Monday, December 16, 2013

The Arctic Fox

The Arctic Fox is super cute. His sweet little face makes me feel beyond guilty that his cousin was at one point tanned, dyed black and retailed for the value of his life - roughly $500.00... only to be sewn onto my parka to keep me from freezing over.

Then I look around at every other parka around me that dawns a fox, wolf or wolverine and I feel even worse until I remember what life is like without an animal fur saving my skin from hardening to the rock form that is frost bite.

A couple of weeks ago our local friend Patrick came by to tell us to take a look out back of our house. Katie and I wandered out to find a successfully trapped fox. He was beautiful and reminded me a little bit of my cats.

He's dead now, he was dead that day. He was likely skinned right away to eventually become fur trim on a hood, or to adorn a hat or mitts.

And while we're on the topic of Arctic animals. I just asked Katie if she was using a really old dishcloth... you know that smell? ... turns out shes boiling caribou tongue. Yum.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Brain Freeze and Snow Drifts

Fresh air for kids is something I deem to be important. I have always felt that they need to be outside, stretching and playing and breathing the air.

Environment Canada has the temperature with windchill for Ulukhaktok to be negative 34 degrees Celsius. This isn't near the coldest I've felt but my goodness this town has nothing to block that wind.

We fought for half an hour to get the babes ready. Brody does NOT under any circumstances, even on the best of days, enjoy getting geared up for the outdoors. We managed to walk to the Northern... which is about 3 minutes away before we had to get indoors and warm up. The little hairs on my face were instantly fusing to my neck warmer and I actually had a cold headache, the kind you get when you drink a slushy too fast. My brain was freezing in the cold wind.

We got out just in time to catch the light. It barely sticks around at all. Around 11 am, I enjoy watching the pink sky to the left of the house as the sun tries to push through, and at the same time, watching the moon to the right of the house, still lighting the town. It feels almost like watching a wrestling match and knowing that the sun is getting weak and will soon give up the fight.

While out in the light, I got to see the six foot (+) snow drift that had formed on the road next to our house after yesterdays winds. No wonder I felt lost as I tried to walk through it in the pitch black of yesterday evening, with only the tiny illuminated window from our garage to assure me that I was still heading in the right direction.

It's the tiniest things that remind me that I am further North than I ever have been.

Brody's typical outer wear - though on days like today, he is also inside my amauti which acts as a second parka for him.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Sunrise and Sunset in Ulukhaktok

I've never seen a sunrise, a sunset or a moon like I have in Ulukhaktok.

For a few weeks now I have been working as a substitute teacher at Helen Kalvak School here in Ulu. The classroom that I have been in for the majority of the time has windows that span the entire side of the room and has one of the most gorgeous views that I have ever had the pleasure of enjoying.

I've seen a lot of sunsets and a lot of full moons. But I have never seen a sky like the one here. When it isn't covered in a think blanket of cloud, it is majestic. It is a source of inspiration and radiates life. I feel full when the sunset shines pink and gold through my soul. I feel full of awe when the moon and the stars glow the way they only could atop of an unpolluted night sky, in a quiet, dark town in the middle of nowhere. I feel close to God when I look out through the windows in this town.

I cannot photograph the sky to do it any justice. I cannot come close to capturing the way that this town takes my breath away.

The sun doesn't last long anymore. We are about to lose it completely until somewhere near mid January when it will return for the same kind of peek-a-boo appearances.

During the one hour class I've been teaching from 1:30 to 2:30, the sun has been both rising and coming close to setting. By the time I leave at 3:45pm it is dark again.

View of the sunrise from the front of the school

View of the school parking, now mostly snowmobiles, the playground, the Ulukhaktok community center and the town

Sunset with a view of the other playground, the town and the RCMP station on the right
When I left work the moon was just coming up over the hills, it was an image of perfection. The moon, full and round and bright white. I wanted to share it, to lasso it. I wish with all of my being that the people I love could be here to see what I get the chance to see.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Hey Southerner, does my blog make you feel cold?

I'm not going to lie, if I were down South enjoying the beauty and sweater weather of fall, I probably wouldn't want to read this blog often... it would make me feel cold and really, who likes feeling cold?

