August 30, 2009

To the big city and back...

Iqaluit, Old Res, August 28

I haven’t been blogging for awhile because I was determined to upload some pictures first…more of Pang and a few of Iqaluit. It’s not happnin’. Although I can occasionally find an acceptable signal, I haven’t found one that will work with my pics.

Anyway, training this week in the big city was ok; I say ‘ok’ because, although the accommodations at the Old Res were atrocious, the food at the Frobisher Hotel was awesome. The muskox burger was fantastic and my evening yesterday was full of caribou medallions in blueberry sauce. The prices are great there (compared to a lot of the stuff I’ve seen), so I’ve been there pretty much every day…right across from the college.

Other than a mixed research team of archaeologists and anthropologists, I am now alone at the Res. It’s rather disquieting. Like all college residence buildings, it has its stories of students committing suicide…that certain stairwells are haunted…but this one has the extra bragging right of being isolated out by the penitentiary and the scene of a few rapes. I suppose the airport runway is squeezed in on the other side, but no one would be able to see you from the building. I’ll be glad to be out of here tomorrow morning.

Well, I’ve purchased my first piece of northern art…it’s a stone carving of the legendary ‘Dancing Bear’. Sitting at the Frobisher throughout several courses of food and a bottle of wine, the parade of sellers through the restaurant was absurd. I’m new to the whole thing, so I didn’t really know what prices were reasonable. With the help of a few new friends, I was schooled in what to look for: detail, how pieces are held together, polishing (might be shoe polish), and proportion. I like the bear I got, but I would’ve loved to be able to afford the carved narwhale with the ivory tusk which a neighbor scooped up.

I was also twisted into agreeing to buy a ring from a colleague’s husband – I felt a bit obliged. In the end it worked out; he made me a sterling silver wide band (sized for me) with a polar bear detailed on the front and tapering in the back to make it more comfortable to wear.

I did make it out to my last wings night for about a year on Wednesday. What a drill the Storehouse runs. Doors open at 5:00 and by 4:45 there was a cordoned-off line through the Frobisher lobby of people waiting. Doors open, people flow in and disperse, and the wait staff are off and running. Madness. From the Storehouse to the Legion where a few guys from Newfoundland had the mikes. From there it was…interesting.

I really hope I’ll be able to get some pics uploaded soon; a few of us took some time to head out to Sylvia Grinnell Park and it was quite beautiful. The story I was told about this unfortunate lady is that she had bunches of money, but not really the ability to travel too far. She agreed to sponsor a few explorers if they named something after her. So there you go. Her namesake…with a polar bear watch sticker on the sign. If it turns out that this isn’t actually the story of poor old Sylvia, I still think it’s the one I want to believe; it would make a great novel in the Bronte tradition. A formidable heroine who incapacitated in some way. I loves it by’.

Time to pack…

Pangnirtung, My Place, August 30

Yesterday I arrived back in Pang, happy to be home. On the plane there was a family – a dad with his two sons – who were glued to the windows in awe as the plane started to circle the fjord in its final descent. Anyone could tell just by glancing at them that they had never seen anything as beautiful. As for me, I could barely tear my eyes away from the mountains where the bleached stones on the side of one cliff have been arranged into a ‘Welcome to Pangnirtung’ formation. I’m really not sure how the author got the proportions right in both English and Inuktitut…it’s huge. I don’t know if I’ll ever get used to it either. Talking with them while waiting for the baggage to get pushed through the tiny little gate with rubber flaps, I found out they were staying at Louis’ Lodge (where else would they stay, I guess) and will be exploring the area for the next 5 days. Definitely a great family trip if you have the cash…

I took a few things back from Iqaluit: of course there was the Dancing Bear stone carving and the polar bear ring, but there were a few more tidbits that I think will be more valuable this winter. Food mail, stink pipes, frozen condensation around the door frames, heated keys, sled etiquette, frozen throttles, and, most interesting, how to ski-doo across general crevices in the ice and even open water…no joke!

Ok, the first is pretty straightforward…getting groceries mailed from either Montreal or Ottawa (if you’re in the Baffin region) and paying southern prices with only a minimal shipping charge per pound. Although there is some debate on whether the produce shows up edible, there is no argument regarding its importance. With flour at $40 for a 10kg bag, I think I’ll have to get in on that ASAP…I like to bake, after all.

