Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Home

After a long flight I made it home. The flights all went well, just long and boring. Brian and some other LKSD folks were all on my flight into ANC and it was nice to share a few drinks with people. My flight for Seattle left at about 1 am. I was hoping to snooze during the flight but just my luck I sat next to a young man who wanted to talk the entire time. Usually, one thing I love about traveling is meeting all sorts of people. I call the people I meet on planes my "plane friends". I once sat across the aisle from a mattress salesman from Fairbanks who, by the time we had landed in Seattle, was certain we were destined to get married and have a family. I had told him earlier in the flight I would buy him a coffee once we reached Seattle. I ran like hell when he went to have a smoke. Another time I sat next to a guy who was an amateur ultimate fighter. He was pretty cool. One of my most favorite plane friends was a young man who had just gotten back from Iraq. He had told his family he wouldn't be able to come home to Georgia for Christmas but was going to Georgia to surprise them all. He was nervous as hell about seeing his family and was all sorts of fidgety. At one point we started talking about Macy and as soon as the cabin lights went out we pulled her from her bag and he sat with her the entire flight, just petting her. Soon, he was calm and he fell asleep too.



So, I usually enjoy making plane friends. However, I was EXHAUSTED and just wanted to sleep. The guy sitting next to me told me he was from Seattle but had a very thick accent I couldn't place. I then asked him where he was from origianlly and he said Georgia. The accent though was definitely NOT a Georgian accent. Eventually it came out that his father had been in the military and this guy grew up in Belgium. This man, Serge, then decided that we needed to talk the entire flight. Not only did his accent make communication difficult but his low, mumbled, quiet voice made it near immpossible. He would ask a question and I would stare at him trying to process what he said. Then I would apologize and ask him to repeat what he said. He would repeat and, still not having any clue what he said, I would just smile and nod my head. He was a nice man but every time I was near the dozing off point he would ask me another question.



On my flight from Seattle to Chicago I made plane friends with a nice doctor and his wife. They were just coming back from Hawaii and after spending some time talking to them I know now where my next vacation is going to be. They were very nice and wonderful people and I enjoyed sitting next to them very much.



The final leg of my trip home included a bus ride from O'Hare to Milwaukee where my mom and dad were waiting to pick me up. After some confusion about whether Macy could actually ride the bus we were on our way. Turns out sitting about two rows up from me was a Site Administrator from one of the schools in the Barrow School District. He tried his best to get me to come work for him next year and he did pique my interest. He made it sound pretty damn nice. He and his wife were wonderful people and our conversation made the bus ride go by pretty fast.

I think my mom spotted Macy first in Milwaukee then looked to see who was holding her! IT WAS ME! haha...

Anyway...I'm home and it feels great! I'm looking forward to the next few weeks!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Last blog from Oscarville...

It sounds so sad...it really does. However, this is my last blog from Oscarville. Tomorrow I will be running around trying to get the rest of my stuff moved, mailed and packed for the summer. I have to take the boat out of the water and get that all stored for the summer. I still feel like there's so much to do but I'm at the point where I know I can come down in the fall and gather any stray items that I left behind. Then, I'm off on the evening flight to Anchorage and should arrive in Chicago sometime early Sunday afternoon. I should be home in K-town sometime that Sunday evening. It feels as if the last week or two has just been a blur.

I am so excited to get home. I cannot wait to see my family. I always look forward to my parents picking Macy and me up in Milwaukee. I think they like it too...the drive from Milwaukee to Kaukauna gives us some time to catch up. Although I sometimes just want to get home and rest I'm really happy for those two hours alone with my parents. My mom keeps telling me how big Claire and Marin are getting and I just cannot wait to see both of them. I can't wait to have a beer with my brothers and sister-in-law and I cannot wait to get to know, Melissa, my brother Dave's new wife, a bit better. I'm hoping for one or two fun and wild nights out with Jon and Lizzie while I'm in town. I have an appointment for my VW to get all tuned up on Tuesday and I'm looking forward to plugging my iPod in and going for a drive. I have a few camping trips with friends already lined up. I'm hoping to hear the roar of Steve's or Brandon's (or both!) Harleys in the driveway this summer and I hope for some long rides. I have a ton of work to do on my thesis and I'm itching to start a more regimented running program to get in shape. So far, it's shaping up to be a nice but busy summer. Although I'm anxious to get home I know I'm going to miss this place.

