Thursday, October 29, 2009

Happy Halloween and Life

The face of a child can say it all, especially the mouth part of the face.
~Jack Handey
Today behind the wrestling mat partition, the conversation went something like this:

Student 1: "Whoa you got old hands! (Pointing for student 2) Look at her old hands!"
Me: (futilely, neither student was listening) "Those are veins. And it's 'have'. You 'have' old hands."
Student 2: (Matter of factly) "It's because she got gray hair. Look." (Pointing for student 1)
Me: (to the wrestling mats) "Those are blonde highlights. And it's 'has'. She has gray hair. Okay, back to work."
Student 1: (involving me again)
"How old are you?"
Me: (giving up)" 75."
Student 2: (Frankly) "My upi (that's grampa in Yupik) is older than you. He's 85 maybe."
Me: (Raising my eyebrows and noting to self that 'number concepts' just shot up to #1 on the priority list) ....So much for enjoying my 30s. Kids say the darnedest things...on with the lesson "The dog is jumping over the stool..."
As I was being dragged along the road by Ani the other day we came up on the kids having a hilarious time pulling each other around on their snow go. I remember doing that at Gram and Grampa's farm with my cousins. We would get laughing so hard we could barely breath, fun times. So, the tundra has taken on the appearance of a snow cross track! I'm hoping to get the skis on on that track this weekend after the big Halloween expedition. On that note, I am thoroughly prepared for all the little superheroes and movie stars, thanks to so many of my wonderful friends in the lower 48 sending me candy. I was actually worried about having enough prior to getting 4 boxes of the sweet stuff, obviously my concerns were unfounded, God is totally into the details, He amazes me. The Quinhagak kiddos will be well sugared, better yet the blame is on all of you;) Naomi, our incredible and always smiling, post office attendant, was laughing as she pushed these 3 boxes toward me. She was also probably wondering if I had some kind of 'business' going on the side. I had to get a pic as she was shaking her head watching me try to load them up, peer over the top and head out the door. Something fun about Quin is that as you are walking along the road, just about everyone on four wheeler and occasional car will slow down to see if you might need or like a ride. So I didn't have to walk far with my surprises, Jim hauled me home on his 'honda'. Earlier that morning I was picked up by a mom bringing her kids to school and a few days before I caught a ride with some students on their 'honda'. Everyone looks out for each other. There is a warmness in this cold climate, that makes Quinhagak a beautiful community. I have a confession (sort of) maybe it's a pre-confession, is there such a thing?: I think I'm going to be addicted to 360 North, it's the Alaskan version of PBS "Its the channel for Alaskans by Alaskans..." I'm writing this because it's on TV right now.

This is a picture of the new housing against our snow blanketed mountains across the tundra.

Shout Out To: Mary Lou Who turns the BIG 30 on the 30th! Happy Golden Birthday My Friend! And to Amanda who turned the BIG 30 on the 26th! Hope it was fun in Puerto Rico! To Robyn my Kilimanjaro climbing/wound care healer friend who is arriving home from AFRICA!!! Jambo! Welcome back:) Auntie Jan, I love the branches I'll have a forest in my house soon:) Will post pics for yas. Thankful for each of you sharing life's journey. Have a Safe, Happy Halloween.

"Nursing infants gurgle choruses about you;
toddlers shout the songs..." Psalm 8:2

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Walking etc. in a Winter Wonderland

“When it snows, you have two choices: shovel or make snow angels." ~Anonymous

This weekend in Quinhagak the wind died down and activity picked up.

Actually you have three choices... the third being have a snowball fight! We selected option numero tres and have pictures to tell the story.

Correction there are four choices, also sledding on the hill (which we hope will grow in height as winter continues;)

Wow, pardon me, five choices, Steph and I walked the herd down to the ocean which had surprisingly swapped out it's summer/fall attire, featuring sprawling beach for a stylish ice pack edging, with that, the not so subtle threat of the coming disappearance entirely of our beloved beach altogether as more frozen water continues to move shoreward. This afternoon Sherry, Seekers, Ani and I seized the beach and went for a pre-skijoring run, that makes six choices when it snows;) Dogs and runners are now thoroughly anticipating the skijoring season.

Pics of the quickly disintegrating beach and the multiplying ice flows.

