Dose of Awesome # 234

I’m back in Kuujjuaq after an amazing vacation in Italy and Austria. Starting with two days in Venice, my vacation took me from the tourist-ridden canals of Italy, through the Dolomites and up into the Austrian Alps before returning back to Venice and flying to Montreal for a day of pampering, shopping and all you can eat sushi with a friend.

My vacation was relaxing, challenging, refreshing, productive and a lot of fun – everything I needed!

5Venice canal from the Rialto bridge.

1. Awesome are mountains, and the opportunity to hike approximately 160 kilometres on steep mountain terrain (think: 1000 metre ascents and just as crazy descents) over the course of the last 3 weeks.

After a few days in Venice (which I explored, but did not take very many photos of because I’d been there and done that already, two years ago), I went to the mountains.

First, I hiked alone on the trails of Domegge, to a rifugio where I drank a tiny, yet delicious caffe americano while watching cattle frollic in the fields surrounded by a panorama of the tallest, most rugged mountains I’d seen to date. I continued my hike to another rifugio where I had an amazing mountain lunch of meats and cheeses, and complimentary shots of grappa with the hosts.

11View from the dining room at Albergo Adelia – the albergo where I stayed during my solo time in Domegge.
9Trail marker showing the way to the rifugio, on my solo hike.10Rifugio Padova – where I drank coffee and watched cattle run on my mid-morning coffee break.

Then I hiked 120 kilometres – from Cortina to Bolzano – with a group of people I did not know. Like the Tour du Mont Blanc and the Camino Inca, I booked the trek through G Adventures, so as to enjoy the expertise of a mountain leader, and the ease of having all accommodations and most food taken care of for me.

For the duration of the trek, life was like this: wake up, pack up, eat delicious gourmet mountain rifugio breakfast, set out on a 7 to 10 hour day of hard, steep hiking, arrive at next rifugio, shower, relax over beer/wine/coffee with new friends, read, relax some more, eat fabulous 3- to 4-course mountain rifugio meals, sleep, repeat. It was wonderful.

16Lake at our first rifugio.19Rifugio Croda da Lago and its fantastic view – where we slept on our first night.24Foggy second day of hiking.15My favourite parts were the ascents (this was at a little flat bit of a big ascent).
29Amazing view at our second rifugio – Rifugio Scoiattoli.

33Beautiful view of the valley.40Another beautiful view of another beautiful valley.
43The group, trekkin’ away.
13Lunch break!
35The views just kept getting better and better.
44The group, just before the rain came.52The group at the summit – the highest point of our trek.

After the trek, I continued my trip with more solo hiking – once up the Alpe di Siusi, from Seis to Compach, and another time up one of the mountains in the Austrian Alps near Innsbruck.

2. Awesome was sightseeing in a new city.

I spent three full days at the end of my vacation in Innsbruck, Austria. For the first two days, it rained, and though I did go on a hike during one of the rainy days, I took this also as an opportunity to spend lots of times in museums – including the Alpine museum (a museum dedicated entirely to alpine mountain climbing and hiking).

57Part of the alpine museum in Innsbruck, Austria.
58Cool houses across the river in Innsbruck.
59Innsbruck’s old city.
62View of the city of Innsbruck from the top station of the Nordkettenbahnen cable car.

3. Awesome is a productive day of getting ready to return to the north, in Montreal. My list of things to do included getting a haircut (a priority, since my last one was last December and my hair was growing large and out of control), get a pedicure (after 3 weeks of trekking in the mountains, this was also a priority), buy some new clothes, and see a friend or two. I only had one day, and was very lucky, as it turned out to be a holiday and things very well could have been closed, but they weren’t.

In one day, I managed to cross everything off my list, and then some.

Dose of Awesome # 233

1. Awesome is being on summer vacation. I’m blessed with eight solid weeks of relaxation, creativity and adventure, which I will divvy my time between Kuujjuaq, Italy and Austria. My plans for this summer include lots of drawing, studying French (I recently purchased all five levels of Rosetta Stone français, and have just finished two and a half of them), hiking on the tundra, hiking mountains, reading copious novels, and then topping things off with Aqpik Jam (Kuujjuaq’s big annual music festival) and new teacher orientation in August.

2. Awesome was finishing a new drawing – and what’s awesome about this particular drawing is that I drew it from a photograph that I took myself. Thus, I’m free to make prints (which I’m actually in the process of trying to do) for selling.

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I’m currently working on another – a portrait of a woman and baby that I took in Ollantaytambo, Peru, in 2011.

3. Awesome was an evening spent recently with new friends, not only eating delicious food, but also having the opportunity to relive some fond and entertaining memories of my travels around Canada (particularly the Yukon and Northwest Territories), and to hear, from the others, some tales of their own.

