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I, Qallunaaq: Behaviours of the Average White Person

Iqaluit, Nunavut

Iqaluit, Nunavut

I am a qallunaaq (white person) living in Iqaluit, Nunavut. As an average white person would do, I am using the personal blogging platform in which to share some insights about my white culture. Even though white people have been studying other cultures, including Inuit, for centuries without asking permission or their insights, ironically we are not comfortable as the subject of discussion by non-white people. Because white people are accustomed to being the ones commentating, we are often not receptive to honest feedback from non-white individuals about our own behaviours.

Here are a few problematic patterns of behaviour you can expect to encounter when interacting with, observing, and speaking about white people, especially when we are living in a habitat and culture that is different from our own. I also offer some strategies for white people, myself included, who may need assistance overcoming these habitual behaviours.

Glossary of Key Terms:

Ethnology: scientific term developed by white people for the branch of anthropology that compares the customs of different cultures, historically non-white cultures, as documented by one, or few white individuals.

Ethnography: scientific term developed by white people for the in-depth analysis of cultural practices, traditionally of non-white societies, as historically documented by one, or few white individuals.

Reverse-racism: not actually a term, but still developed and actively used by white people in situations where a non-white individual or group openly shares their observations about white people.

Non-White people: common term developed, and by used white people to label all others they perceive as different as compared to the white standard.

The average white person tends to:

#1- Respond with “But I’m not racist!!!”, “that’s racist!!!”, “Ummm…actually that’s reverse racism!!!” when a non-white person openly shares their perspectives/experiences

For many historical reasons (slavery, genocide, systematic oppression of non-whites, to name a few), white people are subconsciously threatened by difference, and instead of just listening, acknowledging, and sitting with discomfort while a non-white person is speaking, we think everything is about us and feel our narrative under attack. (Re: White fragility)

How to cope with White Fragility: When a non-white person says to you, for example, “I feel the system is racist because…”, try nodding and/or just listening. Responding with “But I’m not racist!!!” is like saying, “But I don’t have cancer! Stop talking about cancer!” when your friend tells you she has cancer. Wouldn’t giving her a hug and offering your support make more sense than reminding her that you do not have cancer? Now apply that logic to situations where you may feel targeted, and remember that although it’s uncomfortable for everyone, you cannot die from White Fragility.

#2- Be easily offended

White people love attention and having our voices heard, so getting offended and overreacting to a non-white person expressing their own opinion is a great way for us to interrupt loudly, and gain reassurance from others, even though we don’t need it. White people will often train their offspring in infancy to throw the most effective tantrums to ensure their needs are heard when outside the comfort of their white homes.

How to cope with being easily offended: If you are offended by this post already, just close your browser and do something else. It’s okay NOT to react/comment because not everyone shares the same opinion as you, and disagreements are part of life and learning. And yes, you still exist even when you are sitting in a disgruntled silence.

#3- Any experience that does not match our own experiences must not be real

Despite our over-reactions, white people really lack imagination and will have a challenging time relating to, or emphasizing with an experience/opinion/behaviour that does not match our own, and/or what we have seen on TV, in an easy-to-follow Power Point presentation, featured in a Hollywood movie with recognizable actors, at a conference with snacks and coffee, on a trendy blog post with pictures of smiling white people, and/or in an instagram photo essay with correct hashtag usage. This is called: White Privilege.

Coping with white privilege: If you don’t believe you are privileged, please refer to #4.

#4- Getting defensive and immediately justifying our individuality when being called “privileged”

White people do not like being referred to as "privileged” because that term makes us feel like our personal experiences are being negated or don’t matter. Even though we may subconsciously see non-white peoples this way, white people do not like being seen as part of a big group of people; we have the privilege of seeing ourselves only as individuals, and we would like everyone to acknowledge us individually as such. Yes, not every individual white person has had an ideal life, and we do occasionally experience hard times (so write a book about your own experience on your own time, not in the comment section).

Keep in mind, that being visibly recognizable as a white person means that an individual can usually exist comfortably and be accepted in many different countries/contexts/mundane situations without being discriminated against, or feared, which is a privilege because unfortunately, our modern world STILL operates under a racist, colonial system whose governance structure is based on the white (male) experience.

Coping with your White Privilege: You can use your white privilege to listen to others, to stand-up for others against systemic discrimination and violence when it is dangers for others, to challenge racist social norms, to write to your MLA or MP, and to speak up against injustices…not just when you feel your own privilege is under attack. And yes, I do benefit from white privilege so you can point fingers at me if that makes you feel better, but ultimately ranting at and about me (while you could be doing something more productive) does not change anything…and kind of validates #1-4.

Anonymous cartoon posted and shared on Facebook, February 21st, 2019.

Anonymous cartoon posted and shared on Facebook, February 21st, 2019.

#5- Our solution to everything: #SelfCare

For white people, we believe any obstacle can be solved with a positive attitude and just spending time working on ourselves, which we believe enhances our individuality. If a non-white person is distraught or in a bad situation, we think it is likely because they are negative and aren’t trying hard enough to find time for #SelfCare. We fear they will bring down our positive habits of #SelfCare by talking about their problems that we assume have nothing to do with us, because we aren’t really listening. Usually these individual #SelfCare practices are appropriated from other non-white cultures we marginalize on a regular bases. Examples: yoga, mediation, kombucha, reiki, shiatsu, chai tea lattes, all-you-can-eat sushi, fish tacos, dog sledding, etc.

How to be more aware of cultural appropriation: Pretty much everything cool and instagrammable in our modern white culture has been stolen from another culture. Try researching the hobbies you like to do, acknowledging their origins, and asking people from that culture how to properly respect those practices. Look around you the next time you are enjoying your favourite activity: how many non-white people are present? What are barriers that may prevent non-white people from engaging in those activities too (lack of affordable childcare/internet/safe housing, not feeling heard, being discriminated against, etc).? What can you do to assist in breaking down these real-life barriers? Or do you even care enough to? There’s no need to get defensive; when we know better, hopefully we will do better!

#6- Not acknowledging that we are living on stolen land

While white people are very vocal if you stand in front of us in an airport or café lineup, or take the parking space we’ve been eying at Costco, we still refuse to acknowledge or even know the traditional names and histories of the indigenous territories our condos or subsidized/staff housing units are built on.

Spoiler alert: Yes, your home is on native land.

How to start acknowledging the true history of Canada: Instead of feeling guilty about your ancestors’ past actions, you can easily go to this website to see the first nations’ territories you are occupying wherever you travel to in North America. As a Cherokee elder recently scolded me: “you must verbally acknowledge whose nations’ land you are standing on at every comedy show you perform at, and you will start to comprehend the richness of the history that this country was forcibly settled on, which challenges your audience members to learn these lessons too. You are not learning unless you are sitting in discomfort. It’s a small action, so just do it! No excuses!“

Screen shot of Native-land.ca: the different colours reflect the traditional territories of the many first nations that exist it what is today known as Canada, the USA, and Latin America. Seeing all the colours is more beautiful and interesting than just a white lump of map.

Screen shot of Native-land.ca: the different colours reflect the traditional territories of the many first nations that exist it what is today known as Canada, the USA, and Latin America. Seeing all the colours is more beautiful and interesting than just a white lump of map.

#7- Get into consumer debt easily

Despite what many white people tell you, most of us aren’t very good with numbers, and therefore finances. We love buying nice things for our kids, sea-lifting up furniture for our staff houses, and going on exciting adventures abroad and boasting on social media, even if we can’t actually afford it all. Although we believe we are educated, hardworking people, we often have trouble comprehending the realities behind terms like: inflation, monthly interest payments, Fyre Festival, variable mortgage rate + prime, etc, even though these concepts were invented by white people who we trusted to make owning things easier for us.

I only bring up consumer debt because in the capitalist system that we operate under, money = independence/control/freedom. White people do not like feeling trapped/out of control/misled, so being in chronic debt increases feelings of inferiority about our individual self-worth within our society when we realize we cannot afford the comfortable lifestyle we were promised. White people are emotional thinkers, and as a feel-good solution, we sometimes project these feeling of frustrations and fear of loss onto non-white people (immigrants who take jobs, indigenous who take from the system, black people who take our stuff) instead of taking accountability for our own financial failures, which is actually what our system was designed to do. (See: Failure of Capitalism).

Important distinction: Being in high consumer debt by making poor financial choices while still having to pay taxes, does not make you underprivileged or a victim, therefore we should not confuse being in an unfortunate financial situation with being systemically marginalized by racist social policies. Yes, I am using big words, but that’s why white people invented Google and Siri.

For further reading on finances, please research this topic:

  • What is the difference between gross income and net income?

#8- Suddenly decide that they do not to see colour anymore!

White people have a hard time listening to voices, and supporting movements that don’t seem to include or benefit us, yet are getting some of our much needed media attention, lots of Facebook likes, or taking over the comment section of a page we follow. Instead of being an ally and trying to understand what these non-white movements and discussions are actually about, white people will mask their insecurities by insisting that they no longer see colour, don’t recognize race or differences, and that we should all just forget the past, and work together by adopting a “can-do, altogether now” attitude. White people may even accuse non-white people of racism if we continue to feel left out and unheard for longer than a few minutes.

To be a good ally: Just listen and speak only when invited to join the discussion. For example, white people really need to stop saying “um, actually, ALL Lives Matter” and just acknowledge “Black Lives Matter”.

Wakanda is fine on its own! Don’t ruin it, Sara!

Wakanda is fine on its own! Don’t ruin it, Sara!

#9- Benefit from the current system and subconsciously do not want it to change despite well-intentioned words

VTAs, per diems, not having to learn the language, staff housing and perks, access to lower fare airline codes, having a vacation home in the south, fancy job promotions, Aeroplan points…It all seems too good to be true! Am I right? Yes, white people are afraid, whether we realize it or not, that we will lose our stuff and status if new policies are made that actually start addressing and fixing the root of the inequalities.

As a gay woman with autism, I adamantly believe that there is room for everyone to live comfortably with equal rights and that change is beneficial...for everyone. The 2SLGBTQ movement has not only improved social policies for gay people, but for everyone…including bible thumpers (who are likely closet gays, let’s be honest!). It is only by listening to and actively involving those who have historically been ignored and marginalized by our system that it can be made better, as no one understand the flaws and failures of a racist, discriminatory and corporate-benefitting system better than those who are, and have been, actively oppressed by it for generations.

Ultimately, it is not just the skin colour/gender of the people sitting around the table that needs to change, it is also the table that is problem. Historically that table and how and why we make decisions is based on racist sciences and economics for rich, white people. (See: Every modern history book).

I am not writing to create divisions or point fingers, but to acknowledge how we’ve been divided in the past, and identify solutions so that we can close the gaps by recognizing one another as equal, with divisive histories. If you can’t laugh at yourself and be open to changing then you are part of the problem.

You can apply this logic of acknowledge/listening/asking/doing better, to pretty much any situation in which you recognize you are in a position of power/privilege:

  • Men/women,

  • straight/gay,

  • trans/cis-genered,

  • White/non-white.

  • Abled/Disabled

  • Alien/Human


An awesome satirical take on race relations in Australia from the 1980s.

I acknowledge that the land I was born on (Toronto) is the traditional territory of many nations including the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Anishnabeg, the Chippewa, the Haudenosaunee and the Wendat peoples, and is now covered by Treaty 13 with the Mississaugas of the Credit. It is a privilege to live in Iqaluit, Nunavut, traditional territory of the Inuit for thousands of years prior to Canada 150.


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My Experience with Jian Ghomeshi and What Every Woman (and person!) Should Remember

I’ve tried so hard to let go of what happened with him. It’s easier to pretend not to care then to try and make sense of it. But those memories all came tumbling back out of hiding on that day in late October, 2014 when every device and social media account I owned was continuously beeping and vibrating violently.

Outside, the new ice on Frobisher Bay was beginning to form almost before my eyes, creating a crystalline orb on the Bay; snowflakes were drifting lightly against the window. But inside I was hot and sweaty as friends, family, randoms-I-barely-recall-speaking-to, were all wanting to know if I had seen the day's top headline:

JIAN GHOMESHI -Fired from CBC for allegations of violent sexual abuse against women

Of course I had seen it.. I'd seen them all. Even up here on Baffin Island I couldn’t escape them.

Oh… Well..how do you feel?! I want to know. Everyone wanted to know.

I’m ok. I feel...numb? I felt numb. Then nothing. I felt nothing. I am fine, totally. Totally fine.

Well...were you one of them?! One of Jian's victims?

Confusion. Followed by a deep breath. Then the question started to sink in. Inhale. No. Exhale. Nononononono, absolutely not, no. I am not Jian’s victim. I am not a victim of anything. I shrugged and felt the nothingness again, and just continued to let the phone ring and texts and emails pile up. Are sure you are ok?!

I am ok. Totally fine.

Over the next few days, I felt nauseous. Then empty. Then nauseous again. Like I was constantly going to throw-up, then I'd get the wave relief just by thinking about throwing-up. Then I'd have to imaginarily throw up all over again. There was no way this could be true. And, no, I was not a victim. It would all blow over in a few days, then Jian would go back to hosting Q- he'd probably start off his new reign by bringing on a perky, female sex-expert to discuss the secret world of BDSM; how misunderstood this growing community is; Jian enthusing intelligently with that genuine, smokey air of his- He’ll be sure to mention how he was the victim of society's ignorance for the sexually-explorative, but that this experience has only made him stronger... 

Yes, that is what would happen.

But then the BDSM community shamed Ghomeshi's statement, he was dropped by his pricey PR firm and more allegations were reported. I bundled up and took an early break from my office, walking in circles in the parking lot, wishing I was a smoker.

I exhaled the illusion of toxic smoke from my lungs. I jumped, peering over my shoulder, as though someone was creeping up on me. Startling myself, I pulled out my phone, turning it over and over in my hands, not thinking anymore…

I texted Jian. He texted back right away. Anything you can to do to help me would be greatly appreciated. I need you right now. Inhale.

He never texts me back right away. 

Exhale. I didn’t reply. What could I do? What did I have to offer the world? What could I say? The truth? Who should I believe anyway? Jian or the media? Who to trust? Myself?!

Who I am? Me. And my options are to be:

Naive victim.

Or naive, brainwashed young woman.

Or silence.

I deleted his messages. Then I Unfollowed and Deleted and Unfriended.

Silence. Good.

Then he texted me one more time. I am going to have to go on the down-low for a while. I am getting a new number. Your support is greatly appreciated, B. All the best.

I flung the phone across the parking lot. It landed deep in a snowbank.

Silence.

I did a stand-up routine a few days later, in whatever words I could muster up about it. I laughed about it all. People laughed with me. It felt good. I don't remember what I said, just that it felt good.

Tragedy + Time = Comedy. Tragedy + Comedy= Time to Heal.

And silence.

Friends and family stopped asking me if I was ok. Everyone forgot about it. 

Silence. Good ol' silence.

15 months later and it is starting to get noisy again. I am making an Americano with my new espresso machine alone in my kitchen when CBC News announces casually that his trial begins...today?!  Turning on my computer and there it is: his face is covering, what seems like, all of the pages of the internet, all over my life. Again.

But since no one is asking me if I am ok this time,  I have finally found some words, my truth and the option I needed, but didn't see: Myself. 

And no, I am not ok. This whole situation is not ok. 

For the record, here is my sordid history with Jian Ghomeshi:

-Fall, 2006: I begin listening to Q everyday. It seems like a good show. I am intrigued. Plus, I am a whore for CBC radio 1 programming, and have been since I before I could talk and think.

-Fall, 2008: I “like” Q on Facebook, then I add Jian Ghomeshi to Facebook because I think it would be cool if we were “friends”. My friends don't know who that is.

-Winter, 2009: Jian Ghomeshi accepts me on Facebook. I am excited! My friends think I am lame. 

-Spring, 2009: A guest host fills in for Jian Ghomeshi while he is away somewhere, doing something. I write on his wall to express my concern about the replacement host, asking for an ETA as to when Jian will resume his hosting. I believe I used the word “ear candy” to describe his voice. My friends think I am lame.

-Spring, 2009: Jian private messages me. He is intrigued by my post and my profile picture. I believe he used the word “eye candy”. My friends and I do a collective eye roll. But I secretly message him back with something witty and clever.

-Spring, 2009: Messages go back and forth, funny and casual. Then he asks for my number. I say no way. In the next message, he gives me his number. My friends prank call it pretending to be an old lady looking for her friend Mable. We hear the familiar raspy, low radio voice on the other end- It is the correct number!

