Friday, December 10, 2010

Waq-aa From Chaputnguak School

So here I am in Chefornak, CYF, Home of the Shamans with what could be the last post of the semester. It's flown right by just as they all do.

I'm enjoying being back in Chefornak, and have really enjoyed catching up with the people I met and taught here two years ago. I have a couple of small but hard-working and dedicated classes of students to work with in my short time remaining.

I haven't made it out to get any photos lately due to a littany of excuses, ranging from it being pitch dark out, it's a blizzard, it's cold, or my latest and greatest excuse, I don't feel good. That's right, I finally caught the crud and hopefully I get it shook before heading home.

Hopefully too I can get out to take in some of the sunrises/sunsets here, because Chefornak has some of the best around. Likewise, I'm looking forward to the meteor shower Monday night. AND most of all, looking forward to seeing friends and family in Wisconsin!!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Turkey and Ketchup

So hopefully you all enjoyed a Thanksgiving feast as good as what we had yesterday. You wouldn't suppose that a bachelor pad like ours would put on a such a good Thanksgiving spread. Some folks assume a house full of bachelors doesn't even have Thanksgiving dinner but of course we do, and we do it up well. The trick is to have many pitch in and make what they are good at, and have guests that can make dessert. This year I decided to call up Mom and get a couple recipes from her to help our feast seem more like what I remember from back home. The corn hot dish was great, and my first crack at making real homemade gravy was a big hit. Add to that a carefully made 20 lb turkey with bratwurst stuffing, persimmon pudding, pumpkin desserts, green beans, garlic bread, locally grown mashed potatoes and homemade cranberry sauce, and it all adds up, we ate like kings. No ketchup on the turkey of course. That's for the after dinner conversation, catching up....

I came in from Newtok with a sore back, empty camera and heavy heart. Sore back just from sleeping on an air mattress for weeks. Empty camera, much to my dismay, because I thought I'd forgotten it at home. Here it turns out I put it in the pocket of a pair of blue jeans I never got around to wearing. So there were lots of pics I would have liked to take but it didn't work out. Too bad because I could have shown the difference 2 years worth of erosion makes from last time I was out there. Walking out to The Point is a lot shorter of a hike these days. And there would have been what I think is a hilarious photo session in the school kitchen, but once again, you can't take pictures with a camera you don't know you have.

The heavy heart came from a total disaster there where a man and his two sons lost their lives when their machine went through the ice near the village. Although I didn't know the man, and the little boys I'd only met in the halls, nobody with an ounce of humanity in their heart wouldn't have felt anguish at the thought of what had occurred. I don't know how else to put it other than it was a sad, sad deal.

Back in Bethel it seemed winter had officially arrived, and I got the Ski Doo ready to ride. I got to take it to work 3 times before the weather got warm and it started to rain, wrecking all the snow and turning the close-to-being-safe Kuskokwim into more of a pre-breakup state. The hoped-for Thanksgiving caribou hunt wasn't to be, and as such, I see no opportunities on the near horizon. I don't mind winter weather, but I'd like for it to make up its mind and simply be winter, freeze up solid and let the fun begin.

From here, the next step is to make it to Chefornak this Sunday. It proved a challenge this past mini-week which is why I'm still here. With luck I'll get out Sunday, work classes in high-gear, and make it back to Bethel in time to catch my jet home. It won't be long at all now before I get to share big hugs with dear family and friends. If you're among those I'll be seeing soon, then I'm looking forward to it more than you know. I'll try to have another ketchup from Chefornak before heading back to Wisconsin. Hopefully with pics next time.

Take care, be safe, and as always....Go Badgers.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Return of the Itinerant

Yes, people, I am back in Bethel. Back from Goodnews Bay, GNU, Home of the Bears. With my job, time really does fly. It feels like I just got out there, and that was 3 1/2 weeks ago. Already I'm back, with much work to do, and looking forward to my next journey, a return to Newtok.

