Monday, December 8, 2008
Thursday, December 4, 2008
Today it is raining and is 38 degrees outside. I'm watching the snow melt and the slough outside my window is full of rushing water. My plans to go bike riding on the river have been scratched now. Maybe I'll get my kayak back out.
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
On Tuesday of last week Brian came down to give our students their Driver's Ed tests. We are anxiously waiting for the results and I kind of wish I had a car so that I could take the kids who did earn their permits out for some driving lessons. The river is nice and flat and since there isn't anything out there to hit learning how to drive on the river would be ideal for any beginning student.
Brian spent the evening and we passed the time eating a yummy dinner of spaghetti and watching Christina season a turkey for the next day's feast at the school.
The next morning I awoke at 6:30 and threw the turkey in the oven and then promptly went back to bed.
School that day went exceptionally considering that 5 turkeys were roasting in various houses throughout the village and meal prep began almost the second breakfast was over. Have I ever mentioned how awesome my students are? They even took a quiz in biology (which everyone got A's on).
The meal was great. Brian brought our turkey over at noon. The students all know what they need to do to help set up and a half hour later our table was set, people were in the school and were ready to EAT!
After we gorged ourselves on food we quickly cleaned up and went home to get a little rest before the REAL turkey day approached.
My snowmachine had been in the shop (which is a whole 'nother silly story) and my friend K.C. agreed to bring me Bethel to get it. We went up there, we came back and then we ALL (K.C, Christina, Brian and I) all went back up.
I dropped Brian off at home then met K.C. and Christina off at V.I.P. for a Thanksgiving sushi dinner. After dinner, K.C. went home, Christina went to Anchorage to meet a friend and I went back to Brian's for a few beverages and to rest my stomach.
The next morning I awoke at...noon. We got up and had some breakfast and then proceeded to sit around for dinner to be ready.
At one point, the cook asked Brian and me to go to the A.C. to get some cranberry sauce. It was there at the A.C. that a very philosophical discussion took form. Which cranberry sauce would be the preferred sauce for our guests? For some reason, I suggested "get both" but then for whatever reason I figured that our guests would like the whole berry cranberries. BOY WAS I WRONG! Sliders folks, always opt for the sliders. (Sliders are the kind of cranberries that slide right out of the can.)
Thanksgiving was a blast. I ate dinner with Brian and his roommates at the Tundra Oasis. Jimmy, the master chef of the house, prepared a meal that was fit for the gods. Turkey, potatoes, stuffing, whole berry cranberries...it was all there. We stuffed ourselves silly.
After dinner we proceeded to sit around and laugh. Brian and I indulged in a little "champagne of beers" and the conversation with all the people there flowed freely. I met quite a few cool people at dinner and it was after one when Brian finished his taco and Dorito snack and we crawled back into bed.
It was noon again by the time we got up and we were quite slow to start our day. We finally got it started and decided to take the snow machines for a ride. The only problem was that Christina's machine decided not to start and once it did start it really didn't want to stay started. After a quick phone call to Christina in Anchorage we dropped her snow machine off at the shop.
With nothing much else to do Brian and I headed back to Oscarville where we spent the night watching movies and hanging out.
The next morning, Mr. Bodily (K.C.) joined us for some moose meat breakfast burritos and we all waited to hear news from Christina's machine. The news came...and it wasn't good. Her machine was sick and would take much longer than a day to get well.
K.C. left after we got the bad news and Brian and I headed back up to Bethel. I can't remember what we did but we headed back to Oscarville later on and Mr. Bodily joined us again later on that evening and we headed out to the bluffs for some good old fashioned sliding.
The next morning was Sunday and I brought Brian home early. I spent the rest of the day getting caught up on work and I ended the weekend feeling great. All in all...it was a great, restful and relaxing weekend and I don't think I have a single picture to prove it.
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Winter is officially here and is quite early this year. The trail to Napaskiak has been open for what seems like a few weeks already and we have been traveling up to Bethel for about the past two weeks. The trail is smooth and wonderful which means that my snowmachine and I can get up to Bethel in about 10 minutes or so now. It's a great feeling to have that sense of freedom again. I appreciate all the boat rides I get but I love being independent.
The kids are all out skiing and seeing the ski boots lined up (or strewn about in most cases) in the entryway of the school is a good feeling. I have only been out a couple of times this year on skis. On Sunday, I accompanied a friend of Christina's back across the river to Napaskiak. It was almost 9 pm when we arrived but the ski across was so nice and it was a great evening to be out.
The ski back was great as well. On my own, I had the opportunity to just enjoy the night and to go at my own pace. Macy loved being out and ran around the entire time. The Packers won, the dinner was great and the ski home was wonderful. I couldn't ask for a better start to the week.
Time to head outside now. Today has been one of the coldest days we have had so far this year and I think Macy and I are going to bundle up and head out for a run.
Thursday, November 13, 2008
Christina rattled off the couple of people who had called and then she looked at me and said, "And some guy dropped off some caribou meat for you."
I stopped for a second and replied, "Who?"
"I don't know, " she said, "I had never seen him before."
Christina then described him and since the description fit almost every Yup'ik man I know (except Raphael, the security guard at the courthouse -- I knew it wasn't him) I was still stumped. We put in a few phone calls to find out if someone in the village had gotten a caribou and asked around a bit. Still nothing. No clue who had dropped it off.
I walked to the sink and found a gallon Zip-Lock filled with fresh caribou meat. I was surprised and pleased at the quantity.
Of course, teasing from Christina immediately ensued (she should add "keeps Erin humble" to her list of duties) and as I divided the meat into smaller bags I felt my face burning a little.
However, I thought the whole "mystery meat" thing was pretty cool. I felt pretty honored that someone had thought to share their catch with me. And although my face was a bit red with embarrassment, I had a huge smile on my face.
**I have since found out that the meat was delivered by a nephew of a coworker of mine. He stopped in this past Sunday to say hi and have some tea. He has since been invited down for caribou stew when I have some time to make some.
Thursday, October 30, 2008
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
**A wise friend pointed out that the following comment could possibly be interpreted in two ways. One way would be "Yes good for him for trying against the odds to educate these young folks, and let's not forget about the brave teachers too", and the other way this comment could be interpreted could be "What a waste of time, he's ploughing money into building schools, without any thought for the teachers that will go on and teach there and subsequently their lives will be in danger. He's an idiot"
Thank you friend for pointing that out to me. The way I read the following comment is the second option (the "he's an idiot" option) and that is what I have formed my response to.
Yeah. Build schools. Nevermind those guys who will happily put a bullet in the teacher's head for trying to educate girls.My response to Anonymous is this:
Thank you so much for putting your insight and comment. I appreciate it. I'm glad that people are reading my blog.
I think what you are referring to are the Muslim extremists who twist the words of the Koran to justify killing people who dare go against Allah's work. I agree that those types of people exist and they are present in our world.
What you have to remember is that not everyone who is a Muslim is an extremist. Perhaps this is my ignorant opinion of the world, and perhaps I put too much trust that there are still good people out there, but not all Muslims are hell-bent on blowing up anyone who isn't Muslim. The American and world media does a great job of showing us images of men and women screaming and burning American flags. The media doesn’t hesitate to show terrorists holding M16s threatening someone who is blindfolded. We hear stories daily of roadside bombs and attacks against our military. Yet the media doesn't tell us the story of a man who has dedicated 15 years of his life to living with and working alongside Muslim men and women to improve their quality of life. The power of the media is great and has successfully instilled a fear in many people of anyone named Ali or Mohammed. I find it amazing and disgusting that many people refuse to vote for Barack Obama because his middle name is..gulp...Hussein!
The basic tenets of Islam are not to kill and to murder and destroy but to be loving, generous, kind and live life in a way in which Allah would approve. It isn't written in the Koran that all Muslims must kill everyone that isn't Muslim. Unfortunately, the media has done a great job of focusing attention on the handful of extremists who have interpreted the Koran to justify and sanctify killings.
On one trip back to Pakistan Mortensen sees huge magnificent buildings called madrasses erected in some of the villages he passes through. Mortensen explains that after years of neglect from the Pakistani government and after years of promised aid the people in the rural areas have become so desperate for education and assistance that they have no other choice than to allow the extremists (who are backed by Saudi money) to build these schools in their villages. Not all madrasses promote an extremist education. However, there are many that do and the education the BOYS receive there is most times an extremist education and the cycle continues. As Mortensen claims, one of the ways to change a culture is to make sure they have clean water and to educate the women. These are two things that many rural people in Pakistan and Afghanistan are in desperate need of.
Two separate times in the book Mortensen has a fatwah (a religious ruling) declared against him in an attempt to stop his work. Both times he appeals to a higher religious courts and both times high-ranking Islamic religious officials deem his work honorable and what he does as following Islamic values and tenets. They go on to say that what Mortensen is doing is valuable for ALL (boys and girls) children of Islam. They then decree that nobody is allowed to prevent Mortensen from doing his job and they also say that what Mortensen's mission reflects the ideals of Islam.
So what keeps Mortensen from getting a bullet in his head? The answer is simple. He listens. He listens to the people and what they need. He lives with them. He wears the customary dress of the men. He works alongside them. He has spent a lot of time learning and embracing the culture and customs of the people. He practices tolerance and although he may not agree with some of the customs he knows his place as a guest and as a guest he has to respect the people. The people, in turn, have forged a respect for Mortensen. Many have pledged their lives to making Mortensen safe and to make his mission a success. It has taken him over 15 years to get to that point but it can be done. Perhaps once we befriend and respect the people they will be willing to protect us from the extremist willing to put a bullet in our heads.
Also, if people were dropping bombs on America on a daily basis and maiming children and killing innocent civilians just trying to survive wouldn't we hate them as well? Just a thought.
I think it is time that Americans start educating themselves about Islam and the Islamic way of life. We trust in our media to tell us about these things and the answer isn’t in watching CNN or the nightly news. The answer comes when we begin to try to understand cultures and customs of the people we feel are our “enemies”. How many of you have prayed with a Muslim? How many of you have visited a Mosque? How many of you have befriended a Muslim and been invited into their homes? I also, need to educate myself more and to become more knowledgeable in this area. The books I read are just a scratch on the surface. There is much more to learn. Perhaps before we denounce this way of life we should get to know it and get to know the millions of Muslims who aren’t going to put a bullet in our heads and who may just prove to be allies in our fight against the extremists. As Abraham Lincoln said, “I destroy my enemy when I make him my friend.” Perhaps that is what we need to be focusing on, how can we get the people of Pakistan and Afghanistan to be our allies and how can we work together to make life better for them? Perhaps once we have become allies with the people they will feel supported enough and have enough help to stop looking toward the Taliban and other extremists for aid. If we take that power away from the extremists we can then defeat them.
Please read Mortensen’s book and check out his website. I think all people should be aware of the efforts and lengths he has gone to in order to promote peace in the world. Also, read The Places in Between by Rory Stewart. His story tells of a walk across Afghanistan only 6 weeks after the fall of the Taliban. What Stewart discovers about the people he meets along the way is that they are not extremists set out to kill all infidels. Many of the people who live in such extreme poverty welcome him into their homes and treat him as an honored guest. Throughout the book Stewart is amazed by the warmth and hospitality he receives. Not once though out his walk does he feel like his life is in danger. In fact, it is quite the opposite. In every town and village he enters he is welcomed into the homes of the people and taken care of as if he were one of their own.
