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  • Day454

    An actual Visitor---A human one!

    December 8, 2018 in Canada ⋅ ⛅ -26 °C

    Last week I had the great privilege of hosting my first visitor to Igloolik. My cousin, who was born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia, where peaches and pecans sell on the side of the road, braved the cold and Journeyed to the North. I capitalize "journey" because as anyone that has traveled further north than Iqaluit knows, it is always a Journey with a capital J. lol.

    After traveling from Atlanta to Ottawa by way of Philadelphia and Toronto, he spent the night at the airport and then got the dismaying news that he would be spending an extra day in Ottawa. The jet had a dent in it. Apparently. Boeing said it was too big to fly safely. So, my cousin got his bag, hotel voucher, and left the airport. He put on his tourist hat and ventured to Parliament Hill in Ottawa and joined a tour to learn about Canadian governance and history. He had his first shawarma, a delicious wrap not unlike a gyro but yummier that originates from Lebanon. If you like garlic, you will like shawarma! He learned about the canal that runs through Ottawa and freezes in the winter providing an ice rink for all to enjoy.

    The next day, he tried again and experienced his first flight in which you walk out onto the tarmac, to board the plane...from the back. The front of the jet coming from Ottawa to Iqaluit is for cargo. The lack of roads or rail leaves only the planes to bring everything that is necessary to support thousands of people. Once in Iqaluit, he once again, walked across the tarmac to the 1-yr old new airport. There, he managed to not get lost in the 6 whole gates of the airport. The final leg of the journey is on a twin prop, 18 passenger plane sitting out on the tarmac.

    He boarded the plane that had been sitting, unheated on the tarmac for hours, and learned how cold a plane can get! Turns out it's a metal tube! Two hours later, a brief stopover in Hall Beach allowed him to see a town even smaller than Igloolik. Hall Beach is our neighbor with 800 residents that is reachable by skidoo during the winter on the sea ice with a 1.5-2hr ride. My cousin saw the one-room airport with baggage carousel that is a sheet of metal angled down so when the airline employee shoves the bags through a baggage door, the bags slide down the metal slide.

    Then, it was short 15 min flight to Igloolik. I picked him up and showed him the town which he remarked seemed bigger than he expected. Over the next days, we walked and experienced the shock and awe of grocery prices, of walking on sea ice, of realizing the sun was not going to crest over the horizon.

    He saw me gather and prepare dinner at 3pm because it felt later. He had his eyelashes frozen and frosted all of his clothing. He got to shovel snow for the first time as we unburied the qamatik that was going to be pulled behind a skidoo so we could out for a ride around the land. It turned out to be too windy for a good ride, so my cousin got his own personal chauffeured ride on the back of a friend's skidoo.

    He got to buy a local carved narwhal made from caribou antler. Great find since he'd been wanting one of those. He got to visit my work and see animal specimens that he may never get (or want) to see again. lol.

    We played bingo over the radio and lost. We went to a party and he wowed everyone with his knowledge of Nunavut and Inuktitut. I had no idea how he knew all that he did. He said he just read the magazines and talked to the people next to him on the plane. I mean, he came in rattling off towns like Pangnirtung and Qikiqtarjuaq while explained the pronunciation of Inuktitut letters. It was hilarious.

    We threw hot water in the air and watched it vaporize. We did this particular exercise at least 5 times. We saw great Northern Lights and he was shocked to learn (as we all are) that I live too far north for the best Northern Lights. (I personally think that is one of the best things to say to convey to someone just how far north Igloolik is----"well, to see the Northern Lights, we have to look South." bahahaha)

    He got to feel -40 with the windchill...as we stood out there trying to take pictures of those Northern Lights. He quickly shifted to choosing the parka when the windchills got past -35C. He remarked as well that with the proper clothes, it is not bad. It is only bad for long periods of time or for exposed skin----it's not that my hands haven't been cold before---it just usually takes longer than 10 seconds.

    I am so lucky to have been able to share this with my family. A trip like this is not feasible for most and to have the stars align so that he could come was very cool.

    And of course the Journey couldn't be complete without a little leaving drama. His exit flight out of Igloolik was cancelled 5 days in advance. The auxiliary power unit that starts the planes after they've shut down in cold temps broke in the town north of us. Thus, no plane could leave there. My cousin's flights were canceled for 4 days. I guess that's the time it takes to get a replacement sent up. Rather than bank on the fact that they might or might not get the power unit replaced, I immediately booked him on the only other airline that serves here (though those airlines just merged a few months ago so after January, we will only have one airline----what could go wrong---nothing bad gonna happen with that situation. Sigh). We drove to the airport in somewhat foggy conditions not knowing if the plane would make it out. The plane was fully booked. They landed in Igloolik and my cousin safely left in a fuzzy, dusky morning.
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