October 31, 2009

My wardrobe only needs a wig to make me look like a witch!

Happy Halloween! I forgot that I had taken this picture yesterday morning before heading out to school. Yet another wig. Funny thing? I'm not sure who would have recognized me if I wasn't in the context of the college. As it was, when I headed to the public schools for the afternoon activities, no one knew me. I'm the qallunaaq that no one knows! I need to get out more. I'm not so different looking here, am I?

Hmm...ok, so I don't usually look super-goth, but I still wear a lot of black. Need to work on that. When I got my dogs, can you believe that I was actually looking specifically for ones whose hair I wouldn't see on my clothes? I have two black chihuahuas.

I suppose I'd better get prepped for round three...my next costume for the trick-r-treaters!

A witchy witch with bad-ass boots...

So how is this for a Halloween Eve's night? OK, OK...this picture was actually taken another night, but I think it embodies a lot of what this holiday's about. Mystery. People can talk about the science of the Northern Lights, but to actually see them in person makes you believe in all sorts of unbelievable things. Isn't that what Halloween's about? Despite what the Vatican might say, I don't believe in the negative rap this holiday sports.

Anyway, this afternoon we (my students and I) ended up heading to the local elementary and high school...just to check out their kids' holiday activities. Of course, I had to dress up in something scary. But, you know what was scary? I just ended up wearing the black clothes I usually wear, put on enough make-up to look like Jennifer Love Hewitt, and topped it all off with a wig...and that was enough! It was at this point  that I realized my wardrobe needs to be fleshed out a bit.

After school, though, I still needed to enjoy my evening with another costume, don't you think? I'm not a big fan of masks, but anything else goes. My Morticia hair was my hijab for the evening. That's not sacrilegious to say, is it?

This is the issue involved in northern Halloweens: it's freakin' cold!! Today, with the windchill, the temperature dipped to around -25. Generally, I follow Townie Bastard's rule on the BFJ...don't wear that Goose until November...but I couldn't do it with my Walmart witchy witch outfit. So I dug out the feathers.

Now, bundling up under Halloween costumes isn't exactly a new concept to me...certain years it was the annoying result of having parents who actually cared. Over the years, I've come to accept the whole thing. You see, compare these two pictures...what do you think of the devil? I was not impressed with all the layers I had to wear, I was annoyed that my brother was so happy, I was losing my sugar rush, and I was really really tired.

What do you think? Canada Goose parka, bad-ass Baffin boots, coyote collar, and completely under control...not bad, eh?
Ta da!

Oh, I suppose you might be wondering where I am in these pictures. I was roped into chaperoning the high school dance tonight. Come to think of it, it was a pretty strange experience. I suppose the 'adults' were there (can't believe I'm considered an adult) for legal reasons and to perhaps cut down on overt drinking and joints, but it still seemed rather 'relaxed' to me. It was mostly hanging out sniffing for alcohol and watching for odd behaviour. Ha. Odd behaviour. What does that even mean when you're talking about high school students? Wouldn't that be everything? I'm really happy that I teach adults instead.

So, signing out, here I am lookin' faayn as a northern witchy witch. Tune in tomorrow for my actual Halloween costume!

October 29, 2009

Flakes, vitamins, and holiday houses...

It snowed all day today here in Pang...big, lumpy flakes drifting down and totally teasing anyone who had to be trapped inside. I'm pretty sure that it would be awesome skiing weather...I mean, I'm not really a skiier, but I can imagine that, if I were, I'd be excited. By the time I left school the snow had stopped and the temperature was crisp, but not frigid; I would've taken a picture of the amazing drifts, but the sun had said 'goodbye' to dusk and 'hello' to night ages earlier. Yup, getting dark.

Sooo...Halloween celebrations tomorrow. I was going to prep something - you know, something to make it special - but right now I just feel like prepping my math test and going to bed. Vitamin D, is that the one? I need something to keep me awake...if I drink anymore coffee, my stomach lining is going to be completely fried.

Hee hee...I can't wait to get dressed up; I love this holiday! I don't really know what kind of celebrations to expect, though. Pumpkin carving? Toilet paper mummy? That stuff is just waaayy too expensive here. Way too much. A haunted house (that the high school is hosting tomorrow)...what are they going to do? When I was a kid I remember putting my hand in a bowl of peeled grapes and being told they were eyeballs; with seal eyeballs around to eat, what would replace them in an activity like that? No idea.

...pictures and a report to follow...

October 28, 2009

Inuktitut ilisarasuaqtunga. Mikijumik tukisijunga...