I do believe that the world is full of good people and it is unfortunate that many times the good people get stereotyped as bad people because of the actions of a few.
I wish I could be more eloquent and organized in my thoughts. Everyone is entitled to their opinion and we need to continue to educate ourselves about world issues.
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
I just finished reading an amazing and wonderful book called Three Cups of Tea. Numerous people have recommended it to me and I finally took the time to sit down and read it.
I don't even know where to begin talking about this book. It's one of those books where you realize the power and influence one man can have in the world and it makes you sit back and say, "What the hell am I doing for humanity?"
Three Cups of Tea is the story of Greg Mortensen, an ex-army medic and mountaineer. In 1993 Mortensen attempted to summit K2 in Pakistan in honor of his 25 year old sister who had recently passed away. Instead of summiting though, Mortensen has to assist an injured climber and is too worn out and it is too late in the season to attempt to summit again. Defeated, Mortensen wanders back toward civilization. As Mortensen wanders back down the glacier he becomes separated from his porter and spends a cold night reflecting on his failure. The next day Mortensen find the trail again and meets up with his porter who refuses to allow him out of his sight. Mortesen and his porter become separated again and Mortensen wanders into what he believes is the village he started his journey from. Soon, he realizes that he is lost and is alone amongst complete strangers in a strange land.
In this instant, Mortensen's life changes and begins to take another path. Although the people that he has come into contact with have nothing and in economic poverty they take care of Mortensen as if he were family. He arrives at their village weak and sick and leaves on a mission. The villagers tell Mortensen of how the Pakistani government funds have not reached the village in a long time and as he watches school children scratch their lessons into the frozen dirt he vows to return to this village and build a school for the children.
Over the next year Mortensen writes 580 to celebrities and people of wealth and he receives one check, from Tom Brokaw, for $100. Mortensen lives as simply as he can in order to save money for the school in Pakistan. He lives out of his car and drives the streets every night looking for a place to park and sleep. He scrimps and saves the $12,000 he needs to build the school. Word of Mortensen's mission reaches Jean Hoerni and together they found the Central Asia Institute. With Jean's money backing his dream, Mortensen returns to Pakistan with the necessary materials to build the school. He rides into the village only to find that he first has to facilitate the building of a bridge across the river before they can bring the materials and erect the school. Finally the school is built and Mortensen's mission of fighting terrorism through education (especially girls) is underway.
Over the next few years word of Mortensen's mission spreads and supporters from all over the world contribute to his cause. His life consists of traveling to Pakistan for months at a time and then traveling the U.S. when he is home speaking on behalf of his organization and the people of Pakistan. Through it all his wife and children support and recognize the passion he has for his mission.
Throughout the next 10 years of his life Mortensen is embraced by the people of Pakistan. He comes to recognize them as a second family and word of his deeds and mission travel to villages all over the region. Mortensen finds himself welcome where ever he goes. The people of Pakistan recognize his good deeds and send
Early one morning, while in Pakistan, Mortensen is awoken by an excited and wild man. The man tells him that a village called New York in America has been bombed and Mortensen listens in disbelief to the radio broadcast as he pieces together the story. And he listens in shock and disbelief as reports come in over the airwaves of two towers falling in New York.
Surprisingly, Mortensen's first reaction is to not flee Pakistan, but to remain there. In fact, Mortensen says that during the days after 9/11 he finds comfort with his Pakistani family and where ever he goes the Pakistani people offer their sympathies and prayers to the people in New York. He later reflects that the safest place in the world for him directly after 9/11 was in the midst of his Pakistani friends and family.
One of the most significant moments in the book is when Mortensen addresses Congress and is asking them where all the aid money was going and how it wasn't reaching the people of Pakistan and Afghanistan. He passionately talks about how bombing people isn't the answer to stopping terrorism and how the answer lies in education. He goes on to explain for only a fraction of the cost of a war schools could have been providing non-extremist educations to the children of Afghanistan and Pakistan. Instead, the people who could help the most (the U.S.) spent million fighting a war that killed many innocent civilians. At one point, Mortensen reflects on how amazing he finds it that many of his strongest supporters are the people who have lost loved one and limbs to American bombs.
I could go on and on about this book but I won't. There are just too many things to talk about. I did find myself in tears numerous times throughout the book.
There are also numerous websites one can go to to donate money to Mortensen's cause. A teacher in Pakistan makes about $1 a day and students can attend school for only pennies.
Please take some time to read the book and visit the websites. What Greg Mortensen is doing is for a wonderful cause. He's an inspiration and his cause should be celebrated and supported by Americans.
I had to get that off my chest. In a perfect world people would look at the original email and see who it was already sent to and then refrain from sending it to those people again. However, we live in a world far from perfect and I guess I'll just have to put up with the numerous repeat emails that are forwarded to me throughout the day.
Monday, October 27, 2008
Ok..in all seriousness, Andre has a right to want to see a blog. I mean, the trip was so much fun and we had a really great time together. In fact, I bet if Andre had a blog he would already have a post about our trip for all to read. But, since he doesn't, I guess the blogging task falls onto my shoulders and well, I just have to deal with it and do it.
Although the Boston trip happened all the way back in August I still remember it like it was yesterday (Scooby Doo transition here)...
I arrived in Boston on the 6th of August. Since I had packed light I was easily able to maneuver through the airport and take the T downtown to the Youth Hostel I was going to stay at. Since Andre wasn't able to join me until the evening of the 7th I had a full day in Boston to see the sights and to explore. Andre has done the Boston thing numerous times so I told him I would get all the touristy stuff out of the way and that way he wouldn’t have to do all that again.
