Nunavut Newbie v.2.0: Iqaluit Newbie

A journal that will hopefully help out anyone who is thinking about moving to Nunavut or anywhere in Northern Canada.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Fiddler on the Igloo

Last night I went to go see Inuksuk High School's production of Fiddler on the Roof. The school allows members of the public to join the production, so I knew a few people in the cast and crew. It was nice to get out and see a play since I don't often get to do that anymore. I was very into theatre as a teenager. For me, a week without a rehearsal never happened. Anyway, sitting in the audience just doesn't feel right, so depending on what show gets put on next (probably next year?), I think I might volunteer. I'm always looking for reasons to get out of the house.

It was a warm-ish week here in Iqaluit. Because it's normally too cold to snow, when the mercury rises a bit, we get dumped with snow. I think it snowed a few inches here, but it's hard to tell because it is so fluffy and because it's so windy. The drifts on the roads were really bad and there were numerous car accidents this week. On the main road (Niaqunngusiaq Road) the drifts were so bad near The Road to Nowhere that the downtown-bound lane pretty much disappeared in some spots. I was very paranoid driving to work yesterday, especially since it was Friday the 13th and all.

As for the IKEA stuff, they called me back and told me that since I live in Nunavut, they would ship my order to a warehouse in Winnipeg where I would have to pick it up. Even if you have no idea that there are no roads in Nunavut, and that Iqaluit is on Baffin freakin' Island, wouldn't you AT LEAST think to yourself, "Wow, that's probably 2 days' worth of driving"? Really, wouldn't you?!
"Can you pick it up in Winnipeg?" the sales rep asked me. I laughed. "Um, well I live on Baffin Island so that really isn't an option for me." I probably could have explained that she was calling from directly south of me (Montreal) and that shipping it west wasn't necessary. However, I was on my cell while driving to work, specifically, I was driving on the little bridge by the Frobisher Inn where everybody gets into car accidents so I was not in the position to give a geography lesson. So I told her just to cancel it. I should have added, "And please for the love of god, study a map on your next coffee break."

I think I will just wait until I move into my new place (ETA TBA) and then have I Shop 4 U put some IKEA stuff and whatever else I buy on the sealift. From the looks of their website, they arrange it all. I'm still nervous about the idea of sealift, though. How do I know what date my stuff is to arrive? And what if I'm not there when it arrives and someone steals it? And how do I arrange someone to bring it to my house?

Anyway, here are this week's reader questions. I am going to start compiling them in my Nunavut FAQ page so that future readers don't have to sift through entries to find answers. I hate sifting. No more sifting.

Q: So Government of Nunavut employees get subsidized housing whereas federal government employees in Nunavut get staff housing. Do I have that right?

Are there any other differences between the perks in the two levels of government there?

A: No, we both get subsidized housing. True, I did live in a staff house for awhile, but that's a long story and not the norm. Indeterminate federal government employees receive subsidized housing in which rent comes off their paycheque. It works the same for the Government of Nunavut. As for other perks, I believe federal government employees receive more cash benefits on our paycheques. We receive 3 or 4 cash benefits, I think. An environment allowance, a living cost differential, fuel & utilities, and possibly another one I can't remember (but I think I covered them all). The Government of Nunavut just gives one northern allowance, an amount similar to our environment allowance. The amount of our allowances, like the territorial government's, are also based on which community you live in. We in Iqaluit receive the smallest amount, whereas an employee in Grise Fiord would receive more. I'm not 100% sure if every federal department has it, but the agency I work for gives twice-yearly cheques that pay for your flight to the nearest large city (Ottawa for Iqaluit, Winnipeg for Rankin, not sure of the others). Your spouse and dependants also receive this money. We also receive quite a bit of vacation time, but I honestly don't know too much about how it works because it's different for the different groups of employees who work for my federal agency.

Do you find the long dark days depress you? If so, how do you combat the depression?

