Friday, December 30, 2005

My Favorite Year

Hello Everyone,
Well 2005 has come and is on its way out and its been a very interesting year.There have been a couple of changes from the norm and some interesting revelations. The year started out with a series of work dissapointments and some difficult decsions to be made. Once decided we entered a stressful and frustrating time as I travelled all over the country looking at new opportunities. Melissa and Christopher continued to provide unconditional love and support of the situations we had to endure to reach our goals. We tried several different situations which raised our hopes and then removed them (futureshop, Beer Store, Best Buy) then we discovered a new opportunity with something called the NorthWest company. That lead to where we are now, In the middle of the northern Tundra, a place where less than 0.00001 % of the world will ever visit in person. The experience we agree is one that everyone should have, the difference in culture and climate alone allow you a greater view of life and appreciation of all your experiences. We have left our families and learned how to cope in a foreign world. We have experienced everday things in this new world we would not have considered concievable in our previous life. We have dealt with daily facts of life regarding heat, toilets, groceries, and others that we would rarely have ever enountered before. The finally outcome is our lives have been turned upside down and it has been a wonderful experience that I for one would never give up or fail to recommend to others. I'd like to thank the powers that be for this opportunity and for the love of our family and friends.
Thank-you everyone.
P.S. The photo is Christmas day sunset, The column of light obove the setting sun was much more brillant in Real life and climbed thousands of feet in the air.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Monday Musings

Hello Everyone,
Well we all made it through another holiday season, so yeah for us. I'll start with some Q & A, first I'd never heard of the doneless turkey before till I got hear however I'm assured by the butcher that al butchers do it, Brian came here from Ottawa in May and he used to de-bone birds down there as well. After you de-bone the bird it is nothing but a floppy mass of meat. So you then stuff it to hold the shape of the bird. When stuffing you can stuff all the bird that used to contain bone, so you can stuff the wings and legs. In this case we stuffed the legs and wings with white meat to make them more appealling. Obviouslyb this increases cooking time as you now have a solid meat bird (30 Minutes per pound seems to work). Then you just carve the bird in slices, its like cutting a loaf of bread, no bones, white meat everywhere and no waste. I'm going into the butcher shop for training soon and I hope to learn to do this.
Ok land ownership in the north. I'm not sure I have all the correct Data for all cases so please forgive any mistakes. In the 90's the government set a homestead date. If on this date you had built a perminant structure then you owned the land, If not then all lands are reverted to Town ownership. So in this community 85% of land is owned by the town, Now you can lease any available land from the town and build on it, Your yearly rent and taxes will equal about $400.00 (but the cost of building is huge, all materials at northern rates, construction teams the same). Most of the housing in town is owned by the town and controlled through the housing comission which alloactes housing based on family sizing and similiar considerations. I have no idea what rent on these units are however I am able to speculate that they don't throw you out quickly for non payment (They are triing to force one eviction currently for non-payment, The resident in question hasn't paid since he moved in 17 years ago). All lands within a couple of miles of town have been plotted and are managed this way. What you would do to aquire land in the tundra I have no clue.
Ok Election Process, There is a voter list based on tax returns same as in the south. No we haven't seen anyone from any party, actually I haven't even seen a piece of literature from anyone yet. The Provincial Parlament is a little differet though. They have no home legistlature such as in the south. They actaully travel the house through all the northern communities. They come into town hold legilasture for a couple of weeks and then go back to thier comminties until the next one.
Yes we have had caribou, I don't particularrly like it. We've had roasts, steaks, jerky and stir fry. Melissa doesn't mind it but I find it tastes of too much iron, Its like boody meat with a long aftertaste. We're actually waiting to try Mittaku, which is beluga whale but there hasn't been alot in yet this year.
Ok it looks like I'm up to date on questions, I'll do a musings later.
Take Care.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Merry Christmas

