Thursday, August 14, 2008

Due North

I read over the entry that I’d been working on sporadically since I’ve left and decided that it needed to much work to post as a blog – so here is a paraphrased version of the highlights.

To start off with Geoff wins mega-amazing best brother points for being a superhero - including getting up early, being patient and sending me of on my journey with a very delicious piece of cake – the likes of which I won’t see for a while. Everything went smoothly en-route and the numerous ups and downs didn’t bother my ears nearly as much as I expected. I had a couple of those gasping moments when I suddenly I realized I’d forgotten something – but for the most part I didn’t let it get to me. I did fail to unplug and pack my alarm clock, but in the end that worked out for the best as it gave me a reason to tackle the bus system in Winnipeg and find a replacement – which I like better than the one I left behind. The overhead baggage compartments on the smaller planes really are small though. After a night of packing and unpacking and hopping on and off the bathroom scale, I ended up about about 8 lbs over and Calm Air does seem to include your carry-on in their total – so, actually it was 28 lbs meaning that I just managed to squeeze under the limit.

The weather once we got north of Winnipeg was amazing and I could see the ground the entire way prompting me to take tonnes of relatively awful pictures from the plane window. The coast is really wet – even the land part seems more than half water. We actually were ahead of schedule and kept our stops en route fairly short. It was 29 C in Churchill – hotter than I’ve really seen it at home even lately and fairly warm when we got here. The first night we mostly got settled and chatted and tried to figure out if we had enough kitchen stuff to limp along until our stuff gets here – I think we’ll manage give or take a can opener –depending if I packed one in the bags I haven’t gotten yet. I tried writing a bit the first night, but mostly I couldn’t keep my eyes open.

The next day we all woke up early. I spent a good chunk of the morning walking around town and taking a bunch of photos (probably most of the ones included in this blog). I’m absolutely in love with the fireweed here. In general – everything is amazingly beautiful. I spent the rest of the day in my classroom hunting down curriculum documents and textbooks for my class and doing all that thinking stuff, list making and planning. Apparently, my roommates and I have brought the rainy season here from Ontario – as the sky opened up shortly after lunch and it poured for nearly 3 hours (only 8.4 in the end). Today I finally braved the store to get food (i.e. I ran out of the meagre bits I’d packed in my bag and was craving something healthy enough to make shopping a priority. I was actually pleasantly surprised that the prices were not that different from Kashechewan and that the store actually had a surprising amount of selection. I enjoyed my omelette for brunch too. Much better than what I’d been eating. I gather that the barge will arrive when it gets here – no sooner and no later and hopefully before the lake freezes. Hopefully, we’ll get organized to figure out the food mail thing soon – but in the meantime eating is good. Speaking of which – I think I should go organize myself some dinner.

So I haven't quite got the knack of transferring my photos over to this computer - so you only get one for now. Soon though - and I really will have to take my camera with me more - although the next few days are going to be super busy. Thanks for everyones best wishes - its good to know that I have such good friends believing in me... I promise - lots of stories and picutures at Christmas.

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Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Arrivals and Departures

Yeah!! I'm finally officially in the North! So far it has been an amazing experience and I do actually have some nice pictures, but I'll have to sort out some logistics before I can post them. Ditto for the post that I've been working on for the last few days. I'll try to get it up shortly, but it'll be tomorrow night at the earliest.

A couple quick thoughts about things that have amazed me so far...

  1. The cookies on the Calm Air Flight.
  2. The fact that the shore of the Arctic Coast is less defined than I expected - it seems to go from being all water to a lacey matrix of islands, lakes, and sand bars. Even tiny islands often had pools or small lakes on them.
  3. The fireweed.... its just amazing
  4. The 3 hour downpour with thunder and lightening this afternoon.
  5. The size of the sky and the strength of the wind.
  6. The colours - all day I've been dying to dig out my (currently in Winnepeg) watercolours and try to paint them all.
  7. The kindness of all the people I've met so far.

