Friday, July 11, 2008

Beginnings Ends and In-Betweens

The house is packed, the excess stuff given away and I fly out of Iqaluit tomorrow afternoon. It's been a wonderful year here and I've learned many things. I definetely have mixed feelings about leaving. I'll be happy to see Vancouver again and most of all to see Dr. H. (who has been out for a month already), but I'll miss the work here and the small town atmosphere and most of all the people. Being a small town doctor is an old fashioned idea but it is a nice occupation. The fact that you see your patients at the grocery store, at the movies and basically everywhere is, mainly, a nice thing. People seem to get a kick out of seeing their doctor doing non-doctor things (yes we have to go grocery shopping too, and no I didn't buy only healthy food!) I'll be coming back to Iqaluit (and Pangnirtung) regularly over the next year but it will be different to not live here.

There is lots to learn here, medical and otherwise and I think Iqaluit is a great place for young docs to work to enhance their skills. Here are a few important things I learned this year....

1) Everything is not a big deal.
2) Things don't always need to be on time.
3) More choice is not always a good thing.
4) You don't need much stuff to be happy.

(I also learned that people from down south talk way too fast, and that Inuit elders are as tough as anyone I have ever met, and many more lessons along the way.)

When Dr. H. and I first talked about moving north for a year we had mixed feelings about it. In the end our decision came down to this; 'When we look back do we want this to be the year we did something, or the year we did nothing?'. We took a chance and moved north, to both good and bad experiences but most of all to new experiences and ones that enriched us. Hopefully we take some of that wisdom with us into the rest of our lives, wherever that may lead....

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Way way up

Last week I had a chance to visit Canada's most northernly community Grise Fiord. There are 2 other inhabited locations north of Grise (Alert and Eureka) but both of these are manned stations rather than communities. Although it has a difficult past, Inuit people from Pond Inlet and Inukjuak were resettled there by the Canadian government with far less than full disclosure of the difficult conditions in the high arctic, today Grise Fiord is a true community where people grow up, go to school and call home.
I was there for only a couple of days to provide a visiting doctor clinic but the people made me feel very welcome. I got to go on some nice drives along the shore line, and we had a nice barbecue after work one day while I was there. This time of year the sun is high in the sky 24 hours a day, in the high arctic this isn't summer but Light Season. The Inuktitut name for Grise Fiord is Aujuittuq meaning place that never melts. In spite of the name it was 14 C and sunny the entire time I was there.
I've been up in the Eastern Arctic for long enough now that I just accept the landscape as a normal part of life, and sometimes forget how dramatic and unique it can be. The landscape in Grise is impossible to ignore though and reminded me of that. Here are some pictures from the top of the world.

A view up a fiord on Ellesmere Island. (Taken through the window of the twin otter.)

Looking up the valley above Grise Fiord airport.

A glacier moving towards the shoreline.

A barbecue with the health centre staff, that's me and Tommy who is the health centre's interpreter, driver, handyman, and everything else to keep the health centre going.

A view of the sea ice from the air.

The twin otter lands at the airport. The landing approach is a flight directly towards a cliff, then hang a hard left, fly along the cliff and land on the short dirt strip.

A view of the town and surrounding mountains at take off.