Travel Notes – tours, tourism, art, and artifacts

I resume our narrative on Wednesday evening, when I was invited to share a testimony at the women’s Bible study. What a diverse group of ladies, with no less than four continents represented! Actually possibly five; one lady might have been from Australia.

Hearing their stories was encouraging for me. I definitely came away realizing that Iqaluit is the sort of place where no one is boring. I mean, people aren’t really boring. At least not usually, once you get to know them. But you don’t really end up in Iqaluit without a good story to tell about it. And God leads people in all kinds of ways.

I also had some sort of fried dough thing for the first time, but I can’t remember what it was called. Banik? Bantik? Rats. It was really good. I took home some leftovers and dipped them in hot chocolate.

Someone also made Amish friendship bread. And apologized to me that it probably wasn’t authentic! Bless, I’m impressed she even knew to associate it with the US state I come from! Myself, I wouldn’t know authentic Amish friendship bread from coffee cake. Maybe someone from eastern PA would.

It was very special. And I got myself in the pickle of teaching next week’s study of Mark. Should be fun. I only hope I don’t discredit my theological education.

Thursday was our day to see a couple of the official sights of the town. A new friend arranged for us to tour the legislative assembly, the seat of government for the territory of Nunavut. I am a dunce and forgot to bring my camera (my excuse is that God woke me up in the middle of the night to write a sermon for Sunday, so I slept in and we were in a tizzy to get out the door on time). Generously, said friend stayed and took such a bundle of pictures on her phone that I can take you on a bit of a tour right here!

The lobby is full of artwork, mostly gifts from the different territories. Nunavut only became a territory in 1999 (April 1st, if you’d like to know), and on its formation, each of the other provinces and territories gave them a gift. It’s all sparkly and new and beautiful. The above is from either New Brunswick or Saskatchewan, I forget, but it’s images of all kinds of different wildlife in both places. Very touchable.

We got to see all the other gifts, but this was my favorite. The state flower, the saxifrage, worked by a local artist in fine metals and semi-precious stone. This place in winter is stunning; I can hardly imagine the new and totally different things it holds in summer, relatively short as it is.

Above is a hand-made tapestry from the relatively close-by town of Pangnirtung, famous for its native arts. That rock cairn in it is called an Inuksuk; they act as distinctive place markers, among other things.


Now into the legislative chamber. The door handles are real walrus tusks.

22 council members, and the meetings are held in English, Inuktitut, and Inupiatun (the language of western Nunavut; not sure I am getting the name right).

The crest of Nunavut, done in a really fine hooked-rug tapestry. The caribou is for land animals, the narwhal for sea animals (yes narwhals are real), and there are various other symbols like the igloo, the inuksuk, and next to it the seal-oil lamp.

The whole place was full of sealskin. The stuff is gorgeous. N loved touching it.

In the middle of the room is a qamutik, a sled, with traditional hunting tools on it.

A closeup of the drum dancer in front.

So out in the lobby is a giant mace made of narwhal tusk (actually the tusk isn’t real because they use it for stuff, though they have another one that is real). It’s covered with symbolic decorations and is carried by statues of an Inuit family. When the legislature is in session, the mace is marched into the assembly room and placed on this stand – up top when they are meeting and below when they are not, I think. I mostly think it’s cool because the figures are a man and woman, to symbolize equality. The right figure is a woman with a baby on her back in an amauti.

This is the only Canadian seat of government that you’re allowed to go sit on for photo ops. Spiffy, eh?

So many government buildings are full of crazy symbolic stuff like this, and being from so close to my own capitol, I haven’t taken that much time to go do the tourist thing and actually learn about it. I bet it is also awesome, though further removed in time. While I was at the Nunavut legislative assembly, though, I kept thinking how special it must be to be part of making those first steps in history. To have it be so recent. To discern what symbolism is important to your people, and sew it into the fabric of the chairs, into the tapestries on the wall. The only bummer, I suppose, is that it took so long, though I don’t know the rest of that story.

Thursday afternoon we were determined not to let the early dark confuse us again. As soon as N was up from her nap, had a snack, and was appeased that her toys still existed, we walked to the museum.

N insists on using her own feet for at least some of the time. But we wanted to get to the museum with enough time to actually see stuff, so we forced her into the stroller eventually.

Still, by the time we got to the museum we only had about 45 minutes.

Lesson for the day: if you are going to be somewhere for only 45 minutes, still take the time to take off all your snow gear. Because people keep it warm inside, and wearing all that gear indoors for more than fifteen minutes started making me feel sick.

Turns out that living somewhere really cold doesn’t make you actually like being cold all the time. Like, duh.

Also, favorite thing about this place for the day: places like museums and libraries have lots of spots to stow coats and boots and stuff, and expect you to do so. Meaning everyone is walking around the museum in stocking feet.

The first gallery was full of art and artifacts that told stories of Inuit culture and history. N’s favorite spot was the display of children’s things: sealskin coats, kamuks (boots), and wee stuffed toys.

My favorite spot was the statue of a woman giving birth assisted by someone else. I wonder if the someone else is the dad, or supposed to be a midwife type person?

