Daylight is disappearing fast

This past Friday morning while in Koyuk, I went for a walk out of town. (This is the part where I warn you that nothing of real interest happened on this walk.) Sadly, it was probably only a hike of a couple miles total over the course of maybe an hour or an hour and a half (I didn’t check my watch before or after the hike).

There’s something a little different about this walk than most winter walks I’ve ever taken though. First, I walked a whole lot slower, probably because I was wearing a pair of 8 lb boots. This may not sound like a big deal, but I wore tennis shoes year-round in Michigan except when snowshoeing, even in the middle of blizzards and nights that would dip into the low negatives.

The other reason for such a short walk is that the daylight is rapidly fading. Sunrise is already after 11am and the sun now sets before 4pm, leaving under 5 hours of daylight a day. This is quite a change from August, when there wasn’t even 5 hours of darkness a night. Normally, it takes a couple hours of daylight to motivate me to head out which now equates to half the day. Oh well, at least I have it better than someone I know who on the weekends can’t wake up until sunrise.

21 more days until the trend reverses and we start gaining sunlight back.

And something to leave you with, this is how I look when I go for a walk:

Teaching in the Bush – 8 Weeks In

Eight weeks ago, I waited in my classroom for my first students to arrive – slightly nervous, mostly excited and completely unaware of what my students would be like. Today, I sit in an empty classroom looking back in time and setting goals for the coming quarter.

Like most new teachers, I’ve spent a fair amount of time wondering if I am good enough to actually facilitate my students’ learning; I’ve been buried under new terms like: EOLs, DART, iCommunity, SIPs, HSGQE, SBAs, QAS, and that’s before even considering what at first felt like a byzantine system of standards. There have been moments when it feels like I’m drowning in a sea of work, frustration and anxiety. Thankfully though, I’ve gotten the professional and personal support that I need from my mentor and friends so that those frustrations and anxieties have been minimized which allows me to focus on teaching.

I have a better idea what I need to do in order to promote success in my classroom. There are concrete steps and goals that I have in mind and they are all small enough that none is overwhelming in and of itself; that’s important from a sanity perspective. I’ll provide better visual tracking of my students’ progress so that they know what they have to do, I’ll set clearer expectations, I’ll have a timeline published for expected progress. Most of my students are visual learners and I will do a better job catering to that.

It’s nice to have an idea of what I want to do and the feeling that I CAN make it there. That feeling certainly makes sitting in an empty classroom on a Sunday afternoon easier. It makes the noises of bush planes, Hondas and dirt bikes on their way to grand adventures less enticing. Sadly, those are adventures that I never take enough personal time to experience myself. Oh well, I suppose that after the next quarter is over, I’ll need another set of goals – might as well make that a personal set.

Working Sunday

“Because you’re pretty!” he said.

This little bit of gold happened yesterday and I can’t help but relate it, hopefully you get to laugh half as hard as I did.

Yesterday two of my students came over to visit and one of them brought their little brother (who is elementary school aged) along. We’re sitting around talking and playing Wii Bowling when out of the blue, the young boy asks me, “Do you have a girlfriend?”

Unsure of how much of my personal life I really want to relate to the kids (and by extension, the whole village) I responded, “What do you think.” What followed was a rapid exchange that left me laughing hysterically:

“Why do you think that?”
“Because you’re pretty!”

So there I am, a 23-year old male teacher with two female students and one male student in my apartment hanging out. And one of them tells me I’m pretty. For a split second I could almost feel the news article in the Nome Nugget announcing the end of my teaching career. Then I realized, “I’m in the Bush, he’s an Eskimo, and it’s not the girls saying this, it’s a younger boy – time to clarify.”

So, I did the only thing I could think, I shot him a quizzical stare. Thankfully, he picked up on it.

“Lots of the girls say you’re pretty! Irene, …”

And then, well, then I started laughing so hard that I didn’t catch the rest of the names.

Kids say the darndest things.

On the Post Office in Bush Alaskan life

The US Post Office holds a special place in the heart of anyone living in a remote Alaskan village. Like the bush plane, the Post Office is a major link to the outside world. (In fact, those are our two real, tangible and somewhat timely ways to get physical things in and out of the village.)

So, with this inadequate explanation (you really can’t understand it until you’ve lived it) you might understand why the fact that our post office has been closed and locked for several days because the workers left town. (Actually only two federal business days, but that follows a Monday holiday.) I don’t even have the worst of the lot by far: one teacher needs to mail her taxes in and I’ve heard of a few people who need money orders so their power doesn’t get shut off – there’s not other place to get a money order in town.

Luckily, someone showed up to open the post office on the 4:30pm flight today and they’ll be in late tonight going through the backlog. Here’s hoping that something more exciting than bills awaits me.

Heating an apartment – Bush Alaska style

It’s officially winter; the snow is falling, the air is crisp and clear and it’s edging toward cold – holding at around 20 degrees now for the past few days. It’s a beautiful time of year, one of my favorites in fact. This year it’s still delightful, but not as much so; you see, usually I have working heat. For some unfathomable reason (and one that has been unexplainable to me by my maintenance man) the radiators in my apartment aren’t working properly. The rest of the school has heat, just not my apartment.

Sadly, Friday ended and he left without getting the heat turned on, leaving me slightly chilly. No worries though! In true Bush fashion, I’ve found a solution that makes it advantageous to live in a small apartment like mine. My oven functions as a space heater when turned on at 550 degrees Fahrenheit! A rather moisture sucking space heater, but an effective one nonetheless.

I’ve been told that he might be able to get it working on Monday. If not though, hey, it’s the Bush and one simply has to accept that heating one’s home can turn into an adventure. (At least I’m not putting a burn barrel by the window and hauling driftwood in to heat the place… yet.)

Heating the bush apartment

(Edit: After my principal got phone calls from the Coordinator of Ed Support and the District Superintendent, I feel like I should clarify. Things aren’t that bad for me. I live above the school, so I get a lot of radiant heat – meaning that while a little chilly at times, I’m in no danger of freezing and the problem is being worked on.)