Sunday, January 30, 2005

Lazy Sunday

Maybe it all started in my youth when, after church (we actually went every week back then...), we would would stop at the bakery and get one doughnut each (but ONLY if we had behaved in church), come home, eat brunch and the doughnuts, then promptly spend the rest of the afternoon either watching football or, in the off-season, being generally idle.

However it started, I don't consider myself ready to face the coming week unless I've had at least three hours of slothfulness on Sunday afternoon.

Saturday, January 29, 2005

You may call me...

I had to get a Yup'ik name for my Yup'ik language class... Our first assignment was to ask someone to give us a name.

So, like a good little homework-doing student, I went to one of the teachers and asked her to give me a name. Asked her to please make it one that I could pronounce.

She looked at me for a while, thinking. I kinda stood there, feeling like I was being evaluated or something. A bit uncomfortable, really, but that's ok.

Finally, she speaks---

Her: How about Aciuvaliralria?

Me: Um, what?

Her: (slower) A-ciu-va-li-ral-ria. Aciu for short.

Me: Um, could you write that down?

Her: Yeah, that's probably a good idea.

So yeah. Something I can pronounce. Sure. ;-)

Friday, January 28, 2005

From the Mouths of Babes

I thought we'd read Curious George in kindergarten. It's a good book, really. Over the course of a few days, I read them the book, we did some language-related activities using the story, and on the last day they got to do a coloring page.

Said coloring page was just something I found on the internet. In the picture, George is holding the Man With The Yellow Hat's yellow hat. So... I have them get out their crayons, we settle back down on the circle for some serious coloring time. I pass out the pages.

One of the cutest, smartest, tiniest kindergarteners looks down at his page, looks up at me, looks down again, looks up again and says, "Sara, the hat is covering his dick."


I really, really, really wanted to be teacher-like and talk seriously about what words we use and do not use in school, but it was hard to do that because I was overtaken with a sudden case of the giggles. I had to turn my back so he wouldn't see that I was really very amused by his somewhat-inappropriate-for-school comment.

I talked it over with the kindergarten classroom teacher (a local, yup'ik, veteran teacher who I absolutely have immense respect for and hesitate to call a coworker because, let's face it, she could kick my ass in a head-to-head teaching competition, even if she's not certified), and she said, "Oh, don't worry, I laugh at the stuff they say all the time."

One of my other coworkers said "Hey, you could have complimented him on good use of the correct gender posessive pronoun," because, you see, Yup'ik doesn't have separate words for he and she, or his and her. But that would have also involved keeping a straight face.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Well, I did it...

I bought tickets to California for spring break. Gonna go visit my friend Therese'... I guess since I never made it to Russia while she was living there, California is the next best thing.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

It Starts

Ladies and gentlemen, in a half hour I will be starting my conversational Central Yup'ik class. Wish me luck... I'm sure I'll need it.

Don't get me wrong, I love learning and learning about different languages. It's the nerdiest of my nerdy interests. BUT, that means diddly squat if I don't have time to study my vocab lists. I have a long and storied history of biting off more than I can chew... hope this isn't one of those instances. Is my first year of teaching really a good time to pick up a new language? Probably not.

Oh well, I hear the teacher grades pretty easy...

I'm sounding like a student already.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

I'm Such a Dork

I decided to make felt board pieces to go along with "The Little Red Hen." You know, little pieces made out of felt that you can stick on the storyboard while telling the story.

Anyway, I'm having WAY too much fun doing it. Seriously, it's just me, a bag of felt squares, a pair of scissors, a hot glue gun (eek!), and Sirius Satellite Radio Left of Center College Rock (comes with our TV package).

I'm thinking about doing up a set for the Three Little Pigs while I'm on a roll...

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Village Basketball

This is not exactly what you'd call a hoppin' town when it comes to night life. Last night, the big event in town was the junior high basketball game. Basketball is huuuuuuuuuuuuuge up here. It's a sport that can be played indoors year round (or outdoors... I've seen kids shooting around on the ice that currently covers the village), and for some reason it's really caught on here.

Anyway, our junior high team is a coed one. Many of the villages have coed teams. Three girls, five boys. Both of the visiting teams had coed teams... one had two girls on their team and one had four. Basically, what you do is, depending on the gender ratios of the teams playing, decide how many girls and boys will be on the court at a given time.

