Saturday, May 14, 2011

Reflections and Ripples...

I thoroughly enjoyed writing about my experiences in Cape Dorset. I'm missing writing every day... this blog became an obsession with me- I wanted to keep a record for myself, stay in contact with my family and offer a commentary for anyone who might be interested. Although when I began writing I had no idea how many people would be interested!

As a result of my CBC interview (which has  been aired a couple of times now) and folks sharing my blog while I was away and afterwards, I seem to have even more people coming to check out my blog now. So I'd like to offer a bit of an apology...

This is a sprawling play-by-play of my time in the North. I wrote every day about what I was doing, thinking and feeling. I wish I'd thought to make it more structured, but at the time I was just madly writing. So, welcome! I'm pleased that this blog has a life of its own. I hope that it will inspire people to learn more about this fascinating part of our country. For me, it was just the beginning of a new relationship with teaching, and possibly a new relationship with writing...

Thursday, April 28, 2011

My bad! CBC Interview on Monday...

I'm really sorry for those folks who got up early on Tuesday to hear me on Information Morning! They pre-taped it on Tuesday and they now tell me it will be aired on Monday at around 6:40. But they do keep podcasts of their shows, so that might be the safest way to go!

And I gotta say... Thanks again to all of you for watching and supporting my blog.

I kind of miss writing... I may start up again at some point- my harp is always travelling!

Friday, April 22, 2011

"Postscripts from the Edge"

P.S. (I just couldn't leave the blog alone, could I?)

I have been asked to do a CBC radio interview about my experiences up North, so I thought I'd let you know about it.
I'll be on CBC's Information Morning program (out of Halifax) Tuesday morning (April 26th) around 7:15.

I think it will be livestreamed on sirius satelite radio- If you click on their website:
and then click on "listen" you should be able to join us.

It will only be a short interview, but hopefully I'll be able to sum up some of the amazing experiences I had... I hope you can join us!

Saturday, April 16, 2011


Yesterday as I watched Cape Dorset dissappear through the window of the plane, I tried to formulate some final thoughts about my experiences here. The Inuksuk that waved to me seemed to be saying, "come back soon!", but I don't know when or how or if that can happen.

There is no way to sum up my trip and put it in a nice neat little package.

I arrived in Iqaluit, had a lunch meeting with Nick where he "debriefed" me, but I found myself really searching to answer all the questions he had. After our meeting, I got into the hotel room, called Sean to let him know I had made it this far, and then decided I should go for a walk around town. I walked for about three hours, stopping in little stores and looking at the art work- one store in particular had huge stone carvings and a polar bear skin for sale- it was like being in an art gallery.

To make a long story short, I spent a lovely day walking around Iqaluit, had a nice meal and a glass of wine, then a long bath and headed to bed. The whole day I kept thinking, "I really must write one last blog entry", but I just wasn't sure what to write.

Now I am sitting in my hotel room with all my bags packed and I still don't know what to write.

I can say that I will miss all my friends in Cape Dorset- this community really gets under your skin. I will especially miss working with Emma, who is a fabulous, inspired teacher. She drove me to the airport today and then went back to get Frances and picked up a few of the kids who were slowly making their way to the airport to hug me goodbye.

The airport was really busy since there had not been a plane the day before, and then on top of that there were quite a few people there to say goodbye to me. As the plane was finally called (we were delayed leaving because we were waiting for a couple fo the passengers... only in Cape Dorset!) I lined up and all the kids came to give me hugs and high fives. It was hard to say goodbye to them.

I have to also say what a great pleasure it was to stay with David and Frances. They were the perfect hosts and made me feel completely at home... I've told them and everyone else who was so welcoming that they have to come for a visit if they are ever in Nova Scotia.

I am looking forward to being home, though- it has been an incredibly busy time and it will be nice to just relax a little and get back into the swing of things.

I feel like it has all been one big, long, crazy dream and I am really glad that I started this blog so I can go back and remember all the incredible things I've done over the last month.

I am saying goodbye to the North today. The weather is perfect- it is sunny and -24 with a wind chill of -37. I am also saying goodbye to my blog... thanks to all the folks who were listening and commenting- it helped me remember to write every day and now I have a wonderful record of my stay in Cape Dorset as well as all the memories and thoughts and faces that will stay with me forever.

Here I go for the last leg of my journey home...

Thursday, April 14, 2011

"We will miss you..."

It is with mixed feelings that I begin to write my last post from Cape Dorset. Tomorrow morning I am scheduled to get on a plane and fly to Iqaluit. On one hand I am more than ready to go back- it has been amazing and incredible but also exhausting and hard.

On the other hand I am really going to miss a lot about this strange and wonderful place.

Today was an unbelievable roller coaster ride with classes in the morning, a presentation of our play, a great farewell party, a visit to the printmaking shop (finally!), a lovely supper with some good friends and one last snowmobile ride up over the mountain.

The day began just like any other day at Sam Pudlat, with breakfast.

The kids made toast and mixed up frozen juice, poured themselves cereal and sat around eating and talking. A lot of the talk centred around the fact that I was leaving, but we mostly kept to our routines. After cleaning up and brushing our teeth (complete with Raffi's song of course) we had our weekly spelling test, and then headed over the the elder's room to videotape our play.

I was amazed at how well the kids presented this wonderful script. They really seemed to enjoy it and understood that it was a way of interpreting the meaning of a text and presenting it in a different way. I only wish we could work on it for longer.

After the play we had a few short lessons and then the kids had a party to say goodbye. I had made them gingerbread cookies since we have been reading books based on the Gingerbread Boy story and they had a great time decorating them. Once again I was blown away by their ability to share and work as a team. We only had room for four kids to work at a time and everyone was really good about taking turns and sharing the icing and sprinkles (what's a cookie without a sprinkle?)

The kids and the staff had prepared a wonderful farewell package and card. I won't deny that my eyes were a little misty... This is an incredible team  and I will really miss them all.

After school, Frances and I headed down to the art cooperative to see how they make the famous prints. It is labour instensive, to say the least.

It was incredibly interesting to see the process in action.

After the print shop visit, Frances and I headed to the store to get a few things for tonight. She had invited Cecil and Betty over and we wrere going to celebrate finally getting rid of me (yay!).

We had a lovely supper and a great visit, then someone mentioned the fact that I hadn't gotten my snowmobile ride in yet. I had already packed up my survival suit, as I mentioned in my post from last night, but I'll tell you, it was well worth unpacking everything just to get one last chance to ride on a snowmobile up over the mountain and around by the ocean. I'd love to say that I learned how to drive a snowmobile while I was here, but this is a posed picture. David and Frances' friend, Cecil drove it. He let me take the classic tourist shot of me pretending to drive it, though (thanks, Cecil!).
In this case the photos were not worth even close to a thousand words, since it was starting to get dark and there wasn't enough light to take any good ones, and even if there had been enough light, the pictures just couldn't do it justice. My head is full of the gorgeous scenery still. We headed up over the mountain and around by the sea. I hadn't seen the open ocean yet and it is impressive to say the least. The ice flow edge extends out quite far and Cecil says the ice there is around three or four feet thick. I've seen the skidoos heading out dragging their boats across the ice to go walrus fishing, but now I finally got to see where they would launch them from.

I think I packed as much into the last day as was humanly possible and now I'm exhausted.

On our way back from the print making shop and the store, the weather kicked it up a notch and we saw the plane that was due in circle a few times and then give up and head back to Iqaluit. No one flew in or out of Cape Dorset today- the winds and the blowing snow were too much (Yet I was able to go for an amazing snowmobile ride after supper with clear skies).

This is a strange and beautiful place. I will try and write a litlle bit more tomorrow from Iqaluit, but I'm not sure I'll be able to do this experience justice, even if i write about it for the next twenty years!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011


Has it really been a month?

I'm sitting in my room wondering how to pack and realizing that I have already packed everything I possibly could into this experience.

