Thursday, September 13, 2007


On the note of the road blockade, a group of supporters arrived on the train today to help and support.

On a side note - This evening was meet the teacher, the school got only about 25 parents (between all grades). They came, had coffee, I spoke to the one couple who's son I taught. Of course he was one of the best students and was skipped ahead two years ago. Then the parents came to the gym, we say in a circle and all introduced ourselves. Then the secondary parents got a review of school policies and a plea to help us support these efforts (but they were the good parents). Next there was coffee and cookies, and a draw for 1 of 3 certificates for gas. In the past they gave out bingo cards to encourage parents to come, but we voted against the idea of supporting gambling.

Anyway, that explains why I was at the school until 8:00pm. So on the way home, the blockade, was in full swing. They had about 15 men, a giant fire and huge cement blocks. They then stopped the bus (the short bus) and asked us what we were doing. Then let us through. It was strange, we waved on the way by to show our support. They are in fact blocking the outfitters from using the main road to the hunting grounds. But, as I found out, the outfitters have many other ways to get to the rounds. Oh well.

Tomorrow is Caribou day. The teachers that dare to cross the area that is blocked can go hunt, while the rest of us have a PED day. They of course have to make the day up on a later Saturday, but still several are going. I wish them luck.

On a lighter note, and I say that metaphorically, we got our first snowfall yesterday. The snow started falling on the drive home. I had a nap, and by 9:00pm we had about 5cm on the ground. Then this morning it was still snowing and looked like a winter wonderland. It was the 12th of September. I woke up and would have sworn it was December. Actually, one of the teachers from NFLD got on the bus and jokingly wished us all a Merry Christmas. It was very different.

Monday, September 10, 2007


Two concerns.
1. The water in Kawawa is under a boil order. We were not told this until the beginning of school and so several of the teachers had already gotten their glass of water for first period and taken several mouthfuls. Others had tea or coffee that had not been boiled for the recommended 5 minutes. All of these teachers were feeling ill on the way home. I had been very upset that I had forgotten my water glass at home, but it wound up being a blessing in disguise. Have I mentioned that the school doesn't have substitutes. If a teacher is sick/ unavailable (like a doctors appointment) the students are sent home for the hour.

2. There seems to be hostility brewing. The Montaigne (who live in Schefferville) have set up a barricade to prevent the outfitters, campers and outside hunters from getting to the major lake because in recent years they have been scaring off the Caribou. I got only part of the explanation on the way home, but it had something to do with the hunters coming in to the lake by water planes which scare the Caribou far into the bush. Some have said that the large (1.5mx 3m) cement slabs are just the beginning. They already have tents set up. A rumor suggests that they may try to block THE ROAD; that is the one road that connects us to the school. I hope all goes peacefully and quietly.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

I ate Rudolph...

Well, I tried something new tonight. I went to Lyndon's, because he had been given a few caribou stakes by our fellow teachers. He cooked them up as a lovely meal for me, Francois himself and Atlas (the St Bernard).

I was cautious, having seen the stakes in the vacuum packet bag, filled with dark red blood. But they looked similar to beef after being prepared. And, unlike moose, which has a seperate and distinct texture and taste, caribou is just like beef. In fact, the two would be indistinguishable.

So for the record, I have eaten (and enjoyed) caribou. Also known as reindeer. Sorry Rudolph.

I hope I don't get sick...

Last night as we gathered, a pair of teachers drove by the large viewing window of Lyndon’s living room, and saw our gathering. They came up only to say hi, because one of the teachers was sick. The older of the Naskapi women said that she would make some medicine for her that will help her heal quickly. She was asked what was in it, and told us that it was a secret, but that we probably didn’t want o know. This sufficed most peoples curiosity, but not mine or that of one other teacher that has been in the community for over 20 years. She asked if it was Labrador tea, made by boiling a local plant rich in vitamin C. We were told that this was in the medicine, but was only part. The topic was changed but I still wanted to know.

