Monday, October 21, 2013

Exit...Stage Left

At the first sign of oncoming WINTER, Murphy takes a powder

As much as I will miss my daily view of Frobisher Bay, it was time to fish or cut bait, and reality of working full-time just was not in the cards. After 2 months of meeting new people, working a variety of volunteer and part-time work and a mix of indoor and outdoor sports...I had to either get a real job and stay the winter or head home.

Bucket List

Staying the winter would have been a check off my Bucket List, but realistically, my mix of volunteer and part-time work was not going to get it done. Since I also pay to keep a house going down South, I would need a real job, with Northern allowance, subsidized housing and a minimum year contract.

Yes, I could have saved enough $$ to travel at my standard for most of another year, but the thought of being nailed down for at least a year just rubbed me the wrong way.

When I retired, I traded some financial security for freedom. The choice is still valid for me.

Another of my favorite views, the look back to Iqaluit from Apex

Inuit Culture

I have always held that we have treated our First Nations people poorly. That being said, it is a very complex situation, with no simple answers and definitely no short-term solutions. It is very easy to disagree with government policy, either sitting at home in NS or actually in Nunavut. What is not easy is to have a better alternative that works on any sense of scale.

It used to be gov't policy to take kids out of their communities and try to give them standard educations down South. I personally find that mind-boggling. The idea was to get them out of toxic environment. Nice idea, lousy implementation. There is still a whole lot of alcohol-fuelled social problems in the North. Again, no simple black&white answers

The import jobs in Iqaluit tend to be high-paying with lots of nicities like travel allowances and subsidized housing (which drives a big bubble market) and attract a fairly mobile population. Higher education (and the jobs that go with it) are still quite new to the local Inuit. It will take a few generations to have a chance to achieve any sort of balance...but the kids growing up now are getting very Westernized at the same time. Lots of dissonance everywhere.

My work in the soup kitchen and men's shelter showed me the sadder part of a population and it colours my impressions.

A friend of mine was gracious enough to let me photograph his medallion.

What Did I Learn?

Well, it was a very interesting trip. I enjoyed the town, the people I met, the tundra hiking, the different jobs.

- I like showing up in a new town and making my way from scratch
- I like meeting new people, trying different jobs
- I like volunteer work
- I like the freedom to come as go as I please
- I enjoy doing web design work
- I do not want a full-time job
- I certainly do not want a year-long contract
- Teaching is not on my list for now

As long as I have and $$ for a house in Halifax, will spend the most of my time there.

The lighting on the harbour was magical..everyday.

Habitat House

My volunteer list was high in this town. It put me in contact with a lot of new people and was rewarding in a number of ways. I worked a thrift store, soup kitchen, kid's Fall Fair, men's shelter and Habitat House.

Iqaluit is a small town, so you volunteered with people you met playing badminton, or hiking or socializing in the Legion. It is a very busy town with what surely must be a higher than average commitment to volunteerism.

I am now a MASTER gyprocker...definitely

This was the end result of a bunch of silliness...You Talkin' to Me?

Gary and I have seen little of each other for 20+ years.

Shore Leave for everyone!

Iqaluit Harbour is a happening place and I got to see new things everyday, mostly the Inuit fishermen going out in their small boats for clams or seal. I was hoping to stay long enough to get to know someone who would take me out in a boat. I got to know one fisherman a bit, but it would have been a stretch to ask for that favour.

Come in, they said. The water is fine, they said.

Goodbye Iqaluit

Who know if and when I'll get back here. Situations change...people change. I was up North back in the 70's on a research vessel and made it up to the top of Greenland (Thule) and above Devon Island, which is above Baffin Island.

I always wanted to get back here for a visit...and still would like to spend a full winter in the Arctic...but I guess, not this time...but as we all know, the Clock is Ticking.

My daily view: Frobisher Bay...always different. Fantastic lighting

Homeward Bound

Coming home is always a bit of a shock. I spent 6 months away this past year and have been averaging 4 months a year away for the past 5 years. Freaky!!!

Have never seen this on a plane, between cloud inversions

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

I'm a Kabloonuk!

Kabloonuk: for come-from-aways. Means person with bushy eyebrows.

Well, the rush of the first week is over, and it was hectic. Gary was nice enough to introduce me to people he works, volunteers and plays with. Basically, I'm taking his place while he is away. Up to me to make the most of my time.

Between sports, volunteer and part-time work, I am getting to meet lots of new people, including lots of locals. While the kids playing badminton are pretty cool, working in soup kitchens and shelters is giving me a slanted view of the town and culture. The interaction between locals and come-from-aways is complex as are the many problems that plague a culture shifting into town living at a dizzying speed.

Living Space

I'm in the blue building on the right.

I have been running and walking, both for exercise and a way to know the town better. I must say, if I was going to pick an area I town to live in..I am already there, close to the grocery stores, on a hill over-looking the harbour. I have a deck, a tub (Yeah!) and in-house laundry, cable, phone, internet, wifi. The grocery stores have tons of fresh fruit and vegetables (gov't subsidized thru Nutrition North). Bread is a problem, unless you are a fan processed white/brown bread or pita.

No beer store, good for me, means no beer/chip habit to contend with. Looks like I have lost the weight gained on my SE Asia jaunt. Also, more consistent focussed stretching and yoga has my back in much better shape.

Once you factor in the subsidies, I am spending about 1.5 times as much for groceries as down south.

Garbage and Re-cycling

So much trash in and around town. Trying to reconcile.

There is no re-cycling here, and I am in an apartment, so garbage is très simple...throw it i a bag, throw the bag in a bin. It will be awhile before re-cycling comes to this town...there is loose garbage everywhere, even on all the trails surrounding town. Remnants of a nomadic culture??? once you don't need something, you just leave it there???


The Oqota men's shelter.

My house host volunteered in the thrift shop, and brought me there to work and meet the people. While working as a volunteer in the thrift shop, I meet people from the soup kitchen and volunteer there for a week. Working with Doug one morning, he offers me part-time work at the men's shelter. I like this kind of connectivity. This is also how I travel. I like to be organized and flexible enough to do whatever comes along. I enjoy the variety and not knowing what is coming up next.

The ultimate in micro-housing

Welcome to Jamaica, Mon!

There is a guy I see every day, either at the soup kitchen, thrift shop or men's shelter. I am still trying to have a conversation with him. My guess is that he is Jamaican. He comes to the shelter to root thru the clothing, but is banned from staying there. Would love to know his story. He now lives on the beach in this shed, burning various bits of flotsam for heat.

Housing prices here are stunning, like $2400 for a 2 bedroom, then you pay utilities. Flights here cost 3 times what you would expect for a 3 hour flight from Ottawa...and the planes are full. What causes this $$$ bubble? You guessed it. Gov't money. Most gov't jobs here have subsidized housing, so the $2400 ends up being around $1500 if you have the nice, office-based, pensionable job.

There is a lot of public housing, and what would be considered slums anywhere else. From what I can see so far there is a pretty big dis-connect between the locals and a lot of the people who work here who don't directly work with the Inuit.

Head Space

This antler is now mine

While I did get here in time to catch some nice, sunny days, I'll be leaving before the long, dark, winter nights and freezing cold. I like the town and the people I meet and job opportunities. The problem is...I don't want to work. I don't mind volunteer work and some part-time here and there...but really not keen on working a steady job, even though it means I could save some money for travelling.

This is likely lazy and selfish. It is also a bit of a shock. I assumed I would work after retirement to generate spare cash and focus my time. Nope. Instead, I have adjusted to less money and keep busy with things I enjoy.

Really, what is gets down is my current philosophy...I retired in order to travel and basically do as I pleased. Right now, a full-time job does not make that list for any reason. I do enjoy what I do, a lot.

Hiking Photos

Lichen patterns

All these are berry plants (blue, black, bear, etc)

The lighting this time of year is magic.

The land here is technically a desert.

Looking back at Iqaluit and civilization

Kate adds to her growing antler collection

Town Photos

The local Anglican church. I volunteer at their soup kitchen.

The thrift shop where I also volunteer.

The soup kitchen after the noon craziness.

A baby yurt!!!

Garbage is everywhere, even on trails 5km from town

Sunday, August 25, 2013

First Impressions

Iqaluit - Week One

This trip is quite different from past ones. For starters, I am staying in one spot. Yes, I am still in Canada, but definitely not in Halifax. I will have to to get home. That was the a one-way ticket here and work enough to pay my way back. I have been doing some volunteer work here, but also doing the legwork to get a paying job...some sort of casual, part-time work, hopefully in the mental health field.

My host, Gary Wong, did a great job getting me connected to a bunch of people he knows, both for access to sports and work. It was a busy week, lots of hiking, squash, badminton, running, a few volunteer shifts in the local thrift shop and an evening in a bar with work buddies. There is tons of work here, I just have to find my niche and get at it. I will likely leave here in mid-October, but can easily see coming back for a real job and a full year. Of course, many people say that and stay here for a few years.

It is a very busy town, lots to do. Because of the small population, you meet the same people in a variety of situations. While Inuit make up 85% of Nunavut population, in Iqaluit, it is only 65%. This is the hub. Seems like planes landing and taking off all day.

Every conversation I have had so far has been with imports, working for the Territory. The consistent theme is lack of infrastructure, more jobs than people, and how complex the problems are. The suicide rate in Nunavut is 71/100,000, This is almost 10 times the rate in Halifax and the highest in the world...just try and take in that number...I surely can't. Just think of how many implications spin off that one number. Broken homes, friends lost.

I have only been here a week, but have not seen much interaction between imports and Inuit. Of course there is, at jobs and among long-term residents and just don't see much walking around. Part of that is the nature of the beast...many imports just work for the government and are just here on contract. Very easy to stay in your comfort zone. It will be interesting to see how my impressions change as I stay here longer.

The hiking here is stunning. Kilometers of open, rocky, rolling tundra, full of beautiful, little flowers and plant life. Between that and the ocean, Iqaluit is a very beautiful spot. I have hooked up with the local hiking crowd and hope to get in some camping before it gets too cold. There are little waterfalls everywhere and the pictures do not do the scenery any justice. The weather has been mostly sunny and nippy (4C-8C)...gorgeous hiking weather.

I am below the Arctic Circle, so missed the 24/7 light earlier in the summer and likely won't be here by the time the sun does not really come up at any time. I am staying on the first hill looking down on Frobisher Bay, with it's dramatic tide swings and the harbour is a busy spot.

All-in-all, very glad I came here. It has been a pretty cool experience already and I am enjoying myself. I like being in new situations. While I am not "travelling", I am getting the new experiences that are the big reason why I do travel.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Gear List

I usually travel with one carry-on, around 9-10 kgs. This trip will be that plus two checked bags of 20 kgs each!!! Bringing sleeping bag, tent, stove for winter camping, plus work boots and shoes for a variety of sports. Everything up North is expensive, so if you have...bring it.

I will be up North at least 6 weeks, maybe as long as a few months, in which it will get very dark and cold. If you need something other than what you bring, it will be expensive. I hope to get out camping and if my weight restrictions allow it, will bring a tent and stove. The sleeping bag and mat I always bring on every trip.

80 liter knapsack Eureka Appalachian
100 liter duffel bag
35 liter Eureka Walkabout
5 liter Eagle Creek Walkabout
Small waist pouch for camera
Drybag (15 liter silnylon) for knapsack contents
Drybag (10 liter good quality) for clothes and electronics
Drybag (1 liter plastic) for travel books and documents

Sleeping bag ClimaShield 1.5 kg NorthFace Cat's Meow 
Sleeping bag Primaloft .5 kg MEC overbag 
Sleepmat Thermarest .5 kg  Pro-Lite, self-inflating 
White gas Stove and pot with lid
Single Wall Tent 1.5 kg
LED flashlight

Rain shell / nylon Pants / umbrella
Black jacket / light fleece
Poly skull cap / Poly gloves / Poly hats (2)
Bathing suit / Mini-towel
Wool socks (3) / Poly socks (2)
Techie tops (4) / Nylon pants/shorts (2)
Jeans (2)
Cotton t-shirts (8) Silk Sleep top/shorts
Cotton underwear (8)
Winter Boots, Day Hikers, Sneakers, Climb Shoes, Court Shoes
Poly Hat

Winter jacket with hood
Poly Hat
Scarf, Face Shield
Toques (2)
Gloves (3)
Heavy tights (2)
Down vest, Techie vest
Extra vest


2nd skin, Band-aids, alcohol gel, compression wrap, gauze, tape, Murine, Allergy pills, Ibuprofen, Poly-Sporin, Gravol, Anti-Itch, tweezers, scissors, pumice foam, Multi-vitamins, Lomotil, aspirin

Toothbrush/paste, floss, vaseline, sun lotion, chapstick, toilet paper, hair soap, deodorant, mouthwash, razor (3), Q-tips, hair soap

Compass, LED flashlights, whistle, plastic mirror, needle/thread, safety-pins, cable-ties, Biners(2), , Moneybelt

Ipad / charger
Mac Air and cables
Aliant phone / charger
Samsung smartphone / charger
iPod and Power Speakers
Usb sticks, Music chip
Camera / Battery / Charger
Alarm clock

Glasses, Safety Glasses, Sunglasses, backup Glasses, Pens
Paper book (say what?)
Family photos
Diary, Maps (2)
Flight Confirmations / Contact Info (Education / Employment)
Passport, Drv Lic, Spare passport photos, Calling cards, Immunize
Documents chip (Photo copies of documents / cards, etc.)

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Where The Sun Don't Shine


Back in the day, a bunch of Gonzos got together for an evening of travel slideshows and creation of Bucket Lists. It was a hoot. Some of the items on people's list were 'pie in the sky' (or were they?).

One item that has been on my list thru all the years' iterations has been to work in a cold climate. The idea to see what it is like to handle 24/7 darkness. I have been working up in Northern Canada and Greenland on a ship during the 24/7 light...and it is freaky.

Something tells me the darkness aspect might be a little harder to deal with.

I am off to Iqaluit, Nunavut for a few months. I have an old college buddy living up there and I will be house-sitting for him while he spends some time in NS. After that, who knows.

I bought a one-way ticket and am getting my old NS teacher's licence updated. I hope to work while I am there at whatever casual type jobs come my way and to get to at least a few Nunavut communities for some sort of visit. I'd also like to get to Yellowknife and count being in all CDN provinces and territories. The future is open.

Packing will be different from backpacking in various countries. I can't just count on picking up things I need at the corner will be expensive, if it is there at all.