"A mind once stretched by a new idea can never regain its original dimensions." ~Oliver Wendall Holmes

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Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Big Decision

I've decided to go home to Ohio for the summer. I really didnt want to, but Avery will be spending the summer with his mom and I figure I should be close by just in case. I spent alot of time thinking about it and tossing the possibilities around. I really wanted to go out and explore more of the state of Alaska. Then, I thought maybe I'd just stay here in Bethel and get a job for the summer. Then, I was talking to a friend and he said that if he were in that kind of situation (talking about mom), then he'd want to be close to his kids. I said...you know what, you're right. You never know what's going to happen when mom's controlling the reigns and I decided that it would be best to be nearby. Not to mention that many of my friends back in Ohio have been bugging me to come home.

There are a few downfalls to this decision. I wont have a car because my truck will have to stay here. I'll have to figure that out. I have to get a job, maybe even two. So, I wont really have much free time. I'll have to either move out of my apt here and find a new one only two months later. OR I'll have to pay a ridiculous amount of rent for a place I'm not living in...OUCH! I'm not too happy with either of those choices. I wont make as much money at a job in Ohio as I could in a job in Alaska. Bummer...oh, well. Lastly, the plane tickets home are about a grand.

On the upside...I'll be able to see some friends back home. I'll be able to check up on my grandmother and her health. I'll be around just in case Avery needs me. I should be able to find a job pretty easy. I'll be able to enjoy the new patio that I built last summer and my new patio furniture and grill that go with it. I'll be able to grow a garden. I'll be able to get a tan. I'll be able to take care of the house and yard. I'll have things to do on Saturday night. I'll be able to drive on paved roads. I'm kind of excited about it now that the decision has been made!

Any ideas on possible summer jobs?

Monday, January 28, 2008

New Feature

I've added the current weather and current sun and moon info to the blog. I figured that rather than tell you what the weather and sun/moon are up to, I could just show you. So, on the right hand side of the blog you can look at the current info and even click on it if you want to find out more. This information is provided by Weather Underground.

Kale, If you want to put info for Mekoryuk on your blog you can. Just go to Weather Underground at www.wunderground.com and type in your zip code. Then scroll almost all the way to the bottom of the page and click on "get your weather sticker". Pick the one you want and click on it. Copy the link info provided. Open your blog and go to customize, then add new page element. Choose html/java as the page element to add and copy the link info into your new page element.

In other news, I got my truck stuck in my driveway this morning. I was so frustrated and angry at myself for even trying to get out with all that snow...I broke down and cried. I couldnt leave my truck where it was because today is water day and my truck was blocking the driveway. Normally, I would have just left it and dealt with it after school, but I couldnt because they wouldnt be able to give me water if the truck was blocking the driveway. Someone from school came and bailed me out. And dont you know that he did a little digging, hopped right in and backed it right up no problem. Of course, that just made me feel like more of an idiot than I already did. 13 inches of snow in one day and do you think we got a snow day? No! Do you think they even delayed school? No! I got to school late and was soaking wet from digging around in the snow for an hour. Do you ever have days when you just want to curl up in bed and cry? That's how I feel today. I'm thinking I may need to take a mental health day soon. Although, we have an inservice on Friday, so this is a short week with kids. Well, I'm off to lunch...

Record breaking snowfall!

Record Report

Statement as of 9:03 am EST on January 28, 2008

record event report
National Weather Service Bethel AK
500 am akst Mon Jan 28 2008

... New record precipitation and snowfall for Bethel on January

The pervious record was precipitation 0.13 inches set in 2001 and
snowfall 2 inches set in 1996. Bethel set a new record 24 hour total
for January 27th with precipitation of 1.08 inches and snowfall of 13
inches. These record totals are the second greatest 24 hour total for
the month of January.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Snow, snow, and more snow!

We're getting unbelievable amounts of snow. On top of the 12 or so inches that we got on Thursday, today we've already gotten a good 10 more inches. And...it's still coming down hard. It's practically impossible to get out of my driveway. Bethel is the town right in the center of the weather map above.

