Thursday, December 16, 2010

Merry and bright

Ah Christmas time. The onetime of year that my body shrugs off natural inclinations for sleep and I find myself wide awake at 5:00am. It doesn’t seem to matter what time I go to bed the night before or how tired I may have been. There’s only man I know who willingly wakes up at that time (to go to the gym no less) - that’s great for him but I’d rather be sleeping. Instead my mind races with all kinds of thoughts- most of them inane.

Today’s sleepless thoughts:

Friday, November 23rd, 2007 – I have two weeks to start and finish my 14 term page paper. All I have to do is write one page every day and it’s done.

Friday, November 30th, 2007 – Okay, one week to go – two pages a day – no problem

Thursday, Dec. 6, 2007 – Why have I done this to myself? One page an hour – I can do this. Better still I have 16 hours before class – that means I have one hour of free time now and maybe one easy-time hour after page 8. Let’s see if I can beat my best time in Mine Sweeper. I don't even like mine sweeper but if I do this now I'll be more focused later.

Friday, Dec.7, 2007 – These experiences (there were many) sure make me appreciate being able to sleep. I’m really glad that once school is finished I won’t have any reason to be awake at or by 5:00am (wink).

Sorry I’ve been gone so long.

Saturday, August 07, 2010


I just wanted to give a big thank you to the swans and ducks for their help in tonight's "Operation ask M." She said yes amidst moonlight reflecting off gossamer feathers. A short time later and they were gone - but the memory will last forever.

(photo taken at Lower Dewey lake in Skagway, Alaska)

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

going home, eventually

View North West West Coast Adventure in a larger map
Here's my trip home. I'll update more when I get back to Toronto. This was my first time using My maps in Google. It's a cool program but not entirely user friendly.

Saturday, July 03, 2010


Do you know who lived in this cabin? Robert Service - the man who penned "The Cremation of Sam McGee" and other hit poems.

Dawson city's streets aren't paved with gold - they're not paved with anything at all. The city has dirt streets and wooden plank sidewalks. How cool is that?

This gives me an idea for a new tv series, "Little House on the River." It could be about a girl named Nora Tamer whose father inexplicably built a tiny cabin on the Yukon river.

Canada Day in Dawson. A boring photo but gives a sense of the town. The road in this picture is paved because it's part of the highway.

From Inuvik to Dawson

The Demspter highway is not for the faint of heart. This isn't to say that it's overly perilous but it is an altogether different kind of driving experience. The road varies between 1 -2 lanes (the two lane sections are usually designated as emergency landings for aircraft) and it's entirely unpaved. The shoulders tend to be soft which means that a driver has to be alert in order to avoid a calamitous accident.

It was a rainy kind of day when we left and the roads were very muddy. For the most part it was fine but the areas before and after the 2 ferry crossings and another section by a work camp had some deep ruts that made the going pretty tough. Interestingly, the driver of the car told me that it's better to have the roads muddy because the alternative (when there's no snow) leads to dusty roads with poor visibility.

This is some sort of cotton flower. They're all wet in this photo but when dry they look and feel just like cotton balls.

Here's a view from the Dempster highway. At times I felt as though there should be a woolly mammoth or two wandering about - they would have fit the setting perfectly.

This was taken on the way to Whitehorse at a place called "5 finger rapids." It's famous because many would be prospectors sailed hand made rafts down the Yukon river and found themselves with 5 different channels to choose from; only one of which is passable.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

hot in here

I leave tomorrow (the day timer is off) for Whitehorse. I'll be travelling with Capital M for a couple of weeks and then heading back to Toronto in mid July. I still have a few photos and thoughts on Inuvik that I'm going to post in the coming weeks. Until then my faithful readers I hope you have a wonderful summer.

Masi Cho (thank you) for all your comments and support while I was here.

Jesse V.

Monday, June 28, 2010

The cold winds blow

I did not go Into the Wild like Chris McCandless but I think we both came to the same conclusion about life in our respective Northern experiences. When asked if I would like to renew my contract for next year I declined.

