Cold Hands, Warm Heart

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Nome, Alaska, United States
After getting burned out teaching high school in a tiny Alaskan town, I have moved on to being a child advocate in a small Alaskan town. The struggles are similar, but now I can buy milk at the store.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

How to take a shower in bush Alaska, in 84 steps or less. . .

While this post has a title implying it is about showering, it is about so much more. So let’s get started, shall we?

Step 1. Go to and order hair dye.
Step 2. Wait two to four weeks. (Take other showers in the meantime.)
Step 3. Be totally psyched about arrival of previously purchased hair dye.
Step 4. Wait for half an inch of roots show. Also, wait until after the portrait is taken for Mom for Christmas.

Step 5. Laugh when Mom says it’s a good picture because she can’t tell my hair is purple.
Step 6. Open package. Remember the chemical burns from last time. Find gloves.
Step 7. Mix blue powder and clear liquid, apply to brown parts of hair.
Step 8. Freak out a little big, because even though you have put gloves on, you still spilled bleach on your ear, and it burns a little.
Step 9. Take pictures of hair as it lightens.

Step 10. Take a shower, wash out bleach gunk.
Step 11. Take pictures of hair with blonde roots, and purple ends.

Step 12. Prepare purple dye.
Step 13. Answer door at 12:30 in the morning, to find two frozen little girls on your porch. Invite them in.
Step 14. Go back to preparations for applying dye.
Step 15. Get fed up of them begging for purple streaks, and tell them you have to hear the words from their mothers’ lips: "She can have a purple streak."
Step 16. Apply purple dye to all the new blonde parts.
Step 17. Listen to little girl ask permission, then hang up the phone before mom can tell me.
Step 18. Make girl call mom back.
Step 19. Tell small girls that if they can’t pick a spot, they can’t have any.
Step 20. Watch them both decide on bangs, which was your first suggestion.
Step 21. Finish dying your own hair.
Step 22. Make them get foil so it seems like they’re in the movies.
Step 23. Apply dye to two sets of bangs.
Step 24. Wait.
Step 25. Wait some more. Let girls play with iTunes.
Step 26. Take pictures of our hair.

Step 26.B: Realize the camera is dirty. It's not just a lack of glasses that's causing the soft glow.

Step 27. Give the girls the face cleanser that you shipped up to get the dye off their foreheads.
Step 28. Let girls put on mud masks. Laugh at the faces they make as it cracks.

Step 29. Agree to let girls eat BRAND NEW Chicken in a Biskit crackers that were a Christmas present.
Step 30. Tell little girls I will NOT ask my mother to send them each a box.
Step 31. Tell them to stop pigging down my crackers.
Step 32. Decide that whether the dye is set or not, it’s time for little girls to leave.
Step 33. Take them into the bathroom and rinse their hair.
 Step 34. Attempt to rinse my own hair. Hear the sputtering that means we’re out of water. And not eventually, but NOW.
Step 35. Wrap hair in a knot, and put on more clothes.
Step 36. Drag beautifully wrapped hose out into the blizzard that has kept me in the house all day.
Step 36 a. Use old coat, as new coat is too pretty to get hair dye on.
Step 37. Drag hose to school.
Step 38. Realize that someone URINATED on the side of the school.
Step 39. Use key to open door to water faucet.
Step 40. Hook up hose with less trouble than normal.
Step 41. Remember that the hose isn’t in the tank on the other end.
Step 42. Go back to house. Put hose in tank.
Step 43. Yell at girls about knocking over brand new Christmas presents, and throwing hair dye covered paper-towels on brand new WHITE toys.
Step 44. Try and use key to turn on water.
Step 45. Make it three rotations before the key refuses to move.
Step 46. Say something appropriate. (or inappropriate, depending on your point of view)
Step 47. Go home, kick girls out for serious this time.
Step 48. Realize school keys are no where to be seen.
Step 49. Borrow keys from neighbors, who are also still up at 1:45 am.
Step 50.Use keys to get into school to get heat gun.
Step 51. Find out the doors to the high school side are bolted shut. Go the long way around.
Step 52. Be unable to find heat gun, go to classroom, and call maintenance man.
Step 53. Be told he is asleep, and get reminded that this is the THIRD time I've asked him for help after 7pm in a week.
Step 54. Give the supply closet a closer look for heat gun.
Step 55. Decide on Monkey wrench when the heat gun can't be found.
Step 56. Try and use wrench to force key to turn. 
Step 57. Stop when the wrench starts to torque, instead of the key.
Step 58. Put everything back in the school.
Step 59. Go outside and realize that whatever moisture was in the hose has now puddled in the dips, and has frozen solid.
Step 60. Give neighbors keys back.
Step 61. Haul hose home. Stuff it in storage room because it's too frozen to roll. Kick it once for good measure.
Step 62. Write a blog post about how it's now 2:30 in the morning, my hair has finally thawed, and I am no closer to taking my shower than I was two hours ago.
Step 63. Wrap my head in saran wrap, and go to bed.
Step 64. Deal with this tomorrow.

