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

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