Sunday, January 31, 2010

Ice Road Trucker

Please forgive the poor quality of the accompanying picture. The Nikon Coolpix 4600 takes fine outdoor photos when there is lots of natural light but it has a really tough time with low light conditions. Sadly, this is also the last photo that will be taken with the old Nikon. I don't know if it was the cold or age but whenever I try and turn the camera on I get a message that says "system error 1 0." Let's all take a moment and remember the little camera that only worked well in bright outdoor light.
This past Friday I had the opportunity (thanks to a kind and considerate supervisor) to travel to the nearby town of Aklavik. A coworker had been there for a week and her husband was driving to pick her up. I was told to bring extra food, clothes, and water in case the car broke down and we ended up stranded on the ice road (I brought none of those things). I think 'ice road' is an apt description but 'river' would be better still. The entire distance between the two towns is travelled (during the winter) by driving Southwest on the McKenzie river and then making a turn onto the Peel river. It's kind of like canoeing - only in a car. Riverbanks bookend the road and the waves have frozen into fun little bumps. Fun, of course, is a relative term - I feel fairly certain that Capital M would have been car sick. To my surprise there were even road signs (like the signpost picture) but no speed limits.
Though the weather was fine I could definitely foresee some issues with driving on a river. Surprisingly the snow on the ice is plowed, and in some parts the ice is even groomed, but if there was a strong wind it would turn the road invisible with blowing snow. For the most part this would be fine but we passed several tributaries that could easily be mistaken for part of the designated ice road if an unwary driver were caught in a storm.
I'll stop for now and write about Aklavik, the town with no ketchup, later.

Monday, January 25, 2010

take me back

These are for all the people who are currently in snowless conditions.

The town hospital. I've been there once; accompanying a student who had a strange lapse during math. Though it was a nice enough place I have no desire to go back.

Unsurprisingly, people like to Skidoo around here. In fact, someone's doing it right now - in total darkness at 9:30pm.
I took this while standing on the mighty McKenzie river around 1:00pm. Unfortunately, I was unable to fully capture the blowing snow (on film). While taking this I was thinking "there's no such as thing as cold - just an absence heat." That didn't make my fingers feel any warmer.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

as the world turned out

Dear build up of electrons:

Please know it is never my intention to take you away from the protons you find yourselves naturally attracted to. Maybe, it's not that. Maybe you see my getting up as a chance to make a break for it - you just 'happen' to rub off the chair and hop aboard the S.S Jesse V. - the preferred cruise line for single electrons. I don't know what time is like for an atom (or subatomic particle in your case) but I'd imagine that in the brief moment before I inevitably touch something made of metal you have experienced a lifetime of longing for the protons you abandoned. I am, as always, touched by your dramatic reunion when you leave the singles cruise and go back to the life you once knew. However, I am concerned about the frequency of this pattern. No one likes mind games electrons, and you may want to seriously consider whether you want to be in a relationship or on your own. I only write this because I care and want the best for you.

With compassion,
Jesse V.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Funny feeling

I would have admonished my English students for assuming the reader knows too much as I did in yesterday's post. I did not tell why Tropicana was filming a commercial up here - it was to coincide with the Sunrise Festival. On January 6th the sun bashfully made a brief appearance before ducking down below the horizon. The following weekend the town held the Sunrise festival complete with a town feast on Friday and a bonfire the next day. The filming of the commercial happened a few hours before the fire. Unfortunately, my camera batteries died before the balloon was lit up but if you follow this link you'll see some great pictures of Tropicana's artificial sun.
In school related news, my supervisor recently told one of my students that she would rather have her at school for two days a week than drunk at home for seven. The woman has to be sober at school. Another of my students told me that her step-father died of a heart attack while they were dancing at a New Year's dance. Sweet mother of Santa Fe. Oddly, the girl didn't seem too fazed by this.

I thought I'd wrap this post up with another new word that should be included in the dictionary:
portentially - adv. a omen that signifies a possible occurrence
How is this not a real word?

Monday, January 18, 2010

best of 2009

We're only three weeks into January and I can already cross a New Year's resolution off my list - be an unseen extra in an orange juice commercial. Tropicana, maker of highly addictive orange juice, decided to shoot an ad up here and needed townspeople to stand around looking at a large inflated balloon. They had also asked the Inuvik Drum Dancers to perform and I believe some of the dancers may figure prominently in the finished commercial. It was below -40 that day and after an hour and a half of standing around I had to question how much more free orange juice (I had accumulated 6 bottles) was worth the strange absence of feeling in my toes. The shooting wasn't completely finished but I decided to go home. I had heard that toes were important for balance and learned just how true that was as I stumbled back to my apartment.

This is coming a little later than I had intended but I compiled a list for the best of 2009.
Here it is:

Best book:
It's a toss up between The Magicians by Lev Grossman and The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles by Haruki Murakami. Depending on the day I'd give a different answer but tonight - since I'm listening to Delerium and feeling reflective - I'll give it to Murakami. I think I have a soft spot for the book since both its main character and I were unemployed. Unlike Toru Okada I wasn't offered a job while sitting on a park bench, though I did hope I might be while I was.

Best Movie:
District 9, The Hangover, Zombieland and The Watchmen. Apparently I have trouble being decisive (this is almost every movie I saw in the theatre in 2009)

Best cd I heard:
Ghostkeeper's 'And the Children of the Great Northern Muskeg.' I came across the band while making a cd for Capital M. I don't think it would be for everyone but I would recommend listening to 'Lady of the Sky.'

Best video game:
Uncharted 2 (Naughty Dog) for the PS3. I think that if action movies were this well made there would be a lot more people going to action movies. This is the only game I own that I went through the trouble of obtaining a platinum trophy (maybe I shouldn't admit that) and I still look forward to going through it again.
Honourable mention goes to Flower (That Game Company).

Best career decision:
To leave my previous job

Best cause of shingles:
The months of unemployment that followed leaving my job

Best time to get a settlement from getting hit by a taxi in 2004:
After six months of unemployment in 2009

Best job interview:
I didn't get the job but an interview with Outward Bound was by far the most positive (and morale boosting) interview I had during an otherwise bleak time (on the employment side of life). The interviewers were genuinely interested in what I had to say and one of the interviewers gave me a lot of feedback on how I did.

Best camping moment: Seeing an ice cream boat. Honourable mention goes to the epic rainstorm that proved my tent is absolutely not waterproof. It wasn't super fun at the time but I can look back fondly now. Ha ha weather, you got me.

Best teaching moment (up North): There were a few bursaries being offered and I turned the application into a class assignment (I don't think my students had any intention of applying). Two of my students ended up winning and one of the winners entered my English class and shouted "I love English!" Next time I'm going to charge an editing fee.

Best fruit moment:

This is a category born in the Arctic Circle. One day a box of oranges was left in the Learning Centre by an upper administration person of the college. They had been intended for one of the smaller communities but the flight was cancelled due to bad weather. Those oranges surely were all that stood between that community and an epidemic of scurvy. There were probably people waiting with arms outstretched at the airport, hoping against hope that somehow the plane had managed to leave Inuvik and would arrive with its precious cargo. Sadly, it would not. On the bright side, the oranges were delicious and didn't last more than a few minutes after the students knew of their existence.

That ends my list. I guess I'm now officially back.