-Spring, 2009: Nightly phone calls with Jian begin. We talk about everything. He even asks me for questions to use on the show! I am 21. He is 41. He definitely thinks I am an Icelandic journalist or something and that I may know Bjork (I am Icelandic by spirituality only, but I did see Bjork at a grocery store once from afar). I don’t tell him that. He says we should meet. I agree we should meet.

-April 20, 2009: We meet. At his house. He says it has to be at his house. Of course at your house. I assume it’s an impressive house. It is. Sunday at 8pm. He’s really busy before that. I don’t have to bring anything, just myself. My roommate, a makeup artist, dresses me to the nines; I look 14 going on 39. I swear to myself and my mother and all the Icelandic Elves that nothing will happen beyond an intelligent conversation between professionals, possibly over wine and pistachios. He loves pistachios.

-April 20, 2009 cont’d: I am standing at his door. I remember having red flags at that very moment; I am staring at his dumpster and have sudden chills. Then I rationalize that he is a prominent radio star at a publicly-funded broadcasting corporation and he would be super-lame and stupid to harm a nobody-Starbucks Barista and throw her in his dumpster. Plus, he loves Starbucks.

-April 20, 2009 cont'd: A blur. We dance, we march to Billy Bragg and discuss the Revolution in Iran. We tell each other everything. He wants to go to Iceland with me. He moves his hands to my waist. Ah! I want to go home. His hands move firmly to my face. I cannot move. It takes me a few moments to realize he is kissing me. His grip is so tight on my small frame that I’m grounded to the spot on his immaculate kitchen floor. I cannot breathe. But this is Jian Go-bloody-meshi! Who cares now- I want to go home!!! I push him against the cupboard. He slumps, kinda. Then he tells me he has bad anxiety but that he feels very calm around me. Will you stay the night with me? I will be gentle, he says. I tell him I am an Icelandic faery. He doesn’t believe me. I say I have magic powers that will terrify him. He frowns, crossing his arms as though he has only just noticed me in his house, and doesn't approve of my antics. I tell him I have to be at Starbucks to open the store in 2 hours. He gives me $20 for a cab and sends me away immediately. The door slams behind me.

-April 21, 2009: He texts me at 7am saying I owe him $20 for the cab ride. What a creep!

-April 22, 2009: Why hasn’t he texted me back?! Did I ruin it?! Is it over?! Why did I leave so fast?! What is wrong with me?! I am shaking!!!

-April 23, 2009: That Billy Bob Thornton interview airs. Jian Ghomeshi is all over the local media. Then the international media. I want to know that he is ok! Why? He is a creep, I rationalize. But I want to know that he is ok. We had a connection didn’t we? I calmed him down. He won't return my texts. He is all over the news, I am forced to see his face, but he won’t return my texts.

-April 24, 2009: I prank call him as an Australian journalist that wants the scoop on the Billy Bob Thornton interview. He says he would love to talk to the Land Down-Under. Then he says I have a sexy accent and he desperately wants to meet, at his house. He texts me immediately saying I almost fooled him and that I am back in his good books. 

-April 25, 2009: Easter Friday: We spend it together. We talk about everything. He rests his head on my belly and his head goes up and down as I breathe. He says I am the best storyteller ever, that he reads all my posts and I should write a book about sexy Baristas in the city. “Call it Coffee Girl” he says. I’ll do it, I say. He likes me for my writing he says. Wow, I must be a great writer!!! He pushes me on the couch. He locks the door. The rest is a blur. I’m in a cab again. he texts me, you don’t have to pay me back for this one.

-Late Spring, 2009: I am gutted and confused. I hate him for making me feel this way. And I hate myself for letting him do this to me. I hate myself for being weird and ruining everything.

-June, 2009: Jian Ghomeshi is doing a live Q taping at Glen Gould Studio in Toronto. He casually texts me telling me there are front-row tickets waiting for me at the CBC lobby. Coeur de Pirate and Elvira Kurt will be performing. I know how much you love them. He does know, and I do love them. And I go, dressing up to the nines, sitting front row with my best friend. We wait awkwardly after the show, watching the producers and tech-crew clean up. The studio empties. He winks and waves at me from the stage. Then disappears. The studio is dark now so we leave. He texts me Goodnight, B. I don't respond. 

-June, the Next day, 2009: I post on Facebook that I am going backpacking in Iceland, alone and I am stoked. My phone rings. It is Jian! WTF?! I don't want to answer. But I do. We talk about everything. He wants to see me when I get back. He misses me.

-Summer, 2009: I go to Iceland and England. I have the best time ever. Silence from Jian. I am gutted, but I don't show it. I resolve myself to have an amazing adventure. And I do! I

-Summer, 2009: I enter a writing contest hosted by Jian. I sign my name as Clara Button. I come in second and win David Sidaris books. I call the producers and ask for a signed letter from Jian Ghomeshi. He writes “Dear Clara Button, You are a fine writer. Love Jian Ghomeshi”. Ha! Sadly, this makes my insecure-self feel slightly validated.

-2009-2010: My friends and I continue to prank call him as that little old lady looking for her dear friend Mable. 

 The end.

I wish. But not really. Those few months left me feeling wretched, confused, weak. Like a victim. For years, the grip on my arm, the way he was so quick to anger, the way he looked at me when I disobeyed him, haunted me. But what haunts me more, is how I couldn’t shake off the idea of him, wanting him to be in my life- the illusion of our connection. Our friendship. Our walks around Riverdale Farm, talking about the future. How could that mean nothing?

But whenever I wanted to walk away or if I'd had enough, he pulled me back. 

He only needed me to help him feel powerful. He only wanted me when I wanted out. I was young. I was insecure. My life was out of control. He was in control.

Insecurity blinds us. It makes us do things that aren’t healthy for us in our quest to feel whole again. Insecurity makes us greedy, selfish, inhuman. It makes us victims to our worst selves.

I have written Coffee Girl, on my own. I have run marathons and travelled the world, on my own. I have my own life. I am happy, on my own. If a smooth-talking man were to try and make me feel otherwise, or pressure me for his own self-worth, I’d laugh and spit in his face and tell him to go buy a box of tampons and shove them up his a-hole.

But in my younger days, I was constantly battling with my spiralling self-esteem, looking to anyone but my measly self for reassurance that I was ok. Unfortunately, Jian Ghomeshi found me during that time in my development.

Today I am a still-very-young, very gay, very proud, woman. But underneath I still have so much shame that I felt I had needed an insecure man at one point in my life, not because I wanted him, but because I was searching for love and success, and felt like I couldn’t get that from myself, on my own merit. I am trying not to let that shame rise up and destroy the powerful creature I am today.

I wish we could all admit when we are not ok, then we would not have to hurt other people so much.

As a woman I am constantly being told by every human-made outlet that I am not pretty enough, that I need to tweak stuff, that I should talk less, that I should do this, but not that, and buy more. I learned late in life that I don’t have to spend my hard earned dollars on trying to play society's game that is rigged against me, but that I have better alternatives I can choose to invest in- like writing a kick-ass book about women, and doing yoga at my kick-ass neighbourhood studio, run by a kick-ass woman.

But at least I learned that.

It saddens me that after fighting against myself for so long, I sometimes have to fight against other women, the ones who call me a free-spirited hippie, or man-hater if I speak the thoughts and opinions that are my own, not scripted to me off of The View, mainstream media…or the average outlet- many of which are run by insecure, rich men (like Jian Ghomeshi)…and yes, women too.

To me, the most disturbing detail about the trial is reading all about Jian’s lawyer, Marie Henein. If Jian’s lawyer were a man, we wouldn’t even know his name. I am disturbed because this woman, as successful and powerful as she is (Yay to powerful women!), is making her living off victimizing already-insecure women, and protecting insecure sexual abusers (but that's where the $$$ are, right folks?!). 

Or does Marie Henein need to defend these high-profile men (Michael Bryant, Dave Frost for example) to prove that she herself is not weak, that she is faraway from the women being picked apart on the stand? We live in a patriarchal society with a justice system designed by men in the stone ages to protect that society, so I don't blame Marie Henein for wanting to play the role of pit bull rather than be the frightened rabbit in the ring, while we all watch, frozen on the sidelines.

Honestly though, I don’t know Marie Henein, or anything beyond what has been reported in the media, so I really shouldn't pass judgement. I really don't know what her story is. I do wish her well. But I ask that she show kindness and mercy to those women who took a big risk and came forward.

While I remained silent.

And also for the record, I know two other young women who have had similar experiences with Jian as I did. Both were young, beautiful and spunky women. Ironically, both were also baristas. Both of them met Jian via social media and were avid Q listeners; they were his Followers and he reached out to them, flirty and forward. One of them never responded to him again and snickered at his flamboyant text messages, reading them out loud to her boyfriend over sushi one evening. She told me Jian became angry and threw a temper tantrum when she'd rejected him, saying he didn’t understand why she wasn’t “affected” by him like all other girls were.

The other woman that confided in me was so distraught and upset when Jian stopped responding to her. And later, after he'd turned aggressive, she called me, asking for advice on her situation. She said she was worried about his anxiety and she wished she could help him. I told her sternly to move on; no man is worth your tears and he has to take care of himself. She was 20 and he was 44 at the time.  She didn’t want to share the intimate details of the rest of her experience with him to me, and frankly, I understand completely.

We are ok now. We are not alone. 

The last time I saw Jian Ghomeshi was in September, 2013. I waited for him on the grass outside of the CBC, on an unseasonably hot, sunny day. He sauntered out of the building, 45 minutes later than planned, gushing that he was so happy to see me again. Finally, B, it's been sooooo long. He gave me a hug, and signed copy of his book , 1982. I chuckled to myself inside- what an ego this douche bag has! 

We kept in touch somewhat over the past year and a bit, after I had moved to Iqaluit. For my own sanity and healing it was important to reconcile with him, as proof that I was strong enough to handle myself in his presence, in the presence of older, insecure men. If I can handle them and stand my grown, I can achieve anything, I rationalized. 

Ironically, Jian and I actually became friends again, sort of.

I don’t know the details of what the women on trial went through, but I am choosing to believe them. I standby them. Who knows how they will fair in this perfectly corrupt system of ours so it is my duty to listen to their testimony even if it is crushed in court due to lack of evidence. Manipulation and emotional abuse are just as harsh, if not worse, than physical abuse. And I think there are enough stories out there to showcase the instability and emotional insecurity of this one man, Jian Ghomeshi, towards a number of women. 

Unfortunately, the stories of young women rarely hold up in court- unless we are acting in the best interests of a man or corporation- Don't even get me started on the time I sustained 3rd degree burns on my foot when a broken brewer spilled on me while working a closing shift at Starbucks. The company tried to get me to sign many documents saying that it was my fault, that I was careless, that I was wearing revealing clothing instead of proper safety wear; that I was too tired, emotional, etc, etc and therefore I must deserve to rot at home with no salary or medical assistance to heal. Luckily I knew better and didn't sign. All I wanted was for those millionaire executive dorks to fix the goddam brewer!!!

Never, ever sign the rights to your story away. I have learned that again through trying to publish Coffee Girl. Every company wants my story, but they don't want to pay me for it! I am a young, inexperienced woman, so I should freely give it away, right? Wrong. I'll publish it myself, thanks.

Maybe your story is not admissible in court...yet, but I promise down the road you will find the courage to tell it, and there will be someone, somewhere listening who will stand up with you.

Though, if I were in that court room, Marie Henein would rip me to shreds over all my prank calling and for using an Australian accent dishonestly. Fair enough. 

All I truly know is that I have to face the consequence of my actions everyday, and that my experiences in life have given me confidence, empathy, and most importantly, vigilance. I do not trust people easily, women or men. I take myself seriously. Whatever Jian has done, I hope he is brought to justice, real justice.

Do I believe Jian Ghomeshi is capable of a violent assault against a woman? Anyone can fall victim to their own insecurities and after spending time with Jian, I know that he has many, very many.

I am no longer, not in any way, associated with Jian Ghomeshi. I am freely speaking for myself.

I wish all the people who are involved in this difficult case healing. I hope it is not a vicious, cut-throat court battle like the one that the the good ol'media is predicting. What would that accomplish in the long-term? More suffering. More insecurities. More tragedy.

Tragedy + Healing = Truth.

We live in a society that wants us to be insecure, that wants us to feel broken. Why? Simple: More profit for the big boys on top! The best thing we can do is tell the truth when we are ready, and accept it…and then laugh about it, heal. Fine, call me a free-spirited, dirty hippie- I'd rather be one of those than a chronic victim of insecurity, my own or someone else's. 

Ok, that’s my story. Now I’ve let it go.

I will continue on and be safe and free. And I will always have my very own adventures. Always.



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Caribou Meat and Comedy: Iqaluit's female comics featured on CBC!

If you missed the article and audio exposé of #BitchesGetShitDone (BGSD), Iqaluit's first open mic for women, featured on CBC's Now or Never on January 27th 2018, then you can relive it here!

#BGSD is our creative, hilarious, arctic-centric response to a) the growing #MeToo movement b) feeling ignored/misunderstood in the arctic by the average southern Canadian,  and c) women, especially indigenous, Inuit, and queer women,'s lack of presence in mainstream comedy and arts cultures. We think that by starting this female-only comedy troop, just sitting around a microphone, talking and laughing about life over our favourite snacks, we can help change the macho culture...and put Nunavut on the comedy map!

Bibi (in her version of the puffy shirt) and Angnakuluk in her rad  kamiks  with Marley, the first aspiring comic to step up the underground mic.

Bibi (in her version of the puffy shirt) and Angnakuluk in her rad kamiks with Marley, the first aspiring comic to step up the underground mic.

Most of the interview was edited down to fit the time constraints of the program, but also because some of the content of my answers didn't fit CBC's target audience, apparently. I am used to this by now- I seem really sweet and bubbly, so people do not expect me to tell jokes and stories about the nitty-gritty of lesbian culture, female sexuality, and of course butt plugs, which of course, aren't often discussed out loud, let alone on national radio. That is one of the reasons I started doing standup: to have a place to share my experiences as an open, out queer woman, navigating a very heteronormative, white, and uptight society.

Some of my favourite lesbian jokes are: that unlike men who can hide their penis sizes in their pants, dykes are always scoping out each other's fingers when holding drinks at the bar; how there are so few lesbians on Tinder in Iqaluit and all of them are my ex or my ex's ex and my ex's ex's friend, that because I'm gay people assume I'm into really kinky sex and ask me all sorts of questions that have nothing to do with lesbianism, and how I thought Snapchat was all about dick pics so I never bothered with it...until I realized it was a great way for lesbians to share strap-on and dildo pics! Etc, etc.

The last event I helped produce was Ladies Lube Wrestling which, I know what you are thinking, had nothing to do with porn, female exploitation, or even, butt plugs. But thank you for your concern. Just promoting and sharing the event on social media was a really interested and insightful experiment in how society reacts when women make decisions that go against the current, or are perceived as wrong. Within minutes of posting our event on Iqaluit Public Service Announcements and Iqaluit Rant and Rave Facebook Pages (if you want an entertaining experience while you're scrolling through FB while stuck in traffic or in bed, pleeeeease join those groups!), we had myriad reactions to our event. The gist of the negative comments were that we were exploiting women, that we were taking advantage of women, and how dare we do such a distasteful fundraiser for the high school, for shame. Yes, the proceeds of Ladies Lube Wrestling went to the Positive Space Club at the high school, which produces an annual youth Pride Week (so awesome, right???).

What people didn't anticipate was that, and I fiercely explained this on CBC Nunavut a few days before the event, Ladies Lube Wrestling was a female-produced comedy extravaganza, featuring Iqaluit's finest and CONSENTING female athletes/performers/anyone-who-wanted-to-be-lubed-up, in a CONSENSUAL and hilarious show of sports-woman-ship, facilitated by a drag queen, that by the end of the night everyone would know how to properly put on a condom, do a self-breast exam, and learn all the words to "Do You Wanna Try a Strap-On?" the lesbian, non-sister-sung version of Disney's "Do You Wanna Build a Snow Man?". Of course this event was so much fun, the audience as well as the lubed-up ladies had a blast, and we proved that even lube can be safe and empowering with the right narration, the right attitude, and with the right women in charge. Although Iqaluit residents seemed very concerned that we women would make the wrong wardrobe choices and pick slutty costumes, I think we all felt comfortable in the outfits WE PICKED OURSELVES. I myself was very happy with my lederhosen and even kept by frilly socks on during my matches, but I can't speak for the unicorn, the Scallop Queen, or the evil Power Puff Girl, only that were tough! And we raised a lot of $$$ for the kids.

See, now imagine what comedy would be like with more women?!?!?! #BGSD

The first-ever ladies lube wrestling team.

The first-ever ladies lube wrestling team.

Yes, I am super glad and excited that women forming a comedy troop in the arctic territory, Nunavut, is national news (and another article even made Australian media too!). However, what I will be even more glad about is women everywhere get together around a mic with their girlfriends and their favourite snacks, and are telling stories and laughing because seriously, that is first step to becoming a comedian, and the biggest step to keep the momentum of the #BGSD movement going. Let’s be honest though…comedy in Nunavut has been around for 15,000 or more years.

Maybe one day it will be okay to talk about strap-ons at 2pm on Saturday afternoon on national radio! 

Bibi and Nicole Ettiq performing at Yuk Yuk's Ottawa. We were two of three women in a long line-up of men...but we held our own and got lots of laughs in the end!

Bibi and Nicole Ettiq performing at Yuk Yuk's Ottawa. We were two of three women in a long line-up of men...but we held our own and got lots of laughs in the end!

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What I Wanted to Say...

Because I don't (actually I REFUSE!) to use queue cards, I sometimes miss a few set beats. The pain of missing something remains in my chest for days and days after, like a cute girl you could have kissed but then hesitated, thinking the timing was weird, but actually, it wasn't and now she's gone and you're an idiot. *hits face repeatedly* You know the feeling! (If you don't, then you are not human, and go away!)

After an incredible, super fun show last Saturday with the #Mahaha crew in Iqaluit, here are the things I really wanted to say but didn't:

  1. The Racquet Club just raised their pizza and drink prices last week. To express their outrage, members banded together and avoided dining out there. This is first time ever that White People have protested high food prices in Nunavut.
  2. My lady friend and I recently got engaged. Or as we say in Lesbian, we are “Ultimate U-Hauling” based on that popular joke that lesbians bring a U-haul truck to the second date. Women, especially gay women, just love to nest and get all serious like that. Though, in Nunavut that’s just an intelligent solution to the housing crisis. Anyway, after posting on Facebook about my yes to Ultimate U-Haul with my lady, I am really learning who my true straight and Inuit friends are based on how many people have contacted me offering to help me move, or sad that I might be leaving the territory. Awww, how sweet! Thanks so much, guys! <3

    As it turned out, more people were interested to know when my Rummage Sale was going to be and if they could have first-dibs on all my furniture and food. When I wrote back that I was actually just getting married and would be happily living in Iqaluit for ever after, the majority of the responses were: Awwwww shucks, not even! Can't I at least test drive your Renegade?!

  3. Anyway, I have been doing lots of research about weddings and I am determined to be the best married-lady ever cuz no one likes those bitchy Bridezillas! And with two bitches gettin' hitched...well...the odds are against us, according to The Internet. After doing a quick Google search, planning a wedding is not easy for us, women! All the sites that came up were titled headlined:
    -The 50 Mistakes Brides Make..
    -The Countless Things Brides do Wrong... 
    -Being Bridezilla is Avoidable only if you follow these 100 rules...
     -Etc. Etc. Etc.

    Yes, According to these invisible experts, there are a few of the 100 inevitable mistakes women will make when trying to plan their Ultimate U-Haul Day:

    -You Feel Obligated to Rock an Up-do...but then don’t wear your Up-do with Confidence! *gasp*
    -You Mistreat Your Single BBFs *bitch move*
    -You Don't Say "Hello" to Everyone *another bitch move*
    -You Send Thank-You Notes Late *clutz*
    -You Set Predictable Tables by not Decorating your Tables *Gross!!!*
    -You Get Ring Envy *OMG...just look at her ring! It's hideous!*
    -You Go Trendy With Your Lipstick *faints*
    -You Forget To Eat *OMG...she's totally anorexic now!*

    -You Stuff your face with cake *OMG...she's totally gonna puke that up in the bathroom!*
    -You Don't Match Your Bouquet to Your Dress *I can't look!*
    -You Overdo the Spray Tan *She looks like the President-elect*
    -Your spray tan is the same colour as the bouquet *She looks like the President-elect...but worse*
    -Etc. Etc. Etc.

    Even though I am having a lesbian wedding, I decided to Google "Mistakes grooms make". There are only 5:

    1. Being too casual
    2. Winging the vows
    3. Acting like a “Bachelor at the Bar” and hitting on the bridesmaids
    4. Forgetting that the wedding is a celebration of commitment
    5. Saying “I Don’t care” too much

    Wow. Grooms would make excellent Lesbian Wedding Planners! Straight, white ladies...I'll pray for you!

  4. We need to make more uncomfortable White People jokes, now more than ever. I just knew that Trump was going to get elected. It was a no brainer because too, too many White People really do NOT have brains. I don’t know why everyone is so mad and confused by the pollsters; it was very clear to me that Trump would win based on the polls: there were always 5% of people in the “don’t want to say” category aka Racist! Also...hillbillies do not answer their phones because they don’t have landlines; only a Democrat would politely answer their phones and agree to talk to a pollster. Why didn’t they graph the amount of aggressive hang-ups or residents yelling God Bless ‘Merica on their answering machines.

    I was only hoping Hilary Clinton would win so that after she got inaugurated, she'd hold a press conference on Fox News and say:

 “America, I have waited many years for this. As President I feel I must be honest with you: I have slept with one of my young staffers, and yes, I had sexual relations with that young man…but I did not swallow, or bend-over! Now you know why those emails were deleted; they were evidence of all my hardcore online dating profiles! It is over now. And Bill, now we are finally even and now I can move on! Thank you America, good night.”

5.  My last point is that soon I will be celebrating my 4th Nunaversary. I am proud to say that I am syphilis-free. I own a KitchenAid, three different kinds of espresso makers, and a gadget specifically designed for holding bananas so that they don't fall on to the counter. I am definitely winning at life. Anyway, I recently found the first Nunavut job posting that I applied for, even before I had moved to the territory. I had applied to be the Assistant Deputy Minister of Education, obviously thinking that it was a secretarial position:

Hello, my name is Lítla Bibi Bilodottír and I am applying for the Position of Assistant to the Deputy Minister of Education at the Government of Nunavut. I have both the experience and dedication needed for this role… I type above 80wpm and enjoy using Excel and other Office Programs. My biggest strength is learning from, and working with different communities and cultures, which is why I have a background in working with African and Celtic communities around the world…as well as being an Assistant Manager at several high volume Starbucks Coffee locations around Toronto. Thank you for your consideration. I know this would the perfect position for me and look forward to hearing from you. I have references available.

Let’s just say, I bought my own flight here and wasn’t employed for several months. #StupidWhiteGirl

THANKS A LATTE!

 

 

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32 Things White people in Nunavut like...

Nunavut is Canada's arctic territory. For thousands of years, this region was home only to arctic wildlife and the Inuit people, who were able to navigate the icy tundra, live off the land and flourish in harsh conditions.  But over the past few decades, Nunavut has been overflowing with...WHITE PEOPLE?!?! Yup, even in the coldest part of the globe, where there are no malls or indie cafes, you can still find us...

White, in this context, broadly refers to those who recently moved to Nunavut from the southern places, who were flown up for work purposes, and who are not Inuit

Stuff White People in Nunavut like:

#1- TOONIK TYME!!!

This is the ultimate time for White People to flock together and share their love of appropriate cultural activities in their community.

Who let the dogs out?! #nunavut #sleddogs

A photo posted by Lítla BB (@icelandicfaery) on

#2- The Legion on a Saturday night

This is the ultimate place for White People to be seen by other White People and to meet new White People. But make sure you are wearing fancy new clothes that you bought online or at the Rideau Centre.

#3- Spending quality time on The Land

Hiking to Sylvia Grinnell Park, or spending a few hours out on the Bay with a big bag of trail mix and a thermos is something every white person here enjoys.

#4- Fishing

During the summer months you will see White People flocking in droves to the river with rods. Nothing is more satisfying than catching your own dinner after a long, productive day at the office. (Expect to see lots of homemade-sushi photos on Facebook!)

Freshly caught Arctic char. I'm becoming a domestic goddess! #Nunagram #Iqaluit

A photo posted by Lítla BB (@icelandicfaery) on

#5- Talking about all their successes

The White people in Nunavut are incredibly talented...or so they say. From bloggers with acting experience who brag about their thousands of followers, to Red Seal chefs with tap dancing levels, to cross-country ski mavens and almost-Olympic-level-ultra-marathoners- yup, White people here are not shy to talk a lot about their impressive resumes. (Though, you have to wonder, if you are really as accomplished as you say...why are you here?)

#6- Being an advocate for Others

The White People of Nunavut seem to know what's best for everyone, especially non-White, indigenous people, who they actively take a stand for. Bless our hearts, we are just trying to ease our White Privilege...if only we really knew what we were talking about!

I am even wearing a second-hand store sweater in this photo (White People also love thrift clothing!)

I am even wearing a second-hand store sweater in this photo (White People also love thrift clothing!)

#7- Volunteering

White People love to be involved in and making a difference for the community. When they are not in their offices or at the gym, you can often find White People at the soup kitchen, waiting to answer calls at the helpline...AND THEN

#8- Doing Yoga!

Yes, of course there is a Yoga Studio here! Duh, White People cannot live without their matching yoga mats and designer, PBA-free water bottles.

Warrior 2 pose at Upper Base, Iqaluit

Warrior 2 pose at Upper Base, Iqaluit

#9- Being a board member

If you have lived here for a few months, you are most likely on the board of a non-profit organization that you believe is contributing positively to the community (another bullet point to add on your impressive resume!).

#10- Checking Environment Canada for blizzard warnings

From December-April, you can be sure that every White Person is in their office refreshing that Environment Canada page to see if the visibility has dropped to 0.4km. White People love BLIZZARD WARNINGS! 

Well, I tried to work, but I guess the blizzard wants me to stay home in my pyjamas and watch Netflix.

Well, I tried to work, but I guess the blizzard wants me to stay home in my pyjamas and watch Netflix.

#11- Talking about who they know

"Oh, dont you know so-and-so?! They have lived here for ___ years and always throw the best parties and is Director of Policy Development! I guess you haven't lived here long enough yet..." -Typical White Person

#12- Picking up lots of packages at the post office

White People don't mind lining up at the post office, especially if it means they will be seen carrying boxes and boxes from Amazon, MEC, Simons, etc. A package slip in the PO Box is symbol of love and success to White People.

#13- Instagramming

Every activity performed by a White Person in Nunavut can and will be documented on Instagram, otherwise it's like it never existed and then what is the point of living here?!?!?!?!

#14- Taking time off

White People love taking long periods of time off from their high-paying jobs to go travelling the world..and talking about Nunavut and sharing the wonders of their arctic "home" while abroad.

#15- Craft Fairs and Country Food markets

The more decked out White People's homes are with traditional artifacts, art works, furs and frozen meats in the freezer, the more they feel like they have integrated into the community and are supporting the local people.

#16- Beginning and ending emails/sentences with Inuktituk salutations but then continuing on in English

Qanuippit, I am hosting a free workshop at the community centre this weekend! -Nakurmiik!

Unnusakkut, there is coffee and donuts in the snack room! -Qujannamiik

I think White People believe that by beginning and ending sentences with Inuktitut words means they are excused from actually learning the language...because let's face it, learning any language but English and French is really hard, takes time, and is won't be useful at an all-inclusive resort.

#17- Nunavut Day!!!*

White People love celebrating this day because it is a Stat Holiday that no other white people in the rest of Canada get off.  

*Nunavut Day, celebrated annually on July 9, marks the day that the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement Act and the Nunavut Act came into legal force. The Nunavut Land Claims Agreement (NLCA) is the largest comprehensive claim settlement in Canada. It provides Inuit with financial benefits, along with extensive land ownership, resource royalties, guaranteed wildlife harvesting rights, and participation in wildlife, land-use and environmental decision-making bodies. As required by the NLCA, the Nunavut Act created the territory of Nunavut.

#18- Aeroplan Tickets

Flights to/from Iqaluit from the South are expensive. Booking a coveted roundtrip Aeroplan ticket to Ottawa is an exciting feat for a White Person and they love bragging about it when they score one. (And will spend work time on the phone with an agent checking every available date!)

#19- Getting to visit a community...but only for one day!

White people are dying to see as much of the North as possible and jump at the chance to wrack up overtime by flying to one of Nunavut's more remote communities. All is well and documented on Instagram...until they get stuck there due to weather/mechanical difficulties and have to share a dingy room with a same-sex stranger and eat expensive meals at the co-op for days and days... 

#20- The Jerry Cans

White People just love the traditional music of Nunavut as played by this Iqaluit-based band that's a "unique mix of Inuktitut alt-country, throat singing, and reggae" and will never miss an opportunity to come out and awkwardly dance to them LIVE. (They really are an awesome band, though!)

#21- Sealifting

As much as they try and go without stuff, and say they don't need stuff, the truth is White People cannot live without stuff, so naturally placing Sealift orders is a very important time in the lives of White People. Many even schedule their vacations around dropping off their purchases at the port and stuff their vehicles to the brim with toilet paper and whatever else they can cram in!

#22- Pot lucks and theme nights

Who needs cocktail bars and fancy restaurants when you can put on your best hipster sweater, make some hummus and be considered cool at this week's hottest potluck!? White People love to host and love the fact that dinner parties, murder mystery nights and gourmet potlucks are fashionable here...mainly because there is no where else to go! 

#23- Homemade parkas

If you are still wearing a Canada Goose coat, you are obviously still new here or are not integrating as well as you could be. Many White People not only have traditional parkas they bought at a craft fair, they have actually learned to make their own traditional parkas! White People also take up sewing seal skin mitts and join kamik-making groups. You are a real White Person of the North if you carry your baby in an amauti you made yourself! Well done!

#arctic #iqaluit #winter #nunavut #girl #parka #fox #fur

A photo posted by Lítla BB (@icelandicfaery) on

#24- GN Training Weeks

White People love being paid to be away from their desks to gain important insights that will make them more productive at their jobs. How to Deal with Difficult People, Intermediate French classes, and Microsoft Works for Dummies are important workshops that all government employees should take advantage of, regularly.

#25- The Utilidor

White People are not fond of, nor do well with, Waterless Wednesdays. When choosing a house-sit, selecting an apartment or buying a house, access to the Utilidor is a MUST!

#26- Being in Nunavut longer than other white people

White People take pride in how many months have gone by since they stepped, shell-shocked, off the plane. In fact, they are all a little embarrassed by their lack of knowledge of the territory when they first arrived, so they make up for it by feel smug when they meet a fresher-off-the-plane White Person.

#27- Skidooing

White people very quickly realize they will see more of the land if they have a snow machine. White People love purchasing Bravos or weathered machines on Sell/Swap and then getting their trail mix, thermos and friends together to go out on an expedition to the one of the nearby islands for a picnic and to show off their sweet rides.

North Mart's finest machine of 2015.

North Mart's finest machine of 2015.

#28- Forming societies

White People often take their interests to the next level by finding like-minded people and attempting to form a society. Society meetings are often centered around brunch, healthy snacks, making a plan for the future, trying to fill out documentation correctly and write bylaws meaning that only their bffs can join.

#29- Being cliquey

For some reason, White People in Nunavut like to form cliques. It's a mystery sometimes how these cliques form, but if you will know right away if you are not part of one. Ironically, these White Cliques tend to do the same things, but just stand in different locations at the Legion, have wild parties at different houses, and give each other evil looks or ignore one another when ending up in the same taxi, bank machine line, drink line, grocery store aisle, GN training session, board meeting, charter flight, dance floor, movie theatre, post office queue, and Racquet Club workout session.

#30- Being vegan BUT eating country food

Lots of White People in Nunavut tend to have dietary restrictions (gluten-free, vegan, vegetarian, sugar-free, etc) but all that will change when it comes to being seen eating traditional country foods like char, seal, caribou and bannock.

View this post on Instagram

#icefishing #char #sashimi #nunavut #myprecious

A post shared by Beebs (@bibi_bilodeau) on

#31- Having a friend who is Inuk

Many White People say that (for some reason) it is hard to meet and form friendships withInuit people up here, so naturally they are very proud and excited when they have a friend who is Inuk. This Inuk friend serves as a White Person's community resource, and is someone whose opinion/insight they value and can be referenced to in conversations with other White People, "The Inuit Community believes that.___" or "I know many Inuit feel this waybecause of my friend____". They love it when this Inuk friend shows up at dinner parties and attends other White People events with them. 

#32- Calling Nunavut home.

Many White People, even the ones who recently moved here, refer to Nunavut as their home. Maybe it's because they couldn't fit in to wherever they came from, or they couldn't achieve the success they wanted down South...or they just plain love in up here, but for whatever reason, White People are here and here to stay! So keep that Sealift, boxed wine, aquatic centre, theme nights and those cultural events coming! We will pay big money for it!!!

Home sweet home in #iqaluit #frobisherbay #spring

A photo posted by Lítla BB (@icelandicfaery) on

This post was loving written by a privileged White Girl. I apologize for being an annoying White Person.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Being one of the Gays in Iqaluit

Rainbow cupcakes for the NWT Pride.

Rainbow cupcakes for the NWT Pride.

"Did you guys hear that there's a new lesbian in town?" 

If you are an Out, Gay woman and you come to Iqaluit, that sentence will surely be uttered after you- from airport, to North Mart and all the way to the legion. Get ready! 

I have survived in many countries where it was more than just frowned-upon by the neighbourhood to be gay, it was actually condemned by enforced state laws. In terms of progressive LGBTQ+ rights, Canada as a whole is one of the better places to be born gay.

Who doesn't love the GAYS?! 

Siena, Italy: Well...at least the food was comforting! Rural tuscany is beautiful, but if you can't blend in then prepare to have cute little nonnas wave their fingers and rolling pins at you on the way to church. I did my best to fit in (I even learned Italian), but then I had to endure greasy men trying to whisk me away on their vespas to their casas. (Ironically, most men in Italy, and Europe, look very metrosexual...aka GAY!)

"Being gay and Italian is like a fate worse than...Wait, there is no fate worse than being gay AND Italian!" -Angelo, from the 2003 comedy film  Mambo Italiano

"Being gay and Italian is like a fate worse than...Wait, there is no fate worse than being gay AND Italian!" -Angelo, from the 2003 comedy film Mambo Italiano

Western African: Not only is it very illegal to be gay there, but one can be sent to Witch Camp if caught in the, um, Act of Gayness. Culturally, women (who call each other Sisters) are very close and caring toward each other. And when they go out dancing, they get up right against each other in a big, booty-shaking group, so I had no problem living there, and my Sisters looked out for me!

Though, around the world there ARE lots of people who love the Gays!

Like my city, Toronto. OMG. I feel like in the last decade, everyone in the T-Dot is now on some part of this, so-called, Sexuality Spectrum. There is no doubt that Toronto is overflowing with PRIDE: They boast their Gay-Bourhoods and growing Diversity of EVERYTHING. My once very-straight friends are now Open or Experimenting or Queer-Positive and Androgynous-Gender-Neutral or Rainbow-Aura-ed. Good for you Toronto, I am so happy for you...but also, confused! Call me unoriginal but I am going to stick with just being Lesbian. Classic.

What about Nunavut? Are there arctic Gays?! And if there are, how do they survive if they have to be so bundled-up?!

Like just about everything else in Nunavut, what actually goes on up here is a mystery to most people in Canada. Sadly, Southerners neither know nor seem to care that they have absolutely no idea what real life is like North of 60. I was definitely that ignorant white girl in my Canada Goose parka on the airplane ride up to Iqaluit, praying to The Goddess that I might one day see an avocado again, learn to build my own polar bear-proof igloo, and if I had to live in-the-closet so as to not upset the community I was trespassing upon...so be it.

Well too bad for you, especially the Southern LGBTQ communities, because up North we are sizzlin'. 

Note: I am only one lesbian. And I am a white, privileged lesbian for that matter... so my views are very much my own and do not reflect that of all of the other Nuna-Gays.

Iqaluit is the fastest growing "city" in Canada. With a population of around 7000, people are literally landing here everyday. I believe the population breakdown is something like 60% Inuit and 40% Annoying-Settler. Since reputable psychologists all agree that (at least) 10% of the world identify as Gay, that would mean that there are 700+ LGBTQ folks in Iqaluit at any given time. WOWEE!

And what do these Gays do up here?! 

According to the bubbling activity I have observed on social media, the crowds of folks lining up to get into the recent Iqaluit Pride events, and the gossip the hangs over this city more thickly than the Dumpcano smoke of 2014, I can safely say this is one of biggest queer communities per capita I have ever been a part of...EVER!

And the most diverse too. There are Gays/Lesbians who have grown up here, immigrated across oceans, and of course, flocked North from all over the country, East coast to West. While there isn't an official, organized LGBTQ group per se (we are working on it, building on what others have done in the past), there are so many Gay/Lesbian families and friend-groups, living comfortably and contributing to the community as a whole.

Unlike many young people, gay and straight , trying to make a living down South, the Gays up North have jobs! REAL JOBS! Many also have kids, dogs, Subarus, skidoos, home-renovation projects (it's a lesbian's paradise!!!) etc, etc. We can all fit right in here. Yes, the Gays are definitely alive and thriving in Iqaluit...with or without a Registered-Pride Organization- Who needs structure and socialized-gay-norms anyway?!

FYI: The best guacamole in the world is made by Gays in Nunavut.

But what about dating? How does that work in such an isolated place, where everyone knows everyone and the only way to come and go is by expensive plane ride? (Or very, very, very long snowmobile trip...) 

Yes, dating can present an...interesting...challenge...

"So, this girl gave me her number at yoga and we went out a couple of times. It was kinda awkward. Now her ex, who seems like a really cool chick, is asking me out. Is that weird?"

Nope. Not in Iqaluit! Even if you are Straight, Single and Looking you will eventually end up dating a cousin/brother/best friend/ex-ex lover/brother's adoptive mother's ex/father/best-friend's brother's ex/etc. of someone you have already dated. So for us Gays, it can- and probably will- get even weirder since there are less of us. Think of Alice's Chart from The L Word; I am pretty sure everyone in this town is linked somehow... 

I wonder what the Iqaluit Chart would look like...? No wait, I'd rather not know!

I wonder what the Iqaluit Chart would look like...? No wait, I'd rather not know!

Oh and beware of: Emotional-Experimenting Straight Girls! And their jealous boyfriends.... And no more comments on that.

Back to dating... Instead of waiting impatiently for the next Lesbian/Gay Boy to walk, shell-shocked, off the plane and across the frozen tarmac, you can take matters into your own hands. When Bell 3G service hit Iqaluit airspace in 2014, along came the dating apps! Despite the limited bandwidth, Grindr and Tinder are actively beeping up here. Montreal and Ottawa may be 1550+kms away, but who cares cuz you can find a match or midnight hook-up 3km or less away! 

Grindr, a hook-up App for gay and experimenting men.&nbsp;

Grindr, a hook-up App for gay and experimenting men. 

My girlfriend would not be too excited if I found a match on Tinder (even for research purposes), but we did scroll through the Tinder-ers together one night...and not-surprisingly, we knew almost all of the faces we swiped by- or at least recognized the photos (kinda hard to tell with all the bedroom eyes and gym selfies). It was like watching the Legion heat-up on Saturday night: right at the drinking stools, where all the Eligible Lesbians and Glam Gays (and then some) liquor up with their blazers on, looking out for a good match- but from the comfort of our own home, in pyjamas.

But wait...if we can see them on Tinder...they can see us too, right?! AHHHH! 

*delete*

Well..is it possible to find true and lasting love in Iqaluit? 

Absolutely! The arctic is the perfect setting for that U-Haul to a perfect fairytale ending you have always dreamed of. You just need to have a sense of humour and accept every situation for what it is: SO RANDOM. 

Why should Gays stay in Iqaluit?

My favourite thing about being Gay in Iqaluit is the adoptive family I have found. There is no such thing as a typical family or social structure in Iqaluit, so it is easier to relax and find people who will accept you, just as you are! 

In Toronto and other urban centres with established Gay communities, it is sometimes hard to fit in: queers can be cruel, especially if you're NOT:
flashy/flamboyant/chill/nonchalant/indie/artsy/gay-enough (whatever that even means!)... In my lifetime, I have witnessed LGBTQ sisters and bros be pushed off dance floors or shoved out of line-ups. And don't get me started on the cat fights that can break out at Lesbian Nites. Come on girls, be nice!

But in Iqaluit, my crew is a loving, mismatched ensemble of supportive, talented individuals from EVERYWHERE and RIGHT HERE, so we are always open to new orphans to joins us: gay-straight-queer-questioning-whatever-whoever-you-are. It takes a special kind of Gay to take the plunge and move North, and an even more fabulous one to stay, or never want to leave. Since going out is expensive, we open our homes up and have Drag PartiesMargaret Cho Marathons, Big Gay Brunches...whatever is cheap, creative and keeps us safe from trouble.

Even the young people at the high school know it's cool to be Out aka Yourself. Positive Space Club, a permanent LGBTQ bulletin board hanging up in the front hallway, and the most popular kids in school are lesbians?! Times have changed since the Stonewall riots of 1969 and my school days in 1999..and for the better! Thank The Goddess. Let's hope it continues this way...

Commemorating the Stonewall Riots, 1969- photo from http://www.glaad.org/

Commemorating the Stonewall Riots, 1969- photo from http://www.glaad.org/

I am not of Inuit heritage, but I do try my best to respect the culture and traditions of this land that I have come to love so much. I know that colonization by those white settlers, not even 100 year ago, brought so many horrors to this territory that the effects are still rippling through communities today. I also learn every day from the strength, determination and humour of the Inuit people who I call my neighbours and teachers. Many are very accepting of who I am, but I understand the reservations of others. I know that acceptance comes with time and trust, so I try my best to be compassionate.

NOTE: White colonizers did NOT bring Gayness to the North- they brought oppression, addiction and stupid ideas. The LGBTQ rights movement has a traumatic, oppressive history too, especially with police brutality and by being forced into invisibility and shame by their own government and society. Let's not let these not-too-distant tragedies happen again...

People are people, all born human..some of us are just gayer than others.

The Northern-most communities in Nunavut do not have cell phone service, flights are infrequent and cost more than a trip around the world, and internet is sketchy at best. It is crucial to reach out to these LGBTQ members and let them know they are our family, too. These communities are tight-knit and truly some of the most breathtaking places on the planet! I am lucky to have visited a few of them and met more than a few gems along the way.

Cambridge Bay, NU just celebrated its second Rainbow Day at Kiilinik High School. Right on! I hope these kind of positive initiatives continue and grow. No one should be discriminated against or feel invisible, no matter what part of the world they happen to be born in. And all people should be celebrated, regardless of who they like to bring home to bed after a fun night dancing at the Legion.

So what are you waiting for...pack your glitter, smart phone, most-colourful parka and HEAD NORTH!!!







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Melting Away on Frobisher Bay

(Adapted from a frantic email I sent to my sister to help me process what just happened last night...) I am still recovering from a party out behind an island on the middle of Frobisher Bay...

5km out on Frobisher Bay!

5km out on Frobisher Bay!

There was a yurt set up in the distance. Hoards of people, clad in costumes, even a unicorn and dragon, were awaiting excitedly to be taxied there by skidoo; some even skied, with their dogs galloping through the hidden puddles around us. I walked/interpretive-danced all the way there with a friend, a bottle of tequila in hand, and boom box on the shoulder, blasting Bohemian Rhapsody. We left first, but were the last to arrive, making quite an entrance! "Is this the real life? Caught in a fantasy?"

The yurt was filled with speakers, twinkling lights, DJs, a rapper from Toronto, throat singers...bodies pressing into each other, moving to the arctic beats.  We moved together, grinding hard until the snow-dance-floor just melted away from under our feet.

We rushed outside to light a giant wooden man on fire, stripping off our coats from the intense heat. We each let a heart-shape lantern go into the twilight, creating a trail of glowing pink orbs that hovered gently before disappearing into the star-free sky. Night never came; the midnight sun reemerged, though it hadn't really left, reawakening our dancing spirits.

I hoola-hooped by the fire for a long, long time, watching the flames flicker over the ice; friends and strangers laughing around me, enjoying spectacles like this that only seem possible in the Great White North. I traipsed back to the mainland around 4am, thick snowflakes getting caught in my hair and ears. I didn't care, and just let the skidoos pass me by.

When I'd left my house at 9pm the night before I thought I was going to just another party...But I returned home feeling loose, shaken upside-down. Weightless. Who knew a wild fire on ice surrounded by crazy music could bring so much inner stillness.

So, so surreal... (Sorry, I just had to share that with someone!!!)

I was thinking of you, my family, Ghana, when I let the lantern go. Sometimes I feel oh so lost between the stoic mountains; so heavy on the crystal clear ice.

Sometimes I feel so far away up here. So so far far away.

But it's the unexpected moments like this, a spark that sets the air on fire, that grab hold of me, pushing my heels back down beneath the ground. I am reminded that I can spread my roots, seep up the energy, the stories, from anywhere. By allowing myself to come back to Earth, I realize how we are all on a tiny part of it. I just happened to land here.

IMG_4880
IMG_4880

Our roots are always there with us, invisible and overlapping. So close we are, closer to each other than we can even see, or ever know. But every so often we catch fleeting glimmers of knowing, like watching lanterns being swallowed up by the sky.

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Iceland Through and Through PART SEVEN

The long road back to Reykjavik

The long road back to Reykjavik

Back to again to whence we came...

Saying Goodbye to Iceland is always a challenge. This time I had I lost My Everything skirt, a physical symbol of my past traveling adventures that I was able to drape over me, protecting me anytime at my most naked, and vulnerable moments of real and imaginary shiveries; now it was time for me to lose my footing on this place too. I always find a real connection here. This time I was with my longtime friends and together we'd experienced water droplets transforming into powerful landmarks, and towns that acknowledge sea monsters and believers in fairies. Even though I had amusedly pointed to an Interesting dot on a map which had kick-started our journey, being here was familiar, like being embraced by a soft, crinkly granny; somehow with every touch, every blink, I felt unspoken wisdom, recognition and safety. Here we felt free and protected by the many unseeing eyes that exist within the cliffs. All this confusion and happisadness still makes my mouth croak a laugh. I had fantasized about this place, yet in all its ancient apethetic-ness, Bildudalur, THE WESTFJORDS!!! and The Most Powerful Waterfall were all very real, very tangible. Somehow my imagination had woven me into the fabric of this land, and my feet on the ground made it real, made it just so. So if I never saw this place or my silly wrap-around skirt again, I imagine everything would be okay...

We spent our final day in the eclectic city centre of Reykjavik.

Main street

Main street

Where bright colours surround you, people are dressed-up like walking thrift stores, and the buildings are crafted like modern art exhibits, this city is designed to inspire. We got our first horizontal sleep in an industrial loft-style hostel and I felt my body melt into the fluffy sheets; how could this not be my home?

Reykjavik sidewalk
Reykjavik sidewalk

Most things in life just don't make any sense, but the questions don't pour out of me until I'm a safe distance away. As soon as I'm on the road I am free to challenge the silliness of my daily routine, and the customs I just take for granted back home in the society that forged me. Maybe that's the reason I just can't settle down; I need to keep challenging the norms and not be afraid to find out that so much of life is random, mysterious, and complex. But if I can piece together the strings of randomness, like Maxine Ferryboat, The Most Powerful Waterfall, the disappearance of My Everything, and that Interesting Place, then no matter what I always have a story, like a string of light bulbs hanging over me.

Finding hanging lights
Finding hanging lights

I can't speak for my two companions, but here is a short list of all the things I have learned from Iceland:

  • Sea monsters and fairies exist
  • Driving standard (well, driving in general) is a good skill to have (so I should probably get my licence!)
  • Tropical tents are not practical here for the frigid nights
  • When sleeping in a car, always park diagonally on a small hill for extra neck and back support
  • Geothermal baths are the greatest gift on Earth
  • Skyr is better than ice cream and greek yogurt combined
  • Don't walk alone on a glacier because of the howling sled dogs!
  • Be prepared to have at least one spiritual epiphany
  • Keep your bathing suits and wrap-around skirts locked up between uses
  • Takk-Skyr (Thank you-Yogurt) is a better swimming pool game than Marco-Polo
  • Being naked is the best, most-stylish outfit so don't be afraid to show yours off
  • There are many towns called Reykholt so make sure your GPS is Icelandic, not named Karen and from Australian
  • People will point and laugh at you, no matter what
  • Doing Tarot readings at the local pubs will cause the Bartenders to take photos of you
  • Always go to the Interesting Places, even if you have no idea where exactly they are located
  • Visit the WESTFJORDS!!!
  • Feel free to transform at any moment; nothing is permanent so just let go!
Painted tree
Painted tree
Final skyr devouring!
Final skyr devouring!

Never have I been to such a friendly, open and peaceful society. We will be thinking of you and all our adventures for centuries to come.

Takk fyrir Iceland!

