Tuesday, June 9, 2015

the end is here

Well, we are coming to the end of my adventure here in Kugluktuk. It is hard for me, reflecting back on the past 2 years, as they are filled with a lot of laughter, love, and hardship.

I fell in love with this community as soon as I moved here. The spirit of the summer, everyone embracing the never-ending sunlight, despite the swarms of mosquitos. The spirit of fall as everyone is eager for the snow to fall so that they can use their skidoos to get out on the land. The spirit of the Christmas season as the community gathers for season-long celebrations. And the time when spring finally arrives, marked by the sunrise and the Nattiq Frolics.

Sadly, the love that I had for this community was not reciprocated, and that has been damaging for me. It becomes so excruciatingly difficult to care, to get out of bed, to put in any effort when time and time again, everything that I have actually accomplished is ignored, or even worse, put down and crushed. However, I did care, I did get out of bed, and I continued to work hard despite all of that. I know that even though very few people may acknowledge the difference that I have made, however big or small, or however long it might last, that I did something good and at least made a positive change for the children here.

I know that there are many people who actively despise me, who don't respect my efforts as an outsider coming in, who believe that things will improve once I go. I suspected that it would be difficult, as someone from somewhere else, from a different culture and a different lifestyle, to fit in and to find common ground with the parents and the families here. I am so thankful for the parents who welcomed me, who encouraged me and who stood behind me and held me up when I was ready to just flop down and stay there.

Don't get me wrong - it wasn't all bad. This place is so beautiful. I have learned so much about Inuit and the North, and I have experienced some unforgettable things, like walking on the ocean ice, building an igloo, having my breath taken away by the Northern Lights..

I have learned a great deal about myself, my ability to overcome obstacles that felt impossible, to persevere in spite of those who were actively discouraging me from pressing on,

I have learned how thin I can be stretched before I break, and how to come back from being broken.

I have learned the importance of self-care and self-love and how to say no.

I have learned how very important it is to disregard those who are toxic and mean only harm.

I have learned how to maintain professionalism, even when the parents are acting like children, being bullies, being rude.

I have learned to stand up, really stand up for what I believe is important, what I believe needs to change, what I believe should be the priority.

Most importantly, I have learned that it's ok for me to walk away, to continue searching for something to make me happy, and that I am not obligated to be miserable just because there are some people who are relying on me and depending on me for their own convenience.

What will happen next? No idea.

The feeling is unsettling and unnerving. I'm the kind of person who prefers to have control, to know what's going to happen next, to have a plan. Though I am certainly someone who knows that life rarely goes according to plan, it still provides me with peace of mind knowing that there is a plan. So, I am taking a giant leap way out of my comfort zone and trusting that things will fall into place and work themselves out. As long as I continue working towards my goals and live responsibly, everything should end up ok, if not great.

I will continue with professional development through online programs. I have been thinking about also doing Children & Youth Human Rights and Addictions Studies certificates while completing the Children's Mental Health certificate. I may or may not pursue grad school for next fall. I'm not sure now that I've found the right program for me, and I need to do a bit more self-discovery and more exploration of what my options are. The plan for now is to move back to Toronto, to find work I enjoy, and to spend time with the people I love, for I have desperately been missing the life I left behind. Though I am not returning the same person I was who I left, I am excited to get back to some normalcy, to city life, to access to malls and restaurants and fresh produce.

A HUGE thank you to the people who have been with me every step of this journey and telling me to keep my chin up during the hardest of times: Mom & Dad, Laura, Jesse & Sol, Geraldine, Zachary, Chris, Steve & Kerry, Peter & Amanda, Wynter, and Lena.

Off I go - into the next part of my life, doing whatever it is I will be doing and going wherever the wind takes me!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Long over due

As no surprise to anyone, I've totally be failing at maintaining my blog. I wish I could say it's because I've just been way too busy to even think about it, but really I just don't feel like I've had much worth sharing.

However, looking back through the photos I've taken and haven't bothered to upload to my computer... there have been some pretty magical moments with the beautiful landscape here.

Starting with the northern lights dancing across the sky over town last night:

 This is what they looked like directly above me: 

Then last week there was the moon: 

And whoever said there was a pot of the gold at the end of the rainbow must have meant a river full of char.... 

Friday, July 18, 2014

Impulsive changes

I have always been the kind of person to make impulsive decisions that end up changing my life dramatically. Just over a year ago, I made the radical decision to move to Nunavut to be a daycare manager in a small hamlet.  Over the last year, I met an amazing man, made tons of awesome friends and have learned an enormous amount about who I am personally and professionally. I have developed many new skills, improved my ability to adapt to new environments, and learned that I can't do everything, I don't know anything, and with an open mind, life can take you anywhere. 

Despite all of the things I have learned, and of all the ways I have changed, I am still one impulsive girl. 

Over the last few weeks some major changes have taken place in my life. 

