Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Seriously, Awesome!

My friend Chanda had her baby last Saturday! Don't know the weight, but it's a girl and her name is Maya. Chanda's back at home, but I don't know about baby Maya, time zones and travel difficulties prevented AK-->MN communication yesterday, thus I never returned her call.

Seriously, Nasty

Three nasties, all in their own special way.

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

Well, Anchorage is Cool

Very cool city. Nothing to speak of visually; it's very utilitarian. However, there's a lot of fun stuff going on there.

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

OK, less swearing this time

I didn't use many (or any, I don't think) cuss words in my posts yesterday, but you can rest assured that I was thinking and maybe saying them as I typed. Cussin' like a sailor, I was.

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.

Lesson learned.

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.

Son of a *$%@#!

Our flight from the village to Bethel cancelled due to weather. Not sure if they're talking here or there, but here, things are clearing up, which makes it all the more frustrating. I mean, come on, it looks fine! ;-) The next scheduled flight isn't until 4:15, which would get us there too late to get on our jet to Anchorage. If we can find a company that'll fly out here and take us into Bethel, we're going to try to charter, which will cost an arm and a leg but just might be worth it in mental health points.

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


Tomorrow we leave for Faribanks. Then you can all stop reading about it and start reading about how I'm all excited for Christmas break. I know, you're holding your collective breath. Please try and contain your excitement.

I can taste the beer already.

The good stuff.

Not the cheap crap my sister drinks.

Sorry Mel.

But you know it's true.

Saturday, November 20, 2004

Tae Bo is an ass-kicker, GPS is cool, how's XM Radio?

OK, maybe I shouldn't have started with the "advanced" workout seeing as I'm (a) a newbie to the whole fitness kickboxing thing and (b) I'm out of shape. But I messed up my order (luckily) and ended up getting the "advanced" on VHS and the rest on DVD. I meant to order all DVD. Anyway, I get to school (didn't want to work out at home and wake Roomie), and lo and behold, the DVD player is locked up. Didn't have the power cord for my laptop and my desktop doesn't have a DVD player on it. So what the heck, sez I, might as well jump right in. Skip all that "here's how you do the movements" and "here's how you combine them to make a workout" and jump straight to the ass-kicking.


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


A week from right now (9:30am) I will be dozing away in a hotel room in Fairbanks, preparing for a wonderful day of swimming and Thanksgiving-dinner-eating at Chena Hot Springs.

Just thought you'd like to know.

Oh, Mom, thanks for the package. The pretzels are much appreciated.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

It's 11pm, do you know where your teacher is?

Sundays are... well... Sundays are nap days in my family. The following was, and probably still is, the schedule growing up in my parents' home: (1) Church, (2) Lunch and doughnuts (doughnuts for the well-behaved-in-church only), (3) Football-watching accompanied by jumping and screaming, (4) Naps. So I've been well-conditioned to be gloriously slothful on Sunday afternoons, even if I'm not going to church (church in Yup'ik just doesn't make much sense to me, and I'm not Moravian anyway) or watching football (our satellite package is California-local, and do I really care about how any of those teams are doing?!).

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

Weathered in...

I was supposed to go to Bethel this afternoon with the second-year teachers (this is the one inservice that both first- and second-year teachers have to go to, so I'd have had company on the plane, for once!), but we're weathered out. It feels weird because the weather here is great... blue sky (might see the Northern Lights tonight!), no wind (for once), 20 degrees (which actually feels nice because of the aforementioned lack of wind). Bethel, however is apparently foggy and crappy, or was when they made the decision to cancel the inservice.

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.

Dinner for Six!

Last night Roomie and I had a few of our needier students over for dinner. I keep forgetting that stuff like that isn't done in schools in the Lower 48. Might even be considered inappropriate. We just saw a couple kids who needed a night of adult attention and went for it. Hamburgers, celery and peanut butter, juice, hash brown potato thingies and some Butterfinger ice cream for dessert, followed by a game of SkipBo and a ride home.

Doing something, however small, is always better than doing nothing.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004


I WILL go to bed at a decent hour.

I WILL NOT stay up late surfing uselessly on the Internet. Ask me tomorrow how I did.

Sunday, November 07, 2004

Grieving in Another Language

Grief is universal. Someone dies, you feel sad. It's the same everywhere, it's the same in every language. But how we deal with those feelings... that's where our practices can differ.

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

I'm baaaaaaaaaack

Sorry, reader (I'm not going to be rash and assume there are more than one of you :-D), for my lack of content over the past few days. I was in Bethel with four high school students for the high school speech contest. SOOOOOOOO much better than junior high. I basically just had to sit there and watch them do their speech thing. Of the four who went, two took second place and one took first! The other just barely missed making the finals, which (unofficially) puts her at sixth place (top five got to go to finals). The good news is, first and second place finishers get to go to ANCHORAGE for the state competition! I'm going to try to make it to at least one of the two as a chaperone. We'll see.

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.