Icelandic Pride
Icelandic Pride

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Iceland Through and Through PART SIX

The Mystery of the Vanishing Bikini and Wrap-Around Skirt PART TWO

WANTED:

Cool California Bikini
Cool California Bikini

REWARD: 10 Ghana Cedis, 1 chicken and 3 soft mangoes (Marriages proposals of any kind are not accepted)

RECAP: Madison, Amy and Bibi, the three innocent tourists traveling, sometimes quite uncomfortably, through the Icelandic WESTFJORDS!!! awoke to find themselves thrust into the middle of an international kidnapping crime. So the three tourists turned freelance detectives, not knowing the Icelandic equivalent for 9-1-1, decided to investigate the mystery of their missing itemson their own. After having an Interesting day walking about and getting up-close-and-personal with hundreds of puffins, they were hot on the trail once again. We last left the three tourist-detectives at the ferry docks, waiting for the WC/loo/bathroom, when they came face-to-face with the accused: The Grumpy-Thieving-Adventure-Type-Tourists who were armed with a clever homemade clothes-line that conveniently set-up in the backseat of their SUV, perfect for off-roading in Iceland's rocky terrain! Will the three tourists-detectives help fight Iceland's war on the under 1% tourist theft rate and get their beach wear back? Unless you have an appointment with your Facebook newsfeed, keep reading to find out...

Map of THE WESTFJORDS!!!
Map of THE WESTFJORDS!!!

The Accused Couple was nowhere in sight now. They can run, we cackled, but on a tiny ferry no one can hide! Giddy with crime-chase adrenaline, we dispersed among the sheep to snap a few more final photos of the Beloved WESTFORDS!!! The cool breeze nipped my sides, already whispering goodbye to us.

IMG_3663
IMG_3663

I wiped the tear from my lip and dashed back to meet the others at our 1999 Toyota Avensis, now officially part of our broken-road family. Madison and Amy were ready to heist it on to the ferry, Italian-Job-style. But there was already a complicated queue of cars trying to figure out which of the three lanes they should be in, in order to correctly load onto the ferry without the confusing ferry people gesturing wildly in angry Icelandic sign language. One lane seemed to be for sheep trucks and potato carts, the other for non-potato carrying vehicles, but the last lane didn't seem to have a purpose. We were definitely non-sheep and non-potato, but the last unidentified lane was much less empty than the well-marked potato-free lane. Maybe the final lane was for emergency, police, and freelance-crime fighting vehicles, in which case we could qualify! We quickly scanned the chaos for glimpses of the burly Grumpy-Tourist SUV, but it was nowhere to be found; they had probably smuggled themselves aboard already. People were honking at us! We had to make a decision or we'd be in danger of Icelandic hand gesturing aimed directly at us. We swerved to the empty-unknown lane and inched up to the front. No gesturing, no more honking; we breathed a sigh of relief and decided to formulate our plan of attack. If only we could find their car...

Hey, there's another one of those Clever Clotheslines! exclaimed Madison suddenly. Maybe there's a shop we can actually buy them at! She was pointing at the burly green SUV right next to us. Nooooo! we all gasped collectively as we realized there wasn't a backseat-clothesline fad taking over the island, but that we were now wheel-to-worn-out-wheel with The Accused. From the casual conversation they appeared to be deeply engaged in, they seemed not to have noticed us yet, nor were paying close attention to the Icelandic road signals. Back in our Toyota, we crouched down low and stared straight ahead, not wanting to give away our advantaged position in the Emergency Vehicle Lane. Huddled in the backseat, I scanned their Clever Clothesline and back cargo-area for signs of our possessions. There definitely was evidence of a struggle; their packs looked hastily packed, as though they'd been unpacked and repacked several times in a very short period of time. And for two Adventure-Type-Tourists on the move that was definitely suspicious behaviour! I was stone frozen except for my eyes scanning for rainbow material that could be poking out of their mess. It still wasn't time to board, but at any moment we might be forced to hit the gas pedal!

At the same we moment, us three tourist-detectives, all glanced back to the front seat of the SUV. AHHHHH! we heaved in unison. The thieving-tourists were starring right at us! There easy demeanour melted away instantly. If there was any doubting their obvious guilt, their eyes, more frigid than the sea monstered-loch, cut us with razor-sharp enmity. With my echoing blood spurting in my ears, the Australian driver pushed her seat all the way back, blocking her from view. Icelandic hand gestures were distantly whirring and directing us again so with a slam to the gas pedal, the world jerked out of slow motion.

The lanes were all moving now, one by one. No longer neck and neck, we could digest that moment of shock. They obviously didn't want us to see them, Madison said, gripping the wheel. We are going to have to be careful from now on, Amy warned. They know, we know, that they know. I concluded, feeling just like Pheobe on FRIENDS. More confusing Icelandic gesturing and we were forced out of the car, to continue loading on the ferry on foot. We scrounged around the Toyota, scrambling all the important detective items we'd need to complete the Interrogation Mission. Laptop. Pens and Paper. MAD LIBS. Bread and peanut butter. Malian turbans. It was going to be a long, windy and dangerous ride...

Scene of the Interrogation
Scene of the Interrogation

Once on the ferry, feeling the engines hum under our feet, the next series of events could not have gone more smoothly for us recently turned tourist-detectives.

1) All tourists no matter how much they are running or how much they need to hide, are subject to Icelandic ferry code, meaning we all had to park in the same designated Icelandic ferry parking area. No one is allowed to enter or exit the designated area while the Icelandic ferry is in motion...or else! Both our 1999 Toyota Avensis and their burly SUV were, once again united.

2) All tourists no matter how guilty from thieving or distraught from having lost, can resist going up to the outdoor deck to snap photos as the THE WESTFJORDS!!! slowly melt away into the horizon. We were all united once again.

3) All tourists no matter how professional they are in their detective mission or how professional they are from a career of kidnapping, can resist having a top-deck open-air picnic, dining on volcanic bread and organic sheep skyr. We were all united once again. From the comfort of our bench on the top deck, we decided to corner our prey. As we spread our peanut butter and crunched our bread, we smiled giddily. Every few heart beats all of our eye would lock for a few long breaths. Our nerves straining to support our forced euphoria. Isn't this such a stunning ferry boat?!...Oh! I couldn't agree more!...Don't you just looooove this peanut butter?!...Yes, crunchy is sooooo much better than smooth! HAHAHAHAHA!

I could tell they were having the same struggle: trying to mask their grumpy guilt with equally-forced apathy. They didn't talk very much between their glances over at us. They chit-chatted quietly for a while. Finally, in between our hysterical giggles, I could make out I'm chilly, let's go back downstairs. And the next thing we knew, they had collected their (or maybe stolen) picnic items and were disappearing down the unsteady steps.

COME ON!!! Madison and I were on our feet after them!

Once back below deck, feeling the adrenaline hum in our bodies, the next series of events unfolded somewhat like this...

1) The small ferry actually had quite a lot of space to move around...and hide. We decided to grab a table to store our peanut butter and set-up a home base for the investigation. I mean imagine how silly we'd look running around the boat, wrapped-up in our Malian turbans, carrying left-over picnic food; what kind of detectives are we?! So we found a quiet set up benches, near the gift shop. The young, blonde cashier was fast asleep with his feet up on the counter; perfect.

2) Amy, not having had a horizontal night's sleep in ages, decided to lie on the bench and cover herself up with her turban. I took out my computer, hoping to professional type up the investigation notes and suspect list. Madison pondered, a serious expression on her face.

3) We didn't even have to do another lap of the ship, or pretend to be interested in the rotten shark on the menu at the cafeteria. As I looked up from my intense typing, Madison looked out of her intense thoughts, and Amy continued to doze on the bench, we saw The Accused enter the gift shop. They briskly passed our table and began browsing the expensive merchandise for sale. Very suspicious. 

4) Yes, we should have frantically awoken the sleeping cashier, and told him to STOP THE SHIP IMMEDIATELY, but instead Madison and I locked eyes and decided to keep our cool. We nodded silently at each other and then I quickly clicked opened Season 3 of "The L Word" as bait (you know, just in case The Accused were actually Grumpy-Lesbian-Adventure-Types and then catching even a glimpse of this lesbian drama would guarantee to send them in our direction, right into the interrogation). Instead they'd settled their attention on the giant map of Iceland pinned to the wall slightly opposite us. Very suspicious, we agreed. Why would you consult a giant wall map unless you were running from the law! 

5) They were no more than four feet away from us. They had walked into our perfectly and professional constructed interrogation plan. With Amy in well-rehearsed nap position, no doubt subconsciously aware of everything, it was time to make our move. Madison and I were communicating through our Detective Thought Vibes now.

Let the Interrogation Begin! (the following conversation is transcribed from actual events...this is NOT a joke!)

CAST OF CHARACTERS: SUSPECT 1: Asian Grumpy Tourist SUSPECT 2: Tall Australian Grumpy Tourist Detective Madison: As herself Detective BB: As herself

Detective Amy: As herself Excited Old Lady: Maxine Ferryboat

Suddenly Detective BB is overcome with fear and no words escape her mouth as she turns from her computer screen to confront SUSPECT 1 and SUSPECT 2. Detective Madison takes control of the situation.

Madison: Hey, you guys camped at that natural hot spring near Bildudalur a couple of nights ago, right? SUSPECT 1: 

(long pause) 

Excuse me? Madison:

(casually) 

You know, that hot spring right near Bildudalur. We are sure we saw you there. SUSPECT 2: (

long pauses, SUSPECTS look at each other) 

Oh yeaaaaah. I guessssss.....yeaaaaah...you know it was a while ago.... SUSPECT 1: Yeaaaaah, it was a while ago....I kinda forget....buuuut maaaaaybe....yeah....

SUSPECT 2: Yeah. Yeah I guessss. Yeah. Why? Were you there as well? BB:

(nervously) 

Yeah. Yeah we were there too. You know, that same night.

Madison:

(friendly and warm) 

We remember seeing you there! How are your travels going?

SUSPECT 1: Oh yeah we TOTALLY remember you, don't we?! SUSPECT 2:

(enthusiastically) 

Oh yeah, yeah. Small world! WOW! Crazy... SUSPECT 1: Everything's fine. Good. SUSPECT 2: Yeah, good. Reaally good. Yeah.

(Long Awkward pause)

BB: So...where are you from? SUSPECT 2: Australia. SUSPECT 1: Yeah, yeah you know. Australia. Madison: Oh wow. That's a long journey. SUSPECT: 2: Yeah, yeah. Long journey. SUSPECT 1: Yeah. Yeah... BB: So... SUSPECT 2: Where are you girls from? Are you all friends, you know, just traveling? Madison: 

(pointing to sleeping Detective Amy) 

Well, she's from America, but Beebs and I are from Canada. SUSPECT 1: Oh, okay. Cool. SUSPECT 2: Yeah, yeah. Cool, cool. Madison: So, we noticed that you have this really 

cool 

clothesline-

Excited Old Lady: 

(unnoticed, sitting at the table to the right, suddenly she interjects loudly) 

Where in Canada are you from? BB: 

(looking around to fine the owner of the voice and spots Excited Old Lady, excited eyes directly on them) 

Um....Toronto. Madison: 

(trying to redirect focus to SUSPECTS) 

So, we noticed- Excited Old Lady: Oh, what a coincidence! I am also from Canada! Toronto is a lovely city but I am from British Columbia. Not Vancouver, but in a town near Whistler, ski country. Canada's a vast place!

Madison: I love downhill skiing! I go every year with my family. Yeah, BC is amazing for snow sports. Excited Old Lady: Yes, Toronto wouldn't have very many opportunities for skiing. How do you find traveling in Iceland? Are you enjoying yourselves? Are you students? You look like you could be students. You look younger than my son. He's in his late twenties and has already finished school. But it's hard to tell with young people nowadays. So many different options. It's not like it used to be. Though I always chose to travel whenever I could. I went all around the world with my late husband and now I'm doing a whole tour of the arctic! Imagine!

Madison and BB sneak a glance over to the SUSPECTS but they have snuck away, gone again...

It might have occurred to you that the Excited Old Lady could have been an accomplice of Grumpy-Tourist-Kidnappers, and was creating an annoying diversion in order for SUSPECTS 1 and 2 to get away. However, what was more likely was that the Excited Old Lady was just an amazing free-spirit of an individual, coming into the lives of the lost and worn-out-detectives-turned-back-into-worn-out-tourists at exactly the right time. Madison and BB continued to answer the questions of their new Canadian friend, and in return she shared her name, Maxine, and interesting anecdotes about her life and the many ups and downs, losses and gains, that kept her going, all the way around the world and back, to the arctic and beyond. At over seventy years old, Maxine was hitchhiking around Iceland, staying in hostels, island hopping, and hoping to reach the tips of northern Nunavut, even farther than BB dared go...yet.

Maxine Ferryboat spent the rest of the ride back to the mainland with us. In those three short hours, we forgot about the silly investigation. Instead we thought about ourselves as little excited old ladies and vowed we'd have even half the energy and wisdom of lovely Maxine, sitting on this ferryboat below the arctic circle. It's never too late for anything, and seventy is definitely the new thirty, we decided.

Feeling freer and lighter than ever before, the wheels of our 1999 Avensis finally hit the mainland. It was late, but the arctic sun was still lighting our way. I looked up just in time to see that familiar big, burly vehicle whizzing by, and then pull to a stop at the frantic Icelandic hand-gesturing up ahead.

Stop the car!

I cried.

I have to try one last time.

 I jumped out of the car and rushed over to the SUV. I wasn't a detective anymore. I was just following my shaking legs once again...

I waved to the Australian girls through the window. They enthusiastically waved back. Then I looked back at Madison, fearfully. 

How badly do you want your Everything back? 

she winked. I did an Icelandic-window-roll-down gesture.

Okay bye, have a great rest of your trip! 

They called hurriedly through the open window. I rushed forward.

The-other-night-at-the-campsite-we-left-a-bikini-and-a-wrap-around-skirt-in-the-changing-room-did-you-see-it-by-any-chance? 

I choked out.

The engine revved, and window started to buzz upward. 

No, sorry! Goodbye.

They sped away, gone forever. 

Okay thanks. Goodbye! 

I stumbled back to our car, shaking my head and laughing. And that was that.

Goodbye.

Amy on the mainland
Amy on the mainland

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Iceland Through and Through PART FIVE

The Mystery of the Vanishing Bikini and Wrap-Around Skirt PART ONERECAP: By this point of our journey through the Icelandic Westfjords (or THE WESTFJORDS!!! as I lovingly refer to them) we've been sleeping upright/curled up in our chilly, lopsided Toyota Avensis each night, and driving through eye-shatteringly stunning scenery by day. We've avoided looking like ancient, homeless trolls because of the wealth of natural hot springs scattered all over, and somehow fended off running out of fuel with a broken gas meter. After an epiphany from a surprise encounter with a powerful waterfall, we finally rested our exhausted minds, unwound our car-cramped bodies in the caress of a hot bath hidden in a grassy hillside. Then we peacefully hung up our bathing suits and towels to dry and drifted off to sleep...

Sunlight between the fjords. I am not sure when this was taken as it is sunny all night long!

Sunlight between the fjords. I am not sure when this was taken as it is sunny all night long!

When we awoke the next morning, THE WESTFJORDS!!! were there as usual, just gazing down at the world, doing there stoically beautiful thing. There were three other cars and families of campers who had rested along side us; they had the proper gear and glossy-magazine-type-camping organization and were already packed up and ready to hit the next glossy-magazine highlight. We were disentangling ourselves from our sleepy state as the first car drove off; it belonged to a happy-looking family with two children. A blonde dread-locked-extreme adventure-type man and his girlfriend were packing up their winter-proof tent, and exchanging smiles with us, no doubt amused by out lack-of-tent and thermal gear. The remaining car belonged to two women, one of Asian background and the other a brunette grumpy-and-focused-extreme-adventure type with an Australian accent. We noticed their hastiness to pack up their gear, avert their eyes away from us, and a moment later drove off 'round the bend in road. We exchanged quizzical glances; we'd never seen anyone in Iceland who was neither friendly nor calmly enjoying life. Always the positive spirit, Madison commented on how she thought it was clever how they'd hung up a clothes-line in the backseat of their SUV. We pondered the idea of having our clothes neatly hung up wherever we drove for all to admire... then we looked at the overflowing backseat of our deteriorating car and shook our heads. On that note, we decided to collect our cold, drying clothes and move on to the next town's spa for our daily underwear change and teeth brushing session.

