Friday, January 30, 2009

Clean Jeans and the One-Eyed Chihuahua

Yesterday was my Clean Jeans day. When I head out to a village, I bring 2 pairs of blue jeans. One packed, and one being worn. So after a week and a half comes Clean Jeans day. I usually celebrate on Clean Jeans Eve by taking one of my bi-weekly showers* in anticipation of the joyous splendor that is a folded and clean pair of blue Levis.

*The bi-weekly shower thing...It's not because I'm a filthy slob. Out in alot of the villages, water is precious and scarce. We drink purified snow at the house where I'm currently staying. Moving on!

For me this day had particular meaning on this particular go around. I don't want for this to become a complaining rant, but I'll say this for perspective: Usually my classes are viewed by students as a new thing, a chance to gain useful life skills, and, oh, here's a word-an OPPORTUNITY. But here, something is amiss. I don't know what it is, but a good many of my students would just as soon use this opportunity as something to wipe their butts with. Effort and punctuality seem more like abstract thoughts than anything else.

So, after what I can only call a lowsy day on Wednesday, I was really ready for this Clean Jeans day to sort of cleanse myself of the residual bad feelings that came from my day's struggles.

Along comes Thursday. I arrive with clean duds and smelling good. Feeling good. My breakfast of instant mashed potatoes and summer sausage and coffee is treating me well. Class begins....

The day full of apathetic, lazy, flippant, shut-down, grab-asstical behavior of the school day was too much, and I had a pounding headache by the time class ended at 5:00. It was what I call the headache of unhappiness. How can people waste their opportunities so stupidly?

But at the end of the day, fortune smiled upon me with a reward. I was invited to the home of a couple of the teachers for dinner. They are notorious for being good cooks and gracious hosts.

When I walked in, I saw a pretty silly sight. It was a little tiny long-haired chihuahua named Honey which was winking as it regarded me with a cock-eyed glance and a kittywampus stance.

I came in and sat down. I made some comment Paula (one of the hosts)about that chihuahua and she went on to tell me it's story. She had adopted this pseudo-dog from an abused animal shelter. When she got it, it had no fur, because it was so flea-bitten and mangy. It had scabs and things all over its bare skin. The thing had been malnourished for so long that its teeth fell out. When it was fed, it was fed dry kibble, which it wasn't able to gum, so it was nearly starved to death. It had been kicked so hard that its eye was ruined and its head was misshapen. Likely because of the kick, it also suffered some neurological damage and has a hobbling walk to this day. When Paula got this dog, the people didn't really think it was going to make it.

But she took the dog in. It was so traumatized from its pathetic existence that Paula had to buy thick leather gloves in order to handle the animal while she helped mend it's health woes. It would bite and chew and scratch and struggle, but gradually, over time, she earned Honey's trust. After a year, the thing was still alive, and with hair. She took it to the vet and had its ruined eye taken care of and sewn shut so that it would no longer become infected or have tears constantly flooding from its tear ducts to wet the missing eyeball. It loves Paula, but is still pretty distrustful of others. She's the only person it lets pet it. They have a very large mutt named Kong, and this tiny little chihuahua bosses it around constantly.

For dinner we had parmesan chicken, corn, wild rice, mashed potatoes, salad, and homemade ice cream, and plenty of good fellowship in our dinner party of 6 teachers and 2 students. They even sent me a huge plate of leftovers for lunch today. By the way, that dog, Honey...goes wild if it hears the word "chicken" even if it was just whispered in another room. She loves chicken like fat kids love Twinkies.

When you get kicked, it's the friends you meet that get you through those tough days...

Friday, January 23, 2009

Man, So Scary!

A phrase you will hear about a hundred times a day out here is "Man, so (insert any adjective)." The phrase of the day is so scAAaary. That would be the reaction of any one of the girls in my driver education class as they embark on their first "drive" with the simulator I have set up here at Chief Paul Memorial School (home of the Falcons) in Kipnuk. With some of the panic stricken reactions I have seen here, you'd think this is the real thing. Thank goodness it's not, or else I would be demanding hazard pay. The best so far was a would-be left hand turn, where our pseudo-driver crossed over into the oncoming lanes, turned up the opposite side adjacent street's right turn lane into oncoming traffic where we were all met head on by an eighteen wheeler. It sort of reminded me of my first family vacation to South Dakota. Aye aye scary.

Things are getting moving here in Kipnuk. The first week is in the books, and it feels like there is too much to do and not enough time. If I'm not at school, I'm generally eating or else asleep. Hopefully we reach our goals.

