Google+ Followers

Friday, June 21, 2013

From Alaska - Log 11 (last)


Gee, no entry for a long , long time.  I am in Pitka's Point. Paula stayed back to take care of the boys.  I'm alone up here and really don't like it - the part about being alone.  But that has always been one of my fantasies, to winter in the far north alone and isolated.  Well perhaps I am not that isolated there are three other white teachers, several native staff, and 120 other villagers.  Interesting place so far.


This last week has been spent getting ready for school.  It starts Wed the 25th.  I went for a walk after dinner tonight and found myself on the banks of the Yukon River talking to a couple who were kayaking to Nome.  I told them they could come up to the school and use the Internet to check mail.  They may come up later.


School starts tomorrow.  I am about as ready as I ever am.


School is OK.  I only have seven in the class.  A real dream job.  There are only 35 in the whole school.  The grades are K - 8, and then the kids transfer to St. Marys, about 15 miles down the one road in these parts.  There is one young man named Gabe who is very smart and one other who is funny as all get out.  The others are good kids, but there is always one with an attitude.  The problem is that his grandmother is my assistant.


I am the cross country coach which is stupid because I don't know the first thing about it, but some one had to do it and I am the only man on staff and the ladies did not want to.  I got a book about it and set up a practice schedule but the kids sort of come and go at will.  They don't like to practice for very long.  Their parents take them netting or hunting, or they have to baby sit.  There is always some reason.  Gabe seems to be the best.  There is a district rule that they have to practice 10 days before a meet.  To accommodate the kids I have practice on Sat and Sun, sometimes 2 per day so they can get in the required practices, gee what a nice guy I am, but it is not like I have much else to do.


Went to church in St Marys.  They have a Jesuit society there.


Got paid, $3781 clear.


Took Claudia, our principal-lead teacher to the airport this moring.  She is going to Anchorage for a principals meeting.  Left me in charge.  Perhaps I will call school off for the rest of the week.

Note to reader:  For some reason I stopped keeping a log as such and have no more day to day entries to make.  Some how now and then I run across items that seem to fit this narrative and if I do I will plug them in a long the line.  

I didn't call off school that week.  I don't remember the names of the other teachers except for Claudia and I can say we were all friends but not close ones.  Some of my story's take place in Pitka's Point and when they do I identify it as such.   I had thought that that would be my last year but Paula filed for divorce when I was there and sort of left me in a financial bind.  Absence makes the heart grow fonder, but usually for some one else.  That is not really fair, she had a host of family problems  to deal with and one can only do so much.  We tried to reconcile but its is hard to do over the phone etc.  I saw her once the following year but nothing really came of it. I have not seen her since, that shipped sailed.  I came back one more year (four years all toghether with a summer school thrown in) and have visited three more with a tip planned for this late spring.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

From Alaska - Log 10

... Continued from Log 9


No entry for a long time.  Went to Dixon and KC, had a nice time visiting kids, better than usual.  Been doing most of my writing working on stories, trying to get them ready to send to friends.  There is a lot of snow and the weather is very cold now.  Alexa came back with us.  She doesn’t appear to like me much, perhaps time will change that.

The teachers are all in a ditty because they heard that a consultant was making a hit list.  I’ve gotten along well with the guy but people like Mike Jump says he is not to be trusted.

There are some things wrong about the educational system in Alaska.  The Administrators by and large are inept and have no long range programs.  The school boards are comprised of well meaning but culturally different Eskimos who think tradition should over shadow all.  There are a lot of teachers that just give up and are staying for the money only and find it easy to fool the administration and community that they are doing a great job.  All one has to do is keep the status quo, tell the parents how great their kids are doing, and basically just not rock the boat.  All so the parents are very lenient.  Given the combination above it doesn’t make for a good learning environment. 

There are many ways to solve this problem one of which is to have everyone held accountable via standardized tests.  One problem I can see is how do you standardize a test for Eskimos, some of which have never seen a side walk?


Snowing, cold, and basketball game.  Have spent the morning doing little except studying on my Alaskan History course and sending emails.  Paula cooked a nice breakfast – Egg omelet, bacon, raisin bread, yum, yum.


Saw the northern lights.  Spent a long time getting on my clothes to go see them.  Not a real good display.  Reports of polar bear prints north of town.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

From Alaska - Log 9

Continued from Log 8


I went out tonight and walked around hoping to see the northern lights.  I didn’t so I then hoped I would see some Hooper Bay night life.  All I could see was a bunch of 4 wheelers running all over town, going God knows where.  Which brings something up, I did run into one of my students out in the dark, he said he was just walking around until he ran into his friends.  It is starting to get cold now , don’t know exactly what the temp is, but it is cold..


No entry for a long time.  Thanksgiving was spent at the Principal’s house.  Paula left for Dixon – I’ll leave on the 21.  she said she spent 26 hours in travel time including airport waiting areas.
At a pot luck for the students an old Eskimo man asked me if he could borrow Paula.  I wasn’t quick enough to ask him how many seal skins he had to trade. 
Things are quiet.  I did manage to piss off the post mistress, but am still getting mail.
The kids are very restless in the afternoon.  The morning class is good though.
Paula and I thought we would go to the Amboy Church Xmas eve – that ought to be interesting if my second wife is there also.  I need to some how make contact with Darren while there.


Got stopped in the hall on the way to lunch.  Marta was furious.  She got a bad evaluation.  I have never seen her teach but she can’t be a bad teacher.  In fact I have never heard anything but praise about her skills.  The administration does not like her because she is out spoken.  She is also the union rep.  She says she is going to appeal the evaluation than sue the principal personally.  Pot luck ought to be fun tonight.

Monday, June 17, 2013

From Alaksa - Log 8

Continued from Log  7 


November already, amazing.  The computer is set up, I am on line but still need to hook up the scanner and printer.  Paula got her second pay check today for subbing.  The twist is she was supposed to get it yesterday but the plane was not able to come in – where else does that happen? 

Halloween was calm. Nothing exciting.  Big to do  tonight.  Dance and a spook hallway up in the school.  Looks good, will have to walk through it later tonight. 

One couple has been here twenty years, love to camp, own a boat, four wheeler, and snow machine.  They live in one of the nicer places.  He is a jack of all trades, fixed our cable when it went out, let us use his satellite unit, very helpful but remains isolated a little from the rest of us.


We had a housing inspection yesterday by the central office.  They are looking at all the teacher housing in the district to levelize rents. Some units better than others but the rents are not equal.  Ours is OK for the most part, don’t expect the rent to go up or down.

One of the new teachers is kind of a sad case.  Flunked out of a PhD program, should not be teaching middle school, poor class room management.  No real friends, no TV, no stock pile of food.  We had him over for dinner once, nice enough guy to talk to , seems to know a lot about Russia.


Megan had Eva yesterday or the day before depending on the time between here and there.  Seems as though Dad left an insurance policy to be divided between us kids and Marsha – don’t know how much.  There is little to write about my Alaska adventure right now and it is to cold to go out exploring without transportation of some sort.  Been writing some stories.


One of my students is dieing from a head injury she suffered from a four wheeler accident.  Chasing around at night, hit a log on the beach, flew off.  She is on life support.  Benise Smith, 13,  Two other girls were hurt also.  Benise is in the hospital in Anchorage. Her parents flew there, they have no money to speak of.  The father is one of our janitors and her mother is a sub and works with Paula sometimes.  We will have to go to the funeral – I hear it is an ordeal.  I will let you know, dear reader.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

From Alaska - Log 7

Continued from Log 6


Last weekend our friends Bill and Sue came over for dinner and brought two quarts of beer (home brew.) It was a little on the dark side but I enjoyed it none the less.

The satellite keeps going out and I spent almost all day climbing around buildings and up and down poles. I got it going but weather conditions keeps the signal erratic. Have emailed all my friends to send up some videos of normal TV as a back up if one day I cannot get it fixed.

I have changed the seating configuration of my room about five times trying to do some internal levelizing, not that it makes much difference. They are all still behind.

I enrolled in another class, so this year I will pick-up nine college hours from the University of Alaska - so what - perhaps I will learn something though. It is about the History of Alaska, required for full certification.

So far I have heard that the the following teachers don't want to come back next year - VP, first grade, second grade, seventh grade and a kindergarten teacher. Two teachers say they want to transfer to Russian Mission and the Principal had a heart attack. It is only October.


Just got back from Jane and Jim's. Great couple. Jane is about my age, Jim a little older. They have a daughter named Kimmy who teachers here also. We go for coffee and roles on Sunday usually. They are from Idaho and have some connection to Tennessee. Their summer home is in Soldotna, about 3 hours from Anchorage. Kim says she is going to Nevada next year and teach.

It has started getting cold, down to around 0 with the wind chill a lot lower. The ponds that dot the Tundra are freezing over. The kids go out and play on them - running across the thinnest parts and are surprised when they fall through. I am sure they do this just for fun and not training for when they are adults and hunt on the pack ice, but I bet it is a carry over for when it really was necessary to have that skill.

Had a good size snow yesterday but it was a very fine snow so the wind whipped it around and you still see brown spots.


Visited with Marta. One of the old hands around here.  Between her and Jane they have made life easy here.  Nice lady.  Friendly to the "newbees" as we are called.  Comes from Florida.  Summer home is in Anchorage.  Always willing to give a helping hand.  Does not  like the principal much.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

From Alaska - Log 6, first snow

Continued from Log 5...


School is going well, at least the preparation of the lesson plans.  I seem to have a knack for it.  I could improve my presentations I think. I went to the local Covenant Church yesterday.  It was a little more interesting than the local Catholic service.  The church is headed my a missionary.  A relative young couple in their mid or early 40's I suspect.  They own an airplane and he teaches natives how to fly along with being a real assets to the community.  There is going to be a teachers retreat next week.  The sponsoring organization picks you up in a plane and you flys to some location, stay in a cabin, have religious services, and they feed you.  It will be a nice change of events.

I am glad I have done this, coming up here, but there is a part of me that wished I hadn't.  Seems a long way from home.  Overall Paula and I have a pretty good balance on things.

They say it will start snowing soon.

There seems to be a lot of interest in keeping the Yup'ik culture and language alive, at least the language is about to disappear.  But how do you do that, merge a subsistence life style with the 21st century.  The parents want to help and most see the importance of an education but a lot of the time it does not carry over into the classroom.  The state is demanding that the kids pass tests to move on to another grade level, and they should but how do they do it.


It snowed today.  It came down real hard and blowing in from the sea.  A white blanket covered the ground in no time.  My first thought was that I hoped it did not effect  our TV reception.  But within an hour it had stopped.  The sun came out, no snow, but did have TV.

The water pump went off for a day or two.  No water for the school or our place.  Had to walk a quarter of a mile to get water from the center of the village.  It got fixed OK.

The village ran out of money and could not pay their 10 city workers for about 2 weeks.

A friend -  Jerry, went to Mountain Village for a math conference.  He didn't know when he was to supposed to leave, where he was going exactly or where he was staying, or if they would even feed him.  Typical Hooper Bay travel arrangements I am told by the veterans here.

Apparently the school is built on an old Eskimo cemetery.  There is supposed to a ghost running around.  One teacher at least says she has seen it.  There is also a story about little people that live out on the Tundra.  It is sort of interesting that the same legend about the Little People is told among the Greenland Eskimos.  Might make a story about that some day.

Friday, June 14, 2013

From Alaska - Log 5, Dad died

Continued from Log 4 dated November 4, 2010

Dad is still not doing well. Brian and Traci keep me posted. They have to return to their homes tomorrow which will leave Marsha to deal with it by herself. Johnny and Marlyn are out of town, at least Rene is there. Shannon keeps in touch. I told Darren not to return for the funeral, concentrate on his Chicago experience.

Some of the kids brought by some berries. They wanted to make us some Eskimo Ice Cream. I declined but paid them for the berries. Don't know what kind of berries they are, little round blue things. One would think they are small blueberries, but every time I ask I get a different answer.

Mike Jump is coming for lunch today.

Last week a moose came into town or at least close enough to cause a lot of excitement. The elders say  it was the first time that has happened. A girl in my class dad shot it. The district had a cross country meet yesterday. 150 kids flew in from all over the district. The fourth season of the Sopranos begins tonight.

It is raining again. The TV is out - satellites and rain don't mix. We need to start taping movies or something. Mike Jump fixed the short wave radio. I signed up for a college class at the University of Alaska. Not looking forward to it.

The regional newspaper is called the Tundra Drums. Just regional stuff, nothing I am much interested in. Paula has fixed up the small bedroom and made it a den. She picked up another cleaning job, is the only one to have applied for the special ed position so far. I wrote a short story about seal hunting.

Marsha called Dad is doing worse. I am not surprised. Brian emailed me and said that Dad wrote on a message board. "Tell Snapper I love him." Later he wrote, "Tell Paula I love her." That is the first time I remember dad saying that to me or anyone else. I am sure there were other times but I don't remember. They must have faded from memory. This is a memory I will keep.

Marsha called. Dad died at 6:30 PM CST. I am blank, the feelings will come later.

Dad's funeral was today. I talked to Seann, he called, so did Traci. It was a nice funeral by all accounts. Seann said it made him feel close to the extended family. He said he spent a lot of time with Brian and JQ.

I finally cried for the first time. Afterwords I wrote a funny email to the kids and Brian and Traci. Time to move on and with good memories of dad. We were not physically close most of our lives, but we had come to an unspoken understanding. There was nothing left unsaid between us.

Bye DAD, see you in the morning.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

From Alaska, Log 4

Continued from Log 3 posted in October.

My first full week of school.  It went OK.  Need to prepare more and better.  The AM class is very good, the PM class is a challenge.  We went for fresh baked salmon to a teachers house last night, yesterday afternoon we borrowed a four wheeler and drove to the beach. We heard they (Eskimos) had killed 2 whales yesterday and were butchering. We didn't go far enough down the beach because I was afraid I wouldn't be able to find my way back. We cruised along the surf, picked up a shell and stopped and examined a jelly fish that had been washed up on the shore.

The fly's are getting less numerous the cooler it gets. Still light at 11 PM.

The place we live is roomy, plain, but adequate. We will be ordering meat for the rest of the year but for odds and ends we are done spending money for food.

I keep the email going frequently.

My overall impression is that it is an experience and as of right now I am not inclined to return because I fear for my health. I have a back pain and being the hypochondriac that I am fear the worst, but don't really know what to do about it. Besides by doctor buddy Don said that if it hurt it is to late anyway. I don't want to up set everyone so I just suffer in silence.

Today my teaching partner George and I are having an open gym for the kids from 1 to 3 p. Tomorrow is Labor Day we are having people over for tacos. Our social life is full.

Another week of school has passed. Dad is in the hospital and not doing well. His kidneys and lungs aren't functioning well. He had gangrene in his intestines and they cut part of them out. I have talked to Brian and they all understand that I wont be coming home if and when dad dies, if soon.

The AM kids are great the PM kids still lack a little. I almost told them today they were acting like a bunch of wild Indians, but changed my mind at the last minute, good thing I guess. Wild Eskimos would be more appropriate, but I let it go.

We had Jodie and Katie over for dinner.  Last night we went to our weekly pot luck at Marta's. It was Andy's birthday, Jodie and Katie's boy. Sweet Downs kid.

Paula has made friends with the vice principal. He is a good guy, all 350 pounds of him. He is from New Mexico and has always worked with Native Americans. He and Paula hit it off ever since she told him that this place is a $%#@& zoo. There is a job opening for a special ed assistant she applied for but probably wont get it being a non native. She does some house cleaning and volunteers in Katie's room.

It was Sean's birthday a couple of days ago, 30.  I called but he wasn't home. I left a message.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

The Ozark Music Festival

If you were there I don't have to describe it, if you were to young or not there you have heard the stories and I don't need to repeat them.  If you heard it was full of nudity, public sex, and drugs-you heard right.  But there is another story you might not have heard:

The local National Guard unit and those units in the surrounding area as far away as Kansas City were put on duty that weekend.  We went about our business as usual.  The Adjutant General of the state of Missouri visited our unit and went on a fact finding mission to the festival.  He wore civilian clothes and without a huge entourage. 

