Sunday, December 16, 2007


Going "home" this week is stirring up some weird feelings in my head. I've been dreaming of grass, trees, motorcycles, and my dog for the past month or so. Strangely enough, I haven't been dreaming about people, even though I miss my friends and family very much. I wake up and I can feel the grass under my feet, smell the Washington wind in the air, picture the mountain in the distance. Well I did have a dream last night that my sister was a land baroness in Hawaii and I ran a motorcycle stunt crew on her private resort, but that's pretty much par for the course.

Some people in town ask me if I'm coming back next year, quite a few actually. I've told them that I will try to have an answer after Christmas, but I don't know if I'll have an answer for them...

Here is our school play! These are all of my middle schoolers (8 of them) in a play I "adapted" from an old play we had laying around. Originally it was called "Quarrel in the Candy Shop," but I changed to it include "eskimo foods" and this is the result:

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Self-Portraits on the thawed beach

I made a trek today to this spot:

My roomate, Rob, has two strange passions up here in the tundra: self portraits and insanely long walking treks. He'll come back after leaving at 9 am in total darkness and return at 5 pm in total darkness, with a camera-load of self portraits taken throughout the day. I channeled the spirit of Rob on this Saturday and took a six mile walk out to "second bend," a place on the Tagoominick River. After slipping on some extremely slick ice on the river, I snapped this shot by the ocean.

My travels ended at about 2pm, and the sun had already hit his peak and began to descend for his 19-hour away time. I snapped one last self-portrait before going inside to some leftover chicken and rice.

When I got home some students came over and asked to play the Wii. I told them I'd be glad to let them play, AFTER THEY DID MY DISHES!!!!! Muwhahahaha!!!!! Another came over and wanted to play, and guess what, THE FLOOR NEEDS CLEANING TOO!!!!! Hahahahahahahaha!

I tell my students that I don't make promises. If I say I'm going to do something, than I'm going to do it. Especially if it includes defeating my students in Wii Bowling! They're boxing each other in this shot:

I'll now attempt to load a bunch of cool pictures I've taken into a slideshow (and I'll throw some ham in there too).

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Weather Trade With Washington

40 degrees and raining at high noon, wow! This picture was taken yesterday. Just like a wonderful December day in Washington, but wait, I AM IN SHAKTOOLIK. The weather in Seattle is 25 degress with snow! Holy cow! This Washington weather has got me all pumped up--but everyone else hates it! They want snow for their snowmachines, but I want to run on the beach. All of the ocean ice has melted and it was washing out of Norton Sound is big clumps.

The ocean ice is basically all melted now. I went for a run last night and I felt like I was walking on the moon. Big clumps of brown ice, a howling wind, and strange colors in the sky. If I were an eskimo 2,000 years ago (or 100 years ago), I would definitely have believed that spirits were haunting the beach. I swore the wind sounded like a plane coming in to land, or a person trying to talk to me (in a screaming voice nonetheless).

The color of the arctic winter sky still seems bizarre to me. Like an impressionist painting exploded where the sun should be. Lots of pastel colors--light blue, yellow, and orange. Check these shots of the sunrise (at 10:30 am) this morning. The sun didn't peak out until about 11:45.

I waited another half hour and got another shot from the ocean side of town. The blue was beautiful, but it still looks strangely unnatural to me. I'll be home for X-mas in just 19 days! The students are getting a bit restless but we'll get through those standards.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Just pictures

Friday, November 23, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving! (and I land on somebody during the basketball tournament)

It's been busy during school and after school! I start tutoring next week, but the focus yesterday was baking for Thanksgiving. I made an apple pie, a pumpkin pie, a pumpkin-cream cheese roll, blueberry-rhubarb-cranberry tarts, sausage gravy, and acorn squash! It was quite a day of baking, and I'm thinking about starting a workout video titled "Cooking without a blender: How to get ripped in 3 months (the lighting makes me look kinda buff I guess--Wooh!)."

Seriously though, making that whipped cream with a whisk took a long time! We had Thanksgiving dinner at the swanky penthouse apartment of Linda the principal (she lives above the school, is her blog).

Rob the roomate carved up the turkey. Delicous!

I provided the role of the butler...I guess. It was just interesting "dressing up" for a social occasion in my nicer clothes that weren't my shirt and tie for school. Another teacher wore her "heelys" and she said it was the first time she had worn heels in 3 months. I guess that's one of those luxuries you have to go without in a bush village (I miss my turntables and vinyl more than any other physical kinda thing).

Oh yes, and I did land on an older gentleman during the basketball tournament. Every year Shaktoolik has a big basketball tournament around Thanksgiving, where people from all of the surrounding villages come and try to defeat the reigning champs here. Leonard, a local, asked me to play for his team. I told him multiple times that I hadn't played a real game of basketball since the 3rd grade, but he insisted that I play, so I joined up!

So how did I crush an old man, you ask? Well, our first match was against the "old guys" of Shaktoolik, a team of 40-50 year old men. These guys could really shoot well, even if I could scramble around them on the court. Anyways, at one point I got a little over-zealous as Binga, an older guy from around here, was going for an easy lay-up. People in the crowd said I jumped with a classic Michael Jordan, legs sprawled, arm in the air, "Enforcer" leap from the 3 point line to shut this guy down, but I mis-timed my jump and I ended up landing on his head! It was a very emabarassing scene. I helped him up and we were both okay, but the entire crowd was stunned, yet laughing hysterically. I gave Binga a nice pie today as an apology, so I think everything is okay. He said that he was a little sore from my landing on him yesterday...they won the game, but I'm just glad nobody got hurt. I AM NOT A BASKETBALL PLAYER.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Beautiful Day for a Polar Plunge

Stunning day today; the hoarfrost clung to anything exposed to the fierce arctic atmosphere. The still air allowed the frost to grow collections of crystals over the landscape.

Zero degrees in the early afternoon. This is the coldest weather I've felt before In my entire life, so I figured it was a good day to take a little dip in the ocean! I told my wrestlers that if they placed 1st or 2nd in the wrestling tournament I would take a "polar plunge" for them the next week. If I would have jumped in the water on Monday it would have been a balmy 32 degrees with no frozen water. It was a different story today....

Brrrrrrrr. Forutunatly, I was able to warm myself up a little before I left the school. I did a little research on "anticipatory thermogenesis" and I could feel my body temperature rising before I left the school. I basically imagined myself in a blazing inferno eating 7 alarm hot wings and chugging hot sauce. By the time I jumped into the Bering Sea I didn't even really feel the cold.

Unfortunatly, there was no water! There was about an inch of ice over a foot of water in the deepest portion of the sand bar. I turned around after I hit more sand and headed back to the shore.

Considering that it was still zero degrees outside, I was ready to dunk and get this thing done with! I ran back to the deep part, threw some ice out of the hole, and did a push-up into the water.

Again, I didn't even really feel the cold water. I was so focused that it seemed "apart" from me or something. I ran back to the shore where all of the students were waiting and toweled off very quickly. I threw a blanket over my head when one of the parents was nice enough to drive me the 200 feet to my house. I had started my shower a few minutes before the jump, so it was all warmed up for me. To be honest, my feet have never been colder, but I could move them easily after a few moments in the shower. I have a few scratches from the ice, but otherwise I feel great! I was told that students were all grinning ear to ear as I dunked myself in the frozen sea.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Silver is the new Gold, baby!

4 students took second place at the tournament, one took 3rd place, and two took fourth place. I am so proud of them! Our Shaktoolik wrestlers were First Place, small schools division, elementary school:

Second Place, small schools division, middle school:

I thought that things would slow down after wrestling, but now I see that there is so much to do that I had put off while I was the wrestling coach! Plus I am trying to catch up on sleep; a 3-day tournament with all of those students was a little draining. Here are some pictures of them wrestling:

I told the wrestlers that if they placed as a team I would jump into the ocean, so I need my stength! I dive into the Bering Sea on Friday!!! There are still parts of it that aren't frozen over =)

Monday, November 5, 2007

Ice Fishing Expedition

My new roomate Rob and I had the pleasure of ice-fishing on the mighty Shaktoolik River yesterday. The weather was absolutely pristine. A crisp 30 degrees with a bright sun shining down on us. Calvin, one of the local guys, put us in his freight sled and towed us 3 miles across the bumpy tundra to "Jinkluok." Jinkluok is a deep spot of the Shaktoolik River where the trout feast on salmon roe. Calvin cut us some fishing holes and "chummed" one of the holes with some bait to attract the fish. He told us the ice was good, but it didn't look very thick to me! I don't know much about these kinds of thing yet.

We must have caught 30-40 trout EACH over the course of 2 hours, most of them 8-10 inches, but there were a couple good sized ones at about 14 inches! I felt like it was a fish factory--the fish would literally hook on after two or three "jigs" of the line. The fact that your fishing rod also serves as your club makes it very functional! Here I am pulling another one in.

After 2 hours of gutting we took a little break--here's a Wii boxing match of Tyler vs Rob the Roomate. Fierce!

One more picture--the beach along the ocean. The water is starting to get the consistency of a slush puppy, which makes for really bizarre waves.

Tomorrow I am off to the big wrestling invitation in Unalakleet. The Shaktoolik Wrestlers are pumped and ready for action! Then I'm off to Nome for a Safe Schools training program for the weekend. How did I ever think I would be bored up here?!?!?!

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The only pumpkin in Shak-town

I'm really glad my friend Jackie sent me a pumpkin (among many other things) for my birthday. We laughed when she said, "Do you know how much that pumpkin cost me? A DOLLAR!" The store in town didn't order any pumpkins this year, so it was the ONLY real jack-o-lantern here in Shaktoolik on Halloween night. I sat in my living room with my fellow teachers and principal, ready to hand out treats to all of the kids in Shaktoolik. I even got our "arctic room" all festived-out with:

-"Junior," the official (only) 2007 jack-o-lantern for Shaktoolik
-a spooky sounds cd (track 6: chainsaw buzzing with wailing screams, is my personal favorite)
-orange lights (I found them in the school basement)

The only difference in Halloween here from Washington is that the kids don't say, "Trick-or-Treat." Instead, they come inside and won't leave until you guess who they are. Considering that they won't talk, 90% of them wore masks, and 100% of them have brown eyes, it took me a while to guess some of them!

EVERY KID under 20 in the village goes trick-or-treating, so we probably saw about 50 kids over the course of a few hours. The principal, Linda, lives above the school so she hung out at my house and gave out the fabled "full" size candy bars. None of that "fun" size that's actually smaller nonsense. My mom sent up some fun "gummi" fangs that you can't get at the store, and they were a real hit too! Here's our preparation:

I found an ugly pirate mask in a dark corner of the school basement, and had fun scaring the kids through the window:

It feels good to have a Shaktoolik Halloween that's so similar to back home. I've never handed out candy before because we lived on the highway, but it was a lot of fun and believe me, I feel just as sick as I would during any other Halloween. The candy bowl is just so full and sitting right in front of you....Happy Halloween everyone!

Alas, but now "Junior" is all boiled up now for pie. Mmmmm, pie.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Oogruks and a Busy Inservice

Just got back from the week-long teacher inservice in Unalakleet yesterday, and boy was I tired! Part of the reason was because I had a head-cold. I caught the little sickness hanging around outside in 15 degree weather while some people were cutting up the oogruks they caught:

Oogruks being bearded seals, of course. I had just come from wrestling practice, so I was only in a sweater when they were getting butchered. I should have run home and put a coat on, but it was just so exciting I couldn't bear to leave! After a half-hour outside with only a sweater and sweat pants on, I ran home. Immediately I noticed that my hands looked like I had been digging a ditch--the top layer of skin was peeling off! I am okay, but staying outside a little while longer could have given me frostbite. I will never go outside without my thick gloves and snowpants from that day on...

Okay, except for the "Polar Run." It was a balmy 20 degrees on Wednesday in Unalakleet when we had the 5 mile run with the Bering Strait School District. After talking with expert runners, I went with a 4-layer outfit--undershirt, t-shirt, sweater, and fleece.

It was the most bizarre run I've ever done, and I came in 4th place! I've never ran so hard without sweating a drop. I really thought that I might die during the 3rd mile stretch, and it was the first time I've ever had to walk in a race. I actually turned around and ran backward for a while because my entire front side felt frozen. Plus, there was frost forming on my shoulders when I came across the finish line.

Here's another picture from around town--the "jalop," one of my student's snowmachines. I like how bungie cords and scraps of wood are holding it together: