Thursday, October 16, 2008

Serene in Sleetmute

This is the beautiful Kuskokwim River from the air. It's wide and winding and has loads of narrow tributaries running off it. But I am running ahead of myself. I got up this morning and packed for my afternoon trip to Sleetmute. Ronnie's little boy came over for a few minutes in the morning before he went to his grandma's (Oma). He's 2 and a half and very bright. He has a costume for Halloween which he is very excited about as it's a pilot's outfit and he loves planes (apparently he can recognise every plane that lands here!) Emily asked him what he was going to be for Halloween and he said "Scared" :o)

Then it was off to Aniak High School. It was a day full of emotion. This morning I had the Seniors for about 2 and a half hours solid. I thought they were going to be sooooooo bored but we had fun. One student started off as a bit of a grumpy teenager. We did 3 exercises and for the first 2 she basically sat there uninterested and uncommunicative. When I went round to speak to the students in turn as they were writing, I included her in, but didn't make her write anything. Then, all of a sudden, on the third exercise she suddenly started to participate and to enjoy it! It was a good fun exercise. I got them all to write a sentence to start a story and then with each sentence we passed the papers round and they had to write another sentence in the next story. There were 7 students and the one who started the story finished it. So each story was eight sentences long, and they were all surprised about the direction the stories went in. The recalcitrant student was also in my next class, with the Juniors, and she wrote me a GREAT story, and then went and typed it up and gave it to me. The teachers were shocked as they said that they could never get her to write anything, so that was really nice. I found out later that she has had a really tough life with not much to look forward to. She's a lovely girl and I hope things get better for her.

In the Junior class one of the girls made me cry with something that she wrote relating to her own life. A beautiful, sweet girl who remembered me from last year. We did an exercise where they filled in a sheet I had drawn up detailing various questions about a character - so physical aspects, favourite food, hobbies, best character trait, worst character trait, bad habits, likes and dislikes and the last question - what is your character's secret? She wrote something for me, and as I read it she had a tear rolling down her face and my eyes filled up. We talked about what she had written. At the end of the class we read some of the pieces out. Most of the students didn't want to read their pieces themselves but they were happy for me to read them out to the rest of the class. She said she wanted me to read it. I asked her if she was sure as it was very personal but she insisted that she was sure. I read it and it touched the whole class. I could feel my voice shaking as I read the last bit and it was hard not to burst into tears. We had some funny ones too. One boy had written about a character who was a Martian. His bad habit was 'eating humans'. His hobby was 'eating humans'. His secret was...he was a vegetarian :o) They all burst out laughing at that one!

Then it was off to the airport to check in to fly to Sleetmute. "And how much do you weigh, Donna?" I'm adding another 5lbs each time I get asked. I did the heavy boots thing but the lady checking me in said "I've already added an allowance for bad weather gear." Oh, OK - looks like I'm not going to be getting away with THAT one any more. I sat next to the pilot. Safety demonstration - "Don't touch the red button, miss." This picture shows my plane, plus my method of transport to the B&B in Sleetmute. Yes! My first ATV trip of the week, and hopefully not my last.

At the...ahem...airport in Sleetmute, Mary the cook who gave me the ornaments made of tea bag covers last year was getting ready to leave for a cooks in-service day. She said she was hoping to see me on Saturday when she gets back. I hope so - she is a truly lovely lady. I have a gift for her from Scotland, and also the tea bag covers I have been saving up all year. She gave me a hug and we waved her off.

This is my Bed and Breakfast. It's lovely and the views over the river are stunning. Henry and Bambi who run it are really nice. Over dinner we talked about all sorts and I learned more about the area, about how people live, and about the wildlife. After dinner, I dressed myself in 17 layers of clothes, including, scarf, hat and 2 pairs of gloves and took myself down to the river to watch the sun set.

It was stunning down there. I watched the ice floes as they sped along. Some go faster than others and they join up with the ones in front, making bigger ice floes all the time. That's what makes the creaking and crashing noises. As I walked on the snow at the edge of the water my boot scraped against something and I looked down. It was ice! I was no longer walking on the shore, I was walking on the edge of the frozen river. Needless to say, I quickly moved back onto terra firma!

I walked for ages. It was so peaceful. Bloody freezing! But peaceful. I walked back up, gazing longingly at peoples' snowmobiles as I passed them. Tomorrow it's off to Sleetmute school. The 6 pupils here are being joined by pupils from the various upriver villages, so I should have about 25 students in total tomorrow. More tomorrow night hopefully. Excuse the errors in theis post. The wireless connection is a bit dodgy and keeps going out so I am hurriedly typing everything and not checking it for errors.

Toodle-oo the noo.



Vincent said...

I think maybe it goes without saying now that whenever one of the kids says or does something, it'll cause you to burst into tears :-)

'And there was this one little boy who sat at the back of the class and was very quiet and still. The teachers told me it was almost impossible to get him to move, let alone write, but by the end of the class, he had come to life and was picking his nose with the end of his pen. My eyes filled up and the tears were still wet on my cheeks when I left, which meant upon stepping outside they immediately froze solid and one of the teachers had to chip the ice off with a chisel. I was so moved by her gesture that I started crying again. She then started shouting at me to stop because I was freezing up faster than she could chisel it away...'

Bobbie said...

Oh Donna, how grand! Laughing with students, and being touched by their circumstances, and sharing, and talking one-on-one, and in class, enjoying the time--all real emotions, nothing fakey about you at all, and that is what inspires them and makes them have a fun time, and a touching time, also. Again, you'll be well remembered...and I mean that as a compliment, not a slam, ha.

The photos of the Yes, I remember Mary from last year, she will be so touched with the year's worth of tea bag holders and gift. And the river and ice floes and walking on ice. The snow and trees. That meandering shot of the river from above. The plane and your transportation mode of 4Wheeler...this is all just soooo different than what most of us ever see, and you are adventuring it to the max, enjoying yourself there, it's a very special deal that we get to see these posts of yours! Thank you!

And just say that your big trusty snow boots, and your heavy suitcases etc are part of your hallowe'en costume! :o)

We are very much enjoying the posts and photos, Donna, and all the posters here. It's brilliant!

Ta Ra for now,
Bobbie and Larry

Julie said...

Lol @ Vincent! I hope you don't meet the one-eyed, limbless child whose teddy bear stopped breathing... someone might drown!Looking forward to pics of Bambi on ice. ;p Jx

Donna said...

Vincent and Jools - haha - very funny you two! You'll be pleased to know that I did not cry today. But then, it IS only 5.15pm - there's still time.

Bobbie - thank you my dear. And I will never slag off my ugly boots again. They are sooooooooo warm.

gary warren niebuhr said...

I know this will sound weird but I keep having to say to myself that you are in another state--not a foreign country to me. Yet, this is a part of the US I will never see and you are so lucky to be able to do what you do. However, you must never cry outdoors! GWN