About 1 a.m. Sunday morning I received a phone call from my commanding officer that told me to report to the armory immediately and to put on civilian clothes.  The Chief of Staff of the Army National Guard got us all together, about 100 of us and told us that there was one drug overdose case every five minutes being taken to the the Bothwell emergency room.  The concern was that there were many more that were not making it to Bothwell and needed assistance.  "You are on a life saving mission, you are not there to enforce laws.  You have about 10% hard core out there but the remaining 90% are just kids raising hell and having fun in their mind."

A dawn we all board army vehicles, given a Security T-shirt, and given sectors to patrol and radio in if helped was needed to evacuate some one from the grounds.  A make shift hospital was set up near the site of the fair administration building manned by army doctors and nurses flown in from a Kansas City armory. 

About half way through the day I received a call that my wife had called the armory, that she needed me and I was to come home immediately.  I was whisked off by a highway patro car, found my wife in labor.  I took my wife to the hospital where she gave birth to our first daughter.  She asked me if I was going back to the fair grounds and I said no, they can manage without me. 

For the most part the Ozark Music Festival was handled just fine.  I don't know if any deaths occurred or not, it has been a long time ago and far, far, away it seems.  Perhaps some of you can share what the aftermath was.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

From Alaska, Log 3

Continued from Log 2...

Quaint is not the right word. The town for the most part is a ghetto. Everyone seems poor. There is no running water in any of the homes and the water supplied to the school is yellow and must be distilled. White clothes look dingy after washing. The housing in the old part of the village is nothing but plywood shacks it seems. There are a few, very few, newer homes a little sturdier and are painted bright colors.

Went to church this morning. Part of the mass was in English, part in Yupick.

Our food and TV still have not arrived. We are thankful for the generosity of the staff for letting us buy or borrow needed items.

Called Mom today to have her send some things.


Called Dad, left a message. First day of school, no problems. The kids seem no different than kids the same age anywhere.


Talked to each one of the kids today, except for Shannon. I left a message. Last night we had two couples over for dinner, nice people, will probably become friends with them.  George and Sandy, Katy and Jodie, and their son Andy.

I have been walking around the village and have taken a few pictures. TV got here and is up and running.

Kids keep stopping by to visit. I don't let them in, am polite but don't want to get it started or it will never end.

Still haven't gotten Paula to the beach yet, have walked around village. Food is expansive here and all the stuff we ordered from Anchorage has not arrived yet.


Three kids knocked on the door tonight and offered me some dried fish. They said it was Chum, which I think is part of the salmon family. I tasted it after making them taste it first. They gave me the whole fish, said it was for my wife too. I thanked them, closed the door and through it away. So much for the taste of the local food.

Note to reader: After reviewing what I wrote back then it seems callas, but I was in not the best state of mind as you will tell in subsequent logs. I did start letting the kids visit and they came by a lot, and I even developed a taste for Chum.  In fact I even started feeling affection for the kids.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

From Alaska, Log 2

Later the same evening. 8/15/02

I have tried reading a book and magazine, listened to the radio, and tried a crossword puzzle. I am already bored and the evening has just begun. I have thought I would do a character sketch on the people I have met so far but I really don't know them well enough to be accurate. So I have decided to write down what has happened so far since we left Tucson but only hit the high points.

Mom dropped Paula and I off at the airport. Mom did pretty good saying good bye, didn't even cry, at least not in front of me. The plane left on time at 6 A.M. The two and half hour flight to Seattle was uneventful as was the hour and half lay over. The three and half hour flight to Anchorage left a lot to be desired because it was over cast and Paula could not see the mountains below. She was disappointed.

We went from the Ted Stevens International Airport to the Sheraton Anchorage. Got settled in the room then walked around town, had a drink at a bar named Humpys, went to a School District reception, met a couple named Kroll, went to bed, got up the next morning and went to some meetings, then to Sam's to buy supplies, went back to Humpys for dinner, bed, meetings in the morning, caught a flight at 6 P.M. which didn't leave until 6:40. While waiting we met a guy from Kansas City who was going to Bethel also to fix some sort of medical machine and also an Albanian who had once lived in Dixon.

We landed in Bethel and got the last room in town at a place called the Long House. Bethel is a poor excuse for a town. It has no central business district and what shops there are are stretched out along the roads more or less hidden from view.

We asked a cab driver, all cabby's seemed to be Korean, about a restaurant and he suggested the Depries. Sounded exotic, but it turned out to be no more than a cafe, food wasn't bad however

The next morning our flight was supposed to leave at 9 A.M. ended up departing at 1:30 P.M. It was an hour flight to Hooper Bay in a nine passenger bush plane. The bags were in the same fusel lodge as we were.

We flew over the tundra and it looked like flying over the great planes, but flatter. The area was very green and there seemed to be ponds of water everywhere.

We circled Hooper Bay once and from the air the village looked very quaint. We were met at the landing strip by the school principal and taken to what would be our home for the next nine months. More Specifics later.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

From Alaska, Log 1

look back on my time in Alaska with smiles, happiness, and humor.  Today I came across a log I wrote at the time I was experiencing all the wonders of Alaska.  Realities and memories don't match up sometimes it seems.
8-15-02.  Hooper Bay, Alaska

We arrived yesterday.  This is the most dismal looking place I have ever been in.  It is dirty, the houses are little more than plywood shacks and the teacher housing, at least for us, is some where next to the type you would find in the ghetto.

There are flies all over the place, our food has not arrived, we have no phone or TV yet and we only get one station on the radio.  We are very remote here, you can feel it, we feel forlorn and even with both of us here we cannot help feeling alone and isolated.  A silence has fallen between us but it isn't out of anger.  I think I might have made a mistake.

Women are the ones who are the real pioneers and are the back bone.  They make a house a home.  Paula is doing all the right things but I can tell her heart is not in it.  It pains me to see her unhappy.

It is 52 degrees outside, the wind is out of the west at 17mph.

The school building is the pits.  My classroom is OK and in all fairness everyone we have met, native and teacher, have been very nice and helpful.  This is a good thing I guess given the fact that yesterday we were all strangers.

To be continued

Monday, June 3, 2013

Sedalia Housing Authority

Back in the 1960's the Federal Government wanted to improve the conditions of those who lived in sub par housing in their opinion.  Local communities wanting to cash in on the "free" money applied and housing was built in areas that qualified, and what those exact qualification were I am not sure, but Sedalia received a grant to build apartment type dwelling on the north side of town.  For many years the area was just referred to as the "Projects."  I think it might have had a different name but it never took hold if it did.

I was asked to become a member of the board of directors.  I accepted and one or two nights a month I would attend a meeting and voted on matters that the head administrator  brought to our attention.  Everyone took their position very seriously and thought long and hard about the decisions they were asked to make.  After all we were dealing with people's lives. 

The Director of the board's name has long escaped me as all the other member's names.  I do remember the administrator because his son was a student of mine and he was a minister in a local church.  All of this is much ado about nothing because the real point of the muse is making fun of how a group of people, no matter how well intended can make fools out of themselves.

The Director honestly did not like the community always referring to the projects as the projects and thought if we would give the streets a name in and around the buildings that it would help lesson the stigma of living there, which was always the case where poor people gathered, especially if 99% of them were black.  He was very sincere.

We thought on the issue and since it was the time Scott Joplin was becoming identified with Sedalia more and more some of the streets were named after him and names associated with the era and Jazz.  The trouble came in when it was suggested that the reamaining streets be named after the board members.

I thought it was a terrible idea but so as not to hurt every ones feeling I went along, perphaps secretly wanting my name to go down in history some where.  The Sedalia Democrat the next evening had a front page story which headline read  "Board Honors Themselves."

The next time you are in the area and see McAnally Ct, that is my street and you can tell everyone you know a guy who claims that street is named after him, and so it was sort of, I guess I named it after myself though.