and I smiled knowing how much I would miss her.

I've said it before but I cant express the way that the life I'm living has opened my heart to new love. Being so far from my own family has opened me up to new family members from all walks of life, with all sorts of stories to tell and personalities to bring. Leaving your life behind is not for everyone and it's been one of the most difficult things I've ever done but at the same time it has been fulfilling and has changed the way I look at the world.

I am thankful for the people who have become a part of my day to day and who I know it will break my heart to let go of.

I've learned to enjoy company while I have it, enjoy the cold while its here, the world while its at my fingertips and the soundtrack of my life while it still plays.

Here's to happiness during blizzards.

All my love from Iqaluit

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Blizzard Warnings

I have never been gladder about remembering to put my long johns on. This morning when I left for work the wind hit me with a plea for a playmate. I walked along the empty street and the snow swirled around my legs and blew off violently in front of me, like ghosts skimming just above the ground. It was eerie yet invigorating. As per usual I was tucked away in my bakery and didn’t even have a chance to notice the weather until I emerged to visit my friend Kayla who works on the front end. I think today classified as my first official ‘white out.’

Of course, I wanted to go outside and be a part of the excitement that Mother Nature was throwing our way. I think the grin on my face gave away my childish enthusiasm and my intentions.
We closed the store today at two in the afternoon. A customer asked me why I was selling dozen boxes of donuts at a discounted rate. When I told her we were closing up shop she was shocked. She said, “You know it’s bad when North Mart is shutting its doors.”

The small amount of customers in the store were advised to call taxis as they would be coming off the roads shortly. Many of our staff arranged for rides with those who have company vehicles. Me... I couldn’t wait to walk. I have wanted to experience the way eyelashes ice over. Today is the picture of how I envisioned the arctic. Looking out the front door of North Mart, one couldn’t see the other side of the street.

I’ve experienced high winds, and lots of blowing snow but this was my first blizzard. The temperature with wind chill was -39 degrees Celsius and the winds were blowing at 72 km/hr.

The winds practically pushed me all the way home. Still I hadn’t had my fill by the time I got back. I traded in my Tim’s hat for a Pang hat and my mittens for gloves and headed out like a child to play in the snow. It only took seconds for my face to freeze over and in order to capture a picture of myself I had to take my glove off. It took twenty minutes to get the feeling back in my hand. I couldn’t feel anything. As soon as I remembered how much I love having fingers, I had visions flash through my mind of CPR and first aid training. I remembered the signs and progression of frost bite and convinced myself to head for shelter.

Before going inside I looked down at my bakers pants and shoes and laughed, thinking of the commercial where two polar bears are talking to each other but you can’t see anything other than their eyes and noses because they blend in with their white out surroundings. I blend in here in my baker’s whites just as well as any polar bear.

Monday, January 17, 2011


I came here wishing, wanting and hoping that living in Iqaluit would teach me some things about myself and perhaps some lessons that I could take home with me. I want to know that I am a better person for taking on this experience. As you may have taken from some of my previous posts, I have been feeling a little lost lately. Missing home, feeling the effects of the darkness, turning over personal stumbling blocks in my head.

I’ve been working closing shifts this past week, meaning that I’ve been working alone, which in turn means that I have had plenty of time with my own thoughts. After weeks of feeling a little removed from my reality, I have found some enlightenment.

I discovered that I have learned two things while I’ve been here. Number one is that I have found a deeper appreciation for the role my parents have played in my life and not just my parents but everyone that encouraged me as a child. I have a new respect for the people who raised me. Every day I see or hear of a child or teenager whose been stealing from our store. I’ve come to accept theft as if it’s inevitable or normal. That acceptance makes me feel sick to my stomach and every once in a while I stop to think about how the younger generation in Iqaluit became the people they are. They say it takes a village to raise a child and when I lived down South I wished that society would open its doors, feel trust and grace and open hearts to the idea of living as one people, as a community.

Community is something I have come to adore about Iqaluit, the way everyone knows each other. Despite the crime rate here, parent’s trust that their children will be okay in the hands of Iqaluit’s other inhabitants. This is something that is truly bittersweet. When I see a woman comforting the same crying baby that was comforted by a different woman the previous day, it warms my heart, it makes me think, ‘this is the way it should be.’ We should open our arms and our lives to each other; love each other like we’re family.

At the same time, when a village raises a child who grows up to think that theft and dishonesty is acceptable, the bitter comes into play. These are the kinds of confusing things I pray about. They are also the kinds of things that have instilled in me the new way I feel about how I was raised. I am so thankful for the love I had available to me as a child, for the security of a roof over my head and food to eat. It makes me laugh how many times in a one week I come across a child and think, ‘if only I could send you to my family for a day.’ Sometimes it’s because I want them to feel loved, sometimes it’s because I want them to know discipline. Either way, I see things everyday that make me send a silent thank you to God for the way I turned out, for the things I feel in my heart and for the knowledge to know right from wrong.

The second thing that Iqaluit has taught me is the importance of compassion.

Just when I begin to wonder how it is that living here hasn’t turned me stone cold, I feel the tug of a five year old boy on my apron strings. He’s smaller than he should be and before he speaks I want to scoop him into a hug. He looks me in the eyes and he whispers, “I’m hungry.”

I tell him I’ll be right back. I have to walk away because I don’t want to cry in front of him. The youth who have become a part of my life are the most powerful things that keep me in Iqaluit. Every time I think I can’t take one more day here, a child touches my heart and I have to stay.

I have never shed more tears for other people as I have since I moved here. Compassion is the one word that keeps me put, the one word that keeps me strong and the one word that reminds me of everything I have to smile about.

I may not be able to save the world but I can make a difference here, I know that now.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Dairy Free Iqaluit

There are no eggs, no containers of yogurt and no bread on the shelves of North mart today. I grabbed the last few branches of broccoli and had to leave without the salad mix that I have been craving for a week. It doesn’t bother me like it bothers some of my fellow Southern shoppers. In fact, it makes me laugh. I've also heard that we should stock up on toilet paper during the winter months, which is less of a laughing matter.

Life here can get dull so I find that anything different that takes place lights up my life with excitement. Even having to buy cartons of egg whites in lieu of whole eggs makes me smile.

I spent my day off out on the town with my friend Kayla today. We did the usual things you do when you have a day off. We stopped by North mart to check our mail basket, stopped in at the bank, then the post office. We picked up a passport application for Kayla who has never been outside of Canada and who I have convinced to take a vacation with me at some point in the next two years. You don’t know how badly you want to lounge on a hot beach until you’ve lived in the Arctic. Then we took a walk up to Nunavut Arctic College and acquired the schools program guide to see if any of the courses offered sounded interesting enough to enrol for.

This week I’m trying out closing shifts for a change. My daily routine has been getting a little dull and I wanted to spice it up. So far the spice has tasted a little funny. Working alone doesn’t work out so well for this social butterfly.

I miss my morning shenanigans with Emily. Every morning when Em takes a smoke break I accompany her in hopes that the sun will be shining. If it is, we venture a little closer to the water so that we can soak it up without the building in our way. With clumsy Emily by my side, laughter finds me no matter what. Out by the water the other day, I was demonstrating my Polar bear walk for her. It’s this silly walk I do so that I don’t fall through the ice and snow. Emily laughed but on the walk back up to the store she fell through thin ice and soaked her feet. I laughed uncontrollably. She never fails to say or do something that leaves me in stitches. I love her for the way she nonchalantly leans against things that always fall over, or says things like “these ass toning shoes make up for the donuts we eat.”

Here’s to matching Reebok shape ups. White so they go with our bakers uniforms.

Sunny and Negative Fifteen Celcius

I slept until my heart’s content today. Bundled up, to keep the chill that creeps through my window from touching me. I wish everyday could be as simple as this day. That I could wake up, open the curtains and have the time to watch the world move. From my spot in bed I have a view of the mountain, directly in my line of vision is the cross perched on the top. I've had my eyes on the mountain from the moment the sun started to rise in the South. The peach, gold light brushed the top of the mountain and has been slowly working its way toward down town Iqaluit as the sun rises higher behind me.

These are my favourite things about Iqaluit. These are the things that I moved to Iqaluit to experience. Sun rises that take your breath away. Lights dancing in the sky while the City sleeps.

Every day I wish that my world could be this simple, peacefully inspiring.

