Monday, May 18, 2015

Happiness is…..a clothesline

The end of a long weekend is a good time to post as I've been home a week already - spent last weekend travelling and this one was a more tranquil affair. The time slips away and that leaves just 22 weeks remaining. Yep, you read that correctly - unemployed until October and loving it! I had forgotten how much I look forward the spring perennials here as it's been a couple of years since I enjoyed them in person. The forsythia and flowering crab are in bloom, the daffodils lungwort and hyacinth are lovely and the herbs are perking up. Those who mow grass are at it already. So to update….
As I made my way out of Sachs Harbour (did I mention I hate cleaning?) with the Dr (who is the age of my children) after her clinic and to the airport I discovered that one of the employees had his four month old son with him sitting in his bucket chair. The baby wiggled, smiled and cooed at the passengers arriving for the 3:30 pm flight and made the rounds of various arms. Ahhh to live in a community that loves you. Someone joked he was earning his keep as the security guard. The Aklak Air boss told me there had been wolf sitings earlier near the airport but they were likely waiting for things to quiet down so no sign of them now. My job share partner arrived and we caught up on the news a bit before she had to grab her food and head in to the apartment. It was a full plane and I took the advice of more frequent fliers to not sit in the front (too hot) or the back (too cold) with the middle being (just like Goldilocks) the most comfortable, put my earplugs in
Polargrizz in Ulu Airport
and 'enjoyed' the 45 minute flight to Uluhuktuk (Holman Island) where we flew east before flying west to Inuvik. The newish airport in Uluhuktuk sported a stuffed polargrizz, the combo of polar and grizzly bear shown here which reminds me of a Himalayan cat. Uluhuktuk is a beautiful community of approximately 400 Inuit tucked in beside snow covered mountains. At the station stop we watched a crowd of men carry a frail patient and her wheelchair onto the plane as we waited - nothing is automated in the north - then we climbed up the steep ladder and secured ourselves in the small seats again. I overnighted at the Nova Inn in Inuvik which is a basic hotel with a

hunting lodge theme in the lobby and gas fireplaces in each room - very warm (almost tropical) compared to Sachs Harbour so no need of additional heating in May. Time to catch up on email, eat snacks I brought with me and call them supper. No eateries close and coworkers tales of inedible $40 pizzas ran through my head. Pulled the blinds against the midnight sun and crashed. 

The morning didn't make Inuvik any prettier. It's a muddy, scruffy northern town trying to be a
city. I availed myself of the breakfast buffet which offered three, count em three choices in sugar sweetened cereal plus other carbs to fuel my exploring. Headed up the hill past the IRH (Inuvik Regional Hospital) and on towards the
Inuvik Regional Hospital
commercial district. Drunken girls in front of the Northmart, crowd of male loiterers in front of the drugstore and an assortment of dusty trucks parked everywhere. A more attractive structure was the round church, which was in need of some paint but rather unique.  I meandered as far as the
Our Lady of Victory
Inuvialuit Centre to buy t-shirts for two of my offspring who work in jobs where it's not a problem to wear a shirt which reads Tuk U and Tuktoyuktuk University below in smaller letters. I stopped at the Rexall drugstore (which most certainly sounds larger on the phone) and explored very pricey gift shops. Back to retrieve my frozen muskox meat from the hotel freezer and wait for a cab. After a 'reminder' call a Sudanese cabbie appeared and entertained me on the commute to the airport. An efficient check in at First Air and wait with a swim team flying out to Yellowknife for competition. We were entertained by a little guy with a remote controlled skidoo - didn't even know there was such a thing. An uneventful travel day through Norman Wells, Yellowknife and in to Edmonton by 7 pm. 

Met by the electrician daughter and we settled in and enjoyed some beverages and a snack. The next day found us having breakfast at Cora's and then shopping - it wasn't too painful considering we're both into Frenchy's more than regular retail. I managed to find three dresses, David's teas and some duct tape for my action packers at the $ store - a productive afternoon. Grocery stop and we headed over to our Cuban friend's place to overnight. A very pleasant visit, BBQ for supper and sound sleep. Morning found us at Cora's again for a mothers day brunch then a sit in the sunny backyard before heading to the airport. A quick goodbye and through security and into the departure lounge. On to the flight and although I was seated in the window (aka sleeping) seat the non English speaking East Indian lady in the middle seat who took up all of her seat and most of mine with her elbows, woke me not once but twice when the refreshment trolley came by, astounded that I didn't want anything. I discovered I didn't have my camera. Dang, must've left it at TSA screening. A stop at the gate for the phone number of the Edmonton airport lost and found and it was quickly located, gave my credit card (no, I didn't even ask what it cost) and Purolator was selected - camera was delivered into my hands 72 hours later. Now that is customer service!  After rushing to the (relocated) gate I discovered we were into a lengthy delay, attributed to thunder and lightening in central Canada (better union the cabbie in Halifax said, we work in that stuff out here). Lots of folks returning from warm vacations discussing DR, Mexico, Florida etc. For myself….what's an additional couple of hours when you've been travelling for almost four days? I had a nice conversation with a mental health nurse who I was actively trying to recruit for northern work - travelling is all about those you meet along the way isn't it? An uneventful flight, landing, retrieval of luggage, cab and car pickup. Middle of the night drive home was solitary and the only (live) wildlife siting was a deer and then tame ducks within 5 km of the house. Home in time to find the shore captain readying for work and I crashed into my OWN bed. Apparently I slept soundly (and too long) as when I awoke at 3 pm I found the painter having worked all day without my noticing. Good training from all those previous night shifts. Was wandering the house at 3 am of course as you can only sleep a certain amount of hours in 24. It takes the predicted three days (1 hr/time zone) to realign myself in my eastward travels. 

