Saturday, December 19, 2009

before and after

While saying my goodbyes a co-worker told me there was some concern as to whether or not I was returning after the Christmas break. This was mostly meant as a joke because she went on to say that the concern was due to my classroom being so clean. I could have retorted with something witty (which I still can't think of), instead I just said "to be continued, followed by an ellipses."
Later, when the plane I was on broke through the clouds and I saw the sun for the first time in weeks, there was silent yet audible emotion from every one of the other passengers. I'm sure that if Crayloa made a crayon for 'joy' its colour would be the sun.
This morning I woke up in another world. One with two cats and a Capital M. Though I have had a really positive experience up North it is wonderful to be home.

1st picture - Inuvik - Igloo church taken around 4:00pm
2nd picture - Toronto, Lake Ontario - taken around 8:30am

Monday, December 14, 2009

10 simple rules for showering in Inuvik

Following these simple rules will result in a stress free shower:
1. Close the bathroom door (if not closed the smoke detector will go off)
2. Fill your mind with peaceful thoughts
3. Check shower head position - make sure it is up and to the side
4. Turn on taps - sometimes the pressure is so great it will bypass tub faucet and come out shower head (for this reason you'll be thankful for #3)
5. Water often needs to run for awhile to get rid of excess sediment build up (you can use this time to floss teeth, read National Geographic) *Note, water shown above is not as brown as in real life
6. Reposition shower head and shower. Note that water temperature fluctuations are frequent and severe. Be prepared for the worst, this may mean turning off the taps on occasion
7. Remember this is only a small part of your day
8. When finished showering do not open the door (see #1).
9. Move shower head up and to the side.
10. Quickly close the door after leaving the bathroom (see #1)

Sunday, December 13, 2009


This is the conclusion of my correspondence with Ms. Choyce. I would like nothing better than to respond to her e-mail but I don't think it would do any good so I'm turning the other cheek. Before posting her reply I would like to make a few things clear: 1) I don't know her or 'Allyson' 2) I've sent Ms. Choyce a total of two e-mails, both of which I have faithfully posted here 3) I'm a guy (Nature Witch comes from my hotmail address)
I've had a few nemeses in my life: my high school math teacher, a supervisor of a summer job in 1994, and a practicum supervisor in the B. Ed program. Ms. Choyce has just joined their ranks.
And now, an e-mail that manages to be patronizing, clueless and self righteous:

Date: Sun, 13 Dec 2009 04:53:31 -0300
Dear Miss Nature Witch,
Sorry you are still holding bad feelings about this.
That e-mail was intended for Allyson....and was not meant to go on the list serve.
Really you should worry about more important things...and I hope you are doing more to care about the world then just taking spelling mistakes and crazy accusations out on small projects helping kids in the DR and Africa.

Allyson never paid back what she promised.....That now her bad karma.
To do that to a small project like ours is a horrible selfish thing to do. A person meaning well does not promise things they can not do...and then leave people broke and try to ruin good projects aiding kids. I mean really.

We get tones of wonderful e-mails and thank you letter from local and international people. I work with the kids everyday...building homes, pre-schools, running programmes...
I have won the Red Cross Humanitarian Award, Worked for the UN and just been offered another UN job, plus just got a full scholarship from Yale University because of my work, sponsoring not one but 2 of our projects in South Africa.

....COLORS also gets support from some Very well known people and NGOs who have all seen our work on the ground.....leaving you looking silly for writing me this. And despite all this...I am dyslexic and have achieved way above this despite spelling mistakes..petty petty.

I know your a friend of Allysons so get over it and tell her that she might not feel so guilty if she pays back what she promised. It is not good to carry around such bad karma.

Hope your doing more with your life then writing ridiculous e-mails to volunteers working in Africa. You are now off my list, thank God. Please dont write again and restrain your efforts for bigger more important things.
Peace and Love

Thursday, December 10, 2009


I received an e-mail asking for a donation this morning. I've been waiting for it for a long time. Here's my response and the events that lead up to it:

Ms. Choyce,

Almost two years ago you sent around an e-mail meant to shame someone into paying back some debt. The e-mail was riddled with spelling and grammar mistakes and made you look like a mean and vindictive person; hardly the sort of communication that should be coming from a respectable organization. I sent you a well meaning e-mail and received a glib and dismissive response back. Consequently, I want you to know that yours is the last organization I would ever donate to. Moreover, I would discourage anyone from doing the same due to your complete lack of integrity (and use of spell check). There are many organizations attempting to do some good in this world and I can't say that I believe, based on your personal communications, that yours is one of them.


March 31, 2008 7:23:58 AM

Subject: Allyson Invoice


COLORS has not recived any of the money you prommised to pay back after you made the rorary project fall through. Stan from Rotary promissed you would keep your word and pay it back since it the ethical thing to do.

I trusted you, again, ....and hoped you would pull through.

You promissed you would pay at leaset in instalments every month.???? But you have not helped at all...and I am working so hard each day keeping 5 projects running at once, and feel it should not be nesssary for me to have to follow up on this at the point. It should be done and completed,,,but we are all still waiting on you.

COLORS never would have bought you this ticket if you did not alreday promis to pull through and commit to the Rotary swazilandproject. The only reason we bought the tickets to this location was because the rotary wanted to fund the project there with your contacts.

This all left COLORS in a terrible possion, having lost the funds from your ticket once you backed out

This is issue is now larger then just us,

This is Kids and volunteers in need that this money is for....not for you to keep. The support was not inteneded for you to waist but to pay back to COLORS respctfully.

It has been over three months of waiting for you to take I've been asked by my donors to writ you this letter so you can justifiy the funds and return the kids money where it belongs.

We have some fantastic programs running here. All the volunteers know that the money coming from you is what should be helping them be here too. So they are still waiting for their extra support.

Next week Lesley Choyce and the donors who sponcered the flight will be comming buy your house for the money you owe COLORS. or you can just mail a check.

Please get someone to write a check to COLORS for what you owe.

Please write your chcek out to: Project COLORS

NOte: funds owed for flight

Project COLORS attn: Lesleychoyce

83 leslie Rd,

Nova Scotia B2Z 1P8



Sunyata A. Choyce
Founding Director, Project COLORS International South Africa #011-27-78-871-6939


Sent: Monday, March 31, 2008 6:53:51 PM
Subject: RE: Allyson invoice

Dear Ms. Choyce,

I'm writing in regards to the message you sent out earlier today. I've read it over several times and am both surprised and disappointed with its content. Before I go further let me say that I have no doubt you work hard and have the best intentions of effecting a positive change. However, I think you have done more to damage your credibility with a single e-mail than the years of hard work you put forth to make that change happen.
Your choice to include the ids-list serve in a private matter is a strange one. I can only imagine that you have every dime accounted for and are in great need of the money owing to you. What's unfortunate is that you have done the opposite of what you intended - you have created sympathy for a person who would otherwise deserve none. The threatening tone at the end of the message was especially uncalled for.
You have also involved the twit who posted anonymously, the other students, and myself (which is why I'm writing this). Your message was so unprofessionally written that it makes me question what type of organization you run. There were so many spelling and grammar errors that it was almost illegible. If anything your e-mail is a lesson to everyone in how not to handle a problem situation. Most damningly, it gives no one a reason to support your efforts when there are other more credible projects that are just as in need of funding.
I do hope you receive your money and I sincerely hope this incident doesn't derail your hard work.


Jesse V.

Sent April 1st, 2008

Re: Allyson Invoice

Dont worry it wont.

Sunyata A. Choyce
Founding Director, Project COLORS International
South Africa #011-27-78-871-6939,

Monday, December 07, 2009

making it work

Top - taken at 12:15pm (yes, that's the moon)
Next - back of elementary school
Next - taken from my window at work around 12:50pm
Last - Gazebo by College

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Mr. Snowman

Well it finally happened. The sun has stopped rising and setting. When is it coming back? Not until sometime in January. Fortunately it's not totally dark all day up here. There's no direct sunlight but there is a decent amount of light for about 4 hours. It may not be much but I'll take what I can get.
Also, in the spirit of the Web 2.0 I'm going to be better about responding to comments on my blog. To Hamesy and Butterfly-Girl, I don't think my instructor appreciated my comments but it made my day to see yours.
Keep reflecting,
Jesse V.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Don't wanna behave

Here's a new student. He was tucked away in a box labelled 'Christmas.' I asked him if he was hungry and he said "no, I'm stuffed." (Ba dum pum pum)


Dear Primo Foods:

I recently tried your 'country harvest vegetable' soup. It's gross.

Jesse V,

Monday, November 30, 2009


bottom - Town Christmas tree in front of elementary school
next - 3:00pm sunset
2nd from top - makeshift sleds at the bottom of a small hill
top - evening colours

Sunday, November 29, 2009


One of the assignments for the adult learning theory class I'm taking is to provide weekly class feedback. Here's what I said for our last class:

I know that reflection is important for educators; we need to constantly assess our practices in the never ending endeavor of improving them. As such, I understand why teacher educator programs have such a strong focus on reflection. However, I think there are limits to what we need to reflect on. For example, at the end of our class you had us reflect on the statement ‘time flies.’ In fairness we did not spend a great of time on this but I felt as though our time could have been better spent doing something else. To me, ‘time flies’ is one of those small-talk conversations you have with co-workers around this time of year or with a classmate (outside of class) at the end of a term. I truly appreciate that you make an effort to fold our feedback into class (and that you allow for feedback) but I don’t feel that conversation was worthy of our time.

I only have three more waste of time classes left.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Stays out late

Tips for Living well in Inuvik:

1. Check the expiration date of milk and other dairy products, especially during the closure of the Dempster Highway. Just because the expiry date has long since past doesn't mean that stores take the products off the shelves. Buyer beware
2. Though milk may be ridiculously expensive (at least $10.00 for two litres) don't stop drinking it, or at least take calcium pills. I've slipped and fallen four times on the road and had several other close calls. You'll need to make sure your bones are well fortified against such mishaps. Luckily for me, I'm almost invincible
3. Don't be surprised if people beg for money while you're shopping for groceries
4. People tend to overdress for the weather - don't feel like you have to follow suit
5. If you have happen to find a stray animal, and are interested in its well-being, you are better off taking it to a vet yourself. Animal Control does not check the condition of the animals they pick up
6. You may miss: loved ones, friends, fresh fruit, movie theatres, a reason to cook/bake, the sun, etc. Do your best to fill your free time with various activities.
7. Gossip extends well beyond town borders. You will probably hear stories about people living in other communities or maybe one of your own students will have been banned from a entering a nearby community. Be prepared to hear some amazing tales.
8. For the most part, the people you meet will be friendly but making deeper connections with people may be challenging.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Rest in peace little buddy. I'm sorry our paths didn't cross sooner.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Be the first one

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Sunday, November 15, 2009

cut and try

This is the face of the dog that I encountered on my way home tonight. Much of the dog's body was covered in ice and when I picked it up its paws were equally ice encrusted. It's been dipping below -30 outside and I don't think this dog has the constitution to deal with these lows.
I was at loss for what to do with the dog. There was absolutely no way I could leave it outside (part of me just wanted to take it home, even though it was really smelly). With the aid of a passing couple and some helpful hotel receptionists we were able to contact animal control and shortly after a man came to take the dog to the pound. He said the dog has 3-5 days to be claimed, after that it will be put to sleep then burned. The animal control officer repeated this several times which I believe was either a ploy to encourage people (me) to adopt or they were the words of a very desensitized individual.
I guess this story is to be continued.

yours to keep

Book reviews:

Incredibly Loud and Extremely Close by Jonathan Safran Foer

I’ll start by saying that I enjoyed this book but not without some serious reservations. First and foremost the 9 year old protagonist, Oskar Schell, is the most tiring character I have ever come across. I initially stopped a reading a few pages into the book because of this and had to wonder why everyone he met in his quest around New York City didn’t feel the same way. Moreover, I thought the way the other characters treated Oskar to be a little too kindly in spite of his complete lack of social graces.
I also found that the story of Oskar’s grandparents left me feeling more confused than anything. The breakdown of nothing places was hard to follow and, to me, incomprehensible in why anyone would choose to live that way. The grandmother’s acceptance of the grandfather’s decisions was equally hard to believe.
At the bottom of all of this is a story of love and loss set not long after Sept. 11, 2001. It’s an emotional tale and one that is worth reading despite the confusion and fatigue encountered along the way.

The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson

This is Davidson’s first novel and, according the book flap, the product of seven years composition and research. I have no difficulty in believing this. Davidson’s nameless protagonist suffers horrible burns at the beginning of the novel and everything from the burning of his flesh to his brutal rehabilitation is described in meticulous detail. Despite the grim and often unpleasant specifics this is where the book excels. Unfortunately the novel isn’t able to sustain this momentum or believability. Ultimately, The Gargoyle is a story about love and redemption but its meaning gets muddled when folded into Dante’s Inferno and when mixed with some heavy handed Christianity.
There is an unfortunate comparison on the back of this novel to Life of Pi by Yann Martel. It’s possible to see how a comparison could be made (though a weak one) and in the end it doesn’t do Davidson any favours. Martel’s book holds up long after the last page has been read but the more I think about Davidson’s the more I think about what didn’t work, rather than what did.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Team Canada

I don't believe I've ever seen my next door neighbours. I do, however, hear the couple on a regular basis. By all indications, and there are many, the man is not only very adroit but he seems to possess a great deal of stamina and vigour. I'm not sure what his day job is but he could probably supplement his income by producing a series of 'how to' videos. Or, if there was such an Olympic category, I'd say he'd be Canada's best hope for a gold medal in the long program. Go Team Canada.

Monday, November 09, 2009


I had a pleasant surprise at school today. There was a knock on my door while I was trying to explain how to find the lowest common denominator as a product of prime numbers. A delivery man walked in with a box containing one cake and a package of cookies. It seems my mom had arranged for these to be sent from the local North Mart. I had told no one it was my birthday but soon found myself handing out pieces of cake to my students and the other staff. All in all, it was a very nice surprise and one that was enjoyed by many people.
I'm copying an interesting article from Norbert Ispin's website. I don't agree with it entirely though I say bring on the cylons:

Tezuka Osamu, the creator of Astor Boy, envisioned a future in which racism extended to the machines that humanity had created. This resulted in a lot of conflict and allowed Astro the chance to fly, fight and laser blast his way into the hearts of millions of people around the world. However, it seems that maybe a real life Astro Boy wouldn't have it so easy. A recent article on the National Geographic website talks about the 'uncanny valley,' or the unsettled feeling that people get when they see a robot or image that looks too human. According to the article, it's possible that even monkeys feel this way. I cannot but help but wonder then where our efforts at creating artificial intelligence will lead us. Will we feel contempt for what we have created if it looks too much like us? Sadly, I fear the answer will be yes.

Thursday, November 05, 2009


waffer thin

A little over 120 ago Frans Boas conducted a field study of the Indigenous peoples of Baffin Island. His research and methodology forever changed the Anthropological process. Though I don't talk much of Boas in my day to day life he is something of a hero of mine (if I were to have an academic hero). I mention this only because I felt a little like an anthropologist tonight - though one without a)a research question b) credentials.
The Olympic torch made its way to town today and in celebration there were speeches, a town feast, and traditional dances. Pictured above are only some of the fine foods available for consumption. Other dishes included muskox chili, muskox stirfry (which was more like meat and gravy), and muk tuk (beluga blubber). Anyone who knows me is probably saying, "Jesse's an adventuresome sort, he probably loaded up on the blubber and chili." It is true that I was sorely tempted to expand my epicurean horizons but I didn't want anyone else to go without at my expense. (That, of course, is a total lie - c) I'm worse than a spoiled child when it comes to trying new foods, especially ones that come from the sea and/or were primarily used for insulation).
I met with two of my coworkers at the dinner. Both took the opportunity to comment that I need a warmer jacket. This is becoming a regular saying and one that I dislike (do ever I look cold?). Even my students have told me that I need a 'parkee'. (And d) I dislike other people telling me how to dress).
In fairness, it was -33 degrees Celsius tonight. I think Wasiata, the North Wind, has done its best to drive out the last remaining currents of warm air. However, I know this isn't true because it's only November; there's still plenty of time for the weather to get even colder.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Inuvik Post

My inbox has been flooded recently with people asking me about Northern etiquette. I don't think I've been here long enough to know all the ins and outs of proper social decorum but I have learned a few things. For starters, it's often mandatory to remove your shoes when entering a building. My place of work requires students and staff to leave outdoor footwear in the lobby. Yesterday I went to the health clinic for the H1N1 vaccination and the same rule applied. As such, it's not uncommon to see people walking around with bare feet or to spy a lone toe sticking out of a sock. This custom makes sense as peoples' shoes often leave an unsightly slurry regardless of the time of year. However, I don't think I'll ever get used to, or enjoy, walking around in my socks when I would normally be wearing shoes.

