Well we have survived our first two weeks of school...barely. Actually, we’re doing quite well despite certain circumstances. Kaitlyn still doesn’t have books for her Environmental Science class and I have a college textbook for Alaska History (definitely not made for high school students). On Monday, the sun came out and it was a beautiful day. It’s interesting how after long periods of overcast the sun isn’t as welcome as one might think. The sun feels really bright and takes some time to get used to. Go figure. Anyhow, we both went with some other teachers for a ride along the beach and had a bonfire between First and Second Creeks. It was Kaitlyn’s first opportunity to wear her new “Xtra-Tuffs” (rubber boots) outside, and she took the opportunity to trounce through the mud. She said that she went out as far as she could, until she felt like if she went any further that she’d lose her boots. The mud was very soupy, and I’m somewhat surprised that she didn’t sink sooner.
It is always fun when we get the opportunity to get on the four-wheelers and just ride. I (Tim) put in my headphones and just listened to music as I rode along the beach. I must say, I resisted some big urges to play around like a teenager when driving the four-wheeler without anyone on with me. I don’t know what it is, but driving the four-wheeler without any purpose other than getting from point A to point B instills some type of emotion that makes me want to be goofy and make stupid decisions. :) While we were there, we rode our four-wheelers up a “big” hill and looked over the bay. I think Kaitlyn really liked “muscling’ her four-wheeler over the hill. We had to follow deep tracks in the mud all the way up the hill. The tundra is just to soft, and incredibly bumpy, to drive on. We probably live about one mile from the beach, but that’s driving over the tundra, which we can’t quite do yet. So, the only other alternative is to drive the three miles to town and then the other 3-5 miles out along the beach to get to First Creek (where we are in this picture). We’ve found out a few items that are necessary when riding a four-wheeler in Togiak. First, sunglasses. Actually, you need glasses with clear and dark lenses. It’s crazy how some clear shop goggles really helps cut down the wind in your eyes. Second, gloves. Those fingers get cold real fast. Third, rain gear from head to toe, literally. It rains almost everyday and when you main source of transportation has been sitting outside, exposed to the elements, you begin to think how not to get your rear-end all wet.
The rest of our week is truly a little mundane. We got up, really early, went to school and stayed until really late. This upcoming Monday (tomorrow) we have an all-day inservice. It’s mostly geared toward elementary and middle school teachers, which means we’ll have more time to lesson plan. Let me tell you, we definitely need it. It really stinks planning one day before you teach, because you don’t really get good lesson material, just quick planning and move onto the next subject. Kaitlyn’s and my plan this week is to have all of next week planned out before school starts on Tuesday so that we can get a week ahead of students. This will make our lives so much nicer.
Tim and I have survived our first week of school. I have to say, it was better than my first first week of school, but I was definitely ready for the weekend.
Monday was inservice. Tim and I were at the school from 6:30 am to 10:00 pm, trying to get ready for our classes. We found out at 1:00 pm that the student computers weren’t ready to be handed out and wouldn’t be for another week or two. We had been encouraged to run paperless classrooms, but we would have to make due for now. Unfortunately we can’t ask the students to go out and buy school supplies and the school as virtually no binders. I managed to find 59 5-subject notebooks. We have 58 high school students...that is until the counsellor informed me we got 10 new students that day. Needless to say, the organization and supplies have been a bit of a road block this week, but we have managed.
Each day this week, we have arrived at school around 6:30 am and left between 7:00 pm and 10:00 pm. I think that means we’ve already put in our hours for next week. It takes a long time to plan for 6 different classes, especially when most of them are classes you’re not familiar with. My textbooks for two of my classes have not arrived, in fact, I don’t know if there are any coming and neither does the principal.
Even though it has been crazy, it has been fun to meet and get to know the kids. There are a lot of things I’ve been told about how they are different from other kids in the lower 48 (which they are in some ways), but they are just regular kids. For the most part, they are well behaved. A lot of them are very quiet. They are struggling with 100 minutes classes (they are used to 50), but then again who wouldn’t struggle with 100 minute classes. Overall, they’re good kids. I hope that I can manage my billion lesson plans well enough to give them interesting, productive classes.
Friday night we had about 8 teachers over to our house. We taught them how to play Bang. Robin was especially excited that she got to be the sheriff. She asked if we could pin the card to her shirt and then demanded that we take a picture. Heather, well Heather was the first one to be killed.
Saturday was a needed break. We finally got some pictures put up on the wall, so I guess you could say that we finally are moved in. We spent the evening trying to lesson plan for the following week. (I’m almost ready for Monday).
Today after church, I decided to make birthday brownies for Heather. The day she moved to Togiak was her birthday. Tim and I didn’t find out until later. We found her at the school, sang her happy birthday, gave her brownies and a card, and ate the brownies. Not a bad ending to the day.
Well, the whirlwind is about to begin again. Wish us luck as we start a new week. We’ll need it!
An evening in Dillingham.
This past week we spent in Dillingham for a 10 day teacher inservice. Our first two days were “New Teacher Inservice”. We all got new Apple Macbooks and logins for the district networks and grading systems. On Saturday we received a full day of Yup’ik cultural training. We were taught the Yup’ik alphabet and a few words. It was really interesting and has given the both of us a new desire to learn a new language.
On Sunday, we went to church with the Dillingham Branch. Their branch is really quite small. There are approximately 15 people there. The Sunday School instructor wasn’t there, so we only had two hours of church instead of the whole three. Afterwards, they had a potluck where Slow roasted moose was served. It was awesome. I really liked two hour church followed by good food, we should suggest that system to Salt Lake and see if it catches on!
Monday - Friday we attended district-wide inservice. We had lots of time learning about our computers and how to use them in the classroom. For those who may not know, we teach in a district where every student has a personal laptop. We both are really excited about the laptops. There is so much stuff we can do with them. We were quite hesitant at first, because we thought they would hinder the learning process and act as a disturbance, but we were showed ways to limit them as distractions, which made us feel better.
We got back into Togiak on Friday evening. Saturday was a work day and Monday will be another work day. Classes begin at 9:00 on Tuesday morning. Neither of us feel prepared and definitely rushed. We have a lot to do and not enough time to do it. I’m going to call it quits on this post for this reason.
Robin, Heather, and Kaitlyn enjoying the evening in Dillingham.
Other than the little time we have to prepare for school, we are in high spirits and feel great about this year. Tim is the new Wrestling Coach and Student Government Advisor. Kaitlyn is the Battle of the Books
Bristol Inn: Our home in Dillingham during inservice.
MONDAY morning Tim and I looked everywhere for my 4-wheeler key. Somehow I managed to lose the only key we had the second day we were in town. We couldn’t find it anywhere. We finally gave up and both rode into the village on Tim’s 4-wheeler.
We stopped at the village library. It is run by Dale, one of the teachers. It is in an old building. When you walk in the door you are faced with bookcases to your immediate left, right, and front. After you slide your way out from between the bookcases, you can see Dale’s smiling face. Luckily, the library has free internet access. Although if you go later in the day it is really slow because all the bandwidth has already been used (I’m just repeating what I’ve heard, but I don’t know what that means exactly).
After using the internet, we stopped by the post office to see if we had any packages. We had a suitcase and two boxes. Unfortunately you can’t fit two people, two boxes, and a suitcase on one 4-wheeler very well. Luckily, Jeremy, another teacher, was in town and agreed to take a box for us. We really need to take a picture of some of our post-office-4-wheeler-rides.
After lunch, we headed to the school. I finally got some keys to the cupboards in my room. There are 102 cupboards and drawers in my room. I know this because each and every one has a separate key. It only took me 45 minutes to unlock them all. Needless to say, they are staying unlocked.
Tim and I worked for a few hours setting up our rooms and going through inventory before calling it a night. I made pizza for dinner. Pizza is not nearly as good without a pizza stone. I am wishing we would have brought ours with us.
