Saturday, January 26, 2008

Subbing at Razdolna

This past Monday there was no school for many of the schools in Alaska because of Civil Rights Day, but the Russian schools DID have school (go figure!). As the district had inservices planned for the teachers, they needed subs, so I subbed for the Title I and middle school/high school teacher. It was definitely different than a non-Russian school in some ways, but in other ways it was like any other school.

The students trickle in for about a half an hour after school starts, so it didn't have a feeling like school actually "started" at any particular time. They have given incentives to get them there on time, and they work to a point. Attendance does seem like an amorphous thing, with students "hiding" when they don't want to do work. They are better at hiding than kids at other schools I've known, in part, I suspect, from hiding to get out of work at home.

I had to work with 3 Russian-only kindergarteners. I wasn't sure just how much of what I said they understood, but if they did what I asked I figured they understood; if not, I repeated what I said in different words or showed them. They were in awe of me, and their eyes were so huge and they seemed a little scared to go with "principal's wife". In fact, one student, a fourth grader, told me that my husband has 3 names: Mr. Waclawski, Mr. W and principal.

I took the 2nd, 3rd and 4th graders out cross-country skiing and that was quite an experience too. They'd only been taken out once before this year, and the girls were a little nervous. One kid ran all the way home and got snowpants when he heard we were going skiing. The girls didn't want to go without snowpants (they wear dresses with no tights on under), but luckily it was warm out. I'll admit I've never gone skiing with a dress on before, and it must have made quite the picture with me flying down the hills with dress streaming behind and falling in the snow (which I did quite a bit!). The kids watched me carefully, and every time I looked around, they were watching me. Wherever I went, the kids went, and of course I tried the hardest hills. They had a blast falling down and getting up.

In one of our readings death was mentioned and while the kids didn't say anything, there was a sudden restless shifting, so I know that the recent deaths of men in the community are still on their minds.

The school is so small, with only 3 classrooms, that very little time is spent switching rooms. Five steps and you're there. That took some getting used to. And the students, for the most part (especially in the middle/high school) jumped right in and did whatever I told them to do right away, which was startling. There was a delightful lack of tension and laid back would be the best way to describe this school. It is a wonderful place to be, and I can see why my husband is enjoying it so much.

Road Kill

Earlier this week as I was driving home down East End Road I came across a moose that had just been hit by a car. It was lying in the middle of the road, still twitching. It was a young moose (probably born just this spring; I'd seen a moose calf in that area) but still too large to drag off the road, so someone tied a rope around one leg and made a noose out of the other end. A pickup was backed right up, the noose put over the hitch and they dragged the moose to the nearest side road.

In the past if someone hit a moose they could keep it, but too many people were hitting moose on purpose for the meat (imagine the meat being more valuable than damages to a car!). Now, as far as I have heard, you can be put on a moose-kill list. Any time a moose is hit the State Troopers are called, and then they go down the list and start calling people to find someone who can come and get the moose. This is not a simple matter, because the moose must be cut up on the spot, and a vehicle is needed to carry the meat (we're talking hundreds of pounds here, even for a small moose). Whoever gets it must come right away. I believe you can be put on the list for moose kills on certain sections of road and they call those people first. The bottom line is, a moose is never left to rot on the side of the road. Someone gets it. Seems to me this would be a smart practice in other places.

In discussing this with my neighbor she said there is a farm near Palmer (a low-security detention center) where people raise vegetables, grains, cows and more. All the produce goes to the prisons around the state to feed prisoners, and while it doesn't take care of 100% of the food needs, it provides a large chunk of it. I'll bet they get moose kill too.

And speaking of moose, when I was teaching at the college Thursday I was looking at the student who was speaking when a movement outside caught my eye. A moose was munching on shrubs just outside the window. It was grabbing a bite, then looking up at our classroom....I was a little self-conscious with a moose checking out my class! Then another moose walked by behind him in the parking lot. Of course, being Alaska, nobody even got out of their seats to look....!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Winter Sports along the Seward Highway

This weekend we had to make a trip up to Anchorage for Aurora's robotics competition, and it ended up being the first time I've driven that road in daylight in the winter. I was surprised at how many winter recreationists were out and about. Just south of Anchorage there are ice-covered cliffs right along the road and I saw a number of ice climbers preparing for climbs. Turnagin Pass is about an hour south of Anchorage and is the only place I've seen that has more snow than where we live. That makes it a popular destination from the city, and the snowmobilers cruise up the sides of the mountains. If the mountainsides are gradual enough they sled around at the peaks. Telemarkers and downhill skiiers hike up the mountains and ski down. I'm guessing that some of them hitch a ride up on a snowmobile and then ski down. That looks like a blast! Further south there were ice fishermen on Summit Lake. Never mind that the daytime temperature was hovering around zero today, the crowds were out enjoying some sunshine and snow. And once again I am so regretful that I forgot my camera because the mountains were stunning and the trees were laden with snow and delightfully beautiful.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Going Outside!

Ha. I'll bet you thought I meant going outside into the great outdoors. Nope, "going outside" in Alaska-speak means leaving the state. I just heard someone use this term in Wisconsin recently, but besides that, I have never heard it before. Back in the fall I titled one blog entry "Travelling to the Lower 48", which is what it is, but it's just not as cool sounding as saying, "Are you going outside for Christmas?"

I found all this out because we did indeed "go outside" for Christmas. After 2 weeks in northern California, I thought it would be a shock to the system to come back to Alaska, but the snowy, icy roads don't even faze me (though the moose on the road are getting to me). I'll admit that I was so thrilled when it was actually light out at 5:15 p.m. this week. And the dark mornings do make it hard to get up and get going, but we just do what we have to do, and we know that come summer we can stay up 24 hours a day with light around the clock! Tradeoffs!

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Nighttime visitor

Last night Doug heard a noise outside our bedroom after we'd gone to bed for the night. We could see a huge, furry animal right outside the window through the curtain, but couldn't tell what it was. When we finally had the guts to peek around the curtain we were relieved (though puzzled) to see it was just a moose rubbing up against the window. It was a pretty small moose, but since we were only separated by an inch of glass and we weren't expecting any animal to be hugging the window, it sure seemed big! After a few moments we could see why it was hanging out by our window. There is a doghouse out there, and there was some straw scattered around that had been used for bedding. With the snow a few feet deep, the moose got desperate enough to come by for the few nibbles.

As the snow gets deeper we see the moose more since they use roads to get around. In the summer we'd see moose every few weeks, but now we see them daily. As we've told the kids, if they're walking home from school and the moose doesn't get off the road, they better get off the road 'cause the moose is bigger, and our local moose is a momma with a baby!