Today two Elders visited the school and, when they arrived, I felt I should greet them...the instructor who was hosting them was stuck on the phone, and they looked a bit lost. What happened next made me sick...
I've been in Pangnirtung for over two months and the extent of my linguistic ability spans all of 6 expressions: ii (yes), aagga (no), aatsuu (I don't know), qujanami (Pang dialect for 'thank you'), ilaali (you're welcome), ullaakkut (good morning), and the ever-present qallunaaq (southerner/foreigner/white person). What makes it even worse is that I generally don't try to use even these words! Not something I'm proud of, that's for sure.

...so there we were, the three of us trying to communicate, and it just wasn't clicking together. Estonian, French, Spanish, Korean, Japanese - even a little bit of 'New York' - I have been able to manoeuver, bit this was like running across one of those sticky mouse-traps; I felt ready to chew my leg off to get out of the situation! I cannot stay here without trying to learn more about the culture and language falls directly within its parameters; eating seal meat is not going to cut it.

I guess I'm off to work with my phrasebooks...my students have already given me an Inuktitut name (Tauja), so I'd better start living up to it.

The Lights, the Vote, and the Ulu...

 Another beautiful day here in Pang...although this picture looks like it was taken around dusk, I actually snapped it in the afternoon. Reality is finally setting in...darkness. I've decided that I need to shell out the money for one of those light alarm-clocks...I've never been great for getting up in the morning.

Gotta say, though, that the light which is slipping away during the day is showing up in green smears every night. I just came back from checking out the sky and it looks like some sort of crazy screen-saver. Tonight the Lights are running parallel to the fjord, shooting up the pass. Saa-weet! Right now it's about the only time I use my Canada Goose jacket...I'm still trying to avoid using it until it's really cold, but it's easy to throw on at night.

You know, I never thought I would wish for fewer lights up here. I mean, I'm used to the glare of cities. Up here, to really enjoy the huge expanse of...hmm...breathless openness, it would be better to remove all the lights in these rows of government units. Perhaps I'll get a chance to do some winter camping out on the land and surround myself with stars. I plan to do something like that in the deserts of Jordan in a few years, but I want to experience Canada's desert first...oh, and for those of you who might think that's a negative thing, don't mistake 'desert' for 'dead'.

Funny thing. It was after 11 the last time I stuck my head out the door and there were a few kids hanging out. Just walking around. Freezing. Asking me why I wasn't out smoking. Why I didn't smoke at all. These 12-year olds were really quite confused...kinda sad.

So, yesterday was the big Vote, and the results are in: over 70% of the hamlet of Pangnirtung have decided that alcohol should not be legalized. I think there was a collective sigh of relief floating through the lungs of everyone I know this morning; it has certainly quelled my fears!

...in the immortal words of Monty Python and his merry men, 'now for something completely different...'

A few weeks ago I mentioned my seal dissection and the delicacies which followed. Tonight I'll move on to the skin. Is that the right word? It's not a hide, is it? A pelt? Not really sure...let's just say it's a skin. After chowin' down on the meat and berries, it was time to start scraping off the blubber. Check me out!

At first it was pretty crazy...I couldn't really do anything without an audible wince from the class. I think it had something to do with the fact that it was the first time I had picked up such a sharp tool as well as how strange it looked to have a left-handed southerner slicing chunks in the opposite direction. Typical reaction from a right-handed expert.

It starts like this...the blubber is at least 10-15 centimeters thick, so all but about an inch is sliced off. The elevated board is really important to complete this whole task successfully. Next, the skin is flattened against the board and scraped; though I finally mastered it (kinda), the rolling at the top was something I needed to get used to...it's heavier than I thought it would be, but it needs to be taut to get everything right.

The blubber used to be used in a kudluk, but these days some sort of coleman device is a bit more common. Here you can see it piled up in the garbage bag. The blue tray is still holding all the meat we have yet to eat...bunches! When boiled, it's awesome...the broth is unbelievable!

If I can figure out the whole video thing, I have a few great ones to show off my mad skillz.

After two months, the seal - and all its pieces - has been the center of my gastronomical experience; Char, after all, tastes surprisingly like salmon. Muktuk was a bit off course...whales'n'seals, whales'n'seals...but with the latter all I have left to conquer is a couple of internal organs. Once I get there, I think it'll be time to change back to a strictly meat diet...well, sprinkled with a bit of produce and carbs here an there.

Wow...now meee soo haan-gry! Time to get my midnight snack...

October 26, 2009

My AWOL Excuse...

I'm back! Just like Christa, I feel like I've been out of touch for ages...hmm, is that healthy? My last entry was only a few days ago! To be fair, though, I've been distracted by some pretty awesome things.

First off...I'm still trying to get a picture posted here that will convey the amount of snow that's hanging around; this is just a snap I took walking home from the Northern - the Pangnirtung Fjord narrowing into Weasel River. Isn't that the best name? Auyuittuq National Park starts with something called the Overlord that - surprise - lords over the Weasel River which runs to Windy Lake and on to Mount Thor. I'm not a climber, but someday I'll make it out to at least see it.

