Saturday, February 28, 2009

Two Really Long Left Feet

Yesterday provided me with yet another friendly reminder that I am and always have been a clumsy oaf with regards to recreational activities which rely on a sense of balance. My mental filing clerk brought up old memories of youth outings to the Rollerdrome, drinking lots of fountain soda and playing arcade games because I was sick of falling down and crashing into walls. One time I even fell out the open back door of the place, spilling out of the dark roller rink into broad daylight.

I never got into the skater fad of the late 80s/early 90s. Partly because it was dumb, but mainly because I couldn't skateboard my way out of a wet paper bag.

I rollerbladed one time in our gym class at LaFollette. Once was plenty.

In that same gym class, we did a lot of cross country skiing. I actually kind of enjoyed it, despite the fact that I fell down constantly. To this day I have never made it skiing down a hill of any magnitude without falling down.

One time this winter I almost did. I was with Erin and Macy in Oscarville, and I went down a little hill and was doing really good. I wasn't flailing my arms or anything. But, directly in front of me Erin had decided to stop in the middle of the trail and stand there talking about her dog. I had to bail in order to not completely blast into them. And there went my one moment of not falling down a hill.

I've always been envious of those who go downhill skiing and snowboarding because it looks so unbelievably fun. But based on my experiences with waterskis, wakeboards and snowboards, I know that will never happen for me. If I ever attempted downhill skiing, it would almost certainly cause lots of pain, humiliation, and X-rays.

I only mention all this, because yesterday after school, Dirk and I decided to load up a bunch of clips of 22 shells, ski out to the dump and shoot stuff. The dump here is a wasteland of dead appliances and snowmachines jutting out of the tightly packed snow.

I only fell down a couple of times on the way there.

I think it's pretty cool that all the way out here there is a small wind farm. With all the wind out on the coast here, I don't know why there aren't more of these things in place.

Last weekend when we were ice fishing, I could hear the whoosh whoosh of the blades of these
turbines slicing the wind into pieces. Much quieter than the diesel powered generators though.

After come cathartic plinking of things in the dump, Dirk's dog Katja was getting cold and we were windblown, so it was time to head back. Back down the hill. I watched him go first, and it looked like fun, cruising effortlessly down a gentle slope, gaining some speed. In no time he was about 1/4 mile away, down at the bottom.

I made it about 100 feet before I fell. I was actually pretty happy. This was a personal best. I got back up, and made it about 100 more feet before falling again, this time a little harder. When I got back up, I was on enough of a decline that I started to slide right away. Boom. Repeat that 2 more times. Finally, I was on a flat spot where I could regain footing and attempt the rest of the hill, which I fell on only once. By the way, when I call this a hill, that's an exaggeration really. It's nothing more than a gentle slope. Sad sad sad!!!

Earlier in the week Dirk had mentioned going to ski this hill behind the village.

Sounds like fun. Looks like fun. But, I really think I'd be be a lot better off with a sled on this one. I'll probably try it anyways.

Monday, February 23, 2009

A Quick Fishing Report

After watching an exciting fly fishing DVD on Saturday night, Dirk and I were primed with the urge to catch some fish. Sunday it was decided that we'd make it happen. Dirk borrowed a snow-go and sled from a coworker, and called up some students to be our "guides." Our target fish was the tomcod.

Out in the bay was a nice view of the cliffs. The students like to "high point" these on their snow machines, running up and down the gradual, sloping spots like a huge half pipe.

The route around the ice out there needed to be chosen wisely to go around and over all the compression cracks. It is not exactly flat ice...

Using a stick with some string and a jig tipped with a small strip of smelt, I was able to catch over a dozen tomcod. A couple of them were around 12-14 inches, and the rest were smaller. Everybody was having some action.

Everybody had a pretty good time, especially the kids.

Saturday, February 21, 2009


Already one week of this next stop is over and done with. Today I sit in the village of Toksook Bay (OOK if by air), in Nelson Island School, home of the Islanders. I give it a big "so far, so good."

The students are pretty motivated, interested, bright, friendly and fun. I have 5 groups, and time flies by with each class. So far my main worry is whether or not I can cover all of the content that I would like to. It's going to be tough.

This place has the most topography and beauty of any of the villages I have seen thus far. There is a range of very large hills (volcanoes) and of course the ocean is very close by. The school itself has an interesting layout, and some traditional crafts and artwork displayed inside, which gives it some character.

