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29 Feb, 2008

From the hotel to the village is not quite a walking distance, and I was waiting for Marley, an employee of the hotel, who said he had business in the village. But I decide to follow Mr. Nagatani who says he would walk to get used to the cold. As I start walking in the temperature of thirty seven below, my muffler gets frost from my breaths. "What kind of temperature does a freezer have?", I asks. "May be minus fifteen-ish?" says Mr. Nagatani. "Then, we don't freeze just because we are alive? Or, because we have clothes on?" I keep walking thinking about this or that in the environment I have not experienced before.

As we have walked about a half an hour, a yellow car comes to halt by our side, and asks if we want a ride. Being relieved, honestly, I tell them why we are here for a few minutes before we get to the village. The driver is a villager from Resolute and the person on the passenger seat is from other village who works here. Both have typical Inuit features that look familiar to us. They tell us to be careful as one gets wind-burn, instead of sun-burn if you are exposed to strong wind. When I ask them if they have had it before, and they say every hunter should have on their cheeks.

Although we are busy arranging some necessary documents, looking for people for supports, some items or visiting schools before the start of the expedition, It is easy to get around the village as it is small enough to walk around entire village within fifteen minutes or so. If we tell them a name of a person we are looking for, they can tell us exactly where to go.

When we are on the way to the hamlet office, we once again run into the man who gave us a ride earlier (Nataq is his name), and who came from south to work here for a short period of time. As we are talking in English, he once nods saying 'Yee'. "You just said 'Yee', didn't you? ' I ask. 'Yee' means 'Yes' in Inuit's language, and that was same in Greenland. After that, Nataq has to endure the non-stop questions from me about the language and the letters of Inuit.

The first thing that interested me when I arrived in Nunavut was their writing. The official languages of Greenland where Inuit also live are Inuktutut and Denish, the language of parent country. But both are written in Roman alphabets and there is no special letters for Inuktutut officially. Inuit people did not have letters originally, and that nurtured their oral culture, so it makes me more interested about when the letters came in.

Nunavut Arctic College : The top is Inuktutut, the middle is in Alphabettical, and the bottom is English. This is not an actual college but more like a community college, life-long learning center.

While we are waiting for Marley from our hotel to pick us up at the Coop, only store in the village, we run into a boy named Daniel once again who came to talk to us in the post office earlier. When he asks me if I am going to buy something, I am just browsing, but somehow I reply to him that I am looking for a book to study Inuktutut. Saying 'They don't have it here', he slants his head and think, then he says "Maybe Mary at Arctic College can help you. Follow me"and takes me out from the back door of the store.

Arctic College is a small brown building of about 20 meters square. At the entrance, there is a sign which says the name. Inside is a kind looking lady. It is Mary. When she asks me if she can help me, I reply unpreparedly again and say "I would like to learn Inuktutut". She lends me a text book after she asked me how long I would stay here, saying it is actually for a teacher but would be good for me.

In the morning, when I am talking with Sara who works in the hotel, she says the name of the capital of Nunavut, Iqaluit. When I hear the peculiar way of pronouncing it, using the deep part of your throat, gradually I feel the joy that I am back here again in the land of Inuit people.

Noriko Miyashita