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Nunavut - Land of the Blizzard

Okay, that’s not what Nunavut means (it means “our land”) but this winter I have to wonder. There have been at least two weeks of school/work missed due to blizzards. Usually a storm will only last for a couple days by one storm was actually a week long. I knew we got off easy last winter as I think our first blizzard didn’t occur until February whereas this year the first one was in October and by February we had almost 10 blizzard days. Bu the last two months have completely flown by despite many days of bad weather.

We returned from Coral Harbour on New Year’s eve. We were invited out to my friend’s that night and I was really looking forward to going out since we had been cooped up in a house (someone else’s house for that matter) for a week. It was also a dry community so I was looking forward to having a few cocktails. A small group of us went to the party together and shortly after midnight the guys went home. I figured it was really time to party after they left and I think it was shortly after 1am that I first got sick. I felt like I was spending a lot of time in the bathroom and was quite embarrassed, not realizing until later that most people had no idea what was going on. Awhile later Gerald’s coworkers on duty that night (including his boss) came to give us a ride home. The drive is probably less than 1 minute to get home but I still had to ask them to pull the truck over. So I was even more embarrassed as I puked outside of the police truck, in front of Gerald’s boss, on a fairly busy road in Rankin. Needless to say, I slept most of the next day and managed to figure out what my New Year’s resolution would be – to not drink so much.

A few days after having a self-induced sickness, I caught something else and spent most of the weekend in the bathroom. I figured the only good thing that had happened in the New Year so far was that I was down to my normal weight before the wedding & vacation. I may have lost it all in a few days but oh well – who cares if you’re unhealthy, as long as you can fit into your skinny jeans!

We went over to Gerald’s co-worker’s place for Superbowl Sunday and it was a really fun day. We played lots of games including Jenga, poker, and for our first time, Wii. I noticed that I’m really improving at poker and can actually think about what hands other people might have rather than whether or not mine is good.

I finally began my next sewing project in mid-January. I was working on my second parka - this one was going to be for my Mom. I cut out fabric on a Sunday and began sewing the next day. I thought I would need help at some points but I had written down a lot of good pointers that my friend had given me the year before. When the blizzard arrived that week I was so excited to sew that I didn’t even check to see if anyone was at the office on the first day. It turned out that schools & offices weren’t closed until later on in the morning but no one bothered phoning me and I didn’t actually feel too guilty. There were actually 20 communities in the territory at one point that were experiencing the blizzard. Usually it’s more regional and not that wide spread.

I went in to work the next day since I had a conference call scheduled, and it took me a good 20 minutes to kick away snow from in front of the door to get into the office. When the blizzard lasted for a third day, I decided to work from home. However that day I did get a call first thing in the morning from the alarm company regarding our office. I told them I thought it was just the wind setting off the alarm but wondered if I should have actually checked it out. My co-worker that lives the closest went in to the office and it turned out someone had actually tried to break in. I guess it was a smart time to do it. Luckily they seemed to be scared off and nothing was stolen.

The blizzard continued into the weekend and that’s about when our pipes first froze. We had been quite fortunate until then as it had never happened to us but happened to most other people we knew. We tried calling contractors out but they said they would not come out in the blizzard. We soon realized it was only the bathtub that was froze and Gerald being the ingenious man that he is, figured out how to run a hose from the hot water tank directly into the tub’s pipes. We would continue to do this numerous times over the winter. When Monday morning came I still thought the weather was sketchy but slowly got ready for work. By the time I walked out the door it was almost completely clear so I was not too surprised to find everyone else at the office. That would be our only work day for an entire week. The storm came back as the day wore on and only one plane managed to land that day.
As a reminder, all of our groceries, mail, booze (and people!) arrive by air so when planes are grounded for a week, everyone is starting to go crazy for a variety of reasons.

I found with all the storms that I became obsessed with checking the weather online. Not only would I check Rankin weather but also other communities, to either figure out which way the storm was moving or who out of my colleagues in other communities would be absent from work, or just because I was obsessed with checking it. At one point winds were up to 95 k/hr. And when the forecast finally did show nothing but sunny and clear forecasts I was shocked and then eventually my obsessions with checking the weather faded.

We took Chubby for a walk since he too was going crazy being stuck in his dog house the whole time. We thought there would be times when we would let him in the house but he never seems to be that cold. He just whines if we go inside the house without paying any attention to him. We’ve learned that 5 minutes with one of his toys makes him just as happy as an hour long walk ( and we can usually get him sprinting back and forth on the chain so there’s a bit of exercise involved). He still always finds lots to sniff no matter now cold or how much snow is on the ground. G took him on the lake a few times and discovered that Chubby would go out of his way to run on the snowy patches and avoid the dark, scary ice. He was also running so much and trying to grip the ice with his claws that his feet were bleeding the one time. One day we took him for a drive in the back of the truck. We couldn’t get very far on the road and let him out to run around for awhile. When we went to try to get him back in, he outsmarted us and jumped in the cab of the truck and quickly sat on the passenger seat. We knew he had done this before and realized our pet sitters were spoiling him!

Another struggle for Chubby in the blizzard was trying to keep his bowls from sliding from out of his reach. The one time I was trying to get his bowls before feeding him (so he’s usually quite attentive at this point) but then suddenly he went running past me and took me out at the ankles with his chain. I discovered another dog was walking by so that was why. In some ways he seems to be behaving better, not jumping on us as much and ready to have his leash put back on at the end of walk. But if he’s become more social and if he is off-leash and sees any dog in the distance he won’t come back to us. Before we could usually keep him distracted until the dog was out of sight. One time when I was walking him by myself I could barely hold on to him with the lease since he wanted to visit another dog and he’s getting too big for me to handle! I had both hands on the leash (one choking him with a close grip) and still had to pin his head between my legs so he would stay.

In the middle of February I went for a quick work trip to Arviat. The night I was flying back was Valentine’s day which I hadn’t given much thought to but when Gerald came to pick me up he said he was taking me for a special dinner. The cafe that normally just sells sandwiches was closed down to the public and was providing meals, even with wine, to couples. It was a good dinner and we actually walked home which was nice since we had eaten so much.

That weekend it was fairly warm, about -25 degrees with only another 10 degree wind chill. We took Chubby for a long walk and as we were out be the airport saw one of the large Herc planes land that transport stuff for the mining companies. Saturday we went over to friend’s for a poker game. There were quite a few of us and I made some bold moves and even bluffed for the first time.

Shortly after, Gerald left to go to Alberta for 2 weeks. I was going to leave a week later. More excitement happened as the power went out one afternoon at work. It’s not too unusual so no one thought it was odd until 10 minutes passed and it didn’t come back on. After an hour we really started to wonder and nobody wanted to stay at work. At this point I was considering going out the back office door to pee but luckily someone found a candle we could use for light in the bathroom. We started hearing rumours that generators were down and would be until past the weekend (it was a Wednesday). We did confirm that it was true – 3 out of 4 of the town’s generators were down.

I called my neighbour from the office and she said the power was on so I figured I would head home and enjoy power there while it lasted. I arrived to find it was off and decided to take Chubby for a walk. We went out of town and for the first time I noticed how beautiful it was in the evening since there were very few lights from town. When I got back there still was no power so I took my friend’s offer up and had dinner at their place. About the time we were figuring out which sections of town had power and we saw my outside light go on. I went home to enjoy my 45 minutes of allotted power. I cranked the heat and started making notes of who around me had power when (across the street and my next door neighbours were on different intervals than me). It really was ridiculous how much time I spent looking out the windows trying to figure out who had power when. I eventually used my time efficiently and put some wedding pictures into albums. It didn’t really bother me to not have TV or internet but I did miss having music (discovered that our portable stereo takes 6 DD batteries which we did not have). In all my pearing out the windows I managed to see a bit of the Northern lights (which I never see because I never go outside late enough) as well as an eclipse that happened that night.

I thought I had turned out all lights when I went to bed but discovered around midnight, when the power came on next that I had not. So for almost a full 24 hours we would go for two hours without power then 45 minutes with. I went into the office for awhile the next day even though schools and most offices were closed (they declared the town to be in a state of emergency). When I got up that morning I knew the power had been on for awhile so I was hesitant to get in the shower worried that it would go off while I was in there. Luckily it stayed on for a little while after I finished my shower. Of course I was quite on the ball and left my house when the power went off and arrived at work shortly after it came on. The walk to work was very eerie, as the town seemed even quieter than when there is a blizzard going on. I think it was the complete stillness and later realized that the lack of smoke from homes not being heated is what looked different. Stores only opened when the power was on for their respective locations. I needed eggs but after walking in one store and finding a line-up of thirty people, I decided it wasn’t that important.

I worked from home the day after although we generally had continuous power. The mayor had gone on the radio to say that a second generator was up and running but they would like offices to remain closed in order to conserve energy. There was supposed to be a big hockey tournament in town that weekend so it had to be postponed. Even the next Monday they asked offices to only open for half days, but I was mean and suggested everyone come to work. We have enough windows that we can almost function without any lights on. It was that night that I flew out to join Gerald in Alberta. The day seemed to fly by as I had lots to finish up at work but I felt good when I left and was also reassured knowing we would have a reliable house sitter again.

The weekend before Ieaving, I spent most of it writing out thank-you cards for wedding gifts. It was a pretty tedious job but it did help me reminisce about the wedding, vacation, and the good times with friends. I also had to finish sewing my Mom’s parka. I ended up breaking a small part of the zipper but ran out of time to fix it properly. For the most part I had taken more time on certain parts of the coat and it showed. Overall, I was very happy with how turned out and even more satisfied when Mom tried it later on and it fit perfectly.

My parents drove up to Edmonton and picked me up at the airport. We spent a day together most of which consisted of shopping at West Edmonton mall. Like other trips, I did have a list of stuff I wanted to buy but I decided that nothing was that important and I did not want to stress myself out trying to find stuff. Most of the things on the list were small and I ended up buying a lot at my first stop, London Drugs. The only thing I really wanted to get was a good pair of runners, which I did. I even treated myself to a couple of Lululemon tops. I usually don’t buy things just because of a brand name but my friend had been telling me for awhile how much she liked wearing them so that made the decision easier. Another thing that was similar to other trips out of the north was overeating. We had breakfast at Denny’s where I think I had the equivalent of 3 meals. We then had a pasta dinner and afterwards I felt as if I had just at Christmas dinner. It was nice to spend the day with my parents and I was also grateful that one of my friends took the day off work and drove up from Calgary. We all visited that evening in the hotel room as we shared a box of wine. Then my friend and I crawled into the sofa-bed in the hotel room and caught up on our girl talk.

The next day I made on last shopping stop at the fabric store before my parents dropped me off at the airport. I was sad to leave so soon but looking forward to seeing Gerald again. I flew to Grande Prairie, met up with Gerald and we did a bit of shopping before going his family’s farm. We made a quick trip to Costco where I bought the usual: clothes, books, and power bars. We went a little crazy on some Easter candy in anticipation of holding an Easter egg hunt in Rankin. Even though we knew we would dig in the chocolate ourselves we figured there would be enough leftover, seeing as we bought almost 100 Cadbury crème eggs!

When we got to his brother’s house the kids were all happy to see me. Gerald tried many times to get them to quit calling me Janice and start calling me “ma tante”. It was kind of neat when they did call me that since I was already used to being Auntie with my brothers’ kids.