A: The abnormal levels of sunlight have never consciously bothered me, but I do find I'm much sleepier in the winter. This year I've been taking vitamin D. I noticed a big difference in my moods after being on it for only a day. I didn't realize how much the lack of sunlight affected me, but as soon as I started taking it, I became much less irritable and I didn't feel as tired all the time. When external factors like sunlight affect you, it's easy to dismiss them because you don't realize it's happening, it's not a conscious thing.

To combat the winter blahs, I make sure I get plenty of sleep (read: I give in to the fatigue), I take vitamin D as I mentioned, and I make sure I get out of the house once or twice a week to socialize. Having a social life makes a big difference!

Q: Was it really hard to leave behind your family and friends in London? How often do you get to go back to visit?

A: My friends and family don't live in London, I'm from Sarnia. I only lived in London for a year before I moved to Rankin Inlet. I don't ever go back to London because I truly hated it there, but I go back to Sarnia everytime I'm down south (approximately every 8 months). Very few of my friends still live in Sarnia, and I'm not very close with my family, so leaving them wasn't difficult for me. In fact, I prefer to live far away because it allows me to have my freedom and to stay away from family drama. Not everybody up here is like me, though. I've known people who were incredibly homesick, and it seems they don't last very long here and if they do, they hate it anyway. For me, southwestern Ontario doesn't feel like my home anymore and I would never move back there so I do not get homesick. However, sometimes I miss my favourite parts of growing up there: the big park near my old house, summer bike rides, swimming in Lake Huron, and going on drives to Bright's Grove. I make sure I do these things when I'm in Sarnia, so I only start to miss them when it's time to go on vacation again.

Q: Do you have any idea how many applications on average the government receives per job posting?

A: I have no idea. It would depend on the job, I suppose. Jobs not requiring education or experience would get more applicants, whereas specialized industries would probably have less competition. That's true of anywhere, though.

Q: Is is possible to live close enough to work in Iqaluit that one can get by on foot alone?

A: Yes, of course. The only place you wouldn't want to walk from would be Apex (which is a subdivision good kilometre of out town), or the furthest reaches of Lego Land (getting near Apex). And you probably wouldn't want to walk to the opposite end of Iqaluit (where there are several businesses). All the new houses and apartment buildings are being built are a bit further from things, but you could still walk to work from them. Where I live now is about a 15-20 minute walk downhill to my office, and about 30 minutes back up hill. I didn't own a car until this year, so I'm probably more open to longer walks than people who have never walked anywhere in their lives.

Q: For someone who dislikes Ontario winters like myself, is it ridiculous to think I could have a fun adventure in Iqaluit for a year? Is not being a winter person pretty much a deal breaker for having a good year or two there?

A: In all honesty, I hated winters in Ontario. Hated! But here, I don't mind it so much. I dress better for it, and the cold here is dry, so it doesn't suck the warmth from your bones the way Ontario cold does. Also, because it lasts for about 8 months, you just get used to it. And when the temperature warms up to even something like -10, it feels so warm to you that you feel like dancing in the streets in shorts and a t-shirt. I've done a 180 about weather; I won't go back to Ontario between June and August anymore, because I've found I just can't handle the heat and humidity. I'm grouchy and dizzy and I never stop sweating. I was miserable even in September last year in Ontario. It was just so humid that I didn't want to go outside. As far as adventure goes, it's impossible to not have an adventure here. You get to experience things you never thought you would, and you can partake in cultural activities that will enrich your soul. I sound like a tourism pamphlet, but it's true. The only stipulation for having a good time here is that you honestly have to try. You can't move here, never go outside, never participate in anything, never make friends, and expect to love it here. A good time won't land on your doorstep.

Do you find it's rather easy to save up money there? Because I am thinking I would be able to since they pay for your move, you get subsidized housing, and there are no malls there so I probably wouldn't do much shopping...

