Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Trudging Through a Winter Wonderland Already????

Sara: I first came in because of the name: Serendipity. It’s one of my favorite words.
Jonathan: It is? Why?

Sara: It’s such a nice sounding word for what it means: a fortunate accident.
- From the movie Serendipity (2001)

Winter 2010 Arrives in Quinhagak Today
September 29th

Houston we have a prob...I mean snow. The frozen water didn't arrive by sea this time either. Nope today it was driven in by whipping wind and wasted no time piling up in drifts. Well, here we go...I've dusted off the skiis, dug out the snow cleats, and have been wearing my winter jacket for 3 days now. Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.

Dinner With New Friends

Connie's nephew, Olin, happens to be one of the Cold Climate Housing Research Center employee's working here in Quinhagak building that prototype I was talking about in the last post. So we invited him and his colleagues over for supper last night! You don't get to meet new people all that often in the village therefore when the opportunity presents it seems rather serendipitous. They think they will be finished in 5 weeks. At that point a family from the village will be selected to live in the house for the winter which will basically be a guinea pig experiment. Their fuel/energy usage will be closely monitored by a team back in Fairbanks all winter. It will be determined next summer if the house is worthy of replication, from there the village may choose to build more. Aside: upon further investigation I found out the company they work for CCHRC is not part of the University of Fairbanks but rather works with the University. Another correction I need to make is regarding "the Powers that be in Alaska" which I referred to in the last blog, are in fact NOT in Alaska or Alaskan. Apparently 'the Powers that be' is actually a mortgage company from down states. And it is they who are holding up the whole "people moving into the 'new' housing process". Sorry to whoever the Powers that be in Alaska are and keep up the good work. On a funny note Olin and company have somehow rigged up an antenna on the connex trailer they are working out of with wifi. That's classic Alaska folks. Isn't that great?
"Or, to put it another way, you are God's house. Using the gift God gave me as a good architect, I designed blueprints; Apollos is putting up the walls. Let each carpenter who comes on the job take care to build on the foundation! Remember, there is only one foundation, the one already laid: Jesus Christ. Take particular care in picking out your building materials. Eventually there is going to be an inspection. If you use cheap or inferior materials, you'll be found out. The inspection will be thorough and rigorous. You won't get by with a thing. If your work passes inspection, fine; if it doesn't, your part of the building will be torn out and started over.
But you won't be torn out; you'll survive—but just barely."

2 Corinthians 3:10-12

Monday, September 27, 2010

The Things The Sea Brings In

"Up rose the wild old winter-king, And shook his beard of snow; "I hear the first young hard-bell ring, 'Tis time for me to go! Northward o'er the icy rocks, Northward o'er the Quinhagak."
Charles Godfrey Leland

Sherry, Ali and I went running tonight after school, all the way down to the beach! When we rounded the corner out onto the sand we nearly screeched to a halt in our speeding tracks! All along the bank as far as we could see was a wide, white ribbon of....SNOW. That's right. This year in Quinhagak our first snow arrived by sea and not by air. Weird.

We have some new buildings cropping up in Quin just in time for winter.
The University of Fairbanks is building a Cold Climate Efficiency Home Prototype or something like that over by the new housing. You remember, the new housing built last year? Well it is currently still new because nobody is living in any of them yet. Evidently the Alaskan powers that be (probably right now sitting somewhere, maybe on their cozy flushing toilet with running water in Anchorage) have determined that 'haul and flush or flush and haul' systems which these brand new homes are equipped with are no longer legit. So they won't sign for whatever needs to be signed so people can actually MOVE into the new housing. At least that's what I understood. Anyway we are also getting a new store! And Jon has some pics of it.

"Out of the south comes the storm,
And out of the north the cold.
From the breath of God ice is made,
And the expanse of the waters is frozen."
Job 37:9-10

Sunday, September 26, 2010

North To Chevak!

Most men (runners) take the straight and narrow.

A few take the road less traveled.

We chose to cut through the woods (tundra).

Locals watching the race.

Alicia's Pep Rally

We were given a heroes send off by the school Thursday afternoon. The team exploded into the gym sprinting around to the tune of 'We Will Rock You'. They lined up in front of their peers shared their name and why they joined CC. This first rally of the year and ever for Cross Country was organized and executed by Miss Weaver! (Quyana!) She had students from grades K-12 yelling out new cheers, spinning around on hockey sticks, scooter boarding across the gym floor and shooting baskets. She even made a slide show of the runners from last week's Bethel meet. It was an awesome way to get us psyched up for our Region 1 South meet in Chevak, Alaska. We left the following day traveling the 150 miles north of Quinhagak to the land of wind blasting sand and much later rising sun.