Before such a trek, though, another wonder of human habitation. The hamlet of Pangnirtung has been having some real problems with Duval River...the one I cross everyday. With the annual spring break-up it's regularly been wreaking havoc on the bridge; actually, I should say 'bridges'. Washouts. Go figure. Anyway, the current crossing ends with a crazy hairpin turn that, in the snow and ice of winter, must be a nightmare. Right now a new road is under construction; now, despite the number of culverts they've actually covered up, I really hope they finish with their playing around sometime soon. There's just something wrong with that last picture...which thing doesn't belong? You guessed it.

Another reason I've been shirking my blogging mental exercises is the fact that, of course, my friend has been here for the past week. Instead, I've been splurging in my 'eating exercises'...I'm going to balloon if I eat like this everytime I have a visitor! And I like visitors. Friday a few friends - Newbie included - got together for some awesome Korean food. Not only that, but I have left-over ingredients to create my own tasty dishes after he leaves!

One more last piece of news (for this entry anyway)...special day here in Pangnirtung. The Vote. Will legal alcohol be available in Pang in the near future?

The best thing I can see coming from this is that education and counselling will finally be available. The way things stand now, this type of help is not possible: 'If it's illegal, why should we provide counselling? There shouldn't be any issue in this regard.' That's the reasoning. Ha!

Back to the grindstone for me...just a brief lunch update.

October 22, 2009

Some sickly cough syrup...

You know, I feel like I'm going to go crazy if I don't post something soon, but I don't have any tangible ideas to key in. I think it must be a touch of the 'blogger syndrome' in its early stages...you know, like a scratchy cough that's really annoying but not quite serious enough to see the doctor (or, as is usually the case in the north, the local nurse). Strange. Townie Bastard, your commitment to daily entries is quite impressive.

I made it out to the Lodge again last night for the first time in ages; with my friend here, at least one meal had to be spent 'experiencing' zee lawsh. Another awesome roast with 26 guests - many of them locals. What was interesting was the fact that Son (my friend) knew just as many people as I did due to his night in Iqaluit...I suppose nothing really brings you closer to a person than emergency circumstances and a smoke or two out in the cold. In fact, he even procured a dinner invitation to a local's place for the two of us! Is it a Korean thing?

I want my Arctic Cat. Now. Every time I hear a snowmobile swishing by I get impatient; especially today when I'm stuck doing admin work, the two big windows in my office display heaps of snow, beautiful tracks, and endless adventures. I want my Arctic Cat. Now.

CBC Radio One: Right now I'm listening to an interview with Bill Withers, the songwriter for songs like Lean On Me and Ain't No Sunshine When You're Gone...he's one of the craziest 70-year-olds that I've heard. Check him out.

Well, I guess that's it. I told you I had nothing very interesting to say...it's just one of those days. I'll just call this my 'cough medicine' entry - enough to temporarily assuage the symptom, but not quite enough to cure the syndrome.

October 19, 2009

A night at the Nova...

Check out Newbie's new post ...the weather is starting to give us a real 'northern feel'. However, I really wish it had the decency to arrive tomorrow. My friend was supposed to fly in today, but he's only going to make it to Iqaluit...a night at the Nova. That cuts down on his time here. Boo.

...oh, and it's costing over $200...double boo.

Sealskinning hiatus for a look at the snow...

Ok, I promised a post to talk about preparing the sealskin to be dried and stretched, but I think I'm going to leave that one till tomorrow. Instead...

...it's here, it's here!!

Ok, so these pictures were taken after it calmed down a bit, but we've had over 22 cm of snow today, and the winter storm warning is still in effect. That would normally be awesome, but not so much right now...my friend is supposed to fly in from Ottawa tomorrow. Doesn't look good.

...I'm going to enjoy the snow, though!

And, yay me, I made it out today and hung out watching the sealift come in. Awesome. This picture was taken at around 5pm.

From whiskers to flippers...and all points in between.

Well, this is the deal...after several frustrating hours trying to post some awesome videos - and I do mean hours - I retired for the night convinced I would have to try building a new blog and linking the two.
Anyway, today is a new day. I woke up to snow, zero visibility, a cup of coffee, and new resolve - 'I will figure this out' was my chant as I washed my face, got dressed, poured my coffee, and turned on this ancient laptop. And, ta da! I don't know what happened, so don't ask. As far as I can tell the whole thing went back to a previous version of blogger which didn't support all the extras...I thought that, with all the screen warnings, I had erased it somehow. So I ask again: does anyone know how to post more than a video with this new version? Do I have to link to youtube? That would suck. Stephanie and Jordan: how do you do it?

