December 18, 2012

Gearing Up To Go Home

In just under 48 hours I will be landing in Denver. I can't wait to be back in the mile high city with my friends and family, away from the negative temperatures and severe wind chill!!

Gearing up to go home is always an adventure and quite a process. There's a lot of planning (and money) that goes in to traveling down states... packing... flights... the actual traveling ordeal. There's nothing quite like it.

I'm not ashamed to admit that I've been packed for this trip since last week. I've always been an early packer, and how early I pack is directly proportional to how excited I am about the trip. So yes, I packed early.

I'm traveling home with a backpack, an empty small duffel bag, and Rubbermaid totes.

Why Rubbermaid? Well, anyone from the AK bush can tell you that getting as much into your bag as possible is important, especially when that stuff includes food and essential toiletries. And suitcases, empty suitcases, are HEAVY. So are coolers. Rubbermaid is the way to go. They hold a lot, are durable, and very light weight.

It's true, people in the lower 48 will give you weird looks when you pull four Rubbermaid totes (stacked in each other and duct taped together) off of the conveyer belt. Oh well, that's okay- they just don't get it.

More on the empty duffel bag later...

It will take four different airplanes and three layovers to get me from the village to Denver. Hopefully everything connects on time!

My flight itinerary looks a little something like this:

Scammon ---> Bethel
Bethel ---> Anchorage
Anchorage ---> Seattle
Seattle ---> Denver

My total travel time is just over 21 hours (ick) and includes an almost five hour redeye flight into Seattle. I have a love-hate relationship with redeye flights. I love them since I get home that much quicker but at the same time I hate them because I can never sleep on a plane.

Luckily my third layover is in Seattle, so I'll be stopping at Starbucks for a morning kick!

The actual act of gearing up to travel is no small feat. The key to travel is layers, layers, and more layers. It may be 45 degrees in Denver, but right now in Scammon it's a balmy -6, and with the wind chill it feels like -25. That's a 51 degree difference (feels like 70 degrees).

When I leave tomorrow I'll be sporting the following layers (this is in no way a product endorsement, even though it reads that way):

  • Underwear (always important!)
  • Wool socks x 2
  • Calf compression sleeves
  • UA ColdGear compression tights 
  • UA compression top
  • Cold running tights
  • Cold running turtleneck/ face mask
  • Snow pants
  • Anorak down parka 
  • Muck Arctic Sport boots
  • North Face Headband
  • Gore-tex gloves
  • Glove liners
  • Cozy wool hat

The key to making this outfit transition from ridiculously cold to downright comfortable weather is to strip!

This is where that empty duffel bag comes in handy. By the time I get to Denver I'll have a full duffel bag and will be wearing pretty much just my base layer. Not exactly fashionable, but it works!

Other than that, there's nothing much left to do except sit back and hope that the weather works out. It looks good so far... let's hope it stays that way.

See you on Thursday Denver, I can't wait!!

December 03, 2012

Monday Morning Commute

Good Morning!

Sorry I missed out on November, but it's December now and I'm back at it. I thought it might be fun to show everyone what exactly my days look like (since I have this nifty iPad that records...) and figured I should start off with an easy one: my morning commute.

Please note that I am not a videographer, film editor, or cameraman of any sorts. I did have fun with some of the iMovie effects though.

Happy Monday!

October 19, 2012

Why I Buy Books For My Classroom

Every few months I spend between $200-$300 on books for my classroom.

And I'm not talking about textbooks either. I am very fortunate to teach in a district that provides more than enough resources for my classroom. I have curriculum textbooks, supplemental textbooks. digital textbooks, dictionaries, atlases. I have never wanted for a subject-area book (and if I did all I need to do is ask for it).

What my classroom lacked when I arrived here last year were engaging, for-fun, reading books. I never gave it much thought because hey, I teach social studies and I've got textbooks in every corner. The high school English classroom down the hall is stacked to the ceiling with novels and we have a library downstairs. I really wasn't concerned... until I noticed that my students never had a book in their hands.

Maybe it concerned me because I'm an avid reader, but I took notice. There was no reading for fun going on at all. All of my students were wasting and suppressing their starved teenage imaginations on television and school work. They never let their minds roam free to Olympus, Hogwarts, Narnia, or Middle Earth. There were no tears for characters they had connected with, no outrage that a book ended a way they didn't like, no anticipation to get the next book in the series.


And on the academic side, there was no familiarization with acceptable patterns of language. You see, when a child reads they are not only stretching their imaginations, they're also secretly getting familiar with how written language should sound in their heads. An important skill for all students, but especially those with limited English proficiency who struggle with grammar, sentence structure, and punctuation.

So I took a tentative step and used some scholastic book order points to order some classroom books: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, Hoot, The Guardians of Ga'Hoole 1-4, Warriors, and The Hunger Games. The books arrived two weeks later and we established some ground rules:
  1. Books must be treated with respect
  2. Books must be checked out
  3. Books must be returned quickly so other students can enjoy them 
  4. If you find one of our books in the school, bring it back to the bookshelf. 