You’re reading these posts correctly if you think I’m drowning in mixed emotions. Twenty one and I thought I had nothing to lose by leaving my life behind. I would only be gone a couple of years and I would use the time to discover my own heart, my dreams, my goals.

Conflict will find us where ever we go and I am the kind of person who is laid back enough to simply let answers find me. I thought that was inevitable.

Answers however cannot penetrate the barrier I’ve put up to keep myself from over thinking and over stressing. I’ve been told the grass isn’t always greener but it’s hard to believe when you feel as stuck as you can feel in Iqaluit. It’s hard not to imagine something better waiting for you on the other side of the mountains.

I keep telling myself to block the thoughts, go through the motions, live out the work day and go to bed. Forget your worries, forget your fears and watch the days fly by. Perhaps a solution like this would work for someone else.

I believe that life is far too short to wish the days away or to go through the motions without embrace. I never want to have a ‘one that got away’ or a day that should have been. I moved here to live, not to bury myself. I love until my heart might burst and dance until my feet are numb. I wear flowers in my hair and I sing all day long. As incredible as this experience has been, I find that I miss myself.

And so, I am back at square one.

Frozen, unmoved and longing for a flower to stick in my hair.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Tequila and Zombies

Last year I took part in the zombie walk, down town Toronto. I'm not a zombie fan, actually the thought of zombie's is terrifying to me but I was also never a true believer. I just wanted to take part in the fun and spend some quality time with my girlfriends, even if it was spent blacking out each others teeth and making ourselves look as un-dead as possible.

My friend Rachel and I, happily undead

Yesterday my painfully over active imagination allowed visions of guests who had returned from the dead to cripple me with fear. Iqaluit experienced its first City wide power outage since we've been here. I was working the opening shift with Emily, who picked the most inopportune time to take a washroom break. Just after seven am, I was dipping a raspberry filled donut in vanilla fondant when the lights started to flicker and the alarms started to ring. The lights flicker and threaten to go out all the time but this time they actually did and I learned the hard way that the bakery's emergency lights are out of order. There are no windows in the production area, and even if there were, there is no sun at seven in the morning. I backed against a wall, donut in a one hand and pallet knife in the other. Generally when the power goes out there is some form of light somewhere near by but in the Tim's bakery in Iqaluit, you experience the kind of darkness that keeps you from seeing a millimetre in front of your face. Instantly I envisioned the commercial for the movie 'Devil.' It had been on television in recent months and there is a clip in an elevator where one character says to another, "don't let the light go out." The light goes out, and who should show up but the Devil. From that second I had decided to stay pressed against the wall until someone came to save me. A couple minutes later I heard Emily's quiet voice from out in the main store. She called my name. I said "Come save me!" and she wandered into the cubby hole with nothing but the light from her blackberry. I threw my donut, dropped my pallet knife and we huddled together and shuffled our way to the front doors where we met the few people who were already in the store.

It was incredible to look outside. Like civilization had barely touched Iqaluit. I imagined a simpler time. Then I imagined zombies.

Inside, the managers gathered flashlights. We thought we had a couple of hours worth of light from the emergency lights in the main store. Half of them surprised us and went out after twenty minutes, the other half followed soon after.

We were blind for almost an hour and a half. As exciting as it is to take a break from donuts. I never want to experience that again. Today I unpacked the little pink LED flashlight that I got for Christmas and I tied it to my apron, where it stayed all day. I will never again leave home without it. I held it at the ready as I walked to work this morning so that if the power went out and I was lost in the dark, I would be ready. Apparently this is a common occurrence during the winter here. I will be prepared.

I learned a word in Inuktitut that turned out to be two words depending on how you pronounce it. Its probably my favorite word because its so easy to remember. I have no idea how you spell it but it sounds like "Tequila." If you pronounce the 'k' sound on the end of Te, it means something along the lines of 'foggy day.' If you let the 'ah' on the end drag on, then it means "long." When I leave work I think to myself, "Tequila." It has always been a long, foggy day so regardless of how poor my pronunciation is, I get it right. Lately its been warming up. We were on the right track with the painfully cold weather and then yesterday mother nature decided to leave us with temperatures hovering around zero, which brought rain.

Today, I could care less about the cold, the fog or the wet. I am in a wonderful mood. Chats with people I love from home always leave an impossibly big smile on my face.

Thinking of you back home.

With love from Iqaluit