Tuesday, November 17, 2020

November 2020

The first few days of November were a little hectic at school because the kids . . . and possibly adults, had been consuming a large amount of candy after Halloween.  I’ll admit it was difficult for me as a kid to not eat all the free candy I collected on October 31.  My parents had to introduce to me to the concept of rationing.  I asked several of my students if they quickly eat all their Halloween candy and I was glad when they said no.  Your teeth and stomach will suffer.  By the second week of November, things had calmed down.

It’s been a little over a year since the crippling ransomware attack on the Nunavut’s government computer network, but the Community and Government Services Department told Nunatsiaq News that everything has been restored.  Malware infected some 5,000 servers & workstations across the territory, locking out users and demanding a ransom payment in the millions of dollars.  The government decided not to pay and relied on backup data & reformatted all its systems.  They even brought in Microsoft for help. 

I remember seeing computer technicians from Iqaluit going to all the classrooms & offices, reformatting the desktop computers.  All staff had to create new passwords for their accounts.  The Nunavut Government says its network is now better protected against future attacks, but only time will tell.

3045 Army Cadet Corps didn’t host a Remembrance Day ceremony this year due to COVID-19 restrictions and orders from Ottawa.  Even though the disease is not present in Arctic Bay, the community hall is still closed to the public by order of the Hamlet Office.  All corps in Canada were ordered not to hold and/or participate in public ceremonies in an effort to stop the spread of COVID-19.  Cadets & officers were instead invited to watch the livestream of the sanctioned ceremony at the National War Memorial in Ottawa, featuring the Prime Minister & Governor General. 

I watched the ceremony on Facebook.  The stream was from someone’s smartphone.  The video quality was okay, but I was expecting high-definition cameras.  The audio quality could have been better because all the sounds were recorded by the smartphone’s microphone.  When someone spoke into the podium’s microphone, you actually heard the voices coming out of the large speakers placed around the memorial.  However, there was one sound that was repeatedly well picked up on the stream.  Artillery guns fired shells off camera in the form of a gun salute.  The loud “booms” occasionally interrupted the speeches being made, but I commend the people in attendance for not jumping into the air.  There wasn’t a large crowd because of social distancing and everyone wore masks.  Overall, the ceremony was well done.

November 11 occurred on a Wednesday this year.  There were no classes, but I still held a regular training night at cadets because the corps regularly parades on Wednesdays.  We held our own Remembrance Day parade and took a group photo of us wearing poppies.

November 11 is also the anniversary of when I joined the Cadet Instructor Cadre (CIC).  I joined in 2013.  I can’t believe it’s already been 7 years!

With the arrival of November, my drummers have begun learning more advanced rhythms and cadences for a possible Christmas concert.  The drummers enjoyed performing at Halloween and couldn’t wait for the next opportunity.  We’re hoping COVID-19 restrictions will be eased by December.

My Grade 10 English students are currently working through the media unit.  They recently finished the oral pieces module.  Unfortunately, we won’t be filming a movie this semester due to lack of time.  The Grade 10 Social Studies students are learning about Canada’s residential school system and the Grade 11s are learning about the First World War.

I became the proud owner of a real polar bear skull on November 14.  One of my former students successfully caught a polar bear in early October and was looking to sell the skull.  He spent several weeks harvesting the meat, and cleaning the fur & skull.  When he asked me, I replied I was interested in buying the skull because I didn’t have one.  Unfortunately, I didn’t know what the going rate was for real polar bear skulls.  I did some research online and only found prices for replicas (fakes).  I picked a price and offered to pay double that amount.  The student accepted my offer.

He came by my place in the evening with the large skull in hand.  He placed the large skull on my coffee table.  It looks really impressive and the teeth appear menacing.  I paid in cash.  The former student explained he caught the animal roughly 45km northeast of Arctic Bay.  The bear had been originally tagged in Greenland in 2011.  We’re not sure when or how long it took the bear to cross Baffin Bay, but it must have taken some time.  We also wondered why the bear would come this far from Greenland?  Food?  Love?  Adventure?  We will never know.

I took several pictures of the skull after the student left.  The skull still sits on my coffee table as a centrepiece.  It’ll definitely be a conversation starter for whenever I have guests. I'll also have to mention that until I get a tag from the local Hunters & Trappers Organization, I cannot bring the skull with me down south.

Inside the polar bear skull.

Winter is officially here.  The bay is completely frozen.  No boating until the end of June, unless you pull a boat all the way to the floe edge.  Kids are walking around town wearing their new Canada Goose parkas and Baffin boots.    

Dark season has also begun.  The sun can no longer be seen from the streets of Arctic Bay because of the surrounding mountains.  The nights are getting longer with each passing day.  The shortest day will be in late December.  I have enough Vitamin D pills to last beyond dark season.     

Friday, November 6, 2020

Halloween 2020

The students & staff of Inuujaq School signed a very large Thank You card made for Canadian actor Ryan Reynolds.  The card had to be big to accommodate 285 signatures & personal messages.  The card was placed inside a large cardboard box and delivered to the post office at the Northern Store.  I wonder what the famous actor will do with the card after he reads it?  It’ll probably be on display in his house.

Halloween was celebrated differently this year due to two things: the 2020 calendar & COVID-19 restrictions.  October 31 happened on a Saturday this year, so the school had to hold its Halloween assembly on Friday, October 30.  Unfortunately, due to the restrictions in place, only students & teachers could attend.  Thankfully, we live in an era of smartphones, internet, and Facebook.  Several attendees used their smartphones to broadcast the assembly on their Facebook accounts for people to see.  More on the assembly coming up.

I searched online & bought my costume a month in advance.  I found the perfect outfit that references the current climate we live in.  It’s a yellow hazmat suit with the words “Biohazard Unit” written across the front.  The biohazard symbol is also prominently displayed on the one-piece suit.  The costume also comes with a fake black gas mask, yellow hood, and black gloves.  The biohazard symbol is one of my favourite symbols.  The radioactive symbol is also on that list.  I purchased the costume from the online store Spirit Halloween.  I also purchased two bleeding machetes for added “scary-ness” and to replace the two bleeding machetes I previously owned.  I had to throw them out because they were leaking out of the plastic.

The pre-school to Grade 9 classes started getting ready for the big day several days in advance by decorating their classroom doors.  The classes were competing in the annual door decorating contest.  The class with the best decorated door would win money to have a pizza party.

Kindergarten door.

Grade 3 door.

October 30 was a fun day.  Even though the assembly was scheduled for the afternoon, not much school work was done in the morning.  The pre-school to Grade 9 classes put the finishing touches on their doors, the high school students turned the science room into a haunted house, and I showed a scary movie in my classroom for the students who didn’t want to scare the younger kids in the haunted house.  My drummers were nervous, but appeared ready to face the student body in the afternoon.  We were the opening act.  Two teachers volunteered to be the door judges.

Grade 7 door.

Grade 9 door.

I raced home during lunchtime to get all my costumes.  Even though lunch was extended by 30 minutes, I needed to be back early.  My drummers & I needed the time to set up the drums in the gym.  I drove slowly to school, making sure the large grey Rubbermaid container didn’t fall off.  All my costumes were inside.

I quickly changed into my Biohazard costume and proceeded to the staff room for lunch.  My costumes from the previous years were available for high school students to wear.  They just needed to return them at the end of the day.  The teachers in the staff room liked my costume, commenting it perfectly explained the world for the last 8 months.

Quick practice before the real concert.

The high school drumline and I set up the drums at the far end of the gym.  A few drummers decided to wear my previous costumes.  They did a quick run through the group pieces.  A long stream of students & teachers made their way down to the gym, wearing their Halloween costumes.  We were waiting outside in the gym lobby.  Many elementary students looked surprised when they saw my costume.  I think some were scared.  I know many tried to guess who I was under the mask.

The Principal & Vice-Principal welcomed everyone and called on the high school drumline to begin the festivities.  My students & I entered the gym and walked directly to the drums.  Now everyone knew who was wearing the Biohazard suit.  I took my position behind a quad tom drum and picked up two drum sticks.  I quickly checked to make sure everyone was ready.  I clicked my sticks loudly 4 times and the concert began.

