Thursday, December 21, 2017

No Easter Bunny on Easter Island?

Into the final holiday push of gift creation, Christmas tasks such as putting up the tree - an Inuk friend said "must be so nice to have a real tree that smells so good" and she is correct, visiting / entertaining, end of year paperwork, duck hunting for the shore captain, appointments which will have to last until March and getting ready to pack for an extended vacation. So a fairly steady pace here which was only made more frantic by a friend's unfortunate loss of everything but the clothes being worn in an apartment fire. They returned home from an evening out to find smoke pouring out the eaves, kicked the door in and rescued the pets and now are trying to put their lives back together, not an easy task at any time but with the holidays and lobstering even more difficult. Our community is a very generous one and donations of clothing, money, groceries, a fundraiser ongoing and offers of a place to stay and more are being offered. I am carrying the Red Cross disaster phone and so was able to do provide assistance through that fund, something I hadn't thought I'd be doing for someone known to me. 
Mandela vest 

I've been working on some crochet projects and although the pattern for my granddaughter's circular vest stated one ball would be sufficient….it wasn't. I am off to source an additional ball, thankfully the local yarn store has it in stock to complete it. The way that baby is growing, there's no point in holding on to a size 2 creation. I have been resisting the temptation to visit the yarn store and have actually been working on reducing my 'stash' with a couple of projects - grey, white and red (lumberjack look) crocheted cap for a friend's grandson to be born this winter, some fish shaped dishcloths which I've been gifting, a hat and slippers which the granddaughter will 'grow into' and a couple of toques for the homeless shelter but…who am I kidding? Not really making a dent in it and all it will take is a moment of weakness at the yarn shop, feeling the fibres - it's like sitting in the car at the dealership and….

Today I made bread pudding, but not the kind my mother would've made - apple bread pudding created with some brioche I found in the discount bin (so sweet it burns if not closely supervised in the toaster) and caramel sauce. Yum, will make it again. 

Gramma's Apple Bread Pudding
  • Prep15 m Cook 45Ready In 1 h
  • 4 cups soft bread cubes
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 2 cups peeled and sliced apples
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 3/4 cups milk
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease a 7x11 inch baking dish.
  • In a large bowl, combine bread, raisins, and apples. In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine 1 cup brown sugar, 1 3/4 cups milk, and 1/4 cup butter. Cook and stir until butter is melted. Pour over bread mixture in bowl.
  • In a small bowl, whisk together cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, and eggs. Pour bread mixture into prepared dish, and pour egg mixture over bread.
  • Bake in preheated oven 40 to 50 minutes, or until center is set and apples are tender.
  • While pudding is baking, mix together sugar, 1/4 cup brown sugar, 1/2 cup milk, and 1/2 cup butter in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, then remove from heat, and stir in 1 teaspoon vanilla. Serve over bread pudding.
I also made cranberry pudding (for the extended family Christmas supper on Saturday) and a few dozen chocolate chip cookies for the boy captain as they'll be a welcome treat when lobstering. Tomorrow's plan is to make doughs (fried brown bread dough) for him as well. What do you get the young man who has everything? Mom's baking of course.

Have been making the rounds and getting together with various friends as it'll be March before we catch up again. Squeezing in visits before and after errands or other social events takes some planning but is possible. Still working on a meet up with northern buddies temporarily in this province, will be tricky with the weather forecast and travel schedule. I've arranged to store my vehicle with my nursing class buddy and reduce the insurance as I did when heading to work. Ticking all the details off my to do travel list. 

Had the grandson over a weekend ago and he was assisting with some of the holiday tasks - moving of the bear on the advent calendar "who does that when I'm not here - Grawmp?" Now that's funny! The guy who has traditionally done very little for Christmas… doesn't do cards, clean, decorate the house, bake, wrap gifts and when urged grudgingly brings home a tree for me to decorate and puts up minimal exterior lights while complaining how much he dislikes the holidays. This year is slightly better - it is very difficult to complain that one "doesn't have time for this" when retired, as you DO have is lots of time. But the moving of the bear awaits grandchildren at this point. 

