Monday, November 30, 2015

Shenanigators R Us

This week has been one of shopping….not of buying, but shopping. In remote locations there are very few vendors who will ship for free due to the exorbitant cost, uncertainty of arrival and likelihood of damage, a handful who will ship with a minimum purchase of $50 or $100, many vendors who won't ship at all to certain postal codes, and others who will, but pass on the entire cost to the buyer. This limits the options and means that my roommate and I spent hours putting together a Walmart online order - this because Walmart will ship here with a $100/order cost no matter how much is purchased. We started out with an area rug for the living room and added in various (heavy) groceries and equipment for the apartment. Oh and yarn, lots of yarn. As the order was reviewed before hitting send it became apparent that we would not be able to have the mat shipped. WHAT? The majority of the order (minus one ball of yarn) would be shipped, but not the mat which was the only reason for making the order. Delete. Arrgh take that Walmart. We started over the next day with Bed Bath & Beyond (free shipping for $99+) and I am thrilled to report that it is winging its way to us as I type. I was not as successful with my Black Friday shopping experience. The job share partner was ordering from Old Navy - 50% off, 5x aeroplan points and free shipping to this remote locale for over $50 of purchases. I shopped, checked, chose and finally got to $50.91 and was ready to hit purchase when….my shopping cart changed back to the original prices. It finally dawned on me that it was 5 minutes after midnight in whatever time zone I was ordering….just like Cinderella and the pumpkin. Didn't need the clothes really, but that's an evening of my life I won't get back again. 

Speaking of using our evenings wisely…we have been crocheting and watching recorded series (the kindness of the travel partner of a year ago to the UK adventure - has it really been a year already?). We have recovered from the intensity of watching Anzac Girls and completed season two of A Place to Call Home (set in post WWII Australia) now are just awaiting season three - being shipped by our supplier aka pirater to the roommate's abode where she will pick it up in two weeks when home for a brief visit. We watched a series called The Crimson Field (about WWI nurses) and loved the statement of the matron who expressed concern that the young nurses were socializing with the soldiers as in "won't be long before someone gets a belly full of arms and legs" Love it! Going to use this in the sexual health class at the school which I've been asked to do. Last evening we watched Testament of Youth which was an amazing movie - a biography written by Vera Brittain during WWI. Christmas decorations for the apartment are being created and will be augmented by our Moncton Dollar Store purchases - perhaps a small artificial tree (one that fits in a suitcase) even though we're north of the tree line….

Had a call from a family member of an elder asking if we'd come and make a house call "she's sick" and when my partner began the usual nurse line of questioning as to cough, fever, pain etc. she was advised that the patient in question was "outside". It was a nippy -38c with the wind chill, dark and blowing snow so the nursing instructions included that a house call would be made INSIDE. We continued on with the flu shot campaign, various interventions with medical travel, consults etc. 

The definition of the day was SHENANIGATOR which is defined as someone who instigates shenanigans - my roommate and myself are vying for the honour. And speaking of shenanigators, let me tell you about an incident on one of the flights out of here last week. There was an incident where a small dog escaped from its crate (obviously was terrified - I would be) and began running around the noisy interior of the Beechcraft 1900 showing his teeth and attempting to bite people. One of the passengers (who incidentally works for Hunters and Trappers so was likely qualified) captured the poor canine, the copilot climbed out of his seat in the cockpit and came back to secure the cage with bungee cord. That's the kind of inflight entertainment that Aklak Air offers for your emotional enjoyment. My nerves. 

The most exciting situation here with us this week has been that we noted an increasing swampy, sewer smell in the health centre and apartment and sluggish toilet flushing. It seems the sewage truck needed mechanical repair and so was off the road. We received a call from the Hamlet office telling us that we were on 'water restrictions' as we weren't going to be pumped out until Thursday. The roommate made an executive decision as she was down to the last pair of unmentionables and said "too bad, laundry is being done". There were no apparent consequences. 

Phone chat with the teacher daughter as I made taco soup, fried Cherokee bread and brownie pudding cake for supper. Working her way through the semester with her grade primary class, the usual domestic routine and finishing up the current course in her MEd program are keeping her fully occupied. 