Discovered the neighbour's elderly lab (which had habitually chased us if I attempted to walk to the east) had crossed the rainbow bridge so the weekday routine now includes a 3km walk to the community mailbox - serving two purposes. Mind you the poor dog was nervous and looked over her shoulder in both directions for attackers the first couple of days. Better option than her trying to retrieve the tame ducks from a neighbours pond - she is a NS duck tolling retriever but….not live ones - in the other direction. She's still pretty spry at age 15 if you show her the leash. 

As I caught up on my sleep and did a reconnaissance of the house I discovered that yes, the clothesline pole was installed  - not tight enough to hang anything of any weight of length as it stretched and no way to reach the line to pin anything on - so I dragged the platform across the yard and strategically arranged my laundry on the line. Requires more pins as there is an active breeze in that part of the yard. Ahhh the only housework I enjoy - laundry on the line.  I also discovered that several plants had succumbed in my absence. Memo to self 'drought resistant plants required for 8 wk rotations' although the life partner insisted he had faithfully watered the plants. An ivy - do you know how difficult it is to kill one of those if you want to? The painter / landscape designer called mister on it, especially as he suggested that the gyproc dust had contributed to the demise. An intense discussion ensued where I directed that gyproc filling, painting and housecleaning - three tasks NOT on the shore captains' list - if done by others were to be tolerated without whining, especially as he had made footprints throughout - the reason I pay the cleaner extra while I am away. A bit of painting remaining but that is tolerable, just glad I escaped the dust! Apparently there were multiple opinions that mister was 'living like a bachelor' as the counters were stacked high and the laundry basket still contained my clothes from two months ago. Why do we have cupboards and bureaus? The trade off of meals, housework and errands with my return is a fair one for a clothesline. 

We spent some time Sunday afternoon organizing parts of our South American journey for January. The two week cruise was already booked but there was the issue of the Argentine visa - which turned into quite a project between the Spanish, extensive documentation required and a cumbersome online program but of course in the end our money was transferred and we printed two receipts to allow us entry. Glad to be spending some extra days there as the $92 US each would be a bit steep for a couple of port calls. The complexity explains why the email was archived for my return. We used Avion points for airfare and it was very painless to only spend $382 return for both of us vs $7500 to fly Halifax- Philadelphia- Miami- Chile and reverse from Buenos Aires home. Locations have various taxes and fees so it was the discovery that the Martimes to South America is a good deal which began the cruise sale search. Online booking was painless and two one way routes weren't a problem. We bought airfare for Buenos Aires to Mar del Plata return to visit a friend for a week for a for about 1/3 of what a one hr. flight in Canada would cost. She has come to Canada twice to visit but now is married with two children so not as mobile. So only a hotel in Valparaiso, Chile for two nights (will plan to take the bus from Santiago) pre cruise and the Mar del Plata accommodations post cruise to decide. Looking at some of the scenery and temperatures is reminiscent of the Norway cruise - packing a lot of exploring into this one too. Speaking of travel photos I am including this link:

Planning a trip to Halifax to attend an immunization workshop so shall run some errands along the way and reconnect with my tropical nursing course buddy. Not that we've received our diplomas yet - good thing that it wasn't important to me - they're finishing up another class now actually. The greatest LSTM efficiency was related to processing the tuition fee now that I think about it. Friday I have an instructor recert which will be a day trip and next week and appointment which I am planning to continue on from and visit in the city, eventually reaching Cape Breton. The shore captain is (as usual) keeping long hours with the final weeks of the lobster season so won't notice I'm gone. 

The last word of the day is for Anthony Bourdain:

Sunday, May 3, 2015

White Fox Jamboree

Health Centre on right 
Into the countdown now and the routine of cleaning a little bit then rewarding myself with something more fun is in full swing because……I leave on Thursday! Mind you, it's late in the day when I depart so I get to work for at least the morning and it's the first of three travel days but…I am headed home and to my non working lifestyle for almost six months. So some dusting, scrubbing and storing are a small price to pay. Especially as I'm able to leave my clothes in the closet and bureau and food (what remains) in the cupboard to await my return. Yes, this apartment is spacious enough for two of us to share alternately without disturbing each others things. The time has gone very quickly (despite this being a quiet gig) and it seems like last week, not eight weeks ago the job share partner and myself were switching at the airport. 