Avery went out at about 1pm and shoveled the front porch. He also shoveled a path for the water and sewer delivery guys to get to our pipes tomorrow. About two hours later there was a good six inches covering the areas that Avery had shoveled. He went back out and shoveled some more, but the snow is just coming down crazy fast. There's no way he can keep up, but he is determined to try.

The snow is way past our knees now. It's crazy deep. Another weird thing lately is the temperature fluctuations. On Friday when I went to school it was 30 degrees and by the time school got out for the day it was -13. Amazing. Today it is pretty warm today. It's about 28 degrees right now. There's a snow advisory until 5 am tomorrow morning. We're supposed to get 8 inches today (I think we've already got that much, if not more) and expect 4-8 more inches tonight, then another 1-2 inches tomorrow. In this was happening in Ohio, school would already be cancelled for tomorrow and you wouldnt be able to drive on the roads without getting ticketed. Here, it's just no big deal. There's no talk of canceling school, people are still going out to the store and whereever else. Lots of people are out snowmaching!

Bailey is very loyal to Avery already. She has been outside with him almost all day while he's been shoveling. She certainly knows that he's her Daddy! Avery has done a really great job taking care of her. He does almost everything by himself. He has trained her and cleaned up after her. He feeds her and plays with he. He's been awesome with her. He loves her so much already. They are going to be a great team. Even though it's hard and a pain sometimes, I'm really glad I decided to get a puppy for Avery.
No matter what, that stuffed elephant is not far from her. She loves that thing! She is growing so fast. I bet she weighs 20lbs already. She's still super cute though. She learns quick and is so playful. Taboo is finally playing with her. I wonder how big she'll be by the time we come home for the summer.
Sunlight update: We're up to 7 hours and 24 minutes of daylight. Tomorrow will be 5 minutes longer exactly. 5 minutes! We're gaining 5 minutes a day now! Amazing! I love it! The sun is rising at 10:16 and setting at 5:41 today.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Be careful what you wish for!

I have been wanting snow and I got it. Alot of it! This morning when I went to school there was barely a dusting on the ground. All day out of the window of my classroom, the view got more and more white. By the time I went to lunch, there was a good 8 inches on the ground. We got so much snow that we had to release school early. We got out of school at 2:50, rather than 4:00. By the time I left school, the snow was up to my knees. I had to dig my truck out and even then, I almost got stuck in the parking lot several times. I didnt even attempt to go to the Post Office or anywhere else besides home.
The snow is so high it completely covers Bailey. She is loving it though. She's big enough now to manage the front stairs, so she follows Taboo down and goes potty where she's supposed to. She used to be afraid of the snow, now she frolics in it! She is so much fun, especially now that she's stopped pottying in the house.
The snow is up to the step bar on the truck and up to my knees. I am almost certain that I am not going to be able to get out of my driveway(if you could call the patch of dirt road that leads to my house a driveway) in the morning. I wonder how I'll get to work? I'm planning to get up early and do some shoveling. How I wish I had 4 wheel drive!
In all of this snow, it's warmed up alot. It's actually 30 degrees right now. It's amazing to me how quickly the temperature changes here. When I checked the temp at about 2pm, it was 19 degrees. I checked it again at 2:50 when school let out and it was up to 27! We're supposed to get 3 more inches tonight, but I dont think it will happen. It's pretty clear now. It sure would be nice to have a snow day tomorrow, but they just dont really do that kind of thing here.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Fiddle dance

