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')