Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Blogging: Epic Fail

As you can tell, I fail as a blogger!!

Summer was great! My cousin got married, I traveled, I relaxed, I visited family and friends, and I gained weight.

I have been back in Alaska since August 2nd. I helped with the Welcome Wagon in Anchorage for 3 days and then came up to Shishmaref on August 5th.

Work started for teachers on August 15th. Shishmaref School is part of a School Improvement Grant (SIG), and had extra in-services and trainings. Students began on August 29th.

I am teaching 2nd grade this year, which has been a big change from ECE (preschool). I am enjoying it though.

There are 23 second graders at Shishmaref School, which is more than any other grade. We are fortunate to be able to have two 2nd grade teachers. I have 11 students and Lisa Ripper has 12. How wonderful is that!

That is a brief update of my life.

I always say it, but I will try to be better with my blogging skills. Haha! :)

Friday, April 22, 2011

"A Polar Bear, A Polar Bear"

A polar bear, a polar bear
Is sleeping in his den
Snore, snore, snore, snore

A polar bear, a polar bear
Is sleeping in his den
Snore, snore, snore, snore

Please be very quiet
Very, very quiet
If you wake him
If you shake him
He gets very MAD!!

The above song is one of my students' favorites. Julie Egli, the ECE coach from the district office, taught it to me at the beginning of the year. Most of the other villages sing it as a grizzly bear, but a polar bear is much more appropriate for us here in Shishmaref.

Last year, there wasn't really any talk of polar bears in or around Shishmaref.

That is not the case this year, however.

In January, in the middle of the night, a polar bear showed up near the airport. No one saw it, but it's tracks were discovered in the morning. It came onto the island on the lagoon side, did some loops around  Alfred Ningeulook's dog team, walked over to someone's drying racks and ate some seal blubber, and wandered back out to the ocean. Some guys tried to follow the tracks out onto the ocean with no luck. Amazingly, Alfred's dogs were unharmed. It's kind of scary how close it went to the village! The closest tracks were less than 100 yards from the village! I went with John Kokoek out on the snow machine to check out the tracks in the afternoon. I didn't have my camera, but Kiley had gone out with Warren earlier in the day and she had taken some pictures... so thanks, Kiley!

Where the polar bear ate the blubber.

Polar bear track vs. Warren Sinnok's track.

Tracks by the racks.

Polar bear tracks... you can even see the individual toes!



A month or so later, there were tracks sighted again. This time by the tannery, which is the exact opposite side of town (from the airport). The tannery is at the edge of town, but basically considered in town. So this guy was super close. The polar bear checked out Daniel Olanna's dog team this time, and again the dogs were left unharmed. However, there were some seal carcasses there from hunting season and it dragged one away for a snack. Daniel's wife Evelyn was mad because of course it picked the seal with the skin still attached. David Olson took me to see the tracks in the evening, but my camera batteries were dead. 

The past couple months, there hasn't really been any talk of polar bears. Yesterday after After-School Tutoring, I heard that Curtis Nayokpuk got a polar bear up the coast. Of course I had to go check it out. He got it about 8 miles up the coast from Shishmaref. Curtis is the grandfather of two of my students, Tricia and Chelsea.

Here are some photos: 

Giant paw!

Head and shoulders.

Knees and toes :)

The polar bear and me!

The polar bear and me again... this time I am touching it!


Kind of scary...

Joey and the polar bear!

Tricia was yelling "Amy Cellar!!!" out of the window!

Tricia and Chelsea!

Joey examining the polar bear.


His ear was cute :)

I have heard that polar bears around town are usually fairly thin. If they come this far off the ocean, it is usually because they are hungry. This guy was pretty fat, though! Evidently he was hunting seals and must've had success all winter.

Some of you may not appreciate the killing of polar bears. I used to be right with you. However, after living here nearly two years, I know and understand the hunter / gatherer / subsistence way of life. And let's face it - if you see a polar bear out in the wilderness, chances are someone is going to die, so you better make sure it's not you and kill the polar bear. 

So, it was a sad day for this polar bear, but an exciting one for the village of Shishmaref!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Baby Beluga

One of my class's favorite songs is Baby Beluga. I remember listening to it when I was young too. It is one of Raffi's songs. If you are not familiar with it, listen to it (and sing along) here:

Also, our class has the book Baby Beluga.
 There are times during the day when the children sit a "read" books to themselves. There could be 100 books on the shelf, but Baby Beluga is always one of the first books chosen. Landon especially loves this book. If someone else is reading it, he is not a happy camper. He's getting pretty good at waiting his turn though.

