Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Advice from a fellow southerner

On my third day in Rankin, I found myself standing outside my hotel talking with a couple of smokers. One is from Calgary. She has been travelling the North as a court reporter since 2001. The other, is from Ottawa. He was working on the water and sewer lines for the new jail outside of town. Following their cigarettes, the guy, Sal, toured me around town and passed on some of his wisdom, which I will now relay to you.

1) Everyday when the housekeepers come to your room and give you an extra roll of toilet paper, hide it under your bed.
The rationale behind the TP theft is that it's one of the most expensive things to buy in Nunavut.
I'll admit, after seeing the price, $20 for 12 rolls, I tucked a few hotel rolls aside.

2) Have your family and friends ship you food with First Air, especially meat.
The price of food in Nunavut is out of control, as I mentioned in my last post, so Sal's solution was to have the vast majority of his food sent to him by air. He said it only took a couple of days and the cost of shipping was less than the cost of buying food at the Northern Store or the Co-op. I have yet to take this advice. I figure I don't eat a whole heck of a lot and I've always been a bargain hunter, so I'll get by.

3) Stop drinking the water!
I told my new friend that I hadn't been feeling well for my first few days in Nunavut and he asked if I was drinking the tap water, which I was. I was actually drinking boat loads of it because it has been so hot the last week. Anyway, Sal said he drank it for his first few days too and also felt ill. Then he went to the health centre and the nurse suggested he switch to filtered water. He gave me a 10-litre jug and it's done the trick for me. Now it's Brita all the way.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Rankin Inlet: ATV heaven

I have arrived in the treeless land of Rankin Inlet. It was a quick hour and a half flight with the view of endless lakes, big and small. From 29,000 feet some looked like puddles, while others spanned huge distances. The sun was shining, making the water shimmer like a lounge singers' sequin dress. On some of the larger bodies of water, there was still a thin layer of ice. The cracks made it look like a puzzle that's slowly being taken apart.
I sat alone on the plane, looking out on the tundra. There was room for 76 passengers, but there were maybe 25. I think a lot of them carried on to Iqaluit.

My first impression of the hamlet was the surreal sight of an elderly Inuit women loading her luggage onto an ATV. She then hopped on with, what I assume was, a family member and zipped off down the road. This afternoon, I have seen more ATVs than cars. Some roads are paved and others are gravel. My workmobile is a dark grey Toyota Rav4. It's actually too bad -- I think ripping around on an ATV would have added a whole new level of excitement to my adventure.

The Kivalliq News office is small, with one computer. The walls are covered in dozens of awards the current editor has won over the 13 years he's been up here. There's also a ton of hockey memorabilia: a Don Cherry figurine, pictures of Jordin Tootoo, framed stories about hockey and other such things. Darrell, the editor, has many tales to tell about my new home. He is originally from Cape Breton and he still carries with him a thick east coast accent. Tomorrow he'll be teaching me the ropes so I'm prepared for the next six issues of the paper. He let me have the afternoon off, so I spent my time wandering around town taking pictures. While I was out, I grabbed some groceries... and what an adventure that was! Of course I've read all of the stories and seen all the pictures of the price tags on food in Nunavut, but somehow I still wasn't prepared for what I saw. I ended up doing a lap of the entire Northern Store before I picked something up. I had to see that there was no such thing as reasonably priced food in order to get up the courage to take something off the shelf. The biggest shockers were 12 packs of pop ($20), 2 L of pop ($9), granola bars ($6 for five), 4L milk ($9) and small boxes of laundry detergent ($20). Yikes!

Since I'm staying at a hotel for my first few days, I couldn't buy much and I couldn't buy anything that required refrigeration, so it was a small shop. I did buy an electric kettle and a travel mug, though. I figure for the next few days I'll be living off instant oatmeal and Cup of Noodles. Nutrition will have to start on Monday when I move into the work house. At least there I'll have somewhere to put my "fresh" food.

Anyway, that's enough for today. Now it's time to catch up with special agent Dale Cooper.

