The Change.

It’s been a while since I have had a chance to update the blog… but here we are and boy how things can change quickly up in the Arctic North of Canada.

Everyone has continued to settle to our new life here in Aklavik. The kids are enjoying school and have made some great new friends. We hardly see them after school now, especially no the weather has improved, and they are out and about the entire time.

This community always has something on the go for it’s residents. Recently was “Kiddies Carnival” week. A week of activities and events for the kids to participate in. These includes all sorts of games, Talent Show, and a big Cookout picnic to finish it off. They also crown the Prince & Princess for the Carnival. Most of the prizes are cash prizes for the events. By the end of the week our two kids would have walked away with about $80 between them. They won a few event, and Devyn won the talent show for her age group. The import thing was the kids just had a blast, and had something to do. This is key when living in a remote community, and the people of Aklavik recognize this and do a great job at keep the community active and involved.

Last weekend was Mothers Day, and there were a number of different things happening for the mothers here, On Sunday night they hosted a big feast for all the Mothers. A great opportunity to women to relax and have some fun without the kids or us men hanging around to bother them.

The biggest change we have been experiencing here is the weather. Its almost like mother nature forgets about spring up here and just boots it right into summer. 3 weeks ago we would have had a good 2-4 feet of snow all over the place. The Ice road was open and traffic was flowing across it. In a shot span of time we have lost 95% of the snow, the ice road was closed to vehicles and there was just mud everywhere. Another week passes and the mud has turned to dust and last night e saw the ice breaking up and flowing down the river. Another week or so and we should be free of ice and the river will flow once again. This change in weather brings a bunch of new complexities to Arctic living. Firstly, the dust. Its impossible to stay on top of the amount of dust and dirt coming into the home and also the store. It’s a full time just trying to stay on top of it all, and add a 7-year-old boy into the mix and we are doing laundry every 5 minutes.

The other issue is the isolation. Before this we always had the ice road available to drive to Inuvik if we felt the need to get out of town. Now the only way out is a flight to Inuvik or once the river opens up a boat. It’s not a big deal for us, but it’s always in the back of your mind.

Then there is sun sets, Or at this time of year the lack of them. This has been the biggest thing I think I’ve had to get used to being here. As I write this the sun isn’t setting until around 2am and it’s up again around 5am. It won’t be long now before we have about 3 months of sun. I can sleep just fine with the sun up, but it’s looking out the window as I’m heading to bed at 11pm and the sun is still shinning brightly in the sky. And then waking up at 5:30am with the sun shinning in the window thinking that I’ve over slept. It will take some time to get use to but I am sure I will. It won’t be long after this before we will be plunged into 24hour darkness.

I learnt this week that Aklavik is introducing a 9pm curfew for the kids this summer. I am told this is something they use to do a while ago and have decided to try it again. At 9pm each night a siren will sound across the Hamlet and that will be the notice for the kids to head home for the day. For us folks from the South, this seems like a weird idea, but when you think back to being a child playing in the summer, we were often told to come home when the street lights come on. Well those lights wont be coming on up here during the summer, so this is really the best way to let the kids know it’s time.

 

So that was a jumble of things that have been happening here of late. It’s never dull up here and there is always something happening somewhere.

We are really looking forward to the summer months here and seeing what adventures it will bring us as a family. 

A True Northern Celebration

This weekend was yet another very enjoyable weekend here in the North.

Saturday night the kids and I got to take part in a community celebration in honour of some of Canada’s best Olympians who just happen to be from Akalvik.

Cross-country skiers who participated in the formative Territorial Experimental Ski Training (TEST) program launched in in Inuvik in the late 1960s were in Aklavik this weekend to tout the benefits of the sport to youth.

Harold Cook, his brother David and competitive Olympic skier Sharon Firth are all original members of the TEST program, in which aboriginal students who attended residential school in Inuvik were taught and competed in cross country skiing.

This Trio addressed students at Moose Kerr school Friday and on Saturday night the Hamlet of Aklavik welcomed the 3 into the Aklavik Hall of Fame. To celebrate this occasion there was a community Feast held at the community center. There was plenty of delicious food and cake. The 3 were awarded plaques and we were privileged to hear some of their stories about their amazing efforts.

firth Sisters     Firth Sisters 2  Firth Sisters 3

Sharon Firth and her now deceased twin sister Shirley represented Canada in 4 consecutive Winter Olympics and numerous world events. the Firth Sisters and the Cook Brothers are nothing but role models for all young people, but especially for the young people of their home town of Akalvik. As the motto of this little Hamlet states “Never Say Die” these athletes prove that sport is the true equalizer in life. It proves that you don’t need money… or the best equipment to be the best… you need to believe in yourself and you abilities. You need to believe that through hard work and determination you can dominate and be the best.

