Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Just a Normal Day at Rachel's

"Don't flatter yourself. Your family is no crazier than any other
American nuclear unit. Believe me."

"Oh yeah? What would you say to a father who at 58 years old quits his
job and buys a Buffalo ranch in South Dakota?"

"I'd say I would not be surprised if he had a daughter who was a
bush pilot in the wilds of Alaska."

- Joel and Maggie, Northern Exposure

Well, they've been streaming through my door in shifts since "MIKE!!!!" arrived. He's got them filing in one by one, shoes by the door, jackets by the laundry room and then you round the corner. Color-ers to the table, dress uppers in the the spare (Mike's) room except for the occasional 'walk thru' to show off one's most recent attire (be careful not to catch on fire while rounding the candle), half the kitchen is reserved for playdough-ers and the other half for Mike and the real cookie makers, the arctic entry has the tent-ers and 'fresh air-ers' that are too warm, while Ani sits shaking on the couch wondering when all the kids will leave. In the middle of it all I am working on IEPs. There is simply no such thing as normal. At least I've never experienced it, which leads me to believe there is no such thing. Though my reasoning is often flawed so feel free to correct me if you think I'm wrong. But I will definitely argue my point. I believe I have earned the right to claim normalcy a myth. As children we (my brothers and I) thought parkay dishes and a set of collected plastic cups we got at church when we brought our age worth of pennies on our birthday to deposit in the little plastic offering church piggy bank while everyone else counted to determine our age (glad I don't have to do that anymore) were fine china, no place mats for us (no matter how uncivilized Gram said we were), one of us scaling the kitchen counter to retrieve whatever food or dish item we needed was done without even a bat of an eye. Macaroni and rice were only eaten with butter and salt. And a real fancy meal was a Pat's Special pizza from Border Bar (it still is trust me, treat yourself to one if you ever pass through International Falls). We painted our skin with watercolors and roller skated around the house in our underwear (we don't do that anymore, at least I don't, I guess I can't speak for my brothers). Through the hole in the floor of our rusted out family station wagon (we called the gravy train) we learned to count, ticking off the yellow lines as they zinged by under our feet. Coincidentally, our new old station wagon caught on fire several times, that's another whole story. We raised tadpoles into frogs in our entry with mom's pots and pans. And first hand understood 'multiply like rabbits' when Dad brought home 2 rabbits which quickly became 52 rabbits within 4 months. Dad 'let them go in the woods' or shot them, nobody really wants to know for sure. We lived on deer meat which mom tried to tell us was 'hamburger' (in spite of her poor 'masking' job). And for a good time we drove the 'aquatic' 6 wheeler through the stalk pond or flew along the zip line rigged up behind the house. So I don't mind that the 'normal' form of transportation in Quinhagak is a four wheeler. I don't think it abnormal to scan the cupboard for the perfect sized tupperware from which to eat my rice with butter. So when the kids come over by the dozens and imagine up all kinds of things to do, play and eat. I laugh and am reminded of us 'normal', and as you can see Mike is no exception to the rule. He tells them they have to think of an animal to say instead of the word "please" so I hear "Tiger may I have a treat." Or "Monkey may I have a glass of juice." LOL.

It is still cold in Quinhagak-Kitchen sink pipes froze again today, for what seems like the 1000th time this winter.

And we made the chilly hike down to the Bering last night. Enjoy the jaunt.

"Point your kids in the right direction—
when they're old they won't be lost (even in the tundra)."
Proverbs 22:6

Monday, March 29, 2010

He's BAAAAaaaaaaack...Mike, The Return

"The rhythm of the weekend, with its birth, its planned gaieties, and its announced end, followed the rhythm of life and was a substitute for it."
~F. Scott Fitzgerald

What a treat it was to attend the 2010 Cama-i Dance Festival in Bethel while also attending our last district first year teacher in service. Majority of us are coming back, that was fun to find out. We saw 'Eskimo' dancers from all over Alaska! Groups hailing from Anchorage, St.Paul's Island, Scammon Bay to Bethel and our surrounding villages. Cama-i is the largest festival in the Delta Region.
It is an annual huge celebration and a time for families and friends to get together in Bethel. There is an amazing art and craft fair as part of it as well. Mike met us at the district office Friday night upon his arrival back in the Yukon Delta Region! We all stayed with our dear friend Anya and another teacher Paul, stayed with us as well. Here are some pics of the weekend.
To all my Wisconsin friends, the AC Store (Bethel's closest thing to Walmart or any larger grocery store for that matter)had Jack Links on the shelves made in Minong which is just a stone's throw away from Hayward. Here's the proof, it was $8.93 per package, small package.

