Monday Morning Musings

Posted on September 28, 2020 under Monday Morning Musings with no comments yet

 

Akulavik

 

Much ado about nothing.

I’m not sure what was more challenging this past week -returning to teach school after an extended Covid break or walking 42.2 kilometers last Saturday with two of my colleagues. One was mentally and physically demanding. Make that two. Teaching requires physical endurance but it’s mostly the mental part that can be draining. Walking a marathon is mostly physical but near the end of the walk, it is the mental part that carries you across the finish line.

I’m still of the opinion that if you are lucky enough to have good health at my age, that doing something meaningful, that pushes you a bit, is not the worst thing in the world.

I don’t like to dwell on the negative, but life can be very cruel. In recent weeks I know of a few situations that have been devastating to the individuals involved. There was loss of life and loss of love. It’s impossible to compare the two. There is no comparison between love lost and the loss of life. They both produce grief. The grieving process is painful. Sometimes it is extremely difficult to see the sunshine when the clouds are so dark.

“You can check-out any time you like,

But you can never leave.”

Hotel California – The Eagles

If all goes as planned, I will be moving into the Kangiqsujuaq Hotel tomorrow. “Len. You’ve been teaching all of three days and you already need a vacation?” Not exactly. My long- suffering readers will recall that I spent the month of August in my apartment complex while three of the apartments underwent a major facelift. None of the occupants were in their apartments at the time. My turn has arrived and it would be impossible for me to occupy my pad while they rip up all the floors, and also completely re-do my bathroom. I expect to be in the hotel for at least a week. It’s a nice spot. My only concern is that I will be sharing kitchen facilities, dining and living spaces with many other people including workers from the south. I will need to go into full Covid defense mode and wear a mask at all times with the exception of my hotel room. It is another minor inconvenience. The good news is that I will have a virtually new apartment when the work is completed.

Halloween should be quite a spectacle this year. The choice of masks should be pretty simple, wouldn’t you think?! I’m not sure what the village is planning but “trick or treating” across Canada will be very different this year.

We have already had a bit of snow which is hardly surprising. Puts a person in the Christmas spirit. Did I actually say that? I’m not sure what’s going to happen to Santa with the various quarantine restrictions still in place in some provinces. I have already mentally prepared myself for not making it back to Nova Scotia for the holiday season. If the current self-isolation rules are in effect in N.S. in December, it becomes a moot point. Many of my colleagues are talking about spending Christmas here in the village which could be a great experience. Things are not the best in Quebec right now with Covid so it’s impossible to tell what things will be like in a few months’ time.

There you go. Six hundred words with barely a coherent thought… my specialty!

Have a great week.

P.S. I can hardly wait to see the expression on our postmaster’s face when he sees a small deluge of mail coming to me. Don’t know what I’m talking about? Read last Thursday’s post: https://www.week45.com/thursday-tidbits-244/

 

 

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Thursday Tidbits

Posted on September 24, 2020 under Thursday Tidbits with no comments yet

 

Fuzzy picture. Teacher in a haze.

 

Going back to school in the old days was really quite simple. If you were a student, your parents bought you a package of Hilroys, a few pencils, and an eraser. There was no such thing as backpacks. We carried our books and scribblers under our arms. When it rained, we put them in a bag. If you were well off, throw in a pencil sharpener for good measure. If you were a teacher, you planned lessons. Discipline wasn’t an issue. It all seemed so simple.

I am an elementary school teacher. I am 69. These are not the good old days. Nothing is simple. I am getting to witness the plight of teachers and school administrators as they attempt to keep themselves and students safe in a Covid world. With no disrespect to veterans, it feels like we are preparing for war.

After overcoming several hurdles including the aftermath of a major school renovation and the breakdown of all three school photocopiers, our school is fully operational. The Covid protocols are quite stringent. It just seems so weird to see everyone walking around the school with masks on. While this is a mild inconvenience, it does put some extra strain on students who have hearing impairments who rely on visual cues. English (and French) are second languages for these children. I believe we will receive masks that are see through to assist these students. We also use a wireless microphone to be better heard.

Because the world has gone utterly mad, we also have to plan for lockdowns. Can someone tell me what in the hell happened in the last 40 years while I was asleep in a cave? Are we as a society so screwed up that in addition to teaching young people the three RRR’s, we also have to prepare them for the possibility of someone entering the school with a gun to cause harm?

“Can it be that it was all so simple then,

Or has time rewritten every line.”

The Way We Were – Barbara Streisand

In recent years (decades) it seems that teachers have become a convenient whipping boy for all that ails society, but I can tell you from firsthand accounts, that teaching 40 years ago bears little resemblance to 2020. I am not asking people to hold a pity party, but just be well informed. This is very difficult work. I suspect many of you who tried to home school your children during the school shutdown have a glimpse into the life of a teacher. In related news, the Nova Scotia Liquor Commission reported record sales in the last two quarters!

A few cases of Covid have popped up in our region. Stay tuned.

I have been thinking about a class project. I am not a philatelist but the dearth of stamps at our local post office (they haven’t had any in days) has forced me to use desperate measures. Now some of you likely haven’t purchased a stamp in eons and I suspect that they are on the endangered species list. However, from time to time, a stamp is a necessity especially if you’re trying to pay your phone bill. Please, Len. Don’t go there again. I won’t. Oh you’re damn right I will. Three more phone calls this week and still no resolution to my problem.

Ok. So, here’s the deal. I need a stamp. Actually, several might come in handy, so I am asking each of my faithful readers to mail me a stamp. I know what you must be thinking. “The poor guy has been wandering around the tundra too long and has lost touch with reality.” I now dub this initiative “The Great Stamp…ede”. Please send a stamp, along with a short note and let me know if you might like to become a pen pal to one of my students. I can then have them write you a letter and use your stamp to mail it. Now, how clever is that?! Here’s my address: Len MacDonald. c/o Arsaniq School; C.P. 160, Kangiqsujuaq, Quebec; J0M 1K0.

