Saturday, April 30, 2011

Tornado in Georgia

I've been meaning to post for some time now, but this has been a crazy week. We were stuck in Nome on Monday night, and then miraculously, we were able to take a whirlwind trip to Diomede... as in "Wake up, we're leaving for Diomede in 30 minutes!" kind of surprise trip.

Wednesday took me by surprise as well because my hometown of Ringgold, Georgia, was devastated by a tornado. Eight people were killed, and the business district is practically nonexistent. The high school and middle school are both destroyed as well. But praise God -- my entire family is safe. God even spared our neighborhoods. A family in my church lost their entire house, and if they had not been in the basement of a neighbor's house, they probably would not have survived. It's been amazing to see how their family is praising God in the midst of their loss. God is glorified despite the tragedies in the town.

Thank you to those of you who have asked about my family in Georgia. I appreciate your concern and prayers.

Friday, April 22, 2011

School Trip - Part 2 (Alyeska Ski Resort)

After a few days in Anchorage, we headed to Girdwood, AK, which is approximately 40 miles from Anchorage. We skiied for two days at Mount Alyeska and stayed at the Alyeska Ski Resort. Most of the students enjoy cross-country skiing; in fact, you often see Diomeders cross-country skiing between Little and Big Diomede when the strait is frozen. Downhill skiing, of course, is quite a bit different, but I was impressed by the fact that every student at least tried it out. Some didn't care for skiing in the end, but a few really enjoyed it and had a lot of fun.

We took the tram up to the top of the mountain and ate at the Seven Glaciers Restaurant.

To get to the top of the mountain, we took a tram. None of the students had ever been on a tram before, and if you watch the video, you can see their excitement (and trepidation -- i.e. the part where they all scream).

On the tram!

Happy girls.

Praise God for the beautiful weather we had while skiing. The sun was shining, and the temperature went up as high as 50 degrees. Perfect.

Inside Seven Glaciers Restaurant.

 You can't tell by this picture, but the view was incredible -- mountain peaks surrounding us.

The food was extremely fancy at the Seven Glaciers Restaurant. In the words of one of my students, "This place is too fancy...and I love it."

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

School Trip - Part 1 (Anchorage Zoo)

Seven students, my principal, and I are currently on the school trip, which is taken every year as a reward for students with good attendance and good behavior. This year, we are doing several things, which I will share with you as the trip unfolds, time-permitting. So far, we spent a few days in Anchorage for shopping where the students were able to go to Old Navy, Wal-Mart, GAP, and other places. Most bought clothing for themselves, although some chose to spend their money on video games and movies. Regardless, Anchorage certainly has a lot more clothing-shopping options than Nome and especially more than Diomede. It was cute to see the girls all pick out purses, shoes, and make-up. The students also went to H2Oasis, an indoor water park, which they loved. It's not very often that native Alaskan kids get to play in the water in the villages - too dangerous and cold.

We also visited the Anchorage Zoo. It was rather chilly, but it was great for the student to see the animals up close.

When the students saw the seals, they instantly knew what kind of seals they were: ring seals. The student you see above jokingly said to everyone, "Anybody hungry?" It cracked me up because seal is certainly a favorite food of Diomeders.

Although we've seen polar bears near the trash dump by the school, we were amazed to see these bears up close. They were lazy and sleepy, and understandably so. I turned to one of my students and said, "I bet we're the only people here that have eaten polar bear before." I'm pretty sure that's a safe bet too.
 "Arctic" turkey. Well, just a white turkey. I had never seen one before.
 The students had never seen so many of these animals before!

 Check out the claws on this grizzly!

 How cute is this otter!
The wolves were rather frightening -- pacing back and forth in their individual cages.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

crabbing & beluga whale watching

The week before last, the school was visited by our school counselor, Barnabas. One day after school, Adrienne, Barnabas, and I went out on a snow machine and drove around for awhile. I thought it was going to be a short excursion so I didn't bring my snow pants. Big mistake. We got adventurous and went off the beaten path, which resulted in the snow machine tipping over. I bruised my knee pretty badly, but no major injuries, thankfully. We tried pulling the snow machine backwards while it was in reverse, but to no avail. So, we pathetic inexperienced snow machine drivers were humbled when some men in the village came over and pulled the snow machine out onto open space with ease and smoothness. I'm glad they pulled our machine forward instead of backwards because it allowed us to have an amazing afternoon we would not have otherwise experienced. I felt like totally naive tourist, but hey, that's part of the fun. We got to see a few people digging crabbing holes and pulling fresh blue king crab out of the strait's icy waters. It was amazing! We also hung out with a couple of men for awhile as they were looking for beluga whales at the edge of the ice. Keep in mind: I had no snow pants. I was wearing flimsy jeans. I was dying. It was so cold, and I had to bail out a little early and hitch a ride back with one of my students. I tried to tough it out, but when you can't feel your feet or hands, it's probably a good idea to head on indoors.

I tried pulling a crab out, but he swam away. C'est la vie.

Watching for beluga.

I love this picture because it shows how big the islands are. They can be deceptively small from a satellite's view, but the cliffs really are sheer and steep.

Becky, one of the teacher's aides, was kind enough to boil a crab for us and let us eat it for dinner. We sauteed it in garlic and butter, and it was delicious!

I'm not sure of the proper procedures in taking the shell off of a crab, but we used scissors. Is this normal?

 Barnabas & the clean plate. The crab was too delicious!

I didn't bring my camera, so all the pictures you see were taken by Adrienne. Great pictures, huh?

Saturday, April 2, 2011


Sunrise: 8:17 a.m.
Sunset: 10:02 p.m.
Temperature: -4 degrees

I am currently reading A Dream in Polar Fog by Yuri Rytkheu, a Chukchi writer. It is the story of a Canadian sailor who is stranded in Chukotka and is taken in by a Chukchi community. So far I am really enjoying it. There are so many things that make sense to me as I am reading. I can envision the landscape so well, and there are moments that I read and know exactly what Rytkheu is trying to express. For example, some days are blue this far north in the world. Literally, blue.

Rytkheu writes, "The air became more and more blue, as though someone enormous and invisible were thickening the color. The snow that stretched ahead was blueing, the bumps, the hillocks and snowdrifts were blueing, and the sky too, lighting up the stars; the blue seeped into the sleds' tracks, into the dogs, the harnesses, and Toko's face, framed by wolverine fur. Night was descending over the tundra."
 Everything blue.
 Among other things, this has been the week of care packages. The dentist has descended upon the island, making his yearly two-week visit, and he brought a box of fresh vegetables and fruit from the Nazarene Church in Nome. They have been so kind to Adrienne and me.
 Grapefruit & tea. I think yes.
 Not only did I get fresh food, but I also received a package from Russia...specifically from Anyisk, a small village of 500 people in Chukotka. My teacher-friend Evgeny in Anyisk teaches English at the school there, and he sent our school a box of beautiful artwork made by his students.

 This one I found to be particularly beautiful.
 I also received a package from Tacy, my sister-in-law. :)
(P.S. Check out her blog at Vox Luminis!)
 So, in my care package, I got Hello Kitty pants (yes), tea, coffee, Phase 10, pens, candy, and hot chocolate. Thanks, Tacy! :)
 The other package came from the lovely Amber. She sent me a handmade purse made out of plastic bags (so cool), postcard from Rome, Mardi Gras beads, and a handmade necklace. You're awesome, Amber!
 The crocheted plastic bag bag. :)

Other musings:

Life is hard, but good.
God is merciful, gracious, and redeeming.
I have seven more weeks on the island.
My time here is going so fast.
Life is a breath of air.
Death is a comma, not a period.