So, this is our apt. It's a duplex. There's another apt attached to it on the right. Our side is a small two bedroom. It's nice and clean with new carpet, appliances and cabinets. We're pretty happy with it and my landlord has been wonderfully helpful. Notice the sidewalk is made from old wood pallets, then it just drops off into the sand. It makes me feel like I'm living in a cottage on the beach, but I'm sure I wont feel that way in a couple months.
This is my backyard. This is the view out of Avery's bedroom window. Just open tundra.
This is the side yard. This is the view out of the living room window. more tundra. We looked at an apt. in that gray building. It was a two story with the bedrooms and bathrooms downstairs and the living, dining and kitchen upstairs. It was very spacious, but expensive. Three of the other new teachers share that apt. and we hang out there sometimes. Even though it is not painted and looks like it is in disrepair...it is actually quite nice on the inside. that saying, "you cant judge a book by it's cover" is oh-so-true here in Bethel.
This is the other side yard. This would be the view out of my neighbors windows, but not mine. More tundra. Our apt is the very last house on the street, so there is tundra all around it and no traffic. It's great. I feel very fortunate to have found this place.
Well, today was the first of two days of open house at the school. I worked from 8-4, then from 5-8:30. I'm beat. I'll have the same schedule again tomorrow, but here's the good news....FRIDAY OFF! So, with labor day on Monday...that means a four day weekend. whoooyooo!
This is the barge as it is first turning upriver into Bethel. The small orange boat up ahead is the "pilot" boat. It guides the barge up the river and into Bethel port. The small white boat in front of the barge is the tugboat that tugs the barge.
A closer look at the tugboat pulling the barge. You can see the chains that connect the two. Click on the picture to make it bigger.
A side view of the entire barge. My truck and all of our stuff was in one of those metal crates. You can see how high the crates are stacked and how much heavy machinery, trucks, houses, etc are all stacked on top.
This pic shows a man standing on the barge to give you an idea of scale.
Here are two men standing on the barge to give you another perspective on scale. This barge services many cities in "bush" Alaska, so not all of that stuff is for Bethel. This was a happy day for us. It was the day the truck and all of our stuff arrived in Bethel. Pots and pans, sheets and blankets, plates and bowls, towels and washclothes...you never know how much you miss that stuff until you go without it for awhile.
Here's another tugboat pushing the barge from behind.
A pic of the whole barge as it goes past.
One of the barge and Avery. In this pic you can get a glimpse of how beautiful the Kuskokwim River is. And how BIG!
This is the barge docked at the port and preparing to be unloaded. You can see the huge crane that will unload the barge. My understanding is that items for Bethel are unloaded and then items that need shipped out are loaded. The barge originally started in Seattle (that's where I put my truck on), it stops at many cities along the panhandle, then has a major stop in Anchorage, then heads West and North, around to Bethel and all the way to Nome.
Have any of you watched the show Dirty Jobs? Me either. I dont know what channel it's on, but I THINK it's on Tuesday evening. Time is different depending on what time zone. Anyway...this weeks episode of Dirty Jobs is in Bethel. They are tracking birds and swabbing their butts to test for the bird flue virus. Should be interesting! Thought you would all like to know, just in case you want to watch and get a glimpse of Bethel and the surrounding area.
Many people have wanted to know when mine and Avery's birthdays are because of the email I sent out requesting all of your phone numbers, addresses and birthdays. Mine is Feb. 3 and Avery's is Nov. 30. If you havent emailed me with your info yet, please do that. I lost everyone's info when I dropped my phone in the toilet when I was in Vegas. No, I wasn't drunk! These two pics are both of Main str. Standing in the same spot, the pic above is of main str going Northwest. If you walked up the road two blocks and took a right, you'd be at our house. The yellow building on the left is a church and the red building on the right is the family clinic. The pic below is of main str facing Southeast. You might notice that the intersection actually has street signs and a stop sign. Most streets do not have street signs and many do not have stop signs. You might also notice that the road is paved at the intersection and beyond. there are a few paved roads in Bethel and this section of main is one of them.
This is Avery's school, Kilbuck Elementary. Home of the Wildcats. It is a 3-6 school. Avery's teacher is Mr. Johnson. Avery seems to like school and is making friends. There are 4 sixth grade classes. The students may or may not switch teachers throughout the day depending on their personal level in each subject area. The Yu'pik Immersion school for 3-6 grade is also housed in this building.
This is BRHS. Bethel Regional High School. Home of the Warriors. Half the building was redone last year and the other half (my half) will be redone this summer. So, next year I'll have a brand new classroom. The school over all is quite nice and I hear we have the best gym around. Bethel holds many of the regional sporting events at the school. When students are in town for events they sleep at the school in the classrooms! Apparently, we are th biggest bed and breakfast in Bethel! Overall I had a really good week and, so far, my students seem to be really great. I hope to have a great year! I will be coaching the 8th grade robotics team...that'll be fun!
If you added up all the dirt that my truck has had on it since I've owned it, it wouldn't be this dirty. You all know how clean I keep my truck. It is so dirty that Avery walked right past it the other day because he didnt even recognize it! Terrible!
People are still saying they are having trouble posting comments. Let me try and explain how to do it.
At the bottom of each post there is a comment link. It will say 0 comments, or 1 comment, or 2 comments, or whatever. If you click on that, it will take you to another window where you can view all of the comments that have been posted and you can post your own comment.
hope this helps. I changed the settings awhile back so that anyone can post comments, so you should be able to post comments without having to sign up.
ALSO...if you click on a picture it will come up really big so that you can see detail.
The Hoover Dam from the top. This is the river side.
This is me and Avery and my best friends two oldest kids at the Hoover Dam.
Ok, so...lots of people have emailed me and asked me questions and I am finally going to try and answer some of them.
What's the weather like? The day we got here was really nice...about 80degress and sunny. Then it was cold (60's) and rainy for about 10 days. Then we got about two days of nice weather, 80 and sunny. Then it would be cold and rainy for about 10 days. Then we had about 3 days of nice weather, then 10 more days cold and rainy. It has been really nice (high 70's and sunny) for about a week, then today it cooled off and started to rain. Everyone says that aug/sept is the rainy season so we'll see. There were a couple of days that the wind blew really hard, but not too many. there is usually a breeze though.
When do you start school? Yesterday was the first day. We had 4 contract days for the entire staff the week before and teacher new to the district had 3 days the week before that.
Can you put a brick in your toilet? Actually, no. the toilet has a water efficienct, high pressure flusher in the tank. When you lift the lid on the back of the toilet all you see is a tank, no water.
Can I come visit? Absolutely, YES! PLEASE! I would love to have anyone who wants to come. I would be more than happy to lend out my sleeper sofa to anyone who wants to venture to Bethel. If you prefer, there are lots of hotels and bed and breakfasts all over the city.
Is it what you expected? Yes, it really is. Although I commented that it was very different, it is what I was expecting. I had done so much research and talked to so many people who lived here before I left that I knew exactly what I was getting my self into.
What is the scenery like? Bethel is in the middle of the tundra and a part of the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta. It is very flat, sandy, and treeless.
How about that midnight sun? It's wild! When we first got here, the sun officially set about about 1am, but it didnt really get dark untill about 2am. The official sunrise was about 5am, but it started to get light at about 4am. so there was only about 2 hours of true night, but even then it wasnt REALLY dark. I have yet to see the moon at night. I've seen it during the day once, but that's it. Back in July the sun was rising and setting about 3 minutes later/earlier...which meant a loss of about 7 minutes everyday. THAT'S HUGE! In Ohio, we lose about 30-45 seconds a day, maybe a minute. one thing that really got to us about the sun is that it all looks the same. the sun at noon and the sun at midnight...it looked the same. I never knew what time it was. Avery and I would be hangin around thinkin it was about 6 or 7 in the evening and we would look at the clock and it would read 10 or 11 at night. I had to start wearing a watch at all times. No way you can guesstimate the time here. Nowadays, the it is dark at midnight and still dark til about 6am.
How much is gas? $4.97! enough said!
Do I have daily internet access? Yes
How was Vegas? In case some of you don't know...I spent about two weeks visiting friends and family in Vegas before coming to Bethel. Vegas was good. It was good to see everyone, but mostly it was HOTHOTHOT. It was 114 degrees that last couple days I was there. We visited Hoover dam and my sandles were literally melting to the sidewalk.
How are you and Avery handling the change? We are handling it fine...really good actually. Like I said, I had done alot of research and we had talked about it alot. We knew what to expect. We are settled in quite nice. It's really the people who have made us feel right at home. everyone is sooooooo wonderful here.
How is Avery adjusting? He's good. He has made some friends right away and we've kept ourselves busy. He seems to really like it here too.
No taxes, right? sort of...there are no state sales taxes, but Bethel has a city sales tax of 5%. As far as income tax...I'm not sure yet...I havent got paid, but I do not think there are any income taxes besides federal. I'll let you know more about that when I get paid. We only get paid once a month here! wow! that'll be a change.
Today was the first day of school for myself and for Avery. At my school, BRHS, only the jr. high students came to school. We had an orientation for the 7th and 8th graders. So I really didnt do any teaching today. I got to meet most of my 8th grade students though. Tomorrow I will get to meet my 10th graders. I am teaching three sections on 8th grade physical science and three sections of 10th grade Biology. Tomorrow is a bit of an orientation day too...for the HS students. They get their schedules and their lockers and all that jazz which will take up two hours in the morning. Then we will run on a regular schedule so that I will see all my students tomorrow, 6periods and a homeroom, but I will only get them for about 40 minutes. The regular school day runs from 9am-4pm. That's a long day! I have to be there from 8:30 to 4:30!
Avery's first day was good. His teacher's name is Mr. Johnson and I got to meet him this morning. He's one of the wresting coaches and is a GB Packer fan, so we like him already. Avery had math homework tonight. He was able to make a few more friends. The only thing that upset him was that he said his typing teacher "just expected me to know everything". Apparently all the kids had learned to type last year and Avery hadn't. So whent the teacher asked everyone to type one page about what they learned in typing class last year, Avery freaked out.
Overall it was a good day for both of us. The summer didnt even feel like it flew by. I got to go so many places and see so many things this summer. It feels like the end of last year was years ago. I've come along way in a few months! I'll post more pics as soon as I have some and my new digital camera will me coming soon so it will be much easier to post pics.
This is a picture of a typical scene in Bethel. You can see the large area of tundra, then some houses. I believe these houses are on 7th ave. This is Bethel's boat harbor. There are at least a couple hundred boats that are docked there.
This is the AC. It is Bethel's largest and nicest grocery store. They sell groceries downstairs and have a clothing store and furniture store upstairs. The prices aren't as high as I was anticipating. If you shop right, you can find things on sale. The sale price would make things about regular price in the lower 48. I'd say about 75% of the grocery items I've purchased have been about "regular" price. AC stands for Alaska Commercial. I've heard that it is a Canadian owned company, but I don't know for sure. This is one of the river beaches in Bethel. This is were people who come in from villages will park their boats while they shop for supplies. They load their boats up and take supplies to the villages. There is even a sign at the furniture store that says, "We will not warranty any large appliance taken by boat or snow machine." In this picture, there is an army place loading or unloading(I'm not sure which) at the beach. For a few days when we first got here, these planes came in and took off about once an hour. This pictures shows(although you cant see it well), a firetruck spraying all it's water out into the river. Our guess was that they were either testing or cleaning the hoses or sprayers.
Well, I know everyone has been craving pictures and there will be lots more coming as soon as I get my film developed. I went online last night and bought a digital camera so that uploading pics will be alot easier. I can also take videos with it, so hopefully I'll upload some videos too.
The first three pics were taken by my friend Chandra, she's a first year art teacher who is also new to Bethel. She's from Wisconsin! You all know why that's important....GO PACK!
Everything has a layer of dirt/dust/sand on it. I think the sand is one of the hardest things to get used to. It blows, it floats, it gets on everything...even up your nose and in your sinuses. I have even heard several people talk about "brown outs"! My truck is covered in a layer of dirt and there is sand everywhere on the inside. If you put together all of the dirt my truck has had on it for the last year, it probably wouldn't be as much as is on it now. I have been working nonstop to get my classroom clean for weeks now(apparently the last guy didn't like dusting either). Even though I have wiped everything down in my classroom, it is still all covered with dust. I (or Avery) could sweep the kitchen floor everyday and it would still be covered with sand. Erosion is a big problem here because everything is built on sand. All of the building are built up off the ground on pilings because the permafrost freezing and unfreezing causes the land the shift dramatically.
Today was a teacher workday. New teachers had a meeting on school procedures that took most of the morning. Then the teachers union fed us pizza for lunch in an attempt to recruit new members. Apparrently only about 60% of teachers are members, but it's no wonder... union dues are about$890 per year. OUCH! I did sign up though. I enjoy being a union member and this year is a negotiations year. After lunch I got a brief tutorial on the smartboard. Yay! After that, I almost got my room completely finished. I still need to hang posters, but mostly it's done. My room needed so much work that I haven't even gotten to the part where I figure out what I'm going to teach. I'll be working this weekend...School starts MONDAY!
Tonight I hung out with one of the other new teachers. She's a first year art teacher. I cooked stirfry for dinner. Then we sat around and had a few drinks. First drinks I've had since arriving in Bethel. Bethel is a "damp" community. That means you can't buy or sell alcohol, but you can drink it and pocess it. All of the villages around Bethel are dry. They have real big problems with alcoholism here. More stories on that later!!! You'll have to keep reading my blog! So anyway...we sat around having drinks and trying to order sheets online because we both need new ones and we thought we'd save on shipping by ordering together, but the computer or internet site or powers that be wouldn't let the order go through. So we sat around making jokes and laughing our asses off because all we want is new sheets and we can't even get them. Guess you had to be there!
For all of you sitting in an inservice before school starts and counting the seconds until it's over, count your blessings. I sat in a district wide inservice today provided by the district office over a polycom system. Polycom is a video conferencing system that the school district uses to communicate and even teach classes to some of the villages in the district. Some of the village schools in the district are so small that they do not hire a math or science teacher. The district has a distance math and distance science teacher who teaches classes via polycom. So today from 8:20am until 4:30pm we were in a district wide inservice taught by the district office personnel. The inservice was prodcast to all the schools in the district via polycom. So basically we sat there and watched(pretended to watch) the distrist personnel on a TV screen. I couldn't even tell you what all they talked about because literally noone was watching the inservice. Everyone was surfing the web or catching up on the summer. The noise level in the room was so loud that you couldn't have heard what they were saying on the polycom if you wanted to.
I got a little bit of time after lunch to work in my room. My classroom is a total mess. Basically, it's been collecting junk for several years and has had several teachers in the last several years. I've heard it called the "junk room" and "the packrat room" by other teachers in the building. The best though, was when I found a whole drawer in my desk with old ziplock sandwich baggies with leftover chips, crumbs and bread crusts in them. A WHOLE DRAWER!!!!!! There must have been 30-40 baggies. Craziness! I've got my room almost cleaned up now though and it will be getting remodeled this summer. So, if I decide to stay here in Bethel I'll have a new room next year. I guess that would be worth the baggie surprise. I do have a smartboard in my room which is really cool and I have two sinks. woowhoo
YOU THINK YOUR INSERVICES ARE BORING...THINK AGAIN.
On the upside, they raffled off a bunch of really cool door prizes and I won a hat! Althought I would have much rather won a airplane ticket or free hovercraft ride.