This is a snapshot of Quinhagak on our way back from the beach.

Shout Out To: My Gram and Auntie Shelly who so graciously called me this weekend to tell me they were eating at Dairy Queen and going shopping. Thank God for family to help me keep my perspective;)

"He orders the snow, 'Blanket the earth!' Job 37:6

Friday, October 23, 2009

Tundra Trends

"She's modeling the best way to wear a parka-as-a-style-piece: with a sassy outfit underneath (Carhartts). A parka in the City (Village) screams for sky-high heels (yeah, right) and a healthy dose of confidence. Of course her's is super high-end (military issued) but the one from Wikipedia is also pretty sweet in an old school way. If your mum, like mine, lives somewhere in the mid-west, try to steal her's when you're home at Thanksgiving. Maybe the drycleaner can get out that horsey/barn smell? Anyways, I don't really mind the parka but again it's a staple around here rather than a trend." ~Stylebites
Okay this is me in my fancy parka. Ani likes to walk down by Principal Eric's team because that's where all his friends and brother are, so I entertain him once in a while. Today was the first time we've wandered that direction since we've had snow to conveniently disguise the minefield that lies beneath. I appear to be joyously sending out a hug to the world from Quinhagak but the reality is, I am standing in a 2 foot deep hole dug by CT (Ani's brother), one of my principal's trusty sled dogs, which I had only moments before tripped and fallen into as snow was covering the hole creating a boobie trap. I'm actually taking a bow of clutzdom (which is the general state in which I exist). Poetically, I had a couple of students with me while Ani and I were on our evening walk so they were present to capture the moment on film and witness the whole graceful performance. That won't be lived down very soon.

We had teacher in service today so the kids took advantage of our new fallen snow, bundled up and spent the day playing outside.

Ani and CT (his brother) checking to see if I was okay after nearly plummeting to my...waist;)

Shout Out To: My neighbor back in Wisconsin, Larry, who's concern with the environment is noteworthy, I'll be planting a tree as soon as I find fertile ground just to keep you reading the blog;) And to Barb, his lovely wife, whom I was just informed, was on her way out of Marketplace Foods that fateful day the Bear made its way into the liquor store which made her the first person to spot him as he zinged past her on his way in!!!

"He continued this subject with his disciples. "Don't fuss about what's on the table at mealtimes or if the clothes in your closet are in fashion. There is far more to your inner life than the food you put in your stomach, more to your outer appearance than the clothes you hang on your body. Look at the ravens, free and unfettered, not tied down to a job description, carefree in the care of God. And you count far more." Luke 12:22-24

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

That's An Affirmative

"I can't criticize what I don't understand. If you want to call this art, you've got the benefit of all my doubts."
- Maurice to Chris, on his sculpture
Northern Exposure, 1990

I've raised my eyebrows for the second time. You got it. It means nothing to most of you but it's as exciting as all get out to me. It's a cultural thing. Within the Yupik culture it is acceptable if not even more probable that the answer to a question which requires a 'yes' response will be a nonverbal raising of the eyebrows in place of a verbal 'yes'. It's the same as nodding your head 'yes', except here we don't nod. Instead we raise our eyebrows and I've converted. Not intentionally but assimatingly. I was so surprised that I answered that way the first time which was a few days ago that I just passed it off as coincidence. But today at the post office I definitely answered Mac with a definitive raise of the eyebrows when he asked me if all my packages were for me I didn't even have the urge to say 'yes'. Am I loving Quinhagak, Alaska? See the photo for your answer;)

Weather: Yesterday the kids were outside playing football in t-shirts just outside the Quinhagak Store. Snapped a fun pic (left). It's the only football I've seen here so I guess that was our season. Today however the wind is whistling a different tune. Today the tundra has teeth, ice on the ground has appeared seemingly out of nowhere, thick enough for 2 of my fifth grade girls to skip across it side by side without going through or in Wisconsin terms: thick enough for the die hards I know (I won't mention names, you know who you are) to drive their trucks out on it and go fishing! So I plodded along to school this morning and ran around in the village this afternoon for parent teacher conferences, cold was wrapping itself around my toes, nose, eyes... yes, the time has come. Tomorrow morning I will bust out that parka I bought out of the trunk of a car in Anchorage this summer and the goggles that my friend Robyn gave me a few years back (little did she know I'd need them in the tundra of Alaska). So apparently up here we have 'instafreeze'. It's like they do to the halibut you catch down on the spit in Homer. The fish are vacuum packed somehow 'instantly frozen' so happy anglers can haul their catch home. I think the idea came from this part of the country the tundra and all of its inhabitants are zapped into winter in less than a day. Wisconsin is cold yes, but we usually have a week or so to get adjusted to the idea of winter moving in, a little snow, a little cold etc.

Quinhagak Parent Teacher Conferences: where 'Trick or Treat' becomes 'Trick or Teacher'. Don't come to us we'll go to you especially in -10 degree weather on foot or on four wheeler. At 2:00 pm we teachers invaded the village and were welcomed into the homes of our students to visit and discuss how our kiddos are doing. Every time we knocked on a door I felt like we should have a pail and ask for candy. It was a great idea I think but weather was not too cooperative. Needless to say, we had a 100 percent turn out;)

Art: Traci (our instructional coach) has taught me to knit. Yes, you read it correctly. Go ahead, go back and reread it, if you must. But it's true, I am currently knitting a scarf, at least that's what I think it will be. I'm approaching it like a carver approaches a piece of wood.. you know, let the object show you what it is supposed to be. Not sure if that method works the same with yarn but I'll keep you posted as progress is or is not made. Pray for me and Traci she is very patient.

More Art, sort of: This is Ani's new pumpkin sweater that Mike sent him in the mail the other day. Ani was so excited to wear it around outside and be the cool dog in the village.

Most Art: Here's a peek into my classroom and our festive pumpkin project. There is a general pumpkin theme going on around here just like everywhere else. Note the blue wrestling mats I stole from the gymnasium to create a make shift partition in my room. Try to teach kindergartners when you have 5 other groups of kids and people in and out of your room. I was forced to be creative;)

Featured Inventor (it's like Art kind of):
Hey you guys, my friend Joy is officially an inventor! She has created The Strainaway and they even have an infomercial for it! Check it out and order it! Go Joy! Congrats:) P.S. I already have her autograph;)

The Latest Tundra Delicacy: Thanks to Tim again:). We all tried some breaded and fried beaver. Yep. He got a 55 pound beaver up river last weekend and cooked it up for us to try. It did not taste like chicken. It was dark meat and I think it just tasted like beaver.

Shout out to:
Mike, June, Julie and Amy Lou for the wild rice, decorations and Halloween candy. The kids and I appreciate it. Sonia I love the dried leaves we are going to use them in a project at school. Bless you!
"First this: God created the Heavens and Earth...God looked over everything he had made;
it was so good, so very good!" Genesis 1:1,31

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Back From Bethel Bound

"The road to a friend's house is never long."
(especially if they lend you their truck and are in Bethel, AK;)
~Danish Proverb

