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Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Continuation of the Craziness

There was a virus going around in Stu last week and since the carnival it is now going around Koliganek. Molly has been very sick for almost three days now and on top of that we were not allowed to let water go down drains or flush toilets! We had to walk to the school to go to the bathroom! I thought the toilet was clogged on Monday, but after lots of plunging I sewage started coming into our bath tub!! The next day and a half three different apartments couldn't use the drains while some people tried to figure out what was going on. Apparently it was a clogged air vent that was creating a vacuum in our system. Hopefully, we will be done having issues for a while.

The Good News:
The village water was tested and we can now drink it without boiling!!


I caught a fox! I can't really claim much credit because I caught it with Ron's trap, in a spot that Ron always has this trap, and with Ron's lure. . .But I was the one that set the trap! I also skinned, stretched, and fleshed the fox. We will freeze the hide until the end of trapping season and then Ron is going to teach me how to tan the hides. Hopefully I Will have many more pelts to tan by then.

This weekend Ron and I plan to set a lot of traps for marten, wolf, fox, and lynx so I hope to catch more soon.

Our First Steam

Steaming is something that is a large part of the culture here. Many families have their own steam houses built to use, but it is sometimes a social thing. I was told when I got here that it consists of a bunch of naked men or women sitting in a room and that I shouldn't go if I would feel uncomfortable in this situation. I was also warned that if I did go, I'd better go when invited by someone I trust because it is a tradition to try and burn out the new guy so everyone can laugh and poke fun for a while. They do this by making it too hot to stand for someone unaccustomed to steaming.

The Steam House:
The steam house, at least the one Molly and I went to, had a room to get undressed in and then the steam room. The steam room has a stove with a fire in it to make it nice and toasty! A bucket of water away from the fire, the cold water. A basin of water on the stove, the hot water. There are rocks piled on the stove, which when water is poured on them the room gets hotter. I think this may be where the term "steaming" gets its name. There are also several basins for individual water, places to sit, and a wing (possibly from a raven) for beating.

How to Steam:
Molly and I were invited by one of the teachers at the school and her husband to come steam in their steam house on our own for our first time. This was the day we got back from the carnival and they thought it would be less threatening for us to steam together on our own for our first time rather than with a bunch of less known people that would try to burn us out. . .At least the men do this to newcomers.
Once the hot water is burning hot you enter the steam room and fill a basin with a mixture of the hot water and the cold water. This is used to wash with by splashing and pouring. The wing is used to beat out on kinks you may have by getting it wet with hot water and hitting yourself or others with it. It actually feels very good once you get past the whole wing thing. Once washed up it is a place to splash some water and relax. I put too much water on the rocks and we had to open the door because of the heat, but other than that it was quite relaxing. It is just like a sauna, but with a wood fire going, no chlorine smell, a bird wing, and the washing thing.
When we were done we stepped outside into a perfectly clear Alaskan night. The sky was clear and filled with stars. Very beautiful. I'll add more as I learn more about steaming.


This past Saturday Molly and I went to a carnival in New Stuyahok which started on Wednesday and went through Sunday. New Stu is about 22 miles away from Koliganek and took us an hour and fifteen minutes to drive there on our snow-go. For a while people thought it wouldn't be possible to get there because of the warm temperatures and the multiple lakes, ponds, and swamps that needed to be crossed. Most of the snow had melted away, making for a very bumpy ride across the tundra, but we tried to stay on lakes and patches of snow.

The carnival had dog sled races, basketball tournaments, bingo, raffles, and McDonalds' cheesburgers! There were only five dog teams in the race and there are typically more than ten, but this is a fast disappearing activity. I talked with Gusty about before snow machines came and how there would be a line of dog teams seven miles up the river coming to Carnival. In this day and age it is much easier to fill up the tank with gas than to take care of 20-50 dogs for a sled team. It's a sad thing.

Our teams didn't do well in the tournaments, but I blame it on the refs. Molly and I lost some money at bingo, but had fun chatting with the older women at our table. . .They had to teach us how to play the different games!

Finally the highlight of my day. . .McDonalds' cheeseburgers!!! For the low low price of $3 you could eat a little McDonalds cheesburger that had been made at McDonalds, shipped to Stu, and warmed in a microwave until it was just right!! You can bet that I was thinking the same thing you are now, I want one! It's the little things that count. We were going to take a picture of us by the advertisement, but we ran in to the art teacher there and wanted him to show me how he does some carving. He showed us a moose antler that he had carved a lynx and a hare into. It was amazing! I don't think mine or my students' carvings will look like that, but we can try.

There was a pageant and a dance that night, but we opted to head home in daylight. Molly lost her goggles in Stu, which made for a cold not so fun ride home for her. Compounded with the fact that she doesn't enjoy riding around on the snow machine like I do didn't help. At least we made it home safely.

Sunday, February 4, 2007

The Bad Luck Has Passed!

It seems the bad luck has passed. The temperature is now about 20 degrees and the puddles have all frozen over. I also got a package from my students and teachers at Black River Falls!! Thank you so much! They sent candy, soup mixes, easy mac, hand warmers, thermal socks, student made cards, hot chocolate, tea, drink mixes, carmex, and few other things to help me stay warm and feel at home. The drink mixes came in handy while we had to drink funny tasting water! There is a picture in the archive of what they sent if you would like to take a look. It is great fun going to the post office and finding a package for me! On boring days, I go there multiple times because new packages are constantly showing up whenever a plane comes in.

Thanks again to the students and teachers in BRF!

One Crazy Week

It seems that Molly brought a whole lot of bad luck with her when she came, but I think we have survived the worst of it. First the water went out, causing school to be cancelled twice and let out early once. The school supposedly has a reserve water supply that can get us through a day without water, but this wasn't working which is why school was cancelled. Thursday and Friday it was finally working. Although, we can't drink that water and have to wait a couple weeks after we stop using it before we can drink any water at the school. This means that we have to have paper cups and jugs of water all over the school for drinking and use as little water as possible for cooking lunch. Craziness!

The water finally started working at home yesterday so we can take showers, cook, flush the toilet, etc. What a relief! One week without water is a pain! Luckily it has been unusually warm (near 40 degrees) so we have been filling totes of water up from rain running off our roof. . . It's pretty clean. I think there are some pictures in the archive of Molly filling up the toilet so it can be used. It's been like living in the Boundary Waters.

Now the downside of warm weather. Most people would be happy to have 40 degree temperatures in January, but not me or many Alaskans. Nearly all of the snow has melted, 7+ feet of it, making everything very wet, mucky, slippery, and it doesn't allow for easy snow machine travel. I want to be out on the tundra trapping!

Before all the snow melted I took Molly out to check a couple of traps. We had to drive across patches of snow-less tundra and across lots of slushy puddles, but for the most part it was OK. We found one trap with nothing in it because it had fell about two feet because the snow melted out from under it. On our way to the next trap we got a bit stuck in a fast melting drift, but it wasn't bad and we got out easily. Then came some more of that bad luck. We tried to cross a dip that had some water flowing off the tundra to the river. It didn't look too bad and it wasn't, but I didn't know how to water skip so we went too slow and I got stuck. The water was about knee deep under the snow and we couldn't quite get ourselves out. We may look in good spirits in the picture at the top of this entry, but we hadn't walked three miles across a slushy tundra yet!

When we were nearing home Oscar stopped and asked me where my snow-go was. I told him and he said he'd help me a little later. His machine, which is twice as powerful, flew across large ponds on our way out. When we felt the machine sink into the water he would open up the throttle and we would seemingly catapult out of it and skip across the water the rest of the way (water skipping). This is what all of the kids do for fun during break-up. I was pretty sure I was going to fall off the back end into a deep hole. . .I'm still here. Once there, I dug out the snow in front with a shovel, we lifted the back end onto fresh slush, and I shot right out. I ordered a shovel yesterday that I can strap to my machine at all times. Hopefully this will help me in the future. I also got my VHF radio in the mail yesterday so I will be able to call for help if I am in a serious situation.