Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The last hurrah

Spring...still Springing

It is now late April and the snow is ugly, slushy, hard to walk in and definitely melting. But... it's still here and probably will be for some time. It's warmed up in Anchorage; flowers are even budding and the snow isall gone. Not here, we still are walking over snowdrifts looking down at roofs. It's only a matter of a short time before "things" start melting out of the snow like machinery, tools, small buildings, puppies, nothing more alarming I should hope.

We never get to be here for the true colors of the spring. It comes so late and we are usually long gone by the time things warm up and green things get green. By the time we return in August, the grass is high with swollen seed heads after the intense burst that is an Alaskan summer. It's still green, almost iridescent green but it is the mature green of living things in their prime.

Spring is also a time of winding down. The kids are all solar powered so they are staying up as long as the sun does then long after. They arrive at school soooooooooo.... not ready to do anything school-like. In a month, the bay will be clear of most ice and there might even be fishing boats out for herring, though prices for herring have been so low no one really bothers except for subsistence. After that starts, everyone stays very busy through the summer. I'd love to stay some time but then I'd just be standing around, watching people work. I think I'll go play in Kenai instead.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Time to consolidate

I've been sending various people information and impressions about life in rural Alaska so I am going plagiarize (myself and post a few pearls. (or cheap plastic imitation pearls):

...I think its beautiful here and so do most people who come here. It is different though; there are no trees taller than...well,,,really they aren't trees. They are bushes and not very big ones at that. The tundra is a thick, wet carpet full of moss, lichens, ferns, blueberries (out the yin yang!) crow berries (also called blackberries but not like how we think of blackberries), salmon berries (to die for!) and cranberries. It is intensely green in the summer and then, right with the nip of frost in September, it changes color orangish-reddish-brownish and still green. When the snow falls, in October it's beautiful. It does blow a lot right here. In fact, we are one of the windiest parts of Alaska but the teacher housing is fairly snug and we stay warm inside. We've been XC skiing a good bit this winter and it's been pretty good on calm days.

It's pretty safe to turn down the jobs that just don't fit. In our district, the interview was questions like: Are you sure you want to do this? Positive? just because they didn't want to have to replace teachers after one year of misery because they missed their cars and Wendy's.

We are 500 miles from the nearest Walmart! ...A good thing!

My wife and I are teaching in a Yup'ik eskimo village on the Bering sea (8 years now). We are 500 mi from the nearest Walmart (HOORRAY!) We were in Austin for about 20 yrs but they actually pay teachers in Alaska so it made sense to make the move. We haven't looked back...except for the music. We still head south every spring but it is just plain wrong to leave Alaska in the summer time so our annual sojourns to the sunny south consist of a couple weeks in Austin (where we have a house we don't live in, ever, and Baton Rouge, where our daughter, Senna is living, then back up to Kenai (south of Anchorage, on the road system), where we now have a house, to spend the rest of the summer just chillin'...and fishing/cycling/kayaking before we settle in for another school year out here in the village. It's a system that works for now and we've worked out most of the kinks so it's actually gotten easier over the years.

... We've been here most of 8 years now and this is longer than anyplace I have ever lived except when I was a kid. It's mostly been very good for us. We've lots of good friends and we are definitely part of the community. We're actually famous since every kid in the village knows where we live and has probably come to visit at some point. Our cat is really popular with the little kids even though he can't stand little kids and runs and hides when they come. Even still the kids seek him out and really want to maul him, were he to let them... which he won't.

The job is different from any teaching job we've ever had. We kinda live in fishbowl and everyone knows a lot about our business (not everything, thank goodness) We manage to get out periodically during the year, either some conference or training, or union business, which gets me at least in to Bethel, t(he local hub with an airport big enough to land a jet) once a month or so.We also spent Christmas break in Kenai at our house since we arranged with our tenants to have that time when they moved in. They went to Hawaii for their honeymoon since they just got married in July. When we do get out, we can buy fresh groceries every now and then. Otherwise, we order things from an expediter in Anchorage. We've gotten pretty good at doing huge shopping and sending everything out to ourselves in Rubbermaid tubs. We have about 50 of them now so we're ready to move, whenever we do decide to find a new place. For now, we're staying put though. I can retire with full benefits in 9 years! That doesn't even seem that long now. I'll still be in my 50's.

The continuity is rough since most of these were excerpts of messages I sent to other people but a lot of it is just off the top of my head which is what a good blog need s to start as anyway.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Spring is Still Trying (but not too hard)

Half way through April and we are seeing a letup in the continued piling in of snow. To say it's melting is still a stretch. Even if it warmed into the 40's for a while, we have a lot of snow this year! Our picture window, about 8 feet above the ground, is still obscured by snow coming about a third of the way up it.

I went out skiing with some kids from the fourth and fifth grades yesterday and Friday but the wind and snow were less than ideal, though the actual snow conditions were very good. We got about 3/4 miles from town and the security of seeing where we had come from was too much for most of them and we decided as a group to return to the house (our house), make popcorn and hot cocoa with marshmallows. 'Enough to make any ski trip a good ski trip! Yesterday, it warmed up but I think we still got about 4 inches of new snow over the course of the day. it was quite bearable but the snow coming down kinda stung so I think it was mixed with sleet. Again cocoa and popcorn saved the day.

I will miss all this snow and these hills when Spring actually does show up. By then I will be getting ready to for our annual sojourn to the sunny south, home of fire ants, ticks and 100-degree temperatures. Luckily we'll only be there for a couple of weeks and then back to Kenai for the summer. (funny, I think I hear kayaks calling!)

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Spring Has (almost) Sprung

Okay, its April, and a week into April, and temps have soared into... the 20's. Granted, last weekend it hit 44 by my thermometer and it rained on Friday, and I thought regretfully that skiing was over and that all I have to look forward to for the next 7 weeks would be mud and sleep-deprived children. Then, we got about four inches of fresh powdery snow that wasn't blown around til it was packed hard as cement. Annette and I went out yesterday morning and had a nice cruise around the "practice course". It was nice to slide through snow instead of skittering across it like a grocery bag in the wind. Of course, the wind did blow yesterday and by the time Dirk and I went out in the evening, a lot of that soft powder had been exiled to small pockets surrounded by the glaze ice that comes after Friday's rain and Saturday's freeze. Again, I was a skittering plastic bag as soon as I got out of the powder. I fell down a lot and telemark turns remain elusive to my slow-witted body, at least until next October?

Skiing was good this year. My shoulder was cooperative and I had a lot of fun. Now comes the summer and hopefully it will continue to wear evenly at least... in a kayak? I'm not looking forward to a new surgery, that's for sure.
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