Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Hope everyone is spending the holidays with their loved ones and minimal stress!

Here's a heart-warming Christmas story recently published by the Nunatsiaq News, about one of the early Christmases spent by the Inuit who were relocated to the high Arctic from their native home in Northern Quebec, and forced to learn to live in a harsh unfamiliar land:

The Nunatsiaq News also published my Arctic char kimchi recipe as part of their holiday meal special:

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

about me

The interesting arts project What if? asked a series of questions which I promised to answer on my blog.

1. Who are you?
I am a young-ish Korean-Canadian woman currently living in Cambridge Bay, Nunavut, which is in the Arctic. I work as a human rights lawyer. I am also a musician in an indie band. I am an occasional freelance journalist. I sometimes sell sushi and kimchi at the local community market. When it isn't winter for the two months of the year here, I like to spend my time hiking, kayaking, and fishing. I also have this blog, which started off as a travel blog.

2. What are your main topics when you blog/facebook/tweet/youtube/pinterest?
These days, I blog about life in the Arctic. My tweets seem to often be about music, Nunavut, human rights, and insomnia. My Facebook is mostly photos of food I eat.

3. What or who are your passions and influences?
 I love being outside in the wilderness. I also love food, but not in a food snob kind of way, because I love everything. Nelson Mandela is a strong personal inspiration for me, in terms of being brave enough to fight for important causes. Douglas Coupland and Godspeed You Black Emperor are responsible for me having a lot of nightmares about the apocalypse.

4. Which artist do you admire most? 
 I grew up adoring Radiohead, because they seem to pursue experimentation and musical innovation regardless of what might maximize business profits. Same with Tanya Tagaq, who not only does this musically, but also takes a public stance about things she believes in, even at personal cost.

5. And: Do those topics have anything to do with who you feel you are? 
I'm not sure who I am, exactly. I had a friend once tell me that I'm like a living breathing cartoon character, and I chose to accept that as a compliment.
I'm always interested in artistic collaborations.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

The last day of the smokehouse. Also, dog sledding.

When we woke up in our hotel room in Yellowknife and while we went on with our day, a disturbed man was engaging in a hostile stand-off with the police at a motel a few blocks away from our hotel, claiming he had hostages. After several hours, the situation was resolved with nobody hurt, but we had no idea about what was going on until it was over.

To be honest, I was more concerned about the unsolved sword murder from earlier this week. That’s right, sword murder. As in, one man was found unconscious in an apartment in Yellowknife and another man was found dead, having been stabbed through the eye with a sword. I had no idea people even had swords these days. And police were being tight-lipped about what happened, possibly because they didn’t know either.

Welcome to the big city, Dorothy. We’re not in Kansas (Cambridge Bay) anymore.

oh, the ominous ravens of the Northwest Territories

It had been a harrowing flight to Yellowknife, as northern travel almost always is. We got to experience what it’s like to “try to land” in Kugluktuk – but failed to land, because of the cross winds and unfavourable runway conditions. The turbulence was violent enough to make me, a seasoned flyer, quite nauseous in my stomach. The terrified woman next to me asked me to hold her hand, and her grip was tight like a vice. I swear, leaving Cambridge Bay seems to always feel like an ordeal. Like you have to pass through some kind of glass wall, which really adds to the sensation of living in a snow globe.

But we had made it to Yellowknife, and the hardest part was over, so long as we weren’t going to get entangled in any police/hostage shoot outs or stabbings by sword.

a selfie at the Black Knight. It's not blurry. That's just how we look.

Yellowknife is beautiful in the winter

It's a little snowy outside

We decided to drive over to the Ndilo Dene First Nation Reserve to have lunch at the Smokehouse, a cosy little spot on the aboriginal reserve which serves as a training ground for cooks who then go on to work at the mining camps.

I got my fill of bison stew and something that was only described as “local smoked fish” (they didn’t specify what kind), both of which were delicious. They also had a turkey dinner available…and spring rolls, which I ate because it’s me we’re talking about. I enjoyed it thoroughly.

The next day, the restaurant shut down forever. Hmmm. I hope I do not have this effect on every place I go.

We then went dog sledding at Beck’s Kennels, which as far as I know, is still operating.

It may seem like a strange thing to do when we come down south from Nunavut, but there actually isn't any dog-sledding in the part of Nunavut where I live - although there are plenty huskies - so despite having lived up here for a little while, I've never gone dog sledding before.  The Inuit certainly did use dog sleds traditionally (and still do in other parts) but at least in Cambridge Bay, most folks use skidoos to pull their kamotiks (sleds).  Funnily enough, the huskies often now ride in the skidoo-drawn sleds, instead of pulling them.


 That's a lot of frozen dog pee

It was therefore pretty exciting for me to get the chance to go on a traditional dog sled ride in Yellowknife, although I certainly was not the only person in Yellowknife to have this idea.  I also was definitely not the only Asian person in Yellowknife to have this idea either.  The waiting room was filled with Japanese people, all geared up in their rented Canada Goose parkas, eating chips and watching Korean documentaries on the flat screen TV.  Yellowknife, by the way, is where I have seen the largest concentration of Japanese people in my whole life, having never been to Japan or the parts of Canada where Japanese people actually live.  They are almost all tourists here, excited to see the northern lights and the other great Canadian adventures. This is also probably why I actually really enjoy the sushi in Yellowknife.

