Life in the Arctic

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I still remember the day my husband called and said he was transferred to Nunavut. My jaw dropped and I remember thinking Holy S#*t! I didn’t know if I should laugh or cry. It took a few moments to process. What would life be like in the Arctic?! All along we had thought we were leaving Winnipeg for Ottawa...this was just a little further north.

That day was a Wednesday. After doing research and talking to our friends who were also living there, we found out the deadline for the last sealift of the season was the following Monday. A sealift is a ship that carries up all the yearly supplies in the Summer months and is much cheaper than flying cargo up. 

We literally booked a flight the next day to Montreal and spent the weekend shopping for anything and everything we might need, packing a Yukon XL to the brim and dropping it off at the shipyard in hopes of having it arrive by the time we got there! 

It made me realize how much we take for granted living in the “south” of Canada! We needed a year supply of dog food because Kibbles and Bits cost $90 at Northmart. A year supply of alcohol because there was no liquor store. A year supply of all the things we love that are too expensive up there (no more weekend stock ups at Costco). What a whirlwind weekend! Imagine taking your yearly Costco bill and spending it in a weekend!! 

October 31, 2014 we were on our way! Talk about life being full of surprises - never in a million years did I think I would call the Arctic home. Our fight up felt so surreal and as we were coming into land, you can see the whole town surrounded by endless miles of tundra. We arrived to a very warm welcome from our friends and Grant’s boss at the airport. It only took us 5 minutes to get to our new home - a nice little townhouse on the plateau overlooking the city. 

Iqaluit is one of those places that steals your heart! Not in the same way of say Paris (haha), but in a way that it has that small town community feel with no road systems that lead to another town. There you are in the Arctic, on an island, thousands of miles away from everything! It is what it is and you accept things a little differently, knowing you’re not going anywhere anytime soon, so you embrace it! 

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I got a job continuing to work as Correctional Officer at the Correctional Centres and my husband worked at the RCMP headquarters. We worked hard and put in a lot of overtime. It felt like our phones were constantly ringing because they were! We quickly learned, that there is no shortage of work in the North.

I feel like going up there made me appreciate everything I hadn’t even realized that I took for granted. Fresh fruit and vegetables, affordable groceries, access to other cities, summer and warm weather, trees (there are no trees in the Arctic), fast internet, Netflix, shopping malls and traffic lights. And yet, you take all of those things away, and all the sudden life is pretty simple and pretty charming. We worked hard while we were there but life was good!

Going on holidays for the first time was a little overwhelming. It was my first time leaving the North in 5 months and flying into Ottawa was like landing back in civilization. 

I left the airport for my hotel and cars were speeding by, people honking their horns, bright lights and box stores everywhere! I felt a bit shell shocked and it kind of made me miss our simple life up north. It made me realize how much our lives revolve around consumerism. How people never really slow down...

Alternatively, in Iqaluit, the excitement comes on Wednesday nights. It’s wing night at the legion and there’s usually a line up. If you miss wing night, no need to worry, there’s always radio bingo on Saturdays - where you have the number on speed dial just in case you’re a winner!! It’s a pretty simple life - you make your own fun and make the most of being on a rock island in the middle of nowhere! 

When that well-earned day off finally comes around, it is spent hiking on the open tundra with the pups (in hopes there are no polar bears) or having a pallet fire with friends! In the Summer, you can camp at Sylvia Grinnell National Park and still be only 5 minutes from home. Experience the 22 hours of light in the Summer and 22 hours of dark in the Winter. Feel what -67 feels like (too cold!).

Living in the North also allowed us to travel the world! Due to the isolation, we worked 5 months on 1 month off. We took advantage and travelled as much as we could! New Zealand, French Polynesia, Asia, Europe, Hawaii and the Caribbean.

Our vacations helped us escape the reality of the North. While it had so many positives, the downfall was we were both working too much (especially Grant) and realized we needed a change. Luckily, it came at a time earlier than expected and Grant got a promotion in Alberta. We spent 2.5 years up there, instead of our anticipated 3.

The Arctic was an experience I will always remember and cherish deeply in my heart. Having the opportunity to see how the Nunavummiut live was an eye-opener and gave me a new found appreciation.

Iqaluit is a place where friends become family. A place where friends celebrate holidays together because you’re all away from loved ones. A place where most people will never visit in their entire lives. You lean on each other in hard times, share groceries because you don’t know when the next fresh shipment will arrive (and you need it for your recipe today!), have the same blue rental furniture (that’s not pretty but you try your best to decorate), think it’s Summer when it’s 9 degrees out, text each other to go outside to see the Northern lights dancing, check up when there’s a polar bear running through town and organize a year supply of groceries together! The North is the family you choose and I am so grateful for all our experiences. ❤️ 

I could go on for pages about life in the North as this only scrapes the surface but I hope this blog post at least gives you a little glimpse. Thank you for visiting and please ask any questions you may have. 

Love and light.

Kailee

Megan SchiedelComment