I never owned a own home before moving North. I wouldn't know the first thing about my furnace needing fuel refills, or how to replace a furnace filter and if you leave me a thermostat with no manual... it becomes obsolete, useless to me. So until now, I got by just screwing around with the buttons. It would get cold so I would push a few things and somehow the house would (usually) warm up. For the past week our furnace has been shutting off in the middle of the night and we have been waking up freezing. After many days of Katie flipping the breaker off and on again... which seemed to have been working, I realized no silly thermostat games were going to save us.

Dramatic? Maybe... but I doubt you know what it feels like to wake up to a blizzard pelting your house so hard that the glasses in the kitchen cupboards are shaking. The wind is so cold and so strong as it hits the windows that if you close your eyes, you could easily imagine that you are in the storm rather than sheltered in the house. Embarrassingly enough, I am not kidding when I say that the wind at night in Ulukhaktok freaking scares me.  

Long story short, I was on hold with tech support so long that I actually managed to fix my thermostat woes before the man on the other line managed to figure out which model we have on the wall. Proud. 

With the wind and the snow come days off for the municipal truck drivers... I think... but honestly I'm not sure what they do. All I know for sure is that when the wind is too high, the water truck cannot deliver water. 
This means a few things: 
a) my showers are getting shorter, and believe me when I say, if the furnace isn't working, you don't want to get out of the hot shower... ever
b) laundry is pilinggggg up 
c) the dishes are also piling up
d) this one is perhaps the most horrific. The daycare and preschool are closed 
e) due to point d, I cannot work as I am home with the tots

As you can see, my income is directly effected by mother nature, my sanity is also directly effected, as is the cleanly state of this house...
Just kidding, this house is never to be classified as 'cleanly' or any other similar descriptive adjective. If it has been, its a lie. We have toddlers. If you come over and it is remotely clean... we faked it.

The following picture is the lovely view from by bedroom window. The top half is a picture taken in September while sea lift was here. The bottom half is what it looks like now. Looks fun right? If you look the wind in the face, you cannot breathe and you get frost bite. 
I am past the point of ready to book a tropical vacation. I'm pretty sure the fireplace is tired of having a front row view of my ass.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Skidoos and Fresh Snow

Well, we're frozen now. The water lake is frozen, (where we get our drinking water) the rivers are frozen and all three Bays are well on their way to being solid. Yesterday I took my second slip and fall, my entire left butt cheek and thigh are red and scraped up. And though snow brings falls and wet boots and a soggy front porch, it also brings the beginning of a beautiful time in the Arctic. That time just before the sun disappears and just after summer has passed. It's a time where the sun shines brilliantly, with a closeness that seems to light the settlement on fire with golds and pinks. Yet at the same time, the moon, bright as it is at night, sits peacefully, untouchable just above the town. We have had three breathtakingly picturesque days in a row. Yesterday the snow fell in soft clumps. When you look into the sky, you feel as though you are living within the confines of a perfect painting, where the only sight you need to see for the rest of your living days is the tunnel of light shining down on you through a break in the pink clouds, illuminating the miles of slowly falling flakes above. My world is filled with pale blues, soft pinks, all shades of gold and the fresh, innocent white that has fallen all around us. It is hard to feel anything but peace during this time.

Though, it is the calm before the storm.

Perhaps the most exciting bonus that comes from the fresh snow is that we can now begin to enjoy our new snowmobile.

The new machine
I hope this makes my dad want to visit... haha

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Early Christmas Prep

So Christmas is coming... perhaps that isn't on the minds of all you Southerners quite yet, but I have been planning since the middle of September. I already have a few things wrapped. There are reasons why I start so early...

a) This town is covered in snow. I sing 'it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas,' on a daily basis. It looked more like Christmas here after our first August snow than it does December 25th in Southern Ontario.

b) If you live in a community that is 'fly-in only,' you know 1) you will most likely have to be ordering in Christmas gifts and 2) there is no guarantee that they will arrive in a timely manner. You cannot afford to procrastinate for Christmas in the Arctic.

Even though I have started this process on time, I am feeling so annoyed. No one has free shipping anymore. My only options are and but costco generally sells oversized items (play kitchens, doll houses and so on) and I am in the mind set of, 'no more big things that we can't afford to take South when we finally move back'.

I bought all of my kiddies Christmas books from amazon. This year we are doing a book advent calendar, where I will wrap 24 books and put a date on them, to be opened one per night until Santa crosses the river and drops off gifts.

My thought right now is, how do Santa's reindeer survive travels through the North without being shot for tuktu stew?