I'm glad I stepped of the edge of the world I thought was normal and came back to the awesomeness of the north. I'm sure the next few weeks are going to be intense and crazy, but I have a good feeling that they are going to be amazing too.

I promise to post some pictures as soon as I figure out how. In the mean time, I've arrived safe and sound and I'm feeling excited about attacking my next set of challanges.


Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Singing in the Rain

Well, I'm getting down to the wire... I did go puddle jumping and I'm hoping the sore throat I have is temporary and doesn't turn an innocent bit of puddle jumping into strep throat because I don't have time to be sick in the next month, never mind the next week. That said, there really are not too many activities that make you feel as alive as getting rained on... so, as long as I don't end up sick - it was worth it.

Its starting to set in that not only am I moving to a remote place, I'm about to go from temperature I normally associate with midsummer to temperatures I normally associate with early fall - well maybe a touch warmer - but anything much below 20 C and I'm wearing at least a long sleeved t-shirt - maybe even a sweater. So I guess I should enjoy my last few days of wearing shorts and sandals because come September - temperatures above 10 C are going to become rare and that is jacket and hat territory - and well, its winter by October.

I can relate to this a bit. When I did my education year - I did each of my placements in a different location and I was living in Thunder Bay to begin with - so in November I moved south for my first placement near here and went from early winter to late fall then back to full winter when I got to Thunder Bay. In March, the day I left for my last placement, in Nunavut, I was wearing jeans and a t-shirt and feeling uncomfortable warm carting an armload of boxes to be mailed home from the post office - the next day well - it was Parkas and seeing my first parking lot full of Skidoos in Rankin. I think the toughest was when we headed back south in early May and it was 30 C in Winnepeg and the bunch of us were all standing there in the airport dying with our parkas over our arms in our winter boots (and probably looking foolish too.) So, according to the weather network, the day before I leave the temperature is supposed to be between 11 C (low) and 23 C (high) which isn't all that different from this week here - but that is fairly unusual I gather since the average max temp for this time of year is only 16 C and the average min temp is a chilly 5 C. Note to self... move mittens and hat into carry on bag.

Packing has been an adventure - It looks like it should work out okay, but I've been given a few different versions of what I can actually get on calm air. It sounds to me that your total weight includes your carry-on luggage (but not your camera, purse, or coat or reasonable reading material.) If anyone has recent experience about whether the 70 lbs limit applies to 2 pieces of checked luggage + carry on bag or if the 70 lbs is just the checked luggage and there is another 20 lbs allowed for the carry on - I'd love to know. But, I am going to give them a call anyways.

The photograph was taken on the Credit River near Cataract late last fall.... well on the up side I won't have to wait too long before ski season starts...or worry about if the snow is going to melt or if it is going to rain in January. I think it won't. Now... panicky thought... did I pack my glide wax...where would it be if I didn't - does anyone carry glide wax in August? Sigh. There still isn't anyone with the boots I want in stock either. Ah well, I'm sure I'll have a few more of these moments in the next few days. Its kind of scary moving somewhere where even if you were willing to put out obscene amounts of money - there are simply things that are not available to buy and I suspect that glide wax is probably on the list...
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Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Late Arrivals

This African Violet plant was a gift from a close friend some years ago and I have photos of it flowering early last June - but this year it didn't flower until today (almost August) - so about 2 months later. Its in the same location, its getting about the same water - so why it is later this year I'll never know. Perhaps I should give it some food. Still... its as delightful as ever and possibly in need of a new home. Although I'm considering trying to bring it with me when I move - I just have to come up with way of doing it without killing the plant or getting dirt all over my stuff.