Classes went decently, despite the fact that it's "Dividend Season" right now. Local readers will know what I mean, while people from Outside may not. October 7 was the magical date when the PFD dividends came out. When that happens, any number of things start to happen. For a teacher, it means that you're bound to have people missing from class sporadically because they go travel with the new money. You also may have students who are tired and sleepless because the dividend money was being drank in their house the night before. Despite these distractions we made some positive headway in class. Here are some of my Bear students working on a class project last Saturday. We welded a railing back into place in the school which had been cut out previously to allow room to move a large object up the steps.

Of course I found time to get out and do things outside at Goodnews too. Myself and Paul made several trips out on waterfowl hunts. We never had a big day, but never came back skunked either. Here's his dog Stella, having dutifully fetched for me my first mallard, a drake.

He's thawing out downstairs along with a few other ducks. I'm going to try out a tasty recipe involving duck breasts and jalapenos tomorrow, and am looking forward to it.

Last weekend my friend Dirk came and joined us out in Goodnews as well. He's a fly fishing aficionado and had contacted Paul and came out to experience the Goodnews River. Saturday I had to sit out, since I had classes going on. Sunday however, we had a great (albeit a bit chilly) trip up river quite a ways. It was a crisp morning boat ride, with shell ice on some of the banks, ice gleaming on low hanging branches from dipping/spray in the river. We saw lots of birds zipping around, deciding if it's time to stay or go, several eagles, and a brute of a brown bear. Once we arrived at the fishing hole, we were all stoked about the great boat ride, and agreed that the trip was worthwhile even if we got skunked fishing. (Which of course we did not!) We brought back a pile of dolly varden, and a few random rainbows and arctic grayling were also caught. I caught this beauty of a "dolly" on that day as well as 11 smaller ones. Looking forward to seeing them on my plate soon too.

My departure was Friday, and I wasn't so sure I'd get to Bethel at all. Bethel was fogged in most of the day. Saturday was forecast to be super windy, which held up it's end on that deal. I was a little worried, not that I didn't want to be out there anymore, but I really wanted to make it back so I could watch the Badgers beat up on Ohio State. Luckily I made it and didn't miss a play. And in my PO box was waiting for me my very own dividend check from Governor Sean Parnell. Quyana, Sean!!

What am I going to do with it? Buy plane tickets, of course.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

The Right Place At The Right Time

So this past Tuesday I flew back out to Goodnews Bay, this time on LKSD's dime, since I'm out here to get work done. I started classes on Wednesday, so we're basically just getting the ball rolling. I'm already excited about a couple of projects that lie ahead for my welding class. Some of my students are more excited about it than others. A couple are so excited they follow me around the school asking all kinds of questions, anxious about when they'll get to do this or that sort of welding activity. I hope that enthusiasm holds up when I put them to work on some metal fabrication.

I'm making an effort to eat better "itinerant food" this year. Packing up 3 weeks worth of chow in a box can mean taking in tons of salt, preservatives and lots of other not so good things. There's no getting around some of that, but I'm thinking that with a little smarter shopping and prep-ahead, I'll be doing the body some small favors.

Of course, me being me and all, it's not all work and no play out here in Goodnews. Thursday evening my friend Paul and I took his boat a little ways up the Goodnews River and set out a spread of goose, duck, and swan decoys. Unfortunately, that night the birds were moving, but we only got one to come within range. That one flew off safely, although he might have soiled his feathers for fear of the racket and steel balls whizzing past him.

When we got back to the village and were trailering up the boat, Paul apologized for the evening's lousy hunting. But check out these pictures I snapped from where I was sitting waiting for birds, and you'll see why I laughed and said the hunt was fine with me. And these you can click for bigness.

To one side was the river's mouth and the small ridge of mountains lit up by the low-level light of the setting sun, hovered by flying-saucer clouds.

To the other side was a real eyeball exploding event...the setting sun chasing, catching, and hiding behind Beluga Mountain. (named so because from the side it is shaped like a...)

So yeah, we didn't catch any birds Thursday. I'm kind of glad, though, because if the hunting had been good I wouldn't had time to sit back, take in and ponder the beauty the evening had to offer.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Don't Die With A Quiver Full Of Arrows

This blog has been a quiet place for months. I suppose most readers I had have given up on me and moved on. It's not that I haven't had stories to tell, just none I really felt compelled to broadcast to the world. So if you're still out there reading, here's a story for you and a simple thought to ponder.

