Saturday, August 28, 2010

holding a bird

Some of the kids gathered on my front porch. The one you see above is holding a little bird. He said, "We only had to catch 10 of 'em, but I caught 20."

"What do you do with the birds you catch?" I asked.

"We kill 'em, and then we eat 'em!"

Thursday, August 26, 2010

traveling by sea

On Friday, we left Nome on a crab boat. Seventeen hours later, we arrived at Little Diomede Island. The crab boat we traveled on was named Inalik, which is also the Inupiaq name of Diomede. Captain Greg Alexander could not have been more hospitable, and his crew -- two young men named Gus and Stanley -- were kind and generous. Captain Greg is not only experienced on the seas, but he is quite the chef too. It was fine dining for us teachers. We ate crab salad with jalapeno dressing and barbecued ribs at 10:30 p.m. while the sun was still up. Gus and Stanley put together the salad, and Capt. Greg grilled the ribs to perfection. I will never forget their hospitality. In fact, there were only four bunks on the boat and a total of eight people, but they freely let us sleep on their bunks. Capt. Greg, Gus, and Stanley hardly slept all. I can't emphasize to you how much I appreciate their kindness. Because Gus gave up his bunk, I was able to have one of the best nights of sleep I've had in a long time. I slept for a full eight hours. The weather was calm, and the sea was still -- only a gentle rocking that put me to sleep quickly.

The next morning we had stronger waves, but the weather was good. I felt like I was on a seesaw and that the boat was going to tip over a couple of times, but Greg never flinched. It was so normal to him, and his knowledge and experience kept me calm at all times. The only time I felt nervous was when walking outside on the boat. To me the railings were completely inadequate, although I know Greg kept everything up to coast guard approval standards, but for someone such as myself, falling off would have been very easy. With a watery deck and my clumsy hands, I would have been gone. So, I mostly stayed inside, unless the boat slowed down to 3-4 knots. At that speed, I felt safer, but only on the lower deck. You know, Greg told me that he was writing a book and that I would be in it -- a chapter called "From Tennessee to Diomede." I am not sure if he was serious, but I should tell him that he is already in my book.

The sea was beautiful, and the sunset and sunrise was clear. I watched all morning for the place I was soon going to call home. And now that I am here, what do I see and hear and smell and feel? Instead of mourning doves, I hear seagulls. Instead of cars driving by, I hear the waves crashing on the sea. I see Russia from my front door, and I see white coffins from my back door. I see men hunting and women berrypicking. I hear children playing and dogs barking. I smell the sea, and I feel the mist that constantly surrounds me. I see little joyful faces -- the little children who cling to me and say "mine." What a strange, mysterious, and beautiful place I am in.

"He goes before you. He prepares your way." - Thomas a Kempis

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Unalakleet, Part 1

This morning was my last in Unalakleet. We spent a total of nine days there. Currently, I am in Nome. We will do more grocery shopping, and we will eat out a lot since it will be our last chance. Normally, we would fly to Diomede via helicopter, but from what I am told, new regulations require passenger-service helicopters to have two engines. Therein lies our problem. We anticipate finding a two-engine helicopter by Christmas time, so hopefully our holiday travels will be much quicker. So, since we cannot go by helicopter this year, the Diomede crew will travel by sea. Last year Diomede staff traveled by crab boat as well. If you haven't read the story, check it out here. As you know, fellow teacher Adrienne and I are new to the Diomede staff, but thankfully, the rest of the staff have traveled by crab boat before. They can help us get through it. The nice thing about going by boat is that I can buy all the food I want in Nome and get free shipping. Pretty nice deal, if you ask me.

Since my boat adventure isn't till Friday, I'll leave you with some pictures of beautiful Unalakleet. I thoroughly enjoyed walking around this town and getting to know the Unalakleet staff. Kira, Tim, and Derek generously opened their apartment to us so that we didn't have to spend all our free time at the school. Even the tech guys are friendly and don't hate helping computer-illiterate people with their computer problems. We had several people offer their washer and dryer to us Diomede teachers too. (Unlike the other school sites, we did not get to fly to our site for the weekend nor could we go to our site before new teacher training or inservice; thus, we had to say a lot longer in Unalakleet than most.) Everyone has been very friendly and hospitable. I think though one of my favorite things about Alaska so far is how everyone waves to you when they drive by on their ATVs.


The beautiful new high school in Unalakleet...

musk oxe

native style

Kira's $800 parka....

My new friends -- Sonia from L.A., Jessie from Cleveland, TN, (yay!), and Kira from Vermont!

This is one of two restaurants in Unalakleet, Peace on Earth. A pizza was around $35, so we decided to go to the Igloo, another restaurant in town, which sold bowling alley food. A burger & fries was approximately $15.

I have a lot more pictures of Unalakleet, but the Internet is really slow here in Nome. So, they will have to wait...or you can just check Facebook.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

moose meat

(photo credit: Adrienne)

I can't emphasize to you how much I love Alaska so far. Everything about it is beautiful and unique. The air is crisp and fresh. Adrienne and I have walked around Unalakleet a lot so we know where most places are now. We've picked berries out in the open tundra, explored the remains of a crashed plane, petted dirty native dogs, took pictures of very expensive cereal, looked at drying fish, touched the skin of a musk oxe, visited Kira (school counselor in UNK) a million times at her apartment, met our mystery housemate and fellow teacher Willis, tried to lean on the wind, and talked to kids who might have been drinking beer (but we're not sure). We also visited a "baby puppy" that Adrienne was in love with named Dink.

Dink's owner shot a moose this morning around 7 a.m. about 30 miles upriver. He said it was the biggest one he had ever caught. I use the word "caught" specifically because natives say they "catch a bear" or "catch a moose"...the way we would say "catch a fish" or "catch a cab."

He dragged the moose out of his boat, wrapped it up in the blue tarp, and hauled it off with his ATV. He said that he'd hang it up for a few days and let the blood drip. That makes it tender. I asked him how long that meat will last him, and he said it'll last a whole winter. I'm pretty sure that Adrienne and I need to catch a moose for Diomede now.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Hiking Up Mount Baldy

 Someone parachuting off of Mount Baldy...flying over Anchorage.

Kira is a school counselor for the BSSD, and Adrienne is my housemate and fellow teacher on Diomede.

 The tundra grass was so soft and spongy. It was great to lie down on. (Photo Credit: Kira)

We had a difficult time crossing the little "river." (Photo Credit: Adrienne)

This video was taken at the top of Mount Baldy in Eagle River, AK. It was breathtakingly beautiful up there.

This is Adrienne and Kira walking down the side of the hill. I felt like I was in The Sound of Music.