UPDATE: Even though the Saran Wrap came off my head, my ivory colored sheets have retained their original color, because I laid a towel down over my pillows.

Also, it's now 6:30 at night, and I just found out it's Sunday. So that sort of sucks. Sorry church.

I took a shower at the school this afternoon, then came in to work on the senior store, which will be opening up in about an hour, I think. And then, because it's me, I took a picture:

Friday, December 24, 2010

A Couple Letters

I posted a letter on Facebook the other day, which garnered some random responses, so I thought I'd post it again here, along with a couple other ones I was thinking of. Warning: I was watching daytime television.

Dear Nebraska,
     If the best your tourism board can do is show people floating down a river in a used cattle trough, and then show people floating down the same river in rubber rafts, and then show people floating down the same river in a boat, you need to give up. That ad is not going to draw anyone to your state. Especially if you show this commercial in ALASKA. We have rivers. Tons of rivers. Please use your tourism dollars for a better purpose. Like letting the company making the commercial travel somewhere besides one boat dock.
-Colleen, Confused

Dear Humane Society,
    While I am not normally against you, I do have a bone I'd like to pick with you: Do not come into my house asking for $19 a month to sponsor a pet. 18 months ago, I TRIED to give you a hundred dollars for a pet, which I would then spend WAY MORE than $19 a month on. (School requires $20 a month for pets in the housing.) But you wouldn't give him to me. Because you said my Alaska job and money and love weren't good enough for you. So you don't get any of it now.
-Colleen, Irked

Dear Dreyer's,
    Your Drumstick ice cream may be the best ice cream I've ever had. It has real pieces of cone, dipped in chocolate in it. That way, they stay crunchy. Awesome.
-Colleen, Satisfied

Dear Whoever Felt the Need to Use My Classroom,
    Why is it that when I came home from being in Nome for a week, I found my classroom open, and people in it? Do you not have your own classroom? Table? Hallway? Why were there unsupervised teenagers in my room? Seriously?
-Colleen, Angry

Dear Microwave,
   I love you. Seriously man, L.O.V.E. love.

Monday, December 6, 2010


Today, at 12:38, I took a picture out my classroom window:

Yup, that's the sun, just coming up over the horizon. 

So now when my dad tells me I should get up at the crack of dawn and get busy, instead of sleeping in, I can whole-heartedly agree. I need those extra 40 minutes!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Down Under/ Up Over Project

My 7th hour "magic class" (Life skills, career skills, etc) has started a project with Australian students, where we take pictures and share them with each other.

I am completely stoked about this. I can't wait to see what my kids do.

The first project is a scavenger hunt of basic things. Where we get water, an elder, what we do for fun, something important to adults, etc.

I can see us turning this into a "The Best of Shishmaref" where we only display the nice, pretty, cultural parts of our village. I know our village is dirty, I know sometimes people can be mean. I just hope that we will be able to find a balance between us only showing Eskimo drummers, and what another group did, and only show the sad parts of the village.

On that note, I've decided to post some pictures first, and while there are no rusted out tractors in them, I find them to be accurate. So I've decided to share them here:

 Where my water comes from: (well, at least when the school had a glycol leak, and I melted snow)

Local Foods: (yes, it's pizza)

Local Clothing, as modeled by Aaka Huntington, and her son Rod:

Local tradition, Thanksgiving feast:

What we do for fun:

More local foods: