Thursday Tidbits

Posted on November 21, 2019 under Thursday Tidbits with no comments yet

The ever changing landscape


Ullakut. This is the word for good morning in Inuktitut.

Three years ago at this time, I was living in India in a city of ten million people. Today, I am in Kangiqsuguaq with a population of 800, excluding the sled dogs. The city of Hyderabad is a very busy place. The streets are jammed with traffic, including animals, and the air is filled with the sound of honking horns. It is warm in India at this time of the year and will get warmer.  The streets of Kangiqsujuaq are quiet except for the sound of four wheelers and the odd vehicle. With no commercial district, seeing crowds of people on foot is not common. While it hasn’t reached its peak, the temperature is dropping. It is cold at this time of the year and will get much colder.

You might say that these two experiences are polar opposites. Thanks to my dear friend, Carol from Ireland, who spent time in India in Kannyakumari and who delivered this pun in a recent post.

There is no typical water and sewer infrastructure to the homes in this northern community. Yes, there is a first rate water plant. How do I know this after only two weeks into my stay? I was at the airport for my morning walk the other day and was chatting with a chap who is a water treatment engineer. He visits 14 northern communities on a regular basis to help ensure that drinking water is clean and safe to drink. He told me that of all the communities he visits, the water plant in Kangiqsujuaq is the best managed despite having older infrastructure than many others. The reason is simple: the plant is managed by a grandmother.

Municipal trucks are the lifeblood of this community. With no water and sewer lines, trucks deliver water and pump out sewage at every home and business. They also pick up garbage and, of course, deliver precious oil to keep us warm. Besides the ubiquitous sound of four wheelers, the most common sound is the trucks.

Early in the morning, before the town comes alive, the silence is almost deafening. Besides the scrunch of my boots on the snow, the only other sound I hear is the howling of sled dogs. There a few packs of them situated at the base of the mountains. Their mournful wails are haunting and wonderful.

Speaking of the airport, it has become my favourite hangout. On non-school days, I wander up there prior to the morning Air Inuit plane departure. There is one departure and one arrival each day. The waiting room is usually chock full of people heading to other communities or “down south” to Montreal. I always end up talking to someone. Some of the passengers are from the local area while others have flown in here on business, like the water engineer.

On Tuesday of this week, there was a community wide planned power outage. I reckoned that the airport would have their own power supply and with no school, I meandered up to see what was going on. I had scarcely entered the small terminal building when this man said, “Hi, Len.” I sat down with J. who was on his way to Montreal for training. He will soon assume a senior management role in a local business. I guess when you’re the “new kid in town” (cue The Eagles), everybody knows who you are. His girlfriend is a friend of none other than Claire and Maggie MacDonnell. (“It’s a small world after all. It’s a small world after all…”) I haven’t met his girlfriend yet but have been in touch with her. Claire must have made quite an impression on these folks as they named their newborn daughter, Claire. It’s at moments like these that you’re proud of your hometown and good people like Maggie and Claire.

This leads me to a question I’ve been asked more than a few times. “Do you mind the isolation?” I guess I haven’t been here long enough to notice and I’m far too busy chasing my tail. Isolation is a curious thing. It’s both a state of mind and a state of body. Lots of people living in much larger towns and cities feel isolated sitting in their own homes. Maybe when the days get shorter with only four hours of daylight I’ll feel differently but I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it. And if I do feel a sense of isolation, I’ll just walk up to the airport and hang out.

I saved my favourite topic till the end: food. As reported earlier, I haven’t received my personal belongings from back home which include things like my slow cooker and recipe books, so I’ve kept things pretty basic. I’m still waiting for my first grocery order from down south. My order somehow got lost (computer glitch they tell me). Luckily, the Coop store which is a stone’s throw from my front door has everything one needs, albeit pricier in many cases than the food that is flown in.

The other day I saw a package of pork riblets on sale that looked quite tempting and the price was unbelievably low. I prepared some mashed potatoes, carrots and broccoli and fired the riblets into a pan, sprinkled them with Montreal steak spice and put them in the oven. Everything looked and smelled quite lovely. My roommate wasn’t home at the time so I dined alone. I cut into the riblets which resembled a rack of spare ribs – four ribs in total. I desperately looked for meat and none was forthcoming. I tore the rack apart with bare hands and attacked them like a caveman. There wasn’t enough meat to satisfy a small field mouse. This particular pig must have been on the Atkins Diet or was on a forty day fast ,such was the paucity of meat.

Ice is beginning to form on Wakem Bay.

I guess I’ll just have to go with the floe!

Have a great weekend.


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