A New Addition to the Family

Meet Sammy- Our new puppy we adopted from the village!

Meet Sammy- Our new puppy we adopted from the village!

My husband has been talking about getting a dog ever since we got married, but there was always something that stood in our way; money, time, our apartment didn’t allow pets; you name it, I had an excuse. I didn’t grow up with pets so I didn’t really understand the desire to have an animal living in your house. I saw a dog as a messy animal that was just really expensive. However, just the other day our family has expanded by one.
The village public safety officers were notifying everyone that they were going to do a roundup of all the stray dogs in the town. If you had a dog, you needed to tie it up, or take it inside to make sure they were safe that day. Everyone was aware of this, and apparently it happens periodically to try and keep any overpopulation in check. On the day of the roundup to my surprise Nathan came home and told me that there was someone I needed to meet outside. The puppy that had been following us around town since we arrived had evaded capture by hiding under the boardwalk. She then came out as school let out, and followed Nathan home! He had asked all around town if she belonged to anyone and no one was claiming her. It appeared that I was going to finally lose my two year battle against dog ownership.

Samwise (Sammy) is a relatively young puppy, we think about 4-5 months old, but we aren’t sure of exactly what breeds she is a mix of. When we take her to the vet we will find out some of this we are told. She will need her shots and to be registered I guess. We are guessing she is at least part german shepherd because of her ears (which have begun to stick up).

Getting her first bath! She was not too thrilled.

Getting her first bath! She was not too thrilled.

We were very fortunate to have neighbors here who used to have a big dog and still had some of its things, so we were gifted bowls, a dog bed, and some invaluable chew hide treats. At the village store we picked up a 10lb bag of puppy chow (for a ridiculous $37!) and arranged her things in our second bedroom that we had not been using. I have never had a pet before, let alone a needy puppy, so there is going to be a real learning curve for me, but Nathan grew up with dogs so he has been very helpful letting me know what to do.

Writing out my feelings on this is therapeutic really so I think it’s important to list not only some things that I’m nervous about, but also things that this situation has made me thankful for.

Things I’m nervous about:

1. That she won’t ever stop biting. I know she is curious now, but I’m not sure how she will learn to stop. Sammy is teething too, which can’t help the situation, but being nipped on the back of my legs when I’m talking on the phone rather than playing with her every second is getting old.

2. That she is going to ruin my stuff. I like things to be pretty and neat and orderly in my apartment, and now have the time to actually make it nice, but I’m also now battling against a puppy that thinks it’s okay to chew on my nice kitchen throw rug and take it for a run down the hall.

3. That she will never get used to living inside or wearing a collar. She was a stray puppy living outside with no real rules, and now that I’m trying to enforce some she is rebelling. She HATES her collar, and only really lets me put it on when she really has to go outside. I had to make an impromptu collar because we don’t have any here, and I think it isn’t ideal for her, and I can’t leave it on because the crocheted yarn stretches and she bites it when I keep it on her in the house. I’m sure time and habit will remedy this situation, along with an appropriate collar that stays on comfortably, it’s just overwhelming right now.

4. I don’t know how to tell how she is feeling. Yesterday I was worried that she was depressed because she wasn’t running around. Today I’m overwhelmed because she IS running around a lot more and trying to eat everything. Tail wagging is good I guess, and she is always wagging her tail and not whining too much so I guess we are okay.

5. She is so expensive. I will get over this, but I have always been a very frugal person, so having to spend more money without having had any real time to plan stresses me out. I really have no idea of how much a dog can actually cost, healthy or not, and when I don’t have concrete numbers for things, I automatically start calculating ridiculously high. It is overwhelming, but I’m sure with some smart shopping and research I will figure it out- and who knows, maybe it won’t be that bad- I hear they have insurance for pets nowadays. Crazy.

Things I’m thankful for:

1. As much as I hate getting up in the morning, I’m now being forced into a routine. It is good to get up with Nathan at 7am and be able to see him a little before he goes to work instead of sleeping in and then staying up really late because I’m not tired. Being responsible for another living thing motivates me to get moving when I would certainly rather stay in bed.

