Thursday, January 30, 2014

the apocalypse starts here

It all started when my friends E. and C. contracted rabies.

They had been exposed to rabies when a small dog they had been caring for bit them a few times. They noticed that the dog was acting really funny, and when it died, they thought it wouldn't hurt to send it out to be tested for rabies. Surely it wouldn't be rabid, right? Wrong. It was rabid.  And so they underwent a series of many, many needles.

"Nothing to worry about," they assured us, laughing nervously. "I'm sure the rabies shots will kick in and we'll be fine."

We too were sure they were going to be fine. Still, at the party, we kept a safe distance from them and watched out for signs of sudden rage or twitching.

There have been some rabies problems in town lately, mostly brought in by the rabid Arctic foxes. I don't know how such cute things can be so deadly and diseased. In a particularly gruesome turn of events earlier last spring, some of the tied-up dogs in town were found to be strangled to death on their chains. It was assumed that the rabies infection from foxes had caused the dogs to do this to themselves.

This is how is begins, my friends.

A lot of communities in Nunavut deal with problems of packs of dogs running wild through the town.  Cambridge Bay is pretty good about keeping their dogs on a leash, but it also means the poor dogs can't really defend themselves when rabid foxes start going at them.  The by-law officer has been busy trying to deal with the foxes.  The sight of him chasing foxes down the middle of the street in broad daylight, wielding a shotgun, kind of reminds me of a good Western movie.

I used to think that Cambridge Bay would be a pretty safe place to be when the zombie apocalypse breaks out.  While the zombies ravage the densely populated cities of Los Angeles and New York, it would take forever for the zombies to make it all the way up here in the North. In the wintertime, they would be completely frozen. If they thawed out in the summertime, they'd have to cross the Arctic Ocean to get to our Arctic island.  And given that we're a four-kilometre wide community on an island the size of Great Britain, it would be pretty easy to miss us.  Also, a lot of us have guns and snowmobiles that run faster than zombies.

But then I began to wonder, as the rabies stories kept coming, what if the zombie apocalypse started here in Cambridge Bay? It would spread quickly. It would take a while for anyone to realize what was happening, because we'd all think it was just another case of rabies. And even once it dawns on us, we would be very, very reluctant to shoot our relatives and neighbours. It would just be a matter of one plane, one charter plane medi-evacuating one sick Patient Zero to Yellowknife, for the crisis to spread to the rest of the world.

Have you ever read the novel Rant by Chuck Palahniuk? How are you supposed to detect whether your teenage son has rabies? So he starts becoming twitchy, moody with violent outbursts, and adverse to showering. Would anyone notice the change in behaviour?

And then there was this notice on the Cambridge Bay News page:

There was some subsequent discussion about whether the wolf was really a wolf, or a white dog...or...something else?

Now I was getting nervous. Were we going to have to fight against zombies and werewolves at the same time?

I keep the wolf from the door but he calls me up

"Did you know that there is going to be a supermoon this friday?" my friend J mentioned casually.

"What is a supermoon?" I asked her as nonchalantly as possible. DO THEY PRODUCE SUPER WEREWOLVES, I wondered silently.

A Supermoon, as I found out, has nothing to do with my childhood superhero Sailor Moon. It's when the moon is closest to the Earth, causing it to appear bigger and brighter. Which is a great thing to have happen during a possible werewolf alert.

Happy Lunar New Year, suckers.

Come to think of it, if I was a vampire, I would probably hang out in the Canadian high Arctic too. You've seen 30 Days of Darkness. The total lack of daylight would be such a strong draw, I'm kind of surprised enterprising businessmen haven't already started catering to this idea with specialty northern resorts.

I should probably point out at this time that I would be completely useless in a zombie/werewolf/vampire attack.  I've never decapitated anyone/anything before. I am totally out of silver bullets. There are no trees in the Arctic, which means finding a wooden stake is kind of hard. Also, I can run kind of long distances but not very fast.  Being a slow endurance runner is more useful if you're the predator, not the prey.

And even if I did manage to temporarily fight off the ferociously ravenous zombies, werewolves, and vampires, how would I ultimately escape from the island? By walking over the Arctic Ocean to the Northwest Territories on the mainland? In -60 degree weather?

And now, schools have been reporting that there is a wave of children contracting head lice. Or at least they're telling us it's head lice.  I think the truth is out there. Time to barricade the doors, stock up on supplies, practice target shooting on Grand Theft Auto.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

pictures of snow

"IT'S SO COLD," my friends in Toronto told me. "It's feels like -18 degrees. It's this polar vortex. Thanks, Gloria, thanks," they say, with the same tone of voice that the Europeans used when thanking Iceland for spewing Eyjafjallajökul's volcanic ash all over the rest of Europe in 2010.  "MINUS EIGHTEEN," they repeated.

It was only -28 degrees here in Cambridge Bay that day. Compared to the -60 windchills we'd been dealing with earlier that week, today felt relatively pleasant with no wind, and I took even took a midday walk on the frozen ocean across the bay.

And then, in the evening, it began to snow.

It was finally warm enough to snow. It doesn't actually snow that much in this region, which comes as a surprise to a lot of people.  Technically this area is rock desert, with less annual precipitation than a lot of Canadian cities.  It also means, sadly, that we don't get a lot of blizzards. No blizzards mean no blizzard days - no days off work to go play in the snow.

Nevertheless, when it does snow, it's kind of fun to stand outside and watch it.  For a few minutes. Then you go back inside, because it's cold.

Come on, blizzard blizzard blizzard

When it's snowing like this, it's fun to play with the flash on my camera and capture all the snowflakes whipping through the air.

Monday, January 27, 2014

good old hockey game

Hockey's big here. When the adults' league plays their games, the stands are packed full of spectators.  They pay to watch, too. You wouldn't normally think to buy tickets to watch your boyfriend or brother play hockey, but here, this is the big game in town. Everyone comes out, buys a ticket, participates in the raffle draw, and take advantage of the canteen. It kind of has the feel of college football in small American towns.  

If only it was preceded by the tailgating tradition as well...but I suppose one might get a little chilly, hanging out with your snowmobile in the parking lot outside the rink in -50 degree weather, trying to get your barbecue going.  I suppose this is why tailgating isn't that much of a tradition in Canada, at least during Canadian winters.

not used to seeing crowds like this in CamBay

I feel like the hockey arena is the nicest building in the whole community.  It's only open in the winter time. In the summer time, the floor is all gravel. But during the hockey season, the rink is kept in immaculate shape for the town's favourite sport. 

taking care of the ice

There are three times in the league, and they take turns playing against each other. I am completely unfamiliar with the names of any of them. I tend to distinguish them by the colour of their jerseys.  

"Go Whites!" I'll say. "Get those Blacks!" 

And then I'll feel a little racist.

The hockey games are popular here. People will bring their entire families to watch their favourite sport. They'll call out to cheer and/or heckle their favourite players on the bench. Small rosy-cheeked children wrapped in fur parkas run around the bleachers, chasing each other with small hockey sticks, dreaming of the day they'll be old enough and good enough to play out on the big people's ice.

It gets cold in the bleachers. The arena isn't heated, and while the building keeps the wind out, it's important to remember that Cambridge Bay is -35 degrees outside even without the windchill.  We keep our snowpants and mitts on, and we bring thermoses of hot chocolate to keep us warm.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

forever sunset

The Kitikmeot has been transformed into a land of perpetual sunrise and sunset.  The breathtaking skylines remind me of a poem I used to love reading when I was a teenager.

who are you,little i

(five or six years old)
peering from some high

window;at the gold

of november sunset

(and feeling:that if day
has to become night

this is a beautiful way)

- e. e. cummings

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Kanata Rockeries

I went for a walk with my friend H through Beaver Pond Forest. It's a lovely nature spot where we often hung out as teenagers, and I even wrote a song about it once:

hockey on the frozen pond

Since my adolescence, the forest has been dramatically changed as developers have cut down the trees to build more houses in the neighbourhood. It's a shame to see how the development has spoiled the view - as well as the habitat for many of the animals that live there.

As we walked along the forest path and reached Goulbourn Forced Road (which used to be my favourite road until it got developed), I noticed a small neighbourhood nestled into the woods that I had never seen before. I could only see a few glimpses of houses, but they were all striking. We decided to go check it out.

It turns out that we had come across the Kanata Rockeries, a small private cul-de-sac hidden in the rocky woodlands away from the riffraff of the Kanata Lakes folks. Or, as I liked to think of it, a bourgeoisie Narnia.

This magical hidden land was developed by Bill Teron, the godfather designer of Kanata neighbourhoods. I guess Bill was tired of making normal homes in Kanata and decided to offer fancy custom homes for rich people.

These properties are much larger than the average subdivision lots in Kanata, and each of the houses are strikingly unique and incredibly imposing to the point of being intimidating. But safely hidden within the trees to keep away from the prying eyes of snooping joggers and bloggers. It's a notable difference from the cookie cutter, assembly line, plastic houses in other neighbourhoods in Kanata, developed by Urbandale and Minto and the like.  These houses have personality.  I guess it takes a million dollars to buy a personality.

I snooped, because I have a fascination with rich people's houses.

i'm trying to show you this world but the trees are cleverly standing in the way

Arches in the doorways! Who sees arch doorways in Kanata? 

Take a look at this real estate listing for one of the houses, for example.

"Property Highlights

  • Three Large Sky Domes

  • 3 TV's, Projector & Screen

  • Floor to Ceiling Windows

  • Papillon Black Granite Tub

  • Chair Lift

  • Property Description
    Truly one of a kind 'Frank Lloyd Wright' inspired architectural home. Custom designed and built  by 'Teron', this luxury home is nestled on a 1/2 acre private lot in the heart of prestigious Kanata Rockeries. At over 6,800 square feet, this home is loaded with architectural features such as three large pinnacle sky domes, floor to ceiling windows and massive rooms with 13 foot ceilings. You must come and experience this masterpeice!"

    Not one, but THREE large sky domes. Because one sky dome isn't enough.  And, like, the house is so fancy that you don't even start off your highlights with "Guys, I'm rolling" but "Yeah, I have Three Large Sky Domes". Because these are guys are rolling. So rolling they can afford to have floor to ceiling windows, screw whatever the heating bill will come out to be. So rolling that these houses are completely brick; none of that plastic siding stuff. So rolling that they can spell "masterpeice" however the heck they want.  So rolling that they can talk about their Papillon Tub and people will just nod and pretend to know what a Papillon Tub is.

    Really, you gotta head over there and see this street for yourself. If you can find it.

    Monday, January 20, 2014

    the arctic is cold.

    It's cold these days.  Like, "-60 degrees with the windchill" cold. Even the local Inuit folks are complaining it's cold. It's cold enough that Cambridge Bay has a wind chill warning:

    "Frostbite on exposed skin may occur in less than 2 minutes."

    This can be perilous, seeing how I've taken up a bad habit of walking outside with my jacket open, wearing no snowpants over my tights (yes I still wear dresses and tights), figuring a short walk to the truck.  You'd think with the windchill warning I'd take the time to properly dress myself, but I've been enjoying the windchill warning as a fun challenge to dash out the front door, run to the truck, unplug the truck from the wall with my bare hands, and jump into passenger's side, all under 2 minutes before the frostbite sets in. It'll take a lot to make me stop wearing tights and wear real pants.  Besides, maybe peculiar frostbite marks will become the new cool thing, like the new kind of tattoo.

    Meanwhile, Toronto complains about have to work in -40 degree weather.

    The annoying part of this cold weather is that your body shifts into survival mode.  The cold makes you hungry. You can eat and eat and never feel full. MUST ACQUIRE BODY FAT, your brain tells you urgently. EAT SOMETHING.

    But I just ate something, you protest weakly.


    Er, I'd rather not, you say. I'm actually trying to lose the body fat I gained while gorging on buffets in Mexico.


    The grocery stores have moved back into "winter" mode, with winter prices and winter produce conditions.  The tomatoes turn quickly, the bananas somehow manage to be both green and bruised, there is no tofu, and we haven't seen any chicken breasts in a while.  A lot of things, like mushrooms and green onions, just aren't there.  It depends on what day you shop though.  You gotta catch these things on a day when the plane has been able to land.  Some people poke their heads into the grocery store every day, on their coffee break or during lunch, just to see what's there. However, Christmas chocolate has gone on sale for fifty cents, making my survival mode brain very happy.

    On the bright side, the sun has started to rise again.

    there it is


    and now it's gone already

    In other news, the Globe and Mail recently published an entire edition about the Arctic. In this article, writer Ian Brown goes on a sleigh ride in Cambridge Bay and talks about how cold it is at -25 degrees.

    Friday, January 17, 2014

    playa del carmen

    Un jour, nous prenons un pause de rester sur la plage and nous décidons de prendre un taxi et explorer Playa del Carmen.

    Il y vingt ans, Playa del Carmen était un petit village de pêcheurs avec un population de trois cent. Maintenant, c'est une destination populaire de 150,000.  La zone touristique est plein de vendeurs qui inviter les passants à faire du shopping.  Normalement, je prétends que je ne comprends pas l'anglais, mais c'est plus difficile à faire ca avec mon mari là.

    Comme le nom, Playa del Carmen a un belle plage avec sable blanc, près des bars et restaurants en bord de mer, qui offrent la bière et fruits de mer.

    Et tous les autres attractions tropicales.

    including a gay bar called 69 on top of the 7Eleven

    Wednesday, January 15, 2014

    the Mayan ruins of Tulum

    Our guide Anna is actually of Aztec descent.  "Aztec is better," she tells us, as she shows us around the Mayan ruins of Tulum. "But don't tell the bus driver."

    A lot of people don't realize that although the Mayan civilization died out, the Mayan people themselves are still around. They're the ones driving our buses, cleaning our hotel rooms, blending in with the rest of the Mexicans.  Anna says Mayans don't look like the rest of the Mexicans though. There's a lot of theories about where Mayans come from. Asia? Other parts of the Americas? Some even think they might be aliens. 

    Me, I can see the theory about Mayans being originally Asians. They were pretty smart.  Not only did they have a writen language, unlike anyone else in the Americas at the time, but they were obsessed with calculating things, especially time.  Despite being an ancient civilization, they had developed a calendar that was more precise than ours. They didn't need leap years to adjust the calendar. Of course, if Asians are all good at math, I'm clearly not Asian. Anyway.  With their super advanced math and science skills, they built some pretty amazing stuff.

    It was pretty amazing to see how they build these structures that are still around, thousands and thousands of years later.  In a beautiful landscape too.


    Right outside of the ruins was a beautiful beach, right by one of the largest coral reefs in the world. Unlike Coba and Chichen Itza, two other popular Mayan ruins, the ruins of Tulum is located right on the coast.

    I would have loved to have the chance to swim and snorkel there, but the wind and the waves were too strong that day, so I just had to watch from afar.

    There were also some ruins on the beach by our hotel as well. They were a lot smaller, but still made for a fun photo shoot.

    Is this an outhouse?