There are actually living quarters at this school, put here for itinerant teachers such as myself. But, they are in the midst of a few projects here involving generators, plumbing and electrical systems which means they have several workers from out-of-town here in the village. Interestingly enough, I got to talking with one of the workers here, and it turns out he's from Wascott, WI of all places. I drove right past his house many times on the way to one of my favorite fishing holes when I was living in Gordon. The Improbability Generator says it's a small world afterall.

So, the living spaces here in the school are all occupied. I was offered my choice of classrooms to sleep in at night, which is every bit as appealing as it sounds. Fortunately, I met a fellow here named Dirk Martin, who is a good friend of my good friend Erin. Dirk very graciously offered to have me over to crash in his living room, which beats the heck out of sleeping in a classroom any way you look at it. I'm having a good time staying with somebody of a similar age group and agreeable mindset. Thursday night we feasted on halibut, which I think I could happily eat every day if I had to.

Yesterday I was supposed to fly in to Bethel for inservice. "Weather permitting" is something that I guess you are required to say at the end of discussing travel plans. It's like saying "Amen" after a prayer. Or "suck" after "the new york yankees." The point being, I didn't get in to Bethel due to fog. I participated in our inservice via a polycom thing, which we use for distance delivery of classes from Bethel to villages. Basically, I sat in the school with a TV connected via internet with a little camera on me, and tried to approximate the experience of an inservice. Halfway through, the internet connection was lost. By the time it came back on, I had no frame of reference for what was going on. I could have buzzed in and asked what they were doing. But when you tune back into an activity and find that everybody is cutting out little pictures of women in dresses, sometimes it's best to not ask.

Tonight hopefully Dirk and I are going to get up on the hills, and I'll hopefully get some photos of the natural beauty here to share with you all. Weather permitting. I'm going to get out of the school now and enjoy the rest of the day. Moreso than one of the workers, who is yelling and cussing up a blue streak in here. Do you think it's the one from Douglas County, WI?

Could be....

Friday, February 13, 2009

Play Day

You know it's time for a day off and some relaxation when you are excited to spend an entire day in the company of somebody who: has no thumbs, smells of lingering fish, and has a vocabulary consisting of grunts, huffs, and woofs.

On Wednesday night, Macy's mom dropped her off with a backpack full of toys and supplies, and specific feeding instructions. Erin kind of reminded me of a parent sending their child off to that first day of kindy-garden. Eventually we cut the cord, and Erin blazed a trail to Oscarville on her Ski-Doo.

Macy was kind of a pain on Wednesday night. She was a little restless without her mom, pacing and chewing on sheets. In the morning she heard the voice of Jimmy out in the kitchen. In the kitchen, Macy likes to corner Jimmy with her sad, beckoning eyes and rope him into giving her treats. It works every time. He's powerless to it. Jimmy's voice is to Macy as the bell is to Pavlov's dogs. This nonsense began early in the morning on my play day. OUR play day. During which, by the way, this little con artist managed to get herself a piece of steak, a leftover pork chop, and several pieces of cheese. Shameless she is.

After Macy calmed down, we got to sleep in, which felt realllllllly nice. I got up and cooked us some breakfast. (yes, she got an egg too) Our day was filled with games of frisbee, rope, loofa doggie and blanket monster. In between dogsports, I had many cups of tea in hopes of thwarting this illness which seems to afflict nearly everybody I have seen in the past couple of weeks.

When we weren't playing, Macy assumed a sentinel role, protecting the house from any would-be intruders.

Sleep well tonight, people. Macy is on point.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Doggy Day-Care

This past Friday was the conclusion of my Kipnuk effort. Things there did not go as I would have liked. I guess that place has kind of a reputation, and people on the homefront expected it would be a tough go for me out there. It would have been easy, except for the fact that I care. Caring can really wear on a person sometimes. By the time Saturday the 7th came I was so ready to get out and move on.

The weather had different plans.

You just have to take that as it comes. I mean, look how long it took me to get to Kipnuk. Travels back only took one extra day. I got to go have a nice breakfast (and dinner after the planes couldn't fly) with Kris and Paula (plus Honey the Chihuahua and Kong the Big Mutt) on the day of my extended sojourn. Silver linings, people...

But it is good to be back. I'm enjoying the plush living conditions at the Tundra Oasis, including: Smoke-free living quarters, running water, flush toilets, and above 60 degree ambient indoor temperatures 24/7. It's good to be pampered. We had steak dinner at the TO on Sunday to celebrate the return to Bethel. I have been able to make some headway in the office this week. Tonight Erin is running some errands in Bethel and will be bringing my little buddy Macy along.

She's going to leave Macy in my custody for a sleepover, and then tomorrow I'm taking a day off and Macy and I will be having a play day, which we are both looking forward to. I'll let you know all about it.