I checked in to the Hostel and immediately set out in the rain to visit a few places before nightfall. My first day in Boston consisted of walking around in the rain and then, after purchasing an umbrella, walking around in the nonexistent rain.
I went to the Boston Public Library. Sigh. I love libraries and this was wasn't any different. I love books. One of my favorite exhibits there was called movingline
from the BPL website:
movingline – Through Nov. 30, Popular Reading Room. movingline, Drawings by Channing is the outcome of a seven-year exploration of the science and humanity of movement. With pencil, Channing captures nature's energy, beauty, and rhythms in a series of sixty drawings. In this extraordinary body of work, the intimacy of her art is initially represented by images of crashing waves, birds in flight, and racing horses. Her pursuit of motion then evolves into renditions of dancers and musicians performing, and complex portrayals of the human face.
I really wish I had bought the book...I thought about it but then figured I could get it online but have yet to order it.
I also went to this building (I'm embarrassed I don't remember the name of it anymore).
I then became hungry. Those of you who have traveled with me before know that when I get hungry I get a little cranky (sorry for those of you who have traveled with me before). I wandered around downtown Boston looking for a place that wasn't packed with tourists and that looked like it had decent food for decent prices. I wandered around for quite awhile studying menus outside of restaurants and sighing at the overpriced food. I finally stopped in a bookstore and bought a Boston travel guide just so I could figure out what I was going to eat. By this time it was getting late and dark out and I needed food fast!
I then realized I was mere feet from one of the greatest food places on earth. I hurried over to...and walked into the middle of one of the greatest and eclectic collections of food on the face of the planet. It took another full hour of walking back and forth amongst the food stands for me to finally decide on a veggie burrito. It was the messiest, greasiest and best burrito of my entire life. I ate the whole damn thing and didn't feel one ounce of shame. (Okay -- I felt a bit gluttonous but figured my hours of walking around Boston canceled the burrito out.)
After eating I decided to head back to the hostel. It was getting late and many people had begun settling in for the evening. The common area was packed with people hanging out and talking and I soon struck up a conversation with two young men.
As we were talking the two young men were asking me where I was from, what I was doing in Boston and what I did for a living, standard questions really.
One young man (who happened to be from L.A) seemed quite interested in my occupation and my current residence. He asked me many questions about living in Alaska and especially, living in rural Alaska. In fact, he asked me all the standard questions that I get from pretty much everyone when I tell them where I live.
"Do you like it?"
"How long do you think you'll stay there?"
"What language do the people there speak?"
"Is it dark there all the time during the winter and light during the summer?"
"What kinds of food have you eaten?"
I patiently answered all his questions although I had already tired of him and his friend.
We were joined by a British girl and the other young man set his sights on her which then left his friend, the Questioner, to ask me a million more questions.
At one point, he again asked me what kinds of foods I had eaten. When I told him that I had eaten seal his response was, "Yeah, cause you look like you eat seal."
I feel silent for a second. I stared at him with an incredulous look on my face and replied, "And what does someone who eats seal look like?"
He then fell silent and struggled to work through his blunder without appearing to be an insensitive jackass. The look on my face pretty much made it clear that he was a jackass.
Shortly after, his friend and the British girl as well as a group from Belgium decided it was time to go out. We gathered out belongings and headed to a bar called Wally's Cafe.
The young people from Belgium admitted on the way to Wally's that they were only 19. They were aware that the legal drinking age in the U.S. was 21 but the bouncer at Wally's the previous night had some trouble reading their ages on their passports and they had gotten in. Apparently, according to the Belgium teens, the bouncer wasn't too smart.
We walked up to the bouncer and the kids from Belgium handed their passports over. The first three 19 year olds got in just fine. The bouncer kind of scanned the passports and then just waved them through. The last one though, got past the bouncer and then the bouncer stopped him.
"Hey, hey! You can't go in! Hey! Come back here! Dude, you're only 19!"
The 19 year old from Belgium put on his best innocent face and didn't say anything. He pulled out the old "I'm not from this country and I was unaware and I don't speak English very well defense". We ran in and got his friends and they all headed back to the hostel to drink the beers the guy at the liquor store had sold them earlier in the night.
Since there were only two open seats at first they were proffered the British girl (let's call her Helen -- I don't remember her name) and me. We sat and talked and listened to music and tried to ward off a Somolian dude who was really looking for a wife. The wife seeking Somolian was less creepy than the guys we can with and after a few hours Helen and I ditched those two and walked back to the Hostel.
In the morning I ate breakfast and took in a few more sights.
I went to the Fenway Victory Gardens. It really is a cool place. Each plot is unique and is quite personalized with fences, weeds, fountains and various plants. I stopped and chatted with this guy for a bit and he promised me that if I came back in the fall he would give me some tomatoes. I didn't have the heart to tell him there would be no way I would be back in the fall but I did tell him that sounded nice and continued on my way.
I also stopped by the Museum of Fine Arts. I do love museums (almost as much as I love libraries) but this one was definitely a two or even three-day deal to see everything. I only got through Egyptian, Roman and Greek art before I had to call it quits.
By then it was pouring and I threw my umbrella open and made my way to a Whole Foods store to get some supplies and a bite to eat.
Since it had been raining for the two days I had been in Boston I had been noticing something a little odd. It seems that it is fashionable to wear high rubber boots with your fancy dresses and clothes. I could not believe the amount of rubber boots I saw on the feet of all the ladies. I had to laugh a little...I looked at those boots and thought "man, those would be great for pushing boats into water!" I'm sure that I was probably one of the only ladies in Boston who was thinking of that. I decided to keep my eyes peeled for a place where I could purchase some of those boots.
As I was walking to our hotel I noticed a huge bunch of rubber boots in a store window and made a mental note to go back and check them out.
