Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Cambridge Bay's weight room

A lot of people thinking of moving to Cambridge Bay ask me if the community has a fitness facility. It was one of the first questions I had when I moved here. We do in fact have a weight room. It's a pretty modest size one, about the size of a living room and dining room, nothing like the expansive Atii fitness facility that Iqaluit has, but it has most of the essentials.  

For cardio equipment, there are two ellipticals and a reclined exercise bike. There's also a treadmill, but it's been broken for over a year now (it tends to give runners an electric shock) so it's mainly a big coat rack.

The treadmill is a good place to hang your parka

There are also a number of free weights and weight machines.  Occasionally some kids will break in and steal random things or move them around, but the gym is generally equipped with what you need for a basic workout, including mats.

To get access to the gym, you can buy a pass at the Hamlet office. It's about $45 per month, and you'll receive a fob pass which you use to swipe to gain entry into the weight room.  The weight room is open from 6AM to 11PM.

The gym is generally not very busy. You'll often be the only person working out there, unless you go during the busier hours between 4PM and 6:30PM. During those hours, it's a great social place to meet new people. That's where I met my friend Christine, who is now the other half of my band Scary Bear Soundtrack. There are limited opportunities to run into people randomly in Cambridge Bay, so going out to exercise after work has a number of benefits.

The town is currently raising funds to build a multi-use recreation complex which will include a bigger weight room.

Recently someone installed these speakers so now you can listen to the local radio station while lifting weights

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Cafe Europa

Cambridge Bay doesn't have a coffeeshop, which is too bad. One of the few things I miss the most when I live in the north is the ability to go sit at a coffeeshop, eat a baked good and chat with friends.

Cambridge Bay does, however, have Cafe Europa, which is an ongoing fundraiser held at Kiilinik High School to help raise money to send high school students on a trip to Europe to learn about European history. Every Friday morning, the students bring in baked goods that they sell  along with coffee, and you can sit down at the table they set up in the hall and enjoy your treats while talking to other folks from around town.  Just like at a Starbucks! It starts around 8AM and ends when the school day and work day starts, so you can grab a coffee and a muffin right before you head to the office. Once in a while, if we're lucky, Mason will come in with his espresso machine and make lattes.

It's a good opportunity to socialize with other folks in Cambridge Bay, especially the teachers. There are limited social opportunities in a place with no bars or malls, so this is how we meet new folks in town and catch up with each other on the latest gossip. And it goes towards a great cause, allowing the students in Cambridge Bay to have an experience of a lifetime overseas.

Cafe Europa happens on Friday mornings from 8:00AM to approximately 9AM at Kiilinik High School.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The docks in winter

I went for a walk one bright, sunny but still cold afternoon. I headed down to the docks to enjoy the view of the frozen Arctic ocean in winter time.

Last week had been a tough week for the community of Cambridge Bay. During the first weekend, some people had broken into Kalgen's Dis & Dat, our local convenience store, stealing cigarettes and fireworks, and causing so much damage that the store has remained closed ever since in order to deal with it. There were also a number of troublesome events that weekend that involved alcohol and drugs which disturbed the community.

Then we were hit with the three day blizzard. It was bad enough that most of us were stuck inside our homes, conserving water and waiting out the storm, slowly growing more and more irritable, but during the blizzard there was a rash of break-ins.  Some people took a crow bar and broke through the wall to break into the Elks building, the only place in town where we can drink alcohol, and they stole a large quantity of alcohol.  It seems the same people also broke into the post office, and caused further extensive damage, ripping open everyone's mail, presumably in search of drugs to steal. The post office has also remained closed all week.  With the post office and the convenience store forced to stay closed, we could not receive or send mail, nor did we have a place to buy basic supplies like Tylenol after the grocery stores closed at 7PM.

Everyone felt disgusted by these actions and I think disturbed that such terrible things had happened in our community. A lot of people spoke out about condemning these actions, even people that normally have a very positive outlook.

So for me, it was nice to get out of the house after the blizzard and enjoy the sunny weather, out on the ice, far away from where these awful crimes had happened.

It's not obvious where the ocean is in the winter time when everything is frozen. You could easily mistake the frozen ocean as more land.  But the sight of the ships and boats frozen in the ice is unmistakable, and a very beautiful sight to see.  The larger majestic ships like the Martin Bergmann looked frozen not just in the ice but in time as well.

more boats parked at ht dock, waiting for the spring thaw

Is that a stick? Nope, we don't have trees here. Someone left their foot here!

I also came across a patch of ice with shells from fireworks that had been set off. Presumably these were the individuals who broke into the convenience store. I wonder if they were caught.

In other news, a newspaper from Greenland, the Arctic Journal, recently published my piece about Cambridge Bay's blizzard last week! You can read it here.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Food bank fundraiser - coffeehouse in Cambridge Bay

On Saturday, we held a fundraiser for the food bank.  We've done it before. We hold a bake sale in the community hall, where people can come in and enjoy yummy treats while listening to live music.  We usually play a few songs, but we make it an open mic so anyone in town can come on stage and display their talents.

This time, the regular organizer had to pull out because of a family medical issue, so Christine and I ended up taking over so that the event could still happen. I was worried for a while because I'm not as experienced in bringing the community together and rounding up volunteers, but luckily it went well. We had volunteers come in to help set things up and sell the baked goods, and people came in to bring their donations of baked goods.  It felt like the whole turn showed up to the event. We sold out of our baked goods completely. People also brought in non-perishable goods to donate directly to the food bank. Some people came by just to donate cash for the food bank, without even buying anything. We were able to raise quite a bit of money for the food bank.

Vicki's fancy coffee

We also sold hot dogs and chili (in a KFC container)

playing with our guest musician Talia Magsagak

The little girls loved our cover of a song from Frozen


A performance by local musician Ashley Otokiak, who is blind

It was really touching to see the generosity of folks in Cambridge Bay, especially after the wave of crime sprees that happened last week involving vandalism of the local businesses. I feel really proud to be part of this kind and caring community.

I recently published a piece on CBC about how we can start addressing the food insecurity issue in Nunavut.  Supporting the local infrastructures that already exist to help needy families, like the food bank, is one great start. Of course, we need to do more than just donate to the food bank, like addressing the root causes, but it felt good to have a chance to contribute to the community.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

The end of the blizzard

(continued from yesterday's account of the blizzard)

After the blizzard: Cambridge Bay has a lot of snow to shovel

When we woke up on Wednesday morning, the blizzard was still raging...but we could tell it was getting tired out. At least we could see the houses on the other side of the street.  The schools and offices were closed again for the morning, but we all felt hope in the air.

And finally the weather cleared up. The announcements were made that the government offices would open again in the afternoon, and schools were also running. The Hamlet office announced that municipal services were running again, but it could take up to two more days before water could be delivered to all the houses. Still, the sun was out, the blizzard warning was lifted, and it was warming up to a balmy -33 degrees outside with the windchill. It hasn't been that warm since November.

I embraced the warm weather and went outside for a walk. The snow drifts were impressive and daunting, but the snow ploughs were already hard at work.  The water and sewage trucks were on the roads (I tried to flash them a charming smile to direct them to my house first, but they were busy).  Kids were out in their yards playing, and teens were busy making money shovelling porches.

 Ploughing snow must feel like a Sisyphusian effort sometimes here in the Arctic

Hey boys, come over to our place!

Poor dog


It was really neat to see similarities between the snow drifts piling up against the houses after the blizzard, and the sand-covered abandoned houses I saw in the African ghost town of Kolmanskop in Namibia.

Arctic / Africa

 Namibia / Nunavut

Thank God the blizzard finally ended. The pile of dishes in my sink was getting to be overwhelming. We were out of utensils and had no more space left in our kitchen. After three days without showering, we were starting to stink. I could practically visibly see the stink lines rising from my body, like the Peanuts character Pigpen.

You could tell the whole town had been slowly going a little antsy with cabin fever.  The normally polite and inspiring Cambridge Bay News Facebook group was exploding in flame wars as people got on each other's nerves. I suppose it was the modern equivalent of the old days when people were cramped in an igloo, waiting the storm out, and getting into arguments.  Or...you know, when a family got snowbound in an old haunted hotel during the off-season and all work and no play makes Jack...something something...

My father-in-law was also stuck in blizzard on his farm in Prince Edward Island, with the snow piling up to 10 foot canyons. His wise words of advice to surviving the blizzard were, "Remember as long as the internet is up, you are not alone." It's true. It really did suck to go from Sunday to Wednesday without a shower or running water, but I think we would have all gone crazy, like in the Shining, if we didn't have Facebook and Netflix.

