Sunday, April 26, 2009

Trying to make the sun shine

Just as fast as the snow is melting away, so are my days here as a teacher. The kiddies don’t know yet, but non the less, they are getting restless. I’ve been trying to keep the news of my leave under the carpet for now. I definitely don’t need my students acting even more belligerent thinking that they have beaten me. Of course, I don’t feel that way, but I’m not a teenager living in a sheltered village of 600, hundreds of miles from any realistic world. This year has been filled with my students wafting through their own little fantasy world, their wild imaginations running at full tilt.

Not to mention, the days are already almost 15 hours long and only getting longer. So I find myself trying to do more and more to keep their mental status fresh and energized for the classroom. I constantly find myself pouring my heart into each day, yet these teenagers find something, sometimes everything that they dislike. Life must be hard for these “almost” young adults in ways that I have forgotten. Yes, life must be hard. Some of my 13 – 15 year old students have their own $8,000 snow machines, brand new i-pods, cell phones. Non of these items are allowed on school grounds, except snow machines if you are 16 years or older.

I guess my students are the same as other teenage students around the country in many ways. Nothing I, or any other adult, could say or do would please them. They surely wouldn’t show it, even if it did. They are constantly spreading doom and gloom when inside the walls of school. Not that I’m trying to be their best bud, but I would like to see them happy in class or enjoying what they are learning. Research has shown that when teenagers go through this adolescent growth spurt, they slow down or sometimes shut down mentally. It’s definitely given me a little insight into what it’s going to be like raising my own kids in the hopeful future.

It’s just kind of draining my own personal energy being present with 18 pessimistic foul tempered teenagers full of complaints about life when it doesn’t go the way they want. I hope that I can make it 4 more weeks. Don’t worry, I will.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Late Spring

The snow is still heavy and the Ptarmigan are still hunkered down deep in the snow. Marty, his nephew Trevor, and I went out to explore the tundra last weekend, but ended up just cruising around on the snow machine. Well at least there are a few signs out on the frozen landscape to help orient travelers towards our village as they are zooming around in the white oblivion.

Thankfully there aren’t any signs leading people to my little ski haven. Heading out there today, the area was covered with velvety white as smooth as silk. I made several good runs up and down the slope. I only wish that the slope itself dropped a steady, but gradual 1000 – 1500 feet. Unfortunately, my little private ski resort only drops about 300-400 feet and is not quite steep enough to get any speed. However, now that I think of it, I should grab a snow machine and do some exploring on a grander scale. There are some mountains farther out from the village, but I’ve always settled for the neighborhood hill, mostly because I don’t have a snow machine of my own. I will also have to leave the dog behind most likely, because she probably won’t be able to run 20 – 30 miles over the snow in a couple of hours. Maybe it’s time to take my ski attitude to the next level. Better do it quick. There are already some spots of ground showing on the tops of some of the hills.

I’m actually a little torn about the weather. I long for warmer weather, but it’s kind of sad to see the snow go. Now that the sun is out and the air is above 30 degrees, I am really enjoying being out on the skis. The sun even softens up the icy spots a little, giving way to slightly broader terrain. If I’m lucky, it will stick around for another week or two. Then it will be full on packing time. The light at the end of the tunnel shines brightly towards the near future. Can you feel my excitement???

Monday, April 13, 2009

2009 Yup'ik Dance Festival

Now that I've acknowledged that I am a blog slacker, I figured that I should make up for all the events that passed by without even a mention on my blog. The weekend of the Yup'ik Dance Festival is always a busy one. People from Bethel and all other neighboring villages travel by plane, four wheeler, and snow machine to come to Toksook for a weekend of native Yup'ik dancing madness. The outside of the school is a sea of snow machines parked any which way and the inside of our gym is packed with hundreds of people from all over. There are concessions, lots of dance groups strutting their stuff, a 50/50 raffle, and a huge supply and gift give away to all the people who traveled far to get here, elders first. Anything from furs and pelts, gas cans, lumber, water jugs, fabric to make Qaspuks (sp?), and food to larger things such as wooden sleds to pull behind a snow machine or even a stove for a steam house. Dancing goes on for hours each day and into the night.
Many neighboring villages come to dance, but Toksook usually puts on a show that is hard to beat. Most dance groups have some students mixed in with adults from the village. The dancers are in front with men kneeling in the very front and women standing behind them. The drummers are seated in the very back singing and chanting to energize the dancers. The Toksook Bay Islanders dance group is all students that work very hard and put in many hours of practice to perfect their song and dance. The students really get into performing and representing their village by creating memorable entertainment for the visiting audience. Sometimes the men also stand and one or two of the stronger dancers gives a special show as in the second video here. Most of the students really do have a wonderful personality when it comes to relaxed day to day interactions. This is one of the things that I will miss most about working here after I leave.

Easter bunnies, pranks, and more snow

Well, it's April 13th and we are still experience full winter conditions here in the Yukon Kuskokwim Delta. This morning it was apparently -9 degrees F. outside. I couldn't even tell anymore. Beautiful day if you ask me. Sun rising over a perfectly clear sky, reflecting off a landscape of snow and ice. Like a cold slap in the face every morning.
This weekend was extended thanks to TJ, our principal, who gave us Monday off as well. Yesterday, I hit the hill behind the village before we gathered at one of the high school teacher's house for an Easter feast. We got pounded by storms all day Friday and most of Saturday as well. It dumped powder both days, but the wind must have carried a lot of it away. This is a picture of my house being buried. The snow drifts blocked out all sunlight from penetrating my windows.
I still found plenty of pow pow up in my favorite little ski bowl where I go to unwind. Much of the surrounding hills are wind packed with deep tongues and grooves carved into the snow by the wind. It makes for very difficult skiing on such unpredictable snow. At the bottom of the steep drop off though, one can almost always find light fluffy powder to play in. This is my playground. And since I'm always trying to challenge my self, I had to attempt a couple of steeper drop in points only to crater in the deep snow below. Oh well. Skijoring with Katja on the way back home, I ran into Brett, our former Site Administrator Intern from my first year as he was traveling back to Tununak. He stopped and talked a bit. I think that he wished he was out with his dogs playing in the snow too.
Cindy, our Easter host actually lives in the house that I lived in my first year. I'm glad that I don't live there this year. In the fall, there are actually a couple of steps that you have to climb up to get to the door. Now, it's a 18 - 20 foot snow drift to get down to it. We had a good time relaxing and mingling in a non-work atmosphere even though there were still teacher's kids running around all over the house.

When I got home, I was confronted with a monstrosity of snow stacked in front of my door. I couldn't even get to my shovel, so I had to borrow TJ's. I have to admit, the kids here enjoy my presence. If they didn't like me, I'd end up with broken windows and a kitchen full of snow. It was a good laugh and I cleaned up the mess with a smile on my face. I never really figured out who did it, but I think I have an idea. Revenge is sweet. They'll have to wait for it.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Lame Blogging Blues

I know... I know.
What's the point of having a blog if you don't post new things every so often. I have had a long dry spell lately and I admit it. Blogging just hasn't been a priority for me lately. I work long hours and just want to go home afterwards. If I had internet at home, I would be prone to more blogging. And it's not that I don't have anything new, interesting, or exciting to post. I'm just not feeling motivated. But I want that to change. I am going to set a goal. I will post a new blog entry every weekend. I will set aside at least 15 min. every weekend to write something new in my blog. There are a lot of new things to write about too. Some of you may already be privy to some information. Others will have to wait for the blog.

Lastly and above all, I would like to thank my followers and supporters for your patience and interest.

stay tuned,