Game 1: Quinhagak vs. Eek. We (Quin) one easily.
Game 2: Kongiganak vs Eek. Kong won easily.
Game 3: Quinhagak vs Kongiganak. Kong won by 7 points. Exciting game, but while our players matched theirs in athleticism, we just had a much younger (therefore smaller) team than they did.

Crowd participation was amazing. even during the Kong vs Eek game, everyone stayed, watched, and cheered... even though no spectators made the trips from either village. Eek is pretty close to our village, so I'd say that the crowd was more pro-Eek, but exciting plays from both teams got loud cheers.

Friday, January 21, 2005

The ONE time I don't have my camera

I walked home from school last night, and what did I come across but several of the kidnergarteners and first graders... ICE SKATING ON THE MAIN ROAD. See, a week or so ago, it got really warm and kinda icy-rained. Since then, the temp's been hovering around zero with no further precip. Thus, our main road is glare ice.

Anyway, since I had decided that I've wasted alltogether too much time lately either farting around online or watching TV, I made last night a low-tech night. Didn't even bring my computer home. Unfortunately, I keep my camera in my computer bag. So when I ran across a student on ice skates pulling two other students in a sled down the street, no picture could be taken. Too bad, it was cute and I think I could have gotten a really cool shot.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Talkin 'Bout my Generation

Roomie and I got to talking and eventually came to the question... what the hell is up with our generation? You know, the 20-maybe-early-30-something, out-in-the-real-world-for-our-first-few-years people.

It all started with an e-mail Roomie got from a friend. Friend of Roomie is thinking about switching careers and becoming a teacher. Said career change would mean at least one more year of school, to get into a field that a huge percentage of people leave before 5 years are up. But it's not just teachers. I haven't seen any numbers recently, but the average person starting their professional life right now will go through three (???) careers before they retire. Three careers. Not jobs within a field, careers. Part of that is our modern world and economy. But I still wonder if we're not infected with some kind of generational restlessness.

Roomie had a theory (no, she didn't think it might be bunnies... all you geeks who catch that reference raise your hand...); I'm going to take it, run with it, and probably mangle it beyond recognition. She said it might have something to do with us having not had any real generational adversity to deal with. There's something to be said for that. There's nothing like a huge, draft-requiring war or vast economic depression to make an entire generation appreciate what it has and want to settle down, marry it, and get into a nice pleasant non-traumatic rut. We've had no such bad luck (yet, knock on wood)... does that mean that we're never really truly appreciative of what we've got? Is that why we're a bunch of job-hopping, geographically wandering anti-homebodies? For some of use, "hometown" is a four-letter word. For others, it's OK as long as we went somewhere else for a while.

Our parents' generation had Vietnam and the associated chaos to interrupt their lives. Our grandparents' generation had the Great Depression and World War II. My peers and I have lead fairly turmoil-free lives in which war and famine happen in countries we have to look up on maps, and no one has to go off to war unless they've voluntarily signed up for the armed forces. I'd say that makes us lucky. But noooooooooooo, we're bored. With no upheaval to compare it to, we don't appreciate the cyclical patterns of everyday life.

We're always looking for the next best thing. Something has to be better (or at least different) than where we are. We associate comfortable patterns with unhealthy ruts. I'm as guilty as the next person... I'm 25 and I just now started my first "career" job. I didn't slack off during the years prior to this... I attended college, got good grades, worked as an AmeriCorps volunteer, went BACK to college to get my M.Ed... and FINALLY started my grown-up life. We're not lazy... my young-ish coworkers and I put in longer hours at school than pretty much anyone else on staff... we're just continually "in transition."

I'd really like to think that we'll figure it out, but I really hope it doesn't take some kind of generational trauma to drill it into our heads.

Or maybe I'm way off and I'm just overly pessimistic tonight.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

To0 Bad, So Sad

I'm not going to play this year...

Sure I can play online, but what's the fun of staying up all night BY YOURSELF?! It's the team unity that makes it bearable, even fun. Sitting in my classroom or in my bedroom at my computer will just not be the same. *sniff* I'll go cry in the corner now.

Except... I'M GOING TO ANCHORAGE NEXT MONTH! Sure, it's for a professional conference, but it's ANCHORAGE! A CITY. With STOPLIGHTS and everything! Four days (well, five if you count the half-day the day I get there and the half-day the day I leave), weather permitting, in Anchorage.

