Thursday, May 22, 2008

First Kayak

I got my kayak out yesterday afternoon and Macy and I went for our first kayak ride of the season. She loves riding in the kayak. I get in now and she'll jump right in and lay down.

The slough was nice and the current was strong. All I really had to do was sit there and make sure we didn't get poked by any logs. Macy fell asleep within minutes and I wasn't too far behind. We kayaked up to where the Oscarville Slough meets the Napakiak Slough and followed the Napakiak Slough back to the "back trail". The "back trail" is the land or tundra snowmachine trail to Bethel. It is also known as the powerline trail because you follow the powerlines from Oscarville to Bethel. I parked the kayak on the west bank of the slough and we got out and went for a little hike.

I love walking on the tundra. There is a distinct, sweet smell that wafts up from the ground and it's amazing to see the microscopic little ecosystems that exist. The trail wasn't as wet as I had expected it to be and Macy and I walked the trail that we had been snowmobiling on just a few weeks prior. The birds were out and it was nice to have the sun beating down on me and hearing the birds chirping. After walking down the trail for almost a mile Macy and I came upon a huge pile of garbage. The wind and wild animals had torn the bags apart and there was garbage scattered everywhere...far too much to put in my pocket and take home. I often get kind of depressed when I see stuff like that, and I see it quite a bit. There is a pond in back of Oscarville that I often walk across during the winter. One spring, someone had dropped off a huge pile of garbage in the middle of the pond and when I looked closer at it I saw bags of concrete and other random trash items. On a positive note, I heard that our Traditional Council has hired some workers to come in and do a big village clean up. The dump is going to actually resemble a dump again when they are done and should be usable and manageable.

Although the garbage strewn amongst the tiny tundra plants was the low point of my day it was super awesome to get out and do something so chill. Macy loves boat rides and loved her float down the slough. Although I didn't get any pics of yesterday's trip here are some of us kayaking from last fall. My friend K.C. has the same kind of kayak as I do and we spent some time last fall just floating along and exploring the various sloughs in the area.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008 missed a spot

Once again this week was extremely busy here in Oscarville. Students were frantically trying to finish up their phases and get all their work completed. Students were finding papers that they had never finished from the beginning of the year and I gave them all of Monday and Tuesday to finish them up and turn them in. I wish I could have their energy and motivation throughout the entire school year, not just in the last week. It’s amazing how much they can do when they really have a fire burning under their asses.

Monday night was quite monumental at our house. Christina and I were planning a dessert/tea evening at the school for Tuesday evening. The community was invited and students would participate in a performance or read a piece. That meant that on Monday evening Christina and I were in the kitchen preparing desserts.

I decided to make and apple crisp type dessert and followed all the directions and when it was done baking I took the Pyrex dish out of the oven and set it on the stove to cool. Meanwhile, Christina had started to melt chocolate for candy and I had just put some muffins into the oven. I turned a burner on to heat up some water for tea and went back to chatting with a friend while I was waiting for the apple crisp to cool, the water to boil and the muffins to bake. Suddenly, I heard a loud bang (explosion?) and I looked over to see the Pyrex dish shattered on the stovetop, apple crisp all over the wall, Christina frozen in mid pour only a foot away from the explosion. It took forever to try to clean up all the shards of glass scattered throughout the kitchen. The lesson I learned from al this was to double check which burners are being turned on and if there is something on top of said burners. The funny thing is that I turned on the wrong burner again yesterday when I went to make some tea.

Tuesday evening went well. The primary students sang a couple of songs they have been working on. The intermediate students performed a reader’s theater of Rumpelstiltskin and they had us all laughing. The Junior High performed a poem for six voices that touched on all the things they have done throughout the year. Each of my high school students had chosen a piece that they wanted to share with the community. I was proud of all the students but I was so proud of each of my high school students. They did a really good job getting up in front of everyone solo and presenting their pieces.

Which brings me to today. This morning started with an awards ceremony and after each of the students had received their awards for the phases that they passed we all went outside and played games until lunchtime. Today was the annual Oscarville Community Cleanup and our Traditional Council bought hotdogs and hamburgers with all the fixins’ for everyone in the village. We sat outside in the sunlight and ate hot dogs and chips and talked until it was time for us to pick up garbage.

