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


  1. Rach - I'm thinking of you...and proud to have such a strong friend that is up for life's next adventures. Cynthia and I are doing a half marathon this weekend - My running app says that I'm 17% ready :).

  2. Thanks for the great birthday! The red bull really helped me get through the day:) You will greatly be missed in Quinhagak :( I'm lonely just thinking about.