Sunday, December 28, 2008

To and Fro

Well, we made it.

Those ridiculous storms in and around the Seattle area were the bane of many itineraries, including those of myself and Erin and Macy. This is how it felt, just so you know:

When we loaded up and flew from Bethel to Anchorage on the night flight on the 20th, everybody on the plane was so excited. Just about everybody on that bird worked either for LKSD or else YKHC, and we were all on cloud number 9 thinking about the vacations lying ahead.

Once we'd all de-planed at Ted Stevens Int'l and had a chance to eat at Chilis and then look at the boards, only to see that our late night connections into Seattle were cancelled, we all were deflated. I think a few times I actually saw people look at the board and heard the audible sound of a balloon being let go.

When we waited in the customer service line for an hour, only to find out that the soonest our flight could be rescheduled would be on the 25th....well that was kind of like being slapped upside the head with a cold dead carp. THWACK!!

Throw in some personal problems, and add to that the fact that my friend Macy (Erin's dog) was puking constantly, all night long, and you get a couple of haggard and emotionally drained travelers in Erin and I.

Luckily we made the decision early on to try and make the best of it. So, we got a free flight back to square one, Bethel. From there we were able to have fun with friends, do some skiing and snow machining and eat some nice meals and enjoy not having to work.

Take 2 of Return to Wisconsin went quite well, everything was on time or else early. We got to Madison around 8:30 pm on the 25th and everybody slept like a stone at the Rendall house. The next day, the 26th, we headed to Racine and I un-stored the pickup. What a feeling it was and is to be able to drive my pickup after it sat for all those months. I think the Chevy was really happy to see me too.

From Racine, Erin, Macy and I headed up to Kaukauna to Mary & Jerry Kavanaugh's home. We went out for some terrific fish, and the next day I stayed for part of the Kavanaugh family christmas fun as I waited for the fog to improve. (which it did not) The Kavanaughs really made me feel at home with their fun, hospitality and conversations. There were a couple of exciting moments, but overall everyone had a nice time, and I was thankful to have been a part of it all.

Today my family and I finally got to celebrate our Christmas. We had more delicious food, fun, racket and chaos. Also, a couple of exciting moments. I always have kind of thought that my family was nuts. And we may be that. But this holiday I've sort of come more to realize that any family worthy of membership would and should appear a little crazy to an outsider, and totally nutso to a sane person. So I'd suppose mine qualifies and I'm glad for it. Traveling 4,000 miles with travel hiccups was completely worth its reward.

Hopefully it was for the rest of you weary travelers out there too.

Monday, December 15, 2008


I've been struggling here for days. I am really at a loss, disenfranchised, disillusioned, disheartened....disgusted. It just kills me. I mean....$161,000,000 for SEVEN FREAKING YEARS are you kidding me??!?! Baseball was really getting to be great. Not just because the Brewers made the playoffs last year. Not just because we have aspirations of doing it again, either. Over the past few years, the Yankees finally butted out of the scene (success-wise) and October mystique came back. Now Junior Steinbrenner is out to wreck it all over again. I hope CC finds success in new york, but not as much as I hope that that ridiculous contract comes around to bite the yankees in the ass.

I have but one more day teaching class here in Chefornak. It seems like a long time I've been here, due largely, I'm sure, to the fact that this visit has been drawn out longer, punctuated by a couple of sorties into town and several little adventures.

Thoughts on CYF:

Interesting people here. Folks are friendly and there are definitely some characters about. Not the easiest groups of students I've taught, but by and by I think we accomplished a good amount. I had to cancel my morning class today, as I had no students. They had flown to Newtok (boys) and Toksook Bay (girls) for basketball tournaments on Friday, and got weathered in up until today. Shamans basketball had a pretty good weekend on the court, by the way.

Speaking of weather, the wind can really rip out here, as I had mentioned earlier. Yesterday we had it blowing steady 50-60 for a while. People like to tell me about a couple years ago when it gusted 100. The seal hat does an unbelievably great job of cutting that wind.

The staff here is a pretty good mix, personality wise. I came to feel like part of the group, and this past weekend was even invited over for some delicious meals and fun games. I would have liked to spend another weekend here and hone my dominoes game, but there's always next time.

The store here, Chefearmute (aka Store) is quite the place. There are, of course, plenty of things you can't get there. Which makes the things you can get there that much more surprising. I treated us to some Dunkin Donuts coffee from Store. And, they have about any kind of candy there you could want. I got an ABBA-ZABA there tonight. I thought those things were long long gone. They also have Zagnut bars. Who'da thunk?

Aesthetically, this village is a looker compared to many. There is actually some topography in the form of Tern Mountain, which, sadly, I never made it out to. The ocean is very close, and when there is a clear sky (fairly uncommon) the sunsets are neat to look at. I'm going to be a double camera clown and post some pics of tonight's too. The reason being, when I looked out and saw it it nearly blew my face off. Pictures never do anything justice though, as we all know.

Well tomorrow classes come to a close, then Wednesday it's time to shine it and ship it.


Friday, December 12, 2008

Come See the Tundra Oasis Christmas Cabaret!! One night only!

These are the roomates at the TO, and this is how we celebrate the holidays. I guess.


Sunday, December 7, 2008

It's a Wonderful Saturday Inservice

This past weekend I flew back to Bethel for my 2nd of 5 fly-in Saturday inservices. I've yet to meet a teacher who likes inservices. Across the profession, people harbor various levels of hatred for an inservice.

As I sat there I started to ponder on what life would be like if this inservice had never been mandated. With my mind's eye I saw myself wandering the icy boardwalks of Chefornak, alone and cold, taking with me only the small comfort of anticipation of a can of Nalley chili that awaited me upon return to my quarters. Afterwards I came to realize that I was glad to be at inservice instead of in that sad little daydream. It got me a free trip in to Bethel, where I got to (briefly) see friends. We had a nice lunch served. I was learning a few new tricks, and besides...I would have been working on Saturday anyways.

At about the time I came to this acceptance of the inservice, I really was perturbed by what took place before me. The presenter was showing us how to use an online resource that brought forth myriad teaching materials, and a lot technical things that would relate directly to what I teach. But, I don't know how to use it, or really what the presenter said at all. That is because 2/3 of the people in the room were getting up and leaving to go catch their planes (which were on weather hold anyways.) And, they were talking about all of their plans and griping about the weather hold, worrying aloud about how they would get back home. All while somebody gave a presentation. I've seen teachers display the undesirable characteristics of their classes in the past, but this took the cake. It's one thing to hate inservice, and another to be plain rude about it. I'll bet Jimmy Stewart would agree.

I had a nice flight back to CYF. It was clear and sunny and crisp outside. From the air, the tundra looked like a black and white painting done by a lunatic. It was very easy to tell from looking which direction the winds blew last Wednesday.

I snapped a couple pictures of the awesome color spectrum that comes from a good sunset here. The bump on the horizon is Tern Mountain, which I am hoping to take a trip out to while I'm here.

Have a nice week, everybody. And for the folks back home...It is only 2 weeks before I get to come visit!! I am so excited to get to see you all soon. Especially the newest addition to the youngest nephew Evan, born this past Monday morning.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Turkeys, Blizzards and Vomit

Once again, a delayed posting. There has been a little excitement, but maybe not completely what we were after.

The week before Thanksgiving I had a pretty cool opportunity. My bosses approved my attendance of a conference in Anchorage. This time it was for the Alaska Association of Career and Technical Educators, and I was pretty excited for it. I was given a choice of "strands" which I could sign up for. The strand is basically a topic of certain seminars, and my choice was Alternative Energy Sources. It was to take place at the University of Alaska Anchorage campus in their Automotive and Diesel Lab. I was pretty excited for all the neat things I would be learning. As an added bonus, I would be receiving a college credit for attending all the sessions and writing an essay about it.

So the day came, and I flew into Anchorage, excited about my next four days. Once we landed, Jan, my co-worker, and I got her rental car and went and got some Thai food. Afterward, she went to attend her first strand, while I checked into my room at the Sheraton to rest a couple hours before I would be picked up and taken to my class in the evening.

A couple of hours later, it became obvious that the plans had changed. I found myself yawning in Taiwanese technicolor. Talking to Ralph on the big white phone. Nothing would stay down and I couldn't go anywhere. The plans had changed? The plans were totally screwed, that's what they were.

The next day I dragged my sorry kiester to the conference, despite my internal doctor's orders. The fact is, I went because this organization was refunding the school district for our air fare to Anchorage IF I attended at least 15 hours worth of sessions. So I needed to go, but I got about as much out of it as I would get from listening to Russian folk ballads. Less, probably. Unless we're talking about misery. Then it's back to about equal.

The next day, Friday, I manned up again, although it was easier this time. I actually ate a couple of normal meals on Friday. I still was nowhere near full strength. Saturday I finally got to attend a strand at the UAA campus again, and it was great. It made me even more sad that I had to miss the big class on Wednesday. As for that college credit-forget it. No chance, move on. Boy was I glad that trip was over with.

The next week, I finally made it back to Napaskiak and Oscarville to proctor the driving tests from Way Back When. I stayed over in Oscarville at Erin's on Tuesday, and took Wednesday off so that I could partake in the Thanksgiving Feast at Qugcuun School in Oscarville. We had turkey, caribou, potatoes and gravy, pie and juice. It was delicious, and a good warm-up for the official Turkey Day.

After the feast, we headed up to Bethel on snow machines up the frozen river. We stayed at the Tundra Oasis on Wednesday night and on Thursday got up to watch the Lions keep the dream of a perfect season alive, and with panache. Then we all sat down and enjoyed a Thanksgiving feast. Turkey, ham, potatoes, stuffing, corn and dessert were all served. We made pigs of ourselves and then snacked on leftovers. I love Thanksgiving!!! I did miss the family meal, but what we had at the Tundra Oasis was an acceptable substitution by Bethel standards.

The rest of the weekend was filled with rest, relaxation, fun, snow machine rides, sledding, and more rest and relaxation. Of course, all good things must end, and on Sunday I had to fly back out here to Chefornak, and even worse, I had to get back to work.

Yesterday we had ourselves quite a blizzard here. The winds were blowing 50-60 mph and it was a white out. If you opened the door, it started snowing inside the house. This morning we awoke to warm weather (mid 30s,) rain, and slush everywhere.

I'd post some pictures of Chefornak, but I don't have any. Whenever I've had time for photography, the picture would be a white and gray mess. Maybe next week I can post something for you to look at. Right now I'm ready for a turkey nap.