Sunday, October 31, 2010

One Last Feast!

Today was our last full day in our Northern home. We started things out with a big breakfast at the only restaurant in Cambridge Bay. Then we returned to the school where a local craftsman taught everyone how to carve their own miniature "inukshuks" (Inuit stone people statues) out of caribou antlers.
Our lessons in Nunavut culture continued as we went over to the school's awesome Heritage Centre, where one of the Elders demonstrated a traditional igloo stove that used seal blubber as fuel for heat, cooking and light.
The Elder also let a couple of members of our crew model some authentic caribou fur clothing and accessories!
After spending the morning learning about the heritage of this amazing place, it was time to prepare the community feast!
The Elders brought over all of the caribou meat we harvested yesterday, and we also pulled out all of the Arctic char 'piffy' that we'd put out to dry two days ago.
The Screaming Avocado gang did what they do best and cooked up an unbelievable feast with the Cambridge Bay students and the Elders.
Everyone in the community was invited, and the turn-out was incredible! 
Elders, lots of cute kids, and everyone else in town came to the gym and shared all the food that we'd prepared for them.

In the evening, we were treated with a demonstration of the amazing Inuit music called "Throat Singing". Three talented young women put on a great show just for us:
Jenna and Siobhan tried some throat singing of their own after a little coaching from the experts!
Everyone will be sad to leave this magical place tomorrow and say good bye to our all our new friends....

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Catching Caribou

 In Nunavut, when you go "out on the land" and successfully harvest a caribou, it is known as "catching" a caribou. Today, we once again joined our friends the Elders of Cambridge Bay  and the students of Kiilinik High School and caught three caribou with them!
The waters of the Northwest Passage are finally starting to freeze up (it was a bitterly cold day today with a wicked wind), so the caribou herds are gathering and anxiously awaiting their opportunity to leave the island. We came across a herd of twenty and the hunt was on! While the Elders were taking aim with their rifles, Gerry was taking aim with his camera (he shot the pics above and below).
The Elders selected several females to harvest, and we all watched in awe as they shot them, tracked them, then cleaned and dressed them on the snow. Then we loaded everything into the qamutiks and brought the meat and skins back to town, where it will be used in the traditional feast that we will be helping the Elders prepare tomorrow!
But tonight it was the Screaming Avocado gang's turn to make a special dinner for the community in cooperation with their new-found friends on the exchange. The people of Cambridge Bay were invited to attend a dinner we all made together using some local Arctic Char and some beautiful Ontario pork!
The fundraiser for the Stratford end of the exchange was a massive success! After dinner, there was a huge Halloween party at the school that was attended by all sorts of costumed local kids, as well as the Screaming Gang and their exchange buddies. What a great night for everyone!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Kickin' It With Some Arctic Sports

Our third day in Cambridge Bay, Nunavut began with another amazing learning experience with the community Elders. Piffy (pronounced more like "Biffy") is dried arctic char. We all gathered in the school gym where there were some beautiful bright pink char waiting for us. 
The Elder women showed all the students how to use a traditional crescent-shaped knife called an 'Ulu' to scale and fillet the gorgeous fish. 
Then they were scored and laid out on a wooden rack for drying - the Piffy will be dried in time for our final feast with the Elders on Saturday!

A short time later it was off to one of the only processing plants in Canada that packages muskox meat and Arctic char for commercial sale. 
The muskox season isn't until February, but there was lots of Arctic char for us to see as they were being smoked and packaged.
The plant has strict rules of hygiene, so we all had to sport some stylish hairnets and white coats... even Fink!

Next, the students all went to the Cambridge Bay Visitors Centre to check out some local cultural and natural artifacts. 
Overcome with love for the North, Barry gave a big bear hug to a massive stuffed polar bear. 

After a great dinner, some of the Kiilinik High School students gave us a demo of Arctic Sports. These are definitely some of the strangest contests known to humans, with games like the "Knuckle Hop", "Mouth Pull", "Muskox Fight", and "Finger Pull."
Everyone was really impressed at the athleticism of the high school Arctic sports players. But we were all definitely most impressed by one of our own: Devon tried a couple of the sports and did really well, but when he stepped up to try the "One Foot High Kick" he ended up kicking a hanging target 7'3" above the ground - higher than any of the other competitors!

Out On The Land!

