Reindeer Crossing and back to Edmonton!!
Ooh boy has it been a wild ride….
I’m trying to find a way to write about the last two months in a positive uplifting way without oversharing. There has certainly been wonderful positives. I will dwell on those while skating over the rest.
(On the Ice Road)
So after I left Inuvik, I spent the next 6 weeks couch surfing. There was nothing available for housing in Tuk. Well, ok, there are two 5 bedroom houses available that would cost more than my paycheque each month. The B&Bs are full of contractors and the market housing unit requires paperwork and a waitlist that would get me on it by the time I leave Tuk. After 6 weeks I was informed that I was no longer able to couch surf. I had to deliver the ultimatum to my employer that they had to help me find housing in the next 5 days before I left for spring break or else I wouldn’t be coming back after Spring Break… The housing crisis of the North struck me hard. Last I heard #HellHouse has been condemned.
With nothing looking positive I started to consolidate my belongings, make a plan and look at the reality of possibly not coming back. And then my wonderful classroom E.A spoke to her husband, a former MLA and Speaker of the Legislature and community leader (who has his own wikipedia page!) about my situation and he set me up with a room boarding in his mother’s house. This is a positive. The local people of Tuktoyaktuk are a massive positive.
I am living with Georgina Jacobson-Masuzumi and Barney Masuzumi and I encourage you to google them. They are fascinating, kind, honest incredible people. I listen to their stories about their youth and life and I learn more than I ever did at university. I learn about their truths of residential schooling, of the grand experiment of Grandin college that turned out pretty much every successful Northerner of an era, including them, of fighting for wage and job equality, having a child at 17 and getting married for the first time at 42, travelling across Canada and seeing the North change from the traditional ways to today. Georgina’s biggest piece of advice is “Never let them steal your voice.” She’s the president of the Status of Women Council for the NWT and has been fighting her whole life for her gender, her people and her family.
He’s a well respected academic and former renewable resource officer who has worked every job imaginable. They’ve both been involved in their communities their whole lives. They have my favourite love story and the perfect wedding story. They’ve been fostering local children for years and have an open-door policy for those in need. Georgina’s volunteered and worked at women’s shelters and is a safe harbour. There is no alcohol or drugs ever allowed on premises, but there is home cooked meals, stories, welcome and love in copious amounts. I am so, so fortunate to live with them and their young son. I truly believe that the ridiculousness of the past three months has been worth it to end up there.
I got to see the Reindeer Crossing. The last from the ice road. It’s always great to see everyone coming out together for something and it really was incredible. When they all run around in a circle, herding, sending up clouds of dirt, it reminded me of the musical ride. And then they all jumped over the high snow banks (that are like cement btw, they damage a lot of unsuspecting vehicles), ran across the road, over the other banks and onto spring calving grounds. The reindeer can not be hunted while they are on their winter grounds, but as soon as they cross the ice road, they are fair game for those with tags. Locals joke about waiting at the crossing with their rifles and shooting as soon as the reindeer jump across, traumatizing all the tourists! The next day we had reindeer soup for lunch and it was the perfect bookend. And we all took pictures on the ice road like the one at the top. Several people took pictures kissing the ice road. I didn't, sorry.
Rudolph leading the way!
After that it was a count down to Spring Break! I was all packed, I had my ride booked, my hotel booked, my flights booked, it was all supposed to be smooth sailing. But you know my life. You can guess what happened. Ridiculousness followed by goodness followed by more crazy.
The day before I left, I went to confirm with my ride only to find out that night that we would no longer be going. So I spent the evening and morning in a tizzy looking for a new ride. Georgina had a phone tree in effect, I was posting on facebook and mass emailing the staff of the school and only panicking a little bit. (haha) Before lunchtime I had a ride leaving that night with room for all my stuff (bringing home crates as part of the early moving process) with Nathalie, editor-in-chief of Tusaayaksat Magazine, who was in town for the end of the Ice Road celebrations. (I was busy sleeping, eating and packing and forgetting to go...)
All arranged by my Czech guardian angel, Jana. I arrived in Inuvik at 11, had a piping hot shower and went to sleep.
(I walked past the igloo church and realized I should probably get a selfie)
The next morning I went for a walk around, was annoyed that it was good Friday and then got on the airport shuttle. Which… the hotel receptionist told the dispatch to bring a large vehicle for my stuff. He… underestimated, but I am getting better at Tetris. Got to the airport, met up with the rest of the staff that was heading out today, for lunch, got on the little Hawker Siddeley 748 plane and flew into Dawson City and then Whitehorse. I am going to STRONGLY recommend Air North here. There was a sandwich and drink and snack and candy on the way to Dawson and then when we continued to Whitehorse. The little plane drops down in bumps like a scary elevator when descending and it made me hold on tight to my barf bag, but the customer service is really incredible.
(It should be quite clear that this is not my photo, but rather wikipedia's)
My connection to Edmonton boarded at 4. The plane arrived at 3:50. I had to go through security still… Another guy on the flight ran to an attendant to make sure we were supposed to be in the long line. We were. It was fast, but then they got to me. I got the full pat down (because they have to meet a quota per hour, the attendant said, when I asked if it was my fitbit. Since I’m wearing tight leggings and a tight sweater) And then I’d stuffed my pockets with the stuff that wouldn’t fit in my carryon or bags and my giant thing of waxed sinew thread had to be examined. (which, yeah that’s pretty weird. And then there was two half empty hair sprays (non-aerosol) and polysporin and a box of bandaids….. Don’t let me have deep pockets you guys, they end up filled with weird)
And then I got on the plane with like 8 minutes before departure time.
See, I’m Hannah. I need to believe Jana when I tell her my overwhelming ridiculous drama filled life and she shrugs and says “It will all work out, don’t worry, this is North.” I wish I could be so Hakuna Matata.
Because life has shown me that it does work out, I just don’t get anything good without equal crazy! But it gives me good stories to tell my future kids.
Having said that, I will not be able to truly relax until I have landed, picked up all my luggage and have hugged my mom and then arrived at my Airbnb on Whyte ave. Then I will be able to breathe again.
Though, when the plane got in the air and announced it was on it's way to Calgary, I kind of freaked out and hit the button to call someone over and was like "My boarding pass says Edmonton, I was directed onto this plane, is his plane also going to Edmonton?" and she was like, "Yes, you are on the right plane, we'll be in Edmonton shortly after Calgary" (I am writing this on the plane)
A glass of white wine was followed by an amazing Turkey, bacon and swiss sandwich and a WARM OATMEAL CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIE. Seriously fly Air North, y’all. Also, their stewardesses are allowed to wear variety. One was in the cutest orange and black dress with high boots, another was in a uniform jumpsuit and a third was in a skirt suit with super comfy looking flats. I always feel more comfortable when the staff is comfortable and I really do believe that you have happier staff and customers when they’re allowed to wear comfortable shoes. The fact that Air North doesn’t force their female staff to wear high heels is something I commend and another reason I strongly recommend them!
AND THEN I GOT TO EDMONTON. AND I’M JUST CHILLING IN THIS AWESOME AIRBNB AND EVERYTHING IS GREAT. YAY SPRING BREAK.