Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Injuries and Illness

Sadly, I have torn some ligaments in my ankle after I rolled it playing sports with the kids. Our first day with the kids at the high school we took for a fun day in the park. While playing capture the flag I tried to turn and my feet went one way while my body went another. Our emergency vehicle had left so I was able to catch a ride with a local back to town. I am now on crutches for a while. It's very frustrating being in a new place where I want to go hiking, fishing and get teaching and now I am stuck at home nursing a damaged ankle. I really miss our vehicles!!! It is a really frustrating to have to get a cab to go anywhere. Sadly Margot was ill for a few days with the obligatory start of the year cold and now Llily and I seem to have picked it up too. We are a sorry lot.

I am sorry there are no photos up yet. All our new photos are downloaded to Margot's computer which she has been taking for work. But I will try and get a few up soon.

Our things have made it to Iqaluit and we are eagerly awaiting them. We have been essentially camping for the last few weeks and it is getting a bit trying. The weather has been good though and I am hopeful they will arrive shortly. I heard they (First Air) are sending a second plane tonight, so fingers crossed that our stuff might be on it. Speaking of First Air, I got an email the other day regarding all the hullabaloo about our dog's flight from Ottawa to here. They wanted a phone number to contact us at. The other pet owner's who were on our flight and had their dog bumped had raised quite a lot of concern over the treatment and subsequent lack of information we were given about our dogs from the airline. When they called me today to discuss the issue they informed me they were doing an in-house evaluation about how pets are being handled and our situation specifically. They also offered to reimburse us for the cost of shipping our dogs and an extra $200 towards a flight or cargo in the next year. I must say, their customer service has been amazing. I am so used to the nonsense of dealing with Air Canada, I am really appreciating the care and concern that First Air seems to give to it's customers.

Anyhow, gotta run.....  well more accurately hobble my way off for bed time kisses with Lily.

- Richard

Monday, August 30, 2010

The move and settling in - updated with photos

A brief biography

    Margot and I have been married for a number of years and we have been very lucky to live in some great places. Margot is from Ontario and I am from BC. We met and lived in Calgary, AB. From there we have lived in Halifax, NS, again in Calgary, Wonowon, BC and Rossland, BC. Our decision to come with our family north came out of a desire for work and adventure. Margot recently finished her Education degree and we were both keen to teach in an interesting place. We chose Cape Dorset, Nunavut which is located on Dorset Island just off the west coast of Baffin Island. We are 300 kms south of the Arctic circle.

The trip:

    Trying to leave from Castlegar, BC which is a small regional airport was trying, to say the least. We were unable to take our carry on luggage that Nunavut had allotted us, so we bought ten Tupperware bins and pre-packed them with all the things we would need until our moving belongings arrived. We had been told it could be October before our things arrived so these bins along with our baggage would have to keep us “comfortable” for up to two months. It was a huge challenge to try and figure out what we needed as we had to pack for two adults, a toddler and two large dogs. This also had to wait until we were just about to move as they were filled with things we used everyday. Who knew it snowed in September and was full winter by October. Well not us, sadly.