Kids were over first thing last night when we landed and right after school today. Thank you Robyn who sent up a package of goodies including the play dough, crayons, coloring books and easter eggs (we'll have to have an easter egg hunt this week sometime). The play dough is a hit. You can see them molding it on my kitchen floor this afternoon with Mike.

Beyond that I am exhausted today. Obviously I didn't get enough sleep this weekend though it doesn't appear that way. Thanks to Anya sneaking this napping photo opp. Think I could sleep through tomorrow given the opportunity.

Hope this greets all of you out there having had a successful Monday! Enjoy remembering this Passion Week.

"The promise of "arrival" and "rest" is still there for God's people." Hebrews 4:9

Friday, March 26, 2010

The Hills Are Alive...

"Listen, can you hear it? Spring's sweet cantata. The strains of grass pushing through the snow. The song of buds swelling on the vine. The tender timpani of a baby robin's heart. Spring."
~Chris in the Morning, Northern Exposure
Today if feels like old man winter has packed his bags and headed 'out of village'. But as Tim announced to all of us as we were gleefully imagining our outdoor weekend plans, after our staff meeting this afternoon, "Temperatures are gonna drop again later this week, maybe even below zero." Okay Eyore, Quyana for the update. Just kidding it's fine we would be thrilled to keep what little bit of snow we do have around for a few more weeks anyway. We have mushing to do people!

In Steph's room they were having a cultural day and learned how to skin a ptarmigan! When all was said and done 9 birds were skinned and feathers covered the classroom floor! I jumped in toward the end and got to have a try myself:) They have the weirdest feet, look at them. They look like a paw. Elena, one of our excellent paras, who taught the kids how to do it, said the feet look a lot like owl's feet. Anyway again here's the outcome.

The kids
were out skiing today, taking advantage of the great temps. As we were walking home from school yesterday the new playground equipment was crawling with kiddos who had shed their outer layers, strictly t-shirts and jeans. Wish I would have had my camera for you guys. It was perfect with the equipment surrounded by snow and the mountains in the background. The kids were already in July as far as it mattered.

Steph's birthday party was a hit. Here are the candids: Pauline brought the best homemade clam chower I've ever eaten, and I ate a lot of it. You'll be happy to learn that my baked rainbow trout turned out wonderfully (thank you Anya for the, via telephone support and guidance). Traci made a great no bake cheese cake with the salmon and blueberry topping we picked last fall and a scrumptious spinach salad from our trusty Circle Farm Veggies. And Sherry brought over very yummy bean salad. It was a regular feast! Enjoy the fiesta.

This our village version of prom dress shopping. This is our display in the hall of the high school side of our building. Mike is allegededly bringing the rest of the dresses from all my friends back at the Wesleyan Church in Hayward (Thank you guys sooooooo much!) The did a big dress/suit drive and collected quite a few. Quyana Everyone! So some of the girls were admiring them this afternoon as I was hanging up a few more.

My DVR/Satellite crashed this week. Did you know that your receiver can crash just like a computer???? I know much for my House marathon. Oh, well I'm way overdue for a TV fast anyhow! No such luck sweet talking the repair person to meander on up this way either. Go figure;)

"Then he gives the command and it all melts; he breathes on winter - suddenly it's spring!"
Psalm 147:18

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Well, It's Not For Lack of Effort...

"You can't help respecting anybody who can spell TUESDAY, even if he doesn't spell it right; but spelling isn't everything. There are days when spelling Tuesday simply doesn't count."
Winnie the Pooh The House at Pooh Corner
Tuesday=Cooking I'm telling you I have more and more respect all you chefs and bakers in the the world. Of course I also have more and more proof that the ability to cook or lack there of is not necessarily something one has any sort of control over. Kind of like the clumsy little girl who would love to be a ballerina but try as she might it's obvious her calling is not to pirouette across the stage. That, my friends, time and time again is me and my growing arch Ugh, so tonight I'm going to make my lovely friend Steph a cake for her birthday tomorrow (I can write this because I even told her about it, smart move, eh?) all that did was create unrealistic expectations on me. Hopefully Steph knows me enough by now, I can't cook and I say too much (oh drat!). I'm still working on shutting myself up. Anyway, so I was mixing away the boxed cake I had gotten, put it in the oven, waited anxiously for the 28-30 minutes to pass; then with the dinging of the timer I leaped into action grabbing the dish towel and pulling the hot pan out of the oven. Okay, it's sort of a cake I assured myself, glancing at the box again to make sure I didn't miss some special high altitude directions I should be using at sea level...seems like cakes should be taller than this. You see, when I put something into an oven, it mysteriously transforms into Pandora's Box. I can never tell what will come out. I shrugged it off and chalked it up to the choice of pan being too big. No matter, I told myself I'll just add more frosting that can't possibly be a bad thing. As I waited for it to cool I couldn't help but move in for a closer inspection, ugh, all the frosting at the store isn't going to make this look like a real cake! I can't even bake a boxed cake! What is wrong with me? This is definitely not what a cake should look like, it looks like a pancake in comparison to cakes. Since the frosting won't do it I decide to cut the cake in half and make a double decker. That'll make it look like a real cake! My friend Traci attempted to provide some first aid assistance but it was rather futile. In defeat I dug through my cupboard looking for what would be cake number two. Aha, I have one, it's the same kind as the deflated one sitting to my left. "A second chance!" I proclaimed aloud! (I love second chances). Then as I was inspecting the box again and comparing it to the very unique rendition of a birthday which sat left on the counter, I spotted the fine print, stuffed in the upper corner of the box far above the "CHOCOLATE FUDGE" plastered across the front of the box....'brownies'. What!!!! Steph's birthday cake is a brownie!!! Rather, WHAT?!? Steph's birthday cake is TWO BROWNIES!?! I give up! I shoved the box back into the recesses of my very disorganized cupboard and muttered under my breath. Traci, ever optimistic, and a culinary genius assured me it would be fine then completed frosting the double decker brownie. It is now posing as a birthday cake. Somewhere out in the world of pastries there are brownies that would kill for this kind of opportunity. Furthermore what kind of advertising is practically had to have a magnifying glass to find the word...'brownie'. Apparently Betty Crocker hasn't dealt much with customers such as myself, lucky her! And you'll be happy to know that Steph also made herself her own cake this evening too. Must have been a premonition.

Then there was yesterday's fiasco while trying to make a fried egg sandwich. My reasoning went something like this...

1. Find eggs in fridge (remember to Thank God for eggs which are never at the store, ever)
2. Pick up egg out of carton to crack and put in pan

Here is where my problem arose. The egg was stuck to the carton, you know from the dried yoke of some egg cracked before it. So my brain then said, "Hey simple, just crack the egg while it's in the carton, turn the carton over the pan and taaah- dah! I did not however take into account the FIVE OTHER EGGS IN THE CARTON...3 of which were not attached like the one I was perseverating on.
As I was turning the carton upside down I knew it all too late. I dumped the 3 eggs right out, luckily they plummeted into the pan. I managed to salvage them, picking out the shells. And there was Traci witness to it all, rolling around on the kitchen floor laughing at the shocked stupor on my face. "I seriously didn't know you were going to do that," she snorted "or I would have stopped you." Real funny, right? As my bigger than me baby brother Sam, so often likes to remind me, "And you are educating the future of our world???" Well we can all thank the Lord that his forte is in dealing with cracked pots! Because I take the cake! (pardon the pun;)

So I'm going to Bethel on Friday for Camai Festival and more new teacher in-service. Looking forward to seeing the other newbies from this year. It will be exciting to find out who is gonna be back for the sequel in 2010-11. Also back by popular demand is MIKE all the way from LCO. He'll be flying into Bethel Friday and on to Quinhagak with me Sunday. The kids have been buzzing about it all week. "Only FIVE more sleeps and Mike will visit!!!" The house will be alive with the sound of children. It will be so nice to have a friend from home back for a bit again. Well, that's the latest from the tundra land.

Check out this last pic, it's of the beach last weekend. That's open water out there peeps! Spring is coming. The other pics are some of Animosh, I took while skijoring.

Shout Out to: LISA!!! Happiest Birthday on FRIDAY the 26th! Celebrating you my friend! Do something fun and crazy...(I dare you;) Welcome home Gram! She just got done with her inpatient rehab for her stroke and is now getting outpatient rehab back home! She is doing really good, Mum says. Again thank you all for your prayers! Love You Guys!

Maybe poor Martha's cake was a brownie too...

...She had a sister, Mary, who sat before the Master, hanging on every word he said. But Martha was pulled away by all she had to do in the kitchen. Later, she stepped in, interrupting them. "Master, don't you care that my sister has abandoned the kitchen to me? Tell her to lend me a hand." The Master said, "Martha, dear Martha, you're fussing far too much and getting yourself worked up over nothing. One thing only is essential, and Mary has chosen it - it's the main course, and won't be taken from her." Luke 10:39-42

Sunday, March 21, 2010

No Waffling.

"You signed a contract, Joel. But much more important than that, you gave your word. And I intend to hold you to that word within the bounds of the law. If necessary, without the bounds of the law."- Maurice to Joel, Northern Exposure

Today we mushed. Eric and Sherry graciously donated their time, effort and dogs to give Steph and I a crash course in mushing. They have two sleds that Eric made featured above. So we both had a sled to drive. They split the team in two, four dogs each. One team which I drove consisted of Seekers, Comet, Lefse and CT (above left). The other which Steph and Sherry (below) drove was Quin, Arolik, Ozone and Chinook. Enjoy the photo journal. And move over Lance Mackey...

Here is a great shot of the shifting my kitchen has done over the winter. The counter top and cupboards no longer line up.

After much deliberation, I did sign my contract for LKSD. I'm coming back for round two, next year! I just can't leave Alaska quite yet folks;) It has a way of getting in your blood and tugging on your heart strings. Thank you for all of your prayers. God is good all the time...

"...If you can do anything, do it. Have a heart and help us!"
Jesus said, "If? There are no 'ifs' among believers.
Anything can happen."
No sooner were the words out of his mouth than
the father cried, " Then I believe. Help me with my doubts!"
Mark 9: 22-24

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Kanektok River Adventures

"We're fools whether we dance or not, so we might as well dance."
~Japanese Proverb

Some pictures I snapped while ski joring last weekend.

The school, headstart and some housing.

The Washeteria and the Native Village of Kwinhagak Offices.

The new housing units that were started last fall!

The Qanirtuuq Store, the Moravian Church, Post Office and more housing.

Dance, Dance Revolution! We had our first dance last night up at the school so Sammie (the music man in the village) could give his new equipment a trial run before prom in May. A good time was had by all mostly except for maybe Andrew who cracked his head on Jeff's eye. Andrew ended up with staples and Jeff has a really nice shiner. Talk about your dancing fools. Other than that one little mishap the music was loud, the kids were dancing (had several impromptu break dancing dance offs) and even a few staff got out to shake a leg or two. I see an exciting Prom in our future. Steph and I started decorating the school with the prom dresses that have been donated. Reminded me of the days when working at my Grandpa's clothing store in I. Falls we would have to change out the displays in the windows I always loved doing that job.

