Monday Morning Musings

Posted on November 11, 2019 under Monday Morning Musings with 3 comments

Inukshuk on the outskirts of Kangiqsujuaq


“Who is the teacher and who is the student?”

Good question.

This quote can’t be traced to anyone famous so I’ll claim it as my own. I have always been a fan of lifelong learning. Some people think that this entails taking more courses, reading volumes of books or watching Fox News. Two out of three ain’t bad! I would like to suggest that travel might be the best teacher for those of us a little longer in the tooth. We learn about new countries, new people, and new cultures. We experience firsthand the wonders that the world has to offer. We broaden our horizons and hopefully gain understanding and empathy for those who may experience a much different existence than we do.

I have been in Kangiqsujuaq less than a week and my education is in full swing. Yes, I’m in the classroom teaching a beautiful group of grade 5 and 6 children. Let’s just say they’ve kept me occupied! It will take me a bit of time to adjust to the rigours of teaching, after a long hiatus. I have quickly discovered that being flexible, adaptable and patient will be the keys to my survival. I played my guitar on day one and I know from a lifetime of music that this will be a major lifeline. My class will perform Feliz Navidad at the Christmas concert in Spanish, English and Inuktitut!

One of the blessings of being so far north is that there is no cell service. The one exception is IPhone to IPhone.It is simply joyous to see young people playing and learning without an electronic device controlling their every waking moment. When the students are not in class, they are outdoors playing even on the coldest days of the winter. One of the teachers told me that the temperature dipped to a balmy -57 last winter. I am eagerly (?) anticipating recess duty on days like that. These temperatures will require a serious winter wardrobe upgrade and I hope to engage the services of a local Inuk woman to make me a new coat…. and a warm hat for by bald head!!!

The leadership of the school is strong and I am getting to know the staff, who have been very welcoming and helpful as I get my feet under me. I was invited to a staff potluck last Friday evening. Like the Camino, the reasons for many of the non-indigenous staff coming north, is varied and interesting to hear about. This was a going away party for Audrey, whom I mentioned in last Thursday’s post. She’s heading south to have her first baby. I had my first taste of caribou stew and it was fantastic. I already feel at home with this group.

A special thank you to E and L who work in my class with me. They’ve held my hand (!) and have been incredibly supportive.

On the weekends, some of the staff go hiking. On Saturdays, they walk with students who are preparing for an outdoor survival exercise later in the winter where they will be in the elements for four days. Sundays are staff walking days. They generally go out for a four hour jaunt. I will be an active participant in both hikes. I am told that being in the outdoors is a survival mechanism. This is true regardless of where you live.

Speaking of food, I received my first lesson in sustainability. Beluga whales appear in Wakem Bay in Kangiqsujuaq twice a year and are hunted by the Inuit people. Nothing goes to waste. When the whales are brought to shore, they are immediately processed. Fresh meat is distributed on the spot and whatever is remaining goes into a community freezer. The local people can go there any time for free meat. This is so sensible.

Amidst the cold, I already feel the warmth of the locals. I have been offered countless rides home on the back of their four wheelers.

You have already deduced the answer to the question posited at the beginning of this piece.

I am the student. The people of Kangiqsukujuaq are my teachers.

Have a great week.

P.S. Lest we forget. My heart will be at the cenotaph in Antigonish this morning.




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