Dose of Awesome # 285

I need to interrupt my tales of the John Muir Trail to write about the awesome with which I’ve been blessed over the past few weeks since I returned to Kuujjuaq. I’ve not found much time to write, let alone even think about writing, so much has been going on. But, thanks to a long weekend and gloomy weather that goes oh so well with pj’s, coffee and my blog, I feel inspired to write.

I returned to Kuujjuaq on the 9th of August, and was swept away by all the beginning-of-a-new-school-year awesome. Potlucks and lunches allowed me to bond with colleagues, and meet new teachers. Kuujjuaq’s annual Aqpik Jam music festival allowed me to enjoy four nights of great live music from artists from all over the arctic. A birthday full of celebrations with close friends sent me into my 33rd year with so much love.

My return to work was rejuvenated and filled with the excitement of setting up a new classroom and getting ready for a year with new kids. This year I am teaching sixth grade – a lovely class of 11 students whom I’ve gotten to know quite well over the past few years since moving to Kuujjuaq. We’ve been back to school two weeks now, and we’re off to a great start.

Two weekends ago, I was given the opportunity to spend a few days hiking and camping in Pingualuit National Park. Pingualuit is a 1.5 million year old crater believed to have formed when a meteor hit the earth. It is also said to have the purest water in the world. I drank it, and it’s delicious.

In the spring, I’d put my name on the waiting list to take this trip, but I’d resigned to the fact that I probably wouldn’t get to go. The trip was full, and since I’d had the chance to go to Kuururjuaq last year, open spaces would be given to people who hadn’t gone before (as far as I understood). But, luck was on my side, a spot opened up at the last minute, and I received a phone call two days prior to departure.

Accepting the opportunity, a small group of us (7 teachers and 2 women who work elsewhere in the community) boarded a chartered Twin Otter bound for Kangiqsujuaq (a small village approximately 2 hours’ flight north of Kuujjuaq). There, we met Maali Tukirqi, who picked us up at the airport and gave us a tour of the village (which started at the Nunavik Parks office and Pingualuit Interpretive Centre, and included a drive around the village, a stop at the beach to see the iceburg, and shopping for snacks at the Northern Store).

An hour later, we were back in the plane and on our way into the park, and less than an hour after that, we’d made 3 gut-wrenching swoops over Manarsulik camp’s tiny landing strip (the landing strip is a short clearing in the tundra covered with gravel, which is not maintained so much as cleared by the swoops of the plane before it lands). Excited, we were settled into our charming little cabin on the lake before dinner and a little walk to an archaeological site not far from the camp showing where camps used to be.

The hike around the crater took 8 hours, much of which was sunny and with just enough wind to keep the bugs at bay. Hiking together in the beginning, we enjoyed great conversation and a picnic lunch at the halfway mark. Afterward, we spread out a bit more and hiked at our own pace, enjoying the quiet and solitude as it came.

We got back to camp just in time for an amazing sunset and a beautiful rainbow over our camp as we ate, chatted and played numerous rounds of Yahtzee together.

We were hit by stormy weather the next day, which put a damper on our plans to qajak on the lake and go on a smaller hike. Our flight also got cancelled, giving us another day at the camp. I took the opportunity to work on my sewing project and read almost an entire book (something I don’t get to do in one day very often). We were running out of food, but our guides were generous and brought out all kids of country food – tuttuvinik (caribou), nikkuk (dried caribou) and mattaq (beluga) filled our stomachs that night.

The wind was strong and shook our cabin all through the night, and, though the fog lifted, it still gusted well into the next day. Fortunately, for the sake of work, a classroom that needed to be set up by the following afternoon, a grocery order full of frozen food that was scheduled to be delivered to my house in Kuujjuaq that afternoon, and a few things I had planned over the next few days, we were able to fly out. Our plane arrived at Manarsulik around 3 pm. It was bumpy, but we arrived in Kuujjuaq 2.5 hours later safe and sound.

Awesome was the opportunity, the adventure, and the fact that everything works out, even when they don’t go as planned.

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Dose of Awesome # 281

I’ve been on summer vacation for two weeks. Like previous years, I decided to stay in Kuujjuaq to enjoy the beautiful (relatively bug-free) weather, finish up some projects, and relax before I travel to California and hike the John Muir Trail. My days have been full of playing violin, reading, drawing, biking, hiking, and just enjoying the land both alone and with friends. I could not have asked for a more rejuvenating and fulfilling time.

