Saturday, February 19, 2011


February may be the shortest month of the calendar year, but it can seem to drag on.  Since the winters start early and end after the rest of the country, March really isn’t anything to look forward to.  It’ll still be cold with no anticipation of spring yet.  But on the bright side, the landscape changes almost daily as the snowdrifts shift around, trying to find a place to call home.

Another reason that the second half of the year seems to drag on is because we will have zero school days off until the year is done.  From Christmas break to May 18, we do not have any three-day weekends or a spring break to look forward to.  I do think it is better to push through and have a longer summer break, so I’ll quit bitching for now.

I was offered a contract for next school year and I have signed and turned it in.  Some of the districts up here obviously want to know who’s coming back, so they offer contracts much earlier than most districts elsewhere.  Monica will be joining me here next year, which will make the year much better because I miss her.  It will also mean a more varied diet for me.  I don’t think Monica will want to eat the same three-meal rotation I have right now.  None of them include vegetables, so that part will change for me.  She informs me that coffee can’t be considered a vegetable unless I actually eat it.  I know what you’re thinking, but she said no soup.

I’ve also taken on another job: Jr. High basketball coach.  This is a co-ed team and I have 5 players.  I didn’t start out as the coach because I am taking 6 credits this semester and didn’t have the time.  The coach decided he couldn’t finish the season, so he quit.  That left the team without a coach and me without a team.  We don’t always get along, but I think we’re having fun.  I have found the time and it’s from 5-6:30pm, Monday through Friday.

When I coached high school basketball at Waterville, I had a great mentor in Dick Stoddard.  Unfortunately, Dick is not here, so I’m having to figure things out on my own.  We have a road trip next weekend and the kids are very excited about this.  Marshall is a village that is about 70 miles up the Yukon.  I think traveling to another village is more important to them than the game.  And I don’t blame them.  This gives them the opportunity to spend time in another village and meet other kids.  The teams stay at the school, so they’ll have 36 hrs to run around and eat candy and down energy drinks.  They also think that resting in sleeping bags on the floor of a classroom is fun: I disagree.  I see everyday what happens on a classroom floor. I’m not looking forward to having a pillow as the only barrier between my head and a classroom floor.  I may sleep in the teacher’s chair.  That isn’t really a consolation because I know what can happen in a teacher’s chair.  Of course, not to my chair, but other chairs. 

This trip will help shorten the month for me.  I will be able to make a visit to the store in Marshall so I can get some eggs, potatoes, and onions. This will give me another meal to put into my three-meal rotation, at least for a few weeks.  Until I run out eggs. I suppose I could purchase some fresh vegetables, but I don’t have much room and I have to prioritize.  Plus, potatoes and onions are bonafide vegetables.  The eggs will help supplement my cholesterol plan with the Spam.

Sunday, February 13, 2011


I usually write my blog on Saturday mornings, after a pot of coffee and watching 3 hours of cartoons.  But this weekend was different; we had a basketball tournament at our school.  Alakanuk and Marshall showed up for a two-day set of games.  They didn’t “just” show up, we knew they were coming, so we prepared.  So I’m posting this a day late.  Not that it matters, but at least Monica will know what I’m up to.  That reminds me, I should call her one of these days.

One of my extra duties at the school is doing jobs “as assigned by the principal”.  This means he gives me the "opportunity to gain valuable experience" on the jobs he doesn't want to do. (Plus the authority to use quotations as much as I want.) My valuable experience this weekend was to make sure the tournament ran smoothly. 

I’ve mentioned before in my blog that when teams play, everyone stays at the school since we have no hotels in the villages.  The teams sleep in our classrooms and the kitchen staff comes in to prepare food so everyone can eat.  Things almost turn terrible for the kids this weekend.

There was a potlatch, a Yupik celebration, being held upriver this weekend.  Many people, including our kitchen staff, planned on going to the potlatch.  We were stuck with no kitchen help.  When she made this announcement, the others helping out this weekend nervously looked at me.  And not just because I was showing off my new sock puppets perform a new play I had written.  I knew I had to do something to instill confidence, so I asked the cook where the Spam was.  Now she looked nervously at me, but I think this time it had something to do with the sock puppets.  Luckily for everyone involved, a snowmobile failure meant she couldn’t go.  I know she was disappointed, but the kids were happy that they didn’t have to eat chili and rice for breakfast.  Oh well, there was more for my breakfast.

The tourney went off without any problems.  We were able to play 8 games and I only had to referee one game.  I’ve found there is no quicker way to anger a crowd of people than by putting on a striped shirt and a whistle.  My biggest problem was that I thought it was a dodge ball game for the first three minutes.  Once they explained it was basketball and took my puppets away, the game resumed.  Luckily there were others who could ref the other games and I was once again able to stand in front of the concession stand and tell kids to stop running in the hall.  Yeah, I’m turning into that guy.  One funny and new event for me to witness was one of our players standing in line at the concession stand.  I peeked in the gym to see our team on the court, playing a game.  I looked back at the player (one of my students) wearing his uniform proudly and ordering candy.  Everyone seemed ok with it, even the teacher who smiled and told him good luck as she handed him his candy.  But, I’m not the coach, so I only hoped that I didn’t have a mess to clean up on the court.

I dropped the last team off at the airstrip at 4pm yesterday in -20 degrees temperatures and was finished cleaning up by 5.  I got home in time to watch 3 episodes of the Flying Wild Alaska show on discovery.  That gave me time to mull over my reality show and to ask myself the question everyone has been asking themselves:  Why in the hell are there so many reality shows about cupcakes?  And why isn’t one enough?  Add a sock puppet or two, now you have a show.

Saturday, February 5, 2011


I started watching a new show on Discovery called Flying Wild Alaska.  It follows pilots who fly for a small airline, Era, out of Unalakleet, AK, a village about 90 miles NE from my village.  This airline is one of the two that fly in and out of Nunam Iqua.  In the winter, they are the only ones bringing people, mail, and food to the villages.  As you can tell, this makes them important out here.

That got me thinking; with all of the reality shows going on here in Alaska, maybe they’d have one about Sarah Palin landing airplanes in her Alaska.  Or maybe one could follow teachers at school in rural Alaska.  I’m not sure how Sarah could wedge her way into this one, but I’ll let her figure it out. 

The film crew could follow the daily activities of three new teachers, just learning how to teach in a classroom full of kids.  But on top of that, they will be living in an entirely new culture, one where they become the out-group.  They will have no transportation except their own legs.  They would also be faced with intermittent water and sewer usage.  And in this case, there would be no store to purchase food or any other materials they may find essential.  Need to use the post office?  Try Saturday morning; since that is the only time we can get there when it is open.

You might think this would be a drama, but you would be incorrect.  This would be a comedy reality show, and one without a Snookie or a housewife.  If I’m allowed to be a producer on the show, I’ll try to get one of the Kardashians, but only for ratings.  We also wouldn’t be voting anyone off, because I’m not ready to leave and I know I’d be the first one they’d vote off.  And we won’t have a shirtless weigh-in like Biggest Loser, because I would get voted off after that scene. 

The show would center on the daily life of the three teachers.  The main teacher, a handsome man, in a doughy and balding sort of way, would bring all of his 44 years of wisdom into the classroom.  The two minor teachers in the show will be young and inexperienced in life and in the classroom.  They will be puzzled about some things and have to ask the star of the show to explain.  Questions like: “Why do you always run like a scared rabbit whenever you see a dog?”  (To be honest, it looked just like a wolf.)  “How can you never eat vegetables and still be alive?”  (Grass is a vegetable, cows eat grass, I eat cows; therefore, I eat vegetables.)  “Why do you start to whimper whenever someone walks into your room?”  (Again, it looked just like a wolf.)  They would use their good-humored kidding during lunchtime in the teacher’s lounge, asking the main character to go find a different place to eat or at least use a spoon when eating out of a peanut butter jar.  My good-natured retort would be to wipe my hands on my pants and remind Miss Manners that we’re teachers, not TV stars.  Then I’d chuckle and walk back to my room while the others would do their best to look disgusted. 

This sounds like a no-brainer for the producers of reality television and I’m at a loss as to why I haven’t seen anything like it on TV.  Maybe they’re just waiting for the right opportunity to showcase someone.  And if I’m chosen, I promise that I wouldn’t become big-time and do things like trim my beard weekly or change socks frequently.  I’m also working on another reality show called Janitor Wars.  I don’t have all the details, but I think it will be about janitors.  I’ll keep everyone posted.