2. Companionship. As much as she frustrates me right now, I have to say that it is nice to have someone else here during the day. It weirdly makes it easier for me to feel motivated to do things, and I think it is cute when she watches me do the dishes.

3. Nathan is happy. It is important to me that my husband is happy. Marriage is about compromise, and to see him happy and playing with Sammy makes this worth it.

4. It is no small miracle that Sammy hasn’t gone to the bathroom inside. Because she grew up outside so far, we are told that it will be much easier to housetrain her; the less poop I have to clean up the better!

5. This is a sort of litmus test for having a baby. Never before have I had to take care of something that can’t communicate with words and has lots of needs. Even though she has pushed me to tears, I can now be a little more aware of what having a child is like- minus all the hormones that are going to make me a TOTAL mess when that time comes.

6. I know that someday she will calm down, and feel like part of the family to me. Even though right now I feel like I’m faking it, and have no clue what I’m doing, I have known enough people in my life who love their dogs like family, and I’m looking forward to that.

So adorable while she is sleeping!

So adorable while she is sleeping!

Everything out here is turning out to be more complicated as well. As long as we remember to take it one step at a time it isn’t so overwhelming. Just the fact that the vet is only in the next village over one week a month, or that it appears nowhere online will ship a crate to here is challenging. But as we talk to people in the village and teachers who have been here longer, they give us tips and we will make it through. Sammy is happy enough with the whole second bedroom to herself right now anyway 🙂

Anyone else with a new puppy right now going through some of the same things?? Please comment below with pictures and advice!

Alaskan Kitchen- Pita Bread

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I love a good pita bread, but for some reason, I have always had a hard time finding them in stores. I love stuffing them with all sorts of different sandwich ingredients, and they are not only tasty, but fun to eat as well. So when I moved to the bush, I figured that if I couldn’t find a recipe, I would just have to kiss them goodbye. However, my favorite Family and Consumer Sciences Teacher from Middle School (and a good friend of my mom and family as well!) told me about a bread book she had that she would give me when I said that I was planning on baking my own bread here in Alaska. To my great surprise and joy, one of the first recipes in the book was for pita bread! I made them the other day and just had to share the recipe with all of you!

The original recipe.

The original recipe.

I have added some of my own language, clarifications and tips to the recipe below, but all credit goes to “Fleischmann’s Bake it Easy Yeast Book” given to me by Susan Teelin. If you make the recipe please comment and let me know how it is! I’m going to try the whole-wheat substitution soon!

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Makes 12 Pitas

Time:

Prep- 40 min

Rest- 40 min

Cooking- 5-7 min (each tray)

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Approximate Total- 1 hr. 30 min

Ingredients:

Ingredients and some of the equipment.

Ingredients and some of the equipment.

5 cups All-purpose flour

1 ½ teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon sugar

1 package Rapid Rise yeast (I used Red Star Rapid Rise in the jar- 2 ½ teaspoons)

1 ¾ cups water

2 Tablespoons Peanut Oil (I only had vegetable oil, and that seemed to work fine)

Equipment:

Large Mixing Bowl

Small Bowl (optional)

1 Cup dry measuring cup

¼ cup dry measuring cup

Liquid measuring cup

Wooden Spoon

2 cookie trays

Plastic cling wrap or Press and Seal Wrap

Large Pan (an 8 ½ x 11 cake pan works well)

Large Cooling Rack

Rolling Pin (a glass or a wine bottle work well too)

Ove-Glove or Potholders

Kitchen Timer

Oven

Surface large enough to knead the bread

Substitutions:

• You can use regular vegetable oil instead of peanut oil, if you have allergies. Vegetable oil has less flavor, but works just as well.

• To make these whole wheat substitute 2 cups whole wheat flour and 2 ½ all-purpose flour for the original 5 cups all-purpose.

*I am the kind of baker who puts things away as I use them in the recipe. Do this to make sure you don’t miss any ingredients. However, leave the flour out because you will use it a bunch of times for kneading and such.