We travelled to the city on the weekend and kept our youngest grandchild while her parents enjoyed supper, a hockey game and a night away. She's a busy 15 month old, but no where near as frantic as her mother was. She was very cheerful, ate everything she was offered and repeatedly said "mo" smiled and pointed at the fridge, stove or counter for the additional food. We discovered that she treats Pete their yellow lab as if he is a sibling, chattering to him, sitting on him, reading him books etc. and he is very gentle with her. After a bath, pyjamas and a bottle she was off to bed and settled herself at 7pm and slept the night. Shortly after we turned in, Pete launched himself onto the mattress with us and all 80 lb of him in the middle of the bed was like sleeping with a boulder! In the morning our granddaughter was chirpy calling out "dog, dog, dog" then "kitty, kitty" upon hearing her pets awake and was up for breakfast and the day. Sure wished we lived closer to be able to do that more often. 

The details are mostly in place for the travels with flights booked, some accommodation, bus tickets, plans to meet our Argentine friends for a couple of weeks, some open ended time in Chile to explore the coast and a four day trip to Easter Island in Feb.  When I was explaining that we were going to Easter Island, our grandson asked "is that where the Easter Bunny is?" so I described the statues and showed him some online photos and he said "still pretty cool" which I agreed with, then "Nanak, I just can't believe that you aren't taking me!" and when I explained that he was in school in Jan/Feb he said "that sure doesn't make it any better!" ahhh hard to disagree with that. He has been the guy with the quotes for sure lately as this is the quote of the day to his younger brother from one of the places he stays … gotta put your undies on first THEN your pants. They go under your pants that’s why they’re called undies, if they went over your pants they’d be called ovaries….maybe he's going to be a Dr. 

When I was relating the story of my great nephew being on a Timbits team which was chosen for the intermission display (also televised) at a Mooseheads game, our grandson (who enjoys playing nerd guns, legos, board games etc with this hockey player) gave me a piercing 'annoyed' look and said "Nanak, you never told me that Grant was famous!" I'm sure  the upcoming visit will yield some more yarns as he is pretty pumped for the holidays. We will have him for an early and late Christmas, looking forward to that as we'll miss him for the next few months.

When you say "home eight weeks" it seems like a long time but…after catching up from a previous extended trip, making sure to not miss anything on the home front and then prepping for the upcoming extended trip….the time slips away. A week from tomorrow we will be starting out on our journey…

It has been a year on Saturday since I finished the chemo treatments and I continue to feel well (obviously by the pace I keep) with good checkups and it's amazing how quickly you can put that part of life behind you. So much better to be getting my own haircut this morning than wearing a wig and hats. I was reading an online article about a 35 year old with children 5,3 and a few months old who was diagnosed with colon cancer with metastases and undergoing chemotherapy and radiation. He wrote about the need to live each day to the fullest but also described the disconnect of planning for the future while getting things in order in case you weren't there. It's a weird dichotomy. He sure nailed it! I had a lovely email from a nursing classmate today who wrote "I am so glad to hear you're doing so well. Only you could bounce back like that" which made me smile.

Have been purposely putting off thinking about work, there is clearly no shortage of northern nursing and I will sort out how to work for about five weeks in May/June when I return from southern travels. I had hoped to return to the NWT community I've been working in for a couple of years but this may not be possible as an RCMP posted in has a nurse partner so there might not be room for a casual CHN in May. I'm considering a return to a community in Nunavut which I enjoyed and haven't been to for three years, it's a busy spot and I'd have to get back up to speed but May tends to be a quiet time in the arctic with the majority of folks 'out on the land' and it would be a good chance to visit everyone. Another option is a TB nurse contract which is an office (read day job no on call) and involves managing the TB program in a Nunavut community meaning I'd get to explore another part of Canada's north. Since the majority of communities withTB outbreaks are in the Baffin region this would require travelling in through Ottawa where the oldest daughter is now located so….benefits to each of the choices. The title of this blog may be retirement planning but one thing is certain…I am not ready to give up work completely just yet. 

