Friday, May 31, 2013

charity friday, and dogs

My friend Alison asked me to promote her friend's fundraiser for this week's Charity Friday.  Here's what she has to say:
 "My friend Erin, who I went to law school with, is doing the Ride to Conquer Cancer June 15 and 16. It's a 2 day 200+km ride. Erin is riding on the team Allie's Allies. One of Erin's close childhood friends (Allie) passed away at 24 from a rare form of childhood cancer (neuroblastoma). Erin is riding with Allie's sister, Lucy and Lucy's fiance Paul. They also did the ride last year. It's a great cause and what's even more impressive is Erin will be doing this 6 months preggers. Here's the link to their fundraising page: ."

You heard her, people! Donate to this good cause! The fight against cancer is particularly relevant to my family this week, as we just lost an auntie to cancer.

Also, in honour of the memory of Dr. Morgentaler, who passed away this week, consider donating to the Norma Scarborough Emergency Fund, which assists women with travel and accommodation expenses if they have to travel long distances to obtain access abortion services.  Women in Northern communities like Cambridge Bay, for example, have to travel out of the territory to get access to these services. Donate here.

Finally, because it's Friday, and sometimes I like to post random photos from the Arctic on Fridays, here are some photos of dogs that followed our truck around in Iqaluit. It was snowing hard, and we had just pulled up to the old Hudson Bay Company site in the Apex, when our truck was suddenly surrounded by sled dogs, a whole pack of them.  They were fighting each other viciously on the Apex beach, with many of the dogs wearing each other's blood on their furry faces. We were told not to leave the truck. It was quite the sight.  The most curious part of it all was this golden retriever that was hanging out among them, as though he thought he was a Canadian Eskimo dog himself.  Talk about a poser with an identity crisis.

Eventually, a by-law officer came along, because people had been calling in about the dogs running loose in the streets.  Unfortunately, the by-law officer looked scared himself. I don't blame him.  There's something off-putting about a snarl from a dog whose face is covered in another dog's blood.  Also, sometimes the Inuit hunters use dogs to hunt polar bears.  I'm a lot smaller than a polar bear, and so was the by-law officer.  Jack told us that the dogs fight in order to establish rank.  Whenever there a new dog appeared, the huskies would have to fight again to re-order their ranks. I wondered if the presence of the golden retriever was the cause of all the fighting.  I wondered how the golden retriever wasn't cold.

 There was some theories about whose dogs they were.  Rumour had it that Mike had been running the dogs on the ice with his skidoo to train them, but then they had run off.  Efforts were made to call Mike. Mike's wife didn't know where he was.

We thought it might be best to drive away, but then to my astonishment, the dogs started chasing us, following the truck, and then running ahead.  It was kind of like out of a Disney movie, except for the bloody face thing.


Thursday, May 30, 2013

nights out in iqaluit

You know, I think the activities that I was excited to do in Iqaluit were really different from what other tourists in Iqaluit plan for their stay.

Most tourists, especially if they are from the south, want to watch for northern lights, ride on a dog sled, check out the museum, go ice fishing.  Me, I'm coming from Cambridge Bay where we've got Arctic fun coming out of our ears. What I was looking forward to, you see, was experiencing THE BIG CITY LIFE of Iqaluit, with its whopping population of 7000 (which is actually pretty big, considering the next biggest community is Rankin Inlet at 2500, and then (gulp) Cambridge Bay).  What I was excited to do was drink beer at a bar. And go see a movie at a movie theatre. Grab a Tim Horton's coffee. Going to the big gym. Eat chinese food at a greasy buffet restaurant. Heck, eating at any restaurant that wasn't the Arctic Lodge was exciting, and Iqaluit had a bunch* of them.

(*like, we're talking at least five.)

So I watched a few movies at Astro Theatre.  The movies weren't very good, but who cares? I was in a movie theatre! The first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs were also happening,  so I decided to watch a games at The Storehouse Pub.  It was windy that night - Iqaluit in general is ridiculously windy - and on my walk over to the bar, I ended up eating a lot of the dirt that was being whipped around in the air.  Yum.  At the bar, I was offered a food menu, but after eating all that dirt to get here, I wasn't feeling that hungry. Instead, I ordered a can of Labatt Blue. I'm not much of a fan of Labatt Blue normally, but honestly, beer is so hard to get up here that Labatt Blue really did taste like ambrosia. It was a pretty surreal experience, to be watching the Leafs play the Bruins in freakin' Nunavut, with a third of the bar cheering for Toronto, a third cheering for Boston, and the other third trying to sell everyone Inuit carvings and prints.