Today, during Learning Labs, Writing Lab was individual sized dry erase boards and dry erase markers. I was across the room working with some other kids when I heard singing coming from the Writing Lab. Clarissa, Louis, and Landon were busy with their markers, and all singing Baby Beluga. It was so cute! I had to get my camera and take a video of it. As soon as the camera was out, a few things changed. Louis got shy and stopped singing, Landon continued singing and drawing, and Clarissa's full attention was putting on a show for the camera.

For your enjoyment:

In case you didn't know what was going on, Clarissa stopped in the middle and said "Is there this kind on my (points to cheek)?" She was focused on the camera and not paying attention to her marker, and wanted to know if she had marked on her face. I scrunched my nose at her, indicating that there was not marker on her cheek.

Here is another video for your enjoyment:

No matter where you live, Baby Beluga is a fun song. Here in Northwest Alaska, not only is it fun, but it is culturally relevant. Shishmaref is not a whaling community, but many villages near us are. Muktuk is a traditional native food. Muktuk is whale blubber with the skin attached on the top.

This picture was taken from the Brevig Mission School website. Brevig Mission is a village also in the Bering Strait School District and many people in Shishmaref are related to people in Brevig Mission. In this photo muktuk is being cut by an ulu, which is a traditional Eskimo knife, typically used by women.

Before I wrote this post, I went to go talk to John Sinnok and Bessi Sinnok in the Culture classroom. Bessi's husband is John's nephew. They, along with Stanley Tocktoo, are our local experts who work for the school. Stanley wasn't there today, so I didn't get to talk to him about this. I was asking if the term muktuk is used for any kind of whale blubber and skin, and the answer is yes, it is. However, John told me that muktuk is just the generally accepted term and that actually it has more specific names. The skin is the kaataq and the blubber is agikaq.

Because Shishmaref is not a whaling community, muktuk is a rare treat. Likewise, we have native foods that other villages may not. When the Savoonga basketball team came to Shishmaref, some kids brought boxes of muktuk with them, then they called someone they knew in the village and traded their muktuk for dried fish, berries, or seal oil.

Even though whaling doesn't happen in Shishmaref, the children know about beluga whales. Its cool that we can sing a song about an animal that they have real experiences with and stories about.

WW Update: End of Week 9

This week: +1.0 pounds
After 9 weeks of Weight Watchers: -16.6 pounds
Since September 1, 2010: -17.4 pounds
Weeks until the end of the competition: 10

My mom didn't email me this week.

I was talking with my mom on the phone earlier this week and we were discussing how we both have been eating poorly recently. She is arriving in Alaska on the 16th and that is fast approaching. We know that we are going to be eating really poorly while she is here. We'll spend the first 4 days of her trip in Nome, where there are restaurants and bars. Then when she gets to Shishmaref we'll have Snack Shack, and we just won't be worried about dieting. Since she is coming so soon, we have both kinda decided we'll be good again after her trip.

Lame excuse, but it's the truth!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

WW Update: End of Week 8

This week: -0.2 pounds
After 8 weeks of Weight Watchers: -17.6 pounds
Since September 1, 2010: -18.4 pounds
Weeks until the end of the competition: 11

My mom is down 17.3 pounds since September 1st.

I knew that I wouldn't do too well this week, since I am feeling better and eating again. I am actually pretty pleased that I didn't gain after losing so much last week. Not too shabby. Still winning by a pound!

Friday, February 25, 2011

WW Update: End of Week 7

This week: -4.0 pounds
After 7 weeks of Weight Watchers: -17.4 pounds
Since September 1, 2010: -18.2 pounds
Weeks until the end of the competition: 12

My mom is down 16.0 pounds since September 1st.

I was sick most of this last week, and I hardly ate, so I don't anticipate losing this week. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if I gained a little this week. I am feeling pretty good, though, and for the first time in the competition... I am winning!!!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

WW Update: End of Week 6

This week: -2.2 pounds
After 6 weeks of Weight Watchers: -13.4 pounds
Since September 1, 2010: -14.2 pounds

My mom is down 14.6 pounds since September 1st.

On Saturday, the teachers had a work day. I was required to be at school from 8:30AM until 4:00PM. However, I was at school from 8:30AM until 10:30PM. I will admit that some of that time was spent shopping online. But I worked on lesson plans, filled out requisitions for next year, had a meeting and collaborated with other teachers. Around 6:30, we broke down and ordered Snack Shack. I knew that my mom ate at Outback Steakhouse on Friday night and East of Chicago Pizza on Saturday night, so I figured a little Snack Shack wouldn't hurt me. It's okay to splurge every once in awhile. Unfortunately, after my burger, fries and smoothie, and ate 2 Valentine cookies and 2 Valentine caramel filled chocolates.

If I kept it up at this rate, I will be down 42 pounds at the end of the competition. Usually, people lose more in the beginning than after they have been dieting awhile. So my goal (for now) is to be down 35 pounds. I hope to lose 60 total, but 35 by May 18th.