Friday, December 31, 2004
Time Zones Suck, Chapter II, or, Jet Lag and You: Why Having a Spherical Earth is Murder on the Internal Clock
Since the most wise and beautiful Chickscumalready said a bunch of good stuff about the disaster, I'll not repeat what she said. Read it, I'll just say "ditto," except for the part about a tornado messing up the apartment complex, that never happened to me, and I'll not lie and say it happened.
Insane numbers of people lost their lives. Quite frankly, I can't quite wrap my mind around it. It's thought that on one Tamil-controlled island, 3/5 of the population was wiped out. Think of your five favorite people. Poof, three of them gone. I really think it's worse to think about it in those terms than to try to imagine 60,000 people.
I'm not going to be all depressing and morbid. It's New Year's Eve. To quote the hooker from Forrest Gump, "Everyone gets a second chance." Bad things happen. This time it was a natural disaster, but often, it's not bad luck and acts of nature, but we ourselves who make bad things happen. Seems to be an historical pattern we can't break, but I'm going to play eternal obnoxious optimist in the face of reality and say: maybe 2005 will be our year.
For those of you who are so inclined (and who, more importantly, have the fundage), the Red Cross said that they'll use all money donated to the International Response Fund to provide relief to the victims in Southeast Asia. To make a donation, click here. No pressure. I've been broke, too. Whether you donate or not, let's all try our hardest to live life like it could be washed out to sea tomorrow.
To quote Colonel Potter from M*A*S*H (what's with me and all the pop culture references? Hey, at least I'm off my Harry Potter kick), "To the new year. May she be a damn sight better than the old."
Kick some ass in 2005.
Hmm, maybe I'll give up swearing in the new year.
Naaaaaaah. What's the fun of hitting your head on something if you can't cuss in a most undignified manner after you do it?
Thursday, December 30, 2004
Arrived back in the YK Delta (couldn't make it all the way out to the village; I'm in Bethel) more or less in one piece. Why did it take me four days to get away from work and only one to get back? Bleh.
(Honestly, I have no idea what I'm typing right now. Fuzzy lines. Great fun.)
For the first time since I moved to Alaska, my luggage arrived at my final destination on the same flight as me. I feel like I won the lottery or something. Is baggage handling really that bad, or am I just unlucky?
A family that I know from the village was on my same flight from Anchorage to Bethel. I twas nice to see familiar faces after an entire day of anonymous stranger interaction.
Thursday, December 23, 2004
I seem to sense a pattern here.
Tuesday, December 21, 2004
Satuday: Couldn't get out of the village. Was upset, but hey, I was at my house in my own bed so it was all good.
Sunday: Got out of village. Got out of Bethel into Anchorage on an earlier flight than I had planned. Had time to drink a beer at the Anchorage airport. Plane left an hour late
Monday: Arrive in Minneapolis at 6:55am (only 45 minutes late; we must have had a tailwind or something). Katie brought me a mimosa (hehehe). Katie slid her car on the ice. She dropped me off again at the airport. Get to gate for flight to Central Wisconsin. Are told that pilot is caught in ice-storm-related accident and therefore late. Wait around for over an hour. Pilot arrives, we get on plane, get buckled in and seated, and are promptly told that Central Wisconsin is experiencing bad weather. Get off plane. Get scheduled for a flight the next day. Call friend Chanda. Chanda comes to pick me up with new baby. Baby is hella-cute at 3 1/2 weeks. Go out drinking with Chanda.
Tuesday: Get to gate for flight to CWA. Nice smiley blond woman asks us if any of us would like to be bumped as they've oversold. The phrase "Hell no, are you f-ing nuts?!" comes to mind, but I hold my tongue. Spend the next 45 minutes obsessively worrying that I'll be one of the nine who need to be bumped. Find out that obsessive worrying is, as usual, not necessary. Get on plane, fly to CWA. Land, discover that luggage has not made the trip. Go to youngest sister's basketball game (they won, very good), stop back at airport to check for bags. Still no bags. Fill out baggage claim. Am quite pissed off because my parents' very cool Christmas presents are in the luggage.
Saturday, December 18, 2004
The only other "new" teacher (she's a second year teacher) and I were invited over to have lunch at the kidnergarten teacher's house. We got over there and she informed us that she had just heard that all planes out of Bethel were on hold. I'll admit it, I had to fight to hold back tears. A few phone calls later (one with a crabby guy at Northwest Airlines who ultimately got the job done but made the whole task kind of unpleasant) and I'm all scheduled for the same flights a day later, which is decent news. Weather's supposed to clear up tomorrow, too. All my stuff (toothpaste, jammies, etc) is packed away, though, which is a bit of a pain in the arse.
Instead, I knitted and watched Harry Potter DVD special features (really, I'm not as Harry Potter obsessed as my blog as of late makes me sound) with said Only Remaining Fellow New Teacher. Not a bad evening, I guess, all things considered.
I want a beer because I couldn't get out of the village as scheduled. I can't have a beer because I'm still in the village. Who will make a bold sacrifice and drink a beer for me?
Not that I don't simply adore each and every person who called this morning... except Roomie's parents, who are cool, but I won't say I adore someone I've never met in person. Well, OK, Brad Pitt. But we all agree he's a special case.
I'm flying out of town in about an three and a half hours (weather permitting). I get to fly out of the new airport, which is somewhat exciting just because it's new. It's also five minutes out of town, which is something like forever in village distance.
See you in the Lower 48!!!
I really should start packing.
Friday, December 17, 2004
Thursday, December 16, 2004
My brain is tired. My body is tired. We just finished our school's Christmas Program. One and a half hours of quasi-controlled chaos. Virtually no attempt was made to control the kindergarteners or first graders, so they kinda ran amok and chattered through the whole thing. Whatever. Tomorrow's a half day and then I've got two weeks off!!! WOO FREAKIN HOO!
Right now, though, I just want a nap. For some reason, I woke up at 6am today, but not the "OK I'm awake let's start the day" kind of woke up. It was the "Oh man am I tired, why am I awake, just lemme get back to sleep" kind of woke up. The kindergarteners (my first class of the day) were all tweeked out on crack, or at least acting like it. That was a *great* (please note sarcasm) start to my work day, and it only got better. The Christmas Program was enjoyable, but I really could have just as happily slept the day away.
Hmm... maybe if I deny myself a full night sleep tonight, and tomorrow night, I'll be so tired I actually SLEEP on the plane. Then again, maybe I'll be that tired and then NOT be able to sleep on the plane, and arrive crabby. It's a gamble, either way.
Wednesday, December 15, 2004
Tuesday, December 14, 2004
I am available for parties, as long as your idea of good balloon animal entertainment is two animals and a pirate weapon, all made VERY SLOWLY with that holding-the-balloon-far-away-scared-it'll-pop look (you know the one) on the performer's face. Also, you have to pay for me to fly to wherever you are.
I'm turning into such a domestic goddess. Knitting, crocheting, beading... Worship me, it's OK. Go ahead.
Sunday, December 12, 2004
Now your turn! Take the test, reply to this post and tell us what house you're in!
be sorted @ nimbo.net
Long, long ago, we were the "rockstars" off a certain triathlon website that shall remain nameless. In many ways our titles of co-rockstars were unearned, but we held the titles nonetheless, if only in name. Now we're "ladies of a certain age" (OK, we're 25) who are getting responsible and stuff.
Anyway, congrats girl, you're one hurdle closer to using your powers of law for good (YOU'LL USE THEM FOR GOOD, RIGHT?! YOU PROMISED!).
(2) Planning for the last week before winter break is difficult. Not only will the kids be all twitchy and ready for vacation to start, but so will their ELD teacher. Friday morning, I predict, will be a total loss, academically.
(3) The sun is nearing the horizon (it's 1:45 PM, not sunset just yet, but nearing the horizon). If I hadn't run over my digital camera with the school van, I'd totally take a picture and post it.
