Sunday, December 16, 2007
Thursday, December 13, 2007
Sunday, December 9, 2007
In Yellowknife, Karen Lajoie took me out for a night on the town. It started with dinner at Bullock's Bistro, a well-known spot famous mainly for its fish dishes. I bucked the trend (ha ha) and decided to try the muskox. It was a muskox kebab with some yummy teriyaki marinade. It was delicious and came with lovely white bread, french fries, and greek salad. Also, I drank honey brown lager. Out of a bottle no less. Then, we went to Le Frolic for dessert where I discovered that strawberry-rhubarb can be really, really good. The next day was an explore Yellowknife, drink coffee, check out the NWT Xmas dinner-dance kind of day.
Much restored after all this weekend of urban adventure, we headed to Gjoa Haven--first stop on a two part circuit that would also take us to Taloyoak. Both Gjoa Haven, population approximately 1 000, and Taloyoak, population 870ish, are in the "Kitikmeot", a.k.a the Western Arctic. It's a lot colder in those climes, around -31C or so this time of year. I spent most of my time changing into and put of expedition-weight winter gear. And hiding in my parka.
Gjoa Haven actually has its own legal aid office where a lone lawyer toils bravely to represent, well, everyone. Otherwise, lawyers fly in from Yellowknife to do duty counsel work. All was well in Gjo on Day 1 of court. Matters were spoken to, sentences submissions were heard, the Justice Committee consulted. The next morning, however, a wee storm blew in causing disruption so that there was no water at our hotel and court broke a couple of times due to a blackouts. Citizens of Gjoa Haven were apparently worse off than us, however, because on the evening of Day 2, they filled the Community Hall where we held court so that the next morning the only place to hold court was the hotel boardroom. So, we did. I ran my first trial with unshaded hotel lamps to light my submissions. I think the lighting added somewhat to the drama during then voluntariness voir dire when I looked up and asked the police officer, "Did you at any time have recourse to, or gesture at your sidearm, constable?" Response: "No, I did not." It was something. But not as much something as riding with the entire court party, my co-counsel, the pilots, and defence counsel (and all our luggage, including Xmas baking supplies) out to the airport in a white cube truck. As we all stood and hung on the wooden rails nailed on the side while the truck rounded corners. As we entered the airport, the court reporter turned and said, "You do realize, this is how people smuggle themselves into our country?"
We waited a long time for our smuggler's boat, however. The visibility on the runway was variable and the pilots would not head out until it reached at least 3/4 of a mile. A 1/2 mile is what you need for take-off. The airport had issues keeping the power up and, for a while, we thought we would be stranded there because we could not get out and the town of Gjoa Haven was officially in a state of emergency. Half the town had no power and those citizens were being evacuated so they would not freeze to death. Finally, we got our 3/4 mile and after a long taxi (to account for the momentary blackout of the runway lights), we took off. Twenty minutes later, we were in Taloyoak.
After our Gjoa Haven adventure, Taloyoak was all charm, hot cocoa, and homemade cookies--literally. The chef there makes these awesome shortbread balls and hot, fried bannock that broke down all my resolve to eat healthy. After a hot shower, I reveled in delicious refined carbs, though it was a frenetic day of court and some poor accused were remanded back into custody without the court ever getting to their matters. My nerves worn after a long day and mindful of the cookie and big slab of bannock I'd had at lunch, I hauled the circuit bag back to the hotel on the icy road. Two kids pulling a toboggan came alongside me and asked, "what's your name?". I'm friendly, so in our chat my new little friend, Samantha, says "What are you doing? Don't you have a car?" To which I replied, "What's the matter, haven't you ever seem a kudlunah pull a bag in the snow before?" At their turnoff, Samantha and her friend left me, pausing to look back as I trudged up a hill. I waved. Then, I heard, "lookout, Jeanette, there's a car!" Bless them. Little did they know one of those cars, a big old van, in fact, would stop to give me a ride up to the hotel. Mike, if you are out there, you are my hero.
I am happy to report that that was the final adventure of the trip. We flew home in our little charter, tired but successful. I crawled into the bath and then into bed, where I enjoyed dreams of calorie-free bannock.
Friday, November 23, 2007
Our hotel was the Tujormivik Hotel, which is more like a hostel than a hotel really. It reminded me of the places I stayed travelling in Southeast Asia and Sout America--only it was a lot more expensive. The cost for full room and board is $250 per night per person, shared room and common washrooms notwithstanding. The meals are pretty simple (think first-year undergraduate residence) though the staff are kind and the living room really homey. I brought my own veggies and my own breakfast food. I even brought soups and tofu for meals, but I hesitate to make them because I don't want to offend our hosts. After all, a little fried chicken never killed anyone.
Tuesday was our big day in court. Susan and I are the last to arrive. Court is being held in the local community hall. The tables are those big, metal tables we used to write exams with. As we walk in, they tape one up with duct tape just for us. The judge, clerk, interpreter, translator, and defence counsel already have their tables. When we sit down, I take the chance to look around and notice that a disco ball hangs from the ceiling and that there are giant woofer speaker in the corner. The judge wears a sealskin vest and kammiks. I wear hiking boots. It strikes me that this is a far cry from Finch or the West Mall.
As things progress, however, they are a lot like Finch or the West Mall. We deal with the easy matters first: adjournments and speak-tos. As accused and witnesses appear, counsel take breaks to talk to them. After lunch, we start the pleas and I realize--suddenly on my feet--that I am making my first submissions. I launch right into them until the judge gently reminds me that I need to start with the facts. Flustered, I forget to enter the criminal record. I sheepishly do so after defence counsel makes his submissions, as the judge gives me an impatient stare. Still, nothing dire happens and I am ready for the next time, when I make sure the criminal record is entered and I have the facts ready to go. It's all a lot of fun, actually, as well as a little frenetic.
Sadly, that was my one day to make submissions. When we get to the airport ti fly to Hall Beach on Tuesday night, we find out defence counsel has been bumped off the flight. They ask if I mind staying behind since I have so few matters on the go. So, I spent the night in Igloolik, reading a book and chilling out at the Tujormivik. The next day, I fly back to Iqaluit.
I plan to do it all over again next Friday, when I head to Taloyoak and Gjoa Haven, via Yellowknife. It'll be the farthest west I've ever been in Canada. And this time I may even get to run a trial...
Monday, November 12, 2007
The coolest part of the day was walking across frozen ponds. I surprised myself in that (a) I did it and (b) I did not fall down. The ponds have all these wild frozen bubbles in them caused by the separation of oxygen and hydrogen on freezing. It's pretty trippy and I will eventually get some photos so you can see. You can even see to the bottom of the pond!
I also crossed a frozen river. I do not recommend standing still when you do that and hear a little bit of cracking. It's counterintuitive, but you have to keep moving! (as Mark and Sophie put it). No worries. The river was really a creek. And I am still here. :)
Saturday, November 10, 2007
Still, as Lily Tomlin says, it's going to get a lot worse before it gets better. We lose six minutes of daylight every day. That's about 45 minutes a week. Grise Fjord, far north on Ellesmere Island, changes 45 minutes a DAY. Soon, they and the other communities north of the Arctic Circle will see the sun set for four months. I'll actually see it next week because I will be in Hall Beach on November 22nd, which is north of the Arctic Circle.
Coping with the dark is one of the biggest challenges of living here. The cold, eh, the cold is something you can dress for. But the dark is another thing entirely. There are too many unhealthy ways to try to forget it. I have attempted to plan for it. I get as much Vitamin D as I can. I own a SAD lamp, because why wait to get SAD? Sitting in front of it is easy enough. I also sit or walk in direct sunlight, when we have it, for at least an hour a day. I go home for lunch, and when the sun is warm in my window, I bask in it while I eat--usually listening to Neko Case. I exercise every day. The endorphins are awesome. I am also lucky enough to have a job that lets me go home for the holidays. I will be in Toronto on the longest night of the year. After that, I can look forward to the days getting longer sooner.
So, we shall see over the next six weeks how I manage with the long journey into the winter solstice.
Monday, November 5, 2007
I am awed. Too awed to wax on about it much. I think it would diminish the grandeur.
Saturday, November 3, 2007
We walked over to Baffin Canners after that. It's a small warehouse with plain shelves full of veggies, cheese, canned stuff and groceries and big freezer cases full of frozen meat, seafood and fruit. I got big bags of raspberries and blueberries for about $7.00 each. Cheaper than home! It was kind of exciting. I have been missing berries in my cereal this week. It isn't a place for lingering, though. I took up so much room in my purple parka that it was hard for people to get around me with a cart. My problem is that I can't help being fascinated by everything because it is so new. Also, I have always loved grocery stores. In every place I visit, I go to the market or the grocery store. It's my obsession with all things culinary.
As most of you will know, my culinary obsession goes hand-in-hand with my gym obsession. Yesterday, I officially joined the gym here. It's called the Atii Fitness Centre and it's located right across from the airport. And I mean right across. Most people would probably mistake it for a cargo hanger. Of course, you could mistake almost any building here for a cargo hanger... In any case, it's a nice little gym with a few treadmills, a couple ellipticals and bikes and the requisite weight equipment, i.e. squat rack, bench press and free weights. There is also a decent sized studio where they offer step, pilates, and circuit classes--no spinning, though. And no change rooms or showers. You change in the washroom. Since a lot of people drive to the gym, most change at home. I walk there and have accepted the fact that I will change in the washroom. But many people rely on swimming in the small pool and the many team sports for fitness. I am hesitating joining because I fear my lack of athletic skill will drive people away rather than make me friends! I trip and fall on the way home from the grocery store. On the way home from Baffin Canners, I had quite an impressive fall, complete with a 2 foot skid along the snow. If only I could channel that into something like baseball to steal bases...
This weekend I also discovered the movie theatre. It's at the Frobisher Inn, which, as Mark pointed out, is more of a mall than an Inn really, what with the pharmacy, the bar, the restaurant and the pool all being located there. I walked over with Mark and Sophie to see Into the Wild--perhaps a poor choice given my new surroundings. Or maybe the best thing you could see? It makes you realize how fragile life is in surroundings as harsh as ours. Indeed, our surroundings are harsher than those depicted. There are no trees here, and you would be fortunate to find any kind of berry or plant, even if it is poisonous, in the early spring. It gives you a healthy respect for the outdoors and makes you realize that nature is still a force to be reckoned with.
Right, speaking of nature, the sun is out and the day is bright, so I need to go make the most of it. Scary or not.
Friday, November 2, 2007
When Elayne (my heroic officer manager who you may recall from the previous post) and my deputy director, John, picked me up at the airport, I experienced in full force the reality of life here. Duffle bags, hockey bags, and large rubber maid containers are the luggage of choice. People clamor around the small baggage conveyor to grab them. One woman had actually carried her 24 package of toilet paper onto the flight. Toilet paper is very expensive here. It takes up so much room in the plane.
Elayne, John, and a fellow member of the force, Constantin, whisked my 3 bags and I into Elayne's jeep and off to my new place: Capital Suites. I am lucky. The job I have qualifies for subsidized housing. I have a large 2-bedroom, 1.5-bath split level suite in a hotel/apartment complex in central Iqaluit. For those unfamiliar with the housing shortage in the North, I can advise you that this is riches beyond imagination--and quite controversial. I'll leave the controversy for another day, however. This is the happy part of our story. And until I get my goods in air cargo, I'll be rattling around the place like the last peanut in a can of Planter's.
Elayne took me to dinner at the Storehouse (a bar/resto) and then to buy groceries. I had no pillows or comforters (all in the truck with my worldly goods), so she took me to raid the "staff house". The staff house is a 3 bedroom apartment Justice Canada maintains here in Iqaluit so that visitors of all stripes can have a place to stay when they are here. I stayed there when I interviewed here. There is a TV, phone, and (now) internet access. There is also a large kitchen where the archives of meals and dishes past go to wait for the next guest. My personal contribution in August was a jar of spaghetti and a bag of oatmeal. In return, I ate all the leftover BBQ potato chips.
In the odd little way that is Iqaluit, my dinner at the Storehouse grew from 2 to 6 thanks to the addition of Elayne's husband, my friends Mark and Sophie, and Telesat Tony. Yes, his name is really Telesat Tony. He works for Telesat and happens to have a house right next to my apartment building. Mark and Sophie are from Toronto, and I met them because Deb Krick has a friend who knows Mark. Despite my having persuaded them to drink far more than they wanted the first time I met them just 5 or 6 weeks ago, they have befriended me. Already, they have invited me to dinner and offered to take me to a grocery store called Baffin Canners. Sophie makes homemade bread. There is no fresh bread in Iqaluit unless you bake it yourself. Sophie is a good person to know.
Here, it is also good that people show you grocery stores. Most streets have no names (oh yes, Bono, you wish you filmed that video here), and there aren't really street numbers so much as building numbers. Almost every building in Nunavut is a strange, pre-fab, shed-like structure. At home, you can see something like it near the water on the Leslie Street spit. The exteriors are nothing to speak of. Inside, however, is another story. On Hallowe'en, I got lost looking for the Atii fitness centre, the gym. In my cold meandering, I wandered into Baffin Flowers. From the outside, Baffin Flowers looks like a flower shed. Inside, it could be the Christmas Store on Front Street. Every square inch is packed with nick-nacks, gift items, candy, coffee, cards...you name it. If Carleton Cards or Hallmark has ever carried it, they have it. They also own Fantasy Palace, the coffee shop around the corner: also nothing to look at, also a surprise inside--faux vines and all. I guess when you spend so much time inside, you make the most of the space.
Apartments are no different. Some of the residents of my building have transformed their places. I glimpsed into one apartment and saw a collection of Inuit sculpture that made me eager to barge in and poke around the pieces. I guess I am my father's daughter. I live on what one person called the "government floor" of my building. There's me, the INAC (Indian and Northern Affairs Canada) people, the Parks (Parks Canada) people, the Geological Survey people, and the RCMP. I'll offer a prize to anyone who can think of the most interesting set of facts on which all of us would be involved in an offence--and I don't mean personally! But all of Iqaluit is like this.
It is easy to meet people doing interesting work. They sit next to you during the buffet at the Francophone Society. They are in line with you at the grocery store. They buy coffee where you buy coffee. And me, being the shy, retiring individual that I am, talk to them as much as I can. Today, I stopped a woman wearing a pink amautiit with embriodered roses so I could ask her who made it (her mother) and have a look at her baby in the hood. She laughed and told me her mother was one of the best seamstresses in town. Another good woman to know. I wondered if her mother had also made the baby's little, thick, woolen hat. I was wearing one that was pretty similar. It was a gift from my dad's friend in Cape Dorset. It doesn't match my purple Snow Goose parka, but it's damn warm. And warm is all that matters here. That's another thing I learned my first week.
I'll let you know what the first weekend is like soon. :)
Monday, October 22, 2007
The official day was last Sunday, October 28th. Just five days before, Canadian government-contracted moving men had loaded most of my worldly goods onto a moving van headed for their warehouse. The final destination? Iqaluit, Nunavut. The somewhat-surly packers (I have a lot of worldly goods) handed me a 40-page booklet detailing the rules governing the move of every Canadian Public Service and armed forces employee. It was a strange feeling imagining how the guys who packed my boxes marked "Iqaluit" might also have packed folks headed to CFB Kandahar. I am pretty sure those guys did not get to take as many books.
Absent from my 1980 lb. weight limit in the truck were one duffle bag, one large suitcase, and a large cardboard box that contained things I would need in the first couple weeks in Iqaluit until my weighty worldy goods arrived. I had carefully picked out my favorite kitchen knife, pot, and coffee mug. I packed all my warm clothes and winter gear. I made sure to pack the stovetop espresso maker and the latte whipper as well as some of my favorite cereals; however, I forgot to pack the coffee itself. It just goes to show that even the best-laid plans could use some extra planning.
So, Sunday morning, after kissing my mom and dad goodbye and paying my excess baggage fees, I boarded a 7:10 a.m. flight for Ottawa. As the cabin lights dimmed and the flight attendants prepared for lift off, I sat back and took a deep breath, preparing myself for what would be the first plane ride of many over the next few years. As I did so, the captain announced a jet fuel leak and asked everyone to exit the plane--quickly. As our wait stretched to an hour (making it almost certain I would miss my connection to Iqaluit in Ottawa), I scanned the room for the tall, red-headed woman in hiking boots I suspected was going my way. I had watched her check in a large rubbermaid container marked "Cape Dorset" at check-in: a good clue. Gita told me that we would likely have to stay in Ottawa until Monday to catch the next flight. I chalked it all up to the Far North experience. No doubt, this would be the first of many missed flights I would have over the next few years too.
Fortunately, the Far North is ready for these moments. I made a quick call to my miracle-worker office manager, Elayne, and I was booked into the Southway Inn in Ottawa. I also started to look forward to a day in Ottawa. My friends Jen Kay and James were just as efficient as Elayne. About 5 minutes after I had arrived at the Southway, they showed up to whisk me away to downtown Ottawa for a day of shopping, socializing, and eating. It was a perfect day, marred slightly by my bedtime discovery that my laptop monitor had decided, after three years and three countries of faithful service, to quit on me. Thank goodness for external hard drive back up (and David).
All things considered, it was a successful start to the journey.