Had a FaceTime chat with the shore captain on our usual Sunday afternoon date. Busy weekend on the SW shore of NS as the lobster season begins tomorrow am. First time in a few years that it's begun as scheduled on the last Monday of November, having been postponed for weather almost a week last year. The long hours working in the cold, high stakes and intense emotions make for short but sound sleeps for at least the next month. A phone chat with the man child to wish him well, be careful, catch lots of crustaceans etc. He thinks they will likely 'stay out' meaning that they will set the traps, have some supper (one of his crew is a good cook) and hopefully a nap, then when the clock strikes midnight they will begin to haul the pots, reset and haul them again as long as the weather allows - likely until Wednesday. The boy captain is nervous and excited. Tis the season. I told him not to let his father drive over his cell phone (inside joke as this happened a few years back) and he assured me that he wouldn't let it happen. My heart will be home this week. But I am glad that I am not witness to the multiple trips out of bed to look out the window at the weather tonight. 

Am anxiously awaiting news that a buddy has completely aced her Continuing Care Assistant exam after two very intense years of study as she opted to do this out of the classroom. She reported that many students walked out of the classroom instead of writing and nothing looked familiar on the paper. Nothing will shake my faith in her - I am sure she rocked it. 

And speaking of work health related - a good blog post:

The excitement of the weekend was a call (they happen very infrequently here) from someone in off a hunting trip out on the land about 40 km northeast of the hamlet. it's been really windy and cold (had to apply duct tape to the seams of the windows) so I was surprised to learn the contracted hunters had harvested six caribou of their 33 community quota. I was also surprised to learn that the laceration of the finger which I glued back together (saving lives one at a time - no you will not loose your finger) was sustained opening a can of sliced fruit. And no, in answer to the lacerated's question….I don't consider that a Workers Compensation injury! 

Have registered for an online course from Future Learn (the internet is better remotely than in NS) so am doing a short course called Web Science from University of Southampton with 6300 other global students. Talk about large classes!

Just spent a few moments with my roommate watching the gorgeous light show the high arctic is offering us tonight - the aurora borealis are in rare form shimmering and dancing in greens and blues. We are so fortunate! Except for the fact that  it's happened again….Monday in the morning. Enjoy the week. 

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Do I miss lobster face? Not even a little

Another week behind us and the uniforms are drying on the hangers. I measure the rotation by the number of times remaining to wash the work clothes and the magic number is…..six. Almost half way through as I've extended this time to almost ten weeks. As usual, regardless of the total, the time is flying by. 

I was very excited on Tuesday night to find my job share partner had arrived back from the neighbouring community she had been loaned to. The dental team was preparing to leave on their charter which was arriving at about the same time as the scheduled flight from Ulukhaktuk. There were stacks of containers in the waiting room and foyer and although I was trying my best to ignore them, they were a needy pair, so when the video phone rang I fully expected it to be the dental assistant. I was thrilled to find it was instead my coworker who had been dropped off by the COOP truck aka ambulance. Happy reunion and we settled in to get caught up on the news. She was surprised to have made it as there was a blizzard beginning in Ulu and she had trouble seeing the road to the airport, there were strong winds as they took off, but it was still a nice evening here. That didn't last for long however. 

In the morning I checked the online warning and announced "there's a blizzard warning" to which my counterpart replied "just look out the window, oh wait, you can't see out through it". Sure enough the blizzard had come to visit us with snow
Blizzard from the inside
being blown around at 70 - 80 km/hr by north winds. Dark and cold, nothing moving and then along comes the van/school bus creeping up over the hill in near white out conditions. Apparently school wasn't cancelled today. We ready ourselves and head downstairs, thankful for the 14 stair commute which doesn't involve a parka. There is much back and forth with the NIC in Ulu as to closure criteria, finding the policy and then contacting the Hamlet SAO. He says "we're sort of closed" and my coworker says "that's like being a little bit pregnant, not possible" so he counters that he's at the Hamlet office but we can close and she educates him that we can only close if he does so he promptly says "we're closed then". I call the manager and she tells me that since we live over the health centre we are expected to do administrative duties and provide emergency services. We catch up on our programs and make some lists / plans. No one is coming in for a flu shot today for sure, they have more sense than to be out in this weather. 

Well…..almost everyone. There was a 4 wheel drive double crew cab pickup which travelled around the community a few times during the day. Turns out it was the tradesmen from Midnight Sun Carpentry who were finishing up their work orders. Proudly announced they only got stuck three times for the whole day. The next morning the bus driver / janitor was a few minutes late as she "couldn't find the principal this morning". Apparently he lives with the SAO who had left his cell phone at the Hamlet office when they closed and went home so when the principal tried to unsuccessfully call him for a ride home, he was stranded. The carpenters were working at the school and kindly offered to give him a lift home. The principal's version of the story was that after they dropped him off, he wandered around for a bit, couldn't find his way and decided to crash on the couch at the B&B. The carpenters version was that he didn't seem that sure of where he lived when they were trying to locate it, so they finally dropped him off at the end of what seemed to be his driveway. Lucky the B&B didn't charge him $125 to sleep on the couch as it's $250/night. The thoughts of doing a search and rescue mission then treating hypothermia were not far from my mind with the recounting of this yarn. 

The health centre / apartment was difficult to heat with the high winds and the poor quality windows that someone ripped off the health authority by installing a few years ago, passing them off as arctic weather quality. It was a fuzzy socks inside footed pjs with a trap door kind of evening. The blizzard finally abated by late morning, as forecast, the winds died down and the sky cleared. The community began moving a bit and the scheduled flight actually came in that evening. 

Had an encounter with a community member who asked who I left "down south" and I assured him that my kids had all flown the nest "and what about your old fella?". I reassured him that the life partner was able to take care of himself or if he didn't, I was far enough away that I didn't worry about it after all these years. He shook his head and said "the wife came over here on April 13th the year she was 16 and that was 48 years ago". I was impressed that he was so definite with the details. He asked what I was going to do when I left here and I explained that I was going on a cruise to South America in January. "Hmmm, I'd like to do that someday, I've never experienced that, I am only cruising on my skidoo across the tundra" and he pantomimed his arms stretching towards the handlebars and we both chuckled. I asked what he'd be hunting for and he said "anything that gets in front of my gun" ….musk ox, caribou, arctic hares….

At the close of the day, we cleaned off the vehicle, warmed it up, unplugged it and crept over to the COOP. This was because we'd heard there was "all kinds of vegetables" which translated to celery, butternut squash, avocado, carrots, milk, eggs and even yogurt. Let's go. My counterpart was telling me that Lloyd, although a very hard working, generous,
Scarves are us
community minded man - he is the mayor after all - is "not much of a shopper" and to illustrate her view pointed to the scarves on the wall of the store. Last years one blue striped (but soft) scarf still hung there, beside this year's rainbow striped, but very itchy one. Apparently Lloyd could use some help in the clothing purchasing division. We were rewarded with the veggies as noted as well as the holiday candies.
Christmas candies
We passed on the $16.88 package of icy cups and didn't even ask what the Pot of Gold cost, especially considering they are likely well aged after arriving on the barge a few months ago. There was cottage cheese and so I splurged for Del Monte peaches ($4.20) vs COOP brand ($3.60) for the small can - a healthier alternative anyway. 

The roommate and I are planning some Christmas crafting and have sourced some patterns for decorations. She at present is working on a prototype for small trees as she has more patience to work out the details. If it's too complicated or finicky it will be a one off. Some garland, a few ornaments and soon we'll be as festive as we're going to get. 

At any rate I am missing the pre lobster season shenanigans. I was chatting with a captain who fishes year round - he just got in and was baiting trawl in the morning as hoping to go in a couple of days. I asked if those who lobster (and feel the universe is controlled by them this time of year) were annoyed when he arrived in the middle of a wharf full of waiting lobster traps. Oh he said "they get their lobster face on" so I told him that must've been what the shore captain was wearing when we 'faced' on Sunday.  Of the things I miss, the pre-season angst is NOT one of them. 

Off to crawl in to bed and hopefully sleep in. Ahhh the northern life with it's dark sleep in mornings. Down to just some twilight at noon time now for a couple of months. 

Monday, November 16, 2015

Goodbye Mr Sun, Sun, Mr. Golden Sun

Have had a steady rotation so far and the past week has moved along quickly. At the lunch after the Remembrance Day service I was summoned by an elder who told me they'd like to have a tea the next day to thank the NIC for her work. "You make a cake" she said, stating she wanted to bake for her. When I protested I wasn't a good decorator she said "that's okay". When the elders arrived (via the school van/bus) the lady who had arranged the event said "I didn't make a thing" and I had to turn away to smile.  We spent a nice afternoon drinking tea, snacking and hearing stories about life out on the land. That evening I made chili and sweet potato biscuits as a farewell supper for the NIC and stranded OT. Tonight I entertained one of the RCMP officers, his wife and almost two year old son. Managed to pull together a salad (broccoli) pasta and meatballs with garlic bread, then cream cheese with caramel sauce and skorr bits dip with apple slices for dessert. Not bad for a northern supper. Nice to have company. 

As I was drawing routine bloodwork on a patient (no lab, just us - we draw, centrifuge and package, then ship on the plane) we were discussing local hunting. He keeps a trap line and will set it up next month when the arctic fox pelts 'bloom' meaning they get thick and white. He asked if I was interested in buying one "you know to hang on the wall as a decoration" apparently thinking since I wasn't local, I needed such things explained. We discussed price and if I could take it with me (apparently a similar export permit to the one I carried with me for the musk ox is required). I smiled after he left thinking to myself 'that encounter would never happen to me in NS as a nurse'. 

The dental team arrived on Thursday via charter and that makes for piles of action packers in the front lobby and more traffic through the health centre, although it is a good way to catch the young, healthy population you never see. This is the dental assistant's first trip to this community and it shows. She has been told NOT to walk in Sachs Harbour. When I tried to reassure her that we hadn't seen a polar bear in a couple of weeks since the sea ice had frozen, it had the opposite affect - I think all she heard was the world bear. She asked on Friday if we'd received a parcel for them and I said "no" and she said "why not?" and I replied "because there wasn't a flight today, there are flights three times a week here".  She was astounded and repeated  "three times a week?" which I confirmed as Monday, Tuesday and Thursday then added "weather dependent". She walked off with a look on her face like I was pulling her leg….

Thursday morning a sick baby was brought in and I was arranging a medevac, dealing with an ill enough infant that several nurses in an ICU would've been handling the tasks and my coworker was exiting. There was no flight on Tuesday due to weather, so when Thursday came around a lot of people were waiting for the scheduled flight, there was talk of having two scheds. A decision was made that GNWT employees would be offered seats on the charter and so the NIC heading out for her maternity leave was on of them. When the charter landed, the report of a 1500 ft. ceiling was apparently more accurate at 300 ft., the twin otter pilot managed to land, but refused to take off again until visibility improved. The operations and DPW folks who were coming to inspect the health centre arrived, rushed about while the plane waited and left again. Like Japanese tourists someone suggested (always taking pictures, nothing ever changes). The Operations Mgr introduced himself, pointed out that I wasn't wearing my ID badge and offered to make me one - I have one of course, we all do but in this community everyone knows my first name. Who did he think was wearing a uniform and doing nurse things? I was too busy to follow through on my fantasies of physical harm to him so simply picked it off the hook and put it on, muttering to myself. On my top ten list, the ID badge was number 11. While I waited on hold to talk to the Dr. on call in Inuvik a radio station was broadcasting  and I heard an ad for 'jerky poutine at the Burnt Toast Cafe' which Google later told me is in Whitehorse. 'Only north of 60' I said to myself. The medevac was denied for weather, no the liability was too great to put the baby on the charter in the arms of the nurse heading out (this is 2015 not 1975 after all) and the twin otter took off in limited visibility. Worried me to think that my pregnant coworker was airborne in those conditions. Then finally the weather cleared 'up island' the medevac was given clearance and was 'wheels up at 1355' or supposedly…they always lie about their departure time. And clearly did this time as the one and a quarter hour medevac flight and the sched arrived at the same time about 4 pm so the COOP manager was considering cloning himself. He dropped the flight nurse and medic off to assess the baby, dragged passengers and freight around the community then returned to pick up mom and baby and medic team. Because I'm old enough to think of all the 'what ifs' and have enough sense to not enjoy the adrenaline rush anymore, I was thrilled to hear that plane take off. Whew. 

On Friday a lady called for her husband asking if we had any back rub cream. He could be heard yelling in the background "and I don't want any of those home remedies either". So I chuckled and said to her "he doesn't want you to put an onion in a sock and tie it on his back?" and she said "onion?" so I quickly explained I was joking before we set him off again, that we don't carry A535 and they could order it from the pharmacy by giving them their credit card and it would be here next week. You can imagine how well that went over. 

There's been a steady stream of influenza immunizations and I was surprised to find out while chatting with my niece that Nova Scotia doesn't fund FluMist (intra nasal spray) for those ages 2 - 17 yrs as Nunavut and NWT do. You wouldn't believe how many folks attempt to convince me they are under 18!

My job share partner will be back from Ulukhaktuk in about 10 days and we'll have a couple of weeks together, then she'll head home for a week of early Christmas celebrations and back to spend the actual one with me. She will head east with a shopping list as we've decided we need to have war cake for the holidays as in both our mothers used to make it. It's certainly very holiday like with all the white stuff on the ground and chilly temperatures - easy to get into the spirit. I have been working on baby gifts for all the expected babies but will turn my hand to some holiday decorations soon. 

The sun is disappearing for the long arctic night and we won't see it again until mid January. Tomorrow is the last day we have sunlight at noon time for about an hour I think. Will be odd to see a sunrise again between the holidays in the 'south'of Edmonton. The blu light with my alarm in the morning gives me 15 minutes of UV. Not sure if it helps or I only think it does, either way I'm pretty peppy. It's the 24 hours of daylight which is more a pain to me. A while before I have to think of that…...

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Shorter days and longer nights……..

Arctic fox
Hey there…..haven't seen a polar bear this week (likely as the sea ice is frozen over now) but last week with open water there was a bit of activity. Three bears swam ashore and had a little visit - looked like Mama and two grown offspring - they took the hint when scared with bear bangers. Unfortunately two younger juvenile bears didn't heed the warnings, began making a nuisance of themselves and have...disappeared. One of them came ashore repeatedly, once looking and sniffing in the dog house (poor dog, that must've given him a fright) and the smoke house. Another 'remembered' that someone had left a pail of blubber on the shore last year and revisited that spot - long memories apparently. They sure are big animals. Did you know that their hide is black? Haven't been close enough to get a good photo yet, and that is fine, just fine by me. I did however, go on a little excursion to the dump with the RCMP and there were a LOT of arctic foxes hanging out there.

Mostly I have been enjoying the cozy apartment. It is a large place and I measured the
-37c wind chill, blowing snow
dimensions last weekend - finding it's about 1100 sq. ft. of living space. The rooms are big, living room is 14x22 ft and the master bedroom is 13x17 for example. You could easily raise a family in this. And of course those arctic days are getting shorter with sunrise about 11 am and then the sun just hanging low in the sky until it slips away again about 3 pm. In about 10 more days we'll see the last of the sun for this year and we'll be into the long arctic night, waiting for the first peep of sun the end of January. 

Arctic Halloween was fun. There was a community get together in the school gym with all sorts of treats (I took brownies and looked furtively over my shoulder as I walked to the school, wondering if polar bears like baked goods) and the costumes were cute. I enjoyed the one of the airplane (clearly central to a fly in community lifestyle) which won a prize. Trick or treaters were cute, had more than I would've at home. I would hear a skidoo stopping, boots crunching on the snowy stairs, they'd ring and down I'd
Wouldn't use her walker….
go to the lobby. But I was by myself for the week, so if someone wanted to see the nurse they'd ring the videophone as well. The first few were easy as they had makeup and costumes, then there was a grandfather (couldn't see the preschool trick or treater) with him, who rang the bell. I said "can I help you?" as I wasn't sure if he was a patient and he looked sheepishly at the camera and said tentatively "trick or treat?" so I chuckled and headed down. He apologized for making me run up and down and I assured him I could use the exercise. He told his granddaughter that the nurse was likely giving toothbrushes and such, but I confessed that although that would've been a good health promotion opportunity, I'd bought (fresh) candy with me from 'down south' . The youngster dug in the bag of proffered treats and said "this is good, this is good" with a grin. I know my audience. 

The COOP manager delivered milk which finally came in for my pregnant co-worker and so I scored some as well. The good news is that after two weeks of powdered milk, it was nice to have fresh milk for my tea. The bad news is that it was already outdated by one day and leaking. Stating facts of northern life, not whining. 

Have spent the past week attempting to get up to speed on the acting/NIC (nurse in charge) paperwork duties as the NIC will be heading out shortly for her maternity leave and my job share partner and I will share the duties. Have a little notebook I've been attempting to capture the picking of the brain from someone who has done it for a couple of years and has it down to a routine. Looking forward to doing health promotion in the schools and community - as in a blast from my past.

Can't believe I'm already about 1/3 of the way into this rotation. Have been crocheting a bit - did a blanket for my co-worker and the RCMP wife who are both due next month. Been making my way through a few books - David Susuki's biography at present, which is a good read. Have watched a couple movies - Woman in Gold was excellent, enjoyed A Royal Affair (about the Danish court in the 1700s) with subtitles but couldn't get through Dear White People - not often I have to hit delete on movies.... Haven't even had time to break out my adult colouring book and for those of you with your mind in the gutter, it's not an X rated one, but more intricate. Hopefully I can stay within the lines. Heading to sewing group this evening I think. Gotta get back into the swing of those slippers. 

And of course, (always) thinking of travel, here is a link for improving those travel pics: