Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Frozen Pipes Can Impact Your Pipes

Today, I trekked out to the gym (which you'll recall is across the road from the airport) and found it closed. I sign posted in pink highlighter said "Closed Due to Frozen Pipes." My thought was, dude, it's chilly out here. If you wanted, I could show you some frozen pipes. Chilly it is: it's regularly in the low -30Cs without the wind chill. It freezes up cars, planes, snow machines and, well, pipes.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Home Sweet Home

There are some ways in which I am very bad at being a girl. For example, I forget to clean. I also hate blowdrying my hair. It's true that the forgetting is somewhat deliberate, since I also dislike cleaning but I usually need to remind myself to pick things up off the floor. Or I become frustrated always having to search for the matching sock in the clean laundry hamper and end up putting the laundry away. But I digress.

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


I bet you are wondering why there is a post about roads coming from a woman who lives where there aren't really any roads at all--in the literal sense.

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: Iqaluit.
Driver: Originally?
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

There and Back Again

The travel whirlwind continues, this time mainly of my own doing. As the sun set in Iqaluit on Decmber 21st, I took off in a First Air jet for Ottawa: my first trip south since moving here two months ago. The first night, I was overwhelmed when trying to decide where to eat dinner and mesmerized by the number of Christmas lights on all the houses. I even went to BMV books just to absorb the atmosphere.

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.