Sunday, December 29, 2013

As 2014 Approaches

The end of the year is time for wrapping up the loose ends. Time to take down the tree and put away the Christmas decorations, pack for work and…..update this blog. And since I'm an expert at
Noooo, don't go and leave me
procrastination (as evidenced by the infrequent postings) I am blogging so as to not have to dig out the ornament boxes just yet. Gary will be very depressed when that lovely piece of outside has been returned to it's point of origin. And I must agree that I enjoy sitting in the glow of the lights reading - reminds me of quiet times, especially those years with little ones when I would get up to feed the baby and we'd both enjoy the peace and quiet. The dog isn't too pleased with those duffle bags coming out either. I am 'perhaps' going to be able to manage with only duffle - this being the outcome of storing a LOT of my stuff in Taloyoak. I have plans to do my non perishable grocery shopping here and schlep it across Canada as my action packer is home anyway and might as well travel full. This will cut down the shopping/packing time in Edmonton and allow for more pleasurable pursuits. I will be the courier for things left here and fresh seafood which will only have to be transported to the prairies so room for last minute gear reshuffling. The main problem is the arctic wear which takes up a lot of room and won't be needed until……the arctic. Well, if western temperatures are still frigid - perhaps not. 

I received my e-ticket just before the holidays and the chosen early leave on January 2nd (to allow for more on the ground time in Edmonton) will likely mean an all-nighter the night before, what with the drive to the airport, leaving the car with a nursing school classmate to keep (yes I opted for snow tires even though I'm storing it - still have to get to and fro), a short cab ride to the airport and then the checkin process. The job is great but I'm glad I only do the commute six times per year. I'm pumped as I found a pair of sport earphones on sale which should stay in my ears while I plane sleep - this prevents the ear phone plug falling out and me being awakened by the wails of an unhappy infant. When I received my CSA (contract service agreement) to sign I had forgotten that we'd received a raise in October so was pleasantly surprised with my hourly wage. With the tight profit margins and struggles of moving a luxury product such as lobsters in a shaky economy, the shore captain was impressed too. I've downloaded some e-books and found four best sellers which have been on my 'to read list' for a total of $20, a great buy although one which I'll not likely take advantage of until the Mexican beach in March. I did read And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini (author of Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns) in two evenings - found it as good as Kite Runner. It was a loaner from one of my summer neighbours and it felt slightly strange to hold a hardcover book in my hands again.

Red neck tree
Tuxedo and bowtie
We had a wonderful (if quieter than last year) Christmas. The boy and his lady friend were over for Christmas supper and we skyped the western girls then. The lad created a red neck Christmas tree for their place from a wire lobster trap (seen here on the left - isn't he crafty?) which is sturdier than a tree with their rescued American bulldog. He saved a starfish and dried it for the top of his buoy (each has a unique design) which it is mounted on. On Boxing Day we had the daughter and son-in-law from the city in for lunch and another Skype date with the western girlies. Everyone was pleased with the infinity scarves I had created and the bow tie I crocheted for Gary (seen here on the right) was a hit as well. We had lovely gifts (for the most part consumable - great and almost completely consumed already) and very thoughtfully selected/created. I 'may' share my Ironworks raspberry liqueur or…….not. Had a David's Tea cracker which came with a Earl Grey Cream, a teabag to brew it in, a riddle and a crown to wear - cute! The baby daughter made a tree ornament using her university grad photo and it hangs next to the grade primary one she created in PLT Elementary - priceless. The fourth daughter (as I have taken to calling the boy's partner) and her mother made a lovely ribbon wreath for my door which were popular this year. The shore captain received a quart bottle of Wisers Deluxe whiskey (worth $63 when I searched it online through NSLC) from the man he rescued - apparently that was what he felt his life was worth, which was a thoughtful thankful. All in all, very well done. 

The weather has been snowy, cold, windy and icy (good practice for next week) and now mild. I have been attempting to get out with the dog as much as possible before I leave. She will be regularly walked by very competent and loving local ladies but I will be making cold, hunched over dashes to the store, not relaxing walks until the end of February so will miss that. As I had passed a house up the road where there is occasionally an aggressive rottweiller (not for some time as the idiot grandson who owns it has been banned from it being at the house as VON visit his grandfather) I realized the barking was coming from the creature sitting on the edge of the driveway. Ah yes, no VON visiting likely over the holidays. Now, since my bodyguard friend (who chases this dog without a brain and huge jaws back up into the yard) wasn't with me, I stewed about what to do as I had to walk past on my return. Just before I approached the house I shortened the dog's leash and crossed the road - I am an animal lover but I do admit to wishing for a passing vehicle to solve my attack dog problems. Since our senior dog is deaf now she just blithely trots along, oblivious to the aggressive barks and only reacts when rushed or bitten. So, of course as I passed the driveway this creature launches itself at full speed down the drive and across the road at us barking, snarling, growling, teeth snapping and frothing at the mouth. I grabbed my dog and screamed prompting the owner to call out "Josie come back here" which she reluctantly did as I dragged our canine down the highway. "Andy, so help me!" I promised/threatened the petty criminal putting his 4wheeler on the trailer in the yard. Why would you want to keep such a creature I ask myself?

So, enough putting it off, time to climb the ladder and start dismantling the tree. Gary has already begun with a few of the bells which he is quite fond of. If I don't put away the festive decor….it will still be here looking at me the end of February when I return, reminding me of the Christmas decorations in seniors' places in July when I used to visit doing home care. Have been invited to supper this evening at our German chef's place and our buddy has offered to be our designated driver so we will sample some of our Christmas gift wine. 

The next post will most likely be from north of 69 degrees when I'm settled in - fingers crossed for good connections. If there have only been two nurses in over the holidays, I shall be a welcome sight. The northern nurse casuals are heading back in to contracts over the next little while as most of us have been (through good planning) home for Christmas - a luxury not afforded nurses any other way. One of my former co-workers advised she was doing a contract in Tuktoyaktuk, NWT which I was surprised to find was connected by winter aka ice road to Inuvik - only semi-isolated then :) 

What is your 2014 New Years resolution? Mine is to study Spanish every day. With the upcoming schedule it may be only a few minutes but every day is the plan. Gotta get myself together is I'm going to do a short mission in Honduras in April. What is yours?

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Rescue Ranger and more

Yes, yes I still post to this blog. And no, I can't say that holiday preparations are keeping me from posting as I have been doing very little of what is traditionally done time of year. I'm actually enjoying it - the not sending Christmas cards, baking, shopping for gifts etc. This stormy afternoon I am sitting in front of the fireplace enjoying a cup of Santa's secret tea (Davids Teas) in a Christmas mug with the dog snoring beside me. The tree is up (braced to the wall as the tree stand is cracked) and it and the house are decorated so at least there is the appearance of keeping up with traditions. 

The schedule has been the usual regular of busy morphing to frantic at times. After returning from the cruise, the shore captain of course hit the ground running and then there was the hurry up and wait situation with the lobster season delayed five days due to windy, rough weather - the longest delay ever enforced. Unfortunately the catches in our area are significantly reduced from recent years - many being  1/2 to 1/3 of last year. Tough start for the boy captain with a new boat to pay for, but as he said "I'm lucky that Dad has halibut quota for me to catch as back up". And the price with the supply/demand situation has stayed higher than last year. He's been involved with the industry long enough to know about the highs and lows and although distracted is handling the situation better than the former generation if you catch my drift. This negative trend will likely only increase the westward out  migration from this area of recent years.

A bit of excitement at the beginning of the season where the shore captain practiced his rescue ranger skills. I heard him in the mud room on Sunday morning and found him wearing his camo bib overalls and jacket (nothing else - sorry for the visual that creates) and when I asked about his clothes, he pointed to a wet mound on the back step. Apparently an older man who was in an outboard fell overboard into the frigid water and was slowly sinking. So the shore captain dives in and tows him to the lobster car (no not something lobsters drive, but a large floating holding dock with cages in the water) and his coworker helps haul him out. The outboard which was going in circles was eventually stopped by being blocked with a larger boat which drove it up over the lobster car. The shore captain having had multiple dunkings was prepared for the icy blast but…as I picked up his insulated coveralls to throw them in the washer the top unzipped pocket (where he carries his cell phone) alerted me to the fact that he had likely killed another one (we think, although he denies this, that he's had over 25 phones in the past 20 years - he's never qualified for an upgrade by keeping one two years since he's been carrying them) and hadn't even gotten his contacts into this one since the last 'it fell in the bilge of the boat' episode after returning from the cruise. He could at least be excused for killing this one in the name of a good cause.

Speaking of all things western, we had a great pre-holiday visit with the oldest daughter as she was home for three weeks - managed to extend her ticket fairly painlessly. She did miss some pretty nasty weather out there, although there's been more since of course. We got to do lots of Frenchy shopping, visiting and took in A Christmas Carol done as a musical at Neptune - great girls night out! So lots of good stuff to carry over the holidays spent away. She is back to the -30c weather and shovelling her way into job sites but the work will slow down for the holiday break so putting in the hours now. And it will be less than three weeks before I am winging my way back to work and visiting along the way. The new situation this year is that her baby sister in Saskatchewan will be near enough for celebrating with - she (as a new grad is of course working Christmas) managed to have a schedule where she does LD on Christmas Eve and LN on Christmas Day so lots of turkey time in there. And of course there's always Banff (sigh of envy) for New Years for them.  I think my New Years Day will be spent putting away Christmas decorations so they're not looking at me the end of February when I return.

Whale shark at the Aquarium
The girls get away to Atlanta was a resounding success (of course) and we explored (CNN, World of Coca Cola, Georgia Aquarium,
Iron lung at the CDC Museum
CDC Museum, Margaret Mitchell House, Atlanta History Centre, Fernbank
Museum of Natural History),
foyer at Swan House
Swan Coach House dessert
ate, watched the movie Philomena (highly recommend it) shopped, laughed and generally avoided the holiday furor. We were booked to fly December 3rd and as we arose at 3 am to begin our trek to the airport I made one last check of the email only to find that…..the flight was cancelled - so I quickly alerted the travel partner before she came to the house. Apparently this cancellation was due to the midwestern winter storm as we were flying through Chicago. It felt a bit like a Curious George book - you remember the little monkey with all the adventures? - where unfortunately George fell out of a plane, fortunately there was a haystack, unfortunately there was a pitch fork, fortunately he missed it etc etc. So, the original 8:30 am flight with United was cancelled and then further emails advised that we were rebooked the following afternoon at 4 pm through LaGuardia. The electrician daughter (who was retrieving the vehicle) advised that we should ask for an earlier rebooking. I phoned United and asked if we could extend our trip on the other end as we were missing over 24 hours of it with the cancellation, this brought the offer of rebooking us earlier on another airline - quick acceptance of that suggestion. The agent found a flight with Delta flying through LaGuardia with a shorter layover and leaving at 9 a.m. so after 40 minutes on the line where the agent was having "some issues" with getting the tickets issued an email ticket arrived and we were off. Very foggy drive (should've been our first clue) to the airport, quick goodbye to the daughter and up to US departures. The Delta and United desks are beside each other so we approached Delta and asked the agent to switch our tickets. Mine went through without much hassle but my travel partner's boarding pass had a technical glitch. This required me calling United and giving the Delta agent my cell phone where she attempted for over an hour to clear up the problem - this because she was told the United agent at the desk about three feet away was not allowed to issue a new boarding pass because I had gotten the new ticket over the phone. Now practically this is the only way to rebook when you are a three hour drive from the airport, but I digress. At first I was concerned that we were going to miss the 9 a.m. flight but then it became unfortunately clear that the flight was delayed until noon time. Gave us time to eat breakfast downstairs, read the paper and whine on FB about the delay. In the end a paper ticket/boarding pass was issued to my buddy - we remembered when those actually existed. Though checkin, security - I really resent having to take my shoes off for US security as I think it is disgusting - cleared customs and in to the departure lounge. Further delay as the plane is late but finally out across the drizzly tarmac (no jetport for those express jets) and on board. All settled in and ready for departure when the flight attendant announces "we have a problem and everyone has to deplane and take all their belongings with them to wait in the entranceway while security searches the plane". We looked at each other thinking this was a joke - nope - and my travel buddy used some colourful language. I had to remind her that was the mouth she kissed her granddaughter with! The search was completed and we reboarded being told to check at LaGuardia about connections. Uneventful flight and landing, shuttle to another terminal and into the departure lounge and on to the next flight arriving in Atlanta only an hour later than originally planned. We conquered the public transit system which is a combination of buses and trains, enjoyed the milder temperatures and friendly people and had a wonderful trip! On our return flight through Chicago (yes it was the cold and windy city) I sat next to a lady from NS who was returning from Palm Springs and got stuck for two days in Chicago. She mentioned a local person who she'd been a good friend of growing up and I knew who she meant so took her business card and made contact with her to reconnect them upon my return - more of that small world stuff.

A flurry of activity after returning from the getaway week as the planning for the plant staff Christmas party ramped up. The menu was seafood chowder / curried squash soup for the non seafood guests / lobster or plain mac n cheese / meatloaf with veggie sauce / cheesecake with blueberry or strawberry sauce. A chef buddy and a friend came to help for the afternoon / evening and we fed twenty with a good time had by all. I had done a couple of photo books for the moose hunt participants and they were well received.

I have been looking into a volunteer mission to Honduras in the spring and am applying for one April 12 - 19th which will fit in nicely with my 'at home' time. Good experience before a tropical nursing course next year. So my New Years resolution is going to be……study Spanish cada dia. Speaking of which…..

Monday, November 25, 2013

It was bound to happen

Well…….two and a half weeks to update the blog isn't my personal best (at least I don't think it is) but it's likely close. Had to be reminded by a visiting daughter yesterday to "post to the blog". She's just into the teacher routine of preparing report cards and lesson plans and has no recollection of how difficult it is to be off work for two months. I've been not so gently reminded by the other visiting daughter who is taking a couple of weeks vacation to "not talk about not working"as it's unpopular with the rest of society. I'll just say that yoga this afternoon with retired folks and walking the dog were my only concrete plans for the day. 

First to recap - the cruise was wonderful. We'd been a bit concerned as the fall can be rainy in the caribbean but we had great weather. Enjoyed the Doubletree Suites at Gallery One (thank you Hotwire) in Fort Lauderdale which was across from a Publix store so we picked up some wine to enjoy on the trip. We did have a wet evening as we headed out to Chima, the Brazilian steak house, which by the way was fantastic! Embarkation day was grey but we made sure to catch the shuttle from the hotel over to cruise port early to enjoy the Westerdam. Five or six ships leaving that day as Fort Lauderdale is the third busiest cruise port in the world, so not unexpected. Stateroom 4130 was large with a generous balcony on the port side and it is worth the extra $100 for the week to have a balcony in the tropics. The staff were great (as usual) with 60% being Indonesian while 35% were Filipino. Great room steward and dining room waiter (who was going home in two weeks to meet his newborn son and was very excited at finding himself a dad) - this was the first time the shore captain and myself had seated dining for the late setting. He apparently must've agreed to this when booking the trip (as it was he who made the arrangements) and was not impressed to find this was the case on the first evening, but was unable to blame anyone else for it. It turned out to be a very compatible table of six with a couple from Ohio - a lawyer and dental hygienist and another from New Jersey - a podiatrist and pharmacist who we spent a fair bit of time with. We enjoyed three wine tastings on board with a very down to
champagne tasting
earth sommelier who said "good wine is what you like" and learned more from his very matter of fact talks than in all previously. We caught two shows, one with wonderful blues singer / band and another of a magician/comedian and visited the jazz lounge one evening. Enjoyed the speciality restaurant (The Pinnacle) with the New Jersey couple and had a great meal at the Italian restaurant (The Canaletto) where the Capt. and his wife ate as well, but since I eat supper with the captain every night, it takes a lot to impress me. In discussion over supper we decided that there were cutbacks, and apparently the same comments from those who had cruised with Princess. Certainly not terrible, but likely a result of trying to keep the prices down. I can't say that I noticed this with Norwegian in the spring though. Sea days are always nice and we had two of those to enjoy our own personal wine on the balcony - could've done without the clouds of marijuana smoke from the balcony above and the deaf 80 yr old nudists on the next balcony over but… was a cultural experience. Managed to finish The Virgin Cure (set in 19th century NY and an excellent read) then Five Days at Memorial (which is about the flooding during hurricane Katrina and although excellent, it is very disturbing) and then Kitchen Confidential (which will never allow you to look at a chef the same way again). Turks and Caicos were beautiful and we booked a great snorkel tour off the beach out to several reefs. Capt. Scraper knew NS well - he had two children in the Halifax area and his ex had lived in Grand Turk until the kids were four or five.
angel fish
schools of grunts
Fantastic snorkelling with large schools of fish, crystal clear water and the boat to ourselves. It was warm, friendly and fun - what is not to like? San Juan, Puerto Rico was very historic but quite developed. We took the free hop on and off trolley up to El Morro (the castle) and wandered our way back through the city. Great architecture, Spanish being spoken and lots of photo ops. We made it back to
El Morro, San Juan, PR
the ship and a little rest on the balcony before the only brief shower of the cruise happened. Although we had intended to snorkel in St Maarten, the seas were too high and so we instead went body surfing at Dawn Beach, which turned out to be great fun. Our table mates from supper joined us (surprise) and so we had a great visit,  lunch, caught some rays and shared a taxi back to the ship then shopped at the cruise port on the return. It was a good day to escape Phillipsburg as the Dutch royal couple were in the city and with all the crowds and security it was frantic. Wonderful spot to return to from the looks. The final stop on the eastern caribbean itinerary was Half Moon Cay which is on Eleuthera, one of the Bahamas. Too rough again for snorkelling but we enjoyed a beach morning (shared with passengers from the Ryndam which had just repositioned from Athens on a 36 day cruise ahhh) and then back by tender to the ship. A weekend in Fort Lauderdale where we enjoyed the very swishy boutique hotel, The Pillars, on the inter coastal waterway (thank you again Hotwire) and two wonderful suppers - one at an Italian restaurant on Los Olas called Timpanos - VERY highly recommend it, and the always wonderful Greek Islands Taverna of course. Uneventful flight home via Newark, stop at the teacher daughter's to pick up the electrician daughter who had arrived from out west a few days previously and a windy, rainy drive home. 