Stuck In The 207 Again

I tried to sneak on to the highly coveted 2 propped, 9 seater, rumored of being so great that some would choose it over a craft with a beverage service...that's right, back by charter demand: The Caravan. When the 2 flying chariots landed to swoop us sway, I'd be lying if I didn't say I greedily set my sights on the 'Caravan'. I reeeeeeeeeeaaaallly wanted to ride in that posh plane. Besides, hadn't I paid my dues last week in Bethel, relinquishing my seat to Jon and taking the 207 then???? Right: Team at the Chevak School Playground. Surely I'd earned my Caravan seat, after all wasn't I the coach all season. Feeling deserving, I sneaked on and quietly tried to camouflage myself into the copilot's spot. Hunkered down and peeping out the larger than normal 207 sized window (I picture Ani when he knows he does something wrong and hopes I don't notice), I couldn't miss Jon's 6 foot 8 frame lumbering back toward the Caravan shaking his head apologetically in my direction. The 207 pilot was on his heels motioning to me to get off the plane. "Ahhh, Come On!" I whined hoping that would sway him, it's annoying to me. (Obviously providing a great example to my runners about what is important in life. Lord help me.) My tantrum didn't work anyway. The pilot eyed me like a father would then matter of factly instructed, "He's too big. Doesn't even fit. You're it." "Yeah, yeah." I mumbled making my way down the aisle of the first class varsity ride. Left: Team at one of Chevak's 3 stores. I moped back to the puddle jumped and slinked aboard with dramatic sighs. "This is no fair." I pouted to the very unsympathetic pilot and I buckled my belt, "I had to ride in the 207 last time." You are probably thinking...."Seriously Rachel??? Is this what it has come to????" You're not alone. I was thinking it too. I just couldn't stop the words, they kept oozing out of my mouth I sounded more like a 5 year old spoiled brat. "Seriously there's gotta be perks to this air traveling gig!" I tried to justify my behavior. Right: A boardwalk in Cevak. One of my middle school girls was none too happy for her 207 seat either so we decided misery loves company, by the time we landed we were both over it. . That's when I had to hope beyond all hopes that God isn't done with me yet.

Sun, Sand and Wind...

Chevak looks from the air a lot like Quin. We circled around the runway similarly a few miles from the village. Left: Chevak School. We spied the big white truck speeding along the gravel road in a cloud of dust to pick us up. Right: Walking the course. It was different in that the box of the truck looked like a cattle hauling bed which we would be loaded into and transported back to the school upon. Chevak has 3 stores and a fancy new school. The people of Chevak were so very friendly, more than once as we were wandering the sandy wind blown roads and boardwalks woven between houses, people poked their heads out their front doors to greet us "Hello! Welcome to Chevak! Enjoy your stay!" Thanks we would reply and smile. Left: Still walking the course. Then the school staff put on an Eskimo dance for all the teams and had a ceremonial prayer to bless the runners. The teacher whose room we stayed in even stopped by later in the evening to give us cinnamon popcorn she'd made. Chevak is a very hospitable village.

CC Season 2010 is a Wrap

It was hard to believe the season was already ending with Regions being our last meet. Also hard to imagine that last year in Dillingham we had our first weather hold from a snow storm. Left: Runners at their mark! No snow in Quin yet but lots of wind and cold. Rumor has it that they had snow in Anchorage though. Right: Teambuilding. The kids raced their hardest and all finished well. The race was up a hill, around a little tundra lake, across a makeshift bridge, and down an old runway. They had to make 2 laps, it was tough competition but not one gave up! Way to finish strong Seahawks. Our finishers were for the high school girls: 59th, 63rd, 65th and 67th. High school boys: 46th, 49th, 56th, and 74th. Our middle school boys finished: 8th, 16th and 17th. And our middle school girl came in 3rd. Though we did not make it to state they all ran their best races and made me very proud! Good work team. That brings our season to an end.

Above: Racing Below: Finishing

Hair Salon/Freezer Open for Business

Last night Jerilyn and her girls stopped in to Salon Ray-Chel. Yup, I got to cut their hair. They liked it as they left last night. I only hope that consensus continued today;) Fannie and family stopped in to put some of their freezer overflow into my current space friendly freezer. I now have an entire swan greeting me each time I open the lid to get something out.

Shout Out To: Grampa and Lori Happy Birthday on the 28th! Thanks to Jon for taking all these great pics and letting me steal them off his camera. And to Gus and Columbo I just got your package in the mail this afternoon (Monday) guys keep making me cry. Quyananaqva...thank you very, very much what blessings you are to me.

"The God who has girded me with strength has opened wide my path. He made my feet like the feet of deer, and set me secure on the heights." - 2 Samuel 22:33-34

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

"Gud Morn-Ning Queen-Hawk!"

The moment when you first wake up in the morning is the most wonderful of the twenty-four hours. No matter how weary or dreary you may feel, you possess the certainty that, during the day that lies before you, absolutely anything may happen. And the fact that it practically always doesn't, matters not a jot. The possibility is always there.
~Monica Baldwin

In Quinhagak we have a VHF system. Such that, in nearly every household one can be heard with the the mere pressing of a button. Imagine if you will ice road truckers but instead picture tundra dwelling villagers;) That's us! Just recently Principal Eric purchased VHFs for all teacher housing, yep finally we also are connected to the greater 'cyber'/radio village. It's a whole new world! It's like having a scanner but you can join in the conversation if you so desire. I hear things such as: "Jimmy! time to come home!" " But I want to sleep at upi's." "Jimmy! Time to come home!" Or "Choir practice at the church tonight at 7 for anyone interested." Or "....Many, many words in Yup'ik that I have yet to understand. I catch bits and pieces, but not even enough to be remotely dangerous." However my favorite part (aside from the obvious increased security and safety reasons), is the morning greetings! These are heard and echoed all across the village. Starting around 6:30ish as far as I've noticed and lasting for the next 1/2 or so, early risers eager to meet the new day are spreading their joy greeting everyone by offering a pleasant "Gud Morn-Ning Queen-Hawk! (Good Morning Quinhagak)" over the VHF. I've come to expect and appreciate this sunrise salutation. Replying to only myself and Ani in the same local accent "Quyana! And Gud Morn-ing back at ya! Let today begin!"

Near Anchorage

On the way to school this morning the sky was brilliant! Some days here in Quin as the sun pours down on our beloved Kilbuck Mountain backdrop, it could remind you of the rolling Appalachians. Then other times when the clouds cast darkened shadows about, they take on the more ruggedness of the Himalayas. Oh the mountains in the Quinhagak unreachable but such a part of my life up here. I kind of have an ongoing conversation with them, so close and so foreign. I need a four wheeler or a snowmobile, but my fear? It would inevitably break down and I would not be able to fix it, or I would get it and have to go by myself. So for this time in my life I've settled to quietly gaze at the mountains, occasionally remembering times other mountains have been closer and imagining hopefully that someday they will be again. Until then, I will continue to inhale this incredible expanse of sprawling tundra and sea letting it be part of who I am.
Near Quinhagak

God's loyal love couldn't have run out, his merciful love couldn't have dried up. They're created new every morning. How great your faithfulness! I'm sticking with God (I say it over and over). He's all I've got left.
Lamentations 3:22-24

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Run! Seahawks! Run!

"Jogging is very beneficial. It's good for your legs and your feet. It's also very good for the ground. It makes it feel needed." ~Charles Schulz, Peanuts

Flying In and Flying Out
So we loaded our charter out of Quinhagak Friday afternoon. This consisted of a caravan and a 207. The high school kids with their ' seniority' and Jon (bless his heart, since this chaperoning gig was just sprung on him the day before) all had the luxury of piling into the posh caravan while us peons (Jr. high and 'coach') crammed into the 207 and puttered along drafting on their fumes into Bethel. Everyone was nervous and eager on the way in. On the way back, as you can see, there was a different feel in the Obviously they had worked hard.

You know there is really nothing quite like sleeping on a cozy classroom floor to get the lack of sleep pumping. The boys camped out in room B6 at the Bethel Regional Highschool while we girls were assigned B21. The boys were all excited to tell me that they were sharing a room with a boy who was the only boy in his village. "Really?" I exclaimed, "Wow it must be very lonely to be the only boy in his whole village!" "Noooo," they laughed, "He's the only boy from his village on the cross country team!" "Ohhhhh," I responded giggling "Well I like the title: The Only Boy in His Village so that's what I'm going to refer to him as." Francis was a good sport, he let me tease him the rest of our stay.

They all ran around visiting with every kid they could meet from other villages until it was time to call it a night. Lights out were at 10, it was then that we all snuggled into our sleeping bags on the not quite Sealy Posturpedic worthy classroom floors. Ouch, not comfy on my back. I'm afraid I'm getting old.

It's Always Sunny in Bethel

The girls were up early doing their hair, lol you just never know who you might bump into out on the trail;) We regrouped in the lobby, feasting on coco pebbles and fruit loops provided by BHRS then loaded into suburbans and were transported out to the sandpit that Bethelonians like to refer to as their cross country course.... Just to set the stage: the Bethel Meet is like the Everest of cross country races available for us to tackle in our district. These kids, who have trained on flat gravel roads with the exception of our one menial hill and the handful of times we hit the beach for a workout, are sent out on a course stacked with elevations and steeped in foot deep, untra fine, loose sand. It's a track that tests the stamina of even the most seasoned runners and our students persevered! Thankfully we couldn't have asked for a more perfect day. The sun shone, no wind, and it was toasty warm. We had runners representing Quinhagak in each age category and they showed how tough they are! One lady even approached me to comment on what determined runners Quinhagak had. So proud of those kiddos! Congratulations Runners on a race well run! This coming Saturday is our Regional Meet in Chevak! Woooooo-Whoooooo can't wait to see how they tear that up:)
Hazelnut Lattes and No Ice in Alaska
It's a treat for myself and has easily become a much anticipated tradition: to buy myself a large hazelnut latte at the coffee shop above Grant Air. I do this each time I check in to board my puddle jumper back to village. I savor every sip during the ride home. So when we landed in Bethel Friday afternoon, I conned Jon (the male chaperone also one of our new teacher's husband) to head over and get us a couple. I didn't have to twist his arm too much. This was a blessing since the poor guy didn't even know until the day before that he had been nominated to be the boys chaperone! Opps, lack of communication on my part. Thanks for jumping in there Jon:) On our way back we stopped in again but it was super warm in Bethel that day and I was craving something cool. After all it is Alaska, so I ordered a smoothie. Fortunately for me but no so much for everyone else I got the last smoothie that day. They ran out of ice. I that a first in Alaska???? Our flight back was enjoyable and turned into a bit of a race in and of itself. The 207 containing myself and the jr. high kids was passed up by the caravan full of varsity kids on the homestretch! We could even see the runway! Hey no cutting, man! We still got out of our plane faster. They have to wait longer for the props to quit spinning! he he

S-A-T-U-R-D-A-Y Night!
Those of us teachers present in the village Saturday night decided to have a campfire on the beach while watching the sun go down, the moon go up and the tide come in. It was absolutely picture perfect as you can see. We had a smorgasbord of goodies, hot dogs and onions, polish dogs and sauerkraut (Go Wisconsin), pasta salad and cake (thank you Connie), and of course smores (Quyana Girls)! Delicious! We took advantage of the stunning sunset, leaping into it until Connie captured a picture of all of us hanging in the air. I won't even tell you how long we were jumping around on the beach in attempts to actually get this pic, lol...too bad the kids weren't around to get a load of their crazy teachers. Hopefully we get out there again before the snow flies. Good times.

Picture Taken by Connie on Alicia's Camera of
Me, Allison, Alicia, Alison, and Jon

And I shall leave you with this:
A comment
made by Christopher Lewis regarding his recent vacation spent in our little corner of Western Alaska:)...

"I actually think Quinhagak is better than Hawaii."

Enough said...

"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

Thursday, September 16, 2010

I Live On Sewage Lagoon Road...No Joke

Some people look at this box, they see a box. You know what I see? The spice route to India. The gateway to the Nile. I see the dark side of the moon. Terra incognito. I see Alaska, people. So, what do you say? Let's be a little human!

- Chris in the Morning, Northern Exposure
Berry Picking in Platinum There has been a well traveled flight pattern between Quinhagak and Platinum the last few weekends as Platinum has an abundance of berries! People have been scurrying over to load up on gallons and gallons of juicy berries, stocking up for winter which is fast approaching.

