Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Hellooooooo down there

So, the first posting from instant winter and while I sip my Ghiradelli hot chocolate…let me fill you in. 

I'm getting the commute down to a science after just having passed my third year mark with this northern gig. Action packers and bags in the car, perishables in the fridge. Up at 2 am (who needs more than 20 minutes sleep anyway?) perishables into the bag, bag into the trunk and off without waking the snoring shore captain as he was waking at 5 am anyway. Quick run to my classmate's place - did not encounter one vehicle going my direction and only met a few trucks in the two and a half hour drive. Quick stop at Tim Horton's and then meeting the cab. Transfer of huge amounts of luggage, quick run to the airport and check in. Excess baggage on its way so only the knapsack and shopping bag full of winter gear for the end of day two. Onto the flight. Short awake period where I watched the end of the movie I couldn't finish returning from San Francisco (yes it was that good) The Judge - with Robert Duvall and Robert Downey Jr, highly recommend it. Then it was eyelids down. Into Edmonton and met by the electrician daughter - which is a wonderful treat - no shuttle for me. Over to store the luggage at the hotel, have breakfast at Cora's, shop for some beverages and then back to checkin. I managed to finish the photo book I was struggling with in the backwoods of rural NS wi-fi and we caught up and enjoyed a few beverages. Down to have supper in the restaurant and an early night. Up and over to the airport - spoiled to have the daughter drag me and my stuff - best part of the commute! Nexus, yet again proved itself useful and boarding the flight. Slept through breakfast apparently on the way to Yellowknife, snowing and slushy there - in to the terminal, the leg to Norman Wells was nice as I chatted with an educational psychologist heading up to teach teachers about Suicide Education - greatly needed in the north. Didn't bother to deplane in Norman Wells, more snow and colder and then on to Inuvik. Cold, windy, snow. Into the terminal, retrieved the mounds of luggage and over to Aklak Air. $686 later and after prioritizing 30 kg - which turned out to be the duffle bag with perishables and my knapsack, yes I have my winter gear (this required showing the clerk my boots, snow pants, jacket, hat and mitts)  - I'm checked in. Time for a snack in the cafeteria (quesadilla and fries - neither of which were memorable) plus a juice box for $18.75. That'll teach me to miss my breakfast won't it? Had the company of a nurse who had recently been in this community and was heading in to a neighbouring one - the north is a small place people wise. On with the winter gear, out to the plane to join an elder, two teenagers, a toddler, and another nurse, some of them going on to Uluhuktuk. Up through the low clouds and an uneventful flight in. Transferred by the COOP truck "how long are you here for anyway?" the young fellow asked. Till New Years was my reply. Into the health centre and my waiting job share partner. SO good to spend the weekend with her as we are usually two ships passing in the night. Unpacked my food and 'stuff' and turned in early. Ahhh, good to be home. 

Friday was spent getting me up to speed on any changes since May and readying me for my solo week as my partner heads to Uluhuktuk. The pace is slow which gives you a chance to re-remember things and so we passed a pleasant day. I was on call Friday and Sunday which simply means I carried the cell phone (which doesn't ring) so on Saturday I asked my buddy to call the cell so I'd know what the ring sounded like. Not bragging, but a nice problem to have. Good to have the cell so we can we can be mobile and accessible. I was trying to convince my partner to go the dump with me as apparently there are a lot of them
Early morning arctic fox
Back for a later visit 

there - she declined, so I've  hit up one of the RCMP to take me on the tour. One of the little fellows came to visit under the window before sunrise and again later on. Cute. Walked down to visit one of the RCMP wives and catch up on the local news. They will be heading over to Baffin for a posting and I'll miss their company. Spent some time getting our apartment cozy as I'd brought along mats, some artwork and decor. Feels like our own place now. Made the promised cranberry scones for my job share partner and she packed them for her stay in Ulu, After some tech glitches the life partner and I were able to have a FaceTime chat as we usually do on Sundays. He later reported to the oldest daughter that he'd been 'facing your mother' as if he ever really faces me eh?

Monday was to be a fly day for my partner but….it consisted of her dragging her stuff in the COOP truck to the airport, listening to the plane fly over and back to Inuvik and being deposited back where she came from. Not a problem. We had a quick supper of grilled cheese sandwiches and binged watched a six part series which a friend had downloaded called ANZAC Girls about Australian/New Zealand nursing sisters in WWI. It was so well done that we sobbed our way through it, crying until we had headaches and swollen eyes. 

