March Break was calm and relaxing, filled with friends, snow, and a few parties. I also found the time to finally make my own pair of paluks (leather/fur mitts). A little big and slightly crooked but not bad for a first timer. The week passed too quickly, there was also the small matter of my birthday being celebrated at the end. Small cheesecake party with friends to celebrate, other than that I would have not acknowledged the day.
The next week was back to school, at least for a day and a half, then myself and two of my fellow teacher found ourselves on the plane headed for POV (short for Purvinituq). When I heard that there was a snow festival held there every two years, and that this year was going to be the next year I knew I wanted to attend. I mean really, how often do you get to go to a snow festival in the Arctic? We bought our tickets just after X-mas but never gave our students a hint that we were going to the festival. If they know that there is a chance that their teacher might not be at school they think they don't have to come, so it was a secret till the last day. It was funny, when we got on the plane it felt like we were heading off on our real March break, I guess it is the delight of just going somewhere new. A short flight later we were one the ground and trying to get a ride to my friend's house. We were able to call the bus but it seemed to be taking forever and a very nice fellow that worked at the airport wound up giving us a ride instead, always an adventure since all we had to go on was the house number and anyone who has ever been to the north knows that there is little logic to where the houses are. Finally found it and was able to get the key for the circus girl (there was a circus troupe in town working with the kids), settled in and headed out to explore a bit. First thoughts: POV is pretty flat, and the streets made it feel slightly like a maze, but we headed towards the water and looked for the biggest buildings as those are usually the Co-op store or the Northern. Picked up a few supplies and saw a former student who had recently moved from Inukjuak to POV, nice to see him and hear all his news. Home for dinner and got ready to join the fun at the community centre for the evening concert.
Wow, lots of country style music with a little gospel thrown in, some local rock bands, a history game show, and a fashion show. we tracked down some of our students who were playing in the festival and found out that they would be on at about 2am. So being good teachers we settled in for the night to support our students (they actually weren't bad, young and still need a lot of practice, but they were entertaining). Most nights the concerts were pretty similar, a few bigger names and some very traditional acts, highlights being the circus acts put on by the kids on the final night and some fiddlers from the south. During the days were the main events: igloo building, traditional nets fishing under the ice, a marathon, dog sled races, and most importantly the ice and snow carving contests.
The carvings were simply amazing. Taking the huge blacks of ice and snow and transforming them into such works of art. Traditional figures, each telling a story, carved over several days with a wide variety of tools. To see the carvings progress from day to day was like magic. I was happy when my favourite carving won 1st place in the contest. It was a beautiful piece of a boy climbing over a cliff to hunt birds in their nest. The artist was from Nunavut and usually does more abstract carvings of stone and other materials but for festivals he carve in ice. Stunning work. The week ended with a feast on the ice; frozen, raw meat and fish, and later the final concert night.
After finding our way back to the airport the next day we settled in to wait for our flight. Delayed of course as there were so many people trying to get to Montreal or home. At one point during the wait some of the musicians headed south got out their instruments and gave a bit of an impromptu concert. Before we knew it there were people jigging and clapping along to the music. After a wait that seemed to be forever we were finally able to board and head home. As nice as it was to be away, it was even nicer to be home again.