Monday, October 1, 2007

Waqaa Cangacit From Aniak

That means 'Hello, how are you'' in Yu'pik by the way. Well here I am sitting in the school district offices in Aniak. I'm supposed to be flying to Kalskag today but I am on 'weather hold', which means that Kalskag is fogged in and the planes can't fly. They're going to give us a call if it lifts.

I flew into Aniak yesterday. There were 6 people on my flight, and my hand luggage had its own seat. The safety demonstration was very casual. "There's a sickbag and earplugs in the seatback in front of you. Help yourself to coffee and snacks." Taking off and landing in a small plane is VERY different to the float plane. Much bumpier and great fun. While flying, every part of you that touches the plane vibrates. It was like having a very fast hard massage on my bottom. I wish the journey had lasted 15 hours :o)

Aniak is on the Kuskokwim River and there are lots of small rivers running off it, so the scenery is lovely (still no bears, but apparently they are around). Emily picked me up at the very tiny airport and drove me to her home. She lives by the river in a lovely house. Her boyfriend Duane made dinner and some of their friends joined us. Duane has a 7 year old son who is a real cutie and they have 2 dogs and 2 cats (one of which slept with me which was lovely). Duane made the most delicious moose soup and some smoked salmon that was very dark and like salmon jerky. Really tasty. They told me that each summer there is a fish camp which the whole village goes to. They catch the salmon, gut and clean and prepare them and then some is dried in smoke houses for a week or two, and then that lasts them during the winter. It's very expensive to live here with milk and fresh food costing a lot. One of the guys who was here is currently building his own home and he said that the cost of shipping in materials doubles the cost of building a house. Duane's family is coming over on Thursday for a traditional dinner, with everyone bringing something. Now, when I say family, I MEAN family. Duane has 88 cousins on his mother's side, most of whom live in the village (which has about 600 residents). It's a non dry village, which means that it's not illegal to have alcohol. Emily was telling me that when she first moved to Alaska to teach she was in a dry village and her social life was very curtailed because, as a teacher, if she was even in the company of people who were drinking she could have had her teaching license revoked. Alcohol can be a big problem in the villages, with a fair amount of children affected by it.

Last night when I went to bed it was so dark and quiet out. In the winter there are about 4 hours of daylight and Emily was saying that in the summer it gets dark for a little while about 2am and then gets light shortly thereafter. There are no street lamps in the area and the only light I could see from my window was one from the airport (which I at first thought was the Northern Lights until I realised that the Northern Lights probably didn't swing from side to side like that (oh, the tribulations of being a city girl!)

Today and tomorrow I am supposed to be in Kalskag, which is a very traditional village, so I am hoping to learn some more Yu'pik words. Wednesday I am in a village called Sleepmute, where the school has just 15 children, but they are flying children in from other small villages. I'm looking forward to talking to the children, and am a little nervous, but I have lots of exercises that I have planned that I can do with them, and I have books and pens and sweets for the children, so even if my teaching is crap, at least they will get treats! Everyone has been really lovely and it's a real thrill for me to be here.

More later in the week I hope. If I could say goodbye in Yu'pik I would but so far my vocabulary is restricted to hello, how are you, five and crap :o)


Yvonne said...

Donna, could you ever have imagined six months ago writing a sentence like 'Duane made the most delicious moose soup and some smoked salmon that was very dark and like salmon jerky'? Who ever said crime doesn't pay?

Susan said...

Bloody hell, woman, you get about dontcha!!

Just catching up with your adventures cause we've been away as well, but this looks astonishing. We were also in the States, but a bit further down - from LA to San Francisco mostly. We will also be blogging here - - go to the right hand side of the page for blogs. But it won't be anything near as good as this stuff. I mean, I didn't get to try dried moose or anything. Just lots of chips. And lots of cheese.

bthorntonwriter said...

Hi Donna! Wow, what an adventure you're having! I passed along the URL for this blog to several people, that way they can laugh (and point) along with you.

Lovely scenery!


Anonymous said...

Donna: Having read your description of your Aniak, I am considering asking for a refund on our float plane trip. Seriously, it is good to know at least you are on your first leg and are safe. Enjoy the times. Your pal, Gary Warren Niebuhr

Donna said...

Yvonne - no, I can't. I have to admit I'm not looking forward to muktuk (whale blubber that expands on contact with saliva apparently, but everything else sounds delicious.

Susan - nice to see you! I hope you and Soapy had a great time in the US. I shall check out your blog, thanks.

Brian - does that mean I have to be polite?!

Gary - I thought of you today when one of the children drew me a picture of a black chicken and it looked just like a bat...