Our day started with a Skype session where some of  the people from our group and some of the students and teachers from Kiilinik High School talked with an elementary class from Seaforth about our experience so far. Then we were invited to a surprise assembly, where the entire school turned out to officially welcome us to their community!
Then we truly began our adventures in the Arctic Circle by hopping into a whole bunch of 'qamutiks' (which are basically big sleds that are pulled behind powerful snowmobiles) and heading "out on the land" to see the migration of the Caribou!
We were extremely fortunate to have the Elders of Cambridge Bay as our guides for the day. We saw dozens of caribou waiting for the sea ice to freeze on the Northwest Passage of the Arctic Ocean. When the ice freezes they will cross from where we are on Victoria Island to the mainland, where they will graze until they return here for spring.
For many thousands of years, the Inuit of Cambridge Bay have hunted the caribou during this stage in their migration. They have always depended on the caribou to survive, using them for their meat, skins and their antlers.
When we returned to camp, the Elders had prepared a feast!
We ate caribou stew and bannock, their traditional bread!

We returned to town, where we enjoyed an evening of traditional drum dancing and throat singing.

Check out the video of the drum dancing... with two special guests from our group trying to keep up! (Hint: they're the guys not wearing awesome traditional costumes):

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

We finally made it!

So after six flights and what seemed like infinite delays waiting for the weather to clear enough for us to land in Cambridge Bay, we finally made it!
Cambridge Bay Airport with our new friends
We were greeted by a welcoming party of students & teachers from Kiilinik High School, and we all posed for a picture together in front of the airport's stuffed muskox.
We were told that kissing the muskox brings good luck, so Fink puckered up!
We'll all be staying at the high school until Sunday: when we got there we were made to feel right at home!
The Stratford and Cambridge Bay students got to know each other.
After some yummy chili the whole gang hung out and shot some hoops and played some floor hockey.
We're all looking forward to tomorrow when we get to see Nunavut in daylight and head out 'on the land' in snowmobile trailers called 'qamutiks'.

Monday, October 25, 2010

We're here! Not quite!

The trip from Toronto was a breeze. While seven the students had never been on a plane before, they survived their first flight and earned their wings. We departed quick from the airport for Steve and Twyla's for an incredible northern bounty meal that included Muskox sous vide and carpaccio, cedar plank Arctic Char and much more. While most showed an adventurous spirit we had a couple who wouldn't step up for even morsel. Guess they'll go hungry in Cambridge Bay.

Our gracious hosts also had an amazing collection of Inuit and Native art and natural artifacts!
Our Northern Feast - Thanks to Steve, Twyla & Family!

 Kirsten Trying on a Pair of Inuit Snow Goggles
Barry Wielding a Narwhal Tusk
Today we rose early for the flight to Yellowknife and then a quick hop to Cam Bay - that was the plan. When we checked in we were informed of the low ceiling and fog, but not to worry as it should burn off. Five flights later and seven hours in the air we returned to Yellowknife for the night due to bad weather. We were only fifty feet from the runway in Cambridge Bay when the pilot pulled us up and turned the plane around. Tomorrow we rise and try it again.
Shayne, Jamie, Barry & Jordan at Yellowknife Airport
The Gang Getting on the Dash-8 to... nowhere
 The kids are good for the most part. Some grumpiness from exhaustion (the teachers as well), but ready to take a stab at it again and excited to meet their twin in Cambridge Bay.

Best, the Screaming Avocados

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Three Days!

Wow, just three more days till departure. Everyone is scrambling to ready for the big trip north to 'inside the Arctic Circle' - this sounds cool. It would be much easier if we were leaving a snowy environment, but the quick transition to the middle of a 'southern winter' is leading to some minor confusion. We in the south of Canada like to forget about the reality of winter until it is nipping at our nose. The snow is falling in Cambridge Bay daily, the wind is blowing and the locals are wearing their parkas. Time to put some serious thought to packing the correct clothing!

We're all excited and a bit nervous. For many it's their first flight and by the end they'll have completed six! In order to get to Cambridge Bay we need to overnight in Edmonton and then fly to Yellowknife, NWT and then to Cambridge Bay. A trip like this is a big undertaking for those who are use to the comforts of home. It's also a great opportunity to learn and grow. We believe it will be a trip of a lifetime that will impact all of our lives in positive way for years to come.

For those joining the trip in a virtual way, please stay tuned. If you want share the weather with us, please read our blogs while sitting in a freezer!

Keep you posted. Please send questions and comments.

The Screaming Avocado's

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Cambridge Bay, Nunavut: The Experience

The Screaming Avocado Gang of Stratford Northwestern Secondary School are heading north to Cambridge Bay, Nunavut on October 24th, 2010 through the YMCA Youth Exchanges Canada Program.  This will be the first part of an exchange with the students from Kiilinik High School.  They'll make the long journey to visit us on November 15th to experience the beauty of the south.

We'll explore Canada's great north and it's outstanding culture, food and geography.  Please share in the experience through our daily blogs, photographs and videos.

The Screaming Avocados