February 21, 2010
It's the little things that are different here. Take pedestrian safety, for instance. The first thing I was told when I arrived in Baker Lake is to always walk facing the direction of skiidoo traffic, because you can't hear them from behind.
Or "if you're ever being charged by a polarbear, just stand your ground until the last moment, step aside and hit the bear on the head with a rock" (apparently they can't turn very quickly). I've actually met an Elder here who has survived TWO polarbear attacks, based on this advice he learned from his grandmother! He's lost his wife to a polarbear while out on the land, and has lived to tell the story twice over. Those bears can be vicious, despite how cute and cuddly they may look!
Shaun and I had a sunny Sunday off together a few weeks ago, and decided to go explore some of the island out in the Hudson's Bay that we could see from the upstairs "bubble window" in our appartment in Rankin. It was one of those uncharacteristically mild days, with no wind and clear bright skies. The sun sparkled on the ice and snow as we walked, and the hollow squeaking and creaking below our feet became part of the rhythm with each stride.
The wind is quite a sculptor. She chissles and molds the snow into ice formations that continuously change and move, like frozen waves, ripples, and movement frozen in time. We walk on top of it all, our boots barely making any impression on the wind-hardened snow. We walk easily, and are excited to be exploring beyond our little town. It feels like we are walking through a giant art exhibition though, and stop every few minutes to take a photo of another ice sculpture, a cornice or pattern in the ice. The ice crystals are huge and glisten in the sun. The shadows are shades of blue, and the sunlight reflects pink in all directs we look.
We were passed a few times by some dogsledders out for a run. The first was an Inuk man and his son, who looked to be about 6 years old. The team of 5 dogs were sooo excited and eager to be out pulling, and the sled and clothing they wore were in traditional Inuk form. They waved and smiled as they passed. As we approached the first island, a skiidoo passed us, pulling a sled full of soapstone (they harvest the stone from the islands nearby and bring it back to the carvers in Rankin to make their wares). The two on the skiidoo stopped to ask if we were lost, or if our skiidooo was broken down. They offered a ride, and looked completely confused when we declined and said we were just out for a walk...
Crazy white people!!!!
(Don't worry Dad, there's no polarbears for 80km out of town, and we had our rock ready just in case!!!)
It's these days that provide the reprieve, adventure, and break that makes the work here managable.
We work a lot, and the inconsistency of being "on-call" after-hours makes it hard to plan even the simple things like meals and sleep. But we are happy, and the challenge of work is often not in the long hours, but the learning curve! We're giving our grey-matter a good work-out, that's for sure.
Speaking of which, it's 9pm and my bed is calling.
I have been in Baker Lake for nearly 2 weeks. Did you know this is the geographical center of Canada? No kidding! It feels like we're just down the road from the North Pole, and yet it's technically the middle of our country...goes to show just how much of Canada is the far North!
Baker Lake is beautiful - I've attached some photos - and I have been going for walks with my new Newfie friend, "Mrs Cooper" as we call her, after work most days. Mrs. Cooper is...well into retirement age, and yet has SO much energy! I love this woman. She is happy that she finally has someone to go walking with her after work (the locals and colleauges don't like walking in -40* for some reason, even though it's really not bad when you're dressed for it.
Mrs. Cooper is an amazing woman; she is SO knowledgable and experienced as Oupost Nurse (I constantly learn from her), and she also has been teaching me how to bake - we've made pizzas from scratch, cinnamon buns, pies, you name it! The people at the Health Center are benefitting from all of this, and I'm happy to learn...it's also nice to have company to pass the time when not on-call.
I will be joining Shaun in Chesterfield Inlet on Thursday; I've been in Baker Lake coming up two weeks now. Though I'll miss my Mrs Cooper, I'm excited to see Shaun again.
I have to admit, though, I'm a little apprehensive of the small 2-nurse station (in a population of 267 people!) that awaits me in Chesterfield.
And Shaun will be the Nurse In Charge. It'll be interesting working together as a married couple. WEIRD!!!!
The adventures we lead...