For those of you who look forward to reading the new postings, I apologize for the drought. And, for those who don't particularly look forward to new postings, but feel some sort of a compulsory obligation to read them as a friend, then you are welcome for the break.
At the last posting I was working away in the village of Newtok. Things finished out pretty well. That village is a real diamond with all of the positive attitudes and good things going on. I also enjoyed my many opportunities to learn that I was past my prime in hoops. Way past... On the 11th my charter plane showed up after a couple hours of delay. Once the plane radioed the school to say it was coming, two of my older and stronger students came and helped haul all the gear out to the snowmachine and sleigh to be dragged to the runway. The plane brought me and all the gear straight to the village of Chefornak.
I started teaching classes in Chefornak on the 12th. The plan was that I would start out the Chefornak gig, and then come back to Bethel, have the weekend off (finally!), see some friends (finally!), then work out of the office for a couple of days before heading in to Town for a professional development conference, and a nice Thanksgiving. Of course I was looking forward to all of this. After spending 3 weeks away and sleeping on the floor in a school, I wanted nothing more than to, as they say, get the Hell out of Dodge.
For friends and family in the lower 48 who wonder what Bush travel is like: Friday afternoon in Chefornak was bright, sunshiney and nice. In Bethel, it was just the opposite. Planes were not coming. I called the local agent who handles reservations for 2 of the 3 airlines that come to Chefornak and said I wanted on, ASAP, and I didn't care which company. This is how you make a reservation. So I waited and waited. Luckily, the runway was right outside the window, so I could wait inside. As time passed I was starting to harbor some ill thoughts, damning the Bethel weather all the while, for keeping my airplane, my chance for some restful down time, on the ground.
Then suddenly a humming sound....A PLANE!! Not one of the ones I reserved with. So you know what I did? I grabbed my gear, boogied out there, chucked my stuff on the plane and got on for a mildly spooky ride back to Bethel. The first leg was a quick jaunt to Kipnuk. Because of the short distance and low ceiling, we were at about 100 feet for that part. After that we went high and quick on the Caravan, and after some searching, found a nice hole through the clouds into Bethel.
After a while, my pal Sarah came to pick me up. It took a while, (since I reneged on the plans to fly with the other airlines,) for her to locate me. I was pretty thankful when she finally did. I really needed a break. The weekend was so nice and relaxing. I got to watch a couple movies, take a frozen river hike, take a nice sauna, and catch up on sleep.
Some pics of the river, taken before poor Sarah fell through.
Another aeronautical code title posting, this time it's WWT which is PilotSpeak for Newtok. I was going to photo the airstrip for show, but then thought better of it, so as not to give my mother a heart attack. These bush pilots earn their money.
Now that I've completed my first week here in this village, I have to give this place high marks in terms of how nice the folks here are. Staff members have invited me into their homes for supper on three occasions, and another delivered supper to me here at the school in between classes. I have good groups of students that are pretty well motivated and fun to be around.
On Friday we had a Halloween carnival and dance here. Many of the kids and teachers dressed up for the day. I did not have a costume, but I worked at the carnival. Unfortunately, due to weather, the DJ couldn't make it in from Bethel, which meant they had to use the gym's PA speakers and a student's iPod as an alternative. Between the sound and the smell, I didn't spend a ton of time at the dance.
I've been playing some hoops with some of the kids, including a long game of 3 on 3 yesterday. Hence today I am feeling very sore, broken, and past my prime. Good exercise though.
The weather here has had a lot of fog and low skies. People traveling to/from here have had delays which can last several days. Finally today we had a relatively clear, sunny, and very nice day. So, I got out on my lunch break and snapped a few photos of Nelson Island and the ice floes of the Ningaluk River. Sadly, I haven't seen any seals yet, or really much wildlife out and about. Or Russians. But I'll let you know if I do, you betcha.
Lastly, a story I hesitate to tell. I thought it was kind of strange, but at first I didn't pay it much mind. A couple of the older ladies around the school and community here have been asking me if I'd met any women here at Newtok. It seems like once or twice a day, I get "Hi Brian! Meet anybody yet?" One woman even suggested putting me up in a raffle for the Halloween carnival. (Which was NOT done, by the way) I started to really wonder where this was all coming from. Well well well, come to find out that one of my esteemed co-workers decided to have a little fun at the expense of yours truly. So, they went ahead and spread word prior to my arrival that the new teacher was looking to meet a lady and settle down in a village. Ahh nice play there. That's alright though. Anybody who was ever on the Lancer Wrestling Team knows that when it comes to practical jokes, I don't ever get even.