(4) I really like our school schedule - We have an extra hour of school Monday-Thursday, then the students get out at noon on Friday. Teachers have a student-free Friday afternoon to plan for the next week. It's not bad, even if I DO have trouble focusing on work at that point...
(5) How much STUFF can I fit into ten days of vacation? We shall soon find out. I have numerous people to drink a beer with (Shibby - is our table reserved at Guu's? Katie - got your Nalgene bottle handy? Too bad there's no parade to watch at MSP. Dz and J - we really need to meet up in the Twin Cities while you guys are there. Matt, Aimee, Mel, and Kelly - Bring on the FRE!), family Christmas stuff to do (popcorn and cranberry stringing, you know, all that Norman Rockwell jazz), shopping and mailing to do (a must when visiting civilization), and maybe might want to sleep a little somewhere in there.
(6) Knitting is fun.
(7) Lesson planning is not fun.
(8) When we run our washing machine, the house shakes. One of the many oddities associated with having a house on stilts. Not tall stilts, but about 4 feet off the ground. A lot of people store stuff under their houses. All that we have under ours is the old bathtub that a parent delivered a bunch of salmon in. He then left town without coming back for the bathtub. So now we have a bathtub under our house until he comes back. We say it'd be po' white trashy of us, but Roomie's half Chinese, so that wouldn't be entirely accurate.
(9) I have reached the point where salmon is no longer an exciting meal. Still delicious, but nothing special.
(10) Have run out of things to say but wanted to make it a nice even, divisible-by-ten number.
You know how there are some books (and movies too, the movies are great, but I'm talking the HP books) where you get done and are just disappointed that it's not real? That's kind of how I feel after I close one of the Harry Potter books. Sure, they're SUPPOSED to be for kids, but dammit, I enjoy a good mental vacation from reality as much as the next person.
Kinda like when we were kids and Mel and I decided after watching Star Wars that we could move things with our minds... sitting in the basement concentrating on stuff, trying to get it to move. I've revealed too much and officially lost all semblance of respect, haven't it?
Ah, what the heck. It's Star Wars. You can't fault a kid for wanting to be a Jedi. Just like you can't fault me, at the tender age of 25, for wishing that Harry's whole alternate world really existed.
OK, back on topic (FOCUS, GIRL, FOCUS!). Read the Harry Potter books. The first one, at least. It isn't much of a time investment, so if it's not your thing, it's not like you've wasted 500 pages of your literary life.
Wednesday, December 08, 2004
Anyway, It's nice and snowy here now (it's been flurry-ing for two days straight). Maybe by this weekend I'll be able to try out my new snowshoes! Then again, maybe not. I'm debating taking a solo mini-vacation for spring break, just somewhere in Alaska where there's more snow, or maybe just somewhere I've never been (which is most places). However, I also want to save up to buy a 4-wheeler, and might just want to save up my money at that point. 4-wheelers are not for recreation here as they are in some places (neither are snowmachines... er... snowmobiles), they're the preferred mode of transportation. I really don't like being dependent on getting the school van (old, scary, huge, broken down Chevy Suburban), coordinating when I want to go to and leave from school with four coworkers, having to ask the principal for the keys on the weekend to go to the store. It's like being back in high school sharing a car with my sister (although our driving ages never really overlapped that much), except in this case there are five of us. Getting my own wheels, even little 4-wheeler wheels, would make me like a real grown-up.
OK, so we've had plenty of snow already. Problem is, our incidences of snow have been broken up by rainy icy crap that has beaten it down and kept things a delightful shade of mud.
This is not to say that I'm a romantic snow-loving person. Really, it's purely aestheic at this point... winter in cold places, if it doesn't snow, is just plain ugly.
Also, if it's warm enough to snow, it can't be THAT cold!
Anyhoo, our mentor teacher is visiting for a few days. She's great. I really like that the state of Alaska recognized that new teachers need more guidance and support if they're going to stay in the field past the magical five-year mark. I also like that the teacher they found us (she serves a bunch of other villages in our district and others) has experience in the bush. Teaching here... the rules, the expectations, the responsibilities... is (and I feel like a broken record saying this AGAIN) totally different than teaching down in the lower 48... or even in anchorage... or even in Bethel...
Example: Roomie and I approached her with a specific predicament involving student-teacher boundaries. Now I was taught that the student-teacher relationship, while a potentially close relationship, remains somewhat distant, professional, and purely educational. I think I broke that rule my first week. That accomplished, I had to find my own boundaries, partly based on what was the community norm, partly based on what I personally want. Like most things in life, a compromise. Anyway (right, I was going somewhere with this) we approached her, expecting that (as a semi-authoritative figure, although now that I think about it she has no power over us beyond the fact that she knows a lot more than us about a lot of useful things) she'd advise we not get too personally involved. Nearly the opposite, however: she explained that she had been in strikingly similar positions during her tenure as a bush teacher, as had most of her colleagues, and that the rules aren't just more relaxed, here... it's an entirely different set of rules.
It's really hard to get things done without "knowing people." This is good and bad. As a (still) new teacher, I'm somewhat powerless. I'm at the far end of the news grapevine. I haven't figured out who's related to whom (which could be a job in and of itself, I swear). I do, however, know the postmaster (postmistress? she's a woman, but that sounds so... I don't know... never mind). That is one connection to have. She magically makes my amazon.com orders appear from behind her mystical little counter. But it's still very person-based, not profession-based, which is actually refreshing in a Post Office employee. She lets me go behind the PO boxes to check our mail if I didn't bring the key (SHH DON'T TELL). She'll go digging through yet-unsorted mailbags to find a greatly anticipated package if there's not a line and we ask nicely.
Monday, December 06, 2004
Some people thrive in chaos. Roomie for example. She can do fine with her physical space in total and complete disarray. Me, when my world is messy, my life gets messy. I totally take on the characteristics of my environment. I forget stuff. I stop thinking in straight lines. I become my surroundings. Cammoflauge, if you will. ;-)
Problem is, I just don't have the time or energy to fix it right now. The sheer amount of STUFF in my classroom (I'm blessed/cursed with a huuuuuuuge array of materials) makes any organizational attempt a colossal undertaking. I literally have a walk-in closet, a double sided bookshelf, two regular bookshelves, and a rolling cabinet full of STUFF. Naturally, having so much stuff makes it IMPOSSIBLE to find that one thing I need at the moment I need it.
My thought process: Hmm, I see I'm doing "modes of transportation" vocabulary with the kidnergartenders next week. Now, I know there was a cool little tub full of miniature cars, trains, boats, etc. It was small and round and... where was it? *Stands in the middle of the room and looks around hopelessly* I know I saw it when I was looking for... um... wait... I don't remember *gives up and prints up pictures of modes of transportation from the internet*.
Saturday, December 04, 2004
It looks pretty good, with a cool looking (if you can judge by the rehersal shots) light saber duel between Obi Wan and Annakin. Looks to be a lot darker than the first two, which pissed me off to no end by being way too cutesy. I guess it DOES have to lead into A New Hope, in which the Republic is kaput and everything sucks and is in despair and all, but I was still feeling fairly negative about the whole thing.
And on to slightly less geeky topics... Two weeks from RIGHT NOW I will be (weather permitting) at the Anchorage airport, preparing to board my flight to the lower 48. I will get into Central WI at about 10am-ish, and will likely be tired and crabby as hell after a long flight, but I'm sure I'll be happy to be in a place where a house with a flush toilet isn't a complete fantasy...
Hooray for toilies!
