Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Top Ten Fun Facts


Today I am thinking in lists, so that is exactly what ya'll are getting. (By the way, I fully intend to be teased about my accent/select colloquial terms such as fixen' to and ya'll)

Top Ten Fun Facts About My Life in Gambell

10. I will be teaching grades 5/6 and I will only have around 13 students. This is fantastic! Classroom management will be a breeze compared to most L48 classes, and hopefully we will get to do more hands-on experiments/in-depth studies as a result.

9. During my flights to Gambell, I will usually have a layover above the Arctic Circle! The plane from Anchorage to Nome often stops by Kotzebue on the way, which is on the northern side of the Seward Peninsula. This has been a goal of mine for years, and it's so awesome to think that it is part of my day-to-day life now! I plan on making a polar bear plunge, one of these days.

8. My district is the size of Minnesota and North Dakota combined, and all 15 schools are K-12. Most are only reachable by plane, so the district does not have a school bus to its name. In fact, there aren't too many cars in most of the villages. BSSD does, however, have a plane and a pilot of its very own! The BSSD plane flies teachers and administrators around district for meetings and inservices, and also flies the school athletic teams to games when it is free.

7. Many of you have commented (despairingly) about the lack of restaurants in Gambell. Well, never fear, I can get delivery! The pizza place in Nome will deliver pizzas on the daily mail plane. The chinese place in Nome will also deliver on the same plane for a price. I may be in the middle of the Bering Sea, but I can still get delivery (provided the weather is okay for flying . . .)!

6. Gambell is located on the very Northwestern tip of St. Lawrence Island, on a spit made entirely of beach gravel. There is no solid ground in the village which I hear makes walking very tiring. Outside of the village, the ground is exactly opposite. It is permanantly frozen (called permafrost), and therefore so hard that the cemetary is above ground.

5. The school mascot is the Qughsatkut, which mostly means king polar bear in Siberian Yupik (the villagers' native language). It just seems fitting, doesn't it? Quite seriously, I have to always be viligant when I am outside for polar bears. They look cute and cuddly on the front cover of National Geographic, but they are vicious creatures that I would like to only see from afar. School ski-meets have polar bear guards at other schools in case a stray bear decides to check out the smorgasbord sliding around on sticks.

4. I can see the mountains of Siberia (Russia) from the village. Seriously, I am only 35 miles from Asia. Awesome, right? I am only 19 miles from the International Dateline, which means that I can literally see tomorrow. It is at least 200 miles to Nome/mainland North America in the other direction.

3. Though it is not absolutely necessary, I plan on buying an extremely warm Canada Goose parka. Many teachers in district have them and can't say enough good things about them. As I will be walking to and from work everyday no matter the temperature (which dips below zero more often than not in the winter), I don't think I mind investing in a nice parka. It's the same kind that the scientists use in Antarctica, so now I can take that Antarctica trip like I've always dreamed without anything more than my everyday winter coat.

2. I get to make up my own street address! There are no actual streets in my village, so I will be assigned a Post Office Box. Only problem is that many places don't like to mail things to PO Boxes, so I have to have a real address. Since that does not exist in Gambell, I will eventually just make up my own street name. Right now I'm using the school's address to ship things to myself, but soon enough I will let everyone know what address they can use to send me letters (I expect many from you all).

and finally, the big finale . . .

1. I will be the High School Volleyball Coach. No, I don't mind if you laugh. ;-) BSSD seems to think that 7th grade C Team and OC Delta Tau Intramural B Team counts as a just qualification. I tried to tell them that actually it is the exact opposite, but even still I have been drafted. Upsides: I get to travel around the district for about 5 games, and I get a stipend for my coaching prowress. Since the planes are so small and I will be with my whole team when we fly to away games, I will get to sit in the co-pilot seat! Downsides: I'm not that great at Volleyball. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine I would be a high school athletics coach, but there it is. Anything's possible.

Well, that's it for now. I booked my flights to Alaska, and I am scheduled to leave Oklahoma on July 29th. I'll spend a week in Anchorage with family and BSSD friends (mostly shopping and seeing the sights), and then I'll fly onto Nome/Kotzebue, and then finally end up in Gambell on August 5th. After that, I'll spend time setting up my classroom and apartment before attending the District Inservice in Unalakleet (the district will pick me up in the plane and fly me there). I'm hoping to get a little fishing time in with some family friends while in Unalakleet, but we'll see. At this point, anything may happen!


Time to Pack My Life Away

It is time: I will now attempt to pack my entire life into tubs and then ship it off into the unknown. I'm sending it the very cheapest way possible (parcel post/media mail), so it will all take a good while to get to Gambell. The next two months will be interesting, as most of my stuff will be touring the country without me.

Here is what the process looks like, for those of you that are as of yet unawares. I have to mail all my belongings to the school in Gambell (the only semi-real address in town), where it will be kept until I arrive. When I get there, someone from the village will haul my tubs on an ATV trailer across the village to my apartment.

Sounds simple enough, right? Wrong. There are specific things I must do in order to give my stuff a fighting chance in the mail system/Alaskan weather. First, everything must be packed into Rubbermaid totes. This is non-negotiable as the cheaper Sterilite brand that Wal-Mart carries will shatter in the wintertime. I plan to reuse these totes in the future so I had to search all over OKC to find Rubbermaid. Luckily, Target carries them and a potential dilemma was avoided.

Before I actually put anything in the tubs, I reinforced the corners with duct tape. This is not a must, but it gives me piece of mind. After everything is packed away nice and snug, I have to snap the lid on and drill six holes around the top of the tub. Then, I'll loop a zip-tie through each of these holes. Hopefully, this will keep the top from flying off during transit. I've been told by many to NOT cut off the extra length on each zip-tie, or else something bad will happen. Cut zip-ties either signify that I am a drug-runner, I am mailing counterfeit merchandise, or that I am just generally a suspicious person. Bottom line is that my stuff won't make it to Gambell if I decide to suddenly become obsessive compulsive about the long zip-tie mess.

After my tubs are closed and zipped, I will give a few more wrap-arounds with duct tape and pray that the post office doesn't ask to see inside. I have not decided how I'll attach the address; I'll have to see how that shapes up.

In the end, it will cost about a dollar per pound that I ship from Mustang, Oklahoma to Gambell, Alaska. Media Mail is considerably cheaper, so all of my books and binders will of course be sent in that way.

To be honest, it's all a real hassle . . . but I keep reminding myself that it is completely worth it. Look for a few more updates in the near future as new information is solidified.