TUESDAY morning we headed back to the school to do some more work in our rooms. At noon we took a break to go to town. We took Heather Jeffers with us, the MS language arts teacher. She hadn’t been into the village yet and hadn’t really ridden her 4-wheeler either. We showed her where to get gas and air. We took her to both the stores and then she helped us bring boxes back, because, once again, we had more than you can fit on one 4-wheeler with 2 people.
I had the intention of returning to school and working for the rest of the day, but that never happened. Heather came to our house for lunch and then we stopped by her house on our “way to the school”, to meet her roommate Robin Jones. Robin is the school counsellor. We ended up talking forever and then accepting an invitation to eat dinner at Dale’s house. All of the teachers who were in town (5 of us) and Jeremy’s fiance and baby went to dinner. It was fun. Dale let us have his 2’ x 3’ mirror from his apartment. That was an interesting 4-wheeler ride: 3 miles up a hill, with a 6 square foot, heavy mirror that is really good at catching the wind. We made it back alive with an unbroken mirror though.
WEDNESDAY we once again started off the day in our classrooms and once again took our lunch break and trip to the post office. This time we weren’t lucky enough to have a friend with us, so we had to make two trips to the post office to bring back our boxes. I had to wash all the contents of one of the boxes because the mapeline flavoring spilled. Luckily it was in a plastic bag, so it didn’t get all over, but the smell permeated everything.
We worked in our classrooms for a couple more hours that evening and then Robin invited us to go on a 4-wheeler ride with the rest of the teachers. This is where our blog get its name sake. I really wanted to ride my own 4-wheeler. We had heard from one of the natives in the village that once he had lost his key at the creek and started his 4-wheeler with a safety pin. So I persuaded Tim to try it out. Unfortunately, we only had tiny safety pins at home. We tried various things: paperclips, sewing needles, and pushpins. The paperclips were not sharp enough, the sewing needles weren’t strong enough, but the pushpins were just right. I now just carry a pushpin with me; when I want to start my 4-wheeler I stick it in the ignition wires and I’m in luck! I love riding my own 4-wheeler.
We rode out to the dump (I know, what a great destination) and then along the beach for a long way. We saw all sorts of things washed up, halibut, eels, and shark heads. We also saw some bear tracks and scat.
THURSDAY I was getting a little worried about not having enough work done in my classroom. I headed over and tried to finish doing an inventory of everything so I knew what I needed to order. Luckily I finished that by early afternoon and of course we took our usually lunch/post office break.
Tim, Heather, and I flew out for Dillingham that evening for teacher inservice. When our pilot found out we were from Rexburg, he started telling us about this flight program there, AeroTechnicians, and the man who ran it, Eldon, and his son who taught at the college and also flew. Tim and I got a laugh out of that one. I just shrugged my shoulders and said, oh you mean Lewis, that’s my dad. Heather couldn’t believe we ran into another person we had connections with. She asked if we were going to keep running into old friends the entire trip. At the end of the flight, our pilot mentioned he was from Willow and Tim asked if he knew any Wadmans (Tim’s cousins). Turns out that he had been good friends with them and still exchanges christmas cards. What a small world.
FRIDAY we started new teacher inservice at 7:30 am. There are about 25 new teachers in our district. I believe all of them, with the exception of maybe one, have 3 or less years of teaching experience. Many are first year teachers. We received our laptops and did some technology training. We also were given a presentation of how to survive rural alaska. We were told that we weren’t going to be bothered by bears unless we wore a bacon suit and a spam hat, so to stop worrying. We were repeatedly told to “keep your happy place happy”. The presenter said, if you like oreos, spend the money and buy 20 packages of oreos. Comfort levels are low in the village and it gets lonely, so indulge in the comforts you can.
Friday evening we went shopping for rain gear. Unfortunately, all the stores we went to are running very low on everything. I did buy xtratuf boots though. I think there’s a rule that if you truly want to be Alaskan you have to wear xtratuf boots. I have been wanting them for 4 years now, so it was a bit exciting to actually buy some.
SATURDAY we went back for more inservice. This time our presenters were 4 native ladies in the district. They talked about culture and gave us some tips in how to behave and how to impress the kids. They taught us the 18 letter Yup’ik alphabet and about 100 words. Yeah, I might remember one. It was hard. They have a lot of q’s and r’s and l’s that are really hard to pronounce. I’m trying to remember just a couple words, but I’m not sure I’ll be successful. We did find out what the kids had been calling us though: kassaqs. It means outsider. Anyone who is not from the village is referred to as a kassaq.
SUNDAY, today, we slept in and then went to church. The branch president came and picked us up. The church building is fairly small, similar in size to Skagway’s building. On the way to church the branch president asked us if we’d be willing to speak. He clarified that he just would like us to tell a little about ourselves and bear our testimonies. That was pretty doable. I was worried for a few seconds though. There were probably 15-20 people at church: 5 of them were visitors. The speakers were both youth speakers and one of the prayers was said by a youth as well. The Sunday school teacher wasn’t there, so we just went straight into our third meeting. Immediately following church, we had a potluck dinner: smoked moose and awesome funeral potatoes. Tim and I really were treated well. We had a ride to and from church and we were fed.
I am really appreciating being a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Aside from the spiritual blessings, it is great have a worldwide network of friends. Everywhere we’ve gone, we’ve meet friendly, helpful faces. We have been spending a lot of time with Heather and she has commented many times on how cool it is that we have friends everywhere and she has been a bit astounded that we find friends so easily. It is great to know that we have people close that will watch out for us and that we will be able to watch out for other people as well.
Oh boy! Where to even start. Since our last post we’ve had a bajillion things happen. I think, for sanity’s sake, that we’ll organize this post by day instead of events, because there were a lot of events. MONDAY- We went shopping again. This time for Walmart items. We spent another three(ish) hours in the Eagle River Super Walmart and walked away with another overflowing cart worth of stuff. We had so much that we were barely able to get it all into our car. Once we got home we organized our stuff and began packing it into large plastic bins, the same type we used to pack for the storage unit. We packed six big tubs with 70 pounds of stuff each, taped them all up and took them to the Post Office. We were pleasantly surprised to find out that mailing items in Alaska is incredibly cheaper than mailing items from Idaho, or as we Alaskans would say “down south”. A 70 pound box mailed through the Post Office in Idaho cost $69. A similar box mailed here only costs $22. Incredible, I know! So, we got 5 of the six bins and mailed them that day. We then went back and began to get other items ready to mail. We had been told that it was wiser to mail your suitcases and take cooler’s full of meat as our checked baggage instead. So, we did just that. We got a few of our bags and got them ready to mail, meaning, we had to tape an address to the front, which surprisingly isn’t very easy to do. We were also told that it’s wiser to tape big bulky items together and mail them without a box. This was strange to us, but we decided to follow the recommendations and tape our toilet paper, kleenex, and various other boxes together until it resembled a shape similar to a square.
At this point it was late in the afternoon and we went o Sam’s Club to buy all of our frozen items. The lady in charge at the place we were staying was nice enough to make some room in her freezer for our items, so we decided to buy them early enough to give them time to freeze. We had everything all planned out. We were going to fly on two different airlines to get into Togiak, and the smaller of the two (Pen Air) only allowed two checked bags weighing a max of 50 lbs. a piece and a carry on of no more than 14 lbs. So, we needed to be strategic. When we went to Sam’s to buy meat we were calculating everything as we put it in our basket so that we wouldn’t go over our 150 lb. allotment. We didn’t do so well. We got in there and realized that we would want this item and that item also. We quickly went over our limit and had to figure out what to do, but that could wait for another day.
We then took our left over bin and suitcases to the Anchorage Post Office next to the airport (because it is open 24 hours) and the postal worker at the counter informed us that we were 4 oz and 8 oz over weight for our boxes. This couldn’t have come at a worse time because there was a long line forming and only one counter dude. We speedily tore our box apart until we could get into it and take out an item or two until they were under weight. Talk about stress. There’s not a whole lot worse than an angry line of postal customers waiting for you to struggle into your box and remove something because you loaded it too full. Once that problem was corrected the counter guy informed us that our “taped together packages” weren’t done right and could not be mailed. Suffice it to say, we left that Post Office with haste once we were finished! At this point it was around 9:00 pm and we were exhausted.
TUESDAY - We planned on traveling to Kenai and Homer where Tim’s grandfather has a piece of ground still. We wanted to find it and take a picture. When we awoke that day, we realized that we wanted more time to simply relax and tie up a few loose ends and not spend all day driving. So, instead we went to REI and bought a rain jacket and some shoes for Tim. It took a while because Tim has exceptionally wide feet and it was hard to find him something that fit. Finally, we found something in both the coat and shoe department. On our way out we had a fun experience, we met Vivienne, one of Kaitlyn’s co-workers from her part time job in Skagway two years ago. We chatted a little, then parted ways. Not more than 30 seconds went by when Tim said that he saw a girl that looked like one of his classmates from high school. Sure enough, it was Megan Vangstad a girl in his class. She was up visiting an aunt who lives in Anchorage. Seeing old acquaintances in the REI was quite fun for both of us.
We went home, relaxed a little, and made plans to see a movie. We were staying in Eagle River and there was a new huge theater on Muldoon (East Anchorage) where we went and saw The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. It was a great movie.
WEDNESDAY - At 9:00 am we went on a Segway Tour of Anchorage. Many of you may not know, but we almost started a Segway Tour in Skagway a year ago with our good friend Warren and his wife. Plans fell through, but we’ve been super interested in it since. It was a lot of fun.
After our tour we packaged up the last box (which was over flow freezer items) and one more suit case and mailed them to our selves. We bought lunch and drove to the airport. At the airport we both were “randomly” selected for full screening. (I think it was because we looked so friendly!) It was very thorough and took about 20 minutes. We had plenty of time so it didn’t really bother us. Once that was over we used our two free passes to the Alaska Airlines Boardroom, which is a room where those who pay the $75 annual fee can relax in comfy chairs and have all the alcohol, soda, goodies, and free wifi they want while they wait for their flights. We each received a free coupon when we signed up for the Alaska Airlines Credit Card. It was a one time pass, but it was nice.
When it was time we made our way down to our gate and boarded the plane. We had a 737 with about 20 people on it. Not very full. Our flight would take us to Dillingham where we would switch airlines to Pen Air and fly the rest of the way to Togiak. The weather had been less than stellar the last few days, so as we approached Dillingham we had trouble landing. The pilot made two attempts to land and was unsuccessful, so he turned the plane around and took us back to Anchorage. This made things interesting. We didn’t have a place to stay and three coolers with thawing meat inside. When we got back to Anchorage we couldn’t find a hotel that had a vacancy and freezer space. So we decided to call our newly made friends from the branch, the Petersen’s. They had offered to let us stay at their house when we came through..now to see if they were serious. They were willing to pick us up and let us stay at their house for the night (with the 7 other people that were staying there). Unfortunately, they didn’t have freezer space. However, Bro Petersen told us we could use the airport storage. Who knew the Anchorage airport as a freezer for just this situation. It cost us $45 to store all of our food there, but it was better than it all going to waste.
Brother Petersen made us a delicious salmon dinner, while his son, Josh, gave Kaitlyn a very detailed and in depth lesson on nerf guns. If Kaitlyn is every in a nerf war, she will be prepared.
THURSDAY-We had a relaxing morning at the Petersen’s. Kaitlyn played the piano; Tim watched WWII movies (to prepare for school). Finally, it was time to catch our flight...again. The weather really didn’t look that much better, but this time we made it. The airport in Dillingham was packed. I have never seen an airport so crowded. Our superintendent, Jack Foster, was there waiting for us with Southwest Region School District hats. He helped us get our bags, get checked in to PenAir, and then he showed us around Dillingham while we waited for our flight.
We took a Cessna Caravan to Togiak. There were about 5 other passengers on the plan. The pilot was Tim’s old wrestling partner from high school, Steve Elliot! Tim and Steve and fun doing a very quick catch up and Steve invited us over for dinner next time we’re in Dillingham.
Sam Gosuk, our vice principal and a native of Togiak, picked us up and showed us around. It was very rainy and everyone was out fishing for red salmon. Kaitlyn was quite amused when Sam used what he called his “eskimo tool” (an old pop can), to start the truck. Sam took us to the school to pick up our boxes. Unfortunately there were only about 4 boxes waiting for us. We met Jeff Goodrich, the other member in our village. We quickly found out that he was only there for a couple of days, packing up to move to Ekwok. He did have us over for a dinner though. It was Kaitlyn’s first time having moose.
Our apartment is very nice. Although, Kaitlyn was not happy to see that it was left dirty, especially after spending two days deep cleaning our old house before leaving. The previous resident left a lot of items and hadn’t done so much as wipe the counters or wipe out the refrigerator.
FRIDAY-Friday was also rainy. We got our few boxes unpacked and the kitchen cleaned. We also found our 4-wheelers and picked up some more boxes from the post office. Sam went fishing and gave us some of his fresh red salmon. Luckily, he cut the salmon for us. I think he could read the I-have-no-idea-what-to-do-with-this look in our eyes when he handed us an entire fish. We came home and tried our hand at frying salmon for the first time. Note: Medium is too high for frying salmon, try Medium-Low.
SATURDAY-It finally stopped raining! Which is good, because we don’t have our rain gear yet, and we needed to drive our 4-wheelers. We went to Jeff’s house to help him move. His chartered plane came in about an hour and a half earlier than scheduled, so he wasn’t quite ready. Kaitlyn helped packed boxes, while the men loaded the truck. Hopefully, Jeff’s wife isn’t too upset when she sees the messy packing job.
Everyone here has been really friendly at helpful so far. We haven’t received our boxes of bedding or clothing yet. People have leant us blankets, sheets, and even their own coats. We are grateful.
As we came home last night, about 5 boys came running over to meet the new teachers. None of them were old enough to be in high school. They asked us our names, what we taught, who the other new teachers were going to be, and if we were “Causics”, blue-eyed. (Well isn’t it obvious?) They all told us that they are black-eyed, although some of them insisted they were brown-eyed. They were cute kids. They kept trying to persuade us to let them come to dinner, but we resisted. When you don’t have your food boxes yet, it’s hard to cook dinner even for yourself!
SUNDAY-This morning we had our first all-alone-church experience. Our telephone line isn’t set up yet, so we had to go to the school and use their phone. We found a somewhat private room (the teacher’s lounge), and set up camp there. Sacrament meeting starts with role call, so they know how many people are in attendance. We had prayers and songs like normal and then the conference went on mute for about 5 minutes to allow time for the sacrament. Passing the sacrament to ....Kaitlyn...didn’t take Tim long. Sunday school and Relief Society were fairly normal. The teacher teaches, calls on people to read quotes and scriptures, poses questions, and people answer. Of course we didn’t have the 10 minute breaks in between classes and the one-on-one chatting like in a regular ward or branch.
We have spent the rest of the day quietly at home, with the exception of some neighbors (a couple of our future students) coming to sell cupcakes. Now we’re wondering what to do...we don’t have enough gas in the 4-wheelers to go visit Myrna and Lewis.
Tim & Kaitlyn
A blog is where you talk about stuff....we do that here.
Friends & Family
Brady & Taryn
Karen & Brad
Mike & Alyse
Sarah & Jimi
Scott & Sharon
Tracy and Matt
Marshall & Jani
Tyler & Crystal
Carmen & Jeremy
Edgar & Sarah
Gus & Cynthia
Matt & Yvonne
Steve & Angie