OK, now on to the more interesting stuff. A couple of days ago I was able to procure a seal from one of the local hunters, whiskers'n'all. I figured it'd be a great way to spend the afternoon as well as a great way to get some close-up pictures to help us in biology class (which, of course, I won't post due to graphic content). I arrived at the school in the morning with my keys and a truck, ready to pick the beastie up across town (I figured carrying it flung over my shoulder like a Fred Flintstone club or under my arm like an oversized football probably wouldn't be the best idea). However, as I drove up, I could see that it was just hanging out there - a bit frozen - waiting for me. With some help from a few students, we moved him onto a huge, broken-down cardboard box in the 'home ec' class. We let it thaw for the morning, flipping it at break, and by 1pm it was all systems 'go'...perfect seal, sharp hunting knives (sorry, don't really know the name), several ulus, the oh-so-important blade sharpener, garbage bags, and the skin prep board (sorry, don't know the name for that contraption either; it kinda looks like a writing board you can use in front of the tv).

I haven't really been a part of skinning or cleaning a previously living animal (a family full of teachers - go figure), so I didn't really know what to expect; quite honestly, I thought there would be blood everywhere. With a seal, though, there is so much fat it was more like peeling a mango with a small kitchen knife. Oh, the students weren't crazy enough to let me try it at first, but check out this picture.  Don't you think it looks like a grub-like mango when you try to cut the pieces off the pit instead of slicing cubes on the peel?

This first part is traditionally the job of the men...they would catch the seal, slice it, take out the internal organs and a few of the ribs, then give it to the women on a make-shift platter. The majority of the ribs went to the guys (some things never change) as well as a few prime pieces of the organs...these would all be piled on top of the blubber which was used as a type of plate. In the picture to the left, you can see the circle of sealskin acting like a furry placemat. In the rear, you can see a pile of organs and meat on a blue tray...that's for the women. If I could, somehow, post my videos I have a great clip which shows how the first picture progresses to the second!

At this point, I had to pass my camera along to someone else and taste some of the spoils before they completely disappeared...

Now, I like my steak done medium rare, but if I'm in a nice steakhouse I'll go for the rare. One of my friend's from my university days likes hers 'blue rare', but I could never get into it. Well, rare steak be damned...I eat my seal raw. What was strange about it was that, though the taste of meat is more familiar to me, I found eating the seal eyeballs and flippers much easier.

Next? Dessert. Anyone in the north knows how common it is to go berry-picking; when the weather is nice, it takes precedence over any other previous engagement (including work). Blackberries. That's what they're called. However, when I think of blackberries I think of a raspberry's darker cousin. Here a 'blackberry' is more like a tiny, firm, and moderately sweet blueberry. At this time of year, I'm sure there's not one freezer in town without a bag or two.

Blubber'n'Berries: This is how it works...when the feast has finished and the rest of the meat and organs have been stored for later use, the blubber - still on its sealskin mat - gets scored by a few blades...criss-crossed here and there. Next, blackberries are poured and spread over the top. The scores ensure that all the berries will get covered in the oil...surprisingly 'sweet' oil. Don't ask how that works...I really don't know. What I know is that I cook with a lot of different oils, and this one definitely smells sweet.

At this point, it's really important that everything gets mixed together; having a bite with too much oil, berries, or blood is like biting into a cake and hitting a huge glob of baking soda. Not cool.

I actually liked this little concoction and, as surprising as it might sound (vegetarians and PETA hardcore advocates, please stop reading), I think the blood actually made the difference. It was more than just 'oily berries'. I'm not saying I would choose it over strawberries with real whipped cream, but I can see how it's a nice way to clean your palette after such heavy meat.

After all the berries are gone, the blubber is scraped clean and prepared for the final skinning. My next post will show you my mad skillz weilding an ulu...

October 15, 2009

Just Mr. Seal...

So this is Mr. Seal...or perhaps Ms. Seal; that's actually one of the things I forgot to ask. When I arrived at school today, it was just sitting there waiting for our afternoon rendez-vous. Right now I'm working on a full entry with pictures and a few video clips, but I just wanted to let you know that I haven't forgotten you...so many people have made me promise to get this info up ASAP. I hope I do it justice!
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The Co-op, cable, and the occasional crap...

Ahhh!!! Everyone goes to lunch and takes coffee break in this town at precisely the same time. For me, it's impossible to get anything done; I know most people are able to run out for 10 or 15 minutes to get their errands done, and the teachers at the school don't have as much class-time as I do, but I'm here at the college from 8:30 - 5:00 p.m...no exceptions! Not only that, but the Co-op (and probably the Northern) are out of cash. I have no cash. My internet and credit cards are no longer useful to me until the next cash order comes in. That means no TV, no cable, and limited food. So you see, if you're in a ranting mood, there are things you can focus on.

