Antoine, August 21, 2004

This evening, as I left the restaurant in the construction camp, the cold and wet wind swept through the door and froze me to ice. -"The snow should not be long to come " grumbled one of the workers from the Cree Construction as he was passing by. Indeed the weather conditions of the North this summer have been rather depressing. However, the summer has not been considered as a real one this year, Andrew confided to me.

On the contrary, work goes on at an amazing pace. Within a week, so much work has been achieved with Andrew. The Band Office with its new servers and computers is connected. The Warehouse building is also connected, but because of lack of wires, we had to stop our work. I had left Montreal last Monday fearing not to be able to achieve the amount of work scheduled within less than 12 days. I had left Xavier at Waskaganish heading to Nemaska.

As the plane was landing at Kuujjuaraapik, a passenger stood up grumbling against the flight stewardess because she has forgotten to wake him up at Chissassibi. It means for him a day loss. There were also two electrical technicians which were here to connect the water pump of the aqueduc (drinking water) which was newly functional in the Cree and Inuit village. That is all over and done with the water and sewage trucks at Kuujjuaraapik and Whapmagoostui!

vueThe camp of the construction workers where I have been staying for a week isn't particularly comfortable but people are very cordial. The cook Jean makes us real workers meals that are nourishing as one could wish. To hell with the vegetables in the North! We are served a copious meal made of pastas, meat, chips, mashed potatoes, etc... Sat on wooden benches, one eats amongst men hearing the words "calice", "ostie" or "Tabernac". The life is regular for these guys. They wake up at 6 a.m., have egg with bacon and potted meat for lunch, then they are on site at 7 a.m.

Yesterday evening around 10 p.m, as I was returning from work, I found our workers in the kitchen discussing with a group of women. The rhum and whisky bottles were already emptied for a while and David, a young worker from Gaspésie, was playing with talent on his folk guitar Quebec music standards. Handsome, 23 years old, just showered, he was singing at the top of his voice, Kevin Parent, Paul Piché or even Manic' songs. -"Si tu savais comme on s'ennuie... à la Manic... " The women, nurses working at the CLSC, were in raptures over this handsome guy with deep blue eyes. Between two songs, he was inhaling puffs of weed from an home made pipe done with a water tap.... Rough simplicity. We went to bed following funny and basic discussions, (given the guys' condition) and the next morning we woke up early, outside it was windy, cold and rainy.

Catherine, February 23, 2004

In the morning, we finish the configuration of Alice's computer and Louisa is looking forward to beginning with her training. I stay aside, (although I do not have a clue, since everything is happening in inuttitut) and when Louisa is uncertain, I come closer and answer their questions. After two hours of training, which will continue in the morning, Alice ends her day declaring: "I have just discovered another world, my boss will regret that". As for the boss (Alek, he is extremely kind), he will be the next to be trained but that is another story because I do not believe he has ever often approached a keyboard. Yesterday, he was mostly concerned with the size of the writing on the screen : "Will we be able to enhance the letter size on screen he asks, because I need to preserve my eyes for hunting!". He precisely went hunting all day, that day. I will know this morning if the hunt has been fructuous.

Today, I am planning a quick visit at the municipality's office, and then a drop by at the Police Station to see if I could give a hand to Duane and John there. Apparently, Louisa and I will be in charge for the training of the employees at the Employment & Training office and the training of the Police officers, while Duane and John will move the Daycares's antennae and fix the Télécom hardware for a new customer, whose contract agreement, we are, however, still waiting for. The Youth Center's computer remains to be configured.

In conclusion, this stay is going better and better each day and it seems to me that the North has beautiful adventures in store for us for next year. The trainee's experience is up to now a great success. It favors a good working contact with the customers. One must add that the personality of our two characters is a good asset.

Catherine, February 21-22, 2004

We were all impatiently looking forward to Friday evening to taste the traditional buffet which is served at the social club every Friday, but especially to dance and relax all together. But a man of the Cree community has passed away this Thursday and in respect to his memory, the two bars of Kuujjuaraapik & Whapmagoostui are closed. Louisa thus takes the opportunity of her evening to visit the great number of people she knows in the village with a childhood girlfriend also met by chance. Duane and John decide to work out at the beautiful Gym and play basketball: they return completely exhausted. The day before, Louisa and I exchanged a few shuttlecocks for it was badminton night.

InukshukOn Saturday evening, I am invited for supper at Éliana's, the school principal, of Peruvian origin, and also a Costarican and Canadian citizen. We first take a long walk to the huge Inukshuk which announces the village on approach of the Bay. Éliana takes this opportunity express herself in her mother tongue which warms up my heart and reminds me that I love Spanish, what poetry! But Éliana goes to bed early and I quickly join up with my colleagues at the social club. Our legs are itchy, so John and I break the ice, dancing few steps. Soon all the bar (young and older) join us to an entire evening full of joy on the dance floor. Many people met at work are present and seem delighted to see that we share their weekly recreation moments with them. Nonetheless, the evening's climax was undoubtly Duane's triumphal arrival on the dance floor (he was bored to be sitting alone at his table). He impressed us with his talents worth John Travolta (no kidding!). This Duane has more then one surprise in reserve! On Sunday early in the afternoon, John and Louisa join me at the Gymnasium where we continue our work for the Land Holding.

Catherine, February 17-20, 2004

LouisaThe following day, after a team meeting brilliantly carried out by our friend Luc, I introduce Louisa to the pleasures of Windows updates on André Morin's computer, the person in charge of the Kuujjuaraapik sports center, while also explaining the structure of the network of the the Gymnasium to her. At the same time, we finish to configurate Margaret Audlarock's brand new computer. She is the person representing Cree Human Resources Department (CHRD) in Whapmagoostui. She is very enthusiastic of this splendid flat screen computer she's been delivered. However her interest in learning how to use e-mail is even more impressive. You should see her smile as she receives messages from her colleagues at the Montreal office. I also introduce Margaret to her new digital camera (transfer of photographs, locating photographs on the computer, etc). We take a few photographs of her (which we view in diaporama - she is amazed) and we choose the best one which she then sends with Internet to a colleague who needs to have it published in a CHRD newspaper. We take this opportunity to create a main screen, with a photograph of one of her little daughters. ... She takes notes to be able to change the photograph from time to time!

AliceDuring this week, Louisa is very efficient. After a few hours working on Alice Meeko's computer, an employee of Land Holding, we come to the conclusion that it is in our interest to entirely format and re-install this computer, which seems to have a tendency to freeze rather than let us work . Louisa consents to this exercise enthousiasticaly. After doubly making sure that Alice's data is baked up, we make a head start. With a little assistance, Louisa is busy searching for the not most recent drivers on Internet and she takes care of almost everything, in return of a few advices. Even when everything goes smoothly, this task is always long and tiresome, but the lively laugh so characteristic for Louisa continues to echo throughout the office.

As for Duane and John, they are finishing the wiring of the Court building for the office of the KRG Employment and Training. They also work very hard on the computers of the Police station, whose configuration seems to be fairly complicated.

Catherine, February 16, 2004

Luc, Duane and I drive Antoine to the airport and at the same time, we wait for the plane arriving from Inukjuak with our two trainees. Smiling and somewhat shy, Louisa and John shake our hands and we begin to search for John's box, lost in the wings of the airport, which contains nothing less than his brand new laptop. After a short outing at the famous Northern, we drive the newcomers to Audrey's (where they will stay) who will offer them board and lodging for the three next weeks. She greets them with a splendid and warm smile. A good supper awaits them. while we return to the hotel to cook our sumptuous meal!

Antoine, February 14, 2004

Our trip comes to an end as I'm expected to come back on Monday. Last Wednesday, Luc joined us in Kuujjuaraapik while the storm was just beginning. It has been almost four days since the wind and the snow swept continuously across the village, while the temperature was dropping. Indeed, it was impossible to operate all the wireless work outside with so bad weather conditions. Nevertheless, I am really excited to meet my friend Luc again, who now works with me too. Kuujjuaraapik, or rather Whapmagoostui, has a very sentimental value for him because he had not been there for nearly ten years. He certainly remembered his five years spent in this village. Considering how his friends greeted him and how friendly they were when we both went round the Cri village, he will always keep this in mind. I was very curious and attentive to everything that was going on around me. So, I took some pictures of those particularly touching moments, which are rather rare when you know how reserved those peoples usually are.

Between two visits, we arranged to meet the Chief of the village, David Masty, on a Friday morning. The wisdom and the typical look of this man really impressed me. Tall and imposing, he did look like a real chief, such as you expect to see one in a Cree village. With a deep look in his eyes and a calm voice, he talked to us about the Internet project which may see the light next summer and concerns the Cri communities. The discussion particularly moved me when Luc reawakened the old demons of the hypothetical dam in Kuujjuaraapik. Speaking with conviction and sincerity, he claimed that the only way for the project to see the light would be to have him killed.

Youth CenterThen, we made our way to the Inuit youth centre that we had to connect to the Internet. Duane was in charge of operating the wireless connection again because of major technical problems, whereas I was responsible for working on the wires inside the building. While I was installing them all around the place, I was surrounded by kids who were playing war on video games and were getting to know a bit about the joys of computers at the same time. The young Inuit in charge of the centre was somehow excited and very interested in our work. In fact, she was wondering when she would have finally access to the Internet. That little smile on her face and the fact we were so close reminded me how essential our work is. It is especially very important for those isolated communities that are curious to learn more about new technologies. In fact, this is exactly what I needed to be finally at peace with the village of Kuujjuaraapik, after handling several crises, one after the other, and mostly focused on the major issue of Daycare.