I have one more day of teaching... we're going to videotape our little production of A Promise is a Promise and then we're going to have a little celebration of our time together. We've been reading fairy tales and specifically we've read three different versions of the Gingerbread Man, so I've made some gingerbread cookies for the class. I think they'll like them. I also have a couple of treats for them from Sean (he got some awesome frisbees from the Navy family resource centre and some great pencils) and I brought some maple sugar candy (which I'll be sure to give them at the end of the day!).

Every day the kids have a class in Inuktitut and today I showed the teacher a copy of "A Promise is a Promise" that was written in Inuktitut, so she took the time to read it to them. It was reallly interesting to know the story and anticipate all the parts but not have a clue what was being said. I will miss hearing the language and hearing the kids with their strong accents.

As usual, school today included many things that could only happen in the North. Emma brought some caribou antlers into the class- she had found them while she was out on the land. We laughed about how she was going to take them back on the plane... maybe as carry on luggage?

Another couple of teachers were heading after school out for their Easter holiday and one was proudly going to wear the homemade parka and Kamotiks (beaverskin boots) that she had made on the plane. She joked that her boyfriend was going to wonder who this "mountain girl" was when she arrived. We also joked about how many of our stories from our time here start with the phrase, " I thought I was going to die when..." It is definitely completely different from anything else I've ever experienced.

There's no question that this place gets under your skin and changes how you look at the world.

I was too busy working with the kids and teaching to take a lot of pictures today (I'm hoping to get at least one good group photo tomorrow and maybe a few pictures of the play), but the kids got a chance to use my camera if they were really careful. I got a lot of Calvin and Hobbes style photos of tops of heads and feet etc, but there were a couple of gems and even when they are a little blurry, there are some great pictures to remember the faces of my little class from the North.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Frozen North

This is a picture of the walk home from school tonight... yes- it's that cold. There was a 54 degree difference between the temperature here today and the temperature back home (Halifax was reporting +14 and Cape Dorset was at -40 with the wind chill). Now I know this may be hard to believe, but I really do still think it is very beautiful. As I walked back from the school my eyelids froze together and the wind took my breath away, but I just had to take a picture of the sunset. Not to mention the fact that this was taken at nine thirty at night... the days are getting longer!

Tonight we missed sewing because there was a penny sale at the school to raise money for a member of the community who is trying to get home from Pangnirtung for a funeral on Saturday. The whole community was out and hopefully they raised enough- The cost of travelling anywhere is astronomical when you live in the North. Once again, I was reminded that the isolation up here could be really hard to take.
It was awesome to see so many people out supporting the cause. I guess I thought the cold would keep everyone home, but I keep forgetting that they're much more used to it than I am. There were tons of kids and babies... Etugaluk brought her granddaughter in her amauti and I got a picture of Mary's granddaughter trying to win a cake in the cakewalk. With all the kids running around and neighbours visiting it seemed like the place to be on such a cold and windy night. And it was a great ending to a bit of a rough day...
I don't know why, but today was an interesting day at school. For some reason everybody was wired for sound and we had a hard time getting the kids to settle in and work on anything. I am reminded on a regular basis of the cultural gap that exists here... I'll start to tell a story in class and realize that I have to explain everything! These kids have a very different background from mine and when I told them a story about a raccoon trying to get into the attic of my house, I had to spend the first five minutes explaining what a raccoon is. Fair enough- I need to have lots of stuff about the snow and ice explained to me!

We worked for a little while at the end of the day on "A Promise is a Promise", but I am expecting an awful lot from them to make the leap to presenting a play in front of an audience. I am incredibly proud of the props we have made and the work the class has done already on this theme. I'd like for them to get a chance to show off what they've done to the rest of the school, but they are very shy about presenting and I really don't want to force the issue- they have already learned so much about imaginative play and interpreting texts visually. Emma and I talked about it and we think it would be better to videotape it. Emma may show it to the class and get them to work on it some more after I leave if they really want to do it for a live audience. As it is now it would be a very quiet play!

I only have two more teaching days before I head home. I think my professors would be proud because I'm probably going to be "reflecting" on this experience for the rest of my career.