Monday, September 29, 2008

Saturday Inservice, Sunday Funday

This past weekend afforded me the opportunity to return to Bethel for the first of a series of 5 different teacher inservice sessions that are for first year teachers at LKSD. Any teacher can tell you that the bane of their existence is the inservice. These are on Saturdays, so it's just that much more excruciating. Couple that with the fact that getting in to Bethel means catching a flight, which for me meant waiting at the Napakiak airport (WNA) for an hour, having the plane come once I had finally abandoned hope. The nice thing about coming to town, though, was having a weekend to spend with friends.
On Sunday, one friend, the co-owner of Fred (as in Big Red Fred) called and wanted to go on a date. So, what do you do if you want to have a fun date in Bethel? You go to the dump.
Here is some of what the dump has to offer: A tundra loaded with soft overripe blueberries, panoramic views of far-off mountains and planes taking off from Hangar Lake.

A new boat, a new gun, a new way to train your best friend.

Isn't this pretty? Guess what these ducks are swimming in. I'll give you a hint: it is not water.

I should have some pics of Napakiak coming soon. I need to take some pictures here first, and the weather has been kind of iffy for the camera.

Monday, September 22, 2008

The Dog Days of Bethel

I have spent the past 8 days in Bethel. I have not posted recently because Bethel in and of itself is not a place that inspires a ton of stories. But despite that, there have been a few noteworthy events.
Last Friday there was an inservice for site administrators (what folks in the lower 48 call principals) at the district office. There were several other district teachers in the office for inservice and professional development as well, including my wonderful friend Erin and her roomate Christina. To accomodate all the people and make Friday fun, there was a potluck, which lent my first opportunity to sample some of the traditional native foods. There was plenty of food that would be right at home at a traditional potluck, as well. But none of the hot-dish we 'Sconnies know and love. Anyhow, the first new item for me was dried fish. This is pretty much what you might think. It is dried fish. The fish is hung up and dried. I enjoyed my dried fish. Next I had akutaq, which is pronounced a-goo-duck. Akutaq is the famed Eskimo ice cream, for which there are many recipe variations. Typically it will include berries and whipped crisco, and some other additions could be cream, potato flakes, fish, and I don't know what else. What I sampled had salmonberries and blackberries. It was also quite good. The salmonberries are tasty and unique. The third thing I had was pickled fish. I love pickled fish, especially herring and pike. So I took a couple chunks of this figuring I would surely enjoy it. As I enjoyed my meal, Erin and Christina asked me a couple of times if I had had any of the pickled fish yet. Their poorly masqueraded grins tipped me off to the fact that they probably were privy to some information which I was not. And sure enough, they were. It turns out that what I had on my plate is called salunaq, which means fish head and belly, salted. It didn't really have the pickled fish flavor. It did, however, have the fish head texture.
In other Bethel news, it is PFD time. People are getting their oil checks and that has a variety of effects. For many people, it means that they have the money to get that 4 wheeler or snow machine they have been wanting, or they can stock up the household with the many supplies needed to last the winter, they can buy new clothes, shoes, boots, and other things that they needed the money for. Other people blow it on pull-tabs, bingo, and booze. I talked with one man at the airport today who works for Yukon-Kuskokwim, the hospital in town. He stated that the amount of alcohol related injuries in the hospital since the PFD checks started coming was "asinine." Last week the police had to use lethal force on a guy. Another was found dead in the road. We're all hoping that the PFD season quiets down.
To end on a happier note, I have included some pictures of a local dog team. Mushing is big around here. This is home to the famous Kuskokwim 300. In Napaskiak, a couple of mushers were working with their teams by having them pull the 4 wheeler in neutral and that in itself was quite a sight. These pictures are for all you people who have read Jack London and envisioned a team of huskies.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

I'll be back

That's what I told my students from Napaskiak and Oscarville as I wrapped up classes on Friday. And thanks to our state DMV, I will be back there this week to finish up some business that really should have been finished this past Thursday. It is a somewhat delicate situation, so I had better leave it at that.
It is nice to be back in Bethel, back at the Tundra Oasis. I flew in yesterday. From the airstrip in Napaskiak I could see some of Bethel's landmarks, mainly the radio tower, the hospital and the big oil tanks. It's kind of odd to be able to visually see your destination when your mode of travel is by air.
Kenny (the site administrator's husband) and I hauled all my gear (2 four wheeler/trailer loads full) out to the airstrip and waited for my noon charter plane. We were early, so we chatted and waited, chatted and waited some more. We saw some planes go by from Bethel but none of them turned to make the landing on our airstrip. At 12:30 suddenly a plane pulled around the corner and came taxiing over to us. It came from the other direction, and managed to swoop in and land without us even knowing it. It turns out the plane was one we had seen go by earlier, looking towards Bethel, but it went to Napakiak, which is a few miles downriver, not Napaskiak, due to some confusion on somebody's part. How could you mix up those two names, right? The pilot waited there for me for about 15 minutes before radioing in and going to the right place. I didn't bust the pilot's chops about it too much, since, you know, my life was in his hands.
It took us about 15 minutes to load up the plane and about 5 minutes to make the flight. After touchdown in Bethel I was picked up by my boss with an LKSD cube van for all the gear. On the way to the District Office I spotted Big Red Fred at the fire station where it was supposed to be. The keys were in the glove box, so away I went with my wheels. All the gear was offloaded at the District Office, save for mine, which fit in Fred's bed. Soon enough I was enjoying three tacos in the company of a good friend, and feeling pretty happy to be back in Bethel.
Last night my roomates got to find out how serious we Wisconsin folks take our Badger football. For anyone who watched the game, that "no fumble" call reversal pretty much sent me over the edge. I was shouting at a television set. Football season has now officially begun.
Sadly, neither the Packers nor the Jets were featured on the Sunday broadcasts here. And for the record, I'd rather watch the Jets.
I had a great experience at Napaskiak. The people were very welcoming and friendly overall. I will be back. But for now it is nice to be able to go out to eat and watch a ball game on the TV.
I've added some photos of: My shop setup from PKA, and some in-class activities.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Four Star

It is getting near the end of week 2 in Napaskiak and it feels like I just arrived. I thought I might as well share a few photos of school life. Aunt Barb asked, and Nephew Brian delivers the goods. First picture is my room in the attic. Now, in my defense, there is no furniture in my room, so where else would I store my gear besides on the floor. That really is the best place for it. At least I have an excuse.

Next is the famous basketball court outside of Z.J. Williams School. I was invited in for a pick-up game tonight, but I declined on the grounds that I'm a wrestler. That, and none of the students had bugged me enough to want to go in and foul the crap out of somebody.

Thissa here is the infamous Red Shed. This is where the magic takes place. Sort of. It is where I have set up my welding machine (the doors to the left) and my driving simulator (doors straight up the boardwalk.) I spend at least half of my day in the shed.

Stepping inside, it's a pleasant 58 degrees now that I've mastered the controls of my heater. Before this, it ranged somewhere between 40 and 80. The driving area is also a quasi wood shop. I also use a classroom inside the actual school to give the students other content. They like the driving alot more. Here are some students from Oscarville in my night class, hard at work, making me proud.