Saturday, October 31, 2009


It's Halloween morning, 10:00, and it's still twilight outside.  The sun won't fully be up for another 40 minutes.  We're down to about 7.5 hours of sunlight now.  If yesterday was any indication, though, it will be fairly overcast today...might make for some spooky trick-or-treating indeed.  Costumes had better be warm because it's a toasty 10 degrees outside (-4 with wind chill). 

I've heard rumors of a haunted house and a dance.  The dance doesn't sound like much fun, but I'll try to find out more about the haunted house, might be interesting.  I wasn't much of a fan of them as a kid.  My neighber is having a get-together tonight - baking pizzas and playing games with NPS staff and some others.  That will probably be my entertainment.

My luggage did find its way back to me, so I'll try to get more pictures around town although they don't really do it justice.  Pictures just look like a landscape of white; it's more impressive in person.  There are about 5 - 7 inches of snow on the ground right now, but it's all from about a week ago.  Much of it is starting to look dirty.  We need another fresh layer!  Apparently there's usually much more by this time.  I keep hearing that we're being eased into this winter; maybe it's for my benefit.

So far my ATV is still starting up just fine, but it probably won't be long before I roll it into the conex to stay there the rest of the winter.  The store here sells some plastic sleds, so I'll get one of those to cart home any groceries or boxes from the mail.  By the way, I didn't win the snow machine raffle.

At work I'll have another busy week this next week.  The boss is back in town after a few weeks, then I'll finally make it to Noorvik (maybe, nothing can be certain).  After that, it should slow down a little.  I won't have any school visits for a while.  We will be moving our offices, though, during the week of 12/14 and will officially open on 12/19.  That should provide some chaos for a while.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Lost Bag

It looks like my bag was sent to Noorvik after all...maybe.  The problem is that it's nowhere to be found right now.  The Bering Air agent in Noorvik says that there were no unclaimed bags.  We'll see what happens.  I'm hoping honesty and diligence will prevail because I don't really want to have to replace what was in that bag!

This means for now, no pictures.  Sorry, I was going to try to be better at taking some.  There's more to shoot, and I have a little more time to do that right now. 

To be continued....

Monday, October 26, 2009

Plan C

I didn't make it to Noorvik, and I'm actually glad.  It was a busy morning.  I had left some work to do, planning to get up early and finish...yes, those of you who know me can recognize this scenario, all too common for me.  Of course, I wake up much later still grasping the cell phone (that I use as an alarm) in my hand.  Never consciously heard it!  So, I ran around like a mad woman but still managed to finish at least what was critical.  By this time, it's been snowing all night, and there are easily 5 inches on the ground.  The plows even came out this morning.  I've loaded my stuff in the park's passenger van (happened to be the available vehicle), and it's such a cow to drive on ice and snow, don't like it one bit.  I have to remember now, to leave plenty of time for scraping, thawing, and maybe even plugging in at some point.

I made it to the airport in time, in fact, in plenty of time.  It was foggy, so the flight was "on hold" for a little over an hour before they finally cancelled.  Plan B.  I called the school (in Noorvik) to see how they might want to adjust the out this afternoon or push the whole thing back a day, Tue - Thur instead of Mon - Wed.  It turns out that they don't really want either of those options.  This ended up being a bad week for them.  They have something going on with Eskimo dancing and the whole school being released at 2:30 each day instead of 3:30.  They asked if I could go next week.  I could fit it in at the end of the week, so I'll go Wed - Fri next week -- Plan C!

I'm actually very ok with Plan C.  I was genuinely tired and need to dedicate some time to domestic duties, learning how to dress, walk and drive in snow, and to getting out and enjoying the changing landscape.  Also, just this morning, I got an email from a teacher in town wanting to bring 3 different 5th grade classes to our visitor center for programs on Wed or Thur this week (a last minute thing that worked well with her lessons).  Now I can accommodate her.  More programs!  And, this lets me put some finishing touches on some programs for Noorvik so I can be better prepared.  Perhaps this is an example of providence.  God always provides.