In other moving news, my roomate and I are trying to sort out how to get our excess luggage up north. This is proving to be much more complicated than anticipated - so while we are frustrated, we are also glad that we discovered the problem early enough to deal with it - now if only all of the agents would give us the same information and figure out how to ship our stuff efficiently withough needing to store it - then life would be good. Alternatively.. I'm not sure that it wouldn't be cheaper to drive it to Winnipeg than it would be to ship it... or even Ottawa... hopefully this will work out. I'm going to mostly pack my bags today - so I can have an idea about the weight and size of stuff before starting into talks with the air cargo folk. On the other hand, if I think of the number of times I've moved somewhere with only a dufflebag a backsack and a guitar.... then I can probably relax and figure that I'll survive regardless.
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Monday, July 28, 2008

The Road From There to Here

Once upon a time, long, long ago, in an era before I had a thesis or a boyfriend or a gym membership - I used to paint small watercolours paintings. This is one of the first ones I painted, say in 1998 or 1999, on the back of a small cue card. Several years later, not to mention a small, but decent library of watercolour books later, I never managed to create more than a handful of pictures that I liked as much as this one. I guess that says something for beginners luck. I feel that the inukshuk is a very powerful and appealing symbol. To me - it represents both the journey and the landmarks that tell you whether or not you are going in the correct direction. It is associated with culture of our First Nations People - it speaks to me of their knowledge of love of the land and their own journey. I can close my eyes an picture this great stone structure standing firm through the worst of storms to perform its duty to guide them safety to their home - enduring year after year and season after season and as for myself - I have chosen a more convoluted route through life, so I'm always looking for some symbol to reassure me that my choices are sound. I know that there is more to it than that for the Inuit, and I'm looking forward to learning their vision of this symbol - but this is what it says to me.

I was flipping through my artwork when I was packing to move - and I find it definately reassuring that moving north in the right direction. Why else would have I painted so many pictures of inukshuks (ooh.. that isn't the right plural is it?), northern lights and igloos? (Granted the other half of my pictures feature mountains and trees) Of the five of my paintings currently hanging up - one is an inukshuk beside a cold looking river with mountains and a sunset in the back ground, 2 feature a lone pine tree on a small island - one with a sunset in the background and the other with the northern lights, 1 is a picture of a lone snag in a clear cut (from my tree planting days) and the last is an individual in parka with a sled in the winter with assorted spruce trees and the northern lights. So, you get the picture (ooh... bad pun) - my artwork says I'm finally following my heart to the place that my eyes and soul long for...

When I lived in Kashechewan, I used to love teaching art to my Grade 8's. Art was often a double period on Friday afternoons - where everyone was usually calm and relaxed and having fun and, if I do say so myself, we did some cool stuff. As for me, after school ended, then my art would begin. I'd head home and continue painting while I cooked supper. Sometimes - it was the start of the plan for the next week, but often I just painted or drew whatever called to me and it helped me unwind after a long and busy week of teaching. I miss the meditativeness of painting. Most of my stuff isn't that good - in fact some of it is downright awful. But I think that made me a better teacher - because I could say to my students - I love to draw and paint and sometimes it turns out good and sometimes it doesn't, but I do these things because I find them relaxing and fun and I enjoy painting the bad ones as much as the good ones and I don't let my lack of talent stop me from keeping doing something I enjoy - I just keep trying to get better and when something good happens - then I know I'm on the right track. I think that saved me from a lot of discipline issues.. because no one had to feel bad if their art work didn't come out great - because art was about learning and trying new techniques and no one was expected to get it perfect on their first try.

So - I have two weeks to go and one of my biggest jobs is to explore my own teaching philosphy and how I think it'll work in the North. I know that whatever I plot and plan from here will need serious retooling when I get a feel for what my students need, want and thrive on - but for now - I can take some time and think about who I am, my strengths and my weaknesses and how I can take both of them and put them to work and what I think makes a good classroom and learning environment. Not that I haven't been thinking about this for months - I'm sure half the time I fall to sleep mulling teaching over in my head - but I need to gather those thoughts into a coherant manifesto and then evaluate what they add up to.... and then maybe make up a rubric to give them some kind of letter grade (okay.. I'm kidding about the rubric). For the most part, I already have a good idea what kind of teacher I am - I've been that teacher on the ground - this is more about thinking about where I want to go from there - which parts to keep and which parts to slowly chisel away at and shape into a future me...... building on what I've got to be something more. So, I guess I have two weeks and the rest of my professional life to work on perfecting and building my perfessional persona and philosophy as a teacher and so...on that note... away I go.
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Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Bound for the Barrens

In exciting news, I have been officially added to the Nunavut Blog ring with a month and a day before take-off. This is definately one of the biggest shifts in direction in my life - and I'm extremely excited. I'm excited to call myself a teacher again and I'm am also glad to be returning to the north.