And since I meant to publish this a few weeks ago (procrastinator, I am), awesome was another similar evening, spent with more new friends.

4. Awesome was moving into my new house. Until recently, I’d been living on a slightly rundown, poorly soundproofed bottom apartment in a complex of four. Used to living in the big duplex in Tasiujaq (with my very quiet neighbour), I struggled to adjust to hearing every footstep and pin drop (amplified tenfold) above my head.

Now, I live in a lovely two bedroom house – not even a duplex, but a house – kept sparklingly clean and well maintained by the previous tenant. Seizing the opportunity to move as soon as possible, I spent the better half of two days packing, and only one unpacking. Since, I’ve found great joy in just spending time here, doing all the things that I do – something I’d not really been able to do at the other place.

Dose of Awesome # 232

1. Awesome was surviving what was literally one of the most demanding endeavours I’ve ever involved myself in. And not only that, I did so with some great memories, a desire to do it again next year, and some ideas as to how I can help it run more smoothly if I do. Le Grand Dèfi Pierre Lavoie took myself, another teacher (from Kangiqsualuujjuaq), and 30 secondary students from 5 villages on the Ungava Coast of Nunavik to Quebec City this past weekend. From there, we ran the 270 kilometres to Montréal relay-style.

After an opening ceremony, we began our relay at approximately 8 AM Saturday. We ran constantly as a team until about 7 PM – when we took a 3-hour break in Trois-Rivières. Then we started up again and ran straight through the night, until approximately 5 PM the next day.

Kuujjuaq 116Team Nunavik in Quebec City

Kuujjuaq 119Team Nunavik on the news.

Kuujjuaq 113Team Kuujjuaq

Kuujjuaq 115The relay

2. Awesome was reaching a new record – running 20 kilometres in 2 days – thanks to Le Grand Dèfi.

3. Awesome was one last snowshoeing adventure of the season, before everything melted away literally within a couple of days. I’ve definitely found a new passion.
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4. Awesome was the end to that “too soggy to hike but no snow to snowshoe” phase of spring, and a 4-hour hike on the land yesterday afternoon.

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Dose of Awesome #231

1. Awesome was the cumulative 10 hours of snowshoeing that I had been able to enjoy this past week. Prior to strapping on a pair of snowshoes last Saturday afternoon (a pair that were given to me as a gift several years ago), I’d never tried it before, and Saturday’s 3-hour excursion had me hooked. I went out again the next day the weather allowed for another 4 hours. And today, another 3.

Why I hadn’t dusted them off and taken them out sooner, I have no idea. They’re perfect for right now, when the weather’s mild enough to actually enjoy outdoor activity, but the snow’s just soft enough to make hiking on the land miserable. I hope to make it out a few more times before the land turns to soup.

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2. Awesome was the opportunity to start running outside again, while at the same time getting involved in the community. I have been helping to train a group of secondary students for Le Grand Défi Pierre Lavoie – specifically for the relay run that will take place during the May 24 weekend. Three times per week, for 6 weeks, we train, and on May 23rd, we will fly to Montréal, take the bus to Québec City, and run the 275-ish kilometres back to Montréal relay style.

3. Awesome was a successful re-start on the Weight Watcher’s program. Slowly, but surely, I’m getting back to my goal (which is now only about 12 pounds away), and hope to be there by summer solstice (plenty of time!). In the meantime, I’m enjoying the creativity and the structure, and, as a result, tonnes of delicious meals.

Dose of Awesome # 230

Spring is coming!

Last time I’d written, it was the dead of winter. I was halfway through the toughest part of the year – the two month stretch which, in the past, has been riddled with seasonal depression and cabin fever. Only this year, I braced myself for something that, to my surprise, never really came. Sure, I was tired. I craved sunlight. I craved a bit of warmth. And, I craved for just a hint of moisture in the air. But, compared to my last three winters as an Arctic dweller, this one was a breeze.

The weather’s been getting better, but today’s weather was amazing. The temperature rose to something like -5 degrees Celsius. I spent it walking on the Kotsoak River with friends.

1. Awesome was this near-two hour walk:

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2. Awesome was a quiet and relaxing March Break in Kuujjuaq. I’d decided not to travel this March break for a few reasons (to save money, to save my flight for Easter weekend, when weather should be less sketchy, and to just enjoy a week of hanging out in Kuujjuaq). I’m so glad I did. The week was filled with reading, napping, knitting, potlucks, and even a bonfire. Yes, it would have been nice to travel, but this is exactly what I needed.

3. Awesome was the opportunity to go to the premiere of a movie that was filmed in Kuujjuaq a couple of years ago – Maïna. Maïna is an Innu woman who follows the Inuit north after a battle between the two tribes, so that she can rescue her captured brother. It’s a story of love, loss, loyalty and acceptance, and I definitely recommend that you see it if you can!

4. Awesome was watching Team Canada kick ass at the Olympic gold hockey game over breakfast with friends – even if it required waking up before 6:30 AM.

5. Awesome was an amazing Valentine’s day and six month anniversary celebration with my boyfriend – complete with flowers and champagne!

And (though I have more to write, I’ll have to save it for next time as I have an episode of The Walking Dead and someone waiting for me),

6. Awesome was mine, and my students’ hard work paying off as they came in first place for their level at the Jaanimmarik School Science Fair!



Dose of Awesome # 229

A month and a half. A new record.

I’ve been missing my blog. I’ve been missing the pleasure of writing over a cup of coffee while soaking under the rays of my happy lamp. Note to self: try harder to take the time to do this.

1. Awesome was turning my longing for my own fun little hobby into a great little project for my students.

The other day, I spotted a children’s story about the 100th day of school on a library shelf. I took it to read to my students sometime during the week, feeling both surprised and bad that I’d entirely forgotten to keep track of the days of school with them (a 100th day of school celebration is something I’d done every year since I started teaching).

After reading the story to them, we decided to count the days of school that we’ve had so far, and continue counting from there. And like the characters in the story, we decided to start a collection of 100 things – 100 AWESOME things.

We started this project during yesterday’s Personal Social Development (PSD) class – a class I am using currently to teach them about the power of positive thinking. I told my students about my own personal mission awesome, and then asked them to each write 1 or 2 sentences about things that are awesome in their own lives (some wrote 4 to 6!). Then, I typed them up, printed them off and mounted them on coloured paper on our classroom door.

We’re not yet halfway near 100, but we have a great start! I will post a photo when it’s done.

2. Awesome was receiving my new parka yesterday after school – my parka which Canada Post told me was still in Montréal, and not due to arrive in Kuujjuaq until February 6th! To top things off, it’s perfect!


3. Awesome was baking bannock with my students Monday afternoon.

4. Awesome were a number of evenings with friends since I’ve returned from Christmas vacation – from poker and board games nights, to girl’s nights, to dinner parties and nights out at the lounge, it’s been kind of nonstop, just like it was when I first arrived in Kuujjuaq.

5. Awesome is how much fun my boyfriend and I have when we cook together :). And now I know how to make crêpes!

6. Awesome was an amazing New Year’s vacation in Toronto together – during which we:
-Spent an entire morning at the Royal Ontario Museum
-Spent another at the Art Gallery of Ontarion
-And another at the Hockey Hall of Fame
-Shopped in the Kensington Market
-And the St. Lawrence Market
-And Chinatown
-Went on a tour of the Steam Whistle Brewery (and got free beer!)
-Ate authentic Chinese food
-And Greek
-And all-you-can-eat Japanese
-Saw a production of Evil Dead: The Musical
-Went to Allen Gardens
-Partied with my friend Alex and her friends on New Year’s Eve
-Saw my bro Anthony
-Stayed in a beautiful hotel in the centre of the city (with a free upgrade to the suite with a fireplace!)

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Us at Hurley’s Irish Pub in Montréal the night before taking the train to Toronto for vacation (one of the few photos I took the entire trip. Haha).

7. Awesome was the fact that, despite the facts that neither of us have ever really traveled with anybody in a long time, and it was our first time traveling together, this was one of the most stress-free trips I’ve ever taken. I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect vacation with somebody.

Dose of Awesome # 228

It’s been more than a month, you say? Better late than never…

1. Awesome was buying my first carving. Even more awesome was getting it 25% off in a Christmas sale. I’ve been itching to buy a carving since I first stepped foot in the North, but can never bring myself to fork over the money it takes to get a nice one. Turns out, Christmas-time is the time to look for them!

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Ookpik by Jimmy Angnatuk

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2. Awesome was celebrating the holidays with my awesome colleagues last night at the Auberge Kuujjuaq Inn – complete with an amazing surf n’ turf buffet dinner, dj, party games and great prizes.

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It’s an awkward cropping job, but it was hard to find a good place to take the photo. This is me, dressed up and ready for the party.

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“Sorority sisters” ready for the party. 

3. Awesome was laying in the snow in my back yard and watching the Northern Lights dance above my head. This is something I’m able to do most nights…but simply don’t remember to do a lot of the time, unfortunately.

Northern Lights

4. Awesome was receiving my new guitar in the mail (something that I may have written about in my last post of awesome), and getting tonnes of practice in over the past few weeks. I’ve learned so much!