Nothing can stop Mike and Jenna, Iqaluit's legally-blind love story
Mike Stopka and Jenna Kayakjuak have been married for 4 years, in Nunavut for 5
It's a classic love story: boy meets girl on Skype during a computer repair, boy moves to Canada, boy and girl move to Nunavut.
Oh, and both boy and girl are legally blind.
Wait, that's not how it goes, you say? Well, don't tell that to Iqaluit's Jenna Kayakjuak and Mike Stopka.
The American-born Stopka — he's currently finalizing his Canadian immigration — and Kayakjuak, who was born in Iqaluit, have been married for nearly four years. Their story began with a mutual friend, who asked for Stopka's help repairing Kayakjuak's computer.
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The pair "just started talking from there," said Stopka, and before he knew it, he was on his way to Ottawa to meet her in person.
"I haven't really met anyone online... so that was a new experience for me," said Kayakjuak.
"But he was everything he said he was."
'I had never even heard of Nunavut'
Shortly after that, Kayakjuak got a job in Iqaluit with the federal government's Inuit Development and Learning Project, and asked Stopka to join her. Despite only being together for a short time, the answer was a no-brainer.
"I always felt closeness once we met in person, and at that point and still today, I would do anything that was going to support Jenna," he said.
"So coming up here to me was just an obvious answer when she asked. I didn't even have to think about that."
It was a bit of a culture shock for the Wisconsin-born Stopka, who says he "had never even heard of Nunavut before [he] came to Canada."
Being blind in Iqaluit also posed challenges for the pair, such as making sure their guide dog is properly outfitted for winter weather and snow-covered walkways. Kayakjuak was born blind; Stopka's vision is limited to about 20 feet at best.
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However, despite the challenges, Iqaluit is "a wonderful place to live," said Stopka.
"It's not like the come-and-go friendships and stuff that you have down south. I find you meet a lot of lifelong friends here."
After being together for a year, the pair decided to get married. The ceremony took place in their Iqaluit apartment among family and friends — another step in making Iqaluit home.
"We've gotten used to it and we love it here," said Kayakjuak.
'We complement each other'
So what's the secret to the pair's unconventional love story?
"We complement each other," said Stopka. "I'm rough around the edges, she's not. She's got a better grasp on rules, and all that stuff than I do."
"He's more of a talker, I'm more of a listener," Kayakjuak said.
"He has skills that I don't necessarily have, and I have skills that he doesn't necessarily have. So I think being opposite allows us to compliment each other quite well."
And as they approach their fourth anniversary in April, what's their Valentine's Day advice for young couples just getting started?
"Spend Valentine's Day together," said Kayakjuak. "But you guys don't always have to be around each other all the time. Take a break."
"If you want a relationship to work, don't be difficult with that person," Stopka offered. "Try to work with that person.
"I know that things can sometimes be rough. But I always love and care about her."
With files from Mike Salomonie, Priscilla Hwang