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:

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Eskimo salad son muy delicioso!

Delicious eskimo salad! Heidi, the wonderful Special Ed teacher at the school, bought me a bowl over at "corp" (the store). Here are the main components:

Mmmm, tasty! The native food is starting to grow on me, especially the beluga meat. It's like oily, thick jerky with kind of a fishy taste. Eating all of this marine mammal meat got me hungry for sushi! So I cooked up a "Shaktoolik" roll (a la Sushi Town) with shrimp, cucumber (2$), imitation crab (3.50 a pound), spicy mayo I made, and onion greens from my onions (they are trying to grow in my bedroom). It turned out a lot better than my previous attempt, but I'm still trying to copy that succulent Sushi Town in Bonney Lake, WA.

After it snowed a tiny bit, people are taking out snowmachines and racing around the village. Here's Mikey on his new ride, Polaris is the mobile of choice in these parts, though he is on a Ski-Doo, 'cause they are faster:

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Back from the Nome Wrestling Invitational

My wrestling team this year consists of about 8 middle schoolers (2 of them are girls!) and Bart, my high schooler. Bart and I took off for Nome on Friday during the school day, which was strange because our flight got delayed and I was able to observe my own class being taught by a sub for a few hours. It was a little awkward but now I know how to leave better sub plans. Bart weighed in at 152.4 lbs when we arrived in Nome and even though he hadn't eaten the night before, he needed to be under 152 lbs to wrestle in his weight class. I had him running around the school and sucking on lemon drops to lose a little of the weight. After an hour, he weighted in at 151 lbs! But 10 minutes later, during the coaches' meeting, everyone decided that the 152 lb and 160 lb weight classes should be combined for the tournament. He had dropped all of that weight for nothing, and then lost to two 160 lb guys almost back to back in a double-elimination tournament. He was out of the tournament, so.....

That night we hit up the Nome grocery store and dropped 30 bucks on straight up junk food. Junk food has a very medicinal effect on mood sometimes. One of the wrestling coaches from Nome, Leiudell, invited us to stay at his place for the tournament, so when we combined Pop-Rocks mixed with Rockstar, we called them a Leiudell special. Bart thought it was strange to see a teacher drinking energy drinks.

The next day, Leiudell let us borrow his old truck to bum around Nome. Bart must have had 3 foot-long subs from Subway throughout the day, and it was very nostalgic for me to buy gas.

The nostalgia ended when the bill came. $4.29 a gallon!

Thankfully, Bart got to wrestle in two exhibition matches Saturday night in the 152 lb weight class. He pinned the first wrestler from Noorvik in the first round and had a tough battle against a Chevak wrestler for his second round.

I kept yelling during the match, "PUT YOUR WEIGHT ON HIM!!! GET HIS HEAD DOWN!! WRESTLE!! WRESTLE!!! GET HIM!!!" and Bart got fired up. Even though I was just shouting out random bits of wrestling advice, it seems to help! The score was 10-10 with 15 seconds to go and I yelled, "TAKE HIM DOWN!! 5 seconds left!!!" and Bart got a sweet double leg takedown with 3 seconds left on the clock. Final score, 12-10, winner = Bart!

We celebrated his victory by seeing the new Resident Evil movie at the theater in town. It's a pretty dang good scary-apocalypse-action-zombie flick! Unfortunately, after we left the theater I wanted to run over anybody I saw in Nome because I thought they might be a zombie. Coupled with the fact that there are icy roads and a lot of bars in Nome (people stagger sort of zombie-ish down the main "front" street), I had to drive very carefully back to Leiudell's house.

Overall, it was a great trip with lots of good wrestling and fun in Nome. Coming back to Shaktoolik, you can see the ice encroaching on the Shaktoolik River. And it snowed last night...

Still need clear the snow on the porch!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Visit from the mentor teacher (and hairdresser)

My mentor teacher, Bernadette, visited today to help me out with all of my first year teaching difficulties. At the end of our meeting, she asked me, "Is there any thing else I can do? What are my next steps for you?"

I looked back at her and simply stated, "Can you cut hair?"

And voila: A neat and tidy haircut with the help of Jake's trimmers.

Bernadette did a very nice job, wayyyy better than I could have hoped for had I been on my own with a pair of scissors. Plus, I still have both my ears and not even minor lacerations!

Things are a little bit different here in Alaska. Not only did I get a haircut, but we were almost eating delicious ptarmigan soup last night. An (arctic?) (snow?) ptarmigan landed right on the store right across the street from the school. Here's the "majestic" bird with Christmas Mountain in the background:

Here's the ptarmigan up close, I crept up until I was right underneath it:

If only Jake hadn't missed! During our 10-minute break the science teacher ran home and grabbed his bow. He took a shot from our back porch, aiming high so he wouldn't hit the store. WHOOSH! Unfortunately, the arrow sailed just over its head (and subsequently into the river). We didn't have any ptarmigan soup that night, but it's still awesome to see the Alaskan wildlife.

Here's a final picture I took during school a few days ago. The sun rises at about 9:30 now so I can't get any sunrise pictures before school. I like the grainy texture of this one:

Highly Entertaining Photos from our Eureka Bike Trip

Seeing as how I just got back from the Unalakleet wrestling tourmanent and I'm heading to Nome in a short while, I had this blog prepared to fill in some space. Enjoy!

My friend John and his wife Sara (, my brother Riley, my dad, and I took a final (huzzah!) ride down to Eureka, CA before I left to for Shakoolik in August. These extra fun photos just show a little bit of our wacky side. Comment on what you think a good quote would be for one of these pictures! I'll leave them blank and we can see what hilarity friends come up with.






Thursday, October 4, 2007

First Snow at NACTEC

Let me first say that you can see LOTS of pictures and information about our trip to NACTEC at:

The links for "presenters," "events," and "life skills" have some cool pictures of what students did. NACTEC is the Northwest Alaska Center for Technology, Education, and Careers in Nome, and it ended for my middle school students and I yesterday. All 5 of them were disappointed to leave behind the new friends they met from other villages, but they are happy to be home!

Before we left though, I had to leave sub-plans for 4 days, so I actually had to clean my desk. It turns out I left too much work for my 9/10 math class and not enough work for my 5/6 math class. Dang!

We left at 8:30 in the morning via the Bering Strait School District plane. It's an ex-military plane that's very rare because it has two jet engines for it's small size, allowing it to make extremely good time compared to the local air carriers. We have one school bus in the district, and THIS is it:

It started snowing the morning before we left and even though it didn't stick, you can still see the "termination dust" on the mountaintops around the town. Check it:

The second picture was taken as we were leaving later that afternoon. Here's all of us from Shaktoolik, Brevig Mission, and White Mountain:

I made sure to stop by the store before I left town in Nome. Notice they sell ATV's next to the claw machine. I couldn't help but ponder about a giant claw machine where you win ATV's as prizes...

When we got home to Shaktoolik, there was no snow, but the next morning it rolled on in! At 25 degrees this morning, I'm looking forward to when this feels "warm."

Plus, big thank you's and XOXOXOXOXOs to everybody who sent me packages. The postmaster was getting on my case!