I spent the first day home working on my powerpoint presentation for the library talk. I did a Midweek Break session on Nunavut. Took my fans with me as two friends and the visiting daughter came along and were joined by about 15 community members. The cable cameraman arrived and so it will be rebroadcast. The talk was well received and everyone should have their fifteen minutes of fame. Afterwards we headed to a new eatery and enjoyed lunch - it's called Bread and Olives where we enjoyed ourselves "four girls having fun" as a senior stated making his way out the door. A Frenchy shop on the way and we headed home. 

Last week the boy captain's new lobster boat (bubba's very first boat of his own) was put in the water just five days ahead of the lobster season opening. The first day has already been delayed five days more so lots of time for the last minute details. He was pretty pumped when I dropped his sister off to take the maiden voyage around to the fish plant. He was being very mature about his decisions and I was proud of him - told his sisters it was his university graduation, as it's all he's ever wanted to do since he was a little boy. When we were discussing his grown up behaviour, the captain who takes the shore captain's boat said "well it was bound to happen sooner or later".  Everything seems to be working well and he is in the final preparation stage now. 

On Friday as we readied to go out the door for a road trip, I climbed out of the shower and put on what I thought was Body Shop lotion on my arms and legs. It was really sticky and hard to rub in and I was thinking 'I usually like Body Shop but this stuff is crap' when I checked the label and found it was……..body wash. sigh. Had to rinse my arms and legs off again. I had a final physio appointment to check my shoulder and am pleased to report I have been kicked out as it is completely unimpinged (if that is even a word) now. We started off with a Frenchy shop and errands in town then off to the appointment. The visiting daughter got to be a tourist in Lunenburg and we followed up with a late lunch at The Knot pub before a final Frenchys instalment and a stop for beverages and ingredients. A long but pleasant day.

Saturday the sisters made their way around town as the second one ran a 5 km race in just over 25 minutes, they had lunch, went to a craft show, ran errands and generally enjoyed themselves. We had company over for a supper of moose meat chill, biscuits and bread with apple crisp and mincemeat pie as dessert choices. Good friends and conversation made for a fun evening, which had been meant to be the last social event before lobstering of course. The only slip up was when the life partner was speaking of a Christmas party and when answering whether I'd be available to go said "she's working" which stopped me in my tracks when I heard that four letter word. I quickly clarified that traveling to Atlanta with my buddy is not anything close to work. Sunday began with eggs benedict for the girls, then a turkey dinner for them, their brother and his girlfriend before the teacher daughter headed back to the city. 

Had a nice email with an attachment from the nurse daughter of her RN license history. Made me think of how tickled her grandmother would be to receive such news. She continues to make her new grad way and except for calling her father late at night asking what her boyfriend's cell phone number was (he being in the same town and time zone mind you - as she wanted him to bring her cell phone which she'd forgotten at home) is doing well. She will of course be working her first Christmas. Plans are for the two western daughters to get together over the holidays and I must confess to being a tad bit jealous when hearing of plans for Banff over New Years. I will see whoever isn't working on January 2nd when I fly back through on my way to work. 

Soon time to pack for Atlanta. I think a southern girls week will set things up just fine for the holidays. So, off to work on a little Santa's elf project now before it gets too late. 

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Offshore Detour

As the travel partner is safely tucked away for an early bedtime - he is someone who can actually go to bed and fall asleep at 8:45 pm. - I am updating the blog which I've meant to do for a few days now. We are headed off on vacation in a few hours and although all packed, the house tidied and clothes laid out, there is no point in crawling into bed to lay there with eyes wide open. He will be the one driving to the airport on this dark, rainy night so needs to have some sleep on board. We are catching a 6:45 am flight to Philadelphia and then on to Fort Lauderdale. Saturday we head out on an Eastern Caribbean cruise on the Holland America Westerdam. We have reservations at a Brazilian restaurant tomorrow night called Chima Brazilian Steakhouse:

The way this works is that you turn up a green card or marker to keep the servers coming with the cuts of meat and turn it over to red to stop them or give yourself a rest. My friend and I tried it on the cruise in the spring and it is a great experience. I've already decided we can walk up and take a cab back to the hotel. Ahhhh

3 pm boarding the flight
So to recap on my exit from Nunavut. The final few days (as usual) were busy with wrapping up the paperwork, trying to help out with the workload and cleaning up the apartment while packing away my 'stuff' for the next contract. I asked the front desk staff if they would miss me and Elizabeth said "I miss you already" and Rita said "I'm just a big puddle of tears sitting here" which is in keeping with both their personalities. The days have been getting progressively and quickly shorter north of the arctic circle and by the time we were boarding the plane it was sunset….at about 3 pm. On Thursdays the flight is direct to Yellowknife and we had just enough time to walk off one plane, through security and on to another. Well, I took a moment to hand off the Blackberry to the flight paramedic who had left it with us on the last medevac. Could be a while before they passed that way again so he was most grateful that I was a courier. The flight to Yellowknife was an uneventful as the first segment, retrieval of bags and over to the hotel on the shuttle. Storage of my frozen and dried arctic char in the hotel freezer and then upstairs. Calls to both of the western daughters who were giving out Hallowe'en treats and working the next day. A get together with my roommate from Kugluktuk who was flying in to Taloyoak in the am and a local gal who used to work north and is now in Edmonton. Good chat and exchange of Christmas gifts for the eastern family from their western daughter and lots of community info for the staff member. 

A sleep in the next morning and then checking on flights as a really strong wind and rain storm predicted for Nova Scotia. Over on the shuttle, check in, security and to the departure lounge. A final chat with the Dr who is flying out to BC about the same time and then we're off. I watch The Heat with Sandra Bullock and it is laugh out loud funny - both my seat mate and I are hysterical - you gotta see it. He hasn't been home to Ontario since June so I'm feeling rather fortunate myself. A quick turnaround in Pearson with a sandwich and drink and the flight is still on time. I make calls and check emails from home and the word is….nasty night, can't believe you're flying. That flight is going and I'm getting on it! The flight is rather smooth and I watch Two Guns with Mark Whalberg and Denzel Washington to distract myself but as we approach Halifax the word from the flight deck is that "it's going to be rough, we'll make it as smooth as we can, the flight attendants are fastening everything down and prepare for some turbulence as we head in". He wasn't underestimating the wind for sure - who needs a roller coaster ride when you can fly? You can hear a pin drop and everyone sits with their head down as we approach. But we're down and there's a communal sigh of relief and then we are having trouble standing to get off the plane as it's rocking so in the wind. Wow! The teacher daughter and son-in-law are waiting for me at the baggage carousel and we're quickly underway. Off to retrieve my car, then on the road as I just want to sleep in my own bed. I'm thrilled to discover that Tim Hortons has pumpkin spice tea and cinnamon crunch bagels and am home by 1:30 am. Ahhh, cat on my feet. Love it!

