Sunday, November 16, 2008
Nunavut works on a consensus political system, so we have no political parties--at least at the Territorial level. The Legislative Assembly selects its premier and cabinet after the new ministers take office during a leadership forum. There are usually nineteen MLAs but because we're waiting for a by-election, eighteen were at the forum. It's all explained in Nunavut's Legislative Assembly and Executive Council Act (http://www.canlii.org/nu/laws/sta/l-5/20070904/whole.html), in case any of you want some light reading.
The news made us news papers from the Brockville Recorder to the Prince George Citizen to the Globe and Mail. It's understandable, as she is the only woman currently serving as a provincial or territorial premier in Canada, and only the fifth woman — after Rita Johnston (B.C. 1991-92), Nellie Cournoyea (NWT, 1991-1995), Catherine Callbeck (PEI, 1993-1996), and Pat Duncan (Yukon, 2000-2002) ever to hold a premiership. With a federal MP a woman too, it seems Nunavut has made the news more than once this year. Rightly so.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
A year in Iqaluit still makes me an Arctic novice, but I am happy to look back on lots of exciting firsts: my first blizzard day, my first sighting of aurora borealis, my first taste of raw seal and raw caribou, learning 5 words of Inuktitut (ok, maybe 6), breaking open the band on my sealift container...not to mention coming to possess a seaworthy crate stamped with my name and address.... I continue to study the view from my window, marvelling at the haunting beauty of the place I call home. Moreover, I have been lucky to share all these moments with good friends whose generosity, spirit, and goodwill have made life here so much better.
So, the adventure continues.
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
Tuesday, October 7, 2008
Tuesday, September 30, 2008
If you are lucky, in late summer, you look and find not just leaves, but also berries shining purple, red, and almost black. The blueberries are the most prized. Small and sweet, an afternoon of patience and carefully combing the tundra will yield a large yogourt container worth of berries. I ate mine with cereal over the course of a week: along with what a got out of my organic plot in the greenhouse, it felt like I too could enjoy the idea of a late summer harvest.
Sunday, September 7, 2008
Wednesday, July 2, 2008
You may have noticed I mentioned Nathan Rogers played at Alianait. He was among one of the many musicians who came to Iqaluit to take part in the festival. Others included Dave Badini (formerly of the Rheostatics), Pacific Curls, Little Miss Higgins, the Gjoa Band, and Bomba. They played in the big top and brought something lively to a pretty chilly Canada Day eve. Making music seems like such an easy way to bring warmth and energy to colder climes. It's worth remembering when the weather gets grim.
Thursday, June 12, 2008
Yes, dear friends, all the fresh Arctic air has gone to my head, and I am awash in theatrical pretentions. My staged frolic took the form of MacBeth, a Part-Time Players production in Iqaluit. For months, under the watchful eyes of directors Valmai Goggin and Iona Strachan, a band of Nunavummiut brothers and sisters have rehearshed faithfully to produce MacBeth in one Act. I played the witches--yes, all the witches. It was a fun part with much cauldron bubbling and trouble. Shakespeare may be turning over in his grave, but people seemed happy with the result. I posted some pics so you can judge for yourself.
Thursday, May 22, 2008
Now, in mid-June, the rivers are entirely open, the tundra brown-green, and the Arctic flowers blossoming. The weather alternates between cold rain and bright sun. Two days ago, I did my first run--in trail runners no less. It's all part of the new outdoor adventure, one that promises to get even better over the summer.
Friday, May 16, 2008
Sunday, May 4, 2008
The new weather brings some interesting changes to my wardrobe. Some changes are long-awaited and totally welcome, i.e. ditching long underwear as everyday wear. Other changes are not so expected but kind of cool: rubber boots. I am not talking any kind of rubber boot. I mean a fully insulated, industrial (at least that's what the label says), Kamik-brand bottle-green rubber boot. Imagine something you would wear in your fishing boat while on the way to gather seaweed for the local marine biology centre. I am wearing something similar in the picture below, but those are loaners [NOTE: Photo still to follow].
The story of how I came to borrow these boots illustrates Iqaluit's new muddy reality. Friday night, I was walking to a friend's house in downtown Iqaluit (distinguished from the rest of Iqaluit by the fact that it is in "town", i.e. less than 10 minutes from the Bay). Walking there, I came across a large puddle that required negotiating. On the one side of the puddle was the road, relatively dry. On the other side, a fairly big snowbank. I chose the snow bank. I chose unwisely. Almost as soon as I had stepped onto it, my right foot sank into the snow bank and, as I soon realized, the source of said puddle. I swore as I stood knee deep in slush with water rapidly soaked my EMS pants, MEC longjohns, Wigwam sock and Merrell hiking boot--which together probably cost me more than my court robes and which were now completely useless in keeping me warm or dry. My cursing turned to slight panic as I discovered the muck underneath the snowbank had taken hold of my boot like a little suction cup. As I struggled to get my right foot out, my left foot sank into another slushy pocket, not as deep but just as uncomfortable. A very nice gentleman witnessed my distress and walked over to see if he could assist. Happily, I made a not very graceful exit before he needed to intervene. Footwear intact and dignity slightly bruised, I arrived at my friends' door where they provided me with food, wine, warm socks, pants, and even a pair of boots to walk home in. Thank god for friends.
All weekend, I heard similar stories from folks in town; people had gone in up to their ankles, knees, thighs. You name it. It made me feel better. It also made me wonder if these stories get a life of their own, with everyone sinking a little deeper into the puddle every time.
But I swear to you, I was in up to my knee. .. :)
Monday, April 14, 2008
Nonetheless, the fearless crew soldiered on, taking some time to enjoy the the fine Frolics in Kugultuk. The Frolics are a spring festival, much like Toonik Tyme in Iqaluit. While I myself saw no actual frolicking, I did get to meet some of the entertainers who had flown in from Calgary. Most notably, we had some of the fine musicians from Quicksilver lead us in an impromptu sing-a-long at the Coppermine Inn. Well, perhaps it's fairer to say that they indulged us with a few songs... :)
Indulgence was definitely in the air. The Coppermine is a family-owned hotel with a fine kitchen. Irene, part-saint, part-chef, part-den mother, prepares really good meals with dangerously decadent desserts. My favorite was the white chocolate-cranberry-oatmeal cookie. I generally doubt white chocolate, but these cookies made me a believer--so much so that Irene gave me the recipe and even agreed to let me share it. Remember how I told you she is part saint?
¾ cup brown sugar
¾ cup white sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups oatmeal
½ cup pecans
½ cup sunflower seeds
1 cup dried cranberries (can also use raisins)
1 cup white, butterscotch or dark chocolate chips
1 tsp baking soda
Bake at 350F, 8-10 minutes
Sunday, March 30, 2008
I was here once before, for a circuit at the end of January that was plagued by a blizzard. The Community Hall where we held court got so cold that I sat in my parka, snow pants and hat taking notes during trial. A wind chill warning one day kept many at home for fear they would get frostbite in the -60C weather. This weekend has been warmer: a high of -22C today, -32C with the wind chill. I am still wearing snow pants, but at least I can walk around. That's a good thing, because Arviat has some cool spots. The Kiluk Sewing Centre, an arts and craft centre, is right across the road from my hotel. There, women design sealskin clothing, luggage, and wallhangings. There's also some local sculpture, though what gets most of my attention is the sealskin outerwear. The woman working at the Centre takes me on a little tour and explains that much of the new collection is on tour. The cute leather jacket I admire apparently comes in red and burgundy: pretty cool. I mean, what girl would not want to own a burgundy red leather jacket with silver fox fur at the waist, collar, and wrists?
One of the most magical moments in my Arctic experience happened on this circuit. This weekend just happens to be the 5th annual "Hudsons Bay Dog Sled Quest", during which dog-sled teams race from Churchill, Manitoba to Arviat. The teams started yesterday, Saturday March 29th in Churchill. Tonight, the community got word that the first team would be crossing the finish line. The staff at the Coop hotel told me I could go with them to watch the racers. I was in a meeting with defence counsel but headed straight over when we finished--circuit bag and all. It was 7:30 p.m. and the sun was an enormous red ball just dipping below the horizon over Hudson's Bay. At the edge of town, where the baseball diamond is in the summer, was a bright, fire-engine red banner saying "Finish". A crowd gathered as people came from all over town in cars, on skidoos, and by foot. We stood watching the southern horizon waiting from the first team. I got cold and decided to take a quick walk back to the hotel to drop off my bag (after all, it is -30C outside). I had only gone a few steps when a woman pulled up next to me on a skidoo. It was only a 5-10 minute walk, but I could not resist the temptation to ride a skidoo. I loaded the cicuit bag on the back and hopped on. It was a much better experience than the first time, probably because I was wearing warmer clothes and only went around the corner. When I got inside, I dropped by bag and, after a moment to warm up ran back outside, where I could see that almost half the town was now gathered to see the first team arrive. The By-Law truck sounded its siren to call people to the finish line. I could see the team too, a distant kamotik doing its best to stay on course for the finish line. I entered my own race with a couple of local kids, all of us running to get to the finish line in time to see the team cross. I got there when it was only a hundred or so metres away. People cheered and clapped their sealskin-mittened hands. When the team crossed the finish line, the crowd rushed in to hug the musher, David Oolooyak. I rushed back to my room for a hot cup of tea and a bedtime snack.
If I wasn't already in love with Nunavut, I would be head over heels now.
Links and Info:
You can read all about the Hudsons Bay Dog Sled Quest at their official website: http://www.wapuskdogsled.com/
The Kiluk Sewing Centre in Arviat retails at Queen's Quay and the airport store in Toronto. You can also check them out next weekend at Iqaluit's mining sympsoium.
Monday, March 24, 2008
Fortunately, I spend most of the day right after a circuit lying around my apartment eating food. In good weather, I feel vaguely guilty about this. This weekend, however, I felt like it was not just an indulgence but also a necessity. It`s true that the large snow drifts did not close Northmart or Arctic Ventures, the grocery stores. Cabs still made it out, not as regularly as they might but regularly enough to get me to some serious eating festivals. At one of them, all the guests got little Lindt chocolate bunnies. This is a great thing for two reasons: 1) eating and chocolate are a very important part of Easter in my family and 2) a foil wrapped chocolate bunny makes an excellent Arctic window sill ornament--as you can see.
Saturday, March 8, 2008
So, before I start getting into the meat of this post, let me just say: nothing herein is attributable to the Public Prosecution Service of Canada, the Attorney General of Canada, the Department of Justice and reflect only the views of one individual. Etc. etc.
One thing about being a prosecutor in a small, Arctic town is that what you do surrounds you, not just intellectually but also physically and sometimes emotionally. You cannot separate yourself from what you do. There is no suburban enclave far from those you prosecute into which to retreat. At times, this has a humorous quality--like the time I saw one of the couples I dealt with in a bail hearing at the Northmart checkout. The accused waived to me cheerfully from behind his cart of groceries. I cheerfully waived back. Why not? They looked happy.
Then, there's name recognition. You see a name in the paper and you think, "Hey, I know that person...why do I know that person?...Oh, yeah....Ha." I can tell you, this was not such a common occurrence back when I worked in Toronto. For one thing, I am not sure I ever saw any of the accused I dealt of whose appeals I had carriage. They usually had a very nice lawyer I got to talk to. A very nice lawyer who I might not even recognize because we were always robed and everyone looks different without the robes--especially judges. A fact I discovered when I was out for a run one March afternoon in Toronto in the courtyard behind Osgoode Hall, home of the Court of Appeal, and sped past a group of men walking jumped a chain link barrier and then thought, "those guys look really familiar...oh...uh-oh..."
Here, judges, counsel and court staff are a wee bit less formal. We often stay in the same hotel on circuit, which means we see each other not just in regular clothes, but also sometimes in pajamas--and always in sock-feet. You feel pretty different having a resolution meeting sitting on a carpeted floor in your fleece, jeans, and socks than suited in a boardroom. The challenge, of course, is to guard against this informality creeping into your courtroom demeanour or your approach to the law. But I never put much stock in wearing shoes in the office, as many of you know.
At the end of the day, I think I enjoy the humanity that comes with this kind of work. You are so close to the frailties of the human condition that are so interesting to me. It's fascinating, so fascinating that at times you need to remind yourself to break away from it and do something else. Otherwise, I think you risk losing your own humanity or becoming jaded, neither of which is really a palatable option.
Sunday, February 24, 2008
The thing they do NOT have in common with motos and jet skis, however, is cold. You may have noticed from some of my posts that it's a little bit colder up here than it is in Toronto. Currently, on this sunny Sunday morning, it's -32C--without the windchill. I have just about worked out how to dress for that weather in town, but as Mark said on Friday, snowmobiling is a "whole new level of cold".
For one thing, you really should not wear jeans under your snow pants if you are riding a snowmobile for the first time. You should probably also not leave your hood undone so that the frosty wind (did I mention we have ice crystals?) sweeps down your back and all the way to the waistband of your snow pants. Personally, my core did not require cooling to that point. Not this time of year in any case. I also don't recommend being hungry. Not the first time. But live and learn is how it all goes and I certainly have enough warm clothes to try again.
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
On the first morning, I had time to myself in the By-Town. I woke up and decided to take a luxurious day doing whatever I wanted. I don't know Ottawa very well, but I wandered to Wellington Village. There, I spent an hour at Bridgehead, Ottawa's answer to a fair trade Starbuck's, eating, drinking fancy coffee and reading the newspaper. When I had walked in, I was totally overwhelmed by the choice of items on the menu. I couldn't even begin to think about what to eat. I wanted to eat everything...so I did: chili, cookies, gingerbread latte. And I kept eating. I walked toward Westboro and in between stopping to shop at outdoor stores I ate a "cheese bagel" (more a danish than a bagel really), another latte, and a mocha chip cookie. The cookie, a product of the 3 tarts bakery, was so good. Indeed, everything there looked good, so good that we returned there the next day to buy a box of assorted chocolate treats.
The food fest did not stop there. That night, we had dinner at Sweetgrass, a restaurant that cooks with an aboriginal theme and that must be one of the most welcoming places ever. The wait staff attended patiently to all my questions (I always have lots of questions), and I had the yummiest tomato-chorizo soup, a chipotle-spiced seafood plate and a chocolate tart. The next night, we had a much different but no less friendly dinner at the Manx, a pub that made me very happy with its pulled-pork naan pizza. You gotta love fusion. Saturday night it was Thai basil, a thai resto off the beaten path but worth the drive. We ordered som tam and then dared each other to eat it because it was so spicy! Sunday, it was brunch at Stoneface Dolly's, where the eggs benedict comes on homemade bread that is apparently never soggy. In fact, if you were to have one meal in Ottawa, you could manage to hit many birds with one stone there, as they have Bridgehead coffee AND 3 tarts desserts. We ended our weekend of excess with antipasto and homemade lentil soup by the fireplace. Oh, and chocolate.
Just in case you think that ALL I did was eat in Ottawa (though that's pretty close), I'll add that I went cross-country skiing in Gatineau Park. Coached patiently by my friend's husband, I managed 2 hours of skiing in the bright sunshine and tree-lined trails. It felt good to be outdoors at temperatures under -20C, and to find massive snowfalls entertaining rather than frustrating. Perhaps the Arctic will inure me to winter chills forever. Even Arctic winter chills...wouldn't that be nice?
Tuesday, January 22, 2008
Thursday, January 17, 2008
One other way that I am not a proper girl is home decorating. I mean, I like nicely decorated homes but I find that I have no idea how to make mine one of them. In particular, I have no idea how to make my newfound house into a home. I am starting with a lot fewer variables than most people because my unit has set furniture, lighting and window covers. That is the way of federal housing in Iqaluit--perhaps I should explain what I mean by that.
If you have read Canadian news lately, you might know that housing is an issue for those who live in the North. Statscan's recent update can tell you a lot more (http://www12.statcan.ca: eg. 22.7% of total occupied private dwellings in Nunavut have more than one person per room; 4.2% is the Canadian average for aboriginal populations), or the news (like: http://www.cbc.ca/canada/north/story/2007/11/23/kug-housing.html). In Iqaluit, I believe most of this available housing is owned by property corporations or some level of government. The federal government, my employer, owns/leases a number of units in buildings across Iqaluit. These, in turn are leased to me at a subsidized federal housing rate. The rate is determined through a calculation of some sort that may or may not include utilities, that may or may not be furnished, and apparently works out to approximately the market rate for Ottawa. Is your head spinning yet?...I'll refrain from getting into Territorial employees's housing, then, because that will probably result in a headache from which you may not recover. I do not, however, complain about my particular headache. I have a very good deal...a very, very good deal, actually.
Why is all this important to the Trading Spaces edition of this blog? Well, I have a furnished federal unit. This means that I have a set of furniture, lighting, window covers, and wall-to-wall carpeting that belongs to my unit. Due to my particular situation, these items are permanent and in some cases, like the headboard and mirrors, nailed to the wall. I came to this realization when, after my first week here, I thought it might be nice to move my bed to the opposite end of the room so that I could wake to a view of the Bay. Sounded lovely until I realized that I could not move the mirror, which would leave it hanging conspicuously above the bed...maybe not. I also found myself fantasizing about having a blue yoga room with gold stars, like Liz Gilbert did in "Eat Pray Love".
So, the decorating project was abandoned until a few days ago. That's when a couple of friends came over to pick up a CD and one of them exclaimed on how I still had the plastic wrap on my lampshades. I was embarassed that night into cutting them off. I also cut the plastic off the other three lampshades...and unpacked the last boxes of books, which she did not see. That was easy. The more difficult question involved spicing up the stark white walls that towered over my living room. My apartment has two floors and the top floor is a loft-type space, which means there's something like 20 feet of ceiling I need to fill. My painting collection, once so integral to my decor, remains in Toronto, so it could not help me. I did have, however, a number of fun wall-hangings from South East Asia. With some nails and hangers, I think I may have added colour, but the key question remains....what exactly will Ikea deliver to the Arctic?
Stay tuned for more, as I now expect a visit to Loomis and Ikea are in my future...
Sunday, January 13, 2008
It all started with the Ice Road. There are many ice roads, but the one that I am referring to is the onfrom Yellowknife to Dettah. I was on it because I am in Yellowknife for the weekend on my way back to Iqaluit and my friend Karen (whose comments you may have seen on this site) was nice enough to take me on a little drive. In the summertime, you need to drive 27 km around Great Slave Lake to Dettah. In the winter, a quick 6.5 km drive across the frozen lake (well, across Yellowknife Bay, really) gets you there in 1/4 the time. We even got out of the car to have a look at the ice. It is apparently 8 feet thick. And full of cracks. Lots of cracks. Had I not already walked across a cracking almost-frozen river I may have been more perturbed. As it was, I kept pointing at the SUVs and trucks saying "how cool is that?!" every time one drove across. If you are fascinated by the idea, check out the History Channel series "Ice Road Truckers". I would, except that I don't have TV.
Also in the realm of roads: taxis. Yellowknife must have the chattiest taxi drivers in North America. Witness the two conversations I had in 24 hours:
Conversation #1--midnight on Saturday
Me: Chateau Nova, please.
Driver: So, you don't live here?
Me: No, I'm here for work.
Driver: Where are you from?
Me: Oh. No, I'm from Toronto.
Driver: No, I mean, like, where are you from? Your family is not Canadian, right?
Me: Oh, yeah, uh, no. My parents are immigrants. We're Armenian.
Driver: Yeah, because you look, like, Italian or Greek or something different.
Me: I guess that's true.
Hmmm...odd, but nothing to write home about until...
Conversation #2--7 pm Sunday
Me: [Private Address], please.
Driver: Sure. (Pause) You live around here?
Me: No, I'm from Iqaluit.
Driver: 'Cause you look like this lady who used to live around here, I used to call her the S[indecipherable] lady.
Me: Pardon? The what lady? The Steak lady?
Driver: No, no, the SNAKE lady?
Me: Snake lady?
Driver: Yeah, she got into my cab one day and asked if I minded pets. I said no, and she told me she had a pet snake. Can you imagine that?
Me: Well, I guess some people have unusual pets.
Driver: I mean, can you imagine going on a date with that woman? You wake up and there's a snake in the house?
Me: Yeah, I guess that comes as a bit of a surprise.
Driver: Though I've had bigger surprises. I once got drunk and woke up next to a woman who only had one arm.
Then we pulled up to the house. I think my response was fairly unremarkable, I mean, what do you say to that?!
But that was my weekend of roads and experiences on the road, which is really pretty good if you think about it.
Friday, January 4, 2008
I did a lot of absorbing, mainly of calories: Xmas cookies, Xmas nachos, Xmas coffee, Xmas chocolate... And, let's face it, there's nothing like shedding long johns to make you feel justified in having dessert. I also can't deny it felt good to head home to see my friends and family. I came bearing Nunavummiut gifts, in particular char of all kinds for dinner parties. I think I may have started a trend for smoked, dried char on New Year's Eve.
I enjoyed every minute of my vacation, but I found that I was not only ready to come home, but also looking forward to it. As I eagerly watched for the bright yellow airport from the plane, I thought to myself that it was good to be home.