Sunday, December 15, 2013

Tis the Season...2013-14

As holiday vacation approaches many of us, as teachers in rural Alaska, are looking forward to departing for warmer, brighter places for a few days at least. In our case, it's about three weeks, a result of our community having two churches with differing calendars for their winter celebrations. Regular Christmas celebrated by the Moravian church here gives us the conventional ten days to two weeks, just like everywhere else, but the Russian Orthodox church has their "Slavic" celebration which is several days of feasting and gifting, starting in January and lasting well into the month. This means we get time off for both celebrations, and therefore plenty of time for unwinding in southern latitudes...if that were what we had planned.

We, however, are taking leave of the village much closer to home this year, to our home in Kenai, then taking a relatively brief visit to family in Arizona after New Year's...when airfares drop precipitously. It'll be warm, sunny, and should give us a chance to bake ourselves lightly. The plan is to get a tree, celebrate an Alaska Christmas, with access to restaurants, shopping opportunities, movie theaters, and ROADS with CARS. There's lots of snow this year. Perhaps a bit of skijoring with the dog is on the schedule too.

For us, as Alaska bush teachers, the vacation is all about renewal and re-creation. It is a long stretch between Labor Day and Christmas, then it's even longer between New Year's an May...when we set our charges free for the summer. Spring break doesn't work here, since it's still cold and snowy, with nothing to do but stay huddled inside for the week. No one really wants to extend the school year to accommodate a week that is too short, really, to go anywhere further than Anchorage, where it is also cold and snowy, and Spring is still a distant and vague promise. The compromise is a 4-day weekend that corresponds to the week of the district basketball championship tournament. Nowhere to go except Bethel, but still a short breather.

While I look forward to the time off, I'm afraid my body's schedule might not coordinate with the clock, since once I wake up, I probably have less than 5 hours of useful daylight at best, and, after all, it is vacation, so sleeping in will take its toll too.

Happy holidays! All of them!


A chilly day in Aniak (home of the Halfbreeds) during the regional 
volleyball tournament. The sun is "...wearing mittens" The 
meteorological explanation is way less compelling. 

We had fun but lost in the second round. 
As a consolation though, we did beat the Halfbreeds!

Monday, April 8, 2013

April on the Tundra

I have not contributed to this blog in a while, and realize that if I want any continuity in this chronicle I need to type something. The school year has been long. I will not blame it on any one element but I have one in mind. more later...

April came in with warm sunny days, kids were dressed in short sleeves to celebrate the 50-degree temperatures and promises of early break-up and snow melting...followed by a stretch of very cold (sub-zero) temps that vow to hang on for another week at least. Even still, the sun is up early and still up at 10:30 pm so we are all solar powered and sleep cycles are not dictated by clocks but rather circadian rhythms peculiar to the subarctic latitudes.

After a week of standardized testing this week students are done for the year. Planning is getting creative so that we can keep them entertained enough to keep them coming to school rather than going fishing and hunting, or just sleeping in after staying up all night, since the sky is still light at midnight. Solar power doesn't work so well in classrooms with few windows.

Traveling with students this week to Healy, flying, then driving for about five hours. Photos to follow.

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