Some recent inexcusable excuses:
- hungover
- sister going into delivery (this happened on Monday, the student missed the rest of the week)
- student took son to get H1N1 shot, doctor told student she had to stay home because she could be a carrier

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Easy E don't come for free

Dear Sun,

I know we've both been really busy lately but I feel like we're seeing less and less of each other. I won't argue that we've had our share of ups and downs (like that time you burnt my ear, or the time, when I was younger, that I suggested we should send you all of our garbage) but I know that we have a good thing going and that our past only makes us stronger. I'm committed to doing whatever I can to see more of you; I hope you feel the same.

Yours faithfully,
Jesse V.

Sunrise: 10:20am
Sunset: 7:00pm

Sunday, October 18, 2009


I leave town for one week and:
  • I lose three students (1 was removed from my class list because she stopped showing up after the first week, another was kicked out of my morning class because she never attends (she is still in her afternoon classes (for now)), and another decided she's moving to the capital city)
  • my English class now has 6 students (I started with 10)
  • no less than 85 work e-mails were sent to me (only three of them were actually for me(see 1st point))
  • the town seems to have run out of milk. Conclusion - the Dempster highway is closed
  • the milk I had bought, and froze, for this occasion has turned an unsightly and somewhat unpleasant yellow colour. Under normal circumstances I would 'forget' about the milk in the freezer but now it's the last bastion of hope for maintaining my morning routine
  • the fruit section of the supermarket could be used in film about the early days of exploration; the ones where sailors try to stave off scurvy by preserving fruits for as long as possible. The produce I saw today would work well for the tail end of a long journey
  • My place of employment had an open house. I was told it was happening in early November
  • My computer at work looked as though it 'threw up' all of the documents I had put into specific folders. The documents were splattered all over the desktop.
  • (the above photograph is a garbage can in Yellowknife)
ps - I had an awesome week with Capital M

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

I still apologize

I am truly grateful that M chose to brave the cold and come visit me in Yellowknife this week. Today we explored Old Town and walked up to the the top of "Pilot's Point." Unfortunately, we were at a double disadvantage with it being a statutory holiday and well past the summer tourism season. Pretty much every store and coffee shop was closed (some for the next month) and we weren't left with much to do but come back to our hotel after taking in the quiet sights of Old Town. (The weather was also cold enough to limit unnecessary outdoor exposure).
Yellowknife seems like a nice enough city. We discovered they have a unique drinking law on Sundays that states your food bill has to exceed your drink bill by $1.99. We were both doubtful that the rule was being enforced on the diners at a table next to us last night (there may be a few too many prepositions in that sentence).
The above picture comes from the outside of a place called 'Bullock's Bistro.'

Sunday, October 11, 2009

every thing's the same

Success! I am in Yellowknife and so is Capital M. It's funny how much can change in a short two hour flight: Buildings aren't supported by stilts, the absence of utilidors, food prices that seem entirely reasonable, and an age demographic that doesn't seem to be comprised mainly of older middle aged people. All in all, it's really nice to be out of Inuvik and even better to be back with M.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

On the Sly

My blog posts are coming a little more infrequently as my days rarely warrant writing about. I spend a large part of my day at school and the rest of it at home. Tuesday evenings are the exception - I'm doing a class by teleconference. If anyone out there is thinking of doing something similar I would advise you not to. There is something about silent reading on the phone (with other people that are also silently reading) that seems utterly ridiculous. It doesn't help that it's an education class with a very strong emphasis on reflection.
On the days where I make it to the post office I am greeted by numerous posters saying "Puppies, free to good home" or "Dorothy needs a forever home" (Dorothy is a really cute found puppy). I steel my resolve before looking at the wall but I think it crumbles a little bit every time. It's probably a good thing I don't make it there every day. (I could give Dorothy a good home. Surely she would get a long with two cats, and vice versa. Not only that, I'd be doing a service to the town of Inuvik, one less stray dog - in fact it's something any good citizen should do).
The last thing I wanted to mention was a small time scam that may have claimed $10.00 of my hard earned dollars. A few weeks ago some girls came by the school to raise money for the Terry Fox run. I pledged $10.00 and when the girl came back I only had a $20.00 and she had no change (or so she said). Class was starting soon so I told the girl that I was counting on her to be a good person and change my pledge to twenty dollars. I gave her the money and thought nothing more of it until I received this e-mail at work:

Two high school girls were here a few weeks ago fund-raising for the Terry Fox run. My wife and I both donated cash and filled out the form - I on the last line of the actual form and my wife on a form they had drawn up themselves, due to the actual form being full. After they left we both questioned whether it was legitimate and my wife followed up by calling the school. It turned out the girls had not turned in any cash and denied receiving any and they did not turn in the form they had drawn up, just the actual form, for which they said they had only received cheques which they said they had turned in. The school may now be turning it over to the RCMP. (End of e-mail)

