Remember when I said I wasn't running for the hills yet? This is where the "yet" part comes in. Don't worry, I'm not bowing out or anything, but these are some of the things that I'm giving a lot of thought to at the moment. There isn't a lot of sunny sides in this post, those will come later... This is about the stuff that scares me a little. We're in for a bit of a culture shock I think.
There are six communities that the James Bay ambulance service covers. And although they are all very far up north, places like moosonee at the top of the train track are going to have more in the way of people, tourists, and amenities, than places further along that are only accessible by air, and only have airports big enough to land a four seater Cessna. In general, fresh produce up there is abysmal, and virtually non-existant. Non perishable items are much easier to come by, because there is less chance of them being expired or spoiled by the time they get up there. The fresh foods that do exist in these northern communities are generally hardy, relatively tough, and naturally have a long shelf life. Things like potatoes, squash, onions, carrots and other root vegetables, and things like apples. However, in some communities, a 3 lb bag of apples costs over 13 dollars. A jug of real juice might cost 23 bucks in some places. I will be bringing some varieties of cold hardy seeds with me, but we'll be arriving in December or January, so I'll have to wait until spring to do much of the growing. Apparently the prices aren't so crazy when it comes to things that come in a box and can be stored at room temperature, but really most of those things aren't good for you. Diabetes and obesity are rampant in many of these communities, because the people simply can't afford to make nutritious choices for their families. Hunting and fishing are both important parts of their culture, and wild game should be plentiful. I'll have to pick up a couple of wild game cookbooks.
Water has historically been an issue in some of the communities, things like e-coli are fairly common due to inadequate, or lacking waste disposal programs, whether it be garbage, or sewage. We have been assured that all communities are testing safe currently. Very reassuring.
Alcoholism can be a big problem up there too. Consider, however, the price of juice (over 20 dollars), while the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) regulates their prices province wide. Why buy a liter of juice for 20$, when 15$ can buy you a bottle of cheap vodka? I have to say, I kind of understand how it happens.
The northernmost veterinary clinic in Ontario is in Cochrane. You can bet that the locals up in James bay aren't in a hurry to take a flight or train ride down to cochrane with their dog to have it spayed or neutered. Again, the cost is prohibitive. Occasionally the SPCA sends mobile vets up to the area to run spay and neuter clinics, but in the meantime the dogs breed like rabbits, and there is a real problem with strays. They make a nuisance of themselves around the garbage dumps, and make it difficult if not impossible to keep livestock or their feed outdoors. Periodically, the animal control officers round up and cage as many dogs as they can, and shoot them. Puppies often starve or freeze to death in the snow. Or succumb to larger threats, like bears, wolves, and big cats. I know for sure there are black bears, I couldn't actually tell you if there are polar's, but I would imagine so. I'm packing my bear bell, and maybe even some strings of sleigh bells, though I don't know how much this will really help.
75% or more of the population will be Cree in the areas we'll be traveling to. In many towns, the locals shiver through the winter in small basic houses, shacks, trailers, or even built up tents, while the (often white) professionals who have been brought in to look after the communities get bigger, warm, proper houses, with electricity, running water and all the amenities. People like nurses, teachers, religious leaders, and paramedics like Andrew, to name a few. I don't feel very good about that. As much as it will be nice to be safe, warm and secure, I don't thing that us having, while the others have not, will exactly foster good relations with our neighbors.
Mail arrives once a week, and sometimes is just delivered to the post offices, not individual homes. Letters probably won't need a specific address most of the time, a simple
will likely suffice.
Basic services like cable, mobile phone service, and internet may be a challenge in some areas. Apparently there are providers providing these services up there, but they are all small, local companies. Certainly I won't be able to show up with my Fido iPhone and just continue on my merry way. Perhaps things like "data plans" don't really exist up there and I would be smart to drop down to a basic phone for a while. Wow, that'll be a switch. I live for/with my iPhone! But life in general will have a different pace up there, and maybe I'll find I don't need it as much as I think I will. There should be internet, but I'm willing to bet it will be quite slow. We are planning to start downloading seasons of various shows, and a bunch of movies as well while we can down here, and bringing them north with us to give us something to do on long cold nights.
I don't know how much there will be for me up there in the way of work... Certainly I'll bring a table, and perhaps be able to make a little income serving the professionals in the communities, but in a town of 900-3500 people, how many people do you think will want massage? In moose factory or moosonee it would be fairly easy to get a job of some sort working in the hospitals, but what about some of the other communities? I doubt there are much in the way of local classified ads.
I have a whole lot of questions, so far more than I have answers. So, I keep reading, and looking, and believe it or not, eagerly anticipating what the future might hold. Right now, November 20th (When Andrew writes the test) seems so very far away.