One thing I love about the spring and summer in the Delta is that the sunsets are amazing. Tonight as I drove from Bethel to Napaskiak I looked behind me and couldn't believe how red and how big the sun was. Now, as I look out my window the sky is streaked with pinks, blues and purples reflected on the water. I remember how during my first year here I would run out almost nightly to take pictures of the sunsets. I'm glad that I still find them amazing.This village is beautiful in so many ways that I hate to leave it. I have met and lived with some of the kindest and most generous people in the world. Although things always haven't been smooth sailing the last four years overall I've loved living here and loved the lifestyle in Oscarville. I've been fortunate to make some really, really good friends here and I know those friendships will last a long time. The kids are amazing. Smart, respectful (most of the time), and eager to learn. I know that a group of students like that is rare and I've been so lucky to have had so many wonderful experiences with them in the classroom.

These kids have changed and grown so much and it's been a pleasure and an honor to see that happen. I look back on the pictures from when I first started and we ALL look so much younger. I was a much different person then too and over the years I've learned how to laugh at myself more, take more risks and believe more in myself. I know that the kids and the people here influenced me just as much as I hope I influenced them.

It's weird...I thought leaving here would be more emotional and more difficult. Perhaps I've been so busy with all the getting ready to go stuff that the actually going hasn't really sunk in yet. I think tomorrow will be hard. I think that saying good bye will be hard. I know I'll be back to visit but it will be as a visitor. It already feels different. It's going to be hard to "visit" a community I feel so much a part of. I think that leaving here has been one of the hardest decisions I've ever had to make but yet one that I know I had to make. I know that I have to move on and that there are so many other opportunities out there. I need to do this.

This evening I was giving Brian and another teacher from Kong, Rachel, a ride back to Bethel. Rachel asked how I knew which way to go on the river. I sort of stumbled for words and said, "I've walked around a lot." It's true. I remember the first time I went for a walk in the wilds of Oscarville. I was petrified I would get eaten by a bear or lose my way and wander around and die. I stuck close to the trail and was only gone for about 20 minutes before fear made me turn around go home. Over time I became more confident that I would be able to find my way home and that nothing would eat me. I started to wander further and further away from home. One of the first times I went for a long walk I was gone for about six hours. As I approached home I could hear people yelling and screaming my name. I popped out of the willows where I had been walking and said, "I'm right here!" Apparently, my roommate at the time had alerted the locals that I had been gone for quite some time. I had arrived only moments before they called Search and Rescue. As the years went on people got used to me wandering around and consequently I got really familiar with this little island. Although it's a small little island there are many things that make it special. I've grown to love it more and more with each year.

Enough rambling. I need to get my sleeping bag out and get ready for bed. I packed all my linens and blankets and have been down to my sleeping bag the last few nights. I keep telling Macy that we are just practicing for camping this summer.

So...for my friends up here...I'll see you all in the fall. For my family and friends at home...I'm hoping to see you all on Sunday or Monday and...Mr. Rendall...I'll be seeing you tomorrow!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Captain Macy

My friend Iain snapped this picture of Macy last night on our way back up to Bethel. Macy gets super confused as to who is supposed to sit in the Captain's chair in our new boat. Every time I stand up she sneaks onto the chair and sits proud as can be. That leaves about one or two inches for me to perch on as I try to steer the boat through the water! Either that or I'm left standing as rain pelts me in the face.

Thanks so much to Iain and Brian for helping me move all my stuff. It was much appreciated. You guys rock! Thanks also to all the folks who have been riding with me back and forth between Oscarville and Bethel. I'm sure it's been quite amusing and fun for you guys to see my super novice boat driving skills in action. However, thanks to all the tips I've been getting from people I've been feeling much more confident now on the river by myself.

Ladies Night -- Bush Alaska Style

The other evening I invited all the ladies that I work with to go to dinner in Bethel in my new boat.

We dub nights such as those as "Ladies Night" (some, like this one, are more tame than others).

The evening started off a little after 6 when everyone arrived at our house. I had already went out and started the boat to make sure that everything was ready to go. I didn't want everyone to get out there and see me fumbling with switches and trying to figure out how to hook the gas up. I got all that out of the way before they came. That way, when it was time to go I looked like an old pro.

We all climbed in the boat and began our first leg of the journey...a stop at Barbara's house about a 100 feet away so we could get her life jacket! It was a short trip but one that was still fraught with anxiousness on everyone's part as I'm not so good at parking and unparking. I worry about slamming into the beach full bore ahead and can never seem to understand which way to turn the motor when I'm backing up. This worry then results with me cutting the engine too soon and someone having to stretch toward the beach or grass or another boat to pull me into the parking spot. This time was no different. I cut the engine and people stretched and yet everyone assured me that it was ok.

After Barbara felt secure with her personal flotation device on we were ready to go. I was told to travel up the slough and with my boat load of women I started to maneuver through the twists and turns. What I loved most about this trip was that the use of hand signals quickly became the norm and only a few minutes into the trip I saw Eliza Meier frantically gesticulating and pointing towards the left. Then I saw what she was seeing, there was something floating in the water. To me, it looked to be a stick and not one of the many logs that tend to float downriver at this time. However, with her wild gesturing and her years of experience in boats I quickly swerved to miss whatever it was. It was a stick.

