little mosque on the tundra: 100 nationalities in a 3500 person Arctic town

I waited patiently for the History of Inuvik meeting to start on Tuesday evening. I saw the advertisement in the newspaper. We met at the library. Turns out an eclectic mix of people attend these meetings—a United Nations mix. The East … Continue reading

lifestyle in inuvik


A wintry welcome from Inuvik this Monday. As we descend the two story hotel for a morning out, the summer sky overhead is billowy with snowbanks of cloud. The blustery wind reminds me of changing seasons. I’m told +8 is not a typical July day…yet the Visitor Center reception reports snow visited Inuvik only a month ago. A month ago!

A trip to North Mart, the downtown grocery, reveals a remarkable increase in food spending for our six week summer visit—by three times as much.

At six dollars a carton for yoghurt, we’ll alter our daily consumption. One does not have to eat yoghurt.

Cheese is on the endangered list at $13 a petite block. Even a box of microwaveable popcorn is $11. Celery stalks $4.50.

Twelve dollars for a four liter of milk. I’m tempted to fast. We’re certainly not wasting anything.

We could be adventurous: I saw an advertisement for reindeer meat at the liquor store—but I’d have to buy a full side! And store it in the bar fridge?

Since there is no stove or oven in our hotel kitchenette, we will still purchase a fast food dinner at $75. Yikes, yikes, yikes!

Permafrost-ridden earth means the ground is permanently frozen, until summer, when it melts and buildings sink a bit.

Which also means that gardens are scarce, except at northern Canada’s largest greenhouse—a community garden at the old hockey rink. You won’t see lilacs blooming in anyone’s front yards here. Just scrubby grasses, and I don’t mean lawns.

Permafrost also means an overground pipeline-looking utilidor, where plumbing and sewer are moved from home to home or business to business. Nothing underground! An inukshuk across the street, houses and businesses on stilts. Have you ever seen such things? There is a four feet open space under all buildings – where children could play! “Mom, I’m going outside. I’ll be under the house!”

This is Canada, still Canada, but a whole different experience in living.


a field trip to the Arctic Ocean, Tuktoyaktuk

Just as the Mackenzie River delta, the largest in Canada, and second largest in North America diverges in more than one direction, I could write in two directions. Should I tell about my husband’s location or the colour of the water? … Continue reading

what to do in the Land of the Midnight Sun, Inuvik

Seven year old Madelyn remarked, “We don’t do much here, mom. We get up, watch cartoons, do studies, play in the common area, sometimes go to the pool or library, do more studies, eat, read and go to bed. Same thing every day”.

Except for the afternoons at the beach”, I added–though few, because as my usually super optimistic child recounts: “It’s gloomy here.” The ‘beach’ is right behind the hospital. There is a lovely walking path all the way around, but not beach as in sand, rather beach as in gravel.

I can’t resist as I go on: “And do you remember the four seat Cessna trip, one hour chartered flight to the Arctic Ocean, and the guided tour around Tuktoyaktuk?”


And like that wasn’t enough, “Oh yeah, and caramel steamers at the local café? A super expensive fast food dinner at the The Roost Restaurant? Making bread almost every morning together?” She still wasn’t convinced.

You and your sister get to independently prepare breakfasts on the stove: scrambled eggs and french toast anyone?” It runs counter to my naturally controlling self, but I figure if I get out of the kitchen and leave my kids to their own devices, my kids will learn to cook. Yes, the kitchen will be a disaster, but if I stay in the kitchen, they will only learn to watch.

But that’s just food mom. We can do that at home.”

Yup, we can. But we don’t normally eat this much stuff out of cans. You get to learn to open cans more…” An argument that would only convince for another month or so.

Woo hoo!” sarcasm intended.

How about attending the ice cream social at the Baptist church? Playing with that missionary family that’s heading to Alaska? Or all the playground visits mixing with the, as you call them, ‘non-blond’ kids?” Meeting new kids on a playground is a great way for both kids and mom to meet new friends.

Yeah that was fun.”

How about trips to the gift store, the book store and every other store in town?” Every. single. store. You want to know what people are like in a new end of the world? Head to the grocery store and people watch. Don’t stand in the middle of the produce aisle and stare, mind you. But you’ll get a quick sense of people as they fill their carts with frozen pizzas and Fritos and Cream Soda. 

“Even grocery shopping is an adventure. Do you remember how exciting it was the first time we went to the Northern? “Wow, mom, look how much diapers are!!” Zachary is on the countdown to diaper training. Who can afford diapers at $75 a box?


