Monday 15 November 2021

Teaching at Minus Fifty - Part Ten


Things that tell you you are living in an isolated community in the far North. I

“Husband, water truck! Should we do laundry?” That was our battle cry on Monday morning: as soon as we saw the truck it was time to unload some water via laundry and fill up at the same time. Same goes for the Poop Truck - dump everything and start over with an empty tank. If only we had a real grey water provision in our home. We do try to save water everytime we bathe/shower, but the laundry dumps the most with no recovery. And just so you know, water trucks have chrome tanks, poop trucks have solid coloured ones. And our house is supposed to have external lights, blue for water, red for poop, so the wandering trucks can tell who needs what; several work orders later and still no lights. So, we stand out on our stoop and try to wave ‘em down. Where/when possible we also make an effort to stand on that same stoop and say/yell “Thank you!” - they really appreciate it.

And yes it smells bad when the poop truck leaves - maybe for a day or two.

Things that tell you you are working at the COVID Testing clinic and maybe, just maybe people are exhausted by the whole thing.

As you know I’ve been working at the clinic that was established at our school some weeks ago. Sunday to Friday, about a hundred hours so far. I’ve seen a lot while I’ve been there and I suspect I will see a lot more as time progresses. Recently there was one lady who came in on her own. Probably near my age, but looking much older, tired circles under her eyes. Pleasant voice, pleasant demeanor, nice to chat with as I completed her incoming paperwork. Near the end of registration she mentioned that her son was eighteen and with two vaccinations refused to come in and get tested. In a weary voice, she said, “I don’t know what to do.” I didn’t say a thing except to say I was glad she had come in for a test. I am hoping my slumped shoulders didn't show how defeated I felt.

We are not doing anywhere near as many tests over the last week. We were a lot busier, but not now. The scary thing is that we are still getting positive cases - that isn’t good since we get cases with even fewer tests - the virus seems to be deeply embedded in the village. Not me (or Hunter and Thy, thankfully): I test every week - four negatives in a row. 

I am tired, but I suspect that is all part of the work I do. It is stressful handwriting someone’s basic personal history (last name, first name and date of birth) when you know that you must not screw it up. Sometimes they yell at me for making a mistake. Sometimes they laugh. Sometimes we make it a little game to see if it is S-A-V-I-A-K-J-U-K or S-A-V-I-A-D-J-U-K. Sometimes there are families with four or five or six kids all under ten years old and you stop worrying why they cannot spell their children's names nor can remember their birthdays as they pinball around the foyer. You wish some wouldn’t come in with their pupils as big as manhole covers, but then you remind yourself that they are stressed, too and are managing as best they can..

Things that tell you you are living in an isolated community in the far North. II

Dogs. There are dogs everywhere and since there is no resident vet you end up with a seemingly endless line of mixed breed puppies running around. Moms with breasts and bellies drooping to the ground. Potential dads all looking for the next mom to go into heat, all with that hang dog look, tongues drooping, eyes glazed over. Little dogs walking with me on my way to and from work, getting in between my feet, looking for hugs and pats. 

And yes, we have fed them occasionally (any dog without a collar is considered a stray and will likely not make it through the winter); probably a bad idea but we feel so sorry for them. I did have an idea to buy some kibble to carry in my pocket. I changed my mind when I realized that would, at very least, cause me to buy a new jacket and the risk of something a lot worse. There are two packs of 10-12 dogs each, mature, “been around” dogs, not cute little OMG puppies. Those guys may want some 65 year old for dinner, if you know what I mean. So, as much as I may want to, I won’t.

My favourite I have named Bandit - she’s such a delight and will come running from just about anywhere if she smells/sees me. Such a loving animal - I’d love to take her in, but with our future in the North unclear I wouldn’t dare. There is a new contender for the “oh my” category, a little shoebox sized husky mix - practically fits in the palm of your hand. He’s a little shy still, but I am working on it.

The weather is quite wintry right now - nothing over zero for the foreseeable future. Everyone keeps telling me this is the warmest it has been for years or ever; I don’t disagree, I just wish my stupid snow pants would show up from the container ship.

Which brings me to the last piece of news - our property finally made it to Montreal. One hundred and seventy-three days after we packed the last box; they are so close to “being here”. I am betting it will take at least another two weeks or so to make it up North - maybe by the first of December. Imagine: almost in time for Christmas.

All our love. Stay safe, stay smart.

Saturday 6 November 2021

Teaching at Minus Fifty - Part Nine

Almost our ninetieth day here in Salluit. 

Things continue to be unusual and require a lot of on-the-fly adjustments.

I have only taught twenty-one days since I have been here - much less than I expected and wondering when it will get back to a normal Monday-Friday, 07:30-17:00 life.

Right now we are closed because of a recent outbreak of COVID in the community. As of the time of this writing we are over 200 cases accumulative, with just under 50 recovered. The entire district has had their fair share of infections - this is very, very real.

We closed the school on 20 October and I have been volunteering at the testing clinic the local nurses’ clinic/health board set up at our school ever since. I did miss one day, simply not feeling up to it; otherwise I have been there. The Red Cross is in now and with their assistance they have set up a vaccination clinic. Additionally we have people flying in from the South assisting with contacting people to come in and get tested or get their vaccine. My colleagues and I who have been working at the testing clinic and the other agencies have all been making a real effort to get this thing back in control. 

The saddest part is the number of people who come to get tested, saying “I was told to come” versus the others who come on their own. It is about a 50-50 split, but it does make you wonder why people don’t feel compelled to come in. It is frustrating to witness but it will not stop me from volunteering. 

There is some fear in some eyes. There is some foolish bravery in others (“what me worry?”). There are those who walk by our home every day not wearing a mask. There are young (oh so young) mothers wondering if their babies can be tested (yes is the answer - the youngest we have done was one month old!). There’s a grandma who comes every day simply because we are warm and friendly and a safe place. There’s five people flown out who required emergency medical care that a nurses’ station couldn’t provide. There is a very real sense that when someone dies then everyone will wake up. I truly hope that will not be the case; I hope everyone will find the will and courage to stand up and do the right thing.

Like I mentioned, I have barely taught. At a minimum the school will remain closed until early January. All of my colleagues, except we vagabonds who have no home outside of Salluit, will be flying out on Monday. I will miss them as much as I miss my students: there is a sense that a bond is still there, but tenuous and thin, at best. That just makes me sad. I hope they will stay safe, I hope they will travel well and be with their loved ones during the holidays, I hope they will come back soon.

In that light: all blessings to them, continued safe passage on their journeys. Regardless of what they believe in and where they will be, it is my sincerest hope they will be surrounded by the ones they love.

That, of course, goes for everyone - all our love to you and yours. <3

Teaching at Minus Fifty - Part Seventeen

So, back to writing again. New position at the school has me writing a lot more than I am used to, so keyboard time is preoccupied with that...