Tuesday, November 29, 2005


The alarm clock did not go off this morning.
But thanks to a slamming door and a loud banging noise from somewhere inside the building, I did not sleep late.

I glanced at the alarm clock. The blinking quality of that bright LED told me that it was either 2:30 in the afternoon, or that the power went out at some point in the night.

The clock on my oven was a bit more believable and rumored it to be closer to 7:45.

After much searching, I found my pocket watch, the lone voice of temporal reason in this electricity driven apartment.
It’s 7:05 in the morning. I have plenty of time,
Maybe even enough for a little power nap…

We have been on and off the generator for the past two days.
I got to teach math in the dark yesterday.

Yay power!

Monday, November 28, 2005

A view of the village

On the short walk home I see this view to my left.

Thought you'd like to know.


Like a fish out of water.
Or boat out of water...

The village

Did I mention that we had a little snow?
I am, by the way, standing on the river while taking this picture.

Getting back

Yay Anchorage.

A short list of activities.

Harry Potter 4
RENT (which was awesome!)
40 Year-Old Virgin. (Lame but funny movie. We went because of the theatre more than the movie. It was a dinner theatre like those anywhere. The difference here was how busy and well managed this one was.)
Shopping, shopping, shopping.
Liquor store, bar, liquor store
Dinner in real restaurants

I am still stuffed from wide array of food and drinks that were tasted.
I even got my sushi!

I had a great time.
I am now back in the village and getting back to work.
Refreshed and exhausted from my little break.

Heading out

I sit in the Alaskan airlines airport in Bethel, Alaska.
Having not been here in months I can marvel on how things have changed.
Changes in both the outside world and in myself.

When I landed here such a long and short time ago I was emerging on a foreign world.
Everything surprised me.

The size of the airport, its hanger-like atmosphere.
The barren tundra, stretching as far as the eye can see.
The language barrier that created a forced taxi-cab conversation.

I wasn’t in Kansas any more.

Now I am back at the airport that brought me here.
The hangar-like appeal is not unusual. It is bigger than most of the airports here and is homey in its own way.
The tundra is covered in a thick layer of snow and is fascinatingly pockmarked with sparkling frozen waterways.
The language barrier is not nearly as hard as I originally thought, and I have found that the “forced” feeling of conversation was only awkward on my end.

Around me are a few of the people I met in the bush.

We are dressed similarly in the height of village fashion.
Jeans, snow pants, hoodies, scarves, and boots.
Our parkas sit in random heaps on the floor.

We are the height of cool.
The epitome of style.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Morning Update

It looks as if the runway lights were fixed last night.
I think that all the positive energy directed at the airport did its job.

Either that or the bitching that a cranky group of teachers sent their way.

With any luck, a few hours from now there will be educators in the air, soaring toward a weekend of holiday cheer.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

The bain of this existance

For all of you out there who enjoys reading about my traveling disasters and mock my rotten luck with the flying, here is the start to a story that has yet to come to its completion.

Tomorrow several teachers and I intend to hop a plane to the big city of Anchorage. There we will go to the movie theatre, shop in real stores, and eat in real restaurants.
And, of course, drink beer.
Lots of beer.

If you are confused about why “beer” gets two lines, allow me to explain.
This area is dry for 400 miles and, though I am not much of a drinker, I miss the beer.

Our travel plans have us landing in Bethel around 3:45 tomorrow afternoon and after a few hours of Bethel related fun, boarding the 8:00 pm flight to Anchorage. Making it in with enough time to see the 10:30 showing of Harry Potter 4 at the theatre.

The plans fit together perfectly, like a jigsaw puzzle.


The news of a problem with the runway lights came to us this morning.
It seems that the runway lights in Bethel are not working and will have to be fixed before Alaska Airlines can fly out at night.

They may have to cancel all evening flights.
For the next 4 days.

Now we sit on pins and needles, hoping against hope that the problem is rectified and our journey to reality is made possible.

I guess we’ll know soon…

Cross your fingers.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Let it Snow!

Let it Snow!
Originally uploaded by jleeody.
The after-effects of a little snow storm.

Some may have called it a blizzard, we just called it fun.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Interview with the Elder

For a class I am taking I had to interview an elder.
Ask her what her youth was like.

I spoke to Maggie, an elder in Kasigluk. She spoke to me about the way life was in this village when she was younger and the way things have changed.

Maggie was raised in Kasigluk and went to the BIA school, which now is the teacher housing build that I live in.

- Is the second oldest of her siblings.
- Grew up in this village.
- Went to the BIA school (that building is currently teacher housing)
- Is the aunt and grandmother to several of my students.

When Maggie was younger:

- They used a dog sled to travel everywhere.
- They did not have T.V., lights, gas or oil heating.
- They used a wooden stove to heat the building. It was very cold in the morning and it was her job to stoke the stove to heat up the house.
- The curfew was at 9 o’clock. She was always afraid of getting caught by the police. Because they would come around, from house to house at curfew, checking to see that everyone is at home.
- People used to help each other. They would go from house to house cleaning, doing laundry, and helping. They would never ask for money. Now people don’t help each other. They always ask for money.
- The school was only one room and taught 30-40 students.
- She would go berry picking after school and would go on overnight trips to pick berries.
- She did not have homework. She would get all her work done before leaving the building.
- After school they would go skating on the pond behind our village.
- There was no clinic, only health aids.
- She was scared of the teachers and the elders. Even today she gets nervous when the principal calls or when she has to talk to teachers.
- You did not talk when an elder was talking. You respected them and listened to them.
- Her father would go hunting for days at a time. He would check the traps and bring home otter, beaver, and mink.

I am thankful for:

With Thanksgiving quickly approaching I fell onto the old writing stand-by assignment.

“Write in your journal about what you are thankful for. Then write a few sentences on these decorative pieces of paper for me to put on my bare and boring bulletin board.”

Some of the results were amazing.

“I am thankful for: the honey Buckets because Honey Buckets are there for us to take Dumps and leaks when we need them to use. Honey Buckets are the Bomb!!”

-- Honey buckets are the answer to a lack of plumbing and running water. You do your business in the honey bucket and dump them into the proper receptacles when they get full.

“I am thankful for: all my teachers because they all let us learn during school.”

-- Let? I thought we made them learn. Forced them into it kicking and screaming.

-- But still, she is a sweet little suck up.

“I am thankful for: T.V. Because T.V. is easier than reading a book and try to imagine what going on. T.V. is the answer to your reading problems. I am thankful for video games because if there wasn’t, we would be bored. And games are almost the same as T.V. but you can control h/she in the video game with a controller.”

-- Point one: The grammar is copied exactly. For once, the errors are not due to my faulty language skills.

-- Point two: Wow. And I do mean wow. I really can’t even find words to discuss this commentary towards the youth of our great nation.

“I am thankful for: my parents because they are always buying us new clothes to wear. I am also thankful for my family who are always doing stuff for me.”

-- New stuff and favors, what else is family for?

Tuesday, November 15, 2005


Originally uploaded by jleeody.
This was my transportation to the quiet village of Nunap this past weekend.

Snow-go and a sled

Snow-go and a sled
Originally uploaded by jleeody.
There has been some questions regarding how a person travels when the rivers and roads become nothing more than a plane of glass.

And cars are basically a non-issue.

The answer is the almighty Snow-Go.
And of course a sled dragging behind to carry people, packages, or parcels.

For the record, riding in the sled, not a pleasant experience.
Imagine riding over difficult terrain while sitting on a flat peice of wood.
No shocks.
No hand rails.

Good times.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Billy is good for something

Funny story.

In 2000 The Gates Foundation put a large sum of money toward our school district.
The Gates Foundation was, of course, created by that lovable billionaire, the owner of Microsoft.

A few short years later Lower Kuskokwim School District spent an extensive amount of money purchasing Apple iBooks for every of the several hundred staff members within the district.

I just thought that was funny…


Originally uploaded by jleeody.
It finally came in the mail.
So pretty and cute and sexy.

I swear, electronics are the porn of my generation.

Who needs Playboy when you have Wired News?
Who needs vibrators when you have Ipods?

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Where did all the water go?

Originally uploaded by jleeody.
Just a week or so ago, this was a river.
Now it's a highway used by all the snow-go's.

Prefectly safe.
Someone fell in yesterday.

Warming up the plane before take-off

Originally uploaded by jleeody.
Yeah, thats right, scraping the ice off a plane is a fun and exciting past time.

By the way, this is the runway. Look at that snow.
There is a nice thick layer of ice under all that fluffy goodness.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Natural Alaskan hair gel

It's cold.
Very very cold.

-7 degrees.
-39 degree wind chill.

My damp hair froze solid on the 2 minute walk to school today.

Welcome to the Alaskan fall.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Worship them or they will strike you down.

Once again the gods of weather have outwitted me.

The in-service ended with clear skies and perfect flying conditions.
Most went home to their familiar surroundings and warm beds.

I, however, decided to stay for an extra night.
A mini vacation with a few friends in the metropolis of Bethel.

This was, as it always seems to be, a mistake.

The sky gradually became a solid ceiling and rumors of snow fluttered about.

Still I remained. Believing the man in the box and his false reports of clear sky in our very near future.

The sky opened up and dropped a thick mess of snow on my dreams of that warm bed.

Planes have been grounded. The weather has, once again thwarted my thoughts of returning home.
I remain in Bethel for another night. And while the city is fun when you plan to stay, it holds a depressing air about it when you meant to be somewhere else.

The gods of weather are laughing at my expense.

Friday, November 04, 2005

english is goodly

As the writing assessment in-service marches steadily toward conclusion I must take a moment for quiet reflection.
I have read hundreds of papers. I have laughed at the intentional and unintentional humor and was moved by papers written by aspiring minds.

We started with phase 8. 4th grade.

“hey pen pal. Take over the world with this penguin.”

Many were grammatical nightmares.
Few were excellent papers that excite the mind.
The day continued, the phase and grade level increased swiftly.
The evident skill level sauntered along at a slower gate.

“Even mosquitos like to drink our cloths if they land on peoples cloths.”

At times I felt good about our collective teaching efforts.
At times I wanted to kick whatever professional takes credit for educating that particular student.
At times I felt all hope was lost.

“At the end of the day I was full, not killed”

We graded these gems to the best of our abilities.
Occasionally I cringed when passing a paper as proficient.
Occasionally I relished in the failing marks.
Occasionally I leapt for joy with the truly amazing.

“The people with the ball are called volleyball. We have shoes to run around. The player hat the ball. Then the other side of the gym. Is the other side.”

“Basketball is my thing. But Jesus is my king.”

“- in your mark getshit go”

Thursday, November 03, 2005

In the air

When I first arrived in Alaska I went to a week long in-service which explained the different joys and experiences that new teachers should expect in the bush.
There was one phrase that was repeated many times that week.

Weather Permitting

Now, after the rigors of the past few weeks, I finally understand the full meaning of that phrase.

Today began a Writing Assessment workshop designed to grade the papers written by all the district’s students.

I was expecting to fly in yesterday.
Nothing ever happens as per carefully laid plans.

The rivers and lakes around my tiny island are gradually freezing to a mushy traversable solid. The airport, conveniently, is located across what once were waterways and a mile down river.

My flight was due.
I straddled the snow-go, behind one of the more experienced locals and hit the, what I hoped wasn’t open, water.

I arrive at the airport.
This is not one of the cushy airports that most think of, with its molded plastic seats and heating.
This is an airstrip and a bench.
In the snow.

Three and a half hours later I was back on the back of a snow-machine, heading back to the village.
Due to a heavy fog, the Bethel Airport had closed.

Ice crystals forming in my nose hairs.

The next day my morning flight was delayed.

The phone rang. There is a way to get off the ground.
A plane, stuck at our airstrip, needed a jump.
A pilot and a maintance man were on their way in. I could hitch a ride back.

After 45 minutes of scraping ice off the wings and body of a recently jumped plane we were finally in the air.

Back to Bethel.

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