May 23, 2009

Inuvik: Day 1

Yep, I made it. I flew in from Yellowknife yesterday afternoon, but apartment cleaning/unpacking/grocery shopping took up much of the day. Speaking of shopping, I feel like I'm a contestant on What Not To Wear, but instead it's What Not To Buy, and instead of browsing through the many shopping districts of Manhattan, I can walk across the street from North Mart to Arctic Foods. I get sticker shock every time I pick something up, no matter what it is. It's like I'm being charged shipping and handling for every single item in the store -- which probably isn't far from the truth, considering how far North Inuvik is. (If you're wondering, I suggest Google Maps, since despite j-school's Google-centric training, I don't know how to post one here.) I knew everything would be expensive, but man! A regular-sized carton of orange juice: $10. Milk is even worse. A loaf of Wonder bread: $6. I could order a single small pizza for $25. I won't be ordering out anytime soon -- maybe once the paycheques start coming in.
Speaking of getting paid, I haven't kicked it into full gear at work yet. I'll be feeling the pressure to fill a section soon. Likely tomorrow (Sunday) morning. My office contains creepy muskrat and raccoon pelts and has snowshoes taped to the wall. It makes me feel like a fur trader.
I'm responsible for covering the Beaufort/Delta region of the Northwest Territories for the NWT News/North weekly newspaper. Basically, that includes all of the tiny communities outside of Inuvik, north to the Beaufort Sea, east to Nunavut, and west to the Yukon. Though I'm based in the town of Inuvik, I'll rarely be reporting on anything that happens here.
That is the responsibility of my office co-inhabitant, Andrew, who runs the Inuvik Drum weekly paper. We met yesterday and he graciously helped lug my suitcases up the four flights of stairs to my apartment. (The building sits on high wooden stilts because it's pretty hard to build foundations on rock and permafrost.) He's a red-headed, well-mannered cynic who hails from Cape Breton and has a subtle yet unpredictable sense of humour.
Hmm, that sounds familiar. Sheesh.
On to the weather. It's spring here, of course, but it feels like November. Except instead of the ground starting to freeze, it's slowly starting to unthaw Er, thaw. I don't know. Evidence: mud on my shoes and pant legs. It's an arctic desert climate, so there are are coniferous trees but not much other vegetation. Gravel roads. Dust. Walking through the town triggers the song "All the way down the line" from Joel Plaskett's new album, to start playing in my head.
It rarely ever rains and is usually sunny this time of year, though yesterday was overcast. It never gets dark. My bedroom window is covered by a thick curtain, which I think is actually a bedsheet in disguise, but it's very weird to see the sun shining through like it's noon when it's 7:30 p.m. Or like it's 6 p.m. when it's 2 a.m. If I didn't have a watch I'd never be able to even approximate what time it is at any given moment. Summer in Yellowknife is like this too, but the constant sunlight doesn't begin this early in the season there because it's further south.
Maybe I'll post pictures, if I get around to taking some, but I'm not convinced anyone actually reads this thing. If anyone's out there, good job on making it through this one.

May 19, 2009

Careful what you wi- nope, too cliche. (a.k.a. the second beginning of a Northern journey)

Nine months ago, when I sat in the Edmonton International Airport and began typing the previous post on this blog, I had no idea my words would become kind of an accidental prophesy. I wrote that I was tempted to catch a flight to Inuvik, just for the hell of it, when I knew I couldn't do that. I was headed back to Halifax, with no plans to return North anytime in the near future.
But here I am, sitting in the Edmonton airport again, laptop on knees, typing away, waiting for a flight to Yellowknife, whence I shall proceed to my final destination: Inuvik.
I'm not going totally for the hell of it. Business is my primary reason for the trip, but I'm looking forward to what I hope will be an adventure. This time it's for real. I don't have school to fall back on anymore; I have to be a genuine, full-time journalist. As Dan Aykroyd's character emphasizes so frighteningly in Ghostbusters, "you've never been out of college! You don't know what it's like out there! I've worked in the private sector. They expect results."
Eeeeesh. Trying not to stress about that part.
I'm staying in Yk for a couple of days before starting out in Inuvik (Canada's northern-most town of 3,000 that does not have a Tim Hortons but does have a Pizza Hut, according to the Internet), so I'm taking comfort in that I'll be somewhere familiar for a little while before I go off on my own. I haven't told Les and Margita that I'm headed their way, but maybe I'll find time to stop by and see them before I leave the capital.
Also, I just got Skype. Don't know how to use it, but I figure it may serve as an easy way to determine who among my university acquaintances was actually being sincere when we all promised to keep in touch after graduation.
So, that's all for now. I'll update when/if I can get a reliable connection for my laptop.