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.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Limited sunlight

Now that I've moved farther south, I have the joy of having more sunlight. Even now, in the darkest week of the year, I still have a fair amount of sunlight. Of course, it's a bit hard to see, since I have one 2x2 classroom window that looks into the kindergarden room unless you're hanging out of it.

Up north, in Shishmaref, they're down to about two hours of direct sunlight right now.

My friend, Lisa Ripper, stepped outside of her door every hour for 12 hours, and took a picture of the world around her. Please go look at her fantastic pictures here:

It is amazing to see just how little light they have. Since I live up here, I don't notice the change from day to day.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Talking to Students

This morning, during class, I was giving a student some direct instruction on his persuasive essay. He'd been gone for a while, so we were trying to catch him up quickly.

In an attempt to get him done faster, I was being very specific about what he should write down. The following conversation was so funny to me at the time that I decided to share with all of you:

"Write down, 'Credit cards are bad for teens.' ”

“Credit cards are bad 14.”

"Why did you write 14?"

"You said fourteen."

"No. For teens." 

Ahh, and suddenly it all made sense. 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

November Wrap-up

For the first time in seven weeks, I was able to stay up as late as I wanted on Friday, and sleep as late as I wanted on Saturday. So, of course, I was asleep by midnight, and awake before my alarm went off at 10.

Later in the day, I found out that our wrestling coach had committed suicide. Mandii and I made some food to take to the family, and I realized that nothing in my life is ever going to be as bad as what his mother is going through. Bad haircuts, storm-bound planes, and an inability to sleep in late on a weekend is never going to be as bad as having back surgery then losing your son in a three month period of time.

I am so thankful for my life, family, friends, and health. I'm grateful that I get to spend Thanksgiving with the Hatch Family, and that I have a job and the funds to do so. Life is pretty good for me.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Akiachak House

When I first moved to Akiachak, I was put in a two bedroom duplex by myself. It was empty of personal stuff, (it had beds and couches and things, but no art, tv, dishes, etc) and lonely. Also, every window looked out at either another teacher house or the district office.

After two weeks of that, I got lonely. Okay, to be honest, I was lonely the second day. I would have just sucked it up and dealt with the loneliness through a regime of Netflix and iPad games, until everything changed.

My first real friend, Mandii, was not getting along with her roommate. Also, both halves of the neighbors came to me about living with them instead of them living with their roommate. However, one has three dogs, (not housebroken) and one is a smoker. I turned them both down.  As time progressed, and their lives became more difficult, we got together and decided on a switch.

The lady with the dogs moved to my house, I moved in with Mandii, and her roommate moved in with the smoker, who has promised to not smoke inside.

Moving in with Mandii has been the best thing that has happened to me in this village. We have the same taste in movies and music. We have the same opinions about a lot of the people we both know. We have similar backgrounds and family values. Also, she's from Port Angeles, which means I can say things like: "The brass gorilla at Woodland Park" and she completely knows what I'm talking about!

The house we live in is still called: "The brown house behind the green duplex." It is currently being re-insulated, (additionally insulated? insulationally upgraded?) and has had silver insulation put over the entire outside. This has cut down on the heat loss and external noise, but one piece is not as secure as it should be, and it makes monster groaning noises outside Mandii's window. Hopefully when they put the plywood and paneling on, that will go away.

With no further ado, my house: "The silver house that used to be brown behind the silver duplex which used to be green."

Behind the house, off to the left are trees, and the old school, which is now boarded up. Off to the right are neighbors, and Mandii took this picture while she stood on the porch of the green building. Also, please not the box pipe on the right hand side of the picture. That is our water coming in! WHOO HOOO. Showers and dishes and all sorts of wonderful things. And I didn't even have to haul it in myself.

This house is also a short distance from the school, instead of the 3/4 miles the last house was. It now puts me at a greater distance from the store (which used to be on my walk home). However, when I went to the store today, I bought ice cream, butter, two potatoes, and a Cadburry egg. So it's not like being away from the store is that bad for me.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Plans Change

The initial plan was to finish out my 8 years in Shishmaref, and move back to Washington to continue my life. After four months in Washington, I started getting homesick for Alaska, and I was also discouraged with the lack of job opportunities in Washington.

On the 5th of September, two weeks after the school year started, I received a phone call from the principal of Akiachak School, in Akiachak, Alaska. The call came in at 2:15. She called back at 3 for the interview, and at 5 I received a call offering me the job.

Early on the morning of the 6th, I flew back to Alaska. It's been a bit of a whirlwind, and I'm still receiving some of my grocery orders from my first week.

Enough talk, onto the pictures!

Akiachak is a Yupiik Eskimo village in south-west Alaska. There's about 750 people here, and the school has about 180 kids. This makes it pretty much exactly the same size as Shishmaref. The biggest difference is that while Shishmaref was on an island, we here are on a river, and there is plenty of room to spread out, so we did.

 This is the school. The gym, offices, and Hall of Elders (cafeteria) are in the big round side, and you can see the high school on the left there. The elementary side is on the right, behind the dome.
That tiny window on the right is the one in my room that I can open. I also have a row of windows up high, which are covered in blue curtains. The other window that opens is the Social Studies room, and farther down is the mechanics room and the wood shop.
 This is the old high school, which is now used for storage, and is next to my current house.

I took this picture of the mud pit I walk through on my way home, not realizing that my new house is a tiny slice of brown on the left there, behind the trailer. See how spread out everyone is? That's nice.

 This is the washeteria, which I don't have to use, as I am on running water, and have a washer and dryer in my own house.
The river, from the road. It actually has flooded in the last couple days, and is much, MUCH higher right now.
 Cop truck. Not broken, but they needed the wheels for the SUV they also drive around.

Native store. It's pretty much like every native store.
 Yup, $6 for a box of HoHos and I think that's $8 for some cinnamon rolls. They've been there since I got here. I'm not trusting them.
Just a sign on the cash register.

Okay, I'll post more later.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012


This blog is supposed to be a bit like Star Trek: Our continuing mission to seek out new life, and explore new civilizations. But with more clothing on the women, and less people trying to kill the captain.

I am no longer in Alaska, so I have nothing really fun to write about. For example, I'll give you a rundown of my summer so far:

Look for work
Start another class towards my Masters
Swim laps
Look for work
Swim laps
Look for work
Work on my class
Go to UTAH to visit babies!
Look for work
Swim laps
Work on my class
Look for work
Swim laps
Pick berries
Pick berries
Look for work

And now the pool is closed for 10 days for cleaning, but there are still plenty of berries for dad and me to pick, and of course, I can continue to work on my online class and look for work.

I know, there's a reason I don't usually post in the summer.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

End of the Year

The end of the school year is upon us. And, because everything is more fun in an educational setting than a business setting, we got to have an assembly today.

Lani and Erick were recognized for their year of service.

John Bruce was recognized for his time in Shishmaref.

John Sinnok, who has just finished his 40th year got a movie about him, a plaque, and a brand new sled. It's a pretty awesome sled. It was made by the shop classes, and is large, wooden, and made to pull behind his snow machine.

Also, since this is my last year in Shishmaref, I received a little recognition. And something to commemorate my time. I'm sure you've all realized by now that I'm not the plaque kind of girl. In fact, when I was asked by a friend a while ago what I wanted, I told her and she laughed at me.

But that didn't stop them from getting it for me. Behold:


The circle says "Excellence in Teaching" and the bottom plaque says: 

In Recognition of Your Excellence in Teaching

And it is awesome.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Oh, so true.

I was going to start this blog off with "Several years ago, when I was in high school," but had to stop and make sure that was accurate. For the last fifteen years, I've been referring to my high school years as "a couple years ago, when I was in high school." The phrase "a couple years ago," has become more and more inaccurate. But today, I automatically started with "several." Maybe I'm growing up. Huh.

Several years ago, I was talking to Mr. Evangelista, a biology teacher at my high school. (I was his T.A. at the time, and worked for him while he was teaching freshman science, and that creepy freshman boy would whisper my name, and then give me a finger wave when I looked. Ugh, gross.)

I was discussing my future employment goals with Mr, E, and he asked what I wanted to do. I suggested that I was well suited for a job that required long hours, low pay, and little respect. He asked if I was going into teaching. Nope, nursing, because I wanted to work nights and holidays too.

Well, I started getting my nursing pre-reqs done at college, and I worked at nursing homes in the summer. I got tired of my friends dying, of having no control over my residents, and the amount of math required for nursing was above me. So I went to education, and I haven't looked back. (And somehow, I still work nights and holidays.)

I recently came across this newspaper clipping for a trip to Antarctica. I think, with few changes, we could make this be applicable for my current job, which I am vacating at the end of this school year. For starters, it would have to be for Men or Women, and also, there is no honor and recognition in case of success.

You can find out more about Ernest Shackleton here:

Friday, February 10, 2012

I'm not an addict, it's cool. I can stop anytime.

