Travel Notes – Week Three All in a Rush

Big game of catchup to play today. I will plead sickness: I’ve been a mess since last Friday, Naomi since Sunday, and now Jared’s coming down with it. My normal blogging time has been taken up by naps, or attempted naps. I want to get as much of this recorded as I can, as unpolished as it’s going to be, because once we start traveling home, I don’t expect to find the time to sort through all these thoughts for another week.

Happily, the pace of life here is slow enough that we can take things slow and take care of ourselves but still get to do things. And no one cares if we show up coughing and sneezing.

As I mentioned before, Jared and I had the privilege of preaching last Sunday. Jared preached in the morning, at the 9:45 English-speaking service, and here he is being translated at the 11:00 Inuktitut-speaking service.

N was very interested in the family sitting in front of us, toddler in and out of her mum’s amauti. I was surprised we succeeded in sitting through most of that second service, but we did. (For some definition of “sitting” anyway.) It was worth it to get communion at the end with all our Inuktitut-speaking brothers and sisters.

(We practice paedo-communion, that is, giving communion to a child as young as a baby, as soon as they are baptized. That’s sort of unusual, but normally no one minds. N got the bread, but the Inuktitut-speaking deacon who came by with the wine didn’t hear my request on her behalf, so he gave her a lovely Inuktitut blessing before we could ask again. N knows very well that Jesus gives himself to us in the bread and wine, and gets excited about it before hand and says lots of thank yous afterwards. So she was very sad to miss the wine and almost threw a fit, but it was a good chance to talk for the rest of the day about receiving a special blessing. “No wine. Blessed!” she explained later.)

After the two morning services, we were invited to a delicious Philipino lunch with our new friends. The rice porridge with ginger and chicken was so perfect for my poor sinuses. I must find the recipe.

That evening I got to preach at the Inuktitut-speaking “informal service.”

Most of the service was music, led by a large band. I couldn’t find a polite way to get a picture, but I really wanted to, because it was so joyful. The style of music is hard to describe. It put me in mind a little bit of what I’ve experienced in Pentecostal churches in Mexico – four guitars, a bass, keys, and drums, all playing that vaquero (Mexican cowboy) sort of line. That doesn’t do it any justice at all, though.

Music, then sermon, then more music, interspersed with testimonies and people coming up to the altar rail for prayer. I found out later that someone gave their life to Jesus that night, after the sermon. I try to include something evangelistic in all my sermons now, though I haven’t done an altar call as such. Still, that’s the first time that has happened that I know of. Awe and fear before a God who would deign to use me. And lots of prayers for someone who still has a long road.

On a rather different note, the above is an image of desperation. My voice held out through Sunday (thank you Jesus), then cascaded downhill starting Monday morning. I got so many suggestions for cold remedies on facebook and in person – everything from hot toddies to putting half an onion in each sock when I went to bed. I had extra onions lying around, so I put one by my bed. I’m not sure it did anything except make the room smell funny.

Since Monday was another stay-at-home day, I’ll bring you a little more narration of our lovely view. If we move here, the south-facing picture window in the main living room is a must.

This was Sunday morning, I think. The sun rises around 8:30, which happens to be the same time all the kids are walking to the elementary school just behind the cathedral.

Watching this sunrise procession has become a daily ritual. The windows here almost all have deep ledges, thanks to thick walls, and standing on the ledge to look out the big picture window has become a regular source of entertainment. N loves to watch “people walkin’.”

Sunday was clear and cold, the condensation from heater exhaust lingering in the freezing air.

Compare the above views on Sunday with Monday.

The forecast that afternoon was “blowing snow.” So a “blizzard” technically means different things in different parts. Where I grew up I don’t know what the technical definition was, but it usually meant around 2 feet of snow, and schools being closed for at least a week, since it would take ages for our rural street to get plowed enough for a schoolbus to not get stuck. But up here in the Far North it’s more about what you see than what gets dumped. Specifically, a blizzard means “visibility of 400 meters or less for 6+ hours due to blowing snow.” The wind on Monday night was enough to send schoolchildren and government workers home early, and even close the roads in the evening, but it wasn’t technically a blizzard – just “blowing snow.”

On Friday, though, a blizzard’s definition was reached. I kept thinking I heard thunder, then realized it was the sound of the wind gusting up to 70 km/hr. I already barely notice the constant whistling of wind around the house.

In this picture we can’t even see the lights on the North Mart, which is maybe a 5 minute walk.  Jared wanted to walk to the North Mart because we were out of tissues again, but I made him just walk to the church to get some. I read my share of Laura Ingalls Wilder as a child, thank you very much.

So we spent most of Monday like this.

I did troop over to the parish hall to see if the Anglican Church Women were meeting. They do a lot of crafts together, from what I understand, but this week they were supposed to have a party with Inuit games and stuff, and they’d invited me to join. I trooped over at 7, but there was no one there. That’s when I found out that even the taxis weren’t even running anymore.

On Tuesday it was back to clear, cold vistas. This is the view out the kitchen window, facing north. I keep wondering if someone lives in that shack right behind us. Some people do live in shacks in this weather.

Jared took N to library storytime again, where she heard a story about a pig that says moo. We had Bp. Darren and Karen over for a dinner of pasta with Jared’s famous red sauce.

Wednesday we finally made it next door to the soup kitchen. It was a very slow morning for us, you know, those days when you feel like you are hustling as hard as you can, but it takes ’till 10:30 just to get dressed. Anyway, Jared got over there early enough to be of some use.

Naomi and I followed around 11, where we mostly just socialized and chatted with the volunteer staff.

The menu for the day was beef barley soup, one of Jared’s favorites. It was really tasty.

A nice chap is there every day making bannock (I learned how to spell it) from scratch. His enjoyment of the task is evident, and he was happy to share it.

This soup kitchen is a really remarkable place. They serve one meal a day, 365 days of the year. Lunch on weekdays of soup and sandwiches, dinner on weekends with an entree and salad and everything. It was started by the cathedral parish, but became legally independent non-profit several years back so they could have access to different grants. It’s run by a board (which includes church members) and is staffed entirely by volunteers. Volunteers who, I might add, thought absolutely nothing of newcomers barging in the back door and chatting with them for their last hour of preparation, and who downright encouraged the toddler to wander around the kitchen and explore all the cabinets.

They serve something like 60-120 people per day, many of them homelessness. It’s hard to believe homelessness could be a problem in a place like this, but it is. And poverty and food insecurity. There are homeless shelters for them to stay in overnight, but they are kicked out during the day. One of the places they can stop is the soup kitchen. Today Jared and I got to hear one of the board members explain their dreams to expand what they’re doing with the soup kitchen, integrating with other programs around town to do more to address the root causes of food insecurity. It was all very sensible and well-informed. I am just floored at what these volunteers do with their spare time. Yesterday I got to visit a drop-in center that would be another place people could stop; it’s called the Tukisiviarvik Center. It looks like just a drop in center for the homeless and poor, but they turn the whole problem on its head and use that time to train and educate the people about their cultural heritage. They teach traditional sewing classes, teach the traditional names and tools, and take people on trips out on the land to hunt, camp, make tools, that sort of thing. It’s rather flipping brilliant if you ask me.

I didn’t get pictures of Tukisiviarvik because it was a surprise visit and I didn’t have my camera; I didn’t get more pictures of the soup kitchen because, well, taking pictures of poor people you don’t really know and putting them on the internet seems a bit dodgy. If I get a chance to know them, hear their stories, and get their permission, I would share. But these are real people, and these are their lives and their stories.

By the time it was time to eat on Wednesday, we’d been there for a while, had already started eating, and N was getting antsy. We stayed long enough to meet a couple of people, and we did succeed in chatting with a couple young girls who came over from school to have lunch. That part of the visit was more cursory than we would have liked, but you can only do what you can. We had a really good visit with the volunteers, and gave a little cathedral tour to one who was new in town.

On the lighter side of the subject of food:

Bacon-wrapped won the debate for the last filet of arctic char. The result was the combination of a few different recipes for bacon-wrapped salmon that I don’t feel like digging up again. I split the filet lengthwise, wrapped each in three slices of bacon (yes they have regular bacon in Canada), and pan seared them on each side for two minutes. Then I put them on a baking sheet and drizzled them over with a glaze that was 1 part dijon mustard to 3 parts maple syrup, and baked for 7 more minutes.

