Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Today I Cried Buckets

Well, before I tell you about my day in the Elementary School in Kalskag yesterday, let me show you something really really special. This evening, there was a "Meet the Author" event at the High School, and they presented me with the most beautiful plaque. This was made by some of the students in Aniak and Bruce, the shop teacher there (by the way, for non-Americans, 'shop' is not teaching people how to go and buy shoes, it's basically industrial arts). It's made of wood, all carved and varnished. And it is now covered in my tears. Honestly, when they presented it to me I just burst into tears. And I told the students who were there that if they dared tell everyone else at the school tomorrow that I was crying, then they would be in trouble :o) Just in case you can't read it, it says: "Ms Donna Moore, Kuspuk School District's Favorite Author" Apparently, they spent ages trying to work out what to put on the plaque - whether it should be a salmon, or a moose, but then they decided a bear because I'd mentioned wanting to see a bear on my blog. It's the best thing I have ever received and I'm going to hang it in pride of place when I get back home. Every time I look at it, or think about it, I start crying again. Am I, or am I not, the luckiest person imaginable?

So, back to yesterday. I spent the day with the Elementary School in Kalskag, arriving via 4-wheel ATV which was brilliant fun. The elementary school is a new school. The High School in Kalskag burned down last year, so the High School has moved to the Elementary School and for a while they all crammed in together - Elementary pupils going to school in the morning, starting really early, and High School starting at lunchtime and going into the evening.

My first class was Karen's first and second grade class. Here they are. Seeing this picture reminds me of something Karen told me. The little boy at the back is called Sanka. His Uppa, Crim, was a kidnapped child in the 40s and 50s. During that period, and right up to the 1970s Native Alaskan children were abducted from the villages and sent to boarding schools where they would have to learn English, become Christian, and, essentially, lose every aspect of their culture. Apparently this forced assimilation happened to all the Native American peoples from the 1870s onwards. From what Karen says, I don't think the experience was particularly happy for most of those children.

Also in Karen's class is my little friend Catherine. She is a very bright and funny girl. She made me draw her pictures, which she stuck on the wall by her desk, and she wrote me a note, giving me her phone number and telling me she wanted to come and visit. I took the school bus home and she hugged me all the way. She then brought over her harmonica to show me how she played it. And today, one of her cousins in the high school turned up with a letter for me. It said "To Donna, I love you, from Catherine. I won't forget you, love Catherine and if you tell me your number I will call you. Would you like to call me at my house here is the number." And she gave me her number. We're currently in Kalskag waiting for the plane to take us to Stony River (where it is probable that I won't be able to post from), so before we go I'm going to go and call her and tell her goodbye for now.

The children in first and second grade taught me how to say the days of the week in yup'ik and laughed when I got stuck. They said I was pretty good at Monday (Pekyun - pronounced Bak-YOO-n) and Saturday (Maqineq - pronounce Mak-EE-nak) and rubbish at Friday (Tallimirin - pronounced fjdksjdieufnvncshfehfscnmnkalfndkfhemadb, as far as I could make out). May is Anutiit (pronounced a-noo-TEE-t) which means 'the month the eggs are starting to hatch.

The third and fourth grade had lots of questions for me - are there dinosaurs in Scotland? Are there dragons in Scotland? Is there a king? Is the Queen really bossy? My answer to that one was that yes, she is, and you have to obey her. There was then a little furrowed brow and the worried question "If I come to visit you will she boss me about too?" I promised that I would make sure she didn't.

In the fifth grade everyone wrote some great stories for me. The teacher said that he had a couple of students who had never written a story before, and that he was going to use a couple of the exercises I did with them as they enjoyed them.

After school was over, it was off to the event where I got my lovely plaque. Some of the students and teachers and community were there and I talked for a few minutes and then they asked questions and then I asked them questions about themselves. One of the Elders was there and I asked her to tell me more about Slaviq, which was excellent. The students enjoy Slaviq because they get loads of candy. I also asked the 4 students who were there about hunting. One of the girls shot her first moose when she was 12. When you hunt your first animal you don't eat it yourself, you give it away. Needless to say, Jaclyn's grandmother was very happy to receive a moose! As I mentioned in an earlier post, each family is only allowed to catch and kill one moose each year.

Two of the boys and I discussed music afterwards - both really nice boys - 15 and 16. One of them has lots of problems and is currently in rehab but he was the nicest, politest boy and he also did some great writing for me which was also very touching. The other boy is a big fan of Slipknot and would dearly love to see them in concert so I told him to write to them and tell them about where he lives and that no-one ever comes here and to see what they say.

After the event we went to Marcia and Ray's for dinner. Dave and Ray are building a canoe and we went to see that, and for a walk around where they live which is in Upper Kalskag. Here are the girls out for a walk.

In tomorrow's post, I meet a talented film-maker and the students make me cry again. We're just heading off to Stony River though, where we are camping out in the school and internet access may be a thing of the past. Please keep commenting in the meantime and I'll respond as soon as I can!


Margot Kinberg said...

Donna - What a wonderful plaque - and a very good reason to cry, if I ever heard one! I'm so glad you are having such a wonderful trip.

Bobbie said...

Donna, that plaque is lovely. And your tears give it character. :-) That is beautiful! And your interactions with the students are such special events, love hearing about what those kids do and say. The photo of the girls walking--looks more like dancing--is too cool! And those pink boots are lovely! Some of the photos are haunting, some are fun and funny, all are interesting! thank you! Special times!

Anonymous said...

Favorite author?

Don't tell me you let those poor defenseless children read your actual books!! ==:o

I don't doubt they'll remember your visits for the rest of their lives. They all look so sweet it must be impossible not to love them. The plaque is wonderful as it's not one of those silly brass things you can get in any office supply store, it's from the heart. Well, lots of hearts.

Lucky girl.


bookwitch said...

Here's a hanky!

fiona glass said...

We were lucky enough to visit Greenland a couple of years ago and it sounds as though Alaskan and Inuit have a LOT in common. Does yup'ik have 'clicky' q's? Love the transliteration of Friday. :)

Alaska Author said...

Donna, we're wondering what time you're getting in, if you want us to get you at the airport tomorrow? Can you come rumrunning at 7? Are you free for dinner first?

Can't WAIT to see you! -Karen Laubenstein

Donna said...

Margot - thanks - it IS wonderful.

Bobbie - we had fun taking that photo!

Lymaree - LOL - I'm only their favourite author because they HAVEN'T read my books :o) And it would be impossible not to love them

Bookwitch - cheers - I had a good blow. do you want it back?

Fiona - yes it does! Very hard to get my throat around.

Karen - I've sent you an e-mail - see you in Rumrunners at 7!

Peter Rozovsky said...

That's a nice-looking group of kids. They look happy to see you!
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"

Judy Bobalik said...

I saw your plaque and thought, oh goody Donna got her bear. Or as Gary would say baaat.
Those kids are as lucky to have you as you are to have them.

Donna said...

Peter - not as happy as I was to see THEM :o)

Judy - that made me laugh. I can still remember his face as he said it - "A BAT????" :o)