Above, my grandfather is canoeing in some lake up in the barrens, possibly with the aid of a caribou - and herein lies the source of my northern blood - that itch for the great silence of solitude, the sense of wonder for the shimmering of the northern lights and my appreciation of wilderness. Was it in my mother's blood having been born in the light of the midnight sun herself or merely a childhood of stories about life in the barrens. All I know is that I have a sense of the rightness of my current direction - and most days you can't beat that.

I'm slowly gathering bits of knowledge about my new home - the internet is good for that. You'll notice a few things on the righthand side. There is a list of Nunavut Bloggers whose sites I've been visiting - I'm sure that this list will continue to grow. The first link in the list "NUNAVUT BLOGS" is a fairly extensive list of northern bloggers offering you everything from commentary on their day to day life to more details bits about the land and the communities themselves. There are some absolutely achingly beautiful photographs of this harsh land of delicate detail. Kluglanoch Corner has a large quantity of beautiful photos and Tales from the Arctic is another really good one off the top of my head, but there are several more and probably some that I haven't even stumbled across yet.

As for the northern lights, I've heard that July 11th or July 12th are the next most likely dates - but I'll keep you posted on that.

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Friday, July 04, 2008

Water Supply Woes Whereever I Wander

It seems, with the notable exception of Fredericton, NB's grade A+ water, I can't seem to move to a location where there isn't a problem with the water supply. I happened to be living in Thunder Bay (pop. 125,000) when E. Coli levels in an aging resevoir on the west side of town (owing in part to contamination from a large goose population) resulted in about 50 % of residents being on a boil water order for over 6 months. Then I moved to Kashechewan, infamous for its ongoing drinking water issues (due to inadequate maintenace of sewage pond outflows, the water treatment plant and overall flaws in the design of the systems given the tidal nature of the Albany River, the presence of dam building beavers, and the actual population living in the town of Kashechewan (pop. 1500-2000) being double the capacity of the water treatment plant). Now I am moving to Baker Lake, and it appears that there are several concerns regarding the safety of the water supply. I understand from other articles that recent improvements have been made to prevent contamination to the lake from the dump during the spring flood. Today, I stumbled across an article on the CBC website citing concerns by the Hamlet's Mayor regarding historic fuel spills on the east part of the town. Although, there has not been contamination of the drinking water supply yet by the slowly moving plume of hydrocarbons, future problems are possible. It appears that these spills, like those in Attiwapiskat occurred when a federal agency was in charge of delivering fuel to the community. Sigh - that water resource engineering degree might come in handy afterall. I'm thinking that it might be fun to work a bit of groundwater hydraulics into one of the senior courses - as much as I really don't like the idea of my future water supply being at risk, I think it would be cool to turn it into a real-life, relevant teaching opportunity. So, I guess I'll add that to my list of lessons to design in my spare time.

The movers have come and gone and now there is just over a month before I leave. (YIKES!!!) The move went pretty smoothly - the guys were professional and efficient and the weather was perfect - sunny, calm and cool - so we carried out the process on the driveway which is way nicer than it would have been had there been stairs, doors, and furniture to work around. I finally found insulated rubber boots in my size at Canadian Tire - I suspect that there isn't much demand for serious warm wear for women, since everyone seems to have way better selection in mens gear - and I had to get my boots in boys sizes - but I think that is the last major thing I needed. I will need good winter boots, but no one carries them in June for some reason. Hopefully as I get closer to the fall they will start coming in... Its definately been an interesting experience moving up north - and I haven't even left yet. *mental musical interlude* Due North... thats the way I'm headed..... Due-ooh North
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Monday, June 16, 2008

Jonah Amitnaaq Secondary School

I thought it was time for a non-gardening post. I've been throwing them up because they are fast and don't keep me from my thesis for more than a few moments. I'm giving myself about 5 minutes to get this one done - so I take no responsibility for my spelling or writing skills - this is a rapid fire news dump, not an essay.

