Monday, November 5, 2012

"When I lose my direction, I look up to the sky"

Savoonga from the air!

Happy November! We hope that all of our East coasters were able to weather the storm without damage or loss!  You are all in our thoughts!

As we find ourselves in November and well into the second quarter of the year, we're searching for direction as we hurdle the ups and downs of daily life in Savoonga.  We had our second SIG Pod of the year last week in Stebbins, which I was feeling pretty anxious about before we left.  The inservices are always helpful and informative, but I was already feeling overwhelmed and wasn't sure how much more information my brain could contain, much less process.

But miraculously, instead of leaving Stebbins even more overwhelmed and stressed, I left with a refreshed sense of inspiration.  I realized that it's hard to maintain a clear vision when you are in your classroom for a good 12 hours a day, 5 or 6 days a week.  It's good to step outside of your daily routine bubble, in my case the school, to gain some clarity.  After working with some pretty inspiring people for four days, all of whom are working towards the same goals, my sense of direction was restored and I felt ready to head back to Savoonga and tackle the world...well, island.

We were scheduled to return on the district flight, which meant we were leaving around 7:30 pm--the perfect time to catch a Bering Sea sunset from the air.  With my renewed sense of motivation paired with some Phish jams on my iPod and the inexplicable feeling of hovering over the Bering Sea on little 10 seater plane, my mind was impeccably clear and I reached a pretty sweet state of mental clarity.  I had everything figured out: lesson plans for the week, curriculum for the rest of the quarter, career path, kids names, global warming....well maybe not global warming but I was keeping an eye out for polar bears and walrus.  I was ready to get back in my classroom and start working towards productivity.

Then we landed in Savoonga.

And it was probably the freaking sweetest landing ever. One of the lame parts of flying on commercial jets is that you don't get to see everything the pilot sees.  On the flip side, this is one of the coolest things you get to do while flying in bush Alaska.  Flying isn't just a means of transportation, it's an experience that all 10 of you humans, and co-pilot dog, are living simultaneously.  When you've been descending and can see that the elevation gauge says 200 feet, and has for some time...but you haven't seen anything but dense fog for quite some can be pretty unnerving.  When you are looking out the same windshield the pilot is and you can't see a damn thing, it can be downright terrifying if you let it be. While trying not to think about the mountains that border the village, I quickly switched my iPod from "Call Me, Maybe," (I swear it just came on shuffle...) to Michael Franti's, "Have a Little Faith."  Hey, if I'm going down, I may as well go down with good karma.

With complete faith in our BSSD pilot, I was clutching B's hand and bracing myself. As I was focused on watching the elevation meter dropping, we flew out of the fog and the village came into view.  Though we were at a different angle than we normally come in on and maybe a little bit sideways, the pilot steered us to safety onto the runway.  The "cabin" erupted in cheers and sighs of relief.  The adventures in Alaska travel continue to amaze me, and my respect for bush pilots continues to rise.

We made it home safe and sound and got a good dose of adrenaline pumped through our blood.  Sadly, those clear thoughts and life plans were left in the ceiling of fog that was blanketing Savoonga that night.  The clarity has come and gone since I've been back, but generally the fog is slowly filling my brain.  After two, six-day work weeks, and what's more disappointing, two, one-day weekends, I'm once again overwhelmed, but determined and trying to maintain focus.

B keeping warm when our heat was out.
In an attempt to salvage our sanity and take some time for ourselves, we left school at 6:30 pm four out of six days this past week and let me tell you, that is a record.  When we got home Thursday night, we were ready to make a hearty meal to combat the arctic wind.  We had chickpeas soaked and ready to cook and some fresh kale and leeks to make a yummy stew.  Sadly, when we walked into our house, it was quickly apparent that we had no heat or power to half of the rooms in our house.  Two very skilled maintenance men and an hour later, it was determined that half of our fuse box was dead as a result of a burned wire to our house.  We were able to switch the heat to a working fuse, and our house has slowly warmed back up since.  However, we're without a working stove, oven, washer, dryer and lit bathroom.  For rural Alaska, these are minor inconveniences, and we were able to hijack one of the school's extra microwaves for the time being.  The biggest issue now is that I have no clue how to cook with a microwave, so the new appliance in our kitchen will be keeping me on my toes.  Candlelit showers are also on the agenda until the problem is resolved, but it makes for a nice ambiance and is actually pretty relaxing.  What's not relaxing is having to wash your undergarments in the school cafeteria washer and dryer.  This adventure in Alaska has taken any sense of normalcy I had and completely tossed it out the window.  Keep it coming!

Haunted House Preparations!
The Halloween Carnival that the school holds for the community was once again a success.  I'm the senior class advisor this year, and it's tradition that they create a haunted house for the younger kids.  With a lot of creativity, the students (and a few teachers) transformed the library into a scary spectacle.  The scariest part for me was the tombstone the kids created for me had me born in the year 1949.  It was a great fundraising success and overall a lot of fun!

Our tickets are officially booked for our trip home for Christmas, and we are getting excited about the break!  We've got quite a bit of wedding planning to do while we're home, but are ready to get the ball rolling.  We've got a couple of more months and a lot to accomplish before we leave.  Brendan has a couple of trips planned, one for training and two for volleyball!

As much planning as I've done over the course of my lifetime, living in Alaska is teaching me to go with the flow.  Which is a lesson that I definitely needed to learn.  I'll end this blog with some inspirational lyrics from my favorites that I'm trying to live by..."If I live the life I'm given, I won't be scared to die."