Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Last Peep: What I Miss About Iqaluit

[Lorraine writes]: Our arctic adventure is over (for now). In September, we migrated back south to be closer to family. And pretty soon it will be time to take down this blog. But in the meantime, here is one last 'peep' from Northern Chirp.

Tonight I'm in the Bruce Peninsula area, travelling for work, and thinking about the eastern arctic while surrounded by a wintery Georgian Bay wonderland. Seeing snow-heavy trees bowed down under the weight of heavy wet whiteness, and watching the water on the bay crash against the shore makes me think of how this landscape is like the eastern arctic and yet not like it at all. Both areas are stark and dramatic and beautiful. Both feel rugged and remote in their own ways. I love the communities and people in both places.

There are a lot of differences, too. Like trees, which I missed a lot when living on Baffin Island. But there is a lot I miss about Iqaluit and Baffin Island.

Here is my list of top 10 things I miss about Iqaluit (feel free to add your own Iqaluit favourites in the comments!)

1. The people: Of course. What fantastic friends and colleagues we were blessed to 'hang around' with. The north really does attract adventurous, quirky, wonderful characters and I miss so many of the great folks up there.

2. The landscape: Baffin Island is incredibly beautiful in a stark, harsh, wide-open, huge way. I loved the vastness of the horizons, and the simplicity of the landscape.

3. The pace of life: I'm really missing the laid back Iqaluit pace right now, as we lurch our way through the glitzy consumer-bombardment, crazy-busy, elevator-Christmas-music-in-shopping-mall type Christmas in the south.

4. PolarMan: I loved living in a community where folks accepted the local superhero as ... the local superhero. And how could you not love PolarMan's big-as-the-arctic heart?

5. Music: We had a great couple years of weekend music jams, weekly community choir, Road to Nowhere Band jam sessions and gigs, high school jazz band rehearsals (for John), St Jude's organ gigs (for Lorraine), and the funnest of all: playing in the pit orchestra for the local production of Fiddler on the Roof. Where will I ever again see a Russian Cossack character played by a long-time arctic resident from the Caribbean sporting dreadlocks?

6. The Harbour: It changed every day. I never stopped marveling at how you couldn't see those 30 foot tides push the ice up and down when you sat still and watched but yet, somehow, you knew it was happening. (Particularly when the dog teams on the ice would rise and drop from view behind the wall of ice scrunched up along the shore). And then there was the thrill when the first ship made it through the ice at the end of June or beginning of July each year....

7. The Astro Theatre "Movie" Messages: Phoning the answering machine for the local movie theatre, not only to find out what movies were on and whether Brian liked them, but also to hear Brian's commentary on everything from pothole travesties to political issues of the day.

8. Fur: I get strange looks in Toronto when I wear my fur-trimmed parkas or fur scarf, but so far no spray paint (My colleagues at work warn me its only a matter of time ...) I loved all the gorgeous fur handwork you see in evidence on Baffin Island parkas, boots, mitts and clothes, and all the other ways in which people integrated traditional art forms into everyday life.

9. "Country" food: When I was growing up in Alberta, we called it 'game' meat. I loved the access to fresh caribou, char, seal, and whale. And (true confessions time) I really loved eating the meat raw in the traditional Inuit style. John was never as enthusiastic as I was about this. But then again I grew up with a mother who could skin a deer in no time flat and who made the best moose sausage you ever tried, so perhaps I come by my carnivorous ways honestly ....

10. Arctic late night strolls: Bundling up and walking home late at night from visits to friends (usually after music jams!) living in the Road to Nowhere or Tundra Ridge or Legoland areas - walking down the hill, usually cutting across country because you can walk on the hard packed snow, and sometimes (if you were lucky) being stopped in your tracks because you just had to look up to watch the northern lights.

10 Honourable mentions:
- The crazy taxi drivers
- The Snack
- Alianait
- Friday dinners at the Legion
- Blizzard days
- Arctic Ventures
- The thrill of getting the "Saturday" Globe Mail (usually late Sunday, often Monday)
- Going out onto the land or water, hunting or fishing, for Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit (IQ) Days at work
- Arctic blueberries (so tiny and so delicious)
- Two hour grocery shopping trips because you have to visit everyone you bump into at the store

Here are four things I won't miss:
1. Wearing snow pants for seven months of the year almost every time I went outside.
2. $1800 'economy' flights to get to Ottawa or Montreal.
3. Low speed "high speed" internet.
4. Having to wait three weeks for Canada Post to deliver a letter from anywhere else in the country, and two weeks for a 'priority post' package.

And that's my last peep on this blog.


indigo said...

wonderful list Lorraine. We have lived in Iqaluit and I totally agree with your list.

I would add: the availability of quality arts and crafts, the community of Apex, the willingness of the libray to buy new books, the sealskin seats in the ledge, the often nearly libelous and always hilarious editorials of Jim Bell, the food at the cafeteria in the hospital, Captain Compost aka Jim Little.

Your photo of the snowy owl is amazing, love it. Liked your blog, hope you are both doing well "down there."

Tara Muise said...

I've never heard him, but apparently the guy who leaves the movie messages at the Astro was 'let go' for joking around about First Air too much. Sticks-in-the-mud...

indigo said...

Hilarious, rather hard to let Byran Pearson "go" when he owns the place or maybe .............only in Iqaluit!