By the end of the day they were all checked out and I had a waiting list posted for each book.

I was sold, and decided that high interest reading books were something I wanted in my classroom. I jumped on Scholastic and started searching. Three weeks later I had over 40 new books sitting on my shelves and a board full of book check-outs. (Thank you scholastic for free shipping and book club points!)

Tuesday was our book arrival day. I labeled all of the books with my name and put them on the shelf (some of them were checked out before I could even take them off my desk):

Inspecting the new arrivals

Now my classroom looks like this after school:

Books and Music. 
Calvin and Hobbes Action
And my front white board looks like this:

Sure, some of my books never come back. Over the course of time I've lost four books to sticky fingers and forgetful minds. Other books are so well loved by the students that they are falling apart from over-use and have been lovingly taped back together (Percy Jackson).

Seeing this change in my students taught me that no child truly hates to read. They just haven't found their perfect book yet. Even my most reluctant readers are in love with some of the graphic novels series that I have ( Bone, Amulet, Maus) and almost all of my kids go crazy for an engaging scary story/ thriller.

October 16, 2012

Sports Travel in the Bush

Chaperoning a sporting event in rural Alaska is no small thing. It can easily eat up your entire weekend and leave you looking like you survived a war.

Travel usually starts during the school day on Friday. Coaches leave on the first charter flight in the morning with a selection of players. This is so all coaches can meet up and iron out the fine details of what's going to happen over the weekend. Chaperones follow with the rest of the team around lunch time, arriving in time for a little settling in time and the first game/ match.

Wait, flights?! Yes, flights. When your district is the size of a large east coast state and there are no roads, flying is the only option. Which also means that it is very rare to have an event that doesn't include an overnight stay.

Sleeping on a classroom floor.

With limited access to showers.

Always a recipe for fun. But sleeping and travel aside, it's always fun to travel with students. I love traveling with kids from our school because they are the living embodiment of community pride and sportsmanship. They clean up after themselves, are polite to other teachers, cheer each other on, cause very few problems (if any), and are gracious winners.

Seriously, I've had teachers tell me how jealous they are of our travel team. They're that amazing.

Be jealous. No stray, running around kids here.
Just perfectly behaved gentlemen ready to cheer for
their teammates. 
This past weekend I travelled north to Emmonak with a team of wrestlers. I know it seems strange to have a female chaperone for wrestling, but wrestling is co-ed 4-12 sport and we had five girls compete this weekend.

Elementary School Wrestlers

When we weren't wrestling, our team made a few trips to the community store and the AC. Lucky for the chaperones the weekend was pretty packed with very little down time, which meant very little boredom.

Our kids wrestled in two meets, one on Friday night and one Saturday morning. On Saturday afternoon there was a wrestling clinic to teach rules and technique to one of our district's smaller schools (Nunam Iqua) that has just started their wrestling program this year.

It was a great weekend, we saw the Northern Lights on Friday night and whistled at them with the kids.

We arrived back in Scammon Saturday night. The barge was in the river with our winter fuel delivery (over 65,000 gallons) and it felt like winter.

M. and I walked down to town just as it started snowing to get pizza at the store and make a few house calls.

I was barely able to get off the couch on Sunday, I was so exhausted.

October 15, 2012

Snow, Snow, Snow....

It started snowing here in Scammon at the end of September, but nothing stuck around for too long.

When I returned from EMO on Saturday night (more on that trip later), it was just starting to snow. You know, that really pretty snow that isn't quite sticking and looks like glitter. People in town were heating up their steam houses and it even SMELLED like winter.

M. and I took a walk down to town to visit a few people and enjoy the crisp weather. Everything about it was perfect and, with the right layers, it was a nice fall temperature.

Fast forward to this morning. By now it's been snowing for over 24 hours and not only do we have snow accumulating on the ground, we also have ice hiding under the snow. Talk about an exciting and surprising walk.

I think my love affair with snow is already over for this year. Maybe because I know that it most likely won't melt before I leave for the summer, or maybe because it's switched my brain into Christmas mode (which is going to make these next two months seem extra long).

I'm not ready for the never-ending winter to start.

October 05, 2012

Best Surprise Ever!


Salt and Vinegar Chips, Life-Saver mints, and our remote!
Thanks Debbie!

September 30, 2012

Teacher In-Service: Year 2

Last year, I wrote about my very first in-service in the bush. I introduced my wonderful readers to the joys of flying to another village, sleeping on a classroom floor, and not having to cook for myself for two days (yay!).

This year, instead of being sorted geographically, all teachers were assigned to a site based on what level we teach. For all of us secondary teachers it was off to Mountain Village!

207 Time! Sittin' in the
back like a boss...
When we left on Wednesday afternoon it was incredibly windy, the kind of windy where you know it's not going to be a smooth ride at all. But work is work, and not wanting to fly in turbulence is not an acceptable reason to miss two days of training. So I jumped into a 207 with four other teachers and prepared for the bumpy 45 minute flight (meaning I buckled my seat belt and put in my headphones).

The flight got off to a rough start, complete with the classic 207 "lean forward for take off and hope we have enough runway." Oh dear. We swung into the air and thanked our lucky stars that it wasn't too bumpy around Scammon.
Flying by Kuzi. Starting to get
rough out there. 

Of course, that all change when we flew passed Kuzelvak, the mountains that mark the almost-halfway point between us and Mountain Village. The plain began to pitch and swing back and forth, giving it an almost boat-on-rough-seas feel.

Did I mention I get sea sick easily?

Turning away from Kuzi
toward Mountain
By the time we were in sight of Mountain, I was searching frantically for an air sickness bag and hoping I could hold my lunch until we got on the ground.

Thankfully, the flight was the worst part of the in-service. The rest of the week was spent in the cafeteria with all of the secondary teachers in the district, learning about our new ELL curriculum (that I'm totally psyched about!)

Brushing up on Dominant
Language Functions. Woo!
Mountain Village also gave a lot of us down time to hang out and explore town. Many of us took the opportunity to head down to the Alaska Commercial to stock up on much needed things that have been hard to find here in town (plain m&m's, dog bones, light bulbs, fruit, and eggs just to name a few).

I also got to go out 4-wheeling with another teacher and explore areas of Mountain I'd never seen (we navigated our way from store to school making only left turns. No idea why). We also walked down to the beach where many boats are anchored on the Yukon River. It's a skinny beach, nothing like Hooper Bay last year. I guess it's more of a river bank than a beach... I digress. In any case, it was a great walk after a LONG day of learning.

Oh! The best part? I got to sleep at a teacher's house in a bed instead of on the floor. Thanks Doug and Barb!!!!

M. gives training a thumbs up!
We landed home on Friday afternoon to a village covered in Snow. Here comes winter! I'm not sure if I'm ready.

September 17, 2012

Attendance and Subsistence

Hunting season always makes for an interesting time in rural Alaska. It's exciting, it's hard work, and it's something that everyone looks forward to.

Brianna and Diana with
Jeff's first moose. 
This year we've had quite a few students and teachers get their first moose (a pretty big deal and an awesome accomplishment). Talk about lots of work! Moose are BIG! They're heavy as all get out and they pack a lot of meat, which means that they are usually the number one target this time of year. Once a moose is caught it has to be hauled back to the village (usually by boat), hung, cleaned, and packed for the winter. 

Tomcods hanging behind
the house.
Even though moose hunting is the big event this time of year, bird hunting and fishing are popular afternoon activities. There are a lot of geese this time of year and tomcods a-plenty! 

If hunting isn't your thing, like me, there's always berry picking to be done this time of year. Salmonberries, cranberries, blackberries, and blueberries litter the landscape just waiting to be made into yummy jam, savory agutaq, or frozen for use later this winter. My personal favorite way to eat berries is covered in condensed milk with a little sugar. Yum!!

Yup, it's an exciting time to share food, stock freezers for the winter, and work hard.

It also means that a lot of the high school students are missing from class. 

My Sophomore class is small all the time by lower 48 standards (it's pretty average for here with 15 students), but it's never been this small:

Yup. That's it. I guess it makes it pretty easy on me and it's always fun to work with small groups but getting all of those missing kids caught up when they return will not be my favorite thing to do. I sure hope they're catching a lot before winter gets here!

September 09, 2012

Missing Colorado

Every once in a while I get these cravings for home. They almost always have to do with the mountains and are usually at their worst in the fall when I want to be hiking or watching the leaves change. Then again they're pretty bad in the winter too when it's time to snowboard, and in the spring when I would love to be snowshoeing.... I guess I just miss the mountains all the time.

Today my homesickness hit rather unexpectedly when I clicked on a link a friend posted on Facebook. It's a video of a great band playing at my favorite concert venue. It made me think of the concert I saw there this summer with M. The artists couldn't get over how awesome the crowd looked from the stage and took many, many, many pictures... which is normal for Red Rocks (you can see why in the video).

Today I miss you Colorado, and especially you Red Rocks, can't wait to be back at Christmas.

September 05, 2012

(Almost) Wordless Wednesday

This is the view from my classroom window. 
It's okay to be jealous =)

September 01, 2012

It's Tradition!

Everyone has traditions. Everyone. Whether it's a holiday tradition, a family tradition, a personal tradition, whatever. Everyone has a tradition. Even me.

Mine happens to be getting terribly ill the first month of school. It happened when I student taught, it happened last year, and it happened again this year.

I know, I picked a super fun one to incorporate into my life.

This year I am at least happy to report that I did not get strep (if I had I would've jumped on a bush plane to Bethel and demanded that someone take out my darn tonsils!!). Instead I contracted mystery illness 1.0, which may or may not have been a combination super-virus of my roommate's throat infection and my next door neighbor's flu. We'll never know.

