Sunday, 2 September 2012

New Start

Well, as you have gathered from my last post, my time in the North has come to an end, but this is not the end of my adventures.  I am now attempting to navigate the stormy waters of the Ontario public education system.  If has been difficult, but has left me with a great deal of free time.  As a result, I have begun a new blog of food and nutrition.  It covers a lot of the Science behind how ingredients affect our health.  Soon I will get into how these Ingredients work together in a recipe.  For now, I have begun posting recipes and tutorials for some of the more difficult things to cook.

Should you feel like checking it out, you can do so at:

Hope to see you there!

Sunday, 17 June 2012

The Final Week

Well, here we are.  In 4 days I will be on my way to Montreal and then back home to Ontario.  In the last month, there hasn't been a whole lot going on (hence my lack of posting).  Spring was brief, and quickly evolved into a significantly hotter summer than I had anticipated.  Right now the weather is 20 degrees Celcius and partly cloudy.  It has been excellent weather for walking and hiking up the mountains, aside from one other unexpected thing, Insects!!!  I have no idea how they are able to survive the winter here, but there are wayyy too many for my liking.  I went on a 2 hour hike yesterday and came home with about 20 something mosquito bites.

Last Friday (June 15) was graduation.  I spent 3.5 days working on the graduation cake, but the grads were all very impressed and I was just happy that they liked it.

Now I'm going to take some time to reflect on my time here.  There are several points I want to mention.

1. Apparently there is no nice transition between the seasons.  It is either Summer or Winter here and probably about 2-3 weeks of transition between each.

2. The people here have learned to live simply.  I have had discussions with people about this and the simple living is the easiest explanation.In regards to education and the like, most people don't take it too too seriously since the future they have in store for themselves does not necessitate it.  We discussed people who drop out and work at the grocery store versus the people who graduate...and work at the grocery store...  The problem/blessing is that there is not very much infrastructure here.  This is a simple place, which is quite nice since we can go camping, hiking, hunting, fishing...etc whenever we feel like it and we really don't need to travel long to get 'back to nature' so to speak.  The downside though is that the job market here is extremely limited.  There are only so many teachers or nurses that are required.  There is essentially no place for someone with a Masters or a Phd here.  It's is a little sad, but higher education doesn't seem to open many opportunities here and would really require people to find jobs in the South if they want to go that route.  This is not necessarily something people want to do since they are very in love with the land here and want to keep their traditions.

3. The Quebec school system is very messed up.  The way that we are schooling the kids here does not do them justice.  As I said in point 2, there is not a lot of work here for a University graduate, but a trades graduate? There is virtually unlimited potential for a skilled trades person here.  There are no certified electricians, plumbers, mechanics, cooks (aside from myself), or anyone with any real skill in even cutting hair.  All of the services that we would have a hard time opening in the South, people are crying for them out here.  The number one reason why we don't have them, is the school system!  The way that things are set up is to train kids to go to University.  That is all.  There is only 1 stream, academic.  With all of the changes that I have seen happen to the school systems in Ontario, especially the introduction of the SHSM program, I simply do not understand the benefit of this one stream program.  It is especially appalling when I go into a class and I have kids that should be in a workplace level program and I have kids that should be in an academic stream program.  The programs at KSB have been designed to be done by anyone in the class, but that means that at one end, you have kids that have no idea what is going on (and usually drop out), and on the other end we have kids that are so bored because the material is too easy.  I mentioned these to many of the administrators, and they share my frustration.  They have been pushing for multilevel programs for quite some time, but KSB refuses to introduce them, preferring to stick with the single stream.  For this reason alone, I am happy I am leaving this board.

4. The most profound point I have realized while being here is how the community is a family.  I suppose like a normal family there are elements you like and others you do not like, but in the end, everyone works together.  People go fishing or hunting and come back with a huge haul, but they would always drop the meat off at the community freezer where it would be distributed to the whole village.  I will always remember how nice and friendly everyone was to me here.  I is amazing that people will see you walking in the cold, or heat and offer you a ride back to town on the back of their vehicles.  A lot of the time I was offered rides by people I didn't even know.  It may seem like a simple thing, but it is normal here, but almost unthinkable in the South.  What if the person is a crazy homicidal maniac?! I think it's safe to say that most people aren't.  There is a lot to be said for giving freely, especially when you don't have a lot to begin with.

Goodbye GR, I'll miss you ;)

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Week 35 - Spring has finally sprung

Ever since I have been back, things have just been a 'business as usual' sort of routine.  I can tell that both the teachers and the students are beginning to wind down.  It has been a pretty long year and everyone is starting to feel it (except for myself maybe?).

One of the interesting things that happened last week was the fact that we had an oil leak in the school.  The school was closed from Friday April 27 until Tuesday May 1 to clean up and air out the building.  We went back to school on the Tuesday afternoon, and although the smell was still evident, it was not unmanageable.  These circumstances effectively gave everyone a 4.5 day weekend.  I'm still not sure whether this is a good thing or not since the students are much more difficult to handle when we have these non-routine weeks.  Instead of rest, everyone decides it's time for fun! and they all come to school even more tired than if we had actually had a normal school week. ie: less school = more tired kids

The second exciting thing that happened this week was the fact that Spring has finally arrived (although today's weather is no indication of that).  We managed to get temperatures in the +5C to +9C range and a LOT of the snow has begun to melt.  This is great, but there are some annoying consequences.  Water and Mud, and we have a lot of both.  Around town, the municipal workers use heavy machinery to actually redesign the landscape so that the water does not pool and actually flows downhill into the bay.  It's actually very interesting, but can also be very annoying when the path you walked to school is no longer there when you walk home for lunch.  I was going to post some comparative pictures, but having forgot my camera cable in Ontario, I have to wait a little bit.

Finally, I though I would show a little comparison of a fewof weather screenshots I took this year.

December 6, 2011

March 4, 2012
May 5, 2012

Take a look at the Sunrise and Sunset times.  I unfortunately cut that part off on my December screenshot, but the sun was rising at about 8:15am and it set at about 2:45pm.  It's interesting to see the kind of change we get over the year.

At any rate, I am approaching the end of my time here.  In 6 weeks I will be preparing for my final 3 days in George River.

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Week 33 - annnd we're back

This was my first week back after the Easter break, and not much has changed.

Just before the break we had our school wide TeaMATHalon.  It was a huge project that Joetta and Heather put an immense amount of work into.  I helped whenever I could, but the planning and execution was thanks to these two ladies.  For the event there were 9 coloured teams at 3 levels.  Kindergarden - Grade 3, Grade 4 - Grade 7, All Secondary and IPL.  We had 3 games: Fish Skinning, the Rocket Game, and Building a Shelter.  Each of these games had math related questions or tasks, but the focus was for the kids to have fun and not be afraid of doing some Math!  It went over really well.  I could see that the kids were enjoying themselves and there was a lot of school spirit, which was great to see.  I uploaded a small clip from one of the games at:

The initiation of our Easter break was a little bit disappointing.  Due to weather conditions, no planes were able to land on Friday April 6.  As you can imagine, many people were very irked and many people had to rebook flights that that had lined up (including myself).  Saturday morning came, and nice clear weather came with it.  We all piled onto a King Air from Air Nunavut, and we rode it all the way to Montreal.  Since it was such a small plane we had to stop in Shefferville and Chibougamau to refuel.

Once I landed in Montreal it was only a short wait to get on my flight to Toronto (about 30min).  I like it when I only have a short stop over.  After arriving in Toronto, my parents and Ashley were there to greet me at the terminal.  We had some heart felt greetings and then we were off to the Mississauga Dragon Mall for lunch.  It was nice to go and get some Chinese food since all the Chinese I was making in GR was severely limited by the ingredients that I could actually obtain.  Ashley and I spent the day in Burlington, then the next day my parents were nice enough to drop us off at Pearson for our flight to Las Vegas!

Everything went rather well at the airport.  No problems checking in or getting through security.  Our flight to Vegas was a little long (about 5 hours) and we were very happy to land (especially since the bathroom in the front of the plane was out of service).

Ashley and I spent 4 glorious days in Vegas and saw a ton of stuff, from the M&M shop, to the Premium outlet mall.  We even checked out 9 different hotels and their shops.  Some of the highlights we had was going to the Bodies Exhibit in the Luxor, checking out every imaginable hangbag store, and just chilling out by the pool.  When you have spent the last 3 months in a place covered in snow, dry 30C sunny weather is like a dream come true.  This was one of my favorite pictures, and I took it with my iPod!

 All good things have to end some time though.  Ashley and I squeezed in as much time together as possible, but then it was time for me to depart (for the last time).  My flights back went without a hitch and I was back in GR at about 2pm.  Being back left quite a bit to be desired.  There was just as much snow as when I left (too much), and I also entered my apartment to find that the water pump was busted and I had no water whatsoever.  It was fixed around 7pm the next day, but I was quite irritated to not be able to take a shower.  It also made cooking a little difficult.  You don't quite realize how much water you use until you don't have any!

We're back into a routine now, but the school year is coming to an end.  Next week is the last week of April, and Exams are in the first week of June.  I only have about 2-3 weeks left to teach material, then I need to do review for the exams.  It is so strange to realize that there really is not much of the year left.  All we need is one last push and we'll be out of the woods.

Saturday, 31 March 2012

Weeks 28-30 - It's been an interesting month

It is the end of March.  Finally.  All those crazy things I was writing about are finally done, and there were even extra events that I didn't mention since they were a last minute sort of deal. My SMARTboard training and first aid training were pretty straight forward, but as usual it was quite a bit of information to take in.  As one of my colleagues said, "now I know how the kids feel every day!"  The best part of my training days is the fact that I got a free 4GB USB drive.  It might not sound exciting to you, but my last two 16 GB drives died and all I had was a 256MB one, and let me tell you, that doesn't get you very far.

On March 18 I began my stint of sleepovers.  I volunteered to take several people over the next few weeks so that they would have somewhere to stay.  It was kind of weird having people in the house with me again, but the pay is quite good (it's more than my actual salary).  So on March 18th I had the arrival of Tatiana Garakani and Emilie Peter, two researchers from ENAP.  They were wonderful guests and we had some very good conversations.  For one, in a long time, I actually spent my dinner in engaging conversation rather than in front of the television.  These two ladies were researchers that were working with staff and students at the school in an attempt to create ideal pedagogical practices for Northern communities.  I rather enjoyed our research session and I look forward to being a part of the research (at least for the next 3 months).  Tatiana and Emilie sadly left on March 21.  On March 22, I had two pilots stay here that were spending the night since they were flying a charter out the next day.  Finally, on March 26, Danny Fafard from the NYHDP for the Bantam hockey tournament that is going on as I write this. He is a nice fellow and will be staying until April 2.

One of the events that occurred that wasn't on my original calendar was the Nunavik International Adventure Challenge.  There was a student race that was 10Km on March 25, and an International race that was 60Km and started on March 26 and went until March 28.  The race was on foot with the challengers skiing or snowshoeing.  There were contestants from Quebec, USA, Italy, Germany, Australia and others.  It was interesting to see so many people from different places come all the way out here.  One of the funny things that happened was that the team that is from George River actually took a wrong turn that set them back.  We're not sure how they managed that since they LIVE here.

One of the exciting things that happened this past week was that someone was out Ptarmigan hunting and actually managed to shoot a polar bear instead.  They brought it back to the school for everyone to see before they butchered it down at the beach.  It is too bad that it was dead, but it was interesting to actually get a chance to have a very close look at a polar bear.  He was very skinny and they saw him eating garbage at the dump.  I think they decided to shoot him since it is a safety concern having him there since the dump is only a few kilometers outside of town.  I took a lot of photos of it, but I'm only going to show the mild ones on here.

Next week is our Math Teamathalon.  Joetta and Heather have been spending an immense amount of time developing and organizing this event.  I have helped whenever I can, but between my normal prep, working on stuff for my Bantam tournament fund raiser and finishing my AQ work, it hasn't been a substantial amount.  Although, we have actually taken on the job of the snack committee  teachers who thought it was 'too much work' to do it and just wanted to throw money (that we do not have) at it as a solution.  So Joetta, Kirsten, Vicky and some of the students worked away this weekend to bake 250+ cookies and rice krispie squares. In addition to that, I made 50+ ham sandwiches and Joetta and I made 176 cookies last weekend for the tournament.  It has been a good fund raiser, so far I have made $537 and I still have today to sell the rest of my stuff.

Last, but not least, I have less than a week to go before I can come home and see Ashley!!! I only have to get through another 5 days and then I will be leaving early on Friday morning for a very full day of travel!  can't wait!

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Week 27 - Ivakkak Race

I haven't have a chance to post lately since these last couple of weeks have been extremely busy for me.  Our end of term was March 2 so I had to finish up all my marking so I would have grades for all my classes.  In addition to this I had to create some extra lessons since some of my students were taking off on March 1 to go to the Arctic Winter Games until March 11.  Finally, The AQ I'm working on only had a 2 week period for the module instead of 3 weeks (because of March Break) which made all of that work due on March 9.  Lets just say I've definitely been working my 60 hour week lately.

That is all in the past now! Next week should be much more simple for me and the rest of the teachers.  On Monday we have the 2012 Ivakkak Dog Race departing from here on their way up the coast to Kangirsuk.  Tuesday all Secondary teachers have Smartboard training, Thursday we all have First Aid training and Friday is a holiday.  I'm thankful for the break since it will let me plan some advanced lessons.  Since I'm getting very close to the end of my material for one of my math classes I am really looking forward to teaching whatever I want! I find it very interesting as I sit back and reflect on all the knowledge I have on different subjects.  Given the chance I could probably design several math and science courses based on topics that I find interesting and useful.  Too bad that's not the way things work.

