As I celebrate two months since moving to Inuvik, here are the top 5 lessons I've learned so far:
5. Small town living can be fun.
I have never lived in a small town before. Nairobi has 3 million people, Jakarta has 13 million, and Ottawa used to seem tiny at just under 1 million. Now I am in a town of 3,500! I love bumping into people I know at the post office, the hardware store, the one and only cafe... I love catching rides with people and not worrying about inconveniencing them, because everything in town is just a 5-minute drive. I love being able to walk almost anywhere in 10-15 minutes to visit friends. I love that there is always something going on -- either a fundraiser or a hockey game, curling or skiing, bingo or drinks at the hotel.
Just how small the town is was brought home to me yesterday as I took a cab to the office. I found a small purple glove in the back of the cab and mentioned it to the taxi driver. He remembered only having one young girl as a passenger that morning, and figured it had to be hers. He asked if I worked with "Alice" (not her real name!), because it was her niece's glove, and would I mind giving it to her! You've heard of six degrees of separation? Here it's two!
4. It's OK to admit when you're homesick.
Most of the time I'm too busy with work or socializing to stop and feel lonely. But on those rare quiet evenings at home, I realize that I'm all alone in a town where the longest anyone has known me is 8.5 weeks. On those days, I miss my family and friends, those people who know me and understand me, and who have "roots" in my life. Starting fresh can be exciting, as you can invent your own future, but it can also be disorienting to be so disconnected from your past.
3. Attitude is everything.
The key to survival in a small Arctic town is to approach everything with a positive, non-judgmental attitude. Jump right in with both feet and get as involved as you can. If you try to stay distant and don't put down roots, even little baby roots, it's easy to fall over. And freeze in a snowbank!
2. Seriously people, it's not THAT cold.
I never get tired of saying this -- the cold up here is not that bad! Even at -40, it's dry and crisp, and there's no excuse for not getting out and enjoying yourself!
1. Deal with your baggage.
Someone wise told me when I first came up here that if you move to Inuvik while you're in a relationship, every flaw and source of friction will be magnified... and many relationships don't survive the strain. While if you move to Inuvik as a single person, any flaws or weaknesses in yourself will become magnified, because there is nowhere to hide! This sounds like a bad thing, but it actually forces you to face those deep dark aspects of yourself, to be brutally honest, and work on your issues. That's part of living and working in close community -- you rub right up against each other. Sometimes it causes friction, but most of the time it is just nice knowing someone's there by your side. And when you find a friend you can trust, hang on to them.
...and below are some pretty pictures of the winter sun and the sunset from my house, just because I couldn't post a blog without some photos!