There's a problem with some satellite somewhere, so right now, our internet is pretty sketchy. Hopefully this will post today.

It is on days like this that I realize just how much the internet has played into my life. I realized that tomorrow is a work day for teachers at the school, and if I can't get online to use our electronic gradebook, I'll just work on y forums for my online class. . . Oh, wait. No, that won't work. Oh well, at least there's Facebook to . . . Oh, right. Not that either. Skype? Blog posts? Comics? Lesson planning? Nope, no, nada, hunt-uh.

Turns out that I use the internet a lot more than I thought I did. And when I realized that I might not be able to upload my paper, I realized I could have my buddy in the class tell the teacher. Until I realized that I'm only friends with this woman through the class, and on Facebook, and we've never met in real life, and I have no idea how to get ahold of her otherwise. I guess I could look up her phone number, but since she doesn't live in western Alaska, I'd have to use the internet to look her up anyway.

There's some irony for you.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Signs of the Times

When I was young, a woman from the church complemented my sisters' eyes. She said they were gorgeous blue eyes. Then she looked at me, and said, "Not you, Colleen, you have poopy brown eyes." And it hurt. I don't know why. She was a silly woman who wasn't thinking. When I got home, my mother reminded me that I had her eyes, and while I knew that was true, it didn't make me feel any better at the time.

Now I am older, and as I smiled at myself in the mirror tonight, my eyes crinkled in the exact same way my mom's always have. Mom, I wouldn't trade my eyes for all the blue eyes in the world. Thank you for giving them to me, I cherish them.

That's my mom with her first grand-daughter, Kendall. And the crinkles around her eyes make me feel loved, and connected. I didn't like them when they first started to show up, but I've grown up a bit since then, and I even sort of like them now.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

The simple things in life

Hello devoted fans. We just finished our first week back from Christmas break. We started school on Wednesday, but had Saturday school, so we still got in 4 days. Not me, I took a sick day because I was sick. We're passing a cold around, and it's taken me this long to realize that the school will function without me for a day, and I can be off if I'm sick. I mostly rested, and called my mom. That's what one does when they're sick, right?

Also, I took a shower. Now, this may not seem like such a big accomplishment, but it really is. Especially now. As some of you may know, our water is stored in a giant tank at the other end of the village. Twice a year, a hose is run to the school/city, and our tanks there are filled up. When we need water at the house, we run a hose to our own tank, in a little side-room off the arctic entry:

This is one of the biggest tanks I've seen. It's 500 gallons, and will last us quite a while. You may remember the day someone else overflowed the tank, and I had to stand there with my hand over that hole in the side, to keep the water from all spilling out, while little kids ran around with buckets and pitchers to collect the overflow.

Normally, this water pump keeps the pressure in our house up. It just hangs out there behind the tank, kicking on whenever we need more water. But now it's broken. It had been dying since October, when they ordered us a new one, but it has finally given up the ghost, and we can't even use it a little. 
Also, that is a window on the left, which used to go from the bathroom to the outside world, but now goes from the bathroom to the storage shed, and actually has been blocked by the walls of a shower. This house was built in bits and pieces. I have a similar window in my bedroom, which looks out into a storage space. 
Since the pump died, we were trying to figure out how to scoop or syphon water out of the tank, so we could function. Denis Davis, a man in the village, was over getting some eggs, and he noticed that there was a spigot on the bottom of the tank. We were able to attach a short hose (10 feet) to the spigot, and can now pull water out whenever we need it. However, it is cold out in those sheds, and I don't want to have to put on shoes every time I need water. We were going to fill up our big pot, some of the larger bowls, and all the water pitchers in the house, when Denis pointed out that we had two coolers, and they hold water very well. So we filled those up instead.

The water coming out of this hose is pretty clean right now. The big tank has been sitting, undisturbed, for about a week, and all the particulates have fallen to the very bottom. From here, we can scoop out of these coolers and get water for our day to day needs.

The distiller heats water up in its internal tank, and the steam collects on the top, condenses, and drips clean water into containers, so we can pour it into our 5 gallon tank, and have clean water for drinking, and cooking with.
Here it is, being heated on the stove in our biggest pot. I'm so glad we have this giant pot. It's enough water for one quick wash-down, or a sinkload of dishes. 

And then I get to take a shower. Or, more appropriately, a sponge bath. Also, if anyone remembers what it was like to wash our hair on pioneer trek, they'll understand what I'm going through. Also, I don't know where those yellow lines came from, there wasn't anything wrong with the iPad I was using to take pictures, or the tub itself. Huh, weird.