20 November 2005

Right Now - Back Then - When

So, I was writing my friend Robin & I reallized that I had not posted many of the things that I was telling her onto the blog, so that you all could be up to par with my happenings. Here we go. The reality of I Thanksgiving being next week is starting to sink in. Things move so quickly!

~ At work ~
Testing is a big time consumer for me. In addition to actually teaching skills, I have to test students & they have to pass those tests (indicators) in order to move through the school system (kindergarten = phases 1-2, grade 1 = phases 3-4, grade 2 = phases 5-6...). Otherwise, they will just stay right where they are. Many children are behind 'grade' level, so the goal right now is to get them back to grade level. For some this isn't a problem, for some this means 1 year behind, for others this means 5 years behind 'grade' level. This is great for individualized education, but it has it's flaws, which I will not devulge you with here. A llittle tidbit-Our school district doesn't refer to students being in grades anymore, now it's phases - really, they've changed the title again to 'continuous progress model' becauseof the negative feelings teachers & students are getting when the term 'phase' is thrown up in the air.

I have been working what seems non-stop trying to prepare & grade tests for the students. Giving them these official tests is what moves them along in the system (phase - grade). So, the week before last I tested the students in reading alone (which requires 20 min. per book.). I had a substitute in the class & I pulled kids all day for a week! I still didn't finish with all of the testing. To give you an idea. There are 27 students in the class, if I were to give each of them 1 test (many of them were taking 4+) then this would require 9 hours Average, not including transition time. Now this does not entirely fall on my shoulders; there is another teacher perfectly capable of testing, which she has. I just do a majority of it. Administering reading asssessments (RPAs) is good on one hand because they're reading is improving & they are moving along in the phases. On the flip side, this sucks because I can't take a week off & just test like this every 3 months. It is always ongoing; I just negelected to test for a while. Heavan forbid, I try to teach something. Last week, I pretty much finished up. An aide in the classroom took over some lessons so that I could finish up with the reading testing. Math is next, but we can all pull kids for that & some of the tests can be given without reading directions.

Oh, after that solid week of testing, Mary (the other teacher in the class) had the students write letters to me. She began with the 'Dear Carey," & wrote 'Sincerely yours," but they filled in the rest. I missed all of them together So much that week. It was really hard to sit down allll day long, with the exception of picking up students to be tested. They letters were so cute. Most of them talked about how they missed me for a week & loved me & that they didn't 'pula crd' (pull a card). Pulling a card means that they haven't been listening, doign their work, etc. They have 4 chances every day, then it slave labor & no cash for our weekly auction.

~ No work ~
I have been beading a bit, making Christmas ornaments. These little 1-inch cuties take anywhere from 2-5 hours to complete. It really depends on how creative you get with the danglies. I have been averaging 3ish hours each. Most Fridays, one of the teachers (Marsha) hosts a craft night. We go over to her house to make crafts, have snacks & chit-chat.

Although, I missed a couple of weeks, I still enjoy my Tuesday ladies basketball night. We play 12 min. games for 3 hours. The women here are just as serious as men about playing ball. Though we have a lot of fun cheering on people from the other team too.

I am still taking the Yup'ik language course. My mid-term is due next week (we're late, I know). Some times I feel like I'll be fluent any day now. Other times I feel like I have not ever spoken a Yup'ik word in my life. I am still in the 'stage fright' period where I know deep down that I know a response to someone speaking to me in Yup'ik, but the words just won't come to my tongue. I'll get better with practice. Next week, I also have 3 assignments due for a coaches clinic class. I attended an 8 hour coaches clinic in Bethel, took the first aide & coaching tests & passed. Now I have to complete the 3 remaining assignments for 2 grad. credits, which will bump up my pay scale eventually--I mean, it's all about learning new things. We have 2 months to complete everything. I lost my syllabus & by the grace of St. Anthony I found it. It's a good thing too, because my Instructor wasn't very helpful in sending me another one, after requesting 3 times! Never bitter-forgive, forgive. :-)

Oh, we had a wrestling tourny here last weekend. The Quinhagak team came, so we were able to see some students & S-Mac (Sara Mac...). They came over to our house after the tournament for snacks, climbing into our atic, playing with my exercise equipment, & watching the Simpsons until their plane came. We packed them up & sent them to the boat dock (now a snowmachine dock) to be on their way (1 hour earlier than planned, because the agent said the plane was coming). Then, we hear a knock at the door & the flood of them start rolliing back in. False alarm, it was another 40 minutes before they left.

~ Weather ~
The temperature has ranged from -11 F to 13 F. We had a good snow dump the past 2-3 days. I would bet that around 8-12" has accumulated. It's so hard to tell because of the snow drifts. The snow is dry & the wind is high, so it blows into snow mounds. Some places they'll be 2 1/2 feet deep, others you can see the ice on the ground underneath. The snow is so pretty & clean! The air smells so fresh.

When I visited last April (end of April) there were still snow drifts packed at 7'-10' high still, a lump on the ground or up against someone's house. We are kind of in a Tundra Triangle here with the 3 villages. I have heard that sometimes these 3 villages can be the only ones not able to be traveled to in the dead of winter, mainly because of the wind. The weather really does rule our lives around here; it could mean life or death. 'Weather Permitting' is the most common chime you will hear when traveling, or wanting to travel.

~ Thanksgiving ~
We had the traditional community Thanksgiving dinner on Friday. This means that the school cooks & serves whoever from the community wants to come as well as the students. It's like a big feast. Some high school students decorated the gym & the lines were all organized. I was impressed. Even when you see one line going all around the gym (as in Quinhagak), it still impressive. This is something that would be rare, if at all, in the lower 48. I love the sense of community there is here at time.

I am traveling to Anchorage for the long weekend. That will certainly be a change of pace. I plan on eating lots of fresh food, indulging in things such as a bit of wine & a massage, movies & driving a car, shoping for my own food, etc. To boot the school district pays for one round trip airfare to Anchorage every year. Not the amenities, but the travel & that gives me some heavy change in my pocket.

I will be looking into buying a snow machine while in ANC & having them ship it after the new year. Wow! That's right around the corner too! With any luck I'll be in Vietnam for the new year. {Don't worry, I'll still visit NC from around Jan. 8th-14th. Short, but sweet as usual.}

Geez -- This was supposed to be a quick update. Oh well, now you know more about my 'everyday' here.

This is my new passport photo; the most recent photo of me, as I do not have photos taken very often.
I'm going to leave it posted on here until I can figure out how to move it to my profile.

Here's the story... I have somehow misplaced the passport I renewed March 2004. Now, this Christmas break, for 2 weeks I plan on going to Thailand (Bangkok), Vietnam, Hong Kong, pluse another city I can't remember right now. This requires a passport & a Visa (for Vietnam), which requires that you send your passport to apply for the Visa. I'm supposed to leave December 26th & I still haven't applied for the passport. No, I'm not lazy. It's just that our local passport processing center is, well, non-existant. The 1 DMV in Bethel has been closed since August, because there is no one to run the show. Supposedly they were going to open up a few weeks ago. Someone was trained, but they had strep throat so they couldn't start. They were only going to take appointments, because they have been closed for so long. So, I call to set up an appointment; even though for me this means taking a 1/2 day off work, flying to Bethel & back on an $80 ticket. But, it needs to be done if I'm going to go to Thailand, etc.! Waiting until Thanksgiving & taking the chance at a DMV being open in Anchorage over the holiday is just too late. Well, check the calendar, Thanksgiving is next week. Oh, so I made an appointment with someone who actually processes the passports in Bethel. When I called the City of Bethel before this person was 1 of 2 & they were both going to be out of the office until 11/10. When I tried calling after that, the phone line was giving some weird messages. Needless to say I have an apt. on the 23rd, which is when I leave to go to ANC anyway (so no extra $80). Cross your fingers for me that all goes well (not weathered in, lady is actually in the office, mail runs, etc.).

Morel: Don't loose your passport.

08 November 2005

the Tundra

These photos give you an idea of the vast place in which I live.
This watery delta goes on for hundreds of miles.
This picture wasn't even taken near the coast; it was maybe 80 miles in.

Now, the watery delta has turned into a snowly iceland. It's well on it's way. Lakes are pretty well frozen; but, there are thin areas. Rivers are iffy - most are frozen well with some thin ice & open spots. The Kuskikwim river has many thin spots; it's usually the last river to freeze around here. It is the 2nd largest river in Alaska after all, next to the Yukon.

04 November 2005

Hoo Ra - Halloween isn't over yet!

Thursday, 11-03-05

There were about 200-250 community members, including children of course, here for the 'mask contest' Thursday. The events started off with this mask parade. Then, there were several activities, including prizes, for children & adults alike. The events: musical chairs, walking a certain distance with a basketball between your knees (boys vs. girls, men vs. women), walking like the opposite sex, 'come to daddy,' & a musical gift to top off the night. I may have left something out.

What? You want to hear more about the 'come to daddy' contest. It was hard enough for me to get out there for the musical chairs (this is in front of 200 people) & I was swindled into this one. So, adult volunteers were asked to come forward & I was pulled onto the gym floor with some resistance. The other activities involved at least 50 people each, so I thought "hey, I'll just get lost in the masses, even if I am the only 'Gussaq' (white person) here." Wrong! There were 5 women, 5 men. Our task: baby is to 'come to daddy.' Women started. We were to act as babies going over to the man across from you (who I have never seen or met & in front of 200 people). They are to call you as a baby. The first lady just walked over, so exxentially, I was first up. There I went crawling on my hands & knees while this man, as old as my daddy, called me over to his arms. Whew! At least the women went first!

Prizes included pop, candy & cash. The final event was very cool. There were 2 huge circles, one for kids, the other for adults. A heavily wrapped box is given to one person & the music begins. The box is pushed along while music plays. When the music stops, the person who has the box in front of them when the music stops is to rip ir open as much as possible before music starts & try to unveil the prize. If you are the last to unwrap it, the prize it yours. The box was about 12" x 12" x 8" to begin with. Throughout the course of 'rip fest' we found layers of shipping tape, duct tape, masking tape, string tied in knots, cloth tied in knots, plastic, paper, newspaper, a bottle cap, more tape, more string, more tape, more tape, & a $50 bill. The childrens' box had several toys in it. The cool thing about this event is that when the music stops you aren't just helping yourself, your neighbor helps you. Plus, really you all are helping each other throughout. Everyone cheers for you, etc., etc. I think that it shows the importance of community to the Yup'ik culture & everyone working for each other.

The picture won't load, so I'll just leave the mask contest to your imagination.

02 November 2005

}{alloween }{um

This is how Halloween goes down in Nunapitchuk. All of the kids in the village are divided into 3 groups, which trick-or-treat together. It was decided that during the day & the closest Saturday to Halloween is the day to do it. This was originally thought of b/c of pedifiles & kids being out after dark alone (as if they aren't usually). So, we knew that a massive amount of kids & adults would be sweeping through some time during late morning to early afternoon. There was an announcement on the VHF that they were gathering at the community building to make their rounds. There were taps, pounding, & stomping at our stoop. We open our door & there are a few Jr. high students mildly painted up waiting with open bags. No words, just open bags. Then, a rush of about 65 people flooded past our front porch within about 15 minutes. Tau-i (done).

01 November 2005

Winter welcome

Ahhh, people were enjoying this Saturday. It was about 14 degrees F out, the sun was shining, & the river was freshly frozen. We watched this girl skate for about 15 minutes without taking a step; the wiind just blew her down the river. People in the background of this picture are getting fishing holes ready.

Someone is patiently ice fishing.

This elderly man was so cute walking his sled along the river!

I've been told that the river was around 3" thick by Saturday. Keep in mind that not 100 yards down the river there was open water! I'm not walking on that river unless I'm with someone who knows where to avoid that open water.

Boat out of water

It begins! This photo is of our school boat, which is going to be hibernating, most likely until May. This is how quickly the weather can change. We are truely at it's mercy.

*Thursday -- There was one path that had ice thin enough for boats to pass.
*Friday -- Many students could not make it to school because the ice was too thick for boats to go through, but too thin to walk across yet. Some people did walk, but the ice cracked in places as they were walking. Scary!
*Saturday (When I took this picture) -- People were ice skating, ice fishing, & walking sleads across.
*Sunday -- Someone was seen driving their 4-wheeler on the river.

Soon the river will become a highway for snow-go's (aka snow machines or to people in the lower 48, snow mobiles), more 4-wheelers, and even trucks. Yes; I've heard rumor that we have a 'cab' that will use the river as it's road & take you to Bethel (30 miles away) for about $35 & a 1-hour ride. I've also heard that if you get a seat up front that you can stick your head out the window to help the driver vear away from hitting the river bank. I can't wait to try this one. Oh, I've also heard that the planes will land on the river later in the season too.