Weather, Wind & First Day on the Job (sort of)
After arriving last Monday and briefly meeting my colleagues, I settled into my apartment, unpacked everything, and generally felt organized and ready for my first day of work on Tuesday.
I woke up in the middle of the night from the sound of high winds and a very loud flapping of something or other. I got up to investigate, reaching for the light switch. Nothing happened. The power was out. I looked out the window and, through sideways blowing snow, was able to identify the source of the flapping: Unsecured building wrap from the apartment building across the way. I put in earplugs, took half of one of those wonderful little ambien pills, read a bit by headlamp, and nodded off again.
When I got up in the morning, the power was on. Yay! But then off again. And then on again. I jumped into the shower before it could go off again. I looked out the window again before I left, to see how bad the snow and wind looked - not great. But I had heard the temperature on the radio - not too much below freezing. How bad could it be?
Ever the intrepid prairie girl, I bundled up sensibly to begin the long trek to work (about 25 minutes in good weather, as it turns out). Damned if I was going to take a taxi my first day on the job!
This is the point at which I should mention that my apartment is located on the Road to Nowhere. Really. That is the name of the road. When you look at a map of Iqaluit, it's one of those far off developments, seemingly isolated on its own. Of course Dave and I joked when we saw it, and I said, but what are the chances of me living out there?
100%, as it turns out. The Road to Nowhere, and my building, is situated on a high ridge overlooking Dead Dog Lake and just about every other part of Nunavut. It is exposed to the weather, to say the least, and the winds are not kind.
I stepped outside. Hmm. A little windy, not too cold, do-able. I round the building. The wind hits harder. A little more challenging, but no big deal. I'm definitely going to have put my head into this one, I thought. I get onto the road. Icy sonofabitch! But I'm from Saskatchewan and I know how to read ice. I head straight for the gravelly shoulder for traction.
Oh, my. Headed downhill now, and traffic a-coming. And the wind is now calling for a bit of a crouch position. Aha! A sign post to grab onto. I am proud of myself for using the tools at my disposal.
My hair's blowing in my face. I take a mitt off to tuck my hair back under my hat. The mitt drops to the ground. It is hi-tech lightweight down, so naturally it blows, across to the other side of the road. I don't dare chase it quickly, what with the ice and the downhill traffic. But lo and behold! A sign conveniently placed by a candidate in the upcoming elections stops the mitt from blowing into the ditch. I look both ways and cross carefully to retrieve it. Almost there. Shit. It's been picked up by the wind again and is in the ditch. Alright, I have my waterproof wind pants on. The ditch is but a small obstacle. Except the snow is about 2.5 feet deep. Double shit. But I've got the mitt! I clamber out of the ditch and make down the road.
Now out in an open stretch, it occurs to me that the wind is actually strong enough to blow me off my feet. I crouch some more and wonder if my fate is to get crushed under the wheels of an SUV on my first full day in Iqaluit. Honestly, I'm thinking, Red Green's Adventures With Bill don't get much worse.
And then, a saviour. His voice calls out from said SUV: Do you want a ride? "Oh, I think I can manage," I respond with a plucky smile. "It can only get better as I get further into town," not meaning this in any sarcastic kind of way. Are you sure, he asks? Actually, no. I run over and gratefully get in. That was Jonathan, who manages finances for (I think he said) territorial prosecution services. He has lived all of his life in Gjoa Haven and Iqaluit for and, although he didn't say it, he clearly knew a stupid southerner when he saw one. Thanks, Jonathan!
I arrive at the Sivummut building where my office is located, only to find the power out there. But others are there and are discussing what to do. I head up the stairs and find a few other brave spirits in my division. I describe my odyssey and one woman says, "I know that ditch! I've stepped into it!", which made me feel a little better.
The power flickers on, we putter about a bit, and the power goes off again. Short story: we're sent home because even though some people can find useful things to with or without power, we're not legally supposed to be in the building if the power is off. Wisely, I get a taxi to go home, although I'd much rather stay because home will be depressing without power or internet. On the way, I notice lights on in a building that says, "Hotel Arctic". I ask my taxi driver if it's the kind of place where you can hang out in the lobby and no one will say anything. Oh yes, he says, there's even a restaurant you can get a cup of coffee. We circle around the block and he drops me off. The front desk clerk kindly provides me with the internet passcode and - voila - I'm on-line. I'm there for a couple of hours catching up on emails. No power disruptions; the Hotel Arctic has a backup generator!
Finally, I head home in another cab. The power is off when I arrive, but I snuggle up on the couch in a blanket with a book and take a very nice nap. As a casual employee, I am getting paid for the day. I finally decide it's not a bad way to start. Welcome to Iqaluit!
View of the storm from my work building downtown.
Dead Dog Lake from my apartment building, after the storm calmed down.
View from the Hotel Arctic. The colorful building beyond houses the First Nations Bank, among other things.