Anywho, this weekend I decided to go for a nice walk out onto the bay to check out the doggies that will be participating in the race.  I think it's interesting that there is such a variety of different looking dogs on all of the teams.  It's a good thing I wore my snowboarding gloves since it let me take pictures with my hands covered.  Let's just say that even though winter is gone, it is still extremely cold.  Here's a picture I took of myself.  It was cold enough that the moisture from my breath was frosting up on the fur ruff of my parka.

I find that the best way to make your way out onto the ice is to just follow the snowmobile trails.  In this case, you definitely want to follow the well beaten path.  Stepping off that path can be hazardous as you can easily step into a soft snow covering and end up hip deep in snow.

I made my way to the dogs and got some interesting shots.  I feel bad for them though being tied up on the snow on such a cold day.  Windchill was -32 yesterday.

As I made my way back I saw these interesting areas that looked like they had actually melted.  Considering the fact that it was still -20C outside I knew that was impossible so I decided to check it out.  As I got closer I noticed that there were these fragile looking formations on the ice.  They sort of looked like very large snowflakes but I'm fairly certain they were made of ice, so I shall call them ice flakes!

The North is a wondrous place! some people may think of it as just cold and desolate, but if you take the time to explore on a cold sunny day you can see that there is beauty everywhere.

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Week 24 - Goodbye Winter

A funny thing happened the other day.  I was going through my profile pictures on facebook and I found one that I had of an Environment Canada weather report.  This was in early December and I was showing that it was cold here, which I guess it was since the average temperature was -16C while everyone back home was getting temperatures of 5C.  It was just ironic seeing it since the first couple weeks of January had an average temperature of -28C and a windchill of -45C.  The truly funny part is actually the fact that right now it is only -12C outside and I'm sitting here thinking that Spring has arrived.  It's funny how your perceptions change.

This was an odd sort of week.  As it ended up, we had a 4 day weekend of a sort.  Friday was a PED day so we had no class, but still went to school to get stuff done.  Monday was a snowday, the first one of the year!  Sadly no one told me so I went to school anyway, which was fine since I was able to get some extra work done.  The snow and wind were pretty high, but fully equipped I had no trouble getting to school.  All I have to say is I'm very glad I have a balaclava and snowboard goggles!

It's actually kind of interesting the way the daylight has been changing.  It is getting lighter out for longer, but not in the way that I'm used to.  In December, during the solstice, it didn't get light out until about 8 or 8:30am and the sun would set around 2:30 or 3pm.  Now the sun rises around 6:40am and sets around 4:30.  I did a little calculation that showed me we gain 2min of daylight each day.  I guess one minute is in the morning and 1 minute is in the evening.  I've been told that once June gets here, it is light out until 11pm and it just gets dusky until the sun rises again around 5.

So this week we had glorious weather.  Friday was -10C and sunny.  It was a beautiful day and the kids were completely unfocused.  This was fine though since we had saved up a reward day and they wanted to go for a walk.  So we did go for a walk, up the side of the mountain..haha.  One of the great things about the geography of this area is that there are a lot of great places to go for a walk.  Mind you, I almost died as we were walking up the side, but I got to the top just a little bit after my students.  Nothing like a physical challenge to confirm that you are old.  We hung around at the top and took some pictures and collected some rocks for the tumbler.

As we made our way down the mountain the edge was very smooth, steep and snow covered.  As a result of all these facts we decided that the best course of action would be to slide down the side! lol.  That was a lot of fun, although I think I hit a rather thick section of powder and got completely covered with snow in the front.  All in all, Friday was a great day!

Last but not least, This week Ashley and I booked our trip over Spring Break.  We are going to be going to Aria Resort and Casino in Las Vegas from April 8-12.  The hotel was very cheap and we are both extremely excited to finally get away on our first real vacation! Only 7 more weeks to go!!

Monday, 13 February 2012

Week 23 - Me and my Kindle

So not much really happened this week.  Well...last week.  I picked up a pair of mitts for Elaine's husbands birthday.  He is apparently one of those gentlemen that are fairly difficult to shop for, but really enjoys home made crafts.  I am happy to help out a friend in need, and also the sales will help out the community.  I went to the municipal office to see what they had in stock and all I have to say is holy crap! Everyone was scrounging for mitts before Christmas and there was nothing! I go now and there's mitts coming out the butt.  There were some truly interesting ones as well.  Too bad they weren't there when I was shopping otherwise I would have gotten them instead.