Friday, December 8, 2017

You're home? For the Moment

A month since the last post which means either that I'm too busy/procrastinating or there's nothing to write about. Lots going on so….clearly I am being negligent in my blogging duties as I freely admit to being a first class procrastinator, and being home hasn't increased my interest in doing housework or tackling a few of the projects I've been putting off. I did manage to get the decorations up inside the house and it does look festive. The shore captain actually took my suggestion of putting the exterior Christmas lights unearthed in his excavation of his workshop to good use - managed to get three strings working - they've been installed on the eaves and corner of his barn where they likely cause some surprise as they're visible when rounding the corner. Can't let him get ahead of me...My to-do list has gotten shorter though. One of the items was purchasing a box of Peace by Chocolate (the Syrian chocolatiers who came to Antigonish last year and have been promoted by our primeminster) but as I worked my way through the online checkout I grumbled about giving $9.50 to Canada Post for shipping. I noticed on their FaceBook page (when searching for a promo code) that Sobeys now carries the chocolates and a quick call to my local store verified 'yep we have lots' which warmed my frugal soul. Gotta give those new Canadians making their way some support. 
Wine tasting

My friend and I enjoyed our cruise out of Miami to Bahamas and Key West. We put together a four day + three day back to back cruise to make it a week. Not sure I'd bother to do back to back cruises again (especially for such short time periods) as we wasted a few hrs in Miami getting reregistered for the second cruise and….
My Fair Lady Dining Room

Nassau Public Library former jail

Public Health message at its best
the entertainment was completely repeated, plus we had to arrange to have the same table (and thus staff) in the dining room as since the two cruises were completely separate there were two registrations, accounts etc. We thoroughly enjoyed the Enchantment of the Seas although we managed to miss Super Mario as he had just left the ship after about six months on board. Apparently he was sailing on another ship. His loss.

Capt. Ron 
We did a Bites of Nassau walking and food tour with a small group where we had a great time with our guide Capt. Ron sampling conch fritters with calypso sauce, Bahama mamas, chocolates, gelato, conch chowder and rum cake. We learned a lot about Bahamian food culture, history and generally had a wonderful afternoon:
Conch fritters with calypso sauce

Critters on a pirate ship
On the return visit to Nassau during the second cruise, we visited the Pirate Museum and it was a fun morning. Well, maybe not the stuffed rats in the very realistic dioramas but it was a well done facility. Those female pirates were tough women for sure. Learned lots about piracy, the Bahamas and separated fact from fiction of books and movies. Capt Ron had agreed the museum was worth a visit and we concurred. Although Nassau is touted as a shopping mecca, we didn't find any particularly notable buys and the exchange rate is really painful so we window shopped.  The private island of Coco Cay was (as expected) lovely and we spent two wonderful beach days there. We walked the nature trail (did not spring for the $30 US per person guided tour) and saw chickens, geckos and birds as we explored the various beaches, craft vendors and stuffed ourselves at the BBQ (one of the best I've had at any of the cruise lines) swam, sunned and generally enjoyed ourselves.
Harry S Truman
One of the 54 many toed cats here

Ernest Hemingway's writing studio
The Village People…sort of
Miami sailaway
Key West found us opting for a hop on and off trolley tour which didn't disappoint as we got to see the island, learned lots about the history/culture of the area and were dropped off at Hemingway House to visit with the cats. Although I'd visited before, it was worth the repeat trip and the cats appreciated the attention. We took full advantage of the entertainment on the ship and enjoyed the night shows - comedians, juggling, and musicals as well as the crew shows. On our final night (as it was my travel buddy's birthday the following day) we suppered at Choppes Grille which is the a la carte restaurant. A very classy meal with impeccable service resulted in a nice finale. Important to keep those positive thoughts in mind as we flew United home and RUDE is the word which comes to mind to describe their service. Nuff said. Not to mention that we encountered snow upon our return to reality. Sigh

The shore captain was out on the water for the first day of the lobster season helping get the traps overboard for a Captain who had leased a lobster license this fall but hadn't been lobstering for 15 years. No interest in going the next day for the first haul (although I suspect a crappy marine forecast influenced that decision) or since. Says that he's gotten that bug out of his system and even had to be encouraged to go pick up some lobsters at the plant so I could make sandwiches for a road trip (more on that later) as promised. He did however steam and crack them for me - a wonderful gesture.

Had a physio appointment so rewarded myself with a lunch of almond coffee cake at a new cafe:
Apparently you can have salads, wraps, paninis etc. there for lunch but why would you want to when the baked goods look like that? Stopped at Frenchy's on the way home and found some goodies for the grand baby including a cute pink folding camping chair which is low to the ground and sturdy (she doesn't quite fit in the taller frog chair the grandson uses) a real deal at $2.50. I set it up in the living room when I got home and put one of the cats in it for a photo op and….she has rarely vacated it since, apparently considering it as 'her' chair and enjoying being close to the action. The grandson said "Nanak I think you have to get the baby another chair, that one is Squeaker's" but as I explained….Frenchy's finds are just that - finds not orders.