    The biggest stress was shipping our dogs, Kala and Smoot. They couldn’t take our flights on Air Canada because we got into Ottawa after the live cargo person was done for the day so I worked with the Air Canada booking agent for a long time on the phone and we figured out that they could take the flight right after us out of Castlegar and be into Ottawa in the morning after we arrived. Great, eh? Well we thought so, until I happened to call Castlegar to confirm our drop off for our 10 bins and asked about dropping off the dogs the following day, as our time was tight and my parents would be taking us as we had no cars anymore. They informed me that there was an embargo on shipping live cargo due to high passenger use and heat concerns. They did not even call us! Well, we went into emergency mode as the dogs had to get shipped somehow. So, needless to say we made a lot of calls and I decided to drive to Vancouver (8hrs) the day before, stay overnight. Thank goodness for my mom, who was willing to drive me, stay over and drive home the next day. I love you mom! So, we packed the bins, the movers came, we cleaned and drove away from Rossland for the last time headed for my parent's place. I stayed the night and left for Vancouver the next day while Margot, Lily and Dad stayed for another day and flew on Sunday. We had an uneventful drive and stayed in an overpriced hotel but we made it. The next day I realized I could take one more bag so we went shopping at Ikea for things to brighten up our place in Cape Dorset. Then the time came to leave so we found the live cargo depot for Air Canada and I was told I couldn’t drop the dogs. I explained (to my credit, I was very calm in the beginning) that I was flying out very soon and I had to leave the dogs, that a supervisor at Air Canada Cargo said I could drop them early and that I had no other choice. Grrrrrrr, they were very frustrating. It took too long but finally, a new staff member came on shift and took pity on me and said he would take the dogs early. So I said a teary goodbye to the dogs and my mom and away I went.

    I met the girls, had lunch and Lily told me all about ticky loopies (sticky and goopy lollipops) and how they make her ears healthy when the plane takes off and lands. She was so excited about flying. We flew to Ontario and spent ten days at a cottage on a lake while visiting with Margot’s family. Then we headed back to Ottawa for the two nights before flying up to Nunavut. Margot’s Dad, David, drove to pick us up and drop us in Ottawa and stayed for the two nights driving us all over while we did our last minute shopping for food and such. Thanks David!!! We headed to the airport and got everything loaded into David’s truck (tight fit). I felt like I was in a circus as we unloaded and headed to check in. We had 9 pieces of luggage to check (3 bins of food), two large dogs and crates, lots of carry on and Lily’s car seat. The women at the First Air counter were very helpful and patient and thanked us at the end of our check in for being so patient and calm. Us, really?  Calm?  I was very surprised as I was quite worked up about the whole thing. We then said our goodbyes and headed off.

    As we got onto the plane, I heard Smoot barking like crazy and was happy to know they would be flying with us. Lily was super happy and we were all very excited and exhausted. The flight was amazing. I didn’t know companies offered customer service like that. We got: free hot breakfast, blankets, pillows, hot towels, numerous drink services, free magazines and they were really nice. I have always disliked Air Canada but I am leaning more toward a strong hatred now. We arrived in Iqaluit and it was windy as all get out. We walked across the tarmac to a large yellow airport that would have looked more at place as an underwater science station. It was super crazy looking and very small inside as we entered. There were people everywhere! It was very overwhelming so we headed outside for some air and I have to admit, I had a moment when the girls were in a small art gallery across the street when I asked myself “did you just make a huge mistake?” as I looked around at a cold, windy, barren landscape. However, I bucked up and got ready for a new adventure. We went back inside and I just found us some seats, got Lily some snacks and a show on my computer when Margot introduced me to both of our new principals who were on their way to Cape Dorset also. I started gathering up our things (it was still very busy) and notice all sorts of TV cameras and news people. I guess I didn’t pay too much attention because next thing I know Michael Ignatieff is standing in front of me asking questions trying to shake my hand. I am already on overload and now I have the leader of the Liberal party with cameras in tow asking me questions. I was reminded of the phrase “it is better to appear ignorant than open your mouth and remove all doubt” as I made small talk with him.

    Our flight left an hour and a half late because they flew our dogs up on another plane carrying freight. While we sat in the airport we heard numerous travel horror stories from our new friends. Last year David had been stuck in Iqaluit with his grandson and two teachers and the flights we cancelled due to poor weather. The hotels were all booked up but one of them took pity on David because he had his grandson with him and they gave him a room. However, the other teachers had to spend the night on the luggage conveyor belt. Yowch. We also heard about First Air’s oldest plane. A twin engine turbo prop made in 1952 with gaps so big in the doors that you could see outside. Guess which plane we got to take? Yup, the 1952 twin turbo prop. It was so small inside because they had divided up the plane’s interior with a wall in the middle so the front would hold more cargo along with the tail. So there was a total of 5 rows of seats. We got on and Lily was so excited for her ticky loopies and another plane ride. We finally got settled after finding an overhead compartment that was not broken and I sat down to find my seat back did not lock into place. It moved back 6 inches or so and came forward as far as I could bend. This plane did not inspire confidence. But, we flew so low we got a great view of the countryside and it was amazing. So many lakes and water falls due to the shifting tide and hills. We even saw large icebergs! The flight went well and we arrived in Cape Dorset at around 5pm. I stayed to help unload the plane and ensure our dogs arrived safely. It was a little scary having them rolled down a chute into a cargo truck, but thankfully I am tall and was able to help and unload them right away. As I walked toward the airport I was greeted by Margot and Lily standing at a window waving along with a dozen or so kids all smiling. The airport was small and dirty, but quite functional. Actually I think that describes everything up here. We unloaded our gear into a corner and were trying to figure how we were going to get into our place when we were approached by an airport staff worker who recognized our names on the flight info as new teachers and had arranged to get our keys for us. Small towns are a wonderful thing sometimes. While waiting, I looked outside and saw three people loading luggage on a quad, then watched as they all piled themselves on and headed away. I realized I was in a different world. We were able to get us and our things to the house in two separate vehicles (borrowed from airport staff and the local MLA) and got to see our new place.

    It is a large three bedroom townhouse in a 4 plex. All the floors have lino tile and everything is white. The furniture is descent but obviously ordered out of a catalogue because there is no way anyone would think it is comfortable. We found out we live next  door to our principals whom we borrowed a pot from to cook dinner. After supper our 10 cargo bins arrived so we were able to make beds and have warm clothes. Yeah!

    It sure is pretty here and much more hilly than I had imagined. Sadly, we don’t have much of a view from our living room, just rocks and a road. Our view from the kitchen is much nicer as we can see the “mountains” and if we strain our heads against the window and peek around the corner we can see part of the bay and what looks to be an older section of the town. That’s where we would learn the churches and the dump are. Sadly, we didn’t have any hot water so we had to boil some for Lily’s bath. We had to do this for four days before they fixed the problem. Things happen at a very different pace here.

    The next morning we headed out to see the town and wandered our way down towards the two stores that are on the other side of the hill from us. It took about 15-20 minutes to get there. Lily wanted to stop lots and play with the sand and gravel. We stopped for a bit to watch a carver named Kelly work on what was to become a large (16” tall) walrus carving. He was very happy to talk and let us touch his work. It was amazing to see someone with his skill just sitting beside his house on a child’s yellow plastic seat in the weather creating such amazing art. We saw the piece another day at the artist’s co-op in the buying room (where they store art they buy from the artists before they ship it to a gallery somewhere around the world) and it was incredible. Kelly said he would probably get about $1000 for it but I am sure it will probably sell for $7000 or higher when it finally gets to a customer down south.

    The first store we went to is the Co-op. It was quite depressing. Everything was dusty and dirty. But they had a huge selection of stuff from fabric to food, firearms, musical instruments and snowmobiles. They are attached to the home hardware who has all sorts of things. What I found interesting and a bit unsettling was how much attention Lily got. Everyone stared, smiled and most of the women asked her “How are you girl?” and “How old are you girl?” then they would proceed to touch her face, hair or get a hug. We were all a bit overwhelmed. But, Lily has very blond hair and bright blue eyes which is a big departure from what people here are used to.

    The other store in Cape Dorset is the Northern Store. This seems much more like a 'southern' store. Things were clean and displays were current and obviously attended to. The prices are comparable but I think the Co-op is generally cheaper. We were there on Friday, August 20 and were just picking up a few things when we walked into utter chaos. I think all the residents of C.D. were shopping at that very moment. We realized that they were having a sea lift sale and were trying to clear out old stock. They had 50% off clothes, toys and other non food related items and 20% off most food items. However the catch was you had to be Co-op members to get the discount, which we are not. But, we ran into a co-worker of mine who has a membership and let us use it. People are so nice here.