I had envisioned this wonderfully romantic sleigh ride through the woods with my partner, and it was mostly romantic: me, and Rob, and the sled, and the dogs...and the driver...and the two random Japanese strangers they stuck on our sled with us, tucked awkwardly between my legs.

we can always crop out the photo, although this woman's camera was everywhere

I mean, it was awkward for me, but apparently not for the Japanese girls because they totally made themselves at home and at one point fell asleep on my chest.  The sleigh ride was that hypnotic and soothing, and I guess my parka was really soft.

The driver was made no conversation, keeping a sharp eye out on the dogs to make sure they followed the route. Occasionally he would call out at certain dogs to get back into line, yelling things like "Come on, Sadie!"  I'm kind of glad none of the dogs had the same name as me, because it would be kind of distracting and maybe less romantic if I was cuddling with my partner while the driver abruptly shouted "WATCH IT GLORIA."

The ride was really nice though, and the dogs took us over the frozen lakes and by the woods, and I really came to realize just how breathtaking Yellowknife is in the winter time. And all the extra bodies in the sled meant that we kept pretty warm throughout the ride.


Thursday, December 18, 2014

Brunch at the Explorer

(I realized that I had forgotten to publish this blog post from a little while back while I was in Yellowknife)
Brunch at the Trader's Grill at the Explorer Hotel is one of the fanciest brunches that exist in the North. I like brunch, and I like fancy, so we decided to check it out. 

The brunch buffet serves crabs, mussels, pork loin, pot roast, turkey. I decided to make my meal an art. Set a theme for each plate.  

The theme for my first plate is seafood and salad.

The theme for my second is Dinner For Breakfast. Turkey, stuffing, pork loins, mashed potatoes, roasted vegetables.

The theme for my third plate is Breakfast for Breakfast. Eggs Benedict, French toast, sausage, bacon. I am visibly slowing down at this point.

My final plate is Dessert for Breakfast. I have little memory at this point because I was so full. It's all a blur now. But it was delicious.

The whole time there is bizarre music being played while we eat. I'm talking dance music which feels disturbing at a brunch. Also, I am surprised at how disappointed I am that I can't order mimosas until 11. Otherwise though, this is a special kind of heaven, and definitely worth its price. You know what would make it worth its price even more? If I could find a way to linger here for hours until I get hungry again, so I can keep eating and eating and eating...

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

getting ready for Christmas in Cambridge Bay

It's starting to look a lot like Christmas around here. People have been showing their holiday spirit, even in a place like this, where it's pretty hard to get a full-grown Christmas tree, this far above the treeline. In fact, one man from Kugluktuk takes his snowmobile out down 60 kilometres to the treeline every year to get a real Christmas tree! The rest of us make do with little plastic ones.

I love this house's Christmas decorations!

 This house has Christmas lights on the back of their house too!

One of my favourite Christmas decorations is the house of William and Annie. Annie sells delicious bannock to me during the week. Every year for  the last ten years, the family likes to get together and make lovely little snow sculptures around their house.  

an igloo, an inukshuk, and a jolly snowman

Even their trash can is festive!

As for us, we had a party with our friends to celebrate Christmas and raise a bit of money for local needy families.


deejay station

 every Christmas party should have loot bags!

On another night, we had a little Christmas party in one of the hotel suites in town.

We even managed to get a roaring fireplace going, which isn't an easy accomplishment when there are no trees in the Arctic (and therefore no firewood).

The sun has stopped rising these days, but we do get these gorgeous twilight moments around noons that fills up the bay with these beautiful colours. The little bit of "daylight" is fleeting but its ephemeral quality makes me just appreciate it all the more.

the frozen Arctic ocean

the old Hudson Bay Company outpost

 the moon is already out at noon

 Baby, it's cold outside

Today I'm flying out down south to enjoy some "warm" winter weather. a couple of hours of daylight, and most importantly, some quality time with family and friends. Posts will probably somewhat infrequent over the holidays, but I hope you all enjoy yours!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Cambridge Bay Ultimate Frisbee

Did you know Cambridge Bay has an ultimate frisbee league?

Despite being a small town, Cambridge Bay has a lot of random things. Like Bangladeshi food take-out and a Reiki therapist (but still no sit-down restaurant or hair stylist).  Cambridge Bay has a pretty impressive selection of indoor recreational activities too, which are open to the public and generally free, including soccer, badminton, basketball, curling, volleyball, hockey, and table tennis. 

But my favourite is ultimate frisbee, probably because everyone is super-friendly rather than intimidatingly competitive. There's a wide range of skills, from people who have never played organized sports before to people who I suspect played professionally at some point but won't tell us about their glory days. The rules for the sport are easy enough to figure out quickly: you're trying to score by getting the frisbee to the other side (like football), but you can't run with the frisbee in your hand (like basketball) - you only have 8 seconds to hold it before you have to pass it to someone else. That might be like basketball, but I don't actually know the rules for basketball. Come to think of it, I don't really know the rules for football either.  But ultimate frisbee is easier.

Best of all, everyone's really supportive, since we're just all out to have a fun time while getting a bit of exercise.  It's particularly nice on cold winter days, when you've been cooped up at your desk all day and you just need a chance to run around...just not outside in the -50 winter weather.

First team to get 15 points wins

Ultimate frisbee is at the high school gym on Saturdays at noon, unless there's an event happening that day, in which case it's on Sunday at noon. It's also on Mondays at 8:30PM.  It also doesn't run during the summer, when the high school gym is closed to the public (but then you can just go kayaking).

I like to drink Slush during the games

playing ultimate frisbee in the pool

ultimate frisbee: one big party