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.