So far I 've worked five days officially. All new teachers in the district had three days of training and culture class last week on Wed, Thurs, and Fri. It was really cool to get to know all the other new teachers. All the people who are in the same boat as you. Hopefully we stay afloat! :) There were about 50 of us there. Can you believe that ? 50 new teachers in one year! LKSD has the biggest school district in bush Alaska (I think) and the district covers the size of about two or three Ohio's combined. Aside from several schools in Bethel, there are 26 or so villages with schools. I think about ten of us new teachers were staying in Bethel and the rest were all headed out to villages. So many of them are first year teachers, too! Aside from the three days last week...we had a teacher workday yesterday with just a quick meeting in the morning to introduce ourselves and then today we had the amazing, action packed district wide inservice. Tomorrow will be the school wide inservice and Friday will be another workday, then we start school on Monday August 20th. On the first day at my school, only the 7th and 8th graders come and we basically have like a team building day with the junior high kids. All students come to school and we start regular class on Tuesday. I will be teaching 3 sections of 8th grade physical science and 3 sections of 10th grade Biology. I have already met several of my students and I will have several of my coworkers students in my classes as well. Avery starts school on Monday too. The sixth grade is still in the elementary school here. Actually, they have a K-2 school and a 3-6 school. Avery will be at Kilbuck and it's about a block from our house so that's nice. You can see it out of our window. It's a purple building with a blue roof and trim. It's interesting. They have recess here until -20 degrees! That's right....NEGATIVE 20!
Below I have copied and pasted the email that I sent out after first arriving in Bethel. I gives some of my first impressions. I have many more thoughts that I want to share and pictures too. I have been keeping a list of things I want to share with everyone so I don't forget them. Don't forget to post your comments...I want to hear them.
We've made it! Avery and I have been in Bethel since Wednesday morning. We knew it would be different and it is. Very different. To start with, even though the airport is the third largest in the state, it is still quite small. We had to walk accross the tarmac into the building. there was only one baggage carosel because there is only one plane that comes in at a time. In fact, there are only three major passenger planes into and out of Bethel for anchorage everyday. other than that, there are lots of small private planes and cargo planes. the building that handles the passenger planes is one small building with people claiming their bags on one side of the room and people checking in to depart on the other side of the room! The roads are all dirt roads and very bumpy, with only the major road that circles through town being paved. many of you know that my principal is letting us stay at her house while her family is on vacation and we are looking for a place. She has one of the nicest houses in town, right on the river. they have a spectacular view! She picked us up from the airport on Wed. morning and we spent most of the morning relaxing and hanging out after spending so much time traveling. later that day, she drove us around Bethel and gave us a little tour. the roads have no pattern, they just kind of go wherever they need to. It's very confusing, but I'm getting the hang of it. She also took me over to the school and I got the keys to my new classroom and got to see it. It is in the part of the building that HAS NOT been renovated. first thing i noticed was the smell. it smelled VERY musty. it is probably about half the size of my old classroom at Vantage, but seems to be well equipped. on Wed evening, we were invited to go to one of their friends houses for dinner and swimming. there are all of these little naturally occurring lakes everywhere. they had a cook out and we got to try our first taste of fresh caught salmon. it was quite good. avery got to meet a couple other boys his age and they all went swimming in the little lake behind their house. It was very warm that first day...about 80 and everyone said that that was about as nice/warm as it gets. sure enough, it has been overcast, chilly and rainy every day since. On Thursday morning, my principal and her family all left for vacation early in the morning and Avery and I were so tired from traveling that we slept right through and woke up at about 10am to a note on the bathroom door that said, "We're out of water...the water truck will deliver today." so, we had to wait until about noon to shower and get around. most people have to have their water delivered. they have big tanks outside or under the house that they come and fill at your discretion. you can have your tank filled twice a week, once a week or twice a month, it just depends on how much water you use. but no matter how often it's delivered, they are still VERY conservative with the water usage...once the tank is empty, it's empty. they have a 1000 gallon tank here, which gets filled twice a week and they told me that they are "water rich" and that i didn't have to worry quite so much about water while staying with them. but they did tell me a little rhyme that i wont soon forget, "if it's yellow, let it mellow. if it's brown, flush it down". interesting, eh? the apartment that Avery and i will be living in has a 500 gallon tank and with it being just the two of us, people have said that we should be able to get it filled once per week. everyone says that that is the hardest thing for most people to get used to...being water conscience.
