Monday, December 15, 2008

Wind Day!?!!?

Where on Earth would you find a school that closes due to wind? In the tundra, of course. Today we have a late start and possibly a no-kids days due to excessive wind. I say no-kids day because the teachers are still required to be at school. It's kind of a nice break to just be at school and to get all caught up on work. Not much time for it usually. The wind is pretty incredible. I was lying in bed last night and could feel the whole house shake from the power of it. While I was walking to work, it hardly took any effort to move because the wind was pushing me so hard.

The whole reason why the wind is such a big deal is that all the students need to walk to school and some live on the very edges of the village. We don't have a bus currently since we have no driver. There always seems to be things that pop up that keep reminding me of where I am.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

First basketball game of the season

Friday and Saturday were the first games of the season for both girl's and boy's basketball. Sports up on the slope are quite the event. It requires a chartered flight, lots of food preparation, trying to sort out where people will sleep, and also the typically assistance of staff members to make everything go smoothly. Because of each village's location, there is a lot of effort involved. When an opposing team comes for a game, it turns into a weekend long event. They will play until they leave the next day. This is a great opportunity for the kids and it really makes them work even harder so they can participate. Those who are eligible to play must have a C average through all of their classes and grade checks are done religiously.

These kids can play ball. I've never seen anything like it. I'm not just talking about in games either. During our gym time, kids will play Bump and be making these wild shots like it was nothing. When you don't have much else to do, it makes total sense that they can play the way they do.

I've spent my last weekend up here in the arctic baking cookies like a fiend and attempting to clean out my fridge. I'm now just down to condiments and have been making up some wacky concoctions for dinners. Nothing better than cheese, crackers, muffins, and scrambled eggs. I did attempt to have some of my students over for a baking party but no one showed so I ended up baking by myself. Now that the kitchen table is hidden I can finally take a break. Only 6 more days and I'll be on a plane!!!!

Monday, December 1, 2008

3 Weeks To Go!

For Thanksgiving this year, I was able to escape for a much needed break. Neal, my boyfriend who lives in Minnesota, flew up to meet me in Anchorage. It was wonderful. We traveled up to Wasilla from Anchorage in a rental car. No, Sarah was not home, but we had just as much fun eating out and shopping at Target without a Palin sighting. I even was able to go to a movie at a theater for the first time in months. It was fantastic.

The weather was beautiful. On Friday, we drove up a mountain towards some ski resort and on the way we pulled over to take pictures of Mount McKinnley. The sun was shining perfectly on it. It was definitely worth the little drive and scary ascent up the side of an icy mountain. The descent was much scarier though.

After our travels, we went out to eat a pretty upscale restaurant in Anchorage, called Simon and Seafort's. This was probably the best food I've had in a really long time. The bill was $70 for the both of us, but worth every penny.

The weekend was great, but like all things good, went way too fast. It also made me experience the thrills of traveling in the great North. The plane both ways was over an hour late, also experiencing mechanical difficulties, and addition to that fun, I traveled over most of Alaska for all the stops it made. I did make it home safe and sound and I'm thankful for that. 3 more weeks until Christmas!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Lots of changes

This week was quite eventful. I can truthfully say that the entire mood of the school changed. My roommate, Jennifer, was asked to resign and leave her position as the 1st/2nd grade teacher at our school. Sometimes a person's mouth can get them in plenty of trouble. We are now back to scrambling to find people to cover her classes. It's definitely hectic.

We also had a death in the community last weekend. He was an elder and one of my student's aapa (grandfather). It is really interesting to attend an Inupiat funeral. When there is a funeral in the community, the school is used instead of the church. People come from all over and the gym was full of people. School was dismissed at noon and there was a visitation from noon to 1:00. After that, the funeral begins. Anyone who wants to speak or sing is allowed to. They also have singing groups that go up to the front and sing in Inupiat. I couldn't believe the amount of emotion. It was such a wonderful, unsanitized grieving process. Funerals in the lower 48 always seem so regimented, whereas this was more of a celebration and a community event. All of the family contributes to burying their loved one. The sons and grandsons all work together to dig the grave, which isn't easy in the middle of winter. Everyone comes together in a massive effort of support. It was such a wonderful thing to be a part of.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Tundra Attire

This weekend I was put in charge of watching my rooommate's dog, Oakley. This includes taking him for walks and letting him take over my bed. This morning I took Oakley for his daily walk. It never ceases to amaze me how long it takes to get ready to make even the smallest trip across the village. Usually in the morning it requires an additional five minutes to get dressed in the appropriate outer gear. On days when you're going to be out longer, you can probably double that. For my adventure this morning, I wore: fleece pants, a sweatshirt, wool socks, snowpants, my heavy coat, 2 hats, snowmobiling mittens that go half way up to my elbow, a scarf, and my "good to -100 degrees" boots. All for a 20 minute walk around town. I was exhausted just dressing myself.

What cracks me up even more is that once I got outside and looked around, there were kids running around in little Chuck Taylor Converses (no socks either) and capris. Not a jacket in sight. It completely blows my mind. These kids can't even feel the cold.

Two weeks ago, we actually had school cancelled. It was so cold and so windy (42 mph) that our principal cancelled school. Teachers still needed to attend so that we wouldn't have to make it up at the end of the year, but we went out for a walk to get the mail and kids were still running around and playing outside. Nothing can stop this kids. They are all way too tough for me.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Happy Halloween!

Well, it has been a very busy month. School has completed the first quarter, we all survived Halloween, and only a few more weeks until we get a break. I have found myself buried under piles of paperwork, trying to get a hold on things before I get too far behind. Last Tuesday, we held parent teacher conferences. Our conferences here run much the same as those in the lower 48, but fewer parents seem to come. Of my six students, I talked to four of their parents. Ouch! I just wish I could see more support for the students coming from the parents side. Jenny, my roommate, had asked a parent what their belief on discipline is, and received the reply, "We let them learn from their own mistakes." In other words, there is no discipline or any sort of repercussion for acting out in school and getting bad grades. Bummer.

Yesterday, we had a big Halloween carnival in school. Janey and I were in charge of the Spooky House, and I had a wonderful time scaring the pants of kids. It seemed to go very well. After the carnival, students went around the village to trick or treat. At 6:00, the community put on a celebration called "Puuqtaluk." This activity is where community members dress up to hide their identity. They stuff their clothes, wear two different shoes, walk funny, and basically do anything they can so they can't not be recognized. Not everyone participates in this, but most of the people show up to watch. Each age has a different category, so only the little kids compete against each other and adults compete against each other. Once the age category is called and all the contestants have a number, they must do a dance. Once as a whole group and then again individually. Winners are determined by a panel of judges and they win huge cash prizes. First place was $250 and each place after that got less money, all the way up to 4th place. This activity was so much fun! Jenny and I sat through the whole thing and tried to guess who was who. We really had a great time.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Back to the grind...

I returned last Monday from my break away in Fairbanks. The class that I'm taking is amazing and I can't wait to start working with my kids with all the new things I learned. The class is all about teaching civics and it has some really great ideas for projects the kids can do. I ended up spending $75 at Barnes and Nobles and almost having a panic attack from the amount of people in Wal-Mart. There were more people standing in check out lines than I normally see in an entire day. Scary!

The Center for Civic Education is sponsoring this class and it's an awesome opportunity. Not only do I go to class to learn how to incorporate new ideas into my classroom, but they also provide class sets of all the materials, pay for travel and lodging, award 3 credits at the completion of the class, and also a $1,000 stipend, all for a $90 entrance fee. Pretty sweet deal if you ask me.

We have an insane amount of snow here right now. Since last week, we've received about six inches. Every morning I look outside to more snow. It's crazy! Most people are raking leaves this time of year and I'm out shoveling off the steps.

Friday marked the first dance/student council sponsored event of the school year. I ran myself ragged trying to get everything pulled together for it and it went over well with the students. It became more of an activity night than anything else, but the students all seemed to enjoy it. Kaktovik school was also here this weekend, so we had a few more kids to spice things up a bit. We ended up making $90 to help benefit the students going to AFN, a convention for the Alaskan Federation of Natives, where we send students to participate in every year.