Although I don’t mind picking up garbage I do mind trying to bend over and pick up garbage when I have two hotdogs with all the fixins’ sitting in my stomach. To make work a little easier I buddied up with some of the primary students. Don’t tell anyone, but I held the bag open and carried it while they did the bending over. After awhile one of my buddies wandered off to be naughty where I couldn’t see her and thus scold her and I was left with my other buddy. Somewhere during the garbage pickup this young lady decided to make a joke. At this point I was walking through a whole bunch of muck and mud in my sandals and my jeans were getting completely soaked. I then heard a nasally high pitched little voice say, “Erin, you missed a spot.” I looked up to see this tiny little girl with a huge smile on her face pointing at a candy wrapper on the ground. I laughed, thanked her and picked up the candy wrapper. From them on, this little girl was watching every move I made and called me on my spotty garbage picking skills quite a bit until we were done.

It was nice to see all the garbage bagged up and headed to the dump. I love when this village looks clean and cared for. I also like when everyone chips in and gets things done. The kids all were champs and worked hard to finish their work.

Monday, May 19, 2008

What a weekend!(I'm behind...this was last weekend)

I feel like I'm really behind in my blog and telling people what has been going on up here. The last three weeks or so has been really busy and I finally feel like I am getting caught up with everything.

Graduation was on Friday. It was emotional and wonderful. After putting in so many hours working with the graduate it was wonderful to see her up there in her cap and gown. She really put her nose to the grindstone and decided to get this stuff done. I was extremely proud of her. When I got up to give my speech I got pretty choked up and had to stop for a little bit. I think everyone in the community has seen me cry at one time or another so I feel comfortable that I can cry quite freely in front of everyone and not feel embarrassed. We also promoted two eighth graders to high school. The ceremony was nice and went smoothly. The girls looked beautiful and our decorations were awesome. Christina has a much more detailed entry about the graduation ceremony.

After graduation we had a wonderful steak feast for the community here at the school and took about 250 pictures. The graduate has a natural ability to make people beautiful and is interested in learning how to cut hair. The staff all chipped in and bought her a new clipper set, a shears, a waxing kit and a nail kit. She seemed pleased. Eventually, the staff and community all went home.

Barbara's 2 year old daughter, AnnaLayne had somehow remained behind at the school. So, I helped her get her boots on and lured her out of school by telling her we needed to go get Macy and that Macy wanted to come for a walk with us. We arrived at Barbara's house and Barbara threw on a pot of coffee and soon we were joined by three other women. We drank a total of two pots of coffee and just talked and relaxed.

Although the ice has been clear in front of Oscarville for about a week now there were still some places upriver as well as down river that hadn't broken up yet. We got word Friday morning that the ice was moving both up and down river and the ladies, Macy and I walked down to the river to watch it move out.

As the ice comes down river a ton of logs and large trees (things we don't have here) come with it. As the logs come down the men hop into their boats with their axes and tools and head out into the middle of the ice flow to pull the logs into their boats. It was amazing to see all the little boats out there in the middle of the ice flow. It looked scary and I understood why I got told I might be in the way when I asked if I could come too.

Macy also went for her first swim of the season on Friday. She went in quite a few times before Marie (our local health aide) noticed that Macy was shivering. I hopped on my bike and Macy ran after me. When I got home I dried her off with a towel and she was toasty warm again.

I slept in longer this past Saturday than I have in a long time. The phone rang at about 11 am and I didn't even jump out of bed like I usually do to try to get it. I just let it ring. I finally got up, made a pot of coffee, watched some movies and did...nothing. Although I felt a little lazy and kind of guilty about doing nothing it did feel good.

At 5 pm I went to the school and met the student council. The student council had planned a slumber party for the Jr. High and High School. We got the volleyball net up, got board games out, set the Wii up so that it was projected on the BIG screen in my classroom and got everything for pizza making out and ready to go. Once we were all set up we went out and played volleyball for a couple of hours. Since there were so many older kids this time we played a more serious game of volleyball than we did last weekend.

When volleyball was over we headed inside to make some pizzas.

Christina watches Top Chef and one of the competitions that the chefs have to do is called the Quickfire Challenge. The chefs get a list of ingredients or a theme and have to create the best dish they can in a limited amount of time. We decided to have our own little Quickfire Challenge and so we divided students into pairs and put all the pizza ingredients out on the table. We then told the students they had to to work with a partner and make the best pizza they could.

Alex, our maintenance man, had agreed to chaperone our male students (he sort of rules like that -- giving up his Saturday night to spend it sleeping with a bunch of farty teenagers on a classroom floor). Little did he know that he was going to be the judge of the Quickfire Pizza Making Contest. After Alex had made his decision we proudly announced the winner and everyone dug in and stuffed themselves silly.

The rest of the night was all fun and games. Kids played Wii and Guitar Hero, karaoked, played board games and just hung out and enjoyed each other's company.

There was no major drama to report. The graduate brought in all her new beauty stuff and a brave young man received the first haircut with new clippers. I laughed when I saw what she had used instead of a cape. It must be quite common to wrap people up in garbage bags because the student climbed in without another thought.

We also put her new waxing kit to good use. The girl who owns the waxing kit was asking all the boys to wax a strip on their legs so she could see how well it worked. The same brave young man also volunteered to get a strip on his leg waxed.

We started watching movies about 1 in the morning and I awoke at 8 and made waffles for the kids and promptly kicked them out of the school around 10.

I went to a birthday feast yesterday and after I arrived home I realized that I had my first long weekend in a long time. I usually feel that weekends fly by and before I know it -- BAM! -- it's Monday and I still feel like I haven't slept and all I want to do is stay curled up in bed. Five years ago I was worn out from the weekend from entirely different purposes. My how time changes things.

After the feast I grabbed Macy and rode my bike around the village for a little bit. I then went down to the river with her and Macy went for her second official swim of the year. Considering that there were still large chunks of ice in the river I'm not sure how she managed to go in for as long as she did. She'll have her swimmer's body in no time.

That's it...

Friday, May 16, 2008


Today was graduation. I have a TON to say about the preparations and the ceremony but I am too tired from all the preparations and the ceremony to even think straight right now. I also have to take some time to go through the 250 pictures that were taken by me, Christina and our site administrator today and decide which ones to post.

Until I have a chance to recover a little and write a longer post here is the brief synopsis of the day.

I woke up to my mom calling at 7:30 thanking me for her Mother's Day presents and tried to answer her questions about why I was still sleeping but I was too sleepy and exhausted to give her a straight answer. In fact, I hardly remember talking to her even though I know I let Macy out and fed her while I was on the phone. I took a shower,put on a dress, went to school, ordered my kids around until my classroom was presentable for the community and the final touches had been made to the decorations and everything was ready. I then attended a kick ass graduation ceremony, cried a little, smiled a lot, ate too much and realized once again how much I love this community I live in and how much I love working with these kids and how much I love my job and how things like this just makes me look forward to working with these students and staff again next year.

So, until I can post my 250 pictures here are a few of my favorites.

Geeee-o Caching is Fun

The students here are enrolled in an Earth Science class that is broadcast live from Bethel on a daily basis. The teacher (a kick butt fellow Wisconsin-ite) had the kids create and plant a Geocache this week. We did some preliminary prep work that focused on map reading and practiced taking coordinates of various things around the village with our GPS.

The students had a place to put their Geocache already in mind so, I sent my kids to their respective homes yesterday afternoon to get their rubber boots and pick out a few items that they wanted to put in the Geocache. (If you want to know what we put in you'll have to come find it for yourself.)

After about a 20 minute walk we arrived at the location and walked around in the "woods" a little until we found the perfect spot to put it.

Preparing our you can see, the excitement of it all was almost too much for some students to handle.

Embarking on our journey to find the perfect spot to put our Geocache.

We found a great spot and got the coordinates using the GPS.

The Geocache is somewhere in this picture. Can you spy it?

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Junkyard Volleyball

After the helicopter dropped us off in Oscarville I quickly checked in to see if the student council still felt like going ahead with their activity for the day...Junkyard Volleyball. The ladies assured me that they were up to it and we all agreed to meet at the school at 1.

When all the ladies arrived we mixed up a bunch of Kool-Aid and set up the volleyball net outside on the playdeck. The weather was beautiful and as soon as kids saw the net going up they were ready to play.

At the last minute the student council decided to "charge" the students to play volleyball. They decided that each person who wanted to play volleyball and drink Kool-Aid had to throw 5 pieces of trash away to earn their "juice". The kids eagerly donned kitchen server gloves and picked up the required amounts of trash and were ready to play.

Junkyard Volleyball differs from regulation volleyball in a number of ways. First, Junkyard Volleyball is played to 25 instead of 15. Also, there is no limit as to the number of players on each team and it is perfectly acceptable for someone to switch teams or get a drink of Kool-Aid during the middle of a volley. Dogs are allowed on the court as are 2 year olds. If someone wants to take a break and pet the dog or play with the 2 year old that is acceptable as well.

Also, if someone is serving and is scoring a lot of points it is okay for them to let someone else serve. When you are serving, you get as many chances as you need to hit the ball over and you may stand as close to the net as you need to. It is also okay for someone to help the ball over. The best rule of all....there really is no out of bounds. If you hit the ball and it hits the fence you get another chance to serve.

Junkyard Volleyball was a huge success. All the kids (big and little) got to play and fun was had by all. Next weekend we are going to organize volleyball a little better and try to have a tournament.It surprised me how well everyone did playing volleyball. It took some of the younger kids a few tries to get the ball over but once they got the hang of it they did a fantastic job!