Friday, December 03, 2004
Look at the water coming out of your faucet? Where does it come from? I think so much more about where things come from and where things go now that I live up here. I know right where my garbage ends up. Today they burned at the dump, and it stanked up that side of town. I know where my water comes from, where it's purified, and where it drains out of the bottom of my house when I'm done. When we get meat locally, I generally know who killed it and sometimes get bits of ammunition as a reminder... All sorts of stuff that I didn't ever have to consider before. In some ways, we've gotten so disconnected from the day-to-day basics of living (food, water, shelter, etc) that we forget that we even need those things and that it could be a struggle to even survive.
Don't get me wrong, we're in no danger of starving to death up here. Were the planes to stop flying, people's lives around here would change, diet especially, but I think they'd be fine. One example: after 9-11-01 (from what I've heard; I wasn't here), even little bush planes couldn't fly, which seems a bit silly, but I guess a rule's a rule. No mail, groceries, no way out. What were the items to get bought out at the store? Not meat, frozen veggies, etc. It was all the stuff that people know they can't provide themselves... pop, candy, chips and the like. They were not worried about starving, adn that taken care of, they got what they knew could run out if they were forced had the planes been grounded for a long time.
Wednesday, December 01, 2004
Like 1:00 AM, for example. Lots of cool stuff to do on the internet at 1 AM. Friends' blogs to catch up on. Strange word combinations to Google. Final lesson plans to write (11 school days to plan before Christmas break!!!). Unnecessary e-mails to compose. Foolish blog entries to pen.
Anyway, all is well and good up here. Have talked with a lot of good friends and family members over the past week or so, and that, to quote Martha Stewart (or maybe to quote a Saturday Night Live parody of said household wonder, since I've never watched Martha Stewart), is a good thing. I had kinda fallen out of touch with a lot of people over the past month or so, and just recently realized that there are a lot of wonderful, very important people in my life... people that I don't want to lose touch with, ever. Others can come and go, but family and good friends are where it's at, I tell ya.
Abrupt Change of Subject #1! Got another Amazon.com book order today. Purchased the Star Wars Trilogy DVD (NERD ALERT! I know, I know. Please allow me my bastion of nerdiness without judgement.), seasons 1, 2, and 3 of The Family Guy (sooooooo inappropriate, soooooooo funny), and two books. Probably could have asked for both for Christmas but am all about immediate gratification when it comes to movies and books. Must own NOW. If I'm going to stay up here for another year (and I'm thinking I will), I should probably consider buying stock in Amazon.com. I've said it before and I'll say it again... internet commerce is both the saving grace (entertainment-wise) and the achillies heel (financially) of the bush teacher. I realize that I probably spelled Achillies wrong but am way to lazy to look it up. Maybe tomorrow.
Abrupt Change of Subject #2! I want snow. The village is slushy and icy and wet. Gimme snow over this crap any day.
Tuesday, November 30, 2004
Nasty #1: Has ANYONE ever looked good in a drivers license picture? I really want to know. Because I always end up looking like some kind of fat, dirty vagrant. Sorry if I don't get all dolled up to sit in line at the DMV, but they could try a little harder. I think they go out of their way to catch us at our worst, so that if we're ever out on the streets, they'll be able to match us directly with our DMV records.
Nasty #2: Got sneezed and snotted on by a kindergartener. No one peed with the classroom's bathroom door open today, though, so I guess we can call it a raving success.
Nasty #3: The boys who watched Roomie's dog while we were gone used the honey bucket, a lot, and didn't empty it. What a pleasant task to return home to.
Monday, November 29, 2004
Why, you ask, was I in Anchorage when I meant to go to Fairbanks? Well, that is a long and not very interesting story. Let's just shorten it, shall we? Weather delay on Friday morning made us late for our flight out of Bethel. We barely missed being able to board. Like by five minutes. The next flight out would have put us in Anchorage too late to get on the plane to Fairbanks, so we decided, what the hell, we'd just hang out in Anchorage.
So we got our names on the next flight to Anchorage. After being molested by the FTSA employee (those randomly selected pat-down searches are mighty personal... I swear she was trying to feel me up), we got on the plane and were on our way to Anchorage.
The rest of the trip was just us accomplishing task after task (I got two Christmas presents bought, obtained an Alaska drivers' license, and drank beer). We went dumpster diving behind Border's bookstore because we needed cardboard boxes to mail our loot home in. It was a cardboard-only dumpster, so it was a very clean experience. Otherwise we would have had to buy boxes at Wal-Mart or the post office, which I was NOT in the mood to do.
24 hours of return-trip delays (don't ask) after we were SUPPOSED to be back in the village, here I am, tired and stressed out. Next Thanksgiving I'm just going to stay here and nap the whole time... which is not to say that it wasn't great fun. I love Anchorage, or at least the parts I saw. But travel stresses me out. This last minute here-and-there changing of flights just raises my blood pressure.
Thursday, November 25, 2004
We're going to attemt to fly out tomorrow morning. We were about to scrap the whole trip and just use our tickets some other time, but then we (and by "we" I mean a coworker in no way affiliated with our trip) remembered that there's an extra jet out of Bethel and into Anchorage on Fridays. This jet would put us on a plane to Fairbanks in time to get there before 5pm, which is do-able. We'll have Friday night, all day Saturday, and Sunday morning. Not perfect, but something.
Weather permitting, of course. I've learned my lesson on the whole making plans thing. ;-)
Wednesday, November 24, 2004
The jet from Bethel to Anchorage (and from Anchorage, then, to Fairbanks) is taking off right now. One minor problem... looking around, I notice that I am not, as planned, folded into a tiny airplane seat (A.D.D.sidenote: did you know that the bigger the plane, the less legroom they give you? the 7-seaters are luxurious in comparison to a 747) on said jet. I am instead in my classroom, staring at ungraded papers that I thought were going to sit blissfully ignored on my desk until my return. It's hard to return if you can't leave.
I didn't realize how badly I needed this mini-vacation until I discovered we weren't leaving. I knew I was excited and all, but when I heard that the airline had called and said no planes could come this way, I was overtaken by a very strong urge to climb into bed. Being very, very disappointed is hard work. That's what I get, I suppose, for getting way too excited about a single weekend, knowing full well that everything here is "weather permitting."
People around here say "weather permitting" like some Muslims say "Inshalla" (or however it's spelled, I can't remember exactly). Instead of "God willing," it's "weather willing." You just kinda pin it onto the end of your stated plans, just to make it perfectly clear that it's totally out of your hands.
I'm not touching those papers. I'm on vacation, even if I'm still here. And if we do get out... well then, even better.
If we don't get out this afternoon, though, the trips probably off. None of the little local carriers will be flying tomorrow, and I'm not sure we're willing to spend the money on the hotel, meals, etc, for what would essentially be a day and a half of Faribanks-ing.
Anyway, it's wait-and-see right now.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone.
Tuesday, November 23, 2004
I can taste the beer already.
The good stuff.
Not the cheap crap my sister drinks.
But you know it's true.
Saturday, November 20, 2004
That's all I have to say about that.
Got a GPS so I can go out snowshoeing without fear of gettin lost on the broad expanse of flatness that is the tundra. Now we just need snow. We gots lotsa wind, cold, and ice, but the snow has disappeared. But anyway, GPS is cool. Yeah.
I'm thinking about getting XM radio. There's no radio up here, and I kinda feel out of the loop, musically. We (as a district, not me specifically) got warned not to listen to net radio on our school computers because it uses up too much bandwith (DAMMIT I like to play music while my students work!), so there go my KFAI and Radio K listening opportunities. XM seems to have a lot of cool channels... but I'm not sure it's worth the cost of the equipment. Anyone have any experience with this?
Thursday, November 18, 2004
Just thought you'd like to know.
Oh, Mom, thanks for the package. The pretzels are much appreciated.
Sunday, November 14, 2004
Flash forward to 11pm, and lesson planning still isn't done. One of these days I'll get my shit together and get enough done on Friday afternoons to not have to work this many hours on Sunday. It's just that I'm exhausted by the end of the school day on Friday and can't focus so well...