Once we arrived in Bethel I parked at the hospital parking lot. This time I not only cut the engine too soon and we again have to drift our way into the parking spot but I also chose to park in the muddiest area. The ladies were all champs though and no one said a word as they tiptoed through the mud and onto the sandy areas.

Olga had the foresight to procure a truck for us and after parking the boat we trudged up to the hospital parking lot to get the truck. On the way, Eliza Meier received wonderful news, the seals her father had sent to her from Tununak were at Grant Air. Before we knew it, we were parked outside of Grant Air waiting for Eliza's boxes of seal.

After receiving the seals we picked up Daphne and Barbara from Daphne's sister's house and we were off to DINNER! Of course, no ladies night would be complete without a male and this time Eliza Joekay's husband joined all of us girls. We put him to good use though and he was our photographer for the evening.

Two of my favorite Joekay sisters...


All the ladies enjoying all the fine dining Bethel can provide...

After dinner we shared another common female bonding ritual...we went shopping. After our trip to Swanson's we were ready to get home. Barbara's husband was patiently waiting for us to arrive so he could go out hunting and I still had lots of packing to do at home.

We saw a beaver while we were waiting for Christina!


As you can see..cell phones have hit the Delta in a BIG way...



Still waiting but Daphne's loving the trip!


Here comes Christina after parking the truck!

The boat ride back was something else. Shortly after we were on the river the gesticulating once again started from the front of the boat. This time Eliza Joekay was waving to the left. I looked at Olga, who was riding shotgun, and asked, "Should I go over?" Olga said, "No. You're good." Still, though, the waving motions from the front of the boat continued, but much more persistent. Again, I looked at Olga, desperate for some direction. Again I was assured I was good. Almost immediately after this, Barbara joined Eliza in her gesturing and others started yelling. What I then saw in front of me was what I assumed to be a brown log but found out quite quickly that it was part of a large sandbar. I quickly swerved to the left and everyone held on for dear life as we skimmed past the sandbar. Once out of danger I started pointing at Olga and trying to pin the blame on her. As we pulled into Oscarville Slough we were all laughing.





You can see the boxes of seals...coffins as Eliza M's brother called them.

I parked the boat and we began to unload our groceries. All in all it was a great trip and I once again am amazed at how awesome all my friends are down here. In four years I feel like I've really bonded with the people in this community. It's great knowing that I won't be so far away from them! I'm sure going to miss these women. They are the cat's meow.

How I'm Spending My Last Day At Work

I'm drinking a lot of coffee and eating Trix. Occasionally I'm moving things so it looks like I'm busy.

Monday, May 18, 2009

What?!

I woke up this morning to snow. It's snowing out. And it's sticking. I wonder when summer will come to the Delta.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Graduation 2009

Whew. We made it. We survived Graduation 2009. Things went smoothly and everything went according to plan.

The ceremony was scheduled to begin at 4:00 o'clock and at 4:15 all the graduates were filing in. We had one little kindergarten graduate, four eighth grade grads and, Andrew, our lone high school graduate.

Here area ll the grads waiting for the ceremony to begin. Look how cute the little kindergartner is! She's so tiny compared to all those big boys.



Here is Jamaica, our kindergartner with her diploma. She did a great job this year and worked very hard. We were all amazed at her progress and everything she did.




After the kindergarten promotion it was Christina's turn to speak on behalf of each of the Junior High students.






After Christina's speech the staff members got up and talked about Andrew. Here is Andrew's mom having her turn talking about her son. It was pretty emotional for the both of them. I kept thinking of if my mom had to speak on my behalf at my high school graduation. I don't know if she would have gotten through her speech! Haha!


After Eliza's speech it was my turn to get up and speak about Andrew. I did ok...I only got choked up once and got through the speech without any major issues.



After my speech it was Andrew's turn to speak. He got pretty choked up during his speech. He did a great job though and again, he made me proud.



Chris said a few words and I came back down to present Andrew with his diploma. It was a great moment for me and I was so proud of him.




After that Chris presented the Qugcuun Memorial School Class of 2009!





The graduation ceremony was followed by a wonderful feast of home made bread, akutaq, short ribs, turkey, potatoes, gravy, stuffing, and a big huge salad. It was wonderful and the community did a hell of a job eating stuff up.

With bellies full we went back into the High School classroom to get about a million pictures taken with the grads.

Here's the Junior High.....



and the high school....



Andrew's mom, Eliza, made kuspeqs for her sons' teachers and here we are sporting them!



