Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Charging the......

Full day today and tomorrow will likely be the same as the final 'getting ready to go on vacay' mode is in full swing. 

Today I headed in to the city to pick up my prescription snorkel mask and it is fantastic! Good thing too as it's a pricey solution to being able to see what you've stuck your head underwater to view. They are good sized lenses so I think I'll just wear it all the time as the peripheral vision is even good. This baby will be tucked into its storage box, not just thrown into the snorkel bag. I stopped to do a bit of Frenchy's shopping along the way and it was crowded (March Break) and kind of picked over but I got a shirt and skirt for me and one for the shore captain. Lots of last minute laundry and we'll be good to go. 

So, I'm into the list of charge the battery for the digital camera, charge the iPods (plural), find the electrical converters, charge the Kindle and the Kobo, charge the netbook. Travel used to be so much simpler when all you had to do was pick out a paperback or two eh? I've just finished An Arctic Man, written by Ernie Lyall, originally in 1979 and republished electronically - he writes of his days in Labrador and then moving to Spence Bay - his son mentioned it to me while I was there. It's an excellent read and now the travel partner will get to read it while away. I've started the latest Echo Heron book called Noon at Tiffany's on my Kindle which is a complete departure from her usual nurse material but it's an excellent read so I'm looking forward to getting into that. I have also downloaded Our House in Arusha by Sara Tucker and recommended that to my coworker in Taloyoak as she is heading to Kilimanjaro via Arusha in April. So many books, so little time. 

Had a nice video chat yesterday with my summer neighbour from her place in Iowa City and got caught up on the news. And I headed up to supper with my buddy last evening followed by internet research into the various dining options - we booked for the steak and Brazilian restaurants just to be sure we could get in and will opt for others if recommended on a more impromptu basis. We checked out the various shore excursions and found many to our liking - choosing will be the difficult part - more research required as to whether the semi submersible or glass bottomed boat would be the best option. Technology is great when it works for us, not in reverse.

So, off to check the excess baggage allowances. Will be in touch the end of the month. Hasta leugo. 

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Home again, home again jiggity jog

Now that I'm settled in (whatever that means) at home it's time for an update. It seems like I'm worlds away from my former life and so I am. A week ago this time I was on call, procrastinating about cleaning the apartment and packing up my life into two duffel bags - always amazed at how little you can actually exist with for two months. Each contract I get better at minimizing and specializing my collection so I can maximize my perishables. I was also witnessing the only snow storm we had while in Taloyoak (Nunavut is a polar desert) in eight week, so a relatively quiet call shift.  Sunday, which was a beautiful sunny, mild (-30c) day was almost completely taken up with domestic duties and a long walk to try out my kamiks - they are wonderful!

I worked Monday morning as the Dr. was in and doing a busy clinic, blood draws are done on that day, it's always busy after the weekend and it would've been cruel to leave only two staff there. I'd been on the receiving end of that schedule and it's tough. I managed to contribute to the caseload, wrap up my paperwork, restock the office and head upstairs. I phone Canadian North, no the flight is delayed, won't be leaving until 4:30 p.m. I head downstairs to tell the custodian/driver of the later departure and am captured by my coworker who needs help giving a number of immunizations to a child who requires a catch up schedule. I retreat following to do the last minute cramming of frozen food into the action packer and put my bags out in the hall then sit down to read for a few minutes.

The phone rings at about 3 p.m. and it's Nellie saying "what are you still doing here? you're plane is leaving without you, they're calling for you". I implore her to tell them I'm on my way and rush out in to the hall almost colliding with David the driver. He takes the front of the action packer and I bring up in the rear down the stairs. We struggle the bags outside, I pitch the health centre and apartment keys at the front desk staff and he brings the vehicle around. I again grab the back of the action packer but on the slippery and steep exterior stairs I quickly lose my grip and the tote pan escapes me, out distancing David and almost taking him out on the narrow stairway. In the frigid air we heave the bags into the back of the SUV and are off for the airport. Since the plane would be bigger than the airport it's easy to see that it hasn't arrived yet. There is only one very odd acting guy (more on that later) sitting in the waiting room and the airline staff who are casually trading fishing stories (I could already be home I think). I am checked in before I get my parka off and my butt on a bench - no ID needed here as Chuck knows my name and particulars. After a few moment I ask gently (one does not after all want to anger those who are responsible for piling ones luggage on the back of the pickup truck and driving it across the snowy airstrip to the plane then throwing it in) if he called the health centre to say the plane was leaving when in fact it hasn't even left Kugaaruk and will be late taking off from here? Chuck gives me a blank look and says "no". No further discussion then. After about half an hour the RCMP replacement officer who is flying out today arrives and we all sit quietly in the former DEW Line portable building which for the past three decades has served as Taloyoak airport. Then Chuck points at the man beside me and says "sir, you can't do that in a public place, I'm going to have to ask you to stop". I am reluctant to turn around and look but I sniff thinking he's lit up a cigarette in a public building. The guy mumbles something and the RCMP officer gets up and says loudly while showing him his badge "he told you to pour it out, have you been drinking this all day?" and I turn to see the officer holding an empty 66 oz. of Jim Bean and a coffee cup. Ohhhhh, that's why he was acting odd - he's plastered. Chuck then says "I'm going to have to deny you access to your flight as you are intoxicated". The waiting room fills with passengers and I catch up with the dental team who are heading home to Ottawa and Vancouver and a CHN who filled in with us and is on his way to Mexico.When the Cpl arrives to pick up the female officer coming in on the flight they have to 'assist' the inebriated non passenger to the RCMP truck and off to the hotel for the night.

Chuck puts on his reflective vest and says "flight 748 to Yellowknife now boarding" and we tromp out across the snow to the plane. It's a surreal experience to enter a cold, small, quiet, dark 20 seat turboprop plane and stuff yourself into the seat with parka, mitts, snowpants and boots while the flight attendant in her Canada Goose parka stands by the door holding a flashlight and says "sit anywhere" as she's counting heads not checking boarding passes under these conditions. There are white tracks of snow off the boots of passengers in the aisle which don't melt until the plane warms up at least 20 minutes into the flight. I offer my seat mate some gum, the engines are started with a roar and we settle back for the 30 minute flight to Cambridge Bay. We're late and there is some concern amongst those of us making a connection to Edmonton that we've already lost that chance. We have a very short service stop in Cam Bay - long enough for a bathroom break and we're reboarding. The crew is in a hurry to make up time tonight as when we make it to Yellowknife they will be able to deadhead back to their home base of Edmonton, they don't want to overnight in Yellowknife either. As we get closer to Yellowknife the announcement is made that the Edmonton flight is being held and that all those remaining in Yellowknife should stay seated until we're off. The dental team makes the sprint off the plane and in through security (they've done this multiple times as the northern flights are often late - naturally) and I follow on their heels through security and out the door to a waiting jet. Whew, made it - going to be able to overnight in Edmonton and see my daughter in the morning.  I sit next to the first officer from my previous flight and he and I share stories of our work in the north. He enjoys the description "same country, different planet". We make a slightly late arrival and I retrieve my duffels and action packer from the carousel saying to the RCMP officer waiting for his luggage "you didn't have to show anyone your badge here in the airport?" and he grins.

I grab the shuttle to the hotel and try to check in. This is where the fun starts. First I'm told there is no reservation for me and no room as the Brier is on and the first of the week is busy for business travel. I try to have my frozen food taken to the walk in freezer but the clerk denies this as "you don't have a room". I quietly and firmly assure her that I WILL have a room, this even though they turn away a man who requests one as I wait. Finally the second clerk remembers my name as a no-show for the previous night so they check and yup, wrong date. I am finally granted a room (albeit next to the elevator and across from the pop and ice machine - didn't hear a thing as tired as I was) and my action packer is taken to the freezer. I crash for the night.

Down to enjoy breakfast with the electrician daughter and her boyfriend and we have a good catch up visit - the highlight of my travelling day. They deliver me to the airport in the gently used cadillac the boyfriend has bought a few days earlier - it really does look like an old man's car but he has always wanted one and it is very snazzy with heated seats etc. It's good to have a sherpa with you when you're lugging a large action packer of frozen food as well. The flight from Edmonton to Toronto is uneventful (and that's a good thing) which gives me a chance to watch Argo which is the Ben Affleck flick about Tehran in 1979 and the Canadian Embassy with the American hostages. Very well done and interesting, even if you weren't around for the real event - highly recommended. We stop in Toronto to let passengers disembark - thankfully the badly behaved children leave - while we are told to remain onboard and not use the bathrooms as the cleaning crew will be servicing them. Cruel and unusual punishment. Quick flight to Halifax, the luggage all made it, out to retrieve the car and on the road. It's been freezing rain and slushy snow so it's slow going. Home well after midnight. Have to wake the dog as she's so deaf now but she's thrilled to see me, Gary just wants to be fed and Stanley is afraid and hides.

The first few days back in this time zone are always problematic for sleeping - have to fix my sleep. Get my stuff unpacked because with the mild temperatures here it's not as if I'm going to wear any of my winter gear. A nice visit with the baby daughter and her boyfriend who are home on March Break and supper with the shore captain before he headed out to the Seafood Show in Boston for six days. Messages from the western daughter saying that during the night the neighbours had a window shot out and in the ensuing excitement of police cars arriving....the boyfriend's car was struck. She got up as she heard the sirens and crash (not the shot) but the boyfriend thought she was pulling his leg because of her feelings about the car. Oh dear.

Dealing with paperwork as I discover that MY visa, not work has been charged with my hotel bill, even though I didn't give them my credit card this visit they must've kept it on file. The charge gets reversed with an apology. A Frenchy's shop on Friday, then a few groceries, drop the son off to borrow his father's truck to pick up a transmission for his newly purchased pickup and back to enjoy having the house to myself. Visits with the travel buddy, walking the dog and supper together with a chance to catch up apres meal. Just now a photo (sent by his girlfriend) of the boy captain's sutured hand which he apparently sliced while installing the truck transmission and so received four sutures. She was quite unused to such things but he said he should've let me practice on it. That boy! Tomorrow I'm heading out to Write Away as I haven't attended the writing group for some time now, never short of story material in this household. Must think of packing at some point for the trip to Cuba.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Have kamiks will travel

Since I got called downstairs this morning, well I guess I shouldn't be surprised as I am on first call....I've been online shopping at LLBean for snow pants - going to wait for the spring sale I think - and decided to do a final update of the blog before heading out on Monday. It is snowy, with blowing snow today so not much moving in the hamlet and that suits me just fine. 

Theresa Totalik

Sealskin kamiks
 I'm posting a photo above on the left of the Inuk lady fitting the kamiks which were delivered yesterday. Her husband who works with us as janitor, courier, xray tech, deliverer of notes to those without a phone and fetcher of air freight and patients who muts be rescued without transport, brought them to me. When he arrived with them in a cloth grocery bag he said "Northern brand" and giggled. She came to our apartment to make sure that the duffel liners fit correctly and did a try on. I'd given her the measurements of my calf and ankle to knee and traced my foot but she wanted to be sure before putting them all together. I can imagine that sewing the sealskin wouldn't be a job you'd like to take apart and resew. Here they are above on the right - didn't she do a beautiful job? I tried them out with a short walk to the COOP and they are just like walking in really warm socks and so comfortable. Been 35 years since I had a new pair of kamiks. My coworker who came along in her 'southern boots' mentioned how quietly I was walking. 

Spence Bay

Although my coworker has gone out with her walking poles, it sure doesn't look much like this shot of the frozen harbour which I took last week. Or even like this two generation shot of a pair of ladies wearing their Mother Hubbarb parkas on the right. Just love them. If I was here for ten years as the Mental Health Worker has been, I'd have three or four in various styles and colors of fabrics as she does too.

Have had a wonderful last week in the contract where one of the patients who we had been treating for a dental infection (as you can imagine a not uncommon situation up here) got on the local radio station and said "we are so lucky to have nurses like this in our community to look after us, they are great". I have sure heard the healthcare system and nurses 'down south' mentioned in both the social and traditional media, but not usually in such a positive light. So the generous amount of money deposited in my account is actually secondary when working north of 60. On one of the visits when it was possible that he might be schedvaced (sent out on a regular flight) to Yellowknife, I warned him (through the interpreter) of this possibility as I inserted his IV. He told me that the first time he'd been out of the community was on a plane in 1958 when he was a young man and he stayed in Edmonton for three and a half years. When I asked why he replied "TB in my back". I assured him that if he went, the stay wouldn't be anything like the former Rx for TB of the spine. One of the later visits for IV antibiotics, which my coworker ran found him speaking Japanese, French and counting in Italian to her. Apparently a legacy of his sanitorium days where he learned languages from his roommates and shared his with them. One of the rules up here is that you are never surprised at anything you find in the north.

I must get myself together as I need to bake up some of my supplies, clean the apartment a bit and think of packing. I close with the quote of the day for procrastinators:

"Don't wait. The time will never be just right."
— Napoleon Hill

Friday, March 1, 2013

Home in four, three, two.....

I am posting an update this evening as tomorrow (well actually in a few hours when the date changes here) I will be, by choice, without internet access. My Qiniq account allows me to pay only when I'm working north but I will not allow myself to pay $85 for four days of internet access as my anniversary date is the first of the month and I am outta here on March 4th. Essentially it means that I will be without Facebook as I have email access on the computer in the office. 

I had thought I'd be catching a flight out on March 5th as that's when my replacement is coming in but apparently the flights that day will only get me as far as Yellowknife to overnight. I feel like one of those rock stars who have a list of 'requirements' such as tonic water in the dressing room because I stipulate that I must overnight in Edmonton. This of course is so I can visit my first born. Usually it means we'll have supper together but the meal will be breakfast this time through as I'm not in (hopefully that is) until 10:15 pm and leave the next morning at 11:15 am. This is all theoretical as my roommate was trying to leave on Friday (when the plane overflew mechanical) then got out on Saturday, made it as far as Yellowknife and didn't get out of Yellowknife until 5 pm Sunday night and home to Moncton on the red eye, arriving Monday afternoon. Oh dear.

I can't believe how quickly the time has flown by this contract as well. Although it's been almost nine weeks by the time I get here and back it feels like perhaps a week. It's such an interesting place to work. Where else (unless a home office) can you go downstairs to work in your Cabela's slippers with the sheepskin lining? Even if it is accidentally. This past few weeks the local description of the nursing staff is - the older nurse, the younger nurse and Nellie - no mistaking who's who. 

We've had a busy week giving immunizations (or pokes as the local vernacular goes) as we're trying to catch up from being behind in bronchiolitis season. Nellie was listing off the cycle of the health centre....first you have bronchiolitis season, then sore throats, some exacerbations of COPD (not too many because most of them have died off) then gastro then.....And in between there are lots of ear infections as otitis is VERY common in the north through a combination of short ear canals (a genetic adaptation to the cold wind blowing) and various upper respiratory bugs circulating, pneumonia, bronchitis and all the other itis you can think of. It's been a busy contract but one where I have learned so many things - how to do X-rays, manual WBC counts, smears for CBCs, ESR testing, centrifuge serum, and polish up my skills of suturing, examining sick babies and treating bronchiolitis, pap smears - I did 60 in the month of January, preschool assessments and more. 

Guess I have to go home to my previous duties. The executive director of the fishing association the shore captain sits on the board for, tells me that it takes three women to keep him sorted out. The secretary at the plant for the business, her at the association for his quotas and transfers and me on the home front. I fear we are not always successful though as with our phone conversation of Sunday where I questioned him about a significant cheque written on the joint account - which thankfully my substantial pays have been going in to. He pays the property taxes and insurance, I pay the household bills. Turns out that he hadn't paid the taxes for some time and when the talk in the coffee room at work turned to publishing the tax delinquents in the newspaper he realizes that he doesn't want to be included on the list of debtors so he writes the cheque and deposits the funds to cover it.....into the savings not chequing account. He had forgotten to call on Saturday when arranged and then didn't answer when I called him through PennyTalk (more on that later) and then the call was dropped a few times on his cell. When I question him about the phone as he says it's not working well, he admits he just got it last week. He is notorious for killing cell phones so I ask what the story is. He is reluctant to share but finally admits to washing his cell phone last week. That's pretty tame by his standards. 

Okay, on to PennyTalk here's the link:
My coworker told me about this service which is much like a calling card without the pain of having to go out and buy them. You join online, can top up the funds with your credit card and call from any phone anywhere for one cent per minute. Works great, I gave it a try calling a few folks. 

The life partner and I are looking forward to heading out to Cuba for two weeks of R&R and he wrote to tell me that he was cutting back on the hot water in the shower and sitting with the toilet seat up to acclimatize himself. This, because we travel off grid when we're there. 

I've been thinking lately why the Inuit population remind me in many ways (climate not certainly one of them) of Cubans. There are of course the obvious reasons:

the foreign accent - even though they don't sound similar
they are both used to being looked after by 'the state'
there aren't many vehicles so they walk everywhere
the kids drink from bottles well into school age
a housing shortage means large numbers of inhabitants per house
generations live together and there are few long term care homes
they for the most part trust the nurse and the health centre

I had an interesting conversation with a mother asking me about feeding her nine month old baby (a twin who has had some major health issues) vienna sausages from the can. She tells me that she's checked and there aren't any ingredients that he's allergic to. I suggest (after I recover my power of speech) that they are too fatty for a baby, so she asks about sardines. Without even considering whether they're in mustard sauce I agree they would be a better choice. As Nellie points out - if she's asking about it, they're likely already feeding him the sausages anyway. 

I also (as nurse on call) one day this week, got an unusual call from a local out in Yellowknife who had a sore throat, was staying at the Nova Court and wondered what to do. I suggested salt water gargles but he reminded me that he was staying at a hotel (as if there wouldn't be salt in the kitchen) and so I told him to go over to Stanton Territorial Hospital ER and be seen. "You think I should do that?" he says. "When are you coming back up here?" I ask and he replies "the day after tomorrow" so I say "I most certainly do think you should go and get that checked out before you come back". And to myself I say 'so I won't have to be giving you IV antibiotics at all hours. 

It is becoming more light every day and very quickly at that with it being light when I get up at 7:30 am and still light at 4:30 pm. The community is looking forward to spring and getting out on the land more as the temperatures will moderate some. My kamiks are supposed to be finished tomorrow and I have promised to store them in the freezer 'down south' so they will keep well. They will have lots of company with the arctic char and caribou I have bought. The action packer will be put to good use on the return trip. So, I will have six weeks of not working, two vacations and generally enjoying myself before I head back to Kugluktuk on April 22nd. This being semi-retired is something I can certainly get used to.