Saturday, August 26, 2006

Squeamish Squishing

I have officially been in Barrow for one month. And have just finished my second full week of this school year.

It’s a Saturday night.

I sit in front of my computer, typing and surfing. The TV is playing the musical episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. And I am digging deep into a carton of Super Fudge Brownie ice cream.

I have to say, this is the best, most relaxing, evening I have had in awhile.

The past two weeks have been a whirlwind of papers, planning, and other difficult things starting with a “P.” (I tried for alliteration, but could not come up wit a third “P” word.)

Thursday and Friday we took our students on a fieldtrip to the tundra*. We collected plants, saw animals, and documented science-like things.
The kids really got into it. They loved being outside and playing with nature.

And by “nature”, I mean lemmings.

Lemmings are cute little creatures that look a lot like a cross between and mouse and a chipmunk. These tiny fur balls run around in little paths and tunnels. They scamper from loud noise, owls, and 7th grade boys.

As most boys are; my students are fascinated by these small animals. They spent much of our field trips chasing the lemmings across tundra mud and mounds.

Right now you are asking, “But what do they do with the little helpless bags of bones and fur once they are caught?”
If you are a PETA member, now is the time to stop reading.

You see, at some point the kids learned that lemmings carried rabies. And, therefore, should be killed. They also know that dogs and owls like to eat fluffy ground dwellers.

So, the kids have come up with several games to play.

1. The “How High” game.

The rules here are simple. Catch a lemming. Throw it as high as you can. You can win two different ways. The first is too throw it the highest. The second is to be the one that throws it so high that it dies upon reintroduction to the ground.
For awhile little wiggling dots of fur rained down on a group of boys gathered far enough away from us to hear our shouts

2. The “Toss them at the girls” game.

This game is exactly as the title suggests. You throw the twitchy scurry-er at any near-by girl. Laugh as she screams and runs.
I cannot count the number of scared girls screamed accusations of boys pelting lemmings

3. The “Stomp Stomp” game.

Apparently they make funny squishing noises when you smash them underfoot.

Ah, the humor of 12 year old boys. They are so entertained by the simplest things.
The other teacher and I thought good and hard about how to end these games. In the end we decided to let it go.
After all, it kept them busy once their work was done it’s not like anyone was getting hurt**.

* Let me tell you, walking on the tundra for a combined total of six hours over a two-day period is quite the workout. My ass feels like you could bounce a quarter off it.
**As a quick disclaimer. That comment was aimed at my PETA loving Savannah dwelling buddy***.
*** Also, I don’t like small furry animals.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Heat Wave

This morning as I rubbed the sleep from my eyes the clock radio dragging me slowly into consciousness.
I heard the local radio host say something that made me want to crawl back under the covers.

He said, and I quote, “The weather today in Barrow is a mild 35 degrees. Well above freezing.”

Weekend Fun

This past weekend two things of note occurred.

The first was the introduction of the Arctic’s first football team.
They played hard.
And lost valiantly.
Or painfully, depending on how close you watched the game.

There was a chilly breeze sweeping off the ocean, it snowed fairly regularly, and the hot chocolate was in constant supply.

The boys played like they had never played a game in their life. Which, I suppose, they never have.

Later that evening I was dragged out on the town by a few interesting new people. First we hit the dance.
The Barrow dance is held every few weeks at our roller skating rink. You must be over 18 to attend and on the night in question it was almost deserted with only a few inebriated adults swaying on the dance floor.

It was interesting, to say the least, to see so many with bottles and cans, paper bagged, and tucked in jackets.

We then left the dance (at 2:30 in the morning. It was actually getting dark) and headed across town. One of my party’s uncles was having a bon fire. More drunkenness.
This time with fire.

Here, I was taught some new things. As the fire blazed behind me, my new friends taught me some naughty Inupiat words.
If you want to know them, you will have to call me, because there is no way I am even going to attempt the spelling. But, I now know the word for boobies, girl parts, and boy parts,
Go me, and my new vocabulary.

By the time I made it back at home it was nearly 5:00 am and my entire body reeked of the worst kind of bon fire. (It was decided at one point in the evening, by a few far from sober folks, that a broken rolly chair was better served as fodder for the fire than it was for sitting. The stench was amazing.)

It was a good night.

Friday, August 18, 2006

The Point

Yesterday a few other teachers and I traveled up to the Point.
Look at a map of northern Alaska and you will notice a point at the very tip-top of the state. A few miles down the beach is the town of Barrow, the place that I now call my home.

So, yesterday we hopped on a 4-wheeler and sped up along rocky sand to that very tippy-toppy place. To see the view.

Now, the thing about the Point is that people here have put this narrow sandbar to a very important use.

You see, every year when the whales and caribou and seals are slaughtered the bones and excess, well, parts, need to be disposed of. If these meaty pieces are tossed in the “land fill” near town then the olfactory-gifted polar bears will come a runnin’.

Making it rather dangerous to be a pedestrian in the vicinity.

Therefore, all those tasty treats are taken to the Point to be dropped and to lure the polar bears away from town.

We traveled to the Point. We stood on the farthest north plot of land in the United States.
We smelled the smell of the ocean and the stench of rotting whale.
We saw bones bigger than any of us.

Here is a picture showing several containers of big-ass bones.

This shot is a spinal column of, well something. It was about 6 feet long. My guess is that it is a polar bear. Though I am not entirely sure.

First week

Well, look at that!
The kiddies all just frolicked on their way. They scampered and scurried, escaping the school and all of its school like ways.
The staff let out a collective sigh of relief. And they too began to scamper and scurry, except in a much more lethargic way.

The first week of school just ended.

It was a pretty good first week. The kids are just as kids should be. Slightly rambunctious, very chatty, and morbidly giggly.

My teacher muscles hurt. These muscles include the feet muscle, the brain muscle, and the back of the leg muscle.
That’s right, I teach biology.

My lessons went over fairly well. I actually think that I might have taught something. Which, when dealing with prepubescent kids just off of a two month break from their brains, is quite a feat.

So, between the snow, the early mornings, name learning of 20 some tiny teenage wanna-be’s, and the fun with computers, I’m beat.
I am going to scamper frolic and scurry away from this place and not come back till I am good and rested.
Or tomorrow afternoon… to lesson plan for next week.. which ever comes first.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Here it comes

Today is the third day of school.
I had had every intention of getting back to how it used to be with stories of school, students, and gas.
A colorful “first few days” post.

But something else caught my attention.

Now I realize that I do in fact live above the Arctic Circle. And an area such as this has a reputation of being a bit cold.
Ice bergs and polar bears.

But still, a part of me still believes that there is a time for everything. Seasons that have a general start and end point. A line that some weather should not cross.

I am, as always, wrong again.

Today, after rolling out of bed, a little on the late side. I hurried out the door to find something strange.
On the ground.

Now, this light layering of snow was really more of a dusting. Just enough to make a foot print in, but no hopes of snowball-y fun.

I guess it really should come as no surprise, but damnit, I was surprised.
Freaking snow, in August, who would-a thought?

Sunday, August 13, 2006

the best funny problem

This evening I went out.
I was out on the town, with a few people I have met since moving to this town of chillyness.

It was, in theory, a good time.
Dinner that I didn’t have to cook myself, a funny movie that I hadn’t yet seen, and a plethora of conversation.

However, as the evening drew on I began to have the nagging urge to claw my eyes out.
Why, you ask?

Because of phrases.

There are specific phrases that should not be uttered repeatedly by anyone over the age of 16. They are not entirely useless phrases; they have a place in conversation when used sparsely.

The offensive phrases are as follows:

“It’s funny because…”

This is a valley girl statement that should absolutely not be used by an adult male.
Multiple times.
In one story.
It does have a place, when telling a story that tends to be sardonic or needs a slight explanation as to the humor involved. However, when telling a pre-announced “funny story,” using the phrase “it’s funny because…” is not only redundant but is a tell tale sign that you are telling it wrong.

“The best part was…”

This simple saying is benign enough at first glance, but when used over and over and over again it begins to have a similar effect on the brain as a blender has to margarita.
How many “best parts” can one sentence have?

“The thing is…”

all I have to say to this one is, freaking stop saying it.
Damnit, I must have heard this expression ten thousand times.
In the course of one story.
A short story.

I left the night with nail marks on my palm. From clenching my fists every time I heard the words.

And the thing was, the best part was, that it was funny because of the happy thoughts I had when contemplating the fun of cheese graters on the pads of my feet.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Jumping in

Jumping in
Originally uploaded by jleeody.
Well, yesterday I did the deed.
I took the plunge.

I jumped into the icy depths of the Arctic Ocean.

It was a little chilly.
In a “it makes you feel like you really can’t breath for about 20 seconds and your bodily muscles lose all feeling and coordination” kind of way.

I will be getting a badge and a certificate to prove that I did indeed do like the polar bears do.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Walking in Circles

As I walked along the beach last night,
Really, I have nothing to say to finish that clause. I just wanted to point out that I live on the beach.
And that I walk on it.

Yesterday I had a conversation with a friend back in the lower 48. This friend was confused at a comment I made about cars.
He seemed unsure of how the village I now reside in might look.

After spending a very long year pushing people to a semi-clear understanding of the reality of Kasigluk, I flipped it up and have moved on to a “big” city.
Things here are a bit different.

This new place has a creature called a “road”.
That’s right there are roads.
Roads for driving cars.

Roads that don’t turn to liquid for half the year.
Unless you count all the mud.
None of them are paved. Or graveled.

But they watered on a regular basis.
(Water trucks drive all over town sprinkling fresh water on our pretty paths to prevent dust storms and promote muddiness.)

Dust storms are a serious problem on the slope.
This is after all, a desert.
Complete with the dehydration and tumbleweed.

As long as you count polar bears as tumbleweed, of course

When it comes to polar bears, you have to remember two things:
One, they are vicious man eating creatures with no remorse that tend to come on shore about a block and a half from my house.

Two, their teeth and claws are really quite pricey.
A bear tooth on a leather strap (for a necklace) was not under $100, and the tourists just eat them up.

Tourism is the most surprising thing about my new home in the top of the world.
There are people from all over that actually spend the necessary piles of cash to come to this isolated little town of 4000.
We have a tour company or two. There are a surprising number of large-camera owning Japanese tourists on busses traveling around town.
Clicky click, click.

You would think that these tourists would demand better roads.


Originally uploaded by jleeody.
Yesterday there was a bit of a storm.
The wind pushed and pulled large chunks of cold and solid water toward the beach.

Huge peices of blue and shiny littered the shoreline. I even was able to jump on several of the closer blocks and tetter my way across the icy-fun.

Sunday, August 06, 2006


Originally uploaded by jleeody.
This happy group is just returning from a hunting trip that took them about 29 miles to the north.
They went out past the visible line O' ice to the ocean and secondary ice beyond.


Originally uploaded by jleeody.
That speeding boat pulled up on shore.
I scampered up to see what, if anything, they had caught.


Originally uploaded by jleeody.
This sucker is about 200-300 lbs.
Of dead weight.

In the process of transporting him from the boat to the back of the truck the boat almost spilled right over.
And the guys grunted a fair amount.


Originally uploaded by jleeody.
This is an up close and personal look at a dead seal.
Isn't he cute.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Week One

Well, my first week in the Arctic Circle is drawing to a close.
It has truly been a very busy week.

Five days of in-service hell.
Five days of sitting through lectures.
Five days of feigning consciousness.
Five days of free food.

In less than an hour the last meeting of the last day will end.
This last hours is taking days.

But, at least they gave us computers to play on.
Brand new black Macbooks. So shiny.

There are a few things that have happened in the past several days that merit being passed on.

I watched, and almost participated in, a polar bear plunge. A handful of highly educated educators stripped down and submerged themselves in the ice filled Arctic Ocean. I chickened out before I could sign up… and I almost regret it.

Barrow High School, the most northern and most isolated high school in the country has, as of last month, a football team. The first game will take place on the 19th against Delta Greely. (a school several hundred miles away).
ESPN plans on broadcasting one of the games.
The “bleachers” will be buses lining the field, blocking the wind, keeping sports enthusiasts a little warmer.

Yesterday I watched, and smelled, the slaughter of a seal. It was great. They quickly scraped the skin from the fat, carefully removed and cleaned the fat, and efficiently cut up the meat to dry.
The meat is very dark, almost black.
The fat is pale and looks nothing cottage cheese.

All in all, it has been a good week.

For the record, I now have a phone number, but am still lacking a dial tone.
For those of you interested in calling me, shoot me an email and I will give you the number.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Moving In

Alright, I have finally mostly unpacked and am semi-settled in my new apartment.
There are still a few piles of nonsense and half empty boxes scattered around.
I’ll get to them.
By Christmas.

Some things are still not here.
Like my big blanket, my winter gear, and all my teaching supplies.

No worries.
I have a few more days before school starts and at least a month until the winter gear is necessary, I hope…

It is chilly up here. The type of weather that makes hoodies and jeans the wardrobe of choice.

I spent the day wandering around the house, staring at those aforementioned half empty boxes. And did a little random shopping, eggs, nails, bread, bed sheets.

I found out that the sheets I brought, thinking they were queen, were actually double. Then after purchasing the queen sized sheets, I found that my bed is actually a king. And my original pseudo-queen sheets were in fact queen.

It has been a good day.

So, this evening I wandered up to the beach.
By the way, I love the fact that I live on a beach.

I stared out at the ocean, felt the crisp ocean breeze on the few square inches of exposed skin and deeply regretted that I had forgotten my gloves.

Don’t misunderstand, it is not entirely too frigid up here thus far, but with the breeze and the fact that I am 350 miles north of the Arctic Circle, fingers can get a little frosty.

But, I braved the wind and took a few pictures of the area.
I know I already posted some pictures of the wetness to the north, but these are better.


Originally uploaded by jleeody.
This is a photo of some ice. It’s pretty and blue.

Kinda chilly

more ice
Originally uploaded by jleeody.
More ice. You know, there is a lot of that up here.
If you look closely at the horizon you can see that there is a line of ice out there. That is were the seals are currently hanging out.
I watched boats speed back and forth along the ice.

That sheet of cold will move coast-ward during the winter

jelly fish

jelly fish
Originally uploaded by jleeody.
When you think of the type of animals that would thrive up here, these little buggers would not normally come to mind. There were hundreds of them.

From above

google earth
Originally uploaded by jleeody.
Oh, and if you were curious of what this town could possibly look like from up above, here is a view of Barrow Alaska, brought to you by Google Earth.

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