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Tundra to Bush

Teaching & The Land

By Oneg In The ArcticPublished 3 years ago 6 min read
Kimmirut, NU. 2019

Teaching to me, is a passion. Finding the simple joy in working with youth who are the seeds of the future, is a blessing. Being able to enjoy the pure nature and land of this Earth is a huge bonus.

In 2018, I graduated from university in the city with my teaching degree and was deciding on which path to take. Would I go into the public system? Would I keep tutoring privately and maybe turn that into its own business? Or would I work in the social services sector with marginalized youth?

After a tantalizing summer and a lot of frustration around my living situation, I was given the opportunity to go to Nunavut and teach in an Inuit community. That was it. That was my ticket out of my comfort bubble.

I moved out of my childhood home and packed an "adult" life into 4 incredibly heavy suitcase (and a couple boxes), and threw caution into the wind. Why not move to the middle of nowhere in the Arctic tundra where I don't speak the local language to teach a class for the first time?

I absolutely loved it.

I felt free.

I felt exhilarated.

I was more ecstatic about loads of snow in September than anything else to be honest.

Igloolik/Iglulik: Home #2

Igloolik, NU. September 2018

Located up the Northwest Passage, Igloolik is a home to a little over 2000 Inuit. It is growing immensely, with 1/3 of the population under 16. Igloolik was my first home-away-from-away.

I won't forget my first night there, where I went for a short walk on my street (which was composed of about a dozen housing units on either side). A few kids were sliding down a big mountain of snow and one yelled out, "Who are you?"

I told him my name and then quickly questioned back in the same fashion, "Who are you?"

And that's how I began to learn the names of so many kids. They were blunt, to the point, and always curious.

That year I taught ESL for Grades 1-4 and then halfway through the year they switched me to Grade 7 homeroom. BIG difference. Teenagers are their own breed of human, I swear. Regardless, we still had some really great moments. They taught me so much.

There are many things I won't forget from Igloolik, including the people. It wasn't just the first time I lived on my own (well technically with a much older roommate), it was my first time living in a place with no trees!

It was also my first time eating polar bear, caribou, and beluga.

And, it was my first time seeing, being inside of, and building an igloo.

There were so many wonderful experiences, moments, good food, and pure beautiful tundra. The tundra is so vast and mysterious, it's beyond magnificent. The land there was so flat that you could just gaze far into anywhere.

Igloolik, NU.

Kimmirut: Home #3

Kimmirut, NU. 2019

Kimmirut was quite a scenery change. Mountains and mountains of tundra protected and expanded the tiny Hamlet of Kimmirut, a place of barely 500 Inuit. It is a place often forgotten, but still a hub of talent, knowledge, and heart.

It was there that I taught a crazy wonderful silly bunch of teenagers, a split Grade 8/9 class. Our classroom was a family. Dysfunctional, but still a family. We always had each other's back, and I know they can all succeed in whatever they set their minds to. That goes for all of Kimmirutmiut (people of Kimmirut).

Kimmirut, NU. 2019

It was in Kimmirut where I went for my first boating ride, crowberry picking, and clam digging. It was in Kimmirut where I made whale and veggie stir fry (so good!). It was in Kimmirut where I went out ice fishing for 11 hours with great people and peed on the side of a mountain while overlooking the world.

The land there was so vast and mountainous, the water going out forever (into the ocean actually). You could take two steps in any direction and be out of town and in the endless mountains. Or, if you wanted to walk out on the frozen water, you could walk for a hours and be overcome by such a powerful peacefulness. I won't forget my walks with my good friend, or how the kids would love to go on adventures and visit the dog sled team kept outside of town.

Kimmirut, NU. Early 2020

But just like Igloolik, this place was another I was to leave behind after only a year. The world wanted me somewhere else I suppose. So, in June, my dog and I departed for the city, where I stayed in Toronto for a short period, mostly isolated due to the pandemic.

As I tell myself when I feel lost: I will be where I need to be, when I need to be there.

Poplar Hill: Home #4

Smooth Rock, Poplar Hill, ON. 2020

Not the city, nor the flat tundra, nor the mountainous arctic, but the endless Bush.

Poplar Hill First Nation resides in Northwest Ontario, a small Anishinaabe community of about 600. In the middle of the bush, also known as forests upon forests. This, is where home is today.

For the first time in two years, I've been able to experience a proper autumn and all of its colours! I definitely missed the trees and the magical changing of the season. Being close to a river though, helped ease the longing for open waters.

Poplar Hill, ON. September 2020.

At my new home, I've experienced fishing with a rod for the first time (I've only caught rocks and debris so far), as well as cleaning and tanning rabbit pelts. Learning to tan rabbit fur was definitely a cool experience, and I'm still gathering more. Maybe I'll make a blanket!

But I'm really here as I am teaching Grade 2 this year; definitely another big change. It's with this age group that I can really help build a solid foundation for these kids, so that they can grow up confident and capable. It's also with this age group that I get more smiles and hugs, which is always appreciated.

It's always intriguing living in different communities, the language, culture, and mindset is something you must be open to. One must be flexible and adaptable, rather than throwing one's expectations on others. If you are a newcomer, get to know your environment, and listen. Always listen.

Poplar Hill, ON. 2020

For now, the snow has fallen and decorated each branch of foliage with its icy powder. The river has frozen, the town is out skating, and we're all just trying to carry on wherever we are.

Even though my sense of home has been shaken consistently for about three years, I'm learning to find home within. I'm finding the stability and warmth within myself, and that just makes it easier to settle and decorate the environment around me. And, I am learning to listen to myself too.

Don't be afraid of change, embrace it, and use it to help you grow. Use it to help light the world around you. We could all use a little more light in our lives.


About the Creator

Oneg In The Arctic

A storyteller and poet of arctic adventures, good food, identity, mental health, and more.

Co-founder of Queer Vocal Voices

Some other rad writers to check out:

James ❄️ TheDaniWriter ❄️ Melissa

RiverJoy ❄️ J. Delaney-Howe ❄️

Water is Life ✊

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Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

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Comments (7)

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  • Heather Hubler2 years ago

    I enjoyed this so much! What an amazing journey you're having so far :) Thank you for sharing.

  • Beautiful mountains, and amazing pictures. I love your story!

  • Been here before, I love your writing Oneg , and thank you for taking is there. I promise I will find some unread stories while you are away. Big hugs

  • Babs Iverson2 years ago

    Re-read! Previously hearted!💖💕

  • I wish I can live there too but I can't stand the cold 😅

  • Mariann Carroll2 years ago

    Excellent and interesting life. What does a polar bear taste like?

  • Thank you for such an 8nteresting read. The photos are all beautiful...

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