Awesome # 91: Vacations

As of 3:45 PM Thursday afternoon, I’m on Easter vacation.

I’ll be hanging around Tasiujaq until Monday when, God willing, the kind folks at Air Inuit/First Air will fly me to Montréal – warm, sunny Montréal in all its snow-less big city glory. From there, I’m off to Toronto for a few days. In the meantime, I plan on doing nothing but thoroughly enjoy not having to do anything but thoroughly enjoy my vacation – and that’s awesome.

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Awesome # 90: Good News

After several weeks of discomfort, trepidation, frustration and uncertainty, I’ve finally received good news.

Three weeks ago, I went to the doctor with a workout-related knee injury. I’d both pushed myself too hard and given myself too little time to recover before (literally) jumping back into my 50-minute runs and jumprope marathons (even though, in my defence, I felt okay to do so).

After a week of excessive Advil intake and RICE (rest, ice, compression and elevation) treatment, I went back to the nursing station for a check-up. With not much improvement, I was given crutches and told to wait another week. A week later, another check-up turned into a disconcerting and mind-boggling conversation about torn menisci, knee surgeries and prolonged recovery times that left me imagining, much to my despair, botched summer plans and a future deprived of running and hiking.

I was given little else by the way of information and thus, was left to fill in the blanks with bleak Google search results and my overactive imagination.

I was told to use the crutches until the doctor flew here from another village and could fit me into an appointment (he had 1 busy week in which he had to fit much of the population of Tasiujaq).

Yesterday was my appointment and, after close examining, as well as uncomfortable leg twisting and turning, he ruled out the possibility that I’d torn the meniscus in my knee and assured me that just a few more weeks of rest and light exercise should do the trick.

So, it looks like, with a little more rest and some physiotherapy (for which I’ll be going while I’m in Toronto), I’ll be running and hiking again in no time.

Awesome # 89: Cultural Delicacies

I love food. And I love adventure. So, when I travel, one of my many favourite things to do is experience the delicacies of the culture by which I’m surrounded. I love trying new edibles and, the stranger, the better.

In Shanghai, I’d the opportunity to taste many delicacies. The city is huge and Chinese culture is so old that I doubt I tasted even a third of them, particularly the more traditional ones. But, during my time there, a few simple examples of the ones I did try include: xiaolongbo (Shanghainese soup dumplings or steamed buns with pork), zhongi (glutanous rice wrapped in bamboo leaves), chòu dòufu (“Stinky” tofu) and chicken feet.

Peruvian delicacies are a tad less extensive than Chinese, from what I gather. Cuy (guinea pig) and alpaca were the two I was able to try (both were delicious).

As caribou are becoming more abundant (they are migrating back up the Ungava peninsula for the spring), many Inuit have returned to the land to go hunting. This means there will once again be meat in the freezer and nikkuk (dried caribou meat) for sale at the Co-Op. I was inspired to write this post of awesome as I, for the first time since November, munched on the last bag of nikkuk from the Co-Op yesterday. I have been craving caribou all winter but haven’t had the opportunity to eat it as it’s so hard to get (there wasn’t even any meat in the freezer). I was so excited when I found the single remaining ziplock bag of protein-y goodness tossed in with the potato chips, that I didn’t even wait until I left the Co-Op to open it. It was almost gone before I got home (and I even took the skidoo trail shortcut to my house).

I’ve had mattaq (beluga), sivaaluk (fish eggs and fruit) and tuttu (caribou). I’ve yet to try umimaq (muskox) or natsiq (seal). But so far, tuttu in general, and nikkuk in particular, are my favourite Inuit delicacies. It’s just so good.

Awesome # 88: Lack of Control

Lack of control and uncertainty in situations can be disconcerting. And as a human being, and especially as a teacher, control and certainty are two things that I appreciate immensely.

In the midst of various situation in which those two things are absent – where we are all bound to find ourselves eventually as we become more entrenched into adulthood – I especially wish I had them. Or I did until a telephone conversation I had yesterday afternoon that shed light on the fact that I, in actuality, do not have them.

