Monday, 24 June 2013

Town of Dust and Erosion

Sofia Jain

Soap stone carver
After a summer blizzard

The look of Iqaluit really surprised me. I would never guess that it’s in Canada. The amount of garbage, and the kids always playing in the street digging with spatulas and playing with pieces of plastic gives it a 3rdworld feel. I wouldn’t call Iqaluit a nice looking town, nor can I say it smells very good. The smell on the wind is that of car exhaust, from the crazy amount of people who drive in a town that can be walked across in half an hour, and when the wind blows right it smells of sewage off the sewage lagoon that lies just outside of town. But beneath the dust and the boundless garbage is a charm that is both stunning and difficult to pinpoint. There is something beautiful about being allowed to see the weathering of time, in the tendency for the town to be unkept and bare of facades of glamour and fresh paint. Just as the roads and the houses, there are faces eroded by years of exposure to the harsh wind and sun.

Yellow airport, a pile of recyclables never recyled
in garbage bags and a large pothole (large even for Iqaluit)

One of the 2 stores in town
When you pass people on the street, like in all places I have been, there are those who avoid eye contact, like I have the habit of doing. But, those who smile back at you have a different smile than I’m used to in Ottawa. Maybe it’s a small town smile. It consists less of a squeeze of the face in acknowledgement and more of a genuine display of happiness, lit with a hint of humour. The exchange of smiles as you pass by seems more like the sharing of a moment, and I’m blown away by how significantly it can impact my feeling of well being.

The land though, is what draws people here. There is so much land empty of and untouched by humans. In the summer, it is hard to understand why its known as the Barrens because its just teeming with life. Ancient lichens, flower plants, fungi, spiders, bumblebee. I really never get tired of looking at the tundra. It is also the most amusing thing to walk on; it’s like one giant sponge.


  1. That is interesting - from your photos I thought the town looked "tatty". The store looks best building!
    I wonder if they have things like central heating in homes for winter or do they rely on fires.
    I hope they don't encroach too much on tundra

    1. As far as I know all the heating is by oil. Desertification occurs everywhere that there is people. Under the town there is no tundra, only a lot of dust, but elsewhere the tundra seems pretty healthy!

  2. Hi Sofia,
    It sounds like you are having a wonderful adventure.
    Besides being a good biology student you are also a good writer.
    I enjoy your personal perspective - your line about not looking people in the eye while on the streets made me smile.
    I look forward to reading what is yet to come.

    1. Hi Claudia,
      It is quite the adventure!
      Thanks for your kind words.
      I'm so happy to know your reading this!