I think we can all agree that even Bernie Madoff would be proud of their enterprising nature.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

forever feels about right

Though everything has long since frozen over, I thought I'd mention the town's lack of drainage systems. Rain water and melted snow pool in depressions along the road and either evaporate or freeze over. This creates watery obstacles for those walking down the town's main street. This picture may not show it clearly but a large part of the sidewalk is totally swamped and pedestrians have to veer into the road to avoid getting wet feet. Fortunately, there isn't much traffic so it doesn't create any hardship for an able bodied person. The same cannot be said for those who have mobility issues.
Also, it seems that businesses and the town do not shovel snow or salt side walks. This has resulted in some amazingly slippery walking conditions.
On a totally unrelated note, there is a chance that I may be able to see Capital M next week. If all goes well I'll be attending a conference in Yellowknife. A chance to see the capital city sounded exciting, same with attending my first conference. This has now been totally eclipsed by the prospect of meeting up M. My hopes are already high so I hope I get the go ahead.

Friday, October 02, 2009


I've been fairly busy this week so I contracted Josie C. to write a review of Lev Grossmans The Magicians. Some of you may be familiar with the reviewer's work, as seen in the little known,'Underfunded Publications.'

The Magicians by Lev Grossman- Review
by Josie C. Staff Writer for 'Underfunded Publications'

It wasn't so long ago that J.K. Rowling's avid fans could mitigate their desire to find out what happened to 'the boy who lived' by knowing that in a year's time an answer would be provided. Since the series ended there has been a vacuum in the world of wizardry. Almost. Lev Grossman has stepped up with his own coming of age story centering on a young man who, like Harry Potter, gains acceptance to a school of magic. However, that's where the comparisons end. Grossman makes a few references to Hogwarts in his novel but the story is entirely his own; it's darker and tackles tougher issues than found in Rowlings'. His protagonist, Quentin Coldwater, is described as "ridiculously brilliant" but this one of the story's shortcomings. At no point do his actions or thoughts set him apart from the rest of society. This doesn't detract from the enjoyment of the story but some of the novel's conflicts would probably have been handled differently by someone with an almost unrivaled intellect.
The story itself moves along at a brisk pace and some readers may find it difficult to stop reading parts of the novel. Grossman also isn't afraid to embroil his protagonist in messy situations, which provide another layer of conflict beyond Coldwater's internal struggle to find happiness and his place in the world.
Though there are a few things that seemed out of place, in particular some of Coldwater's dialogue during an intense fight, the story is always enjoyable. Anyone looking for a little magic to brighten their day may find Grossman's novel does the trick.

Thanks Josie. And now to wrap up this post, this week's Inexcusable excuses:
-back hurts, but will be better by ten

Sunday, September 27, 2009

just like me

Tips on Living in Inuvik:

Those who pay attention to national events already know that 911 is not available in the North West Territories. As such, if you (like me last night), happen to hear a violent domestic dispute you'll know to call the R.C.M.P directly or the operator. Calling 911, as I found out, results in a recorded message saying: "this service is not available." You may be undaunted by the recording, your fear that someone is going to be, or already is hurt may override any inclination to leave the matter alone. A call to the R.C.M.P station may placate your concerns but will implicate you more than you might think. At 7 A.M, about an hour after I was woken up by sounds of the fight, and about 20 minutes after I heard a women crying on the phone saying, "I'm covered in blood," the police pounded on my door. (The word pounded is no exaggeration). I was greeted by the sight of 4 officers, none of whom seemed inclined to use an indoor, 'let's be quiet so as to not wake everyone' voice (this was also evident when they shouted "it's the R.C.M.P before I opened the door). They wanted my statement for what I had heard. Their presence was quite a surprise and I would imagine that few people who live in the building will now wonder who reported the incident. It was also kind of invasive having them in my apartment - they are trained to take notice of their surroundings and, while I had nothing to hide, it was strange to have them give my place a visual once over.
There wasn't much I could tell them:
At around 3:00 in the morning I heard a woman and man fighting loudly. I couldn't distinguish whether they were inside or outside or even say exactly if they were to the left or the right.
Eventually the man left, the fight ended and I went to sleep.
Sometime near 6:00A.M I was woken up to the sounds of the same voices only this time they were even louder. The fight kept escalating and before long I heard a lot of crashing sounds. The woman would scream and sob loudly after a crash and that's when I thought I should call 911. Eventually I heard footsteps pounding down the hall and the sound of the front door opening and closing. I heard the woman dial a phone and talk to someone, she said "I don't know what do, my face is covered in blood, my (something?) is covered in blood." Her conversation was broken by crying fits. I couldn't hear much more than that but she did keep asking where someone was.
She left minutes before the R.C.M.P arrived.
The R.C.M.P told me they found evidence of someone who was injured but that they couldn't find an actual victim. They had a suspicion as to who it could be but the woman wasn't answering her door.
So to you, future citizen of Inuvik, know that your actions are not anonymous, how ever well intended they may be.
(Pictured above is one of the town's many utilidors.)

Friday, September 25, 2009

Everybody knows

Unsurprisingly, I am greeted by the sight of one or two catalogues every time I check my mail. Some clever person realized that people up here need mail order shopping. This isn't to say that the stores here don't offer clothes and home furnishings; the prices are obscenely inflated. People with discerning tastes, such as myself, have little time or need for the goods offered in these flyers and, consequently, the catalogues end up in the recycle bin. This would be all well and good if Inuvik actually had a recycling program for paper. I was surprised to learn at work, where we generate a lot of paper waste, that the blue boxes were all for show.
As my one of my students would say 'this is killer bad.' Not only does the town of Inuvik throw out all of its own paper, but it also adds paper from the rest of the Canada, and beyond, in the form of catalogues and flyers. It made me appreciate that larger cities have to be a lot more accountable for what they recycle and what they throw away. This isn't to say the larger cities are perfect but they are at least taking steps, and have the facilities to reduce what ends up in land fills.
On the plus side, Inuvik does have a recycling program for cans and bottles. Pictured above is a large block of crushed cans outside of the Inuvik bottle depot.
I am about conduct something of a social experiment in a few minutes so I'll finish this post with:
Inexcusable Excuses
  • Went to bank to replace lost debit card
  • Daughter hadn't come home and couldn't leave because door couldn't be locked
  • Couldn't wake up babysitter

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

I don't mind waiting

My morning started with a phone call to the adult education department of the Toronto District School Board; they wanted to offer me a long term occasional position. Ouch. Hopefully they’ll need teachers as badly next September.

My days at school pass by fairly fast but they are stressful. One woman in my class has been off all week. She showed up yesterday with a black eye and a broken nose. She said she “got into something” on Friday night; I didn’t ask what, or who, that something was. I later heard that her injuries were caused by a fight with her brother.

For the most part my students are quite enjoyable (there is one problem person, but what classroom would be complete without one of those?). There is a lot they haven’t learned, or forgot, about reading and writing and math. I’m frequently assuming they have too much prior knowledge (though it’s what they should have for the level of the course). As well, I’m quickly becoming acquainted with the level of work they like to do and where they’ll start to resist.

One of the biggest challenges this school faces is attendance. Every day I receive e-mails from my supervisor saying if someone has an excused or unexcused absence and the reason they gave. Presented for the first time is a new section of this blog called: Inexcusable absences

(Please note, these are all actual excuses given by students – taken directly from e-mails from my supervisor)

  • "Are there classes this morning?"
  • She 'forgot' there was no school for her kids today."
  • She's sick, "but will be better by 10 and will come to class then"
  • doesn't have babysitter

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Everything is sparkling with diamond light

I don't want to write about the weather too much but I thought this was worth mentioning. It snowed last night. For most of Canada, the first day of fall is Sept. 22 - I hope that the rest of you will appreciate its snow free nature.
It's kind of exciting to see the snow, though this may mean that the novelty wears off that much sooner.
Regardless, I'm listening to some Christmas music anyway.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Miss Saigon

All of my students are either Gwich'in, Inuvialuit, or Metis. It's pretty neat. Today there was a special event put on by the elders of the first two groups (I think, I couldn't find out for sure that it was both). There was a free lunch, music by the "Good Time Band" and a chance for the younger people to meet the elders. I told all of my students during class and encouraged them all to go. The event was open to all people so I went during my lunch break. There were only about 10 people there and I was probably the youngest person around. An older gentleman beckoned me inside the hall and motioned that I should get some food. I have to say, I'm pretty fond of bannock and they had some there. I sat and ate and listened to the "Good Time Band". If anything, the band sells themselves short with their name. The music they played seemed like it would be perfect for a barn dance; it was really fun, upbeat and very well played.
I didn't speak with anyone while I was there but gave one of the band members the thumbs up before I left. He looked pretty happy but I would have liked to have done more to say thanks for such a unique experience. Hopefully I'll have a chance at another event.

On an unrelated note - my stuff is here and will be moved into my apartment tomorrow afternoon. My neighbours can expect to smell cinnamon raisin bread baking a few hours after that (with Saigon cinnamon no less).

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

consensual worlds

I told a student today that he was a great resource to have in class. I meant it too. We were talking about the elements of a short story and every time I explained a term like 'mood' or 'setting,' he would launch into a brief narrative of his own to exemplify what I was saying. It wasn't entirely intentional on his part; I think he was doing it more to get a laugh than anything but it really was useful.
Today was my first full day of teaching. I was glad to actually get going as the previous two weeks have been filled with everything (from multiple class changes, to cleaning, meetings and more) but very little actual prep time. A new instructor will start tomorrow (she just flew up from Edmonton this afternoon) and though she has a lot to take in she really isn't too far behind (planning wise) from the other instructors (I barely have tomorrow covered). And, her course load won't change on a daily basis.

This just in -
A low speed moving van has been spotted north of Edmonton. Officials predict, based on its bearing and speed, that it may be heading for the Inuvik area of the NWT. Those eagerly awaiting the arrival of their possessions should keep their hopes in check until Friday at the earliest.

will her folks look down on me?

Dear Inuvik Post Office:

Please leave your doors unlocked later than 5:30pm so that I may check my mail.

Jesse V.

Monday, September 14, 2009

A little of bit love

I've been warned by numerous people about the upcoming closure of the Dempster highway. In about one month the highway will close and the town will essentially be shut off from the rest of the world. The price of food will double, or triple, and staples like milk, eggs and other perishable items will remain out of stock until the road opens again. (I think it takes about a month or maybe a little more for the road to reopen). One suggestion for this dark time is that I buy UHT milk. I think a lot of people choose this option as the grocery store has recently put a lot of it in stock. I'd like to exaggerate (and I'm fond of hyperbole) and say that there's more UHT milk than a small town could ever drink but I'm pretty sure that won't be the case.
I've also learned, during my two weeks here, that the town of Inuvik has an eratic power supply. Power outages are common, brought on by aging infrastructure not quite up to the task of supplying the town's power needs (or so I've been told). Regardless of the reason, it's recommended that alarm clocks have a battery backup. Last night I used my Nintendo DS, it may just make a fine alarm for the remaining 9 1/2 months of my stay.
One last thing. The water up here tastes silty. Don't be fooled by companies pushing 'arctic water.' Unless it tastes kind of like sediment, you're not getting the real thing.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