on Thursday and Friday, Avery and I spent most of the day driving around town looking at apartments and trying to get to know the city a little bit. we also go to the store in the evening to pick things up for dinner. I have been cooking three meals a day and loving it. my principal and her family order all their fresh produce online from a company that sends them a shipment once per week. lucky for us they had just had a shipment delivered the day before they left and they told us to make sure we ate all the vegetables before they went bad, needless to say, we've been eating quite good. food is very expensive here. a gallon of milk is $7.95. I went to the store yesterday and got three large potatoes, a bottle of poppyseed salad dressing, some boneless chicken thighs and a chocolate cake...$27.00! luckily that's enough to feed us for two nights. I've noticed that in general, everything is about double. although, some things are very expensive and other things are cheaper.
yesterday, we pretty much lazied around the house all day, although we did look at the apartment that we are going to rent. so by the end of next week, i should have an address and phone number for you. it's a small two bedroom duplex. it's one of the nicer ones we've seen, although it is quite small, but the landlord is very nice and seems to take good care of the place. it's got kind of a cottage feel to it, with a little front porch. it is at the end of fifth street with open space all around, good for riding your snow mobile in(that's what people tell me). avery went exploring out there while i was looking at the place and came back soaked to his knees from a puddle. all of the places have what is called an "artic entry", it is to keep the freezing cold air out of the main part of the house when you enter. also, for taking of your shoes and boots and coats and stuff. You have to take your shoes off at the door because all the ground is sand. It is kind of like living on a beach(except it's not warm or sunny). all the dirt is sand and the plants are just wild, people dont landscape or trim anything. the plants are native and they grow whereever they want. everything smells kind of funny here. it's very strange. it all has a beachy, sandy, salty, marshy, moist kind of smell. some of the places we looked at were very dumpy. it rents for $1100, which is pretty inexpensive, most of the other two bedrooms we looked at were up around $1500. the fuel oil(heat) is included which many have told me can be as high as 5 or 6 hundred in the winter. we have to pay for water, which will run about $75 per delivery (500 gallon tank). hopefully we will only have to get water once per week or maybe even every other week! I dont know...never had to think about it before. we will also have to pay electricity, which people have also said is very expensive. you've probably noticed the theme by now....everything is very expensive. they call it sticker shock, but they say you get used to it. we'll see.
This morning we went to church to hear my principal's nephew sing. it was all very casual. people wearing jeans and just kind of hanging out. the church is just in a regular building, not what i would consider a "church" type building. the service was nice. they sang alot and had a little band and put the words up with a projection screen. they didnt have bibles, everyone brought their own. avery enjoyed singing along with the words on the screen. now we are just hanging around doing laundry and stuff. we played packer monopoly earlier. they are packers fans! cool, huh?
all the people are so friendly and will do anything they can to help. I like it already and avery seems to like it too. although he is kind of bored and it will be nice when he meets more kids his age. What else? the mosquitos are extra big and we both have killer mosquito bites. well, I think that's it for now. I know that most of you are curious about what it's like here. I'll let you all know as soon as i have a phone number and address.
Wow! I have a blog now. Well, I'm hoping this will be a good way to keep my friends and family up to date on what's happening with me(and Avery, too). I hope that all of you will read this and like it and post comments so I can hear from you. I miss everyone and hope to hear from you. Reading and posting on my blog will give me something to do on the cold, long winter nights. :) Avery and I both like Bethel alot and we are happy that we decided to come. The people here are wonderful and have made us feel welcome in every way. My neighbor loaded our arms with fresh grow vegetables today which are hard to come by in Bethel. Not very many people have gardens here, but the ones that do, have beautiful, healthy plants because of all the rain and sunlight. We went to a friends house tonight for dinner. They invited over several of the new teachers and we had a real good time. They made salmon with an interesting sauce baked on top. It was delicious. They have a boy Avery's age and they have made fast friends. Him and Avery have built a time capsule and are gathering items to put inside. The burial is tomorrow. There are so many things I want to tell you about, but I will have to post more later. Today was our first teacher workday and I am so ready for bed. I can't believe it's time to start another school year already.
I'm a high school science teacher currently living my dream of teaching out in bush Alaska. I'm always up for new adventures and like to travel anywhere and everywhere. This blog is a way to keep in touch with friends and family, journal about life, and share my experiences with the world.