Happiness only real when shared - Chris McCandless

Sunday, June 20, 2010

So far from home

Laptropolis the Third suffered a crippling blow to its primary power source. Knowing that it would take some time for a replacement part I thought I'd try my hand at fixing the problem. I cut into the plastic coating of the power chord using both patience and a soft touch (and a pair of scissors). Only a few of the wires were severed from my efforts and I thought I may actually have a chance at patching things up. Thoughts of MacGyver ran through my head - Mac evading armies of red ants, escaping from wine cellars, not getting blown up by land mines. Then it occurred to me that I'd never seen him fix a broken wire. The few severed wires in my hands seemed to be mulitplying (thank goodness I'm not a spinal surgeon) and I thought that maybe it would be a good idea to cut through the wire entirely and start again in a new location. It turns out that there's another wire wrapped within a wire (at least with my power cable). Surely even MacGyver would have been stymied by a development like that.
So I've had to go computerless for the past three weeks. Kind of bad timing considering how much has been happening. Here's a quick recap:
  • The Learning Centre had a completion ceremony at the end of May. It was nice to see most of the students get dressed up. I presented an award and told a joke (I take no credit for the joke - I read it somewhere on the internet) What do you call a bear with no teeth? A gummy bear. (Slap knee now)
  • I taught my last day of classes shortly after that - Thank sweet baby Jesus. The weird combination of animosity and apathy I felt from my English class never went away.
  • I've had to listen to couples fighting almost every night for the past month. It's terrible and it makes me feel kind of sick.
  • The Relay for Life went really well. It was Inuvik's first time in the event and I think the town raised $56,000. Thanks once again to everyone that supported me.
  • I won a dance contest during the relay. I was told I had a funky way of dancing - I think what they meant was that I was one of the two guys who went up on stage and even though I moved my body arrhythmically to the music they felt they had to give me something for my efforts.
  • Lastly, this is actually from last term but I've been saving it - the last inexcusable excuse from Aurora College 2009-2010:
Student has an earache, fought with her ex, and had to borrow food

I think she was going for a scattershot effect - I guess none of them hit.

It's my shadow from the night of the relay. We'd trade off walking every now and then when one of us got tired. The cool cape effect is actually an Aurora College flag that I tied around my neck. Some of the other participants took to calling me 'Super College.'

Just after my computer died the weather turned unseasonably (and unreasonably) warm. I kept my window open during the coldest days in winter (this building is excellent at trapping heat). Unsurprisingly, when the weather went above thirty degrees Celsius my apartment was unbearable. I left my place at 10:30 pm with the intention of reading by the river (above picture). Unfortunately the mosquitoes were out in full force and I instead went for a very long walk (which is probably better for me anyway). The bugs around here are a great motivator for exercise. I couldn't stop for more than 10 seconds (which made taking pictures difficult). Whenever I paused for too long they'd swarm me.

A picture from the completion ceremony. I helped make the balloon arch - even though I had to face my nemesis: High Float.

I took this during the rely at around 2:30 am. Shortly after this the fog rolled in and the temperature was just a little above zero. My body really struggled with thermoregulation between the hours of 5-7am.

Just around the corner there were kids bouncing on a trampoline, people having footraces and others just hanging on the porch. It was close to 1:00am when I took this.

Sunday, May 23, 2010


On June 18th I'll be taking part in the Canadian Cancer Society's Relay for Life. If anyone would like to sponsor me you can click this link. I would greatly appreciate any amount contributed but please know that I'd be just as happy to be in your thoughts that night.

Jesse V.

to care for animals

No more ice.

Though the water level is high I've been told that it's actually much lower than normal.

I took this yesterday. Normally the entire is swamped for several days.

I took this today. Not only is the water level lower than usual; it's also receding faster too.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

but in the mean time

The big news around town is that the ice is breaking up on the MacKenzie River. This means the Dempster highway will reopen earlier than expected. My plan was to take these pictures in the early morning hours on the weekend but I'm glad I went out after work. By the time I returned home a lot of the ice was already gone.

I'd like to know where that root came from. It's also interesting to note just how far the ice gets pushed up on land. It's possible to see this process in the video.

I've seen the ice melt on rivers before but never like this. The noise heard in the video is the sound of the ice shards hitting each other in the water. It's a bit muffled in the video but it sounded like rubbing ice cubes together.
My apologies for the poor camera control.

-one last thing - it's possible to click on the pictures to get an enlarged view

Sunday, May 16, 2010

I'm here for the money

I can never quite get the midnight sun on film but this is what it's like around 12:00am. There's no more actual darkness - even in the small hours of the morning. I find that I have no trouble sleeping with the light but do have a problem with going to bed.

Last weekend was the convocation ceremony for some of the students of Aurora College. Though the graduates were few the event was attended by the Premier of the N.W.T. and several other prominent figures. The Learning Centre will have a completion ceremony in two weeks. The word 'completion' is misleading - it's actually an event recognizing that students have participated in a year's worth of classes. It is unlikely that any of my 13 math students will finish their math course. Similarly, many of my English students aren't going to pass because they haven't turned in a single assignment.

If you were to take off the"+ gifts" the sign could be grammatically correct; though odd.

This isn't a mangrove. The melting snow and ice has lead to rising water levels and it's now impossible to walk around Boot Lake without getting wet feet. I've been soaked on more than one occasion. Speaking of H20 -the colour of the town's drinking water is now a mellow yellow but still tastes like dirt.

If the movie Cast Away had a volleyball for Chuck Noland's island stay then I think it's only fitting that there would be an old stump for the Arctic Circle. I don't talk to Gwen too often.

Saturday, May 15, 2010


"Okay, so we're going into the canned peach business?"

"With a brand name like 'Success' we can't lose."

"You make a good point but there is some tough competition out there."

"I know - we'll only provide can sizes of 2.84L. We'll offer the public something the competition doesn't and fulfill the prophecy of our brand name."

"Hmm, maybe. But what section of the public is going to want almost three liters of peaches in pear juice from concentrate? And we came up with 'Success' through focus group testing - don't get all weird on me now."

"You're overlooking an often forgotten segment of the general population - sailors, hunters and those planning for the apocalypse."

"You my friend, are a genius."

Friday, May 14, 2010

my boat is sinking

One thing I forgot to mention in my earlier post - a recent inexcusable excuse:

Have to stay home to watch kids. Babysitter is having a baby.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

shadows wandering off somewhere

Posting is hard when you feel like you're dwarfed by giants. It's also harder when morale is flagging. However, I just had some coffee and either the sugar or the caffeine is giving me a boost. Or it could be my shorts. The weather has finally come to its senses and warmed up. For about two weeks there was a very angry wind - perhaps bitter about the absence of snow. I think the wind wanted to prove that even though the snow was gone winter wasn't over. Well done Wind - you did it. I watched Boot Lake thaw and then refreeze in the span of two days. My toque and scarf came out of retirement - they complained they were getting too old for this. You know what toque and scarf - so am I.
But today it all changed. The air is warm and the wind gentle.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

two mothers

Riddle me this - What's brown, smells swampy and tastes like it smells?
I'm not sure just how dedicated I am to my convictions but I do know that I didn't drink any water on the weekend. On Sunday night I broke down and opened a can of peaches just so I could drink the syrupy juice. It was a great idea until it made me even thirstier.
Spring isn't kind to Inuvik. All the snow that covered the ground for so long is rapidly disappearing (Dear Snow, please come back). This has caused the town water supply to turn kind of brown (it's close in colour to the picture I've added). I've been told that the tap water is okay to drink, and maybe it is, but I'm not drinking it on principal.

In other news - I recently received an e-mail from a fellow member of the Canada World Youth 95-96 New Brunswick/ Egypt exchange. We spent a great deal of time together during the program but then Time and Space, those cruel mistresses, dampened our contact. (Kudos to you Jay, for taking the initiative to get back in touch). It turns out my friend has his own blog, with an interesting and often funny slant, about bumper stickers in Jacksonville, Florida. If anyone is interested in his blog you can check it out here. It's definitely worth the visit.

P.S. - I was talking to my English class about conventional families and said ' you know 2 mothers, 2 kids..." It was a strange slip (maybe future me was talking) and I think it made all of my students wonder about my upbringing.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

apple of my eye

It's been awhile since there's a been a summer camp memory posted here and the sight of boots in a forest and the word 'nitch' (thanks Sara) brought back a string of consonants and vowels: EC-DC-IC-A.
The months of May and June were reserved for a science camp at one end of Camp Chief Hector (the other end did a social studies camp). Sunship Earth, developed by Steve Van Matre, is an educational program designed to get students familiar with the following terms: energy, cycle, diversity, community, interdependency, change and adaptation. I don't know how many times I repeated that chain of words during the three years I did the program but I can imagine that even if I'm old and senile I'll still be able to pull that one out.
Every term had a corresponding outdoor activity that was supposed to help students learn the concept. I think my favourite one had to do with cycle. Students gathered a bunch of duff and stuffed it into canvas bags; after which I read a story about how duff turns into soil. The kids all had big wooden mallets and pounded the bags while I read. As my voice became louder they had to pound the bags harder. When all was said and done, and my voice was really hoarse, the kids were pleasantly surprised at the transformation of the dead leaves and twigs into something almost resembling dirt.
My least favourite activity had to do with community. I don't really remember the premise anymore; I just know that I found it boring. It had something to do with a guy name Echin (niche backwards). For some reason someone thought it was a good idea to have Echin's rubber boots in the forest. This led me to develop a complicated backstory for Echin. Here's a very abbreviated version:
Echin used to be a lawyer (or some other white collar profession, it changed weekly) and didn't care much for the environment. One day he was struck by lightening (or hit by a car, this too changed often) and had a complete personality change. He became an extreme environmentalist - PETA, ALF they weren't hardcore enough for him. Eventually Echin left the big city and chose to live in the area that the kids and I were now walking through. Some weeks Echin was crazy and others he was not.
My hope was the students would lose all interest in whatever we were supposed to be doing and instead focus on Echin. Unfortunately for me this never happened.
It's kind of funny, and mysterious, that there's a pair of winter boots on the trail near my apartment. Maybe Echin's coming for me.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Water water everywhere

Though the angle is different this should give a good indication of just how fast (and how much) the snow is melting. I used to think that stilts were used because of the permafrost but now I believe they're also used to stop houses and buildings from flooding during the spring. No joke - I'm swear the spin cycle of the washer is more noticeable now; in an unsettling kind of way.

One final thing. Someone on this floor is either smoking the foulest weed this side of the Mississippi or has a very sick skunk. It really could be either one.

The Katoni Kid

Here's something I found while digging around the net - some ad footage that was going to be used for the old Katoni system. I guess the company rep wasn't happy that the system didn't actually appear in this clip. The director of the commercial thought the voice actor lacked the appropriate enthusiasm to sell the product, or any product for that matter. I'm not sure how someone sliding down a hill is supposed to sell anything - much less a video game system.

Long live Katoni.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Friends forever

In the week since Capital M left there has been a dramatic change in the weather. I've hung up my winter jacket (will I ever wear it again?) and keep forgetting to bring my hat, mitts and scarf home from school.

When I arrived in September all the leaves had already turned colours and a short time after that the trees were bare. I guess I shouldn't be so surprised at the sudden burst of life considering that the growing season is so short. To be honest I had become used to the idea of a perpetual winter.

While not the nicest picture this is representative of what I can only refer to as 'Spring Fever.' Last night I could clearly hear the sounds of a bush party and this may be evidence of the event (there were other party sites that I discovered along my walk). The party sounded like a metaphor for the human condition - I could hear passion, joy, anger (then rage), despair, laughter, jealousy, fear and just about any other adjective one could use. It is unfortunate they burned part of the Trans Canada Trail and I'm at a loss to explain why there are a bunch of 'first place' ribbons scattered about.

The ice road will be closing early next week. I felt unsafe just walking out to get this picture. The significance of the closure means that two towns are about to become accessible only be air. A fellow employee of Aurora College, who lives in Aklavik, called me and asked if I'd like to use her truck for the next two months. She had to bring it to Inuvik before the ice road closed or else her vehicle would be stuck there until late Oct. This would be especially problematic if she moves away from Aklavik this summer

I'm pretty sure all the water won't lessen the structural integrity of my building's stilts. Though I think it may be best if people stop using the washer and dryer for the time being.

Monday, April 05, 2010

nothing's going to stop me now

It's Tuktoyaktuk or bust. I had some ice road trucking practice yesterday in what maybe the largest 4x4 truck available for the everyday working man. Despite my caution at taking the hairpin turns we did fishtail once. Today's experience should be a great one and I hope that I can at least touch the Arctic ocean.

Monday, March 29, 2010

all waiting to get out

When questioned by authorities this ski-doo claimed it couldn't read. Word on the street is that this means of conveyance is the 'Jim Stark' of town.

There's nothing special about this - I just like the picture

To date the only wildlife I've seen around here has been crows and ravens (and maybe a few semi-wild dogs). This nest is the first indication that there is at least one more type of bird.

The GSI Mariner. If you google the name you'll find the ship is meant for seismic research and that its area of service is 'northern waters.' This actually gives me an idea for a new take on an old tv classic - 'Snow Boat.' The show could be about a group of scientists who get a grant to do a seismic study up North. Only when they get to their research vessel they find it beached and derelict. However, because they're good at science the crew turns the boat into swinging snow glider. They travel from town to town delivering fruit, seismic reports and help single people find love along the way.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

back to the sea

A day at the jamboree. The above dog musher won the race. Unlike the competition (top picture), these dogs did not feel the need to sniff the spectators.

The plank walk is a lot tougher than it sounds. These kids taught me a valuable lesson - no one should take part in this contest if they have osteogenisis imperfecta (that's you Mr. glass) or hemophilia.

The Old Lady table. This is a tough clique to break into.

Log sawing contest. The guy in the red and black jacket was supposed to be keeping time. I can only guess that he must have a supernatural sense of time, not unlike DC comic's Temple Fugate, because I never saw him consult his watch. This didn't stop him from coming up with some very specific numbers.