Tuesday, February 16, 2010

the ii, pi, ti, kii of Tommy

I recently came back from a trip to Iqaluit. I haven't been up north in about three years.

Before i write too much about my trip to Iqaluit, I want to point out that I like Ottawa. I like Ottawa so much, i have said it is my home now. When people ask me what i like about Ottawa, I usually point out that I like the books and the cheap DVD's here in the city, which there is plenty of. I also like the privacy that i get here, where not a lot of people know me and the best part is, where they actually don't care. That might sound bad but it's not. I also like the bums of Ottawa, they are easier to talk to and they are honest and direct.

Now, lets get back to the trip to Iqaluit. I went to Iqaluit for the Nunavut Language Summit, where some 200 people from all over the circumpolar Arctic came to Nunavut's measly capital. I have never really liked Iqaluit ever since I first went there when i was 7. I was born there when it was still called Frobisher Bay, when it was still an Inuit community and still had the candy store and Ventures was called Salluminiq.

I am a cheap. Cheap. I have a phone that runs out of minutes every month. I eat many noodles. I have shoes that smell so bad it would disgust a skunk. I have a t-shirt that I have had since i was 18. I will take a free drink, especially at government and institutional events, to quench my thirst.

When I landed in Iqaluit, I turned my phone on and the first text i get is from a lady named Amber and it reads: I got your number from a friend, want to have a good time tonight? I laugh alone, just before i board off the plane. First thing I notice is the cold on my legs. I am a skinny guy, always have been and my legs are cold in two seconds. I am not ashamed of that. I get to the airport and there they are, my sisters waiting for me. I give them a hug and kuniks and i especially give a kunik to my most beautiful niece Sheema. I am happy to be around them.

The Nunavut Language Summit was organized by the Nunavut Department of CLEY (Culture, Language, Elders and Youth) and they asked me if i could be part of a panel and i agree to come up to Iqaluit to speak. How i go about speaking is that i don't think about it too much until its one hour before the actual talk, which i did too in Iqaluit. Its not important what i said, so i am not going to write it down.

I have been to a bunch of conferences and summits countless times. Me and a friend of mine say that we save the world one conference at a time. But this summit in Iqaluit was different, so different that i can confidently say that it actually worked. I am still motivated by it and i feel very good about the discussions that went on. Many types of issues were talked about, such as the standardization of Inuktitut writing, inuktitut in working environments, popular music in Inuktitut. And i am glad to say, i didn't hear throat singing through out the whole week. I have heard enough throat singing to last me into the afterlife.

The elders were all there as well. People say that the elders are the holders of knowledge. I agree with the statement but not fully. I believe there is no limit to knowledge and wisdom and even though they have accumulated a wealth of knowledge, they still can be stubborn and make mistakes. I had this point out to me by a respected elder from Pond Inlet, when she said that she still learns and makes mistakes and she still tells herself that she needs to be open. The only advice she gave me was to not become not too hard emotionally and intellectually. One of the best advice i have received in a long time. She said that we disregard laws nowadays, especially Inuit laws and the repercussions are too much sometimes that people lose lives and fall into a pit of self-despair. I agree with her. She also said that too many young people think they are adults when they are far from being an adult and how the western thought says that an 18 year old is an adult is not true at all. I agree with her too because i thought like that too when I was 18, and got angry at my parents for trying to give me advice and i lashed out and said that i am old enough now. We laughed at what i did. It was me and her conversation, so you, the reader, is out of luck into what i did. too bad, its the power of being a writer. hahaha, look at me calling myself a writer.

Since i am talking about a conference, I feel compelled to tell you about the awful food that these events usually offer. Hey but remember about me being cheap? Well, I'll take free food anytime, no matter how bad it might be. So i ate the horrible sandwich lunches we had. I mean i am sure my 14 year old niece can feed a group of 20 people better than what they fed us.

The most i liked about the event was to have such respectable people (to me anyways) such as Zebeedee Nungak, the writer of the qallunology series and former Inuit politician. Jose Kusugak, a teacher, politician and an advocate of standardization of Inuktitut. Carl Christian Olsen a co-founder of Greenland University and a linguist. And of course the political community of Inuit across Canada and Nunavut. The talks were very agreeable, especially when it came to the standardization issue. I believe that Inuktitut has to be standardized as well, just to ease the communications between regions, territories and countries. I would love to be able to freely communicate with a person from Greenland as much as i like to talk to my father. I want to be able to write and translate in any dialect and have every Inuk understand it. I want to be reading Ernest Hemingway in Greenlandic. Don't you?

This was not the typical thing about language. People talked about language and i was very glad that they didn't talk too much about education. But rather Inuit talked about Inuktitut as a living thing, talked about using it at home more than using it at schools. I want to see Inuktitut in the school system just as other concerned citizens, but there is a limit into how much we put power into schools. I rather give power to the parents and have them design the school system rather than Louis Tapardjuk telling the parents what their kids should be learning. Language should be as natural as taking a shit, and you don't hear Mr. Tapardjuk telling us how to take a shit, do you?

Just as i am ending this, i want to tell you now why i liked this trip, personally. I liked this trip because I reconnected with friends and family. I learned something about myself and what i like and get ready for this: I liked the slow pace and the eased atmosphere that everyone has. Laugh is the first language of Nunavut. I laughed with my good friends that I went to NS with on the trip and joked around with them, such as the opening ceremonies at the Olympics, the absurdity of Year of the Inuit and just the general gossip and rumours that are always flowing like holy water in Iqaluit. I realize there are no good bookstores in Iqaluit but that didn't matter when i was there because i saw families eating together, fathers playing with their daughters, friends laughing at the time we were drunk in Quebec, and sisters making me coffee and breakfast in the mornings made up for all the books this world might offer.

as this ends, i want you to sing the ii, pi, ti, kii song.


Anonymous said...

Heheh. Do you enjoy imagining people singing ii pi ti ki? Because I just did, all by myself in a hotel room. :)


Tommy Eh said...

Hi Alethea,

i like the ii pi ti kii song too. i was singing it when i was writing it.

loring said...

I loved this tommy, thanks for opening your heart, that is brave and wonderful.

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