*Careful when doing this recipe using the oven. I don’t normally cook things at 500 and it was really hot. Like I opened the door to look in and got hit in the face with really hot air, possibly from Hades itself. Ouch. Also make sure to use good potholders or an Ove-glove (I swear by mine- it is seriously one of the best wedding shower gifts I received) because you will come very close to grabbing the actual oven rack, because you are using a rack to bake on and not a cookie sheet with edges.

Steps:

1. Set aside one cup of flour.

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2. Mix the remaining 4 cups of flour in the large mixing bowl with the salt, sugar and yeast.

3. On the stove heat your oil and water until it is hot to the touch (approx. 125-130 F). You don’t have to use a thermometer, but it shouldn’t get to a boil. It took me about 5 minutes on medium high heat.

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4. Mix the water/oil into the dry ingredients. Add some of the reserve flour until you have a soft dough that doesn’t stick to your hands.

What your dough should look like before kneading.

What your dough should look like before kneading.

5. Knead on a lightly floured surface, using floured hands. Knead until the dough is smooth, and bouncy (elastic). This should take about 8 -10 minutes.

6. Place the dough back in the bowl, Cover it, and let it rest for 10 minutes. During this time, I usually clean up my workspace, and begin to set up for the next steps.

tick tock

tick tock

7. Take the dough out of the bowl, divide it into 12 equal sized pieces. Shape each of them into smooth balls and place them on a baking sheet.

Halfway divided.

Halfway divided.

8. Cover the dough and let it rise win a warm draft free place for 30 minutes. A good way to do this is heat some water and put it in a large cake pan on the bottom rack of your oven. Then place the cookie sheets of dough on the rack above the pan. Do NOT turn the oven on. This provides an ideal environment for the dough to rise.

The dough rising setup in my oven.

The dough rising setup in my oven.

9. After your dough has risen take the dough and pan of water out of the oven, and preheat it to 500 degrees F.

10. Roll each ball into a 5 inch circle on a lightly floured surface with a rolling pin, or something similar. **The thinner you roll the dough the crispier your pita will be after cooking.

My cooling rack was only big enough to hold three 5 inch pitas at a time.

My cooling rack was only big enough to hold three 5 inch pitas at a time.

11. Place up to 6 dough circles on a cooling rack. Place the cooling rack on the bottom rack in your oven and bake for 5 – 7 minutes. The pita should puff right up in the oven, and just begin to brown on the top when it is done. The bottom will be a darker, more even brown.

Pitas puffing up in the oven! (Please forgive my dirty window!)

Pitas puffing up in the oven! (Please forgive my dirty window!)

12. Cool on a separate rack, or some towels. Repeat until all the dough is cooked. **Caution- the puffed up pitas will contain VERY hot air, and you could burn yourself so be careful!

13. Store the Pitas in an airtight container or ziplock bags to keep fresh and chewy. Cut the cooled Pita bread in half and enjoy with your favorite sandwich ingredients!

The Pita is only as good as it's sandwich fixings! Yummy egg salad was the first thing I had to eat!

The Pita is only as good as it’s sandwich fixings! Yummy egg salad was the first thing I had to eat!

Feel free to share, but please link back to my blog! Thanks for reading, and happy baking!

Power and Water

Going to the Principal's House to get more Drinking Water!

Going to the Principal’s House to get more Drinking Water!

One of the exciting things we are learning about living in the Bush is to be flexible and ready for anything. It seems that power and water are not always reliable things, but no one freaks out about it. When we look around, the teachers are the only ones in our village that have running water piped in anyway, so it surely isn’t the end of the world when it stops working. I will be the first to gripe about missing out on showering though- at least the villagers have steams where they can really get clean. Today is day two without running water, and we have had a couple of power outages as well, but thankfully they only last a couple minutes at a time, as the school and teacher housing run off of some large generators.

