Saturday, August 15, 2009

Experiencing The Sweet Spots In Life

“After you’ve been in a place for awhile everything starts to look.... well, you’re everyday life begins to be familiar, you recognize the faces, which is understandable because they’re the only ones you ever see anymore.” ~Joel Fleishman (Northern Exposure)

Waqaa ya’ll. (above is a pic of my favorite spot in my house) I feel like this is where I have been lately... a sweet spot. Just got home from an evening walk around the village with Animoosh (Ojibwe word meaning 'dog') who has made himself at home in my cozy little abode on Honey Bucket Lane (which aren’t such a big deal after all, actually ‘peeing’ in a bucket has become kind of a novelty) there’s talk in the neighborhood that Eric is going to order us ventilation fans too, with that our bathrooms will be smelling less in no time. (To the left, my honey bucket) Yes, Ani is now so comfortable that he has recently taken the liberty to, as far as I can figure...mark his territory. Apparently, he’s staked his claim on the intersection between the bathroom/bedroom/laundry room. Thankfully I caught him in the act both times and attempted to dog whisper the fact that this is not the place or manner in which to relieve himself. I was hoping last week’s streak of no accidents wasn’t luck but a house trained dog. O well, I think it’ll take our relationship to a new level. He’s a sweet dog and great company once he got over the initial shock of indoor living. He spent the first few days hiding in the corner of the farthest bedroom. (Right, Ani outside my house). Now he follows me around and thanks to dried salmon he is learning to ‘sit’. He freaks out about linoleum and won’t walk on it yet. Tonight Mac (my special education counter part teaching middle/high school and also accomplished musician) and I, took the advice of Pauline (our amazing para) to volunteer at the church to sing! It was Saturday night sing service. We thought, “Why not???” I met Mac at the church and he was recruited right away to join the band (3 other guitars) and an electric piano complete with drum beats. People signed up and sang songs, some in Yupik and some in English. (Left what my house is standing on) What a joy! Mac and I sang Amazing Grace, that’s how I feel lately, amazed by God’s faithful and real amazing grace. His fingerprints are all over this journey. Where do I even begin to share with you. How about I try to recap it so far. 1. Deciding to move to Alaska with or with out a job back in January. 2. That ad in the Sawyer County Record for Teachers in Alaska to perk my interest in March. 3. Finding out about this job by way of my friend Jodi’s husband Matt and a couple from my home church in WI in April. 4. Meeting Carlton (Assistant to superintendent of our Lower Kuskokwim School District) at Perkins in Hayward while he happened to be visiting family (from my home church) who lived 30 minutes from my Hayward back in April. Listening to him tell me about Quinhagak, the students, the school, the teachers, and Eric, now my principal (originally from Ladysmith,WI again 45 minutes from Hayward). 5. Taking the job site unseen. With the support and encouragement from family and friends all along the way. 6. Getting to live with Josh and Sam in Anchorage this summer. Reconnecting with Brandon and Ang and Kathy. Meeting Drew in Anchorage whose dad was the psychologist in Quin and learning about village life. 7. Finding out an email/running friend in Minneapolis had a friend who worked in Quin several years ago and getting in contact with her. 8. Finding out Ann got a job in the district too. And getting to visit with her at the new teacher training. So uplifting to see a familiar face. 9. Arriving via my first bush plane ride with a kind welcome from Cindy who I ironically was already familiar with from letters written to me by the teacher I was replacing. (Left Quinhagak Public Transportation) Being overwhelmed at the lack of trees and vast openness of it all. Threatening God that first night that I was going home. Unpacking only to empty boxes of things I didn’t want to ship back then repacking to send stuff home the next day. 9. Homesick and crying to family and friend’s then receiving their prayers, prayers, prayers. 10. Church that next morning at the (Moravian Church) now 2 weeks ago when I met Fannie who I know God sent to give a hug and reassurance that this is where I belong. 11. The friends I’ve met who love the Lord and have welcomed me open arms (Fannie Style) into their lives are helping me find my place here in this precious little corner of the world. (Answer to many prayers! Thank You all for Praying for me and getting God to keep me here.)12. I’ve met a friend, Jerilyn, from Quin who has been eager to start a bible study, praying about it with another friend of hers for over a year now. Miraculously there are at least 6 more of us that want to join one too so we all plan to start it at the end of August. (Right My Church)13. Going to be running early in the mornings with my friend Sherry (my principal’s wife) 4 times a week on all of our 15 miles of gravel road here in Quinhagak.(Left tundra from the plane) For village living, these are the equivalent of super highways...most places don’t even have anything near the likes of roads and instead they have boardwalks over the muddy tundra. 