The attached photo, appropriately named “Twelve Eighteen” shows how much the times are changing here in the North. That’s a shot at high noon, more or less, that if the family and I were back in Vietnam there would be virtually no shadow cast. Instead, the progressively lower arc in the daytime sky shows the sun is slowly, inexorably slipping away. Not really sure when we will have complete darkness, but it is coming.
It is a Saturday. I’ve been home since Wednesday as we have had an outbreak of COVID and they immediately closed the school. There are four cases in the village, all with some sort of connection to the school, so out of an abundance of caution we are shut down. The village itself is under a sort of lockdown, in the sense that there is a 22:00-07:00 curfew, all non-essential buildings/offices/schools are closed, etc. The grocery stores are still open, thankfully, and we can still get air shipments of food and goods. No visits between homes and no frivolous activities are allowed. This is a serious situation, serious enough that testing will take place starting tomorrow right at the school. I will be one of those to be tested as I teach one of the classrooms with a suspected case. I have also volunteered to assist in the gathering of the necessary paperwork to support the tests given and even have volunteered to learn how to administer a rapid test should the need arise. Serious times, indeed.
There is a fairly widespread outbreak, as nearly all of the communities (Ivujivik, Salluit, Kangirsuk, Kuujjuaq, and Kangiqsualujjuaq) are reporting COVID results. My suspicion is that the virus is being spread by the way the communities are being serviced, i.e. by plane. One hundred percent conjecture, obviously, but the case could be made.
Teaching has now become even more challenging. There is no viable remote teaching option - the Internet is just not reliable enough to support that methodology. I must emphasize that there has been no call to move to the assemblage of take home work but, for those who know me, I am planning on it anyway. As those who have read my earlier pieces can attest this is an additional challenge as the classic methods of teaching I am good at just don’t play here at all: Maslow over Bloom, remember? I’ve done some head scratching and will engage my ‘The North” experienced colleagues, but I think I’ve got a couple of things worked out for about 30-35 days of teaching.
That's right - from now right up to the Christmas break. Crazy.
Christmas. We’ll be, assuming COVID doesn’t get in the way, travelling South during the break. Almost eleven years since I last did this in Canada and a first for Thy and Hunter. So looking forward to seeing everyone “down there” and spending some time getting additional winter clothing as well - our container at the time of writing still hasn’t arrived.
Christmas and Christianity have come up a couple of times in class. Kids are confused by the old guy who says he follows (or at least tries to follow) Buddhist tenets, doesn't believe in a Christian God, but somehow respects that they might do just that. The simple statement, “We don’t celebrate Christmas” truly confused them. “You don’t want presents?” followed by an explanation why Christians celebrate Christmas and concluded with “You don’t want presents?” was a particularly spirited circular argument.
They are as fervent as I am on the belief that prayer benefits everyone but struggle that someone could still pray and not be Christian. They were particularly surprised that I pray for them every day during my daily prayers: who do you pray to exactly? Explaining the concept of Ietsism has proven difficult but as my policy in my classroom is that I will try my best to answer their questions I will keep at it. Fantastic discussions abound in my classroom - maybe not enough actual work, but my goal has always been to teach about life through Visual Arts, so I think we are getting somewhere.
I pray for my colleagues as well. It has been a trying time - lots of interruptions, lots of disruptions. These kids need a level of consistency, predictability, if you will, in order to counter their lives outside of school and give them some hope of learning. The younger students don’t seem to be as impacted as the seniors; the ones who have stayed the course to the best of their ability... well, you can see it in their faces.
That stress/disappointment, of course, carries over to the teaching cadre as well. My colleagues are a resilient bunch - all working as hard as they can to be that safe place, that place of learning and hope and all good things. They are human, too and the look of defeat is coming up more and more often. They haven’t given up, but the tired look in their eyes speaks volumes. Is there a solution? Of course - keep reaching out, keep talking, keep sharing and most importantly keep listening. When I sit in those School Council or Staff meetings it is brutally apparent that there is significant, collective wisdom in that room - use it, abuse it, but don't stop asking for it - I know I won’t.
The family is doing well. We are being respectfully cautious due to the recent COVID issues - wearing a mask and staying socially distant is really old hat for us now - we get it. Otherwise we have many ongoing art projects, so we are staying out of trouble and keeping our learning at a high level. Unfortunately our chance to start learning Inuktitut has been stalled, but we are still eager to get some of the language going and look forward to taking it up once there is some normality.
Life goes on - the sun may rise and set fairly quickly, but we keep on keeping on. All blessings to you and yours. All our love...