I've lived in Iqaluit almost 8 months now. I had a post written 2 weeks after I got here, but I figured I should give this place more time before I wrote about it. What has struck me the most is that this place is actually 2 distinct cities located in the same geographic location.
For the economic underclass of Iqaluit, the rapid growth and dramatic economic expansion taking place here must seem surreal. The promise of Nunavut has not materialized as promised over a decade ago, and the same social conditions persist. Housing is tighter than ever - at least partially because market forces related to the rapid population growth has kept the poor in the same public housing. The primary daily concern is getting enough food to eat. The primary economic activities include the sharing of traditional foods, assisting peers and family members with odd jobs and maintenance, hunting and fishing, carving and arts & crafts making and selling, and occasional trips to the food bank, soup kitchen, or community feasts which offer the promise of a full stomach.
Those who do seek out and find work often find that the old adage of "more money, more problems" means that family members and friends expect more than one can provide. Unresolved substance abuse issues need to be appeased, sometimes at the cost of the very job that enabled the appeasement in the first place. Violence and other forms of assault are all too common, accepted as a reality of life. Sexual promiscuity is common, and begins at a young age. The birth rate is astronomical - in line with the rest of the territory, but in stark contrast to the 2.3 children families in Iqaluit's twin-city average.
The institutions that represent the citizens of Iqaluit seem a world apart - staffed primarily by people who live in a fantasyland of late-model SUV's, big houses, ample food supplies, and happy lives. Traditional racial tensions are combined with emergent low-key economic resentment - as more and more Inuit, many from out-of-town, benefit from the economic boom taking place, and move into the big houses up in the hills with a truck in every driveway.
Trips to Ottawa are generally for medical reasons, and the idea of a holiday is non-existent. Few have bank accounts, let alone credit cards - cash is king. The notion of 'savings' - money tucked away for retirement, a rainy day, or that trip to the Caribbean - is positively exotic and foreign.
Iqaluit's twin-city of Ikalewit is a cosmopolitan, progressive, wealthy land of opportunity. With a bit of hard work, anyone can strike it rich, or at least move up in the world. There's so much to do and see, so many new people to meet and mingle with, so much to bitch about, and new things happening all the time. Rapid growth can sometimes be a nuisance, but mostly it means the local economy is doing well and people are working. Economic expansion presents opportunities not only for Ikalewitmiut, but for their kids as well.
Sure, it can be tough to find housing - there's that one place for sale but it's in that shady neighbourhood. Renting is a short term option, but building some equity is important. Some Ikalewiutmiut live in staff housing - a nice perk, especially as it allows for socking some money away for the next trip south. Life in Ikalewit can sometimes be tough - there's alot of crime, and one always has to be on the look out for drunks. Property values are doing well though - property in Ikalewit is always a safe investment. There were even some condominiums for sale awhile back. There's so many jobs available - many Ikalewitmiut get to pick and choose between a number of job offers (this is great for the CV).
Traffic can be tiresome, and the City really should do something about the potholes. I mean, it's 2011 - surely there's a better way. There's those annoying wooden poles around town - don't get Ikalewitmiut started on those eyesores! Ikalewit can be tough on vehicles, what with the harsh winters and all. To clarify, not all Ikalewitmiut have SUV's - but for those that don't there always plenty of taxis around. Then there's that dark road up to Tundra Valley - the city REALLY needs to put up some lights there.
There's lots to do outside of town too. Sylvia Grinnell is a great place for a picnic. Lots of places around town to take the dog for a walk. Many Ikalewitmiut have great views of the bay from their living rooms - something they are eager to show off to friends. Downtown Ikalewit is kind of ugly - there's alot of trash in the ditches, but up in the hills or on the ridges it's usually pretty good.
Ikalewit is far from perfect - internet access is sooo slow. There's always those people hanging around outside of Northmart and Ventures. Getting in or out of Ikalewit is expensive too. Food is pricey and the selection can be limited. Alcohol is also expensive - one can order from Rankin or from Marché Nord. Be careful at the bars though - they can be a little rowdy.
Ikalewit is a very diverse community - there's people here from all over the country, and many minority groups too! There's that new shawarma place - FINALLY!
Everyone is always so busy too - Ikalewit is a city on the move. Well, except for those unemployed people. No one is quite sure what they do all day, or why they don't just get a job. There was that janitor's position advertised a little while ago that pays like $65,000 a year! It's not like they even need high school for that. Consensus is that those people just want a hand-out, or are too busy getting drunk and having babies. Sometimes they have really nice arts or crafts for sale at the restaurants.
If you are new to Nunavut, there's lots of blogs that will help you prepare and get accustomed. Lots of folks will help you adjust and give you pointers, show you around, introduce you to people. Don't worry, you'll have a great time.