A low key weekend where I catch up on the mail (not much) and the news and fight with the husband's  iPad mini to install updates. Walk the dog, enjoy the mild weather and generally settle in. Monday is a day for appointments and a buddy comes along for company to Bridgewater and Lunenburg. We manage some shopping in amongst the appointments and have a good road trip. She's now officially retired and tells me that there is nothing she misses about working. 

The remainder of the week has been spent readying for vacation, doing a CPR recert for the local fire
department and having a spa day. Got my hair cut, had a mani - pedicure and some waxing, needed a nap after that. Hard life. First time I've had a pedicure but it sure won't be my last! The travel partner has been going flat out to try to tie up last minute details with the plant, getting ready for lobstering and the boy captain is having a new fishing boat constructed. The plan is to have it out of the boat shop in a few days - lobster season starts here November 25th - it'll be a tight deadline but they seem to thrive on those. The lad has applied (you have to apply for names) to call the vessel FV Offshore Detour. Kind of a nice play on words. He is over the moon, but pretending he's not excited about it at all. He has had more wisdom tooth problems and so had a dental appointment this week 'not wanting to lose any time off the water' as he said. Antibiotics and then extraction of the cracked wisdom tooth next week. Seafarers medical next week as all those details have to be taken care of before regular routine comes to a standstill. 

So, time to crawl into bed for a short nap and then….let the trip begin. Can't say 'let the vacation begin' because that happened when I arrived home on Saturday morning. So from -29 c to +29c in one week. Ahhhh.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Day 50

Today is day 50 of my contract (but who's counting) and I am ready to not be here. I am ready to be blissfully unemployed, walk my dog, put my dishes in a dishwasher, go on my planned vacations and generally empty my brain of all things work related until 2014. I don't want to be thinking of the photo to the right as a Hallowe'en photo. Only three more sleeps (should I be so fortunate as to actually sleep through the night tomorrow night which is my last day of first call. This evening I have been packing up the dry foods, winter clothes and northern equipment which will await my return as well as packing the artifacts and very few things I am actually taking south. 

I am getting a few things accomplished as I've been under the weather and mostly just lying on the couch until I go to bed at 8 pm which is extremely unlike my nite owl habits. I was suffering with tonsillitis which I haven't had for years, but certainly remembered from my teenaged days. Couldn't swallow, fever, had a huge lump in my throat  and couldn't even move my tongue to the side. By the time Friday came I got Nellie to look in my throat and she said "start yourself on an antibiotic" so by Sunday (as I tell patients, it'll take 48 hrs to work) I was finally thinking I was going to live. In the meantime I'd watched Men in Black 3 and attempted to watch To Rome With Love (a Woody Allen remake of the classic) but I had downloaded it in French!!! so instead watched Flight (Denzel Washington) which was excellent but likely not the greatest choice as I set out on two days of flights to get home. 

The word of the day today has been…..moose. The shore captain and his two buddies were off on Sunday to Cape Breton moose hunting where the season for his tag began today. The wife of one of the hunters having made a statement on FB something like "I'd rather pack up the entire family for a trip to Disney World than one man to go moose hunting" on Saturday evening. As I chatted online with her, she was waiting for the bread to come out of the oven and listed off a large cache of baked goods, so they were well provisioned. I breathed a huge sigh of relief to have missed that circus at my house. A friend in CB mentioned rain on the weekend but a bit cooler with a skiff of snow today in the hunting area so it sounded like a good first day for them. By the time I checked FB this evening there were multiple postings of MOOSE!!! Apparently the shore captain's employee had shot a large (1200 lb or so) animal with 24 points on a 56 inch set of horns. The shore captain who wasn't concerned about antlers (can't eat those) is quoted as saying that "likely the horns were the only tender part of him" but by all accounts there was much excitement. As I chatted again tonight with the employee's wife she said as her husband was talking to her he said he was sitting in the dark at the camp and  the other two (shore captain and more senior employee) were in bed and sound asleep at 7:30 pm. I told her that's what he got for taking old people with him, a lengthy drive the day before, all that walking in the fresh air and the excitement of the trophy well… what did he expect? I asked which vehicle they'd taken with them (the ton truck?) and she said "the half ton with an insulated grey wharf box" which made me laugh out loud. That will be quite the load getting back. She said they'd be going in with the pack horses tomorrow am and might have to make two trips but would likely be home late tomorrow night. So much for her week of solitude for her and the kids. Very efficient hunting mind you. 

I had a FB chat with my travel buddy over the weekend and we were discussing some plans for Atlanta. Would we see a Christmas show? Maybe a movie would be opening? She asked if I was a fan of Sinbad? I thought she meant the classic and agreed that I'd enjoyed it "back in the day" as a kid. Apparently I'm quite out of the loop as Sinbad is a comedian, so apparently I'm not a fan if I don't know who he is eh?

I was tasked with picking up the physician in to do his community clinic this week so on Sunday I found myself at the airport. I snapped a shot of Chuck who manages Canadian
North here in this community, and the C.A.R.S. (community aerodrome radio station) operator which is the local version of air traffic control at work. The only problem was that in the first photo I snapped, Chuck was bent over in a big sneeze just as I pressed the shutter so I took a second of him upright on the phone but by then the C.A.R.S operator had gotten up to check a screen somewhere so….I needed to combine the two pictures. Without taking a post graduate course in photoshop (and my hats off to all who can use this wonderfully large program) I found a link online which suited my needs - the website is called merge images:

You just plug in the first photo, then crop out what you don't want from the second and line it
up and…merge images. You couldn't tell I was doing magic unless I'd disclosed likely. And speaking of putting things together, the work on the new health centre continues despite flesh numbing temperatures with the rush on to enclose before the really bad weather visits. 

Today I asked the physician what he'd like to do about something on a prescription I was ordering and he said "what I'd like to do is retire early, in fact right now with a lot of money, but in fact I'm going to continue to keep on looking after people because that's not happening". I hear ya brother. Mind you, working one week a month and on call during the day for the other three weeks isn't a bad gig. 

I'm thinking of my little co-worker who is heading off to meet up with her brother in Italy tomorrow and tells me that she'll visit the vatican and light a candle so that all my flights will connect. I told her I thought a chapel in one of the airports she'll be hanging out in would likely work as well but I appreciated her support. This little jaunt of hers is pre- Antarctica in December so she obviously follows the advice to the left. 

So, hopefully the workload will remain manageable and the only frantic calls are something like the one from a mother asking if her three year old would be okay as he'd eaten some Ivory soap. Clearly she had never washed his mouth out for swearing with it! Since I'm getting to the end of the data on my internet, this will likely be the last posting until I'm in the maritimes which will be an almost tropical in itself type of weather for me. 

Sunday, October 20, 2013

How many cookies in a package?

I'm not sure why those post holiday work weeks are called 'short' because this one felt like a month. Could have something to do with the fact that although we're a three nurse health centre, we've been working with only two of us since October 2nd. Sure wish the third nurse would arrive, she started out Tuesday from Halifax and made it as far as Edmonton to overnight - Wed it was no flight attendant in Yellowknife, Thurs it was the weather here with a sudden ice fog, Fri it was no legal alternate which I think I explained before means the next community didn't have good weather and they don't carry enough fuel to make it up and back to Yellowknife so have to have a legal alternate to divert to, and today they were headed up and had an unscheduled stop in Cambridge Bay and the weather shut in so they turned back and never made it over here.  And I can tell you as the one waiting for a coworker, that it doesn't engender warm fuzzy feelings to see postings on FB stating they are drinking Strongbow cider in Traders Lounge. There is another nurse trying to make it in to Gjoa Haven as well so at least she's not having to drink alone. Mind you, flying all day, endless bags of chips, then ending up where you started, isn't that much fun when you're dragging all your crap with you which you bring for seven weeks. This weekend we split the call with Nellie doing first call until 1 am on Friday and then I plugged in the phone for the night (thankfully it didn't ring), today she was first call again, tomorrow I'm first. 

