Monday, March 26, 2012

Hello, My Name is Tania

Hello My Name Is Tania

Let me re-introduce myself.  My name is Tania Ward and I’ve been living in Coral Harbour, Nunavut since December 17th 2010.  I use to write regularly on this blog which many of you apparently enjoyed reading.  Some of you even used it in various presentations.  These presentations humbled me and spurred on a new excitement for continued new blog entries.  And then summer 2011 hit.  We came back from our trip down “South” to visit family and friends (and to be a part of my one and only sister’s wedding in Mexico) in early June.  As some of you may recall, I was excited to come back to Coral Harbour.  I couldn’t wait to see what my new home looked like in the summer.  I couldn’t wait to see the Sea, the lakes, the “greenery” (or whatever covered the ground), and the sights Coral Harbour had to offer (Fossil Creek, Kirchoffer Falls).  I was also excited to continue getting to know some of our friends that would “summer” the North with us.  I was surprised when one of my teacher friends asked me upon my return “Why did you come back?  Why didn’t you spend the summer in the South?” This should have been my first clue. 

Within a couple of weeks of going back North, a few things happened.  Some I had anticipated and some I had not.  I knew the teachers and a few other people were going home for the summer.  What I didn’t know is that the small handful of people that I was looking forward to spending time with also left.  June is goose egg hunting and camping season for Salliqvirmuit (people of Coral Harbour – Coral Harbour used to be called Salliq).   The people here LOVE to go on the land all year around but I think they especially love it in the spring.  Even though it was still cold-ish with snow on the ground in places, the Hamlet seemingly became a ghost town.  It seemed as though everybody was going camping or to their cabins not just for the weekend, no, sometimes for weeks or even a month.  My sister-in-law and I had a good little chuckle one day as I was telling her that Sallirmuit feel the need to leave all the hubbub of Coral Harbour to go to their cabins or camping.  It’s sounds funny but it’s true.  They love to leave the “modern” behind and go back to a simpler way of life – no electricity, no running water (well I guess it depends what you mean by “running water” because the rivers and creeks are plentiful and swollen this time of year), no noise…   Some cabins are 5 minutes from town in an area called Snafu while others are on the other side of Southampton Island.  Some locals have more than one cabin depending where they want to go or do (one cabin may be close to a really good fishing spot for example while the other may have good whale watching).  The point to all this is that I became quite lonely.

Another factor that added to my loneliness was the fact that the remaining people in Coral Harbour stayed up all night and slept all day (remember that in June, it never gets dark).  Adults and kids alike are out playing and visiting till the wee hours of the morning and would sleep till mid afternoon therefore play dates and doing "coffee" simply didn't happen...

School ended in early June, but so did all the other programs.  There were no more sewing classes, Nutrition classes, or exercise classes and no daycare.  So not only was I lonely and without friends, my boys were also lonely and without friends.  This made for bored, disgruntled and busy little boys and a disappointed mother with too few ideas.  In the winter, I had breaks from the kids here and there but in the summer, we were together morning, noon and night. I was with them even at church on Sundays since I had decided to start teaching them Sunday school (that’s a whole other blog entry).

Adding to my loneliness were the feelings of dissatisfaction and missing out.  I was dissatisfied with my short visit back home in Rockland/Ottawa.  I hadn’t been home in 2 years and one week was simply too short to do all the things I wanted to do and see all the people I wanted to see.  Out of sight, sometimes can really mean out of mind, in a good way.  You see, I realized how much I missed home only once I got to go home and then had to come back.  The ache was deep and throbbing.  I also felt jealous that we were missing out on so many things that I love, things my boys love.  Things like the summer, my favourite season.  We were missing out on the heat, the pools, the beaches, playing on playgrounds and seeing the movie Cars 2 in theatre (as a mom who’d been watching the Cars movie with her boys for 4 years, missing the sequel was a big deal).   At this point, it was hard to admit that I wasn’t happy to be back in Coral, that maybe, we should have stayed home for the summer.  This is when I started pulling away... 

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Big News

Today's big news in Coral Harbour is that the bridge on the road leading to the airport has been washed out.  So as of right now there is no way to get to the airport (many are put-out since they were supposed to leave today!).  What would happen if someone really needed to be "medivaced" (not sure how to spell this common-around-here word), I have no idea!  Someone said this morning something about using a boat.  You know when you don't really know a person and have no idea if they are kidding?  Yeah, well I had no idea if she was serious, but apparently she was since that's what they had to do 2 or 4 years ago when this happened.

UPDATE:  Brian just got home from being at the scene (man he gets to have all the fun!) and it's not the bridge but the road that has been washed out.  The swelling waters pushed part of the dirt road right over!  The town diggers are working overtime to fix it but someone was explaining to Brian that it's only going to get worse since the waters are rising because the snow is melting and running down the mountains (yes apparently the island has mountains further North) to pour into the Bay.  It's like going through flooding season in Manitoba!  Kinda feels like home... :o)

Longest Day

Happy first day of summer everyone!  This morning the sun rose this morning at 2am and will set tonight at 11:07pm.  The daylight has been playing with our brain.  Brian and I cannot seem to get to bed much earlier than 11:30pm these days.  We stay up chatting and watching TV together.  There seems to be something mental about "seeing" the sunset that says to my brain "ok, it's time to go to bed now".  Last night, I decided I wanted to go out and try to take pictures of the geese and ducks in our backyard "river".  Nine thirty seemed like a great time to go out.  The sun was shinning, the birds were chirping and it was quite mild since the wind had died down.  I didn't get in too late, but my problem (as is most nights) is that instead of going straight to bed when I got home, I decided to sit down with Brian.  Well an HOUR later we went to bed...  The only good thing is that Brian did such a good job covering the boys' windows that they usually sleep until after 7am.  Still, I feel chronically tired these days :o)  One night Isaac woke us up and we had NO idea what time it was.  The sun was shinning so brightly that Brian was going to get him out of bed but when I looked at the time it was 3:30am!!!!!  Thank goodness I checked.  If I get up in the night I have trouble going back to sleep afterwards.  Once again the sun plays with my brain.  We've covered most windows upstairs but not all of them and seeing sun rays is like a psychedelic light show for my neurons.

In many ways we "Southerners" seem to go against the grain here.  Of of these ways is where sleep patterns are concerned.  People laugh out loud at us when we tell them our sleep schedule.  Right now most kids are staying up until the wee hours of the morning.  Some have bragged staying up until 4,5 or 6 am and they sleep all morning.  But it's not just the kids, the parents are pretty much doing the same thing.  It's funny because I've invited some kids over to play in the mornings since Isaac naps in the afternoon and I reserve that time to work with Benjamin and Nathan, to make supper and workout.  Well as of yet, the kids haven't come because they are all sleeping!  Oh well, that's not my problem.  And when they show up in the afternoon I have to reiterate my reasoning.

Sadly, after tonight it's all downhill from here.  The days only get shorter and shorter.  Of course this is the same as for the rest of you but it seems more dramatic to me since I've moved here.  The differences in the days are more dramatic from summer to winter.  On December 21st 2012 the sunrise will be at 10:27am and the sunset at 2:34pm...  Yuck.  Thank goodness the change is gradual!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Big Day for Big Ben

Monday, June 6th was Awards Day at Sakku school here in Coral Harbour.  This is the day were at least five awards are given in each grade (there may have been a sixth one, but I was a little distracted since I was sitting at the back with 2 little boys crawling all over my lap :o).  Anyways, the awards that I noticed were the Inuktitut Award, English Award, Artistic Award, the Student Citizenship Award and the Excellent Attendance Excellence Award.

Benjamin came home with 2 awards today, the English and the Excellent Attendance awards for his kindergarten class.  My understanding of the Inuktituk and the English awards is how well the student learned what was to learn in that language.  And since they are learning both languages at the same time, it's appropriate that there be two awards.  I'm so proud, so so proud of Benjamin for winning these awards, but I have to admit, I was a little surprised.  Not because I don't think he deserves them, he totally does.  He's a sharp little cookie and he has parents that MAKE him go to school everyday :o).  I am surprised because Benjamin was only in his kindergarten class here in Coral Harbour for 4 months this year!  January, February, March and April since we left May 3rd for the last month of the school year*.   I am grateful on the one hand that Benjamin's accomplishments were recognized and that there is an understanding by the teacher of the RCMP life.  But on the other hand, should a local child whose been there all year have won instead?  This is yet another example how blessed we are to be in a place that accepts RCMP and their families.

I have to hand it to the organizers (school teachers, school board leaders?) because they really do recognize good effort, hard work and academic accomplishment.  At this assembly, not only were the students recognized but the parents were too.  The parent(s) of every child having received an award received a beautiful box of quality chocolates from the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory (approx. $20 value!)  as a way to thank them for encouraging children to go to school.  Because let's face it, unless a child is encouraged and guided by a parent, they will not show up at school on their own.  The three students in the older grades (grades 4, 5, 6) not only received a beautiful plaque, but also a brand new bicycle as a prize for the Attendance Excellence Award!!!  How awesome is that?

Passing a grade and awards are big here (at least for the kids).  Different kids keep asking me if Benjamin passed his grade or if he won awards and they are all impressed when I tell them that he has!  The BIG questions is "Did you pass?"  How sad is that?  Not many make it to High School and far less graduate.  As quoted in the Reader's Digest article from January 2011 titled Northern Elite, "seven our of ten Nunavut teens don't finish high school, giving the territory the lowest graduation rate in the country".  The saddest part is that it's very difficult to know how to help these youngsters.  Us, "Southerners", try to show them and teach them a better way but it's very much an uphill-grease-slicked battle.  I lift my hat to all the teachers here.  They are some of my heros.  Speaking of recognition, they (as most teachers, but especially here) do not get the recognition they deserve for all their efforts and time spent for the kids here.

Having said all of this I am struggling with what to do with Benjamin next year (grade 1).  I realize that although he learns very quickly, he is already mildly behind his southern counterparts (especially those in Ontario where they've been going to school since the age of 4) even though we were working with him at home.  Obviously I need more direction and guidelines to follow to keep him up to speed and need to talk with my teacher friends and sister-in-law more often.  Right now Plan #1 is to keep him in school full time in grade 1(and catch up on weekends, vacations and summer), Plan #2 is to send him to school in the am and homeschool in the afternoon and there is a pie-in-the-sky Plan #3 that I will keep you posted on as it develops...  We'll see.  For now I am working with Benjamin daily on his reading skills, arithmetic and fine motor skills.  Not always an easy task.

* On a side note school here ends at the beginning of June but starts again Mid-August.  Benjamin missed his kindergarten graduation by a number of hours since we flew back home that day - I had been told previously that it was going to be May 31st, otherwise we would have come back one day sooner!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Who doesn't like a hug?

Today something really sweet and unexpected happened to me.  While on our "on the town" walk with the boys one of the local girls (not one of the young ones, but one of my peers) that I've been getting to know a little bit came quickly over to me and gave me a huge heartfelt hug.  My very first uninitiated hug.  Words cannot describe how I felt.  Well I can start by saying that I am foolish for saying to many people during my vacation that Inuk women are more reserved (and many are), but maybe it simply just takes time.  I was really happy to see her and invited her over for dinner tomorrow night (I had planned to call her tonight to ask her but saw her in person instead!).  I am sad that she may not be able to make it since she might be leaving with her family to go camping.  I got the impression that they would be gone for a while.  They are waiting for their big tent to arrive in the mail.  Is it bad that I hope it doesn't come tomorrow? :o)  

"Look At Me From The Side, Do I Look Different To You?" Part 3

Just when I think I'm done, I think of more.

5.  The Inuk people here also look different since we saw them one month ago.  Their faces are all darker.  They are all tanned!  It may still be chilly here but let me tell you when the sun shines, it is SHINY!  The sun is very warm, very bright and ever present!  I smiled as I noticed today many people, mostly the men, had racoon eyes due to their sunglasses.  Some even had white foreheads, I assume because of their hats.  It is spring fever here.  People are going on the land camping right, left and centre.  Camping is huge here much to my surprise (I guess I simply didn't know this was a favourite pastime of theirs).  People, Inuk and Southerners alike, go hunting and fishing and enjoy the great outdoors.  As an FYI, Coral Harbour has the longest road in Nunavut. The trail is under construction and currently measures 150km starting in Coral Harbour and heads North toward Duke of York Bay*.  I think the goal is to reach this apparently beautiful spot.  So people here can drive for a while and set up camp a couple of hours away.  I look forward to taking the kids and driving this road as far as Brian's radio will allow us...  Unfortunately for us we won't be able to do many of the things that locals do because Brian always has to be "within ear shot" since he is on call 24/7.  So that means we may be able to go for a day trip to someone's nearby cabin but we will probably not be able to go camping.
6.  The noises are different.  I've already mentioned the rain pitter patter but there is also sound of the roaming quads around town.  The machines sounds quite different when compared to their winter cousins, the snow machines.  I'm not going to try to describe the difference, but just know that it's different.  We crazily decided to take the boys for a walk around town.  There is much less snow in town then there is in on the land.  I'd say the snow is almost all gone.  What remains are big puddles, mud and gravel.  The boys were soaked as you can imagine.  It was neat to see all the travellers on their quads around town.  We have access to 2 quads but I haven't tried driving them yet (today was the first nice day since we got back home).   Another new noise is all the bird talk.  I may not always see them but I certainly can hear them squawking off in the distance.

It's amazing how much a place can change in one month.  Well, one could say that about many places going through the metamorphosis into spring.  I guess it's just so striking to me since I've never seen Coral Harbour in the "summer".  It looked the same for our first 5 months here...  These changes are big not only to me but to everyone who lives here.  You can see it in their faces, their attitudes, their being.  Everybody is excited.  It is spring.

*While I've never been there, I've read online that Duke of York Bay, North on Southampton Island, is a really beautiful spot with wonderful scenery, steep cliffs and lots of animals (good for hunting).  

Saturday, June 4, 2011

"Look At Me From The Side, Do I Look Different To You?" Part 2

Coral Harbour is not the same as when we left it on May 3rd.  I guess a lot can change in a month.  Time again for a list:

1. For one, the snow has considerably melted and when I look out my back windows into the wilderness, I can see about 1/3 brown land.  Since I've only ever seen Coral Harbour covered in snow, I still do a double take every time I look outside and notice the big brown patches.  Brian commented on how it was prettier when it was pristinely covered in snow. Yup, now our winter wonderland is looking quite dirty and it's only going to get worse as the remainder of the snow melts.  
2.  The days leading to our departure to go south the temperatures where still close to -30 degrees and now the temperatures are hovering above zero.  Actually it's been mostly raining since we got back.  The first time I heard the pitter patter of the rain on our tin roof, I stopped and once again, did a double take.  Rain.  A new sound.  When I look out my front windows, I see mud, gravel and HUGE puddles.  Little boys' paradise.  Mommies' worst nightmare.  While getting the boys dressed for extreme cold was a challenge, at least they always came in dry and clean.  I am trying to prepare myself mentally for the dirt onslaught that will result every time my boys come in from outside.  I purchased rain pants for the boys at MEC, now I wish I had bought them rubber body suits.  I don't know how long things take here to dry up, but even when it does, there is no grass or pavement here.  It's all dirt and gravel in town.  This should be interesting.
3.  Coral Harbour has new residents.  I noticed them immediately while driving home from the airport.  I was really happy to see the snow geese, canada geese, sea gulls and other non-black-ugly-birds.  I couldn't get a good look at the smaller song (?) birds so I have no idea what they are called (but I will ask around you can be sure of that!).  I am happy to see these birds because I am a bit of a bird person.  I loved filling my bird feeders and watching the bluejays and chickadees fill their bellies while I was doing the dishes back in Selkirk.  I enjoy learning the local different species.  Well, the only birds here in Coral Harbour in the wintertime are crows (or ravens).  That's it.  I tried to find beauty in them but it was hard.  Today the boys and I used binoculars to check out our new neighbours and they actually seemed a little excited themselves.
4.  The first thing we did after we had dinner on Thursday night (the night we arrived home) was to re-apply tinfoil all over Isaac's bedroom window (the previous application was insufficient!).  We are pretty much into 24 hrs of daylight and we needed to kill every speck of light that tried to peek through lest we wanted to have a 3am wake up call.  The first thing we did after the boys were in bed was to put the new room darkening curtains up in our 3 bedroom windows.  Best money I every spent.  It's a crazy feeling to wake up at different times in the night and STILL see daylight.  At bedtime, we have to close the bathroom door and block the windows in our barge room (the 4th bedroom upstairs used for storing food and supplies) because it's too bright and it tricks our brains into thinking it's time to get up.  It's been so cloudy since we got back that I still don't know at what time the sun sets (if it does.  I think the sun does set, but I think that it hovers  below the horizon until it rises again).  Actually for my own interest I just looked it up. The sun sets tonight at 10:42pm and rises at 2:16am.  Yihaa!  Well, not only is it the sun's bedtime, it is also mine.  Time to put my sleep mask on!