Marsha, Steph and I flew into Bethel this weekend. They, for an art retreat/training and me to work on paperwork and make up an in service training I missed during our regional cross country meet. It was a bit of an oasis once the work day was done. Friday night we did some much needed shopping, this consists of paying $4.00 for a 14 oz. bottle of dish soap, $6.00 for a 1.95 lb. squash, $9.oo for a bag of Doritos, $18.00 for a bag of halloween candy, and $10.00 for some powdered lemonade. We hauled our groceries to Steph's hotel in backpacks. We looked like pack mules more than humans. We could take a cab but its still above 20 degrees and there is no snow so walking is the preference. A fun fact: Bethel, Alaska has more taxi cabs per capita than New York City. It's true more people in Bethel travel by cab than have their own car. Remember to get a car in Bethel, it has to be barged in. We decided on 'Shoguns' for supper, one of the few restaurants in Bethel feasting on chinese and mexican topped off with chocolate malts. When opportunity knocks around here you fling open the door. We enjoyed the food this weekend. Upon arrival back at the hotel, we decided to play beauty shop and do some high lighting. As you can see Paul (another fellow 'new' teacher at a neighboring village who was in Bethel for the art retreat as well) couldn't resist and got in on the action, actually we coerced him. While Steph was washing out the foiling I did on her hair Paul graciously jumped in and put a few foils in mine;) Anya took these pics and they are hilarious. Even more if you met Paul, he's an ex juvenile justice officer, sword fighter, fortune 500 investor, bush teacher and as of this Friday night he has added hair stylist to his repertoire. After my 8 hour in service Saturday my coworker/mentor and friend Joel let me use his truck to cruise the 12 miles of interstate in Bethel. Quyana Joel. He also invited Anya and I over for supper at his house with a couple other friends from Bethel. Again Quyana Joel. Notice the great galoshes Anya is sporting, like I said before, the tundra is an adventure, bring your mud boots;) It was nice to catch up with everyone and enjoy Joel's fab cooking...Thai shrimp and some other yummy shrimp recipe. As well as Anya's apple pie! Corey bought ice cream and it was gourmet meets gramma's home cooking, not a bad combination. This morning Anya whipped up the best blueberry cream cheese frosting french toast I've ever eaten or ever heard of for that matter. Finally it was time to head back to Quin. I said good by to Anya and Jackie (her roomie), my home away from home and hopped a cab to the airport. There I ran into a few other teachers I know and got to fly to Eek to drop them off before heading on to Quinhagak. Had a nice visit with Andrew the pilot from Virginia who made me very jealous sharing his stories of flying up the mountains, building a cabin with his friends and snowboarding through powder all winter long. He, like many of the pilots in Bethel, has the luxury of living in Anchorage and flying up here a few times a month for work. This is similar to the people who work on the 'North Slope' too.

Meanwhile back at the ranch in Wisconsin....I thought I needed to be worried about bears up here...guess not:)
updated 3:20 p.m. PT, Sat., Oct . 17, 2009

HAYWARD, Wis. - Shoppers in a Wisconsin grocery store got an unexpected surprise when a 125-pound black bear wandered inside and headed straight for the beer cooler.

The bear stopped Friday night at Marketplace Foods in Hayward, about 140 miles northeast of Minneapolis, sauntering through the automatic doors and heading straight for the liquor department, WEAU-TV reported.

It calmly climbed up 12 feet onto a shelf in the beer cooler where it sat for about an hour while employees helped evacuate customers and summoned wildlife officials.

Officials from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources tranquilized the animal and took it out of the store. Store workers say the bear seemed content in the cooler and did not consume any alcohol.

"Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another..." Hebrews 10:25

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Digging for Gold? Perspectives on Prospecting...

