Everywhere I noticed sled dogs tethered on small lengths of chain. As I skirted the shore I could see a dead seal laying by a boat with a rifle propped up against it. There was no doubt about it – I was in a very traditional community.
Even though I had spent two weeks prior to my arrival attempting to orient myself to life in a Northern community, I realized that nothing outside of actual experience could have prepared me for this.
My school was a high school geared for students from grade nine to grade twelve. It had a decent sized gym and adequate classrooms. The teachers comprising my staff were mostly beginning teachers from the South who had gone up there in search of employment and adventure. There were six Inuit teachers who proved to be invaluable throughout the school year.
Since English was a second language for the student body, the level of English varied markedly from student to student.
I probably could write an entire book about this year alone. However I will describe the year as one of constant challenges, exhilaration and isolation. One of the biggest challenges for me was coping with complete darkness 24/7 for approximately four months. Then there was the cold – the bitter cold. One day we had the dubious distinction of being the coldest place on earth. Combine this with isolation, dealing with a totally different culture and keeping in touch with family “back home” and you begin to get an idea of life for me in that year. I had always considered myself to have a strong mind and to be somewhat resourceful. Let me say that this was really tested throughout my time in the North.
On the other and, the school staff were great and the community for the most part was friendly and helpful. I learned so much about the Inuit people and culture while I was up North; but most of all I learned a lot about myself.
When my term was over and I flew home I felt that I had challenged myself more than I ever had previously and that I came out stronger for it. I also felt that in a small way I had contributed to the betterment of this tiny Northern community . My first year of retirement turned out to be an adventure the likes of which I never could have imagined.
While I realize that my experiences are unique in a lot of ways, they can be generalized to retirees everywhere. If you are looking to “bridge that gap” between complete retirement and a short term work gig, I could highly recommend taking on something new such as I did. You may choose to do something for a shorter term; let’s say four or six months, but whatever you do will stretch you as a person and help you grow. Yes, even in retirement!