Luckily, when we moved into our apartment, the previous tenants left behind two gallons of purified drinking water in the storage room so we have some backup water. We were also invited over to the principal’s house to borrow some of the water that he has delivered in bulk tanks.

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We joked yesterday with the principal that they did this on purpose and it was all a part of a large conspiracy to get us here. My one deal breaker for moving to the bush was that I needed running water in my house. Not all of the placements have that luxury, and I knew myself well enough to know that I wasn’t up for roughing it that much. Everyone laughed as we complained that they lied to us and took the water away right after we got here!

Our housing is on the same line as the school too, so they are without water as well. Normally in the lower 48 this would cause a school closing, but not here. They had a meeting this morning about procedures, and had large barrels of water with pitchers put in all the bathrooms. They were really prepared it seems and I can’t imagine that this is the first time this has happened.

According to what the principal has told us the water system broke because a wire arced during one of the power fluxuations and is now fused to something else and essentially broken. They will have to replace all the wiring in the system to fix it. There is an easy fix that they will do first, but the only problem is getting the parts in, and nobody knows exactly how long that will take. Once they do get the parts though I’m told it is an easy fix.

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In the meantime, we have gotten some 18gallon totes delivered by the school that will be filled with water daily for washing and flushing and such. We will also still be getting drinking water at the principal’s house. Everyone has been very apologetic and good about everything, so it is hard to be mad about it. We looked at this as an adventure, and that is surely what we are getting!

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Until then I will be patient, but I can’t wait for that glorious shower!

Setting up our Apartment!

Walking into our apartment here in Napaskiak for the first time I was relieved to see that our boxes that we had been shipping over the summer had already been delivered from the post office; I had not been looking forward to carrying the 15 or so 60lb totes across the village and then up a flight of stairs. It had been hard enough getting them to the post office on the East Coast with the help of a hand truck and my car. Going through the inventory I had on my computer we saw that we were only missing a few things: The TV we shipped as an oversize item, a tube of posters for Nathan’s classroom, and our four food totes that were on their way from Anchorage. The arrival date that printed on the receipt for the food totes was Wednesday the 8th (the same day we were to arrive there in Napaskiak) but everything out here is subject to weather and other factors so dates are flexible and only estimates. Fortunately our flat rate boxes with all of our canned goods were sitting in our kitchen and we had our fresh groceries from Bethel, so we were far from starving, but rather lacking the staples like flour, sugar, powdered eggs and shelf stabilized milk that we had purchased in bulk back in Anchorage.

After talking a bit with some of the other teachers who had already moved in before new teacher orientation in Bethel, we returned to our apartment and I began to immediately take things out of the totes as Nathan went around with my Leatherman multitool breaking all but one of my color coded zip ties on each tote. That way I could still identify them on my master shipping list, but get into them as well.

In the first day after arriving I got most of our items put away, and it started to feel like home. I had packed a lot of pictures and decorative items that I felt would make our new apartment feel more personal. That fact outweighed the cost of shipping what some may have considered superfluous items. I wanted to create a home that we would want to live in for multiple years.

Although I’m still looking for permanent places for some things and will probably be moving stuff around for a couple of weeks, the hardest part is over. Now, enjoy some pictures of the apartment!

As you walk in, here is the living room.

As you walk in, here is the living room.


And our dining room- Nathan hard at work doing some lesson plans!

And our dining room- Nathan hard at work doing some lesson plans!


The Kitchen! A little messy, but I was unpacking still!

The Kitchen! A little messy, but I was unpacking still!


Our cozy bedroom

Our cozy bedroom


Nice big closets! Now I wish I had brought more hangers!

Nice big closets! Now I wish I had brought more hangers!


Our second bedroom where I am organizing things currently. We hope to get a desk, and maybe someday it will be a nursery!

Our second bedroom where I am organizing things currently. We hope to get a desk, and maybe someday it will be a nursery!


Most excitingly- a large chest freezer in our storage room!

Most excitingly- a large chest freezer in our storage room!

Thanks for reading- bear with me as I deal with internet and power issues here, and I will keep updating the blog as much as possible!

