Today I learned that I have a deep respect for Inuit culture.
I have always wanted to go visit the Canadian north. I tell people this and 9 times out of 10 they point out that I can go down south on an all-inclusive week long vacation for the same price as the flight up to the frosty north. They are correct and both appeal to me but for now I chose the cold.
I always knew I would go to Nunavut. It felt like I was being pulled there with curiosity.
A couple of years ago I saw an ad on Kijiji advertising 2 tickets to Iqaluit that a guy had won at a golf tournament. I invited a friend and we emailed him. We were each going to pay $400 for our round trip fare which is a fantastic price. We planned to meet him at a local Starbucks to exchange our money for his vouchers. He never showed or answered any of my emails after that.
I figured the universe was telling me “not yet”.
I Finally Get to Nunavut
Years later, my mom and I have a business that services customers in Nunavut.
We took our first trip to Iqaluit in September 2012 for a trade show and to meet our clients face to face. The community is small and tight knit. Breaking in and getting them to buy our service can be hard if they don’t know or trust us so being present in the community will help our business grow, and it quenches my obsession with this geography and culture. Our first visit was timed well as it hovered around 2 degrees celsius and the mosquitos were gone for the season.
First Impressions of Iqaluit
As the plane dropped under the clouds the most beautiful juxtaposition appeared. Imagine the bleakest backdrop possible and drop bright coloured buildings on it and this is my first and most memorable sight in Iqaluit. The houses pop out like Skittles in the sand. Stunning.
A friend of a friend collected us from the airport. He told our travel companion, Paul, to go ahead and load up the truck with our luggage. “It’s the grey one in that last parking spot”, he said. Paul went out and loaded our stuff into the truck as instructed. We heard our guide yelling to us that this isn’t his truck just as the actual owner emerges with his friends and their luggage. Truck unlocked, a strange man sitting in the passenger seat, back loaded up with suitcases, and the actual truck owner didn’t even bat an eyelash. He was just laughing as we reload the luggage into the grey truck in the last parking spot of the next row. This is my first impression of the people in Iqaluit – friendly and relaxed.
Interesting Things Around Town
The first few nights we stayed in a hotel and the last few nights we stayed with my mom’s friend’s son, Chris, who is a pilot for a small northern airline. He lived in a staff house and all the other pilots were away so his house was empty. He was friendly and showed me around town, explaining much of the landscape, businesses, and people we saw. We saw a vibrant blue iceberg beached on shore. Chris explained that icebergs always float past the bay at this time of year but there were very strong winds as they were passing which blew them into the bay where they were trapped and some left to melt. There were packs of sled dogs chained up along the creek. Chris tells me that they keep them outside and hungry so they are conditioned to survive the coldest runs with limited food. If they soften the dogs they will not survive. He warned that they are not dogs like we have at home and to never approach them. We encountered rows of dead seals with their heads missing. Chris thought the heads could have been eaten by the ravens or fed to the dogs. I thought the seal thing would bother me but now I understand the living conditions. Anything that swims up to shore must be caught and used since the resources are truly limited. A caught seal can be food for family and dogs, and skins can be made into clothing.
In Iqaluit there is not one tree or shrub to be found. It is only rock and moss. No grass. The lack of green was so foreign but the rock, rock, and more rock was exotic and exciting as it illustrated how hard life must be here.
Proof the Inuit People are Resilient and Resourceful
I still have questions and am intrigued by how the first Inuit actually settled the area and carried on for generations.
How did they make fire to stay warm if there were no trees to cut down and burn?
How did they feed their family if they couldn’t grow anything fresh on their own land? Did they survive solely on meats and fish?
How did they dispose of waste if the ground was all rock or snow and ice?