Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Canine triage...I'd give him a 5

Sachs Harbour from the hill
Meant to update the blog on the weekend but you know how it is….the less you have to do the less you get accomplished. My boss left for vacation and the replacement nurse (who incidentally share my not very common first name - what are the odds in such a small place?) is staying in one of the other apartments over the health centre. Either I'm becoming more of a hermit or she's an overactive social butterfly….well maybe a little from column A and a little from column B. She invited me over for supper on Friday and we watched some of her series of DVDs called Pie in the Sky which is a British detective / chef yarn - the main character is most certainly built like the former not the latter. It was entertaining as those Brits can be at times. 
Library aka storage room
Storage for Cooking with Cops
Small classroom

We dropped over to the school on Friday (as seen above and here) to explore the two classes - small which is grades K-5 (except there aren't any grade 4 or 5 students this yr) and large which is grades 6-9 and a total of 15 students with two teachers. They are officially in class  until May 15th but as the principal stated "functionally school is finished by Easter". Families will soon be heading out on the land to their cabins and camping to fish, collect eggs, hunt ducks, geese, muskox, seals and caribou. Apparently the ravens have returned to Sachs Harbour which is a sign of spring as this far north even the ravens go south for the winter. Folks watch the weather and it's been warm in Jean Marie River and the ice is starting to breakup so summer is heading this way. 

Sachs Harbour cemetery
Police Notice
Saturday was my day off and so I hiked up the hill to the cemetery to overlook the community and stopped at the COOP on my way back to read the community bulletin board. As you can see by the sign on the left, this is a real high crime area. ha! That evening found us both at sewing class which is going to be the last until August - a combo of funding lapse and 'out on the land exodus' so lack of participants. I managed to get two needles full of wax thread to connect about 1/3 of the top of one slipper to the sole - this is gonna take a while. At least the teenager who sews a pair of mittens in an evening wasn't there to make me feel bad about myself this week. We were discussing various plane crashes - the sewing instructor (two years my junior) remembered one here when she was 10 years old and had gone up on her bike to see the plane land "not many safety rules then like now" she said. I reassured her that as kids we'd picked blueberries along the train tracks after they sprayed with pesticide and when the train whooshed by. She pointed to the photo of the local man killed in that crash and said his son had been in a coma for 28 days but made a full recovery. The talk turned to various northern aviation disasters across the north which is a topic best discussed mid rotation I've found. Oddly enough when I checked online that evening the first news of the 'hard landing' of an Air Canada Airbus in Halifax was being broadcast. I think when you've clipped power lines and landed without the nose, front wheels, one engine and passengers emergency exit down the chutes it should get a higher rating than a hard landing. Lots of walking wounded and so the emergency rooms ramped up for their disaster plan. As one colleague said "at least the ER would be cleared out and those whiners with colds in the waiting room would be sent packing, the drunks with the police would be sent pronto to the drunk tank and the only ones remaining would be the granny drops who have been abandoned" Sad but true nurse logic. Apparently only one person still in hospital the next afternoon - angels on their shoulders. But enough grim talk. 

Last week saw us receive a visit from the social worker who travels over from Uluhuktuk (Holman Island) every few months as he has two clients here. He is a small dark wiry man from Ghana via Toronto who could win the 'young Sammy Davis Jr look alike contest'. Very nice fellow who clearly was searching for work. He stayed at the local (only) B&B for the two nights and disclosed that GNWT had paid $250/night for his accommodations. I asked if the breakfast was good and he said "no breakfast for that price" so I said "not B&B just B" and he chuckled and said "likely more than my per diem so I brought food". The per diem is about $140/day for the three meals so….Amazingly enough the replacement RCMP member is also Ghanian, also via Toronto and they had met in Ulu (the slang version of the above mentioned community name) so before the social worker arrived we'd already been informed that he owned a large chicken farm for fresh eggs in Ghana which he did confirm when questioned that there were 250,000 hens providing eggs in a company managed by his sister in Africa as he lived in the arctic. The RCMP of Ghanian origin had actually served in Bridgetown NS about 15 years ago so knew my province well. He now does relief postings in the north and likely is up there with the chicken farmer/social worker for personal wealth. The folks you meet north of 60 are entertaining. And speaking of chickens….how would you pronounce this name…..Tsiigehthic - yes that's correct Sick a Chick. Made me think of the Cape Breton classic take out the Lick a Chick.

Tiktalik Health Centre
And while on the subject of animals I must share a situation of today. I asked the phone "Tiktalik Health Centre" and a male voice with a local accent said "ah I'm wondering if you could have a look at my dog" so I stalled with "um, I'm not sure if we do that" but he assured me that this was usual practice if he "brought the dog to the front door the nurse comes out" so I said "I'll have to ask the other nurse" and put the call on hold. My co-worker gamely took the call and had an interesting discussion which began with "well dogs aren't my specialty" and continued on to "he bit you? if the dog is not nice I don't think I can" to the final answer to her query of the dog's appetite and activity levels "what you can't catch him? oh I think he's doing much better" and she concluded with "who is good with dogs in the community? you should go and find them to help" and he suggested his uncle who had a dog sled team would likely know what to do so happily signed off. I was a puddle of silent giggles in the chair behind her (which I fully admit was not nice as she had kindly taken the call) but as I gasped "your triage skills for dogs are admirable" and she smugly said "I'd give him a 5" which for those in my audience who do not understand the CTAS scale means 'there's not much wrong with you and you can wait up to 24 hrs without being seen' for example a rash. Well, that was it - I was NO good for about ten minutes of hysterical laughter. She further elaborated that she used the same approach to kids who tore apart the office after being brought in 'really sick'. Many endorphins were released in the telling of this story. 

The physician booked to come to our community for clinic this week arrived in Inuvik yesterday and returned our call today as we offered to feed him if he'd do some shopping for us - he volunteered fresh fruits and veggies as his contribution. He quickly denied any allergies and agreed to pick up blend when I suggested cream lobsters for supper. My coworker offered spaghetti and cheesecake for dessert and tentatively asked if he enjoyed a sip of wine would he pick some up for us. He quickly stated he'd brought a case of nice Spanish wine up with him. After she hung up I said "he must only have one pair of jeans with him if he's brought that much wine" and she said "I think we're all going to get along fine" and we both nodded. So I spent the morning getting the paperwork ready for the clinic as the clerk just returns from a week away tomorrow. 

I have been working on some crochet projects dishcloths, tea cozy, coasters, boot cuffs and now I've started an afghan. Watched Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil last night which was a great revisit of Savannah and am almost finished the Dreams From My Father by Barack Obama ebook. Nice retreat this is. Now I really must get myself off to bed but since I am a known nite owl I am leaving you with this link to an article defending myself and my clan:


Another good list:


Saturday, March 21, 2015

Already one down and seven to go…..

It is difficult to comprehend that even with the slow pace the time flies and I've been here over a week already - 1/8 of my rotation already behind me. I am on call tomorrow, as I am 
every other night but except for one phone call each on the weekend there has been no need for either of us nurses to work on the off hours. And I must say that I am enjoying the sunshine and relatively comfortable temperatures here versus the mountains of white stuff in the maritimes. Crazy amounts of eastern snow!

Sunday is the day for the prearranged FaceTime chat with the life partner. He suggested that 3 - 4 pm Mountain time zone was his preferred schedule and as I was settling myself, the computer chimed. He promptly hit something on his iPad mini and lost the connection but not before I realized that he wasn't at home. No snow and lots of people were the first clues. After a number of callbacks we finally were looking at each on the screen and I said "where are you?" The reply was "Boston at the Seafood Show". No indication of this during our chat Thursday evening when I'd announced my safe arrival in community and excitement with having cell coverage. He had left Friday after getting a haircut (proving that if you really want to do something you can get yourself together) driving down with a trucker and another seafood broker. The background noise was not conducive to having a rational conversation but what do you do? As I was on call, I left a message / note of where to find me and enjoyed an evening out as I was invited to supper at the home of my boss, her RCMP husband, other RCMP and wife, the teachers and wife. We supped on chili, bread the host had made and a selection of desserts we'd contributed - pies, apple crisp and meringue. Yum. Nice to visit with others who have lived in various northern communities and endorse this the 'best one' which I heartily agreed with after only a few days. 

This week has been one of working through manuals, doing online tutorials, checking cupboards, trying out new to me equipment and attempting to make myself useful. Of course the one time I think I've mastered something I either can't complete it without checking with Andrea or attempt it anyway screwing it up. Such is the lot of the new employee. I contacted WestJet to extend my ticket one more day in May so I could spend the entire weekend in Edmonton with the oldest daughter who will be attending school then. Plans are to visit the Cuban friend in the city and stay over. I was pleased to find that I could change the ticket to the same time on Sunday for only $65 and promptly did so, sending a message to the travel folks at GNWT who had purchased my ticket. On Monday I received a pointed email from the travel clerk telling me that I should've checked with my manager first before making changes due to liability issues. I responded that since I wasn't on salary by Sat/Sun (job share employees are only paid one day each way) and had covered the difference I didn't realize I had to ask. She responded that I should notify my manager of the change. I emailed the manager explaining that I hadn't realized the process and would ask in the future. She was gracious in her reply stating she didn't mind if it didn't cost or affect my working dates. Whatever. As the oldest daughter says "better to beg forgiveness versus ask permission". 

On Tuesday, which is the day the flight arrives here late (as it goes to Uluhuktuk first) there was a bit of excitement.  We finished up work and my boss and her husband headed out to
Food mail 
meet the plane and pick up their (and my) food mail order. They arrived back at almost 6 pm with three boxes of grub which set me back $188 - the northern food subsidy had saved me $150 in freight costs however. I had purchased a large box of frozen chicken breasts, pork chops and lean ground beef as well as milk, greek yogurt, veggies, cranberries (for the scones I've promised on handover to my job share partner) wholewheat bread and the only fail of the order….bananas. The very expensive organic bananas arrived with half of them squashed - I baked with the mushiest of them and crossed them off my food mail list. I carried my frozen food to the laundry room to store the meats in the freezer located there and discovered a funny smell and brown liquid all over the washer, dryer and freezer. With the NICs comment "we have trouble with the sewer sometimes here" ringing in my ears I retreated and called Terrance the DPW guy responsible for maintaing the health centre and apartments. As I headed back with my food to the kitchen the video monitor beeped and I noticed a local male who looked familiar holding something in his hands, standing in the front entryway. I pushed all the buttons on the intercom (remembering the instructions in the orientation manual) while yelling "hello hello" loudly into the machine. The guy looked hopefully into the camera a few times and then gazed towards the door so I sprinted down the stairs only to find an empty front entryway. I looked around and finding no evidence of his visit, assumed (incorrectly I found out later) that he was perhaps selling crafts or country food and checked the orientation binder again - yep, it said to push the button (didn't specify which one) to talk. Sigh. I returned to my food storage. I sent a text to my boss with a photo of the video monitor asking "what button do I press to talk?" and received no answer. She received the text about 24 hrs. later for some reason. Terrance arrived, pronounced a glycol leak in the pipe in the laundry room, stated he would clean it up (his version of this was to put some pads down and close the door) and would return in the morning to fix it. I made supper, attended to email and assumed the fellow in the lobby would return if he had a health problem. I finally went to bed. 

In the morning I questioned the NIC about which button to push on the intercom and she said….wait for it….."you pick up the receiver". I hadn't even noticed there was one in my focus on buttons. Then she said "that must've been Fred from COOP with an air freight delivery - did he leave anything?" I assured her I'd looked and hadn't seen anything. Of course she quickly found a small box from the pharmacy on the shelf around the corner. After this (likely feeling she was dealing with a real winner) she went out to the front entryway and insisted I go into the emerg room to answer the video monitor there ensuring that I actually knew how to lift the phone receiver and talk to her. I discreetly checked out the box and was thrilled to find that it contained no narcotics or perishables which should've been refrigerated. Only a ventolin inhaler and a B/P med. Whew! When Fred came to the health centre the next day (and the light went on as I realized he had been the one to chauffeur me from the airport to the health centre upon my arrival) I questioned if he'd heard me yelling "hello" from my apartment he said "I wondered why you didn't answer" I didn't bother to go into that button thing. This learning one mistake at a time is the part of being the 'new kid on the block' which I like the least, and the reason for wanting to settle in one community. 

Wednesday night I decided I would be domestic so after making supper I cooked up a pot of ham and pea soup and a batch of banana oatmeal muffins. I left a muffin for our newly hired janitor in the kitchen but….he didn't show up for work on Thursday. Not a good start as it was only day two of his employment. When he arrived in the afternoon he pronounced them delicious. Since he only works four hours/day it was decided that 1 - 5 pm might be a more suitable schedule for someone who only went to bed at 4 am. He worked diligently while there and had to be reminded to go home after 5 pm as he was attempting to make up for his tardiness. We did hear him exclaim "oh ewww" when he was emptying garbage, so hope he's up for the task. Thursday had began with the usual routine, then the clerk/homecare
Kamiks in progress
worker and I headed out to do home visits. There are two elders who have 'friendly visits' so I dropped in to introduce myself. Neither of them require an interpreter but clearly English was not their first language. I discovered the lady sewing some beaded fronts for kamiks - she does lovely work. She told me that she was "born in an iglu out on the ice" when we discussed her early years. The next stop saw me looking at hunting photos on the wall of a much younger man with a polar bear and a muskox as he said "back then when I could". The schedule included a bit of a flurry in the afternoon where I learned how to manage the consults to counselling, the physician on call, and a schedvac over to Inuvik with the attendant travel paperwork as well as deal with the X-ray machine and PACS system. Four patients by the end of the day - the highest totals I have seen in the logbook are seven (these include admin work, phone calls, consultations etc). 

Friday in celebration of nutrition month the plan was to host a 'Swap Your Lunch' event at the health centre. The clerk cooked up a storm and I assisted her by running the biscuits (sweet potato were good as expected - lentil biscuits were an epic fail) upstairs to my oven to bake and by washing a few dishes. We had a small grant for food and she put on quite a spread.
 Inualthuyak School 
Nice to meet some local people I hadn't encountered and some really cute kids came along. the school is next door to the health centre and the 'bus' usually takes them home at lunch. In between I attended to various nursing duties and administrative duties which is what Friday afternoons are scheduled for. Spent the final hour inventorying and ordering for the stock drugs in pharmacy - not a wonderful task but a great opportunity to see what is where - to hopefully make it easier when looking for something. The Nurse in Charge (NIC) and her husband are heading out on Monday to BC and then onwards to an Australian/French Polynesia cruise. Ahhh. A replacement from another health centre is flying in to keep me in line. Oh and I learned that the Aklak Air pilot is actually the 
Parka required
small guy with Pete crocheted on his flap hat and the big guy with the grey goatee who does all the talking is Peter the copilot. The clerk told me that they are known as Pete and Repete. As you can see according to instructions I shall have to drag my parka if I wish to travel back next October with them. Yvonne told me that her husband had called on his cell to advise they'd gotten nine muskox hunting today so she said "I guess I know what I'll be doing with my weekend - making dried meat". In answer to my question of their size she told me that "muskox are big" but when I suggested I might come see them as I hadn't seen one before, it occurred to me that they would likely be chopped up and she confirmed this. No need to travel to see a mound of meat. 

A quiet evening here where I downloaded the Best in Travel Lonely Planet guide for 2015, online shopped, FB chatted with my job share partner and sorted emails. Gotta get rested up for call tomorrow. Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha 

Sunday, March 15, 2015

New northern home

A wonderful 'day off' in my new home in the high arctic and so time to post. Enjoyed a (for the most part) relatively smooth commute to work and am all settled in. 

The final last minute details of domestic chores, final weighing and packing of the duffle bags and action packers took up Monday and Tuesday. I did have a nice visit with a previous co-worker as I psyched myself up to pick up my perishables.I grieved to leave a wonderful cauliflower and the key lime greek yogurt when the scales warned me the tote pan was over the 70 lb. limit. However, I refused to part with the cherry tomatoes and carefully transported them in my knapsack the thousands of km door to door - leaving them was non negotiable. It was a cooperative cannery operation as the shore captain and I steamed and cracked lobsters for the cooler bag. Finally, a few hours of restless naps before it was time to leave for the airport, falling asleep just before the 2 a.m. alarm sounded. The drive to my nursing school classmates who stores my car was uneventful as the roads were dry and I arrived in time to grab a cup of tea and bagel at the local Tim Hortons before heading over to her place to meet the taxi. 

The cabbie was late, he finally phoned to say that with the tall snow banks he couldn't locate see the house numbers and I stood at the edge of the road to direct him. Not the usual driver, this must've been someone's grandfather. He edged up the driveway, complained about the amount of luggage, managed to lock the door when putting the action packers in the back seat, fussed with the arrangement while I loaded the rest of my bags and finally we were underway. He crept onto the main highway and drove 60 - 70 km/hr so we were passed on the inside and outside lanes. I sent a text to my classmate to let her know there were lobsters on the passenger seat floor (storage payment) and in my flustered state apparently sent a text to landline voicemail message instead of to her her cell (I later learned this had woken her up and she thought 'car what car?' and went promptly back to sleep. We eventually arrived at the airport, the cab driver parked at the wrong door, I finally sourced a cart and struggled with baggage placement. I reluctantly included a tip and sped over to print baggage tags about 20 min. later than I'd planned. I dropped the duffels onto the belt - overweight the clerk said and I replied "do you know how many times my husband stood on the scales with those bags" She gave me a pass and I headed over to the excess baggage scan then backtracked to join the security screening line. I was very disconcerted to find it extended (for those who are familiar with the Stanfield Halifax International Airport) back past Clearwater Lobsters. Lots of folks in shorts and flip flops heading to warmer climes. Finally the 'WestJet Edmonton flight' passengers were rescued by a TSA staffer who directed us into the rapid line. Never would've made the flight if not. Have been told a Nexus card allows you to the front of the line - at $50 for 5 yrs and the ability to keep your shoes on at USA scanning and liquids in your knapsack it is worth investigating. 

An uneventful direct Halifax to Edmonton flight where I enjoyed a three hour nap - good thing as with the 140 knot headwinds we were were 35 minutes late getting in. I was met in arrivals by a former co-worker who was returning from a (conjugal visit I tease her) in Fox Creek with her husband who works there. She kept me company as I retrieved my baggage and we even found a very cooperative male traveler (much more patient than the two men we've been mixed up with for decades) to take our photo. Was great to see a familiar face - who would've thought 30 yrs when we were working shifts that we'd be having such adventures? She headed off to departures to catch the flight east and I phoned for the hotel shuttle. The familiar driver said "oh it's you" with a smile and wrestled my bags onto the shuttle. I checked in and specified three times that the two action packers were to go to the cooler - this enables me to have them brought out on a cart in the morning and (usually) speeds up the departure. I settled in to check out my perishables - things were still cold but the whole lobsters I'd brought for a friend had punctured the box of tomato sauce and I'm sure the maid thought there was some kind of massacre in the room when she cleaned the towels up the following day. Thank goodness for duct tape as I was not about to ditch the remainder of the sauce. A nap and then a Cuban friend and his girlfriend dropped by for a drink and visit while they retrieved the lobsters. I grabbed some supper after they left and had an early bedtime. 

Was awake just before the 5 a.m. alarm so I was either rested or excited. Packed up the perishables and headed down at 0530 for the booked shuttle. It took over 20 min. for the clerk to find and access my action packers - multiple trips to find keys, calls to the security guard, back for a cart and finally when she appeared with the totes she said "they were in the freezer not the cooler". Great, just great. "Is that okay?" What can you say to this? No! Fruits and veggies are not fond of being frozen that is why I asked for them to go in the fridge? Did she expect I'd say I'd leave them then? In the meantime, the shuttle had come and gone. When the 6 am shuttle arrived it quickly filled with the usual tradesmen and I told the driver (my friend of yesterday) I would just take a cab. He efficiently stacked all my bags and found me a seat - boy he works hard for his $5 tip that's for sure. Check in at Canadian North for flight #444 was painless in comparison - I have now established a system for prioritizing two of my four bags (perishables and must haves) with my name in cursive writing on one tote and printing on the other and a blue and brown luggage tag on my respective duffle bags. Through security and to the gate. The usual trot out on the tarmac to the plane - very mild in Alberta this year. Nice breakfast and a short nap and we were landing in Yellowknife. Snowing, -30c and windy. I decided not to get off - familiar to me as this is the usual flight I take, then transfer to Kitikmeot - I felt a tug in my chest as I watched a line of passengers being led to a such a flight heading east to my old stomping ground. Up and off -  a warm
Warm scone - yum
herb and cheese scone (well fed on those northern runs) on the 1 hr. and 15 min. flight. A quick station stop in Norman Wells where I deplaned to check it out. A very pretty spot with snow capped mountains and lots of trees. My seat mate was heading out to Tulita on the winter road from there. Back on the plane and a delay as they wrestled with the portable power supply to start he plane but we're finally off for the 50 min. flight to Inuvik. I am surprised to find there are 
still lots of trees in Inuvik as it's further north than Kugluktuk where there are none, but the tree line is apparently not straight. Hadn't considered there were trees this far north. Hmmm

Fairly good sized airport and terminal in Inuvik. I locate the Aklak Air desk and clarify that I retrieve my luggage and push the cart full  over to them. After the calculator stops whirring the clerk says "wow" when she looks at the total and I pull out my Amex for the $742 the four bags will cost me - good thing I am being reimbursed. A large guy sporting a salt and pepper crew cut and neatly trimmed beard, wearing a Carhartt shirt and worn jeans wandered by and asked "are we going to be alright on the weight with all that luggage?" which turned out to be more than a rhetorical question. My baggage disappeared through a
Aklak Air
hole in the wall on the conveyor belt and I made a BR stop. An announcement was made for Aklak Air boarding at Gate 2 and I asked the clerk to point that out. I followed several people out through the door, past the Canadian North flight departing loudly, behind a parked service cube van and across the tarmac to a small plane. We climbed up steep steps into the Beechcraft 1900 and five Inuit ladies and myself arranged ourselves in the first seats as the rear was full of pop according to our host who turned out to be…..the pilot! He proceeded to do a safety briefing - how to open the now closed door, where the fire extinguishers are located, ear plugs in the seat pocket and about an hour to Sachs Harbour. Then he and another smaller guy in worn coveralls and a crocheted hat with ear flaps
Landing in Sachs Hbr
reading PETE across the front climbed into the two seats in front of the windshield, pulled BOSE headsets on and started a preflight checklist as the engines came to life. I was still working on the guy who doesn't look anything like a pilot is the pilot as I settled in, while he buckled in the elder sitting in front of me. No facilities and the lady next to me with the orange juice obviously had more idea of the (non) services on board. Very smooth take off and we were soon flying at a cruising altitude which allowed us to see the trees receding, ice covered NW
Sachs Harbour, NWT
Passage, then cliffs and my first glance of Sachs Harbour perched on the edge of the water. I have decided that I really like a door to the cockpit so that I don't have to hear all the alarms and whistles sounding. A very smooth landing and taxi to the tiny terminal and I was collecting my stuff, dressing for -34c and climbing down the steep steps and across the icy runway. Into the waiting area and a big hug with my job share partner. We covered a few hand off items, schedule changes and local news "what have you gotten me in to Bee?" "trust me, you'll love it" and then she was off across the snow covered gravel airstrip and home to her family. 

A short but entertaining ride to the health centre in the COOP truck and I was deposited with my mound of luggage in the waiting room to introduce myself to my new boss. The Nurse in Charge is an RCMP wife (her husband is in charge of the detachment and they have been here two and a half years). I would guess she's the age of my kids and has been very good to me (I'm invited over for supper on Sunday). She gave me a quick tour of the health centre,
8 wks of supplies
we chatted a bit and she mentioned that Sachs Harbour has cell service - made my day - whoohoo I began the dragging my stuff up the stairs and settling in routine. I was pleased there were no further perishable punctures and everything appeared to be intact. I spent the evening getting the cupboards and fridge filled, made a lobster sandwich for supper, put away supplies, made up the bed and fell into it and sound asleep.

Down in the morning to begin work and at 8:30 the boss unlocked the front door. Guess there's no morning report here. Likely as there's nothing to discuss since she was on call and I didn't hear the phone ring since 5 pm last night. We count narcotics, tour the emergency room, discuss some processes and I start reviewing various bits of information. GNWT is more organized than GN and there are various things to sign, applications for various training and new ways of doing things - none of them bad. We record five patient encounters which cover two visits (foot dressing and a viral sore throat) and three phone calls for the entire day. I will have time to get myself organized with the orientation during work hours for sure. I agree to take call as long as I can ask for help from the NIC and she readily agrees. I
Fast paced call
decide to visit the COOP for milk, eggs etc and so we leave a note on the door saying 'nurse at the coop' with the same phone recording and take the new health centre SUV with cracked windshield to do a short tour of the community - doesn't take long to see the small collection of houses. Andrea points out one of the two elders places we do home visits (friendly vs care delivery).  The prices at the COOP aren't as bad as I'd thought but the selection is limited. I pick up milk and eggs but there is no butter. The clearance items sport expiry dates in the 2011 - 2014 era so I pass. I drop the boss off at her place and (after two attempts) get the vehicle parked and plugged in by the steps. Yes there is a garage but apparently someone somewhere in NWT left a vehicle running in an attached garage and there was a carbon monoxide poisoning incident so now we all have to suffer. I remove the note and recording and drag my stuff up the stairs to make some supper. A couple of hours later the health centre phone rings and I rush to answer it. A local male voice asks if I'm Bernice so I explain that I'm her alter ego who just arrived yesterday. He tells me there is a red light flashing on the health centre, he has tried to reach Terrance the DPW employee responsible for the building but no answer and things will freeze up so he'll come over and fix the garage door. What do I need to do? "Just open the side door, I'll be there in five minutes" he explains. I look out the window to find an amber light flashing and await his arrival. Shortly a snow machine purrs up the back lane to the garage and a stocky middle aged Inuit man alights and heads towards the door. A wail issues from the skidoo and I notice a perhaps six year old in a pink snowsuit with a face completely obscured in a dark vader mask and goggles dismounting. I invite the child inside but the wails increase and she refuses. Her grandfather makes the executive decision to deal with the situation as quickly as possible and disappears with his shovel in to the garage where he clears the snow from the bottom of the door so it will close and shows me some pumps that will freeze if the door remains open. He then banks snow outside and disappears with his sidekick. I notice the light has stopped flashing when I check a few minutes later. Glad someone is looking after me. I learned tonight this kind rescuer is the recently retired DPW employee who used to be responsible for the health centre - old habits die hard apparently. 

The rest of my evening is spent chatting online with my departed job share partner who has made it as far as Edmonton, reading and changing my WestJet ticket (for only $65) to a day later on my return trip home in May so I can spend an extra day with the electrician daughter who will be attending her final apprenticeship course. She tells me that her Serbian coworkers have suggested we eat Serbian food in Edmonton "like Ukrainian but better" is how they describe it - it's a plan. I head to bed about 11 pm after I see nine teenagers walking home past the health centre - that is the excitement of the evening. I awake at 8 am to discover that I have been paid to sleep the entire night - unheard of for most communities on Friday evenings. I make myself scrambled eggs and lobster with toast and a pot of tea for breakfast . I put the note on the door that Andrea is on call, press the button for her answering machine message and settle in on the couch. Covered with the down filled throw, Didn't move much from this spot except for snacks, it's been a blowing snow -46c wind chill day outside so good to snuggle in. Had a nice chat with the daughter heading to Cuba (jealous) next week ahhh. Went down to sewing class at 7 pm (which really means they don't open the
Sealskin for slippesr
doors until about 7:10 on northern time :) in the recreation centre to learn how to make my own crafts. Decided on a pair of slippers and cut out the bottoms, blue dyed sealskin tops, duffle lining and black beaver trim. The north is a small place and people knew folks in other communities I'd worked in. The ladies insisted on driving me home citing safety issues as wolves wander in town - I didn't argue with them but climbed in the van. It has been windy today and the snow has drifted in large banks across the road and would've been in my face on the incline anyway.

Drinking some Lipton mango peach white tea and I don't even care if the cute little triangular bag isn't compostable. Yes it is that delicious. Shortly off to bed as I plan to set the alarm for call tomorrow. I do believe that this spot is very suited to an old gal and I shall enjoy my time here to the max. 

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

From the tropics to the arctic

All my plans to 'write more' while I'm off work have not materialized, but it is certainly time for an update. And why is that the three months "off' which stretch ahead at the end of a contract speed by until it's the 'less than a week before I go back to work' time again? Almost seemed to fly by the same way as the four days off after a set of two 12 hour day and night shifts. It has been a good break and now I am looking forward to the change at work (even though it feels a bit unsettled to be heading to a new community, new employer and new co-workers) but enough whining. 

I did manage to get through the busy pre-vacation week and speak a few words at a former co-worker's memorial service. Easy to find nice things to say about her and there was a good turnout of former work colleagues. Several of them bawl at kleenex commercials so you can imagine looking down into the assembled to see them sobbing did not lighten the task. My theory is that if you can't compose yourself to deliver a eulogy to friends and family then you aren't the right person to do it. 

Current and past managers attended and I was pleased to be able to tell my former boss that I was doing a job share. It may be 30 years since she unilaterally cancelled the job share arrangements of eight of us RNs saying "I'll go the hospital board and tell them this is best - who do you think they'll believe - you or me?" as we sat in stunned silence, several of us with babies on our laps - but I clearly remember how it went. The circle was closed as I described my job share with a grin. Sometimes it takes a while for resolution. District managers attended as well and when complimented post service, I said "I'm just tough I guess" and walked away. Felt good. Lots of faces from my 'former life' and it was great to see so many people taking time to honour a co-worker who did so much for all of us. 

We headed down to the city a bit early to begin our vacation as there was (another) winter storm predicted for Sunday morning. We joined the daughter and son-in-law for a sushi supper at Hamachi Mura on Valentine's Day and then stayed over at the airport hotel to park the car. Up in the wee hours of the morning and over to the terminal on the shuttle. Although at first having a 0530 hrs departure and flying through Pearson seemed like a crappy idea, that thought vanished with the major storm coming up the north eastern coast. Our flight to Toronto and one to Punta Cana were the only flights out of Halifax Sunday morning and it was several days before air travel was restored to the Maritimes. Whew! A longer than expected layover in Pearson as it was one of the coldest days on record with a windchill of -40c and the ground crew had difficulty getting the plane out of the hanger as the electronic doors were frozen! Many fellow travellers were irate as they were making connections, but we were just a bit late getting to the warm. West Jet gave us credit for the inconvenience anyway. 

Supper at Sazon
A bit of wait for our luggage (first world problem) and we signalled for a taxi. Before long we were settled into a large classic sedan with an elderly female (Haitian) cab driver. She was very short, missing a few teeth, grey frizzy hair escaping a head scarf, dark wrinkled skin and very no nonsense in appearance. She clutched the steering wheel with gnarled fingers and leaned forward peering over it as she muttered to herself in patois through the traffic. I smiled as I we made our way towards the water. I need not have worried, she delivered us directly to our accommodations. We stayed at the New Casablanca on the Ocean hotel in Miami Beach which would make you think it was swishy. It was anything but. In fact I wrote the most scathing report on Tripadvisor that I have ever submitted. We checked out the beach and the water - warm ahhh. We also had a wonderful supper (seen above) at Sazon which is a Cuban restaurant. Large families, lots of seniors, a few who were likely pre-Revolution in the old country. We had had difficulty getting a cab and waited with another couple on the hotel steps. The Safari Tours bus pulled up and our new traveling companion petitioned the driver to drop us off about a mile down the street. He quickly pocketed the bills we gave him, so I'm guessing this wasn't the first time he'd rescued tourists for cash. Needed the walk back to work off the food - even had enough for lunch the next day. 

Life is good
Monday was a lounge chair, quick dip in the pool and take it easy day. We headed over to check in for our cruise about 5 pm and it was an efficient and painless process. We were quickly screened, photographed and welcomed aboard to our…..grand suite. And oooh boy was it ever grand! Ronald the butler introduced himself and Rene the cabin stewardess. I think we were a bit less entitled than their usual clientele but they quickly adjusted to our Canadian casual style. With a 76% savings we didn't pay as much as we'd originally planned for a balcony so we were smiling. We enjoyed the bubbly, canap├ęs and fruit basket and checked out the Miami skyline from the wrap around balcony - yes it really is that large as here on the left. Down to our late seating for supper - 9 pm European style - and to meet our waiter Labrador. We had a table for two as no one joined us. The food, service and wine were exceptional (consistently) and a great way to start the cruise. And no, I won't torture you with the photos as that would really cross the line. 
Room service breakfast delivered by the butler is a wonderful way to start your day and we decided to make that a habit. Key West was our first port of call and as we'd not visited here we enjoyed the funky little tourist town.
Lots of roosters, we checked out Sloppy Joe's (Ernest Hemingway's favourite bar) and Hemingway's House with all the six toed kitties - one posing here on the right. Had forgotten about all the wonderful books / movies he'd created. Great amble through the streets, toured the very pricey yachts at the dock and headed back to enjoy the ship. The buffet was busy, but the restaurant is always an option. Time to catch some rays, fire up the Kindle and enjoy sail away on our own. 

Sea days are a chance to really unwind and the sunshine, calm seas and in suite snacks just added to the relaxing. Formal night wasn't even too painful and after we got all gussied up, we had Rene snap a photo on our way to supper. The officers were all Italian and the Captain (who we were introduced to) didn't speak much english. I'm not easily impressed with marine titles as I sleep with the captain every night and gave birth to one too. 

Samana, DR was not a new port of call to us but we took the tender ashore and wandered a bit in the heat, stopping for a beer for the travel partner. We found a couple from NS (he is DFO and known to the shore captain) on the cruise who we'd met in Cuba 15 yrs ago. Small world. Checked out the market and purchased a bottle of vanilla - big spenders. Tortola, BVI was our next port of call and again a repeat but we elected this time to do a snorkel excursion
Long Bay Beach
(had done the history tour last time). I had trouble with my mask fogging (applied my own anti fog drops after that and solved the problem) so it was frustrating but mister saw some new specimens such as a cuttlefish. We snorkelled off Treasure Island which was the one Robert Louis Stevenson wrote about. The next day brought us to Antigua and we chose to do our own snorkel trip with a taxi to Long Bay Beach. It was a beautiful spot with white sand, warm clear water, beach chairs, beverages and food and the reef was good for snorkelling too. Our driver had a nap while we sunned and when he awoke we headed back across the island to the cruise port. 

Guadeloupe spice market
The following day found us in Guadeloupe which was new to us. It was a damp day with tropical showers and grey skies. We opted for a driver and shared a tour with the other NS couple of some of the islands. Interesting to note that Guadeloupe is much like St. Pierre and Miquelon off Newfoundland - a department of France. It was very developed thanks to its EU status and not at all what we'd envisioned. Freeways, fast food, Renault dealerships….Our guide Jimmy was very informative and showed us the national park with it's rainforest and waterfalls, a fort, seaside in several towns and a beach with a market. We managed to avoid the showers in our travels and picked up some nice spices as well. 

Two sea days in a row are a lovely luxury and we enjoyed both as we made our way back up towards the Bahamas. We enjoyed the specialty
restaurant where the food was wonderful but the service was a bit spotty - Labrador could whip them in to shape we decided. We did explore the ship a bit - it was (in our opinion) extremely gaudy. Think Las Vegas or bordello - as if the designer was on LSD, colour blind and doing a grade two art project. The crew were as expected Filipino, Indonesian and East Indian and their usual hard working, pleasant selves that we've come to expect. Labrador had a ten year old daughter and eight year old son in Philippines he hadn't seen for nine months and….his replacement didn't arrive so his contract was extended and he was not able to fly home from Miami to Manilla as he'd hoped. My heart ached. 

Our final port of call was Freeport, Bahamas and we did a snorkel excursion with Reef Tours here. Caught the shuttle bus over to Port Lucayna and boarded the catamaran with Captain Gus. Wonderful snorkelling on Treasure Reef and we were the
last two out of the water and reluctantly at that. Last snorkelling for a while so we had to make it count. Huge schools of fish, lots of different kinds, beautiful coral and very clear water. A short shop at the market and back on the shuttle and to the ship. Wonderful afternoon and evening on the deck and late sail away towards disembarkation. 

A final room service breakfast, disembarkation - luggage, a cab and over to the hotel. We decided to visit the Miami Seaquarium - across the city - and enjoyed the exhibits and shows. Dolphins, sea lions and killer whale shows were fantastic and we didn't get soaked until the final show. The reaction of the grade primary class in front of us was priceless! A cab back to Miami Beach, tostones, bean soup and mojito field the online research for supper which suggested 
that Juicy Gyro might be an option. It did not disappoint - again, enough food for the next day and the need to walk it off. Last breakfast, a few moments by the palm trees and the ride to the airport. A wonderful vacation where the workaholic travel partner never once checked email and we remembered why we're still together after 40 years. Can't do better than that. 

A long process to check the bag, security and finally to the gate. Pizza hut and a glass of red wine and we were ready to board with a nap but….we had to wait for a mechanic to 'reset a circuit breaker' and so with the delay we had missed our connection in Pearson. This wasn't our first rodeo so the travel partner arranged a new flight for us from Toronto to save time on the other end and we were finally on board. What a circus in Pearson - we do our best to avoid flying internationally through there and instantly remembered why. Walked kms then through customs and to the luggage carousel, picked up the bag, out through to security. Lost a bottle of sunscreen and one of lotion from our carry on luggage to the smug TSA screener. Explain how we were so thoroughly scanned in Miami that we had to remove shoes and have a total body scan, review everything in the bin etc etc but those liquids weren't found? I told the shore captain "I feel so much safer flying within Canada without my sunscreen now" but those at the gate who had lost their liquor to the same screener were much more ticked off than me. And to think that I remember when flying was fun. More kms to the gate which….had been changed so even more kms to find the new one. Rush to grab a sandwich and then….delayed again. 

We landed at almost 1 am and awaited the airport hotel shuttle. It was freezing and I chose to wait in the terminal. Finally over to the hotel and the fun began. I had no more than settled myself on the couch to check email when the chauffeur's  distressed and cold face appeared in the doorway. I assumed the car was stuck but he said "you only brought one set of keys did you?" Now, since it only takes one set of keys to operate a car, I think you already know the answer. Clearly, you also know the answer to "you locked the keys in did you?" He acknowledged that he had and the car was running. He also insinuated that if I had been helping it wouldn't have happened. Well…yes, I could've been freezing my butt off in the cold car and when he clumsily locked himself out, I could've opened the door but…I calmly reminded him that when I returned in January to a buried car that I excavated it solo without locking myself out as I'd instructed my travel partner to wait at the hotel - no point in two of us being hypothermic - female reasoning at work that time. The night clerk gave us a phone number and we called for help - the dispatcher said 30 - 45 minutes. Waiting is not something the shore captain does well. Nuff said. At the half hour mark without any sign of the help, I remembered I have roadside assistance on my car - never had to use it before and wasn't sure if it was even still current - 5 yrs or 100,000 km - although I hope I don't need to use it. I called the roadside assistance number and spoke to a calm representative who asked if everyone was safe from danger and I said "I haven't killed him yet, but I have considered it" and he chuckled and said "let's just keep that between us shall we?".  He advised that with the recent weather there had been + + calls for assistance and we would do well to wait for our call. He also advised they would compensate up to $100 for lock out assistance and to call back tomorrow and get details for where to send the receipt. The truck arrived shortly after and opened the door but it was quickly apparent the car was completely stuck so he towed it out as well. The guy requested cash. We didn't have any Canadian funds so he suggested the ATM, I trotted downstairs and found it out of service. We finally pooled our resources from various pockets and purses and came up with $150 US. He wrote he'd unlocked the car and towed us on a business card and pocketed the bills. We collected our gear and started out. As we pulled out on the highway and accelerated to 70 km there was a violent shaking (it would loosen fillings I assure you) and thumping noise. The chauffeur got out to check. No flat, must be something out of line. We discussed heading over to the daughter / son-in-laws for the night but mister decides it's best to drive three hours home at 3 am on sketchy roads at 65km - male logic at work here, forgive the sexist remark. After 90 min. there is a mighty bang and crash and suddenly the car is acting normally. Clearly the ice berg wrapped around the underneath had detached itself after the vehicle warmed up. Made good time after that and crawled into bed at 6 am - thankfully the Red Cross workshop had been cancelled so that wasn't awaiting me. Now as you review this paragraph, please keep in mind that the shore captain had a brand new 4wheel drive truck sitting in the driveway but…he hadn't gotten the registration switched over and the temporary registration would expire before we returned. And don't even get me started about the multiple times I attempted to get out of the driveway today to get to my hair appointment - even though an employee ploughs the parking lot at both world headquarters and the satellite office, driving past our house to do so. Sigh. The 14 stair commute is looking good. 

Have spent the past few days taking care of post vacation, last minute details for home and thinking about packing - not actually getting my act together yet. And the everyday things like walking the dog which I will miss after Tuesday.

Have had some positive developments this week where I scored Huey Lewis & the News concert tickets for Boston this summer (playing with Jimmy Buffett) August 15th. If our Cuban friends are permitted to visit us this summer, it won't be any problem to sell those tickets. Had a nice visit with the boy captain (last I'll see of him until May) and a chat with two daughters - one heading to Cuba, one to Hawaii and mittens for the teacher daughter's class donated by a neighbour. And no, I didn't put strings on the mitts - they're a hazard apparently - how did my kids survive? The quote of the day is "it's a double edged sword raising strong independent daughters". Oh my, yes it is, but I wouldn't have it any other way. I received a full refund of my reassessment income tax (after the accountant fought on my behalf) meaning that CRA had $3000 of my money to work with since last fall. Just in time to file again. A nice visit/lunch at The Lobster Shack with my house/pet sitter where I showed her the vacation photos to get her revved up for her trip to Cuba in a couple of weeks - as if that was required! Plans to have a double date this weekend - the movie Kingsman looks promising….Discovered I have a direct flight from Halifax to Edmonton next Wednesday - won the travel lottery! A few last minute details with the job share partner and now it's all beginning to sink in- I have a real job again. Ahhhh nice. Next posting from 72 degrees north latitude. Sachs Harbour here I come.