My aunt (a teacher for many years) says that my cousin (a second-year teacher) says that second year of teaching is much, much easier than the first. I can't wait.
Anyway, right now I'm thinking short-term. Next Wednesday, we get a half day, and then it's OFF TO FAIRBANKS! I can't wait. Have I mentioned this four million times already? I don't care. I'll say it again. I can't wait. I love my job, love it here, love the students... but damn if I don't need a break.
And maybe a beer. ;-)
Friday, November 12, 2004
Did I say cancel? Oh, my bad. I meant switch to video conference. Yes, I get 7 1/2 hours of video conference tomorrow. We'll be sitting in either the library or a classroom, staring at a TV, trying to interact with what's going on on the screen. I know it's the best they can do in the given situation... but I don't even like TV that much, much less TV that's actually a meeting. BLEH.
Hmm... I just got the Harry Potter box set (books 1-5). I'll have my laptop... maybe I can hide the book behind the screen. Kidding, of course, but I'm going to have to consume a lot of coffee to keeep myself functional for a SATURDAY of video conference fun. I'll probably compose a few extra blog entries tomorrow, just for the heck of it. I've got some topics I've been thinking about.
Bitching mode off. Thank you for indulging me.
There's been a bit of conflict between two people at school, both of whom I professionally respect a lot. Like a good little first year employee, I'm trying my darndest to stay out of it, but it does raise some interesting stuff for my brain to ponder... personal and professional lines around here are are very blurred. Case in point, last night we had those students over for dinner just because we felt like they needed some grown-up time. In a lot of places, that's very much inappropriate and "crossing the line" for teachers. But in an isolated village of 550(ish) people, nothing can be totally and completely professional. The personal always manages to creep in. In some ways this is good, in some it's bad. It's just different than what I both grew up with and was trained with as a teacher. Some people in my school of education cohort didn't feel comfortable having parents know their home phone number, much less having students drop by unannounced just to "visit."
I really like it in some ways. I think that it's healthy in a certain respect. Our students feel comfortable with us that they can stop by if they need a place to hang out. Getting used to being called "Sara Number Two" or just "Sara Mac" has been a little weird. Now, there's one kid who calls me "Ms MacDonald" and I kind of wonder why. People aren't big on last names here. I guess pre-white people, no one had a last name, and that has carried over somewhat. Everyone has a last name, but they're not used as frequently as in other places, and it doesn't carry the same meaning. Even the oldest, wisest, most respected elders are still referred to by their first names.
I kinda like it.
Doing something, however small, is always better than doing nothing.
Tuesday, November 09, 2004
Sunday, November 07, 2004
The mourning tradition here in Quinhagak is an interesting mix of traditional Yup'ik values and Christian rites. When someone dies, the family hosts what's called, in English, a "Wake Feast." Basically, this means that the house of the berieved (in this case, the widow) is open to the entire village, day and night. Anyone can, and is expected to, come over and eat. You bring food, of course, but the grieving family hosts the event in their home.
In some ways, this seems like a big stressor for the grieving family. The idea is that it keeps those in mourning productive and gives them something positive into which they can pour their energy. In that respect, I totally get it. Also, having tons and tons of food available means that everyone will stop by, not just those close to the deceased. Conversations can turn to normal things. Kids are there, and they do the cute things that kids do.
On the other hand, though, grieving is tiring, physically and mentally. Adding one more task (a huge one at that) on top of the draining act of grieving must be difficult. Having to welcome a constant stream of people, sometimes welcome, sometimes not, into your home may be nice when you want company, but what about those moments when you want to be alone?
Anyway, we went to the feast this evening... I had agutak (eskimo ice cream... it's tasty if you don't think about the ingredients...) and moose soup and popcorn and cookies and felt a little guilty about invading the home of the grieving the whole time. I knew I shouldn't feel guilty, but that's the Midwestern Catholic in me... we're good at feeling bad about things.
Thursday, November 04, 2004
Anyway, that was the past few days in a nutshell. Sleeping on the floor of a high school for two nights... eating too much pizza and trying to resist my students' attempts to get me to dance with them at the dance they threw for the speech participants... and generally having a good time. We returned home elated, thinking that, like in previous years (the students told me), the WHOLE SCHOOL would be waiting for us in the lobby to welcome them home and congratulate those who placed. Instead, our principal met us at the airstrip and gave us the bad news... A local man died in a boating accident. He was: husband to one of our clasroom aides (one of my two favorite aides), father to another classroom aide (the other of my two favorite aides), father and grandfather and uncle to a whole slew of our students (their youngest is in high school and they had lots of kids, very spread out, so some of their grandchildren are in elementary school). The whole school is quiet and sad today. I saw one of my second graders crying and it really broke my heart.
I'm looking forward to sleeping in my bed tonight. I'm physically and mentally drained, and I bet by the end of the school day I'll be emotionally drained as well.
Friday, October 29, 2004
I got sent home sick today. I woke up this morning feeling pretty crappy, and puked once I got to school. I think it must have been something I ate last night, because I felt better afterwards. No, it's not morning sickness, and no, I'm not pregnant, unless there has been some kind of immaculate conception in which case puking is the least of my problems. I don't want that responsibility. Anyway, it turns out that there's some district policy that if you puke, you're too sick to work. Never mind that if I hadn't puked, if I'd held it in, I would have felt miserable and far less capaable of doing my job. Weird rule, huh?
Anyway, I've been feeling really run down and almost-sick-but-not-quite-sick lately, so I took the day and napped. Now I feel totally rejuvinated and am kind of disappointed that tomorrow is Friday because I feel like I'm finally rested enough to be ready for this week. Every Friday, students get out of school at noon. Don't think it's a great deal... they have school from 8:30 to 4 Monday through Thursday to make up for it. That means that in exchange for a Friday afternoon of student-free quiet work time, we have to put in an extra hour the other four days. Anyhoo, tomorrow is the pumpkin and costume judging contest in the morning, and because of the way my schedule works out with that whole deal, I only have one class! What a waste of my mental rejuvination.
Wait, that's what I do normally.
Thursday, October 28, 2004
Note: Sorry, Mom, Dad and other assorted folks who might be offended by the words douchebag and/or shit sandwich. It was on the show, I swear. Anyway, it's my blog and I'll cuss if I want to. Damn.
I feel like I'm ever so slightly on the verge of getting sick. Not enough to be miserable, but just enough to worry about what won't get done if I DO get sick. *Looks around for vitamin C and zinc tablets*
As I made my daily trip to the post office this afternoon, I looked around and had one of those really reflective moments. All the stuff, good and bad, that led to me ending up here, right now. How bizarre, if you think about it. Life can change on big things like having a terrible job that led me to look for and find a great job with Admission Possible, which led me to the post-bac M.Ed. program at the University of Minnesota. Those are the big life decisions that ought to change your life.
But life can turn on the little things, too. The first Minnesota job fair of the teacher hiring season took place the Monday after Trivia weekend in Stevens Point, Wisconsin. For those of you who don't know... basically, I was up all weekend hanging out with our team. The more I explain, the dumber it sounds to people who've never seen it. ANYWAY, I was feeling a little antisocial and a lot tired that morning, so I stayed away from the Wisconsin and Minnesota booths, which were naturally the busiest and most crowded. So I checked out other states, which were less visited and didn't involve so much crowd negotiation. And I ended up in a longer-than-scheduled interview with LKSD, and here I am. So I guess you could say that staying up all weekend one weekend last April resulted in me ending up in a place so far from Minneapolis, it might as well be a different country.
