Sunday, September 20, 2009

"I SEE BETHEL!!!"

Chris: [to Joel] Well, you know the way I see it, if you're here for four more years or four more weeks, you're here right now. You know, and I think when you're somewhere you ought to be there, and because it's not about how long you stay in a place. It's about what you do while you're there, and when you go is that place any better for you having been there?
(Northern Exposure 1990)
We rounded up 2 trucks to haul our proud Seahawk runners and me 'Coach' ( they call me it and still I crack up) out to the airport Friday night after school to catch our charter plane, a 9 passanger Navajo (we made it a full flight that evening) to Bethel in time to participate in our first cross country meet Saturday morning! The kids were giddy and so was Coach! As the plane had lift off 9 eager heads turned back toward me (occupying the rear seat) with grins and wide eyes. We pressed our noses against the windows watching the now changing tundra pass under us. Fall is taking over the north country, the brilliant greens have given away to yellows, golds and browns. Yep, we were air borne out of Quinhagak, next stop the thriving metropolis of Bethel, Alaska. Rightly regarded so by us, in comparison to our 550 people, no restaurants, no major stores, 15 vehicles and no paved roads, a trip in to Bethel is a pretty big deal. As we neared that buzzing hub of southeast Alaska I heard one of the kids pipe up "Hey! I SEE BETHEL!!!!" Then one by one with necks stretched and lifting themselves as high in their seats as the baling twine would allow (kidding, kidding we had real seat belts, sort of) each one confirmed the sighting. Our adventure began! Bethel High School organizes, executes and host this rendezvous of all surrounding (within 500 miles radius) villages and cities. The school temporarily turns into a bed and breakfast, so sorry, no vacancy. You walk in and are assigned a classroom where you will call home for the evening, snuggling up on the floor next to the classroom closet, fish tank or maybe wedged between a few rows of desks:) Boys to one wing, girls to the other. Kids running around in every direction making strategic and efficient use of their limited time to connect with old friends from neighboring villages and meet new ones. A mist this cross country hubbub, thankfully Mike Radtke, (my colleague who I've worked with at LCO for the last 7 years and first official visitor to Quin) decided to swing on up this way and visit for a few weeks. Mike is, to say the least is a free spirit, ready to seize to whatever opportunities come his way. He reminds me to stop and enjoy the simple things like happy kids. Anyway, this particular opportunity that came his way included having to hit the ground running (quite literally) by my throwing him into the male chaperon position for the male half of my team for this event. Of course if you know Mike you know he fit in perfectly and had several job offers before I even caught up with him. He met us at the high school (how odd was that eh? Walking into Bethel High and seeing Mike) he had arrived in Bethel the day before and spent his waiting time with our friend Anya and touring around Bethel. What site for sore eyes, to see a familiar face from home warmed my heart and I've so enjoyed showing him life here. His first encounter with me went something like this:

"So good to see you! Mike meet the boys. Boys meet Mike. Good? Okay I have to get to the coaches' meeting. Bye."