Here's where our adventure takes an ominous turn: while Madison's bikini was still neatly resting outside, inside the tiny wooden changing structure, Amy and my garments had fared much worse. While my old mouldy towel and bathing suit were still there, Amy's cool Californian tie-dyed bikini was not. What was worse, My Everything (aka a long, warm wrap-around skirt from Nepal that can be used as a blanket/towel/lovely dress/everything else and was given to me by a friend I'd met in Ghana, so therefore had irreplaceable sentimental value!) was no longer neatly draped over a plank of wood....no it, too, was gone! After checking here, there and everywhere (and in a little knoll at the base of an barren fjord I can safely say we checked everywhere) we determined that our items were gone...or (insert dramatic crime movie music) stolen! Although it was quite possible that it could have been little fairies, elves or angry trolls, we decided it was more probable that the kidnapping was committed by humans. What would Bildudalur fairies possibly want with a bathing suit and an Everything?! 

We'd seen plenty of detective dramas to know exactly what to do at this point. So like any well-read Nancy Drew-expert, we decided to: Step 1) Devise a suspect list. Our list looked something like this:

1. Happy Family with two children 2. Icelandic Dreadlocked-Adventure Couple 3. Grumpy Women with a clever clothes line 4. Bildudalur elves, fairies, and trolls

Step 2) Brainstorm possible motives/alibis/suspicions of the suspects in connection with the kidnapping of our innocent items Our new list looked something like this:

1. Happy Family with two children: Motive: Children like to have more stuff and haven't learned that kidnapping is wrong Suspicions: The family packed up first thing in the morning and was the first to leave the campsite. Alibi: Our items wouldn't fit the children, and children like new things. The family was already asleep by the time we arrived at the campsite so wouldn't know that we'd left sentimentally-valuable and California-cool items unlocked. 2. Icelandic Dreadlocked-Adventure Couple: Motive: Adventure-type people are attracted to fair-trade Nepalese and tie-tyed things. Suspicions: Low. They were friendly to us, and made a natural conversation (unless they were very, very good actors...hmmm). Alibi: They are Icelandic and the crime rate in iceland is less than 1% and the less than 1% of crime that occurs in Iceland is done by tourists, therefore by being Icelandic, statistically speaking, they should be removed immediately from this list). 3. Grumpy Women with a Clever Clothes Line: Motive: Adventure-type people are attracted to fair-trade Nepalese and tie-dyed things. They also needed more things to hang on their clothes line. Suspicions: Hastily left the campsite, avoided eye contact with us, appeared uncomfortable when Madison was admiring the Clever Clothes Line. Alibi: None. Tourists are, statistically, capable of crime. Since one was Asian and the other was speaking with an Australian accent we can safely say they are tourists and thus capable of theft! 4. Bildudalur elves, fairies and trolls No need to fill this out, just refer back to Suspect 3!!!

We knew the next courses of action would be tricky as we were dealing with two grown women who were capable of kidnapping, successfully navigating themselves around a strange country, and booking an enjoyable, yet somehow grumpy, vacation for themselves. They were definitely dangerous and now our items were somewhere in THE WESTFJORDS!!! that was all we knew. And by this time My Everything and Amy's hippie bikini would already be dry so there would be no need to hang them visibly on the Clever Clothes Line. We had a moment of silence for our kidnapped possessions and decided to continue our journey anyway. I lent Amy my Calvin Kline booty shorts so at least she'd be able to mourn her bathing suit from the comfort of the Icelandic baths. We bid farewell to the Icelandic Extreme-Adventure couple, not mentioning that they had momentarily been suspects in an international kidnapping case.

Even without our beloved belongings, the next few days in the Bildudalur fjords passed by amazingly well...as usual in the WESTFJORDS!!!!

Skrímsli  means sea monster!

Skrímsli means sea monster!

We learned quite a lot about the history of local Skrimsli (sea monsters) at the Bildudalur Sea Monster Museum and mulled over the possibility of a Shore Laddie or Giant Sea Horse having been involved in the kidnapping. We had a lovely long chat with the manager of the museum, clad in a tale coat and French moustache, about the availability of houses in the area because I was interested in staying there forever. He didn't laugh, flinch or think me odd when I told him I was descended from the Bidudalur Elves; in fact, he thought that was a perfectly acceptable answer as to why I wanted to acquire property and citizenship to a sea monster-filled neighbourhood. Museum Moustachio (we forgot to ask him his real name) politely told us that the best way would be to marry one of the local lads since apparently there is a vast shortage of women in THE WESTFJORDS!!! I said I was more interested in the Shore Laddies.

We went for a very long walk to an Interesting Place on a map, even though we had no idea what the Interesting Place would be, or when or where we would find it. We walked for a very long time, mulling over the word Interesting; it seemed everything was interesting, so opening our eyes wide enough to see what could be extra-extra Interesting, Map-Worthy-Interesting, was an interesting challenge. Finally, we decided that it's just interesting to go for a walk to an unknown Interesting Place and that the person making the map (probably a lonely old Icelandic lad, living in fear of Scrimsli and tourist-kidnappings of his possessions) probably was paid to put Interesting dots on the map and didn't have any intention of checking whether or not the dots represented places that were actually of Interest. We decided we should take more walks in the future, whether or not they end up in Map-Worthy-Dots.

The next day we found an unmarked Interesting boat and took some Interesting photos with it. It was a very Interesting Place to take Truno band shots!

Pause for a band photo!
Pause for a band photo!

The next series of photos were snapped at the Latrabjarg cliffs, the most Westerly point of Europe (just in case you are interested in Interesting Map Dots and Facts). They are also home to swarms of cuddly, squishy and cute puffins. We spent a good hour here trying to kidnap the puffins like the nasty, interest-seeking tourists we surely are.

Puffins on the cliffs of Latrabjarg, the most Westerly point in all of Europe!
Puffins on the cliffs of Latrabjarg, the most Westerly point in all of Europe!
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Photo expert Madison loved the puffins
Photo expert Madison loved the puffins

After all the photo taking at the bird-filled cliffs, and being so repulsed by a mixture of poop and feather fluff that we decided to set free all the puffins we tourists had kidnapped into the 1999 Toyota Avensis, we only had a few hours to catch our ferry back to mainland Iceland. We were sad to leave the magic and the peace we'd found in THE WESTFJORDS!!! but also anxious that Karen, our Australian GPS wouldn't remember where the ferry was, and then we'd be forced into a marriage with a Shore Laddie in order to survive here forever. So away through the fog and clouds, down the windy unpaved roads we went, ears popping from the altitude for the last time.

My future house
My future house

We arrived early at the ferry docks and could already see the boat making its triumphant second and final daily trip across the sea. Many cars and trucks were lined up, and ready to go. Amy had to nip to the loo (go the bathroom) for the millionth time (sorry Amy, but you really do need to go...A LOT) so we piled into the tiny wooden coffee and supplies shop at the bottom of the hillside. There was a line for the bathroom so we patiently waited in the queue, sharing friendly smiles with the other passengers. One of the woman waiting had a grumpy expression, and as soon as I made eye contact with her, she averted her eyes and shuffled off to the back of the queue, looked around slowly, and then hurried out the door on to the porch; she stared out at the sea with her back to us. Hmmm, that was weird, I thought.

A moment later, the door to the loo creaked open revealing a young Asian woman clad in adventure-type gear. My throat went dry and my stomach collapsed at my feet. I could feel Madison's tummy hit the ground beside me. Amy dashed into the bathroom. We didn't have time to make a plan of action, so we gave our best, most angelic grins and enthusiastic nods of traveller-recognition, you know, the kind that fellow budget travellers who think they will never see one another other again do when they coincidentally buy tickets for the same ferry on a very small tip of Iceland in which only 3% of tourists visit, including the 0.02% who like to steal damp beachwear and the 0.01% who are innocent victims of such crimes. The Asian woman nodded stiffly, hesitated, and then walked right out the shop and stood beside the grumpy Australian, arms folded away from us. We could see them whispering, plotting, planning to hide the evidence...and possibly dump our bikinis, and now our bodies, over the side of the ferry at Flatey Island. Before Amy could flush, they were briskly walking down the porch and away...

Step 3) Investigate your suspects. Well, at this point they were no longer suspects, they were The Accused! Thanks to our list and detailed detecting, we could have called the police, but we didn't know the Icelandic number for 911, so we decided to stay hot on their tail and, really, how far could they get on a twelve vehicle ferry boat!

Finally Amy emerged from the bathroom and we filled her in on the situation, from the grumpy faces to the whispering, right down to the walking away from the porch. Amy was a little more reluctant to affirm their obvious guilt:

What if those aren't the same people? she pointed out. HOW MANY ASIAN PEOPLE ARE THERE IN THE WESTFJORDS!!! Madison and I snapped back, yes I'll admit, slightly paranoid. Okay, well...what if they didn't take our stuff? Amy pondered.You're honestly going to pin this on a happy family or vacationing Icelandic couple who were very friendly?! Amy be logical! We have to come up with a plan! Madison and were getting more hysterical. Amy still wasn't entirely convinced, being the thoughtful MA in School Psychology that she is.Madison took Amy's hands and, summoning up her most authentic Oprah spirit she said, Amy, I understand where you're coming from, but how does losing your bikini really make you feel? Amy thought for a moment... Okay, let's go after those grumpy thieving tourist- Bitches! I added, you know, just to be the bad Canadian cop for once...

Will the Three Tourist-Detectives bring the Grumpy-Thieving-Adventure-Tourists to justice? Or will the cool bikini, and BB's Everything disappear into the dark depth off the coast Vatnsfjörður forever? Or will Amy come to her senses and just look up the number for 9-1-1?

TO BE CONTINUED...

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Iceland Through and Through PART FOUR

Discovering the Westfjords&nbsp;

Discovering the Westfjords 

There is a town, sheltered by the endless, untamed cliffs, and shadowed by wandering clouds. We found it along the rock-strewn, unpaved roads that seemed to disappear from under us, and then threw us into the valleys below to Bildudalur. If dinosaurs still roamed the Earth, we’ll find them here between the vast expanses of turquoise, yet frigid ocean and the enigmatic sky. Dinosaurs maybe, but sea monsters, definitely, especially here in Bildudalur. We are in the heart of the Westfjords, and this place has already seized my heart. Yet it was a nearly empty gas tank, and a diversion to find a waterfall, and a transformation that shook my very core that this chapter of my journey is really about.

Of course Karen, our unknowledgeable Australian GPS, accidently took us on a 120km detour on the way to my ancestral town. Because my generation does not believe in maps, we naively followed her advice; instead of “RECALCULATING ROUTE” we continued onward. At first we were excited by the exhilaration of speeding up and down, we, a mere tiny dot on the reverberating fjords. But then we remembered that our gas gauge is permanently fixed at half-full and it had been a while since we’d filled up; according to Amy’s calculations we had only 75km until we’d be empty and stuck, soon to be gobbled up by the Jurassic landscape. The nearest “town” was around 35km away, and it was getting on midnight so we crossed our fingers that gas would still be available, otherwise we’d have to sleep in the car; oh wait, that is where we sleep every night… Though choosing to be homeless, and having homelessness thrust upon us, feels different somehow.

Our Toyota Avensis, 1999 resting at the bottom of the fjord.
Our Toyota Avensis, 1999 resting at the bottom of the fjord.

The questionable guide book said that somewhere along the winding road was “The Most Power Waterfall in Europe” and that, if we happened to be in the area, then we shouldn’t miss this site! We decided we shouldn’t. Or could we? Nothing in Iceland is clearly marked as though a lesson in “if you want it badly, you’ll find it …somehow. If you miss it, tough! But at least you know it exists, haha! What, that’s not good enough for you? Oh, sorry…NOT

We continued slowly down the roads of boulders, sometimes blinded by clouds, inching forwards, eyes and ears straining for signs of epic-ness, of The Power. After an hour of Sunday-granny driving, we grew anxious: what if we'd missed it? What if we had looked down instead of up? What if those clouds were selfishly shielding us from this treasure?! We stopped to pee behind a large boulder which ended up being the most impressive pee I have ever squatted for: I watched my yellow stream spill over the fjord, fall hundreds of feet through the fog, and thunder into the ocean below. Maybe not the most powerful, but definitely the most entertaining urine-fall.

With empty bladders, yet minds more filled with doubts about enjoying The Most Powerful Waterfall before our 1999 Toyota Avensis finally breaks down, we passed a wide, coursing river, heading to the edge of the fjord. I imagined my impressive pee stream, and knew that this must be it! I begged to stop the car, to follow the river and stand and experience the precise instant of water-plummeting. There’s something about that moment of witnessing the force of sudden drop, when the cliff just disappears from under, exposing the water to raw openness, causing it to transform: How a small river gains power by that loss of support from the Earth, allowing the air to shift its role as a gentle carrier, to a mighty, hurtling torrent…

But we kept driving. Maybe we will see it on the way back, or we can have a better look after we fill the tank.What if it's not the right place? I’m tired of wandering. We will definitely know it when we find it, my friends encouraged me onward even though I wanted to follow the river. We drove in silence, except for Karen’s mechanical suggestions. Down, down, down we dipped until we were level with the ocean once again, at the very base of the fjord.

The wilds outside our windows.
The wilds outside our windows.

And then, there she was. We knew it was the Most Powerful Waterfall the moment we saw her. And I knew she was that unassertive river we’d crossed just above. But, just look at her now!

Hunger and exhaustion were replaced, once again, by elation and delight. We sat at a picnic bench, no longer feeling the blustering wind, with our feast of peanut butter, raugbraud and skyr, basking in the mist of the Most Powerful Waterfall. The sides of the cliffs were patterned as though an expert carver had been working on it many centuries ago, so when the river billowed over the chiseled sides, she forcefully sprayed in all directions, branching off into more and more mini-powerful waterfalls. When the water had completed its falling, twisting, and surrendering to all the beautiful bumps along the way, she quietly trickled into the ocean pond behind us, rippling under the beating sun.

Madison and I gobbled up and our dinner, and scampered up the path for a quick picture. But with every step we climbed, we came upon another cavern, alive with swift currents. And then another, and another: All branches of the Most Powerful. Suddenly we found ourselves on a quest to reach the very center of the Most Powerful Waterfall and capture all her. The path sloped upwards and we followed a steep staircase of worn mossy rocks.

One of the many branches of the Most Powerful Waterfall.
One of the many branches of the Most Powerful Waterfall.

We were laughing and crying when we fianlly reached the top, hugging in the haze, watching the water roll over in slow motion. I will never forget that moment: being exposed to the sheer sway of water, of unbelievable transformation.  I didn’t know why it struck me so emotionally at the time, but now, having reflected from Ghana on that moment three weeks ago at the waterfall in the Westfjords, I am beginning to understand. I found a sense of calm and inspiration by watching that free fall of water; we can gain so much at allowing ourselves to just let go and observe the natural alteration of life, the fluidity of moments.

Madison, who a year ago had suffered the loss of her sister, Maija, was now sharing with me an unexpected moment of revelation: Of seeing something so passive and delicate as that stream by the road, suddenly take on a whole new form that erupted magically in front of us. Had we kept going, heeding to obligation and necessity, we would have missed it. Had we ate and got back in the car, we would only have marveled at the beautiful site and possibly forgotten it, with time. But being right up close to this Most Powerful Waterfall with my brave friend whose sister had passed away too soon, I saw Maija here with us, and understood the weight of our journey and the power of nature’s ability to transform us.

Truly the Most Powerful Waterfall.
Truly the Most Powerful Waterfall.

Iceland has always brought me a sense of belonging and trust in a world burdened with labels, especially labels surrounding personal identity. On this journey, however, I found Maija; I found healing. I believe allowed myself to transform right there too. Hugging Madison, witnessing that water, fall and fall, I found renewal. Like nature, we can transform our minds to see purpose, to change our experience, or the way our senses facilitate an experience. The purpose of my journey was to find Bildulalur, a place to stage my imagined history, a place that my spirit and soul could belong. Now that purpose joined with Madison’s; I needed to heal with my friend and discover that our spirits and the spirits of those of which we love can be found around us, transformed from deep inside of us, and brought to life in a new way. We had that moment for Maija. By recognizing the deep healing of transformation, I will forever view my world from the perspective of the Most Powerful Waterfall; of Maija Moments. And I need not travel quite so far anymore to find them.

The Most Powerful Waterfall, at a distance.
The Most Powerful Waterfall, at a distance.

After finally reaching the filling station, we trekked all the way back once more to Bildudalur. But before we arrived, we noticed that wonderful sight of rising steam, only possible in Iceland. There was a natural hot spring just around the bend from our destination parking place. We stripped down and waded into the earthy pool, pausing for a few moments to adjust; the scorching water grasped our toes and ankles while the harsh, winter wind played with our bare bellies. We took a deep breath, and submerged our bodies in the murky depths. It was 4am; the sky was completely light; it was freezing out; we were sweating now; we just laughed and laughed and laughed, making that moment really last, until it washed away, back into the depths of the hot pool, seeping into the heart of the earth.