What I do know is that this is the first time since I was in middle school that I've thrown in the towel half way through the school day and said "I can't make it." But that's what I did at 11:15am on Thursday. Luckily our librarian was kind enough to sit with my last three classes of the day and watch a National Geographic documentary on the Bermuda Triangle while the kids practiced their historical inquiry with a KQL chart and a writing assignment.

I, on the other hand, went home and crawled straight into bed with the dogs and about a million blankets (I had the chills) and prayed to almighty Tylenol that my fever would come down from it's chosen 103-104 range.

Unfortunately, the Tylenol upset my stomach so I had to relocate to the bathroom floor for a few hours (overshare? oh well.)

By Friday I was still feeling pretty crummy. My tonsils were swollen, it hurt to speak, and I could barely swallow. But my fever had fallen to a more reasonable 99.8 during the night and my stomach had been quiet for almost 8 hours, so I decided not to look a gift horse in the mouth and headed to school.

Bad plan? Probably, but oh well. I made it through the day.

My fever did spike again on Friday after school and I spent the entire evening in bed watching American Horror Story and drinking plenty of fluids. Secretly I was wishing for otter pops and ginger-ale, my go-to foods when I feel icky, but my laziness and general not-feeling-well-ness kept me in bed instead of walking to town, where I know that snack shack had Canada Dry.

I'm happy to report that after gargling with salt water and staying away from anything too adventuress, both my throat and tummy are doing much better. I think I can officially say I survived mystery illness 1.0 and hope I never encounter its upgrade: version 2.0

August 23, 2012

First Day of School

And... here we go!!

This past week has flown by! I left Colorado on the 13th and, after a 5 1/2 hour flight to Anchorage, an 8 hour overnight layover in the Ted Stevens Airport, a two hour-ish flight to Bethel and another hour and change flight out to the coast I arrived safely in Scammon on one of the most beautiful days I can ever remember seeing out here. I'm talking sunshine, little cloud cover, and temperatures in the high 50s.


Of course by this point I also hadn't slept in about 34 hours, so I was also  a little loopy and bleary eyed.

At home I found some new additions that included a new front on our house to help deal with the snow build up we experience in the winters, a new tank farm out behind our home which sadly obstructs my view of the Bering Sea but does allow us to have more fuel oil during the winter, and three dead mice (or shrews... I was too busy freaking out like a girl to take a close look.)

Needless to say, I spent the next five or six hours deep cleaning our house and unpacking until I fell into an exhausted sleep in my comfy bed (with clean sheets).

Since then I've spent almost every available moment at school setting up my classroom. I had to scrounge up four extra seats to handle our largest class (a combination senior/advanced class) and a new bookshelf shelf to replace one that broke last year.

I feel more organized than I did last year but also less prepared. Maybe coming back took away the panicked edge that got my butt in gear last year. It's a good thing the weekend is close so I can have a little extra prep time =)

More to come soon, stay tuned. First day here we go!!

August 06, 2012

The Final Countdown!!

This is it! The school year is right around the corner, I can smell it it's so close! I leave for my village one week from today. My plane tickets are purchased, my trusty sidekick has an appointment for his travel certificate, and my stuff is slowly piling up in a corner of my room so I don't forget anything.

This summer has been awesome and I'm kind of sad to see it end, but I am so excited to see my students again! Now that I have one year under my belt and I know what to expect I'm much more excited and a lot less nervous than I was last year.

I'm psyched to add a ton more technology to my class set up in a much more effective way and gear up for an awesome-tastic year of social studies (election year, woohooo!!!!!).  This will also be my first time trying to incorporate some elements of a flipped classroom, which puts a lot of the learning responsibility on the student and creates a more individual experience for each kid. I'm thinking it will work well in the levels system our district has and it also gives me a chance to do more interacting with the students and less lecturing.

It also takes a lot of prep time!! Holy Cow!

I've already started in on the lesson planning with the help of some great apps I got for my iPad (see? technology.) and have started authoring classroom blogs for each of my three levels. Fingers crossed that I will have those done before I leave on Monday....

More to come soon, Northern Teacher is back in gear!!

And if you're interested in learning what the heck a flipped classroom is, watch this video- it's quite informative.

Yes, this is an ad for Camtasia Studio. I use iMovie and it works just as well =)

July 12, 2012

Good Night Kathy

If we bring a little joy into your humdrum lives, it makes us feel like all our hard work ain't been in vain for nothin' ...

As July continues on (and refuses to slow down no matter how much I beg) I find myself rapidly approaching the two month mark of my summer holiday. In just a month and a few days I will be back in my village, setting up my classroom, and settling back into my routine of teaching. Quite a bit of my summer has been spent catching up with close friends and family, and traveling the west coast.

The other big part of my summer has been catching up on my pop culture. I've been to a few great concerts this summer, re-familiarized myself with the local radio stations, and spent almost every Friday at the movies catching the latest flicks (The Hunger Games, What to Expect When You're Expecting, The Avengers, Snow White and the Huntsman, Brave, Magic Mike...)

I deviated a little from my summer Friday movie tradition and adventured into a packed movie theater on a Thursday with three of my closest girlfriends. Eagerly clutching our drinks from the most high tech pop machine I've ever seen, we sat amidst a sea of people who had been part of our age demographic in the 1950s. The uniting thread that could actually force me to deviate from my summer tradition and surrender my normal seat for one of the up close, break-your-neck rows?

Singin' in the Rain is, without even a tiny bit of doubt, my favorite movie-musical of all time. And sitting in the theatre for the 60th Anniversary screening with all of those people proved to me that I am not even a tiny bit alone in my obsession.

Words can't even come close to describing the giddiness I felt when the opening credits rolled on that big screen. To see Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds, and Donald O'Conner march out in their yellow rain slickers with the iconic black umbrellas brought cheers from the entire crowd, young and old. And the excitement never stopped! Each appearance of a new favorite supporting actor (Cyd Charise, Jean Hagen, Millard Mitchell...) and the end of each number received roaring applause from the entire crowd.

Talk about a summer experience to never forget!

Seeing something on the big screen always somehow makes it better, and this was no exception. Favorite movie seen on the big screen? Cross one thing off my bucket list and call me a happy girl!! I don't think I'll get over this light, happy feeling for a while. Instead I'm just going to pop in my ear buds, open up my iTunes, and let the soundtrack help me relive the amazingness that is Singin' in the Rain.

July 06, 2012

Hufflepuff Pride!

Hey guys! So, I know I said I wouldn't be back until August but I've never been very good at keeping to a schedule here so why start now?

Everyone should head on over to youtube and check out the not-literally video parody all about Hufflepuff Pride. I've known these talented ladies for a while and each of their videos continues to get better and better (they started with a Slythering video- also quality- and Ginny started way back with a Ravenclaw parody).

And if that wasn't enough, you should check out some of their other comedy sketches, including the ever popular "Ask Hogwarts" series.

All right, C. out! Enjoy your summer and stay cool =)

July 02, 2012


Well everyone, I'm happily settling into summer (which is sadly now half way over.) I'll be blogging in August to let everyone know what I did, where I did it, and who I did it with ;) Until then, this Northern Teacher is flying south for the summer and will tune back in August.

Happy Summer!!

May 20, 2012

Animals I've Eaten This Year

Living in Alaska has introduced me to so many new things. I've learned to live life differently here and be more adventurous in my daily-doings. M. and I have been chatting on and off the past few days about what we want to do when we get to Anchorage (tomorrow!) and that inevitably brought us to the subject of food and how great it will be to eat a salad and drink a beer... yes, as a whole meal. Beer. Salad. Don't judge me.

Anywho, that made me think of a fun post (finally! I've been lacking in the inspiration department recently) for people to see. I shall call it: Animals I've eaten this year...

We'll start with the basics and work our way up to the more... exotic? Eskimo? You pick.

1. Moose

We eat a TON of moose. A lot of it was given to us by friends saying thank you for helping them clean, skin, cut, and grind said moose. Moose is very similar to beef, and tastes good just about any way you prepare it.

2. Salmon and Halibut

Salmon and Halibut are pretty darn common in our diets... they show up as school lunch quite often and that's just fine by me. Yum.

3. Caribou/ Reindeer

These are not native to our region, and hunters have to travel to catch them. I got some as a thank you when I went to help clean two that a friend's husband had caught. Debbie and I also ordered some Reindeer sausage from Anchorage in the fall and that was extra super tasty. If you ever visit Alaska try one out, they sell them from street carts downtown.

4. Ptarmigan

Bird hunting is big here, I lose a population of my students from class every fall and spring so they can go bird hunt "other side" (of the mountain). The birds just recently came back into Scammon and it's all anyone can talk about, it's also pretty weird to hear after a winter of silence.

5. King Eider

I don't have much to say about this bird. They're very pretty to look at. Perhaps my least favorite thing I've eaten this year was the fat from this bird. Oh eew....

6. Herring Eggs

These are served one of two ways: mixed into a kind of cold Eskimo salad or soaked in oil and served by themselves. Pretty tasteless and VERY crunchy.
7. Bearded Seal

Seals are an important part of the diet and lifestyle here. Their skins show up in hats, gloves, and coats. Their meat is a big part of the diet here (texture= moist beef, taste= fishy, verdict= confusing for my mouth). And pretty much everything seems to be dipped in seal oil. 
8. Lynx

This is not something commonly eaten, but their fur shows up in hats and gloves and it very warm! In the fall, before our food arrived, a teacher went hunting an caught one of these. We turned it into a stew, because the meat is tough like rabbit. It wasn't too bad.

9. Beluga Whale

Yes. I ate a whale. Two of them swan into our river in the fall and their meat was distributed among the village. It's fishy, fatty, and oily. Eaten raw or boiled.

