We were lucky to have an unusually long spring break. We had this entire week off of school. Although, I’m not sure if spring break is really an appropriate name for this time off of school. It is true that we have had sunny, clear days. I have even heard that many of you in the lower 48 have been enjoying temperatures in the 60s and 70s. My sister mentioned to me that her kids have been riding their bicycles to school this week. However, in Togiak, the temperature has ranged from -10 to +10 Fahrenheit this entire week and the ground is still completely covered in snow. I’m not sure when spring will be coming, but I’m not going to start looking for it until May.
Tim and I were lucky enough to spend Monday-Wednesday this week at an ivory carving class. The class was open to anyone in the community; however, 8 of the 10 students in the class were teachers. It was nice to have the class fall during spring break and even nicer that the local tribal council offered scholarships to take the class so it didn’t cost us anything. Twilly was our teacher. I have taken an ivory carving class and a soap stone carving class from him in the past. It’s kind of nice having the same teacher because he knows what I have carved in the past and can teach me to do new things or play off my strengths. We spent 5 hours each day at the boys and girls club dremmeling, drilling, sanding, and shaping. I wish I would have taken a picture of us in the process. You would have seen a room full of people wearing hats, safety goggles, and face masks, all covered in ivory dust. The floor was also covered in ivory dust and the noise of all the dremmels, drills, saws, and belt sanders should have prompted us to use ear plugs. We smelled of burning ivory as well and the smell followed us home. (I do enjoy carving ivory, but I do not enjoy the smell of carving ivory.)
Tim started out carving a ring. He was working quickly and it looked really good. Unfortunately, right as he was finishing, he noticed a crack that went all the way through his ring. When carving fossilized ivory you always have to be mindful of cracks. Tim then started on a kayak to use as a zipper pull. His piece kept getting smaller and smaller as he shaped it, so he made another, bigger kayak. Unfortunately, this piece of ivory also had a crack. Tim was able to work around it and adjust it a bit in order to still use the piece. He finished up his ivory carving by making a second ring, which also looks really good.
Last spring Tim and I started taking a class called “The Art and Science of Teaching”. Both of us were close to having 18 credits after our bachelor degrees. When we get 18 credits, we get a pay raise. So, we thought, why not finish up one more class during the summer and qualify for more pay? We signed up for and started the class, but didn’t quite have it finished by the time we returned to Togiak last fall. (Okay, we weren’t even close.) I had attempted to work on it on the weekends this fall, but I finally came to the realization that completing the course before the pay raise deadline was hopeless; so I set it aside. It was my goal to finish the class during spring break, which I accomplished by Tuesday evening! I was so excited and relieved to have it finished. Tim still has a little work to do on his, but he’s closer. Three things are good about finishing this course. Firstly, I don’t have to worry about it anymore. Secondly, I can finally get that pay raise. Thirdly, now I can get reimbursed for the cost of the class.
I Don’t Own a Car . . . Or Do I?
It’s really difficult to make phone calls and take care of business during the school week. Most places in the lower 48 are closed by the time the school day is over here. So this spring break gave me a chance to call on some things that have been waiting to be taken care of. About a month ago I received a bill in the mail from New Mexico State University for two parking tickets. At first, I found this really humorous. I don’t own a car and I have never been to New Mexico. How in the world did someone send a parking ticket all the way to bush Alaska? I thought I’d call the university just to let them know they made a mistake. Come to find out, I do own a car and it was parked in New Mexico. The Altima that Tim and I sold two years ago was still registered to us. After making several phone calls and doing some research, I discovered that the buyer never registered the car, (in fact, the registration had been expired for a year and a half) never changed the license plates (side note: make sure that you always take your license plates off you car when you sell it . . . at least in Idaho), and never changed the title to her name. I legally still owned the car, which also meant I was liable for everything connected to the car. Not cool! I couldn’t find the bill of sale anywhere and Tim and I didn’t turn in a release of liability. Advice for car sellers: ALWAYS fill out a release of liability. So after calling the police department and parking department at New Mexico State University, the dmv in Rexburg, the department of transportation in Boise, and our old insurance company, I finally gathered enough information to fill out a release of liability. Luckily, the state will let you turn in a release of liability even two years after the sale. I never got a hold of the buyer, but I was impressed with myself that I was able to discover her name, phone number, address, and email address without having any documentation of the sell and without ever meeting her. I kind of felt like a stalker. I’m glad to finally not own my car. (Thanks Dad for turning in all the paperwork for us!)
I won’t try to convince you that my house stayed particularly clean or that amazing meals were made this week, but I was able to take care of a few things more than I usually do. I finally paid some bills, made phone calls, solved mysteries concerning double charges, and finished the mending. I’m sure Tim is glad to have a little boost in his wardrobe. I also took care of our bell peppers.
Did you know that bell peppers freeze really well? One of the foods I miss the most since moving to Togiak is bell peppers. We can buy them here sometimes, but they’re very expensive and usually don’t look that appealing. If you find one that does look okay, you have to eat it very quickly before it goes bad. At Christmas time, Tim and I bought 6 bell peppers while we were in Anchorage. I knew it was a bit foolish to buy so many for only two people, but they just looked so good. Not wanting any to go to waste, I started researching freezing peppers. According to several sites on the internet, bell peppers freeze very well and keep their flavor and most of their texture when you thaw them. I gave it a try and it worked wonderfully. You slice them up, spread them on a cookie sheet, and put them in the freezer for about one hour. Once they’ve frozen enough that they won’t freeze together, you can put them in freezer bags. Whenever you want to cook with them you can dump them straight from the freezer bag into your dish you’re cooking and they taste almost as good as fresh peppers. While Tim was in Anchorage at the end of February for ASTE, he picked up 12 more bell peppers. (We had long since eaten all the peppers from Christmas.) I finally cut and froze the peppers this week. I’m glad they didn’t go bad while they waited for me to find time to take care of them.
I will admit, that I’m totally thrilled with my productivity this spring break. I didn’t want to plan on finishing a bunch of school work, but I did want to get a lot of projects finished. I made myself a list of things I wanted to accomplish, some school related, some personal business related, some just plain fun related. By Saturday afternoon I had accomplished everything on the list except one: sew kuspuq. I didn’t expect to finish the entire kuspuq last night, but I just started working and before I knew it I was done. (Okay, it was 10:00 pm before I knew it, but that’s okay.) I now am the proud owner of two kuspuqs. The first kuspuq I made I had help from Fanny Parker every step of the way. (Thank you Fanny!) This second one I did completely by myself using my memory and my first kuspuq as a pattern. It didn’t turn out perfectly or exactly the same as the first, but it turned out well. I decided to make one without a skirt this time. (It’s common to have kuspuqs with or without skirts.) Now I have one of each. I’m excited to wear it to school next week and “try it out”. I know they don’t look very fashionable, but in the village there is no such thing as fashion and people wear them all the time. They are actually quite comfortable and warm and I like showing my appreciation/acceptance/interest/whatever-you-want-to-call-it of the culture.
Tomorrow starts the beginning of the end. Only 8 weeks of school left. Time has really flown by.
Oh, and one more thing. It's official. Tim and I will be returning to Togiak next year. We signed our contracts and turned them in last week. Who knows how long we will live in bush Alaska, but at least until 2013.