I walked back to the Hostel and my stuff and then hiked back toward the downtown area to check into the fancy-pancy hotel I had booked. I got into the hotel and after getting ready I left Andre a note saying I would be back shortly and headed out to find those boots again and stop in at a promising store that said was called City Sports.
It was then I got lost. I'm not sure how it happened but it did. I was walking back to our hotel and my mind was racing and my heart was pumping. After all, I was seeing someone for the first time in almost two years and the anticipation was killing me. I just wanted to get back and see if he had arrived yet.
I first had to find the hotel though.
I found my hotel and walked in. The note I had left Andre said I would wait for him in the bar and it was there I found him waiting for me.
I can't even begin to describe how wonderful and comfortable it was to see him. He stood up and immediately enveloped me in a big Andre hug. After saying hello he then broke the news to me. It was official; Brett Favre had gone to the Jets. After weeks of anticipation and waiting I had to find out that Brett was no longer a Packer from a British man who had been in the country for three hours. However, Andre's heart was just as broken as mine and we held each other tight as he cried his heart out (he so loves Brett).
We then spent the next couple of hours just catching up and talking. It was finally so good to see that face and that voice all at once. For two years now we haven't been able to find a time to meet up and hang out and it was awesome that we finally were sitting next to each other eating French fries and drinking a few drinks.
The next day Andre, true to form, got up early and headed out to get breakfast and coffee. We then walked to the Farmer's Market and to the downtown area. Later that afternoon we rented a bike for me (Andre had brought his from the U.K) and Andre and I spent the afternoon riding along the Charles River. We rode up to Harvard and then back to our hotel. Andre made friends with a mounted police officer and his horse and it was a nice relaxing day.
I made friends with some of the hotel staff (was his name Roberto? Jose?) and they were more than happy to walk Andre and I and our bikes through the hotel lobby, past the grand piano and under the crystal chandeliers into the luggage storage area.
The next two days flew by. Andre explained to me that the rubber boots were all the rage in London and that a company called Hunter out of Scotland made them. (Why do the men in my life have more fashion sense than I?) Apparently the Royal family has been known to don some Hunter Wellies on their outdoor excursions. I immediately fell in love with them because they were not only in my size but also came up almost to my knees. I had been having trouble finding high boots in my size.
Andre and I spent our last day riding around Boston. The sun was out to stay and we enjoyed flying past the tourons (tourist+moron) that were in our way. We rode down to the harbor and sat by the water and enjoyed the view.
We rode my bike back to the bike rental place and then walked back to our hotel. We got ready for dinner and walked around trying to figure out which restaurant to go to. We finally decided on the first one that we had seen and went back to that one.
I ordered the salmon and then sent it back. It wasn't done.
After that, the fun was pretty much over. We got up early the next morning so I could make my flight to Green Bay. Andre was continuing to our friend Maggie's wedding and to spend some time in Vermont. I really wanted to go with him. I haven't been back to VT for a long time. However, teaching duty called and I had to get home.
Boston was pretty cool but seeing and spending time with such a great friend and person made the trip even better. It's so great that after so long Andre is still such a huge important part of my life. I can't wait to get back to the U.K. to spend some time with him over there. I really do miss him.
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
Many people don't really believe me when I tell them about bootlegging and how much alcohol goes for around here.
So here is the link to an article that was recently published in the New York Times.
Sunday, October 12, 2008
I walked into the store and realized that it was more than just a regular store. It sold stuff but it was also a cafe and had a ton of coffee choices. Then I noticed something that made my heart leap with joy.
A bulk food section. It really isn't a "food" section...just more spices and tea. But, nonetheless, it was there. Bulk. There were little scoopers to put my spices and tea into little bags that were weighed at the checkout counter. I got a couple ounces of Mango Green Tea that I am probably going to make some night when the wind is howling and the snow is blowing. Maybe I'll just make some tonight.
Then I noticed all sorts of goodies on the shelves.
It was heaven. Heaven is at Grant Air. I asked someone close to me, "Is this Heaven?" and they answered, "No, it's Grant Air."
Who ever would have thunk it? It made me happy and was the highlight of my weekend.
Friday, October 10, 2008
Need I say more? It is now a waiting game for the river to freeze and the snowmachines to start up. We had our first big storm this week. I awoke Thursday morning to howling wind and frigid temps and snow on the ground. This storm continued throughout the day Thursday and turned to freezing rain late Thursday evening. I awoke Friday morning to calm winds and frigid temps and glare ice on my windows and on the boardwalk.
All day today I watched the weather as I was heading up to Bethel for class tonight and tomorrow. I was torn all day about whether I should go or stay and finally hopped into a boat. It was a frigid 5 miles ride. Perhaps one of the coldest I've ever had on the river. But, I'm here. I'm still cold and am really wishing I had grabbed another sweatshirt before I left my house.
Tomorrow I'll wear my warmer socks and my bibs to class. I'll write a much more thoughtful post tomorrow when I've had some time to decompress from my week.
Tuesday, October 7, 2008
There is something magical about struggling to get the shrink wrap off just knowing that inside is a beautiful disk that will fill your ears and mind with lovely images and sounds...but... you.. can't ..get..the..stupid..shrink...wrap..OFF!!
Then, like magic one little piece tears off and you know you have defeated the shrink wrap. Eagerly, you become giddy with anticipation. It will only be a few moments now until you will be able to touch that perfect, unscratched disk. The jewel case is now open and you rush to put the CD into a CD playing device and as the first few wonderful notes hit your ears you grab the liner notes and begin flipping through, studying the lyrics, looking at the pictures, and appreciating the heck out whoever it is that you are listening to.
Of course, there are also those much anticipated albums that just don't live up to expectations when you receive them. It is those you wish you had downloaded off iTunes or another site. Those suck to get and are a major disappointment, especially when it is an artist you have already professed undying love for.