Have enjoyed a couple of road trips recently with a former coworker, always good to catch up on the news and travel with an easy going buddy. Our first outing was to the sale - Ten Thousand Villages:
which we enjoyed last year for the first time (although it's been held for many years apparently in the same venue) and again purchased lots of unique goodies. So fun to travel to Nepal, Vietnam, India, Peru, Bangladesh etc (without risking tropical diseases) and find interesting,reasonably priced fair trade items and know that this is helping community projects. We oohed and ahhed, tried on, sniffed, picked up and put down, and even resisted (a bit) but in the end, the credit cards got a workout. We also met a former coworker at the sale who had recently returned from a trip to China which had long been on her bucket list - apparently it exceeded her expectations - lots of discussion with my buddy as she'd travelled to China in 1985 with a nursing group when it was first opening up to tourism. So a global kind of morning. We made our way to lunch at Bread and Olives (well once we discovered it had relocated from where I'd last visited it a couple of years ago) to Main St:
It's a wonderful bakery / deli with ? British owners (or at least British accents) where I had a turkey, brie, cranberry pie and my friend enjoyed a cornish pastie while we chatted, people watched and shared a pot of tea. Capped the day off with a stop at Frenchy's where I managed to enlarge my granddaughter's wardrobe and pick up some travel clothes for myself. A wonderful way to spend the day.

Yesterday my road trip buddy and myself headed out early as we stopped at Frenchy's and both scored very well for ourselves and family - my friend even found a dinosaur costume for her grandson's pug - I ask you, where else can you so reasonably complete such a unique purchase? We were headed to visit a former coworker of mine as I was sure they'd have lots in common and was correct. He has begun rug hooking and she is an experienced hooker/teacher so they discovered they knew hookers in common, examined each others work, commented on techniques and generally enjoyed an artistic exchange. I caught up on the news and crocheted - good to see my buddy so content and looking so well - while we enjoyed lobster sandwiches and gingerbread cookies for lunch. It was a beautiful day for a drive up through woods to his little hippie house. Ahh. We left in mid afternoon to ensure I was home in time for the supper I'd been promised (baked coots - which were delicious by the way) and made it just as the rain began. Good timing all around.

The shore captain has been duck hunting in front of the house in the mornings in his sneak boat (similar to an Inuit kayak) and has been quite successful. In fact he shot two eiders (sea ducks) and two coots (American scooters) with one shot each as well as two hooded mergansers (shell ducks). One of the eiders had a band from Laurel, Maryland in 2006. Hadn't shot a banded duck in his 50 yr hunting history so got on the phone to the Audubon Society who promptly sent him a certificate. Exciting times.

Had the grandson over for a visit on the weekend and he got into the holiday spirit by 'moving the bear' on the advent calendar then helped me stamp brown paper to make wrapping paper and wrap some gifts - such craftiness a new experience for him. We baked gingerbread cookies and he decorated them, taking some to school for his teacher and buddies - likely ate them on the bus I'm thinking. He created a wonderful chapter book called Puppy Christmas which was inspired by the 2011 Christmas Seals stickers I gave him. When I suggested a word to use he said "Nanak, give me a break, I'm only in grade 2 and besides it's my book, I decide" gotta love those artistic types. I have placed his masterpiece on the coffee table with my other important books. We video chatted with his auntie and discussed our plans for March Break when we visit and he sang the one line of the song for the school Christmas concert which he can remember to her. A very full weekend.

Today I've 'taken the day off' and have really accomplished very little unless online shopping, a walk to the mailbox, finishing up the socks I've stuffed for the mission and a load of laundry counts as a full day. Actually I spent quite a bit of time responding to "come see this" as the shore captain reviewed his videos from the spring snow goose hunt after I figured out how to transfer them from his GoPro and also assisted him in the storing of lumber for woodworking projects overhead in his barn, this being a two person operation. Apparently the kind of day that two somewhat retired people have according to a neighbour who we dropped in to visit last week as she assured me they'd be home if they didn't kill each other getting the outdoor Christmas decorations up. I hear ya sister!

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Cyclades Adventure

At the risk of startling those who were concerned I'd disappeared….we're back! Well, actually we've been back from our wonderful trip for a week, but I'm still working on getting my act together. Who am I kidding? That's a daily project. I'm really attempting to get unpacked, laundry put away and into some semblance of 'normal' life. Remembering of course that I'm unpacking from a 6wk work rotation where I sorted, gifted and packed the remainder of my accumulated two years of 'stuff' and then without even making it home, the additional 6 wk vacation. The mud room was congested for a few days with backpacks, suitcases, action packers and boxes. I've managed to store the northern gear between the barn and the house and have no plans to look at it until the spring. The travel clothes and gear have been washed and stacked for repacking as there are only 10 days remaining before heading out on a girls cruise - more on that later.  As I work my way through the 'to do' list, my stack of paperwork sorted from the accumulated mail is gradually diminishing. I've managed to get laundry out on the clothesline in the mild autumn air, walk to the mailbox a couple of times and generally enjoy the season.

We arrived home at 3 am last Thursday after a wonderful 45 days in the Greek cyclades and have decided we're committed to slow travel. It was great to have four or five days on each of the nine islands we visited to explore, relax, or just hang out. By the end of October the tourist season is winding down and therefore less choice in accommodation and restaurants, but also fewer tourists. We were very fortunate with the weather (which was equivalent to a pleasant NS summer) and had only one morning and two evenings of rain (all within the final week). Spent regular time on the beaches, walked a lot (good thing as we ate a lot) met wonderful people, saw a multitude of historic sites, travelled with locals on buses, ferries and even rented dune buggies twice. Just generally enjoyed ourselves to the max. I overheard the shore captain describing the vacation to a seafood industry colleague and he said "neither of us try to be anyone other than who we are and the Greeks appreciate that, so it went well" which kind of sums it up. So I offer the following photos (in non chronological order) as additional documentation of a wonderful (and highly recommended) vacation:

windmill on Paros

Church of 100 Doors front - Paros

4th century Church - back

Archeological Museum - Paros

 Kalotaritissa Beach - Donors

Ferry in Koufonissi 

Beach - Schinoussa 

Sunset-Villa Meltimi, Iraklia

Kitties even on the beaches

Octopus drying 

Goats in Apollona, Naxos 

Swimming with fishes Folegandros

St Nicklaus Beach, Folegandros

Aglia Beach, Folegandros 

Roman catacombs, Milos 

Blue Star ferry from Pireaus 

Sunset - Notas Studios, Schinoussa

Ferry terminal, Paros 

Paros by dune buggy

Monastery - Paros 

Exquisite churches everywhere 


To extend our Mediterranean cuisine, I made fassolada (Greek bean stew) which our hostess in Kimolos had made us for lunch one day and it's delicious. The recipe which I found on Greek website called Kopiaste will be included as a meatless dish going forward:

Fassolada - yum!

Fassolada (Greek Beans Stew)
Preparation time: 30 minutes
Cooking time:  1 hour and 30 minutes
Serves: 6
  • 250 grams (8.8 oz) navy or other white beans
  • ½ cup of olive oil
  • 1 big onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, finely chopped (optional)
  • 3 carrots, sliced is rounds and halved
  • 1 big potato, cut into cubes
  • 3 – 4 celery stalks, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 5 fresh tomatoes or 1 can of whole tomatoes with sauce, blended with 1can tomato paste
  • Salt
  • Freshly grated black pepper
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 organic vegetable bouillon
  • 2 cups water
  1. Soak the beans in water  overnight.
  2. Drain the water and place the beans in a pot with fresh water.  Boil for a while and remove any froth which arises.   Drain once again.
  3. In a pot heat the olive oil and sauté the onion and garlic until translucent.   Add the potatoes, carrots, celery, spices and mix.  Add the tomato, blended with the tomato paste and the vegetable bouillon dissolved in hot water.  Add more water if needed to cover it and make it soupy.
  4. At this point you can either continue cooking it on the stove top or transfer it to a “gastra” (similar to Dutch oven) and continue baking it in the oven.  Bake for two hours in a preheated oven to 200oC (400oF).  After half an hour, stir the stew and discard the bay leaves, cover again with the lid and continue cooking until done.
  5. If you wish to continue cooking it on the stove top, bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer until soft, for about an hour and a half, mixing regularly.  Add more water if necessary.
  6. After about an hour, remove lid and cook uncovered until the sauce thickens, stirring regularly

Next plan will be for cooking up gigantes or giant beans (a type of large runner beans) which are baked in the oven. Even brought some of the seeds home so the gentleman farmer can grow a crop next summer.

Had the grandson over for the day on Sunday and he's grown a couple of inches and put on about 10 lbs. since I'd seen him in July. I have missed seeing him the past three months - travelling is fine but missing grandchildren is a problem. So grown up now, reading extremely well, great math skills and just as amusing - the yarns, the yarns just as his father shared at that age. He was questioning me about how old I was when he was born and I told him, then he asked about my year of birth which I named as 1956. He was amazed and said "Nanak, did kids have to carry water from the well in a bucket back then?" I was speechless and sent him to his grandfather for the answer. Just because I can remember a hand pump in the kitchen as a child….

On Monday morning we headed to the physiotherapist for a double appointment, or as northern patients often describe "kind of like….but not". So kind of like a date….. but not. Since we both got adjusted and taped, the life partner suggested we buy a bottle of wine in a couple of days and take turns ripping the tape off each other.

The intent of the shore captain upon return home has been duck hunting, but today was the first morning he managed to get out in the boat. Everything from having to apply for his migratory game permit online (now that was a performance!) to getting up two mornings in a row to look at the weather but not going (and then sighing and muttering upon hearing shooting later) readying the boat and gear multiple times and finally bringing home one coot today. Bit more of a challenge than flocks of large snow geese at low levels this spring, think he's been spoiled.

Managed to get a few minutes to visit with the buddy I'll be cruising with shortly. This is the 10th anniversary of the first trip we enjoyed and we are planning to 'surprise' SuperMario, someone my friend spent a fair bit of time with that first cruise - he's a guy who spends 50 weeks of the year on Royal Caribbean ships, having just recently celebrated his 7000th day at sea on the Enchantment of the Seas. According to the media photos he hasn't aged as well as my friend , guess that's what living on cruise ships for years does to you. Hoping to snap a few photos of the 'oh hello there' event when we connect. Surprise!

This time of year always brings lots of angst with the approaching lobster season and intensity increased this fall as the Department of Fisheries & Oceans changed regulations last month involving the leasing of licenses - trust agreements (whereby a captain fishes a license for another in a leased arrangement) are no longer permitted if the captain already owns one license - a common occurrence as these years, stacked licenses are how a living is made. This is supposedly to remove the corporate takeover of the industry but in reality most of these arrangements (some for many years) are within family enterprises (as with the shore captain and boy captain) and must be changed with the license sold/permanently transferred. Although this may have been the intent (eventually) it has caused much immediate scrambling between fishermen, fishery associations, bankers and lawyers with raised voices, pacing and gesturing. Ultimately, there will be little change to the number of licenses and who fishes them which is the supposed intent. Sigh.

The shore captain has offered first week mentoring to a captain who has obtained a lobster license this year and was pleased to have been asked. Having been involved with the lobster industry for decades, he wasn't looking fondly at missing the adrenaline rush. I however, am thrilled to be travelling and thus miss the lead up to and first day excitement / frenzy. Luck or good planning on my part? I'll take it.

Tomorrow we're off on a bit of a road trip as we head to the city for a routine oncology appointment, overnight to visit with the granddaughter who is now walking and discovering many new things, pick up a 7th birthday gift (a globe has been settled on) for the grandson, squeeze in an afternoon visit with a friend in the area, drop the shore captain off at the airport early on Saturday (he's flying out to visit with the oldest daughter where they'll attend a hockey game in Montreal that night and a football game on Sunday before he heads back Monday morning) while I travel to Cape Breton to visit with a buddy in her new apartment and pick up mister on the Monday return. A busy four days.

Nice to have some time in the beautiful area of the world we live in, enjoy the grandkids a bit, putter on projects and generally enjoy life for a couple of months. Not winter mind you but….that's another update to fill in those details.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Belugas, bears, wolves and navy dudes

Well, if that was a short week, it sure felt longer than four days. Have been pretending to be the NIC (nurse in charge) and help the casual CHN settle in to the community. You don't realize how much genealogy you know until you have to explain to someone else. I've been lucky in that my coworker is an experienced nurse who is thorough, kind, has a good touch with folks and a great sense of humour. She apologizes for being slow but this is a sedate community so lots of time to get up to speed and you can be faster when you know can also miss things if you're too familiar so always good to have 'new eyes'. We have been 'busy' as measured by our usual pace and she's gotten to meet a number of people already. Including a little fellow the clerk described as "an old man baby" which is pretty accurate as he's an old soul (who was a fan of my jam cookies).

A highlight of the week was the arrival of a plumber (from NS of course) who had come to install an on demand water heater for us as the water in the shower was just manageable and that at the kitchen sink was tepid meaning we had to heat water to wash dishes. This has been going on for some time now as in about a year! Now I dislike the chore to begin with and to do it on a regular basis as if we are camping makes me pretty huffy! When the tradesman arrived I could've kissed him and said "I am so tired of Little House on the Prairie" so he went right to work. Apparently someone (who clearly has no idea what they're doing and shouldn't be allowed near valves) had turned down the hot water to 90c. No need to install the heaters (good thing as the plug was about 3 ft long and wouldn't reach even the wall) just adjust the temperature. I did a sink full of dishes, just to celebrate.

I attempted to go for a walk on Sunday as my coworker was on call and as I stepped out on the steps in the mist with my walking poles a resident said "where are walking? there was a bear spotted up by the dump" and not sure whether this was accurate or a 'pull the leg' statement I said "sure, sure" but he sounded pretty sincere, looked skeptically at my walking poles and said "they're called man eaters because they eat people" So I said "you don't think I should go walking?" and he said "well....if you had a dog" as the Inuit use their huskies as early warning systems, which clearly I don't have.  I changed my route from airport and down the hill to the shore where freight from the barge order sat on the gravel. I found another resident opening various sea cans (shipping containers) looking for his stove (we're talking kitchen range here) which he thought 'someone from the Hamlet office must've picked it up' Hard to misplace something that size I thought. I asked if there had been a bear sighted and he said "yup, up by the airport" so I sighed, accepted the second opinion and headed down the road about 1/4 km towards the new house being assembled. As I rounded the corner, a community member pulling her housecoat tight came out on her steps and called out greetings then said "where your going?" so I assured her just to take a photo of the house. She reinforced the 'bear seen at the airport' info and I said "how big was it?" She paused with the 'how stupid are ya' look on her face and said "it was... a bear okay? I saw it myself!" as if she was dealing with her preschooler. I took the photo, sighed and headed back down the road to the health centre. Difficult to have a relaxing walk when the entire community is having to watch out for you.

polar bear pic by drone
On Monday I took my coworker out for a drive to show her the various elders houses in case she was called out to see someone and then we (as per northern usual tour) went to see the water treatment plant, sewage lagoon (different lakes, not close) and the dump for those must have photo ops. The road was a bit soft but I chanced a run down to the point and there was a bit of traffic (one of each - truck, side by side and 4wheeler) which was a bit unusual but it was a nice day. The RCMP Cpl posted an online photo taken from his drone with footage of a polar bear in the water a few hours earlier, apparently the bear had been chased from the dump,
black meat / white muktuk
down to the point and in to the water. Accounted for the traffic and our timing was just a bit off. After we returned the clerk was on FB and advised that a whale had been harvested and people
muktuk drying
were down on the beach. Down I go with my phone in pocket and managed to capture some footage of the 16 ft. beluga being cut up. You have to be quick as this process is a group activity, the muktuk (blubber) and meat are shared and distributed very efficiently. The meat is thinly sliced and smoked, the muktuk is hung to dry for a few days before being packed in the freezer. This causes some sleepless nights with flashlight and loaded rifle in the porch as there are a couple of wolves who have been wandering on the edge of town (Grumper one of the local dogs was roughed up by them at 2 am one night) and the bear might decide to come back. Lots of folks enjoying the muktuk now's an acquired taste - one I didn't acquire. Tried it four decades ago in Labrador and have no urge to repeat. It's like chewing silly putty, gets bigger every time you chew. 

HMCS Yellowknife
sovereignty in action
zodiac transfers
On Wednesday we received the anticipated community visit from the HMCS Yellowknife which is a minesweeper with about 44 crew which often does drug enforcement or in this case sovereignty cruises. So clearly Canada's most north westerly community was on their itinerary. My coworker graciously stayed at the health centre and allowed me to go on the ship tour. It was a great adventure involving a PFD, zodiac, rope ladder and sea legs required. I was pleased they carry medics so no health centre visits were required, especially when one of the crew confided they'd had to ask for some permethrin from another health centre on their travels for something they think got picked up in Nome causing a little outbreak. For those non nurses reading this I'll insert the fact that this is used to treat scabies or pediculosis pubis (crabs) and just leave it at that. On the return zodiac trip I was reviewing all the wildlife found locally with one of the crew coming ashore and mentioned the world's largest muskox herd was found here. Two of the local guys began discussing hunting and one says to the other 40 yr old "how many muskox have you skinned in your lifetime?" and he thinks for a bit then answers "about 600 I'd say". Not a conversation you'd have anywhere else in Canada I thought to myself. The lads spent the next day getting provisions from the shore to the ship in a zodiac with rough seas and gusty winds and although they were wearing survival suits, conditions would have made me seriously reconsider my choice of career. 

Have most of my chores I'd set for myself ticked off the list as I created a set of three photobooks (had a voucher which was expiring shortly) from the trip to Portugal, cruise and Venice in 2014. Nice trip down memory lane to choose the photos but then tedious to tweak all the layouts. Like finishing a term paper when you click 'order' and are unable to pick at it anymore. Purchased my travel insurance and was decidedly unimpressed with the preexisting rate which  means I pay as much for one trip as an annual policy - that's what happens when you have a history. Just pleased to feel well enough to travel but annoyed at the arbitrary classifications. I've almost finished my final craft project and I've got one more novel set in Greece to read which I think may be my in flight entertainment.

barge with fuel
I've been managing to pack up my life here and my job share partner was right when she said "just do it and once you start it'll be ok" as I'm settled in my mind with taking all my stuff and if I'm back in the spring it's good - if not, there will be another adventure. Managed to throw out some junk and gift some things that are just not going south with me. Had to consult with the life partner (who had left the fishing rod here) as to how to compress it - I was trying to pull it apart and caught the comforter but apparently you press it in as it's telescoping. The life partner also left a shell case, a foldable chair for ice fishing and two suitcases so I was unimpressed - managed to get it all into an action packer, duffle and fitting suitcases inside each other. I've been dusting, scrubbing, vacuuming, doing laundry, organizing and generally lots of domestic chores which I hate but will be nice for my job share partner coming back in to a clean apartment. Tomorrow I'll bake the farewell scones and clean up the kitchen. The barge is back in the community again, this time with fuel. I told the clerk that large red truck they're still carrying around the NW Passage will be rusty when they get it to where it's going. There was a dusting of snow today and flurries this afternoon so a festive feeling even though we haven't seen Hallowe'en yet....

Today our granddaughter had her first birthday and celebrated in her tutu by eating cake. She's beginning to get around and into things and is lots of fun. Her other grandparents dropped in on their way back from the Eric Clapton concert they attended in NY ahhhh The return to work for her teacher mother with her at the sitter is going well, easier on the baby I'm sure. With those 12 week mat leaves we didn't get used to being home and I guess we didn't miss what we didn't have back in the day.

As my coworker and I were discussing today, the north is a wonderful place that you either love or hate and sometimes we have a love/hate relationship with it anyway. As in, I went to the COOP for milk after the sched came in milk! Did no one order it? Did they not send it? Who would consider milk a non staple item? I managed to buy lemon greek yogurt and avocados mind you....We also decided that on many levels we 'do better' in the north because although living can be more difficult, it's also simpler. Hard to describe, you gotta try it to understand. Last night on call for a while tonight, just two more days to work and I am Cyclades bound! As long as I make it out of this community (please travel gods NO fog) all should be well. I can deal with the remainder of the itinerary and meet the shore captain in Montreal to fly to Athens if I have to! None of the airports I'm traveling through have this feature but it would sure be something I'd avail myself of if they did...

When All Else Fails, De-Stress by Petting an Airport Dog: More than 40 airports in North America now invite therapy dogs to roam the terminals with their trainers. San Francisco International Airport, for example, has its Wag Brigade (which includes LiLou the pig) and Denver International Airport has CATS, the Canine Airport Therapy Squad. New to the herd is Vancouver International Airport’s LASI (Less Airport Stress Initiative), made up of seven specially trained bandana-wearing pooches.