Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas

Our Christmas tree.
Well, we’ve made it through our first week of Christmas break and Monica hasn’t smothered me with my pillow yet.  I believe this is because of her strong convictions that most murders are wrong.  It still makes me nervous each time she rolls over during the night. 

I’ve stated here before that we don’t have a store in our village.  This means that our ability to purchase fresh produce is limited.  There is an online outlet that will deliver produce out here called Full Circle.  It is expensive since it is delivered by airfreight, but worth it since this is the only way to get it here.  We get a box arriving weekly containing assorted vegetables and fruits.   The options are limited to what is available to them, but we’ve been getting hard fruit and a variety of vegetables each week.  I was a little worried about the amount of roughage we would suddenly be getting, but so far so good.

We have finished our first week of break, or as Monica calls it, “Cooped up with Clay”.  The temps have dropped below zero with the forecast calling for us not to see positive temperatures for a week or so.  With it that cold, we are not persuaded to go outside for any length of time, so Monica is cooped up with me.  I see this as the perfect time to spend with me, hearing about ideas I’ve come up with.  What she deems as bizarre, I see as brilliant.   One of my ideas is a TV show about an Amish astronaut.  Because of his religious convictions, he’s unable to use any of the buttons, levers, or dials that are used in his astronaut duties.   But he has the most brilliant astronaut mind ever.  So NASA sends up a monkey with him to be his hands while in the spaceship.  Well, we can all imagine what hilarity would ensue.  But Monica pooh-poohed the idea by consulting Professor Google and reading to me the tragic history of monkeys in space.  I reminded her that millions of people find Two and a Half Men to be entertaining so this should be a shoe in.  I’ll work out the title of the show later.  And not to worry, there will be a poop-throwing episode. 

This is about as high as the sun gets this time of the year.
Monica is working hard on her college courses.  She is working towards her teaching degree through Western Governors University, an online college.  She had a few troubles with taking tests because of our isolation and lack of reliable Internet service.  But that was fixed when our counselor was able to proctor her tests.  This got me to wondering if online colleges have online sports teams.  Do they have a team of students who are on scholarships that sit in basements and play Madden Football with other online colleges?  And if so, I wonder if I have any eligibility left.

Well, we’re down to -19 at sunrise this morning at 11:28.  The days will be getting longer now, so I can’t wait until sunrise is before lunch.  We are still lucky in that we still have running water and sewer.  Most houses around us have no water or sewer right now, so we’re just hoping not to be one of those.  The city workers are trying to resolve the problem.  But I’m not eating any of the fresh fruits or vegetables just in case.  Merry Christmas.

Sunday, December 18, 2011


Our winter break started on Friday and I am ready for this.  I strongly believe that having nothing to do is very underrated.  People like to talk big about how much work they do.  But you never hear people boast about how they loaf around all day and have nothing to do.  Until now.  I truly have no activities that require a large amount of effort during the Christmas break.  Eating may be the most physically demanding activity I do today.  Maybe I’ll put it in a small plate so I have to get up twice for a refill.  Or maybe I’ll just bring the skillet to my chair and eat it there.   By eating straight from the pan, I will increase my physical activity by have to dodge dirty looks from my wife.  So I’m not sure if the trade-off is worth the extra effort. 

Fishing on the Yukon.
Monica is learning things about me she probably didn’t want to know.  Monica and I have spent more time together up here than we have in any other time in our marriage.  Monica worked the night shift as a 911 dispatcher before heading up here, so our schedules were not in sync.  She’s beginning to observe first hand my slothful ways.  One of the things she hates is how I have everything I need at arms length (except the toilet) when I’m at my chair.  Luckily I don’t need very much, but I know I can get to it in short notice and without the extra effort of leaving my chair.  I know there are many other things that she finds exasperating about me, but I fear if I share them, everyone will know how big of a toad I really am. 

Something that I have discovered about Monica is that she can cook.  And cook very well.  Who knew?  I didn’t.  And I am a bit miffed that she never shared that information with me before.  We’ve been married almost 9 years and I’m just finding this out.  So, for all of this time, I’ve been doing the majority of the cooking (and eating) out of fear and love.  Now, I find out she can cook.  She’s been keeping this from me so she didn’t have to do her share of the cooking.  Not telling me this is akin to me having the ability to fly and keeping it a secret from her because I knew she’d pester me to run more errands.  I think that would be an abuse of my power, flying to Starbucks for a cup of joe.  But, it sure would come in handy for a beer run.  Or to show off at class reunions.

We had our school Christmas program last week.  After hearing ‘It’s Beginning to Look a lot Like Christmas’ constantly for the past two weeks, I’d love to punch Michael BublĂ© in the face.  So we sang that and we read ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas’.  The kids did a great job in spite of fact that their teacher does not have the proper skills or knowledge on how to choreograph our part of the program.  Guess I’ll start watching Glee. 

I have over two weeks to rest up for the second half of the school year.  Next week we can begin to count the hours of daylight as they increase.  Most of the teachers have headed south for the break, so it will be very quiet here.  Our school counselor is staying so we’ll have Christmas dinner with her.  Our snowmobile is scheduled to get here next week, so maybe we’ll have that to help entertain us.  Monica will be busy with her college work, so I’ll be able to play Tiger Woods on the Xbox.  The sad part is that I won’t be able to spend my break watching Oprah.

Sunday, December 11, 2011


The early winter has produced some pretty strong storms up here.  Usually, the strong storms appear in February-March.  We’ve had a couple already, including this weekend.  Our house is built on four-foot stilts so when the wind blows, our house rocks back and forth.  And not in a baby-in-a-cradle kind of way, more like a house rolling down a hill with lots of big rocks on it.  The house shakes violently when the big gusts hit, and shudders unevenly with the regular wind.

10ft snowdrift outside our front door.
Our village, Nunam Iqua, sits about one mile inland from the Bering Sea.  This allows us to enjoy the severe breezes the Arctic has to offer.  Earlier this week we had difficulties on the walk to work during a storm.  This storm brought about 5 inches of snow and 40 mph winds. The problem with the combination of wind and snow is that the snow does not spread evenly.  It piles in unfortunate places.  For example, right in the path I want to walk.  Some of the snowdrifts were taller than I am. The drifts we couldn’t conquer, we walked around.  Most times in ass-deep snow.  The land is flat, so we don’t have to worry about hills and the lake we walk on doesn’t collect drifts.  The lake we walk on is also frozen.    

After a storm, the path becomes much easier to walk on because people drive their snowmobiles on the path and pack the snow down.  The majority of the time, the walk to school is a pretty easy walk.  All of us have very good cold weather gear to wear, so the temperature really doesn’t affect us; it’s the wind that causes most problems.  But walking to school in a storm is pretty exhilarating.  And exhausting.

Now, I know that sounds like a lot of whining.  But it’s not whining.  The fact is I love the storms.  I love standing at the window, watching snow hurry past at 40 mph.  I also love the fact that I’m holding a hot cup of coffee, wearing warm slippers, and have a furnace that works harder than a one-legged man at a Riverdance audition.  I love that only inches away, the storm is raging. Yet where I stand I’m comfortable and untouched by Mother Nature.  When I was in the Navy, I felt the same way about being on the submarine: at 800 ft under the surface of the ocean, I was dry and breathing mostly clean air.  Well, filtered.  Actually it was nasty, but the fact that I was breathing was a huge comfort to me.  It’s also like standing two feet from the pit-bull who’s at the end of his chain, exhorting all of his energy to break free and eat my liver.  I’m not really sure why I enjoy endangering my life by trusting that things don’t break.  I do realize the fragility of what is involved because there is no way I could ever bungee jump. 

I’ll continue to watch the storm from the comfort of my living room.  I may have to transport a teacher to the airstrip tomorrow, but the worst the storm has to offer should have passed.  I will also rethink the logic of taunting a dog on a tether.   Which shouldn’t take very long since there is no logic in that activity.  

Saturday, December 3, 2011


The time between Thanksgiving and Christmas is a weird time.  Everybody knows how many days until winter break begins.  Kids are announcing the countdown when they enter the classroom in the mornings.  I try to remind them about the big picture; it’s the summer break they need to get excited about.  But it’s difficult for them to think about the summer when it is so far away.  It also doesn’t help when other teachers are so giddy about flying south for a couple of weeks.  I’m even thinking about telling the kids that there is no Santa.  I know it might break a few little hearts, but at least they won’t be so excited about the break and they could concentrate on their schoolwork.  It may seem a bit cruel, but in the long run it will be better for them. 

Sunrise out our front window- 11:15am
Getting groceries up here has been a challenge this winter.  We ordered the bulk of our food last summer.  These orders should last us for the entire school year.  We ordered a couple of hundred pounds of meat, cases of canned food, sugar, flour, etc… and most of that will last us.  The perishables are a different story.  We did an order in Oct for some items and it took over a month to arrive.  We also didn’t get everything we ordered and some items came frozen (eggs).  We order from a grocery store, Fred Meyers.  They take the order, send someone through the store with the list and a shopping cart, fill the order, and ship it.  Seems simple enough, but something broke down in their system. 

We received two shipments; one through the mail and one through a shipping company.  Their statement was that the perishables had to be shipped through the airfreight service.  This is expensive, but it does get here much faster and is kept in a controlled climate.  The problem with that was that the controlled climate was the freezer, as requested from Fred Meyer.  Nothing we ordered required freezing.  This included two dozen eggs.  Most of the order was shipped through the post office, cutting the cost of the shipping dramatically.

Our indoor porch this morning.
Most importantly, we got our toilet paper.  We were really counting on using that.  Unlike butter, I am unwilling to ration the use of toilet paper.  I don’t really want to consider how a person would ration toilet paper.  When rationing butter, you could just have butter every other day instead of every day.  Ok, butter is delicious and pretty important.  Let’s use broccoli as our example when it comes to rationing food.  But for rationing toilet paper, I don’t imagine it could work like that.   Also, I refuse to ration coffee.  I would rather go without than have only one cup a day. 

I may hold off on telling the kids about Christmas lies.  If I remember correctly, the Grinch was unfairly portrayed as someone malevolent and evil.  I’ve discussed this with Monica and she was pretty quiet on the subject.  Come to think of it, I don’t think she was even in the room when we discussed it.  Most of our conversations take place with me in the living room, talking and her not.  I find her more agreeing this way and she finds me less irritating.   Win-win.