Sunday, February 20, 2011

Midnight Sonata

I apparently missed a surprise batch of Northern Light activity right after I went to bed last night. It seems to be a theme. Today, the issue is clouds, but there doesn't seem to be much coming up in terms of Northern Lights, although tonight it would be nice, since the temperatures have risen significantly.

Its a rare Sunday that I don't feel compelled to do a million things that I wish I'd finished on Saturday, but I was amazingly productive yesterday, and so I'm thinking I might get to take advantage of the calm winds and warm (-23 C) temperatures to go for a walk - eventually. In the mean time, I'm gathering some information and thinking about taking out my paints for a bit. I'm really looking forward to the weather becoming more tolerable. I don't mind cold, but there is a certain point where the cold seems unbearable and the threat of serious frost bite just too extreme to spend a long time outside. This week is the first time in a while that I've gone outside for the sake of going outside. On Wednesday, we did a stargazing night - thanks to one of our most energetic teachers - we got to see Jupiter and the moon. It was much more popular than we expected and hopefully we'll get a chance to do another one when it was a bit warmer. Then of course, was the 30 minutes or so when I walked out onto the lake to get some pictures of the Northern Lights - the moon is pretty fully, so I'm not sure the Lake was the darkest place, but it was nice to get out of town, even if it was only a few hundred feet out of town.

March continues to have generally bitter temperatures, but in April batches of pleasant winter temps start to become more frequent and May brings temps in the -10 to 0 C range - by June we start cracking the 0 C barrier - so hopefully, I'll be able to get out walking more and more in preparation for a summer of hiking. My goal this summer is to put a couple hundred km of distance on my legs - I know for sure that the Rockies are on my list. Not sure where else this summer, but beautiful hiking trails are not in short supply in this country. I'm also toying with the idea of maybe crossing the borders and maybe even an ocean to seek hikable parts of the great beyond. This is still in the works - so no idea exactly if, what or when. Look forward to excellent photos this summer though - since a definite criteria for any where I plan to go is an ample supply of beautiful landscape and opportunities for spending it outdoors. I must be sounding a touch house-bound. But after so many years running of spending my summers behind a desk, I'm looking forward to getting outdoors this summer and actually going camping... I spent only 3 nights in a tent - and those were more like stops on a long drive than actual camping - I'm not sure there was a campfire involved or much cooking. We reheated some left overs from a restaurant at one location. Not to say there weren't some decent day trips, but I really miss all those years when I lived outdoors for 2 months at Summer camp.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Finally a glimpse of the Northern Lights

So, finally the wind has died down in Baker and I was able to spend a bit of time outside when the Northern Lights were out. I think I missed the show the night before when I went to bed to early. If only they would turn up before bedtime, eh.

I think I set my ISO too low (200) - and so my exposures are too long and I've lost some of the details as I've used the computer to make up for it. I'll remember next time.

Anywho, today has been cleaning and organizing day... so I'd best get back to work at that... but I am alive and kicking and will hopefully have more posts as we move into longer days and warmer weather as slowly arctic spring takes hold.

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Friday, February 11, 2011

Tourista in Iqaluit

On my first day in Iqaluit a week ago, it was beautiful and sunny and clear and I was able to snap a nice picture of the Territorial Legislature which is even nicer inside than it is outside. Its kind of fun the way that Iqaluit's new building are unusual shapes and bright colours - makes for an interesting and distinctive downtown. Still, in the end, I decided that I'm glad I don't live in the big fancy capital, I really like Baker Lake (Qamanituaq) best. Someone asked me if I wanted to move now, and I didn't need to hesitate, the vegetables are nice and I think that on a sunny day the topography would make a nice setting - but, in Baker Lake the people are friendly and they say hi even if they don't know you well. It sounds like a silly thing, but it makes a place feel a lot more like home. As for all the conveniences and restaurants, I think that I simply don't miss those things at all, certainly not enough to need them all the time. Half the time when I go out of the north, I don't even bother with movies or restaurants (although I do frequent the produce sections of grocery stores and Tim Hortons). Really, the only thing I miss when I'm in Baker is my family and friends who don't live here and well, they are a scattered lot, so even were I to live down south, there would always be someone I cared about that was too far away to visit easily. However, I may change my mind about this when Nutrition North officially replaces Foodmail, and I am no longer able to buy reasonably priced, quality produce.

There has been some movement, both at the MLA level and the grassroots level, to send a message to the government about the concerns on the program. I'm a bit confused. All in all, I think the two biggest questions are going to be how much more is shipping going to cost for healthy foods, and how much choice will we have. I seem to be getting mixed information about it. A few places are already feeling a terrible crunch as food prices skyrocket in the wake of the first set of changes - The CBC has an article on food prices in Arctic Bay.

As for me, there are no new pictures as a result of the better part of the last week being blizzard conditions. I think this is the most days in a week that we've lost purely for weather (we lost a few more when 2 out of 3 of the town's generators went down and everything was on rotating black outs) but we've basically been weathered out for 3/5 days now. Its particularly nasty this afternoon with bitter cold winds and fine powdery snow crystals. The kind of cold that I can feel even through my ancient but functional parka. The sky is blue, but I can barely see the blizzard sign, so I guess it would be nice if it wasn't windy - not sure where the snow crystals are coming from - I think we got fresh snow overnight - so I assume that is what is blowing around now - since it doesn't appear to be snowing. I was looking out over town and trying to imagine what it would have been like 100 years ago living in an iglu and possibly trapped for days before being able to go out and get food, and then having to go and hunt for it. It made me deeply appreciate my heated insulated apartment and warm clothes and gave me a new level of admiration for the people who thrived in this unforgiving land without even the comfort of wool socks.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Important Things to Do When In Iqaluit

After finally traveling to Iqaluit - can you say lame - I just had to make my way to Tim Hortons - and not only buy a doughnut and a coffee, but take a picture of both the food and the pretty little Tim Horton's sign on the outside of the Northmart. (To my credit, I was also excited by their selection and quality of fresh produce - not just a chain restaurant.) In my defense, I'm a former employee of Tim's and so it has a bit of a special place in my heart. I did enjoy the coffee and doughnut though.

In more current news, the wind is howling at 80 km/hr gusting to 93 km/hr (That means the wind would be going over the speed limit on Northern Ontario's 2 lane highways - at least when it was gusting, although not enough to likely warrant a ticket or pass many other vehicles - but that is another story). We've had school canceled for 1.5 days now, and seriously, there was no way that anyone was going to go anywhere this morning. Strangely, although the wind speed has increased, the visibility has improved, and I fully expect that it'll be a cold windy morning, but we'll be back to business as usual.

One new hobby that we've developed here is Norwegian - which is fascinatingly similar to English (considering that at no point in my many years of school did anyone suggest that there was any link between the two languages - and thanks to the antics of the Swedish Chef on the Muppets, I was led to believe that Scandinavian languages were entirely like gibberish and their weird consonant combos and funky looking vowels clearly were more closely related to Russian than English) - but nei! The pronunciation is a bit different, but often completely foreign looking words turn out sounding shockingly like their English counterparts... Take kaldt - looks strange, but its pronounced a lot like... cold. Anywho... I'll keep you updated as we find new and fun words since Norsk er et kjempebra språk (Norwegian is an awesome language). I'll also send some hats off to Google's translator - its been a good tool for fooling around and trying to figure out how some of the grammar works.

Jeg liker å lytte til vinden blåse under en blizzard (I like to listen to the wind blow during a blizzard.)
Jeg tar min kaffe svart (I take my coffee black)
Jeg håper den foodmail gjør det her snart (I hope the foodmail makes it here soon)
Togturen til Bergen ser vakkert (The train ride to Bergen looks beautiful)
Jeg skal gjøre noe nyttig akkurat nå (I should be doing something useful right now)

So there you go... :D Now if only there was a Google translator of Inuktitut.

Monday, February 07, 2011

Calm before the storm

Yet another storm warning is headed our way - although Environment Canada is admitting that they are not sure when it will arrive and how bad the storm will be - but I'll give them credit for communicating honestly.

Alternatively, I could be referring to the predawn, Monday calm of working at my computer before returning to the daily happy chaos that is teaching - not chaos as in disorganized random events, but just the noise and bustle and ever changing world of kids, co-workers and information that is just that much more stimulus than can currently be found in my near silent building with my coffee and biology textbook. Of course, one of the main reasons that I returned to teaching after training as an engineer is that I missed the level of interaction with people that teaching provides. Teaching allows me to better appreciate solitude and calm, while I found engineering often provided solitude and calm, but sometimes could result in days of day spent mostly with my computer and the joys (and frustrations) of working with ArcView.

So, cheers to quiet mornings made better by days spent with people - and while I sometimes miss ArcView, I've yet to regret my choice to return to the classroom.
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Sunday, February 06, 2011

We all leave from a yellow submarine-like airport terminal

I finally made to Iqaluit and back home to Baker Lake. It was a good couple of days working with some terrific colleagues and mentors. As for Iqaluit, I appreciated the experience of being somewhere new, but there is no place like home, even if I seem to have brought a touch of the flu home with me, leading to a quiet and somewhat tired weekend.

Which leads to a disappointing, ttfn, since my head is pounding and while I appologize for an extended absense (yet again), I do have some more pictures of Iqaluit to post and surely more to write when I'm not feeling tired. I promise... more stuff soon.

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