Friday, April 1, 2011

A Day in the Life of Cape Dorset

It's really hard for me to describe what it's like here. I'm finding that there are so many things I'd like to write about and it's sometimes the simplest things that I forget to mention. I was talking to Sean on the phone and he remarked on how strange it was to see an ATV driving straight down the middle of the road. I'm finding that after having spent more than a week here, I'm much more surprised to see a truck or a car! So... this post is  sort of a "catch-up" post about some of the things I haven't had a chance to mention.

To begin with, as I arrived at school one morning this week, I saw a dentist and a dental hygeinist had moved into a room across from our classroom. I went over to see what was going on and found that they were a "travelling dentist show". They travel from hamlet to hamlet and set up for a few weeks to see everyone at once. Amongst other things, they were able to help me with one of my students when she decided to sample the popcorn kernels we were using to make rainsticks and got one stuck in her teeth (thank you!).

Another interesting thing I've noticed about Cape Dorset is that there is a completely different sense of time here. I have a theory that since the sun plays such strange tricks here, disappearing almost completely in the Winter and hanging around 'til the wee hours in the summer, there is a sense that time doesn't matter quite as much. The stone carvers are out all day and all night. One of the teachers at school was complaining that she hadn't been able to sleep very much because she could hear the stone grinders all night long. As she headed out to school in the morning she saw them packing it in for the day.

I know I've already mentioned how surprised I was to find fresh produce in Cape Dorset, but I didn't mention that in addition to being able to shop locally for produce, there is a store in Montreal that ships fresh food to Cape Dorset (and probably to some of the other small towns in Nunavut too). We received our food order (delivered to our door!) and I swear, the mandarin oranges are the sweetest I've ever had. The food arrives packaged up in big boxes and it felt like Christmas to open up our box and find brie, blue cheese, fresh, vine-ripened tomatoes and pears.

School is still a central part of the children's lives, but the fact that it is run on a schedule with very specific activities at particular times is sometimes hard for them to understand. Often children won't show up until the afternoon or will fall asleep in the reading corner during story time but since you see them out on the road playing hockey and soccer in the middle of the night, that's not surprising.

Yesterday in school there was an assembly and like all school assemblies, the kids were excited, the teachers were proud, some of the parents came to watch and there were some awards given.

We were celebrating "Pillimaksarniq", which is the Inuktitut word for "learning through hard work, effort and practice". They awarded medals to the hockey team and certificates to some of the students who had worked especially hard.

Emma and I chose two students who always work hard and help create a wonderful learning atmosphere. It was hard to narrow it down- these kids are all pretty great in my books!

After the assembly, our class went to the arena for a skting trip. Hockey is HUGE here and almost half of the kids brought hockey sticks. There was only one girl who didn't bring skates, so I told her she could be the photographer for the day... she had a blast taking pictures (filled up my whole memory card!) and the rest of the class had a lot of fun pushing her around on the ice in a chair so she could get some action shots.

There's so much about Cape Dorset that is just like any other small community... Everyone knows everyone else, the parents come in and help when there are school activities, the kids all have fun playing, they like goofing around and being silly and everyone is friendly.

Today is "Hamlet Days" all across Nunavut. Every community has a celebration of some sort. We don't have school today, so we're hoping to catch the "parade" and maybe the traditional feast. Once again, those little differences show up... we've been trying to ask people when the parade will happen, and they look at us like we're crazy. The answer is sometimes, "what parade?" or sometimes, "today." or sometimes, "ask so-and-so, they might know." We figure when we hear the roar of the skidoos we'll get dressed and head out to see what's going on.

I'm starting to get the hang of living in a place where there is no official time for anything.

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