We had spent a lot of our snowbound time watching Wentworth Prison. It was interesting to watch a TV show about a prison while stuck in your house during the blizzard. On the bright side of things, being stuck in your hours for even a week is nowhere near as bad as being stuck in a stabby prison for 12 years. On the other hand, even prisons have working toilets and running water...

But even so, our time during the blizzard made me really reflect on what we do with our day.  To be honest, a lot of us up north secretly crave a blizzard day: a day where school and work is cancelled and we are suddenly given the unexpected freedom do to what we want for the rest of the day. Now's that chance to read the book we've been meaning to read, or try that new work out, or make a delicious slow-cook meal, or clean the house inside out. But the reality is, after a day or so, you get tired of this so-called freedom and become impatient to go back to the old routine.  For some reason, we no longer have the energy to attack that to-do bucket list - especially when you have to conserve water - and then you find yourself lying on the couch, sedating yourself with eight hours of Wentworth Prison.

So when the blizzard died down and we could finally go out, it felt glorious to feel the sun on our face.  It didn't matter that it was -33. I felt warm! I felt alive.

This dog broke loose from his chain during the blizzard

Ready to play

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

My last Arctic blizzard (I hope)

Saturday teased us with a minor storm, but by Sunday night, there was a blizzard warning up about an upcoming blizzard due to hit a big chunk of the territory.  As we went to bed, we kept looking out the window, wondering if it was really going to come. It seemed so calm and clear outside.

Sure enough, the blizzard did hit overnight. On Monday morning, we woke up to howling winds gusting to 100 km/h, a windchill of -50 and near zero visibility. Once again, all government offices, schools, and many of the major businesses were closed. It was a blizzard day! And what's more, the weather forecast predicted that the blizzard was going to last until later Wednesday morning. 

start your day right, shovelling your car out of the snow drift, while your wife helpfully takes photos

John Deere to the rescue!

Always have friends in high places..and by "in high places" I mean with heavy machinery equipment

The municipal government of Cambridge Bay advised us to conserve water, so no washing dishes, no doing laundry, no flushing the toilet and no showers, because if we ran out of water, we weren't going to get any more water provisions until Wednesday morning.

But conserving water is a lot harder to do when you've got the stomach flu. You can't not flush the toilet. And eventually, a hot bath would do some healing wonders. But...all of that requires water.

Some of my friends from down south tell me that it's been a fantasy of theirs to be snowbound in an isolated cabin with a lover. How romantic it would be to spend the night together, with only each other for company, keeping each other warm. Like right out of a romance novel.

No one's getting around town during this blizzard exccept the skidoos

Let me tell you now, it's a myth. Sure, it's pretty awe-inspiring to watch the blowing snow. But going days without washing will make you less eager to hold your partner in your arms. Watching TV on separate couches on opposite sides of the room seems more desirable. And you can only inspire so much romance after yet another day of wiping yourself down with Wet Ones.  It was bad enough that I had to trek through the blizzard in search of toilet paper.

So I ended up spending three hours melting snow to draw a bath. This was quite the process. I have no idea how people did this during the olden days.  First I had to go out into the 100km/h gusts of winds to gather up the snow into as many large basins I could find. Then I had to melt it all on the stove.  That's where you realize just how dirty snow is.  Leafs, grass, animal fur, and even dead mosquitoes from the summer. It doesn't help that I suspect Rob has been using that snowbank as an ash tray.  The process took forever, and I didn't even end up filling up the tub halfway. Also, it felt as though you'd actually come out of the tub dirtier than when you went in because of all the animal fur that was in the snow.

It was such an annoying process that I decided I wouldn't do it again the next day. My plan was to trek through the blizzard to go into town to buy water and then haul it back home on a sled.

 Unfortunately, the next day the blizzard had gotten worse. You couldn't see the houses across the street. There was no way I was going to be able to make it into town, and even if I could, the weather was now so bad that even the stores had closed - and that's something, because the stores rarely closed.

Looks like it was going to be another day of watching Netflix and not showering.

It was amazing to see the difference between the first day's blizzard and the second.

Blizzard Day 1 vs. Blizzard Day 2

March 15
March 16
March 17

I don't  remember what my backyard looks like any more

We settled in for the night. The blizzard was going to continue for third day...
(to be continued)

 Greetings from the Cambridge Bay blizzard

(Part 2 of my blogging about the blizzard can be found here)