The weather was very nice in Tangent, around zero degrees. We went snowmobiling and even though a lot of snow had melted there was still quite a bit on the ground. When Gerald’s brother asked if I had drove a snowmobile before I said yes knowing I had drove the winter before in Rankin and I also figured I had drove a bit in my childhood. So we drove out of the yard and I immediately got stuck. Not too much later we were driving in deeper snow and I felt the machine start to tilt sideways. Slowly I ended up at a complete stop with the machine on its’ side. It was then that I realized I had no clue how to drive. That’s also when Gerald explained to me that I was not out on a Sunday drive and had to be an aggressive driver and shift my weight when steering. I think I improved as we drove along and it was a lot more fun after awhile.

We returned to Edmonton on the Sunday as the next day his Dad had an appointment at the cancer centre. While Gerald & his family went to his Dad’s appointment, my sister in-law & I took the kids shopping (and by that I mean we shopped and forced the kids to go with us).

The next day we went to the Museum where Gerald & I were excited to see the “Tuktu prayer’s” exhibit. It was supposed to be a tribute to caribou in the north but it consisted of a few paintings by non-Inuit artists. Otherwise the museum was somewhat interesting and kept the kids entertained. That night, Gerald, his brother, dad, and nephew all went to an Oiler’s game. While us ladies and kids were at the hotel I flipped through the sports channel’s and discovered that the guys were probably not having a great time as the Oiler’s were getting beaten badly. When the fire alarm went off in the hotel later that evening I knew for sure we were in for more excitement than the guys. When the alarm first went off I thought it was something just in the room but didn’t recall even seeing an alarm clock in there. I soon realized it was the first alarm and when I looked out into the hall (no, I didn’t really check to see if the door was warm) I learned from someone that there was a fire downstairs. I had planned to just grab my jacket, shoes, & wallet before making sure the rest of the family was ok but they came by our door first and were quick to evacuate. Luckily we had finished swimming earlier because as we filed down the stairs and out in front of the building I saw people shivering in swimsuits and towels outside. It wasn’t too cold out but it was nice to be dry and full dressed. The fire trucks quickly arrived and we waited for about a half hour as they cleared the smoke out of the lobby and did their inspection (apparently it started in the laundry room). Some stranger came by to offer hot chocolate to the kids, purchased at the nearby Tim Horton’s. My niece was smart enough to refuse until her Mom said it was okay to accept the drink from the stranger. When we did go back inside we noticed the smell of burnt plastic all the way up to our room on the top floor.

We got up at 5am the next morning to head to the airport. Before we checked in we had an idea that the weather was bad in Rankin as it had been blizzarding the day before. They gave us a weather warning at check-in and we headed through security where I had my usual body search (it is ridiculous how often I get chosen for those!). As we waited at our gate they gave us the option of not going on the flight since they would not likely land in Rankin. We considered staying in Edmonton but had spent a lot of time there already and experience has already taught us to always get on the flight in case there’s a chance of landing. We booked a hotel room in Yellowknife just in case and when we landed there they said they would not even attempt to land in Rankin. It was disappointing but you can’t get that upset since it’s just a part of living in the north. We arranged for one of the last available rental cars and checked into the Super 8 shortly after 10am. It was then we remembered that the Arctic Winter Games were starting that weekend and realized we would not have a hotel room if we could still not go back to Rankin on Friday. Luckily the weather improved the next day.

We tried to shop at Wal-mart but really had nothing left to buy. If felt almost wrong as we walked out of there after spending less than $20. We went for lunch at BP’s and both napped for part of the afternoon. I did my first workout of the vacation and then we went for dinner. The next morning we had breakfast at Timmie’s and I tried to shop at Mark’s Work Wearhouse. Another place I had already shopped at and again came out only spending $20. That night we went for a rather expensive dinner to a French restaurant. It was very good and we realized this weather delay had kind of turned into the honeymoon that we never had. Nonetheless, we were very happy to land the next day and come back home to Chubby and the kitties.

