Saturday 15 January 2022

Teaching at Minus Fifty - Part Twelve

 Been a long time since I last wrote - lots to report.

The Going South Bit

My boss gave us an option of flying out a couple of days early since a big snowstorm was heading our way. Once I was able to secure some hotel rooms we said yes. Then came the long wait from our travel connection in HR. When they finally called the conversation went like this: 

“Do you actually want to leave on the 15th, the 16th or wait out the storm?”

“Ah, you suggested the 15th - there’ll be no flying out on the 16th and waiting out the storm is not an option - we’d lose our rental car, three days of our rental accommodation and there is no guarantee that Air Canada could suitably adjust our flight from Montreal to Toronto.”

“So… the 15th is okay?”


I know they were trying to be accommodating but the logic was pretty obvious. This was going to be a big storm, getting out now was the way to go. There would have to be a standby for seats from PUV to Montreal, but they reserve eight seats on every flight for medical reasons (something I didn’t know) so we should be good.

And we were. The ladies working the counter at PUV were wonderful and made it happen.

The flight from there was a very busy one - it was jammed packed with Air Inuit employees as they were trying to beat the storm, too - it was Christmas after-all. We made what was to me an unscheduled stop in La Grande; weird logic: everybody off the plane, re-x-ray all the luggage and submit to a search. Everybody knows contraband goes South to North, not the other way around, but that’s what they made us do. Didn't help that we thought initially we were in Montreal. Didn't matter to Hunter - the walk from the plane to the terminal meant time to kick some snowflakes.

Note for the future: Air Inuit’s transfer of luggage at Trudeau is abysmal - at least 90 minutes of wait time; hit Tim’s before you get your luggage cart.

The stay in Montreal was largely uneventful - we did some light shopping and generally hung out in the hotel room. It was damp and that made the cold feel all the more unpleasant. Hard to believe a twenty-thirty degree difference in temperature would translate to feeling cold all the time. I guess we are becoming Northerners.

The flight from YUL to YYZ was noteworthy only for the weirdness of being offered alcohol at ten o’clock in the morning… and the flight attendant's whispered reluctance to offer the same to my “daughters”. Oops - definitely looking too old to be with those two beauties I guess.

Arrival at Pearson was interesting since we arrived with some punctured luggage. Went to baggage claim to report the damage and discovered something else new to me: they regularly keep extra pieces of luggage, brand new, to make an exchange for any broken pieces. They didn’t have one that matched our size and so we filed our claim. (Fast forward a couple of weeks later and we received our claimed amount and a 20% discount anywhere Air Canada flies, good for the next three years. Wow.)

We next had to track down our rental car. First time I rented off the airport, however, it was the best option in terms of price and availability. It meant taking the Skytrain to the end where the ALT hotel is. (Note for the future: last summer when we were forced into quarantine I thought of getting a room at the ALT, but it looked to be too far away from the airport to be practical - now we know it isn’t and that might come in handy if there is a next time). Quick shuttle ride to the car rental guys and off we go.

And then I promptly got lost. Foggy, sleet-like weather and I got us going in a variety of different and very wrong directions, baffled, confused - should have taken the map option… <grrr>. Eventually we found 427 South and humped it down to the 401. Made a stop at the Halton Hills factory warehouse spot and had a nice hot lunch; needed it - the dampness was setting in and we were freezing just from walking from the car to the food area. Damn, it is not the (lack of) heat, it’s the humidity.

We took our time getting to Kitchener, having stopped at SAIL and going slower than usual and arrived after dark.

Note for the future: the metal posts they use in Kitchener to identify where not to drive when near the super train/blue rocket tracks needs to be a helluva lot larger and lit - came within an eyelash of taking out the front end of the car. <shudder>

Found our humble abode, wrangled the key out of the key lock (ugly process, trust me) and then did some grocery shopping at Conestoga Mall. A bite to eat, then home and sleep… it had been a very interesting return to the South, no question.

Down South

This was our first time travelling from Salluit to Ontario. We had a lot of things on our agenda, most importantly meeting with family and friends. Each time we came from Vietnam to Ontario we sponsored get togethers, generally a meal and conversation and that was the plan this time around. Where we used to only see these folks once a year, this was an opportunity to see them every six months so we really looked forward to it.

Sadly our first meal/chat didn’t happen as our dear friends Rick and Terry had a family emergency and had to cancel. We look forward to seeing them this coming Summer Break and catching up over a meal or two.