1. Awesome was finishing not one, but two new drawings.

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Amaruq – Wolf

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Kayuqtuq – Red Fox

2. Awesome was the opportunity to enjoy 7…yes 7…hikes on the land?

3. Awesome were picnics, and road trips and little walks past the end of the Road to Nowhere, where we found one of the most beautiful spots around Kuujjuaq, had a healing ceremony, and saw muskoxen. Further awesome are muskoxen – a symbol of strength and endurance, and their timely appearance.

 

Dose of Awesome # 277

The community of Kuujjuaq came together yesterday to welcome the competitors in this year’s Ivakkak dogsled race at the finish line. The race began in Quaqtaq, and went through Kangirsuk, Aupaluk, Tasiujaq, before finishing here.

1. Awesome was an early school closure that allowed everybody to head to Stewart Lake to welcome the Ivakkak teams. Team 10 was the first to arrive in Kuujjuaq, but team 7 won the race.

Waiting for the first team to arrive.

Team 10, from Puvirnituq.

2. Awesome was a mid-week afternoon of snowshoeing, thanks to the early school closure. Since I’d gone in early to get some work done in my classroom before school began, I decided to take advantage of some amazing weather and get a few more hours of snowshoeing in. I went for a beautiful 3 hour loop through Nuuvuk Bay and by the marina. What I love about that loop is that every time, it can be so different, as the land is so vast.

Snow drifts and tree shadows inspired me.

3. Awesome was progress made with a challenging student – thanks to an awesome and dedicated team of people and their support. Sometimes things take time, and sometimes lots of it, but this, I hope, goes to show that if you don’t give up, great things can happen.

Dose of Awesome # 276

My favourite time of the year has arrived in Nunavik. It’s spring, but it still feels like winter. It’s -30 degrees, we have tonnes of snow, and there’s more coming. I love it because after enduring an average of approximately -45 for seemingly forever, -30 feels mild. I love it because it stays light out longer – long enough that I feel a notable boost in energy each day, but not so long that it causes you to miss the northern lights. I love it because I know it’s only a matter of weeks before the snow melts – and it will melt fast. Then I’ll be able to go hiking, and biking. But in the meantime, I appreciate the snow and cold all the more because I know it will soon be gone.

I love it because it’s the perfect time for snowshoeing.

1. Awesome was 2.5 hours of snowshoeing yesterday, by myself. It’s been a long time – since my third year in Tasiujaq, in fact – since I’ve been out on the land by myself. I forgot how peaceful it is. I forgot how liberating it is to just drop everything and go (my plan for the morning involved doing laundry and reading, until the sun started beaming through my living room window), without having to wait for, or answer to anybody.

Yes, company is nice. But, every once in awhile, so is this…

Yesterday, I went through Nuuvuk Bay and then toward the marina – making a huge loop up and down the hills and back the way I came. Further awesome was finding my own tracks again as I neared the start of my loops – a definite boost to my confidence in my own navigational skills.

2. Awesome was another 3 hours of snowshoeing today. Only this time it was with friends. Today’s route took us through Nuuvuk Bay toward the marina, and on a loop back down to the Koksoak River, which we followed back to where we started.

3. Awesome was time to catch up with friends this weekend, through phone conversations and dinners. It’s crazy how busy life can be – time can really slip by if you let it!

Dose of Awesome # 275

March Break is coming to an end. Tomorrow is a pedagogical day, and Tuesday, it’s back to school. I am back at home in Kuujjuaq, where the temperature hovers around -30 degrees Celsius, the sun is shining, and the snow is no less plentiful and white than it was when I left ten days ago. It’s the kind of perfection that I appreciate all the more after a week full of rain, slush and mud in New Brunswick.

1. Awesome was the feeling of walking into a spotlessly clean home, and unpacking after ten days of living out of a backpack in various places. Though I’m certainly grateful for all the hospitality I’ve been offered during my vacation, this is a pretty awesome feeling.

Also awesome was finally being able to play my violin, which I’d decided to leave behind because I didn’t have a definite plan of accommodation for my trip to New Brunswick.