TO BE CONTINUED...

One of many interesting places.
One of many interesting places.

Dedicated to Madison and Maija Boratto. You both continue to teach me strength of spirit and of healing, and have helped me to transform my personal journey. 

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Iceland Through and Through PART THREE

Becuz we homelesz...
Becuz we homelesz...

The plus side of sleeping in a 1999 Toyota Avensis with seats that remain only in the upright position (apart from not having to set-up/pack the tent everyday) was that we saved some money. Every morning when the camping attendant came around to collect campsite fees (1000Kr ($10)/person), he would peer through our window and see our contorted, overly-dressed zombie forms, give us a sad look and walk away. I guess he didn’t have the heart to charge us for our hours of utmost discomfort. We discovered that if we found a small hill with a steep incline and attempted to drive up it, then put on the emergency break, we could rest at a 45 degree angle; our sleeping improved significantly. Even if I did dream every night about falling off a cliff to my death, at least our necks were contorting painfully like a neglected newborn’s.

One of the better parking jobs for a better rest.
One of the better parking jobs for a better rest.
Onboard the ferry leaving mainland Iceland.
Onboard the ferry leaving mainland Iceland.

Eating in Iceland does not have to be expensive, despite what you might have heard. No, we didn’t feed off rotting sharks that had washed up on shore…though that is an option. There are “BONUS” stores (a discounted grocery shop chain whose logo is a drunk-looking pig) scattered around the country. They all open at 11am so when we arrived at 10:45am at the outlet in Reykjavik right after our red-eye flight, we weren’t the only giant-pack clad travelers waiting anxiously for the doors to open so we could all stock up on crackers and canned tuna. Surprisingly our budget allowed for way more than just The Student Dorm Food Groups. Traditional Icelandic bread, steamed by the geothermals, loaded with seeds and nuts, is hearty and less than 200Kr ($2) a loaf! Select veggies, like tomatoes and lettuce, are grown in local greenhouses. Icelanders love to talk about their tomatoes, and I was excited to learn that Iceland also has the largest banana plantation in Europe! See, I must be related to this culture; if I had limited greenhouse space I would definitely tally me some bananas.

The main source of energy that fueled us on our road trip, and also keeps me returning to this island year after year, is the skyr. Skyr is velvety smooth yogurt, and makes Greek yogurt seem like a chunky glob. Skyr is made from sheep’s milk and naturally contains 10g of protein for every handful. It’s also 0.1% fat, or something unbelievable like that. Skyr comes in what seems like every flavor of the rainbow, and is available at literally every gas station, corner store and campsite, like an addictive elixir. Body builders order it in bulk and we were eating 5-6 containers of it daily. Skyr + geothermal sundlaug spas = ancient Elfish secret to eternal youth and beauty; we definitely didn’t look nor feel like we were living in a breaking-down car. Maybe that’s the reason why Senior citizens from all over the world land in Iceland by the plane-full; it’s not the leisurely bus tours or the well-constructed boardwalks: it’s for the quest of Eternal Youth!

Once we were loaded up with skyr, raugbraud bread and bags of avocados, it was finally time to board the ferry that would whisk us away further north, to the wilds of the westfjords. Aboard the small car ferry we started to feel like the “3% of tourists” for the time; we had strayed from the Guide Book’s recommended “Ring Road Roundabout” of popular sights and postcard-famous pit stops. The other passengers spoke in loud, excited Icelandic and most were vacationing young people like us, though much more stylish, and were opting away from the tourists. We smiled and gestured animatedly along with them when they spoke to us in their language. We winked at each other in the bathroom, proud we were recognized as citizens not as visitors ; it must be all the skyr-loading.

The ferry ride to the Westfjords takes three hours, with one stop in between at the elfin island community of Flatey. “Welcome to Flatey: Population 12”. It’s made up of two families, living on a big grassy rocky cliff, waves crashing on all sides, surrounded by gulls zipping in and out of the fog. A few white houses with red roofs make up the town. Little girls in flowery dresses and knitted sweaters, blonde curls flying in the wind, run from out behind the rocks to greet the boat as it docks. Just watching the town congregate to meet the visitors and relatives returning makes me wonder if we have stepped back in time, or at least to another dimension where Anne of Green Gables is preserved. Young men (in suspenders!!!) unload cargo and large, hefty sacks of potatoes. Small boys entertain bouncy dogs. I wonder which house I would live in, though both look alike in dignity. Would I have to share a room with animated, loving children, telling tales of island ghosts and shipwrecks...

But there are no-cars-allowed on this dead-end isle; there simply isn’t room for us now. So with the piercing, discordant toot of the horn, we, our Avensis and Karen, our Australian GPS, are whisked away. Maybe another time, Flatey.

Welcome to Flatey
Welcome to Flatey
Flatey welcome party
Flatey welcome party

What will we find in the Westfjords?

TO BE CONTINUED....

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Iceland Through and Through PART TWO

My cronies, Madison and Amy
My cronies, Madison and Amy

It is very easy to be homeless in Iceland. An important word you should know if ever contemplate/find yourself in this situation is: sundlaug (swimming pool). Every town, even the smallest or most remote, has a sundlaug, naturally heated by volcanic energy and no matter how grey and drizzly the weather, freezing the fog, or after having spent a cold, cramped night vertically sleeping, wearing every single item of clothing you packed (including a Malian turban), in a 1999 Toyota Avensis, you will be more than happy to strip down and renew yourself in a rejuvenating sundlaug. Each sundlaug has a variety of hot tubs (hot, very hot, and ouch-that-freakin’-burns-but-will-hopefully-feel-really-good-later-after-soaking-in-extreme-pain!!!), a warm shallow pool in which to float and practice calm, deep breathing, and a big deep pool for playing “Marco-Polo” (we Icelandicized  the game to “Takk-Skyr” meaning “thanks-yogurt”, which are two of the only Icelandic words we had learned thus far).

Even before we saw the sundlaug sign, we felt the steam rising above the town like a halo. Unlike public changing rooms across Canada whose aroma’s waft like Port-O-Poddy, and are decorated in drain hair and filled with awkward, downward-pointing-eyed folks in their birthday suits, a sundlaug’s changing rooms will welcome you like a humid hug.

SUNDLAUG stylin'
SUNDLAUG stylin'

Icelandic Sundaug Changing Room Etiquette:

  • Get Naked
  • Wash your body thoroughly, naked
  • Greet the people around, naked
  • Have a friendly conversation, naked, with the naked folks around you
  • Smile, you’re naked!
  • Jump up and down, naked
  • Do a li’l dance, naked
  • Sing, naked
  • After completing the above steps you have permission to put on your bathing suit and enter the sundlaug area

Back at home, we worry about being naked. No, we are concerned about being seen too saggy, too wrinkly, pudgy in places that should be boney, with weird tan lines, or gasp no tan at all…!!! Being naked in front of others means surrendering our fragile, cotton wall of self-esteem and exposing the naked truth about what our bare bodies actually look like, and how we truly feel. The biggest faux-pas in sundlaug culture is to refuse to show, or even have the slightest embarrassment about letting it all hang out. Standing naked and proud will not get your stares here, but friendly, polite acknowledgment from equally naked passersby, just going about their sundlaug business.

"How gullible you are, what “fairy stories” your society believes in", laugh the Icelandic locals, "to that think that with clothes, accessories, and averting your eyes you can manipulate and avoid your bodies’ 'imperfections'". With their honest, even voices and looks of witty amusement, the locals in the changing room explain that bodies are bodies and covering up just takes extra time and difficult movements; we all look silly so once we embrace our silliness, than everyone is no longer silly; a naked Icelandic truth. My three friends and I, having shared everything else under the sun, now openly shared our butt-naked bodies with each other. Golly, what-d’ya-know, we all have the same parts! I wonder if I used to worry more about others seeing me naked, or others thinking that I didn’t mind being naked in front of them. Now I will bring back the silly souvenir of being naked and loving it.

After we had shriveled up like scrimsli (sea monsters) it was time to journey northwards, closer to Bildudalur in the untamed Westfjords. It was June 21, the longest day of the year, but in Iceland that just mean NO DARKNESS….LIKE, AT ALL! It’s wonderful to have no limit to the daylight; to know we can hike glaciers, drive through valleys of lava and struggle up mountains with the Earth keeping its light on, as though just for us, I laughed. From Husafell we explored Okjokell, the smallest of the three western glaciers, got howled at for trespassing by wolf-like sled dogs, hiked across frozen rivers, and down more rocky windy roads, etched into craters. The interior of this island is inhabited only sheep, elves and trolls. We weren’t supposed to be this close, not because our rental car agreement forbids us to, but I felt we should keep moving; Icelanders respect the unknown and preserve what cannot be conquered, leaving it to develop in its own mysterious way. My country would have set-up a Walmart here while citizens complained about it from the comforts of their homes, until eventually shopping there, buying discounted yoga wear with mild guilt.

Midnight, June 21st 2013. Northwest Iceland.
Midnight, June 21st 2013. Northwest Iceland.

There are definitely more waterfalls than people here. Did I mention that already? Tumbling water became welcome wallpaper to my backseat window. We pulled up to our next “campsite” at midnight on the longest day of this year, sunny and glowing. Though a nasty wind was blowing, and glancing around at the giant camper vans, with their steamy windows, we decided to bundle up, silly in our turbans, and curl-up in the car for a sheltered night. At least we knew that we could strip down naked the next morning, and bathe like we belonged here.

Waterfall #2967
Waterfall #2967

Iceland Trivia:

Where is the most appropriate place to schedule a first date?

a) Movie Theatre b) Scaling a glacier c) Sundlaug d) Bar in downtown Reykjavik

Yup C), sundlaug. Most successful marriages, friendships and business partnerships begin at the public baths.

To be continued...

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Iceland Through and Through PART ONE

Southwest Iceland
Southwest Iceland

The Journey Begins.

This was going to be the first of many Icelandic road trips, I decided. So, we rented a Toyota Yaris online from a budget outlet called SadCars. Why not happy cars? Or excited and reliable cars? Or magical elf cars? Of course we pointed this out to all the young employees at the Sadcars outlet and they laughed at us and said we were hilarious. Actually, that’s pretty much how all the Icelanders we met reacted to us, even when we weren't doing anything in particular: they chucked with anticipation of our next move, like we were a strange new species of hilarity that could explode at any moment. They liked the way we tried to pronounce words like “Eyjafjallajokull” and would say “Takk takk takk takk!!!” instead of just “Takk” (thanks) like the other tourits; we felt the extra takks made us more legit. I gave one Sadcar girl a hairband with Canadian flags glued to the top and she was delighted; she stood in the bitter wind with the flags waving wildly, smiling in excitement.

We were almost on our way, packs loaded up, GPS Karen with the Australian accent telling us to drive to the highlighted route…until we felt a giant jerk and the car lurched forward. THUD! Uh-oh. None of us could drive Standard. I can’t drive at all, and we decided that rough Icelandic off-roading through volcanic craters would NOT be the best time to figure it out. We lied and said it had been at least ten years since we had driven Standard and were “upgraded” to a very sad looking 1999 Toyota Avensis.

Highlights of our Toyota Avensis:

  • Gas gage is stuck at half-empty (half-full depending on sad or happy car view)
  • Front seats don’t recline or move...at all
  • Headlights sometimes work (luckily it’s summer and the sun won’t set)
  • Definitely no four-wheel drive: PAVED ROADS ONLY!
  • GPS only knows 4 random places in Iceland, none of which we are going to
  • The “Check Engine” Button is always flashing
  • Monster speakers in the backseat, threatening to demolish that remainder of my ear drums

We were all set! We decided to just drive and figure out where were going later…

The demographic of the average tourist who vacations in Iceland is 65+. 65+ folks love tour buses and boardwalks and taking tour buses to boardwalks and then following the wooden paths to a safe and secured viewing area facing an easily visible landmark that is exciting, yet a safe distance away. 65+ people need to be surrounded by swarms of other tourists who can help them take photos, adjust their tilly-hats or direct them to the nearest restroom to put on expensive sweaters because they are chilly, and when it’s time to eat, they buy overpriced food that they can’t tell is overpriced because they didn’t bring their reading glasses (Harold must have left it in the other fanny-pack, Oh that Harold...).

We decided that although it would be nice to take pictures of 65+ sweater-clad and squinty-eyed folks, on a scenic and safe board walk, it was probably not the best place to reconnect with our Elf and Wizard ancestry, and mysteries of our past. So after a brief visit to the geysirs and a quick picture at Golfoss, one of Europe’s most powerful waterfalls (according to the sign that I had to read to a 65+ because she didn’t bring her reading glasses, Oh that Harold!) we officially joined the unofficial 3% of tourists and started trekking away from all boardwalks... to the Westfjords!

Gollfoss Waterfall
Gollfoss Waterfall

Watch out for exploding geysirs!

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What I didn’t realize is that Karen, our GPS with the Australian accent, has a very slim repertoire of Icelandic cities. Why couldn’t Helga, the Icelandic milkmaid narrate our adventure, then our first day would have been a bit more accurate and on-track! Our first stop was to a town called Reykholt in Iceland’s northwest, on the border of the Interior, a few kilometers from three of the biggest glaciers (jokells) in the region. What Karen didn’t know is that pretty much every region of Iceland has a beautiful little town called Reykholt, so of course she thought we were part of the 97%: the 65+ tourists that wanted to stay near the sweater-selling and expensive eateries at all time. Luckily a 65+ Icelandic woman, after laughing profusely at how hilarious we were doing ordinary things like asking where we could find the glaciers while in a grassy, flat area, and taking the advice of a mapping-machine with a charming accent, she directed us 150km in an another direction to the correct Reykholt, and gave us a big piece of glossy paper, with a detailed picture of Iceland on it, called a map. Finally, at midnight we made it to our first campsite, in the hamlet of Husafell.

Highlights of Husafell Campsite:

  • Hot hot hot showers
  • A giant, multi-coloured trampoline and play park
  • Geothermal pool with water slide and bath toys
  • Laundry machine and drier
  • Real toilets that flush!
  • Soft, soft grass
  • The office closes at 10pm so we saved 1000Kr ($10) each
  • Soft-serve ice cream dispenser
  • Espresso bar
First campsite: Madison all bundled-up and ready for bed at 1am
First campsite: Madison all bundled-up and ready for bed at 1am

The sun was high in the sky as we set-up the tent and spread out our sleeping bags and blankets. The weather report for the week promised sunny and mild conditions. After being in the arctic for the last four months, I figured I could easily handle a low of 7C; that looked like balmy, Hawaii-esque weather. Nope. I don’t know how we survived the night: I woke up in a state of near-hypothermia. Somehow in my sleep I had sensed the danger of our predicament and poor planning and attempted to put on everything I owned, and stuff all my sheets, towel, and Ghanaian fabric into my measly sleeping bag. All these extra layers and fabric still could not shield us from the extreme temperature. My weather App should come with a disclaimer: in Iceland 7C feels like -70C and sleeping outside should NOT be attempted by non-Standard-driving-directionally-challenged-backpackers-with-no-gear-other-than-Tarot-cards.

TO BE CONTINUED….

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Iceland Through and Through.

PROLOGUE. Home is where my heart Is. And since my heart is in my chest, my home will always be where I am, at present. And I am nomadic.

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After moving up to Canada’s arctic during the dark of darkest winter, what a better way to welcome summer back into my life than by re-visiting all the places I call home. I believe I am an Elf, or in other words a wondering spirit, sandwiched between worlds and now different cities and cultures. I knew from my beginnings at Bathurst and College in Toronto that I was restless and would probably spend a lifetime searching for a place I could truly fit in, but knowing I had a challenge ahead of me, well, that brought me peace instead of fear. Through constant jetlag, extreme climate changes, parasites and all-night sun, I have discovered that there is no one place I have been searching for, but that bridging the gaps and going the distances is what I need to survive. Once feeling out-of-place and alone, I now have a mismatched family spanning the globe. Just as oceans eventually lead to streams that twist and turn and tumble out somewhere new, I have realized that we are all connected much more easily than we think. I hold myself accountable to understanding and standing up for the environments, cultures and different people I have met, who have laughed with me and acknowledged me along the way, no matter which way my path crossed, and uncrossed and crossed over again.

Northwestern region.
Northwestern region.

Not counting the many years I spent as a baby Elf living and splashing deep inside the geothermal pools under the volcanic glaciers, this is my fourth trek back to Iceland, my official and spiritual home. I don’t know if it’s the feeling I get as I am sucked into the clouds while trekking along the high fjords, or the way the glaciers see right through me when we once again are face-to-face, at a distance, yet close together. Something about this vast land has spoken to me for a long time, and I can feel the presence of some magic lurking behind the rocks and shadows left by the midnight sun. I could get lost here forever and ever and ever, and everything would work itself out. It just would.

