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Personally Uncharted Territories – Anna Swick-Coryel

Nunavut made a strong first impression on me. It felt simultaneously extreme and intense, while at the same time open, calm, and comfortable. Although I had never before been to Iqaluit, NU, there was a familiar and safe feeling there. Maybe it had something to do with knowing I had just jumped from one island to another.

My prior Northern experiences had left me with the general impression that the North was a unique place characterized by a genuine kindness and a helpfulness borne out of isolation. Iqaluit only reinforced this perception. Upon arrival, we were met by Humane Society volunteers who shuttled us and all our plentiful gear to a house in town. The house belonged to a woman who was in no way related to the Chinook Project – she simply heard of our need for housing and offered up her house since she was to be away during the time we needed billeting. We arrived to find the door unlocked and fresh bedding laid out on all the beds. This kind of trusting generosity exists all over Canada and the world, but I find it is even more prevalent in the North.

Our time in Iqaluit was short but sweet. We walked around town, taking in the treeless vistas and hilly landscape. There were so many differences to be seen wherever you looked – for instance, there are no basements in Iqaluit houses because the ground is too frozen, rocky, and thus difficult to build into. It was also an uncommon sight for this Southern Ontario girl to walk by a house and see a polar bear hide drying on the line. I love taking in these differences whenever I find myself in new locales because they easily go unnoticed and make for unique perspectives and points of inspiration down the road.

Arriving in Igloolik was my first time landing on a gravel runway. It was also my first time being that far north and in such an isolated/remote community. The flight in gave the most breathtaking view of the frozen ocean around the island – it was a colour of blue that made you think it had to be artificial. It was also such a clear blue that I was convinced it was nearly melted all the way through. I learned that was not so the next day when we went out on the ice – 4 people, 1 snowmobile, and a lot of vaccines and dewormer. Indeed, the ice would still be safe to travel on for another month or so, a fact that made me fully realize what a new and foreign land I was in.

Anna Swick-Coryell, AVC 2018, traveled to Igloolik in 2017 as one of the student participants on the Chinook Project. As part of the experience, the students craft various pieces of reflective writing. This is one of Anna’s pieces.

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