Back to the annoyances... there are no boots for me to buy for Brody in this town. His feet are way too fat to fit into anything under a size 6 (He's 15 months old) and his seal skin kamiks are too small now. There is nothing made and nothing in the stores.

Today's frustration is that there is no corn meal in town and I just really want to make corn bread muffins.

I guess both will have to wait until December when my mom arrives for Christmas! It will be her second Christmas with me in the North, her first Christmas in the NWT and her first Christmas spent with her favorite (and only) grandson. I used all of my aeroplan miles and two handfuls of hundies to make it happen but that's what daughters are for. Right?

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Suicide is NOT the Answer

Life has been so seemingly peaceful here since I came to terms with the onslaught of winter. There has been a wave of serenity hovering over me. Perhaps it was sent by some divine power to keep me sane but regardless, through all the stresses of life lately I have been able to enjoy the days here. Katie and I have been settling in and enjoying the people, we even got an invite for dinner with the Captain and his crew from the sea lift barge. (which was another throw back to Southern life) Stephen went back to Arviat to hunt and be with family and the kids are settled in at day care. I was so looking forward to this Sunday, Katie is off today and she spent most of the day playing the guitar while the kids danced and I spent some time in the garage working on a pallet wood toy chest project I have created for Brody’s room.

No matter how peaceful we had hoped today would be, we went through the motions of the day with heavy hearts and the hope of distractions. Turns out we both turned to creative outlets to divert our thoughts.

For as long as I have been in the North I have been witness to the suffering that suicide brings. I am never truly surprised when I ask the cause of someone’s passing and the answer is suicide. Over the last couple of years it has been inspiring to see many Northerners band together against the tragedy of lives lost so pointlessly. With posts all over Facebook on Suicide Prevention Day dedicated to the souls that have passed, I realized just how many of my Northern friends (and family) have been burdened by the heart break of loss.

Last night a beautiful nineteen year old girl named Tina swallowed prescription drugs that weren't hers. When she showed up at our door it took me a few seconds to realize that she was outwardly in decent shape but that physically she was in trouble. I let her into the house and sat her down on our steps, held the bag for her to vomit in and wiped her face when she finished. With the intention of getting her to the health center, as she had requested, I opened our front door and found the officers that had come to help her. She reluctantly got into the truck and that was the last time I will ever see Tina. Today, just before they could medivac her to help, she passed away.

She caused her own death but I know that even after doing such a reckless and irresponsible thing, Tina didn't want to die, she wasn't ready to die. Some of her last words to me were, ‘take me to the health center.’

Today, there were a handful of things that ran on repeat through my mind. I stood in front of the stove and cooked through my tears, with every part of my brain wondering why they couldn't save her. Thinking about how her family and friends would never hear her voice again. Questioning why she did it. If she had of thought a little bit harder about the value of her life, perhaps I would see my neighbor leave her house tomorrow morning, perhaps she wouldn't have had to regret her actions when it was already too late.

While Katie and I dined with the Captain, Tina was here playing with our babies. When we came home, my sweet son was sleeping soundly against her chest, dreaming along to the beat of her heart.

Just a short while ago she was alive with promise, with opportunity for the future and like the drop of a hat her entire life has been cut short, ended, stopped.

The ease of losing a life is horrifying. The stabbing ache of realizing, again, how fragile life is, feels unbearable. It fills me with fear for the future, for the North, for the children.

Suicide is never the answer, ever. Life is a beautiful gift, even when it hurts, there is the promise of a happier day, maybe not tomorrow, maybe not next week, but there will always be light at the end of the tunnel.

If you happen to be reading this because you Google searched suicide and have been thinking that it might be your way out of a hard situation, please talk to someone you love. Please call someone; there are crisis lines that are waiting to listen, judgment free. Please message me; I will be there for you if you have no one to talk to because I believe that your life is precious. Suicide will never be the answer to your feelings of hopelessness but I think that hearing someone else’s voice and telling someone else what you are going through could help you clear your mind.

NWT Help Line
Serving Northwest Territories
Crisis 7pm-11pm (Mountain Standard Time) 7days/week: 1-800-661-0844
Yellowknife, NT X1A 2PG
Business: (867) 873-9903

Awareness Centre
Nunavuat Kamatsiaqtut Help Line
Serving Nunavut and Nunavik (Arctic Quebec)
Crisis 7pm-11pm (Eastern Standard Time) 7days/week: 1-800-265-3333
Crisis 7pm-11pm (Eastern Standard Time) 7 days/week: (867) 979-3333
P.O. Box 419, Iqaluit, NU X0A 0H0
Business: (867) 979-2742

Call Kids Help Phone: 1-800-668-6868

You are not alone

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

This is a pep talk

This is a pep talk, this is me (as I do sometimes) writing out a pros and cons list to remind myself of what overshadows my fears and discomforts. This is how I prep myself for what is to come. Thank God for this beautiful day. 

It takes merely a few seconds to miss the allure and charm of the North when one leaves it behind. Then upon return, it takes merely weeks to not only remember the isolation but feel the pang of it in your chest.

Katie and I spent some time over the weekend acquainting ourselves with a couple construction workers who had been working here for a couple of weeks and then got weathered in until Saturday. The feeling of satisfaction in finding company who bring with them the comfort and memories of the South, of home, is rare up here.

When I asked them if they were bored, they told us about the movies they had been watching and said, "aren't you?" Usually I would tell them of the many things to do here, but these weren't men who hadn't been keeping busy. My response was, "I'm used to it, I guess."

The truth is that my response was not entirely the truth. I had already been feeling that loneliness ebbing into my soul. It started snowing the morning we went over to spend some time with our snowed in guests. It snowed most of the day Saturday, and Sunday. Today it is Wednesday and the snow seems to have stopped. The small white patches on the ground are melting away slowly. The sun is out but then again the moon is too.

I dropped Brody off at Daycare to play with his friends for the afternoon, (It's free here!) and then I took a short walk. I cannot resist basking in the warm sun on a fresh-air kind of day. I walked to the top of a small hill, just on the edge of town. I looked down in the direction of the airport and saw white sheets off in the distance. I briefly doubted that they would ever melt away.

As I stood on that hill with civilization behind me, I noticed the quiet. I closed my eyes for what must have been five minutes. I heard the birds, noticing that even though so many had already migrated, there were the remaining birds that must be exceptionally brave. They tweeted and chirped and in that moment I was transported to exactly the spot I stood. I took the trip but the perfection of the very spot where my feet were grounded was so untouchable that there was nothing better my mind could conjure. I could feel the warmth of the sun coming and then leaving with the shallow gusts of cool wind. The winter is coming, the moon in the sky at noon proves this daunting fact. I am afraid. They call it the land of the midnight sun, but you don't hear many refer to it as the land of the noon time moon - which it truly is for the majority of the year.

I cannot tell you what it feels like to live in Northern Canada, under the blanket of darkness. The place you are taken is a dark one and sometimes when you lay alone in bed you can hear your lonely heart thrum as though alone inside a rusted and forgotten oil drum. Sealed away from the world until the ice thaws and freedom claws its way slowly inward and releases you. There is a longing that crawls beneath the surface of the skin, the nerves that crave human touch but know it will be so long until anything other than a parka hugs the body. Knowing these things are coming, and coming fast, has me a little bit nervous these days.

Seeing those construction men off on Saturday was like sealing the envelope and reality sank in. The plane was taking this short summer and the fun company it provided for one weekend with it.

I had the feeling that I wasn't entirely alone in my peace on that hill. The walls here, and in every small town, have eyes. I suspected there was a middle aged woman standing half hidden behind her curtains, wondering about the crazy new girl in town. As I turned and took barely fifteen steps in the direction of home, I heard a loud knocking from the living room window of the house I was passing. She was maybe three, more likely two, with dirty blond hair. She knocked and I waved as I walked, her returning wave accompanied by a brilliant smile. I got a little further and she knocked again, waving. It happened four more times, the last of which when I was nearly out of sight. She had to wave until the chance was gone, she had a hard time letting go of a fresh smile that had just walked through her day. I realized how much that little girl reminded me of my twenty-four year old self, our mentalities at least, are similar.

Just as a child, it pains me to say good-bye, to watch something brilliant or fun or new come to an end. In the arctic, this is magnified. Yet all it takes to restore my faith and to remind me of why and how I stay here to push through another winter, is one day. One day, where the sun shines like gold on the water and illuminates the smiles of every passer-by. One day where the weight of my parka hangs on a hanger and not on my shivering shoulders.