The stink pipe: sounds exciting, right? I haven’t been able to find mine yet (doesn’t that sound suggestive), but it has to be around here somewhere. Or maybe it’s not as temperamental and visible in the newer units? Apparently it’s where the sewer tank breathes. Sometimes, in the winter, the house may inexplicably fill with choking fumes that make you believe you’re hanging out with the Ninja Turtles in their sub-city lair. When this happens it’s probably because your stink pipe is frozen shut. To fix it, you actually have to get up there on the roof and chip away at it. Last winter, the husband of one of my colleagues insisted that she try to do this while he held her and pushed her up the slippery metal covering. It didn’t work…use your imagination. She got back at him by pushing a sled carrying a new stove over him…long story…use your imagination again. Don’t worry though, they’re still married and loving their time in Gjoa Haven.

Condensation freezes around the door frame so, every day before work, you have to scrape it off with a good butter knife. Having a lighter is essential to heat your key when the lock freezes, but you have to make sure it doesn’t heat too much (it might break off). The aerosol anti-freeze is useless in this temperature. Sleds (and their rope-style hitches) need to be angled in a certain way when going down a hill to make sure you don’t take out anyone else who might be around (ok, I knew this one). You also have to make sure you monitor the speed. Check your throttle: sometimes it may freeze when the machine’s off and, if that’s the case, as soon as you give it a good yank to start the beast, it’s going to jerk forward and into the nearest obstacle (read: house, stair, rock, truck…you get the idea).

The techniques used to motor across open water or givin’ ‘er to make sure you don’t get caught up and thrown from your machine in slashed ice is something upon which I’ll have to keep you updated…we don’t get enough ice to get to the Pass on a snow machine until around mid-December. I’ve decided I want to spend Christmas Day on or around the Arctic Circle; it’s not too far from here and easy to make in less than an hour if someone else has already cut a snow path up the fjord and through the Pass.

Well, since I haven’t yet hooked up my internet, I think I’ll be heading to Louis’ tonight for one of his culinary specialties and a quick whirl on his wireless. At $35/meal, it’ll be so much cheaper when I get my own connection! Unfortunately, that means falling back to cooking for myself. Boo.


Christa said...

Ooh, who do you know in Gjoa? I wish I knew where my stink pipe was, but I have two roommates who lived here last year, so hopefully they will be able to help me if this happens to us.

It's nice to get some useful information from another newbie! I'm excited to keep reading about your adventures.

cf said...

Polar bear watch sticker? Huh?

Tara Muise said...

yup...polar bear watch (as in 'suicide watch' not 'yay check out the polar bears!'). apparently there were tracks not too far from the main entrance recently. probably being overly cautious, but the sticker's there nonetheless.

Sarah said...

Welcome to Pang...just so you know you can drop by the "uqqurmiut centre" for your modem/own internets!!...I think it's a $250 cash deposit...and then $63 for your first month... (you pay a month in advance...!)

hopefully we'll met at some point!! Cheers! Sarah

Tara Muise said...

cool! i just got my modem today and, i have to say, i think it was a mistake. i should have just stuck with the connection at work. send me an email letting me know what you're up to here ( are you from pang or working here?

hope to hear from you soon!


Jordan~Stephanie said...

tara! hope you're settling in nicely. we got a call from the movers - our stuff is in and being delivered tomorrow! any word on yours?

we're still doing canada goose research. thanks for the tip about antarctic connection! i also looked into gear-up for outdoors which is out of thunder bay. their stock isn't in yet but you can preorder everything - their shipping is $150 for 2 parkas, 2 pairs of boots and 2 pairs of mitts which i think is pretty reasonable. much better than weaver & devore which was over $300!! have you made your purchases yet?

Tara Muise said...

not yet. i was speaking to a few people around town and some of them actually feel that pang isn't north enough to get cold enough for a canada goose (they've suggested a home-made parka). i don't know though...this morning's (september 2nd) wind is pretty biting to an east coaster like me. apparently pang is known for its gale force winds which bounce around the mountains. last night the house was literally shaking!

my stuff did arrive...most of it anyway. they repacked everything (even a full 2 pieces of packing paper for a bausch and lomb contact case!), so i'm not really sure how many boxes are missing. i'm going to call about that today sometime.

anyway, keep me updated with the jackets. i would like to get a goose, but i don't want to be that crazy foreigner with all the expensive clothing. looking like you have any money isn't a good thing here. having a jacket made of layered skin and fur seems...interesting!