Yes, yes..there is still something magical about new CDs.
My most recent reads include..(Barbara hasn't read these...)
Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex by Mary Roach
Mary Roach is a personal hero of mine. I would love to have her babies but since I don't think that would work out too well I would settle just for her amazing ability to write scientific texts in a lighthearted and witty manner. In her first books, Stiff, Roach explored the science of death. She discussed what really happens to your body when you donate it to science, how cadavers are used in experiments and the history of research done about death. In Spook, Mary Roach explored various theories about ghosts and the afterlife through science.
After reading Stiff I wanted to discuss cadavers with everyone. I spewed out random information about how cadavers used in research and what happens to the human body after they die. Unfortunately I could never really convince people to read the book. However, Bonk is her masterpiece.
Bonk explores and discusses the history of research in the field of sex. Roach discusses Kinsey and how polyester may turn sexual partners off (amongst a slew of other topics). The beauty of Roach's writing style is that she approaches a normally taboo subject in a lighthearted and amusing manner. Roach is a great writer and all of her books have been great reads.
I also recently read Mrs. Frisby and the rats of NIMH. I'm not sure why I chose to read that book other than the fact that I never had read it and it seemed like I should read it. It was a good quick read. I really can't exalt this book too much. It's been read. That's all I really have to say about it. It's a pretty good young adult science fiction novel and those rats really are quite clever.
Friday, October 3, 2008
Friday, September 26, 2008
I put both containers in the cupboard in my classroom and kind of forgot about them.
I have since learned that worms belong in a more hospitable environment than my classroom cupboards. So, I took an empty pretzel container that was left at my house (thanks Adam Bode) and filled it with some oatmeal our cook gave me (thanks Daphne). I then transferred the meal worms from their plastic container life into a pretzel container home. Since then I have lost my students. Every spare moment has been spent staring at the meal worms/beetles. I've come to the sad conclusion that meal worms are more interesting than me.
I've been thinking...if I show up to class in a meal worm outfit and slide around all day on my three sets of legs, would I capture the attention of my students? How long would this last before they would grow bored of me?
Monday, September 22, 2008
When I was growing up I not only had three brothers but also two male cousins who were very close in age to my brothers as well as all of their friends. Needless to say, I was surrounded by boys all the time. I had to play baseball and football and wrestle and just put up with all sorts of boy activities. It wasn't always fun, but I somehow managed to make it through childhood.
In the village there is a family that is also comprised of "three boys and a girl". The girl is very much a tomboy and reminds me of myself in that situation quite often.
The other day I looked out and saw this.
I stopped them long enough to snap a few pictures, make sure the ropes weren't too tight, made sure the boys weren't ganging up on the little girl and then let them on their merry way.
It reminded me of the time we tied up my brother Dave and set him out by the road with a "Free" sign on him. Ahhhh...memories.
Saturday, September 13, 2008
PFD season is always an interesting time of the year. All sorts of people end up in Bethel and some, let's say, aren't the most well behaved or well rounded citizens. Today I had to go to the college in Bethel to take some tests for my teaching certification and the proctor was almost a half hour late. Later on when it was just her and me she confided in me that drunk people in her neighborhood were shooting guns all night. To make matters worse, she had a teenage daughter out and about and had no clue where she was. The poor woman hadn't gotten any sleep the entire evening and then overslept this morning.
After my tests were done I called my friend (it feels awesome to say that) Grace. Grace was a student of mine the first three years I was here but since her graduation she has upgraded from "student" to "friend". My friend, Grace, and I went to get some lunch and she told me all about college and seemed so happy. I am so proud of her.
By and by I ended up at Swanson's (one of two grocery stores in Bethel) to get the four most necessary items in my life...bread, spinach, cheese and dog treats (for Macy). I got other stuff as well but those four were at the top of my list.
So, to tie this weird sorted story together...
Remember how I was talking about how Bethel turns into a zoo during PFD time? Well, I was smack dab in the middle of it while attempting to get my bread.
Before I describe the bread scene you have to have a clear visual of what I looked like. I was all bundled up because when I arrived in Bethel at 7:30 this morning it was kind of chilly. Instead of carrying my sweatshirt and coat I just wore them around all afternoon and I was sweating bullets. In addition to my bulky frame I had on my computer backpack stuffed to the brim. I had water bottles, books, text books, and a ton of other random miscellaneous crap floating around. It was heavy and fat. In addition to that I was carrying one of those little plastic baskets people grab when they think they only need a few items then proceed to stuff full and instead of going back to get a cart they just continue to haul that little heavy basket around. Needless to say that was overflowing and it took both hands to carry it.
I'm loaded to the brim and I remember I have yet to get my bread. I like the nice bread. I like Health Nut Bread. That is the actual name of the bread and I love it. It's all healthy and nutty and stuff.
I enter the bread aisle and notice three men standing in front of the loaves of bread. I kind of squeeze past them and am now standing smack dab in the middle of them. They are talking and I'm looking for Health Nut Bread. One of the men is standing right in front of it and I can't quite reach it. He's talking so I just kind of take one more step closer to him. It was then I realized that the men were arguing and staring each other down and I was in the middle of it looking for Health Nut Bread.
"You stole my bottles [of alcohol]!" one accused the other. Anyone who lives out here understands that alcohol is like liquid gold. It's expensive to get out here and the only place one can drink alcohol is Bethel. It's a very serious accusation when someone says someone else stole their alcohol.
It was then I finally looked up at them and realized there was now a fourth man in the group. The accused denied it and the accused's friend denied it as well. The other man insisted the accused stole the alcohol I'm not sure what the fourth one was there for. Maybe he wanted bread as well.