Cross Country Goes to Bethel
The Seahawk Cross Country Team is scheduled to fly to Bethel Friday afternoon.
They all came over to my house for our annual spaghetti feed, salad, cookies, pie and juice. I confess I burned the garlic bread but that's kind of a tradition.... yep, pretty sure I burned it last year too. So nobody was surprised or very judgmental, a little disappointed maybe but not shocked. A few of my sympathetic boys even shrugged off the obvious failure of blackened bread, took a piece and crunched it down. "See Coach? Not so bad." they offered, crunch, crunch, crunch. Thanks guys;)

Vacuum Sealing Moose Meat Thanks to Steph and Jim
After my runners exited stage left, I proceeded rummaged through my fridge in search of the washed and reused ziplock full of moose meat my friends Jessica and John gave me off their quarry the other day. I needed to get it cleaned, cut it up and vacuum sealed before we flew off to Bethel. Used my new old 'hand me up' food saver Steph let me keep for such a time as this. Now I have happy frozen non-freezer burning moose meat waiting to be gobbled up later this winter!

My Curious Whereabouts DiscoveryQuinhagak and the Kanektok River from the plane.

Did I mention that Chris google earthed my house? Yeah and turns out I live on Sewage Lagoon Road!!! Seriously someone named this lovely little borough of greater Quinhagak...."Sewage Lagoon Road. Now I realize that the honey bucket hopper 50 yards from the house takes a little getting used to and it is true that the hoppers are eventually hauled away by the doozers and emptied into a lagoon but that lagoon is waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay down by the cell phone tower! It is nowhere near my house! It's on a totally on the 'other' road. So one can only guess that...well, before Quinhagak was the sprawling metropolis that we see could be assumed that this area...maybe even the exact spot my just recently restored, sinking trailer is perched upon was in hum you know what I'm alluding to...the sewage lagoon. Well, I'm only surmising but anyway I think I'm going to start a petition to change the official name, which there are no official names per say in Quinhagak at least not that any of us know or on second thought maybe I'll just email google earth myself and tell them they've made a mistake then give it my own name!

To the Beach for a Picnic Anybody??
On our 1st sunny day for what seemed like in eons! We packed up the Hunter clan on Pauline's four wheeler and trailer and headed down the beach to the Arolik River where we genuine bonified picnic! Pauline and I had wandered the river earlier that morning as the fog rolled in and out. We found lots of bear tracks and carnage everywhere, lol. Reality...we think it was 2 dead walrus, one dead bear, one dead seal and one dead beaver. My thought? No wonder the bears are scavenging the beach lately. Carcasses and all, we had a blast. We roasted hot dogs and marsh mellows, even flagged down other passersby to join our little beach side festivities. The day was a great success aside from running over their dog whom we had just named 'angel' ironically. The dog did survive but we weren't sure how well.

Hopscotch Quin Style
Pauline and I took a walk to the beach the other night. We seemed to collect children along the way! By the time we arrived to the sand we had a dozen little followers who were most definitely too far away from the village without their parents. I made a few futile attempts to call some parents just to let them know their darlings were with us. I gave up as the local cell company and myself do not get along...ugh, most dropped calls and disconnects nationwide. Did manage to get a hold of one parent and told her that if she hears anyone searching for their child on VHF let them know that they are probably with us at the beach. She said she would so I quit stressing and enjoyed the evening. The kids got down to the business of burying each other, collecting shells, feathers and whatnot and playing hop scotch no chalk needed! It was a gorgeous evening had by all.

Is there a Marathon in my near Future?
It seems that my friend Erin has recruited me to run. I have in turn recruited Josh and Chris to run. Ang is generally up for any races and now we are all registering for the Zombie Marathon in Anchorage on October 23rd. I haven't been training, maybe I'll start tomorrow. We'll see what happens.

Rangefinder...Caribou Beware
A friend of mine from Wisconsin sent me a Rangefinder. This means that number one there is now a caribou with my name on it somewhere on this tundra and number two I can no longer use the excuse "it's too hard to tell distance on this tundra!" Thank you so much, Pete;)

Shout Out To: Jessica and John Alexie for sharing their moose meat with me:) Thanks to Fannie for sharing hers and for lil' Pauline for sharing her king salmon! I am so blessed by you guys and gaining weight!
"Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody."
1 Thessalonians 4:11-12