Wednesday, April 22, 2009

We Saw Us A Critter!!

Not a heckuva lot to report here in KWT right now. Classes are in full swing, and with the great weather we've had over the past 10 days, student attendance is the #1 obstacle I'm facing. The calendar is a distant second.

Last Saturday Erin and Joel (roomate at the TO) rode their snow-gos up here to get me, and we rode on down to Bethel for the evening. I was able to do a little laundry and pick up some fruit and veggies to bring back to the village to share.

Sunday on the ride back we saw a big ol' lynx running across the river in front of us. It stopped on the edge and gave us a withering glare before turning away to the woods.

We've had even warmer temps this week, up to about 40, and last night and today some rain. It's making things a sloppy slushy mess, and the hikes just don't sound as appealing.

Spring was nicer when it wasn't so springy.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Touch of Spring Fever

Each evening in Kwethluk has been sunny, and they've gotten warmer by the day. It's light until 10:30, and it would be a pity to waste the daylight. I've been doing some hiking and exploring in and around the village. Here is some of the evidence:

This is from the Kwethluk River, an offshoot of the Kusko. That burnt-orange looking thing in the upper left corner is the school.

This is what I believe to be called Birch Hill. It was a nice hike out to it, and the panorama from atop made it worth the while.

Ahh, spring!!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


The busy, needed, and fun-filled week in Bethel is over. And what fun it was...

The first weekend back, I went out manaaq-ing for the 2nd time in my life. The first was out in Toksook Bay, this time was down river from Bethel at the confluence of the Kuskokwim and Johnson rivers. Don't worry, the ice was plenty thick. How thick? Well, we drilled as far as the hand-auger would go, and still needed to work hard with a pick to get through the rest. Luckily, after a couple of holes were drilled with much effort, a nice Native man came over with a power auger and blasted several holes for us, so all we had to do was pick through the last 4 inches or so. It was about 4-5 feet thick.

Having holes, we moved on to the fishing, which meant using a stick with some line, a heavy jig tipped with a pike eyeball, some jigging and some patience. Our group got several pike, I got 3 myself.

Another thing I'll be missing out here is some of that fancy home cooking at the TO. Here's John displaying a pan of brownies Jimmy made.

Now I'm at Ket'acik Aap'alluk Memorial School (Home of the Kings) in Kwethluk (KWT). Classes will begin this afternoon. I went out for a nice long walk last night, and there were lots of people out walking around enjoying the beautiful weather. (It was clear, calm, sunny, and zero)

There are trees here that are taller than me, which is a refreshing change.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

So Long, Boiler Room

This past Friday was the day for me to skedaddle from Kongiganak, aka Donkey Kong, aka Kongiganak, pronounced in the traditional, non-kassaq way. Normally I like to do these departure things on Saturdays, as there are tons of SNAFU possibilities when traveling, and having the whole day as a buffer for them is helpful. But this time I had my final inservice of the year to attend in Bethel on Saturday, so Friday afternoon we made a go of it. More on that in a bit.

How was Kong? I'm sure that's on everyone's minds. Kong was ok. There, I've said it. Positives first: I met, as always, some kind and friendly staff and locals there. I had a nice comfy living area up amongst the ductwork. I was so used to the hum up there, I was kind of sleepless my first night back in Bethel. Kind of like missing the sound of the trains at night in Gordon, WI, which I do. There was a pretty nice (clean) kitchen to use at the school, and even an open shelf in the fridge where I could keep my perishables. Oh, and they let me have a key to the school. Some places like to hem and haw about borrowing me a key to use while I'm there. Some make me sign my life away on a sheet of paper. Some pretend not to have any or know their whereabouts. Some just refuse. Anything besides giving me a key right away is stupid. Kong passed the B.R. Key Loan Intelligence Test.

Not-so-positives: My classes were all taught after school hours at Kong. This meant that my day was spent doing prep work, reading, conversing with friends, etc. I'd much prefer to teach in the day and be done in the evenings. The kids like it better that way, too. The thing is, they have a choice, and several chose to drop out of the classes, since staying enrolled would involve being at school until 8:30 at night. It gets frustrating having kids drop out of your program, especially since it's an opportunity they haven't had before, and may not have again. On the plus side, the students that stuck it through were dedicated.

Also, the facilities had a couple issues. With pretty much every village I go to, it's a given that there will be some civil construction project, with construction workers living out of the school, cramping my itinerant lifestyle big time. At this one, there was actually a temporary living place near the jobsite for all these guys to live, with most of the necessary amenities. The one thing they were missing out there was showering and laundry facilities. Not to worry, as Kong has a washeteria for them to take care of their needs. But, the day I arrived in Kongiganak was the day the washeteria burnt up and the music died. Doing hygiene, for me, meant waiting til stupid hours of the night for this parade of workers to be done in the only men's bathroom in the school.

Speaking of the men's bathroom, special thanks to the kid, who every 3 days or so would go in there and piss all over the place. Oops, I almost forgot to thank his buddy, the kid with the bloody nose who leaves blood on the floor, sinks, and walls.
Every school should have staff facilities, separate from everybody else's.

I suppose at this time I should cut to the chase and discuss the travel back. My charter plane was scheduled to arrive to get me at 4 PM on Friday. I had the maintenance man help me get the gear onto the sled and out to the runway 15 minutes early, just to be safe. The weather was about 5 degrees, wind about 20 knots. Not too bad. But, by the time the plane showed up at 5:20 I was kind of cold. Evidently the airline had me down for 4/7 instead of 4/3. When my ride went to pick me up at the airport in Bethel and asked about my flight, they made the panic face and scrambled to send a plane out for me. Not only that, but in the meantime a big A.T.S. twin prop cargo plane showed up and was taking up most of the taxi area, which meant I had to move all the stuff from the usual loading spot. Moving all the gear over to my plane across glare ice without spikes was a tricky, backbreaking pain in the posterior.

After loading up, it was a cold, drafty, noisy ride home. I got the plane with the really bad doors this time. I always have earplugs in my coat, largely due to the possibility of sometime having to ride in this particular plane. It pays off...

Arriving at Yute Air so late in the day, nobody was there besides the employees. My ride/box van was nowhere to be found. After I called the TO for a ride, then my coworker showed up all stressed out about the whole thing. So I had 2 rides show up. Right away, the scheduled driver said how they had to cancel an appointment to get me so late. Since they were the same person who set up my flight, I informed them that I had been sitting at the runway for an hour and a half, what the #@&* happened to 4:00?? Who knows how one can mess up the difference between Friday 4/3 and Tuesday 4/7. Soon enough I was at the TO, wolfing tacos for dinner, and Donkey Kong was just another one for the books.