I decided to sign a new contract with the daycare, this time with changes to my position.  My new title is the Administrator. After spending a year being responsible for all administrative, operational, human resources and programming duties, I learned that it is too much for one person to handle and to maintain any sort of life outside of work.  I was taking work home with me every night, constantly feeling stressed and that there were never enough hours in the day. Now, I'm responsible for the administrative side of management, including bookkeeping, payroll, invoicing, developing policies and procedures, researching and completing funding applications, and ensuring that we are in good standing financially as well as complying with all legislation and regulations. It has only been 2 weeks since I started in this position, and I every day it's is becoming more and more evident to me that I have a passion for policy development at the organizational level, but also territorial and federal levels. The contract is for another year, ending July 7, 2015. 

Another big change that was also rather impulsive, was to rent a beautiful 3 bedroom house across the street from where I'm currently living.  My nephew is just abou big enough to be needing his own room, and I have been craving to have a space of my own. The lease lines up perfectly with the end of my contract, and the house is close enough that I can still see my family whenever I feel like it. Though I will be seeing them every day, as my nephew will be attending the daycare full-time starting in August! 

Joining me in my new house will be this adorable pup (and major impulsive decision #2):

He's a mini schnoodle (schnauzer poodle x). Right now he's living in Hamilton and will be ready to come home to me August 2nd....

...which leads to impulsive decision #3:

Instead of simply having him shipped up in live cargo, this girl decided in the spur of the moment to book a two week holiday to go pick up little McGuff. As a bonus, I'll get to see most of my immediate and expanded family, a great number of friends, and run some errands that are impossible to run in the Arctic! 

I take off the 27th and can't wait for my summer getaway from all the mosquitos and limited bandwidth! 

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Jack's stories

I have no photos or crazy adventures to talk about at the moment, but I do have some stories from Jack.

I met him Monday evening. He is an Elder, originally from Holman, living in Cambridge Bay for the past twentysomething years, and was in town to talk to the students about the Lands Claim Agreement.

We didn't get to talking about that, but he was telling enamouring stories with endless humour about what it was like to grow up in the North. This man was so interesting to listen to. I will try to recount them as accurately as possible.

Eric asked him, "Where's home for you?".
His response: "It's in my house. It's got a bunch of walls and a roof."

He told us about how he had TB when he was a young teenager, and had to be sent to Fort Smith for treatment that lasted over 2 years. He could have left sooner, but living in a part of the world that is so cold and so windy, it was likely that his TB would come back and that he would end up back in Fort Smith for more treatment. Plus, he didn't want to leave because he liked the school he was going to there. He liked it so much that even when they told him he was well enough to go home, he wanted to stay. At the time, Fort Smith was 100% Catholic, but Jack is Anglican. He did his best to practice Catholicism, learned their prayers, the routine of church services, etc. He became so good at it that he was asked to become an alter boy. Jack respectfully declined the honour, saying that as an Anglican, it wouldn't be proper for him. He was told that he could finish the school year (this was early spring), but then he would have to leave Fort Smith. So he finished his year and they shipped him off.

He told us his memories of, in the day of the igloos and before snow machines and ATVs, the RCMP would travel from town to town by dog sled delivering medicine to the various camps. He never knew until later in his life that the RCMP were cops, he thought they were just nice people, maybe doctors.

He told us that before drugs and alcohol were introduced to the North, the Inuit people were the happiest people you could find. They lived together on the land and no one had locks on their doors. He could go hunting, come back late and leave his sled with all his camping gear, shot guns, etc. out all night and come out again in the morning and not a thing would be missing. He ranted about the problems caused by the involvement of the Government with the regulation and distribution of alcohol in the North.

He knows a man who was such an excellent athlete that he was working towards qualifying for the winter olympics. He had skidoos and hondas, a house, a wife, children. He had furniture and many of the nicest things you could have. He met Drugs and sold what he could and lost the rest. Drugs took his family and his machines and left him in an empty house. Jack, whose family never knew what he needed, gave him too many coffee makers and too many watches. What Jack really needed was a new truck, so he gave his friend, who now had nothing, a coffee maker and a watch. The following week Jack was visiting again, and neither were to be seen. Drugs took them. Then Drugs started to take Jack's son. Jack took his son to the empty house to give his friend an electric frying pan. His son looked around the empty house, telling Jack that he remembered that this house had had everything at one point. On their way home, his son asked, "that frying pan isn't going to be there tomorrow, is it?", and Jack knew that their visit to the empty house gave his son the message he had been hoping to give him. His friend in the empty house has been in and out of rehab, but he is always sent back, and he is not getting better. Jack can see from his window three dealers, though his hope in getting drugs out of his community has withered. Every time one dealer is taken down or taken away, another one comes. There will always be another one coming to fill the gap and feed the addiction.

I hope I meet Jack again one day, to talk to him more about what life was like, as there are so few Elders still around who lived in igloos who can speak English.  How interesting it was to hear a first person account of the history of the North and the changes that have caused so many struggles for the Inuit.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

crystallized underside

I've been terrible at keeping everyone up-to-date on my life in the North and my experience as a Daycare Manager. I mostly have J.K. Rowling to blame for that over the past few months, as Harry Potter was stealing all my time.

Anyway, a while ago I went for my first walk on the frozen ocean with my family, and here are some pictures I snapped while we were out there. It was the first day that it really started to feel like spring (-15, mild wind).

Clear enough to see the inside wall of the cracks. Super thick ice! 

I just couldn't get over how breathtakingly beautiful the snow looked glistening in the sun.

We came across some ice that had formed over an air pocket. After smashing it to pieces, we flipped the ice over to discover a crystallized underside.

The geometry and natural beauty of the earth is spectacular (you've got to click this to see the full version!)

Monday, February 24, 2014

on a more personal note...

I have been reading.

For those of you who know me well, I have never really been one to read for fun, so this has been a new concept for me to explore. Since I've been here (Friday will mark 8 months), I've read and finished 7 books, and I have 3 I'm reading now (though only one actively because it's so friggen good -I know I'm super behind on this, but I'm half-way through Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire). After I finish the series, I will be reading books sent to me by a lovely friend and mentor (the cuckoo's calling by Robert Galbraith - a.k.a. J.K. Rowling and Dear Life  by Alice Munro).

I have also been busy beading and sewing! Over Christmas I finished the beaded uppers/toppers for my moccasins, which I posted a picture of way back when.
Here is the progress:

I picked a patter for the moccasins that would require minimal stitching - just around the heel and the "crumpling" (as the sewing instructor called it) at the toes. I finished the actual body of the slippers in 2 hours.

Then I had to sew the upper on. To get the finished look around the edges, a thin strip of leather (this is moose hide) is placed between the leather and stroud (what the beads are sewn on to) before sewing. I hand-stitched this, but with a good machine you can do this.

I made the liners out of duffle (wool) using a pattern I found online, which seemed to work well and fit nicely!

And I added a beaver-fur ruff around them! I still plan to do a peyote-style beaded design to go around the back and ankle parts, but I will wait until I have time to do that!

I was also busy over the New Year making Laura's birthday present, which is uppers for her! She was expecting them without knowing the design, but I also surprised her by saying I would make the rest of the moccasin for her too (since she is so busy and also has several of her own sewing projects on the go right now). This is what she got: 

And today I scored a sweet deal at the shop across the street and got these beautiful suedes for only $60! I'll be busy sewing now! I think next up are the slippers for Grandpa's birthday and maybe some more to sell at the next bazaar! 

If anyone wants a pair, put your orders in now! 

7-10 Nights

It's been pointed out to me that I've been slacking in keeping everyone updated on what's going on with me these days.
So ok, here goes the update:

A few weeks ago I took a Supervisor's Safety Course run by the WSCC at which I learned a lot about how many safety regulations there are and how many I haven't been following as a supervisor/employer. Whoops! Our new policy and procedures manual will certainly be reflecting what I learned there. It was a 3 day course and really quite valuable. Scary, really, to think about how liable I am for all of the staff that I am supervising every day.

Work has been insanely busy and stressful and I am completely overwhelmed with all of the responsibilities associated with managing a barely functional daycare in the North. I have had a tremendous amount of difficulty with staff not showing up to work and constantly being understaffed and overworked. It has been a daily struggle to find casuals who are willing to come in or who aren't already working casually for any of the other programs in town. The daycare consistently has only half the staff showing up, making it next to impossible for me to get any administrative work done.
How much administration does a daycare possibly need? SO MUCH! Filling the role of the person who does the hiring/firing, staff discipline, etc.; the accountant (day-to-day accounting like purchase orders, invoices, etc., as well as payroll, paying bills, catching up on data entry), it's also year-end time...meaning T4s, funding applications, contribution agreement renegotiations and mega burn-out. I am totally the type of person to set expectations for myself that are way too high and that no one else has for me, but these are the things that I have to get done on a daily basis or everything will start to fall apart. For example, this morning on the way to work I realized I made a small mistake on all (42) of the T4s that I processed (my first time so cut me some slack) (and keep in mind that I have 5 staff at the daycare, so you can get an idea of the turnover in just 1 year), I also had to give half of my staff written warnings for AWOLs, send attendance reports to Cambridge Bay for funding, make invoices for parents and prepare a funding application that's due this Friday.

I am just hanging on to the ounce of hope that I have left that things will improve over the next couple of months once funding starts to pour in and we're able to maybe get some training for the staff. Keep your fingers crossed for me! I've been feeling so disheartened because things were going so well and I had staff showing up to work every day and it feels like now it is all falling apart again and I'm headed back to where we were when I first got here....just with a better paint job.

Anyway, I have been using my Aerogold Amex like mad so that I can have enough points to book my flights for May because I NEED a vacation. I'm thinking a Caribbean cruise of some sort for 7-10 nights.