I'll post photos later. My internet is lagging big time.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The simple things

While flipping through blogs today, I came across The Simple Woman's Daybook, which asks you, "Would you like to linger on the simple things?" And lately, I find myself doing that more and more. I find myself appreciating all that Yellowknife and the North have to offer. I think that sentiment hit me the hardest this afternoon when I read an essay written for Up Here Magazine by an acquaintance who just moved to Toronto. It's titled Breaking up with Yellowknife is hard to do. Since I'm about to go on an adventure to Rankin Inlet in less than a week, her words made me extremely emotional. They also made me realize that with six remaining days before spending six weeks away, I have to make every moment count.
Actually, last night is a good example of that. Right after work, Ian, his family and I took the boat to Ace Island, on Great Slave Lake. We ate a picnic dinner of roasted chicken, fresh bread, ripe grape tomatoes, broccoli slaw and baby cucumbers. Then we went fishing. On shore, we stood on a huge rocks covered in beautiful patches of orange lichen.
Ian caught jackfish on his first two casts. I wasn't so successful, but I did hook a few and catch one. It was a beautiful, warm evening, that we topped off with juicy watermelon. I honestly couldn't have asked for better weather, better company, or a better after work activity.

Here's to enjoying every moment, whether it's fishing and a picnic,
or a quick rest in the sun.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Bound for Nunavut

I've been holding off on this post even though I've known about my next grand adventure for a couple of months. I figured I would wait until it had really sunk in, and now that I'm eight days away and today I found out a jar of peanut butter in Nunavut costs about $10, I think it's beginning to sink in that I'm heading to Rankin Inlet. Yahoo!
I'm going for six weeks to cover my colleague's vacation. And while I'm there, I'll be writing an entire weekly paper myself.
I think it's going to be a really challenging, while also extremely enlightening experience. I'm especially interested to see what it's like to report in a bilingual community -- with many of the people in the hamlet of about 2,400 speaking Inuktitut, one of the languages spoken by the Inuit people of Nunavut. My goal is to pick up as much of the language as possible. I'm hopeful I'll come back to Yellowknife knowing more than igloo, mukluk, muktuk and inukshuk. And yes, so far, that is the extent of my knowledge.
Anyway, the paper I'll be writing is called Kivillaq News. It's printed in both English and Inuktitut, making it really unique. From what I gather from back issues, Rankin is hockey crazy. I've even heard people say its the birthplace of the sport. A quick Wikipedia search tells me that's not that case, but who am I to say and goodness knows, you can't always trust the interwebs. And if nothing else, Rankin Inlet is where Nashville Predator Jordin Tootoo grew up.
Well, now that I've started with the Rankin trivia, I might as well tell you a few more tidbits about the place that will soon be my home.
In 1995, Rankin was actually in the running to become the territory’s capital, but was beat out by Iqaluit who had 59.7 per cent of the vote.
It's located on the western shores of Hudson Bay, between Chesterfield Inlet and Arviat and is considered the regional centre for the Kivalliq region.
In 1955, North Rankin Nickel Mines started production. Seven years later, the mine closed, at which point there was talk of closing the whole town.
In Inuktitut, Rankin Inlet means deep bay or deep inlet.
The average daily high in July is 14.9 C. In August it's 13 C and in September it's 5.8 C. (I guess I'll be bringing my sweaters and runners, instead of my summer dresses and flip flops.)

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Royals in Yellowknife

For the month leading up to Prince William and Kate Middleton's visit to Yellowknife, I spent my time rolling my eyes at friends who were starry-eyed over the idea of being in the same place as the royal couple. Honestly, I'm so indifferent. The whole fairy tale wedding, marrying a prince thing is just so unappealing and vomit inducing, if you ask me. Anyway, K and W finally made their appearance here on Tuesday and Wednesday and thousands of people showed up for the dog and pony show. I purposely didn't get media accreditation thinking it would save me the misery of taking part in the event, but somehow, at the last minute, my boss decided it would be a good idea to have someone in the crowd taking photos. So that meant, the one person in the newsroom that didn't get accredited -- me -- had to go spend two hours with enthusiastic royalists. This could have been a lucrative task if I hadn't arrived hours after everyone, thus placing me rows back from the gating. Anyway, I managed to get maybe five okay shots and then about 100 of Kate's feet, or the top of her head, or her from the legs down. Not the best. See:
At least she was wearing nice shoes...
Hanging out with the NWT premier, commissioner and mayor of Yellowknife.
Clapping for athletes giving a demonstration.
Although it wasn't my favourite day on the job, it was nice to be in a huge mass of genuinely excited and happy people. The one thing I have noticed watching the royal tour is that everywhere William and Kate go, they bring happiness with them, and for that, they can only be thanked.

Owl attack

So the boyfriend was attacked by an owl a couple weeks ago. No joke. And then when we went to work the next day, my boss asked me to write a column about it, since I was an eye witness and all. If I've peaked your interest and you want to see more than these few photos... check out my column.
The culprit. A great horned owl.
This was right before the owl struck. I guess it didn't like us hanging out near its nest.
The injury. He was hit by three talons. In this photo you only see two wounds. The third is inside his ear.