Saturday, 3 September 2011

Ode to Inuvik

A month ago, I returned to Ottawa after six weeks in Inuvik. Since I've been back, friends have been asking me what I miss most about the North. After much thought, I've come up with three main (and conveniently alliterative) things: the pace, the peace and the people.

The Pace:
I like that time is more ... hmmmm .... flexible ... in Inuvik. For the most part, people aren't watching the clock. Things happen when they happen, and they take as long as they take. (I realize that this would drive A-type personalities crazy!) I like the ebb and flow of it all—although even I will admit, the night I waited four hours for the jigging contest to start was a little much. But once you accept that the posted schedule is merely a suggested guideline for how an event will go, you can relax and socialize while you wait.

The Peace:
Inuvik is quiet. Sure, there are cars—and trucks, lots of black pick-up trucks—but what is missing is that constant hum of traffic and airplanes, the white noise of more populated places. After my first trip to Inuvik, in 2009, it took me months to get used to the loudness of Victoria again!

I don't know if this counts as peace ... perhaps it's more peace of mind ... but there's no pollution in Inuvik. OK, if I'm honest with myself, I would have to say, sadly, that there probably is—but certainly not to the degree it exists in the South. In the same way you don't realize how noisy your world is until it is completely silent, you don't realize how tainted your air is until you breathe the pure fresh air of the Arctic.

The People:
As one of the TRC commissioners said, Inuvik is a model of inclusivity. It is a town where everyone is accepted and taken care of. "Nobody goes hungry," is a common mantra. Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal, all races and religions, able-bodied and disabled, children and elders ... everyone who lives there is part of the community. 

People say hello when they pass on the street; everyone is 
welcome at community events—even non-residents like me; and everybody DANCES!!    I love a place where men, women, even teenage boys get on the floor and dance. 

With all this friendliness and good humour, that's not to say there are no social problems in Inuvik. Alcohol and drug abuse are a reality; some kids don't have enough to do, so they steal bicycles; and dogs are not necessarily treated as furry members of the family—many are left to fend for themselves.

So ... Inuvik is not a perfect place. The cost of groceries and housing is outrageous; the people who forget to go to bed in the summer because the sun never sets, and then have parties outside your window at 3 a.m. are annoying; and the swarms of mosquitoes 
that don't seem to understand the "Off" part of Deep Woods Off are downright ruthless.

But I still love it there. Let me qualify that ... I love it there in the summer. Not sure how I'd feel about December when the sun never rises, or February when it's -50 C. But I sure love that midnight sun.

No comments: