The Canadian Writers' Collective

Writing, and writerly tangents

Friday, September 22, 2006

On airport insanity, sweet air, and arctic mosquitoes

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By Ania Vesenny

After living in Toronto for 14 years our family moved to Iqaluit, Baffin Island, in June of this year. We wanted a change of scenery, a quieter pace. Maybe a bit of an adventure. When my husband saw the listing for his job, he could not get it out of his head. Before we knew it we were at Costco, pushing four shopping carts, purchasing an estimated year supply of flour, dry fruits, and cookies.

June 28. We arrived at the check-in counter twenty minutes before our flight was scheduled to depart for Ottawa. We are not an organized family. It was six in the morning. We hadn’t slept the previous night – we packed. Despite our best packing efforts we had to buy another suitcase and repack at the airport. We made the check-in person quite nervous. Did I mention we had a baby and a 4 year old with us? They weren’t happy campers either. The most unhappy person was my brother-in-law. A logical and anal person, he could not understand why on earth would we have books in our already overweight suitcases? Didn’t we just have a container packed by professional packers? He was puffing so much, I never answered his questions. (S., if you are reading this, the books were on sale.)

One hour to Ottawa. My last Second Cup coffee in the airport. The First Air airplane to Iqaluit was half empty. We noted those returning home – they wore sandals. We noted tourists – they wore hikers. The kids slept. The flight attendants laughed. There was lots of turbulence.

The first thought after landing – oh God, where are we? The first thought after getting out of the plane – the air smells sweet. Despite people lighting their cigarettes while walking from the plane to the terminal. Up until then I thought that sweet smelling air was just an expression.

The weather was unusually warm. About 14C. Unleashed dogs ran inside the airport, wagging their tails. Women wore their babies on their backs. Our luggage didn’t arrive.

My husband’s coworker drove us to North Mart to get some groceries. Even if we knew about the local prices, seeing a squash the size of an apple for $6.99 was shocking. No matter how much I prepared myself. For some inexplicable reason my four year old daughter wanted a squash. She was obviously squash deprived in Toronto. It took some skillful parenting on my part to convince her that a bag of 8 oranges for only $9.99 was a better deal. Sort of.

I got bitten by the first Iqaluit mosquito as I exited North Mart. Apparently our arrival coincided with the first day of the mosquito season. Soon there would be dense clouds of them trying to get into our house every time the door was opened. They were big and fat. Not like the ones I saw in Toronto. More like miniature dragonflies, but completely silent. A dozen would immediately land on my citronella sprayed hand each moment I paused to take a photo.

The good thing was that they lasted exactly six weeks, and then, suddenly, they were gone. But this is how memory plays tricks. Their disappearance wasn’t sudden. First there appeared mosquito free pockets, here and there, with no apparent logic. Then there were days when I would not see a single mosquito, though my husband would be invariably covered with bites. Then the fat ones were replaced by very small ones. So small, that we didn’t even count them for mosquitoes. Besides, they didn’t even seem to bite. And then, one day, suddenly, they were gone.


Blogger Tricia Dower said...

This is wonderful, Ania, so funny and descriptive. Hats off to your disorganized family for making it there! I look forward to your continuing adventures.

Sat Sep 23, 02:55:00 am GMT-4  
Blogger J.A. McDougall said...

Ania, thank you for showing us the beginning of your adventure. I enjoyed the peek into your family and your new home. How long will you stay? Your details brought me back to my own visit to Northern Canada during the June of '93 - just a short visit. Driving from the Inuvik airport my first observation was the incredibly short trees!

Sat Sep 23, 09:07:00 am GMT-4  
Blogger MelBell said...

I can't wait to read more, Ania! Welcome aboard.

Sat Sep 23, 09:49:00 am GMT-4  
Blogger tamara said...

6.99 squash and 1.25 oranges, wow. We're a spoiled lot down here. But that sweet air... I'm intrigued, and looking forward to hearing more about your life in Baffin, Ania.

Sat Sep 23, 01:04:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger Patricia said...

love your post Ania, welcome and thank you, looking forward to reading more about you and yours..xoxo

Sat Sep 23, 06:26:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger Andrew Tibbetts said...

Lovely Ania! Welcome.

Sun Sep 24, 09:57:00 am GMT-4  
Blogger craig said...

Yes, wonderful Ania.

I hope some day my wife lands in your neck of the woods, she does a lot of nursing up there; she has been to Kugaaruk, Cambridge Bay and this week at Chesterfield Inlet.

She loves it up there - if I ever get to tag along and we come to Iqaluit, I'll pop in and say hi.

Thanks for your great post and welcome.

Sun Sep 24, 02:45:00 pm GMT-4  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Love the commentary and the pic.


Thu Sep 28, 10:39:00 pm GMT-4  

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