These were the ones that she decided on.  Quite nice I must add.

For a good part of last week I was actually quite ill.  I'm uncertain exactly what it was, but I was sick from Tuesday to Thursday.  Of course I did try and brave out school on both Tuesday and Thursday.  Being sick put a bit of a damper on my attempts to mail these mitts to Elaine, but it did give me a chance to do some reading on my Kindle.  The thing I love about Kindles is the large amount of free books! I downloaded a bunch of them over Christmas and I'm just getting around to reading them all now.  So far I finished two books: The Wizard of Time by GL Breedon.  It was a fun little book.  Something I would put under teen fantasy.  Not literature by any means, but it was fairly entertaining.
The Wizard of Time

The second book I finished off was The Time Machine by H.G Wells.  This was an interesting sort of book with an introduction style that is unlike the authors that I have read so far.  He does a good job of describing his surrounding and the story is pretty good.

My problems with the book like in a couple of areas.  First is that the story itself is fairly boring for the first 40% of the book.  Not much really happens, other than the main character hanging out eating fruit.  I will admit though that the latter parts of the book do have some excitement, but nothing that compares to modern fantasy.  My second problem is his projections based on his understanding of Biology and Evolution.  The dichotomous evolution that occurs in this novel and the subsequent characteristics of the species don't correspond to evolutionarily stable strategies.  I guess it can be excused though since at his time evolution was still a very new concept.

I am now reading the Island of Dr.Moreau by H.G. Wells.  Now I'm starting to get a feeling for his style as he tends to begin his stories in a similar fashion.

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Week 22 - Consolidation Time

Well, I missed a significant amount of time for blogging for two reasons.
1. It was so busy over Christmas that I hardly had a chance to sit still much less make a post
2. My computer died a week after I came back to George River so that made things a little difficult.

But now I have a new computer ( A Sony Vaio E-Series, 6 gigs of RAM and a 2.4GHZ dual core processor :D)

I was originally going to put of some posts of what I did over Christmas since I was pretty busy and all over the place, but seeing as how it is February 5, I'm just going to scrap that and move on!

So what have I been up to since I returned?
Not much, everyone got back into the same routine as before we all left.  There were a couple of brutally cold weeks where the average temperature was around -30C and the windchill was -40 to -45.  There was one awesome snowstorm one weekend where I could barely see across the road.  Here's a picture I took of a statue that we have by the entrance of the school after the storm.

This weekend was actually the most busy one so far.  Friday night we decided to have a belated Chinese New Year celebration dinner.  We had Ants Crawling up the Hill, Vegetarian Spring Rolls, Tofu and Vegetables wrapped in rice paper, BBQ Pork, Egg Foo Young, Fried Rice, Steamed Rice and Soup.  We also had some Aloe Vera Juice, Jasmine Tea and Tikuanyin.  All in all it was a good time.  Too bad I couldn't get my hands on a duck!

Saturday was also an interesting day.  I finally got to go dog sledding for the first time!  Mark, my principal, has a dog sled team and he was taking them out of a training run to their tent out in the woods.  It's about a 18-20Km run so I thought I would tag along.  It was a pretty nice day outside (Sunny and around -20) so I thought I would be good with my normal gear.  I was wrong about that one.  Snow boarding gloves do nothing for warmth out here and normal hiking boots suck too.  I went most of the way on a skidoo and by the end I could barely feel my toes or my fingers.
One of the cool things about being out here is that you actually hang out with your students.  On this ride, one of my students was driving the Skidoo.  Fortunately we didn't die or crash which is always a plus!

Now the sledding part was pretty interesting.  Mark let me go at it alone for a little bit since it was a straight path and it was very difficult for the dogs to get lost.  Before we go out they actually make trails in the snow with snowmobiles so that the dogs have something to follow, although sometimes they remember the trail from last year and follow that instead of the new one.  You have to fight with them sometimes to actually get them to listen, but for the most part they are pretty co-operative.  The hard part was also watching Mark go up a hill.  When that happens you actually have to get off of the sled and run with it so that its easier on the dogs.  Overall they don't run as fast as I had thought.  They definitely go faster than I could jog, but they only run around 10-12Km/h.  I can imagine that it would take people quite some time to get anywhere back in the day.  Here's the view I got from the front of the sled.

Next week promises to be a normal week, although the administration will be gone for meetings.  Too bad, it's never the same without them.  In 9 weeks Ashley and I are going to go on a vacation to Cuba! That will be fun, now we just have to keep an eye out for deals!