Sunday, December 22, 2013


We're coming over the hump of the Great Iqaluit Christmas Exodus. It's been a steady stream the past week, but it always peaks on Friday and Saturday, when school closes. Also, some organizations in town close for Christmas break. That makes the airport an absolute gong show. I'm guessing at least 300 people flew from Iqaluit to Ottawa on Friday. I understand that doesn't sound like much, but when you consider the size of the airport, I'm pretty sure there were some fire and safety regulations being studiously ignore yesterday. There's no way it's legal to have as many people in the "holding pen" past security at the airport as they do, yet nothing is ever done about it.

That doesn't include many Inuit taking flight from Iqaluit to head to their home communities for the holidays. That went on Friday, I'm sure. Don't get me wrong, it would be lovely to go somewhere for Christmas, either home or some place warm. It's been close to six months since I was last out of Iqaluit and I'm starting to get a bit itchy to go somewhere. But man, am I ever glad I wasn't dealing with travel hassles the last few days.

And they were all over the place. I heard the second First Air flight that was supposed to arrive around 5 pm went mechanical. Because that meant 100 people would be stranded at one of the busiest times of the year, some scrambling happened to get another plane to fill-in. I also heard the Yellowknife-Rankin-Iqaluit flight bypassed Rankin, which I'm sure caused all kinds of additional chaos. All of this before you even got down south and had to deal with the weather and almost certain delays.


With all of that travel madness going on, Cathy and I are gearing up for a nice, quiet Christmas at home. I suspect on Christmas Day and Boxing Day the only time we will change out of lounge wear is when the dog guilts us into taking him for his three minute walk. There's still prep work that goes into that level of sloth, however.

A couple of days ago we got our turkeys. Now, down south you would probably go to the supermarket, buy a turkey. I heard they were going for 99 cents a kilo, I believe. They were going for around $6/kilo up here (or that might have been a pound. Not sure. Scary number regardless). So we were waiting for the turkey truck, which finally appeared on Wednesday.

The turkey truck is a grand Iqaluit tradition that goes like this. A cube truck filled with frozen turkeys parks in front of either the NorthMart or the gas bar. Turkeys are $25 for a small one, $30 for a large one. Pay the money, walk away with a turkey. And it's a perfectly fine turkey. Maybe not a Butterball or anything, but it'll taste fine on Christmas day.

We've also been finished our Christmas shopping. I think the last of her stuff from me arrived on Tuesday. The last of my stuff for her arrived on Friday. That's not to say there aren't dangers still lurking in town. Iqaluit Sell/Swap and Iqaluit Auction Bids is going to be the death of us one of these days. Cathy spotted a nice sealskin item earlier the week that had us knocking on the door of someone's house at 8:30 in the morning. Today it was going to Matthew Nugingaq's studio, where he was having a sale on his jewelry. One pair of raven earrings for Cathy and an igloo ring for me later...

Did I mention some local artists and photographers are having a sale on Sunday? We're a menace, swear to god...

But the kicker was the post office on Saturday. They've been opening on Saturdays the last month to try and clear out some of the backlog. I've gone a couple of Saturdays and the line has only been a couple of people. I figured the same thing would happen today, especially with so many people leaving town. Oh no. Oh god no. It was the longest line I'd ever seen at the post office. And they only had one poor guy on the counter. I counted 40 people in line once. It took us one hour and 15 minutes to get our package (which was not the one we were waiting for).

But it oddly wasn't too bad. Nobody was grumbling and most people were chatting with their neighbour and were in good spirits. No one was blaming Mathieu (the poor man at the counter) who everyone in town likes and we could see he was going as fast as he could. I went out to get some coffee and, on the spur of the moment, bought a 40 pack of timbits and left them on a bench so people in line. Which seemed to cheer people up.

It's not bad being in Iqaluit over Christmas. There's a nice vibe in the air over the two weeks when a lot of people are gone. It's just friendlier and more relaxed. I'm looking forward to it.

That and we're now past Winter Solstice. It means the days are getting longer again. It's a small thing, but I do enjoy the slow climb back towards the light, rather than the slow drift into the dark that we've been doing the past six months. Here's to more sunlight, no matter how small, at the darkest time of the year...

Last Five
1. Apres moi - Regina Spektor
2. Broken promise land - Elvis Costello and Allen Toussaint
3. Set me free - Charli XCX
4. Doesn't anybody stay together anymore? - Phil Collins
5. Girl sailor - The Shins*


Anonymous said...

Hello, I just want to thank you for your blog. Having travelled across Nunavut from 2007 to 2009 (for work), I am sometime nostalgic of my time in the north. Your blog, which I find interesting and well written, offers a window to Nunavut. Thank you again and Merry Christmas to you and Cathy.



John, Canberra AU said...

An "igloo ring"? Let me guess. Put it on and you transform into... Polar Man! Able to form ice structures with a wave of his hand! Need an auditorium, amphitheater, warehouse, or other tourist magnet? Polar Man saves the day!

$30 for a turkey in Iqaluit sounds like a bargain. Is it subsidised somehow? The only ironic part of your travel isolation stories is that Iqaluit is a "provincial" capital, but when the whole of Nunavut has the population of a Toronto suburb, what do you expect? You live on an ice-bound island!

There are similarly isolated communities in the Australian outback, not as big as Iqaluit, mind (though Perth had its moments), but whether it's ice or desert, isolation is isolation. Even the word itself is derived from "island".

Merry Christmas from the summer half of the planet.

Anonymous said...

Hi I'll second the opinion of the post above. I enjoy reading your blog and life up north. I'm in MI and your blog sometimes serves as a good diversion. Cheers and merry christmas and a good year ahead to you and your family.