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Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Molly's Arrival

Hello everyone!

I finally made it to Koliganek after six different flights starting in La Crosse, stopping in Minneapolis, Denver, Phoenix, Anchorage, Dillingham, and ending in Koliganek! Sophie (our cat) only threw up on two of the flights! She was doing great by the end of the trip. We left La Crosse on Saturday at 12:40 pm and arrived in Koliganek on Sunday at 3:00 pm (that's 6:00 pm WI time). Spending the night in the Anchorage airport was probably the least fun of the whole trip. To get to Koliganek, we took a plane that probably seated about six people including the pilot, but it was only me, Sophie, and the pilot and several boxes. We dropped the boxes off in another village first before arriving in Koliganek. On the way we saw four moose. The pilot even swooped down a little so that we could get a closer look!

When we landed at the airport, Brian was there waiting with our new snow machine (Alaskan name for the snow mobile other times called a snow go) and a sled that he borrowed to carry my luggage. It was a beautiful day!!! I think that it was about 34 degrees! We hurried to our apartment, I got a brief tour, and then we were off to see the village. Brian showed me where the school was, the stores, the post office, and even the dump! Then we went out with Brian's trapping friend to check some traps. By the way, this was my first time on a snow mobile, and it was a little scary but fun!

Later that night we visited the principal so that I could meet her, and we visited Ron, Brian's trapping friend, and his wife Rondee who is one of the elementary teachers. They have two cute kids! Ron and Rondee have lived in Koliganek for almost two years, but they have lived in bush Alaska for seven. They were telling us stories about different villages where their running water had gone out for a month! We talked about how lucky we were to be in Koliganek!

The next morning we discovered that we had actually jinxed ourselves by having the conversation about running water. There was no water! It had gone out the night before at about 9:30. The village well had dried up! I went to school with Brian to use the bathroom because the principal said that the school had a small supply of water for the toilets to flush. I had really hoped to take a shower that morning after all of the traveling that I had done, but that had to wait.

Later I found out that school had been canceled since there was no water, so I had lots of visitors. First three elementary girls stopped by. I let them in even though I had been advised not to. They really enjoyed my mp3 player and my cell phone (no service at all in Koliganek-big surprise!). It was pretty boring in my apartment, and the kids kept asking for candy, so I told them to go with me to the post office to mail a letter for Brian. We got all bundled up, and one of the girls grabbed the letter for me. As soon as we stepped outside, the letter flew out of the girl's hand in the 50 mph winds that we were getting yesterday! One of the kids chased after it and caught it, but when the other girl dropped a five dollar bill, she chased that and dropped the letter again. After that there was no way that we would ever find the white envelope in the white snow in that wind! It was gone forever! I went over to the school right away (Brian had stayed there for teacher in-service) to find out how important the letter was. When I got there, Brian told me that it was the paperwork to get the title for our snow machine. Oops. I think that he took care of it today, though.

Brian came home for lunch yesterday to eat with me, and he told me that he and the other teachers had spent their morning planning a schedule for me since the superintendent said that there was enough money to hire me full time for the rest of the year! I'm not really sure of all of the details yet, but I think that I will be teaching two art classes, a math class or two, and tutoring some first graders who need a little extra help. I'm really excited!

After Brian got done with his in-service day yesterday, we gathered our totes and took them on a sled over to another teacher's house. He has his own well, so we filled up our totes with his water (in the rain and wind) and delivered them to some of the teachers in town. So for the last couple of days our water supply has been housed in a tote in our bath tub, and bucket in the kitchen, and a tote outside. We were able to do dishes last night with it, and I washed my self this morning from a pot of water that I heated on the stove. I'm happy to be clean! We heard tonight that we might have water tomorrow morning. We'll see. There was no school again today because of the water situation. There will be school tomorrow no matter what; they are all prepared to go through the day without water.