Our First Feast

In the orientation we learned that many members of the native communities were Russian Orthodox and held fast to the tradition of feasting when a member of their family had passed away. They feast for about three days after the death, and then have a commemorative feast on the 20th and 40th days after their loved one’s passing. This symbolizes the community eating to aid the loved one on their journey to heaven, with the 40 days being highly symbolic biblically.

On our first full day in the village we attended one such feast at the house of the school’s secretary, Joe. His mother had passed that week. One of the other teachers, Seraphima, was gracious enough to take the rest of us under her wing and explain what to expect and how to act. Unlike many events in the lower 48, we were told that it would be considered rude and insulting to bring anything to his house in terms of food for the feast. Food is still a sign of wealth and well-being in a subsistence culture, and to bring food when someone is hosting you is akin to saying that you don’t think that they can provide.

When we arrived at Joe’s house, we saw lots of other villagers there already, and a swarm of children playing all over the yard and porch. Going inside, we did not have to take off our shoes because there were a lot of people there, rather we proceeded to the dining room/kitchen where a large table was set up with chairs all along and food on it. There were a number of large pots and serving bowls in the corner of the kitchen as well, with Joe’s family members manning the serving duties. We sat or stood quietly around the edge of the room and introduced ourselves to members of the community after saying hello to Joe who had met us at the door. I have heard so many new names in the past week, I’m not sure I will ever learn who everyone is. As overwhelming as it is right now, I’m sure that I will look back on these writings later and laugh.

As each person finished eating, they would rise and leave, and a person who had been waiting would be called to sit in the now vacant seat. As new teachers and members of the village, we were invited to essentially skip ahead and eat before some of the people who had been there before us.
Taking my seat at the table I was offered a variety of different dishes, including clam chowder, moose stew, and another type of fish soup. I took the clam chowder (having been told by a priest who was leaving that it was very good) and I was not disappointed. It was very good- warm, tasty and familiar. Elders sitting around the table urged me to try other types of food that were on our table. I tried some dried whitefish that had been smoked. I almost choked on the first bite, not prepared for the deep smoky flavor. Now I’m used to what we call ‘smoked flavor’ down in the lower 48- a subtle taste that compliments, but doesn’t overpower. This must have been a delicate fish to start with, because it tasted like I had solidified smoke or a wood chip in my mouth. I politely finished the piece, but learned to take smaller bites!

At a feast, it is said that it is “all you can eat” but that is not really the case. It is important to come and show your support, but it is also important to realize that there are simply not enough calories in the village for everyone to eat to their fill all the time- and “all you can eat” is a way for people in the community to provide for each other and support their friends as well as family. The feast continues all day until the family simply runs out of food.

After eating, the group of new teachers took our dishes to the girls washing them in the sink, and thanked the family again for the meal. It is very humbling to be welcomed into a community so openly.

Arriving in Napaskiak

The view from our front door in Napaskiak, AK.

The view from our front door in Napaskiak, AK.

As soon as we climbed out of the bush plane and set foot on the gravel runway in the rural town of Napaskiak I could hear the shouts of children running towards us. Along with them was one of the other new teachers, Liann. We turned to help our pilot unload the plane, stacking our luggage and boxes of groceries on the runway. Joe, the school’s secretary would be coming out to meet us on his ATV with a cart to move all of the luggage to teacher housing. He arrived within a couple minutes, just as we had unloaded the last of the boxes. Our pilot, seeing that we were taken care of, climbed back into the cockpit, waved goodbye, and was taking off down the runway back to Bethel.

We had learned so much about the people and the culture of the village that we were moving to, but all the knowledge in the world couldn’t have really prepared us for our first journey through the village. An overwhelming feeling came over me as an ever increasing group of children surrounded us, took our hands, and asked us an unending amount of questions. All of the advice we were given kept going through my head, and I was trying to think of what to say and do, but it all just kind of went out the window, and I just said whatever came to mind with all of their questions buzzing around me. The little girls fought over who got to hold my hand, but we took turns and everyone got to hold hands so no feelings were hurt.