Antoine, February 10, 2004

After starting the week on a crazy pace, it was time to make a break. The sun that was beating down over Kuujjuaraapik makes us feel like going away to the bay to see the end of the longest road of the village. The constrast between the village of Kuujjuaraapik, similar to Montréal's industrial neighbourhood, and the surrounding nature is striking. As soon as you come along the last iron blocks, the nature gets over it again. The black spruces are much higher than everywhere else in Nuvanik, the snow is thicker and above all, the Hudson bay and its coastal isles are outstanding. Duane, our chief photographer at that time, made beautiful shots of close or far nature, and talented was he for sure. I even spotted him while taking pictures.

Kuujjuaraapik égliseI must tell that Duane worries much about his shape these days, which is strange. He even asked Luc, who's joining us tomorrow, to bring him back his running shoes to train on the treadmill in the Gymnasium where we've been working since Monday. The long and boring work operated on wires between two emergency calls will be useful for connecting the Landholding, the premises of the Northern village and the CHRD (Cree Human Resource Department). Alice Meeko from Landholding made the work easier for us, keeping us company, while we were laying the cables in the ceiling. She told us the story of Kuujjuaraapik's church that was transported by sled dogs from Kuujjuaq at the beginning of last century.

As for Catherine, she faced many problems with the computer of Daycare, a very old cloned machine which ran out of order after its updating. Therefore, we worked very hard on it for 2 whole days to retrieve the accounting figures. But yesterday, Catherine finally found a solution late in the evening, with help from Salvatore (Pratt), our saviour. And Sarah Quarak, the new director, was finally able to endorse her employees' cheques. I must mention that Duane was hardly recognizable this morning and looked quiet, peaceful, fresh and rested. Not a single "Fuck" or "Shit" came out of his mouth. He even called me to order because I was swearing like a trooper when he was by my side. He even admitted that he had woken up every hour, for some weird reason. With a strange look in his eyes, the guy finally confessed that he was reading Dalaï Lama's bible every night, just after playing hockey. And to prove it, he took it out of his right back pocket. Faced with my scepticism, he let loads of swearwords fly. And the day could finally begin

Antoine, February 4, 2004

After a four-hour flight and an unsuccessful attempt to land, the plane from Inuit Air finally landed around 12 am in a deep fog. Duane was there, faithful and unchanged, except for one detail: the stub had disappeared from the corner of his lips. "I quit smoking" he told me with pride. By a strange combination of circumstances, Catherine and I had to go to Coop Hotel and Duane had chosen to stay in a Hotel at the other end of town, with no kitchen nor services.

After a present exchange in accordance with the tradition, in the course of which I was offered a T-shirt from Goose bay and I, in return, offered our friend Duane a T-shirt with Captain Haddock, we immediately started to draw up an inventory of locations and works to do. This village is divided in two parts: Kuujuaraapik for the Inuits community and Whapmagoostui for the Cree population. Here, the igloo meets the teepee with all the logistic consequences that this implies: 2 schools, 2 police stations, 2 town halls, 2 arenas etc. All services are duplicated in order to meet the needs of the respective community. The result is an additional workload for us, given the fact that some Cree organisations would have to be connected as well.

After the traditional greeting at the municipal office, particularly with the mayor Lucassie who wears a cavalry lieutenant cap with two crossed swords, Duane and I took the direction of the Gymnasium and discovered with surprise that the school had set its classes there because the building had been destroyed by fire some weeks earlier.

We take a chance to solve specific issues whenever they show up (or at least... Whenever people let us know about them!). X wants to be able to send his documents to printer "A", Y needs to connect her camera to the PC to promote her department, whereas Z desperately wants to learn the magic formula that'll get him a table like this and like that, with the total, down there, on the right of the bottom... Plus I did my good action of the week by replacing Charlie's overused keyboard. He is in charge of translating a bunch of documents and I thought he deserved a perfectly functional keyboard. That's done.

While walking through the building, I met Margaret, an employee of the Cree Human Resource department, who told me that all CHRD employees were in a meeting at this precise moment, in the village. Still accompanied by Duane, in our great 4X4 Ford from KRG ET, I took the opportunity to greet my friends and customers at the Cree village. As our inventory and greeting tour ended, the work quickly started at the usual pace, starting with NV. After only 3 days of work, I must admit that up to one to two months will be necessary to connect at least 9 organizations in this village.

The human resources issue is, therefore, becoming more and more acute. It was in this state of mind, i.e. looking for an additional resource person in the village, that I met Jalal, a Syrian analyst-programmer living in Kuujjuaraapik.