So maybe I won't sit in the corner and cry, after all. I think I'll pop my Family Guy DVD into my laptop and watch an episode or two in bed. I love having a laptop that plays DVDs. So convenient.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Come Bask in the Warmth of Alaska...

So I hear it was -54 (thermometer temp) in northern Minnesota today. Funny, when I walked into work this morning it was a balmy -10, plus a wee bit of wind. Relatively speaking, that's swimsuit weather.

On a more somber note, check this out. That's a lot of weed for a small town like this.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

I have a new obsession...


I really try not to watch all that much TV. I really do. Then Roomie goes and gets me hooked on a new TV show... luckily, it's out on DVD, so I can feed my obsession without having to set aside nights of my week for TV viewing, which I categorically refuse to do.

The new show? Smallville.

Go ahead. Laugh. I know it's cheesy and kind of Dawson's-Creek-With-Superpowers. I know the special effects are bad. I know that it's not the kind of high-minded entertainment you'd expect from... oh wait, this is exactly the crap you'd expect from me. Anyway, your insults will just roll off my back.

Allow me an explanation. Superman is an American legend. He's an icon. He's something of a god in the pantheon of our collective popular culture. To see him as he's portrayed in high school, as a conflicted, hormone-influenced, flawed, flannel-wearing, midwestern farm boy (who's got TERRIBLE swimming strokes, by the way, although he looks cute in trunks) brings him back to the realm of human. All he's missing is the acne, and come on, this is TV. No on on TV has bad skin... and besides, let's be logical: he's Superman, he doesn't bow to our earthly bacterial afflictions. But he can still have uncomfortable moments with *ahem* the birds and the bees (his laser heat vision starts going off unpredictabily... hilarious). He resents his parents' lack of money at times. His love life is a predictable teenage mess. The god of steel is very much human.

Conversely, if the good god Clark Kent is lowered to humanity from his place among the gods, the character of Lex Luthor is brought up from the underworld to be portrayed as human as well. Not the "100% Mysterious Bad Guy... Now With 15% More Evil Plotting!" Lex that he becomes as an adult, his character is, like Clark, a perpetually flawed and in many ways sympathetic. Both characters face the conflict of familial destiny vs free will. Lex is destined to be an evil asshole like his father; Clark is destined to be a "god among men, ruling them with a strong hand" as the message from his father says. Both resist.

So the hero isn't godly, confident, and self-assured Superman just yet. The villain isn't so villainous. Could there be (*gasp*) shades of gray? Could it be that black-and-white good and evil are not the only two options, or that someone can turn good or evil through circumstance despite the best of intentions? Showing good an evil as teenagers or early-20-somethings (when, let's face it, we're pretty darn vulnerable) knocks them down a little in our eyes. Social sacrilige, I love it.

And now for some less thoughtful commentary: The only thing I find disturbing about Smallville is that I find Tom Welling (the actor who plays Clark Kent) so darn attractive. Sure, he's 2 years older than me (REALLY! He was born in '77, I checked), but he's playing a freakin' HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT! Shouldn't I feel disgusted with myself or something? Wait... a 27 year-old playing a high school student? How does the entertainment business pull this stuff off? And we fall for it? Oy.

Friday, January 14, 2005

New Blog Template

Whaddayathink? The font seems HUGE! I'll give it a go for a while and see how it goes.

For those of you who work with or have kids...

Do you ever wonder if they're sneaking in hits of caffeine on certain days? Like all the sudden they're so wound up you think that there HAS to be a chemical reason?

I walked into the kindergarten class and one kid was literally bouncing off the walls... he was standing a foot or so from the wall, leaning forward and springing back with his hands saying "Boiiiiiiiiing," each time. And he was one of the calm, quiet ones. The classroom teacher (a very good, very experienced teacher) looked at me and said "I'm so glad we quit at noon today."

I can't say I disagree with her. Tomorrow, I'm not setting an alarm. I have stuff to accomplish, but it can wait until 9am or whenever my body decides it's had enough rest.

Speaking of stuff to accomplish, I wonder if Tim got us a caribou. He said he'd try and get two and then show us how to cut it up... That's a good day's worth of semi-disgusting entertainment right there.

Every Once in a While

Note: I try not to go off on preachy tangents. It's really not what I want everyone to read. Every once in a while, though... it comes out. Skip it if you wish. I promise tomorrow I'll post something about honey buckets or first-graders on pixie sticks or how much I could use a beer. I swear.

And now... you've been warned...

Not very often, mind you, I'm usually not so deep, but occasionally I wonder... who the hell am to teach anyone here anything? Am I just a (*cough, cough*) pretty face on the total transformation of what's left of one of the native cultures of the Americas? I mean, yeah, we've got Yup'ik first language programs in the schools. They're really quite well-planned and executed in many cases. But we're still trying to fit everything (educational and otherwise) into a new framework. Give economic power to native people, but that's assuming that there's going to be a certain kind of economic system... OURS. Educate students in "culturally appropriate" ways, then make them pass standardized tests where you have to read and answer comprehension questions about stuff that's so far outside their realm of experience.

In college, we did a project where we developed a few sample SAT-style "w is to x as y is to z" questions based on ideas that average Americans don't know much about... in our case we used cycling. I can't remember the questions, but we administered it to a class of graduate students... no one passed. I asked if anyone had taken the SAT as a high school student and felt comfortable sharing how they did on that test's verbal section compared to our little mini-test. A woman raised her hand and said she scored above the 90th percentile (being a nice Minnesota girl, she qualified that with a "But my math wasn't nearly as good") and got zero out of five on our in-class example. My point? Right. I've got a point, somewhere. Oh, yeah. We feed them the "We want you to have culturally appropriate schooling, to learn academic skills that are relevant to your life and culture" line. Then out of the other side of our mouths, we lament that they're "not up to standards" with other American children. Up to whose standards?

Change-induced social issues (alcohol and family issues... there's another rant for another day) aside, our students are no less intelligent than white kids in, say, the Twin Cities. The teachers here are wonderful and hard-working, using the latest methods and generally being caring people. And yet our school district "fails" to meet federal standards. Why? Because the standards are from a place so far away, written by people who probably couldn't find and kill a caribou as well as some of our 4th graders can. Heh... let's make that a No Child Left Behind requirement... "The student will, individually or in a small peer group, successfully provide food for his/her family, including preparing it to be safely stored for at least a month."

But... knowledge like that isn't valued by the people making the decisions. I'm certainly not dissin' on da book learnin'. Ask those who knew me as a kid... I was a straight-up bookworm, iffy grades aside. My main beef with what's going on here is the unidirectionality of the knowledge flow. Native knowledge isn't frowned upon like it used to be, and for that I'm grateful. Our students don't get whacked upside the head for speaking Yup'ik. It's encouraged. Great! They learn the kass'aq (White... or generally non-native) stuff, too. Fine. But the giving of information is strictly from Kass'aq to Yup'ik. Native knowledge isn't valued by non-natives beyond an often simplistic (but well-meaning and complimentary) appreciation of "spirituality" or "connection with the earth" or whathaveyou. Kass'aq knowledge is for everyone, Yup'ik knowledge is just for Yup'ik people.

I think all this. And then I get a little cranky.

But THEN I remember, if I am some kid of benign educational conquistadora, killin' 'em with kindness, so to speak... is that anything so different than anything else that's gone on in the history of the world? Let's face it, as a species, we've not established a great record when it comes to "love your neighbor." More cultures have been squashed, assimilated, or erased it boggles the mind. Thousands of years of it. Honestly, what's our problem? Didn't we lose a lot of physical strength in the name of evolving bigger, smarter brains?

I'm becoming a pessimist in my old age. I'm way too young to be fatalistic and jaded. But like I said on New Years Day... maybe 2005 will be our year. Go, humanity, go!

Tomorrow: Something non-cranky/preachy/cynical.

Monday, January 10, 2005


Being sick sucks.

Good news, they didn't give me a shot. For some reason I got penicillin pills instead. Not sure why I got pills and Roomie got a shot both times she's had strep here, but what the heck. Went to the clinic at 9, the health aide did a throat culture, said "Oh, wow, do you have strep throat," (and showed me the tester thingy), then I had to go home and wait for FIVE HOURS for the doctor to call from Bethel and officially diagnose me as having strep. At that point I was officially decreed as sick (as if the inability to swallow, creepy white spots on my tonsils, 101 degree fever and alternating chills and burnings-up hadn't told ME that 24 hours before...) and got my prescription. Other than that, however, a visit to the village clinic is totally laid-back...