Tuesday was a tele health session for a toddler who was having a post op consultation with the surgeon. I had to zoom the camera in on his scar and the parents chatted a bit. An active little guy, he quickly turned and mooned the camera and so I decided to dress him. Mostly routine administrative tasks, I opted to check the crash cart and the vaccines and catch up on my 286 emails as they don't stop in my absence. 

I am alone until Monday and adjusting to my solitary situation. It reminds me of the day in the 70s that I had the shore captain (then RCMP who I was visiting up the coast) drop me off for a visit with the nurse in Cartwright. She was all by her herself, managing a quiet little community with basic equipment and I thought to myself "someday I'm going to do that" and here I am.Today's excitement was that a polar bear was sighted on the beach. When I asked if it was male or female I was told that the mama bears were too smart to come into the community but the younger males although large in size, didn't have good judgement. Not making a sexist statement here, will just leave you to make of it what you will. Fetched my
Sunrise at 10:35 am
Sun dogs

binoculars after the 
cleaning lady pointed out where he'd been but….they move fast. A good reason to not be out walking. The dogs have been really worked up tonight and lots of trucks on the go trying to figure out where the bear went. Apparently the last one stood on it's hind legs and looked in the window of the community centre. hmmm. Today was windy and cold (-30c) with blowing snow but there were a couple of lovely sunrises and even sun dogs a couple of days this week - beautiful. 

Tonight I opened an email from Operation Smile to find that despite my extensive experience and qualifications, I am not a paediatric nurse so my credentials won't be examined. If it was a deal breaker, too bad that wasn't made clearer before I invested time and money renewing my PALS certification. Oh well, the search for volunteer work continues. 

Now, to finish the baby afghan I'm working the border on. So many patterns, only so many days in this rotation. 

Monday, October 19, 2015

Off to Polar Bear Land

A bit of delay with the blog update as life has gotten in the way….I spent the weekend procrastinating from packing for work, imprinting in my mind the look of the beautiful autumn day with the harbour sparkling and the leaves in their splendour. This because I checked the weather forecast for Sachs Harbour and found -19c overnight, snowing with 2 cm accumulation. Winter is not eased into as per the season but confronted when commuting. 

To pick up the blog update from where I left you last month….I did teach the final first aid course, in a rather distracted manner as the dog (who had made an almost complete recovery) suffered another medical event and passed away peacefully. She had a great quality of life and was 108 after all….She was a loyal friend for over 15 years and we are adjusting to being a dog less household. Glad to have been home since May to do daily walks and spoil her. 

Needless to say, all the emotional upheaval did not add to my powers of concentration and although I managed the PALS course just fine in the practical exercises, the exam was a tight squeeze. After finally being told I'd passed, there was a note that the current BLS (CPR) which had been required was to be Heart & Stroke (not Red Cross as mine is). This is of course, ludicrous as all BLS (regardless of agency) is based on JAMA regulations. I spent some time attempting to find a provider who would grant me such certification, wrote a strongly worded message to Heart&Stroke reminding them that all BLS was the same and received a message that there is no reciprocity. This AFTER I had been issued my PALS certification online. Trust me it was (quickly) submitted to Operation Smile to review my credentials. Bureaucracy at its most crippling must be worked around. 

The travel partner joined me early Sunday morning at the daughter and son-in-laws where I was keeping the cats company as they attended a family wedding and we headed to the airport. Our fly day was straight forward as we learned how to travel with our Nexus card and that sucker is the bees knees! Puts you at the head of any security or customs line, which over the course of trip saved hours of waiting. Not to mention being able to keep shoes on, liquids and laptops in the carryon when being screened. Definitely a good investment and we became more efficient as we went. We had a straightforward run from Halifax to Calgary to San Fran, located our airport shuttle making our way through the hills and painted ladies and were deposited at our hotel in Fishermen's Wharf. After the early leave, four hour time change and full day of travel the free wine in the lobby at 'wine o'clock' hit us hard, so we had an early supper and crashed. 

We spent the first few days exploring the city, took the hop on and off bus tour - wow was it cold and windy going across the Golden Gate bridge, enjoyed the Maritime Museum and various ships, were amused with the coin operated machine museum (apparently vintage is
Golden Gate Bridge
40+ years so we're vintage) and of course had to see the fishing boats, watched a ball game in AT&T Park - very tame compared to Fenway - had a little nap in the middle. We discovered that sea lions are smelly and noisy, the tourist food was kinda crappy, Uber is an excellent way to make your way around urban areas and the homeless population in San Francisco is completely out of control. What a city of inequalities. When the info binder in the hotel room has guidelines for not interacting with this group….you know there are issues. Housing is completely unaffordable at $3500/month for a small studio apartment and a room in a crack hotel is $1800. All ages, lots of women, some children, sleeping on the sidewalks, wandering….Disturbing enough that I wouldn't make plans to spend more than an overnight in the city in the future. 

We had rented a car for for wine country and so Ubered our way to the rental office. I am sure that every time we climbed into a Uber ride, we raised the average passenger age by about 20 years as it's mostly millenials using that service. Middle of the day and GPS assistance made a relatively painless exit from the city. Over to Sausalito, which was smaller and more touristy than expected and out to the freeway. A detour over to the Pacific Coast Highway, 
Pacific Coast Highway
Napa Wine Train
through very winding, hilly roads, enormous redwoods, wineries and then the ocean. Spectacular. Stopped at a little winery along the way and made it to Windsor, Sonoma without incident. Headed out for a delicious asian supper and an early night. Wine country is beautiful and over the course of the week we visited various wineries and did tastings, took the Napa wine train, enjoyed a walking wine/food pairing in Healdsburg and checked out the little towns of Calistoga, St. Helena etc. There has been a drought for decades in California and the past five years have been particularly bad, everything is brown and the reservoir was really indicative of the extent of the dryness. We witnessed the destruction of the recent wildfires with
melted plastic fences in flat strips on the roadside as the crews were reinstalling power poles, FEMA and American Red Cross tents still in place. Sad. Enjoyed Yountville which is a beautiful wine town, wine and food pairing at Cornerstone Cellars had a great supper at Ciccone. Napa is a good sized town with all sorts of amenities - OxBow Public Market, Gotts Roadside for burgers - you name it, we sampled it. 

The return to San Francisco was a nail biter as we negotiated the freeway, bridge and city traffic with the chauffeur not listening to either the GPS or the navigator. One of those "I'm not going to repeat experiences". I was very pleased to grab my suitcase from the trunk and sashay down the street to the Hotel Whitcomb - one of those grand railroad hotels. We spent the afternoon shopping in the upscale downtown shops and after a bit of digging I managed to find a 'travel' shirt for my work commute. We spent a day in Chinatown, shopping in the
quirky little stores and checking out the disturbing food displays, in retrospect it might have been a better idea to eat BEFORE seeing the snouts, black or flattened ducks etc. We also had wonderful meals of Italian, Greek and seafood and a charcuterie board with wine tasting at a trendy hotel - we Ubered back to the hotel, ahhh we are so trendy for old folks! The fortnight flew by and before we knew it we were on a flight to Calgary and a layover to visit the electrician daughter. The Peruvian restaurant we'd chosen wasn't available so we opted for some great steaks and a catch up. The travel partner was being a worry wart about the time (think he was having a flashback to missing his flight the last time he and the daughter had a layover meal) and we were back to the airport in lots of time. Good thing, as mister realized he'd left his iPad on the plane so spent over half an hour at the counter and then making his way to the lost and found. Fortunately he retrieved it. An uneventful red eye flight then a stop at the daughters to have some breakfast and home. 

This past week has been one of ticking off the to-do list as I usually do in the run up to return to work. Pull out the action packers and duffle bags and sort through the collected items packing clothes and such, retrieve shopping list and provision with vittles for two months, pick up any last minute items. And today's list also included getting my annual fasting bloodwork done, voting and connecting with the prodigal son - had to leave him with a birthday card for next week when he reaches the big 2-8 mark! How did that happen? Managed to squeeze in a visit with a buddy who is wrangling with the bureaucracy of a course she is attempting to complete. Fingers crossed she gets to write her exam next month - of course she will ace it - I left her a graduation present as I'm confident of the outcome. Nice chat with the teacher daughter who sat in traffic x 2 hours this morning (bridge reno was delayed) and was half an hour late for class - the principal had to teach her first lesson (I'm thinking 30 minutes with some grade primaries is more fun than fielding hateful parental calls any day). Tired of fighting with the internet provider, photo book company and anyone else who is providing crappy service with an attitude today. 

Tired of waiting for the final election results, just glad we have a local female MP, and hitting publish without review for typos - deal with it. Time to hit the hay for the last night in my 'own' bed until New Years Eve. Next posting….from polar bear land. Charging the camera batteries as they apparently come ashore before the sea ice freezes solid leading to problems as well as photo ops.