Sure, knowing what will happen would be nice. As would the ability to choose the outcome of a variety of life’s predicaments. But, lack of control is an awesome in disguise in that I don’t have to worry. I’m not the one making difficult decisions, nor am I the bearer of bad news. These responsibilities are out of my hands and, now that I think clearly about it, I’m thankful that they are.

And, what better time to realize this than mere days before my vacation to Toronto. My vacation that will be filled with friends, hugs, sunlight, ethnic food, spa treatments, shopping and coffee in cafés; my vacation from which I will leave uncertainties behind because thank God, that’s all I can do.

Awesome # 86: Stretching

Stretching is a practice I’ve done far to infrequently, given the extent to which I exercise, until well within the last year (hence, my board-like lack of flexibility). I always stretch before and after a run (how well, in retrospect, is questionable, but I did do it), but to be honest, until I started following Shawn T and Jillian Michaels’ training videos at home, stretching is something I found a waste of time – if I was going to work out, I wanted to get right down to it.

Unable to train like usual, I’ve been stretching even less frequently. And my body has been feeling it. Until I found the following article. Stretching has never felt more awesome.

Having A Good Stretch Every Morning

This is something that I’ve been doing for a good part of this year and my body definitely feels much better for it.

I’d noticed that every morning when I awoke for work, I’d feel really sluggish and uptight, especially in my hands, feet and face.  I’d read some articles about muscle relaxation and I started to use this in the morning.  When you sleep your body slows down and you’re not moving about as much as you would in the daytime so it’s no wonder the muscles tighten up.

This type of exercise is encouraged in Yoga and similar practices to ensure you start your day in the right manner.  You can do this while you are in your bed or if you feel better sitting down in a chair, you can do this also.

I try to stick to the same order and you can work from either your feet to your head or vice versa.  For each body part, hold the stretch for a few seconds and then release, noticing the difference between the tension and the relaxation feeling.  You may feel a slight tingling which is the relaxation starting to wash over your muscles.

  1. Toes – Scrunch your toes really hard and you will feel them stretch.  Then release.
  2. Calves – Straighten your legs and point your toes away from you and gently tighten your calf muscles. Then release.
  3. Thighs – Tighten your quadriceps (Thighs) in the same manner. Don’t worry about being too gentle with these as they are big muscles and may need a bigger stretch. Release.
  4. Buttocks – Squeeze your buttocks and notice the feeling. Release.
  5. Arms – Next is your arms, squeeze your biceps as if you showing off your muscles and while holding this stretch I like to bring my hands up and behind my head so I can feel a stretch in my triceps also. Release.
  6. Hands – Squeeze your hands into a ball and keep them tight for as long as you like. Release.
  7. Shoulders and neck – Shrug your shoulders towards your ears. Release and then try stretching your neck forwards, side-to-side and backwards (you may have to rest up on your elbows to lift your body off the bed if you are lying down)
  8. Head/Face – Frown and scrunch up your eyes so that your forehead is being stretched. Release.  Then open your mouth wide like you are yawning and feel the stretch in your jaw. Release.  Next, tuck your lips into your mouth so that you are stretching under your nose. Release.

To finish off, I like to do a full body stretch and make myself as long as possible, smile and you are ready for your day!

I found this article here.

Awesome # 85: When Movie Versions of Good Novels Don’t Suck

A few months ago, I read Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden.

I thoroughly enjoyed the novel and there was a part of me which wanted to watch the movie version. But, since many movie versions are a let-down in light of a good novel version, I was hesitant to watch the movie version of this one.

However, as blizzard-related house confinement, injury-related couch-confinement, as well as curiosity got the better of me last weekend, I decided to go ahead and rent it from iTunes. I figured, worst comes to worst, it would suck, but I was prepared for that.

To my surprise, the movie version of this good novel didn’t suck. And that’s awesome.