Wednesday, September 29, 2010

island in the sun / first snow of the season

We have had beautiful weather these past few days, but this morning I looked out my window, discovered that it was 32 degrees according to my thermometer, and saw a thin layer of snow on the school deck. It's not even October, and it snowed. What a strange place I am in. I will say though that the snow that wasn't in the shade melted, but I did see a few patches of snow under the stairs this evening. The snow has awakened my inner Christmas elf, so now I am ready to listen to Sufjan's Christmas album. But I will be patient and wait until November 1st.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

our bungalow

Well, lucky me, Diomede had about an hour of blissful, speedy Internet today. I've been trying to upload this photo all week, and finally, here it is. This picture was taken on a beautiful, sunny day. I've been amazed at how many sunny days we've had lately. This is the third one in a row. The temperatures have been in the lower 50s. A sunny day makes everything feel warm, even if you can see your breath.

So, this is our cute little duplex up on the hill. Adrienne and I have been coming up with a list of names to describe our home other than "duplex," and we've decided that we prefer bungalow, cottage, or domicile.

Our bungalow is right behind the school. Willis lives on the left side, and Adrienne and I live on the right side. Sandra and Joe have an apartment that is inside the school. So, now you know where the entire staff of Diomede School resides. Good thing the island is inaccessible...otherwise I might be worried about stalkers.

There are, in fact, 72 steps from the school to the house. I'm finally getting used to walking up that many steps multiple times a day. It's really not so bad if you do it a lot.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

education is a mission of love

"Loving someone does not simply mean doing things for them; it is much more profound. To love someone is to show to them their beauty, their worth and their importance; it is to understand them, understand their cries and their body language; it is to rejoice in their presence, spend time in their company and communicate with them." - Jean Vanier, Seeing Beyond Depression
(Thanks for the book, Tacy & Stephen!)

Monday, September 13, 2010

swimmers between the island

A few weeks ago, several filmmakers from the Dominican Republican came to Little Diomede to film Marcos Diaz swim between Little and Big Diomede. Although I didn't get to meet Marcos, I did get to talk to two of the filmmakers. Their project is called Swim Across the Continents. I enjoyed talking to these amazing guys. Their documentary is meant to "unite the continents in favor of the Millenium Development Goals." You can learn more about this project at their website. The documentary should come out in December.

Marcos Diaz isn't the only one who has been swimming between the islands. About a week ago a herd of walruses was swimming towards the south. After school I received a Skype message from Joe: "Big herd of walruses outside!" Adrienne and I ran outside and headed to the helipad to watch with the others from the village. Some of the men grabbed their guns, but most of the men called to the walruses, which sounds like deep husky hooting. The next day one of my students came to school without any voice because he called for the walruses all evening. Walrus calling brings them closer to the rocks, making it easier to shoot them and pull them up with a lasso around their ivory tusks.

I have a video which I hope to post later this week. Until then, here are some pictures. I can't wait to see the walruses floating on ice floes. The way time flies here, it will be soon...

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

up top

Last Sunday I went to the Catholic church with the mayor and her husband. It was a small crowd (total of four people), but it's a nice little church. We listened to mass on the radio from Nome. Afterward we three up on the cliff (Willis, Adrienne, and I) went to eat lunch with the principal and her husband, Sandra and Joe. Their house should be called the Quinn Restaurant because it is fine dining every time we visit. They are incredible chefs -- Thai food, coconut salmon and shrimp, boiled clams with Louisiana hot sauce. The day was so pretty that we decided to spend it outside, so Joe, Willis, Adrienne, and I went up top on the island.

The wind was gentle,
the waves calm,
the birds talkative,
the water deep blue,
and the ground bright green.
It was a beautiful day.

Side Note: The Great Lake Swimmers are so awesome that they let me use their song "Pulling on a Line" in my little video. They are one of my favorite bands, and you should check them out at their website!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

I am halfway through my second week of teaching. I can't deny that these weeks have been hard. Naturally, lesson planning is time-consuming, but in many ways, education on Diomede sometimes feels like a one-room school house. Finding time for whole-group instruction is incredibly difficult when each of your students is on a different grade level or standard. Besides the natural stressfulness of lesson planning, getting to know the students and build a positive relationship with them is another challenge that requires time and careful cultivation. I believe that this will be my most challenging goal in the classroom. I am learning that teaching teenagers is a lot like loving your enemies. Sometimes I feel like I am pushing against a wall, but the support and advice of experienced Alaska bush teachers have kept me going during these initial weeks. "Be consistent, pleasant, and firm" seems to be the motto of the teachers in the district, and that is my goal.

In the midst of all the mayhem that a new school year inevitably brings, I am dealing with some disappointing news. First, my one-year-old niece, Lucy, was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. I know this is hard on my sister and brother-in-law, and I wish I could be there to help. How I wish I could give Lucy a hug and a kiss right now... Secondly, my dog is finally coming to the end of her life. This week she will be put to sleep. I have had her since I was ten-years-old, so you can imagine how I feel.

I am thankful for the light of Christ and for the steadfastness of His nature. These events are no surprise to Him. I am thankful for the prayers of my friends and family, and I am thankful for the laughter that I can have in the midst of challenges and disappointments.

While I haven't had much time to upload pictures, I will leave you with this one, which Adrienne took. It was taken on the day we arrived to the island. Here we are in the skiff next to the crab boat. It seems like so long ago, even though it hasn't even been two weeks yet.