As we approach winter solstice, I thought it would be interesting to give you beginning, middle, and end pictures of our short days up here.
Temperatures were almost hitting 40 degrees, so it was an easy ride. I went up the Tuluksak trail maybe 5 miles, then cut over to the river and up a slough chasing the sunset (which was around 4:30 pm).
I don’t understand what’s been blocking me from writing updates. I think the colder weather has been a factor in kind of turning inward. It certainly hasn’t been for lack of things happening in my life. I think that, having put in almost four months here now, the crazy now seems normal, and so I don’t think about how these stories need to be told.
Probably the one that sticks with me the most happened at the October School Board meeting. The school board (most of whom have been serving on the board for over 10 years, and a few have been on since the district was formed in 1985) gave themselves a raise. This came a few weeks before the statewide Association of Alaska School Boards conference held in Anchorage. The Board was already paying themselves $250 per day for attending conferences (this is in addition to the $85 per diem, plus car rental and hotel room). The also pay themselves $500 per day for school board meetings. But, some board members found that they could overspend their per-diem, and so they decided to increase their daily stipend to $500 per day. This is for seven board members. In addition top the weeklong state school board conference, they attend the national school board conference, two annual legislative fly-ins, the week long Minnesota Indian Education Association conference, and, curiously, an annual conference intended for superintendents. There was no question to the business manager as to how this change would effect the school budget. It passed 6-1.
The river has frozen – it happened so quickly! And, though there still are some spots of open water, folks are already snow-machining and four-wheeling over it. I put my studded tires on my bike and even crossed a little stretch of it one night. Let me just say it again – that bike is so much dang fun! My riding so far has been in the dark (remember, we aren’t getting much daylight round here these days) but I’ll try to get good photo posted soon.
I had a really special time away in October when Kayla and I traveled to New Orleans in and met my parents there! It was pretty much a perfect trip. We had an AirBnB in Treme, and my folks had some sort of time share next to the casino. We’d meet my folks for lunch, and carry through to dinner. They would head back to their place, and we’d carry on a bit more into the evening. We saw some great music. I especially love a rainy afternoon that we spent at the Spotted Cat. It was neat to see the ebb and flow of working NOLA musicians passing through, sitting in for a song, then heading out to whatever bar for their next gig.
I just recently returned from chaperoning 14 Yupiit middle schoolers through the Alaska Native Science and Engineering Program (ANSEP). I said 14 YSD students, but the ANSEP Middle School Academy had a total of 50 students for four school districts. We stayed at the University of Alaska dormitories for two weeks, and worked those kids HARD! Each chaperone was assigned a group of six kids – my team had a full range of aptitudes and attitudes, so it wasn’t a free ride by any means. Each kid built their own computer (which they get to keep) designed a building using Kinnex ® (kind of like space-age tinker toys) that was then put on an earthquake simulator to see which could survive a 60 second quake (two did), and they designed and built balsa wood bridges which we then load tested until they broke. ANSEP has a lot going for it, but it just doesn’t have much soul. I guess I shouldn’t expect that from a program sponsored by 3 oil companies, though.
Now here I am in November sitting in an airport waiting for my plane to Anchorage, then to Seattle to see Kayla and spend Thanksgiving with some dear friends and young Jonathan Butler, our youngest nephew who is attending Cornish College for the Arts in the Emerald City (and having his first holiday away from his immediate family)! I had a pretty good flight schedule to get to Seattle, but that all crashed like a domino tower when I couldn’t get out of Akiachak in time to catch my original flight out of Bethel. This is typical for traveling in bush Alaska in the winter, so there’s not much I can do about that. I’ll get to Anchorage at 9:00 pm, and then I’m on jet, in the middle seat, at 2:00 a.m. for a four and a half hour flight to Seattle. That’s gonna hurt!