That night our friends wanted to go out to the Legion. It seemed like an okay idea at first but we were quite tired and everyone seemed drunk when we arrived so we didn’t stay very long. By Sunday I knew I was getting sick but I had so much work to do so I planned to go to work the next day. The weather gods were in my favour and I woke up to a blizzard. It started to clear up in the afternoon but I decided to keep resting and seemed to feel better Tuesday for it. Wednesday however, I felt completely awful again. I was supposed to leave that evening for Winnipeg and when I went home for lunch ended up napping for two hours. I was going to be taking a one-day course and didn’t think I could cancel that, or flight or hotel this late. So I slept for most of the flight but didn’t prepare for the pain I would experience when landing. I guess I have never flown that sick before and have never had problems with my ears popping. It was quite painful but I was feeling somewhat better when I went to bed.

The course was about Business planning and fairly interesting. It was downtown and after it was over I was feeling well enough to walk around for a while. I had not been in Winnipeg before other than a quick overnight during our November trip, and it was pretty busy with the Brier going on. Again I tried to shop but really had nothing to buy. My weekend was quiet other than being invited out for a work dinner at the hotel Saturday night. Since G & I were still recovering from both being sick, we didn’t even walk Chubby.

Between storms, power outages and me traveling a lot I have hardly been to volleyball. Step aerobics didn’t start until February so I went as much as possible but again, there haven’t been many classes. After my first class back in February I was surprised how sore I was as I had been working out in other ways. This past week I really wanted to get moving again but the first Step class caused me to do a lot of coughing. By Wednesday’s class I was finally feeling somewhat normal.
On Monday I will be leaving yet again for my year-end trip for work. I will go down to Toronto for the inventory count at our wholesale and retail locations and then will go to Pangnirtung on the way back. I’ll be gone for over two weeks but after that it’s crunch time and no planned travel until maybe the summer.

The one day my co-worker’s nephew who was about 5 years old was in the office. He kept peering in my office so I started asking him some questions. He raised his eyebrows as people often do here when they are responding in the affirmative. My co-worker told him he needs to say yes but I said I understood what he had meant. He then said to me “when I do this”, and he raised his eyebrows, “it means yes”. It was so funny because it was like he was the one who was talking to a child (I think only people who have recently moved to the north will find this funny).

Our marriage certificate did finally arrive in February so I would be able to start making some legal name changes but we opened it up to find we had both become Quellets with a “Q” rather than an “O”. I knew we had printed fairly neatly when filling out the form and it was a dumb mistake considering they spelled Gerald’s last name correctly in the first part. So I put it back in the mail to go back to Hawaii and figured it would be another 2 months before we saw it corrected. However it did arrive just the other day and everything was correct. Unfortunately since I am leaving on my work trip I will have to further delay making my name changes. And when I get back I’ll be awfully busy at work so who knows when I’ll have time to get around to that.....

Another new and exciting thing for Rankin is that we now have cell phone service. I actually signed a new contract shortly before moving to Rankin but have only used the phone when we go south for holidays. So you would think I would use it up here since I am paying for it but I just don’t see the need. I’m either at work or home or playing an activity. Sometimes I stop for groceries on the way home but I usually don’t need to make any calls there or be tracked down. It was surprising how many people had phones all of a sudden.

Today we had our Easter egg hunt which was so fun to watch all the kids. We thought we weren’t that sneaky but it was surprising how many hidden spots were missed! We then had a potluck at a friend’s house, and then had people over to bottle wine, so it was a very busy day. Wine bottling was fun as always. We were able to delegate most jobs and just observe. And I think most stayed out later than normal (including us!) so we played some games and had a very fun night.

Now, there is a blizzard warning for tomorrow so who knows if I’ll be leaving on my work trip tomorrow or not???

Baker Laker - around noon in the middle of December

Coral Harbour - where we spent Christmas 2007

Tuktu in front of the house we were staying at in Coral Harbour

House nearly covered by the blizzard in January

Many people had to dig their way out of their own homes

Went to go for a workout and had to clear away snow that covered almost the entire door.

Chubby taking off before the ball is thrown

Chubby had apparently been spoiled by our friends and figured he should ride in the front!

Jaylin, Janice, & Nathaniel posing near the Ouellet shack overlooking the Smoky River



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