The next event on the calendar was scheduled for London and our family/friends there. Sadly part of that didn’t happen as one of my best friends had decided that vaccinations were not for him and thus he would not be able to come to the restaurant we had chosen. I respect his right to make this choice but it saddens me because of circumstances we could not break bread together. Hopefully things will improve enough in the coming months that the hug I am missing can be shared again. The meal we did have was wonderful - nice to be in the company of old friends (honestly, more like family members) and pick up on conversations like we were never, ever apart. If we could just stand there and hug I would call it complete and satisfying; everything else was just extra special.

Next my brother and sister-in-law came to visit us! We met at the final resting place of my mom, dad and sister and then trooped off to the closest Swiss Chalet for a nice long lunch. It was so nice to just sit and talk - unfortunately my niece had contracted COVID so they couldn’t stay and visit some more; they had to get to the hospital where my niece was receiving care. Regardless, for me, it was special to share teaching/war stories with my brother and sister-in-law - between them they have over sixty years experience so it was good to hear their take on my current situation. Again, they totally get the Maslow versus Bloom equation. Good to see them, good to feel them.

The next week was time to visit with our older kids and our granddaughter. We decided on a visit to the Aquarium and dinner afterwards. The visit was wonderful - cannot beat the wide eyes of wonder whilst looking at the flora and fauna - and the kids were excited, too. =) I’d go back in a heartbeat - and I am sure the kids would like a return visit some day. The dinner options were down to Swiss Chalet again. There was a problem with delivery, much confusion was taking place and hungry bellies were a-growling. However, my eldest got on the phone and sussed a solution out and the real reason why there was a problem in the first place. Her use of persuasive language and appropriate tone made this old guy smile like you have no idea. How quickly they grow up, I know my late sister would have been so proud of her. I know that I was. The visit ended all too quickly, but with a long drive ahead we did have to leave sometime.

The only other special visit we made was just for Hunter and Thy and I - The Royal Ontario  Museum. There was a special exhibit on whales and then, of course, the primary reason for our visit: dinosaurs! It was really fantastic to watch Hunter traipsing along, checking out all her favourites. We actually managed to do the museum from top to bottom and that was unexpected and exhausting… couldn’t stop the little one though: so much to see and enjoy. Clearly a place to keep coming back to.

And the day before the Museum was Hunter’s fourth birthday. She got a chocolate cake with pink icing and many little gifts, but honestly I don’t think she knows how much of a gift she is back to us. Bright, curious, an active, active imagination - such a sweet little girl. I look forward to celebrating more birthdays with her.

The weather down South

While in the South we got to see everything from plus sixteen to minus ten - snow, rain, fog and back again. It was difficult to predict when and what would happen next and even when you thought you had it right you were probably wrong. It got to the point where I have to say I missed the cold predictability of the North.

Coming Home


Time to get up early, clean up the apartment we stayed in, one last fill up for gas and Tim Horton’s, print all the paperwork we thought we would need for our return to Salluit, load the car and get on the road.

Didn't get lost coming back - did a Google Map check before we left - pretty straight forward, makes me wonder how I screwed it up so badly two weeks before. I did forget that the rental office was a part of a Comfort Inn so that took a U turn to get back to, but otherwise no big deal. Nice guys at the rental place, who took good care of us, right back to the airport.

Getting on the plane to Montreal was initially puzzling as we had pre-boarded but the system wouldn’t give us baggage tags. Then an Air Canada representative took us by the hand and led us to the “fast” line; nice.

Found our gate and got some more Tim’s and… hmmm… the gate seemed to be populated with passengers but not Air Canada folks. Strange with an hour to go before boarding. Then comes a series of announcements about delays and, damnit, outright cancellations. Off to customer service, got our new boarding passes and new gate and new time - ugh - three hour delay. Ok, chill, we’ll still get there in good time for the hotel and dinner.

And we did - got our luggage in plenty of time (for the very first time in flying for over 50 years I had to ask someone to give back a piece of our luggage), grabbed a cab, checked in, got some of the great hotdogs that can be served up within a three minute walk from the hotel (we knew the neighborhood better this time) and crashed.


Good night’s sleep, followed by a dash to Tim’s - looked like they had completely changed the staff there - wonder if my complaints had anything to do with it. Doesn’t matter - teas, bagels, and croissants for the trip later. Killer shower at the hotel, hot water amundo, great shower head, excellent shampoo and conditioner - could have stayed there for hours.

Adios Montreal, off we go to PUV then home. Anyone else notice how Air Inuit issues tickets and they are rarely correct in terms of departure times? Our tickets showed us leaving one half hour earlier than expected… just a typo?

