Saturday, October 3, 2009

Arviat vs. New York City

I never thought I'd give a presentation on growing up in New York City, but this week I ended up speaking in front of two classes at Nunavut Arctic College in Arviat about life in the big apple. Photoslide show and everything. I got some great questions, ended up talking a lot about September 11th, and about some of the famous people I've seen around the city (Josh Hartnett used to live in my friend's building, and my brother once shook hands with Mike Myers).

It made me think about some of the differences between living in Arviat and living in New York. Not just the obvious things, the little cultural differences. Here's one: No one here knocks. Everyone just walks in to houses. It's been hard for me to get used to, just walking into someone's house without knocking first, but only the RCMP knocks first! Back in New York City, there's two locked doors and an elevator to get in to my parents' apartment, I usually buzz visitors in from upstairs.

New York City is a city of 8.3 million and to get a sense of the size of Arviat the other day, a friend asked me, "How many stoplights?" When I related this to the class during the presentation and they all laughed. The answer is zero. None of the streets have names either, but the houses have numbers and everyone knows where everyone lives anyway.

There are lots more that I'm adjusting to. Most groceries are shipped here, so milk is over 7 dollars. People say hi on the street. Not knocking the first few times really threw me for a loop, but I think now it's going to be harder for me to adjust back to not being able to just visit anyone at any time. There's a different sense of community here than back home -- big families, close ties.

I think it's the closeness of the small community that makes radio here really work (always bringing it back to radio, I know, I can't help myself). I was at the station the other night and two or three parents called into the station to go on air and tell their kids to come home because it was past curfew. If you're from Arviat and you're reading this, your reaction is probably along the lines of, "So what?" But from a New Yorker's point of view, it's really cool. I don't know of any radio station in New York City where you could call up and tell your kid it's past their bedtime. And know that they're probably listening. Or if they're not listening, someone will spot Abby or Jimmy and tell them their mom was on the radio and that they should run along home.

And if you're an radio announcer in Arviat, most everyone knows who you are. If you're doing a good job (or a bad job), everyone who stops to talk to you on the street will tell you so. The tight knit community means there's more direct line of communication between broadcaster and listener.
It's definitely different than where I am from.

Okay! Now for what all of my relatives really want -- pictures. I went berry picking last weekend. Photos courtesy of my bingo friend Joyce (thanks Joyce!)

Riding on the back of Joyce's honda with Cecile driving:

Picking berries with my friend Mary and her daughter (from a couple of weeks ago):

View of Arviat from just outside of town:

and here I am driving the honda. Just keep in mind that I don't know how to drive a car yet:

pedal to the metal,


  1. Sights and sounds of Arviat Nunavut
    Images and traditional music from around Arviat Nunavut on the Hudson's Bay coast, Canada

  2. An Inuk Family Picnic at Grandad's Cabin with the Suluks.