Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Rest of (Today)'s Story

Bernard: As you may know, I spent the last three months in Africa. A wondrous, magical place. But as shadows lengthen across the KBHR window, thoughts turn to homecoming. Journey's end. Because in a sense, it's the coming back, the return which gives meaning to the going forth. We really don't know where we've been until we've come back to where we were. Only, where we were may not be as it was because of who we've become. Which is, after all, why we left.
Northern Exposure, 1990

CAMA-I (Ja-my) It is a warm greeting that you would use when you haven't seen some one in a very long time, something like the Yup'ik version of "Hello! How the heck are ya? It's been a while, eh?!" And so it is after this greeting that the annual dance festival in Bethel is named. Dancers come from all over Alaska, even the world, to participate. Bethel Regional High School turns into the main stage for 3 whole days of drumming, fan dancing fun. People also come from everywhere to buy and sell their native crafts: ulu knives, kuspeqs, seal skin mittens, hats and parkas, ivory, mastodon and baleen whale jewelry. Deciding not to miss an opportunity to meander the taxi infested streets of Bethel, I hopped a plane Friday night and joined in on the bustling weekend. Columbo was persuaded that he also should see for himself what all the fuss was about so he stopped by from Anchorage too.

From the Internet
Ear plugs securely wedged in and enjoying the view from my seat directly behind the pilot for our 50 minute flight to Bethel from Quin, forehead pressed against the tiny scratched up Plexiglas windows I watch snow gos 500 feet below us pulling heavy duty wooden sleds zipping along the 2 thin lined trail etched out for miles in the white blanket spread. There's a river in the tundra that is breaking up. The brackish tundra waters stain the white snow covered ice brown. Spring is coming already I think to myself. The rudimentary system of roads that are imprinted all along the frozen rivers and tundra will disappear for the people of the delta who take good advantage of the expanded winter travel opportunities. The plane dips and bobs on the wind currents, the dulled hum starts to put me to sleep as I imagine being bundled up and riding those snow gos the 70 miles from Bethel to Quinhagak on the temporary ice trail that forms for those 8 months out of the year. I smile thinking of our own trusty maintenance men Bob and Joshua..."Bobshua" as I like to refer to them.

Snow go Trail Truckers
Bobshua drove the school suburban on the snow go trail all the way to Bethel so it could get fixed. The alternative would be to wait until spring break up and send it (very expensively) by barge. So the economical adventure was decided upon. Bobshua reported that the trip there was 8 hours of crawling along the 70 miles with a good shovel and 4 wheel drive. A few short weeks later after the repairs were made at the local Bethel autobody shop they drove the return trip. Thankfully while the trail was still frozen. And now we have a suburban again. Quyana Bob and Joshua.

Earrings and barrettes
Purchased this beautiful ivory hair barrette from Paul Beebe one of our village elders here in Quinhagak who hand carved the whole thing! All of it, from the seal and the piece it sits on to the wooden stick and the fish fixed to the end. I love it. Then while perusing the many goods at Cama-i, we found a gorgeous pair of bone earrings. It was shopping therapy village style.

Boxing up the Groceries

Of course I took advantage of the AC in Bethel and did some grocery shopping, picking up odds and ends for other teachers left behind. I had to smile as I visited with all kinds of people I've met over the last two years. You run into everyone at the AC it's like a reunion every time you walk in! Then you pay way too much money for only a couple items, grab a box from the pile and pack up your expensive goods so they will be air worthy. I'm gonna miss that...boxing up my groceries in Bethel to merrily fly the home to Quin. It's like Christmas.

Come on ring those bells
At Alison's advice I have tied a bell to the door knob of my house in hopes of training Tak to ring it when he has to go potty. He has rung it twice. I won't tell you the ratio of accidents to successful potty calls. Pray for us, we are both on a large learning curve.

Sunshine on my pillow at 10pm makes me not tired. That's right it is still light out at 10:00 pm here in Quinhagak. We are all awake and running around at hours when we should be cuddled up in our beds. We say things like..."Wow! How can it be that late already?" and "It doesn't seem that late." and "It's WHAT time???" Then every morning we drag our underslept bodies into school, stumble around the coffee pot and compare bedtimes. We do get lots of extra walks to beach again. And as you can see, the kids are taking good advantage of the light and 'open water' on 'Lake Quinhagak' just between the NVK building and newer housing.


1st graders celebrated completing their 120th lesson in language by skiing a couple weeks ago. What a hoot!


  1. To submit (oneself) passively; accept as inevitable.
  2. To give up (a position, for example), especially by formal notification.
  3. To relinquish (a privilege, right, or claim).
After much deliberation I submitted mine to the district office. I am incredibly torn and homesickly grieved about it. In my heart of hearts I know it is the right step at this time for me but oh, how I step so slowly, so hesitantly, so sadly and with so much love in my heart for this little coastal village on the Bering Sea called Quinhagak. Every moment that slips away from me now feels like I want to chase after, call it back. Plead with it don't go yet. Just wait. I'm not ready, not yet. And thankfully it is also not quite time yet either. I've been given the gift of cherishing each moment I have left in this precious place in time. The feeling in my stomach when I try to imagine the idea of leaving Quinhagak is much the same as the feeling I had the first time I ever left home. Knowing it has to happen, things will never be the same again and wanting nothing but to cry in my pillow and keep things just the way they are forever. How can two years impress on a heart what I thought took a lifetime.

"When you enter a town or village, don't insist on staying in a luxury inn. Get a modest place with some modest people, and be content there until you leave." Matthew 10:11

Thursday, March 24, 2011


"How did it get so late so soon?"
~Dr. Suess

We have seen: The Four Corners of the Moon

The view of the moon going down the other morning on our bus ride to school.
It was square? Made us wonder if the radiation from Japan is making its way here.

Speaking of driving the bus...
We have approximately 3 stop signs posted around Quinhagak at different 'intersections' if you will. I think of them as more for teachable moments than actually functioning, since it is the rare occasion that you do meet another vehicle at the same time. Anyway as we passed by one today I slowed down, looked both ways and continued creeping along, while declaring out loud,
"Farmer Stop."
Connie and I giggled that "Eskimo Stop" is an more appropriate term
when considering our village locale.

Below are my tired puppies, feeling a little overworked:)
Have a great weekend everybody.

"If God doesn't build the house, the builders only build shacks. If God doesn't guard the city, the night watchman might as well nap. It's useless to rise early and go to bed late, and work your worried fingers to the bone. Don't you know he enjoys giving rest to those he loves?" Psalm 127:1-2

Monday, March 21, 2011


"Right now I want a word that describes the feeling you get
--a cold, sick feeling deep down inside--
when you know something is happening that will change you,
and you don't want it to but you can't stop it.
And you know, for the first time, for the very first time,
that there will now be a
before and an after, a was and a will be.
And that you will never again be quite the same person you were."

A Northern Light Jennifer Donnelly 2003

These are the moments that make you laugh.

And then keep you smiling.

They're the kind of moments you might

wish terribly that you could bottle right up.

So you could pour them over on those other days.

Yeah, maybe even especially so you could just pour them all

out on those other days.

You know, those ones that try really, really hard

to make you cry.

My deepest sympathy to my friends Connie, Ken
and Family in the recent passing of his mom.

"Do not be afraid, little flock,
for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom."
Luke 12:32

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Here in Quin

It is not down in any map; true places never are.
~Herman Melville

It has been a week here. Some good stuff, some bad and quite a bunch of in between. Very sadly we have had the passing of a family member of many dear friends and colleagues. Our prayers and love go out to them. We've had freezing temps leap into the warm winds and melt some of our drifts. We've ended the third quarter of our school year, where on earth does the time go??? Grades are due. We've started working out again after school to Chalean Extreme and have the sore muscles to prove it. Karen's been letting me try out her super cool 'shape up' shoes while she's been home sick. We've all been taking turns with this wild tundra flu lately too. A couple schools in the delta have even had to cancel school for lack of students and staff! Erin our technology guru visited from the district office this week always a treat! As did Kevin our fab speech path a sight for sore eyes to us all, where have you been all year? It's fun when familiar faces bless us with their presence and expertise every now and again. We've missed you guys! Fannie fed Connie and I walrus, yep, the hair and all. Stupidly I asked,"Am I supposed to eat it everything?? The hair EVEN?!" Fannie raised her eyebrows nonchalantly and told me all about the benefits of walrus hair on one's digestive system. Hummmm....? A few nights later she beat me at scrabble playing my letters and hers, lol. Anyway, I just wanted to touch base with you all. We miss you but we're doing alright. With love from a cozy view of the edge of nowhere:)

"How beautiful are your tents, Jacob,
your dwelling places, Israel!"
Numbers 24:5

Monday, March 14, 2011

Real Rural Weekend

Thank you, Mr. Sendak, for reminding us that we should never lose touch with the wild and untamable spirit within us all... Even up here in Alaska, we're turning our back on the beast. We've opted for the zoo, where the lion can't eat you instead of the jungle, where he can.

- Chris In the Morning, after reading "Where The Wild Things Are", Northern Exposure

Sun is back so we were out and about in Quinhagak this wild weekend.
We've been Walk'N and a little Work'N

Ski Jor'N

Allison K and I stole Tucker from the Zylstra's.
We headed out the the beach with he and Ani
to go ski joring:)
Allison ski jored...
for the first time!


Addy went mushing...
for the first time (that day).
Steph took her brand, new, very own, dog sled out mushing
with Bela and Marley...
for the first time!

And Alicia went cross country skiing...
for the first time!

Snow Go'N

Sherry, Alison and I crashed Tim and Diane's Hunting Trip...
for the first time.
Inviting ourselves along!
Quyana Tim and Diane,
we LOVED it!
Hope you still enjoyed it too:)


We let Tim look and look and look for the caribous... but he never found them...only a fluttering flock of ptarmigans, a fleeting little fox and about 1 foot of splish, splashing standing water on the Arolik River as we zoomed up Bessie Creek to 'peek' around. (Tim assured we doubting future water skippers that it was safe). And he was right. We only got a little bit wet and nobody sunk.

So I guess Tim was skunked...
for the first time.

Alison Z drove a snow go...
for the first time!

And finally Chill'N
...which feels like a first;)

Shout Out To: Allison K Happy Birthday on the 29th!!

"Warn the rich people of this world not to be proud or to trust in wealth that is easily lost. Tell them to have faith in God, who is rich and blesses us with everything we need to enjoy life."
1 Timothy 6:17

Friday, March 11, 2011

Full of Phenomena

Bernard: Those Northern Lights are some kind of weird psychic, something?
Chris: Yeah.
Bernard: What causes them to do that?
Chris: Well, this is just my guess, but I think that high speed electrons and protons from the sun are trapped in the van Allen radiation belt. Then they're channeled through the Polar Regions by the earth's magnetic field where they collide with other particles and create a brilliant luminosity.
Bernard: What does that have to do with us?
Chris: I swear man, I don't know.
Northern Exposure, 1990

Taken from the Internet

Auroras and Tsunamis

The last two night skies up here have been ablaze with dancing auroras. Ani, Tak and I wandered out to the dumpsters around 11:00 last night only to find out this morning that the show was around 9 pm. We are hoping for an encore performance tonight.

You've heard the tragic news of the earthquake in Japan? We are paying close attention to the advisories up this way regarding tsunamis. So far it seems like all will be okay. We'll be praying for everyone over there, so scary.

National Weather Service, Anchorage, Alaska 12:30 pm March 11, 2011



Tak Harnessed The new dynamic duo begins "Tak and Ani". We ski jored out for Tak's maiden voyage the other night. He ran like the champ (of Martin's pups' bloodline) that he is! He didn't pull, he's too young but he loped along with a leash all the way to the beach then he plopped his little rump down, looked up at me and smiled, "I'm done." So I gathered him up in my arms and skied back carrying his precious little cargo self. Ani seemed to like being the 'big dog', "Watch and learn short stuff. This is how it's done." I just hope he picks up on house breaking as well as he's picking up on running around. I've been cleaning up a lot of puppy messes. But he has been going every time we are outside too. I'm also trying to kennel train him. He goes in at night and cries and cries and is heartbreaking but I just can't have another dog that refuses to 'Kennel Up' with out a wrestling match.

"Hello From Quinhagak!"

Sunshine On Our Magic School Bus Makes Us Happy! Let There Be Light!
Days are getting much, much longer here in Alaska! Sun is jumping up over the mountains by 7:30ish am in plenty of time for morning bus route. She's not diving into the sea again until 8ish in the evening either! And we are gaining 6 minutes of bright, shiny, rays a day! Yeee haaa bring on that midnight sun!

"But it is God whose power made the earth,

whose wisdom gave shape to the world,

who crafted the cosmos."
Jeremiah 10:12

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Life is Too Short, Embrace the Dork in You!

As they say the early bird gets the worm,
but it would be wise to remember
it's the second mouse that gets the cheese. ~A Real Thinker

We are family... The whole gang together again in Hayward, Wisconsin for spring break! What a blessing:) Here's Gram, she can't even get away from us if she wanted to now. Sorry Gram.
Birkebeiner - Easier said than skied...Especially when you get into town the night before from flying all day. But I know I wasn't the only one as the gentleman sitting next to us on the flight from Seattle to Minneapolis was studying the trail elevations, intense guy. Wonder if he got first?Birkie Fever was in the air all around town as skiers and spectators alike flooded in by the droves. Roads were closed down, snow was hauled in and all available sleeping quarters filled up. That's Birkie weekend in Wisconny. The temps were less than ideal as nordic type after type swooshed by with frostbitten extremities, my own nose, ears, and toes included! My toes still aren't quite right but that's par for the course;)
The top pic is my 'Angry Faced Mainstreet Finish'
(so said my lil bros)

To the left early morning pre-race jitters.

To the right frost bitten with frozen eyelashes at the finish
These are the before and after pictures for your viewing pleasure. Go ahead laugh, we all did. What a treat to see so many old friends out on the trail. It should be noted that I was in fact 2 years too late for this 3rd Wave placement where I found myself very ill prepared, having trained on only our beloved tundra flatland by tennis shoe! I flung my bag toward the kind volunteer at the bag drop truck while gingerly jogging by in my ski boots. I was late as usual since lil bro Sam and I made a narrow miss on the time factor; my wave was being counted down as I arrived on the scene. I scooted under the rope and couldn't help but grin with my blue trimmed bib claiming this Wave 3 spot earned 2 years back when I was in shape! Immediately saw a couple dear friends from my Hayward church family suited up and ready to take off with me! Like I mentioned I had chased after Wave 3 (PB and probably last) and finally made it back in 2009! Last year I was 'in village' unable to get home to ski and this year by a stroke of luck and God Speed I made it 'down states' in time to grab the newly waxed skis from New Moon and take my place hitting the trail! From that point on it was ultimately an uphill finish quickly falling back with my usual Wave 4 friends who welcomed my return (that's my take anyway). It kinda felt like a dream as I would see familiar faces at every food station. Logically I took the opportunity to gather hugs and visit while the rest of my Wave 3 swished past. There was a more meaningful purpose this year beyond waves and bibs, that was to ski in honor of a dear friend from Hayward who is battling ASL. He is strong, kind man who touches the lives of anyone lucky enough to be around him prayers for him went up as skis slid along the snow. This year was also skied on Allison's behalf in memory of a friend of her's who passed away far, far too soon. So it meant a lot to be home on the trail this year sometimes racing up a hill and other times slowing to watch the trees pass. Intentional. And when the first Wave 10 speedster zinged by on Lake Hayward (the homestretch) I cheered him on, "Take it home super skier guy! Finish strong for all of us just chugging along!" You know I couldn't have been happier on my birkie birthday when my second worst time trek was finally complete. Greeting me at the finish was my amazing, crazy, wonderful family and friends. An incredible day, truly a Gift from God. Thank you and Quyana everybody, you were all part of it in every capacity. My cup overflowth!
Anchor Town
Stayed in Hayward for 5 days then flew on back to the big city to participate in a few of the Fur Rondy Festivities. These turned out to be...

The ice sculpture park downtown. My favorite was Manny the Mammoth...I call him that because I love that movie. Columbo found his favorite bumper sticker. And we got to pose at the Eskimo ice sculpture: "Hello from Anchorage!"
Not much for sightings of the dogs (we missed the ceremonial start) my bad, I know. But since I'm starting my own dog team (if only in my dreams) I didn't feel too distraught, except for missing Martin (my favorite musher of all time, mostly because I love his accent). We did however, spy this Sasquatch...evidently he's alive and well and partaking in the Fur Rondy Festivities in downtown Anchorage much like the rest of us. I even got this very rare snapshot of him as he meandered along with the reindeer runners.

Speaking of, we did manage to catch the...

I think it should be running from the reindeer.

Here they are...all kinds of hardy, fun loving souls, giving what they do in Spain a healthy Alaskan twist!
Each runner and reindeer for themselves. It was an experience to behold let me tell you.
My favorite? The Reindeer Wrangler to the out Marlboro Man there's a new sheriff in town.Where's Waldo?

Happy 3rd Birthday to Alivia!

What's most important is that we did make it to the ultimate event happening during Fur Rondy...
Alivia's 3rd Birthday Party
Complete with cake, ice cream, pizza and all the boys trying to figure out how to put together her newly unwrapped baby doll pack and play.
Shout Out To: Tanya and Rod welcoming their brand new first born baby boy Gunner into this wild world! Happy Birthdays to Amy Lou, Anne, Tanya, Stephanie and BrookE!
Celebrating you all:)

"...And now, my dear daughter, don't you worry about a thing..." Ruth 3:10