Jan 26, 2010:
Life in Northern Canada is an experience that is so drastically different from my southwest home in BC, that it's hard to believe it's the same country! We arrived in a storm - not a full-fledge blizzard or anything, but winds were over 70km per hour in -39* temperatures (which feel like -50 when you factor the wind in). The flights were delayed (but not cancelled), and Shaun and I spent some time waiting for a connecting flight in Churchill, Manitoba. Churchill is known as the polar-bear capital of Canada, and I heard some amazing polar-bear stories from Joanne (a local school-teacher) who was also awaiting a flight. There was a rather eclectic group of people waiting in the small little airport, so time passed quickly for me.
Shaun and I at first were chuckling to ourselves that everyone was wearing their snowpants INSIDE the airport, along with their -60 Sorrel boots or seal-and caribou mukluks. Having just flown from Vancouver via Winnipeg, we now understood. Anytime the door opened across the room, I could feel a cold draft whip up my pants. We had all our warm winter attire in our luggage (which may or may not be arriving in Rankin Inlet with us tonight). When our plane finally came in, we ran into the blowing-snow from airport to airplane...and I almost took flight before even reaching the plane!
I think everyone else was chuckling at US now. Shaun, in his great wisdom, decided it would be a good idea to change out of his sandals for the mad dash to the plane, though he couldn't seem to locate his socks as he put on his sneakers and zipped up his hoodie. Once inside the plane, we were fumbling in the dark, as the electrical kept shorting. We were trying to find our seatbelts, and couldn't make out what the airplane attendant was saying for the noise of the wind. It felt very exciting and scarry at the same time. Shaun turned and said to me, "If this plane goes down, we're fucked". Thanks Shaun....just what I wanted to hear! Yep, for the first time in years I read the Safety/ Emergency card front and back. Nobody else on the plane seemed to be rattled by any of this...
Mind you, they probably could survive for days in their fur and hide parkas if something went wrong.
We made it to Rankin Inlet safe and sound, and were happy to be received by Sam, our first friend in the town we'll call home for the next 3 months.
I noticed little things immediately, that I am already starting to not see anymore. I noticed that all the signs (even the EXIT signs) were written in both English and Inuktitut (I didn't even know how to spell this - let alone pronouce it- when I first arrived). People spoke their language everywhere, and English was clearly thier second language.
I noticed the sun dogs the first morning as the sun rose (faint partial "rainbows" on either side of the sun at the horizon). I noticed how the sunlight cast blue- or pink- shadows and brilliance across the pocks and ripples in the snow. I noticed how my nose-hairs would freeze everytime I stepped outside, and how we had "two" front doors...a small room between them to help keep the cold outside and the warmth inside.
I forgot how snow squeaks underfoot, and then how it sounds hollow and echoes below your feet when it's really frozen.
I forget what trees and mountains feel like, but really have been appreciating the beauty of the vast span of white, with the shadows and huge sky that is all around us.
We have been here two weeks now, and have already seen the Northern Lights twice, watched dog-sled races, had coffee and muffins in the Mayors' home, with his wife. There is an Arctic Hare that lives on the hill behind our home. This waskily rabbit is HUGE and white...and does that bad-boy ever get air when he jumps! We have no idea how such small animals can survive the harsh winters here, but he seems to be thriving (I'd even go so far as to say this bunny is downright fat). God knows what he eats!
Despite all these new experiences, the thing that has had the biggest impression on us here is the people. Everyone is so friendly and helpful. Working in the Clinic, we are continually astounded at how appreciative and grateful the people are for everything we do. Not a single person has been unhelpful or unkind since we've been here. Their attitudes and body-language is open, accepting, and I feel like I have a lot to learn from them yet.
Until next time, this is Lizzy-g signing off.