Pictured above is my new workplace in Baker Lake - Jonah Amitnaaq Secondary School. Obviously, I haven't been up there, but I was graciously given permission by Curtis of the Northern Sights Blog to borrow his until I could take some of my own. There is even a floor plan online. I think the hardest thing is that I have so much to do, but I'm dying just to get ready and go. Anyone who has suggestions for good teaching resources for northern teachers - I'm all ears.

Not that there hasn't been a lot of tasks to do all ready. I've been tracking down all the paperwork I need to get sent in order to apply for my Nunavut teaching license. I've been trying to compile some lists of things to move. Moving up north is a pretty big deal - and you really have one shot to get it right - since once you are there it is extremely costly to replace the things you forgot - if you can even get your hands on them. I somehow survived in Kashechewan with 7 hangers. The biggest thing I forgot when I moved there was a telephone (I did manage to remember my answering machine). Fortunately, another teacher lent me one until my mom could mail me one. I do have to procure quite a few items, to replace the stuff I sold when I moved back from New Brunswick - so that will be fun or crazy or something. I think the next big job is to set up a staging area for moving and then starting the pile and the list. I think I have 3 weeks. But to add to the complication, I need to leave out the survival essentials to take with me on the plane because my belongings could get delayed for a few weeks after my arrival.

My other big job for June was to complete my sealift order. I know a bit about them from other folk - but I didn't get a chance to put an order in when I was in Kashewean because I didn't start until a few weeks into the school year. Thus, food was expensive and kind of limited in variety. But I did mail myself a lot of the basics. Unfortunately, sending stuff to myself via Canada Post is quite a bit more expensive than my boxes would have costed to ship to Kashechewan - so I'm glad that I've had a chance to make a sealift order. I'm sure I've made mistakes - that I'll wish that I didn't order 12 900g bags of brown rice or a case of nutella I'll also probably kick myself for forgetting stuff too. Luckily, I was able to do my order with the person I'll be sharing my appartment with - so that in a lot of cases we could split cases of stuff which will improve the variety for everyone. I'm set to put the order in by Wednesday, which gives us a few days to think about what we've put in and change our minds a few times. I did a fair bit of research into the process and finally went with the northern store. I'm not sure they are the cheapest (but I think they are pretty good) and I don't think they have the best variety and there was no way to get around having to buy stuff in whole sale quantities - however, they had their catalouge on the internet and were able to give me an exact price for both the item and the shipping (which is good since we are going in on the order together and have to sort out that sort of thing) and the shipping price gets my food from their shelf to Baker Lake without me having to make any arrangements. I figure the northern coop has been doing this a long time - and as an inexperienced sealift orderer - I figured that it was the safest bet. So... I'll maybe post up how good my grocery shopping went next summer - and let you know what my errors were.

So - now all I have to do is finish up writing my thesis and then finish editting it and then defend it while doing moving prep and a bit of unit planning and then maybe I can sleep on the plane.

So, last but not least because I have a bunch of little things.. here are a mass of updates.