For those not in the know, I flew back here to Bethel, AK on August 8th, landed in the cool rain and got to work the following day. It was awesome to see all my friends back home at the Tundra Oasis, and equally good to catch up with the friends I've made throughout the school district over the past two years at our district-wide inservice. I learned that all summer long, the weather was pretty much the same as I was seeing-rain, wind, and gray skies.

Soon enough, the two-day inservice drew to a close and I ran several sorties in an LKSD Suburban, transferring teachers out to the air carriers where they could embark on another (or their first) school year here. It was kind of bittersweet, knowing it would be some time before I got to see these fine folks again. It was time to get to the real work. The rain continued...

The "real work" is starting a bit differently this season. Normally I'd have shipped off to this or that village and started doing my itinerant routine after a week or so in town. This fall I've been positioned in Bethel, where I'm assisting with a building project at the local high school. Additionally, I've been teaching a welding class at the Bethel Youth Facility, the place where I ended out last school year putting on a Drivers Ed class. It's all well and good, but it's a change. I'm not used to spending this much time in Bethel, or in a town this size at all for that matter. City life just isn't really my thing.

I came to town this fall with aspirations of filling up a freezer with fish and birds, enjoying the harvests and our beautiful late summer days. But, not many people I knew were going out. Due to high waters and a reported "strange" run on the coho salmon, fishing reports were poor. Due to limited Bethel contacts, and some with malfunctioning equipment, fishing and bird hunting opportunities were scarce. Meanwhile I toil on in my work, feeling like I should be "out there" in the villages, doing what I do. Increasingly on my mind with each day are the friends and family I left behind back in Wisconsin. Could it be homesickness? I had a terrific summer and I miss it already. I become restless, tired from sleeping poorly at night and anxious with thoughts questioning the validity of this early autumn. And of course, it rains.

Closing in on Labor Day weekend with no plans besides rusting in the Bethel rain, I converse with my friend Paul out in Goodnews Bay, and we hatch a brilliant plan: I'll pack the gear, guns, and fishing rod, and fly on out there for a nice long weekend of hunting and fishing. The words "just what the doctor ordered" probably never fit so well.

I climbed aboard the Cessna 207, just the pilot and I, my gear, and a plane full of cargo being delivered to the village. The wind was really ripping on the coast, so the pilot opted for a different flight path bringing us up over the mountains that are to the east of Quinhagak and cutting over to Goodnews Bay that way, instead of taking a beating in the coastal winds on the usual bay cut-across route. He tells me this when he notices me peering over at the altimiter and watching it tick higher and higher. Eventually we reach a height of 4,600 feet, and are still not above the clouds where I know the mountains lurk. It was smooth sailing though, and soon enough we were over goodnews bay, where the pilot banked hard and corkscrewed us down towards the water to set us up for a landing. Approaching the airport, I could see my friends Chris and Amanda walking with their dogs and their baby boy, waving to me as I swooped in. I could see Paul on his four wheeler waiting to pick me up at the airport. I was already feeling good to be in a friendly place, and I wasn't even off the plane yet. Talking about the flight later on the river, Paul reminded me of the Far Side comic where they talk about the funny clouds with mountain goats in them. Fortunately, no rocky clouds today. As an aside, I have to say The Far Side has got to be bar none the funniest comic of all times.

After a little time to unload gear and settle in to my little shack, myself, Paul, and a student headed up river and got into some dandy salmon fishing. I don't want to make this a bragging board but I might as well show a picture of this brute coho I landed that day.

Later on as we gutted and cleaned the day's catch, we reminisced about the aggressive brown bear that harassed us last year. I pondered whether the borrowed .45 I had on my chest would be enough gun to dispatch such a bear if it became necessary. Paul's advice was "well, as they say, don't go die with a quiver full of arrows."