In my review of manuals for orientation requirements I came across one with the region
demographics and infrastructure. I'm including a map of the various first nations areas of Northwest Territories which as you can see here on the left is complex. Also a larger non native presence in this territory than Nunavut. I was surprised to learn that the 4000 x 100 ft. gravel airstrip had been built in 1955/56. Many communities in Labrador were still using planes with pontoons and skis in the late 70s when we flew up and down the coast. I got a better grasp of the geography of the area and history here as well.  And of course when thinking of flying over the high arctic in a small plane, the question of air safety is sometimes raised so I offer this article:

Flying through Edmonton, both Nunavut and NWT government employees are booked at the Royal Executive Inn which is a basic if worn hotel with an airport shuttle and a restaurant. The shuttle necessitates dragging of luggage to the stop, a wait, at least one phone call to summon the van, a tip to the driver who is a great sherpa and then dragging of bags to the room with a repeat in the morning. The morning is a circus with at least a 60 min. head start required due to the need to retrieve bags, a waiting line and heaving of luggage on and off the shuttle. All in the early morning hours which are not my favourite time of day to begin with. The Dr. when over for clinic, mentioned casually that GNWT booked him in to the new Radisson at the Edmonton Airport when he travelled for locums. I am sure that someone of a more lowly job status has made it their cause to seek the same accommodation because the boss told me on Friday that we are able to stay there but have to pay the difference in rates between the two hotels. The fee will be subtracted from our travel claim as in 'money you haven't seen anyway so won't miss' which is relatively painless. What is convenience worth you ask? I was astounded to find that the cost was only $33/night more at a new hotel, onsite at the airport, pool, steam room, free wifi and parking. Obviously I sent an email to the travel clerk to request this perk. Will do reconnaissance to see if they can accommodate an action packer in their walk in cooler, and if so will utilize them for my trips in as well. Looking forward to spending the weekend with the electrician daughter as we do the work financed hotel on Friday night and a visit with a Cuban friend and his missus on Saturday before I fly out Sunday afternoon. 

Jamboree Games
As this has been the weekend for the White Fox Jamboree, it has been a full social calendar. On Thursday night I made potato salad for the community feast as requested and the ingredients were supplied. I was dismayed to find no peas/carrots in the box of potatoes, mayo and eggs. Everyone I quizzed about their recipe for potato salad (and remember they
Community Feast
were all central to western Canadians originally) didn't use anything but potatoes and eggs, maybe celery. I was astounded and hoofed it over to the COOP after work to pick up a can. The manager is from NB and lived in Yarmouth for decades and he did not disappoint as there was one can of peas and carrots. Talk about your cultural immersion! There were games on the shore on Friday afternoon (egg and spoon races etc) with burgers and hotdogs being cooked in the canteen - no one but me seemed to be aware of the cold wind. 

The evening feast was a grand meal which was like a pot luck supper in any community. The only traditional food was musk ox meatballs which our clerk made - delicious. I am used to Nunavut feasts being a more rowdy affair with traditional foods. A nice chance to socialize over a great meal however. After supper the games continued with nail pounding (no Inuit games here) and as I was on call I got to glue one of the participants thumb back together and give him a tetanus booster. No further excitement than that. Here a Jamboree doesn't include alcohol or the shenanigans it brings. 

This morning there was a community breakfast sponsored by BP (positive marketing to the Beaufort Sea area) so I ambled over to the school for 10 am and had a lovely cooked meal. Not a large crowd but likely about 25 fed.  During the day there have been various games ongoing and tonight a bingo game which the boss attempted to convince me to attend stating it was "fun". It would have been rude to say that bingo and fun don't go together in the same sentence in my mind so I graciously declined. I am holding out for the jigging contest which is tomorrow at 5 pm. Tomorrow morning the health centre staff are cooking a community breakfast so I'll be a bit more involved. I tried to lobby the boss for making real pancakes and she insisted on pancake mix, I explained they are not much more work and I'd make them all myself but she decreed that there weren't adequate eggs at the store to make enough. sigh. I am taking real pancake ingredients and feeding the clerk and myself as we were outvoted. 

So a run to the finish and home to spring of ticks and mud. Here the brown is just starting to emerge, lots of snow and skidoos on the go. I noticed there is open water in the ocean which is new to me at this time of year, but the NW Passage is slower to open than out here in the Beaufort Sea. The hunters are awaiting the return of the ducks and geese and there is 'darkness' if that's what you call dusk between midnight and 4 am. Will be odd to not wear sunglasses at 11 pm. I have my permit to export muskox applied for - wouldn't do to get busted for that while I'm still on probation. Next posting is likely from about 7000 south and east of here.