Imagine my predicament. I suddenly realize I am loaded down with stuff and am standing in the middle of a potential fight. Not only do I want bread but I pretty much am sticking out all over the place. If these dudes are going to hit they are going to hit my backpack or my overflowing plastic basket. I am a standing target and all I want is bread. I could be pummelled at any second. Hmmm...what to do?
I took a step closer to the man in front of the bread, said "Excuse me", waited as he took a step to one side (still staring the other man down), grabbed my Health Nut Bread and proceeded to turn around (which took some time because I was loaded down with stuff and was trying to not bump any of them) and squeeze myself and my heavy load past the arguing men.
Don't worry...my Health Nut Bread and I are fine and the men dissapated shortly after the argument. Apparently they all had sense enough to not fight in the bread aisle at Swanson's.
Tuesday, September 9, 2008
Friday, September 5, 2008
In addition to the PFD the current Governor/Republican Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin (don't even get me started on that one) recently signed an energy relief bill that will give many of the state's residents and additional $1200 to help with the cost of fuel.
I love Alaska so much right now I want to clap for it.
Thursday, September 4, 2008
The little boy who brought it to me was so happy I was happy. He just laughed and smiled as I hugged him and squealed and jumped up and down.
Around the same time my book went missing my super cool earbuds disappeared. I was totally bummed about this and kept my eyes peeled for any sign of them. I asked my students if they had seen my earbuds. Again the answer was "no".
After the book was found I regained hope that my earbuds were out there and went outside to question the younger residents of Oscarville to see if my earbuds had magically appeared out of nothing. Some little kids were outside and said, "YES! YES! We've seen them." My heart jumped and as the kids biked away I followed closely behind. It took a little while for me to realize that the kids had no idea where the earbuds were. My first big clue was that they were leading me to the dump, and like the children of Hamlin, I followed, entranced. However, the sight of garbage awoke me from my daze and I put my brakes on and yelled "I'm going back to the school. You guys are trying to trick me." "No we're not...giggle...giggle." was the reply. I turned and walked back to the school, head down, feel all sorts of disappointed.
I was retelling Christina the story later that day and she said, "Are these your earbuds?" and did indeed magic them out of nowhere (her backpack actually).
So, the week ended strong for me. The mystery of the book was solved and my earbuds were returned. My heart was full of joy and elation as I started my weekend.
Wednesday, September 3, 2008
It all began on Friday. My friend Brian has been teaching Driver's Ed in Napaskiak and the Oscarville students have been going in from 5-7 every evening to learn how to drive. Since there aren't any roads up here (at least until winter) the kids have to learn how to drive using a simulator. It's pretty cool and reminds me of a video game. The students take it much more seriously than a video game though and seem to be enjoying the virtual lessons.
After arriving back home we attempted to play Super Mario Party on the Wii but due to the short attention span both Brian and I had that evening the game didn't go all that well. K.C. decided to leave in the middle of it and after that it just wasn't fun to play a four person game with only three people. Brian and I decided to play a few games of bowling and although I won one game and he won one game he apparently won "the series" and declared himself the victor.
Soon after there was a knock on the door and in walked Olga and Barbara, ready for a game of Canasta. While Barbara's and Olga's kids played Wii the rest of us played a few rounds of Canasta. Brian impressed me with his Canasta playing skills and caught on quickly. Brian was also awesome about watching a movie as I wrote a paper for one of my classes. As you can see, Macy is quite a fan of Brian.
On Saturday morning Brian and I made a delicious breakfast and around 11:30 we piled into the school boat with my site administrator Chris and headed to Napaskiak to drop Brian off. Saturday was a big day for me because chris told me it was high time I learned how to drive the school boat. So, I took control of the motor and after a quick boating lesson Chris sat back and said, "open it up". I was nervous, but feel I did alright for my first time. As I drove into Oscarville Slough I slowed waaaaaaaaay down and the front of the boat went waaaaaaaaaaaay up in the air. An elder was standing on shore watching me as I drove in and after I parked the boat he walked up to me and started teasing me that I must have a huge moose in the back of my boat to make the front end go up. I just laughed and walked inside to get ready for Toksook.
Around 2:30 K.C. picked me up as he drove by on his way to Bethel and I got to Grant Aviation in time to check in for my flight to Toksook. My super awesome rad friend Kale was also at Grant and in anticipation of my arrival had saved me a super yummy apple fritter. He rocks. As I ate my apple fritter we talked and got all sorts of caught up. Then we loaded onto the plane we began our journey to the coast.
Although I tried to convince Kale that he should disembark in Toksook he stayed on the plane and went home to his village, Mekoryuk.
It was raining and I looked around for Dirk and the school truck but no one was at the airport (which is about a mile outside the village) to meet me. So, I threw my bag and Macy's kennel into the 4-wheeler trailer and asked the driver to bring me to the school.
By the time I got to the school I was soaking wet and muddy. I met Dirk as I was walking to his house and in no time at all me, Dirk and our friend Jamie (a teacher from Bethel) were sitting around drinking tea and shooting the breeze.
Since it was Berry Fest there were many events going on throughout the weekend. Dirk was helping to organize the fun run and needed to go out and mark the trail. We got back into our rain gear, stopped in the school to see if anyone wanted to come, and began to walk up the hill.
Our goal was to get to the "thumb". I visited Toksook shortly after I got Macy two years ago and this was the picture of the thumb then.
This is what the thumb looked like when we went.
This, by the way, is not me. It was Sharon, another teacher in Toksook. I decided that, considering all the times I've fallen off things, that it probably wasn't wise of me to climb onto a large wet rock.
Although it was rainy we still had fun hiking around and the dogs had a ton of fun playing together.
That night we made a quick dinner of pizza and went to bed.
Jamie and Dirk rose early the next morning to do the fun run. Since I didn't think the fun run looked all that fun (especially after hiking the route the night before) I stayed in bed until they came back. It was nice to sleep in.....really nice.
Jamie had originally been scheduled to fly out Sunday evening and after a bit of cajoling decided to change his flight to the next morning. A quick call to Grant and rescheduled to be on the morning flight the next day.
We then got fishing gear together, called Marty (another teacher in Toksook) and headed out to try our luck at fishing and berry picking.
Dirk is an excellent fly fisherman and to finally see him in action was incredible. He was so anxious to get out there and start fishing that he quickly showed me the pole, threw some vocab my way, showed me how to get the fly in the water and took off to do his own fishing.
Since I had just learned what a fly fishing pole looked like I wasn't anticipating too much in terms of catching something. So, after an hour of throwing the fly in the water I walked over to where Dirk was concentrating and told him I was going off to find Jamie and pick some berries.
As I was walking out to find Jamie I ran into Jamie coming back to find us. Jamie and I then headed back out to find and pick more berries.
Eventually we all met up again and Dirk proudly showed off his catch. We packed up and walked home.
Once home we made a kick butt dinner of salmon, rice, falafel, and salad. After eating we were so stuffed that we just sat around talking and then went to bed.
The next morning was beautiful out and I finally got to sleep in nice and late. Dirk and Jamie spent most of the morning sitting at the airport waiting for Jamie's flight to come and I just lounged around the house. Dirk came back a little after noon and took a few zip lock baggies and headed out to collect more berries.
Since there were so many flights coming in and out of Toksook that weekend the airline was going to send two planes for the 4 o'clock flight...one at 4 and one at 5. They told me that I would have to wait until the plane at 5 but at the last mintue the pilots said I could hold Macy. They then dismantled the kennel and shoved it into the front of the plane with the rest of the luggage.
It also happened that the 4 o'clock flight had to make a stop in Mekoryuk first. So, we flew over to Mekoryuk, back over Toksook and then to Bethel. I arrived home at 7 on the button. I'm still not sure where those few hours of my life went.
I waited in Bethel for a little while until my friend Olga picked me up. We went back to her sister's house and had dinner. Olga's oldest son picked us up and we ran a few errands before heading down to Lomack to jump in the boat and go home.
Upon our arrival at Lomack Olga spotted a shopping chart down by the water and we got a few shots of her "shopping" down by the river.
It was late (10 or so) by the time we hopped in the boat to go back to Oscarville. Everyone was tired from their long weekends. The night was beautiful and the river was calm. It was a perfect way to end a fun filled weekend.
Tuesday, September 2, 2008
I woke up early on Sunday and attacked my house with hot water and Simple Green. I scrubbed and vacuumed and cleaned and straightened up until the house looked like it was finally together again. Christina and I had been so busy with work that the house had gone neglected for some time. All through cleaning I noticed how beautiful it was outside and I felt the sun just begging me to come out and play.
I'm not sure when the next idea was conceived. I was still trying to finish some papers from this past summer session in Fairbanks and was sitting outside by the slough reading and talking to the kids. I came back inside and there I suggested to Christina that we take the kayaks and go berry picking by the bluffs.
We quickly put in a call to some friends in Napaskiak to see if they wanted to boat over and then kayak to the bluffs and only our friend, Adam was willing to kayak over and then join us in a 2.2 mile kayak to the bluffs to pick blueberries.
Adam had his kayak (which is exactly like mine) and Christina and I decided to take one of our principal's two man kayaks and walk them to the Napakiak Slough (about 1/4 mile away). As we put the kayaks in we noticed the tide was going out and that the water was low. I thought to myself, "Nice, we'll hit the tides just right and when we come back the tide should be coming in and help push us back to Oscarville." However, we failed to check the tide charts. Oh, the pain that eventually caused...(good foreshadowing!).
It took us about an hour or so (I have no idea how long it really took us) to get out there. By the time we got there Christina was completey soaked, although I promised her that she wouldn't get wet. After changing into her rainpants she joined Adam and I at the top of the hill.
The bluffs were so nice. It was another beautiful day and soon we were all in our separate places picking berries and enjoying the quiet. The dogs (Adam's dog Carrie came also) ran around and Macy ate berries and just enjoyed the open space.
At some point I put my backpack down on the tundra.
After a couple of hours we all joined up again and compared berries and declared Adam the Ultimate Berry Picker Extrondinare! Adam proved to the entire world that berry picking IS NOT pointless and with just a little effort delicious blueberries can be yours. (Don't you wish you would have gone now Eric?)
As we began to gather our stuff things began to go sour for this group of berry pickers.
First, I wanted to take some pictures of the berries. It was then I discovered my super awesome camera was missing. It took a few minutes of looking on the tundra for us to find it.
After those extraordinary berry pictures were taken Christina asked me for the tupperware covers. It was then I realized that the tupperware covers were missing. We didn't find those and Adam had to transfer his berries to a Nalgene and we used his containter to hold our massive amounts of berries!
Once we had the berry situation straightened out we got back in the kayaks and began our 2.2 mile trek to Oscarville.
I'm not sure when we realized that the tide was still going out. Perhaps it was when our paddles touched the bottom of the slough. Perhaps it was when the kayaks hit bottom. Whenever it was, we realized that the tide was still going out and the closer we got ot Oscarville the shallower the water became.
We had to go about a mile in this manner before we saw the telephone poles. Yea! A jubliant shout went up! Our dogs were flithy and we were covered in mud. We pulled the kayaks out of the water and walked them the half mile back to Oscarville.
All in all the trip was fun. It's fun to get dirty.
Macy took a bath when she got home. The following picture is a result of the mud from my shoes and from my dog.
Although she had rainpants on Christina still managed to get entirely covered in mud.
It was a fun and great adventure. The berries were worth it!