Sunday, March 23, 2014

Nunavut to Mexico to Honduras

As I check the date on the previous posting, it is clear that the past month has been busy and….fun, which translates into not having / finding time to update. When I read about freezing temperatures and packing up my northern life I realize I am waaayyyy behind. So as the shredded wheat bread rises in the oven and the chili simmers on the stove I will fill you in. 

Yes (obviously) I made it home the end of February, but the amazing part was that I actually made all my connections as planned.  It was touch and go as I readied to leave Taloyoak on a flight booked for late in the afternoon with Canadian North. There are two airlines which fly into Kitikmeot - First Air and Canadian North with First Air being the more 'reliable' as in larger planes so less cancellations. On Mondays flying out of Taloyoak to Yellowknife there are two flights, First Air then Canadian North. As the caretaker drove me to the airport he said "Canadian North is delayed" to which I replied "you're joking!!" but his lack of response led me to understand he wasn't. A full waiting room at the airport as both flights of passengers congregated and visited. A number of prenatal patients travelling out for confinement sat quietly - imagine leaving your community and family for three to four weeks (perhaps longer) to await the birth of your baby! A prenatal aged 17 going out to deliver her second child stood with silent tears dropping down her cheeks. I approached her, squeezed her shoulder and suggested that she might deliver early and be home more quickly, the tears continued to fall. The waiting room filled as more and more passengers arrived and as far as I could tell all passengers were in some way being funded by the government - medical travel as patient or escort and duty travel for me. I approached the Canadian North desk aka packing crate and questioned Chuck if the delay would affect my connection in Yellowknife to Edmonton? As he checked I suggested that I would switch to the First Air flight if I was not going to overnight in Edmonton as my daughters were meeting me there and I WOULD be seeing them. Upon checking, Chuck reassured me that since the flight wasn't landing in Cambridge Bay on the way to Yellowknife there shouldn't be a problem. As I watched the passengers load and the First Air flight leave I hoped I had bet on the right horse. The Canadian North flight eventually landed and the crew exchanged freight/baggage with the plane as weather conditions deteriorated, even the Inuit passengers were commenting about the lack of visibility. The airline portable phone was in constant use (phones are popular because not all households have one) as the passengers spoke quietly in Inuktituit  with family and friends about their plans for Yellowknife. Since the ground crew was outside wrangling heavy objects from the back of a pickup into the side of a small plane in the whiteout, waiting passengers took turns answering the phone when it rang saying "Canadian North" and advising locals who were awaiting arriving patients / freight that the plane was here now. The pilot radioed in to the desk advising that passengers could begin loading and it was suggested that one of the ladies who had been answering the phone should answer the radio but she declined. We stood silently awaiting the return of Chuck to tell us to board, forming a line, looking out the door at a plane which was barely visible on the tarmac and no one made a sound, not even the children as the Inuit are a patient culture. Ahh how I miss those calm, smiling faces. Finally we were out into the frigid dark and onto the small plane with only two empty seats. As we settled, the flight attendant announced we were on our way to Cambridge Bay and I could easily have screamed - I'm sure if I was kidnapped my reaction wouldn't have been any different - as I again felt my connection in Yellowknife slipping away. When I questioned the flight attendant on the likelihood of making it to Edmonton she assured me that she and both pilots were heading home to Edmonton tonight so I relaxed. We stopped to pick up a tradesman in Cam Bay and then headed in to Yellowknife. Off one flight across the freezing tarmac, through the terminal, security and out to board a second flight to Edmonton. Uneventful (just the way I like my flights) trip to Edmonton and met by the oldest daughter with a cup of tea as the youngest circled the parking lot while I grabbed by luggage. As the carousel began spitting out suitcases and containers a lid of an action packer appeared bearing a plastic grocery bag containing frozen arctic char. The assembled looked at it and one guy said to another "is that what's left of your action packer?" but I stepped forward, picked up the lid / fish and said "whew at least the char made it as I can replace the tote pan" however after a few more pieces of baggage the remainder of the action packer arrived too. 

A visit with the oldest daughter before she travelled to her apartment for an abbreviated sleep and an overnight with the youngest daughter where we settled late after sharing 'war stories' of nursing. Up in the morning to retrieve luggage, have a nice brunch at Cora's and then off to pick up the kennelled canines which the daughter had stored in Stony Plain - turns out to be an hours drive from the airport - and they quickly settled into the back seat of the truck as they likely hadn't slept much last night either. Check in at the airport, through security, a short wait with a VERY badly behaved toddler and it was quickly apparent why as his parents found his behaviour amusing and had lengthy discussions with him about it. Sigh. On to the flight and after a nap I watched the movie Last Vegas which was actually very good. Morgan Freeman, Michael Douglas, Robert DeNiro and another old guy I can't remember - recommend it if you need a laugh. A short layover in Pearson where I grabbed a sandwich, cup of David's tea and checked email. And yes, it is true that I did not respond to the overhead page asking if there was "a Dr. in the terminal to come to Gate 42" as I calmly munched my sandwich at Gate 44 because….they didn't ask for a nurse and also because the paramedics were along shortly for the person who had a 'spell'. Delayed out of Pearson with a wait for a flight crew, deicing and then off. I watched Gravity, with Sandra Bullock on the way to distract myself from the turbulence but….although it received more Oscar nominations than Philomena, I wasn't as impressed with it, mind you George Clooney always looks fine but beyond that it was quite a stretch. In to Halifax 45 minutes late and the baggage took forever to come through, but it was reassuring that the prearranged taxi driver was patiently waiting not the shore captain sighing, pacing and whining about being up all night and having to work in the a.m. A quick cab ride to my classmates house to find my little car waiting for me in the driveway and off on the deserted highway home. No traffic and clear roads, only a stop for tea to perk me up and I was 15 minutes from home before I ran into any snow. It's a full two days commute even if the travel Gods smile on you so I was thrilled there were no glitches. Through the door as the shore captain arose for the day, quick greeting and I collapsed into my own bed for the first time in 55 days. Ahhhh. 

Only three days at home before leaving for vacation so lots of errands / appointments to attend to. Trips to the spa, buying of sunscreen, packing of swimsuits are all fun pursuits. As well as supper for eight of us the night before we departed to catch up on all the news, eat the aforementioned arctic char with assorted other goodies and generally enjoy ourselves. 

Early morning start on the drive to the USA and an uneventful arrival in Portland, Maine ten hours later. Found a room (smoking rooms are always the last ones left) at the Holiday Inn there and after multiple tries for a reservation, found a spot at Yosaku - a sushi restaurant. Tried the plum wine recommended by another guest and sampled the warm sake while enjoying the wonderful service and menu. Off in the morning through New Hampshire then Vermont to visit our summer neighbour. Only took 90 minutes longer than planned after a 'detour' from the scheduled route. Had a wonderful visit, supper, sleep, breakfast and lunch and off again to Boston. Again driving with a dyslexic (I am sure) chauffeur did not help and we spent over an hour in several small towns at rush hour as he 'decided this was the exit' before serendipity caused us to find our way. We left the truck at the seafood wholesaler and Dave drove us to the airport hotel. A quick supper and early bedtime for our 4 am departure. 

Los Ojos de Agua
Shuttle to Logan airport, wait for US Airways flight to Charlotte, NC, delay, uneventful trip, long walk through the terminal, quick boarding of the flight to Cancun, longer uneventful flight. Whoosh into the heat, met by the oldest daughter with a cab (nice to have an in-house interpreter) and off to Puerto Morales for a couple of days. Beautiful beach, great food, wonderful snorkelling, visit to the botanical garden and generally enjoying the good life for the three of us. On the right is the view from our balcony.

Then a cab to Playa del Carmen, ferry to Cozumel and a two day stay there. Wonderful food, shopping, snorkelling and general good times. Back on the ferry to Playa del Carmen, taxi to BlueBay Grand Esmerelda and settle in to await the remainder of the family for the vacation who arrived in waves. By Friday midnight the girls and partners were present and accounted for and the festivities began. 

We had three suites in a row with a common swim up pool - so called our own private cenote by the patriarch (here left and right)  and very much enjoyed visiting as a group. Supper at 7:15 pm nightly at a series of a la carte restaurants, a group excursion to the Mayan ruins of Coba, swimming in a cenote and a great meal. The youngsters also chose to go shopping in Playa del Carmen, an excursion with zip lining, rappelling, cenote swimming and then snorkelling in Akumal as well as parasailing off the beach. Wonderful photos of great memories. Might be a while before we're all in one spot again. 

On Saturday we packed up our bags and headed out in a series of departures with the teacher daughter and son-in-law starting out first, then us at noon time. We made a very efficient trip to the airport and were met with the hugest crowd I have ever seen (without a cancellation backup) in an airport - you could not get through the doors and in to the terminal. "Spring Break Saturday" was given as the cause and realistic concern for making our flight developed. You couldn't see where the lines were even going while pressed into the back in front of you but someone indicated it was the waiting line for the kiosk to check in. A guardian angel in the form of a tour operator appeared to the family in front of us and we attached ourselves (as I noted did the couple in line behind us) and moved to the kiosk. We travelled for the ten days with only carry on luggage (vowing never again to check a bag) so were able to avoid the second line and head up through security. Attempting unsuccessfully to find wi-fi we finally called the resort and left a message for the kids to "start out at least an hour early as the terminal is nuts" and crossed our fingers. A delay of about 30 minutes and we were off. Looking through the plane window we were in a series of 17 flights departing from Cancun. Routine trip to Philadelphia then a long walk through the terminal to change gates. No wi- fi so two glasses of wine and smoked salmon snack at that wine bar gave me the wi-fi password and a $80 bill - who cares? I was trying to find out if the offspring had made it out of Mexico. Checked messages while the travel partner entertained several inebriated Acadian seafood businessmen he knew who had travelled early to see Philadelphia play Pittsburg but were unable to state the score of the game. An uneventful trip to Boston, cab to the truck and fairly painless drive to the downtown hotel. 

A couple of days at the Seafood Expo and Food Show, an industry cocktail party, supper with some of the seafood players and a bit of shopping for me the second afternoon. A nice walk as a tourist after all the inside air at least. Supper with the shore partner - Boston diners are VERY LOUD - but good food. Hoped to meet up with the team leader of the Honduras mission but he ended up working late so a phone chat instead. An early morning start and 13 hr. drive from Boston home with only a couple of pit stops. Lots of snow in the fields in Maine/NB but clear roads. Sure glad to climb out of that vehicle, I would make a poor long haul trucker. 

The big news of the trip occurred as we were all on our way home. The youngest daughter announced her engagement as they'd stopped in Denver and he'd popped the question. Quite an organized young fellow he'd brought the ring with him from Saskatchewan. He's been on the scene for over four years so not entirely a surprise. A summer of 2015 wedding in this area is planned so a bit of time to get things organized. 

The past few days at home have been taken up with the practical tasks of laundry, getting groceries, walking the dog, meals and baking, assembling the paperwork for the tax return, submitting my travel claim for work, mailing back the camera which died on vacation and the replacement I purchased which is also not working, booking airfare from Halifax to Miami to meet up with the Honduras mission and no I didn't chose to fly through Calgary even though it was the cheapest airfare I just couldn't bring myself to fly that route two more times, then airfare from Miami to Tegucigalpa (gonna have to practice pronouncing that capital city) with the team, a Frenchy's shop, booking with Aeroplan points for flights from Halifax to Lisbon return Aug/Sept as we exchanged our vacation share week for a week in the Algarve (Albufiera) and booked a week cruise out of Venice - link here:

picking up my antimalarial meds and oral typhoid vaccine for the Honduras trip, test packing my 10 days of gear into a knapsack, organizing some Inuit artifacts for a 'presentation' to my daughter's grade one class and making plans for a quick run to the city before the predicted weather bomb of late spring blizzard arrives on Wednesday. Will it never end?

Had a call from western friends who are heading east for a summer visit and was pleasantly surprised to discover that my spring/summer contract is booked for May 8/9 and returning July 3/4 (I had thought it was the following week) so all kinds of time for a visit and to ready for the Jimmy Buffett concert July 19th. To fly on points or take the Yarmouth to Portland ferry which will begin May 15th….decisions, decisions. 

And to close - since I have the best of intentions to simplify my environment - living by the quote "less stuff more life" here is a link to a plan for decluttering which was intended originally for lent I think but regardless:

I am sure that I have more than the aforementioned 40 bags and we've only been 'moved' for seven years. Here is a link to a site that would provide lots of ideas of how to upcycle some of the contents of said bags:

Off to bed as I'm tired of looking after the life partner with a man cold. As I told him tonight "I don't even know who the palliative care nurse is anymore as Jacquie has retired". Lots of moaning and sighing going on - do you think he'll make it? A man cold is serious you know! I'm sure more males die by smothering than any infectious process. sigh