This week is the end of the first quarter and the kids could care less. I've been trying to motivate them to step up a little and take some pride in their work. It's almost pointless. The culture here seems to encourage students not to rise above their current position in life. Drop out and make babies. That's the way it's done out here. I'm not the least bit concerned about angry parents since every phone call home seems to fall on deaf ears. At least that's a bit of a relief to not worry about being attacked during conferences.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

My Escape

This weekend I made a break for it. I got the opportunity to go to Fairbanks for a class, which was super worth right there, but the best part is that I was able to go shopping, eat in a restaurant, and hit the bars. It was a wonderfully eventful time thanks to Buddy, my roommate's boyfriend. He took me around the city and loaded me up with stuff to take back to Jen. I really had a good time seeing people and almost went into shock when I walked into the local Wal-Mart. There were more people checking out then I see in a typical day.

As for life in the tundra, we got our first substantial snowfall. On Thursday, we got got dumped on. In the morning, on my walk to school, there was a light dusting everywhere. My walk home was a little more difficult and by that evening the kids had their snow machines running. It was October 2nd.

Technology in the bush is a touchy thing right now. After being without computers for a week, we got them back. Our newest dilemma is the lack of internet all together. All of last week we could not get onto the internet. It was all over the village as well. When called to ask about the situation, GCI told us we were not high on their priority list and there's no telling how long we'll be without it. Wonderful.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Winter is here

I would first like to apologize for my amazing ability to be a slacker. Haven't been posting as often as I should. IT stole my computer for a week and had a lot of catching up to do.

Monday was the fall equinox and we are now losing ten minutes a day of sunlight. It really is making a huge difference. By 9:00 last night it was already dark. All week it has been snowing on and off, but today it really started to snow and stick. I just ran home for lunch and thought I'd be blown over by the wind. It's cold, too! It's a good thing that my boots came in, so now I'm set. Bring it on winter, I'm ready!

I'm spending more and more time at school now. Janey and I have the store up and running. We open it during night rec, which is a time for kids to come use the gym to play in, and we are making a lot of money off of their sugar addictions.

This afternoon, for everyone's entertainment, we are having a staff vs. students soccer game. I'll be in there, making quite a laughing stock for everyone to see. We also are having a volleyball game tomorrow, and you better believe I'll be playing then too. Anything to keep myself occupied.

We also recently received all of the student laptops for the year. Our school is part of the Apple One-to-One program, where every student, grades 4th and up, get their own laptop to use for the year. I'm loving the fact that I can get everyone motivated enough to do their work on the laptops. It's a really great tool and the kids seem to enjoy it too. It's even better since we don't have to fight over computer lab times, or who get the laptop cart when. Everything is right there in the classroom.

That's about all the excitement up here on the North Slope. Can't wait to see what next week brings. I may have the opportunity to go to Fairbanks next weekend for a class. I sure hope I can because it's about time to get out for a short while.

Monday, September 15, 2008

All I Know, I Learned From McDonald's

Saturday was the grand opening of our student store, which Janey and I run. Talk about hectic. We had ordered in about 24 cases (24 packs) of a variety of soda, as well as chips, burgers, pizzas, corn dogs, and other delightful snacks. During our four hours open we were able to make over $600.00. I was amazed.

Our opening coincided with the first Saturday Sale of the year. Think of it like a giant yard sale held in the gym. People donated items to sell at the sale to raise money to fund the students trip to AFN, which is the conference for the Alaskan Federation of Natives. Students go every year and it is a pretty big deal. Proceeds from our store also go to help pay for travel. It was great to see the massive amount of community support for these kids.

During the sale, we decided to make hamburgers to sell for $6.00 a plate, a hamburger, chips, pop, and a pickle. I manned the grill since I have so much expertise in that area. I spent four hours flipping burgers and ended up making 60 of them. Apparently I make a pretty good burger, which was a huge relief. It this teaching thing doesn't work out, at least I have a promising future in the food industry.

In addition to these two fundraisers this weekend, the kids going to AFN held a movie night on Sunday. They cooked pizzas and charged admission to the movie. It was a great way to make money, but unfortunately they thought the store should be open too. Janey and I had decided to not open the store because it was Sunday and we deserve a weekend too. What a stupid idea that is, that teachers deserve a day off. I have no clue what I was thinking. Janey had gone to the movie but ended up leaving since kids were pestering her about it the whole time. I completely understand why she would leave. These kids can be relentless. A few hours later, during the second movie of the day, Janey got a call at home. Some of the parents had called the school and demanded that the store be opened. I couldn't believe it. She ended up opening the store just so they would stop bugging her about it. People here have their own way of doing things. It's like dealing with a bunch of five year olds who grew up on the East coast. They always get their way and whine like little brats if they don't, keeping it up until they do.

Our supplies after this weekend: 6 cans of coke, a 24 pack of Sprite, and 4-12 packs of A&W Root Beer, as well as half a box of chips.

Guess I'll have to order more pop next time.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Parent Connections

Recently I had the pleasure of speaking of speaking with the mother of one of my students. She called me at 7:45 on Thursday morning at school to ask me about his homework. She needed help getting through it and I was happy to help. I thought that it was great that she was sitting down with her son to help him with his math work.

Later that day, after school, I was called down to the office again for a phone call. It was the same student's mother again. She was asking about a different homework assignment, this one for grammar. The directions specifically point out to "combine the two sentences into one sentence with a compound subject." She had no clue how to do it. I walked her through the steps necessary to write the sentences for the assignment and told her I was happy to help.

I think it's going to be a long year.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

The Visit

For only the second time in eleven years, the superintendent visited our village. It seems pretty amazing since I came from a school where he was only a floor away. Mr. Blankenship is a very nice guy and he brought us some fresh fruit, which is a sure fire way to get on my good side. He even made the teachers dinner Wednesday night.

Unfortunately for me, my class can be quite rowdy some days and Wednesday was definitely one of those days. As the superintendent walked through the school, he stopped in many of the teachers' classrooms. When he came to my door I was just about to go off on my students for not paying any attention to what I was saying. Luckily, I hadn't quite started yet and as he walked in I gave him a kind of "deer in the headlights" look. What can I say, I'm a master at making good first impressions. He only stayed for a few minutes, managing to get the students completely off task and then left. I couldn't be any more glad to see him go.

After his little visit the day did improve, which I was most thankful for. Although, I did end up staying at school until well after 7:00 p.m. Considering I get to school at 6:30 a.m. every day, it made for a long day. At least I won't have to worry about another visit from the superintendent for at least another five or six years.

Monday, September 8, 2008

It's Coming!

Yesterday I got the urge to do some physical activity. Crazy, huh? Jennifer and I went for a walk at around 11:00 a.m. As we stepped outside, I noticed the smell. You know the smell when you're outside and it's just about to snow. That dry, winter smell. Not only did I notice the smell, but for the first time I could see my breath in the middle of the day.

We've also lost about 2 hours of daylight in the last 2 weeks. I arrived in my classroom at 6:20 this morning and positioned myself in front of the window to try to see when the sun would rise. It's now 9:00 a.m. and it's still a little dusky out. Also, it gets really dark finally. When I arrived in the village we had nearly 23 hours of straight daylight. Now it gets dark by 11:00 p.m.

This darkness doesn't stop the children though. Parents bundle up their kids and shove them outside to play all day long. At 10:00 last night they were still running around. Some were even fashioning ladders out of pieces of metal they had found to try to peak into one of the male teachers apartments. My roommate had to lean out her window and yell at them twice before they got the hint. Best part of it all, they were all my students. The little darlings.

Beyond the darkness, there's no real other news from the tundra. This weekend was quite relaxing despite the fact that we couldn't contact the outside world for four days due to our internet being down. Thanks to that, I spent the weekend curled up in my chair, reading, cross-stitching, and watching the entire sixth season of Gilmore Girls. I feel like that's how I'm going to spend most of my weekends from now on.

Monday, September 1, 2008

My First Real Tundra Experience

Last weekend marked the first three day weekend of the school year. My roommate's boyfriend Buddy came up to restock our supplies of food and do some hunting and fishing. A typical weekend for Jennifer, my roommate, and I consists of working on a jigsaw puzzle that has consumed our kitchen table, watching movies, working at school, and cross stitching like an 80 year old. This weekend was a welcome change.

Buddy came up, armed with rifle and fishing poles, to set out on a caribou hunt and to fish for some grayling. Unfortunately, he did not catch any fish, but he did manage to shoot a female caribou. We were able to get about 60 pounds of meat from it and also to pack our freezer full of good food. Caribou is an extremely lean meat and is absolutely delicious. It was a good thing Buddy is an avid hunter and could cut it all up and pack it for us. The puzzle table was taken over and soon we had bloody chunks of caribou all around the kitchen. That was quite a sight to see for me. I've never gone hunting in my life.

Later that night we decided to head back out to the tundra to see if we could shoot a male caribou. We saw some once we had walked a few miles out, but they got scared by something in the distance, probably a wolverine, and took off running. It was a beautiful walk though and I was able to see the coal mine and get a closer look at the streams running into the river, as well as some nice pictures.

On Sunday, we had a dinner of roast caribou, made in the crock pot with onions, carrots, and potatoes. It was so good, especially after eating nothing but stuff I pull out of the freezer for the last month. We invited a few of the other teachers over and had a great time. We usually try to get together with these other teachers at least once a weekend for cards. This time we even played Sing Star Rocks on my Playstation. It's kind of like a karaoke game, but absolutely hilarious. I'm eternally greatful to have these people here because they are making it completely worth being stuck away in this corner of Alaska. Nothing like total seclusion to bring people together.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Little Bit of Winter

Last night I stayed at school until 9:00. It was Sunday. I'm slowly discovering all the new challenges that I need to face with my job, as well as all the added duties that I seem to fall into. At last tally, I have assumed responsibility of: my own classroom of sixth and seventh graders, a high school music elective, managing the student store, running after school detention, student council adviser, and organizing the pep rally for Friday to send off our football players to Barrow. Go Team! I'm definitely glad that I'm busy, although it would be nice not to see the school for more than 12 hours.

This morning started the first full week of school and I awoke to a light dusting of snow on the ground. Looking at the thermometer, it says 30.4 degrees. It's also a bit blustery. Also, it's August. Can't wait to see what November brings us.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Polar Bear in the Village

On Tuesday, I came to school for inservice and everyone was in a buzz. Apparently there was a polar bear meandering through the village. Here's the thing about polar bears, they are ridiculously dangerous. Even though this beautiful, majestic creature was walking amongst us, I knew that if it was in the village, it would soon be dead. Everyone gave us warnings about the bears right when we got here, but it's kind of like they don't really exist until you actually see one. Unfortunately, I didn't get to see it, or maybe that should be fortunately...

That evening the community held a potluck, complete with maktak, grayling fish, caribou (tuttu), anf the main dish, roast polar bear. It is a little like eating fish flavored beef. Very strange, but not bad.

Wednesday was the first day of school. Wednesday night was the first night I cried since leaving home. I couldn't believe it. I expected the kids to be a little disrespectful and rowdy, but wow, was I ever underestimating them. I planned a whole bunch of fun activities that I thought were pretty neat. Obviously, the kids didn't agree. Even though I'm down to only six students, they have to be the toughest six to deal with in the whole school. I don't think I've ever been so exhausted in my life.

Today, things got a little better. Instead of doing anymore fun activities, I pushed the kids right into work and even sent home homework. I definitely had more of a handle on things and I can tell things will be looking up from here. At least I hope so.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Bush Surgery

Last Sunday gave us our first encounter with just how secluded we really are. Doug, Chris, Janey, Jen, and I decided to take Oakley, Jen's dog, for a walk in the tundra. At this time of year the tundra is covered with wild blueberries and salmon berries. They are delicious, but you have to walk a ways out to get to them. Of course, once we start walking all of the village children have to come out and follow us. These kids are in love with Oakley. They all run around him or bike ahead of us, all calling his name. Oakley is the happiest, friendliest dog I've ever seen and loves the attention. He's also not the brightest. As all of the children are calling his name, he doesn't watch where he's going and falls right into a ground squirrel hole. We all burst into laughter at the sight of it, but didn't notice all the blood at first. When we caught up to him, Jen noticed a large flap of skin hanging off his lip. The poor guy had bit through it and it was gushing blood. She grabbed a piece of paper to push against it to hopefully stop some of the blood, but it was no use. This was a gusher.

Jen took the dog back to our apartment while the rest of us continued our walk. When I returned home two hours later, the dog was still bleeding. Jen had already walked all over town trying to figure out what to do. There are no vets in the village, not really even a doctor. There's just a nurse and she won't do stitches. We came to the conclusion that super glue will have to do. I ran outside and paid some kids a dollar to find us a tube. They come back with this tiny, dried up, old tube of super glue, but when you're in the bush, you use what you can. We gooped up his lip and held up the flap. This method held for about an hour, but was for sure not a permanent solution.

We did eventually get a hold of Mel, our superb plant manager who does it all, and he ran us over a brand new bottle of super glue, but we soon realized his cut was much worse. Jen finally decided to catch a plane in the morning to fly to Barrow. Luckily, the vet was in town, although it would turn out to be the most expensive vet bill ever once she factored in the flight. Total amount paid: $360.00. $270.00 for the round trip flight and $60.00 for the doctor bill.

Ten stitches and one day later, Oakley and Jen returned. Oak doesn't even seem to know the difference and is still as happy as ever. Now to train the kids on not yelling his name.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

The Village People

My first night in the village I watched a little kid puke up ice cream right outside my apartment. Real fun. Once the village kids know you are in town, they will flock up to your door. I had a group of ten little kids all screaming "can we visit?" at 10:00 at night. They were all bursting with enthusiasm about meeting new people. It was such a great thing to know these kids were excited about school and about the teachers. Every kid that I asked said they couldn't wait for school to start.

School for the village is what they live for. It is the center of their community, providing them with a place to play and socialize. I think this is such a good thing that they are exciting about learning as well. Not something you often find in the lower 48.

One thing I could live without up here is the constant knocking on my windows and doors. They always want to come in to play. I made the mistake of letting them in one time and ended up with about 20 kids running around the apartment, hiding in every corner they could find. I couldn't get them out, either. We've made a strict "no kids in the apartment" rule for our home.

The kids are still really excited whenever they see you, even if you don't let them in. I'll be walking around the village and from what seems like a quarter mile away, they'll spot me and shout "Hi Lindsay!" It's pretty neat that they already know me and are welcoming me into their lives. This will definitely be a unique experience.

First Week in Barrow

Last week we stayed in Barrow for new hire inservice. Beyond the draining experience of sitting in classroom for nine hours a day, it gave us all some time to bond as a staff. We did partake in some interesting activities, such as walking four miles along the beach frequented by polar bears to go buy soda at the only store in town, as well as taking a dip into the Arctic Ocean for the Polar Bear Plunge (we got a certificate!). It was quite an adventure and made me realize that these are the people that are going to make or break the year. Atqasuk seemed to make a name for ourselves at the inservice, as we were the youngest group there. We coined ourselves as "the fun village," while others thought we were just loud.

On this page you will find some pictures of our discoveries on the beach. We found really interesting creatures in the ocean, jellyfish, a weird purple thing we decided to name "The Amazing Technicolor Sea Corndog," Also, a few pictures of the plunge. It was cold, but not that unlike swimming in a bigger, saltier Lake Superior. Not nearly as cold as I expected.

In addition to a water fun, we also had the opportunity to attend the Youth and Elder's Conference put on by the Inupiat people. This conference is something they do every year to discuss issues facing their culture. A lot had to do with education. You'll see a picture of three people on my staff, my roommate Jennifer, Chris, and Janey, all wearing headsets. Part of the conference was delivered in Inupiat and we wore these to hear it in English.

Along with the conference, the Inupiats held a potluck to welcome the new teachers. They served traditional foods, such as caribou, bearded seal, bowhead whale (both cooked and fermented, called "maktak"), and various other dishes. Yes, I did try the fermented whale and seal, and it's definitely an acquired taste. The whale was chewy and mushy at the same time. Not truly my style, but a good experience all the same.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

The Return to Alaska (for good this time)

At the end of July my mom and I made the trek up here to do a little bit of sightseeing of the more beautiful parts of Alaska. We made a four day stop down in Anchorage and saw some amazing sights. The more southern part of the state is green and lush, with mountains rising all around. It is absolutely gorgeous.

After emerging from the plane, we went directly down to baggage claim, picked up our luggage, and then tried to find somewhere to stay. We didn't make reservations because we were unsure of exactly where would be the best place to stay. Boy, were we ever in for a surprise. You can't find a hotel for less than $200 a night. It was outrageous. Being the thrifty people we are, we decided to inquire at the information booth to see if there was something more in our price range. The nice woman there offered a few options, one being a new hostel built near downtown. Mom wasn't as down for it as I was, but I quickly convinced her that it is actually probably quite safe a clean. Heck, for $60 for a double private room per night, how could you go wrong?

The hostel was very reasonable and decent, the perfect place to stay if you really aren't looking for luxury. During our stay, we visited the Sourdough Mining Company and watched the show there *cough*rip-off*cough*, took a train to Seward, went on a glacier cruise, and had my first real bush teacher experience. When you live in the far reaches of the northern tundra, you don't have much access to a grocery store. No more late night ice cream runs for me. In order to get food, you must go to Sam's Club or Fred Meyer and place a bush order. This consists of filling up your cart(s), making your purchase, and crossing your fingers that it gets there before Christmas. Still waiting for my food, by the way. This order usually costs just amount in shipping as it costs for the merchandise price. Little insane. Also, note to anyone considering doing this, buy from Fred Meyer. They are always a better deal, as I quickly found out.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Let the Adventure Begin

Before I officially accepted my position at Meade River School's newest 6th/7th grade teacher, I had the opportunity to visit where I would be soon calling home. In May, I flew by myself north to Barrow, Alaska. I stepped off the plane onto the steps leading down to the runway. What was I getting myself into? I saw snow. Not just a small spattering signaling the end of winter, moving into spring, but drifts. Large drifts and snow falling from the sky. Real glad I remembered to bring my jacket. What a warm welcome and hopeful sign for the future. Luckily, I was able to move past the weather and started to see all that Barrow and the North Slope had to offer me.

As I walked into the small shed the townspeople referred to as the airport, I met several smiling faces. Everyone was very kind and I quickly introduced myself as someone coming to teach in the fall. Most of the people living in Barrow and the outlying villages are Inupiat. The Inupiat people are very proud of their heritage and value their culture. It was a great relief to know that they would be accepting of outsiders coming in to teach their children. I hoped people in my village would be as welcoming.

The day after arriving in Barrow I took a flight out to my village. The flight itself only took 25 minutes, as Atqasuk is only 60 miles from Barrow. On the ground in the village I noticed that there really is no actual airport, simply a runway and a gravel patch where people come out to meet the airplanes to help unload. The plant manager for the school, Mel Wong, was waiting for me, waving a large sign with my name on it, he said just in case he missed me coming off the plane. The plane only holds four people plus cargo.

Mel is an amazing guy. He does absolutely everything in the village and will be the first one there if you need a hand. That day he gave me a tour of the whole village (it took about 15 minutes) and also showed me around the school. I stayed the rest of the afternoon, catching the 2:00 flight back to Barrow and thought over my recent life changing decision. I wasn't doubting myself at all. I couldn't believe what serious change it would be, but I could definitely see myself there, living and teaching amongst the villagers, slowing becoming part of the community. This was a seriously reassuring feeling.

The Start of an Idea

I get the question quite often as to why I decided to apply to teach in Alaska. People mostly think I'm crazy to completely remove myself from all the creature comforts of the modern world. On demand internet access, cable television, malls, phones that don't echo. It is an interesting thought as to why a person would put his or herself into this type of situation. The answer for me is simply, who wouldn't? I have been given a wonderful opportunity to experience first hand that so many in the world never will be able to. This is a serious adventure, a new beginning, and a look into a whole new culture.

My mother was the one who placed the seed of thought into my head. She had mentioned it in passing sometime after my completion of student teaching back in January. The job market for teachers in America is less than stellar, and I'll admit I'm probably not the most worthy candidate in most cases. I'm really just not experienced and you need experience to get hired. What a wonderful catch-22. After some applying at schools across Minnesota and Wisconsin, I decided to post my resume on the Alaska Teacher Placement website, just for fun. After a mere 24 hours I checked my e-mail and to my surprise a response was waiting for me. I was shocked, to say the least. Who was this woman responding to my post, was this a scam, why would they want to talk to me? I had so many questions and this is the closest I had ever come to a job in my life. The e-mail expressed interest in my resume and asked if I would like to learn more about the small village I could possibly be teaching in. Of course being the eager, young thing I am, I immediately replied. Two e-mails later, I had an interview that evening for the position. Once again, I was nearly blown off my chair.

The interview went extremely well. The interviewer, my future boss, Becky Crabtree, was a wonderful woman, full of gusto. I was pumped! I couldn't believe my luck to finally have the possibility of a job, especially so close after finishing school. One week later I received my official job offer to become a teacher for the North Slope Borough School District in the village of Atqasuk, sixty miles south of North America's most northern settlement. What did I just get myself into?