Sunday, December 9, 2007

Yellow, Gjo, and Talo...Oh My

My second circuit proved even more eventful than the first. It all started out fairly inauspisciously with a flight to Yellowknife through Rankin Inlet. Us Baffin Island/Eastern Arctic dwellers have to fly to Yellowknife to hit the Western Arctic. Strange but true. We had one moment of foreshadowing of what was to come: my colleague did lose his "action packer" rubbermaid filled with his personal luggage en route (an omen of things that followed).

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.


KaranS said...

Hi Jeanette!

Nice blog! This story reminds me so much of when I moved here and we all did circuit work. I still remember paying $12.50 for a macaroni-luncheon meat sandwich and a glass of Tang!

I wish you the best of the season.


Karen said...


I heard your voicemail on my way to the airport and didn't think you'd appreciate a 5am callback. I'll be back late sunday and will chat next week.

Just one thing, geo-lady - while Gjoa and Taloyoak may be west of you (what isn't?), they're really central Arctic communities. Western Arctic lives in the NWT (and is the official name of our federal district)