Gearing up for NaNoWriMo!

When we were first thinking of moving to Alaska I wrote a list of things I would do with my time here because I would be essentially unemployed, save some substitute teaching. It was a question that was brought up by the school district in several of Nathan’s interviews, and something I addressed myself in one of my first blog posts. On that list I included “Write something… and finish it”

Ideally, I would love that something to be impactful, and great, and hey while I’m dreaming, I would love to pen a bestseller! But the most important thing is that I will write something… and finish it. As a teen I would write stories all the time. Scattered in notebooks, written in gel pen, bleeding with teenage angst and emotion, and all ultimately incomplete.

This is where NaNoWriMo comes into play. If you haven’t heard of it, National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is November. The premise of the website is to bring together writers from all over the world to write 50,000 words towards a novel in the 30 days of November. The stress on the word count is important: it pushes you to put your editing mind aside, and just write. Write whatever you are thinking. Write without a critical mind. Write without holding yourself back. Editing can come later, after you have a substantial first draft to work with.

This brings to mind the phrase my English Major Husband loves: Write Hot, Edit Cold. When you are really letting your creative juices flow, and feel like you are really inside the story, it is important to just keep going. Leave the critical eye for editing until a later time, after your passion has flowed onto the page. That is probably what I really needed as a teenager. I was so good at ‘writing hot’, but I never got around to the editing cold part.

NaNoWriMo forces you to have an accountability as well. You make a commitment, and the more you talk about it, the more weight being successful holds. For those in more densely populated areas they have meet ups in person where people can support each other and write to reach their goals. Because I am so far removed from civilization and literally have to take a plane to get anywhere, my meet ups and socialization must all happen electronically. So I am committing to telling everyone that I am setting this goal for myself, so that I will be accountable. I also plan on weekly ‘check in’ blog posts to let you all know how it is going!

Today NaNo’s Facebook page challenged all the writers to write a 150 word “Writer’s Manifesto”. Something that you can look at during the month of November when you aren’t feeling inspired, and remember why you wanted to do this challenge in the first place. Something to galvanize your spirit. I think this is a great idea, and will publish mine here. Having this audience makes me accountable, and less likely to fail.

My Writer’s Manifesto

I will complete what I set out to do, without compromise. I will write characters that embody the compassion I wish to share with the world, and the complexities that are alive in all of us. I will write women who are real, who may not always be strong, but are always true. I will write, even when I am scared, doubtful, and want to throw in the towel. Slaying my inner vampires I will overcome the barriers I create myself, and commit to creating openly and fearlessly. I will strive to write something that matters, something that inspires, something that makes a difference.

If you have ever participated in NaNoWriMo I would love to hear about your experiences! Any Advice, successes, stumbling blocks? Is it your first year too and you would like a writing buddy to help keep you accountable and on track? Let me hear about it in the comments below, and we can all work through this together!

Yupik Names

An aerial view of our village.

An aerial view of our village.

In native Yupik villages, it is common for everyone to have an English (or kassaq- pronounced “guss-ick” meaning white person or Caucasian) name as well as a Yupik one. When teachers and other outsiders such as myself come to live in the villages, we receive a Yupik name. It works differently depending on where you live; some villages name you right on the first day, whereas others wait until the get to know you to bestow you with a name.
Yupik names can be a word that describes your personality, something you like, or it could be the name of someone who has passed away. Both Nathan and I have received names, and for different reasons.

Nathan’s Yupik name is Yaqulpak (pronounced ya-gush-buck) which means “Eagle”. He was asked what his favorite animal was, and that was the name they bestowed upon him. He had some trouble pronouncing it, and the kids are really sticklers for correct pronunciation, but everyone tries to help us out in good spirits.

My Yupik name is Amlliq (pronounced um-sh-k) and means “a great step forward” I have been told. I looked it up in the Yupik dictionary and found that it does mean a step, and in some cases it can refer to a legendary fish monster. Pretty cool, in my opinion.

There was an Elizabeth in the village who had passed away, and Amlliq was her Yupik name, so it was passed on to me because we share the same English name. When they pass on a name, they say that it makes that person live on, and others will actually address you by the relationship they had with the other person, be it mother, sister, etc. I was really touched when they gave me my name, and was also excited that I was able to pronounce it correctly the first time!

The language uses a lot of deeper throat sounds and requires you to move your tongue in ways I am not used to, having grown up speaking only English, and a little bit of French. For example the “ll” makes a sound similar to the “sh” in English, but there is a kind of lisp to it as well. I don’t know of any way to denote that phonetically, and I had to be instructed on how to hold my tongue to make the right noise. Also the “iq” makes a “k” sound, but it is almost like you are swallowing the letter. It is placed very far in the back of your throat. To hear natives speak so smoothly, I can only hope someday to sound as good- right now I am really rough and have to think a lot about the sounds, making it a jarring experience where I sound like I am choking about half the time. There is a whole section of the dictionary that I have downloaded that pertains to the phonetics of the language, and where the words come from, that I am going to find very helpful I think.

Moving out here I thought I would pick up the language right away, but I was mistaken. It is nothing like learning in a classroom, and it isn’t a total immersion experience either. I am picking up words here and there, and as I interact with the kids, they teach me when they have the patience. I think the dictionary I found is going to satisfy a lot of my curiosity as well.

Do any of you have great stories about your birth name, or names given to you later on in life? There is so much wrapped up in a person’s name, and I would love to hear your stories in the comments!

A Whirlwind Wedding

My sister in law has been engaged for over a year, and early on she asked me to be her matron of honor, and of course I said yes. Later on, Nathan and I learned that we were going to be moving to Napaskiak AK just a month before the ceremony. There was absolutely no question that we would have to travel back to the East Coast that second weekend in September. I can say now that I am extremely happy that we did, and that the more than 44 hours of traveling through airports, navigating the rental car experience, and high-speed driving on the highway after a month of no driving at all (eek!), was nothing when it came to spending just under 2 days with old and new family members.

We started out on Wednesday evening with a chartered flight at 6pm out of Napaskiak. I had strategically packed our suitcases so that we could go shopping in the lower 48 and bring back some things we wished we had sent up the first time around. (TIP: Pack a Vacuum Spacebag for your dirty clothes, so that you have extra space in your suitcase for things on your return trip!) It was really interesting to find that it was cheaper for us to Charter a private 3 seat plane for the two of us, as opposed to taking a regularly scheduled flight. Waiting at the airport in the village for our flight we took some pictures to pass the time.

The trooper plane at the airport.

The trooper plane at the airport.

Waiting for our Charter Flight!

Waiting for our Charter Flight!

Our pilot soon arrived, only about 10 minutes late. He explained that he had been sent to the wrong village at first, and then apologized that he was late. I have really relaxed about punctuality since being here, so it didn’t bother me in the least- and our next flight from Bethel didn’t leave until 9:35pm, so we had plenty of time built in for situations just like this. Like everything else here in the Bush, weather can wreak havoc on the best laid plans, so it is better to plan ahead and think of the worst case scenario. It is better to be pleasantly surprised, than really stressed out.

In a tiny 3 seater plane! Our seats actually folded up in the back. I love Bush Planes!

In a tiny 3 seater plane! Our seats actually folded up in the back. I love Bush Planes!

Our Pilot, ready to takeoff!

Our Pilot, ready to takeoff!

The airports in Bethel are set further out from the town, with each airline in a separate building.

You can see the airport buildings as we landed in Bethel.

You can see the airport buildings as we landed in Bethel.

Because of this, we were isolated and needed something for dinner. In the Yute Airlines building there is a restaurant on the second floor, so Nathan went over and ordered a pizza and some sodas for us (the most expensive small pizza ever- about $22!). So over in the Alaska Airlines building we snacked on pizza and watched America’s Got Talent on the TV’s. In Bethel, you don’t go through security until just before you are about to board the plane. We watched as delivery people came with food from town, and realized that this may be a good idea next time we come through and have a craving for something other than pizza.

Our flight to Anchorage went without incident, and we boarded our plane to Seattle only a couple hours after landing and were on our way back to the lower 48! Our new GCI cell phones would incur lots of charges if we used voice calling or data outside of Alaska without upgrading our plan, so we made sure to let everyone know to contact us via text or through family that would be at the wedding.

After an hour delay in Seattle we did some shopping, and let the wedding party know that we wouldn’t be able to pick up Nathan’s tux before the shop closed, and that someone would need to pick it up for us.

The Philadelphia airport is so much larger than I really realized. I have flown out of there a couple times now, but when we went to go find the rental cars, we had to take a shuttle bus to a different location entirely. Thankfully I had sat next to a woman on the flight who needed a rental as well, so we made the journey together! After about a half an hour, I jumped into a bright shiny red VW Jetta and we were on our way to the wedding in Scranton!

We had missed the rehearsal and picnic after, but we made it with time to spare for getting ready and the ceremony. As a former Stage Manager, I helped put together the time schedule for the big day while on my layovers, and kept an eye on the clock making sure that everything happened (mostly) on time. It is amazing to me that I can be so relaxed about timelines while in the village, but I slip so easily back into my clock-watching ways on the East Coast!

Needless to say, the wedding was BEAUTIFUL, and we had an amazing time! I will let the pictures speak for themselves:

The beautiful bride and myself on the way to the ceremony!

The beautiful bride and myself on the way to the ceremony!

Bridesmaids and the Bride. I LOVED our orange lace dresses and cowboy boots- I was so comfortable AND fashionable!

Bridesmaids and the Bride. I LOVED our orange lace dresses and cowboy boots- I was so comfortable AND fashionable!


The bride's family.

The bride’s family.

Having some fun at the park while the photographers were working with the bride and groom.

Having some fun at the park while the photographers were working with the bride and groom.

Then the next day, we did some last minute shopping, packed our bags and left for the Philadelphia Airport to head back to the tundra. A note to anyone with a rental car going back to PHL- there are NO gas stations, so be prepared to prepay for your gas, or just suck it up and pay the ridiculous $5+ a gallon charge.

With my hair still curly from the ceremony, and my jewelry still on, we ventured through the airports grabbing what sleep we could on our return trip. I tried to keep my bouquet intact, but after the first flight, it was pretty devastated. So I tied it’s ribbon on my luggage and called it a day. Flowers don’t really hold up as well as people on a 4,000 mile journey!

The bouquet's ribbon on my luggage.

The bouquet’s ribbon on my luggage.

A 10 hour layover in the Anchorage Airport called for my bathrobe to be brought out!

A 10 hour layover in the Anchorage Airport called for my bathrobe to be brought out!

I found it a little cruel as we stepped off the 3rd of 4 planes we took to Bethel to see this painted on the body of the plane:

"Follow me to Disneyland"

“Follow me to Disneyland”

We most certainly were NOT in Disneyland! In fact Bethel greeted us that Sunday afternoon with a cold wind and intermittent rain.

Our last charter back to the village was flown by a young 20 year old guy from Seattle. It was his birthday and I was super impressed that he was a bush pilot- I hadn’t even stepped foot on a plane yet at that age!

5 days, over 8,000 miles, and lots of laughs later, we were finally back home. It was great to see family (and welcome some new members) but it was just as good to be back in the village, our home.

Shhhh…I’m hunting moosies!!!

These are some great thoughts and comments on the moose hunting season, and issues surrounding hunting in Alaska. I thought it would be great to share with all of you!

Alaskan Rumors

Time to stir the mud and draw up some controversy….

It’s at this time of year that I start getting that itch to hike in the hills and look for large brown moosies. I want to fill my freezer with meat that I know was raised right and is healthy for my family! I was raised on moose meat and I have strong memories of my dad going hunting every fall in Soldotna, AK. I remember as a young person, spending the night at a friends house and wondering why their meat tasted like cardboard. I later found out that it was store bought beef and it was very bland compared to the moose meat that I was used to.

As we move closer to the hunting season, I have the urge to buy a gun, ammo, meat bags, 4-wheeler, and a trailer. I get the urge to secure any…

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