Midnight, June 21st 2013. Northwest Iceland.
Midnight, June 21st 2013. Northwest Iceland.

This journey back to Iceland was even more special as I was traveling with two of my bestest friends, who are now fused into my life by either a mutual love of singing, or being forced to make fancy  coffee for a big corporation for years and years, as well as our common mission to be world explorers and Revolutionaries. Our first Revolutionary mission was to visit the Westfjords, the claw-like region on the very Northwest of the island, where only 7000 humans live (mostly farmers, fishermen, or moustache-clad directors of a Sea Monster or Wizardry museum…yes, the moustache is must-have), and only 3% of tourists visit. Being part of the 99% on previous Occupy missions, we were determined to be the 3% that ventured to the WESTFJORDS! While looking on a map in the rental car office about an hour after we got off our overnight flight from Toronto, I noticed there was a little town in west fjord of the West Fjords labeled Bildudalur. As a Bilodottir, I could feel my Elvish heart itching to set my feet there…

The quest for The Interesting Place
The quest for The Interesting Place

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Ode to Toronto (aka The Torontode)

imgres O Toronto, O Toronto

On your pavement and sidewalks I can quickly fly

Through smelly alleys, graffitied lanes,

Past buildings small and high.

O Toronto, O Toronto

Your traffic congestion, and spicy food digestion

Means I know what city I am in,

No question!

O Toronto, O Toronto

Despite the signal problems and mechanical difficulties

The pushing and shoving, zero thank yous and please

I can get where I need

(Even if it means going from A to X before B)

O Toronto, O Toronto

The never-ending construction and old-building combustion

Could be better handled I believe

Yet the SUV strollers and corporate-coffee holders,

Frantically rushing, as though blindfolded

Is entertaining and endearing to me.

O Toronto, O Toronto

Kimchi, daal, pesto pizza

A million types of spaghetti, matza

Roti, injera, mango salad, tempeh, no meats-ah

Whatever the time I can always find

So many new and different eats, Ah!

O Toronto, O Toronto

I admit you need more bike lanes

And better social housing, so can you explain

Why you are falling behind on community planning, eh?

Oh, the mayor's on crack?!

Well, that explains that!

O Toronto, O Toronto

With the lakeshore hustling and joggers bustling

And dragon boats and sailers in harmony

From your overly-safe playgrounds to

Yoga moms in downward dog

I am free to sit and watch with my bum on a log

O Toronto, O Toronto

Rainbow looks good on you

Dancing in the Gay-bourhood, slathering body paint

Means it's never to late to love and appreciate

Thy same-sex strangers or flamboyant neighbours

O Toronto, O Toronto

From indie art shows to unpaid internships

Garageband talents to underpaid immigrants

Your residents are working hard for you in abundance

So why not give back?

O Toronto, O Toronto

How I miss your... interesting...sounds

The dangerous clatter of the streetcars

The squirrels, rats and mice underground

Midnight on Nuit Blanche

Whatever's going on in China Town

O Toronto, O Toronto

You speak so many languages

You have so many religions

Emerging everyday are new dialects and pidgins

O Toronto, O Toronto

Even from afar, I remember you

I follow you, I believe in you

You are growing, evolving

No matter what issues need resolving

Different ages, classes and races you should be involving

I'm calling you to say

O Toronto, O Toronto

No matter where I am, you are

A part of me

I stand on guard for thee.

 

 

 

 

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Unibrovember: It's growing season!

image November is officially the month for growth, hair growth. Oh, Movember. Traditionally for bros, donning their mos for Prostate cancer awareness/research. Yet this year, sisters can join Movember too: by uniting with their bros and growing unibrows. Ladies, I am inviting you to Unibrovember.

Why grow a unibrow?

Tired of pulling and plucking? I know I am. Ever wonder why those little hairs grow between the eyes...there must be a reason...?! And like all little unploughed seedlings, they deserve a chance to grow. For too long us women have been pressured into polishing our faces and preserving our perfect double brows. Now is the time to try going solo. Forget waking up early to wax; now you can sleep in a condition that brow to the max. By donning the furry onesie, you're making a statement: that a hairy face is an option for brothers and sister.

Won't people think I'm a dirty hippie or butch lesbian or in a Frida Kahlo costume?

Definitely. You will feel so free, duh! (Frida, get it?! haha) Free to challenge social norms, break boundaries, and show that unibrows are for hippies, lesbians, artists, plus business tycoons, accountants, attorneys, and your mom.

How should I take care of my unibrow?

Water. Sunlight. Reading it stories. Watching the Discovery Channel. Daily brushing. My Little Pony brand makes perfectly sized unibrow combs.

How should I respond to the increased attention and question my unibrow will generate?

By growing this brow, you are a real trend-setter and community leader. With this new power and quiet confidence, you are bound to be noticed and admired. Don't get too full of yourself. Yes you will be very attractive to the opposite, and same sex, but just remember to take it slow, and be respectful to those who aren't fortunate enough/brave enough to sport a unibrow.

Some men feel like I am taking Movember away from the Mo Bros. Is this true?

Boys and men started Movember to raise money for Prostate Cancer, and awareness about the disease. Women have always stood by and supported. Now it's time for all staches and brows to work together, not only for prostates, but for a bigger cause: the right for mos and hoes to stand united together in November for whatever (either for Unibrovember or Movember or any other member for that matter).

When should I do away with my unibrow?

In the face of winter, why would you ever want your top-of-nose to be cold again? You wouldn't. Just keep going and happy growing!

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Day 5: little growth, a few short hairs around the left brow. Hopefully Vitamin E will help.

UNIBROVEMBER: BROWS UNITED AS ONE.

Support my cause today: http://ca.movember.com/mospace/3954809

 

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Roadtrip: Maryland Crabfest 3.0/Operation Sandy 2012

That chilly wind's a'blowin'! Pumpkins are a growin'! So that must mean we're goin'...on our annual roadtrip to Maryland. This marks the 3rd year of crab feasting followed by blue grassin' it up and hoe-in' down at nearby Chester Town. In past years Jo's best Betterton farmhouse was the pit stop along the way to a Rally for Sanity in Washington, DC, and last year's Occupy movement in NYC. image

Sanity Rally, Washington D.C 2010

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Showing my support for Sanity (as Liz Lemon), 2010

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The better way to fuel up on the way to Betterton, MD 2011

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Occupy Wall Street in a blizzard with a Malian tea ceremony, 2011

Besides a whole lot of super-awesome fun, what would this year bring? With the election looming, of course there had to be a Hurricane! Finally, we young, hip liberal Canadians were in the better place this time. We  turned this year's crab fest into:

                                                   C.R.A.B.F.E.S.T

(Canadians Raising Awareness in Betterton for Environmental Atrocities Such as Hurricanes and Tornadoes)

SInce most of us have volunteered or been part of social action projects in Africa and around the world, this was the perfect opportunity to volunteer our time and skills to our neighbouring community! We're not hurricane experts, but we are volunteers. We may not have the right skills, but who cares because, we're volunteers! Betterton is a small town of approx. 347 people, bounded by the sassy Sassafraz river. The Betterton folks seem like a tight-knit, middle class American community, home to honest hardworking families. It was important to suspend judgement and focus on raising hurricane awareness to prepare these honest hardworking American families for the impending storm; what if even one person didn't understand that Sandy wasn't just a lovely neighbour visiting for the weekend, but actually a powerful natural disaster? As Canadian volunteers, it's important to make sure that the Betterton community was not fooled by the American media. While we were there to help our friend's fantabulous Mamma stay dry, we hoped our Canadian hurricane prevention strategies would catch on in the community.

Even though we aren't really affected by hurricanes regularly in Toronto, if we were, we would definitely need:

1) duck tape 2) rolls of plastic sheets 3) mulch (which is cheaper than sandbags or hay and, garden-friendly!) 4) volunteer power to put it all together!!!

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Handy-dandy volunteers Laura, Steph and Fiona figuring out how best to implement the duck tape for maximum anti-Sandy-sealant.

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Betterton babe, Jo, and lovely Laura tackling those gritty gutters! It was a sunny 25 degrees C! Luckily we volunteers knew what was coming...

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Me, assessing the plastic sheets and making sure every last crack is covered. Jo's cat was hiding under the house; if we hadn't volunteered our time to this community, that cat might not have made it through Sandy (or we would have trapped it under the house...but let's focus on the our good volunteers intentions and not that we almost killed a cat. We later bought cat food for the cat, which is a positive thing).

Here is some feedback from the Volunteers when asked how they felt about the intense work they were doing for the Betterton community:

"This is what we do. It's peace, it's love, it's normal. We ain't afraid of no Sandy" -Steph, regularly volunteers in Haiti

"As a volunteer I bring a lot of energy and I think that just helps people feel better...To the people back home, you need to get out in the world and just meet people because everyone is so special" -Leora, Volunteer Spirit Lifter

"I'm really passionate about the ocean. I don't like any litter, so I will pick it up to support all the marine life. That's how I'm saving the world, and the marine life. At least I know I've done my job." -Elliot Miller, Volunteered in Ghana and works with Autistic children

"This is fun! We're having fun. I feel really good helping other people. If we weren't here, people might be upset. We're here for you, and for the people." -Mika, first-time volunteer and speak Hebrew

"If we weren't here, this mulch wouldn't have been moved. The duck tape would still be full. The house might have been under water." -BB, led a volunteer trip through Ghana

Yes, as Canadians, we felt very fulfilled to be devoting our time to this community who's embraced us so warmly three years in a row, and offered us crabs, and blue grass. Unrolling the tarp and taping it down was moderately tough, so in between all the moderately-hard volunteering and moderately-ethical photo-ops, we did what all volunteers love to do:

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BE ACTIVE: Beach volley ball gone wild

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GET WET: in appropriate ways

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CATCH SOME ZEDS: Any place will do (the more awkward the better)...Zzzzz!

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EAT LOCAL (but think global)

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HOE IT DOWN: with the Chester River Run off, bluegrass band

The ten hour ride home brought relaxation and reflection on our best, busy weekend in Betterton. Although we didn't steal any Romney signs, we still felt like fulfilled slightly-above-average-volunteer-citizens. Even in just short weekend, we saw the opportunity to do something more; instead of a door, we saw a window: A window that could let in a powerful natural disaster if not voluntarily sealed with duck tape. And once again, we worked together volunteering our non-expert, yet hip-artistic-Canadian-wonderific skill set to have another creative and awwwwww-some weekend, with or without Sandy. Already we're dreaming of the next road trip!

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I saved the world by not squishing this praying mantis. I mean, what if this magical mantis is praying for World Peace?!

Until next time,

C.R.A.B.F.E.S.T Volunteer BB

PS: It's duck tape, right?

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my arctic survival/luxury items

after a leadership retreat to learn the basics of survival and the qualities that make an assertive/effective leader, i now know that having a tarp, waterproof matches and knife would be useful tools to have if, say, i crashed landed in the arctic. a compass, map and snowshoes are actually of limited use since it's better to freeze your booty off than venture away from the plane crash you survived. i mean i would be freakin' out so much that i would have no motor control to use the snowshoes according to their instructions of proper use. a map of the arctic would just look like spilled milk, which is boring and confusing. and this is 2012 so compasses are basically extinct.  but if i were stuck in the arctic for an extended period of time, no matter how amazing my leadership skills, integrity of being a sustainable backpacker, and knowledge that tarps can make a luxury home in siberia, i think i would perish no matter what: frostbite and fear of a polar devourment due to lack of movement from frostbitten limbs. yup, i would definitely perish, slowly. so, here is my ultimate list to the things i would need to make death stay in the arctic legendary.

NUTELLA 

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add snow and i've invented a nutella slushie

EYE LINER

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i can't be seen, or stranded alone, without intense raccoon eyes. 

COLONIAL DRESS

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why wear pyjamas when i can lounge around in style! this picture is of a medieval dress, which i would also wish for in my arctic closet. maybe i'll hallucinate and re-emerge at the Boston Tea Party?!

PUNCH IN A PUNCH BOWL

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now this artic just got coooooooler

SNUGGIE 

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for me and my future arctic offspring! he's being smothered with snugglies!

COLLAPSIBLE CHAIR

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these things are awesome, and they come with drink holders!

PINATA 

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candy provides energy, and breaking it open momentarily provides something to do

STUFFED ANIMAL POLAR BEAR

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Joey here will keep me company...and keep the mean frostbitten-corpse-eating bears away!

ILLEGAL FIREWORKS

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if i can ever figure out how to light them, i could simulate a disney world experience. and also potentially attract people/planes to come join my arctic party

GRAPES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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my favourite food: for when i'm hungry and thirsty at the same time!

FINGER PAINT 

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Ms. Frizzle said to never be afraid to get messy! and in a million years my arctic paintings will be as famous and esteemed as the stranded cave people's from the ancient times!

WAR AND PEACE/IMPORTANT LITERATURE OF OUR TIME 

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i should probably know what the white European people thought the themes of life and society were before i die...i have only been reading African books for the last five years, and they didn't like my ancestors too much... #EuropeanHertitageProblems

SAILOR MOON DOLLS 

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plus Tuxedo Mask!

CREATE-YOUR-OWN-SALAD BAR 

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and no line-ups full of yoga people! YAY!!!

VITAMIN D SUPPLEMENTS 

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because the Northern Lights don't provide enough nutrients

BABY-SEAL SKIN COAT 

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there will be now one around to judge me!

TINA FEY

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she wants to go to here!

BACON

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bring on the pork blubber!

HUSKY TEAM

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MUSH MUSH!!! too bad my developing leadership skills don't work on dogs. i hope they don't take me farther north where they will enslave me... #KidnappedSlaveSledGirlProblems

BOOM BOX ON THE SHOULDER (and the cool guy too)

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I'll be blasting solely Justin Beiber tunes. that is all.

TURBAN!

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duh!

Other Items that should be Included in an Arctic Safety/Leadership Kit:

  • Inflatable Bouncy Castle to jump jump jump until i collapse out of fun-xasustion
  • A clip-on beard to keep my face fresh and warm
  • Bow and Arrow I have never learned how to operate one, but they look cool!

 

*i'm an icelandic elf so my odds of surviving are actually guaranteed: score!*

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How to have the Worst Valentine's Day Ever!

How to Have the Worst Valentine's Day Ever! Rule #1: Get to work early. When I say early, I mean leave the house at 5am and walk through darkness, sleet and a jacket that's unsuitable for the weather. It's especially helpful if you get 3 hours of sleep or less!

Rule#2: Don't set yourself up for the tasks ahead, but practice poor time management skills, and what I like to call "Grumpy Judgment". For example, if you work in a coffee shop, inconveniently "forget" to turn on the espresso machines or grind coffee so your first customers will be disappointed and hurt. And therefore won't thank you.

Rule #3: Eat too much, too fast. Then drink lots of chocolate milk and when you have to go to the bathroom, make sure you pick the times when you know it will be occupied so you can do the pee-pee dance and be extra frustrated.

Rule #4: If you haven't gone to the dentist in 4 years, today is the day to get that chipped tooth filled and those swollen gums analyzed. Who doesn't want to be reprimanded about not flossing, and then get to fluoride on Looooooove Day!?

Rule #5: Have to do a university presentation on the themes Incest in the 4th Branch of the Mabinogion. Refer to rule #2 and don't prepare well for it, and juice up the parts about illegitimate super-natural romances.

Rule #5: Be confused about whether or not the person you like likes you. Wink at creepy homelesz men on the street to boost self esteem. Cry when even they don't respond to your advances

Rule #6: The only flowers you should get should be purchased from creepy homelesz rose sellers OR delivered to you by accident because of a messenger who got the wrong address. Or course you should keep the mis-directed flowers and put them in your hair to show other you are faked-loved. Muahaha!

Rule #7: While still intoxicated on local anesthetic, go back to your work place and come up with stupid nicknames for your co-workers, butcher an Adele love song by belting it out with the incorrect notes and lyrics and by whipping your hair back and forth while you whip your hair back and forth, and then laugh hysterically until you are asked to leave for showing signs of being a crazy person.

Rule #8: Re-watch "The Notebook". *shudders and sobs*

Rule #9: Eat an extra bacon-ny sub and listen to your heart burn.

Rule #10: Twirl around and round in a circle in the middle of the street and shout HAPPY VALENTINE'S Day Bitches!!!

PS: don't forget to click the title for my video clip which best summarizes my day today!

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