Travel Notes – Saturday Daylight, Sunday Services

Before this trip, I’m not sure I ever would have thought of sitting with the sun on my face as a restful activity. But I spent all of naptime on Saturday on the little loveseat, which is at just the perfect angle from the picture window, sliding across to get the last of Sol’s rays into my skin. I actually stopped what I was doing and switched to garter stitch so I could watch her slide behind the far mountain ridge.

We were supposed to visit the hospital Saturday morning, but when we arrived they were having a bit of an emergency, with buzzers and a fire truck arriving and all that. Hoping it was just a drill. We drove around for a while, and when we got back there was also an ambulance, so we decided to try again later.

But, as a result, we got another little tour of the town today, a different edge of it that we hadn’t seen yet. To get there, drove past the giant tankers of gas and diesel and jet fuel that get filled up once a year, and found out that this means that gas prices are pretty much set for the year. About the equivalent of $4.40 a gallon USD this year, if you’re curious. Not half as bad as I thought it’d be, considering that the prices were probably set way before US gas prices started falling like crazy this year.

Found out what the birds are that have been wheeling around the church: really fluffy ravens. They hang out ominously in large numbers at the town dump. Nevermore indeed.

We ended up beside the bay at high tide. I can’t say it occurred to me that the tide still goes in and out when the water is frozen. High tide looked like jagged peaks of snow-covered ice making little islands in frozen pools. We met a lady out there, happens to go to the church, who offered to take our picture, and said “looks like polar bear country out there!”

What happens when the tide goes out, I asked? The tide just leaves more and pointier jagged peaks of ice. I stand in awe before the workings of God’s created world, laid open to the sky since earth began, a secret only for not being witnessed or told. And in this corner of the world, as normal as breathing.

Then we drove to the highest point you can get to by road; it used to be an early warning light during the cold war. In case, you know, the Russians decided to invade that way. I don’t know why this never occurred to me. After all, the earth is round like a ball, not round like a tube.

The light, no longer manned; one of three flights in and out every day; the mountains; Frobisher Bay; one end of Iqaluit.

The day was clear and cold, and the view was striking. Rocky, tumbly mountains off into the distance, as far as the mist of ice crystals allow the eye to see. The sun at its zenith is still low enough to make everything a little peach-golden, eerily beautiful, giving shadow outlines to every rock and curve of drifting snow. It’s rather magical, even as it’s a constant reminder of how soon sunset is coming. Reminds me a lot of the feeling I get every fall when the leaves turn.

As hoped, got some more face time with people since my last post. Bishop Darren got back into town Friday evening, and dropped in as soon as he got the chance, which was around 8:30 p.m. I can’t say I’m used to having a bishop just stop by for tea when we’re in our jammies, but that’s sort of how things roll around here. Mercifully, Darren is one of those chaps that have the ability to put you at ease pretty quickly. Also had Judy the treasurer up to have lunch with us on Saturday, which was lovely. She’s part of a fairly large population of Filipinos here, and is energetically invested in what God is doing here. Darren brought his wife Karen up for a visit Saturday afternoon as well, and we all hung out with Jonas also in the apartment’s little living room.

People time, I realized, will have a snowball effect as we connect with more people. I don’t know why I expected activities and events to neatly space themselves out across the days. Silly.

Have learned made one reflective conclusion, though. If we decided to move here, probably a big-ish hurdle for me would be learning to be… more laid back. I am an up-tight task-oriented socially-self-conscious mid-Atlantic girl if ever there was one, and this is the sort of place where you have to learn to just drop into someone’s house unexpected. Or let there be awkward silences, to open up space. Or be really really patient to build up trust.

That’ll be a bit of a hurdle for me. That’s a part of my identity that I’ve been conscious of for some years (thanks to all my college BFFs being from the midwest), and only ever seen as a liability. But it never got that much in my way, since I haven’t really strayed far out of East coast culture. (Pittsburgh’s pretty chill compared to DC, but not all like this.) But here I’d have to get over it. I’m quite willing and happy to, but I oughtn’t underestimate how hard that might be for me. “Stretching,” as we say in Christianese.

So that was Saturday.

Today was Sunday, the high holy work day for people of the cloth, so we dove in as deep as we could. Mostly Jared did, and I got to meander around and be friendly with people, which is most of what I wanted to do anyway. He went over at 8 to help set up for communion, then we all went over at 9:15 for the 9:45 English service. We had heard all about this nice family with a little girl, A, about a year older than N, who adopted N immediately. They were quite the pair in pink dresses and boots with little knit sweaters. N is a little slow to warm up sometimes, but A was very generous to share her backpack full of dinosaurs. N played with them all service, as we thought Sunday school might be a bit much on a day like this.

Jared got to help lead the service, at which a visiting bishop from Ireland, +Harold, preached. The service was from the Anglican Church of Canada’s book of alternative services, clearly cut from the same cloth as the 1979 Episcopal BCP, so we felt right at home.

Bp. Darren, Jared, Bp. Harold, and Very Rev. Jonas.


The narwhal tusk cross, and the skylight from the inside.

After the English service, the big Inuktitut service starts right after, so the English service’s congregation shuffles quickly over to the soup kitchen building next door to have some coffee and cookies and fellowship. Jared didn’t quite know what he was supposed to do, so he ended up sticking around and standing up front in his robe for the Inuktitut service. Didn’t really do anything, but Jonas kindly introduced him at the announcements.

Meanwhile I got to hang out with the coffee and cookies, and meet lots of interesting people. N got to run around with A some more, while A’s mom Christine got us hooked up with story time at the local library, how to get taxi vouchers to get there free, and invited us over to play.

By the time coffee hours was all wrapped up, we meandered with Karen back over to catch the very tail end of the Inuktitut service. We said hi to a few more people, and scooted out as fast as we could… which of course still meant us being the last people in the building, since N had to potty right before we left, and it takes ages to get all our outerwear back on for the 30-second walk across the parking lot. Oh, toddler life!

Thank God for naptime. Rock-solid excuse to get some quiet processing time every afternoon.

Was missing Martha a lot today. Turns out “First time you wished you could call and ask for advice about something” is its own stage of grief.

Late afternoon was an informal birthday dinner for Bp. Darren, a treat of food and fellowship. And in retrospect, a very helpful example of the sort of laid-back hospitality one would want to develop here.

[Edited to remove some content. I realized today that I think of this space as like a family photo album, and I think of sharing it as if y’all were in my living room looking at pictures. But it’s not; this is the internet, and it’s very public. It’s not fair to our new friends for me to put pictures of private spaces and events up without permission, and I don’t want to be one of those people that you have to worry about whether your words or pictures will end up on facebook.]

They had some other friends over as well, and 8-year-old M was a total sport playing with N. When she wasn’t busy doing string games with her mom, that is.

I saw M and her mom doing what looks like cat’s cradle, so I ask if that’s what they’re doing. Mom says, “I only know the Inuktitut word for it!” A little light comes on somewhere in the back of my head, so I checked the internet later – and yeah, all those string games we used to do as kids? The whole thing is an Inuit tradition. M taught me how to do one that was pretty darn complicated; she told me the name for it; starts with an N, but both my brain and google have let me down finding the word. Her mom told me it means “net.” Not wanting to disappoint, I got on youtube when I got home to memorize it properly. Turns out it’s the one that we used to call “Jacob’s ladder.”

And here I thought it was just one of those Klutz book things. An artifact of being in middle school in the late ’90s. Turns out it goes back vastly farther than that, and I find myself quite accidentally learning from the source. Who is, most basically, a clever 8 year old who has decided I am ok – itself always a thrill for me, who will not be remembered for being Great With Kids.

There are moments to just shut up and accept grace.

Jared gets back from attending the late service any time now. ‘Till then I’ll take a shower, then practice the net a few more times to make sure it’s sealed my brain.

5 thoughts on “Travel Notes – Saturday Daylight, Sunday Services

  1. amusing myself after a similar unexpected drop-in:
    a reading from the book of zimmerwisdom ch 12 v 26.a. keep watch therefore, and a tidy house, for you do not know the day or hour the archbishop might drop by for tea when you are cleansing the dishes of several days and the earth lies in clods on thy floor. 26b. Be humble, and do not presume to know the ways in which thy archbishop likes his tea, for you will rue silence as you prepare the cup for the third time. 26c. The delight of a baby is a balm for many ills, and the holding of an infant covers over many wrongs.


  2. Oh, Rebecca! Thank you so much for sharing this great adventure with us. I have been lurking with great appreciation on your site for several years, and I am the opposite of you is so many ways: an old lady atheist, living in the tropics. But I can relate to so much of your life. When in graduate school (Clinical Psychology Ph.D.), I said, “If I had been born 50 years earlier, I would probably have wanted to become a minister, a saver of souls.”
    If you do decide to make this great leap:
    As another East Coast girl who had to give up her up-tightness, you will find that it is one of the best things that you can lose, in this life. Relax and enjoy it.
    I’ve been away from the U.S. almost entirely since 1990, most of the time in very different cultures, or in fairly isolated spots. My advice, don’t worry about “missing the U.S.” or being homesick (except in the sense of missing your dear family members). Human beings are companionable and interesting everywhere. And now, with Skype, etc. your distant contacts are very close.
    I sense that you will fall in love with this community and its people, and they will be in your hearts forever.
    Here in the tropics we use UHT milk, from unrefrigerated boxes. I’ll bet they have that up there. We’ve used it without any ill effects for many years; my husband drinks about 1.25 liters a day. They even sell UHT cream.
    When I considered a job as a psychologist in Montana years ago, I learned that alcoholism was the major social problem (paired with unemployment). I didn’t take the job, for other reasons, but I think that those cultural issue would have been hard for me to bear. My advice: find out what are the problems, as well as the virtues of that community. (I noted on the map of the area there was a Women’s Shelter. Look into that.) Their problems will be your problems; make sure they are ones you can live with.
    Find out soon about obtaining permanent residency, and how long to get Canadian citizenship. You probably don’t think you’ll be interested in that, but this is an old lady, whispering in your ear. The world is going through some huge changes. Find out about a permanent status, now!
    And always I request: More Pictures of Nomes, always, always!
    OK, I’ll go back to lurking. Thanks again for being you, and sharing “you” with “us”.
    Tropical Grandma


  3. Thank you for sharing these bits of what you are seeing and hearing and learning. I can’t wait to hear more when you get back to Ambridge.


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