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"It's Always an Adventure on the Frozen Rock"

March 24th, 2012

Wow, who's the worst at blogging on a regular basis? My apologies to anyone who has been looking for updates..we haven't disappeared into the Alaskan wilderness, we've just been insanely busy. Blogging has been on my to-do list every week since November 12th, my last post, but keeps getting moved to the next week when I simply can't stare at a computer anymore after lesson plans, ITP submissions, Skype sessions and webinars. My 26th birthday in February had me on a bit of a quarter-life crisis kick and I decided that I really need to learn how to find some balance in order to keep my (and B's) sanity. In addition to getting back into yoga, making time every day to spend outside, (in the SUN!) and spending six instead of seven days in my classroom, writing tends to keep me in the blog is back in action. As the title, a quote from one of our trusty Era pilots, suggests--it's been an adventure.

I could take up hours of your day, maybe even days of your week, filling in the blanks since my last blog, but since no one has that much time, I'll limit myself to the top 10 experiences we've had over the last four months. Yikes, that's a really long time.

10. Holidays and Meals with New Friends

While we immediately felt welcomed and a sense of friendship among our staff, it has been a wonderful experience getting to know an amazing group of people this year. I always tell people that ask about our experience, that it easily could have been a lot worse. Somehow the stars aligned and we lucked out with awesome people to work with, a strong administration to work under and overall an inspiring group of people that we've learned more from than we ever expected. Our first Thanksgiving in Alaska was spent in the MPR at school in good company with delicious food. Some of our vegan contributions were even a hit! Between planned and impromptu get-togethers and dinners, we've made some really great friends and definitely feel a sense of home in Savoonga.

9. Christmas Vacation/Spring Break

Savoonga is definitely feeling more and more like home, but we’ve also been lucky to be able to make a couple of trips off the island this year. Christmas vacation was spent on the East coast with our families. A storm popped up the Friday afternoon that school was out, and taught us our first lesson in Bush travel. “The best laid plans of mice and men, often go awry.” As I discuss with my students, this quote is true in everyone’s life at some point or another, but more often in Savoonga.

Anyway, break was great…despite an ear infection and a Christmas day trip to the ER. We were able to spend time with our families and friends, enjoy a few (too many) beers and we even caught a Bruin’s game.

We spent Spring Break in California with Caitlin, Russ and Mac, relaxing and catching up. We drove down Highway 1 along the coast from San Francisco to Santa Cruz, enjoyed mimosas and a walk on the beach, watched some surfers and RELAXED. In San Francisco we enjoyed eating some delicious meals out (one of the things we miss most when we are in Savoonga,) and even caught an acoustic Guster show that was one of the coolest shows I’ve seen. It doesn’t seem possible that the trip has already come and gone.

8. "Carpooling"

While this is not so much an event, but more of a routine…our mode of transport to school is pretty sweet. Two of us are usually on the actual snowmobile and then we pile on whoever/whatever we can onto the sled. The ride to school can be invigorating or relaxing, depending on the temps and the wind.

7. Feeling Like a Teacher

This one might sound kind of silly, but it’s one of the best. I feel like for the first half of the year I was running on adrenaline, not sure what I should be doing, relating more to being a high school student than to a high school teacher and just praying I’d make it through each day. Somewhere along the line I figured out what was going on and am actually starting to feel like a teacher. The days are going by faster, learning is happening (I think,) and I actually feel like I’m teaching the kids something. Now when I’m planning my week I can actually visualize what will be happening, and I am definitely more capable of finding material my students will relate to. I had multiple students asking me to “Please keep reading!” the last book we read, Bud, Not Buddy. Those were some happy moments. I feel a little less clueless, and hopefully so do my students.

6. Following the Iditarod

Living in Alaska and following the Last Great Race on Earth has been a pretty exciting experience. While I’m still not sure I 100% think it’s good for dogs to run 1000 miles in the freezing cold, people continue to assure me it’s in their nature. (For those of you that know that Sampson needs a pillow, blanket and at least half of the bed to get a good night’s sleep, you know where this is coming from.) But it was still cool to watch. We actually came through Nome at the end…didn’t catch any finishers, but did feel the excitement and history in the air. We flew into Nome with a family that was going to watch their dad finish…how cool would it be to be a little kid getting on a teensy little plane to go find your dad who just completed the Iditarod? AWESOME. Unfortunately for Brendan, he started The Hunger Games (my bad) right as the race was starting, so I think he missed most of the excitement. There’s always next year.

5. Digging DOWN into the School

I won’t elaborate on this one, as I think the picture does it justice. Just a little preview of the amount of snow we’ve had this year! Yes, that's the roof.

4. The Sun Coming Back

I don’t think I realized how much I missed the sun until it came back. I think the least amount on daylight we had was about 4 hours, but it wasn’t direct sunlight. A lot of people asked me if it was true about depression setting in when the sunlight went away. Right off the bat I said no, but it definitely affected my energy. It was far too easy to sleep the day away on the weekends, and much too difficult to get motivated to go outside and be active. The sun is out now for 12+ hours, and it’s awesome! Maybe a little hard to get to sleep at night, but it’s much easier to get out of bed, go cross country skiing and enjoy the great Alaskan outdoors—one of reasons we came here in the first place!

3. Signing Next Year's Contract

One of the biggest highlight’s of my year thus far—being asked to come back! It was all at once a relief, a reinforcement and a motivator. There are so many things I want to do differently (better) next year, and being given the chance to do it is such a wonderful feeling. It was also pretty cool to be able to tell my students I’ll be back, and even see some changes in attitude once that realization set in. We are so excited to be returning to Savoonga next year, and for all of the possibilities and opportunities that the new year will hold!

2. Experiencing the Aurora Borealis

If you want to feel small and insignificant while simultaneously feeling empowered, in complete awe and star struck, experience the Alaskan Aurora Borealis. You can argue that it is solar energy/a flare from the sun. It is. But it’s also a good reminder that there is a whole lot out there that is out of your reach and control. It was a phenomenal, grounding, inspiring experience for me. I can’t wait to see more. (Pictures to come...) 1. Feeling at Home in Savoonga

Last but not least, we are really starting to feel at home here. We’ve managed to turn our house into our first little home and it’s a comfortable place to come home to after a long day. We ran into some people from Savoonga when we were in Nome and received welcome greetings. Yesterday as I was struggling home through the newly fallen snow, someone I didn’t know (but do now,) offered me a ride home. Slowly but surely we are meeting new people, forming good relationships and feeling more comfortable. The more I learn about my students, the better I am able to relate to and teach them. They teach me about their culture and I share with them the things I know about the world. Not every day is easy, in fact most days are not. But at the end of the day we have learned something new and still have each other.

I promise to make an effort to blog more frequently and keep everyone posted on our daily/weekly adventures. I’ll leave you with a link to an article about the polar bears on our little island in the Arctic. Enjoy!

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