and at night I like to look my best

My apologies for the infrequency of posts. The hotel I was staying at had a very unreliable internet connection and I wasn't disciplined enough to write anything in Word and post it later. Currently, I am sitting on the floor of my otherwise empty apartment (which may shorten the length of this post). I actually slept on the floor last night - my stuff will hopefully be arriving by the end of next week. There was no reason given for why my possessions were delayed in their transit but I suspect that the couch caused some trouble around the Winnipeg area and had to spend a few days in a holding cell.
I do actually have a place to stay other then a pile of clothes on the floor. Tonight, I plan to make use of the college's staff house. It's offered to visiting instructors and people who have unruly furniture. I checked it out this evening and it has a very 'temporary stay' feel to it. There's nothing in the house that offers a hint of someone's personality, nor are there any photos or keepsakes. It even smells temporary - like someone just finished washing the dishes before heading out the door with a packed bag (maybe someone did actually do this before I arrived). In any event, I am glad to have a bed to sleep on.
On my way back to my apartment I noticed someone had written "baby makers of the world unite" in chalk on the wall of the CIBC (the town's only bank). This struck me as funny because I think people are already doing this, quite literally, regardless of how old they are. From what I have seen so far, quite a few of my students are young mothers.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

solid gold

Right behind my new apartment is a section of the Trans Canada Trail (pictured to the right). It's actually the beginning of part of the trail, though the northern most section starts in Tuktoyaktuk. I walked along part of it today and saw some truly beautiful scenery. If the town of Inuvik were up for sale, it would probably be listed as a 'fixer upper' but the same cannot be said about the natural areas just past the edge of town.

It's been one week since I left Toronto. I've been told a great many things about living up north - most of which I have already forgot. Some of the things that stand out in my mind from this week are:
1) I was told to buy bear spray if I'm worried about roaming packs of dogs (I wasn't so much worried, just curious if they were a regular occurrence)
2) My landlord is from Jamaica and prefers Inuvik in the winter
3) This town is surprisingly international - some of the students at the learning centre are from the Sudan. One of my co-workers is from Iran and another is from Ireland
4) A certain brand of microwave meal that Capital M and I enjoy is available at one of the grocery stores. Moreover, there is a surprisingly decent variety of food stuffs up here
5) In general, food is at least twice as much as it is in Toronto (I already dislike buying food)
6) Chocolate milk is cheaper than regular milk. Though tempting, I will refrain from using it for my cereal
7) I was told not to cross my boss. This didn't actually alter any of my original plans for my stay up here.
Next week my stuff will hopefully arrive from Toronto and I have to get serious about trying to plan out my year.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

but is it nice enough?

Could this place be my home for the next ten months? It's very possible. I've heard the building shakes (so did Fenwick and I lived much higher up), it's full of families and pets but the rent isn't outrageous (though still high) and it has best view out of the four places I've seen so far. Interestingly, the property company that owns this building (they own 70% of the rental places in town) charges less rent than the dump I saw yesterday.
I guess I should bite the bullet and commit to a lease.
In other unrelated news - I thought of a new word for the English dictionary 'perturbulence'. It's fitting for those times when you feel personally slighted by turbulence during a flight, like when it causes you to spill your drink on your shirt or needlessly grab the person next to you out of fright.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Hail Cesar

I ran into some bullies this morning on my way to work. I was just walking along minding my own business when I noticed three dogs running on the other side of the street. They looked really happy (they made me feel happy just from looking at them). I thought nothing of it when they crossed to my side of the street but my feeling of well being changed when the lead dog adopted an aggressive posture, barred his teeth and started growling and barking at me. The other two dogs followed suit and I stopped dead in my tracks. The lead dog did a little lunge at me and I stepped back. I started thinking "What would Cesar Millan do?" Then I remembered that I've only seen 'The Dog Whisperer' once and that was well over a year ago; I had no idea what he would do (I am pretty sure that he wouldn't have given up ground to an aggressive dog). I won't lie, I was starting to get a little scared as the dogs were all advancing on me. Fortunately, someone shouted one of the dog's names and it immediately dropped its aggressive stance. I'll try and avoid those three in the future, or at least make sure I have some lunch money on me.
My day at work was pretty busy. There was a meeting in my classroom about the malodorous occurrences that require building evacuations. According to the building managers it should now be fixed (one can only hope). My teaching schedule was changed and I suspect that it may change again before all is said and done. Bring it on.
I stopped by an apartment on my way back to the hotel. It was really hot, kind of dumpy and all for the low price of $1250/month (it's run by a former prison guard; I guess it was in pretty rough shape before she took it over). I'm seeing a few more places tomorrow and then I'll have to make a decision. So far I'd like not to live in the building I saw today.
One last thing, there is snow in the forecast for Saturday.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

lady of the sky

Today I sort of started my job. It's only sort of because 1) a foul stench drove everyone out of the building before the day was done. There's nothing quite like the smell of unadulterated sewer gas to make you appreciate fresh air. 2) I'm not teaching yet, just getting everything set up. The actual start date of the classes is something of a mystery. My supervisor seems to think that the building won't be ready for the students to start next Tuesday - maybe a week later, maybe less.
It doesn't really matter to me, I'm just rolling with the punches. Same thing with my course load: math and science. As it stands I feel a bit like I'm on autopilot. Things will probably get to me later but the only thing I really care about right now is getting back home to Capital M. Nothing else seems that important.
(Pictured above is the famous 'Igloo Church')