We then had a large group picture of all the ladies wearing their kuspeqs....



Andrew and I (both of us are relieved this is done!)...




Patrick, an eighth grade graduate and his little sister, Jamaica, our kindergarten graduate.


Andrew and his grandfather....



The staff all chipped in and got Andrew a nice tool set for his gift. He seemed to really like it.








Congratulations to Andrew and the rest of the students. I'm proud of you all. Andrew, I'm looking forward to seeing what you do the next chapter of your life.



Thursday, May 14, 2009

Oh Don't You Know Rug Co.

Short Version of this post: I finished it. It took almost four years but I finally finished it.


Long Version:

Oh Don't You Know Rug Company was born after a quick trip to my favorite store in Kaukauna. That's right...many of you out there know where you can see my bike or the Topaz many days as you drive through Kaukauna...right outside of the St. Vincent DePaul Thrift Store! I love that place and have found many treasures there over the years. Jon Schroeder, my best friend in the whole world can attest to some of the gems I've found. Remember the blue ring, Jon? I have that at home in a safe place...wouldn't want to lose that. Or how about the time we were on a biking trip and I emerged from the store wearing a beautiful golden broach in the shape of the letter "E"? I know you were outside waiting for me but the wait was worth it, wasn't it? I think both pieces cost me a quarter each.

One day, I went to St. Vinnie's to see what sorts of treasures I could find. I started off by searching through the craft patterns and books that were in a box by the door. That's when I found it...an old copy of Better Homes and Gardens Rug Making. It was a quarter and I bought it. That's when Oh Don't You Know Rug Company was born.

After finding a pattern in the book for my first rug I made numerous trips to thrift stores in Kaukauna, Kimberly and Appleton trying to find enough material to actually make the rug. I made friends with an old lady at a thrift store in Appleton who got so excited when I told her I was going to make a rug that she told me, with a wink, that they only put material out on Wednesdays and if I wanted, I could come in before they put it out and have first pick. I informed Jon what I was doing and he donated some old sheets to the cause.

The preparation process for my first rug was fun but tedious. It involved taking every piece of fabric I bought, tearing it into 1-2" strips, tying them all together, rolling the tied fabric into a ball and only then was I ready to crochet. I had lots of help from Jon and my mom.

My first rug was started in Kaukauna and finished in Vermont. It took an entire summer to finish. I remember sitting in our little apartment in Montpelier and working on it at night, surrounded by strips of fabric as Andre read. There were times he would help me sort through and tie the strips of fabric together. He was quite supportive through the whole process, even when he saw me tear out the stitches that had taken me a week to put in so I could start over. As the rug got bigger I would sit in the middle of it and spin myself as I crocheted. I still sometimes wonder how Andre could walk in the door, see me sitting in the sweltering heat, spinning myself in circles as I crocheted a rug and not run like hell.

As the summer drew to a close my first rug was completed. As I packed my car for the return trip to Wisconsin to prepare for my move to Alaska my first rug was packed away safe and sound. After arriving in Wisconsin it was quickly packed into a box and the next time I saw it was after I had arrived in Oscarville.

Because I'm a bit insane and because I like creating things I knew I wanted to start another rug when the first one was done. It was then I started on my next rug, my jute rug.

I had a few days in Wisconsin and I scoured the stores for enough jute to make the rug. I could only find a few rolls and I figured it was enough to get me started while I kept searching. After I moved to Alaska I did a quick eBay search and found a lady selling some jute. Shortly after, two priority boxes full of jute arrived from Winter Park, Florida.

For fours years I've been working on my jute rug. The jute is quite rough to work with and I can only crochet with it for a little while before my hands get sore. I had decided after my first year here to make the rug project something that I worked on twice a year during freeze up and break up. The rug is known in many circles as the Freeze Up/Break Up Rug.

I decided that this year was the year that the rug was going to be finished. As break up approached I sat down and began crocheting like mad. I knew I'd probably only have a few days to finish it so I hunkered down and began the final steps towards the completion of the project.


Here I am connecting the final row...what a long process.


So...here it is. The finished rug. I was going to block it but I don't think I'll have to. I may add a fancier border at some point but I'm going to leave it as is for now.



So much has happened to me in the years I've spent here. Many people have seen and walked on the rug as it was created. So many memories are wrapped up in this rug. So much of myself has gone into it and as it grew I feel I did as well. I'm a much different person now than I was at the beginning of the project. It's amazing how much things can change in a short amount of time.

**I already have the pattern for my next rug!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Boat Lady

I am buying my friend K.C.'s boat. I know nothing about boats. I only know that they are fun. This is the weirdest thing I've ever bought. I'm sure everyone will be in for a treat as I figure out how to drive the damn thing.

Here's a picture of my new boat.



Link