Hello Everyone and Merry Christmas,

Well Its Christmas in the north and let me tell you, Santa doesn't do alot of prep work, ie reindeer training, warming up the engines, weather checks etc, Last night around 11:55 pm I saw him whip into he garage and take off a couple of minutes later. Since its such a short commute he must think its a milk run, anyways.
Christopher Has started to figure out this christmas and Santa thing. All season he didn't seem to get it, Until last night, When going to bed he had lots of questions about Santa and said he wanted to give Santa a big hug when he came tonight. Then he went to sleep fairly quickly, until around 12:00 when he woke up and stayed up till 3:30 talking, reading and singing about Santa. Then around 9:00 he decided it was Santa time and low and behold Santa had been by. Here are the photo's.
Tonight we are having the Ophans Christmas dinner with Jeff (the retail Manager) Melody and Brian (dept manager in training and our butcher) The turkey above was prepared by Brian and its a 8 kg turkey de-boned and then stuffed with another 8 kg de-boned turkey, Thats one heck of a bird :)

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Blood on the Floors

Hello Everyone,
Ok, This topic seems a little weird however its one that recenty suprised me. I was walking through the store and noticed bloody footprints across the floor. Now when this happened in the south we would track the footsteps to the injured person and give first aid and start with many WSIB forms and accident investigations. That is what I did, I wandered around the store following these footprints with growing concern, it was alot of blood and was looking fresher with every step. Now I would like to say I'm no dummy however I'm not sure. What I found at the end of the trail was a 50 year old Inuk Woman who did not appear to be in distress. What she did was to recently butcher a caribou or two, the blood froze to her clothing and then defosted in the store. Ok, we're not in Kansas anymore.
Take Care,

For Lesley,

My mother tells me you've been triing to email me, I haven't recieved any of these emails. Please check the My Profile section of this page which will send you directly to my email, hopefully this will fix our problem, I'm hoping my spam filters aren't the problem but to be sure make sure I am the only reciepiant the email. If problems continue, post a comment and I'll figure it out. Don't spend time on the emails till we get it figured out. I respond to all emails so don't think I ignored it, I didn't get it if I didn't respond.
Take care

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Sunday Musings-Various Thoughts

Hello Everyone,
Just a few wandering thoughts from a busy week. First off, appreciate those who bring you food, I've been training in the KFC and Pizza Hut for 2 weeks now and let me tell you this is the worst job I have ever done. There is nothing positive to say about it, except in 2 weeks its over. Those people who pick food service as thier vocation must be a different breed than myself as I truely hate this aspect of the business. Its not one thing in particular, more over its the complete experience, maybe if it was a fine dining experience it might be different however the idea of working so hard to feed people items they shouldn't be eating just bugs me. Some of the locals eats 3 or more meals a day in our restaurant, they don't have enough money to pay thier rent, but they will sit in the restuarant for 7 hours. I just want to pull them into the back and teach them to cook. Anyways, poor life skills is something we all see.
Christmas events are almost over, we did Ladies Night on Friday and it was well attended and a busy event. We have through the variuos events focused towards everyone sold about $6,000 dollar per person in this town on gifts. Its amazing how much the locals save and spend on christmas. We would never see this level of commitment in the south (at least not at Wal-Mart). As for Christmas celebrations up here its pretty much the same except for the religiuos connitations of the south, As it was explained to me, up here it could be St Swiggins day and hey wouldn't care, its the opportunity to buy alot of stuff and get alot of stuff they really like. Decorations are the same, and they put up christmas tree's ( we fly in live tree's as well $147.99). The slight improvement in people's attitudes in the south at this time of year doesn't really translate up here as the people are usually more pleasent than in the south anyways, you an always get a "Hello" or a "Matna" from the locals.
This week one of the locals recieved a insurance check for well over six figures, its amazing how poorly they are educated in regards to financial planning. With no banks and ATM's up here, (we have on no name machine in the store, so No deposits avaiable) I guess they haven't had alot of exposure to the services of the south. The person who got the check spent over halfthe total in 1 hour in the store. They bought 2 trucks, 2 ski-doo's, 1 quad, variuos appliances and furniture. By the time we get to January they won't have a penny left.
Which brings me to another issue, You can't get christmas cards up here, I don't know why, it seems really silly considering everything else we have but no one in town sells them... strange.
Tahts it for now,
Take care.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