In other village news, our girls high school basketball team was supposed to travel to Scammon Bay to compete in a tournament this weekend. But, of course, the weather caused their charter plane to cancel. Likewise, the Falcons were to host a middle school tournament today and tomorrow, but the other teams couldn't make it yet. As of now, the high school girls time is scrimmaging the middle school girls. It's up in the air as to who will win. The gym is on the other side of the wall from this room and the floor/wall/ceiling/lights all shake with every burst down the court. So loud.

So long.

Monday, January 19, 2009


It took a whole week, but me and all the stuff are now out in Kipnuk. Our weather decided to go ahead and stay ridiculous for just a little while longer. We had plenty of freezing rain, and then rain on top of that, which made the act of coming to a complete stop a thing of the past in Bethel. I didn't do any driving in this stuff, but was on a couple of hairy rides around town. And if it wasn't rain, it was wind. Have you ever said this to the driver of the vehicle you are in?: "hey, watch out for that sheet of corrugated steel that's flying at us." I have. Apparently high winds and freezing rain are even worse for air travel.

Because of the hot and weird weather, the K-300 was actually postponed. The start time was moved all the way back to Sunday at noon. Sadly, due to a variety of slow-ups, including my giving up on people coming/not being bundled up when they arrived, we missed the start. Even worse than missing the start was the disappointment of Erin at having missed the start. She assumed the darker, sinister twin of hers which I call Grumpelstiltskin. I hadn't seen anything like that since we took a road trip and I was slow to understand something called the Thumb-O-Meter. But that's another story. The point is that we were on disappointment level orange.

Fortunately, not all was lost. The K-300 is not the only race that takes off from Bethel each year. We were in time to see the start of the Bogus 150, but it was too cool out for us to wait another hour to see the start of the Akiak Dash. For me, the experience was still great. It was amazing to see how excited some of the dogs were to be able to run. I never made it up to the Beargrease when I lived in northern Wisconsin, so just seeing the teams in action made quite an impression. Erin and Macy seemed happy to see it too, especially Macy. I held her pudgy little rump up where she could see the teams of dogs. She looked and shook. Erin says that Macy gets big ideas and dreams big after the K-300. So we were having a better time at this point. I still wasn't about to hand Erin a flamethrower.

I think the end of the race would be even better to see. Maybe some other time. I do hope Erin and Macy find a way to make it there tomorrow for the finish. She was sweet enough, despite everything, to bring me a delicious cheeseburger. Erin, that is. Macy gave me nothing but bad attitude.

A few doggie pics, and then that's enough for today, I need to make a good impression in the morning. I would have some better pictures, but for some reason my camera decided to have a mind of its own when the race started.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Doesn't Look Too Good For Flying Today

Well here I am, back in Bethel. Erin, Macy and myself got in on Saturday afternoon. We spent a couple of days in Anchorage where we were able to pick up some groceries at a tolerable price, and watch the Badgers rally back from an 0-2 deficit to out-puck the SeaWolves 3-2. It was about as cold in Anchorage as you have it now in Wisconsin, but not mind-numbingly cold like Bethel was. Luckily we missed the nasty cold snap of Bethel for the most part, just catching the tail-end of it on Saturday.

Getting out of the cold stretch has presented me with a new problem: warm weather. That's right. It's too dang warm for me to do my job. Here's the rub: Monday I was to charter to my next village assignment, Kipnuk. I went through the usual routine of hauling a cube van full of gear and equipment out to Yute Air, having pizza at Brother's upstairs, sitting around and waiting. They called me, we got on the plane. We taxied (sp?) out to the runway, at which point the pilot took off the headset, used a mid-level expletive, and taxied back over in front of Yute. We were called back because other planes were icing up in the freezing fog.

So I went back in and sat down and waited for an hour or two before falling asleep. Eventually a young lady tapped my knee, giggled at whatever look must have been on my face as I woke up, and told me we were canceled and I should go home. Feeling a little under the weather, this wasn't the worst news I'd had. Nothing compared to the Christmas Flying Catastrophe of 12/21/08.

Tuesday I stayed home sick. Ironically, planes were flying to the beat of the band on Tuesday but I was in bed where I needed to be.

Wednesday: Freezing rain and temps in the low to mid 30s turned Bethel into a skating rink. Schools were closed because the buses couldn't get out of their parking area. If you drove over 10 MPH, you were going too bloody fast. Kipnuk had a blizzard warning. The phrase of the day was "We're still on weather hold. Call us back in maybe an hour."

And ditto for today. Freezing rain towards Kipnuk, and a runway full of glare ice in Bethel. Who knows when I'll get out. I just accept the fact that there isn't a damn thing I can do about it other than stay comfortable and wait for it to pass. Kind of like this darn cold I have. I focus on the positive in that I get to recuperate at home instead of away.

It turns out I may be in town to see the start to the K-300 afterall.