Watching the Leafs game in freakin' Nunavut.

We also hit up the Legion for some drinks, dancing, and live music.  Down south, a hip twenty-something girl like myself wouldn't usually be found at the local Royal Canadian Legion, which is where old men usually drink beer and complain about kids these days. But here in Iqaluit, it's the place to be on a Saturday night for everyone, young people, older people, Inuit folks, southerners. In the large room, there's a deejay spinning hit songs while girls in high heels and short skirts (IN THE WINTER!) dance their hearts out, while shy boys watch from the wall trying to get the courage to join. In the "quiet room", they sometimes have bands playing. On this night, Iqaluit's favourite blues rockers the Trade-Offs were playing.

I'm a big fan of the Trade-offs. We don't get nearly enough live music up here, and lead singer Josh has an unexpectedly amazing voice that sounds like he's just flown up from the deep south. My band Scary Bear Soundtrack competed against the Trade-offs for CBC Music's Searchlight Competition. We both made it to Nunavut's top five bands; ultimately the Trade-offs won for the territory, and it's not hard to see why they're popular here.

We had the opportunity to enjoy a different kind of music on another night, when traditional Inuit singers sang for us at the Arctic Hotel. They were a group of high school girls who shared a number of songs for us, ranging from traditional to contemporary, including throat singing, which I always love hearing.

So you can see, there's a lot of fun to be had on nights out in Iqaluit.

By the end of the night,  we saw that our car was double-parked by some joker.  We were gonna complain, but then it turned out that that joker was an RCMP cop, who wasn't in much of a mood for joking. What's a gal to do when she's double-parked by a cop?

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

the houses of iqaluit

I really do love the visual styles of the buildings in Iqaluit. They aren't by any means old or historical; the city of Iqaluit itself isn't very old, seeing how it was settled only 70 years ago and became a city in 2001.  It isn't necessarily of some sort of traditional Inuit style either.  What it is, however, is bright, unique, striking, and daring.  The style of the buildings are so unusual and experimental, you get a sense that their creators were dreaming about all the things they could try, maybe as a symbol of a hope for what the future would bring.

the fire station, I think?

believe it or not, but this is a church 

junior high school

The only French school in the entire territory of Nunavut

Not your typical office building.

the office building where I worked during my stay in Iqaluit

Some of the houses in Iqaluit remind me of the houses in the East Coast, like the brightly coloured houses in St. John's

The women's shelter, painted a calming hue of teal, which also happens to be the colour for sexual violence

Monday, May 27, 2013

arriving in Iqaluit

Iqaluit. The largest city in Nunavut and, well, actually, the only city in Nunavut (The rest of the communities are hamlets and such). I was excited to have the chance to explore Iqaluit, which has things like a spa, Tim Horton's, cars, a population of 6000 or so, neighbourhoods, and immigrants who don't speak much English. It pretty much feels like a metropolis. They actually have a rush hour, or rather, a "rush minute", at 5PM every week day, at the four-way stop that they call the four corners when every worker is trying to make it home from work.  It's one hectic rush minute.

Did somebody say Tim Hortons??

I decided to go for a walk and explore the city...

...and discovered very quickly that Iqaluit at this time of the year is very very windy. And muddy. The combination of which means that walking around outside often results in eating a lot of dirt. Yum.

Iqaluit is south of Cambridge Bay, so they don't experience the 24 hours of sunlight/darkness that we do.  Still, as you might imagine, the weather can get pretty extreme. There are coloured posts next to the roads to guide drivers during a blizzard, because visibility can become completely non-existent - you end up driving from post to post.  Some of the snow banks in these neighbourhoods get to be thirty feet high.  I saw one street where the entire sides of houses were partially buried in snow - almost like the abandoned sand-buried houses I saw in Kolmonskop - because of the way that the roads had been designed, accidentally funneling the winds down the street to pile the snow against the houses.  They ended up having to build a wind wall to block the worst of it.

Iqaluit, and the rest of Baffin Island, is also quite hilly, much more hilly than Cambridge Bay or Rankin Inlet.  I personally love mountains, so I found the landscape to be breathtaking, especially when juxtaposing the hills against the frozen ocean. 