    I recently decided we needed transportation as it is a long hilly walk from our place to daycare and my school. I am concerned about traveling when it gets cold. So, I stopped into the Co-op and asked about ATV prices. They have a 4x4 Yamaha 350 quad that would retail down so for about $5500 and they want $11,000. I know things up here are expensive, but seriously? So, if you are ever thinking about moving to the Arctic, buy down south and have it shipped on a sea lift. I was pretty bummed about the whole affair and was explaining this to a co-worker who has lived in the community for some time and he mentioned a friend of his was selling two used snowmobiles and was looking for about $2500 a piece for them. Well, I perked up and said I was interested. We went and looked at them on the weekend and bought a 2003 Polaris 340 touring sled. Yeah!! This should make the winter a lot more fun.

General information:

School: I work at the high school teaching grades 8&9. The school is having a 20 million dollar renovation which was projected to be completed on August 16. When I had my tour on the 13th it was a full construction site which was terribly upsetting because my school is not ready for students yet. Trying to get my classroom ready was quite a chore as it was half filled with construction materials. I had to scavenge for days to try and put together resources for teaching and furniture to fill my class. Oh well, it all worked out. I got things sorted out and the building is beautiful.
School (by Margot): I work at the Sam Pudlat Elementary School teaching grade 3 which is the first year of English language instruction.  Getting ready for school was very exciting as only one other 'southern' teacher made it to Cape Dorset.  Three others were stuck in Iqaluit for a week waiting for the fog to clear.  Resources, such as pencils and paper, are scarce right now as we wait for the sea-lift to arrive in mid-September.  My co-workers finally did make it during a brief respite from the fog.

Carvers: Cape Dorset is the art capital of the Arctic. The work created here is sold in galleries around the world and highly sought after. Specifically the numbered prints and soapstone carvings. The prints are made from flat stone carvings and are amazing. They have a lottery every year in which you have to win the lottery just to have a chance to buy something. I hear they have people who fly in from around the world to participate. The stone carvings that are produced here can be spectacular. Like anything, some carvers are more talented/experienced than others. The stone is quarried 97 miles away by hand, carried to boats and ferried to Cape Dorset where it is loaded into a pickup, weighed and the artist’s co-op then fills two large shipping containers for the artists to use throughout the winter. It sells for $2 a pound and has many different shades but seems predominately green. The two stores in town along with the artist’s co-op are the large scale buyers in town. But, many of the carvers sell directly when they are unable to sell to the stores. They often have multiple pieces on them and I often get asked when I am “downtown” or they come to our home. Usually they are nice and don’t get upset when you don’t want anything, however, I have had two instances in which they got upset or pushy. Like anywhere, it is good to use caution opening your door to strangers. It is a bit funny how they ask price there items though. They usually phrase it by saying “how about 40 or 30 dollars?” Dickering over prices is expected and not offensive, well unless you low ball them and they get offended. We now have a few carvers that we have bought carvings from who we know and stop by on a regular basis. It is pretty neat to see younger people getting into the arts as a way of making a living. I have bought a few things from some high school students who were taught by their grandfathers.

Transportation: People generally get around on foot, quad or snowmobile. There are some vehicles here but they are mostly various branches of the governments. There are two taxis and it costs $5 per person to get most places in town. It is common to see 5 or more people riding on a quad, but it is nice that the drivers often where helmets. For the most part, there are no street names and very little information about where things in town are located. We are still trying to suss things out.

Dogs: they are everywhere but we have yet to meet any overly aggressive ones. We keep ours on leash unless we are across the street from our house where there is a large  green sloped field that has numerous streams running through it. Most of the locals comment on how nice our dogs look, but are afraid of getting too close. Maybe sled dogs are not very nice, I don’t know.

Bugs: Yup, there are lots of huge mosquitoes here. I am appreciating that it’s getting colder because the bugs are dying. I love it.

August 22:

Today was a wonderful Sunday. Margot got up with Lily so I could sleep in! We wanted to see the cargo ship that is carrying the sea lift so we tried to find a vantage point we could see it from. We ended up hiking over a mountain (it really felt like a mountain) and scrambling down the other side and skirting the airport, having a snack and carrying on around another mountain until we found the area we were looking for. We saw wild blueberries, mushrooms, small birds and flowers and plenty of rocks and Inukshuks. It is so beautiful here but it is very sad to see everything covered in trash. It seems to be blowing everywhere or submerged in streams and lakes. There also seems to be so much wasted construction material and machinery all over the place. One would think in a place that is so expensive to have things shipped to people would be more thrifty about things like that and take better care of things. Oh well, I am not here to judge. Hiking here is quite challenging with a toddler who wants to do everything herself but is smaller than most of the boulders we are trying to “hike” over. She is pretty stable most of the time but it is quite scary seeing her tumble over and nearly smashing her face on rocks. When we tried to help she generally would respond with “I got it!”. The other challenge with going for walks with Lily is her need to be carried everywhere. I am looking forward to our things arriving so we can use her jogging stroller. Our walk took over 3 hours in total and we all had a nap after lunch.

We are both excited and nervous about school tomorrow. It is going to be really nice to finally meet our kids and get teaching. I am registering kids tomorrow, Tuesday we are going to have a games day in the park (weather dependent) and Wednesday I am hoping we are going to be let into the school. Margot starts teaching tomorrow.

The weather here is tough to get used to. It seems that I am either hot or freezing when we are out walking and I am constantly adding or removing clothing. The other thing that I find very tiring is the constant wind. It has been blowing to various degrees since we moved here. I am glad we packed our lightweight toques just to cut the wind down as it is hard on the ears. It started out clear and blowing today and it is now foggy again. Last week a local commented that we were coming into the foggy season and I guess I didn’t realize that the foggy season meant constant, thick, never ending fog that will never end. What a crazy, strange and beautiful place.

Here are a bunch of photos of our trip:

Our stuff in Rossland waiting to be packed or stored

These are the 10 bins that have all the things we will need until our stuff arrives weeks later

Lily on the plane from Castlegar to Vancouver B.C.

Lily and Meow on the cart in the Vancouver Airport

Lily enjoying the planes in Vancouver

Toys and snacks on the plane

Ticky Loopies on the plane

The view of the lake from our cottage in Ontario

Playing in the pool with Grandad in Ottawa

Packing our food bins and luggage with a big helper in Ottawa

The circus at the airport

Smoot walking Lily

On our way to Iqaluit

Almost asleep on the plane

Iqaluit from the air

The foodmail order in the back of the plane

In Iqaluit. It is very cold and Lily is not impressed

The Airport pod in Iqaluit

Lily so excited about getting on another plane!

Lily making friends in the airport

My "friend" Mike at the airport

More Ticky Loopies

Margot and Lily on the very old plane to Cape Dorset

Richard feeling great about flying on a vintage plane

Showing the large gap between cargo and people

Our first iceberg!

Unloading our plane in Cape Dorset

The Airport in Cape Dorset

The Dogs made it!

Here are a few photo's of our house:

Our housing complex (on the right)  from the street below

The entrance to our housing complex (our house has the light on)

Our housing complex from the water

The field across the street from us

Our living room filled with bins

From the living room looking towards the kitchen

In our crawlspace/storage area

Lily standing on our fresh water tank in the crawlspace getting out

Kala (the big brown dog) and Smoot (the small black and white dog) "helping" me get out of the crawlspace

Our "new" snowmobile

Here are some pictures of places and things around the Hamlet:
This is where the sculptures that the co-op has bought from local carvers are stored and displayed before being shipped elsewhere. Here is a quote from http://www.dorsetfinearts.com/about2.html about the co-op.