Oh and never buy food at the restaurant near the departure gate - stupid expensive.

Uneventful ride to PUV, other than full knowledge of not leaving the airport - they went RED just before arriving. Watching a family come in at PUV and flying on our plane - two kids with throaty, phlegm filled coughing - think they’d be wearing a mask, right? Nope. Told my lovely wife: “We are going to try and sit as far from them as humanly possible, ok?” <shudder>

The guys came through with the truck. The short walk was very eventful, as in freezing cold - man, how quickly it can change, eh? The South was humid and cold, the North just blistering cold - wind chill was biting through every gap I had in my coat and hat/scarf combination… brrr.

Cracked the door at home (thank you to whoever shovelled our front steps), threw in the luggage, stowed the truck and the key, quickly ran to Co-Op for milk, then finally home. Bathroom sink not draining, hmmm. Liquid plumber time? Nice and simple dinner, unpack most of everything - crash.


First morning back… and woke up to both the kitchen and bathroom sinks still not draining. The drain cleaner I used last night on the bathroom sink had zero impact. Reaching out to maintenance.

Got a response from Pierre and KI/Ikusik maintenance right away - coming today. And a curt reminder to use the work order system - something no one had mentioned in the five months we’d been here. Go figure.

We passed the first rapid test. The process seems too simple to be honest, easy to make mistakes and maybe generate misleading results. Will have to watch how we do this once the school re-opens.

While we wait for maintenance/J-C, I go out for some shopping - shelves are pretty empty, problems getting materials in I reckon due to weather and COVID - Quebec is really getting kicked this time around.


Drains still plugged, 24 plus hours now. Poop truck came by and I was hopeful that would do it but no luck. Hoping we are hearing from maintenance soon.

Drains working again, after 3 hours of yeoman service from J-C - had to snake out years of grease and grime - likely this was going to fail no matter what we did. Kudos to J-C, wasn’t going to leave until he had it all under control.


Passed the second rapid test. Not sure if we are doing everything correctly but negative is negative. We’ll have a brain scratching test next week so we’ll see what is going on. On the way to bed I noticed that it felt kind of chilly… turned up the heat to 25°C…


…woke up at 06:00 wondering why it was so cold in the house; one of our indoor thermometers said it was only 12 degrees …and falling. I checked on Thy and Hunter (Thy had moved over to Hunter’s bed during the night) - they were snuggled in and probably wondering why the chill in the air. I cranked on the oven and made out a maintenance work order. Threw on another hoodie, thick sweats and socks and even a pair of light gloves - damn, it was cold. The wind chill was officially minus 48, near the magical 50 I’ve been waiting for.

J-C had to put in another three hours of work later in the morning - an actuator had failed and needed replacing, so that was the culprit. We noticed the house warming up nicely - thanks J-C!

Wandered over to Northern to scoop up some cake mix. First time this year I didn’t wear my glasses, but also didn’t wear my goggles… managed to have my eyelashes freeze up - not doing that again, trust me.

And today is Thy’s birthday. I have had the good fortune of sharing eight birthdays with her now - in a way it is a special day for me, too. I baked a cake and made dinner - again, nothing too wonderful but it all worked out; everybody was happy. Nice to be home, in our home, together.


We all woke up today toasty warm and happy. Minus 30 outside, windchill of minus 40, but today we didn’t notice it as much; cold, but not crazy my-toes-are-numb and I-cannot-feel-my-the-tip-of-my-nose cold. A quiet Sunday ahead of us - plans to flip the bedroom, some reorganizing of the living room, do some prep for returning to remote teaching, nothing too special. A lazy, slowly progressing Sunday - ok with me.

We passed another every-two-days rapid test again; now three in a row - five day test at the clinic tomorrow, with Thy getting her third shot as well.


Went up to the nurse’s clinic and got our PCR tests done. Read recently that in the US they are considering moving to a saliva based testing methodology - couldn’t come soon enough for me; getting my brain scratched is not something I look forward to. And try looking into the eyes of a (now) four year old and telling her it just tickles. Yep, a change would be most welcome. Thy successfully got her third shot - the pain, fever and brain fog will come tomorrow.

Since we got back we have been slowly but surely weeding our way through the property that arrived from Vietnam. Finding past memories and wispy dreams in a shipping box is something worth doing. Yes, we had to wait a long time, but now the good part begins. Knowing us it will take forever, but we’ll do it at the pace that makes the most sense to us.

All our thanks to those who helped get this far. All blessings to you and yours, continued safe passage on all your journeys.

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Teaching at Minus Fifty - Part Seventeen

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