The next day we decided to focus on the waterfowl instead of the fish. We set out a spread of decoys and waited for the geese, Canadian cacklers and white-fronts. I'm happy to have finally bagged some, instead of having the birds fly off laughing at my efforts. It was a great hunt for me, despite the fact that we were sitting in the rain getting soaked, and didn't catch a ton of birds. It was a thrill to be out taking in the scenery, and watching Stella (Paul's Chesapeake Bay retriever) work on fetching us birds.

Sunday we decided to head back up river in some iffy weather and work on putting up some more salmon. Our perseverance was rewarded by calming winds, clearing and partially sunny skies, warmer weather and a nice catch of salmon. We even got a nice look at a good sized brown bear on the ride back to the village.

On Monday I caught the last flight into Bethel in gray rainy skies and dodgy flying weather. On that bumpy plane ride, for some reason I got to thinking back to our river discussion...that one about the quiver of arrows. I started thinking more and more about how it doesn't just apply to battlefield enemies, or throwing chunks of lead at an attacking bear. It's life. Everybody's got a full quiver of arrows. The real battles in life are in the day to day trenches, the challenges you face in your professional and your personal life. Your arrows are the good things that get you through it feeling whole and well on the inside. But they don't do you any good on your back...

For me, I was starting to feel kind of down and out, missing my loved ones, missing out on what I wanted to be doing, so I knocked an arrow and aimed for a weekend of hunting and fishing, "river therapy" in some pristine land.

And you know what? Despite the fact that it's a cold day here in Bethel, so windy that the rain is blowing sideways, and I spent the whole day in an inservice, and my truck is sitting at the office with a flat tire....I feel pretty darn good about things.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Thursday Night Sympony

Last night at around 130 AM I took a trip out to the outhouse. The air was as still as gear oil and about 55 Fahrenheit. My ears picked up on the faint call of loons on a distant lake. Soon the song was joined by calls from another pair on another lake. The song built to an eerie echoing crescendo that would have to be heard to be believed. As the echoes repeated and died away, responses came from two other directions, two other lakes. Before long there was a long distance, 4 way instant messenger filling the still night air. The calls gained intensity until the woods was ringing, absolutely ringing with the loon song. After reaching an apex of sorts, the residual echoes hopped through the forest as though on pogo sticks, leaving behind complete silence. I’ve heard plenty of loons in the night but never anything like this.

Summer in the Northwoods, life is good.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Breaking Up, Breaking Out

Here I am in Bethel on the eve of my last day of work for the 09-10 school year. Every year of life comes with it's ups and downs but overall I'd give this one high marks. AND HOW FAST!! We always say how fast a year has been but this truly was light speed most of the time. It seems like I just came to Bethel to start work a month ago. Now it's in the books.

Things wrapped up in Tuntutuliak peacefully and quietly. Attendance started to get a little touch and go towards the end as the waterfowl started showing up, but some dedicated students had a very positive experience in class with me.

After that I worked here in Bethel, teaching at the Bethel Youth Facility. This is a youth detention center for people who have made a bad decision and are paying the price for it and trying to get things going in the right direction. I taught a drivers ed class there to a group of young men and it was a good experience for all of us. My hope is that I have set a good example for them, and that they are able to utilize some of what I have taught them to open some doors later on. Class concluded today and the boys were appreciative of my efforts on their behalf, and as a teacher, that's about as good as it gets.

Monday the lower Kuskokwim broke up and we said bye bye to the ice. I was starting to wonder if it was going to happen before I left. Here are a few photos of what a May 17th river breakup might look like.

We've been getting some dandy weather here in Bethel this week. Warm temps, sunshine, nice bike rides to work. Yet part of me misses the nice cool bite of the crisp morning air.

Saturday afternoon I'll begin the long journey home. I'm looking forward to being there, and seeing all of you family and friends who may be reading this. Not looking forward to the hours I'll be spending in close quarters breathing re-breathed air, but worthwhile of course. Looking forward to seeing the sun set over Wisconsin waters this summer. Will it be as pretty as Alaskan sunsets such as this one late last night?

I don't know. These are hard to beat.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Home Stretch

Time is running out on this school year. Monday of last week I flew out here to Tuntutuliak (Home of the Bluejays) for my final village assignment of the year. I got classes started here and then Thursday after school flew in to Bethel to help out with the Robotics Tech Challenge organized by a co-worker in our department. There were 8 teams from throughout the district competing. Each had designed, built and programmed a robot to compete in the challenge. This year's challenge involved a playing field with hoppers full of wiffle-balls, and different goals with different scoring possibilities. The idea was to create a robot that could release the balls from the hoppers, and then pick them up and place or launch balls into the goals for a score. I got to be a judge and referee for the competition and was quite pleased to see the maturity, teamwork and enthusiasm of our students at work. Unfortunately I did have to give the referee shirt back after the competition ended on Saturday.

Things in Tunt are going fine. My students are doing good work and staying relatively enthusiastic considering that it is springtime. It probably helps that the weather hasn't been particularly springlike. Temps have been in the teens and twenties for the past few days. As it warms up and more migratory waterfowl begin to arrive, things could become more challenging. Right about at that time, though, I should be finishing up here in Tunt. At that point, I'll be heading back to Bethel, and will finish up the year teaching in the Bethel Youth Facility, our local juvenile detention center. I'm looking forward to working there, and note that no matter what the weather, I shouldn't be having any issues with class attendance.

The school year has flown right by and I'm sure the next 3 1/2 weeks will continue that trend. I'm looking forward to seeing the family and friends back home, and enjoying some nice r and r in Wisconsin. Brewer games, cookouts, lakes and rivers beckon!!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Back to Bethel, First Catch, Spring Break, Go Brewers!!

Last Friday I packed up and left Nightmute and headed back to town. I enjoyed Nightmute, but at the same time was happy to get back home. You can see the immediate difference it made here:

Some bum in Nightmute.

Me in Bethel.

I went out for a long ride and hunt with a Marc, a coworker in the CTE department this week and finally connected with some birds. Tonight there will be ptarmigan tacos for dinner.

This coming week I'll be on spring break. I'm hoping to get in another few good rides while we still have snow, and hopefully bag a few more of these tasty critters.

The Brew Crew is off to a good start and begins a series against the rival Cardinals this weekend. I'm so excited for baseball I went and bought a pack of brats this week at the AC store. Even though it was 0 degrees on the walk to work this morning, spring is in the air and the days are getting quite long. That's an indication that for folks back in Wisconsin, I'll be seeing you soon.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Good Morning, Negtimiut

I flew out here to Negtimiut (Nightmute, home of the NightHawks) on a crisp clear Monday afternoon. Thus far things here are going ok. Staff and students both are quite friendly, and the people I've met in the community have been very nice as well.

The village/site is neat looking with big hills or small mountains next to it. (I'm not sure what the distinction is) It's pretty close to Toksook Bay, with somewhat similar topography.

Tuesday we had a really nice afternoon...sunny, no wind, and 10-15 degrees. So I decided to get out for a hike on top of the mounthills nearby. It was a nice hike, though the climb was a little tougher than I expected. There was more elevation than it looked like...

Up at the top is one place some people could theorize was the location of the Apollo Moon landing...

All I found up there were some piles of muskox scat. This weekend if the weather is good for it I'll go a ways further and see if I can find some ptarmigan to cook up.

There's plenty of daylight after school now that we're in daylight savings time. Twilight lasts well past 9:00 and we're gaining nearly 5 minutes of sun per day. Of course the downside to this is that students are beginning the yearly trend towards less and less sleep. With daily activities in the school lasting til 10 or later, I am having that trend cast upon me as well.

Being sluggish of brain after a truncated night's sleep, I guess I'll wrap the post up with a GO BADGERS and leave it at that.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Kuinnerarmiut Elitnaurviat, etc.

Things here in Seahawk territory are winding down, and I'll be flying back to Bethel Monday night, weather permitting. (those are two dirty filthy words, yes they are) There isn't really much to tell of the things I've done here in Quinhagak. (Gwin-a-hawk, for those of you non LKSDers) The classes have had the usual ups and downs. I already told the story of Strep 2010. Never did get out fishing here which admittedly was a big letdown.
But today I did get to use a truck and took a little cruise. See, they actually have gravel roads here in Quinhagak. I took a drive out to this dead-end road that leads to, I'm told, some good summertime fishing. I snapped some photos, so I'll share a few that turned out. You'll probably need to click to enlarge them in order to make out much...

