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Content Management from Th'arctic

Waking up inside was great! I felt so cosy. Having a carpet beneath my bare feet felt great and I stretched my arms up, looked out of the window, took in the beauty of Ellesmere Island and breathed a great big sigh!

Today my plans involved visiting the medical centre to get potions and pills for my various ailments, which include allergic skin reactions to zinc oxide tape on my feet, a swollen left knee and a skin infection on my chin! (Looking so goood! ;)

Then I was off to the hamlet Coop Store and to Umimmak School to spend the afternoon giving a workshop.

Once I'd realised that the clocks were an hour forward, I'd become an hour late! So my 7am became 8am and I hurried down my cup of tea and got ready to go to the Medical Centre…

Inside the centre I chatted with Amon, who worked on reception and was a local hunter and older brother to Pauline; a woman who had welcomed us to Grise Fiord and who is bubbly, friendly and 27 years old.

I chatted to Amon about the expedition for a while. He asked if I’d seen any bears and was interested to hear about my bear encounter on Devon Island. Then the nurse Nancy said I could go through. Nancy was in her early 30’s and was really interested in my project and we chatted about the trip for a while... She confirmed the swelling in my knee and gave me some anti-flamatory pills, anti-biotics for my skin infection and cream for my allergic reaction on my feet. There was no charge for the medicine and I was sorted within half an hour! Great!

I also weighed myself and happily, I haven't lost any weight. I've lost a tiny bit of fat and added a bit more muscle, so I'm still about 9.5 stone. I was happy with this as some of the other guys on my team lost 2 stone. If I'd done that I'd be a wreck!

I said my thank yous and goodbyes and tottled up the hill to the local Co-op store. The aeroplane had just brought the weekly fresh supplies in so everyone from the village came rushing through the doors prompt at opening time! I bought sandwich fodder. Tuna and cucumber and ham and cheese. (I'd been dreaming about juicy cucumber in salads whilst I was pulling my sledge) and when I made the sandwiches later, I didn’t cut round slices… I cut long thick strips. I can now confirm this is the way forward when eating cucumber in sandwiches!

Anyways… After I'd done my shopping I went to the school and met up with Lee Wood (the School Principal) and Leslie, the teacher of the class I’d be doing my workshop with (young people aged from 10-13). Lee showed me around the school and told me about some of the artists that have visited in the past, showing me an amazing array of beautiful prints the young people and adults had done…

I'd met most of the kids in my class before I entered the room, either playing in the tent or when I'd first arrived. The kids were friendly and welcoming and I asked them to move their desks aside so we could all sit on the floor and play some games.

After a few games to break the ice ;) they asked me questions about the kids back home and my life in Lancashire. They couldn't get their heads round what renting a house meant at first, until I explained it was like paying for a hotel, but just once a month and for a whole house! Most of their houses are detached bungalow houses, so they thought the idea of my semi-detached house, with three floors seemed a bit strange. And when I mentioned dark grey, rain clouds they all went, 'Whooaaa...' as in, 'heavy...!' :) They don’t get much rain here...

We had ten minutes before break so we all led on our fronts and I showed them some photos of my family and they plugged my Ipod into the classroom speakers whereupon I introduced them to Bob Marley, Jill Scott, MF Doom and a couple of my boyfriends tracks. They really liked the beats and wrote down a couple of artists that I have to look up on Youtube when I get home, including a guy called George Nozuk who I haven't had chance to look up yet...

After break we looked at the letters they'd written for the young people I'm working with back in Blackpool at Collegiate High School through Creative Partnerships and they answered some questions that the Blackpool students had asked me to ask them.

Some of the questions included, ‘What is your favourite thing to do’, to which a lot of the young people said, ‘Hunting, camping and ice hockey’. Another question included ‘What would you like to see changed in your community?’ to which they answered, ‘An ice-hockey rink and swimming pool to be built’. They also wished that the sea would get warm enough to swim in (it’s always frozen or slushy, too cold to swim in and never any waves to surf on! Bummer.

4pm came quick! But before the class left a few of the kids asked if I would play out with them later, which sounded great so I said yup and that I'd be out at 7.30pm! I was left with a file full of letters, a DVD about the hamlet and a smile on my face!

The school staff were really friendly and we all exchanged contact details so we could keep in touch and keep the exchange going! I really enjoyed my time in the school, but I just wish I'd had longer!

I felt happy and content walking back and even happier when I was told that Dwayne and Sharla were cooking dinner again! Sharla’s cooking is AMAZING! ☺

Dinner was homemade pizza, chicken wings and salad and then the most yummy apple strudel and vanilla ice cream! Suddenly the phone rang and to my surprise Sharla said it was for me?...

‘Who know’s I’m here?’ I thought, then Sharla said, ‘It’s Jenni’, (one of the local kids), ‘She wants to know when you’re playing out?’

I suddenly regressed back to when I was 10 years old and as I spoke to Jenni I realized it was just after 8pm (time had flown!) and I was late! I finished my coffee, said thanks for dinner and was invited to stay the night at Sharla’s house in Dawson’s bedroom. This was great as the other option was watching Rambo with the guys at the other police mans house, which didn’t really appeal.

Playing out was cool. They had plastic sledges shaped like big circles that they sat on, kneeled up. They slid down the snowy bank out the back of Sharla’s house and then up and over another bank. It looked pretty hairy and I thought, I can snowboard pretty well, do small jumps and go pretty fast, but this looks dangerous! ;0) Remembering sods law I opted (like a proper chicken) to only go from half way down the bank. I slid down the bank and halfway up the other with my legs sticking out, much to the kids delight. We laughed and then I gladly handed the sledge back to the people that are the correct size for using it!

I then got my Hubba Bubba tape out that I’d bought to share with them (they’d given me some Hubba Bubba bubblegum in the tent on the first night). We shared out the tape and I was given someone else’s hubba bubba so I had a concoction of wonderful fruit flavours in my mouth! Walking back to the hill two little guys, dressed in green jackets and bobble hats and as tall as my thigh, jumped on the back of the sledge and we pulled them up the hill by a rope much to their delight (it got harder as more kids piled on, but then they fell off so the balance was restored :0)

The smaller kids (probably aged about 5) were really cute and were investigating a patch of rock rubble at the top of the hill. They were bent over looking at the rocks and picking up ones they liked and discarding the ones they didn’t. It reminded me of when I was a kid and me and my best friend used to have a rock collection each on the local hills near where we lived. We used to engrave and scratch pictures into the slate from the walls.

After sledging and chatting for a while the kids took me on a tour around the hamlet and showed me where they lived, which dogs were friendly… which were not! And also pointed out a mountain peak that had been climbed by a local man and also where an Inushuk was at the top of a mountain overlooking the hamlet.

Back at Sharla’s house the guys had moved on to watch Rambo and the family had cleaned up, got the boys in their jim jams, made popcorn and cactus chips and had a Harry Potter film on. It was great to have a cup of tea and right away little Dawson (7) offered me his cactus chips that he’d made. I took a couple and then offered the bowl back. Dawson said, ‘Nope, you’ll want to eat them all!’ and you know what, he was right. England definitely needs cactus chips.

Chilling with the family was great and when I went to sleep in Dawson’s room surrounded by dinosaur pictures I felt so lucky, I couldn’t have asked for a better day in Grise Fiord.