I'm planning to get out and take some pictures, but my camera is still in my bag at the airport.  Hopefully they didn't send it on to Noorvik this afternoon!  I need to get over there and pick stuff up.  Catch ya later.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Schedule Overload

At this point I've learned a lesson...don't schedule school visits for consecutive weeks.  I still ended up working this weekend, and I'm pooped, ready for a break.  After this week, I'll just have a few programs here in town for a couple of months.

I'm headed for Noorvik tomorrow.  I've actually been there before, very briefly.  This summer, when I went to Camp Sivu, we flew into Noorvik and boated out to the camp.  I haven't been to the school, though.  I'm pretty sure there won't be an opportunity for internet access there, so no posts for the next few days.

The temperature has been hanging around 28 degrees the past few days.  A little snow fell a couple of days ago and has stayed on the ground.  This evening as I left the office, it felt warm to me, at least I could feel a difference.  Sure enough, the thermometer reads 34, and it's snowing again.  There are a couple of inches on the ground now.  I'm pretty sure this is the stuff that's here to stay!

Friday, October 23, 2009


I'm two days back from Noatak but getting ready to go to Noorvik on Monday.  No rest for the weary!  I'm actually excited to get past this next week.  Don't get me wrong, I'm enjoying this job, but it's just been so busy the past couple of months that I'm ready for a break.  I won't have any village school visits on the calendar until after Christmas.  I'm looking forward to spending some time watching winter roll in here (don't know if roll is really the correct verb -- it was doing some howling on Wednesday).

There's ice all along the beach and out over the shallow sandbars.  The lagoon is frozen over.  The temperature has been hanging in the high 20s.  I'm enjoying the cold.  So far my 4-wheeler is still running, but at some point soon I'll just roll it in the conex for the winter and pull on my boots.  I just got a pair of NPS uniform quilted bib overalls this week.  I tried them on and felt like the Michelin man!

It was pretty amazing flying over rivers, wetlands and ocean that were freezing over.  In Noatak there was a frozen pool left over after the river level went down.  I could see about 4 inches of ice, but I could also see some fish swimming below it, pretty cool.  It was thick enough to walk on, but I realized it makes me nervous to try.  I did stand right on the edge and take a picture of my feet on the ice the promptly hopped back on the sand! 

Here's a close-up of ice crystals growing on the grass.  Pretty neat, huh?  I might have some more pictures to share tomorrow.  Some ice and some wrestling.  This weekend is the famous Bush Brawl, a district-wide wrestling tournament.  Wrestling is the major sport around here!  They'll also raffle off a snowmobile, and I bought $10 worth of tickets.  Think I'll get lucky?

Monday, October 19, 2009

Noatak, AK

So, here I am having supper with Triscuits, string cheese and beef jerky in a SPED classroom in Noatak, AK.  I've been in town about 4 hours, and I have mixed feelings.  Really, I've just been in the school so far; I'm about to go out and check out the town.  I'm taking my time now that I narrowly dodged being essentially held captive in the school all evening.  In the other two schools I was given a key immediately to be able to come and go as I pleased.  That didn't seem to be an option here, of course it is a new school building (beautiful), and the principal is out of town.  However, I was told that custodial staff would be here 'til 11:00 and could leave the door open for me.  I was a little dubious about the custodians being at my beck and call; they're overworked, underpaid, and not doormen.  I felt better when one of the ladies actually came to me and asked when I thought I might be coming back to the school.  I said, "oh, 6, 7, 8 o'clock.  How could I know really?  I've never been here before, but I want to get out and look around.  Also, I told our biologist I would take pictures of fish drying racks in town for a grant she's working on.  Well, when another teacher standing near heard that the door would be left open, she balked saying that couldn't happen because students would come in (I agree).  She saw no possibilities for key, no open door.  She asked if I couldn't just run out and come right back soon!  That was when I balked.  I come here at no cost to the school, provide great lessons on a jam-packed schedule, camp on the floor in an out-of-the-way corner, bring my own food...the least they can do is let me come and go as I need!  Mind you, I didn't say it like that, but I guess the look on my face did some talking.  She finally mentioned the acting principal, took me to see him, and he scraped up a key for me to borrow.