I went to my first fiddle dance on Saturday night. Most of the people their were native. It was so good to be somewhere with native people. I am frustrated with never being around native people. If I wanted to hang around white people all the time, I could have stayed in Ohio(dont get me wrong...the white people are great too). I have really been noticing lately that things seemed to be divided in that way. At the concert last Wednesday night, it was almost all white people and at the fiddle dance on Saturday night, it was almost all native people. It disappoints me that the community is not more integrated. One of the main reasons that I wanted to move into bush Alaska was to experience a new culture. I know that I am experiencing "Alaskan" culture, but I was really hoping to experience more of the Yupik culture of this region. I hope that I will have more opportunities to befriend native people. The native people that I do know are really great, caring, and interesting people. Going to the concert and then the fiddle dance was just some real, in-your-face proof that the white people and native people dont mingle as much as I had hoped.Being my first fiddle dance, I didnt do any dancing, but it was amazing to me that so many people knew such specific dance steps to songs that were being played. There was some heated debate about whether or not a violin and a fiddle were that same or different instruments. Bets were made by some and, after some online research, it turns out that a fiddle and violin are one in the same. Some fiddlers shave down the bridge of their violin, but the instrument is still a violin. Everything I read said that the main difference between a fiddle and violin is the players attitude.
Avery danced with the kids when they played a kids dance bunny hop type song. Can you tell which one he is? After we left the fiddle dance on Saturday night, I slipped on the ice in the parking lot and hit my head on a car really hard. I think I actually had a minor concussion, because i felt sick to my stomach afterward and I still had a major headache all day yesterday. Two whole days I had a headache and felt sick. Yesterday(Monday), I fell asleep on the couch at about 7pm and didnt wake up until this morning at about 7:30am! I felt so much better today.

While at the K300 this weekend, I saw one of the other new teachers from one of the villages. She was telling me that they have river taxis here in Bethel. So that if she wanted to get back to her village from Bethel, she could take one of these river taxis instead of flying. Apparently it's fairly inexpensive too. The taxi drivers have to get an endorsement on their license to allow them to drive on the river highway. This is a pretty good idea since many of the villages in the region are connected through the river system. I've been wanting to go out to one of the villages...maybe I'll give the river taxi a shot. Of course, if i ever got up the courage, I could just drive my own vehicle out on the river.

Here's another pic of Bailey and Taboo. They both have their own tie-outs on the front porch now. Bailey has been going potty outside more and more lately. She's turning out to be a really great dog. She's a little crazy, but in a very fun way. Taboo is really getting used to her now and I think maybe even starting to like her. Although, he's still totally jealous too. You can see that their is NO snow on our porch. We lost it all when it got warm this weekend.
Weather update: It's 11 degrees right now. It looks like its going to be below freezing, but above zero for awhile. Hopefully that means we'll get some snow. Last night and this morning, we had a crazy, fierce wind. It was strong enough to blow a person over. It was strong enough to blow shingles off a roof, i'm sure. Maybe that's one of the reasons why all the roofs here are metal.

Sunlight update: We hit the 7 hour mark today. Wooyoo! We had exactly 7 hours of daylight today. Tomorrow will be 4minutes and 40seconds longer.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Jessica out of the chute

About 30 seconds before I shot this video, I was up at the front of the dog team helping to keep the dogs from ripping the snow hook out and taking off. Jessica got out of the chute pretty quickly. I'm so proud to know a young girl with enough guts to run this race. She's inspiring! I wish all young girls could have as much confidence, courageousness, and ambition as her.

Out of the chute

This is what the start of a sled dog race looks like! The dogs are so ready to run by the time they let them go. In the chute the dogs go crazy jumping around until the musher releases the snow hook and let's them go.

Bogus Creek 150 Start Video

Here is one of the mushers giving his leads dogs some love and encouragement before the start of the race.

Mitch Seavey WINS the 29th Kuskokwim 300

Mitch Seavey came in last night at 8:09pm. I did not end up working my volunteer shift at the finish line from 12-4 because none of the racers were due back yet. Instead, I sat home and watched the Packers get beat by the Giants at Lambeau. How disgusting. They simply got out played. Nothing crazy happened. The Giants were just better. Our defense just couldnt/didnt do much. During the game, the announcers were talking about how cold it was in Green Bay...-3 degrees...the third coldest game ever. They were saying that it was so cold that if you left a dog outside for three hours that you would/could be charged with animal cruelty. As they said that, I thought about the hundreds of dogs that were out running in a race that lasts two days here on the Kuskokwim delta in slush and rain and cold. I thought about the thousands of dogs that live in Alaska in kennels outside all winter. I I'm not as excited for the Superbowl as I was yesterday, and I'm not sure yet who I'll be routing for. It will be interesting to see what Brett decides to do after this season.

It is still warm here...about 33 above. Almost all of the snow is gone and replaced by ice from everything thawing then freezing again. Coming out of the fiddle dance on Saturday night, I fell and hit my head SO HARD on a car in the parking lot that it still hurts this morning. The roads and parking lots are like ice rinks. All the mushers in their interviews are talking about how miserable the trail was. I'll be hoping for some fresh snow soon.

Sunday, January 20, 2008


This was a big weekend for Bethel....there was a concert, a fiddle dance, a hopping headquarters, a banquet(on monday), and then, of course, the races. The Kuskokwim 300, Bogus Creek 150, and Akiak Dash are all sled dog races that took place this weekend. The races all take place on the river. The starting line was a busy place and it was unreal to see so many cars and trucks all parked out on a sheet of ice. Here are the dogs getting ready to leave for the Bogus Creek 150. The BC150 was the first race to leave at 5:00pm Friday night. The racers came back most of the day on Saturday.At the starting line, two runners at a time line up. Two runners left every two minutes until all the racers were out.
A of the lead dogs getting ready to leave the chute.
It was so amazing to me how many cars and trucks were out parked on the ice. There were hundreds. Someone was telling me that the ice on the river is 16 inches thick. I have heard that it can get as thick as 6 feet.
Cars and trucks get on and off the river by driving down/up the little beach. There was a bunch of overflow (water that flows over the ice) near the beach and many people were hesitant to drive through it. I still havent built up the courage to even think about driving out on the river.
These are the dogs of Jessica Klejka's team. She is a Senior who is running the K300 for the first time. She came in 3rd in the Junior Iditarod last year.
Here she is with her sled.
This is the sled of another racer. She has a handy dandy seat installed.
Bethel has a hovercraft company. I had never seen one until Friday night. So this is what a real life hovercraft looks like.
We saw these two little native kids totally decked out in furs. They were so cute.
Inside the hovercraft, they were serving free hotdogs! So we even got to go IN the hovercraft! I think maybe I'll try to take a ride this summer once it gets warm again.
Here I am with some of Jessica's dog team. Avery and I got to help them with the team. We got to be "handlers" for her team. We helped to hold on to the dogs so they dont go taking off too soon.
Here is the whole dog team getting hooked up.
Here's my friend Christy holding on to some of Jessica's dogs.
The preparations are almost done. Jessica (#10) getting some last minutes advice from her Dad.
Here she is giving her lead dogs some last minute love and encouragement.
I got a last minute pic with Jessica before she left. I was routing for her. She was so nervous. She's been training for awhile. She was doing really great about half way through the race, unfortunately she had to scratch.
Here is the view from the chute. They were just counting down to the start of Jessica's run. The race weekend looked like it was going to be so wonderful. There was nice powder, great warm temps, and an almost full moon. But then things changed...on Saturday morning, we woke up to record temps, 40 mile an hour wind, and rain, which melted the snow and turned it into slush.
This is a cool shot. All the dogs eyes are glowing, along with the reflective tape and headlamps. I felt so bad for the mushers running in those conditions.
Here we are standing on a frozen river, all bundled up.
The K300 racers got back tonight starting around 7pm. I was supposed to work the finish line from 12-4, but when we got there, they said that they didnt need anyone because none of the racers were due back yet. The race took longer than predicted because of the crappy weather conditions. You can check out all the race results at K300.org

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Record setting day!

Record Report

Statement as of 11:44 am EST on January 19, 2008

record event report
National Weather Service Bethel AK
740 am akst Sat Jan 19 2008

... New record high temperature for Bethel...