We played three pieces: Rock You We Will, The Thang, and Earthquake.  I found the pieces on the website: FreeDrumlineMusic.  I had to simplify some of the rhythms because my drummers are beginners.  I hope the original composer doesn’t mind.  I played a quick solo on the quad toms as part of an encore.  The audience enjoyed our six-minute concert.

The next part of the assembly was the costume contest.  Classes lined up at the front and the audience voted for the best dressed student.  There were a lot of very good costumes on display.  The chosen winners were given Co-op gift certificates.  The assembly ended with the announcement of the winner of the door decorating contest. 

It was time to go home when the assembly came to an end.  My drummers & I stayed behind to pack everything up.  We moved the drums & equipment to my classroom.  I packed up all my costumes into the grey Rubbermaid bin and headed home.  Another successful concert completed.

Arctic Bay - October 31, 2020.

I cancelled cadets for Saturday, October 31.  The water in the bay was finally starting to freeze.  People were beginning to haul their boats out of the water.  The bay would be completely frozen in a few days.

The annual community ugliest costume contest was held outside in the parking lot next to the community hall at 3pm.  The event had to be held outside because the community hall wasn’t large enough to accommodate social distancing.  There were still no active cases of COVID-19 in the community and territory, but the Hamlet Office wasn’t taking any chances.  Thankfully, the temperature wasn’t that cold.                 

I walked down to the community hall, warmly dressed, and armed with a digital camera.  A number of grey fold-out chairs were placed in a semi-circle in the parking lot.  These chairs were reserved for the contestants.  Contestants and spectators gradually arrived after 3pm.  The contest began at 3:30pm. 

Contestants are divided into two groups: 12 & Under; and 13 & Over.  Personally, I think a lot of creativity & imagination goes into designing an ugly costume.  It appears as if contestants just put on whatever they can find in their houses, but I think more thought goes on behind the scenes.  I could spend an entire post or two describing the costumes, but instead, I’ll let the uploaded pictures do the talking.  As always, the costumes were strange, bizarre, funny, creative, scary, and original.  One costume was actually worn by two people!

The organizer instructed both groups to walk around the parking lot to let everyone – including the judges - get a good look at the costumes.  The organizer had to use a bullhorn when speaking.  Since most of the contestants’ faces are hidden behind masks, each contestant has a number taped to their costume, making it easier for the judges to pick 3rd, 2nd, & 1st places.  The judges discussed their choices after each walk.

The winners were announced in the order of 3rd, 2nd, & 1st.  If the contestant’s face was obscured, they were asked to remove their mask to reveal their identity.  The prizes were a sum of money, in the form of a cheque, I think.  The contest was finished at 4:00pm.  Night was beginning to settle.

I power walked home.  I only had an hour to get ready for trick-or-treating.  I set out all the candy on the coffee table and changed into my Biohazard costume.  I got out three large bowls and filled them with various candy.  I kept the remaining unopened boxes close.  I didn’t want to keep the trick-or-treaters waiting.  I unlocked my front door at 4:55pm.  I sat in a large chair and waited.         

As if on cue, trick-or-treaters started arriving at 5pm.  Southern teachers are usually the first people to receive visitors.  I handed out 4 pieces of candy to each person.  When there was a lull, I refilled the bowls.  I gave out candy to whoever wanted it.  I don’t discriminate.  I gave some to parents & guardians.  Many appreciated seeing me in costume.  Trick-or-treaters use vehicles to get around town because it’s faster and you don’t have to stay outside in the cold weather for long.

Trick-or-treating finished at 7pm.  I still had a lot of leftover candy.  I should have given out 5 or 6 pieces to each person.  Oh well.  I’m sure I can find ways to get rid of the candy.  I’m already thinking about doing a candy toss for the last day of cadets in December.


Sunday, November 1, 2020

Gifts From Ryan Reynolds & Canada Goose

The wait came to an end on October 29.  At around 9:15am, a very large delivery of cardboard boxes of various sizes arrived at the school.  The boxes contained the clothing donations from Ryan Reynolds & Canada Goose.  It didn’t take long for word to spread.  The principal quickly recruited the high school students to bring all the boxes to the gym.  I grabbed my camera and quickly made my way there to document the event.  It’s not everyday the school receives gifts from a famous Canadian celebrity.

