Friday, November 03, 2006

Home visit PTC

I thought I might as well make up for slacking on the blog, by making two entries in one night. So this was a big first for me too. We recently had parent teacher conferences (PTC) this past week and I had some students that weren't able to make it, so I had to reschedule. One parent had another obligation, butchering a seal, so I decided to stop by the house for a visit and possibly take care of the conference at the same time.

I walked into the house and sure enough there was a dead harbor seal lying on the kitchen floor. Someone in the family had killed it a couple of days earlier and after letting age for a couple of days, they butcher it. The women generally do this work after the men hunt the animals and bring them home. Women use a special knife called an Uluk that was designed has been used for centuries by the Yup'ik people. It is basically a large curved blade with an ivory or wooden handle directly on top of the blade and you hold it in your palm. A well sharpened Uluk can cut through fish, seal, elk, or musk ox in no time.

She was going to work on this seal beside us on the kitchen floor while we were talking about my students school work and attitude in class. It was a little distracting and amazing at the same time.

People generally cut the seal blubber away from the animal first and remove any pieces of meat from the blubber. The blubber is then cut into smaller pieces and allowed to drain of the seal oil, which is used for everything. I had a chance to try some a couple of weeks ago when I was visiting one of the elders in the village. I was offered some moose soup, which I eagerly agreed to and told that I should try a little (very little) seal oil in the soup. It is very very strong, but kind of tasty. Word of advice, a little bit goes a long way. The seal meat is sometimes used in soups, but most often cut into strips and hung to dry like beef jerky. I haven't tried any yet, but I look forward to it.

Hope everyone is hungry after this, cause you're all getting seal jerky for christmas.

Thanks for reading.

Native Youth Olympics

Hello! Yes, I'm still here and kicking. Sorry it's been a little while. I've been sort of tied up with this whole teaching gig.

Two weekends I got to be a part of history as Nelson Island High School hosted yet another Native Youth Olympics meet on Oct. 27th and 28th. Personally I have a good bit of experience with what most lower 48ers would call track and field, but this event/meet gave me a whole new appreciation for middle school and high school athletes. Let me just name a few of the events and then I'll go into greater detail about a couple of them.

The meet started off with the Kneel jump, then to one hand reach, two foot high kick, Eskimo stick pull, one foot high kick, Alaskan high kick, wrist carry, Indian stick pull, toe kick, and finally the seal hop, which was held on the second day. The kneel jump is pretty self explanatory. Athletes kneel on a line and see how far they can jump forward onto their feet without falling over, very similar to the standing broad jump. The one hand reach was pretty amazing to watch. Athletes arrange themselves pretty low to the ground and balance on two hands at first, but then they have to reach up with one of their hands to touch a ball suspended from a string above their head. If an athlete can touch the ball and come back down on two hands and stay balanced, they move on to the next height. The ball gets higher and higher with each successful round until no one can reach it. Some girls were reaching 50 inches up in the air on one hand. Pretty awesome.

Two foot high kick involves athletes trying to kick a suspended ball with both feet, toes even, and land back onto their feet again with out seperating feet or falling over. Some of the guys were kicking 92 inches high, which to me is totally mind boggling. One foot high kick is kicking the suspended ball with one foot and landing on that same foot. I think 96 inches won that event for highschool men.

The attached photo is of the Eskimo stick pull. Athletes are trying to pull the stick out of the other persons hands. And yes, that is yours truly acting as the judge. Indian stick pull is kind of similar, only the stick they use is tapered at both ends and completely covered with Crisco. That's right, don't let your mind wander too much on that thought. This event took the high school girls 3 hours to complete. It was rather mind numbing. The toe kick is probably one of the more challenging events. Athletes have to do a standing broad jump and while in the air, use only the tips of their toes to kick a 1 inch dowel rod backwards and then land on their feet. It will take me many moons to perfect this event or even do it successfully without breaking my legs.

Well, there you go. I don't write for months and then you get the mega blog entry. I hope you enjoyed. Wait until the next one. Coming soon!