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

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Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Square Pepperoni?

Have you ever had school pizza? The kind with the little square pepperoni? (What's the plural for pepperoni? Pepperoni? Pepperonies?) I think that pizza is so good. Something about it. I dont know, but I like it. Maybe it has to do with childhood memories. We dont have it here (we dont even have a cafeteria and I didnt take that pic), but there is this one kind of frozen pizza called Red Baron that tastes alot like the old school pepperoni pizza with the square pepperini. Yum!

Monday, April 28, 2008

Aurora Borealis

The Northern Light absolutely refused to show themselves to me when I was in Kotzebue for 4 nights. I looked every night and did not see a glimpse. I have only seen the aurora once here in Bethel and even then, it was just a weak white shadow dancing on the northern horizon. April is a pretty good month for aurora, so I thought sure I'd be able to see it in Kotzebue, but it eludes me still. Unfortunately, I can not take credit for the amazing picture above. I got that from a google search.

I frequently look at the aurora forecast website to find night when I should keep my eye to the night sky. You can look at the aurora forecast by clicking here. The forecast has levels 0-9. The highest I've ever seen it get is to level 5. You can see aurora from Bethel sometimes at level 4 low on the horizon, but the night I saw it was a level 5. You can see from the forecast pictures below that Bethel is poorly placed for aurora viewing. We are off in just about the only part of the state where the aurora is not frequently visible. Go figure.

So, in the pictures below (taken from the aurora website). They dark green band is the place where you can see intense aurora directly above you in the sky. The farther out you get from that the farther toward the horizon and less intense the lights are. The single line represents the farthest out the aurora can be seen low on the horizon, but it rarely makes it that far. Even Anchorage gets a better view of aurora than Bethel, but they probably cant see it very well due to all the light pollution.

Minimum...level 0

Quiet...level 1
Low...level 2
Moderate...level 3
Active...level 4
High...level 5
High...Level 5 North America forecast...
About the level that I can see aurora in Bethel, is about when it can be seen in the lower 48 too!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

She's back!

We found Bailey five miles out of town at the airport thanks to some guys from Grant Aviation who saw her and called us.

Gone, Bailey, Gone!

Bailey and Taboo ran off yesterday morning. Taboo, of course, came back, but Bailey is still missing. This is the third time the dogs have run off in a week. On a daily basis, I asked Avery to chain the dogs up and he did not. I get that he didnt listen to me...that's pretty typical behavior for a 12 year old, but you would think after they run off (twice) that he would finally learn and start hooking them up. BUT NO!

So, Bailey is gone....

I put an email out on the email network that we have here. Most people in town are connected to this network and much gets accomplished through it. Here is the only response I've gotten so far...

Hi Alisha:

I hope you find your puppy, if you haven't already! This is a BAD week for this family of puppies. On Tuesday morning, Mindy (Bailey's 1/2 sister by the same father but different mother) got run over by a Crowley fuel truck. She died instantly. The truck driver was decent enough to call me to let me at work to let me know it happened. Apparently my oldest daughter had let the dogs out and went off to school. There was someone in the house, but she didn't even think to call the dogs back in.

Then, after I called her, she let the dogs in and when my younger daughter and her friends got home after school, they let the two older dogs out. Minutes after she let them out, Missy (Bailey's mom) got run over and killed. The person who ran over her didn't bother to stop and just kept on going. There's the young kids, trying to drag her off the road. My daughter called me all delirious...I was beyond nuts at that time because how can I lose TWO dogs in one day!

This week has been hell for me and poor Coby(my other dog), she's all by herself and she is depressed. I can't go anywhere without her following me and she keeps whining around. She NEVER wants to go out now and when she does, she just sits at the top of the steps. I'd better quit writing because I'm starting to get all heavy inside and teary eyed.

I am looking for another lab in the Anchorage Daily News, and my mother-in-law is looking around the valley for us. We need to get another lab soon for the kids and so Coby can have a partner. We have both dogs in the freezer and we'll be bringing them to Napaimute to bury them by our other two dogs - Lady that we had for 14 years and Trixie who died from licking anti-freeze.

Let me know how things turn out.

This was written by the lady who I got Bailey from. I have edited it to remove names and make it more clear to you, who do not know the family and dogs she's writing about.

Based on this, it's not looking good that we'll ever be seeing Bailey again.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Bad day!

Today was a bad day!

The dogs ran off in the morning for the third time in a week. Avery still wont put them on their chain out front. Bailey still hasnt come home yet. I'm so unbelievably frustrated with Avery that I cant even see straight anymore. I had an ear ache all day. I am contracted to attend an inservice day tomorrow, the supplies list for which we just received but email a couple hours ago. I am so behind on everything. My classroom needs packed. My house needs packed. My supplies for next year need ordered. Papers need graded. Lesson plans need written. I feel like I'm gonna crack.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Kuskokwim Ice Classic

The Kuskokwim River is still frozen, but not for long. The river ice is thick...I've heard anywhere from 2-10ft, depending on who you're talking to. Nevertheless, its bound to break up sometime. Breakup is a big deal because it marks the beginning of the subsistence fishing season/lifestyle and life at fish camp. Transportation becomes easier by boat and the fun of summer can begin. I'm looking forward to seeing the spectacle of the breakup. When the river ice breaks up and floats downstream or crashes on itself on the shore, everyone is there to watch. Here in Bethel, we have the Kuskokwin Ice Classic. This is where you try and guess on the month, day, and time of breakup. They put a metal contraption out on the river ice and hook it by a wire/cable to a clock inside of a little shed. When the river breaks up, the contraption falls into the river, which stops the clock. Above is a picture of the shed, with the river contraption in the distance. Below is a picture of the river contraption with the shed in the distance.
The person who comes the closest without going over wins half of all the money collected through ticket sales. The other half of the money goes to various fundraisers, such as the school library and special olympics. Tickets were sold in books of five. They give you a little calendar that shows the dates (but not times) of the river breakup for the past decade or so. I couldnt resist...after all, there are not many places in the world where you can bet on the breakup of a river? So, I bought two tickets books. The first set of five, I just looked at the calendar and guessed...went with my gut...picked whatever popped into my head. Here are the dates I choose...
April 20, 12pm
May 3, 4:34pm
May 4, 10:52pm
May 8, 2:43pm
May 13, 9:53pm.
Then, I kept hearing people say it was going to be a late breakup because it's been a cold winter. Being the scientist that I am, I decided to do some research and found out that, sure enough, it's been a colder than usual winter. So, I bought another book of five tickets and picked these dates...
May 6, 10:52am
May 9, 3:26pm
May 16, 9:19pm
May 21, 5:42am
May 26, 3:13am

Last year's winner took home $8600!

All of this from a girl who grew up in Vegas, but has probably gambled away less than $100 in here lifetime...wish me luck!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Crossin' em off the list!

There are so many things that I want to talk about on the blog that I have taken up making a list of blog topics. Since I have not found time to blog much lately, that list is getting pretty long. This post is dedicated to crossing things off my list.

Spring has sprung! It has been above 40 everyday for a week now and Bethel has become one big mud puddle(although it's snowing right now). I havent left the house without wearing my mud boots for days. The land on three sides of our house is like a lake and the driveway is a foot deep with the grossest, goopiest mud ever. I have had to turn around and go a different way several times when driving around town because the road is either so deep with mud that I'm afraid I'll get stuck or there's a huge trench down the middle of the road where the melt water has washed a 5 foot canyon into the road. It's treacherous. I'm more worried about getting stuck in the mud than I ever was of getting stuck in the snow. I'll post pics soon!

We saw two ducks out Avery's bedroom window the other day...another sure sign of spring. The tundra is showing itself through the snow in huge clumps now and the trees are starting to bud. Everybody says that we will miss the best time in Bethel when we leave for the summer.

The days are officially 15hours34minutes long now, but the amount of visible light is 17hours19minutes, so it's basically light out from about 6am until midnight now. The really strange thing about the sunlight here is that it doesnt seem to range much in intensity. The sun at 7am, noon, 5pm, and 11pm is about the same. Bedtime seems to keep getting later and later every night. AND we're still gaining 5minutes33seconds each day

I bought my first kaspeq at the Cama-i festival. A kaspeq is a traditional native shirt worn mostly by women, but traditionally by men too. The most obvious characteristic of the kaspeq is the big pocket on the front. They are handmade and have specific patterns depending on the tribe, region, or family of the person making it. The people from each tribe/region/family have a specific pattern for the pocket of the kaspeq. We learned in our culture class that people from different region can recognize where a person is from just by looking at their kaspeq. The stitching on the trim of the pockets, hood, and sleeve is also specific to the family, kind of like a family crest. To see pics of many different kinds of kaspeq's, go back and look at the pics that I posted from Cama-i.

Latest read...
Mutant Message Down Under by Marlo Morgan. This book is about a woman's experience with a group of Aboriginal people in Australia. She is taken on a "walkabout" with the Real People and shown their ways and secrets. During her three months in the Outback, she witnesses things that are hard for most of us to imagine...the use of pure energy to heal, telepathic communication, and complete willingness to give yourself over to the will of the world. It is an extremely interesting perspective on the world, our place in it, and how everything we do has an impact. This book makes a powerful statement about what we are, what we could be, spirituality, energy, and how we should treat our planet. We are a bundle of energy and we can use that energy in many ways. We have been mutated from our original purpose; from our original life style. Great read, but only for the open-minded!
Avery sleeps with his eyes open...it's really freaky! The picture says it all. He is weirder than words can describe.Bailey is so big! She's been a really great dog. She's crazy as can be. She's alot of fun and alot of work.
Spring parent teacher conferences were back in March. I really like that there we have conferences in Spring too. It's really important to be able to talk to parents during second semester, not just first semester. Kids start to get antsy during the second semester...hard to imagine, right? So, the numbers are in...about 50% of parents showed up to represent their kids. About the same amount as for fall conferences, but this time their were no bribes. This is a great number for parent teacher conferences, I've never had this many parents for conferences in the Lower 48.

Ok, that's 5 topics crossed off my list...

Monday, April 21, 2008

Region Music Festival Day 5

Sunday morning we slept in as late as we could stand to on the hard floor of classroom 331 in Kotzebue. Reluctantly, we woke, showered, and packed all of our belongings. We boarded our flight out of Kotzebue at around 2pm and said goodbye to the little arctic village.

After a brief stop in Anchorage, where an amazing friend of mine brought me two bags of dog food to take home with me (thanks Ryan), we headed back to Bethel. We got to town on the evening jet at around 9pm. After an entire week, I'm still playing catch up...with lesson planning, laundry, sleep, grading papers, blogging...everything. The end of the year is swiftly approaching and there is so much to do in so little time.

I had a great time at the music festival. It was great to see Kotzebue, to spend time getting to know the 13 girls I chaperoned, to gain a reinvigorated appreciation for vocal and instrumental music, to get out of Bethel for awhile, to become friends with our music teacher, and to see the enthusiasm of the students for their musical endeavors. I'm looking forward to the trip to Anchorage in a couple of weeks with the 4 kids that made it to state.

With the recent snow machine trip, visit to Kotzebue, and invitations from people to do things; I finally feel like I'm starting to experience some of what Alaska has to offer. And, while I'm very much looking forward to going to Ohio for the summer...I'm also starting to look forward to coming back to Bethel for another year of life in bush Alaska.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Honor band final performance

Here are some videos of the songs performed by the honor band, choir, and mass band on the final evening of the region music festival. This was a public performance and well attended by the residents of Kotzebue. It was fun for me to watch the kids learn and grow as musicians over the course of the festival. I know the video is grainy, but it doesnt really matter because you just need to listen to it anyway. Even the sound is not as good as it was in person, but you can still get an appreciation for how well these students did.

The honor band performing at the final performance. I believe this is part of the song "Tribute to Count Basie".

Mass choir final performance

Here is the mass choir performing one of the four songs that they did, "Let My People Go". This song was my favorite.

Mass band final performance

Here is the mass band in their final performance on Saturday night. This group was the most improved group. In fact, when I first heard them practice, I thought to myself, "this is going to be a disaster". It worked out great though. This is part of their performance of the song, "The Great Locomotive Chase".

Region Music Festival Day 4

Saturday, April 12th. The last day of the festival. The kids were all in practice again all day with their groups, either honor band, mass band, or choir. The practiced hard all day. It was broken up with breakout sessions for each type of instrument. Here are the choir girls practicing more. I listened in quite a bit to all of the groups and was impressed by the obvious progress that had been made in only a day. The directors for each group did a fantastic job of bringing kids from each individual school together to form a complete sound. The choir gave me chills with their voices on several occasions.
In the afternoon, students that made it to state for their solos and ensembles participated in the command performance. This performance features the best of the best in the festival and the participants perform in front of the rest of the festival kids. 4 of our students performed in this command performance.

While the kids were working with their groups to perfect their pieces for the evening public performance, I had plenty of time to roam around. I kept seeing this poster in various places around the school and town. Remember, you can click on the picture to make it bigger.
This was a neat piece of art hanging in an otherwise empty space in the hallway where our room was. I thought it was a neat little project. It's just one more example of how fish are the livelihood of the people.
After dinner, the kids had some down time before they had to get ready for dress rehearsal, but not much. I was again amazed by the kids and how seriously they took their musical talents. They hurried to get showered and dressed up to look their best for the grand finale of the festival. While they were busy prepping, I snapped a few shots of the scene. Here are some of the better ones...

Before the final performance, I was able to round everyone up for a group shot. Bethel had the most students for the festival and they were a well behaved, well rehearsed, musically gifted bunch who got positive comments from just about everyone.
And finally, the major production...mass band performed first. It was amazing to here how much they improved in only two days of hard work.
Choir was next. They sounded sublime! I had goose bumps throughout just about the entire performance. They sang four songs that most of them had never even hear two days before, but sounded as though they'd been practicing for months.
Honor band performed next. They really sounded superb. They were the biggest group and the most talented because of the fact that they had to audition to get a seat.

The combined mass band and honor band performed a song together and then the Alaska Brass showed everyone up with their musical talents. I will post some video of the performances as soon as I get over to school.

Region Music Festival Day 3

All day Friday, the students were rehearsing with the honor band, mass band, and mass choir. All of the students from all of the schools got together to form these groups. Each group worked with a director to prepare for a concert that would be held on Saturday night. Students had to audition to get a seat on the honor band.Any student could be in the mass band. They had a wide spread of ability ranges. Some kids could hardly get a note out while other could have easily made it into honor band.
All the choir students were in the same group, just called the choir. Their director was the same person who judged their solos and ensembles the previous day. She worked so hard with them and they really liked here alot. About half of my girls were in choir and the other half in band. I spent alot of time watching the choir practice. For some reason, I am drawn to voices more than instruments. Maybe its the human connection, I dont know, but I was really looking forward to hearing this group perform on Saturday night.
After lunch, when the kids went back to rehearsals, a couple of the other chaperones and I left the school for a walk. Kotzebue has an amazing school. The high school and elementary were remodeled about 4/5 years ago. They connected the two buildings with a brand new junior high. The is the high school side.
We walked down to the Kotzebue Art Center to see some native arts and crafts.
Here are statues made of bone and ivory depicting people ice fishing. The one with the spear might be seal hunting.
This is made of bone and antler. This is most likely meant to look like a caribou.
Here is an eskimo person made from the hoof of an animal. Either a moose or caribou.
Another face made of bone.
Many faces made of bone, feather, and hair from various animals.
I think these are made of ivory, driftwood, and antler. The one to the right is a beluga whale. I had the opportunity to try beluga when I first moved here. It is very rubbery in texture and takes a long time to chew.
Here are some baskets woven from native grasses.
Some more statues of people manaqing (ice fishing). Also some statues of the fish themselves and a painting of a goose and picture of musk oxen in the background. The are the things that native people hold dear. These are the life support of the people....the animals. The fish, birds, large game...it keeps them alive and provides them with warmth.
I still cant figure out how to get pictures to rotate on the blog. These faces are made from the bladders of animals (i think) and hair from various animals.
More eskimo faces. The people of this region are Inupiaq indians, not Yup'ik like the native people here in Bethel. There crafts are a bit different.
On the way back to the school, we walked down Shore Ave again. The day was much clearer and you could see the hills on the shore across the sea. These twigs stuck into the ice mark the trail over to the other side. You can see that the trail is pretty heavily worn.
That night, the kids went back to rehearsals again and had an opportunity to chat with the Alaska Brass guys. After a day of continuous practice, everyone was pretty tired. 11pm in your rooms and midnight lights out times were enforced by the chaperones from all the schools, but I couldnt sleep. My body was sick of sleeping on the hard floor already. I stayed up reading and occasionally peeking out the windows for any glimpse of the aurora. Still nothing.

All in all the atmosphere is contagious. People irrupting in song, spontaneous jam sessions in the hallways, shining instruments abound, sheet music scattered here and there...it makes me wish I would have never quit playing my sax when I was in high school. I going to put learn how to play an instrument on my life's list of things to do.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Region Music Festival Day 2

On Thursday, we woke up bright and early because we had to move out of our classrooms so that they could be used for classes that day. We ate breakfast at the school and it was such a treat to eat in a good school cafeteria (we dont have a cafeteria, our kids just eat from the concession stand and sit whereever they can find a spot). The food served to us all weekend by the school was surprisingly good.

Throughout the day, many of the kids practiced their solos and ensembles for the judging that took place after lunch at about 1pm. While all of the kids from the other schools went in to be judged one at a time, our group all went in together. There were 24 of us squeezed into this small classroom with the adjudicator (music judge). There were 3 vocal solos, 1 vocal duet, 2 piano solos, and a couple of clarinet solos. The adjudicator was extremely pleased with the talent of several of the kids and gave them great advice. 4 students received the superior rating and will be traveling to the state music competition in Anchorage in a few weeks (I get to chaperone that trip too). I was extremely impressed with the talent of some of these kids.

Later, the mass band and mass choir had a chance to practice for the public performance later that night. Here is the Bethel mass band practicing.
Since all of our stuff was in the gym, we spent alot of time just sitting around listening to the bands and choirs practice. Here are a couple of the girls killing time in the gym. Both of these two are going to state for their vocal solos. They have amazing voices!

In the evening, all of the bands and choirs from each school attending performed for the public. Here is a group of Bethel kids all dressed up out in the hall waiting for the concert to start. I have to admit that our groups band sounded the best. I think that most of the reason is because we had the most members in our band and, therefore, the most complete sound. To hear the Bethel mass band performance, read the post below titled Beauty and the Beast, or click here. Our choir sounded good, as did several of the other schools. Nome, Dillingham, and Unalakleet also had pretty good choirs, although none of the were more than 7 kids. To hear the mass choir performance, read the post below titled Ordinary Miracle, or click here. I dont have any still pics because I was recording instead.
After the concert was over, I had my first chance to go for a walk around Kotzebue. A few of the kids and I went for a walk down to the sea and to the store. Here are the kids on the swings in the school playground. It was really nice to get to know some of the kids outside of the regular school setting and to get to know some kids that I wouldn't normally get to know because I dont have them in class. This picture was taken about about 9pm. Notice how bright it still is out. It didnt get dark in Kotzebue until almost midnight.
We walked down to the place where the land meets the sea. Except for the slight slope of the beach, you really couldnt tell the difference. It was all covered in white with snow machine tracks in it. This picture was taken on the beach where we found a crack in the snow/ice pack. The crack was long and at least 10 feet deep in places. I wonder what caused it.
It was pretty cold in Kotz, about 0 degrees, compared to about 15 in Bethel that same day, but sunny and clear with no wind. This picture was taken at about 9:30pm. See the two rainbows on each side of the sun? I learned from the kids that these are called sun dogs. I also learned that in Yup'ik, they are called agukdemalimati(spelling?), or the sun's mittens. When the sun puts on it's mittens, that means that it will be colder the next day. This picture was taken from the road...you can see the slant of the beach and then the flat ice of the sea. There is also a snowmachine path leading down to the sea ice. Also, there are orange fences set up on the ice for a dog sled race that had taken place the previous weekend, the Kobuk 440. I was told that the fences are also used for snowmachine races.

About half way into our walk, we were feeling kind of cold, so we went into this restaurant for a snack.
Kotzebue really reminded me alot of Bethel. It really has the same look and feel to it. This is a typical scene and one that you could see just as easily in Bethel.
Another typical scene...snowmachines parked outside of a wood sided house with antler decor and a snow drift halfway up the window. Classic!
These antlers were mounted on the roof of another house that we saw.
This is a view of Shore Ave. in Kotzebue, Alaska. Gives a new meaning to ocean front property. Did I ever mention that exterior paint is not necessarily a given here as it is in the lower 48?
I saw many of these huts built for trash around the village. I wonder WHAT it is that gets into the trash?
We walked through the middle of this massive cemetery in the middle of town. The cemetery was several blocks long and had a park with a playground right next to it.
I learned that the people here sometimes build these little huts over graves to try to prevent the spirits from escaping. These pictures were taken at around 11pm and it is just starting to get dark.
Gas is about a dollar more expensive than in Bethel. I heard it is around 7 dollars out in the villages surrounding Kotzebue. I have also heard rumors that gas around Bethel will get up to over 7 dollars when the first fuel barge comes in. OUCH!
After our little walk, we stopped by the store and went back to the high school. Everybody was pretty riled up that night and we didnt manage to get to bed until almost 3am. Everyone was in their rooms at midnight, but the girls stayed up chatting well into the night. They were really a good group of girls and I had alot of fun with them. The best part was that we were able to have fun, but they still behaved, worked hard on their music, and were respectful.