Incorporated in 1959, the West Baffin Eskimo Co-operative (WBEC) was the first Inuit-owned Co-operative to be formed with start-up assistance from the Canadian federal government. Over the next five years, 20 Co-ops were established across the Northwest Territories, from Cape Dorset in the east to Holman Island in the west. Today, there are 35. These community Co-ops were established to provide income, employment and services to their growing communities.

The Co-operative is known locally as Kinngait Co-operative. The word kinngait (pronounced "king - ite") describes the high, undulating hills surrounding the community of Cape Dorset. Collectively, the Co-op's world-renowned graphic arts studios are recognized as the Kinngait Studios.

The West Baffin Eskimo Co-operative is wholly owned by its membership, representing the majority of the adult population of the community. All members are residents of Cape Dorset and almost all are of Inuit descent.

WBEC is unique among Co-operatives in the Arctic for its sustained focus on the arts and artists of the community. Arts activities fall under the umbrella of the Producer Division of the Co-op, which includes two fine art printmaking studios in Cape Dorset for stonecut and lithography, and the carving buying operation. The Co-op also operates a retail grocery and supply store. Established in 1960, the store has expanded to keep pace with the growing community and now serves as its Home Hardware and Yamaha snowmobile dealership. The Consumer Division also administers several community service contracts, providing essential services such as the local delivery of heating fuel and gasoline. The Co-op's most enduring contribution however, to both the community of Cape Dorset and the world beyond has been the prints and carvings produced by its extraordinary stable of artist members.

More carvings

Watching artists and helpers unload the serpentine soapstone that is quarried 70 kms away from a truck into a shipping container (sea can). They load two large sea cans to supply the carvers through the winter. It costs the carvers $2.00 a pound.
Here is Kelly who is carving the walrus in that is pictured in the gallery

A whole family who has loaded up people and luggage and are headed off

Margot getting into one of our two taxis

A dog pack

A view of downtown

A view of the harbour just off downtown

Another view of the harbour

Our firetruck

Markup on food. The more junk the food, the more expensive which I like.

Meat hanging (fish I think) to cure. Notice the fishing neat hung to keep birds and such away

An incoming plane flying over the RCMP detachment and housing units

Produce inside the Northern Store. This is the most food we have seen in the store since we moved here.

Lily checking out the toys

Food inside the Co-op

The Nurse's station

An Inukshuk on a hill near town

A couple of kids waiting to go hunting. Notice the guns leaned up against pole. Everyone is heading out for Arctic Char fishing and Caribou hunting at their camps

The Barge that delivers goods to and from the large ship waiting in deeper water that carries the sea lift. They were loading up things the various construction companies working here no longer need.

Lily posing with shipping crates

Local transportation

Margot's school

Richard's school

Nipple mountain

RCMP station and housing complex

Anglican Church and sign

Average home in Cape Dorset

Very specific speed sign

Out for various walks around the community:

This is from our hike around the area. This is Ice Lake which is a secondary reservoir.

Ice Lake hike looking towards the ocean

Ice Lake Hike

Ice Lake Hike

Ice Lake Hike wild blueberries

Ice Lake Hike

Ice Lake Hiking above the airport

Ice Lake Hike The open ocean

Ice Lake Hike Lily climbing

Ice Lake Hike Inukshuk

Richard's school field trip 1

Richard's school field trip 2

Richard's school field trip 3

Richard's school field trip 4 arriving at the park

Lily and Richard playing at the beach after going to the store

Walking to town

Exploring the beach

Lily and Richard's shortcut to school. Lily's school is down the hill on the right. It is a rounded brown building.

Lily in her usual position for our "walks"

Lily makes a new friend

Walking the dogs