Saturday, October 25, 2008

Mr. Rendall Goes to Town

My wonderful friend Erin Kavanaugh thought that would be a great title for my next blog posting. It sounds like a children's story to me, but I suppose it fits.

As some of you know, this past week I headed to Town (Anchorage) for a professional development opportunity. Now, opportunity....there is a word that I can never use in the same way after having taught and worked at Maple. Our principal there was a great man, and ever the optimist. He would use "opportunity" as a descriptor of some odd things. In that light, I might say that last weekend I had the opportunity to change the Big Red Fred's oil in the icy driveway of the Tundra Oasis when it was 15 degrees out. Or, I might say I had the opportunity to sit in a class being taught to teachers by people who don't teach. I also just had the opportunity to watch the Illini take a 17-10 lead over Bucky.

So the class was pretty much like having a tooth drilled-all day long, for two days. It was a good chance for me to reflect on how much it must suck for MY students when I'm having an off day. The benefit of this class was that I gained a core curriculum and endorsement from CEF (Construction Education Foundation) that is by no means limited to construction trades. At some time this could come to benefit my students, but probably not under the current configuration. Perhaps the bigger plus was networking with CTE teachers from all over the state. Some of the guys had some pretty interesting stories from the areas they came from. For example, one guy who teaches in Barrow was saying that the daylight changes by 20 minutes per day right now. Talk about rapid change...they will be in complete darkness very soon. From talking to some of these cats I got the sense of how unique each area of the state is, and some of the strange ins and outs that go along with them.

So I didn't want to give the impression that the whole trip was torture. This organization put us all up in a really nice hotel. Big bathtubs, down comforters, big screen TVs and drop-dead beautiful desk workers. It was a nice place. The view out the window wasn't bad either.

The mall was right nearby, which afforded me the chance to finally get a haircut (the first since mid-July) and I went ahead and tamed the beard as well, which I think was probably due.

I got to go out for a couple of good meals. One was take-out from a nice pizza joint at the mall. On the walk in, I noticed several dads with their little boys with little hockey sticks walking in to the mall. As I waited for my pie to cook, I walked over and watched the little kids' hockey practice in the rink that serves as sort of an atrium for the mall. I felt bad for some of the kids who couldn't do the drills. One kid was brought back to the side with a stick, like he was a big hockey puck in a green sweatshirt.

The next night, Thursday, I was feeling a little stuffy, so I went to a nearby Thai restaurant that came highly recommended from Wednesday's Foul Mouthed Latin Cabbie. He used so much profanity in describing the quality of food here that I knew had to go try it. The spicy curry I had really cleared out the stuffy head, and yes, Cabbie, I would agree that it was some kick @## mutha *#*$@# ! #!***, brother. Way better chow than what's in Bethel.

Also, I got to pick up some needed supplies before heading back. Some new shoes, some mitts, and some toiletries. And there is a Sportsman's Warehouse. That place is a little slice of Heaven right there in Anchorage. It's kind of like Gander Mountain, only dare I say a little better.

Finally, it was back to Anchorage International for my trip back to Bethel. Here's one of the many impressive mounts in the airport, a world record brown bear.

By the way, I found out that security really does not apppreciate if you lose your boarding pass in the process of taking off your shoes, coat, backpack, and emptying your pockets in a big rush. Security guy "Boarding pass?!?" Me "Umm...crap. Sir, I think it's in your X-ray box." Security guy "What's it doing in there? You need your boarding pass!" Fortunately it turned up in one of the plastic tote bins as I rifled through my stuff coming out of the X-ray box. I was becoming fearful of the "question room."

As I wrote this story, I had the opportunity to watch Bucky come back and beat those Illini. And tomorrow, I have the opportunity to head out to Newtok and start my next assignment.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008


This morning was a nice, calm, sunny morning in the village of Napakiak. I deemed it the perfect time to get out for a nice leisurely stroll. And besides, it's part of my daily duty to go out and make sure there aren't any Russians roaming about. There was a HEAVY coat of frost on everything. The Kusko had some steam rising off the surface. The ravens were making new sounds I'd never heard before. For the information of folks back home, ravens make a lot of very bizarre sounds, unlike the crows we all know, which are just obnoxious.

I walked down to the Kusko, then veered off to the side and walked along the Napakiak slough. I could hear the ice that had topped now empty puddles along the shores cracking all around me. At first I thought nothing of it. Then I pulled focus and watched as the shore appeared to flood all around me. The rising tide was refilling all the puddles and breaking the ice everywhere. It was pretty surreal to watch and listen to.

Eventually I followed a trail towards the airport. Right about that time, I could hear this distant dull roaring sound. I looked up and on the distant horizon I could see what in all honesty looked like a huge rocket or missile taking off, followed by an enormous plume of spent rocket fuel and smoke. I did a double take, rubbed my eyes, and thought to myself, holy crap, it's the Russians. Then my mind started pontificating about what a brilliant place the Yukon Kuskokwim Delta would be for our military to conceal nuclear arms. So maybe this was one of ours. One thing was for sure. This thing was moving, rising, and I could hear it gaining intensity. After a couple of minutes, the 'missile' got closer, but not necessarily higher, and through the fog I could see it for what it was. I then headed back to the Kusko to watch the missile as it went by. I couldn't actually get the tugger in the shot, as it was about 400 yards ahead of the barge.

I have just 3 more days left here in Napakiak before I head back to Bethel to regroup and take care of some business. Then on the 20th I'll be heading out to Newtok, which some of you may have seen featured in the Tougher in Alaska show. It is the town that they are going to move/rebuild before it erodes away completely.

And don't worry, folks. I'll still be keeping my eyes peeled for any Russians.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

At Napakiak, the Sky Falls Out of the Snow

That's right, people. We had our first official accumulation of snowfall this morning. When I saw students walking in with snow stuck to their clothes, I knew I'd need to skip out of school for a spell today. A mere dusting, but the first bona fide sign that winter is only a step away. Soon we will walk into it face first. What we had this morning was one of those beautiful winter wonderlands. I suppose partly because it's the first snow I've seen since the end of April. The other bonus was that all I needed to stay warm on my walk was a hooded sweatshirt. That first icing, for whatever reason, stirs some emotions in all of us. It's beauty, it's change, but it's the omen that our beloved summer sun is calling it a happening.
Here are a couple pics I snapped for you folks in TV Land. Then I put the camera in my pocket and enjoyed the rest to myself.