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.

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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Daily Dose of Awesome – Day 114

1. Awesome was an early morning walk to Atsatuujaq – a 3 hour round trip walk along the Leaf bay that brings you to the mountain at the marina.

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2. Awesome was a picnic in a cabin when we got there.

3. Awesome was a successful first day back on the Weight Watcher’s plan. I’ve made a few half-hearted attempts to get back on track before, but now it’s time to get serious about it. Goal weight, here I come!