Stay tuned and take care out there.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Not Your Typical HMO

So back last Monday I had a pretty busy day. I rode the SkiDoo from Bethel to Napaskiak and Oscarville and back to Bethel, proctoring tests that had just arrived. Then I hauled gear out to the airport and flew out here to Quinhagak (home of the Seahawks). It's a friendly school atmosphere. Nice students and staff. The site administrator is from Ladysmith and is a big Brewers fan, so we're getting along well. It's a beautiful site out here.

Over the weekend the Seahawks hosted a basketball tournament. Three of the teams were from schools where I've taught, so it was nice to get to say hi and cheer for my former students. The fourth was a school I'll be at in a couple months, and I got to meet several of their students as well. It was, however, alot of people to share living quarters (the school) with. Wouldn't ya know, Sunday I was not feeling so wonderful after living in the germ pod. Great, I thought, another cold...that's three now.

Monday was worse and Tuesday was the same. By Tuesday I was figuring it was above and beyond any cold I'd had, and was going to have to relent and seek medical advice. The two options were: go to the village clinic, or fly to Bethel and go to the clinic there. The village seemed like the faster way to get treated for what I was pretty sure (correctly) was a bad case of the strep.

Getting treated at the village clinic was an experience all on its own. It's in a building that is also the washeteria and what-not. There are only a couple of people on staff to deal with a village of about 800 people, so they are pretty busy. When situations and emergencies arise, you get rescheduled, which happened to me a couple of times. Yesterday I squeaked in to get tested quick, but they couldn't treat me, so I had another appointment for this afternoon. That got bumped back to later because of an emergency. When I went in, the emergency was still on. If my ears don't decieve, the emergency was a bad case of the stomach flu, or something to that effect. But...haha...they found time to stick me in the backside with some antibiotics so I should be good to go now. They were very friendly and treated me well.

Being sick and quarantined in the upstairs of a school for a few days is about as much fun as being restrained and forced to watch a marathon of Paris Hilton's My New BFF. Or a loop of the yankees' champagne celebration.

Better times await. It feels good to say that I'm really looking forward to teaching tomorrow.

Hopefully I get some more good days and clear skies so I can click the digital shutter and show you how cool looking this place is.

In the meantime, stay healthy out there.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Napaskerville Checkout

So it's been awhile. I haven't been mauled by any more bears as of late, nor lost any more personal belongings to the gnashing teeth of my studded snow-go track. Relatively smooth sailing, although my daily triangle commute from Bethel to Napaskiak to Oscarville to Bethel was starting to wear me down a bit. Speaking of the commute, here's a couple peeks of what my morning commute might look like:

My river commute would start at the Lomack building, which would be just off the left edge of the above photo. Then you can see the ice road heading down the center. Then it's about a 10 minute (or less) ride down thissa way...

You can see just a little overflow at the edge on this particular morning. Crossing overflow is not the time to back off the throttle, unless cold and wet is your thing.

Back to what I was saying though...of course, at this time of year, wearing down=getting a cold, which I realized was destined weeks ago. So, although I've enjoyed being able to commute from home, I look forward to moving on, feeling better, and not putting in quite as many hours.

One pretty cool thing happened this past Thursday. I was in Napaskiak, working after school with some students on this project, a rack for their new dumb bells in the weight room.

My students were working away, about to put in another weld when I noticed some people approaching, so I told them to hold off and let these people pass so they wouldn't be flashed by the arc light. Seconds later this man approaches and greets me with a handshake saying "Hi my name is Sean Parnell." It's kind of an odd feeling when your state governor comes up and greets you unexpectedly. We chatted a bit about the project and our program. Nice guy. He was out visiting sites that are perspectives for getting new schools built. I wonder if having the governor encounter a welding class being taught outdoors in February helped Napaskiak's chances....couldn't hurt I suppose.