I just walked in and said "Hey, I think I have strep," to which the woman behind the desk said "Did you look for the white spots?"

Being an old champ at the whole strep throat thing (I'm quite certain that my sister Mel and I, combined, hold some sort of record at Washington Elementary in Stevens Point, WI), I said "Of course. They started on the left side, but now they're on both sides." She said, "OK, let me just swab you to make sure and we'll get you a prescription. You're a new teacher, right? What's your name again?"

While I would rather our community have a more highly-trained clinic staff, it is refreshing to be in a place where a person's knowledge of his/her own body is respected. When I told the health aide that I've had a lot of strep, and this felt a whole lot like strep, she totally respected that as a valid symptom. I guess you have to when you're working like they are without the training that most health care providers have had access to.

Plus, I got to see how a strep test is done. Most places they take your swab into some mysterious place away from the exam room and do some magical alchemy to determine whether you're a specific brand of sick. Now I know a strep test is easier than most of my high school chemistry experiments. 1) Swab nasty sick throat, 2) Swish swab into small vial of something that (I assume) makes the strep bacteria grow or do something, and 3) insert the little indicator stick.

Woohoo! I should be feeling better by morning! My fever's already gone down, and I no longer want to cry when I swallow... life is good.

Wow, I really suck at this...

OK, so it's been HOW long since I last posted? Really, I've meant to. Oops. I do have stuff that I will post at a later date...

Anyway, I've got strep throat. Throat's-on-fire, hurts-to-swallow, want-to-eat-but-can't strep throat. So I'm going to go to sleep now and wait for the clinic to call me with my time to go get a shot of penicillin in my arse.


Wednesday, January 05, 2005


Through an interesting twist of fate (puppy finding a really effective hiding spot), we ended up with a puppy for the night last night. We had our usual Tuesday night dinner with our family of students, and they brought two puppies with them. **Note: Puppies have been banned from future Tuesday night dinners.** One of the puppies managed to disappear in the insanity (five hyper kids, one teenager, two adults, a full-grown dog, and two puppies in a pretty small house... hence the aforementioned banning of puppies for dinner). We thought she had run away or something (door was open so full-grown dog could relieve himself and take a break from the obnoxious puppy-ness), but it turns out that she just got tired of the non-stop action and hid under the rocking chair... which the kids proceeded to play on and around, and which I also sat on... all without the puppy making a sound. Roomie went to take the kids home and look aroud for the puppy, and as soon as they all left, I heard a little whining coming from under the rocker... hey look! A puppy!

By the time Roomie got back with the van, it was too late to take him home, so we had a (non-housebroken, non-trained, used-to-being-outside) puppy on our hands for the night.

I think I slept three hours.

Sunday, January 02, 2005

I really, really, really ought to be upset about this...

But school's supposed to start tomorrow, and the weather's been bad, and a sewer pipe burst in the school building.

Why am I not upset, or more accurately, why am I so happy?

Because all of this means that I get an extra day of vacation. That's right, ladies and gentlemen, I'm like a prisoner who's been given a stay of execution. The bad weather means that we're short 9 staff for tomorrow 'cuz they're stuck in Bethel (that's a lot of staff to be short a school our size, in a place where there are no certified substitute teachers), and the burst sewer pipe means that there's no water in the school. Put those two together, and school tomorrow would just be us babysitting a bunch of kids in the gymnasium, showing movies on the projector and trying to keep the kindergarteners from killing each other.

Yippee! I mean, oh, how sad. A day of education, down the tubes. Well, not down the tubes, I'm sure we'll have to have Saturday school at some point to make up for it, but still...

Saturday, January 01, 2005

Oopsie Poopsie

I totally meant to post this over Christmas break when we got their Christmas newsletter, but I must have accidentally hit "Save as Draft" rather than "Publish." I just now noticed that there was an unpublished entry on my dashboard control panel thingy. Me not so smart, not quite sure how I made it through grad school. Anyway...

CONGRATULATIONS to my long-lost cousins in Kansas, Laura and David. Laura recently got engaged, and David will be playing D1 basketball next year! Their parents are Uncle Jerry who occasionally replies to my posts (and was known as a child to tie my mother to trees, but she has long since forgiven him) and his lovely wife Cindy (who, as far as I know, has never tied anyone to a tree).