After finally arriving in Salluit on Wednesday evening, we have had an amazing first week getting to know the town!
We have gotten to know all of the teachers at Ikusik (the secondary school), who are incredibly welcoming and enthusiastic about our lessons starting next week. The kids are all very shy and curious about us and we can’t wait to get to know them more as we start teaching! We’ve also met with the principle at Pigiurvik (the primary school) who is excited to have us teaching there on a regular basis this year. On Thursday, we met with the head nurse, a midwife and a social worker at the nursing station, as well as the Lieutenant at the police station. Everyone was very helpful in informing us about the community, and the most relevant health issues. We also met with Annie, one of the elders who has been involved in various health initiatives in the community. We hope to involve her and other community members in our teaching project, as they have much experience and knowledge to contribute.
The weather has been an experience to say the least! All week the wind has been blowing so hard that even getting to school is a challenge (60-80km/h!). On Thursday night, the house shook so hard that Kat had to be dragged out of the house Friday morning, and only after much assurance from Mel that it was safe. Luckily, the past two days have been pretty calm, and the sun is even beginning to shine! We are looking forward to sporting raccoon tans matching those of the local kids.
Grocery shopping has also been quite the experience. Prices are even higher than we’d anticipated, for example four pieces of frozen chicken breast: $16, large honey nut cheerios box: $20, small bottle of olive oil: $10! There are two grocery stores, the Co-op and the Northern. Prices vary between the stores and even day to day, and fruits and vegetables come in at random times and are quickly swept off the shelves. We are looking for some friends on the inside who can give us the heads up! The hike home from the grocery store is a mission itself, uphill with the strong wind against us. Kat’s city girl training didn’t prepare her for this! Luckily Mel has taken on the role as her trainer/drill sergeant, with regular workouts in the school gymnasium.
Today we broadened our horizons by going to an all-Inuktitut church service. The singing was beautiful, and the community members greeted us warmly. Throughout the week we’ve realized that Inuktitut words often involve adding an “ie” sound to the end of English words. For example, the only words of the sermon that we could make out were the repeated chants of “Jesusie Christ”. Despite the language barrier, we followed others in the service and fit in fine…that is until we stood up to sing, looked around, and realized only women were standing. When our neighbour turned around and said, “Happy Mother’s Day” we realized our mistake…
We’ve already grown to love this community and have learned so much. We hope to be able to give even just a little back in return. With a recent suicide in the community, the teachers, nursing staff and police say we have come at a good time. We hope that our week of Mental Health lessons (including topics such as grief and anger management) will be helpful to students in this difficult time.
P.S. For those who haven’t heard- Mel has been accepted to Ottawa U Med School! We will miss her at our Northern meetings next year, but are excited for the amazing opportunity that awaits her!