Monday, weather permitting, I'll be flying out to Quinhagak for a few weeks. I'm looking forward to working with the friendly folks I've met who work at that site. As well, I'm looking forward to being near the mountains again, and being able to hopefully feel the pull of a fish on a line again. The world famous Kanektok River flows nearby and I'd like to get some more fish for the freezer.

That's about it for now. Pitchers report for spring training in 7 days. GO BREWERS!!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Do Not Taunt The Bears

Just kidding. This is what happens when you have a bag of stuff bungee corded to the back of a snowmachine and it gets sucked over the side into the track. Sad looking stuff.

The next day I found my pair of gloves and spare belt on my morning commute to Napaskiak. The rest of the things must have blown away in the wind. Ah well, not a big deal. Time to get a new backpack though.

I'm liking the daily commute over this spell. I get up and buzz down to Napaskiak, then I head across river to Oscarville (home of the Hornets) for an after school class, then back to Bethel where a little dog is happy to see me.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Ode to Winter Break

So usually I'm relaying the Alaska experiences for the friends in the Lower 48, and it's mostly old hat for my friends in Alaska to read. The tables have turned, and fellow LKSDers and whoever else, this one is for you. You, and the loved ones I didn't get a chance to visit on this trip.

I got into Wisconsin on the 20th with no troubles other than missing 2 buses (by a minute each, dang it!) and having a cold. A bit delayed, it was so nice to see Mom and Dad waiting to pick me up at the bus stop. Also, it felt really good to bust my pickup out of the storage shed and drive it on down the open highway. When you teach drivers ed, and only get to drive Bethel's 15 miles, then putting on miles feels pretty relaxing and nice just to watch the windshield change. I did manage to get a few miles behind me over this break.

First I had to go hand-to-hand combat with that cold. I pretty much had it's tail whipped by the time Christmas came around, and good thing too. There was plenty of energy needed for the 2 days of family fun with all the kids. I couldn't believe how much my niece and nephews had grown and changed from last time I spent time with them. They are really starting to take on their own very unique personalities. Even the youngest, who is 1, has got an interesting way about him. Another really neat thing was seeing some of my cousins I haven't seen in quite a while. And aunts and uncles. Grandma. The whole family is doing great.

Other than that, random highlights of this journey, in no particular order:

-Going to three Badger hoops games with Dad. Wisconsin tradition never ends, and neither does Bucky taking care of business on the home court. The thrashing of Ohio State was particularly sweet.

-Heading north to my old home area, having some good outdoor fun with old friends. Even though we struck out on the ice fishing, it was really refreshing to spend some crisp cold time on the ice on a couple of beautiful northern Wisconsin afternoons.

-Heading north to see the wrestlers I used to coach compete in a tournament. That was big. They are looking like a good team, and also a good TEAM. The guys were all focused and competitive. So much that the first day I spent my time around the upper ring of the gym and stayed away from the action instead of distracting a focused group. The next day I spent some time chatting with the guys. I was so happy to hear of the successes the young men were having in life and on the mat, as well as their future aspirations. I'm really proud to have been able to work with this group of young men. Saying goodbye, probably for the last time to many of them, there were handshakes and some hugs, and ol' Coach Rendall was getting a bit of a lump in the throat. Yup I'll admit it. Of course...couldn't let THEM know that.

-Lots of tasty meals, both home prepared and at restaurants that somehow manage to surpass Bethel fare, believe it or not. Of course, after all the indulgence, some personal attention is in order so as not to take on the Mike Sherman physique.

-Visiting with lots of old friends from various walks of life. Everybody seems to be happy and healthy.

-And, of course, general rest and relaxation, and waking up on my own free will and accord.

Vacations rock. But they also end fast. One more day here, and Friday the journey begins, Saturday will be the arrival, and from there, the NEW journey resumes. I'm looking forward to the 2nd semester, and have some goals in mind. It'll be good to get back to work, more week would feel pretty nice too I suppose.

I hope all of your winter breaks and holidays were as good or better than mine. And for those of you around Bethel, it'll be good to see you soon.