Friday, September 26, 2008

Meal Worms

The other day I received a large box of items for my biology class. I opened it up and inside were two worm containers. One was full of meal worms and the other is full of earth worms.

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

3 boys and a girl

That is what my mom always said when she was asked how many children she had. "Four, three boys and a girl".

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

Attack in the Bread Aisle

PFD's are here! Yippee! Early filers received their PFD's on Friday and instantly the state turned into a madhouse. Everyone is out spending like crazy. Early Friday afternoon reports were floating in from Bethel that the stores were just over run with people. The bank had lines all the way out the door and I heard there were at least 50 boats at Corina's, our local bulk food store (Corina's sort of equals but doesn't even come close to Costco).

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 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

Is this me??

My friend Scott send me this audio file. He swears it is me speaking (not the announcer person but the other person, the one giving the testimonial). He was finally able to send me the file so I could hear it and it does eerily resemble my voice. Here is it...I wanted to share it because it made me laugh so freaking hard!

Friday, September 5, 2008

Clap for Alaska

The Alaska Permanent Fund payout was announced. Alaska residents will be receiving $2,069.

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

Seedfolks and Earbuds

Two very important things of mine went missing last week. I have been creating a thematic unit for one of my classes from the book Seedfolks by Paul Fleischman. The unit was due on August 31. I noticed that the book was missing on August 25. I looked and looked and looked for the book. I looked everywhere. I asked my students if they had seen it. Finally, I called the school in Napaskiak and Joe B. was awesome enough to locate and send another copy of it to me. About two days after Joe sent the book from Napaskiak my classroom door opened and Christina was laughing her head off. "Go ahead, show her" she directed the little boy next to her. As soon as the boy entered the room I knew what he had in his hands. It was my lost book. Only it wasn't my book. My book was shiny and new and in great shape. This book was wet and waterlogged. It looked three times as thick as what it should be. When I took it in my hands the cover just flopped off and landed on the floor with a soggy sounding PLOP. It was then that I realized that the book was leaking a mixture of sand and water and I immediately threw it in the sink. After running some water through the pages the entire sink was filled with sand. This is what a 69 page book looks like after it has been sitting in a muddy river for about three days.

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

Berry Festival

This weekend was another jam packed weekend full of good friends and fun.

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 class on Friday Brian hitched a ride over to Oscarville and joined Christina, K.C. and I for dinner. THe theme for dinner that evening was "random" and it was indeed a random mixture of food but it was delicious nonetheless. After dinner Brian and I took a walk in the rain to tour the village and we were back inside in the house about 10 minutes later. We took a much longer walk than that but it only took a few minutes to show Brian around the village.

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.

It was a gorgeous day and we walked up the hill behind Toksook. The dogs were running around and we had a great time just talking, playing with the dogs and berry picking. Finally it was time for me to get ready to go home and we walked back to Dirk's house to get my stuff.

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 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

Adventure Smenture

I thought it would be impossible to top the fishing adventure we had last Saturday. But then Sunday rolled around and we soon discovered that the fun was just beginning.

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 is by far my favorite place around Oscarville. I love going there no matter what the season. I've always wanted to camp out on top of the bluffs but have never seemed to make it.

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.

The berry picking session was not without it's hiccups by any means. I was picking for about a half hour or so when I realized that I held all the containers...which meant since I had them all in my backpack Christina probably didn't have them in her hand. So, I made my way back to Christina to find that she did not have a container. I handed one off to her and continued on my way.

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.

I eventually just got out of the kayak and started pulling it through the water. Adam eventually got of his and walked through the water with it. Christina also joined us in the water and soon all three of us were soaked and covered in mud.

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!