Are we on the Moon?

We arrived back in Kuujjuarapik this morning. It was a good flight, with a hearty breakfast, which felt good after my two vodkas disguised in orange juice gulped down at the airport (I don’t like hard liquor, but it certainly takes the edge off my fear of heights).

Unfortunately, this time, my ear pained me greatly. In spite of swallowing, chewing wads of gum and yawning, the left side of my head felt like the worst migraine I’ve ever experienced. It’s not the first time this has happened. It appears to have something to do with the pressure change upon descending.

Out of Montreal, we broke through the cloud barrier to enjoy a clear blue sky, warm liquid sunlight streaming through the window. After three hours, the flight attendant announced that we would be landing shortly.

It was my turn at the window and I anxiously looked out to see familiar sights. I watched as the propeller to my side cut through a thick layer of phlegmy grey fog. After a summer of evergreens in the mountains, golden fields in the prairies, and colourful gardens, the landscape below looked foreign. The brilliant blue tarns in the hills that I remembered looked like mud puddles now. The windswept hills were grey and barren. Were we landing on the moon?

Andy had arranged for a student to pick us up at the airport in his truck. The air was heavy with cold and wet.

As we headed for the truck, a shepherd mix approached anxiously, eyes desperate and pleading, hip bones protruding. I make a quick note that this is not my world, or is it?

It started to rain on our drive home on the muddy dirt road. Large splats hit the windshield. Not quite freezing rain, but another degree drop in temperature, it would be sleet.

I hope the sun shines tomorrow and burns through this heavy grey fog.


Where Everyone Knows Your Name

Usually I walk to my aqua fitness class, but today I took borrowed Andy’s truck. When I came out, a bunch of kids were sitting in the cab. Two of them were my students.

Big smiles and “Hi Andi!” as if it is perfectly natural to sit in parked vehicles. There are few boundaries and sense of property here.

I grew up in a predominantly French-speaking area of Quebec and didn’t speak the language. My English school friends driven over by their parents. Aside from polite greetings and nods, there was little communication in our neighbourhood. Later, I attended university in Montreal and worked downtown. Montreal is too big of a city to be friendly.

I am delighted to wave at families, crowded onto an ATV, women carrying babies in their hoods, men walking to work, and seeing them happily wave back. I wave at everyone.

We aren’t questioned anymore. “Who are you? “, “Where do you come from?”, or “WHAT are you?”

Our presence has ensconced itself into the community where everyone knows our names.

Arrived at Whapmagoostui or is it Kuujjuarapik?

Flying with Huskies in a Twin Otter

Flying with Huskies in a Twin Otter

We arrived at Kuujjuarapik, the Inuit community by the neighbouring Cree community of Whapmagoostui. This is where we will live for the next year and a half.

I took pictures, but the internet is  s o   s l o w . . .  But as soon as I can I will post them.

Our flight was late out of Montreal and was rather uneventful until the smiling fight attendant announced that we would need to land at the nearest airport, La Grande, as the plane was experiencing technical difficulties.

At La Grande, we waited at the terminal and watched from the large picture window, as our plane was towed away (scrap yard?). A group of prisoners arrived and shuffled through the waiting room in shackles, hands chained in front of them and boarded another plane. They had lots of security with them. We were offered a boxed lunch and then ushered onto a tiny twin otter propeller plane. We sat in a single row, as the other seats were raised to accommodate large crates of huskies.

Upon our arrival late afternoon, we found out our belongings were still in the south. It had been our understanding that our shipment had arrived over a week ago, and was in our new home. Our things may or may not be here in about five days. With no sheets, blankets or pots, we booked into the Nunavik Co-op Hotel. Our room overlooks Hudson Bay and has all amenities, except the toilet flush handle is missing and the TV doesn’t work. But there are extras such as condoms tucked between the shampoo and conditioner. Hmm ….

It is very bright and white outside. Even if there was a polar bear, we wouldn’t be able to see it.

During out wait at the airport at La Grande, before our arrival, we chatted with a young couple who had lived in the community. They recommended where to eat and which of the two bars in town to go to.  After settling in our room, we wandered towards the local eatery. On the way, we decided to go to the bar our traveling companions had mentioned to have a beer to celebrate our safe arrival.

A man immediately sat down with us introduced himself as King George and said he loved my blue eyes. He asked if I was Irish.

I said, “No, I am German.”

He seemed disappointed. “Did you know Hitler?” He asked.

I explained that I was born long after his death and I never really had a chance to meet him. He made a few comments about my ancestry and continued to praise my eyes and stare.

Then he turned to Andy and said “I hope she’s not offended about what I said.”

Then he shrugged. “Even if she is, what would you do about it?”

I’ve never seen a bar fight in my life and hope to never witness one. I quickly rubbed my stomach and feigned extreme hunger and insisted that Andy take me out to eat. Maybe we went to the wrong bar.  If this was the “safe” one, what is the other one like?

We headed for the little diner run by a French Canadian couple and wrote up our own order at the counter.

We finally saw our house. It’s really not bad, bright and spacious, and just needs a good cleaning. We’ll be comfortable once set up. Since all out stuff is down south, this gives me plenty of time to ready it.

I am looking across the grand bay again … still no distinguishable features. I can’t attach pictures for some reason. The hotel computer works fine tough, even though I cannot connect with my other devices.

Can’t wait to take more pictures!




Inuksuk – Little Men of Stone


Photographed at Pacific Rim Park

Photographed at Pacific Rim Park

Like many suburban gardeners, I’ve always been fascinated by inuksuks, the traditional Inuit statues, stones jutting out at the sides vaguely representing a human form.

Last night, we mentioned that we would be moving up to Whapmagoostui and the neighbouring Inuit community of Kuujjuarapik. After discussing how cold it is up there, someone at the table mentioned that we’d be seeing inuksuks. I’ve always been curious what they signified.

From what we gathered from last night’s conversation, there are two kinds. The traditional ones, with flailing arms are actually human representations used to herd caribou for hunters. The caribou mistake the stone towers for humans and follow the path designed for them.

Other stone piles are markers. Bending down and looking through an opening, the next structure can be seen. This is clearly a direction marker.

When I have a garden again one day, I will build an Inuksuk, but this time I will understand its significance.