The result was to die for. It might be our favorite yet.

Wednesday night was women’s Bible study again. I facilitated a discussion on the end of Mark 8 and most of Mark 9, using a blend of a couple inductive study methods that I haven’t actually been trained in. It was a smaller group this time, of very faithful women who are quite comfortable with a group, and I think the discussion was helpful. We all stayed later in the evening to discuss some ideas on the table for a Lenten study.

If you think Wednesday was exciting, Thursday took the cake. Bp. Darren took Jared and another friend, Matt, on a skidoo trip out on the iced-over bay. I should really have him write a whole post about this, but a few pictures will have to suffice.

The sled in the back is called a qamutiq.

Looking out over open water.

Their trail was a previous person’s set of skidoo tracks.

You can see a little bit here of the ice formations that are left when the tide goes out. The camera died from sheer cold before Jared could get pictures of the really big ones they saw, colored blue-green like the seawater.

It was really cold that day, -30-something C, with windchills down in the -40s. Jared’s boots were a little too big, big enough that the trapped air stopped becoming insulation and became a spot for air to freeze, but he managed to stomp around enough that he didn’t lose anything.

One of the smaller cracks.

Bp. Darren turns the skidoo around.

Gotta love that skidoos are such a part of native life now. Some people still keep dogs, but dogsledding doesn’t seem to be the main way people go out and hunt these days. To put it in perspective, the Tugisiviarvik center I was telling you about? With the classes on traditional crafts and stuff? Includes a class on small vehicle maintenance.

While the lads were “out on the land” as they say (even though they were out on the ice), Naomi and I were having a fine visit with Matt’s wife, and their little 3 year old girl and baby boy. N, who is bored stiff of the small collection of toys I brought, was in absolute toy heaven. She wandered around in a short-attention-span haze, trying everything, runny nose going full steam. The 3 year old was very sweet and thoughtful, even being at that stage where learning to share is a struggle.

That evening, we got yet another treat. A couple in the church had us, Bp. Darren, and Karen over for a caribou dinner. Oh my goodness. Caribou. It has that buffalo-like flavor of something that’s spent its life running around, almost a little like liver (in a good way; I like liver a lot), and it was cooked to be super-tender. I may have had thirds.

During dinner the stories started, and after dinner they continued. Stories about how life has changed on Baffin in the last 40 years. Stories about the formation of the Nunavut government. Stories about traditional life. Glenn pulled out a collection of small artifacts he’d found on his exploration, and we played the guessing game of what they might be. (Purported anthropologist that I am, I am always terrible at that game.) I felt like I was back in Dr. Hummer’s study, learning how to uncover stories based on scratches on a carved piece of rock.

Rebecca showed us how to light a qullik (pronounced more like “kudluk” with the k’s gutteral). It’s a lamp, but it’s a lot more than a lamp. It’s the only source of light and heat inside an iglu. It was used for warmth, tended all day and night, kids not allowed to run around inside so they wouldn’t disturb the flames. It was used for drying wet things, a drying rack hanging over top, from which a pot could be hung for cooking.

The wick part (not sure what else to call it) is made of arctic cotton, harvested and saved during the summer, blended together with dried peat moss. It’s carefully wet with seal oil, and arranged to draw more oil up as it burns. The flame’s height is controlled by how much wick is pulled out over the rim and stood up. I sat behind it at one point, and it was warm. It was like sitting next to the open flame of a really wide paraffin lamp. Apparently one could set up the wick to go all along the edge, and this was a smaller qullik, so you could get a lot of heat out of this invention.

I went away from this evening with that sense that one could spend one’s whole life here learning and digging and exploring, and never come close of running out of things to learn.

And for the first time in my life, there’s a very real possibility that we could do just that, right here.

We leave in the early afternoon tomorrow, after church, so the conclusion of our trip will have to wait until after we recover from the whirlwind that will be our journey back to Ambridge. I haven’t even time to proofread this post because I need to get to bed. Blessings.


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