"What a beautiful sight," I said, admiring a shoreline.

"That's the sewage lagoon, Gloria," my friend told me.

The court house

The cemetery,  surprisingly located right by the beach

Iqaluit used to be called Frobisher Bay, which started as an American base. The area was never really used by the Inuit, unlike other communities in Nunavut which used to be fishing spots or meeting places or something.  But with the presence of the American base, the area eventually began to attract Inuit people, who then settled there.

the old Hudson Bay Company post

From the identical cookie-cutter houses of Legoland, which looks like they were boxed in a factory assembly line (much like most of Kanata), to the large luxurious houses of Tundra Ridge, to the "far away" location of Apex (3km) which was where Inuit people stayed when they worked for the American base, I was amazed to see that there were so many residential neighbourhoods in town. Still, there aren't enough We're only too aware of the housing shortage that Iqaluit is experience, much like the rest of Nunavut.  They just can't build houses quickly enough to keep up with the needs. There's a two year waiting list to build a private home here in town, just to get a contractor.

Ventures, probably one of the hugest stores in the whole territory. THEY HAVE A BOOK STORE.

for some reason, they mostly sell fur in the photo section of the North Mart.

I got to see the famous Road To Nowhere, named as such because they had begun building a road to go to the sand pit, but then they ran out of sand, so now it goes nowhere. It's not that unusually, actually, I feel like most roads in communities in Nunavut eventually go nowhere, since the communities aren't exactly connected to each other. But this particular road in Iqaluit is actually called the Road To Nowhere.

Speaking of roads...boy, the potholes were something else. I don't see how anybody could possibly speed around here.

I got to see Queen Elizabeth Road, so named because it was specifically paved for Queen Elizabeth when she came to visit. Apparently there is a rule that cars she ride can only go on paved road, so I guess we can see exactly what parts of Iqaluit the Queen got to see, based on where the paved roads go. The rest of the roads are made of mud and potholes.

The beach. I asked if there are a lot of surfers here, but apparently there is not.

Iqaluit has a nice beach area, although it wasn't suntanning weather that particular day. I discovered a beachside restaurant Grind and Brew, which has a name that makes me think of coffee shops, but in reality it's sort of a diner / convenience store place covered in Jordan Tootoo posters that sells Thai food and pizza (including smoked char pizza and caribou pizza!).

I was also excited to discover the shawarma place, which was an authentic shawarma experience with all the excited staff angrily yelling at each other with thick accents in the kitchen about whose large beef this was.  My shawarma sandwich was divine, and I miss it already.

The Kicking Caribou Pub (A BAR! I barely remember what those are.)

Friday, May 24, 2013

Omingmak Frolics: A parade in Cambridge Bay

My favourite part of the Frolics festival was the big parade that went around town - or basically, down one street and back down another. Despite the fact that it was a festival to celebrate spring, it was a parade that marched through snow and ice-covered roads, in true Cambridge Bay style. Floats from all sorts of Cam Bay organizations passed by the spectators, who were mostly excited about the free candy that was being thrown at them and into the snow banks.  Small kids on bikes pushed through the slush to follow the parade, with other small children running dangerously in front of the trucks to get candy. Taxi cabs blasted metal music, for reasons I couldn't really understand. ATVs rode along, decorated with caribou skulls, holding babies and waving hockey jerseys.  It was a classic Cambridge Bay sight

the day care float, complete with adorable kids

i have no idea why Elvis was on this float
Yes, that is a grizzly bear hide on the hood of the Kitikmeot Inuit Association float. #CamBayStyle

caribou skull!
the people of the Department of Health, frightening all the children with their GIANT NEEDLE
 i love this float, which is basically a love song to hockey on an ATV
Inukshuk float!

Right after the parade, the town crowned the official Frolics King and Queen, followed by a live show with Iqaluit blues rockers The Tradeoffs.

posing with the Frolics King

 Rock show in Cam Bay! A rare treat

 the members of the band pose with the town mascot, Ollie.
I was very disappointed that I didn't have a chance to get a picture with Ollie.

Frolics also featured a number of other fun events, including snowmobile races and a talent show.

a small girl shows off her skill at the talent show

people gathering for the snowmobile races out on the ice

 the ladies' snowmobile race