Today was even windier than yesterday! It was 60-65 mph winds today, so you know what that meant...Brian and I had to go for a long walk toward the woods by the river! Once we got right outside of the village, the snow was soft and deep, so it was really hard to walk. We saw some enormous moose tracks and lots of moose poop! I was really scared that we would see a moose! There was no running in that snow! The walk back was horrible; it was straight into the wind. I had to walk backward most of the time because it was hard to breathe with it blowing into my face like that. It seemed to take forever to walk the quarter of a mile back to our house!

I've only been here for a couple of days, but a lot has happened! Sorry that this message was so long; I'm sure that not all of them will be so long. Right now I'm exhausted, but Brian is making me stay up late (10:00) so that I sleep longer in the morning.

Snow Machine

Hello All,

A lot has been hapening in the past couple weeks so this may be a two or three or four part message.

First of all, Molly made it here safely on Sunday and has plenty to write about. . .You should be hearing from her soon.

Part I
Snow Machine, Snow-Go, Snowmobile!
About a week ago I ordered my very own snow machine! It's amazing what you can do from home with the internet. I talked to a sales guy once about what I wanted, faxed in some paperwork, and my machine was to be freighted in three days later from Anchorage! I was told that I need to bring gas and oil with me to pick it up from the airport so I had to rush around to figure out how to get gas. To get gas, I have to call a guy at his house and he will meet me at the pump to pump my gas. Gas is five bucks a gallon! Anyway, I was at school when it came in and Nick (he plows the runway) stopped by my classroom to ask if he could move it off the runway... They just pushed it off the back of the plane and left. With permission from my principal, I left school to go get it! Now I am free to roam the open tundra!!

It just so happens that the day I got my machine, it was 30 below zero. Not caring too much about the weather, Ron and I decided to go set traps. I now have a couple of fox sets out and am comtinuing to set more, hopefully I will start catching something eventually. Needless to say, 2 hours of 30 below while driving around on a snow machine, I got my first frost bite! I had my face completely covered with only a hole for my nose to breathe through. That hole was enough and I frost bit the inside and bottom of my nose. Ouch!! Basically a couple days of pain, then it scabbed and healed.

Trapping has been rough this week becasue of all the snow. We spend more time digging snow machines out of snow than setting traps. The traps we have set have been getting buried in blowing snow rendering them useless. After the one day cold snap, it has been warming up so I think the traps will finally survive a night and we might start catching things. Did I tell about the wolverine we caught on my first trapping adventure?

School has been going well and I will probably add Part II later today.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Brian's Second Week

Hello all,

Some of you have been wondering if I am still alive up here, well I am. . .just a bit busy. I am also having computer issues, which is making e-mailing pictures much more difficult. Anyway, I am in my second week of teaching and things are going well. Today was the first day I actually had all of my students in class. On Friday I had about 20% of my students show up because they were all out Slaviing (I am not sure of spelling here, but that's ok). They go to a different village each day, stopping to eat at every house along the way. They do this for a week between the Russian Orthodox Christmas and New Year. I am already wishing for some of my students to Slavi some more!!

It snowed for three days in a row. . .Not a nice snow, but more like a crazy blizzard! Estimates are between 4 and 7 feet, but I am not sure. The wind blew it around so much that we may have gotten only a foot, but some drifts reach above roof tops! I really should have had snow shoes to get to school on Friday. The first door I tried to get in was completely drifted in and I had to walk around the school, sinking up to my thigh in snow! It doesn't take long for everyone to pack it down with snow machines, so it isn't bad anymore. Because of the snow, no mail came in for three days, but I got my luggage on Sunday!!!!!! I now have my rifle, but forgot where I put the key to the gun lock! I also have real winter gear! Yippee!!

On Saturday I went out wolf and wolverine trapping. We didn't catch anything, but we did get stuck twice for a total of 2.5 hours of snow digging/snow machine lifting fun!!! Snow too deep for a snow machine. . .Go figure! I don't know what he would have done if he was alone, it would have taken forever to get out. He blamed us not catching anything on the snow covering traps getting in the way of snares. Apparently, a wolf pelt will get 300-500 bucks! I will have to get some of my own snares so I can try to catch some wolves.

On Sunday, before I got my luggage, I went for a hike. The snow was starting to get hard enough so I could walk on top, but I did sink up to my waist a couple times. Looking down the river at Koliganek, I found a great spot for a fort. The snow hangs over the hill above the river a good 10 feet or better. Dig that out some more and it would make a great hide out. I will have to do that later. . .

I took pictures of kids playing on a roof top. One kid was shoveling snow off the roof, so others climbed up some pipes and would jump off into snow. Jumping off looked fun, but climbing up looked quite scary!

Some middle school students stopped by and asked if I would coach girls basketball because there is no middle school program. This would be kind of fun, but I am bad at basketball and don't have time to coach it. Then a bunch of elementary kids stopped by and asked if they could visit for a while! I was forewarned that if I said yes, they would visit me every day. I told them I was trying to get some work done. . .so they begged. . .then asked if they could stop by when Molly gets here. That will at least hold them off for a couple weeks!

Last thing, for those that did not know or forgot. I am teaching algebra, geometry (these two at the same time), reading, wood shop, middle school gym, high school gym, and life science. There are 36 kids in the middle and high school combined. I have all eleven middle schoolers three times a day!! When they start to get on your nerves, there is no waiting for the next class. . .They are the next class!!

I went to the store tonight and saw that they had gallons of vanilla ice cream (no price tag). Being the ice cream fanatic that I am, I picked it up and proceeded to pile some potatoes and onions on top of it. At the counter I asked the owner how much it was. . . $19. . .!!! I would have put it back, but it was all dirty from the potatoes. It's OK if I splurge once in a while right? For more perspective, a frozen pizza is $9, a 12-pack of Pepsi is $11 and a five-stick pack of Juicy Fruit is $.79. I also bought expired eggs. . .they don't get here before they expire and they have been good so far. My phone still thinks it doesn't work. I can sometimes call locally, sometimes 1-800 numbers, and rarely long distance. It's a tough problem to fix when I can't always make phone calls!!

Hopefully the next time I write I will be able to tell about my snow machine that I am working on getting and have pictures of a wolf, but you will just have to wait in anticipation.

Monday, January 8, 2007

Brian's Arrival

Hello Everyone!I have finally made it to Alaska! So far my only hardships have been: losing my luggage, being frozen out of my apartment, all my boxes were locked in the town hall, there is no quick way to make copies of keys for me, my phone doesn't work, it was -45 degrees today, and I have been wearing the same clothes for the past four days!

I still don't have my luggage, which has many of my teaching resources and warmest clothes. I did get into my apartment today, but slept in a different place last night because my apartment door was frozen shut. I also got into the town hall today to get the boxes that have been reserved thus far. Be careful of the first breath you take when going outside in this weather. . . It stings. I don't know when I'll have a phone??? I think I might change clothes tomorrow, now that I have boxes!

I left on Saturday morning at 9am from the cities and was in Dillingham, AK around 8pm (Alaska time, 3 hours behind) that night. I stayed in a bunkhouse Saturday night which was fairly nice. On Sunday it was 25 below and some planes weren't flying, but mine did anyway. Not having my luggage I borrowed some long underwear from the superintendent and off I was. I saw about 15 moose in my 30 minute ride...Hunting anyone?

Last night and all day today I have been trying to get organized, but it has been tough since I only got into my apartment this afternoon. I did look through the school and picked my room where I will have a desk. It's about half the size of any regular classroom, but it will do. My apartment, now that I am in it, is surprisingly nice! It has a beautiful view looking across the river at some mountain unknown to me.

I did go for a walk today after I found some warmer clothes in boxes! I walked for about 45 minutes, and my eyelids were freezing shut occasionally, which is why I went back when I did. Other than the cold, it was a beautiful day!

Tomorrow is my first day of paid work!!!!! It's a teacher work day, so I will be busy getting my classroom ready. Today is the Russian Orthodox Christmas and this Sunday is their new year, hence the day off today. To celebrate everyone hops on their snow machines and goes to the next village to eat at others' houses. This is done in 45 below weather! I think this is all I have to say for now.