Upstairs were more art pieces that were themselves historical. Like pottery from certain regions and times, that sort of thing. We rather had to rush because we were boiling. Silly. Also, this giant whale skull.

It shows my southerner-ness that when I heard “carvings” I assumed “wood.” Duh, there are no trees up here. (Though the qamutik sleds appear to all be made of wood… should ask about that.) But there’s beautiful stone carvings of different colors (the above is of swans), and some of the carvings were in bone (like these bison).

The second gallery is a rotating exhibit; about half of it was artwork from a couple of children’s books, one of them an elaborately illustrated guide to arctic birds.

The above print is of the ravens we see flying around everywhere. (Sorry my current setup doesn’t allow me to edit any pictures. Argh.)

It was a very neat place. I would like to go back when we have more time, when we know to take our coats off, and when I’m prepared to be spendy at the excellent gift shop full of local art. At the very least I don’t want to leave without a couple of the children’s books.

The museum closed an hour before the library, which is right next door, so we popped in for a bit. I had N all prepped to go to the library to experience books, but they had crayons and coloring pages out anyway. Oh well; she had a blast! She spent the whole time drawing on this picture of Inuit listening to traditional throat singers (the two ladies on the right), and the drum dancer (on the left).

N thought all the people in the picture were angels. I am reminded of St. Gregory on his mission to England – “they are not anglos, they are angels!”

While she was sitting there, scribbling away, a little girl sat down with us. N says, “nice hat!” Seriously. That’s what she said. Anyway, the girl said “thank you!” and joined us for coloring and conversation. She loved N and N got quite attached to her; her name still comes up during prayer time. I don’t know if we’ll ever meet little K again, but my heart went out to her.

It’s tiny moments like that that seem to define this place. It’s like, actual small town life, because if you meet someone here, they more or less have to be living here. It’s not like they popped in from across the river. Here is just here. And even though there are a lot of interesting things going on for such a small city (by US standards, anyway), that seems to mean that you can get to know people.

I’ve tried to connect in Ambridge like that. Really, I have. It’s a town of about the same size, though struggling with the memory of a more successful past rather than struggling with the challenges of a more successful present. Ambridge has its own people who are wonderfully invested in its future, pouring creative energy into it, and exciting things are happening. I would be happy to be a part of that. But every time I ask God, is this where you want us to stay? He says NO. Every time we asked, do you want us to move across the river and get invested in the community where our church is? He says NO. It’s been so frustrating, and we just have to trust that God has us in a holding pattern for a reason – hopefully that reason is that he’s preparing our hearts to dive in whole-heartedly somewhere that we really can get invested. Where we can really get to know our neighbors and love them, and by the grace and power of the Holy Spirit, shepherd them into the kingdom.

Friday morning was a long-awaited play date with new friends who have a three-year old and a baby. How fun to be able to visit a family in the morning and have both parents be home! Ah, the glories of parental leave. More points for Canada. We had a lovely visit. N was in toy heaven, though she’s still learning to actually play with other kids instead of just with their stuff. Many pumpkin muffins were consumed. And the grownups talked about living in town with kids, about budgeting for things up here, and above all, about the beloved sealift.

Sadly, I didn’t know it at the time, but I was descending into the fog of a cold. My poor sleep was bound to end in illness sooner or later, and by an hour after we got home, I was deep into my first box of tissues. Anyway, even early illness screws with my concentration, so I got exactly 0 pictures, forgot to look at their sealift room, and failed to make the busy toddler use the bathroom until it was too late. Oh well. She loves the socks and pants she got to borrow from the 3-month-old, who is about her size.

So I spent the rest of the day in cold-fog-land. My only pictures of the day’s activities are N emptying the corner cabinet – which was permitted in order to give me a chance to write the previous blog post.

That was also the night the Arctic Char was processed and first cooked, which I’ll tell you of another day.

At least I don’t have to worry about getting anyone else sick – no joke, ever single person I have talked to today has claimed they also have a cold. That’s rather distressing, though I guess they can all take Tylenol. Maybe spring will come around and everyone’s voices will sound suddenly de-congested.

Saturday has been pretty chill. Sleeping in, laundry, a third (failed) trip to North Mart attempting to find a cold drug I can actually take. The highlight of the day was getting to practice with the praise band for the English-speaking service tomorrow morning. I haven’t been involved in leading contemporary worship in lo, these many years. It’s funny to think how much has changed since the last time I sang this sort of music into a microphone. Anyway, I think it will be fun, and I pray it will be worshipful. And in the evening, preaching with an interpreter for the first time. Excitement!

2 thoughts on “Travel Notes – tours, tourism, art, and artifacts

  1. Rebecca, I am so falling in love with this town through your pictures and experiences! I wish I could visit there. I think there is something in the Jennings DNA that likes cold and wet. Well, in some of us anyway. I hope you don’t get too sick, since I know that your preaching and sharing will be such a blessing to the fellow Christians there. And I can hardly wait until you visit the craft group! There is so much talent up there. May the Lord continue to bless the three of you richly.


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