"You can pick your friends and you can pick your nose, but you can't pick your friend's nose..." ~Common Knowledge in Kindergarten
While sneezing across the u-shaped table that I teach at all day long and in mid- swipe with the 80th Clorox clean up wipe in a useless attempt to ward off unwanted germs, bacteria and viruses, I had an epiphany. I realized that nose picking doesn't even phase me anymore! It felt like I had earned a badge of courage in the realm of elementary teaching. Remember I have been a middle school teacher for the last 8 years until now and getting used to these little primary kiddos has definitely been a stretch for me. From my hormonally challenged pubescent middle schoolers who waver between swearing at you one moment and wanting to be your best friend the next to these miniature creatures that cry and pick their noses. Now if you are an elementary teacher you can appreciate what I'm talking about here. Little kids like to stick their fingers in their noses and they don't care who sees. I guess, I've come to kind of look up to them, they are liberated. Seriously, I think they do it to desensitize us. At least that's the effect it has taken on me, as I scraped the crusted on boogers off my table while coughing up a lung- I have no questions as to why I'm sick again. We're all sneezing around here with our runny noses spreading our H1N1 visuses to each other so much that I'm going to recommend us for an award in sharing. I am on round 3 of this crazy flu/cold/virus/whatever it is. And I'm starting to get used to it as much as the nose digging. Don't get me wrong, like every other elementary teacher out there I'm trying to get the point across that tissue is the appropriate hygienic mechanism with which to navigate one's nostrils. I use the GermX, disinfectant wipes, wash your hands, wash your hands, wash your hands... etc. to no avail. It seems eventually as history shows, kids apparently catch on and tone down the public prospecting but right now we are at the base of a very large learning curve. So think of me next time you grab a kleenex and have a good laugh at my expense.
On a more exciting note we received our brand new school suburban on the last barge in! Since the 82 white lightening (featured below) kicked the bucket a month and a half ago (RIP). Principal Eric put out an APB looking for licensed Alaskan drivers willing to help 'break it in' according to the new owners manual. We have to put quite a few miles on it before we can go faster than 45 mph. You may wonder, if the longest stretch of road is no more than 3 miles how do we ever go faster than 45 mph and well, your guess is as good as mine. But the whole scenario takes me back to the Skime farm and plops me in the drivers seat of our vintage 1950 Army Jeep, stick shift, no power steering or doors or top, spray painted camouflage (yeah, some of you out there know exactly what I'm talking about here). It had a cassette player that if you cranked to the max and strained to hear you could almost make out the songs over the roaring engine. To us the army jeep was nothing less than a corvette.... So the edict was proclaimed, if we could show Dad that we could shift it, we would be allowed to drive it along the fence line of the pastures (approximately a mile perimeter). I'd be willing to bet that by the time we all turned 16 the mileage covered in the army jeep on that well- beaten path could give Alaskan Highway a run for its money. At the time of the edict I was actually the tallest, this gave me a distinct advantage over my younger/shorter brothers. Within moments of the challenge I had Dad watching me: trying to prove to him my worthiness in all of my 12 year old body which barely touched the pedals and saw over the steering wheel simultaneously. There in the front yard just past the barn, jeep and I lurched and leaped along, guessing, and jolting and trying to shift and clutch and break and all the while praying to God that I looked like I knew what I was doing. I'm sure Dad was peeing his pants laughing-cheap entertainment for him and come to think of it the whole idea of the challenge itself was probably something he didn't truly think would happen within the next year. But me, myself and I are somewhat determined. We would be cruising those fields if it killed us! Pretty sure it could have with the lack of safety features this world war II jeep did not possess. I think if you live on a farm you automatically receive a few get out of early death free passes. Anyway I was granted the privilege of driving the fields and screaming along to Wilson Phillips. The few and the proud friends of mine out there reading this from the big IF will probably fondly or fearfully remember riding shot gun. Dad would later issue another challenge to the 3 of us, in which he confidently stated that whichever one of us could pull back his bow could have it. Well he didn't specify how we had to pull it back. So with the help of my feet and body, though nearly impaling myself in the process I pulled that bow back, I got yelled at and told never to do that again, but I earned that bow (least that was my opinion). Dad you never gave it to me. He quit throwing out these seemingly unachievable dares shortly thereafter). So that is a very roundabout way of saying I'm excited to get behind the wheel of the new suburban and cruise the scenic highways and byways of Quinhagak;)

Shout Out To My Gram! Thanks for the colorful leaves, now it's fall in my living room:)

"Point your kids in the right direction— when they're old they won't be lost."
(Or picking their noses...Rach version)
Proverbs 22:6

Saturday, October 10, 2009


"Bluegrass has brought more people together and made more friends
than any music in the world."
~Bill Monroe

We started out our Friday under a severe weather warning continued through it with the lights going out at the school in the middle of the wrestling team's spaghetti feed fundraiser taking place in our cafeteria/gymnasium. As far as I could see (which wasn't very) nobody even batted an eye, they just flipped open cell phones, turned on the flashlights and proceeded to eat. Later was the musical at the church where anyone can sign up to sing anything from traditional hymns to contemporary christian. Some songs are in English, others in Yupik. It is like an open mic night for God at church."Will the Circle be Unbroken" bluegrass style was our choice of song! Our little singing group consisted of Mary, Mary, Kathy, Dora, Renae, Larry, Me, Mac on the guitar and John on Banjo! What fun there must have been at least 20 some songs belted out by all kinds of people from the community for a few hours. There is always someone who preaches a message, someone who announces songs/singers and a band made up of a several guitarists and an organ player. This is what we do on a Friday night in Quin and you can't help but smile. We are having a big Youth Singspiration next weekend in Quinhagak too. As I understand, it is a pretty big deal. Youth groups from neighboring villages come to Quin to take part in it. These kind of sing a longs/fellowships are very popular up here. Caught up with Fannie, David, Emma and company after, stopped over for a visit. Of course when you go to Fannie's you always, ALWAYS leave with a full stomach whether you arrived with one or not;) She sent me out the door with a loaf of fresh bread that she made. (Quyana Fannie!) It tastes just like my favorite buns that Gram makes. Did I mention that Pauline, a colleague of mine made the yummiest cranberry jam and graciously gave me a jar (Quyana Pauline). Coincidence? I think not. Feasting on bread and jelly was part of my evening;) No worries, Sherry and I started the P90X workout program last week. Ouch! It lives up to every bit of the infomercial's proclamations. There's your next Dare Rope #5 - Try P90X. Thankfully our weather warning panned out as mere 45 mile an hour winds last night, thus far no major flooding. Today, Saturday, Jim, Steph and I had a try at beach combing despite the wind/rain/sleet. Aside: does anyone else remember that old sitcom called "Beachcombers". It aired on our one Canadian channel back when my bros and I used to fight over what 30 minute TV program we would watch. I vaguely remember it. So on our way down the beach while poor Jim was driving the 4 wheeler and being pelted by driving rain, Steph and I sat backwards enjoying the view of this double rainbow. Again, remember we just had a flood warning....coincidence? I think not:) Reminder from God. Anyway, we were in search of prehistoric treasures like mammoth teeth, tusks or I don't know... I was hoping for a toe nail maybe.... Unfortunately the discoveries were limited to several "ancient" 12 gauge casings and a shot up thermos. Although skunked in the mammoth department I managed collect a bagful of rocks. They're pretty. Really, promise. It was kinda like shopping but different...

