Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Our Next Door Neighbor, Siberia

Another school day down, and we are that much closer to the end!

On our walk home, we noticed that it was as clear as we've ever seen it in Siberia! The Russian mountains were gorgeous so we went down to the West Beach to take some pictures and gaze into tomorrow. Amanda stuck her hand in the Bering Sea, and then we called it good and went back inside. Lunch was terrible today at the school so we were anxious to find some edible food.

Monday, May 17, 2010

The North Beach

I took the day off today! Teachers don’t get enough personal days during the year. I would trade some summer time for a few more days off during the year. We don’t even get federal holidays.

Amanda and I went to the North Beach today. It was a gorgeous day! The sun was shining bright and hot . . . well, as hot as it gets in the Arctic May. It was a nice walk (extra nice because people were in school and I was not!).

It’s funny to watch Amanda as she does things here for the first time, and remember back to my first time in August. The walk to North Beach in 30 degree weather seems like a tropical stroll . . . we weren’t even halfway there and she was asking why we weren’t at the beach yet. ☺ I remember my first solo walk to North Beach; I thought I would never get there! I felt like I would never get to where I was going, and then a few weeks later all the snow dumped and it fell 80 below freezing . . . and my sense of perspective was widened. Now that it’s not an epic battle through the snow and ice, everything seems so much easier!

We also popped into the blue store today since we were in the area and it was open . . . a rare alignment of the planets must be responsible. She spent some time gasping at the prices that seem normal to me now . . . $10 pickle jars, $30 Tide detergent, and the like. I spent some time thinking how my grocery bill will vastly diminish very soon. Either that, or it will skyrocket because I will think I can afford everything in sight.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Arctic Bocce Ball

I was planning on going to school today, but the weather was near white-out conditions and I decided it could wait until tomorrow. No sense in walking a mile out there when I don’t have to!

On the other hand, Amanda should get the full Gambell experience. It seems like FATE that a random Spring whiteout should occur mere days after she arrives! We walked to the West Beach (luckily I have the way memorized, because I couldn’t see a thing without the goggles Amanda was wearing) and then walked back . . . and that was more than enough for Amanda! ☺

It was ferociously beautiful out there . . . it was the Deadliest Catch Winter Bering Sea at its worst, a kind of raw and wild magnificence that cannot be tamed. As much as I am ready to leave Gambell, I will not forget the land nor the sea. It etches into your soul no matter how thick a shield you erect.

I could tell Amanda was getting bored as only you can get bored in the Arctic, so I suggested a game of Arctic Bocce Ball. Same game we all know and love, just in the Arctic. This was a special edition actually, because it was a blizzard out there! We used a blue hackey sack instead of the white ping-pong marker (since it would have gotten lost in the snow during the first round).

PS Happy Birthday Mom!

Friday, May 14, 2010

I Can Yupik Dance Goodly

I suited up Amanda today in all my winter gear. The weather really wasn’t that bad at all this morning, but I have no way of knowing how cold she really is. I don’t feel the cold as much anymore and it is hard for me to remember what it’s like. Especially since she just left some ridiculous temperature like 90 degrees F. Yes, that’s above freezing. I haven’t seen temperatures above freezing in about 9 months. Honestly, 20 deg feels balmy.

There is so much that I don’t notice about this place, so much that I take for granted and overlook. Village English is just one of those elephants that sit in the room making quiet trouble throughout the day . . . I’ve long since stopped being surprised at their peculiar grammar and unique phrases. I should include a sample conversation someday so you can see what I mean about the grammar; it’s hard to describe.

Today was Friday so we had our last Yupik dance of the year. I danced most every dance Compliments were related to me afterwards . . . for some UNKNOWN reason, they REALLY like the way I dance here! Apparently, I have a natural talent for Yupik Dancing. That’s sure to come in handy someday. ;-) Amanda participated in the dancing and had fun, though I am not sure if she has the Yupik Dancing gene. Perhaps it just hasn’t been expressed yet. Anyway, my class gave her a Yupik name. They call her (in English) Sandhill Crane. She has long legs compared to the Yupik people, you see. Allen’s rule stands the test of time and space.

(Amanda is the tall one in the back, lol)

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Roast Whale is Hard to Cook

Amanda is here! Her plane came in earlier than expected. I was just about to suit up when I heard it fly in over the village. I ran out of the apartment half dressed just in time to see her standing all alone with her rolling luggage and city hat by the airport hanger (which she calls a shed). I gave her a better hat, put her suitcase on the sled, and led her back through the walrus boneyards to Teacher Housing.

She looks very tired. ☺ I’ve taken that long trip a few times, so I imagine she is more tired than she is letting on. I suppose I will have to cook her a real laluramka dinner instead of whale. Especially since I burnt the whale roast I was cooking.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The December Country

In Alaska, everything is beautifully backwards. One expects water to ripple and wave as the wind tosses it back and forth. Yet, in wintered Alaska the sea sits still and mute while the sky swirls and sings in alien colors. The line between land, sea, and sky is fogged beyond that which can be discerned by human eye or intelligence. Blue ice is inverted upon opaque skies. Ivory islands float haphazardly between sheets of white pastels that have been smudged and shaded beyond recognition. Time is kept not by the everlasting darkness nor the shackled sun, but by the rhythms deep within our beating hearts.

It is every place that is familiar, it is every place that is foreign. It is the wild light we have always longed after, it is the wild darkness that has always frightened us. It is the time of our first awakening, it is the time of our first slumber.

In shock we have discovered that our beauteous land is deplorably fierce and feral.
That which should infuse our hearts with awe instead fills us with terrible desperation.

Somehow the land that first demanded our love thus turned to break our spirit. The quiet isolation we once worshiped faded into an unfathomable desolation as the winter fell around us, and even still we wonder how such a thing can be. It seems there are things in this world which are meant to be only temporal; short seasons of inexplicable impossibilities. We can never truly belong here for this place was not shaped for us.

And so we learn that creatures of the Light should not live within the interminable Dark. Though a vast prison of ice threatens to keep us perpetually bound, it is strictly the memory of Light which pulls us through the December country.

*published in The Mensokie, June 2010 Edition (Central Oklahoma Mensa)