Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Somewhere in the World Today


 Somewhere today there is a little girl who came into the world one year ago.

This little girl has no home, no mother, no father or no brother to call her own. 

But somewhere, thousands and thousands of miles away there is a mother, father and brother waiting,
waiting to call her daughter, sister, honey, cutie, sweetheart, darling, my baby.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Thanksgiving Weekend 10 Years Ago


I was thinking the other day that it has been ten years this weekend since C.O. asked me to be his wife. I had been teaching here in Brevig Mission for a few months and missed him terribly from the moment I said good-bye at the Minneapolis airport. I was completely excited to have him come for a visit over the Thanksgiving holiday. C.O. was scheduled to arrive in Brevig on the Friday before Thanksgiving. That would give us a week and half together before he had to return to Minnesota.

Unfortunately, an on time arrival was not meant to be that weekend. Due to stormy weather, the planes were unable to fly on Friday . . . or Saturday . . . or Sunday . . . or Monday! Instead of being together those four days, C.O. spent days and days in the Bering Air lobby waiting for hourly weather updates while I called him crying every two hours or so.

C.O. finally arrived Tuesday in the middle of the day, during my 3rd and 4th grade math class to be exact. Seeing him at my classroom window and popping my head out to say "hi" wasn't quite the dramatic and emotional reunion I was hoping for but I was awfully glad to see his face none the less.

After school ended we went for a walk down on the beach. It was there that C.O. popped the question and presented me with the ring he had made for me. It was bitter cold and windy; we didn't linger.

Here we are, ten years later, still in Brevig Mission, living on the beach of the Bering Sea just a few hundred yards from where C.O. proposed. I never could have guessed it would be so.


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

If Only Dora Knew


I just had to chuckle after seeing one of my students in this kuspuk.

Kuspuks are a traditional Eskimo shirt made from a cotton fabric.
This one happens to be covered with Dora the Explorer, the Spanish instructor and Hispanic friend to children far and wide.

If Dora only knew how far her influence has reached.


Monday, November 21, 2011


I am a boating enthusiast (some would say nut) and I enjoy looking at and learning about all types of boats.  Recently I traveled to the community of Gambel for work and while I was there I had a chance to look at some of the skin boats that they use there.  

Gambel is located on St Lawrence Island, way out in the middle of the Bering sea.  Gambel is one of the villages in this area that actively hunts bow head whales.  I think that a lot of the hunting is now done from modern aluminum (Lund) boats, but there appears to still be a few traditional oomiaks being used.

All of the boats that I looked at were constructed the same and were basically the same size.  About 24' long, 6' wide, and 3' deep. The keel timber measures about 3"x6" with a separate 2"x2" piece that goes on after the skin. The ribs are 1"x1" and the longitudinals are 3/4"x1 1/2". There is one clench nail at each intersection. The ribs are mortised into the gunwale piece, which measures about 2"x3". The ribs are made in halves and overlap slightly at the keel.


All the boats have a motor well in the same location, to one side of the keel about 5' from the stern.  A small outboard motor can put dropped into this well.  The outboard is used for traveling to and from the hunting area.  When hunting they try to be as quiet as possible and they use a simple sail for propulsion.   The sailing rig uses a wooden mast about 4" in diameter and 20' long.  The mast is supported by a hinged mast partner that allows the mast to be slipped into place horizontally and then stood up.

This boats are what I would call "modern" oomiaks.  These boats use metal fittings and a few other manufactured parts.  Traditional boats would all be lashed together without any screws or nails.  Many of the boats still have a covering made from split walrus or bearded seal skin.  Some of the boats are covered with some kind of synthetic material (nylon, etc) covered with a few coats of thick paint.


Thursday, November 17, 2011

Cool, Clear Water; A Happy Ending

Maybe it was good to live without running water for a few days. It makes a person grateful every time you are able to turn the water on with the flick of a wrist. 


We didn't have water for about three days. During that time we had figured out a system for drinking water, how to cook and how to do the dishes. Taking a shower or doing laundry was quickly becoming a concern however. By the middle of third day, I had had enough.


From the time C.O. got in on Friday evening, until the wee hours of Sunday morning, he had put in about 24 hours of work to help restore water to the water plant. He wasn't alone of course, the city workers along with many other volunteers put in as much or more hours. Helping out with this project was very motivating for everyone, the incentive being the ability to flush our toilets and take showers this winter.

It was a pleasant surprise after the city and traditional council meeting on Monday night to learn that the city was willing to pay the volunteers for their work. In fact, the hours all the guys put in will be applied to their water and sewer bills. Our bill for the next three months is already paid for AND we have running water. 


I'm so glad to report that this story has a happy ending.