P.S. Thanks Mum for the 'trees' in the mail this week.

"MAKE A joyful noise to the Lord, all you lands!"
~Psalm 100:1

Friday, October 9, 2009

Blowing in From the North

The trouble with weather forecasting is that it's right too often for us to ignore it and wrong too often for us to rely on it. ~Patrick Young


507 AM AKDT FRI OCT 9 2009


SATURDAY AFTERNOON.(Winds are already howling in.)

(We are located between Goodnews and Toksook)


PROTECT PROPERTY. (Stay tuned and we'd appreciate prayers, so much for our camping trip upriver this weekend.)

"I establish my covenant with you: Never again will all life be cut off by the waters of a flood; never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth." ~Genesis 9:11

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Inquiring Minds Want to Know

"So what we've decided to do is set you up in Cicely, situated in an area that we Alaskans refer to as The Alaskan Riviera." ~Pete Gilliam on where they were sending Dr. Joel Fleishman
(Northern Exposure)

A friend asked a few questions about Quin so I thought I'd answer them for everybody. Thanks for the prompts Kris:)

A great, recently published article that I highly recommend reading if you are interested in the local issues in this area is called: Rural Alaska: Problems and Solutions. If I were you I would download the PFD so you can also see the pictures. It's quite profound and informative.

What is it like living in the tundra?

It's an adventure of course! Bring your mudboots.
Tundra is a biome where the tree growth is hindered by low temperatures and short growing seasons. The term tundra means "uplands, treeless mountain tract."In tundra, the vegetation is composed of dwarf shrubs, sedges and grasses, mosses, and lichens. Scattered trees grow in some tundra.

The word "tundra" usually refers only to the areas where the subsoil is permafrost, or permanently frozen soil. The Arctic tundra is a vast area of stark landscape and is frozen for much of the year. The soil there is frozen from 9.8–35.4 inches down, and it is impossible for trees to grow. Instead, bare and sometimes rocky land can only support low growing plants such as moss, heath, and lichen. There are two main seasons, winter and summer, in the polar tundra areas. During the winter it is very cold and dark, with the average temperature around -18.4-40°F, sometimes dipping as low as -58 - 70°F. During the summer, temperatures rise somewhat, and the top layer of the permafrost melts, leaving the ground very soggy. The tundra is covered in marshes, lakes, bogs and streams during the warm months. Generally daytime temperatures during the summer rise to about 54-80°F but can often drop to 37-60°F or even below freezing.

The tundra is a very windy area, with winds often blowing upwards of 30–60 miles an hour. However, in terms of precipitation, it is desert-like, with only about 6–10 inches falling per year (the summer is typically the season of maximum precipitation). During the summer, the permafrost thaws just enough to let plants grow and reproduce, but because the ground below this is frozen, the water cannot sink any lower, and so the water forms the lakes and marshes found during the summer months. Although precipitation is light, evaporation is also relatively minimal.

Would you share about the homes in Quinagak?

Because of the permafrost (snow melting only a small layer of earth) houses cannot be built on the ground. The heat from the buildings would melt the frozen ground and the buildings would start to sink. Buildings must be on stilts, about a meter off the ground. Building houses is expensive because the materials have to be brought from the south. Homes must be well built to keep out the cold winds. It costs more to heat a home here. Sometimes during a winter storm, houses become covered with snow.

What do they do to keep the roads in shape?

Just today I while I was walking home from school they were grading the gravel road with some pretty serious heavy equipment. I know in the spring they have heavy flooding which causes many roads to wash out and be in need of repair during the summer when the flooding subsides. In Quinhagak we are fortunate to have gravel beds from the Kanektok River only a mile out of town so we can haul gravel to repair road damage. No need to worry about pavement cracking, that's a point for the gravel roads.

How far are the mountains from the village?

The mountains while beautiful when the clouds allow visibility are basically inaccessible unless one has a jet boat, a four wheeler, a 'snow go' or plane and a free weekend. They are 15 miles as the crow flies and only increase mileage, if you go by the streams and waterways winding across tundra. Translation: I can't get to them with out the assistance of someone who has a more evolved form of transportation other than the human feet;)

Shout out to all my friends and family with new baby girls! Lily Anna, Rachel Emily and Lydia Christine:) Congratulations and Sufficient Sleeping Wishes to you all!

Have a great weekend everyone!

"You can't find firm footing in a swamp (tundra;),
but life rooted in God stands firm."

~Proverbs 12:3

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Walking in the Dark

"When it's dark enough, you can see the stars."
~Ralph Waldo Emerson
When I lived on main street Hayward I left for school at 7:40 am. Daily I would run out my front door, down the flight of 20 steps, fling open the door of my yellow (yes, you read it right I had a yellow) car, fumble with the keys, turn, start and sprint back up to the warmth of my apartment where I would wrap myself in a blanket for 15 minutes to regain the recent 30 seconds of heat loss, while my car warmed up, then I'd head to work. When I lived in my house in Hayward I would again leave for school at 7:40 am. Daily I would walk into my heated garage, climb in to the warm car, hit the door opener, drive to Gram and Grampa's, leave my car running while I visited for 10 minutes then hop back in my toasty car and comfortably zoom off to school never really having to face the frigid temps. Now I live in my house in Quinhagak, Alaska. Daily I pull on my layers, boots, hat, pashmina, you name it, grit my teeth, open the door, hold my breath and step out into the clutches of the morning freeze. At 7:40 am I commence walking. Its dark when I leave my house. As I walk into the cold darkness it feels more like I'm headed out to a deer stand than to work. I walk that mile trip to school along the gravel main street as four wheelers pass by me, carrying students and teachers alike to school.We don't have buses in Quin. Either the kids walk or they are dropped off by their parents on four wheelers aka 'hondas'. As I near the school I notice the fine art of the 'Honda Dismount' technique. Done correctly one need not ever stop the moving ATV. The expert driver simply passes by the front steps of the school and slows just enough for all riders to comfortably and seemingly safely 'dismount'. The riders don't even miss a step, flawlessly executing a fluid leap off the 'honda', up the steps and through the school doors. This morning's performance was no exception I was in awe, the whole scene was like a dance. Of course my brain is always trying to make things connect in weird ways and it took me back to my horse showing days. I'll try to explain my thinking, I should just stop there, but you don't have to keep reading so I'm just going to keep explaining anyway. This was an event which happened to be my personal favorite called Rescue Race. In this race a person on horseback runs into the arena and picks up (rescues) a person standing on the ground at the opposite end of the arena. The object is to do this as fast as possible and not cause the horse to ever have to slow down. Super fun anyway, Rescue Race was a 'pick up' event and the 'Honda Dismount' is a drop off event but both attempt to keep the vehicle in constant motion. So that's the lastest from the tundra. Deep thoughts, by Rachel eh?
"...May God, our very own God,
continue to be with us just as he was with our ancestors—
may he never give up and walk out on us.
May he keep us centered and devoted to him,
following the life path he has cleared, watching the signposts,
at the pace and rhythms he laid down for our ancestors."
~1 Kings 8:56