I received a message from someone I haven’t seen or heard from in a few decades. He suggested that I was suffering from Arcticitis, a word apparently coined by Farley Mowatt. Thanks, P.P. The north is sinking its teeth into me as Maggie said it might.

Have a great weekend.

 

 

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Monday Morning Musings

Posted on September 21, 2020 under Monday Morning Musings with 3 comments

 

“One ringy dingy. Two ringy dingy.

Is this the party to whom I am speaking?”

Lily Tomlin as Ernestine on Laugh- In

This is a second installment of getting my bell rung. If you thought the previous episode was bizarre to the point of unbelievable, keep reading. Once again, I couldn’t make this up. Well, with my vivid imagination, I could probably take a stab at a fictional piece.

I will call this post “not saved by the bell.”

First of all, the quote at the top of the page. If you were born after 1973, you missed one of the truly great comedy shows on television. Laugh-In ran from 1969-1973 and Lily Tomlin, playing Ernestine, the telephone operator, was one of its biggest stars. I have spent a lot of time on the phone recently and many times I wished I could have been humored by Ernestine.

Who remembers the Gordian Knot? As I suspected, just about all of you, at some point in your illustrious careers have stumbled upon this term in a history class. The term “Gordian Knot”is commonly used to describe a complex or unsolvable problem. It can be traced back to a legendary chapter in the life of Alexander the Great… not to be mistaken with Alexander Keith. He was great too… and still is!

Sometimes there are problems that just can’t be solved. Paying a phone bill shouldn’t be one of them. If you didn’t read last Thursday’s Tidbits (shame on you) go there now to get the back story. https://www.week45.com/thursday-tidbits-243/. The Reader’s Digest version is that I had a landline phone installed in my apartment on August 13th. The invoice came a few weeks ago. I tried to pay it. I was unsuccessful.

Last Friday, I called the service provider (rhymes with smell) to try and put this issue to rest. If I get into all of the technicalities, you will stop reading this post if you haven’t already. Louisa, my CSR, put me through my paces. A subsidiary of the Mother Ship services the north, but they get their marching orders and accounts information from Head Office. It has become apparent that Covid has played a role in making these transactions more complicated.

Louisa told me that It was imperative that I get my bill paid that day as the bill now included the prepayment for September meaning that I was now officially in arrears and faced having my account closed by the end of that business day. I cheerfully told my new friend that, indeed, I had been trying for weeks to do just that with no luck. Even after five weeks of service, she could not find an actual account number for us to use to pay the bill. Fear not. She hastily created a sort of “dummy account” (somehow appropriate for me) and we got on to the business of making a payment.

I had my Mastercard at the ready. “I am sorry. I cannot accept a credit card payment because I am working from home and we are not permitted to authorize these types of transactions.” Ditto for e-transfers. “You will have to get a money order today and call me back with the serial number on the money order to prove that the payment is in the mail.” No sweat. I told the secretary at the school that I had a short errand to run (it was a planning day for me so my absence wouldn’t result in the collapse of the educational system in Kangiqsujuaq).

Did I mention that my internet connection was abysmal that morning and that there was no internet connection at the school… on the first day back for some of our students? More on that later.

The post office is located in one of the two grocery stores in the village. It is conveniently located a mere 10- minute walk from the school. I sauntered down, into a very chilly breeze. In my hand, was an envelope, addressed and ready to go to my service provider. “I need a money order for $196.20 and a stamp.” “We don’t have any money orders left and we are out of stamps.” “Ah. Some Friday humor”, I was thinking to myself, but the stern clerk wasn’t joking, or smiling. The post office indeed was moneyorderless and stampless. I don’t give a shit if these aren’t real words. They are now. “You can try the other grocery store,” was his suggestion.

I was now walking into a cold wind, uphill, to the far end of town still shaking my head at the idea of a post office with no stamps. The other food chain in town didn’t handle money orders. I headed for home to place a call to Louisa. Before I got home, I stopped into the school briefly and was approached by one of the technicians who asked to borrow my modem to assist the school in getting the internet back up and running. The Good Samaritan that I am didn’t think twice. Of course, this meant that now I didn’t have an internet connection at home. Remember that I had tried unsuccessfully last week to pay the bill online because they couldn’t find my account number.

I momentarily thought about scanning and e-mailing an old- fashioned cheque just as a sign of intent and goodwill, but with no internet, that wasn’t an option.

I got back on the phone waiting to break the unpleasant news to Louisa that I did not have the serial number from the money order. Louisa works in a call centre. I refused to talk to anyone else but her as I had spent an inordinate amount of time explaining the whole fiasco to her earlier in the morning. I did, however, have the distinct pleasure of speaking with Monica, Zeke and James (not their real names) who assured me that they could help me untie the Gordian Knot. No disrespect but I don’t think any of them could have untied my shoelaces. James, the last of my helpers sounded like he might be the same age as one of my grade 5 students.

I never did get to speak with Louisa as they are not permitted to transfer calls inside the call center. Mentally exhausted, I gave up.

My next call will be to someone in the Public Relations Department of the service provider. And then it might be on to the lovely folks at CBC’s Market Place.

Of course, if my internet connection is bad and my landline is cancelled for failure to pay my bill, I may have to resort to stepping out on the tundra and start howling at the top of my lungs… just like the sled dogs at feeding time!

Stay tuned for the next gripping (griping) episode of “For Whom the Bell Tolls”.

Have a great week.

 

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