2. Awesome was a trip to my home town which included everything and almost everything I’d hoped for. Filled with many delicious meals and cups of coffee with friends from elementary school, high school, and university, it was truly a walk down memory lane.

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My friend Amanda and I at dinner.

3. Awesome was also being blessed with the opportunity to visit my old university town (a place I hadn’t been to in ten years), browse through the Moncton Farmer’s Market, do a bit of shopping, have a massage, go on a little hike, see a movie, and go out for karaoke.

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Posing with my first Tim Horton’s coffee of the vacation, and the giant lobster in Shediac, New Brunswick, on the way to have lunch in Sackville.

Mel’s Tea Room, from the booth in which I spent many afternoons and evenings writing philosophy essays and reading. 

The train bridge on the Tantramar marsh at the end of Bridge Street – location of many a muddy adventure, my first winter camping experience, and lots of hours reading and writing at the edge of e broken bridge. 

Dose of Awesome # 271

Life has entailed a lot of change and loss as of late. From a break up, to loss of community members and co-workers, life has brought its fair share of challenges – some unlike any I’ve experienced before. But, in the process of grieving, I’ve found myself dealing with things with a surprising amount of grace. I’ve also found a lot of positive and some wonderful awesomes.

1. Awesome are the people I’ve met, and the things I’ve had the opportunity to do over the past two months. I’ve had the opportunity to experience a whole new social side of Kuujjuaq. I’ve met new people and tried new things. I’ve found support from some amazing people, created boundaries where necessary, and I’ve learned tons about myself and what I need and want for myself. I’ve also reconnected with parts of my life I’ve lost touch with over the past couple of years. Awesome is feeling healthier, happier and stronger.

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Snowshoeing in Nuvik Bay. 

2. Awesome is showing someone the north for their first time.

After six years of trying to convince her to come, my mother came to visit at the end of January. While she was here, we went dogsledding, saw the northern lights, made bannock with my students, saw the land, experienced a Kuujjuaq Christmas party, and a low-key games night, among other things.

Whenever I go on vacation and tell people about my life in the north, I always experience a re-kindled love of all the things my life has come to be over the past several years. But, showing someone the north for the first time is even greater. And for such a reminder of why I am where I love to be, I couldn’t have asked for better timing.

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Dogsledding with George Kauki.

3. Awesome is learning something new. During my Christmas holiday, I gave in and bought myself a violin. The violin is right up there with the harmonica as the world’s most beautiful sound, and for years, I’ve dreamed of being able to play. Upon returning to Kuujjuaq after my holiday, I started taking lessons and, though it’s slow-going, I’m making progress and can actually produce sounds that resemble something other than a dying cat. I can even play “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” (on a good day). Perhaps I will be ready to perform at Kuujjuaq’s next Aqpik Jam?

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I realize I’m holding it wrong, but it was my first time trying my violin 🙂

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Dose of Awesome # 255

1. Awesome was a weekend camping and hiking trip in Kuururjuaq National Park. We camped at Qurlutuarjuq, on the Koroc river, which is approximately 25 minutes by plane from Kangiqsualujjuaq. The weather, though questionable upon departure in Kuujjuaq (lots of fog, drizzle and wind), turned out to be perfect in the park. And despite a superabundant mosquito and blackfly population, we enjoyed two beautiful hikes on the land – the first, a five-hour scramble up and down the mountain overlooking the camp, and the second, a three-hour bushwhack to the chutes Korluktok.

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Our chartered plane on the landing strip at Qurlutuarjuq.

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The camp.

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The view from the camp.

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Bug nets saved the day, even way up high.

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Koroc River from the mountain.

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My boyfriend and I – so happy we got to do this together.

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Inuksuk leading the way to chutes Korluktok.

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Chutes Korluktok – worth every scratch, bruise and bug bite.

2. Awesome are early morning bike rides – something I’ve been doing a lot lately. The temperature is perfect, the traffic is minimal, and there’s no better way to wake up than some post-coffee physical activity. Also awesome is coming home to find a cup’s worth of coffee still warm in your french press.

3. Awesome are boat rides. Recently I was invited on a boat ride on Stewart Lake. Though freezing (it gave me a chance to test out my new hiking gear), it was my first time out on a boat since moving to Nunavik. I’m hoping for an invitation on a sunny day.