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Sunday was such a beautiful day here …. with both Lori and I off work, we decided to go for a bit of an adventure walk. We took the kids and started to walk across the river and followed and Snowmobile trail into the tundra and across another inlet.

 

The weather was so amazing and the scenery was spectacular. There were some spots that were pretty hard going, especially where I was pulling the kids in the sled, but it was truly worth the effort. I’m pretty sure we will all sleep well tonight.

I’ve been asked a number of times since e moved here if it was the right decision…. and every day so far I’ve answered YES! Northern life is very addictive.

Caution – Reindeer Crossing

Today was the 81st annual crossing of the Reindeer population in the N.W.T. This happens between Inuvik & Tuktoyaktuk as the herders move them to their calving grounds at Richards Island.

There was about 200 of us there to take in this spectacular event.

We left home in Aklavik and headed down the Ice road for about 90 minutes. The drive was far from enjoyable this morning due to the weather. It was some of the most White Knuckling moments of my life… but we made it there safe and sound thanks to being able to follow a colleague of mine and his family who were ahead of us.

Once we arrived we moved into position , it took a while to realize that the herd was directly in front of where we standing. I always imagined it to be a loud process, but if it wasn’t for the sound of the people around us and the wind, it would have been almost silent.

The herders keep the herd moving in a circular motion, all were very calm and looked almost effortless to those watching.

 

Once the over 3000 reindeer crossed the road and into the field, the herders let them go and we were able to watch 3000 reindeer run up over the hill as they continue to their summer calving grounds on Richards Island .

Reindeer Crossing Video

It was a truly amazing experience and once we will never forget. We were informed is past years they brought the herd closer to the crowds so they could get a better look, but for some reason this year they were a little further back.

Afterwards we got back into the truck and drove to Inuvik for lunch before heading home to Aklavik. The drive home was much nicer and far more enjoyable.

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All in all is was an awesome day and one we certainly will not forget anytime soon.

Yu can also checkout the CBC’s photo’s of the event.CBC

 

 

 

 

 

 

Northern Life

Well it’s been 2 weeks since we arrived in Aklavik,and a lot has happened in that time.

Of course our first task was to set up home in our new house. We are living in company supplied housing, it’s nothing flashy but it’s very comfortable, warm and Lori has done an awesome job at making it our home. One of the best things about the house is it’s only a 40 second walk to work for us, makes the morning comute that much easier.

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The kids settled in very quickly to their new surroundings. I was actually amazed at just how quick. The first Monday we took the kids to their new school.  They are attending the Moose Kerr school, and if you didn’t look outside you’d think it was a school in any major city.  The kids are in the same class much to the disappointment of our daughter. After the first day we had 3 boys knocking on the door looking to play with our son. A perfect sign that all went well.

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It’s nice having the kids come home for lunch each day, firstly because we get to see them, but also because it forces us to stop and take a break in the middle of the day. It’s often very easy to just get caught up in work all day long. It’s very much a slower pace of life here. There’s no longer the mad rush in the mornings to get out the door… Drive kids to school… Get to work…. Finish work… Pick kids up and so on.  For the first time in a long time we have breakfast together each morning before we all head out at the same time for school or work.
We certainly have noticed the extra quality family time since being here.
The other bonus of being here is how well you sleep at night. Since the first night I’ve found my sleeps to be uninterrupted and deeper.  Could be the Arctic air, or perhaps the stress of life just didn’t follow us here.

One of the highlights of the past two weeks was my road trip to Inuvik. This was my first time on the Ice Road. This road takes us on the Mackenzie Delta River system. 
The Mackenzie delta is a maze of channels, cutoff lakes and circular ponds, which are home to a large muskrat population. The delta is 80 km across, bordered by the Richardson Mountains in the west and the Caribou Hills in the east. Below Point Separation the river splits into 3 main, navigable channels: East Channel, which flows past Inuvik on the easterly edge of the delta; Peel Channel in the west, which flows past Aklavik; and Middle Channel, which carries the main outflow into the Beaufort Sea. Tuktoyaktuk, northeast of the delta, is the transfer point for river and ocean cargo; its harbour is open from July to late September.
To say this was an amazing journey would be an understatement.  For the locals it’s just a road that’s open in the winter months, but for us southerners it’s amazing.  Driving on this ice road wasn’t as bad as I’d imagined, it’s pretty wide compared to others and we’ll maintained. There are a number of hairpin like turns that if you don’t notice could see you in some deep snow. You do need to really focus on the road… Everything is white so it’s hard to tell where the turns are, they do put road signs up but often the fall over and just not there.

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This weekend is Easter and also the Jamboree weekend here in Aklavik.  Last night was the feast, and a full schedule of events for the rest of the long weekend. Should be fun.