A: Oh, Anonymous. I laughed, but only because you sound like me before I moved north. Even though they pay for your move, you still end up spending money on buying new things you'll want to bring with you. Subsidized housing still isn't cheap, and online shopping is so much more addictive than shopping in a mall. Oh, and don't forget that everything you can buy here is way more expensive. For me, an admitted recovering shopaholic, I've saved nothing. I spent all my savings on a vehicle, housewares before I moved here, and an expensive vacation. But that's just me. Some people leave with a lot of money in the bank. I'd like to be one of them, but saving doesn't come naturally to me. The big money-drainer here is vacation and food, so just watch those two areas and you should be okay.

Now for some photos since I don't post enough of them.

Tuktu (caribou). I think something scared it, it was standing completely still in the visitors' centre...

Hello!! I don't see a shadow so that must mean summer is just around the corner! (This guy was also found in the visitors' centre, I think they might have an animal infestation problem).

It's a very little known fact that ancient inuit didn't travel great distances by dogsled to hunt animals, they were harvesting car tires.

The last thing you want to see when you come home from work (your indoor cat on your roof). This is my eldest fur-baby, Leah.

Fur-baby #2, Moon Unit. She LOVES footwear, as you can see.

Fur-baby #3, Dweezil. I wish I could say this isn't a normal thing he does, but it is. I think he wishes he was taller.

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Sunday, February 08, 2009

Reader Questions

In the spirit of not usually having any idea what to write about these days, I've decided I'll start answering reader questions again. If you've written me a comment that ends in a question mark, you'll notice it went unanswered. Well, I'll try to start answering them again. However, think about your question before you ask. If you presume it's going to require me to spend time finding the answer, or spend time writing the answer, I won't answer it. I'm not going to go out and take photographs of things for you and I'm not going to engage in time-consuming research to find what some random word in Inuktitut is. Maybe someone else will but I have a Nintendo Wii and a comfy bed, and I prefer those things over unpaid research.

Recent reader questions...

Q: "Do you have a picture of the palteua subdivision that I heard so much about in Iqaluit."

A: I assume you mean the plateau subdivision? No, I don't. I have photos I took looking at town from the plateau, but not photographs of the houses there. They're just new, nice looking houses.

Q: I am originally from Ontario as well and am interested in moving to Iqualuit to be a research analyst (if they will hire me). What is it like being an outsider there?

A: It's about the same as being an outsider anywhere else. Iqaluit isn't very traditional, chances are you will only feel the stress of moving to a new town and figuring things out. English is spoken everywhere and the percentage on non-inuit here is about 40%. So you won't really be an outsider, you'll just be another person living and working here.

Q: If you could sum it up in one sentence or so, what is it that makes you love the north so?

A: One sentence! That's difficult, you know. But okay, you got it. What makes me love the north is that I can go outside and hear absolutely nothing, just complete silence. I love quietness. I'm aware there are many quiet places in Canada, but I wound up here and that's what I choose to love about it.

Q: What is your job?

A: Sorry, but I do not share that information publicly. I work for the federal government, that's all you need to know.

Q: Is there stuff to do for children? activities?

A: In Iqaluit, yes. There are sports teams and if your kids are young enough, there are daytime playgroups. In Rankin Inlet there were some sports teams and gymnastics. There is also Sparks/Brownies/Guides/Rangers/etc in some communities, it would just depend. I don't know about smaller communities.

Q: Can someone eMail/post a typical grocery list cost? Milk, bread, bananas?

A: I had plans to do this before I moved out of my old house. I can't remember if I kept all the receipts. If not, you can still expect a post like this from me in the next 3-5 months or so.

Q: What kind of internet connection is obtainable in Nunavut?

A: Qiniq is available in all communities. Check the site for packages. Northwest Hell Tel also provides Internet in some communities.

Q: Also, I know there are no roads, but is there a chance any ATV trails or the such exist that could get you into the area?

A: Possibly, but I have no idea. You'd have to ask somebody in Thompson or Churchill.

On a completely opposite note, I have a question for anyone able to answer. Does anybody have experience with I Shop 4 U, or with buying IKEA items online (from the IKEA site)? Their site doesn't list any shipping prices and the only way to find out is to call them.

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