My main task of the day was to purchase the cookies and juice for the flu clinic which we start Monday (fully staffed or not) from the Northern Store. It was a challenge with the lack of flights lately as I depleted their stock of real juice boxes and still within date (good)  cookies on my mission. And while I'm on the you realize that packages of cookies don't actually state the number of cookies inside? They are measured by weight and this is a problem if you're trying to buy 200 cookies as instructed by your boss. Since I don't buy many packages of cookies, I was forced to fondle them and guess. I think I'll write Mr. Christie and express my displeasure. And don't even get me started on trying to find cookies and juice which will not trigger ANY of the allergies in the community. Add to this that the store staff were completely disinterested in their paid employment, busy checking out iPods, visiting with customers, eating, and generally ignoring using the cash registers. The line up behind me grew as the  intricacies of the purchase order were explored, I called Nellie for a number clarification and then I refused to pay $67 for twelve AA batteries (yes three packages of four) for the health centre thermometers. There were no cardboard boxes to be had (they are popular for carrying groceries on the Honda or skidoo and can be used to cut up seals or caribou and eat it raw - common joke is that it is an Inuit dining table) so it was quite a number of trips up and down the store steps and again at the health centre with armloads of juice boxes, felt like carrying in wood for the woodbox. A staff member (wearing gloves) is being tasked with serving the treats post vaccination as we don't want to be dealing with a gastro outbreak the following week from self serve. It's already rumbling around locally.

And speaking of shopping, especially northern shopping and shipping, this link to a blog from someone in Cambridge Bay:

by Simon Oleekatalik
Although it's been busy lately I did manage to arrange for a local carver to do a piece for a friend's summer neighbour. He does nice work out of caribou antler and soapstone, signed the piece and even made it to be disassembled for packing. He arrived in the middle of a busy clinic morning with the piece of art and I protested that I had to go to the ATM at the COOP store to pick up the cash. He was keen for the funds so I suggested that perhaps Nellie would man the phones and I would run over at noontime. He planned to meet me there. The morning (as many lately) was a write off and when noon came Nellie had to take the shipment of bloods we'd drawn to the airport for the flight - which didn't actually arrive but I digress. By then, I was putting a ring block and two 5-0 prolene sutures in the finger of an 18 month old who managed a triangular deep cut in his ring finger. Found the scissors his sister took upstairs to cut her Mr Freeze apparently. The mother wasn't keen on looking at the gash, so I told her to call in reinforcements and she phoned her husband who held the toddler tightly, she held the hand while looking away and it was a pretty quick procedure. I am getting faster and neater with practice. Before I started suturing I called the COOP and told the clerk to give a message to the carver that I wouldn't be able to come and he should come to the health centre to discuss alternate plans. I told him we'd try again after the clinic closed and he said "can't you go over at coffee break?" I laughed and told him that coffee break was not something that nurses get, he would be waiting until suppertime. He gave in. When he followed me to the store that evening and I handed over the money causing him to smile broadly, I felt like I was doing a drug deal or perhaps a ransom payment.

Had a nice FaceTime chat with my down the road buddy who tells me that she hasn't renewed her nursing license for 2014 so will work her last shift on Hallowe'en. I told her that not being licensed to work in NS was another thing we now had in common. Sounds like she's too busy in her retirement to work anyway. I know I certainly find lots to fill my 'time off'. My friend was telling me about going to walk the dog one day and finding her napping on her dog bed as it had been really rainy when the shore captain left so he'd let her stay inside and she woke up all discombobulated - kind of the way we humans do after napping. She quickly realized why she had company was very appreciative of the sprint. There apparently was a mink swimming along in the water when they walked (which she thankfully didn't see) as that could've ended badly with either a swim for all three, a tussle or worse. Sounds like the other dogwalker is enjoying her time volunteering at the animal rescue centre but reports she's been bitten by a squirrel, pigeon and ferret. 

I also (eventually) had a FaceTime chat with the life partner who was supposed to call me today. When it came 8:30 pm time in NS, I decided he'd forgotten (again) and tried connecting. It rang and rang, no answer, but a few moments later I heard my computer ringing. He admitted that he'd come home, eaten, taken a shower and fallen asleep in his la-z-boy chair. He got full marks for his honesty so was let off the hook. We discussed the details of upcoming vacations. The first being his redneck trip to 'back of Meat Cove, CB' the last week of October. The shore captain and the young fellow who manages things at the plant are going and have invited along a semi retired guy who works with them. He was told to "ask the boss" and apparently his wife let him go on the big excursion. As I said to the secretary "there'll be lots of stories, and some of them might even be true." They may or may not (depending on if/when they get a moose) be home before I arrive. If the shenanigans with flights continue, it will be me who is last in the door. Air Canada has already changed the flight from direct from Edmonton to Halifax to a stop in Pearson which increases the likelihood of issues and adds an hour to my day. 

Speaking of flights, there were some good seat sales this fall and the electrician daughter is coming home the last two weeks of November for a visit. Will be nice to have some time to spend together when I'm home and not working. And she'll get to take her own (and likely her sisters) lobsters back when she goes. 

And of course we're into the planning for the Mexico trip. The vouchers for the resort arrived in the email this week proving the shore captain had finalized the arrangements. It is a ways away but those March Break arrangements have to be made early or not at all. Looking forward to having the family all together in the sun for some fun. Nice to be thinking of the tropics while it's full winter here, the skidoos are becoming more plentiful every day. 

Speaking of fun...the young fellow who works as a janitor was called in last week and arrived after lunch. When I asked why he hadn't come in the morning he said "I went to bed at 7 am as we were up playing dare all night". When I asked for clarification it was explained as a card game called Elmo which included the concept of full house "oh, like poker, you were gambling!". This brought protests that it was called dare and that the loser had to "do a dare". Apparently his brother-in-law had lost and the dare was to "go to the Boothia Inn early in the morning wearing a hockey helmet and sell some leg hair on a piece of tape"(think waxing) and he giggled "it wasn't even his leg hair". When I asked if he'd been successful in his sales, the answer was "no" to which I replied "not a surprise".  The final statement of "I got it all on video, it's pretty funny" made me think of it going viral online but....I guess you had to be there. This is a culture of visiting, playing games, sharing and laughing - so used to seeing smiling faces, I've come to expect them.

Well, enough updating, going to crawl into bed a bit earlier than I usually do, just because I can. Less than two weeks remaining, looking forward to being a lady of leisure.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Yak Trax Required

Why is it that long weekends are never long enough? This one has included being on call every day and two out of the three have been first call. I think the community has been enjoying the holiday weekend themselves though as the call hasn't been too busy. I find the further on I get in the contract the less room I have for "I've had an itchy rash for two weeks,  I need you to look at it" kind of calls. This plea now gets you some benadryl in an envelope to pick up from the front porch. A couple of sick kids, some folks who tried unsuccessfully to get by my coworker (the nurse in charge) and have figured me for an easier (more insecure) nurse who's not comfortable telling someone with chest pain that's it a pulled muscle over the phone, even if they are 32, in no distress, lifted a boat over their head a few days ago and in great physical shape. Yes I'll see you but that does not earn you an EKG, just some advil. 

I even managed to watch one of the movies I'd downloaded to the laptop before heading up here and I throughly enjoyed Hysteria - it's about 'women's issues' in the 1880s in London - it's very funny and I highly recommend it. Think it was released in 2011 and stars Maggie Gyllenhaal, Felicity Jones and Hugh Dancy - if you recognize any of those stars. Loosely based on the facts of the time. 

I went for a walk this afternoon just to get out and it was very brisk as I headed towards the airport. Definite error in judgement to not wear the snow pants. The Yak Trax (boot cleats) were sure a good idea as the roads are as slick as a glass bottle from the Hondas packing down the snow to ice. There was a sort of traffic line up on the way back from the First Air flight with passengers and freight being transported back into the hamlet. The snow which fell over the weekend will likely be here until June as last year this time in Cambridge Bay the 'staying snow' arrived. The sea ice is being pushed towards the shore and soon the NW Passage will be closed again. I was pleased to get a new Pang hat, seen above, as the previous one had stretched from putting it in the dryer. It's always nice when you can commission a new piece of clothing to match your jacket from one of the local crafts people. 

The days are getting pretty short here now compared to Nova Scotia as today sunrise was at 7:15
sunset at 4:45 pm and less daylight daily. My roommate who was looking out the window about 5:30 pm said "here comes a plane" which we don't usually notice, but with the darkness and their big lights on, it appeared as if it was coming to visit us. My apologies for the fuzzy shot but that's what you get by standing on a chair and taking the photo through the dining room window. It kind of looks like a UFO hovering over Taloyoak. Two planes in one day is a good track record for lately as the flights have been messed up with unsettled weather. The larger planes which can carry enough fuel to fly up and back from Yellowknife have a better chance of making it as they don't have to deal with the legal alternate - another local community which is safe to divert to if necessary - because the smaller prop planes refuel at each stop as they can't carry enough for a return flight plan. 

I usually try to include a few links for your educational pleasure and although I haven't completely checked out this micro lending site, it does at first glance look like a good idea. The premise is that you lend a small sum of money to a disadvantaged person and when the loan is repaid you can reinvest it again or take it back. Would be a good suggestion for a don't 'buy gifts for the sake of it' Christmas plan:

And on a kind of sombre note, a story from the Washington Post the speaks of tough decisions for elderly parents:

The other link which interested me is a bit more upbeat - a link to another blog - called Hyperbole and a Half - not sure if all the posts are as good as the most recent one on power, but I loved it :

And as there are a number of posts to this blog, and I've lost track of some of the links, I'm not sure if this link is a reposting, if so, it's good enough to say again:

Did the online check in as prompted for the Eastern Caribbean cruise on the Holland America, Westerdam next month. Had to have the travel partner look up the passport info when we had a FaceTime chat on Sunday, as he would not have the patience for the particulars, such as flight info etc. One of the questions necessitated a quick call to him today as the name of the hotel in Fort Lauderdale post cruise was required. I couldn't find the information as he'd booked the accommodation through Hotwire and printed it out at home. I'm not sure if it wasn't in his email or he couldn't remember the password to check it at the plant as he had put the phone down and was yelling "just give me a minute" from across the office when I was trying to tell him how, without access to the info I was managing fine as I saved info in my email and he should do the same. I was thinking the name of the little boutique hotel in Las Olas was a short name such as The Benches (I know, I know doesn't make sense) but when I Googled boutique hotels in Las Olas and The Pillars jumped out I had an aha moment and he agreed that was it - not too far off. Checked out the stateroom and balcony online, then printed the itinerary and luggage tags, woohoo all that sun and surf look pretty good when the scene outside the window is a winter wonderland - doesn't matter if it's October or February. 

The roommate and myself were invited out to supper at the mental health workers place with the SAO (Site Administrative Officer - like the CEO of the hamlet) and it was a great meal and good conversation. So since my turkey supper is settling on my tummy, it's time to get some shut eye and ready myself for a short work week. 

Friday, October 11, 2013

Lemons or Lemmings?

The title of this posting is from a patient (with a carbuncle which I was treating with antibiotics) who told me that when he was a little boy that his mother had treated these by putting the skin of a lemming on the boil and leaving it there overnight while it 'drew out the poison' as would a poultice. Took me a moment to realize he was saying lemming (as in small arctic critter that leaps over cliffs) versus the citrus fruit - I was sort of ruminating about how that would sting when I realized my error. Apparently it worked well. I told him that since I didn't have a lemming skin I would be giving him keflex and we both had a good chuckle. 

Speaking of small critters, my regular dog walker (who is clearly an animal lover) has gone to do an internship with an animal rescue centre called Hope for Wildlife and apparently she'd been bitten twice already by a squirrel - sure hope she comes home with more than seven fingers. Last weekend I looked out the window of the apartment and there was a huge sik sik (marmot) which I swear was the size of a small racoon calmly ambling around the bottom of the steps. Not hibernating yet and they apparently like to come inside so have to be watched. Rodents!

Personally, there's lots of effort required to keep up with the humans, let alone animals up here. As my cultural experience continues it occurred to me this week that when I ask patients about their symptoms they often give me what I consider vague answers, so I probe more concretely. For example "how long have you had this pain?" and the answer might be either "before" or "long time" to which I would say "a few minutes, days, weeks etc" as any nurse would and for this I receive the 'how stupid are you?' look and a quickly chosen number. So yesterday I asked two of the clerks the meaning of each and they were quickly definite in their answers that 'before' meant 10 - 15 minutes ago and 'long time' meant about a week to ten days previous. Could've knocked me over. I will have to add this to my translation of "where is your pain?" which a mother might say to a child "whare does it hurt - by here or by there?" The instruction 'you could' prefaces many statements such as "you could take it off" if referring to a sweater or "you could read?" meaning 'read that'. When I say "what is it like?" I might receive the reply "just like but not really" which I assume means 'sort of'. There is frequently the assertion that someone is 'trying to' as in "she's trying to catch a cold". Meaning, it's about to happen, or she's coming down with it" because no one would 'try' to do that. 

A lady came in for an appointment a couple of weeks ago for one issue and as she rose to leave she asked about having her bilateral tubal ligation reversed. I told her that I doubted this would either be funded or successful but I would check with the boss. When I asked, the nurse in charge flatly said "no, that is why they're told it's permanent and to be sure - the government won't pay for the travel or the operation". So I conveyed this message to the patient and she went on her way. The next week my coworker mentioned that she'd been in requesting a pregnancy test as she had symptoms (even though she'd had the BTL) and my colleague obliged by dipping the urine and saying "no, of course you're not pregnant" to which the patient brightly said "oh well, we'll just have to keep on trying then" and left. My nerves. 

Nunavut residents as a group are a fertile bunch with the youngest population in Canada having 57% under age 24 years. Over the weekend I had a lady in with her adopted 14 month old, she told me she was visiting the community to see her grandson and named him. We chatted about the baby he was fathering and I said "that will make you a great grandmother" she was pleased to learn the English name for the title. Something made me ask her age and she said "56" and I said "I'm 57 and I'm okay with waiting for grandchildren" and she said "you're old". Well, by definition up here I sure am. Mind you I read the latest TB Guidelines and they speak of elderly Canadians defined as age 55 and older. How rude. 

A few call nights ago (they are beginning to run together now) I had a phone call from a woman saying that her grandmother was unable to move her leg, was in pain and needed to be seen. Now when she named the patient I had an instant mental image of the short, rotund, limited English language elder the patient was. I attempted to coach the family through getting a chair, helping her to the Honda etc. to no avail. The granddaughter insisted on speaking to the nurse in charge and ultimately we made a house call - no ambulance or even first responders here. The elder had a knee which had 'locked' and was on the couch unable to straighten her leg or weight bear. We arrived with the SUV, the foldable stretcher (I made a return trip for the straps which I didn't realize were separate) and supervised the transfer to the equipment with the eight strong young men who had been summoned by the family. As I looked at them I realized that one of them was packing a baby (meaning carrying it in a packing vest on his back) of about six months. A few moments later the little one was bouncing in an exersaucer which had appeared and she and the three month old in the bouncy seat were being watched by the youngest infants sixteen year old mother. We coordinated the patient transfer out the door, down the steep stairs and into the back of the SUV. I was instructed to drive to the health centre and I did so slowly as the patient lay quietly alone in the back, my boss said "are you okay?" and she grunted "yup". I was horrified to think what would happen if I took a corner too quickly and tipped her over. When we arrived at the ramp of the health centre the crowd of young, strong men ( tried to not think of them as pallbearers) had materialized and were milling about as I backed up. They quickly retrieved the human cargo who was inside the centre before I had the vehicle back in the garage. We gave a pain med and xrayed the leg which had a happy ending as it spontaneously unlocked (of course while I was on the phone to the Doc on call) making my coworker ecstatic. Just the usual problem of no footwear to go home with when you've arrived on a stretcher and I scampered upstairs to get my boots but they were too small. She was pleased with the offer and her daughter translated the "I know where you live" retrieval joke to her. I told my coworker that I was pleased to have a dress rehearsal of a house call as there was no major bleeding, stopped breathing or unresponsiveness involved as would likely be the case with something more sinister. 

I had a FaceTime chat with the life partner who is struggling with preparation for the upcoming lobster season and all the angst that goes locally with putting all your eggs in one basket (or one industry) as many can't stand the pressure. He is diversified and so deals with various sectors but marches to many drums. He had gotten involved with the measuring for tonnage of a vessel for sale as a local trouble maker had told the buyer that this should be done. To quote the shore captain as he described the family this guy comes from "if they didn't start it, they're right in the middle of it". Sounds like he's having the kind of week I am here. I managed to put 9 4-0 prolene sutures in a finger this week in about half the time it would have taken me last contract and managed a very effective ring block, if I do say so myself. 
Tonight I made a cake with chocolate icing as one of the staff is moving to an office in another building - any excuse - for tomorrow. Bit harder to get the motivation to bake when you no dishwasher but I am using up the supplies. And just for the record, when you notice the price for 2.5 kg of flour, no I did not buy the flour here. Not sure how many will be around to share it if the major snowstorm outside doesn't moderate. It's as any workplace, if you take baked goods, they will disappear. 

It's a sort of freezing rain/snow combo that it is being whipped around with high winds. Reminds me of a Nova Scotia blizzard but that kind of forecast is months away down there. Three weeks from tonight I'll be storing my 'stuff' and getting ready to make a run for it. So glad that work is 'down the stairs' when I look out the window. No kids out there causing problems tonight. I'm guessing the
 security guard is drinking tea in the 'office' and not worrying about wolves in the dark. The construction crew will have their work cut out for them tomorrow if it is safe enough to get up on the metal framework. Sure hope that crane isn't over on its side when I get up. 

Time to take the apartment phone to bed, in case I have to back up my partner, and get rested up for tomorrow. 

Friday, October 4, 2013

How old are you?

Yes, yes I do still keep this blog it's just got in the way of posting. I am always amazed when folks ask "what do you do to keep yourself from getting bored when you're up north?" Bored? I have trouble getting enough hours into the day. Mind you, that should mean I have lots to update you about from the past ten days eh?

To begin, I was abandoned yesterday by my coworker who at this moment as I type is asleep in a bed in Nova Scotia. This means that the SHP (nurse in charge) and myself are holding down the fort. I'm first on call tonight and she's second call, then tomorrow we reverse roles. This is the pattern until the third CHN comes in on October 16th. We'll sure be sure happy to see her by then. This will give me a taste of what it would be like to work in a two nurse station such as the one I was offered the job share for though. 

It has been a frantic week with four visiting consultants in to our little health centre. The GP who comes four days out of the month, the Pediatrician who comes twice a year and the Occupational Therapist and Speech Pathologist who visit quarterly. I am not sure why they all scheduled their visits together but it sure made for close quarters. I was working out of the storage / lab room since Monday and the waiting room was continually full of all ages. It also reminded me why I have chosen to work more independently and that I have no intention of spending that much time with 'the team' other than nurses unless I'm forced to, as we don't posture and show off for each other - no point in that!

Got Milk? No
Going back over the past ten days... let me see. The weather had been really unsettled for over a week with ice fog, dust, crosswinds and low visibility so flights hadn't been getting in or out. The ultrasound tech got stuck in the next community and then with us for a few days each. One of the nurses tried for six days in a row to fly into Gjoa Haven. Each day she packed up her stuff (remember she's flying in with her food etc) and flew around Nunavut but ended up back where she began. Kind of like that movie Groundhog Day. Someone from Cambridge Bay had posted on FaceBook "flew around all day, multiple bags of chips, back where I started from, try again tomorrow". The stores were depleted of perishable supplies (2 cartons of milk left) and those travelling for medical appointments were stuck in or out. Apparently there has to be something called a 'legal alternate' which means that once planes fly into the Kitikmeot the next airport has to be available to them should they have to divert as they refuel at every airport due to being so small. With the combination of no fuel in Kugaaruk (the fuel supply ship couldn't get in as the ice pushed it out) leaving it unavailable and other communities without visibility there was no legal alternate and they couldn't fly. 

There was a polar bear sighted at the airport and promptly shot and skinned - it was about six feet so not a particularly big one. My coworker got to suture the finger from that knife skinning accident. My evening began with a young fellow with hives who (his mother had diagnosed as his sister had the same) was allergic to narwhale. He'd been eating the mauktauk (whale blubber) for supper. There had been a narwhale entangled in nets and so shared amongst the community. I asked our janitor where the narwhale was as I wanted to get a photo if it was close and when I asked him if he'd seen it, he said "just the mauktauk" meaning it was already cut up. That same evening I got two lacerations in at the same time so I taped the first one and sutured the other, learning to do a ring block and putting three 4-0 prolene sutures in the finger tip. When I got the call I asked how old the guy who had been sharpening the ulu to cut frozen caribou was (I wanted to be able to find his chart) his mother said "he's old enough to go out alone". 

Actually, getting an accurate age out of anyone up here is a challenge. I had someone call about their sister and when I inquired about her age, she had to go ask the sister. Now, I might say my sister is 52 because she's just had her birthday and is 53 but to not even be able to hazard a guess? A coworker was able to top that as she said a mother asked her child how old he was? I also had a mother who was wandering in the hall, and my coworker thought she was trying to get us to examine the child (jumping the queue) but when I asked what we could do, she said "I got the medicine but he thinks he needs to be checked, you could tell him that he doesn't need to". I told the very earnest little guy of about seven that he was fine and they trotted away while I went back to my office shaking my head. Statements such as "I'm going out on October twenty-two or gazing thoughtfully at the calendar in my office and choosing a date of the last menstrual period or when the cough or pain started as if the numbers speak to them is not unusual. 

Last Friday night as first call I was awoken by the phone at 3:45 am so I groggily said "emergency line, nurse on call" and was informed by a strongly accented French voice identifying himself as Cpl. Stefan (something or other) that 'if someone should call about the red pickup truck with the window smashed out in front of the Boothia Inn that they would find out who did it after 9 am as they were going to sleep". I was completely confused and said "were there any injuries?" thinking that I might expect a call and he replied "no, no just the window of the truck but we're going to sleep so we'll deal with it after 9 am". By now, I was more awake and not impressed (although we do our best to stay on the good side of the boys in blue as they could potentially bring us trouble if we hassle them) so I said "who called you?" and he gave me the name William and a phone number but again said "I just didn't want anyone to call me as I'm going to sleep". So I promised not to call him and wake him up as he had just done to me. I went back to sleep and in the morning read my note and rushed over to tell the coworker who already had a less than positive impression of this dude as his only appearance at the health centre had been to drop off a form with specific instructions as to when it was to be completed and he'd be back to pick it up. Just to explain - you don't tell CHNs when to do things or you're going to get them done when they're good and ready, and it's good to keep the lines of communication open between the health and the law. This guy is clearly on his first trip north and lacking in the people skills department. When the GP came in for his clinic I was telling him as we closed for the day about the red truck as he stays at the hotel and told him to go all CSI on the situation and see what he could come up with. A few moments later he phones the health centre to tell me that the red half ton is in the hotel parking lot with plastic taped over the hole where the window should be. I told him not to give up his day job as I had that much info from my middle of the night call. The next day I got my chance to discuss the situation with the Cst. who is clearly raising Stefan while managing the community and he was completely unaware of the call and apologetic. He said "he teaches at RCMP Depot, hasn't been north and doesn't have a clue". Although I felt petty I asked him to relay my displeasure with Stefan's call and tell him that he was lucky it wasn't a week night. Josh finally said "you know, I bet he thought he was calling the communications centre and was telling them not to call him as their number is 1111 and the health centre is 5111". Now, a local, intoxicated person making that mistake is cut some slack but the RCMP themselves? Not amused. 

Mural at Netsilik School
Traditional display

Got tasked with ambushing some very reluctant to be immunized girls at the school so headed over to Netsilik School with a cooler of vaccine and the consents in hand. 
Alas, the girls were absent so I spent a few minutes checking out the mural on the wall and the collection at the front of the school which serves as a museum. Very interesting, will have to try to find my way back there. There was a large husky which I was unsure of waiting at the bottom of the steps but "Daisy" thought I had something good in the cooler and just ambled over to the vehicle. 

Had a FaceTime chat with the life partner and he was sitting in the veranda with a beautiful sunset over the harbour behind him so he was showing me the view and I said "what are those things on the right?" and he looked and said "what? trees?" and then laughed heartily. Little tundra humour there. 

The first born had her birthday and although she spent it at work, the guys on the project even remembered her special day. Spoke to her on the phone that evening and she is all settled into her new community of Bowden which is smaller and much closer to work with the kitties who are liking the new apartment although.....they killed a lamp the other day. Oh dear. I sent her the story of how the gorillas at the Calgary Zoo had broken in (for the second time) to the kitchen where the food is prepared and she was pretty certain the kitties would do the same. 

Speaking of animal collections the family of four continues to manage except that the baby daughter picked up a gastro bug at work, got dehydrated and ended up with some meds and two litres of IV fluid to rehydrate herself. She told the boyfriend (so he wouldn't worry and think it was too serious as in the Emergency Dept) that she was in ambulatory care and he thought she'd been brought in by ambulance and almost tripped getting over there. He doesn't speak nurse yet. 

Roadies setting up a concert?
The project at sunset
The construction project next door which will become the new health centre in two (more likely three) years is moving along swiftly as they work to close it in before the weather stops them. There are huge floodlights and the work continues on into the evening as sunrise is 6:30 am and sunset 5:30 pm today. Lots of construction crews makes for some jealousy in the local community with the 'visiting' of local girls. Kind of like junior high. 

Well, time to head for the bed as it has been silly season for calls this evening - is it a full moon? I didn't think so.....

Monday, September 23, 2013

Sea Lift and more

As the weekend has slipped away and I am looking at heading down to work in the morning it is time to update the blog. I have been working on a number of pursuits - made a casserole of macaroni and cheese (weather for comfort food here) baked brownies, read a bit in my book, got out for a walk with the camera and did some crocheting. I guess if I need motivation, this site is a good resource:

I was first on call yesterday and second on call tonight, although I was only called to have a look at something which I saw yesterday. The days in the clinic have been rather full but the after hours (except for some exceptions outlined below) have been manageable. I have managed an IV on a 5 year old and a blood draw for a seven year old this week so am getting back into the saddle. Starting on the third week of this contract already - time always flies up here!

I had a rather steady on call shift yesterday but at least it wasn't like the one night last week that my co-worker endured which involved lots of celebrating and calls from the inebriated. Each community has tags for various hunts ex. bowhead whales and the tag from here was used by hunters from Gjoa Haven, who took some local boats and local men to harvest a 33 ft. bowhead whale on the other side of the Boothia Peninsula. Their return with the whale included ocean travel, then overland, then lake, overland and sea again. They arrived with lots of cut up whale meat and the partying began, it included fireworks (COOP just got some brought in by barge) and firewater. No, that's not brought by barge but it is mailed in and transported back as in "can I take my action packer with me to get groceries?" when accompanying a sick patient. "No, you may not, it won't fit in the King Air". The bowhead celebration began with a community feast and extended for a couple of days,  as I mentioned causing multiple phone calls to the nurse on call. As in "the bowhead people are in my house and they won't leave,  (aside to the intruders) time to go now, where are the police? can you call the police? is this the police? one of the bowhead people grabbed me by the throat seven times etc etc etc. approximately every 20 minutes or so. A looonnnnggg night when you have to get up and put in a full day following that.
Awaiting unloading
Heading back for another load
The second ship with supplies for Taloyoak was here a couple of days offloading materials and has since moved on to its next port in Nunavik (northern Quebec). It was interesting to see how they moved the containers, crates and various construction supplies from the ship to storage on the shore. The foreman who I spoke with said the usual northern shipping season is from May to October depending on ice and weather conditions.
Snow will soon be staying
Barge with tug unloading
 Long hours for the (mostly Quebecois) heavy equipment operators moving large amounts of materials from the shore to its storage area near the various construction sites. There will be one more shipment for this community which is expected next week. After that, it will be next year before some of the materials ex. empty oxygen cylinders being shipped out for refill can be sent. There was a lot of movement, energy and excitement in the community while the ship was in. Years before there were flights, especially daily (or supposed to be daily) flights, ships were the only means of movement for supplies and people to travel 'out'. You have a new appreciation for limited resources when you see an entire community's annual bulk needs arrive in the sea lift. Some families do a  'barge order' and every apartment/house has a 'sea lift' room for storage. The northern health centres annual barge orders are completed by the spring, packed in Quebec and arrive in September. That's long range planning. In between annual orders the supplies are 'shared' between health centres and 'put on the flight' if we run short of anything. It is a real lesson in cooperation.

As I was on hold on the phone last week waiting to speak to someone on the 'eye team' in Yellowknife I realized that instead of musak I was listening to the local radio station in Hay River as I heard the name Ptarmigan Inn and then The Dog House, which apparently is a pub where Thursday evening is 'carnivore night'. My coworker and I did a pretty good replication of this when we shopped on Friday evening at the Northern Store and found fresh steaks and frozen ribs so bought a bag of chips to go with them - had a little testosterone rush when we were planning the meal.  My coworker proudly said "I picked the one which still had air in it" and they were pretty fresh - mind you, they're light enough to get flown in but....they do get handled as roughly as any luggage in the north. And although bread gets flown in...there wasn't any for several days at the COOP and a very limited, crusty supply at The Northern. Biscuits are always the solution.

I received news from my dog walker that the taps weren't producing any water at the house when she was down. There are some times that it's best to be away and not involved in plumbing issues however....the shore captain sent a cryptic message to my inquiry that he'd been searching for gloves and hit the switch next to the water pump. If all solutions were that easy!

Had meant to have a FaceTime chat with the life partner this afternoon but the internet was iffy due to the 50 km + winds so we settled on tomorrow. The high winds caused the flight to Kugaaruk (Pelly Bay) to be unable to land and so the ultrasound tech who was expected to arrive today from there will be here (hopefully) tomorrow. So I had a FaceTime chat with my buddy from home - and she says she's not into computers - on her iPod. Even saw the wonderful squash she got at the market! Caught up on the news both south and north and heard about her first shift as a retired person where she chose to do a casual shift - entirely different than 'having' to go apparently. Much the same as I feel here.

I did get out for a walk about noontime and it was a cutting wind! Walked up towards the water reservoir aka lake and will have to try to get back again in milder conditions as it is pretty. The only tracks I noticed were likely dogs and the polar bear which had been sighted last week wasn't seen near this area. Although today is the first day of fall, the local weather if measured in Nova Scotia standards would be a definite winter report. And to think the news from NS is that the fall colours are in full swing. Hard to believe when I look at the white stuff on the ground here which will soon be staying. I asked Rita in the office when the snow came to stay and she said "sometime before Hallowe'en, I'm not really sure when but I want to use my skidoo." When you have snow on the ground about nine months of the year, it's not something you put a lot of thought into.

Traditional fishing hook and line
So on Thursday afternoon I had a visit from a local fellow who often makes traditional crafts - and sells them to those of us passing through. He had a hook and line, which of course would be an appropriate gift for a fisherman in my life. As you can see, it's made of a caribou bone with a 9 ft line of caribou sinew (for spring fishing as that's the depth of the ice by then) with a bone hook on the end. Daniel told me that his grandmother would have covered the rectangle of bone holding the hook with fish skin to make the lure look even more fishlike. He does lovely work and it is a great souvenir - he didn't even have to pick up the phone in the front entry of the health centre and say "I'm in the foyer with some crafts" which is much too grand a term for such a humble spot.

Family bed
And finally to close I must clarify something that will be obvious to those with good observation skills. Maude, the recently adopted grandkitty is missing a front leg - not back - as is obvious from the photo. Apparently she and Miss Molly are settling in well and best friends - two babies that will grow up together - and the two original fur children are tolerating the new additions with the only small issue that Pous has developed an addiction to kitten food  (versus weight control food) and yowls at the cupboard where it is kept. Large family now. Good thing the puppy will be trained before winter sets in.

Time to crawl into the sack now. The cold which I've been housing for the past two weeks has decided to settle in to a bark. Nice. Doesn't lead to a great deal of empathy when someone comes to the office and tells me that they've had this bug for three or four days and they're tired of it.