The Journey

Wednesday March 9th was the day we had been counting down from what seemed like forever.
Westjet fight from Halifax direct to Edmonton.  The kids were beyond excited as this was their first time on a plane. So after some fancy foot work at the check in avoiding some excess baggage fees, we made our way through security and to the Gate.
The kids were phenomenal on this long flight.  Our son became at one with the toilet as all of a sudden he needed to go every 20 minutes, but he was happy and smiling the entire way.
After landing in Edmonton we basically had an entire day with nothing planned. We decided it was best spent at the West Edmonton Mall.
The look on the kids faces was priceless as their heads were on a constant swivel as we explored.  We took in the sea lion show and both kids were asked to help in the show.

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After the mall it was back to the hotel for a good meal and some much needed rest.

Day 2 had us traveling from Edmonton to Inuvik via Yellowknife.
We flew Canadian North for this leg, and I must say it was great to fly with an airline that actually offered a service. You never felt like they were just trying to gouge money from you at every opportunity.  From the amazing agents at the check in to the cabin crew who provided the best service I’ve had on a flight in a very long time. For my Aussie friends it reminded me of flying Ansett back in the day.
Another long day of Traveling, but at least it was broken up into a few legs.
This found us in Inuvik for our first night in the Arctic.

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Our third and final day was from Inuvik to our new home in Aklavik.
Just a short 20 minute flight on a small bush plan just big enough for the 4 of us most of our luggage and the all important pilot.  We did have to have a few of our bags remain in Aklavik until Monday due to weight restrictions for the plane, but it’s nothing we can’t live without for a few days.
We had been telling the kids all along that this was going to be a small plane… But when they saw it they were a little shocked but far from phased.

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Somehow our pilot managed to squeeze us all in and we gently soared westward further into the Canadian Arctic.
It was a beautiful flight, watching the landscape change so many times…. As we approached Aklavik we got our first glimpse of home.

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We finally landed and we’re greeted by the current store manager who gave a quick tour of the town and the store, before we went to our new house to begin the unpack.

It certainly feels good to be here… We have a lot to learn and explore, but so far we love it here.
Feels good to be home!

Goodbyes

It feels like this is the quietest it’s been for months. Everyone’s tucked into bed at the hotel fast asleep.

Today was a hard day, because today we said good to our family.  Although the only real family was Lori’s father, our close friends are like family to us. We have been able to watch our kids grown up together, creating a bond between them that you’d typically only see in a tight knit family. For my kids especially, this is the only family they have known as most of their relatives are in Australia.
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The kids had a great time tearing it up one last time together. Part of me always wonder if they really understand just how special this was, not just for them but also for their parents who are incredibly proud of them. I know I’m going to miss this group of kids more than they’ll ever know.
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In a way saying goodbye just stinks, but there is an upside to this. We couldn’t have begun this amazing journey without all the goodbyes we’ve had to say the past month.

When we first told the kids about our plans there was a lot of tears, they’ve never had to say goodbye like this before. We told them that they are not loosing friends, they get to make many more friends. This is the same thing I had to convince myself when I made the move to Canada.
I was so blessed to have such an amazing circle of friends, and those true friends are still a part of my life just like these kids will be.

The wonderful thing about friendship is that it follows you no matter where you are. I’m so happy our kids lives have been enriched by all their friends, but I’m even happier that my kids have enriched the lives of their friends in their own unique way.

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Tomorrow the journey begins……. Halifax – Endomton…. It’s just got very real.

5 Boxes

So today marked a small milestone in the preparation for our move up north.
We checked out of our apartment shut the door behind us carrying what was left to the cars.
This may not seem like much to some folks, but in our journey it’s huge.

Over the years both Lori and I have moved a lot, and like most people we would just do a little purge of a few things we knew we wouldn’t need and pack the rest in boxes, load the truck and unpack everything  as you set up a new home.
This wasn’t the case this time… Because we were basically only taking a few suitcases of clothing and shipping a few totes of personal effects, so this was more a liquidation sale for a failing business.
All in all its taken 3 months to get to this point, and it certainly wouldn’t have been possible with the artifful skills of my wife. Her strategic planning on what could be sold when and for how much enabled us to successfully transition to this point.

Going through this process really helps you understand what’s truly important in your life.
There was a point when we both looked down at 5 boxes that we were about to ship.  These 5 boxes contained what we deemed to be important enough to keep. 
5 boxes… 5 boxes.. It’s still hard to get my head around that when all is said and done the life of a family of 4 came down to 5 boxes.
It was a great exercise in understanding what really is important to us, the rest was just comfort really.. Comfort knowing you can come home from work and switch on your big tv or kick back and relax on your comfy sofa.. I’m not saying these things aren’t important in living a comfortable lifestyle, but it’s not going to kill you if you woke up one morning and it was all gone.
The good part of this exercise is we now know the answer to that age old question “what would you grab if you had to evacuate yours house quickly?” For my family it’s the 5 boxes sitting somewwhere in the Canada Post network as you read this.

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