...actually, I don't think it would have bothered me so much this lunch hour - despite the fruitless trip - if the GD qallunaaq I was dealing with was a bit more polite. OK, so you're having a crappy day...you don't have to take it out on the rest of us!

Deep breath Tara...

Walking back from the Co-op I was totally pissed (due to aforementioned circumstances), then I raised my head. You can't stay upset when looking at the type of scenery that surrounds Pang. At this time of day the sun is still out, and today it's shining brightly. Amazing. Taking pictures gets somewhat frustrating after awhile because the camera isn't really doing the job you want it to and now, even though it's only -6C, the lens gets completely fogged up...blurry pics. 'Please remember. Please remember,' is my mantra.

Well, time to go check out that seal! More later...

October 14, 2009

Short days on a seal-skinning eve...

Hmmm...as any regular reader knows, this is just my second month in the north - a newbie by anyone's standards. Ergo, I'm still going through a lot of 'firsts'. For example, check this picture out. I know it's blurry

(freezing fingers and a shutter full of condensation), but that's not the important thing. The fat to chew on here is the fact that it's only 5:30 in the evening! 5:30! That's the type of first I'm talking about. For the past few days it's looked like it was going to storm, but I think it's just the shorter days.

The weather is finally turning but, like Newbie in the North mentioned, there is still no snow. I want snow! Bring. It. On. Oh, and to all those naysayer-type people who leave kinda nasty comments about how I'll regret ever having said that...everyone has regrets, but I don't need to hear about how naive it is for me to look forward to the white stuff. I abhor the heat of the south and have never been comfortable on a beach. I just want to skidoo around and feel what it's like to truly be in the north. Snow...good. Naysayer...bad.

Moving on to something a little - or a lot - more positive...a new northern first! Tomorrow I've arranged to get a full-on seal in the class to cut and clean in the traditional way. I've been assured that there is a minimum amount of blood involved, so cardboard boxes and garbage bags should be good. Most of the students know how to do this to some degree, but they don't have much practise. We'll have a guy doing the cutting and a woman, with her ulu, instructing on how to clean the seal in the most efficient way. Should have some interesting snacks...eat your heart out Sir Paul McCartney - I'll probably be eating something similar mixed with seasonal berries. Mwah!

I refuse to wear my Canada Goose jacket until November. That, or until it gets to about -10 to -15C...whichever comes first. Holy crap, though, it felt cold today! And it only dipped to -6. Hmmm. Despite my personal promise to avoid the down, I don't think I can avoid the hand gear...and that's the one thing I didn't think to buy. I know, it sounds daft. Actually, it is. I can no longer get by with the autumn gloves I have been wearing, and now must start sniffing around for some mitts. There are some beautiful ones here, that's for sure!

One final note: I finally found a tv to buy - two actually! I know that, to some, this blog is just starting to ramble with the introduction of this last point, but it's a big thing for me. I don't think I'll spend hours plugged into the tube but, word to the wise for those who haven't yet arrived, bring your television. To depend on the internet for entertainment in any capacity had been both exasperating and expensive.

C'est tout (or toute?) for tonight. I hope to have pictures and maybe even a little video of our seal session tomorrow...stay tuned.

October 13, 2009

Butt ugly Baffin boots...

Townie Bastard, you rock my world (despite the rather perplexing screen name). This post was/is so bang-on. How many dead blogs are out there? I know I have quite a few...disturbing and embarassing, I know. Writing is something someone just has to do, day in and day out. It's not everyday that the beautiful 'blogging Muse' is sitting on your shoulder, but she won't even peek in your direction unless you try.

So...right now, excitement eludes me. I am sitting here boot-testing. That's my new phrase for the day...boot-testing. I got my super duper ugly ass Baffin boots today, and I'm trying to figure out whether they're even half as worthy as all the hype. 'Baffin Technology'? What about the regular old alisiiks and sealskin kamiiks? It's worked well up here for years. I think my students - and probably everyone around here - think the southerners overdo it in the bundling-up department, but I really don't want to be trapped in my place this winter because I don't have anything warm enough to wear (I prefer to be trapped for other reasons).

When I called the customer service number and talked to the guy at the store in Thunder Bay, he gave me the low-down on a few of the main points, the main one being: never, ever, wear cotton socks. "It's better to go bare foot than with cotton socks because your foot will sweat and, with nothing to pull the moisture away, you're going to get cold," he said. Ok, makes sense. I get the big Baffin box today and, super excited to actually get a parcel, pull them on and start to toast my raisin bread for the regular after-school snack.

Cold feet. Who needs a wedding? I definitely had cold feet. So I pull off a sock...just one so I can still have a standard benchmark. Bare foot was warmer. Then I added a nice wool sock...and there you go. Toasty toes! The thickness of the sock also helped out with the comfort level since they don't come in half sizes.

The verdict? Womens Baffin Impact Boots are butt ugly. Monstrous. As far from my pretty snakeskin spikes as possible. However, they just might do the trick. Unfortunately, with my crazy snowpants from MEC, my Canada Goose jacket, and these shit-kickers I know I'm going to feel like one of those yoga frauds decked out in their Lulu Lemon gear. I'll feel a lot better when they no longer look so crispy clean.

Here are my puppies with my puppies...

And an update on the internet? The last time I paid my bill I wasn't paying attention and, when they charged me $60 instead of $120, I didn't even notice. I suppose I should start paying attention, eh? Back up-to-date and another 3 gigs to go before the 28th.

Back to work and my virtual world...

Yay! Access to the internet! And here it goes folks...
Saturday, October 9…

Thank you all so much for the emails you’ve sent; since I first put up that contact email address, I’ve gotten to hear from a lot more of you. Ah, it gives me faith that at least someone is reading. However, if someone is reading and I’m not writing anything new, I feel rather guilty; I plan to take the next chunk of time to remedy that…

I’m writing this on Saturday night (the 9th), but I’m having some serious connection problems here with my internet…after paying $120/month, I kinda feel like I’m being cheated (yes, I’m trying to be diplomatic in the words I choose – ordinarily I would say something far worse). Basically, this means I have no idea when I’ll get the chance to post it or even check out any of the blogs I usually follow. What good is a long weekend if you’re stuck with no source or entertainment?

Anyway, I made it back to Pang after my whirlwind jaunt to Ottawa and, as expected, returned wishing I had thought to bring other things. I’ll just have to put together a shopping list of things for my friend WHO IS VISITING NEXT WEEK to bring north. Yes, my friend is coming to visit all the way from South Korea. Ok, well, I’m more like a week-long detour for him, but it’s still pretty cool. I haven’t seen him in about 4 years…not since I called Seoul home.

Before I left last week, I was quite relieved that I had already created a phone tree with my students. It was something that we’d put together in case of emergencies, and I had to cancel class…kind of an emergency! I dialed the first number to get the ball rolling, and then continued packing. Well, it didn’t quite go according to plan; in fact, it was like a really bad game of Telephone. Do you remember that game? The one where everyone sits in a circle and passes along a message by whispering in the next person’s ear…the fun part being when the garbled message was compared with the original one?

Ok…original message: School’s cancelled for tomorrow. Tara’s dog’s sick and she’s taking him to Ottawa.

Telephone’ message: School’s cancelled. Tara’s dad has to get med-evaced to Ottawa and she’s going with him.

This, as you may imagine, caused quite a stir. Of course there was the concern for my father, but there was also a twinge of indignation with the fact that I had not even told anyone he was in town! For those who assumed he was still in Nova Scotia, they were all worried about what illness would be so severe that he would need to be med-evaced out of the province.

When I returned and the true purpose of my journey was confirmed, I think a lot of people thought my decision to take the dog a bit weak. For all of you out there reading this: my dad is fine and living in Nova Scotia, and my dog is curled up beside me - a true resident of the north.

A few weeks ago, I mentioned going out to see the Northern Lights with a friend. Since that entry focused mainly on my (then) recent consumption of seal eyes, I decided to wait for Sarah’s pics and write about them sometime later. Today is later. Check these pictures out.

Everything looks brighter because the shutter had to be open longer than normal.

The lights were so active that night; you could literally see the undulations with your eyes…amazing. I don’t really know how to describe it. Like a lot of the things I’ve experienced, I feel that to try to put words to it would just sully the whole thing.  I’m not gifted enough as a writer to do that. I just hope that my mind is gifted enough to remember the detail…how curtains of green melted from a sharp blade of colour…how clean lines were reduced to smudges then replaced with veins of aquamarine and sky blue…how the slate-coloured mountains and the midnight sky contrasted with the dancing lights…and even how the lights, themselves, reflected off the water. Streaks of abalone in the sky mirrored in the smallest of small ripples of the fjord. Everything pierced with the clearest stars and, other than the small creek, the crashing of absolute silence. The smell of fresh air. The tears in my eyes which were more than just the result of a biting northerly wind.

…ok, enough with the ‘waxing poetic’…

So tomorrow there’s a community feast that sounds exciting…unfortunately, some of the people I know found out about it only after they had made other plans. I’ll be heading over alone. The last time there was a loonie-toonie’ sale I went alone and, as the only qalunaaq there, I was pretty much left in the corner alone. Perhaps if I had kids things would be different; the mothers always seem much more social. Anyway, I hope tomorrow will be better than the first time I tried to join in a community event. If it doesn’t turn out well, my next-door neighbor is having a good old-fashioned turkey dinner…I can probably make it back for leftovers while the rest chat over tea. Either way, I think I’ll eat well.

Before signing out for the evening, I also want to show these pictures…pictures I took off the backstep this evening. Beauty can be measured in so many ways and come in such a spectrum of manifestations; how can one deny the breath-taking effect of a cold Arctic sunset over Cumberland Sound? You can’t. You just can’t.
Monday, October 12…

Well, as it turns out, there was no community feast for me yesterday. Nor was there a turkey. Or anything out of the ordinary other than the feeling that I was going to sink into ‘flu-land’ and build a permanent abode. I woke up feeling ok, but as the day wore on, I just felt worse. With a splitting sinus headache, sore body, and overall general lethargy, I couldn’t make it anywhere. I think someone rang the bell sometime in the afternoon but, by that time, I was pretty out of it. I went back to bed and didn’t really get up until this afternoon. Happy Thanksgiving to me. Boo.

Hmm…I just wrote – then erased – a few more paragraphs. I realized that I was just b*#ching about things that weren’t that serious. I will figure out my internet. I will find a way to make it to the hamlet office to pay my water bill. I will figure out how to get my post office stuff done despite the hours. Thankfully, life goes on.

Today it occurred to me that the gray skies might not be the result of an impending storm. I thought of this as I looked out over the town…the sun had barely made it up over the mountain. Since I’ve been locked up in my house for most of the weekend, I haven’t gotten the chance to ask anyone who might know, but this might be it. This might be the beginning of the days which herald the full-on darkness. Is that another reason I’m so tired? I had assumed it was the flu. Need to work on that one.

Time to sign out with yet another promise to myself to get this posted sometime soon.

Oh, and for those of you who are inclined to read it: Dan Brown’s new book, Deception Point, is quite like a lukewarm bath…it’s not necessarily a complete waste of time, but it’s like Kramer says in one of the Seinfeld episodes: there’s just something wrong about soaking in your own filth. For me, it was the filth of expectations that just weren’t met.

…oh, and if you’re running around the very northern tip of Ellesmere Island (as the characters do in the book), you sure as hell would be wearing some sort of face protection if you ventured outside. Come on Danny-boy!

October 04, 2009

Flights of fancy...

Sitting here in Ottawa, I somehow feel obliged to use the internet...there's something about hi-speed wireless that leaves a taste of strawberries in your mouth...

...I have no idea why I wrote that. It's not that strawberries are the best thing in the world, but it just seemed to come out that way. Don't you thing it sounds better than won-ton soup?

I head back to Pang tomorrow and, although I'm looking forward to being there, I'm not really too excited about the trip. There's something about carrying two dogs around for hours that just rubs me the wrong way. I guess it kinda pisses them off too. However, I have gathered the provisions needed to spoil them (as well as the gravol to put them on their butts). Fingers crossed.

Speaking of provisions...shopping trip! Yay! I got paid on Friday and I think most of it is already gone. Electronics, clothes, dog treats, coffee pot :), cleaners, pillows...yay! I haven't really gotten too much in the line of food (except a few cans of Beef-a-Roni which, in Pang, cost $5 a piece). Oh, another excitement? A Hungry Man fried chicken dinner with fake potatoes, corn, and a brownie...very expensive to buy that kinda crap where I live now.

...hmm...and buckets of Tim Horton's coffee...

I'm sure I'll get back to my place, take a look around the kitchen, then kick myself that I didn't buy different things, but then I'll heat up some good ole'fashioned canned pasta and throw on a dvd. Classic.

October 03, 2009

Ulcers, dogparks, and rough-housing...

Phew! Just got back from the vet who was, by the way, absolutely shocked that I flew from Pangnirtung to Ottawa to get his eye checked out. It's a good thing I did...it turns out that he has an ulcer which needs some pretty agressive treatment at this point, so it doesn't get out of control. When she stained the eye to check things out, you could see the film of something on his cornea. Have you actually seen a dog or cat with a 'stained eye'? It turns a bright neon green...very alien looking.

Anyway, bunches of creams and drops later I emerged feeling a whole lot better about the overly watery, red eye and the...well, you know how much a flight costs with First Air on short notice. Plus a dag carrier.

After leaving the vet I decided I couldn't very well leave the city without first visiting Scarlett and Gryphon's old stomping ground...a beautiful dog park on Bank St. just south of the Queensway. Also, I couldn't very well visit without taking a picture of the two of them with TREES! Gryphon definitely prefers to piddle on a trunk than a lichen covered boulder on the tundra. Go figure. City dog.