I didn’t realize how many boxes there were until I stepped onto the mezzanine overlooking the gym.  There were boxes everywhere!  The gym resembled a small warehouse.  All the tables in the equipment room had been brought out for the jackets and clothes.  Staff and students were already opening boxes and deciding where to put what.  The Baffin boots were being stacked against the walls according to size.  Tables were quickly designated for jackets, mitts, gloves, toques, and socks.  I went downstairs to get a closer look at the merchandise.

Nothing looked second-hand.  Everything looked brand new and was wrapped in plastic, except for the boots.  The newspaper articles said most of the clothing was refurbished, but I found that difficult to believe.  Seeing everything in pristine condition immediately made me think of the overall cost.  That information has not been disclosed and I doubt it ever will, but I can still estimate.  I only heard a rumour that the shipping cost alone was $17,000! 

Canada Goose & Baffin Boots clothing are not cheap.  The average starting cost of a Canada Goose jacket is $1000.  Based on that alone, the 300 jackets sent to us equals $300,000!  (It’s probably more than that).  Boots from Baffin cost around $250 per pair.  Same goes for Canada Goose gloves.  The toques are little cheaper at $125 each.  I think the cheapest items we received are the Baffin socks, which go for about $25 a pair.  My final estimate kept increasing as I walked around the gym, looking through all the boxes, and seeing everything on display.  My students were also wondering how much everything cost.  “All this stuff could easily be worth $1 million dollars,” I commented to my students.  “Thankfully, a man like Ryan Reynolds can afford that.  Unfortunately, we will never know.”

The gym was ready for business at 10am.  The large space now looked like a clothing store.  All the empty cardboard boxes were piled in the lobby outside the gym.  The pile resembled a very large cardboard fort.  The principal made arrangements for the boxes to be removed.  Classes would be brought down individually throughout the day to pick out what they wanted.  Each student was entitled to one jacket, toque, and one pair of boots, mitts/gloves, and socks.  And it’s all free!  Happily paid for by Canadian actor & celebrity Ryan Reynolds!

I continued teaching throughout the day, but I knew my students were mostly thinking about the clothes down at the gym.  They didn’t want to wait and were worried there would be nothing left by the time they were called down.  I reassured them that that would not be the case.  I got a sneak peek at what to expect when the bell rang for lunch.  I was walking to the Staff Room and saw many younger students smiling, wearing their new Canada Goose jackets & Baffin boots, and holding bags containing their old jackets & boots.  Some didn’t want to wear their jackets until they got home.

A high school student
shows off his chosen 
Canada Goose jacket.

High school students were called down to the gym near the end of the day.  Sure enough, there were still plenty of clothes to go around.  The students “shopped” for what they wanted.  The mural the high school art teacher painted for Canada’s 150th birthday was on display, next to a large Thank You poster.  I watched items of clothing being selected, tried, accepted, or returned.  Students were required to see the hall monitor before leaving.  He had the attendance lists for all classes.  He checked off the students who came to the gym.  This was done to ensure fair distribution.  The high school students tried their best, but couldn’t hide their grins & smiles from becoming the proud owners of top-of-the-line winter clothing.  Keeping warm during the coming winter will be easy.

There were still plenty of clothes left when the dismissal bell rang.  The teachers moved the remaining donations into storage.  The students who were absent made their selections over the next few days.  I wondered if teachers would be allowed to take some things after all the students?  Only time will tell.

Canada Goose gloves.

Mr. Reynolds & Canada Goose: if you’re reading this, I would like to personally thank you again on behalf of myself, the staff & students of Inuujaq School, and the people of Arctic Bay, for donating warm outer clothing to the students of the school.  They really appreciate it.  Clothing is really expensive up here, like everything else, and your generosity will go a long way.  I know I said it in my last post, but if you have the time after the COVID-19 pandemic, you’re more than welcome to visit Inuujaq School & the community.  Take care.