At 704 am AST Bethel set a new record high temperature of 42 degrees
surpassing the old record high of 39 degrees set in 1963.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Concert...Bethel Style

We went to the K300 benefit concert on Wednesday night. It was just a small gathering of about 200 or so people, all watching a couple of people sing and play strings instruments. It's not what most people would call a concert...more like, watching some musicians perform...which, I suppose, is the definition of a concert. It was held at the cultural center and admission was $10. The guy in this picture only performed 3 songs. He is a local artist.These two were the main course. They are a husband and wife team from Juneau. She used to live in Bethel years ago and was invited back to come play this concert. The played folk music with a guitar, violin, and mandolin mostly. They were pretty good and it was nice to get out and do something different for a change. I'm really excited about the K300...it starts tonight.
Taboo is starting to accept Bailey. He's cuddling and playing with her more, although, he still snaps at her occasionally too. Last night they played for hours with Taboo chasing her around the house. She's still small enough to hide under the coffee table, but not for long. She keeps slamming her head into it.
She is getting so big. I think she's probably tripled in size since we got her. She had her first round of shots and an ear mite infestation. The doctor gave us some stuff to put in her ears and now she's holds her left ear kinda funny.

Weather and sunlight update: It's 18 degrees right now. There's another blizzard warning, but it's for the coast. We are about 40 miles up river from the coast, so it doesnt look like we'll be getting any of it. I'm loving the above zero temps we're getting right now. It feels warm. We are up to 6hours 42minutes of daylight. Tomorrow will be 4minutes and 23seconds longer. The shortest day of the year was just about a month ago and we've already gained about an hour and a half of daylight. It's so nice!

Speaking of celestial bodies...the moon is up all the time now. Today it rose at 12:04pm(that's about noon, dont get confused) and wont set again until 8:20am tomorrow morning. About a week or so ago, it rose in the morning and didnt even have a set time. It's almost a full moon, at about 85%, so the mushers should have some light to see by this weekend while they run their races.

Lastest read...Teacher Man by Frank McCourt. An interesting memoir about what it's like to live the life of a teacher...always struggling, always trying to do more and better for your students, always hoping/wondering if you are making a difference. Would recommend.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Field trip

For those of you who don't know, I have a team system that I use in the classroom. Every student is on a team and they can win or lose points for their team depending upon their behavior and participation. At the end of the semester, I took the students who were on a winning team on a field trip. I love using the teams and the students really respond to it.

We went to the hospital first. Students got a tour of the ER first. They were shown all of the equipment used in an emergency.
We toured the radiology next. Students got to actually perform there own X-ray on a skeleton. The students got to see the process from beginning to end. We even scrunched up behind the little lead lined wall where the X-ray tech stands to avoid exposure to radiation. They were shown a bunch of different X-rays of broken bones, a nail through a finger, staples used to close the sternum after open heart surgery, and even a pace maker. It was really cool.
We also toured through the dental clinic. Here is a picture of the Junior High group that I took on Thursday. There were 16 of them.
The YKHC (Yukon Kuskokwim Health Coorporation) administration building is the only building in Bethel that has an elevator.
After the hospital tour, we went to the Fish and Wildlife Center.

We had pizza delivered to the Wildlife center for our lunch. Pizza is always loved by students.
Here are the students walking through the visitors center, learning about the fish and birds of the region.
Here they are checking out a huge table top relief map of the region.
Here we are all together. They got to earn extra credit by filling out a guide sheet with questions about the displays in the visitors center.
After that, we walked over to the college. They learned about some of the programs that the college offers to students their age, then they went on a scavenger hunt, and played career bingo. The next few pics are of my High School students doing all of the same activities. When the HS students visited the ER, one of the doctors came in and showed them some of the more complicated procedures that take place during emergencies.

At the college, the students learned alot about their collage options. In general, career options were more of a focus with the HS group. I think some of them might have actually sparked an interest in some of the career options. Both groups had a really great day and I think they learned a few things along the way!

One thing that was different about this field trip compared to others I've been on is that we walked from place to place in -26 degree weather! We all had on winter gear of course. Some people would think it would be crazy to go out in that cold of weather, but it's just a normal part of life here.