I cannot quite put into words the way that the Arctic is in itself an outrageous contradiction.

Soon, the Northern earth will welcome the embrace of the long, cold winter that it is so accustomed to. In these windows sit children who long for adventure and outside of my window will stand a woman who is braving this Northern earth to continue the adventure she has found.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

The Worlds Most Northern Golf Course

I have never been golfing before, surprising as my fathers side of the family are avid golfers, every single one of them, aunts, uncles and cousins. When I spend time with them, an hour barely passes without some mention of the sport.

I may need to try it out at least once as this tiny town is home to the World's most northern golf course... or as the sign says, "The Worlds Most Northernly 9 Hole Golf Course in the World." I couldn't suppress a smile at the sight of said sign.

Note that this tiny town is also home to what feels like the Worlds strongest winds... I don't doubt that the winter here brings painful walking experiences. I'm not sure my ball would make it anywhere near my target point should I attempt it. I suppose you need to be the kind of avid golfer my father is to be able to account for the excessive strength of this northern wind and still golf a successful game.

Evening view from the 5th hole

 I hear that there is an annual celebrity golf tournament held here. I wonder who pays for the flights of those celebrities and if they come just to boast about playing the worlds most northern course?

As I walk these streets I can't help but think that this town and all of its inhabitants really know how to live the good life. They live a quiet life and though it may not be entirely free of dramatics, it isn't like Iqaluit with fist fights in the streets and a sell and swap Facebook page where people are posting daily, looking for things that have been stolen right out of their houses. The people here are genuinely kind, they smile and in ten out of twelve instances they stop to shake your hand and tell you who they are. The other two instances are just shy folks who will still offer a smile. I've met people and have been told afterwards, "You go to him when you need something fixed," or "He knows his way around anything that needs welding." Even, "He's the guy you need when there's a skidoo or ATV that needs some work."

Selfie on the course with Katie

These people know who is out on the water by the look of their boat in the distance, who just drove out of town on a machine and who is working at which store at what point of the day. It feels a little bit like neighborhood watch without the window stickers and a lot like the small town you've always been looking for. I've met people who came, fell in love with the community and stayed, and heard of people who are here to hide out. Either way, there is no shortage of people who have found their happiness here.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

How about the North West Territories?

Here's a funny little story for your Sunday afternoon...

We moved again. If you're surprised, let me assure you, we were too. We were under the impression that Katie would be in Kugluktuk for work for a decently substantial amount of time. A week after we landed she got a phone call and she was offered the managers position in Ulukhaktok. Of course, she took the job. She's been waiting for this for as long as I've known her. 

Ulukhaktok Airport - one of the smallest I've been in

I booked my one way ticket to this lovely town, set to fly out exactly a week after her call. When I fly out of here it will need to be on some sort of seat sale.... the flight from Kugluktuk to here, one way, cost me almost $900. 

My selfie with the Welcome to Ulukhaktok sign

I can feel Katie's excitement. After even more years of travelling than I've done, she feels like she can finally settle. It's strange to think of settling so far North, so detached from the world. Up here there is no cell phone service, we can only use black berry messenger by enabling WiFi on our phones. Really though, who still uses bbm? I have a solid one hand full of friends who I can keep in touch with that way. I'm starting to think it may not be worth my $72 a month cell phone bill. 

I spent the whole day yesterday trying to get my blog page to load so I could share that we have re-located yet again. It didn't work and I feel lucky to have written this one. On top of no cell phones, limited internet (no computers or i pads half the time {we may need to get a second modem}) we also have no home phone. Katie is waiting for her managers house to be ready for move in, which could take up to a month, before setting up her land line. 

I enjoy roughing it, technologically speaking, but it's strange not to communicate with my family who may not all be aware that I have disappeared again. 

The old, unused Catholic church
The original store

When we landed here on the 25th (the first time) we spent about forty minutes on lay-over. The weather was over-cast and gloomy, we couldn't see much from the airport. I thought this town was too sandy looking for me. Now that we are here, and have been going on three days, I see the bright side of this place. Wow'ed instantly by the views from inside of the town, I am sold. We are surrounded by three Bays, Queens Bay, Jacks Bay and Kings Bay. It is a short drive (or a long walk) to a fresh water lake and a river that serves as the local swimming hole. 

The fresh water river between the town and the airport, where people swim

The town is greener than I thought but is still mainly made up of rock that has a rust color to it. The mountains around us are much different than the ones I loved so much in Qikiqtarjuaq. They remind me of the Grand Canyon in the way that they are colored and the slope of the rock faces, though they are not nearly as vivid.  

The people here are wonderful, kind and welcoming people. Everyone I walk past on the streets stops to talk and ask me my name. Every stranger we meet when Katie and I are together also asks, "are one of you the new manager?" It seems that news travels exceptionally quickly here in this town of less than 500. 

So, as readers of this arctic travelers blog, 'Welcome to Ulukhaktok,' or, as many of the locals have said, 'Welcome to Ulu.'

With love, for the first time from the North West Territories own, Ulukhaktok. (Does this mean I need to change the name of my blog?) 

Monday, July 29, 2013

With Love From Kugluktuk

After spending the remainder of my first year with Brody enjoying our family and friends in Ontario, we have landed in our new home, Kugluktuk Nunavut.

Playing at a park near the house
As you may have noticed, my laptop has been out of commission and it turns out that iPad's aren't the greatest blogging tools. But I'm back and with enough down time to sit down and share our stories.

This journey started with a stomach full of butterflies. Earlier in the year I was in talks with The Northwest company about coming back to work after my leave with Brody. They wanted me back in Iqaluit but I wanted to a) spend a full year with my baby and b) be in the same community as my best buddy Katie and her family. Being away from my family with a baby is hard, it makes me miss the ones I love doubly and makes me realize how much support I need to feel comfortable. There is very limited child care available in Iqaluit and in following Katie, I have both support and child care built in as Katie's hubby is home with their daughter and loves Brody like his own. So, together we came to the conclusion that the best place for us for the time being is Kugluktuk, formerly known as Coppermine. We are going to settle in and stay a while. We aren't sure how long Katie will be here as the company could find a community that needs her at any time. We are getting used to living as nomads, with this lifestyle we have to go with the flow, where ever the wind takes us. It can be frustrating, but we are happy and this way we are forced out of my comfort zone and get to experience beautiful community after beautiful community.

We left Oakville on Wednesday, flying from Toronto to Edmonton. My first time in Alberta. (And Brody's) This was my first taste of flying with a one year old! Holy smokes. I could feel the annoyance in the air. Lucky for us, we weren't the only baby toting family on the plane.

We had to overnight in Edmonton, but we didn't see much. The time change meant that Brody was ready for bed by the time we were settled in at the hotel. Stephen and I took Mekia for a walk, it seemed to be that our hotel was in the heart of a business hot spot because we didn't see anything other than their strange stop lights and some dirt and buildings. I'm sure we will make a point to see more of Alberta soon enough.

We got up at 4:30 the next morning to head to the airport and catch our flight to Yellowknife. (Our first time in the North West Territories) I would have cried if I had to endure another day where all of us were separated on the flight, luckily, on both flights right to our destination, we all sat in neighboring rows. I would love to spend more time in Yellowknife. The first thing I thought of was the few episodes of 'Arctic Air' I've watched on Netflix. The show makes the town seem so much smaller and more remote. I thought it would feel like a homey small town like the ones that we are accustomed to now. It's big, and it looks beautiful. I hope that on our next trip through we can arrange to spend a couple of nights and enjoy the City.

We couldn't land in Kugluktuk due to heavy fog. So the announcement came telling us that we would fly 50 minutes further to Uluhoktok (Holman) and then 50 minutes back and attempt to land again. I dreaded the extra two hours with kiddies who had long been done with flying for the day. I dreaded even more what would happen if the 'attempt' to land failed and we had to fly all the way back to Yellowknife.

During our brief layover in Uluhoktok - back to chilly weather

When we landed in Kugluktuk I was shocked by the greenery. After having spent some time looking around at the view from the airport in Uluhoktok, I was expecting Kugluktuk to look similar, covered in sand and dirt, very little color.

To the contrary, Kugluktuk is gorgeous, rather flat, quite different from our Mountain surroundings in Qikiqtarjuaq. I am amazed by Nunavut and its variety of scenery.

This is the beginning of our Kugluktuk chapter. Our first glimpse of life in the Western Arctic.

Keep following us to find out more about this beautiful town and the people and things we find here.

With love from Kugluktuk.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Two Feet on the Davis Straight

I think that to re title this blog as "My mommy adventure" would be so terribly fitting at this stage in my life. I find it hard to explore my current place of residence with tots in tow, but I also find it hard to find time to write. When 8 o clock pm hits, the kids are in bed and my eyes are too weary for the computer screen, I don't want the background noise from the tv, and I'm usually too spent to want to expend the energy that showering takes. My choice past time before bed is losing myself in a book.

We go out walking with the kids, I amaq Brody in my amauti and Katie pulls Mekia in the sled she got for Christmas. Both kids usually fall asleep and we stay out until our cheeks cant take the cold any longer. I think  that I had seen the whole town within the first few days of being here. It has just recently hit me how small my surroundings are here. I was drawn by the magnetism of the sky high mountains, the vastness of the Davis Straight and the extraordinary ice burg views and didn't really see how small Qikiqtarjuaq itself was. I would love to spend a Spring and Summer here to experience the wildlife, the boating and run the water over my feet.

It is rumored within my family that we are the descendants of John Davis, the explorer who the Davis Straight was named for, he sailed this area in search of the Northwest passage. John discovered the Falkland Islands and was later killed by a Japanese Pirate whose vessel he and his crew had seized. We don't know much of his story, but his portrait lays in the bottom of my Grandmother's closet, an occasional reminder of a history I should really research further.

Needless to say I had always dreamed of seeing the Davis Straight, though I wish I could see its waters, I have had the opportunity to not only walk all over the Bay surrounding Qikiqtarjuaq but drive on it as well.

Katie has a coworker named William Iqaalik who has been the greatest link in allowing us to see this town and to learn some of its facts. He has been so kind to bring us country food and keep Katie happy, with reminders of home.

William took us out in his old RCMP truck, driving along the ice. I've been on Nunavut's ice by dog team, on foot and by skidoo, but this was my first chance to take a drive. William seems to have mastered the ice, driving like its just another road, though for him, it is. He took us on a tour, pointing out the land where the 'old store' was, and showed us the mountains that we cant see from the comfort of our living room. He pointed out seal holes in the ice, where the seals surface to breathe, and he took us to a cabin that is used locally for clam diving. William showed me the hole in the ice, and though I was fascinated, just the thought of dropping through that hole into the frigid water below caused me to shiver.

My baby and his new seal skin mitts

Seal hole

William showing me a cabin, where divers go

Clam diving hole

As there are in all places I visit, I have goals here. One is to summit the small mountain that seems to be the closest to town, and has a beautiful view from the top. The second one is to visit bubbling lake, which is a lake that William pointed us in the direction of, that sits up over a hill and never freezes. Katie has been told by others that they fetch fresh water from the Lake. It is not a hot spring, William has told me this much, so I am intrigued to find out more about it. My third goal was to reach the sign that says that 'you are above the arctic circle.' Katie has been told that the sign is not there right now and that for $5 the hamlet will issue us 'certificates' that state the same fact. The lazy mans opt out, where I am concerned, but without the sign to show for the journey, I think the certificate may suffice.

Ice burgs in the distance on the Davis Straight

Monday, January 14, 2013

Wishing Lanterns

Its been a nice quiet holiday for us, probably for the best considering both of the babies and myself are fairly sick right now. The town actually asked people to stay home on New Years eve and the pastor conducted his service over the radio, to stop the spread of illness'.

Something else mentioned on local radio was our lanterns.

Katie's smiley lantern, filling up with hot air

I ordered wishing lanterns from China, not knowing if the extreme cold would allow them to heat up enough to fly. Lucky for us, once lit indoors, our beautiful lanterns floated somewhat gracefully into the wind, high above the town.

The night was a little bit of a shock for me here, as I have never celebrated in a town so small. There were no fire works at all, but when midnight hit, I heard them. I walked out the door behind Katie and jokingly said, "it sounds like we're being shot at." She laughed. We may not have been getting shot at, but the hundreds of fire-work-like bangs, were in fact gun shots. Interesting, and mildly dangerous way to ring in the new year, but thrilling nonetheless.

When Katie mentioned our lanterns at work yesterday, her co-worker Pasha responded with, "Oh, that was you guys? People were talking about those on the local radio." When Katie passed along the comment, I was delighted. I'm glad there were other people who got to share in the beauty of our new years wishes. We sent out three that night, one early, with two crying babies, and one for each of us at midnight.

Though we both missed the traditions of our home towns, I think we may have created a new one.