Friday, November 11, 2011

Without Water

I woke up this morning to discover that the water from the tap was coming out as a mere trickle. Oh boy, was it just our house or the entire village? I walked Harold up to the babysitter's before work when I discovered it was everyone and that school was canceled for the day. I was thankful to have the time to put the house back together after all this storming and flooding business but I would much rather have running water than a day off.


First thing I did was have Harold and the neighbor boy shovel some snow into tubs for me to bring in the house. Melting snow is really not the most efficient way to get water but I was looking for a quick solution. Some people regularly collect rain water or have a large garbage bin with pond water at their house on a daily basis but we prefer the stuff that so conveniently comes from the tap. That left us high and dry, literally, in the water department.


The snow worked fine for little jobs like making oatmeal.
Step one: fill a small pot with snow, bring to a boil.


Half way through the day, the Crocketts offered to bring down some water for me. It was immediately put to use since the toilet was in serious need of a flush. Sorry it that's a bit too much information but water is mostly used for getting rid of ick. Ick in the bathroom, ick on our dishes, ick on our bodies and right now I'm feeling pretty ick to be honest.


Hand sanitizer, baby wipes, paper towels and disinfecting wipes were very, very useful today.


C.O. picked a few of these up during his shopping run in Nome today. Oh ya, my husband finally made it home after missing out on this, this and now this. He really did feel bad about not being here. He made it up to me by bringing home Subway subs so I didn't have to cook dinner and make more dishes that would then have to be washed . . . with water . . . hot water.

These are C.O.'s bags to prove that he is actually home.

It was a great sense of relief to have him pull up outside the house on the ATV. Unfortunately, he was home for all of two minutes before he took off to see if he could help the water and sewer crew work on this problem. His engineering background, mechanic experiences and all around problem solving skills will be of great help I'm sure. He came home quickly for dinner and was right back at it. I think it is going to be a long night for all those guys.

People are getting a little worried around town. Will it get fixed? If so, how long will it take? Will we spend the winter without running water? Geesh, I hope not. I sure love showers and flushing my toilet.

It wasn't so long ago, 9 years to be exact, that people in Brevig Mission lived without running water. In fact, a few people on the beach still do without. So, we'd all survive, we'd all manage but once you have this luxury we call running water, it's really hard to go back.


Wednesday, November 9, 2011


I have to admit, this whole arctic hurricane wasn't any more impressive than a bad arctic winter storm. Some areas such as Nome, however, did get hammered pretty bad though. The more worrisome part of it all for us in Brevig Mission was the potential for flooding.

I thought I'd share some early morning photos of the water levels.


This is our house.

There's lots of water on both sides of it.
Normally there is little to no water on the north side.


I usually walk across this stretch on my way to work.


Our boat is on the farthest to the right. It was moved up to a safer level by some friends in town.
C.O.'s shop shows up on the right of the photo, a little farther to the right is our house. As you can see, we sit on a pretty narrow strip of land.


The neighbors working to keep the roof on.


Waves coming up in the front "yard".


Preparing for the "Arctic Hurricane"

When I found out this storm was coming, C.O. was already on his way to Elim to work for a few days. If only I had known how bad it was going to be I would have insisted he stay home. C.O. is wishing he was here, not that he's worried, but we wish he was here to experience the excitement with all of us. 

We live about 300 feet from the ocean on a beach rock spit of land between the Bering Sea and the Brevig lagoon. Usually, I adore living on the beach for reasons such as this. But the last couple days have been a different story. I set about preparing to evacuate the house in case the flooding was as bad as they predicted, while C.O. started calling in favors from some friends of ours.

A few guys came down to the beach to pull our boat up onto higher ground and move all the broken machines that were waiting for Rudstrom Repair to, well, repair them.

I then made a list. Lists clear my head and help me stay calm.


Notice the milk and cookies? Very, very important in emergencies.


Some food to bring up to Amy's house. Amy lives at the top of the lagoon and was kind enough to let us stay with her.


A day or two's worth of clothing and necessities, one such necessity being a craft project.


I also brought some important paperwork to my office at school. The blue folder holds our adoption paperwork which represents two years of work and many thousands of dollars. And one of the manilla envelopes holds Harold's citizenship certificate that is pretty much irreplaceable.


In phase one, Liz and I put everything on counters, shelves and beds so nothing was left on the floor.


After the water had risen a few more feet, phase two began. More people were enlisted to help put more of our stuff in tubs and haul them to a storage area near the school.


This morning I was feeling pretty confident that the worst was behind us. However, the water has been rising all day and is expected to crest this evening. Thus, the second phase of moving stuff out.
Will it all be as bad as predicted? I doubt it but I'd rather be safe than sorry.

I can see the beach from my classroom window now. I watch as the water rises, say a few prayers and wait.