Stuck at the Dump

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Down in the Dumps

It has been quiet … so very quiet after Christmas festivities. Both bars are closed over the holidays, so I haven’t been called for guard duties at the detention centres. The roads leading out of the community are not plowed, so our world has become very small. The road only goes as far as the two municipal dumps. There is one dump for regular kitchen garbage. Farther down is the “Canadian Tire” where metal, wood, appliances, cars and dry goods are deposited. This is a great place to scavenge for auto parts.

We had a thermos of tea and sandwiches and thought this would be a good chance to let the dogs have a good run. Our dog is white, and the husky belongs to a teacher who has gone south for the holidays.

When we approached Canadian Tire, there were tracks leading into it, but they were just ski-doo and ATV tracks, so our heavy truck sunk in deeply. Andy flagged down a ride back into town for reinforcement and I stayed back with the dogs, occasionally slipping into the truck to warm up (along with the dogs).

Our dog, Skooner

And that was our adventure for the day. I think tomorrow we’ll head out to the other dump and watch the crows and seagulls fly!

Skooner and BamBam

Skooner and BamBam


Raw Caribou and Seal for Christmas

“Merry Christmas!  Merry Christmas!” We sat on folding chairs arranged on the periphery of the triple gym. People passed by us and offered their hands and greetings. It is Christmas day and we were at the community feast on the Inuit side.

The gym was garlanded with lights and streamers. A stage was set up, filled with prizes. “There will be a draw,” a woman at the door said as she handed Andy a ticket for a ‘man prize’ and one to me, for a ‘woman prize’. I noted a yellow ski-doo in the gym. What a prize for the lucky winner!

Little girls twirled on the gym floor in lacy dresses and shiny shoes. Little boys in vests and shirts chased each other. Older kids in jeans, stood in clusters talking and laughing. Mothers with babies tucked into their amautis chatted with elders.

“I’ve never heard a baby cry here,” I mused to Andy as I watched the young mother beside me arrange her baby in a square cloth on her back. This is the way babies are carried inside. Outside, they are tucked into the hood of a traditional parka. There is always a woman nearby to help.

At the centre of the gym, black plastic garbage bags were taped to the floor. Large chunks of raw deep burgundy caribou, seal meat, and white feathered ptarmigans lay in huge piles. A couple of large coolers held shrimp. At an announcement, people stood up and headed to the centre to pick up a section of meat. Some ate right there, sitting on the floor; others brought meat back to their families sitting at the edge of the gym. The mother beside me chewed the meat for her baby, as a young man cut raw slivers for her with a large knife.

At the other side of the gym, tables were laden with at least 12 oversized turkeys, pots of caribou stew, and a couple of cardboard boxes, lined with plastic, filled with macaroni salad. There were no utensils, just a box of surgical gloves. You just put one on and dig in! It was wonderful to be with children and families on this Christmas day, and to feel welcome.

Merry Christmas, Happy Belated Hanukah, Blessings at Solstice, Joyeux Noel and Frohliches Weihnachtesfest to all those so far away.

Fluffy White Feathers

We found a sturdy black spruce that would become our Christmas tree.

Most trees by the bay cluster in tight stands for protection against the winds, but this one stood alone. We brushed off the hard crusted snow.

As we loaded it into the back of the truck, we heard three gunshots. I stiffened. But then I saw a flock of ptarmigan lift, scatter and dissolve into the low hanging grey clouds.

Moments later, we passed a man standing by his skidoo, his gun resting against his leg, turned towards the ground. A woman stood by him plucking at a white bird.

It was just 2:00 in the afternoon, and the sun was already sinking into the horizon.

“Look it’s started to snow!” I said. Large fluffy flakes bounced off the windshield.

It me took a moment to realize what I thought was snow, were tiny soft white ptarmigan feathers.

Lots of Cookies and a Turkey

Ornamental cookies drying before we hung them on our tree

Ornamental cookies drying before we hung them on our tree

Just before teachers and staff headed south for the holidays, we had a cookie decorating craft at our home before a traditional turkey dinner.

The results were quite artistic and colourful and everyone was completely absorbed.

Painting the cookie shapes

Painting the cookie shapes

Years from now, when we are back south, I will unwrap these cookie ornaments and remember our Christmas up north and all the wonderful people we’ve had a chance to meet.

Skooner approves

Skooner approves

Polar Bears and Foxes

Kuujjuarapik had its first polar bear sighting(s) since we’ve returned from summer break.

I am trying to get a clear picture of this occurrence. Here are the stories:

  1. There was a polar bear near the Inuksuk just out of town, and it was also wandering about in the backyards of Inuit homes.
  2. There were two bears. One was shot, and one is still at large.
  3. According to Andy’s students, the Inuit would take took care of it, since they know about hunting polar bears.
  4. The police shot one bear.
  5. The Cree police confirmed that a bear was shot, but it was not them.
  6. According to the police on the Inuit side, there was no actual bear, just prints in the sand. A photo had been taken of the print

The most consistent story is that where two bears and one was shot.

According to the Inuit teachers, on the day of the sightings, all the community’s dogs faced west and started barking and howling. They said they are glad to have dogs for this.

Also there are many foxes about town (Andy actually saw a brownish-red one on the road) and some of them are rumoured to be rabid.

I saw a fox as well, but a dead one, dragged down the middle of the street by a local hunter.

So much for my long walks with my dog.

Jack and the Finger

Jack is one of the students I work with at school. He has myriad of diagnoses and developmental delays. But that is not important here …

This week he learned that raising his middle finger skyward creates a reaction; giggles from his classmates and the attention of adults. He seems delighted with this newly-learned gesture.

I been ignoring it, except for the time I innocently asked him why he kept pointing at the ceiling.

Today I took him down to the office so he could call his mom for his swim trunks he’d forgotten. A dialogue ensued which, judging from his changing expression, was not a friendly one.

He held the phone out at arm’s length and gestured his middle finger at it.

It took all I had not to burst out laughing.

Long Married Couple in Jail

I’ve been guarding evening shifts at the local detention centre every night this week. Detainees have come and gone, but one man has remained for almost a week awaiting an escort to go south.

We are like a married couple. I know how he likes his coffee, and we watch TV together in the evenings.

“Can I watch the game?” he asked after we settled down side-by-side to an evening of television (there is a thick barrier of glass between us).

“Yeah, OK,” I told him, sighing heavily. “But at 9:00 I am watching my Christmas movie!”

We’ve worked things out.