May 10, 2012

Preparing for Bush Life

Since I started blogging about my adventures as a teacher in rural Alaska I've gained a pretty steady following of readers (thank you!). Some of them are the friends and family that I figured would read this blog, but quite a few are other teachers

I've gotten a lot of emails from fellow teachers who are considering venturing into the bush for their own Northern Adventure asking about what I think is important to know when considering the move. I could write a book on the topic, and there are tons of opinions out there from jaded first years and career bush teachers alike. After careful consideration and a lot of list making, I've narrowed it down to my top four. Here they are!

1. The Isolation

I know you've seen this before and, if you're anything like me, you've brushed it aside with a simple "I know it's isolated, that's why it's rural!" but really consider this, because it's isolation like you've never felt before. You will be stuck in the village. And before the snow sets in and you can start snow machining to other villages I mean stuck. In the warmer months travel by plane is the only way to get around and it's not cheap. So unless you're willing to shell out the money for a weekend get away your village is your world. You can head out for a bit of a break and participate in subsistence activities like hunting and fishing, but it's still isolated. Very peaceful though.

2. The Relative Cost
Part of the allure to teaching in the bush is that rural districts pay quite a bit more. Remember that it's all relative.

Let's first talk about the cost of living in a village: it's high. Everything you need has to be shipped in and that can cost almost as much as the product itself if you're not careful. Then there's housing costs. If you are signing a contract and don't know about housing, ASK! Heating a house out here can cost several hundred dollars a month in the winter, so if your district isn't paying for your stove oil you can break the bank on heating alone. Paying for internet and cable in your home can also be pricey, so those may be luxuries you choose to forgo like M. and I did. And then there's rent- which you may pay to your district or to a landlord. Make no mistake though, when your district says housing is provided it usually means they deduct your rent from your paycheck, so make sure you check.

Now let's talk travel, where the real $$$ shows up. For me to get home at Christmas, my round trip tickets cost just under $2,000. That does not include the hotel costs for my night over in Anchorage ($148) or the food and transportation cost I accrued while there (about $50 for dinner and cab fare). And be aware that it's more expensive during tourist season. I know the counter argument to this is "no car, no insurance, no gas, it evens out." but beware if you get a snow machine or four-wheeler (which some of you may need to do if you are living far from your school). Gas can't be barged in during the winter and if you thought gas was getting pricey down states just wait until you're in the bush. Our gas prices hit almost $10 a gallon the last time I was down at the service station.

So just remember that while you are getting paid more, you are also spending more.

3. Patience and Planning Are A Must! 
There is no Wal-mart in the bush. The closest you can get to it is Amazon Prime, but having everything you need takes some serious planning. If you end up in a larger village you may have an Alaska Commercial (AC) Store around and I'll be super jealous. AC Stores are great, they carry produce, toiletries, a large stock of munchies, and ammunition. If you're in a smaller village, like me, chances are you'll have a smaller community store that carries a variety of items like basic toiletries, noms with a longer shelf life, and basic necessities (our store always has coffee and I love them for it!) But for some of those more rare items you have to plan ahead and either bring them with you or order them and wait for them to come in.

The problem sets in when you think of a great project for your class last minute and you just need that... oh, no... don't have that. And then there's that great recipe of your mom's that always makes you feel better after a long day and all you need are tortillas, ground beef, onions and.... oh, nope... none of that... or that. It sounds small, but around the third or fourth time you experience this you start wanting to bang your head against a cabinet. It can get frustrating if you don't plan ahead.

4. A Lot of Villages Are Dry

I've never been much of a drinker but from time to time I do enjoy sitting down with friends and a cold beer. I never realized how much I enjoyed having that option until I moved somewhere where possession and consumption of alcohol is illegal. There are just some days where I would like to blow off some steam from the day with a beer and pizza. Instead, I settle for enjoying a glass of crystal light with my roommate while we make our own pizza. It's cathartic in its own way, but just not quite the same. So if alcohol is a major part of your life make sure you know whether or not your village is dry.

Really, when it all comes down to it, the best thing you can do is make a list of things that are essential to your life and ask your district if they are available. Trust me, they've heard it all so don't be ashamed to ask if a village is dry or if teacher housing has running water (that was something that went on my list, honey buckets are not something I can live with long-term).

If you find a district that is compatible with your list of basic necessities (and be honest when you make it, no one needs to see it but you so if you know you need cable at home write it down) I say go for it! No experience I've had has measured up to my time in the bush. Take the chance, try it for a year, and have fun =)

Good luck!

April 30, 2012

So much for April...

How is tomorrow the start of May? Honestly, how did that happen?

This month has gone by in a blur of activity and I'm sorry I haven't really been posting about it. I could blame my lack of posting on being too busy, but that wouldn't be entirely honest. Instead, I think I'll blame my perpetual state of sleep deprivation that has been forcing me to live on a never-ending caffeine buzz so that I can function.

My arch nemesis at 9:45pm
I can already hear some of you in my head: maybe if you stop drinking so much coffee you'll be able to sleep. Oh, if only.... You see, I have this problem: a giant ball of gas suspended one astronomical unit from earth. It's conspiring with the tilt of the earth to ruin my sleep patterns! For now I will just refer to it as my arch nemesis...

At this time of year in Scammon Bay the sun is rising every morning at just around 7am, with its rays starting to peak over the horizon around 6:40. That doesn't bother me, I'm an early riser and having the sun up that early is nice. The problem comes in the evening, when I climb into bed and it still looks like it's 7pm! The sun isn't setting until well after 11pm right now and sadly my blackout curtains have a gap in them.

Other than being sleep deprived, I have spent my month getting ready to wind down the school year. The kids have been working hard to finish their levels in time for summer, studying to pass their SBAs and HSGQE (state standardized tests and graduation exam), and have stayed motivated for longer than I expected, although now I have a feeling spring fever will hit full force.

Last week was culture week at our school, and we took a week off from regular classes to immerse ourselves in cultural activities. Some highlights included harpoon making, ptarmigan hunting, and cooking. I spent three days of the week teaching students in my home, where we prepared and cooked all of the food we had been gathering recipes for. Some of the yumminess included agutaq, fried moose steaks, fried rice, and oil bread. 

On the home front, M. and I have been getting things ready for next year. We've ordered a lot of our household supplies from Amazon (got to love the free shipping to Alaska) and started grocery lists for the fall. I've packed up stuff that I never ended up needing and shipped it back to Colorado to make some room at home.

Both M. and I are counting down the days until we fly out to Anchorage. Summer is so close!!!

March 26, 2012

A Weekend Without Water

Well, everyone told me it would happen but I chose to ignore them, chose to believe it absolutely couldn't be true, but I was wrong... so very wrong.

This story begins when M. and I turned on our faucet Saturday and were greeted by this:

Just great water pressure, right? To make it worse, the kitchen sink (where this photo was taken with my iPad) was the only place in the house we had any water at all. Knowing it was only a matter of time before we lost water altogether, we promptly filled up every large bowl and pan we had in our home until our kitchen counters looked like this:

We also filled up our distiller, thanked our lucky stars that we had five filled pitchers of water already distilled in the fridge, and ran to the store to buy about 30 bottles of water to keep in reserve.

By Saturday afternoon we were completely without water. With the immediate problem of drinking water addressed, we turned to our next problem that is caused by drinking said water: flushing the toilet.

Luckily, M. and I moved out to Scammon with all of our stuff in 18 gallon Rubbermaid totes. I headed upstairs to grab a few and M. headed outside with a shovel. The next 4 or 5 hours was spent melting snow on our stove and in our oven so that we had totes filled with water to flush the toilet.

Finally, Sunday afternoon caught up with me. To understand what happens next I have to confess something to all of you: I am obsessive about showering, and more specifically about washing my hair. When my hair is not clean I get VERY cranky and moody. By Sunday afternoon I hadn't showered in 48 hours and I was downright Grinch-like. So I grabbed our handy shovel and filled our sink with snow.

I spent the next hour or so melting snow and heating it to a tolerable temperature and M. and I proceeded to wash our hair and faces in the sink. With snow-water. Brrrrr....

I am happy to report that the water is back on, we were worried for a bit that we would be going weeks or even months without water as other villages in our area have done.

I can also honestly call Rosemary Clooney a liar: no one wants to wast their face, their hands, their hair with snow. It's not a great experience, no matter how much you like snow.

March 18, 2012

Things I Did Today Instead of Drinking

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

I hope many of you enjoyed your drunken festivities and celebrated this wonderful day with lots of green beer and good music. This was the first year I haven't partaken in any St. Patrick's Day revelry, haven't had a celebratory glass of Guinness, haven't debated whether or not to go camp out for Kegs n Eggs. You see, none of these choices were an option for me this year because almost 8 months ago I moved to a DRY village. (That means no alcohol, whatsoever... not one drop.)

I woke up this morning and was greeted by a message from one of my closest friends. It simply read:

A good portion of the world is celebrating drunkenness and enjoying themselves today....but you are stuck in a location that is "dry" and cold as balls...ready to come back to civilization? 

And it was then that it struck me that not only was I missing St. Patrick's Day, but I was missing St. Patrick's Day on a SATURDAY. Talk about missing an excellent party. Oh well...

Instead, I was determined not to let it get me down and darn it, I was going to have a wonderful, productive day. So, instead of drinking, I accomplished the following things:
  • A walk to the post office and store for some wonderful exercise in the balmy -2 degree sunshine. Not even close to "cold as balls," just a bit chilly.
  • Procurement of Starbucks coffee grounds and some new, yummy non-dairy creamer!
  • Talked to Dad on the phone.
  • Two loads of laundry
  • Shoveled dog poop.
  • Dug out both our storage door and our neighbor's back door. 
  • Moved out the horde of boxes from our crawl space into the exterior storage. 
  • Moved the extra cabinet out of the living room into the crawl space. 
  • Deep cleaned the entire downstairs. Carpet, counters, oven, couches...
  • Deep cleaned the puppy. Bath, nails, pad fur, teeth...
  • Chaperoned St. Patrick's Day dance to raise funds for high school NYO.  
  • Wrote a blog post.

See, I know how to really have fun on St. Patrick's day! Who needs friends, beer, and random drunken Irish and Irish-wannabes having a loud party in the streets of downtown? Okay, maybe I do a little bit.
So, to answer the question that started my day, I am feeling a little ready to go back to civilization and I know in two months I will DEFINITELY be ready to go back. But I did get to watch two middle schoolers dance with the trashcans on wheels while their friend danced with a mop, and three of my students forcibly dragged me onto the dance floor for the final dance.

All in all, not a bad day. I do miss my beer, but I did drink a Mountain Dew today. That's green... ish....

March 16, 2012

The Life of a Sidekick

Oh Hey!
Chelsey hasn't posted in a while and even I'm starting to notice her blogger-laziness so I thought I, as the Sidekick, would give you an update.

This month, my first month as an indoor dog, had already showed me what a dangerous world the inside can be. Chelsey has been fighting many battles and I have been helping her win each battle! I am THE BEST sidekick ever!

The first battle we fought as a team was against the bathtub. Chelsey seemed to think this would be a hard battle to win and came prepared with all kind of stuff to bribe me to stay in the tub. HA! She didn't have to worry, I LOVE the water (there's a strong possibility that my dad is a lab.)

Mornings are another time when I'm not sure how Chelsey could have survived without me by her side. She wrestles the covers every morning, trying to tug them back up the bed and restrain them under the pillows. I, of course, am very helpful and hold them down for her.

Weekends are the toughest battle time of all! Each Saturday, Chelsey takes her dirty clothes downstairs to wash them and that's when it happens... the white plastic triangle monsters assemble and wait. These white plastic triangles are very patient enemies, they wait and wait and wait, sometimes for hours while the clothes get cleaned. When she brings the clothes back upstairs the plastic triangle monsters JUMP out of the closet and attack!!!! Chelsey has to grab them and wrestle them into the clothes so that the clothes can go back to their home in the closet. 
I help by holding them still.

Sometimes she puts off this battle until I remind her it needs to happen by taking her clean clothes out of the basket and dropping them by the closet door. It's better to face the enemy than fear it!

Man, being a Sidekick is tough work....

Stay tuned for more of my blog, I'm sure I'll write more if Chelsey doesn't get over her blogger's block.


March 05, 2012

Life Without A Vet

As some of you may have noticed from the sidebar in my latest blog layout, (I think I'll actually stick with this one for a while!) I have acquired my very own sidekick dog. Our last foster dog, Sookie, was finally able to move back in with her owner and M. and I had enough space in our home that I could adopt a puppy of my own.

The puppy is a sweet little guy. From what I can tell he is part lab and park husky, and judging by his teeth about three or four months old. He's very intelligent and, in true village style, very mischievous!

To illustrate my classification of my puppy, please travel with me back to Saturday night:
M. and I had gone over to a fellow teacher's home for dinner and a movie, we were gone maybe all of two hours, and upon our return we found various contents strewn across our living room floor: Pam cooking spray bottles, cupcake liners, various other baking supplies, and a torn up raisin bag. Riley and Parker, working as a dynamic duo, had infiltrated our lazy Susan and devoured every last raisin we had!

For those of you who don't know (don't worry if you don't, it was news to me too) raisins can be toxic to dogs and cause renal failure within 48 hours of consumption. For the first time in my life, Google failed me. Everything I found about this situation simply said take your dog to an emergency room... uh-huh, sure. Living in a village that barely has medical treatment for humans you can bet your bottom dollar that there is no vet clinic, emergency or otherwise.

After some panicking and a phone call, we found a home remedy from a kind vet who took emergency calls after hours: two tablespoons of hydrogen peroxide and wait for the puppy to start upchucking all the raisins.

. . .

There are no pictures in this blog post to save you all the pain of having to look at the mess that was our Saturday night.

. . .

After two rounds of hydrogen peroxide and about an hour, we had two dogs with empty stomachs and quite the mess to clean up. The home remedy was very effective.

I am happy to report that both dogs seem to be doing just fine and are in good spirits, though they are very leery of any cup that we pick up in case it has more peroxide in it.

Oh Alaska, what will you teach me next?

Please note that if your dog does ingest a toxic substance and you are able to get to an emergency clinic that is always the best option. 

If you are unable to get to an emergency vet, give your dog two tablespoons of hydrogen peroxide (you will have to chuck it to the back of their throat because they DO NOT like it). If your dog does not vomit after five minutes give them two more tablespoons and wait. 

If they still do not vomit do not give them any more and call a vet for further advice.