Butter of the Tundra So I think I forgot to tell you about my black fish, white fish and seal oil experience last weekend at Fannie's house. She insisted I stay for dinner and offered me the 'cossack' course of spaghetti that her daugher, Martha made. She then proceeded to pull, handful by handful of frozen black fish right out of the freezer, put them on a platter and set them in the middle of the table to commence the Yupik course. "You're gonna eat those?" I asked not being able to take my eyes off the faces of the small, death by hypothermia ridden specimens piled high on the platter, assuming she would tisk tisk me and say she was going to cook them first. Her son in-law-laughed at me and agreed, "Yeah, I prefer white fish myself," as he set down another plate of frozen fish in front of himself. "Rashelly, (as Fannie so lovingly calls me) we eat them just like this..." She matter of factly stated as she cracked open the frozen finned delicacy, much like you would a crab or a shrimp, then peeling out a good chunk of the dark meat, she dipped it in the well salted bowl of seal oil and down the hatch. "Umm, it's very good and good for you." she smiled at me, "It's real Eskeeemo food. You don't have to eat it. Lots of 'cossacks' don't like it, won't even try it. Even my girls won't try it. Even when their dad tried to make them eat it. They won't do it." she nodded toward Lily and Martha who were giggling at me from the couch. I looked over at Martha's husband seeming to be thoroughly enjoying his 'preferred' version of 'white' fish dipped in seal oil. Fannie's older sister was scarfing down hers and the other lady at the table was gobbling up hers with equal enthusiasm. Maybe I lingered a little too long wondering in awe at the dining experience taking place before me. "You don't even cook them??" I inquired again trying to come to terms with the frozen fish I'd only ever seen in this state when they were being hauled back from the ice fishing hole before they are filleted. "Naaaah," she responded, "you don't have to cook them. Just eat them like this..."she demonstrated again. In that moment I remembered being on the shore of the Kanektok last fall when Fannie and David had taken me up river fishing. After catching a beautiful rainbow trout David immediately cut open the fish and offered me some eggs, "They are really good fresh? Try some?" He ate them and I not wanting to be rude opened my mouth and ate raw rainbow trout eggs right out of the fish. Not bad. Not something I would do every time I caught a fish, but not bad. David smiled and patted me on the back. With that thought, just like the first time you jump off the high dive, impulse kicked in and I did it. I took the frozen meat in my fingers gave it a good dousing of seal oil and ate it... As I chewed it up I looked toward Lily and Martha whose eyes were as big as saucers. I'm quite sure I looked much the same, waiting for something wild to happen like my stomach to turn, my gag reflex to take charge and send the black fish back out where it came from but it didn't. Actually, I exchanged shocked glances with the girls again, and shrugged, it wasn't half bad, kinda like sushi dipped in butter. So I had some more. Fannie chuckled, "Rashelly, you keep eating like that you're going to become an Eskeemo. You are eating Yupik food. And you like it." Her son-in-law seized the moment and offered me a hunk of frozen white fish. Then her oldest sister pushed her bowl of seal oil toward me, "Here ya go. Eat up." And I did. I have to agree with Martha's husband though, the white fish are better. Seal oil is definitely the butter of the tundra. All I can liken it to is olive oil mixed with feta cheese sort of. Fannie's grand daugher Chupe said now I have to try stink fish, apparently they bury them until they are rotten and then eat them? I don't know about that but one new food at a time is probably the best route. Though the picture is not of a black or white fish, it's a Dolly Varden, you get the idea. John gave me the souvenir Dolly from the tour de ice fishing today and I'm cooking it up for supper later:)

Ice Fishing on the Kanektok River

Ice Fishing John Teddy (below left) took Steph and I upriver today to experience the Yupik way of ice fishing. No fancy tip ups, ice fishing rods or ice shacks on our river. Nope, just fashion a pole out of a piece of wood or stick that's about a foot to a foot and a half long, wrap it up with some fishing line and voila, the ice fishing version of the 'Eskimo Pole' seen earlier this fall with David and Fannie;) We got to John's spot and found we weren't alone. Lots of people out on the river this weekend. Most everyone uses and ice pick to make a hole. Then they just drop the line in, jig a bit and wait. At least that's how everyone was fishing today. John fishes in a dot to dot pattern going from hole to hole "You gotta chase the fish," he told us. David Hill (above right)was out fishing with his tundra mobile;) This snow go is suited up with everything one might need on a day out and about.

Michael Smith (below left) was there helping everyone chop ice and sharing his catch. He had been up early and had already happily made haul on the Dollies.

Then Dennis Seaton showed up in his arctic apparel (below right). What was left in the river after Michael's fishing spree is on Dennis' line (above right), lol.. So he catches this little minnow to which Michael snickers, without missing a beat, "Ha, Dennis you have a big pole and a little fish, Me? Big fish, little pole:) Dennis says he fishes with this rod because he doesn't want to get too close to the hole in case he falls in;) Anyway fun time out on the river. When Steph and I left John Teddy (above left) was headed one direction in search of ptarmigan, Dennis was off in the other to check his trap-line and Tim was pulling up to take over the spot with a sled full of children.
Shout Out To:
Stephanie Barthelman who will be a whopping 28 years OLD on the 25th!!!! Happy Tundra 28th Birthday to You my dear Friend!

"Oh, visit the earth, ask her to join the dance! Deck her out in spring showers, fill the God-River with living water. Paint the wheat fields golden. Creation was made for this!"
Psalm 65:9