My Training

Hello Everyone,
Well, We've been here for 4 months almost and my training has been very slow and remidial so far. Last week I met with the regional manager and vice president to discuss my training and review what we've done so far. Thankfully they agreed that its time to step things up and get a larger picture of whats happening through all aspects of the stores. The bad part is that also means this week I've been in the quickstop making pizza's and cooking chicken all week. Its like I'm 17 and working in mcD's. I'm still managing but frequently have to step in and do the cooking when th staff don't show up. My last week has been either cooped up in a 100 degree kitchen or outside in -40, its hard to get comfortable. However It's nice to be moving forward again, I spent three months in grocery and could have learned everything I did in 2 weeks, the rest of it was just being a stocker, sure its fine and relaxing but not progressing me towards my goals. After Christmas I'll be moving to the offices which I'm sure will be ery frustrating as well, sitting all day and working on numbers... Oh well this is the price we all pay
Take care

For the Grandparents

Todays Lunch time.

Mens Night

Hello everyone,
We had mens night on Friday evening from 8-10pm. We had at least 300 guys there for the evening and this should be traditionally the poorest attended event (Ladies night will be the best). The guys slowly wandered in and started shopping. At 8:30 we started the first game which was a shopping game. We picked 5 men at random and they ech were given a shopping list. The list had to stay at the till and they had to remember as much as they could and run and select the items. Actually one of our stocker was selected to be one of the shoppers, so it looked like the game was going to be depressingly fast. Apparently we gave him too much credit for taking a interest in his job as he was the second last to finish. The winner was the school principal who spent the first 2 minutes studying the list then ran around the store and collected 8 of the items in his first trip. he won on his second trip, it was fun to watch. He won $200.00.
The other game we played was Lets make a deal where people had to guess the cost of a product then the winner could select a box and win the prize. Prizes ranged from power tools,to tampons to a toilet from the 50's I found in my basement.
it was a interesting night but lacked the energy of the women's events. Also guys don't know how to shop for a deal. We had about quarter of the store at 25% off and in total the guys saving were about $700 for over $10,000 in purchases (these numbers are made up but the ratio is correct). I guess thats why we hate malls, we will always lose.
Take care,

Sunday Musings-Christmas Cheer

Hello Everyone,
Well, Its been a very long week which started me to thinking about a glass of christmas cheer when I got home. You do not run down to the LCBO to pick up a bottle of your chosen poison in the great white north. The first step is to go to the Hamlet Office (City Hall) and get a permit to possess alcohol (cost $2.00). After filling in this form you return to the Hamlet office between 1-3 pm. and review the alcohol avalability listing from the Rankin Inlet Liquor store (which is terrible). You review the list and make your selections. You are allowed limited quantities of alcohol per purchase (2-64 oz bottles or 4 flats of beer, or 3-40 oz, or 4 bottles of wine per 2 week period). You fill in your permit based on availability by Monday at 3:00 for that weeks order (cost $15.00). On Monday evening the Alcohol Commission (a group of elders) reviews all orders and approve or deny the permits based on your quantities and if you have caused any trouble in the past while drinking. Then you wait till Tuesday and go to the Northern to see if your permit was approved. If your permit is approved you must send a money transfere to the Rankin liquor store (cost $30.00) by Wednesday at the lastest. The cost of alcohol is about double that found in Southern Ontario and aound 7 times the American price (for our south of the border friends). Now we're almost done, we wait. If the weather is good you can start calling the local airline to see if your order has arrived on Thursday. When your order arrives you can go out to the airport and pick up your order as well as pay the frieght charges to ship it to Baker (range from $35.00- $70.00 based on what you ordered). the Average order will cost between $200.00 and $300.00 to get 2 64 oz of booze. Important tips: only order 64oz's in plastic bottles (these are lighter and less breakable), Order the highest quality product available (the cost difference between the worst whisky and the best is only a couple of dollars) which is a very small % of what your paying anyways and costs the same to ship so splurge and put that 2% of your costs to a better product, Don't drink wine (cost prohibitive) there are no high quality products available, all are is glass and will run you about $65.00 for a $7.00 bottle of wine.
The idea of this process is to allow the local government to self regulate thier population and avoid the pitfalls of alcoholism that is so prevelent in the north, however as with most good idea's it fails miserably. The process does affect how much the non residents drink (white folk), but the locals seem to have no problems at all aquiring alcohol whenever they want it. The bootleg market is huge as well as the home-brew market. Most orders by Locals are for 3-40 oz's 2 to drink and one to sell. A 40 oz bottle sells for $150.00 locally except at this time of year. The home brew stuff is, well I don't know, but lets just say your vision would be in serious jeapordy consuming this product.
Now, lets deal with Christmas cheer, due to problems at this time of year the purchase of alcohol is banned from Dec 9 to January 13. This means that currently blackmarket prices have doubled and will soon triple and beyond, apparently by New years eve a 40 oz will be selling for $1000.00. This is why since I got here I have only imbibed of this nectar (legal only) once in the last 4 months. Keep this in mind as you pour yourself another glass of christmas cheer and think of those how have drank enough fruit juices in the last 4 months to ensure the fruit growers of the world enjoy a wonderful Christmas. BTW pop prices 2 liters of Coke $14.99 12 pack of Coke $19.99, even if you get booze odds are against you still being able to afford mix. Orange juice concentrate $3.25, I think I'll have apple juice today.
Finally, this question was asked last night, there is no where in town to go to have a drink, No bars, cafe's restuarants, hotels and any similiar places, there are no public service permits allowed in the area.
Enjoy you holiday festivities and don't drink and drive.

Take care

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Sunday Musings

Hello Everyone,
Another week has come and gone but the Christmas celebrations have begun in the store. On Friday we had our Moonlight Madness sale. Most general merchandise in the store was 25% off regular and sale prices. We closed the store at 6:00 in order for staff to have dinner then reopened at 8:00 pm for the sale. Unlike southern stores where people shop consistantly for thier presents, here everyone saves thier money for thier events. We have events for everyone in the community, Teen night, childrens day, womens night, mens night and elders night are all still coming up. Each of these nights we try to align with a pay period for for the local economy. We then target what that group will be shopping for and apply discouts to our stock. We give away door prizes and play varuos games through the night, such as turkey bowling, lets make a deal, survivor etc. The people of town really expect the Northern to set the tone of the period as well as celebrate christmas for them. The enviroment inside the store on Friday night was not as populated as I expected however the enthusiam was more than I expected. By 20 minutes to 8 there where about a hundred people waiting in front of the store in -20 degrees The numbers must have increased to 200 by the time we opened the doors. They were chanting and counting down the time till we opened like it was New Years Eve. The store used to leave the shopping carts at the front of the store however after some injuries due to the mad rush we now scatter them around the store. They literally run into the store. Last year they broke the electronic security posts (like at Wal-Mart) beside the doors clean off. After getting a shopping cart they find out who has the raffle tickets and line up for those. The mad rush is to get a shopping cart once they get in they calm down a bit. They then locate the person who has the raffle tickets and line up for those. Then onto shopping. I'd say by 9:00 we had 500 people in the store (which in a population of 1500 isn't bad) and this was the first event, Womens night will be the biggest event. Elders night is more of a celebration that a sale.
Which leads me to a thought. Elders, whnen I came up here I didn't quite know what this term meant. Elders is a term of respect for their senior citizens. Between 55 and 65 you become a elder. There should be a photo here of a 97 year older elder who attended Midnight Madness.
Also all the events are formal for management(for when you see John the Quickstop manager). They baby he has is his new daughter Jasmine who was born 4 months early and is now 1 month old by her due date, five months by real time, When we arrived she was 5 lbs and the tiniest thing. Johns wife Karen is also pictured with a traditional baby carrier. The other baby carrier is the more common carrier for children outside. Children upto around three are carried around in the hoods of thier mothers Parka's (I can't remember the name of this piece of clothing). Most women wear this garmet all winter and summer, child care is such a community concern that almost all women wear them, aunts, grandmothers, mothers anyone above child bearing age (16) and below the point where they couldn't handle the weight.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Hunting and Dressing

Ok thier in reverse order. And covering each other, just click on the overlaps and you can see the whole image. Sorry

Hello Everyone,
These photo's are from in front of the house from this morning, Pictured here are Roger and Winnie. Roger caught these three caribou on the other side of the lake and then cached and froze them to make the cutting of the meat easier. They catch and clean the caribou where they kill it. They then bury it in snow to allow it to freeze, bring it back to town on Kamatik, then they cut it into managable pieces. At some point after this my wife shows up and asks them for some antlers, You'll see what I mean.