Monday, August 31, 2009

Robots need love too

I spent last night in a hotel close to the Edmonton airport. The area seems to be frequented by truckers (lonely truckers?). The picture to the left doesn't show just how shady the building was, but I think I found a place where 'happy endings' are pretty much a guarantee for those looking for a little relief after a long haul.
Why was I in such an area you may ask? It was the first stop on my way to the town of Inuvik in the North West Territories. For the next ten months I will be teaching basic education to adults at a community college. It is my deepest hope that this experience will make it possible for me to find work in Toronto. Saying goodbye to Capital M and the cats was really difficult and not something I plan on repeating.
On a side note - When I arrived in Edmonton the weather was a surprising 27 degrees. Inuvik offered its own surprise of 2 degrees with a few flakes of snow thrown in for good measure. The person meeting me at the airport picked me out of the crowd right away saying that my camera and shorts gave me away as a newbie to the town. So much for blending in.
Lastly, if anyone knows what time I start work tomorrow - please let me know.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

On and On

If anyone wants to hear a great band then I'd recommend you check out Cowpuncher.  Just try and keep your feet still while listening to 'It's time to Wake Up.'  I had the good fortune to work with two of the band memebers at CCH.  I wish them the best.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

It's Time To Wake Up

Here are some snippets of conversations I heard while downtown on Friday night:

...She was leaking shit from her ass...
...when you were picking up that guy...
...drinking that bag of blood....
...she was so fat she was like 5 Chucks

I was also able to catch a whole conversation:
"You look like that guy from 'Superbad'!"
"Who McLovin'?"
"No, that other guy, the one from Brampton, you were also in Arrested Development and Nick and Norah's Tape Player"
"Oh, yeah, I was also in Holes"
Well all know that Michael Cera wasn't in Holes, and for the record, the guy looked nothing like Michael Cera

The streetcar was full of really drunk girls, one of who spent part of the ride puking on the floor.  Another spent the entire ride resting her head in her friend's lap.  She was so drunk that she couldn't pull herself together to get off at the right stop, much to the annoyance of her friends.
Fun night.

Friday, May 15, 2009


The advent of texting, and its shorted form of common words, has a lot of people worried about the ability of today's youth to write properly.  Teachers lament the missing 'wh' from the word 'y,' feminists struggle to remind today's young women that there is an 'I' in 'grl,' and those receiving accolades may feel a little slighted when all they receive is a shortened 'gratz'.  However, there is hope for future.  Few would argue that youth will often rebel against their parents and others in positions of authority.  As such when today's youth become parents, we may start seeing their children writing words with extra letters as a form of rebellion.  For example, the name Alex in the future may look like 'Ahleghx.'   Common words like 'new' will start with a silent 'p' (pnew), and nice will start with a k and have an extra 'y' (kniyce).  In fact, it wouldn't be surprising to see new letters being used silently.  The letter 'x', for instance, may be subtly added to words to make them a little longer.  A text message from the future may read like this "Mothering, Ih am xenjoying maiy stuhdies at puniverghsity."  

From Norbert Ispin's "A look at the World of Tomorrow, Today"

Monday, March 02, 2009

I'm a sack person - deal with it

A few more things:

1) I didn't go to the dentist for almost ten years ( I finally went to one last year). However, due to good oral hygiene I had no cavities, no major tarter build up and no other issues
2) I do a lot of singing. I had thought I kept this habit mostly to myself (or at least confined within my home) but an acquaintance recently mentioned that I was always singing. This was both surprising and a little embarrassing
3) When I was a little boy I jumped into a fountain at a mall and started swimming. It happened during a cold snap and as such I was bundled up in a snow suit. My mom had to buy me new clothes as it was too cold outside, and I was too wet, to make it home without freezing. We didn't have a lot of money and I'm pretty sure my mom didn't end up buying whatever she went to get
4) Like many young boys I really wanted to learn karate after seeing 'The Karate Kid.' Hours before my first judo lesson (karate wasn't offered), I ended up badly breaking my leg when my friends and I were practicing our 'karate' moves. As such, my martial arts career ended before it even began
5) The ER doctor didn't set my leg properly before putting the cast on and months later the doctors had to straighten it out. They were looking at two options i) rebreak it and then reset it ii) drive a wedge into my cast and bend the mending bone back into shape. They chose the latter option and it stands out as one of the most painful experiences in my life (this happened when I was in grade 5)
6) I like to believe that I have super human healing powers, a super immune system and that I'm fairly resilient to getting hurt. I really don't bruise easily and I rarely get sick. Point 4 may seem to contradict this but I believe it may have happened to let me know that I'm not invincible (but close)
7) I'm quite clumsy
8) I'm fairly cynical about a lot things, but not all things
9) I generally dislike wearing jackets. It's been 4 years (and counting) since I last put on a rain jacket
10) I don't think I've ever used an umbrella
11) If I were a comic book villain, my alter ego may be 'the Over-Reactor.' You know how it goes: mild-mannered guy by day who sometimes overreacts to banal pieces of information.
12) I taught myself how to juggle but can't figure out how to do more than three balls
13) I've attended 6 post-secondary institutions
14) Capital M recently called me 'the Cinnamon King.' She only called me it once but it's pretty fitting; I use a lot of cinnamon. I went on a special shopping trip for ceylon cinnamon and ended up buying some saigon cinnamon as well. For those who don't know- ceylon cinnamon is true cinnamon and it's totally different from what is sold at regular grocery stores