14. We are blessed here to have roads to tear around on our four wheelers (the main mode of transportation). These total of 15 miles of roads take us to the most amazing places...if you head north you’ll find yourself at the old airport runway along the Kanektok River home of some of the best salmon and trout fishing in North America and fishermen pay the price to the tune of $5000 or so for this weeklong trip of a lifetime. Taking our roads to the south you’ll see a backdrop of the picturesque Ahklun Mountain Range breathtakingly beautiful but unreachable at a mere 50 miles away across nearly impassable rolling tundra unless you are lucky enough to have a jet boat. To the east is some of the best blueberry picking in town on the banks of the Arolik River just past the GCI cell phone tower!!! Steph and I discovered this today when Anna cruised by on her four wheeler and tipped us off, a gallon each later we were happily wheeling home. And to the west is the expansive Bering Sea, a waterway that hosts commercial fishing boats which unload here in Quin at the fish plants during the summer months, rumored to be ending next week due to low fish counts. The Bering Sea provides a great beach accessible for runs, walks and mushing. All this nestled within the Togiak National Wildlife Refuge. (Above what every Alaskan needs in their tool kit-The Berry Picker!)It’s stunning and there is so much air to breath and to think I was opposite of claustrophobic when I stepped off the plane for lack of trees. 15. Days here have been full, meeting wonderful people, paying way too high prices for food and anything I need to buy, picking blue berries, salmon berries, black berries, crow berries, fishing for silvers, feeding and trying to train Ani, rearranging my classroom (to the very skeptical observations of my colleagues), adjusting to my caseload, my books which turn out to be much like what I used at LCO and watching reruns of Northern Exposure with my dog! (Left Steph and I with our catch) I’m turning into a fixture at Steph and Jim’s though they assure me that they’ll tell me when I’ve outstayed my welcome...(they’re lying, they are way too sweet). Again smack dab in the middle of the tundra Alaska I’m meeting the greatest of friends. Steph cracks me up and keeps me sane. Jim took us fishing last night and we hammered the silvers, he could be a guide around here during his off season. (Above Steph and Jim my friends, yes, I pay them) We kept him busy filleting fish and detaching them from our lines. 16. This morning after making my coffee in the percolating pot thankfully left behind by some kind soul, I proceeded to switch out my refrigerators, my kitchen fridge kicked the bucket so I moved the arctic entry fridge in. I definitely had that feeling of accomplishment, those were stinking heavy pieces of equipment to be dragging around. To reward myself I served up a tasty bowl of kraft mac and cheese then quickly spilled it all over the floor, lamented its loss and the fact that Ani was not around to help clean it up as he was on solitary confinement (outside) for the morning’s earlier territory marking episode. Then had Steph over for coffee. 17. Tim another stellar teacher and neighbor was checking to see if I had enough water. We have tanks in our houses that need to be filled weekly. Unfortunately, the water truck ’62 Ford had a flat tire so they’ve been hauling water with four wheelers in big plastic barrel garbage cans. So Tim stopping, in combination with my making milk in my Nalgene bottle out of the dried milk for the mac & cheese I shipped up from Anchorage, reminded me of life on the farm. (Left Tim and Jim) Back in the days of the cistern incapable of hosting our family of 5 resulting in it habitually running dry thus forcing the entire household to go on emergency water lock down... the whole.... 'if its yellow let it mellow', boiling snow to create enough water to flush the toilet, showering at Gramma’s and for some odd reason using dry milk to make milk??? That last one didn’t fit...what was the deal Mom? Why did you make us make milk in the pitcher with that dry milk mix??? Why didn’t we just go to town and buy milk? How did that work? Hum, anyway I now find myself mixing milk again. 18. It seems like many events in life up to this point have oddly enough prepared me to feel quite at ease in the bush. Spending summers up at the lake where outhouses i.e. the Pee Tree were the norm, hot water in the shower didn’t last long enough, and electricity going out wasn’t abnormal. ‘Running to the store’ meant a boat ride across the lake and you would surely pay plenty for any items purchased. (Above Jim demonstrating how to use an ATV.) I remember Mom using the ringer washer and would be lying if I told you I didn’t bath in the lake all summer. Little moments like those make Quinhagak feel luxurious and familiar, it makes me smile. (Left a house in the village with a steam house in the front) 19. So we spent the evening praising God for such a time as this. After the service we visited with friends and met more new people becoming acquainted with the faces we see often. 20. I know I won’t always feel content like this but right now, tonight with 5 minutes less of daylight than yesterday and the sound of four wheelers (‘hondas’ as they refer to them here) rumbling by I am happy to be here, at home, in Quinhagak, Alaska.

“What can I possibly say in the face of all this? You know me, Master God, just as I am. You’ve done all this not because of who I am but because of who you are-out of your very heart! But you’ve let me in on it.” 2 Samuel 7:20-21


  1. Oh, my sweet Rachel... It sounds like God has more than prepared you for your experience in Alaska! I am thrilled, and oh, so happy for you. Your neighbors and friends will be blessed abundantly to have you in their midst. I thoroughly enjoyed talking with you tonight. I miss you terribly, as do Jack and Brynn, but delight in the thought that you are exactly where you are supposed to be. Thank you for your encouragement... it means the world to me. Love you much, Lisa

  2. I'm glad to hear that you're adjusting to the tundra and having more great adventures. Ani looks super cute - just be patient with the house training. Sophie & Maggie always lift my spirits when I get home.