1. David Usher has a new single out "Kill the Lights" - his album "Wake up and Say Goodbye" is due out on Sept. 9th, 2008 :D
2. In gardening news: the Lupins are getting their second wind, the petals are starting to unfurl on the daisies, and one echinacaea flower has started to grow. I have a few different types - its seems to be the largest - so it could be the magnus or it could be the alba - as the petals appear white so far. The first daylily (a yellow one) has also flowered.
3. In knitting news, there are only 7 inches left to knit on my shawl - which means I've knit an inch in the last 1.5 months - and most of that at my Gramma's last night. Once I'm up north I'm going to start my Philospher's Wool Sweater and probably a pair of trillium socks that match my new shawl. Until then I hope to finish up the shawl - and start my second crayon jaquard sock. I knit the first one entirely during my breaks working at the greenhouse. I miss the greenhouse - I can't even see a window from my desk.
4. Gas is at $1.34/L - so its a good thing that I've driven my car less than 2 km in the last week. I'm hoping to make a morning bike ride part of my routine - somehow.
5. My hair is finally long enough to tie back!
6. I have a strap and camera case for my new Camera and some generous donations to my camera fund (thanks folks for the awesome birthday gifts everyone), I'm not allowed to get the camera, until after my thesis is written and everything else I need is done - but hopefully by the time I get on that plane I'll have my equipment in order to take some awesome pictures to post here. Of course, I'll probably have to cut down the size and resoluation for the sake of my internet connection, but I'm pretty excited. Amusingly, I'm exactly double the age I was when I got my first real camera. My family tricked me by giving me a stuffed squirrel for my birthday (which I do still have and like muchly) and then surprised me with the camera at my grandparents. I still have the camera, but a spring in the shutter assembly gave out while I was at camp - so it has been retired. I'm sure I'll let you know when I get my first pictures with it.

Anywho, I've exceeded my 5 minutes - and I have a lot to do if I want to sleep in the next 2 weeks.... so this is it for posts with more than pictures of my garden - probably for at least that long - all though some times I get the itch to write when I cut my sleep back.....

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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Due North - Baker Lake Bound

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I guess this is my official announcement - give or take some paperwork - I'm headed to Baker Lake to teach highschool! Right now, I'm feeling somewhere between exuberant and overwhelmed by the insane list of things to do before I leave. I've included a link to Treena's Travels - a blog which not only does a great job of describing life in Baker Lake, but has first-rate photos too. Up until I found this blog, I was having a tough time finding pictures of town.

I know almost everyone that I talk with regularly knows this "news" and I've obviously been hinting for the last little while that something was up. I was hoping to find some perfect picture in my stash to go with the anouncement, but I've mostly used up the best of my photos from Repusle Bay - so I settled on a satellite photo.

I'm sure I'll have more to write about this in the near future - but for now, I should probably get some sleep so that I can function at work and manage to get the dog walked.

Good night,


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Friday, May 23, 2008

A few more pictures from Repulse Bay

My teaching placement in Nunavut lasted about 5 weeks from the beginning of April until the first week of May. By the time I left, the sun was going down at about 11:30 pm and rising at 2 am. Which was altogether pretty cool. The top picture was taken the day that Peter (the other student that did a placement in the same community) and I went for a hike out over the ice to an island. We actually cut the hike short because the wind picked up and you can see how much it was reducing the visibility. You can just barely make out the town on the far side. The other picture we took when the adjudicator came to town. He'd lived in Pond Inlet for several years and took all of us including many of the local teachers and we built an igloo. I'm not sure if it was "up-to-code", but it was a really neat experience with a bunch of fun and interesting people. The parka used to belong to my Aunt Andrea from when she lived in Thunder Bay. I don't think it would fly in Paris, but it was plenty fashionable for the north, and functional to boot.
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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Then in Naujaat (Now-yat)

a) Jenn, Intrepid Arctic Explorer
b) Sunset, near midnight, April, Naujaat (Repulse Bay), Nunavut
c) Boats in winter
d) Sunrise at 2 am, April 2000, Naujaat (Repulse Bay), Nunavut

I remembered that once upon a time I took pictures that didn't go directly on my computer and so I dug up my old photo album and scanned in a few pictures from my teaching placement in Nunavut. They say that once you go up north, it gets in your blood, and calls to you every time the northern lights are in the sky. Even if it is the low point of the solar cycle (i.e. the northern lights have been pretty quiet lately), I still hear that call... sometimes its as quiet as the sunrise on a windless day and other times, like today, its like the roar of a skidoo engine speeding across the ice.
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