Thursday, 1 January 2009

Champagne and Muktuk

Well, it's been a good night, and now I'm wired and need to sit for a bit before I'm ready to sleep. So I'll sit here and write you about my night. I'm an odd person in some ways, halfway between very social and hermit. I love my quiet time, time alone in the house without anyone else around. I feel overwhelmed in places where I'm surrounded by people that I don't know. (And yet I moved 2295 km from my family and friends to a place where I know no one. I know I really don't make sense). On the other hand, I love hanging out and doing things with a small group of friends, and I really want to be invited to parties and events. Even if once I get there I both love it and (when there's no one I know well who is free to talk to) feel like I'd rather just find a quiet corner and observe.
With this odd mix of feelings, New Years in a new town is exciting and nerve-wracking at the same time. Do I know enough people that someone will think to invite me? (I have to be REALLY comfortable with someone before I'll invite myself to their place) Do I even want to go out? And with people making last minute plans, I only had a vague idea that certain people were most likely going to do something. So I made sure I was around the house on new years eve, in case any phonecall invitations came (though I did consider phoning certain people if no phonecalls came in.) And sure enough, the people I thought would plan something did, and called me in the afternoon with vague plans. I got together with a couple families and the kids played around us as we ate chinese food, talked, played an abbreviated version of Trivial Pursuit on the computer etc. Around 11:30 we realized there wasn't much time left and headed over to our second destination, another couple from church who was planning on setting off fireworks.
There was a good sized group of people already there, and tons of food. As I made my way over to some people I knew, I noticed an interesting dish on the table.
Now, if you can't guess what it is by looking at it, have a look at the title of the post. I think one of the people I came with asked the host what it was, or specifically if this was muktuk. Sure enough, that's exactly what it was. It was being served with soy sauce on the side. In that way, it's a little like sushi. I was game to try it. The pieces were actually only about the size of two quarters stacked together, except that they were rectangular. We found out later that this was from a narwhal flipper from the narwhal that were harvested in Pond Inlet. The black parts are actually skin, with a thin layer of blubber, and then whatever tissue is in the center of a flipper. To prepare it properly, it should have the skin on it, and it should be sliced very thin, for good reason... Never have I encountered a chewier piece of food. Somewhat like biting into the cartilage in a piece of chicken, except since it's not cooked it's much softer. The skin and blubber go down easy, the rest... is kind of like chewing on a stale gumball from a gumball machine. The first bite you're not sure if you want to continue chewing, but with each chew it gets softer and more managable, slowly dissolving, though if you choose you can chew it for quite a while. My first piece I chewed about 5 mins before realizing it was quite soft and I may as well swallow. I took a second piece, also dipped in soy sauce, and the flavor is fairly mild that way. That second piece I chewed for... at least 10 or 15mins... like a wad of gum. About 5 mins to midnight, everyone suddenly realized the time and hurried to grab outdoor gear. Remarkably fast getting geared up, there were about 30 or 40 people outside to watch the fireworks. Most of us stayed near the burn barrel.
I was surprised to see a burn barrel, knowing any wood up here is either shipped up or used to be something useful, like furniture or a door. The fireworks went non-stop for 20 minutes, a good show. (They were done on top of a pond at the base of a hill. Unfortunately not bright enough to light up the hill, which is about three quarters the height of these fireworks. You should be able to make out the two people and a snowmobile near the base of the firework, and the bright spot off to the side that is the burn barrel, also on the lake)
While we were watching, some of us cracked a bottle of champagne and toasted to our "first new year in Iqaluit." We had a separate bottle of de-alcoholized wine for the kids, but most of them didn't like it. I had to swallow my muktuk when I took my glass of champagne, as the flavors didn't exactly go together. After the fireworks, it was back inside for hot chocolate and more snacks. My favorite line from the whole night came from one of the nine-year old boys. He had asked for some sprite, and one of the adults was pouring it while he held his cup up. Being a fidgety child, he was instructed not to move the cup. So he held it up at his eye level while it was being poured, and at half a glass complained "my eyeballs hurt!" (from holding still and staring at the cup so hard) The woman pouring his drink and I both burst into laughter, and she barely managed to finished pouring his drink without spilling.

Just as a bonus, I figured I'd throw in a picture from the other day when I went for a drive down the "Road to Nowhere" and noticed an Inukshuk (or a random pile of rocks, I'm not really sure) and had to go get a picture. This is pretty much the only one that turned out. My fingers were freezing in seconds, so it was hard to hold still for a good picture, and I didn't stay on top of the hill it was on for very long, so I only got a few pictures. This was taken while it was still around -34C during the day.

In case you're wondering, the temp tonight is -11C, with windchill it's -21. It's lightly snowing because it's so warm (or it's warm because it's snowing, you pick). New Year's day the sun will be up from 9:20am to 13:56 (1:56pm).

Wishing you all a very happy New Years! May God's blessing be upon you as you enter the new year, and may your feet be planted on the Solid Rock as you step forward into a new year full of promise and hope.

1 comment:

Matt, Kara and Hunter said...

Wow- in your first paragraph you just described my social behaviour perfectly! I am the same way. I like my quiet time, but I like my visiting time too.

We ate muktuk a few times up north too. The best was when a friend fried it and it tasted like porkchop!

Happy New Year!