With that said, I'd better get a move on; can't waste precious daylight because we're getting less of it every day.  I think we're down to 9 hours.  Winter is moving in.  I noticed yesterday there were thin ice floes gliding along offshore.  Today from the air I could see the frozen patches.  In places the ice freezes in huge rectangular patterns, very cool looking.  I also look from the air each time to try to spot wildlife, but I haven't seen anything yet.  Alright, I'm off to check out the town.  Have a good night everyone!

Sunday, October 18, 2009


Ok, after a few days of trying to keep up here, there was just nothing interesting going on and lots of work to do.  Also, no one was looking.  I see a couple more have now, and I stopped writing again!  It's going to be sparse for the next couple of weeks because I'm swamped at work.  I have a trip to Noatak tomorrow, and I'm not ready, so I'll be working this afternoon.  After I get back, I prepare for a trip to Noorvik the following week.  I was trying to prepare ahead of time, but I had a full week of school programs here in town this last week.  I did get a good review from my boss who observed me on one of the programs, so that's good.

Otherwise, nothing to note.  It's now below freezing, and I think it might stay there.  We're supposed to have some snow later this week or next weekend.  Once I get through the next couple of weeks, I should have some time to slow down and actually enjoy it.  The pressing work for the first couple of weeks in November is to organize work equipment and furniture for our move (probably delayed 'til December) to the new office at the Northwest Arctic Heritage Center.  Then a week in CT for a conference followed by a short but greatly anticipated trip to FL.  Don't worry TX, I'm working on you guys for February!

I may or may not have internet access in Noatak.  If I do, I'll try to share some pictures.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Mighty Quinn

It's a beautiful night.  Cool but not cold.  Huge waning gibbous moon overhead.  Ripples reflecting light off the still unfrozen water.  I just got home from another long day of work since I was in charge of the Tuesday night movie.  I did get to see about 6 seals swimming some distance offshore today, though.  I hope to see more as the water starts to freeze up.  I also need to go online and check sunspot activity and aurora predictions so I can actually observe an auroral event that I've talked about in programs.  It tends to happen in the wee hours of the morning, though, 1:00 - 3:00 or so.

I ended up with another winner of a movie to present tonight.  It was a 1960 film, The Savage Innocents starring Anthony Quinn.  The plot was very much like one of the last movies I had which was a 1933 film, Eskimo.  This one was way more stereotypical, though, and had no native actors and was in English (the other was Inupiaq or another native language).  The funny thing is that the non-natives in the audience tonight cringed and winced at the portrayal of Eskimo life, but the one native audience member asked where he could get the movie!  One interesting fact related to it is that Bob Dylan was a fan of the movie, and it inspired him to write the song that became famous as "The Mighty Quinn." 

Mary asked what kind of winter entertainment I was referring to.  Well, some of it remains to be discovered by me, and other things that I call entertainment are probably more rightly considered vocation, work, lifestyle, or something like that.  I'm talking about ice fishing for sheefish.  Skiing -- it's flat around here, so I don't know if skiers do mostly cross country or snowmobile out to a more mountainous area, but I know some people talk about skiing.  Snowmobiling -- both to actually go somewhere with a purpose and for just getting out to access countryside that was inaccessible before the snow and ice made the landscape one big road.  Dog mushing -- this is becoming less common.  Not as many people have dogs, but there are a few in town who mush for their own recreation and others who race.  The Iditarod is a big deal as well as the Iron something-or-other...the snow machine equivalent to the Iditarod dogsled race.  There's also an ice skating rink that hasn't been used for a few years.  However, my neighbor, who is now a volunteer firefighter, is going to try to get the firefighters to spray it down once it freezes for good to be able to use it to play broomball.  I'm not familiar with the game, but I think it's just what it sounds like.  This is a start.  I really have no idea what to expect this winter.  I guess I had just better be ready with my parka, mittens, insulated bib overalls (still need these), bunny boots, and my camera warming in a pocket waiting to take pictures.

Speaking of pictures, I finally got some of mine up on the walls.  A certain set of family members is conspicuously absent, though.  I need a picture of the Houston threesome.  Mary, I don't have a picture of you at all except for some of the snapshots with a tiny Nate!  I think I have an idea for you guys.  We need to talk. 

Well, that's all for today.  I need to try to go to bed and keep some sort of schedule because it's getting light later and later, and I notice I'm not waking up on my own all that early.  I guess I'm shifting into deep winter sleep mode!  No time for winter naps now, though.  I have a full work schedule at least until Christmas.  I'm in town next week but have 4 programs at the elementary here.  The following week I go to Noatak.  The last week of October I'll be in Noorvik.  So, goodnight everyone.  Please write comments when you can...I'd like to think I'm not talking to myself!

Saturday, October 3, 2009


Last night was the finale of the Ken Burns series on the national parks, another good episode.  I have to admit, though, that I was hoping to see a little more of Kobuk Valley National Park.  The whole series was centered around Yosemite and Yellowstone being the birthplaces of the national parks.  The Alaska parks, except for Denali, are much newer, but they have some pretty exciting stories around them.  Kobuk Valley was not even mentioned; there was just some brief footage lumping it with the other ANILCA parks.  I think lots of people here were hoping for a little more because we had our biggest turnout last night -- 15 people!  Over-all, though, it was a good series.  I'll miss hosting our little event.  I do need to watch the series again to catch all the pieces I missed while "babysitting" and performing host duties.

Today I've been very industrious on the domestic front.  I finally have my little dining table put together.  I started it last week some time but was stymied by the need for a Philips head screwdriver that wasn't all chewed up at its point.  I made it to the hardware store yesterday and got all the screws in at lunch.  I see, though, why my screwdrivers are all chewed up and that it must be a racket by the hardware companies.  They must be making the screwdrivers out of materials that are softer than the screws themselves.  Anyway, today I finished the rest of the table.  It works very well!

I guess I can use my old screwdrivers as ice awls.  Real ice awls (in case you don't know -- I didn't) are kind of like two ice picks with covers over the point and a long string connecting them.  You wear the string around your shoulders to avoid dropping them (under your coat and through your sleeves).  Then, if you fall through the ice you jam the awls into the ice, the cover slides back, and the picks grab the ice so you can crawl your way onto the ice.  However, old screwdrivers could work as well. 

There are many things along the lines of surviving and thriving in the winter that I'm learning here.  Sometimes I get this funny feeling and have to laugh at myself...I feel a little like a poser.  This is all so new to me -- clothing, transportation, tools, shopping, food, even winter entertainment -- that I'm just looking around and copying what other people do.  It doesn't feel real and makes me feel a bit fake.  I'm enjoying getting to know how to live up here, and I have to suppose that at some point once I've had enough of my own experiences up here and can assess and predict my own needs that I might feel I belong here a little more.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Episode 5

Another really good episode of The National Parks: America's Best Idea.  The ending came suddenly, before I could swallow a lump that formed watching footage of Marian Anderson sing before a crowd of 75,000 at the Lincoln Memorial.  I didn't know who she was before tonight.  In fact, I'm learning an incredible amount of history related to my employing agency through this documentary.  Although the hours have been odd this week, I'll be a little disappointed tomorrow that the series is over.  We've had a nice little crowd of 8 or 9 people during the last few days, and it's nice to see how much they've enjoyed this story as well.  My supervisor has told me since I started that a big part of our job as interpreters and educators for this group of parks here is simply to make friends for the parks.  Thanks to Ken Burns for doing just that.

On another note, I got my parka in the mail today.  That was one thing I accomplished in Fairbanks a few weeks ago.  It's very toasty, so I shouldn't freeze my torso this winter.  I still have to work on the legs...have to get some insulated bib overalls.  I tried some on in Fairbanks but couldn't get everything into my suitcase and didn't find a great price, so I'm still working on that.  So, let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

Speaking of snow, I'm imagining the two people reading this will get tired of the daily snow update, but it's still a novelty to me, so bear with me for now.  No snow overnight, but it snowed some during the day.  It's still not sticking.  When I was looking for snow goggles at the store (it's not fun to ride an ATV with snow pelting your eyeballs), they said the goggles wouldn't be put out until the end of the month.  I guess the snow won't be sticking for a while.  Anyway, as I left the visitor center after 10:00 tonight, it looked like tiny little styrofoam balls scattered everywhere.  I don't really know if it was classified as snow, hail, sleet or something else, but it was cool.  It was dry-like.  It brushed away as if it really were styrofoam.  Very cool!