If I'd have been smart, I wouldn't have gone home for Trivia that weekend. I'd have stayed in Minnesota and prepared for the career fair. But would I have still ended up here? Would I have instead braved the busier districts closer to home? I guess it depends on whether you believe in fate or chaos. If I was destined to end up here, then it's all a moot point because I'm supposed to be here right now. If it's all random chaos and every action can result in who-knows-how-many consequences, then who knows what would have happened if I had not gone home that weekend, or missed the bus that morning, or tripped and fallen and made a bad impression? It boggles the mind. Then again, my brain boggles pretty easily. I don't really want to get into destiny vs. free will. But... I guess I just did.
*shrugs* Don't ask me. I just sit here and look pretty.
Tuesday, October 26, 2004
Changing Weather + First Graders = Moderate to Severe Insanity
Thus concludes today's algebra lesson. There will be a test tomorrow.
Come Thanksgiving, Fairbanks ain't gonna know what hit it. Three very tired, stressed, tired-of-being-isolated, young-ish teachers will descend upon that town ready to do nothing but... well... nothing. They will gasp in awe of our slothfulness. Our sheer lack of desire to do anything will wow and amaze the masses.
We will also drink beer.
Monday, October 25, 2004
Ten year-olds being ten year-olds they said "Yeah, you didn't know that?" really meaning "Like, duh, it's snowing." I explained that I have neither the luxury of a recess nor that of a window through which to view the outside world. I think they still think I'm something of an idiot.
This is awesome snowball snow. I just need a target.
I just purchased my tickets back to AK after Christmas and home again in May. By the way, what the hell is up with the whole airline-ticket-buying mess?! So here's the story of buying a ticket to Bethel, through Anchorage, from Minneapolis-St Paul: First, I thought I'd see if tickets through O'Hare were a lot cheaper. I figured if they were insanely cheap (O'Hare is a major airport for Alaska Airlines), I could either take the train/bus there and back or reimburse a family member and/or friend for the gas to come pick me up. The flight I found was, indeed, fairly inexpensive, and... it went through MSP. "Great," thought I, "I'll just see how much tickets are to MSP. I bet they'll just put me on that same plane and just not ticket me all the way through to O'Hare."
Now that would make sense, right? OK, maybe I wouldn't save any money because I'd have to pay for the same flight, but flying into MSP is more better because (a) I've got friends there and (b) It is not Chicago and (c) It's not as far to my ultimate desination, Stevens Point, WI. But NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO, in order to get to MSP at that same time on that same day, I have to pay $100 more and fly through Salt Lake City. Whatever.
Long story short, I forked out the extra $100 and will now be returning to the lower 48 on my birthday (the real one, not the new, improved February 1st birthday), coming into MSP. The next question is... what should I do and where should I go this summer?
Sunday, October 24, 2004
My younger (middle, the same one with whom I danced around the living room singing Disney songs) sister is all settled in new job in Iowa. I haven't talked to her in a while... but from what I hear, things are going well.
Me? Just a little stressed. The weekend went too fast. The list of stuff to do this week is way too long for my personal tastes. I'll more than make up for having summer off by the end of the school year if I keep up my current schedule.
At least the taxpayers of the state of Alaska are getting their tax dollar's worth when it comes to my salary!
Friday, October 22, 2004
Not ten hours after I swore up and down I wasn't going to do any more extra school activities, a very pitiful student council member came to me saying they needed one more chaperone for a school dance or they couldn't hold it. It's totally easy to tell who the teachers who duck out as soon as Mr. Clock says it's OK are.
On a totally unrelated note, I'd love to know who exactly reads this stuff I write. Reply to this post and say hi! Some of you I know, some of you I don't know. 'sall good either way.
Wednesday, October 20, 2004
I am most certainly not cut out to be a junior high teacher. I normally teach elementary (primary mostly) and one random high school elective (which also happens to be speech, but for high school students), and my instinct was correct... elementary and high school are just fine but I'm certainly not meant to teach the darlings who fall between the two ages. I've spent all day yesterday, all night last night, all day today, and will spend tonight and tomorrow morning with a group of four junior high students for the district speech conetst (so far I've coached every extra-curricular we've offered... which has been cross country and speech).
Oh, to teach in a place where going to an extra-curricular event doesn't involve plane rides and nights spent on a stranger's classroom floor. Next thing you know I'll be wishing for a house with a flush toilet. Eh, I jokes (to use the local vernacular). Sure, having a road that connected our village to another would be convenient. But would it really be as interesting? Would my life be as entertaining if I didn't have daily discussions with Roomie about the contents of our honey bucket and whether it needs to be emptied and whose turn it is?
My students are wonderful and have been well-behaved. But they are also junior high students, which says a lot in and of itself. Oh, let me tell you about the drama of who likes who and who is dating who and who asked out whom and who will give whom an answer in January. And the "can we go shopping?" constantly. You'd think that our travel request form said "shopping trip" rather than "speech contest." They actually got upset when I said no to their request to go shopping instead of watching the finals. I know, the sheer audacity. How could I?
If asked to repeat a time in my life, I certainly wouldn't pick junior high. I'm not sure I'd want to repeat any of my life. I mean, it was OK the first time around, and I guess I turned out just fine. Assuming I couldn't change anything, what fun would repeating the same mistakes all over again be? And if I didn't make any dumb mistakes, wouldn't that take all the mystery out of it? Kinda like reading a good book for the second time... enjoyable, but not the same rush you get the first time around.
I just really want to be back at my house, sleeping in my bed instead of on the floor of a high school classroom. Cooking my own meals rather than eating an endless barrage of school food and pizza. Not having the opportunity to spend my hard-earned money on stuff I really don't need. Having to wonder whether my sub could make any sense of my lesson plans. Yargh. One advantage to a Bethel trip... produce. Yeah, it's hella-expensive compared to the lower 48, but I got AVOCADOS (!) and onions. Had to get stuff that doesn't need to be refrigerated because we had to just stash all our stuff in the lobby of the district office during school hours today. But AVOCADOS! JUST THINK!
Congratulations to my youngest (Can't say littlest anymore because she has long since passed up the middle sibling and is my height if not a wee bit taller) sister, who set a personal best time in the 50 Freestyle, meeting a goal time, and also acheived the distinction of having competed in every event on the line-up this season.
That is all. It's midnight and I think all four are finally asleep. Carry on. I will *sniff* sleep here on this hard floor.
Saturday, October 16, 2004
Friends were drunk. Friends were drunk and giggly. Friends were drunk, giggly and passing the phone around. Once I woke up, it was great to talk to them. Until I woke up, however, I'm sure I sounded like a zombie... "Huh? Wait, who is this?"
Now I seem to be awake. Time to read a little, hoping I fall asleep. Tomorrow I have sub plans to write (I'm going to Bethel for the Jr High speech contest... great... five giggly junior high girls on a plane, followed by two overnights sleeping on the floor of someone's classroom at the high school...) and my classroom to straighten up. Maybe I'll finally get the last of the cross country stuff put away. I might just recruit a few students to help me lug it all up the stairs into the storage room.
Buenas noches a todos que lean mis palabras.
Friday, October 15, 2004
I'm in Bethel for new teacher inservice. They made us make a mask in a somewhat traditional manner. I hate that I have a cool picture of what I want in my mind but I can't make the stupid thing looks like it. Curse my artisticlessness! Can I just write a paper about masks instead?
*Yawn* Stayed up way too late doing something for work (grrrrrrrrrrr) and now here I sit. Making a mask out of a cardboard box when what I really want to do is take a nap.
Wednesday, October 13, 2004
Luckily, I've got three great fellow teachers that I really feel like I can hang out with. Helps that we're all 20-something women, but that's not all. Each of them is very different from the others, but all three posess different qualities that I value in my friends.
I think I really lucked out. :-)
Tuesday, October 12, 2004
Something like elation when you first open your eyes,
because it means that you must have finally got to sleep last night."
Why is it that all the shit I have to do that sits in quiet orderly rows (or stuffed behind couches, out of sight) in my brain all day long starts running around when it's time to go to bed? One of the other teachers and I are going to start medidating to relieve stress. Ohmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm............
Things are going well, despite my high stress level. I've always had trouble saying "no" when someone asks if I'll do something, and at a bush school, there's no shortage of people asking you to do things. I really enjoy all the stuff I'm doing (working on the reading improvement committee, coaching cross country and now speech, maybe teaching a small portion of the GED class we might be offering... OK, yeah. I know.
Mom (believe it or not, people, my mom reads this. HI MOM!), remember in kindergarten when I helped everyone else with their art project and then had to take my own work home with me? Um, yeah. So now I'm 25 and still making the same mistakes. Call me a slow learner.
And with that, I'm going to go to sleep. I have a gigantic cramp in my foot (the kind that reminds me of my competitive swimming, fin-wearing days) and I think that's a signal that it's time to call this day to a close.
Monday, October 11, 2004
Well, it's not so bad, I guess. Sure, it's dark when I leave for work in the morning. But it's still light when I leave at night, and that's nice. I can't say I'm really dreading the famed Alaskan darkness... but I might think different once it arrives. We'll see, huh?
Roomie is home. That's good. Hopefully she comes bearing goodies from Fairbanks and/or Anchorage (where she got marooned for a day).
Sunday, October 10, 2004
Makes me wonder, though. If I had to do laundry at the washeteria, I'd have a whole different concept of what "clean" was. I see that in a lot of kids. They're not unhealthy-dirty, but if it's a three-way choice between paying $3.00 a load, washing clothes by hand, and wearing a pair of marginally clean pants, I'd think twice about insisting on clean clothes. I know people "in the real world" who won't wear the same shirt or pair of pants without washing them. Lighten up, sez I. Underwear, socks, undershirts, sure. Maybe T-shirts, if you sweat a lot. Those should be cleaned with every use. But jeans and sweatshirts? Hell no! Febreeze, my friends. Febreeze. 'Tis a magical potion, 'tis.
ADD Topic shift: My little sister got her first college acceptance letter! Awww, our little baby's growing up. Is she really that old? I changed her damn diapers! And she has the audacity to grow up and go to college!
Awwww, my friends is growing up and getting real jobs.
And now on to the randomness...
1. Learned (or re-learned, as I kinda learned a long time ago) how to chrochet today. It sure goes faster than knitting.
2. It is windy as hell here. Well, I don't know specifically how windy it is in hell, but you get my drift. I guess it's like this all winter, only colder. In some parts of our house it sounds like constant, quiet thunder. In my room I just get a little whistling. Anywhere you are the house shakes. Fun!
3. My neighbors/coworkers made cranberry jelly from cranberries they picked, then were kind enough to share with me. Yummmmm.
4. "America: The Book" by Jon Stewart and the Cast of the Daily Show arrived today. I haven't had much of a chance to read it yet, but just the layout amuses me. It's set up to mock a high school civics/government textbook, only with a whole lot of sarcasm and swearing. Inside the front cover is stamped the usual thing for textbooks, where you put name, year, and the condition of the book... except at the bottom, in the same stamped print, it says "IP Freely and Heywood Jabolome are not acceptable names." They include mock homework assignments and teacher lessons. The few pages I've read have been pretty good. I'll post more as I have time to read more... so expect it within the next ten years or so. ;-)
5. Roomie's dog is sleeping in my bed since Roomie is gone. He just tooted. I'm debating kicking him out of the room because dog toots are noxious and I'm not sure I want to gamble that that was his last one.
6. It's officially past my bedtime.
Friday, October 08, 2004
One of my coworkers and I were going to go to Bethel this weekend for a coachng conference, but decided against it at the last minute. I have to say I'm relieved. Not that I don't like traveling, but I really want to have this weekend at home to get my life in line. I'm feeling a little out-of-control and need a few days to just straighten stuff out.
Wednesday, October 06, 2004
My parents should have known I'd grow into a nerd when they had to ground me from reading (in addition to the whole going-outside-watching-TV-playing-with-friends thing) when I got in trouble as a kid...
It's been a rough week for everyone at school. This things seems to come and go in waves. Last week, Friday came and we all commented on how it couldn't possibly be Friday already. Today it's Wednesday and I feel totally deserving of a weekend. The kids haven't been any better or worse-behaved. I'm not sure what it is. One of the older ladies (I think she might qualify as an "elder," but I'm not sure) at the school commented that when the weather changes, it messes with us. We're animals after all. Much as we try to separate ourselves from the other beasts, we're still under the influence of Ma Nature.
And now, with my roommate's dog snoring happily on my bed (he won't sleep in her empty bed for some reason), I bid thee goodnight. I'm tiiiiiiiiiiiiiiired.
Tuesday, October 05, 2004
1. I was escorted home (or about 20 yards down the road towards home) this afternoon by five swashbuckling pirates wielding swords and wearing eyepatches. Or maybe they were just kindergarteners who got pirate stuff at a birthday party. It was hard to tell. Anyway, they abandoned me when they decided to wage battle on the new youth center.
2. Power in half of our house is off again. It's the half with the kitchen. For some reason, our fridge and furnace (also located at the front of the house) are still running. I'm not going to question it lest they realize they're supposed to be not working and quit on me. The TV is off, so I got a bunch of grading and pleasure reading done. Hmm... methinks I should practice what I preach and turn the damn tube off (or go in my room while roomie watches) more often.
3. Roomie flew to Fairbanks today. Part of me is kinda jealous, part of me just finds it easier to stay put. Traveling is wonderful, but a hassle.
4. I'm thinking about attempting to grow tomatoes or some other edible thing indoors. Anyone have any experience with this? I have a bedroom cabinet that's not being used for anything... I could easily take the door off and turn it into a little mini-garden. If you know anything about this, let me know.
That is all. I bid you good day and/or night.
Don't want to spoil it for those who haven't seen it, but if you like romantic comedies, and you like movies that mess with your head, and you think people with tangerine, blue, or other colored hair are kind of intriguing, watch this movie. Not the fastest moving flick I've ever seen, actually it's quite slow, but the end is sweet in its way.
Now it's 12:30 AM. Great.
Sunday, October 03, 2004
Actually, one of the other teachers and I are the only two staff members who have birthdays while school is not in session. It has been decided that since kids mix us up already, that we're twins and our joint birthday is the 1st of February. Why that date, you ask? Because we decided we'll probably be in a slump by then... Christmas will be a month-old memory, and spring break still a month off. So why not have a big hoopty-do birfday dinner? We'll need something fun at that time. Nothing like planning for those dark-of-winter days.
And now for a random change of subject. I saw the movie Supersize Me last night. Very interesting. Makes you think twice about stopping at Mickeydees... especially if you watch the special features. During one of them, they put food in a jar and see how long it takes to decompose... the fries were still there after a month! Everything else had long since molded away (like food ought to if you leave it out for a month), but the fries looked exactly like the did the day he bought them. That's even more disgusting than the mold that the rest of them produced.
Friday, October 01, 2004
Now that I don't see my friends and family, I guess I realize how great they are. **Checks that item off of "Lessons to Learn While on Planet Earth" list.**
More so than when I left for college, or worked other jobs, or went back to college, I realize just how great my little ragtag group of friends, family and acquaintances is. It's great to add to that quirky bunch a few equally quirky characters from Quinhagak and the surrounding area. You really never can have too many quirky friends.
BUT... It's Friday! What's a little scalding when you've got a weekend of delightful nothingness to look forward to? Deeeeeeliiiiiiightfuuuuuuul Noooooooothingnesssssssssssssssss
Thank you Shibby. I owe you a beer... or you can have a mixed drink and I'll drink the beer.
Today went much better, though. They were little angels. Didn't have to raise my voice once. They must have replaced the speed with some kind of soothing agent. Or maybe the fact that I finally hunted down enough chairs for all of them to actually have a place to sit had something to do with it.
Thursday, September 30, 2004
You begin to learn that kisses aren't contracts
And presents aren't promises.
And you accept your defeats with your head up
And your eyes open
With grace and not grief
And you learn to build all your roads on Today
Because tomorrow's ground is too uncertain for plans.
After awhile you learn that even the sun burns
If you get too much.
So plant your own garden
Decorate your own soul
Instead of waiting for someone to bring you flowers
And you see that you can endure
You are strong and you do have worth.
Anyone have a citation for this one? I couldn't find an author.
Wednesday, September 29, 2004
I like ordering from them because because, unlike ordering from Dominoes or even one of the smaller places out in the "real world," here I know that the person freezing his/her ass off to get me a hot pie is going to reap the profit. Just like Spokes pizza collective in the Twin Cities, only smaller, and a Yup'ik family, without the piercings and tattos or a place to sit down and eat. OK, so they're nothing like Spokes. But they're cool like Spokes.
Not eating out at all really is good on the budget. Not having the option makes it easy.
Not that I wouldn't crawl through mud (and it's been raining for a day and a half... there's a lot to crawl through) for a big ol' veggie fajita burrito from Chipotle or a veggie burrito from Burrito Loco. MMMMMMMM... GUACAMOLE!
Tuesday, September 28, 2004
Monday, September 27, 2004
After a year of constant schedule-shifting, insanity-inducing flux, not being able to establish strong relationships at any school or in any community, I'm just glad to be able to settle down and just live. Not worry about "Well, in two weeks I'll be done with this student teaching placement and leaving behind everyone I know here to go on to establish an equally meaningless (in the grand scheme of things) teacher-student relationship at another school, before quitting that and going back to college classes and talking about what it all really means." No more "Wake up at 6, be at student teaching placement by 7 (assuming a 15 minute commute), stay there until noon, go to university classes from 1 to 4, then work from 6 to 8... oh, and don't forget to do lesson plans, write papers, and look for a job. And maybe somewhere in there you should try to have a relationship or at least a few friends and maybe communicate with the people who brought you into this world and raised you, but really, is that stuff necessary? You've got stuff to do."
Constant excitement, complete with bells, whistles, fancy restaurants, perpetual entertainment and a constant feeling of "I've got to be somewhere doing something talking to someone or something's wrong" is an addiction I'm working on overcoming. That's one thing I really like about living here (among other things I like and some things I don't like): people are very social. "Visiting" is common... you just drop by and see what's up. No one just sits around doing nothing, but neither does anyone expect anything wild, crazy and fun to be planned out for them. Fun is picking berries or fishing with a sibling or friend. Fun is getting some friends together and watching a movie. Somewhere along the way we got the idea that we don't have the things we need within ourselves to make our own lives complete. We look outside ourselves and our friends. Life itself isn't satisfying enough... we need something more to make us happy. Except it never really makes us happy.
Well, I've lived enough years in Wisconsin and Minnesota to know what that means... first snow. Yes indeed, ladies and gentlemen, about a half inch of the precious white sh!t was awaiting us when we woke up this morning.
Throws off my lesson plans a bit... I had vague plans for "first snow" lessons, but (a) some of the required equipment (an air popcorn popper... don't ask unless you're a teacher and like messy lessons) is just leaving WI today and (b) I really hadn't thought that it would be THIS WEEK.
Oh well, this snow is likely going to melt off today anyway. Maybe I'll do my snow lesson for the "first snow that sticks."
Sunday, September 26, 2004
Fortunately for my students and unfortunately for me, I'm way to picky when it comes to the worksheets I'll give them. Oh that I were lazier and less motivated... I'd really have less work to do after hours.
And now... back to stapling a photocopying. Yeah, I could use a boring reading comprehension packet, but isn't it more fun (for me, of course) to use Shel Silverstein poems as a supplement? Yeah, but it's also more work.
Friday, September 24, 2004
Thursday, September 23, 2004
Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming "Wow! What a Ride!"
--Hunter S. Thompson
Man, I love that quote.
Wednesday, September 22, 2004
I'm so good-looking today it hurts. Eat your heart out, Angelina Jolie.
For those of you who don't know me that well, let me set this up by saying that I haven't played basketball since they made us play in 6th grade gym. Since then I have dutifully avoided it due to my complete and total lack of coordination. That's... um... lemme see... oh jeezice da math hurts da brain... 25 minus eleven... 14 years. 14 years of going out of my way to avoid basketball.
OK, so I didn't play an actual game, but just shot around with Carey (one of the other teachers) for two hours. Then the guys started coming in for open gym and we hightailed it out of there. Let's just say I'm not a skilled player, but I suppose for someone who has never played, it was not the worst showing... but I still didn't want people who'd been playing since birth to see me in all my suckiness.
Maybe with a little more practice I'll play with the women.
Tuesday, September 21, 2004
We supposedly had a special education teacher arriving this past weekend. Signed contract,t he works. He just needed to finish up his masters or something, then he was going to come. Apparently, though, he's decided not to come. I say "apparently" because he didn't or write and hasn't answered phone calls from our principal or the district office. Now, I understand changing your mind and not wanting to come. This kind of environment is not for everyone; it really takes a certain personality type to be happy here. But have the common decency and respect to let us know! All this time the personnel department could have been looking for a new teacher, but since we thought we were good to go, there was no reason to do so. Now the school year has started everywhere else and most teachers are employed.
I guess it makes me more sad than anything. I'm sure he has good reasons for not coming and not calling. Or I hope so. But there are some high-need students who aren't getting the education they need. Not to mention the not-so-high-need students... they're really getting the short end of the stick because they're not completely nonfunctional in the regular classroom, so they just don't get what they need.
Maybe there's a good explanation. Maybe he'll call. Maybe he's from Florida and his phones and electricity are out. Maybe his arms are in a cast and he can't dial or pick up the phone. Maybe...
Anyone want a job? Do you enjoy gale-force winds ripping off of the Bering Sea? Is your idea of a dream date a long romantic walk through massive mudpuddles to the honey bucket dump? Would you like to work with a quirky, but well-meaning staff? Do you have a strong dislike for fresh vegetables?
Yeek. When I put it that way, doesn't it sound appealing? ;-)
Monday, September 20, 2004
They flew out right after school on Friday (school lets out at noon on Fridays here). I wasn't able to go with them because of new teacher inservice, but I did run into them at the store after the race. We had 12 students decide to go to the meet. Two chaperones (one male, one female) made for a total of 14 people... and since no plane that can land in Quinhagak is big enough for 14 people, it meant chartering two planes. I saw them off at the airport; I'm pretty sure I was more nervous than they were.
The race was very diffcult for them. The terrain here creates a new definition for the word "flat." We can only really run on the roads, because the tundra is all squishy. In bethel, however, they had them running on the sand and over hills. NOT what they were able to train for. Next year... we run stairs. And more beach runs. And maybe start sooner. And maybe learn something about cross country before the season starts.
Bethel (a town of about 7000) took nearly all of the top ten spots in all four categories (high school and jr high, girls and boys for both). Some of my runners placed top 20, which would put them top ten if we only raced against other villages. Next year, I want to either attend (if such a race exists) or host a meet consisting only of villages, so the runners from my village and others can compete against each other and actually have the joy of placing. Next year, next year, next year... remind me next year to do all this stuff, will ya?
And finally, a HUGE thank you to all who donated equipment, money, and/or time. Rumor has it that after the race, several of my runners could be found in the bathroom WASHING the sand and dirt off of their shoes. When asked about it, they stated that they had been doing this pretty much every night after practice, to keep the shoes looking new and spiffy as long as possible. The water bottles have been wonderful, and will be used for basketball and volleyball and Native Youth Olympics (although it doesn't look like we'll find a coach in time). Again, I say...
And on a totally unrelated note... my duck soup was good.
Saturday, September 18, 2004
For an introductory activity for our monthly new teacher inservice/college course, our instructor (who is one of my coworker's moms, interestingly enough) had us perform activities that those who live the subsistence lifestyle out here do every day... namely gutting salmon and plucking birds (ptarmigan, duck, and something else I couldn't quite identify). Let's just say that for all my education, there are some things that I am just not very good at... and plucking ducks appears to be one of them. There're enough fish in my area of the Delta to have done the whole salmon-gutting thing (very poorly, I might add), so I chose the bird activity.
Well, if school is as foreign to my susbsistence-living students as subsistence living is to my pasty kass'uq self, I totally understand why they have trouble in school. I'd never plucked anything before. My grandma will be so proud... or wonder what the hell this world is coming to when a 25 year-old woman can get to that age without ever having plucked a bird.
However, I did get two (very tiny) ducks out of the deal. One of our assignments for next month (in addition to a literature review and an interview of a village elder) is to cook what we brought back and share the recipe with the other new teachers. Sooooo... tomorrow I'm making wild duck soup. There were carrots and celery left over after the retreat, so I baggied them up and took them back to Quinhagak. I also bought a bag of onions while in Bethel. This soup will have fresh veggies, not canned or frozen (and then thawed, and then refrozen, and then thawed, and then refrozen)! A big deal... the store hasn't had fresh veggies (even onions! or potatoes!) since I first got here... and the weather hasn't even interrupted plane service yet! This could be disastrous or really good. I'm going to be cautious and prepare for disaster, but hope for culinary success. Tomorrow I'm going to the store to buy a big new soup pot!
Thursday, September 16, 2004
Wednesday, September 15, 2004
Tuesday, September 14, 2004
Yeah, sure, it's the Internet. Who cares about spelling, right? Sadly enough, I do.
EDIT: Edited to correct spelling AGAIN. I must have learned to type this word incorrectly because I SWEAR I know how to spell it.
As a teacher, it's only fair that I give myself some remedial typing/spelling practice:
Privileged privileged privileged privileged privileged privileged privileged privileged privileged privileged privileged privileged privileged privileged.
1. I GET PAID TOMORROW! A REAL GROWN-UP PAYCHECK FROM A REAL GROWN-UP JOB!
2. Fresh salmon is yummy. Envy me, go ahead. It's OK.
3. I want it to rain more so (a)Alaska stops burning itself to cinders and (b)I can actually wear my rubber boots. Very dorky, I know.
4. I could really go for a Moose Drool beer right now. Oh, boy, could I.
5. Do not send my said Moose Drool because it could get me fired. Thank you if you even considered it, though. If you didn't consider it, WHY THE HELL NOT?! DON'T YOU LOVE ME?!
6. Did I mention I GET PAID TOMORROW?!
7. Talked to Chanda's boyfriend Raul when I tried to call her today. My Spanish has gotten pretty rusty.
8. My roommate cooked and it smells good so I'm ending with 8 instead of the 10 I planned on.
Yes, indeed, it has been One of Those Days. If it were not raining and cold outside, I would crawl under a rock and maybe hibernate there for a few days, to emerge rested and much less cranky.
I can't go into too much detail. It was just One of Those Days. I can point to a few specifics that increased my misery, but all in all, it was just a crabby day. Little things kept happening, little tidbits of news kept appearing on my radar. Nothing today would have been bad enough to ruin an entire day, but all of them in combination made me have to lock my door for five minutes at lunch time and shed a few tears. It was at that point that I realized that I haven't cried since the night I got into Bethel for the first after 12 hours in transit only to find my luggage... well... only to NOT find my luggage. Since then, though, nothing. Not a tear.
I think I needed the release. I felt much better afterwards. I'm still feeling the after-effects of One of Those Days, but as a whole, I feel much better. Ending my day with cross country is a good thing. The kids on that team are just wonderful and they are always up for anything, even a run in the miserable cold rain, like today.
They are awesome and great and excellent and wonderful and cool. Are they fast? Eh, I really have no idea. I know they work hard, and they're faster than they were when we started.
Just writing about them makes me feel better. But don't tell them that... don't want 'em getting too cocky. ;-)
There once was a bucket of honey,
Whose contents were sadly quite runny.
I opined with a shout, "OH I MUST TAKE IT OUT!"
And emptied it quick as a bunny.
Sweet honey bucket
Its pungent aroma wafts
Please, friend, poo at school
A Nursery Rhyme
Little Miss Mucket
Sat on her bucket,
Pooing the old-fashioned way.
Then along came a spider,
Nay, it did not fright 'er,
But the smell chased that spider away.
no longer a place
for magazine reading
and thoughtful introspection.
the clean, flowing woosh
of a simplistic flush
now not a right,
but a privilage.
five gallon bucket
of nominal irony.
It sure doesn't smell
Thank you and goodnight. Tip your waitresses well and take a hot bartender home.
Monday, September 13, 2004
I'm in a very introspective mood this evening. Our teacher-mentor visited our school today, and we invited her over for dinner. She's working through some partnership with UAF... or is it UAA (U of AK Fairbanks or U of AK Anchorage)... but anyway, a partnership with one of those universities and the state of Alaska to increase first-year teacher retention rates. She was pretty much just here to get to know us, but she asked my why I came to Alaska. I told her the whole "Well, I was at this job fair..." story and she listened and then said, "Sure, but why did you come to Alaska?"
That is a damn good question.
Don't get me wrong. I don't regret my decision in the least. There are a few things I wish would have gone a little more smoothly, and there are definitely people I wish I could transplant to Quinhagak to hang out with me. But all in all, I think I made a good decision. It bugs me, though, that I can't put a finger on the why of it all. Or does it really not matter? I'm here, I'm happy. Things feel normal already.
I've never done a more difficult job than this. I've had much, much more miserable jobs in my life (night shift at a Del Monte bean cannery, now THAT was miserable), but nothing has come even close to comparing to my first year as a teacher. Seasoned teachers have a bag o' tricks to reach into, lessons that worked last year to just pull out to work on whatever objective needs meeting. First year teachers have yet to build all of those ideas and materials. I know it's a matter of time, and that next year will be easier, and the year after that will be easier than the one before it, and so on and so on and so one, but first year teaching really does suck.
I see it as a rite of passage. So many teachers quit in the first few years, and now I totally see why. The first year is a mad swinging pendulum of ups and downs. A lesson goes great and I'm on top of the world. The next hour, things fall into chaos (or my idea of chaos, which is far less chaotic than most people's idea of chaos) and I'm questioning my choice of profession. If I make it, I'll be a damn good teacher. I'm sure a lot of people who quit teaching and move on to other professions might have been good teachers had they made it over the hump. Or... maybe they're the people who wouldn't have been any good, and they got weeded out. I really love this work, and have no plans to wash out.
Moderately funny story... our first- and second- year teaching staff is (until next week) made up of 100% single females, four out of five (including yours truly) under the age of 30. Apparantly one of the other schools in our district is in a similar but reversed situation... their young staff is overwhelmingly young and male. Apparently our principals were talking about "getting us together." I think they were mostly joking... But I gotta admit, a few eligible bachelors might increase "employee morale" a bit. It is a problem here... many teachers would be willing to stay, but choose to leave because romantic options are very limited in many of the villages. Interesting.
I'm still waiting for culture shock to set in. I know that the other new teacher is deep in the throes of it, and I'm still waiting. Maybe I'm slow in adjusting. Maybe I'm too dense for it to get to me. Maybe I experienced it and just didn't notice. Who knows? I'm "supposed" to, at some point, break down. Be totally blown away and uber-conscious of the differences between my own culture and that in which I'm living. It just hasn't happened yet.
On a positive note, I've lost five pounds since getting here, which is a major accomplishment since I've had little to no time for exercise.