Living in Canada's Arctic
My Life in Arviat, Nunavut, Canada
I moved to Arviat, Northwest Territories, in 1994 when my oldest daughter was only 3 weeks old. I never anticipated still living in Arviat 18 years later - much less with this part of the territory being changed to Nunavut - but such is the way life has turned out.
I live with temperatures that would make most people shudder at the mere thought or imagination. I walk to work through storms in which most people would suffocate because our local Northern Store never closes during regular business hours, in spite of a raging storm outside with 60-80 kilometer gusts of wind and zero visibility.
Sometime around Christmas, 2010, a young guy went to one of our stores to buy a few snacks. He didn't return home. Instead his body had been found; he lost his way and froze to death. Though this doesn't happen all the time, it has happened more than once since I've lived in Arviat.
Living in Nunavut has toughened me, physically, and taught me some valuable lessons about life and home - and how neither should be taken for granted - not even for as little as a minute.
Emotionally, I feel I will always be a sentimental sap - which suits me just fine. I couldn't live with my heart and soul being as cold as the winter temperatures. I would miss out on what life is really about.
Come along and join me as I grant you opportunities to marvel at life in Canada's Arctic - and to make you shiver from sheer delight, if not from the penetrating cold.
Photo credit: Nunavut Nurses
Feel free to add a little info to your poll selection in the window which will present itself.
If you've lived in either of Canada's territories, I would love to know which territory and which town/s you've lived in and whether or not you still live in Canad's Arctic.
Have you ever lived in either of Canada's territories?
~ This is good visibility compared to some storms I've walked to work in ~ a 10 minute walk can turn into 30
Take another look at the photo above. How would you feel if you had to leave the safety and comfort of your home to venture out in this weather? Would you do it or would you rather quit your job?
Curious in Arviat, Nunavut
Bear with me for a moment ...
Solely out of curiosity, I would like to ask you one question:
Do you smoke?
Venturing into Stormy Weather
People leave home in this type of weather - and worse - because they need groceries, want junk food or their cigarettes have run out.
What would get you to voluntarily leave home in such stormy weather conditions?
one of my worst memories
This is written in the third person because it was an article I posted at Helium. I've decided to leave it as it is. Let the true story now begin...
Snow swirled all around the pregnant woman as she plugged her way through four feet of powdered snow. The wind whipped at her from every direction as snow blinded her vision.
Thankfully, a light pole loomed overhead, bringing immediate comfort and warmth despite the frigid cold; she knew she was still near civilization - that she had not wandered onto the desolate plains nearby. There was still a chance that she and her unborn child would survive.
Looking up at the light pole, she could faintly see the beam trying to shine brightly in the night. However, the light was dim and did not illuminate her surroundings as she had hoped. She still had no idea where she was though home had to be nearby; she had recognized a house a few minutes before when the wind stilled momentarily. Now, the snow was swirling with a fury and the wind was pushing her backwards, making her turn away in desperation.
Falling to her knees, she wept quietly. Thinking of her two daughters at home and the love of her life, the father of her unborn child, caused her weeping to turn into heart-wrenching sobs.
She was becoming scared she may not make it after all. There seemed to be little hope. The storm was becoming more violent and passionate than before. It was as if the storm was trying to drain and defeat her energy, her hope and her life.
She debated whether to keep trudging along or to remain where she was. It seemed dangerous to do either: if she went off course, there was no telling where she could end up; if she stayed where she was, she could suffocate in the storm. Neither was an acceptable fate so she stood debating her next course of action, feeling scared and alone, afraid her next decision could be her last.
Putting her hand on her stomach, she whispered, "Lord, please," with as much fervency as she could muster. She knew she did not have to say the words aloud but, somehow, the thought of doing so brought her comfort so she continued. "I will not make any promises because they may only be the words of a desperate mother. I am simply begging you to let me live until my children are grown. Please, let me find my way through this storm. It is becoming so cold and I am feeling so scared, lonely, and forsaken."
She closed her eyes momentarily and opened them to see an animal running toward her. She reacted with panic because she could not tell what it was, only that it was running on four legs. She screamed into the night though the sound did not carry far. Anyone who may have heard would not have known where to look to find the source of the screaming.
As the creature drew closer, she knew it was not a large animal and felt a measure of comfort, but it did not last long; the animal came up and approached her directly, demanding attention. It was playful as a dog might be yet the facial features resembled those of a black bear cub.
Feeling intimidated by the "dog bear" and not knowing what to do for the best, she held out her hand, hoping the animal would sniff it and be comforted. She meant no harm even if she was still screaming hysterically into the stormy night.
The "dog bear" began rolling around on the snow demanding a tummy rub, which she gave without hesitation. At this point, her screams had subsided to soft cries and pleas because, though the animal did not appear to have any intention of harming her, it was still demanding too much of her energy and attention - and she was desperate to continue in her search to find home.
Unexpectedly, the animal turned around and, impulsively, the woman decided to follow. Within seconds, she came to a clearing and recognized where she was; home was only five houses away. She watched the animal as he turned to run in a different direction and was amazed when he vanished from sight.
She walked home at a much quicker pace feeling a level of confidence that had been absent for, what seemed like, forever. She had a renewed sense of purpose and realized just how narrow her escape really was. For the record, she has never seen that animal since.
Please tell me I haven't
scared you away ...
All is not cold and dreary in Nunavut;
I could spend my life in this photo:
Arviat, Nunavut shoreline
Much To See and Do in Arviat
Arviat may not boast trees and waterfalls. It may not boast gardens and fenced in yards where families have barbecues and children play. In Arviat, we may not be able to drive by vehicle to another town but there is so much we can boast about that southerners cannot.
You'll likely find my list to be most interesting but remember these are only points which spring immediately to mind.
- After surviving the sub-zero temperatures of winter, when it hits minus 10 degrees Celcius in April, a spring jacket is warm enough.
- We appreciate looking through the window and seeing the clouds, whether the sun reveals itself or not.
- We can go outside our door, get on an all-terrain vehicle (ATV) or snow machine and drive anywhere in town or on the tundra, weather-permitting.
- We can have a fire pit after passing the towns borders without a permit.
- During autumn, there is potential of seeing a polar bear walking along the shoreline, waiting for the water of the Hudson Bay to freeze.
- We see the northern lights clearly from autumn through winter when the sky is dark. Many people never get the opportunity to see them once.
- We can put cabins/cottages on the tundra without requiring a permit. We can drive five minutes out of town and feel like we are on an actual vacation.
- Our air is easier to breathe. Though we share the same sky, the colder temperatures up here seem to make the air easier to breathe - except in sub-zero temperatures.
- We never fight traffic. We never have long commutes by vehicle to get to work.
- We enjoy breath-taking sunrises and sunsets, seeing everything because no trees and mountains hinder our view.
- Our children are safe. In my 18 years living in Arviat, no child from this town has been kidnapped. Children play on the road for several hours, often into the wee hours of the morning. I'm not saying that's a good thing but it means there is no fear of danger lurking nearby.
- We can see for miles. There is no worry about something surprising us around the next corner.
Arviat at sunset
Just Kelsey and MeClick thumbnail to view full-size
Shopping in Arviat, Nunavut
Three places of business
Eskimo Point Lumber Supply has undergone a few renovations over the years but is, essentially, still a warehouse with shelves lined with groceries and other general items. It is similar to a Home Hardware, in that we buy paint and building materials at this location. If we need to find something of a plumbing, electrical or mechanical nature, this is the first place most people check.
Padlei Co-op is the second largest business. It is filled with mostly grocery items, though does carry a small line of housewares, hardware, toys and other general household items.
The most prominent business to shop, however, is where I work ~ at Northern Stores. It's a general retailer of groceries, dry goods and clothing. Northern Stores also carries a selection of major household appliances such as washers, dryers, fridges and stoves. Couch sets as well as bedding sets can also be purchased, though it's not the selection that most people would see in southern locations.
Once a year, during autumn, Northern rents the community hall for almost a week. About 8 - 10 people build furniture which is displayed for customers for 3 - 4 days. When a customer wishes to purchase something, they receive a piece of paper stating the particulars of the item. At that time, they take that paper to Northern Stores and it will be checked in at the register. When payment has been made, the receipt is given to the customer who then brings it to the community hall. When the receipt has been shown to the retail manager, the items are then set aside to be delivered to the person's home the same day, or the following - depending upon how much is getting sold. After all, deliveries are made on a first-come, first-serve basis.
I remember when I walked into the community hall for the first time, just hours before opening the area to the public. I almost cried because I felt overwhelmed; it seemed as though the south and north had met after all. It truly resembled a smaller scale of The Brick.
The photo you see to the right is where I spend approximately 50 hours each, except for the 5 weeks I am on vacation. After all, I've worked for this company for over 18 years. 2011 is my last year with a 5-week vacation; when 2012 comes along, it goes to 6 weeks - and I can hardly wait since I can split my vacation period up into 3 mini vacations.
In case you may be interested, Northern Stores is actually one of the trade names for, The North West Company. We have several locations throughout northern Canada and not all locations are in the territories; some are located in the northern parts of several provinces. We also have great benefit packages, especially for those living in the Arctic regions.
If you are interested in learning more about this company and, possibly, in establishing a career, you may check its website at The North West Company. If you decide to submit a resume, be sure to let the powers that be know that you heard about them from Norma Budden. I'm sure it would put a smile on someone's face.
Seagulls at Sunset
Impressions of Canada's Arctic - especially life in Arviat, Nunavut
I would love to hear your thoughts about my present home called Arviat. Would you like to live here? Do you enjoy the scenic shots presented throughout this lens? What about the storms: do they seem nasty?
In your opinion ...
Does the good outweigh the bad?
Another Arviat sunset
I would love to hear your impressions about this lens. In time, I plan to add to it - to reflect some of the customs and practices and share some additional photos.