Thursday, September 22, 2016

Arrival, sort of

It is quarter to five in the morning, I am in a hotel room in Puvirnituq Quebec and I have been up for 3 hours trying to fall back asleep. Travel, even without crossing time zones, always distorts my sense of time and consequentially my sleep patterns. I never sleep much before leaving a place I love, partly because of my intensely sentimental desire to hold onto places and people dear to me, and partly because I convince myself that exhaustion will help me cope with the anxieties and boredom of travel. It is so rare that I travel without being exhausted that I cannot put this theory to test. My last night in Montreal I went to someone else's going away party and opted to not sleep whatsoever.

I arrived at the airport excessively early took a brief nap. Shortly after I awoke I encountered two other Anglo youth who were taking the same flight (I believe the 3 of us complete that demographic, although I did not take a survey and I am no longer certain if would be considered a youth). They have been nice travel companions. They are younger than I am and their excitement seems less mitigated by anxiety than mine is. They seem better adjusted and better prepared than me. I am surprised that my lack of preparation has caused me so little guilt, perhaps I've reached a point in my life where I have become so used to being unprepared for what I am doing, that I feel prepared to deal with whatever consequences arise from that. Hopefully this confidence is not misplaced; I think of Jack London's To Build a Fire and know the potential cost of arrogance when dealing with the north.

Perhaps exhaustion does help time pass as I crack open my book and before I finish a page I wake up in Kuujuarapik/Whampmagootui. It is raining and as I walk from the plane to the airport I regret not bringing a sweater in my carry on. The town has two names because it has significant populations of both Cree and Inuit people. I am now officially in Nunavik. I meet a very friendly school councillor named Alex, who is around my age and has been living in Nunavik for 2 years now. Alex sees me in my t-shirt and gives me his contact info in case I find myself without any other essentials when I arrive in Inukjuak (I have always relied on the kindness of strangers).

During the next leg of the flight I read a fair bit, but eventually succumb to my need for sleep. I wake up during the landing and hear a message in three languages, still in a daze I listen only to the 2 I do not understand. My younger travel companions say "I was told this might happen". Alex can see my puzzlement as easily as he saw my t-shirt, "just take all your things and I'll explain in the terminal." 

The plane couldn't land in Inukjuak because of fog, so it overshot and landed in Puvirnituq instead. I emailed the school board (on Alex's suggestion), and let my dog Ritchie out of his cage, before heading to the hotel, where I am now staying courtesy of the Katavik school board. We go to the coop to buy some dinner and just generally scope out what's there. They have half an aisle of Habs merchandise, but not a single piece of Leafs ware, for the first time I sense why I am getting isolation pay.

I walk Ritchie around town with my younger travel companions for a while. The town is situated on a river so wide and slow moving that I never would have used the word river if I hadn't been told. Most of the houses have grey bottom halves and brightly coloured tops, we try to speculate why this is but do not come up with much. The surrounding landscape is very flat and mostly empty; rocks with moss and bits of tall grass, the colours remind me of trees in the fall, yet there is something to do with the texture of the scene that makes it so vastly different then back home.

The children are oddly fascinated with Ritchie; there are many dogs around but all of them are larger breeds (Ritchie, is a German Shepard/Border Collie mix) and none have leashes. They ask about his age and his name and share the same about themselves. They like to lead him and I get a group to run around with him and play. It was a very joyous moment and it reassured me that this will be positive experience and I can have a positive impact on my students so long as I focus on developing a relationship and sharing experiences with them.

 I'm going to leave you with a radio documentary by Glen Gould which first sparked my interest in the north, and provided me the title of this blog: The Idea of the North


  1. Beautiful words, Simon. Keep this blog train running! I'm really looking forward to hearing about your adventures.

  2. A great read, as always. Keep it up!

  3. A great read, as always. Keep it up!

  4. A lovely start. Looking forward to reading more!

    "They have half an aisle of Habs merchandise, but not a single piece of Leafs ware, for the first time I sense why I am getting isolation pay." Bwhahahaha.