A View From Nunavut. Day 7: Saying Goodbye

The community feast. My last day in the Far North coincides with ‘Hamlet Day,’ which involves a Cape Dorset community


The community feast.

My last day in the Far North coincides with ‘Hamlet Day,’ which involves a Cape Dorset community feast of traditional foods, soup to ladle out’and yet more of this place to take in. The feast is held in the same hall we experienced the dance one week ago when we first arrived. There are about 200 people, some sitting in chairs, others standing.

The Stratford crew has prepared pulled pork in barbeque sauce, salad and sandwiches; there is bannock, a traditional Inuit bread that everyone goes gaga over (think of a less-sweet scone). We ladle out teacher Danick Clavel-Terio’s ‘Sweet Nothings’ soup’caribou, frozen broccoli, stock, rice.

The main attraction, though, is the centre of the room: frozen fish, seal, whale and caribou are laid out onto cardboard slats. The mayor makes an announcement, and then a crew starts hacking away at the bounty to be shared among the community. You can take it home, or eat it, frozen, right then and there: the adventurous Stratford students dive in, trying it all. I chew on a small piece of whale; it tastes like rich sushi. The whole scene seems very traditional, yet an older local woman takes pictures on her iPad.

The beautiful Nunavut landscape.

Then, the games begin. I stifle a giggle watching ‘elders’ musical chairs.’ As a hip-hop tune plays’you really can’t make this stuff up’they circle the chairs. One woman in a Montreal Canadiens shirt grooves her way around, while a couple of much older women shuffle. The prize is $50, and well fought for.

The next game is a form of tug of war: four ropes tied together, four empty cans of pop and a balancing game to see who can reach the can first. Side note: Pop, I’ve noticed, seems to be a problem here. There are no stats, but I hear from several people here that some kids consume up to five cans per day; the stores are stacked with cases. Nunavut implemented a ‘Drop the Pop’ Campaign yet bags of empty cans are taken away from the school every week.

After the community feast, there will be a dance tonight. The little ones from the elementary school start to arrive around 5 pm, just as we’re leaving for the airport. I can’t wait to see my own little ones at home; Lily, 5, and Teague, 2. A week has been long enough for their brilliant dad to hold down the fort. But saying goodbye to the kids of Cape Dorset and Stratford is also hard; I notice how the EatFit team and the local kids have become one. There are tears (mainly mine), hugs, and promises that we will all stay in touch. I now have 20 more Facebook friends.

The plane gets ready for takeoff.

This week has been life-altering for all of us’those from Nunavut, from Stratford, from Toronto’from Canada. As the plane lifts up from Cape Dorset, en route to Iqaluit, I take a look down at the frosty tundra and know it isn’t the last time I will see this beautiful landscape. And I’m already thinking about the feature article I’ll write in the October issue of Best Health’there is so much more about this place that I can’t wait to tell you about.

Follow me on Twitter @erinpp

Erin Phelan is a fitness trainer and mom of two. She’s a regular contributor to Best Health.