We talked about how I was married, and they all wanted to look at my ring. When the little girl on my right saw that I was wearing my class ring too she asked me if I had gotten married twice! I explained to them that where I grew up when you graduated from high school you could get a ring. Moments like this really made me realize what a different world we were stepping into.

Walking along the boardwalk through the village children joined our group and peeled off to go play as well. Everyone wanted to know our names and if we were teachers. I exchanged names with so many little girls that I’m not sure I will remember any of them. They chattered away as we walked and I tried to take it all in- seeing if I could discern one building from another. I knew that the village had a store and a post office as well as a health clinic. We passed by the store, but arrived at the teacher housing before we saw anything else.

Teachers and their families live in one of two 4-plex apartments connected by a large ramp. The two story buildings look out of place in the village comprised of one story houses on stilts. Joe had already unloaded all of our luggage at the bottom of the ramp, so we began moving boxes up to our apartments. Nathan and I will be living in apartment 4 in the left building, and they had left a key for us taped to our door inside. However when Lisa, the dean of students, attempted to open the front door her key went in and turned, but the door stayed locked! We had traveled over 4,000 miles across the country to our new home and couldn’t get in the front door!

Never have I known the saying ‘so close but so far’ better than while we stood on the porch waiting for the maintenance man Paul to arrive and let us in. He had been taking a steam (more on that later) when we called, so we felt bad for interrupting, but he came right over on his ATV. Paul looked at the door, took the lock apart, fiddled with something and then took Lisa’s key and pushed hard on the door while turning it. He had worked some sort of magic because we were finally able to go inside!!

After bringing our boxes upstairs and saying goodbye to the kids outside we had some time to explore our apartment and unpack. As overwhelmed by everything as I was, I loved the feeling of community that I got in the village. Everyone was connected, and we were going to be a part of that.

Charter Flights

The huge pile of luggage we had to transport downriver!

The huge pile of luggage we had to transport downriver!

To travel from Bethel to Napaskiak after the orientation days our school principal chartered two separate planes for our group of five because we had so much luggage. I saw the manifest at one point, and in addition to the five of us we had 515lbs of luggage. Mind you, this was because we had been shopping and Nathan and I still hadn’t been out to the village yet, so we had all of our large luggage we had carried with us on the commercial flights.

The first group of three teachers and a miniature schnauzer dog got onto the small four seat plane at about 5:50pm.

Such a tiny plane!

Such a tiny plane!

We watched with anticipation as they took off down the runway and disappeared into the sky. I was surprised at how quickly the plane lifted off the ground and was gone!

We were supposed to be right behind them in a six seat plane with all the luggage. However, the airline had been running really far behind that day because of all the fog in the mornings. Come to find out, after speaking with the girl in the Charter room, this time of year is notorious for being behind schedule. They simply don’t fly when it is foggy or the weather is bad because safety of the pilots, passengers and planes must come first. So we sat down and watched other flights take off and land for about another hour and a half until we would get news that we had a plane.

During that time, we might have gotten a little silly…

#bearselfie

#bearselfie

#angrymoose

After the principal came by the airport to see if we were still there, they did some digging to see if they could find us a plane any sooner. About half and hour later they had confirmation that a plane the size we needed was coming back in; We actually jumped up and down and cheered- Nathan, myself, and the girl in the Charter Department who would finally get to go home too! The airport workers grabbed all of our luggage that had already been weighed and tagged to put onto a pallet to bring out when the plane parked.

The view of our plan from inside the airport building

Loading our luggage inside!

Holding the door open for us to get inside the tiny six seat plane!

The flight itself was only five minutes. Our pilot told us that it is the only flight they fly that doesn’t have an interim period- it is simply taking off and landing procedures. I have posted the video I took of the flight on my facebook page, and it really was that short- in fact it has taken longer to upload the video than it took to fly here!

I was so excited to finally make it to our village after such a long journey… More posts later to explore what we have found here!