After the meeting ended I found my "now bonded with Mike" team. Since no trip
to Bethel would be complete for any of us if it didn't involve at least one hour long shopping spree to the AC store (closest thing to a Walmart for 700 miles or so), we rallied the team and made the 1 mile 'urban hike' along the highway and back, before scooting them off to their classroom beds by 10pm. In the early am 7ish, while it was still dark, the kids started suiting up in black and gold (our colors), packing up, preparing to eat and be transported to the course by Bethel teachers who volunteered to drive. The day was gorgeous! Sunshine and a course that is completely sand and hills (fyi we have no hills in Quin and ran around in circles on the sloping beach access to train for this meet)!!! It made me think of all my pals back in Wisconsin who were riding their hearts out in the Chequamegon Fat Tire Race at the exact same time. The fat tire race is hilly and one particular spot is really sandy too. That's what my kids had to run through but for the entire race! Way too go you crazy mountain bikers wish I coulda been there (okay, not really, I like where I am) but I would have liked to bike it with yas. Fortunately the next best thing was happening, my friend Geri rode my bike in the race! At least my bike got to do it. I hear she got a pretty darn good time too:) Anyway my tundra tough runners had to race in a sand pit! Against teams that are 50 times the size of our school, it was like a Division 3 school playing a Division 1, a farm team playing a major league team, or the Packers playing the Vikings...you get the idea, te, he, he. Our stellar runners did outstanding!!!!! I was so proud of them! They were proud of themselves, call smiles! They represented Quinhagak beautifully. Go Seahawks, Way to Run Tough (Ericism)! We ended the day with a well deserved cruise around the paved roads of Bethel and a stop off at Subway where everyone learned to choose and order subs! Mike's treat. Quyana Mike. We were flown back to Quin in a plane that I must report was held together with cargo tape. I got a few justified skeptical glances from the kids as we tried to buckle in. Charlie's seat was apparently detachable as in not secured to the floor of the plane, to make room for oh, I don't know a box of lettuce, a snow go, maybe canned peas or something. Once we were safely landed in Quin and the engine was off, in an attempt to help the pilot expedite the de-boarding process, I was willing to reach over and open the back door, I mumbled this plan aloud while fumbling for the handle (just like in a car) until Jorey loudly warned me "Coach! No! Some of these planes are SENSITIVE you know!" Oh, so that's what they're calling it... "Sensitive" must be FAA code for: clunker most likely unsuitable for safe travel but, what the hay,probably got a few more good flights left in her...let's label her 'sensitive' and send her on up. Okay what matters is we made it back safe, had great stories to tell, good food (from AC store) to put in our fridges and a race well run. Mike's first day in Quin has consisted of a walk to the beach yesterday evening, a run with Principal Eric this am, church this morning, a trip up river today with Jim and Steph in their smoothly running motor boat (wow, the tundra colors are so different now). Jim immediately landed a huge blushed out Coho while Mike supervised. Steph and I picked a few gallons of cranberries. We all had salmon dinner tonight, then Mike walked Ani into the sunset after supper. It's been a busy 24 four hours, he and Ani are asleep, him on the floor and Ani on the couch...lol. Our friend Anya is scheduled to be in Quin this week so it'll be a regular LCO reunion up here in the tundra. Oh yeah, Ani and I tried out our new skijoring set up tonight out on the beach, except we ran, since there is no snow at this time. The wind sure is howling tonight though, a reminder of weather yet to come.
Local News: Congrats to Fannie and David's family! They got a moose this week. I hear they've been busy cutting it up and packing away the bounty!

Shout out to all my LCO pals! Dorothy-Thank you for the Card! I miss you all so much:) Juli-Ani loves his treats (in moderation, of course) and I love the bookmarks, Sue Rowe has such a dry sense of humor! June-Market those postcards would ya please? Thank you. Tammy- (science teacher extraordinaire) My dear friend, 'one foot where I am and one foot always pointed toward home'... as are my thoughts and prayers;) Lisa Maria-You go girl! A Rock Star teacher whose classroom even the Senator wants to get in on! Mrs. Johnson's Class have great time hosting the big wig on Friday! I know you'll wow him! Remember you want a paid field trip to either Washington D.C. or Quinhagak, Alaska for your teacher and your class!!!!

Thank you to Mum and Auntie Jan for the cozy warm slippers, cashew brittle and Ketchup Chips Eh! My favorite:) Love you and being loved by you!


"You've all been to the stadium and seen the athletes race. Everyone runs; one wins. Run to win. All good athletes train hard. They do it for a gold medal that tarnishes and fades. You're after one that's gold eternally." 1 Corinthians 9:24-25

4 comments:

  1. Is Mike holding a salmon? That's a great photo. :)

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  2. yep its a silver or coho salmon

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  3. What a great story... Loved reading it. Please send on my hearty, "Congratulations," to your brave runners!!! Thanks for the encouragement. YOU are my Encouragement Queen. A big, "Hello," to Mike... Looks as happy as can be. What an awesome picture of you with the buckets of cranberries. You look so happy. I'll have to print that one and bring it to SNAP to show Mr. California! ;)

    Sending love and prayers,
    Lisa Maria Sorry... had to note, "Maria, not Marie." I was born the same year as Lisa Marie Presley... Lisa Marie was a dime a dozen. I have on to my, "Maria" with pride. :)

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  4. opps I'll change that lol Mike and Anya say hi back at ya!

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