A craftsman from Nain sold me a necklace. It was a very simple piece: a small soapstone carving of an ulu (an Inuit woman’s knife) enclosed within a silver circle. I complimented the man on his beautiful craftsmanship; he complimented us on all the fine veterinary work we were doing for his community; and what started as a polite interaction between an artist and a buyer became one of the most thoughtful conversations I’ve had in a long time.
The craftsman had strolled into the firehouse clinic during the late afternoon on our last day. Our final surgeries were winding down, and I was beginning the process of packing our supplies for our next trip to Sheshatshiu. When I saw his small display of soapstone pendants, I was eager to purchase a beautiful keepsake to remind me of Nain. I thanked the man after our transaction, and he was about to head out the door when he suddenly turned back to me.
With a curious expression he asked me why I wanted to be a veterinarian. I smiled and simply told him that I wanted to help animals and the people who care for them. The man nodded his head thoughtfully, and what he said next made me set aside my current task so that I could give his words my full attention. Wistfully, he told me that when he was young, he attended university for political science with the hope that he would one day become a lawyer. Due to certain circumstances, however, he was unable to finish his degree. Looking around the bustling clinic he said that he wished he could have gone back and continued his education. “I’m a man of the people,” he said; “I’m not truly whole unless I’m using my knowledge and skills to help the world around me.” Although he used his artistic talent to pay his bills, he said he would always want to contribute more to mankind than just his art. To that statement, I felt I could entirely relate.
Growing up I did not always know I wanted to be a veterinarian. It took me years to decide, after thoughtful consideration, that this was the career path that I wanted to take. In the past, I also briefly entertained the idea of pursuing art as my future. I’ve had a talent and a passion for art from a young age…why not continue that passion as my career? And yet, had I chosen that path, I too think I would have always felt the desire to contribute something more to the world around me. As we continued our conversation, the craftsman and I agreed that we could pursue both of our individual passions. It didn’t have to be one or the other. He seemed inspired by our clinic and left in good spirits, declaring he had a renewed interest continuing his education. I too felt inspired, and above all grateful for the choices that I have made which have lead me to where I am today; on the road to a fulfilling career, where I can hopefully balance my passion for veterinary medicine with my passion for art.
Michelle Gorayeb, AVC 2017, traveled to Nain & Sheshatshiu in 2016 as one of the student participants on the Chinook Project. As part of the experience, the students craft various pieces of reflective writing. This is one of Michelle’s pieces