Bethel and New Teacher Orientation

We landed in Bethel on Monday morning on a plane with about 6 other teachers. It was our first time flying on a plane with open seating. To hear more about that check out my blog on Bush Flying. For the next two and a half days the school would be putting us up in the hub town for the school district; providing food and training for all the new teachers. Because we are a couple we got to stay in the Longhouse Hotel here in Bethel, with some teachers who were also married or had pets. All the other single teachers stayed in the dorms on the other end of town. We had free unlimited Wi-Fi and cable so I think we totally got the better end of the deal.

The Longhouse Hotel where we stayed in Bethel.

The Longhouse Hotel where we stayed in Bethel.

The first day of teacher orientation focused on the culture and traditions of the Yupik people, as well as characteristics of the villages we would be flying out to. The YK delta has three distinct areas: Costal, Tundra, and Kuskokwim/Yukon River. Napaskiak is right on the Kuskokwim River, in fact it is only 7 air miles from Bethel.

It was exciting to finally meet some of the other people traveling to Napaskiak. They came over later than us because they had already been out to the village, but their plane back into Bethel was delayed because of weather. That is something that we are going to have to get used to out here- they say everyone is really flexible about it, and that is just how it goes. Anyway, there are a total of 4 new teachers this year, including Nathan. Lianne is the new 6th grade teacher, John is taking 5th, Nathan is the high school English teacher, and Lisa is the new Dean who is also covering a couple classes. Everyone is so nice and inviting and open. We are all in the same boat and I think we clicked right away. John is married with two kids, and his wife isn’t a teacher, so I was excited to know that there is someone else out here who is in the same situation as me.

I also met Nathan’s principal for the first time. TJ is really nice as well, (everyone out here is just great! Seriously!) and we talked for a minute about me signing on as a substitute teacher- something that they really need out here. I think that it would be a great way for me to keep just busy enough, and earn some extra money for savings as well.

Right before lunch they took a break from the power point presentations for a live demo… on cutting fish! Some local people from the school district pulled out some huge silver salmon and demonstrated the different ways they cut up the fish for preservation and cooking. It was fascinating. You could hear the bones crack as she skillfully cut off the head, and that made me cringe a little bit, but I couldn’t deny that once she opened up the fish and had it all laid out it looked like some of the most beautiful filets I had ever seen. Her technique was amazing and she made it look so easy.

Cutting open the Silver Salmon

Cutting open the Silver Salmon

The fully cut up fish. She cut this one the way they would normally prepare a King Salmon.

The fully cut up fish. She cut this one the way they would normally prepare a King Salmon.

We also learned some traditional native Yupik dancing. The movements told the story of a grandfather shaman who could not find the drum and drumsticks of another shaman that he was challenging, so each time he asked one of his grandchildren or great grandchildren to help look. When the drum was found he cast it down and stomped on it, defeating his opponent. It was fun to learn while dancing, and it would get faster and faster, as we tried to pair the movements with the words. I was really just mumbling most of it, but could really get into the beat of the drum and enjoyed myself immensely. We did this dance several times during the day to get energized.

The second day of orientation focused a lot on the more technical teaching aspects for the school district so I decided to sleep in, stay at the hotel and explore Bethel. We were staying on the other end of town, so I would have to walk to the school or take a cab. Rather than spend the $7 for the cab ride (Not a bad price at all! Flat fees per person to go all over town) I would walk to kill the three hours I had before orientation let out. Armed with the map they gave me at the front desk I was on my way!

The Map of Bethel given to me by the guy working the hotel front desk.

The Map of Bethel given to me by the guy working the hotel front desk.

Here is a little of what I saw:

The kids in Bethel have been painting all of the dumpsters around town with artwork- a cool way to bring color into town!

The kids in Bethel have been painting all of the dumpsters around town with artwork- a cool way to bring color into town!

Walking down Fourth Street on my way to Subway.

Walking down Fourth Street on my way to Subway.

Excited to be in a Subway Restaurant!

Excited to be in a Subway Restaurant!

I was a little bit geeky when I saw this- I wanted to go in and look at the appliances!

I was a little bit geeky when I saw this- I wanted to go in and look at the appliances!

Finally I made it to the School without getting lost (thanks map!) and we were all waiting to head to the airport and finally fly out to our villages!

Hiking in Earthquake Park

Just off the road by the post office near the airport in Anchorage is a small state park called Earthquake Park. We decided on a whim to check it out- even though I was wearing flip flops and not really equipped for hiking, we had a great time! I’ll let the pictures tell the story this time!

Reading some of the historical information about the Good Friday Earthquake that rocked Anchorage.

Reading some of the historical information about the Good Friday Earthquake that rocked Anchorage.

Dangerous... that means we have to try! ;)

Dangerous… that means we have to try! 😉

Nature!

Nature!

Flip Flops in the Woods... Oops.

Flip Flops in the Woods… Oops.

Some really gorgeous scenery on the edge of the bay. We sat and watched dragonflies and planes take off from here.

Some really gorgeous scenery on the edge of the bay. We sat and watched dragonflies and planes take off from here.

Anchorage!

Anchorage!

We found Nathan a new home out here!

We found Nathan a new home out here!

Bear Tracks???

Bear Tracks???

More Nature and some of that Dangerous Water and Mud Pit!

More Nature and some of that Dangerous Water and Mud Pit!

Thanks for Reading! More Adventures to come!

Anchorage Adventures- Meeting a former Bush Teacher!

We were extremely fortunate to be able to meet with a friend of our hosts who had been a teacher in the Alaskan Bush for 17 years, and now lives one street over from where we were staying in Anchorage. Breakfast was at The Middle Way Café on Northern Lights Boulevard. It was a really fun and comfortable spot for hanging out and eating and chatting. Cheryl came in, curls bouncing and three beautiful children following behind. Her personality matched her red curls- beautiful and full of life.

She was a wealth of information and put us totally at ease. I think the scariest thing about moving 4,000 miles to the middle of nowhere is the unknown. Not leaving all our stuff behind, or being so far from our families. Technology lets us connect so easily, I don’t feel like I’m that far away. But going into a village and immersing yourself in a totally foreign culture is scary. I don’t know what is expected, or what will be considered offensive. Being able to share these feelings with Cheryl and knowing that she went through the same thing was so comforting.

We learned that the community is likely to be extremely welcoming, but very curious about us and our lives as well- especially the children. They will ask unfiltered questions, and they are not being rude, it is just how they take away that level of mystery and form a connection with us. I think I was most surprised by the fact that they will begin to ask us where our children are. As a young married couple, we have talked about having children, but it has mostly been in an abstract ‘aren’t they adorable’ kind of way. Babies didn’t fit into the hustle and bustle of living in the suburbs working multiple jobs in order to advance our careers and pay the rent at the same time. We were told that they won’t be upset or judge us that we don’t have kids yet, but if time goes by and we continue to stay a family of two they will become concerned for our relationship. Children are seen as a blessing in a subsistence community- not a burden and a college education down the line. It is not unusual for girls to start having children in their late teens out here; it helps continue their way of life that requires everyone to work hard and do their part.

After talking with Cheryl I got really excited about the culture and moving out there. She simply glowed when she talked about being a part of a community, and all of the experiences she had out there. She was also able to elaborate on some of the educational programs that are in Alaska that are unique. Battle of the Books is something that the kids really embrace. Starting in the summer a book list is released for each grade level, and then middle school and high school students. They independently read the books and then there is a competition later in the year where they use the knowledge of the stories, titles and authors to compete in teams. We both were really excited to head to Title wave books next door and see some of the selections. I had read some of them, and took down the high school list to add to my growing list of reading.

Battle of the Books is a Big Deal!

Battle of the Books is a Big Deal!

Being able to have a little glimpse of village life was really exciting to both of us. It has been so easy to just get wrapped up in all the details of moving and shopping and such that we forgot some of the excitement about the lifestyle that we are going to be immersing ourselves in.