Oh ya, and like you can see from the second picture, Scarlett quite enjoyed the grass and trees as well.

So, all is well on the pup front. Thank you so much to everyone who sent out great email and facebook messages...it means a lot.

The irony? Gryphon's ulcer may have been caused by his and Scarlett's rough-housing. It's true, what they say: "You keep playing like that and someone's going to lose an eye!"

October 02, 2009

Muktuk and chihuahua eyes...

A few things went on today leaving me with a little bit of a problem. What should I include in this post? Both of them? One is relatively stressful and worrying, while the other falls into the positive category. I have to say, I don't think I can leave either out. They are the two things that coloured the day and the points which I will remember in the future.

I'll stick with the positive story first; today we had a pot-luck at school with char, muktuk, and all the fixin's. The menu was pretty much a last minute decision shaded by a guy who called the school asking about the college pre-trades program and ended up selling me a fish. Funny how things work out that way. I bought a fresh char, still beautifully pink and fresh smelling, just before lunch and everyone took their break knowing what they should bring when they returned in the afternoon. This first pic is my fish! Cut, floured, and ready to fry. Yum!

This next pic shows some of the final dishes. Great stuff. Two big bowls of hand-picked berries,  sushi, two types of muktuk (whitish stuff from the belly and black from the back, pies, rice salad, sausage, cheese, crackers. It's so great to have the facilities in the

school which allow us to do this sort of thing. It reminded me of a certain tale I heard years ago...about a man who came to a small community and fed the villagers' hunger.

It starts with a village with very obvious animosities; no one trusts anyone and everyone looks out only for him/herself. Survival of the fittest - that sort of thing.

Anyway, a wanderer comes into the village one day (don't all good stories start with a wanderer?) and took note of all the problems; he also felt confident that he could 'heal' these people. Everyone in the community was hungry, for there was never enough food to go around. People hoarded food. He very conspicuously pulls out a big soup pot, fills it with water, drops in a rock he takes out of his pack, and waits for the reaction. You see, like in all small communities, he knows he is being watched. People begin to gather and laugh. He replies only by saying he has a magic rock that will make enough soup to feed the whole village.

After the water has boiled for awhile, the wanderer takes out a spoon and carefully takes a small sip off the wooden spoon stored in his back. "Ah, excellent. Doesn't it smell good? Oh, if only we have a few carrots...it would give it so much more flavour." It turns out that there was a farmer with a few wilted and rubbery carrots which he quickly added to the pot. A potato farmer followed suit as well some rice and a slab of beef. As the soup simmered, more and more people gathered; as smell started to drift through the crowd, more and more people started to laugh and give up their regular armour.

In  the end, the wanderer packs up his 'magic stone and pot' and allows the villagers to enjoy the food on their own. They needed to work together to get the lesson. And they did.

Phew...round-about way to say it felt something like that today at lunch. Not the animosity, of course, but the sharing. That's what we did today.

Now, the muktuk. For those of you who don't know, it's basically the tough skin and the fat which lines it. It is cut off the whale in large chunks (we had narwhale). From there, most of the fat is sliced off and used for other things (ie: fuel). What's left is just a little fat and the chewy outer skin.

I these pictures you can see one of my students scraping the fat with ulu. The real ones I've seen in the school's kitchen are pretty boring-looking things, but hers was really nice...the handle seemed to be sculpted around her hand making it much easier to use (well, she made it look easier).

I tried working with the ulu...we needed a sharp blade to slice the sushi...but I was useless. I don't know if it was because it sharpened for a right-hander to use (and I'm left-handed) or because a qallunaaq like me needs a bit more practise.

You can eat muktuk dipped in either soy sauce or OXO powder. I think the former might be good - just enough salt - but the powder is sooo salty! I think, though, if I wanted a large piece, I would be ok with that. I ate several pieces, but they were all small...kind of like the size of a nickel.

Literally 'chewing the fat' was truly a social affair. People just hung out and chewed on little whale bits throughout a conversation. You cannot eat it quickly and, because it's really chewy, you cannot eat it with your mouth closed...at least, I couldn't. It was interesting.

Friday morning...

I fell asleep last night before I could finish this entry.

My second piece of news is that I'm heading to Ottawa today. No, nothing good. Gryphon's eye is completely closed up and watering like crazy. Eye problems swing back and forth pretty quickly and my vet is really concerned about the fact that I can't get him the right medical treatment. I trust her, so I'm going to make the trip.

Isn't he cute? How could you say no to a face like this...you can see him curled up on me when I blog. And he travels well.

Anyway, that's the bad news. I have to be at the airport in about two hours, though, so I'd better sign out now. I'm going to have to walk the whole way there...since it's a business day, I don't have my regular 'drive' possibilities. Boo.