Saturday, February 21, 2009

Anyone Interested?

Our fourth/fifth grade French second language teacher has gone on a medical leave. Anyone need a job for the next four months?

Leave a comment with your contact information.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

The Vatican Vaults

Sophie calls me lucky. I call it intelligent, hard work.

One of my colleagues approached me in September to see if I could help her organise a graduation trip for our Secondary V students. She has done the bulk of the work, but I agreed to help them raise funds. Organizing a graduation trip in Nunavik is (at least I think) a great deal different than doing the same thing in the South. First of all, we have only four graduates. Second, the parents here are, as a rule, not affluent enough to afford to fork over the three grand it takes to send a kid even as far as Montreal. So, we have had to raise funds to get these kids to Europe.

Raising funds is not exactly the same thing as it is in the South either. When I was a kid in High Prairie, AB, the best way to raise funds was to work a bingo. Everyday there would be hundreds of people who would go to the "Bingo Barn" to gamble away their day's earnings. The Bingo Barn was disgusting. The air inside was always blue and smelled of foul, stale, Number 7s. It was (is?) the biggest regular social event in town. I remember working one such bingo for our local bantams hockey team. I must have been 15 or 16. I was walking around with a cart selling coffees, and a man asked me for a light.

At the time I didn't smoke, or at least I didn't have a light, so I asked Kelly, my friend and coffee cart partner, if he had one. He handed me the lighter and I insisted on holding it while the man leaned over to light his smoke. I flicked the lighter a few times. Sparks, nothing more. Determined, the man leaned in closer, and just as determined, I struck the flint again. The flame roared to life, eight inches high, singeing the poor man's eyelashes and eyebrows and leaving little but the smell of confusion and burned hair all around.

"Uhh, I'm sorry." I squeaked out.
"No problem," the man replied, "wasn't the first time, won't be the last." I shit you not. That's what he said.

I digress. We don't have a Bingo Barn in Kangirsujuaq, but we do have motivated students. Because of the exorbitant cost of airfare, we have had to raise a great deal more than a school in the South would have to do. Before Christmas, we held several fundraisers from which we raised close to $9000, a mere $20,000 short of our goal. To make up the difference, we have solicited numerous governmental programs and industrial organizations. With less than three weeks left to go, we have promises of funding, but very few cheques have actually arrived. It's beginning to become a point of stress.

Coupled with the stresses over the money is the excitement of actually going on the trip. I have traveled substantially in the Americas over the past 15 years, but I haven't been to the other side of the pond since I was myself in high school. Our itinerary includes leaving March 6th to Montreal, where we will spend two days before flying out to Rome. After a couple days in Rome, we will head out to Pompeii and on to Greece via an overnight ferry. In Greece, we will spend some time traveling around before ending in Athens and flying back to Montreal on the 16th, where I will take my leave of the students. They will come back up, and I will not, having no position to return to (more on this another time).

In order to justify the expensive price-tag, and extended absence of our graduating students from school, we had to make the trip a cultural as well as educational and recreational trip. Months ago, I came across this story from a few years ago about a great collection of Inuit artifacts in the Vatican vaults. They had been brought to Vatican City by missionaries at the turn of the 20th century for a large exhibition. They have been sitting in the vaults in crates and boxes ever since. Despite the fact that the only non-Vatican staff to have seen these artifacts for decades was an ROM curator, we decided to ask if we could go see it. After all, how often do Inuit go to Rome?

Not expecting anyone to take us seriously, I had each of the students email someone who might be able to help: the curator at the Vatican, the curator at ROM who has seen the collection, and Avataq, the cultural arm of the regional government. The latter put us in touch with an Italian archaeologist who enthusiastically took up our cause. Dr. Gabriella Massa, it turns out, put on an exhibition of ancient Inuit artifacts for the Turino Olympics. Her collection lies in the Museo Pigorini in Rome, and she has invited us to see it. On top of that, she asked the curator of the Musei Vaticani for special pemission to let us go into the vaults and see the collection that only one other Canadian has ever laid eyes on.

Unbelievably, they said yes. It turns out that part of the collection is being restored, and we will get to see it.

Sophie says I'm lucky. Sarcastically, she asks me, "Why did you set your sights so low? Why don't you try to meet the pope?"

Maybe I'll get the kids to write more emails this week.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Noah Feeds Himself

Every time I post something to YouTube, I have to give a description and category and the like, so people searching YouTube can find it. There are plenty of videos entitled "Noah Feeds Himself". This one is a little different than most of the babies feeding themselves.


Sunday, February 01, 2009

Heart Attack

When Noah was a newborn, I would always think he was dead. No shit.

He would be napping away, and I'd have to check if he was breathing. Not all the time, you understand, just every thirty seconds or so. He was just so tiny and fragile. I'm sure all parents out there can understand. Of course, you get used to everything, and start to understand that it doesn't work like that, no matter what the baby safety/parent paranoia industrial complex would like you to believe.

Every once in a while however, Noah will give me a heart attack. One of those things happened a little more than a week ago. Moms and dads out there, especially with little ones, you might want to stop reading here, lest you go into cardiac arrest.

Noah went for his first snowmobile ride outside of the amautik. It occurred without incident. He got all dressed up in his winter gear and sat on the seat between Sophie and I while we putted around in the tundra. We went down to the co-op to pay for the gas which we then went to the gas plant to get.

After Sophie took her turn driving excruciatingly slowly down to the bay and back, we returned home, much to the chagrin of our little boy. He was some kind of upset when we got off the snowmobile. He writhed and screamed and kicked, and we brought him in the house just the same. After undressing his many layers, we left him by the door screaming, and trying to pry the door open by stuffing his fingers into the space between the door and the frame. Alas, he couldn't wrench the door free, and finally he gave up. It was about 11:30 a.m., so I thought about making lunch, but Noah sat down with his mom and promptly fell asleep without eating.

He took a three hour nap and awoke as fresh as ever. He was happy, laughing and energetic, but we noticed that he had a bit of a temperature. "Maybe it was a little cold for him," Sophie thought out loud. After living through weeks of sub -25C weather, a crisp -18C with a lot of sun and no wind feels wonderful on the face.

After supper, he began to look tired and feel warmer. Sophie gave him a bath. Normally, it is his favourite playground, but he just sat there shivering. At around seven o'clock, he fell asleep again. We thought that to be early, so we put him in his stroller, where he usually naps, instead of bringing him to his bed.

We could hear him fussing in the stroller, which is normal for a feverish, tired baby, but then his fussing became erratic, and he stopped whining. Sophie and I looked at each other and I bolted for the stroller. I came around the corner and saw Noah's eyes rolled in the back of his head. He was convulsing uncontrollably and foaming at the mouth. "He's having a seizure! He's not breathing! Call Nursing!" I yelled as I pulled him out of the stroller, his arms and legs flailing away.

Sophie called the emergency number for the nursing station. Our friend picked up the phone, and Sophie explained what was going on. A million scenarios raced through my head, most of them including either permanent brain damage or burying my baby in the graveyard at the foot of the mountain. Sophie, for her part, was languishing in guilt over having sent Noah to daycare full time for what imminently appeared to be the last week of his life. After what seemed like a month, Noah took one deep breath and started crying.

"That's better." I said, relieved, as a tear rolled down my own cheek.

Apparently, such febrile convulsions are totally normal.

"These seizures are brief, self-limiting, and rarely harm baby, but may leave parents trembling."

So writes Dr. William Sears. Indeed Bill, indeed. Just recalling the incident makes my heart skip a beat.