We attended a festival day, Parks Day, at Alexander Mackenzie Elementary School and watched aboriginal drummers and dancers. We made visits to the biggest greenhouse in North West Territories, and the Roman Catholic Igloo Church. A lady came from northern Canada and taught us to make muskox wool out of muskox fur at the Northern Arts Festival.” Where is northern Canada if Inuvik is south?


I think we’ve found a few things to do!

what we eat in inuvik


When we take a tour of the Inuvik Community Greenhouse, we discover that in the land of the midnight sun, where permafrost endures throughout the year, things grow, really grow, very quickly…in raised beds of course. Because the northern hemisphere is tipped towards the sun in these summer months, this northerly part of the northern hemisphere is bathed in sunshine. When the old hockey arena is converted into a community greenhouse, it makes for a lot of square footage to grow typical farm garden fare.

After our tour, I bought a fundraising community recipe book, and was eager to discover the northerners recipes for muskox and bison. To my surprise, I discover an international recipe book. How could that be? Inuit and Inuvaliut First Nations primarily populated this area not that many years ago. Along with Canada’s major urban centers of Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal, Inuvik has become a multinational territory now.

I can find a recipe for Portuguese Chick Pea and Spinach Soup, Won Ton Soup, Vietnamese Salad Rolls, Tabouli, Jahb-Chae (a Korean stir-fry), Poutine, Dum Aloo, Cabbage Rolls, Tuscan Ravioli and even Green Onion Cakes. North West Territories is an international mix. Tis a long way to travel, but for those searching for anonymity, you can find it here.

In my new recipe book, I find a recipe for Fireweed Jelly, Yukon’s territorial flower. And two recipes for bannock, of course. I can also find Teriyaki Muskox, Moose Meatballs, Muskox Hamburgers, and Moose Roast.

When I was at the Northern (the grocery store), I asked where to find fish? Surely I’d find something in the freezer aisle. I’d tasted a delicious Arctic Char back in Dawson City. Do they sell beluga? Or is that just for the Tuktoyaktuk residents? A roll of the eyes from the cashier, and a sharp comment, “Over there”…she pointed toward the Mackenzie Delta. “You want fish, you fish”. Okay, so we won’t be eating fish this summer.

That’s okay, because I can find home packaged plastic baggies of muskox hamburger. Gotta try muskox when you can. Have you tried a muskox ball? An awful lot like regular meatballs, minus the fat. Sorta tastes like moose, but gamier, but definitely as lean. Thankfully the cashier didn’t suggest I hunt for my muskox since the only muskox we’d see was standing upright, stuffed, at the visitor center.

Recipe for Muskox Hamburgers…

Mix 1 lb. ground muskox meat

1 tsp minced garlic

pinch of salt and pepper

one large egg

one cup oatmeal

2 TBS Montreal Steak Spice

Well, that sounds familiar!

Thank you Murray Arsenault. The burgers were delish!

What did the kids think of the burgers? They didn’t even know.

first day in Inuvik

The road turned from gravel to pavement and a huge sign welcomed us into this most northerly town. We curved up the road to the left and there was the colour-blocked hospital sitting atop the hill. A quick stop at the hospital to pick up keys to our summer abode, we instead discover a room was booked for us at the Mackenzie Lodge – after nine days in hotel rooms, we have arrived, and will stay in a hotel room. Our promised two bedroom apartment has become a two bed room.

Unpack the van, reorganize the room – that’s Hannah, Madelyn, and Rachel’s bed (each takes a turn at the end)–luckily they’re all under 9 and small enough for that, and that’s Zach’s corner (the foldable travel crib with two blankies) and this is our bed—my husband closest to the bathroom so he can wake, dress and go to the hospital without waking the rest of us. This would be our new dining room table—the classic hotel ‘desk’ with a small upholstered sitting bench and chair. The kitchen is a bar sink, microwave and bar fridge—thankfully I didn’t leave home without my “kitchen”—a backpack style picnic bag filled with matches, a towel and cloth, scraper, peeler, and anything I absolutely need in my kitchen back home. Was I ever smart to bring that now!

Perhaps there could have been some planning, some forethought for our arrival and accomodations since we did request final arrangements for our summer locum five months ago. Renovations were still being completed on the hospital dormitory style building.

When the hospital cafeteria is a sought after, less-expensive dinner option than any restaurant in town, you know you’re in a northern arctic town. The profundity of pizza pops—even at the cafeteria—cannot be a good sign for this town’s version of healthy eating. But who can avoid it when healthy choices are so darn expensive. Almost a hundred dollars for hamburgers and French fries for two adults and four kids under nine.

We’re making the best out of this though—exercise room down the hall is well-used for an hour and a half during Zach’s nap and the leather sofas in the hotel lobby have become our public sitting room and study zone. Ideal? Mwahaha. Make the best of this? Flexibility r us.