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Sunday, January 29, 2012

Mythbusters Alaska

Ever heard of the story where hot coffee is thrown outside in negative temperatures and it freezes before it hits the ground? I certainly have, but I wasn't sure if I believed it... This blog post will be a fun one, then. 





Honestly, it wasn't that cold out there, too.... I think I will give it another shot when It's -40!

Friday, January 27, 2012

"The Commute"

Perhaps it is too soon to revisit the topic of "the commute" but I am in Hooper Bay for the weekend and had the pleasure of riding in a sled pulled by snow machine not once, but twice, now. This was the first time in a long time, mind you, so it was a bit of a landmark. I really wanted to stretch my legs after the plane ride over from Mountain and the frosty breeze was just what I needed to refresh my soul and renew my spirit. I love my commute. 

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I am so happy I love my job... I can honestly say it is fun. I mean yeah, I don't have water in my home. Yeah, I don't have a bathtub and it smells like mold in my bathroom. So maybe I have a few more chores than the average educator in America. But I am surrounded by the most amazing views, the kindest people, and a life or fulfillment many will never know. I make a difference and I perform a service in dire need. 

This is my job. This is my commute.


Wednesday, January 25, 2012

I Was Born A Travelling Man

I was reflecting on the idea that travel is a big part of my life for a reason. It is enlightening, empowering and, dare I say, emancipating... While staring at the stars hoping for the aurora borealis a few nights ago I pondered the idea of my freedom from the slavery of the mundane. I choose to live differently. I choose to live without rules. I work hard and play hard. I own my destiny.

"Why is this so?" I thought. Is it because I've read Fight Club or other Chuck Palahniuk books too many times? Or maybe it's because I took the Matrix too seriously. It could just be the bizarre alchemy of my parent's chromosomes surfacing in the personality my adulthood. But I think it's because I have flown or driven to so many places. I have met people from a multitude of cultures and learned more from them than I would ever have imagined. The beauty of this statement is that the more I travel and the more I learn, the more I want to see and the more I realize I don't know!

Rolling into another Alaskan February I often fantasize about warm beaches; sometimes Thailand, sometimes Jamaica. With Alaska Air I can get to Puerto Vallarta for only 35,000 miles! "What am I doing at my desk at 12:09 on a school night, then?" you ask. I honestly don't know.

Well, to put a bow on this dribbling mumbo-jumbo I thought about the concept of travel to most people: travel equals vacation. The problem here is that vacation does not always equal travel. I think we should all travel more. If you can get paid to do it, like me, more power to you! I've been to about 65 towns and villages just in Alaska... and got paid to do it! What do I want to do for my vacations? You guessed it: TRAVEL! I work to travel. I work to take vacations. I take vacations to travel. You get the picture.

So... where have you been? Or better yet, where are you going?

Monday, January 23, 2012

Weekend Wonderland

This past weekend (the fourth without water in my home) was in need of some serious R&R... Solution: a trip down the frozen Yukon River to the village of Alakanuk. AUK is populated by about 650 Yupik Eskimos and is located about 8 miles southwest of Emmonak. Though a warm day, and a promising hour and a half snow machine ride on paper, the 35mph winds proved to be more daunting than expected. 
Not wanting to end up in a "Mistake Village" or get lost going the "wrong way" (which is the English translation of Alakanuk), my companion and I turned back. Not wanting to waste the day completely we buzzed all around the hills and valleys surrounding Mountain Village. After stopping for coffee and a bite to eat, we headed out in search of hare and foxes once again with a third friend. 


The rest of the day was lovely, and uneventful. I even managed to bag a ptarmigan while enjoying the relative warmth. If it wasn't for the price of gas I think Sunday might have been more of the same... combined with the continued theft of my gasoline, the $7.50/gal price point prohibits this Bush educator from too much joy riding.


Thursday, January 19, 2012

Striver Fitness



Well, once again I must say I never thought I would be so busy living in a rural Alaskan village… Wonderful friends and stimulation from numerous electronic sources surround me constantly! I thought the Bush would be an opportunity to go “off the grid” and find a quiet peace I haven’t felt since leaving Togiak 2 years ago. I am not complaining mind you. It is just that I never thought I would have to balance a social, work, and personal life here. I fully expected to work long hours and enjoy books and nature on my off time. Friends are a blessing, though, and I will cherish them.

Friends will certainly be had as I am now the central location for all the weights in Mountain Village. We have jokingly labeled my spare room Striver Fitness after the local school’s mascot. I am thrilled at the opportunity to continue weight training in this remote winter wonderland devoid of saunas, Planet Fitness, and manicured ski resorts.



This week I have decided to cut time out for myself. Maybe an hour a week to read the Word will start the process. Then I would like to expand to a half hour a night in fiction or biographies. I love to read. I miss it. I think I should also reserve a night to being home alone. Sunday should suffice.
Next order of business: Maqii… (That’s Yup’ik for “steam house” ~ Misspelled I am certain)

I love it here. 