My chance came later in the evening when we moved to a local bar known as the Disco. There was no disco music, but there was a live band that sang Montagnais pop-rock. The older Naskapi woman was slightly inebriated by this point, and so I asked about the medicine again, and received an answer that I thought could not have been correct. To clarify, I asked “beaver’s paws?” which was replied to with “no, beaver’s balls”. Trying not to create an awkward silence I think I replied something stupid like “isn’t that interesting”. And I was told that the medicine has a variety of purposes. The woman has diabetes and will be going in for hip replacement surgery very soon, and swears that it keeps her blood sugar regular and helps the body heal quickly. Let me just say, I hope I don’t get sick, and if I do, I’ll be sticking to my Tylenol and Nightquil.

The Northern Lights have seen...

After a shower, I decided at around 9:00 last night to settle in and read. That was until a knock came at the door. Lyndon, me neighbor and fellow teacher, was at the door with Francois. They told me that they were entertaining next door and that I had to come. So I quickly changed and went next door to find several of the Naskapi teachers from Kawawa (cow-wa). They wanted to show us the town as they knew it. So we jumped into a truck and drove into the middle of the woods in this middle of nowhere town. It was the caribou bar. A pub like establishment build to keep the hunting parties entertained. On the closest wall was the head of a stuffed caribou, the first I have ever seen, I resisted the peculiar urge to reach out and touch it.

The topic arose on how little information we are given about the region before me arrive. I asked (on a hunch) if we would get dark and light periods. The answer was yes. They said that sometimes it ill be dark when we come home from school (4:20pm) and that the sun has been known to rise at 2:00am. I was advised to cover my bedroom windows with tin foil (which must be why there is tape residue on all of my windows). We sat on the patio which overlooked a dark lake. One the lake were about a dozen water aircraft, tied to the dock like one expects to see ships. And we sat and had a drink, my single rum and coke cost $8.50. I was then told to turn around. It was strange, like waves of translucent silk, similar to the light green light given off by Christmas lights. The northern lights came upon the ski. It was beautiful and mesmerizing like a lava lamp. This is a beautiful part of the country. I’ve been told that it is still early in the season, and that the lights will get brighter. I will try to take a picture to post, but my cameras night ability is limited.

Saturday, September 1, 2007


On August 30th, following a full day of classes, I was invited to join a group of fellow teachers on a fishing trip. Without even having changed, I jumped into the back seat of a pick-up and we were off. Out first stop, the local corner store, for worms. Then off we went towards the cross, driving through a cove which lay between the mountainous walls. We stopped along the way to better affix a canoe which was tied to the roof of the vehicle. Along the drive I was assured that I didn’t need gear because we had borrowed the schools rods (yes, the school had rods).

We hadn’t driven for very long when we came across one of the hundreds of pristine lakes that surround the town. We piled out, and untied the canoe. I was passed a bottle of bug spray and liberally dowsed myself in the nauseous spray, knowing that it was much better than the massive red bites I would otherwise have received from the small black flies that swarm in clouds around Schefferville.

We then walked through the dense brush to a small (2 x 2 meter) clearing which revealed a beautiful, monstrous lake of still dark water. Or at least it was almost still, with the exception of dozens of fish that continually slapped the waters surface with their tails looking to eat some of the millions of black flies.

And so I was volunteered, being the newest to the lake, to a canoe tour. I piled in, and was lead around the edges of the water by Andy, one of the adult ed. Teachers, and one of the nicest Newfoundlanders you could possibly meet. This being his second year, he pointed out the large hill that lay behind us, and told me that it was the sight of a ski hill that existed in the 80’s. But that we would be back there this winter for a winter carnival where the children will slide down the former ski hill and we (the teachers) will prepare hotdogs and hot chocolate from the near by cabin.

Andy then told me that last year he often cross country skied though the clearings of the woods. That was until he was warned of wolf packs that were known to frequent the area.

We arrived back on shore, and I was passed a rod and a beer. Not being a beer drinker I took the rod and cast into the water. On my first case I felt that slight tug on the line, and gave a slight jerk. At once there was thrashing in the water and I brought in the 9 inch speckled trout. Fran├žois, the French teacher, eagerly removed the fish (which I had hooked through the eye) and snapped its neck with several stomps of his foot onto the wet marshy shore. I had forgotten how it felt of fish, and how non-vegetarian it was.

And so I continued to fish, left alone as some went in the boat, some waded out in their boots and some (using a hatchet) carved their way through the wilderness to create a new path. I again, in several minutes, managed to land another fish. I excitedly brought it in, and went to remove the hook as I had many times my childhood. The 12 inch rainbow trout reminded me of how slimy fish skin can be. The hook was well planted into the side of the animal’s mouth, which gaped as it wiggled. I firmly held onto the body and removed the hook with little difficulty, only to be covered in the watery blood. Rather than try to squish the fish to death, as Fran├žois had done, I tried to slap its head against a rock. This proved difficult, and the fish slipped from my hand several times, and nearly wound back up in the water. I refused to let it go after such troubles. So I finally placed it of the ground, slapping around as fish out of water tend to do. I lifted my foot and brought it down with what I believed to be a sufficient force to cause death, but not create a fish mush beneath my shoe. To my surprise, the fish continued to look at me as it mouthed and flopped around. Determined, I tried again and again. Then I finally heard and felt in my toes, a SNAP. I lifted my foot, having finally killed the fish, and turned to the water to wash my hands. I felt no guilt, as one may think of a former vegetarian. Instead I felt somewhat nauseated by the prospect of having to clean, remove the head, and then eat the little fish. It reminded me of a pet beta I had owned only years before. I cast my line and began to feel yet more bites when, to my surprise, I heard a rustling come from behind. It was that cursed fish, come back to life, and thrashing around in the grass filled impression that had been left from my stopping on it. I pulled my line out and resolved to place a large stone on the fish, to keep it in place. And there it lay, continuing to struggle to move, but finally unable. It died without my knowing, becoming one of the pile that was accumulated by all of us.

I continued fishing with minimal success as the sun began to set. My hands grew cold from their contact with the water as the in couching winds blew. The flies retreated with the chill. Then I felt the same feeling on my line, I jerked and wound in my line, which seemed drug down by the massive weight at the end. Only there was no thrashing. And so I looked down and saw, through the dark water, a massive piece of drift wood I had snagged as small fish nibbled at the worm.

The worms that were bought were unlike any I had ever seen. They were comparable to small snakes, with their girth close to that of my baby finger. One worm was enough from half a dozen casts. With the dexterity of my fingers minimized by the cold, I was forced to use the sharp, inner edge of a pair of pliers (intended for wire) cut the things into pieces. And as their wiggling bodies were threaded onto the hooks, white goop leaked from within.

Throughout the evening I managed to land four keep able trout; however, the last fish I hooked was no more than a few inches. I grindingly removed the hook from the little bleeding slimy body and gingerly placed it back into the water and watched it spring to life and swim off. By this time it was dark and cold. The canoe was on its way in, and a understanding was reached that our three hours were sufficient fun. We gathered our things and headed back to the truck. The sun was setting, as a small fire was lit, to warm our selves before tying on the canoe. The moon began to raise in the sky, nearly full, a deep shade of yellow.

We returned the canoe to the teacher we had borrowed it from, and gladly offered up our catch to her and her guests, several research students from McGill. None of us had eaten since lunch (I had had a sandwich and apple), so we hurried home. I walked up the stairs, turned on the heat, and went to change. And only then did I truly realize how badly I smelled. Covered in bug spray and fish slim then fire ash I was sickened by myself.

All and all, it was a wonderful experience that reminded me of simpler times. The people I work with are a barrel of laughs and will surly keep me sane for the next ten months. I have recently had many offers to try caribou, with none yet coming to fruition, but I’m sure it will only be a mater of time. I’ll keep you posted. My goodness... I'm getting long winded.