Friday, January 13, 2012

The Little Things

Interactive Map:
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The smallest things in life can sometimes be the sweetest. Thursday of this week I flew to Scammon Bay with a quick stop in Hooper Bay. Flying over Chevak in the still quiet of the morning was beautiful beyond words. The solemn peace of the open tundra, covered in snow, for miles in all directions made the hour or so in the air more like a flight-seeing tour than a commute to work. Continuing on to Scammon Bay, located on the coast of western Alaska along the Bering Sea, I felt my heart race and spirits lift with the rising sun. This is how I go to work. This is my world. These are the small things. 
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            Upon arrival we unloaded the plane into sleds pulled by school snow machines. The roads here are not plowed, you see, and the only transport viable between October and May is a four-wheeler or “snowgo.” Instead of hopping in the sled with the freight, we strolled the half-mile or so up to the school. The wind here was minimal (rare on the coast where gale-force winds are a regular occurrence) so the -20 temperatures were nearly comfortable (only in Alaska will you ever hear this said).  The school was well kept and I could tell the staff was concerned about its upkeep more than the average community. I was greeted warmly by everyone from the custodian to the instructional leader and took advantage a tasty hot meal from the cafeteria. Ah, the small things…

After meeting with the teachers, introductions, and brief chats, I settled into checking and troubleshooting some of the hardware. I enjoy the technology and working with my hands, of course, but I really cherish my time with teachers and students. Luckily, two teachers indulged me. The first was a quick lesson on basketball techniques: shooting, layups, and a jump shot. Great kids, all of them, but one little girl had some serious skill. Watching her kiss the ball, dribble, and maintain a form I didn’t think possible with tiny eight-year-old arms was really something special. Goofing off in the gym was fun, but I had an appointment with another teacher with special needs children.
We fired up the SMART Board and began with a math lesson on acute and obtuse angles along with shapes and vocabulary. The students were anxious to get up and use the board, eager to please and ready to show off. You’ve got to love sixth graders. After a bit of practice, they were comfortable enough for their teacher and I to step away and chat, which is funny because in a professional development setting these concepts would have required 10 minutes for a group of teachers to master. Wanting to do more, I then taught the kids to create sounds in GarageBand and attach sounds to objects in a presentation. The subject was one they knew well I wanted to learn: water fowl calls.
Wrapping up the day I cozied up in the library, which has a couch for me to sleep on, for dinner and a movie. But not before the day’s biggest treat: the weight room! The little things...


Thursday, January 12, 2012

Pitka’s Point


This week has been a busy one to say the least. I thoroughly enjoyed Monday and Tuesday at the office, passing time learning new software, learner management systems, and meeting with new colleagues in the district office. Evenings were spent opening packages and ordering new ones on amazon.com…
I am an optimist, but I must say how surprised I am to find the neighbors I have here. I have spent hours next door at a friend and colleague’s home watching movies and television, cooking, and visiting. His home is the one with a functional bathroom and running water, but there is more to it than comforts of the physical variety.  This past weekend I was invited to a teacher’s home where I was welcomed with open arms of (almost) the entire staff of the Mountain Village School. The food was superb and the discussions divine. Sunday was just as wonderful as I attended the local church led by the principal’s husband and attended by many of my new friends. The service was challenging and well attended. I look forward to plugging in and meeting more often with this local body of believers.
I needed a bit of prayer today, too, as I finally picked up my snow machine. Driving was certainly cheaper than shipping it over, but...

Josh and I flew to Pitka’s Point to restore network services and to network with the teachers and instructional leader (principal) there. Though a small school (only 8 or 9 students), Pitka’s is in need of a great deal of attention and resources from the district office. I look up to the two teachers there immensely and wonder if I could do their job. They are talented teachers possessing more than the average jack-of-all-trades mentality present in your typical elementary teacher. Their day demands so much energy and effort… it is beyond me how they stay sane, much less teach their students. My hat is off to them for both their classroom management and toughness. The discomfort of water and sewer issues is common to them too, I am sure, and on this particular day they’ve been out electricity and Internet for 24 hours. Cold dark winters are bad enough without these maladies, I assure you.
I can truly say that I am happy beyond words, though.  I am treated well, respected, and have everything a man could need. I am lucky, no, blessed, to be here in Mountain Village, AK!

Friday, January 6, 2012

Week One

Well, I have officially moved back to the bush... I arrived in St.Mary's on Wednesday after a 2 hour delay in Anchorage to find it was too cold to fly Cessna 207's! This means everyone shared the slightly larger Caravans on this particularly beautiful day. It also means I sat in St.Mary's for almost 4 hours. Russian Mission was -41F with no wind and my new home wasn't far behind...


We did finally get in though, and I was so glad to hop in the truck with my new friend Chris... I had broken the cardinal rule of bush travel in January and had no snowpants... All's well that ends well, though right.


Home sweet home was interesting, of course: there was no water in the village, and even the superintendent hadn't had it since December 23! Not that it mattered, of course, I was ready for anything. It was like Christmas all over again as I picked up all of my packages and totes I had mailed a month earlier. I was so excited!! I had canned goods, kitchen ware, and linens... almost everything.

Thursday was my first day with Lower Yukon School District and it was everything I hoped for. The staff was kind and welcoming, the facilities are warm and accommodating, and the learning curve is just the way I like it: straight up! With far too many entertaining and interesting events to describe here, I challenge friends and family to ask me about my official hiring in the RSB (Regional School Board meeting).... very funny...

At any rate I survived and thought a trip to the local A/C Value Center (interesting, yet ironic, name for the local store) was in order. Besides a lovely expansion of the "Costco aisle," I also found an old acquaintance from Togiak! What are the odds of a manager and his wife from Togiak transferring to Mountain Village, huh!? Anyway, I dropped $75 on animal crackers, cranberry juice, milk, and raisin bran and got the heck out of there!


Okay, I hope your week was as good as mine was, and I hope the next is even better! Time to enjoy a book or two... and some silence.