Friday, July 21, 2017

Books for Teachers in Bush Alaska

Book: The Kids From Nowhere by George Guthridge
Summary: The author, George Guthridge, accepts a teaching job and moves his family to an island in the Bering Sea. The job comes with many issues: racism towards his family, lack of resources in the school, awful/unhelpful coworkers, and a million other little things. Despite all of his issues outside the classroom, Guthridge ends up creating a strong connection with his students. Eventually, he ends up successfully leading his students to win a national education competition.
Why I suggest this book: There aren't a lot of "modern" books that deal with teaching in rural Alaska. This book, while written in the '80's, deals with a lot of current issues that bush teachers face. The island that Guthridge teaches on has some particularly extreme issues, but it is still very relevant. The author also does a good job of speaking about the importance of culture in the school system, and he immerses himself in his communities cultural events, which I believe is important for all teachers in the Bush to do.

Book: Blessing's Bead by Debby Dahl Edwardson
Summary: This story jumps through the generations of an Inupiaq family who reside on a small island off of the coast of Alaska. The story opens with Nutaaq, a girl living in the early 1900's, and her family as they attend a trade fair in a neighboring village. Nutaaq's sister is married off to a Siberian man and taken back to Russia. Nutaaq remains behind with her family, but soon tragedy strikes when a plague comes to their village. After this, the story jumps forward and follows Blessing, a young female descendant of Nutaaq, who is living in Anchorage in the 1980's. Blessing is taken from her mother and placed in her grandmother's care. Her grandmother lives in the same village that Nutaaq once called home. The story then follows Blessing and her connection to her culture and ancestry.
Why I suggest this book: This book does a beautiful job at addressing the generational changes that have taken place within society. The book deals with issues that are extremely specific to Alaskan villages, and it is written by a woman who has lived her life above the Arctic Circle. The author does a great job of showing the Inupiaq culture in extremely rich detail. This book is beautifully written and I believe is a must-read for all teachers coming into schools in rural Alaska.

Book: 90 Below: Or, What Bush Alaska Taught Me About Drink, Destruction, and Survival by Eric Mack
Summary: This short story was written by an NPR contributor who moved to Alaska to start a career in radio. Mack's story opens with him at the bar and he recalls various events that transpire in his short time living in Galena, Alaska. The author details rough parties, local suicides,  and domestic violence. He also talks about the great friends he makes along the way and the ways that they have aided the direction his life took after leaving Galena.
Why I suggest this book: This book depicts bush living in a frank way, and does not shy away from   what life can be like in isolated places, particularly as an outsider looking in. I also think that it is important to note that Mack didn't stay long in Galena, which is often typical of bush teachers too, so I think that makes it an interesting insight. We often get stories from the successful teachers/people who loved bush life, Mack's story is kind of the opposite.

Book: One Man's Wilderness by Sam Keith
Summary: This book is essentially a compilation of the journals of Richard Proenneke, who built a cabin (by hand!) in Twin Lakes, which is an incredibly isolated wilderness area about a 30 minute flight from Port Alsworth, Alaska (Note: Port Alsworth is the location of one of my district's schools). Proenneke's journals detail his first 16 months off living in his remote cabin, totally isolated except for the rare visits by local pilot Babe Alsworth. Proenneke talks about building the cabin, providing his own food, handling dangerous wildlife situations, and many other unique Alaskan wilderness experiences.
Why I suggest this book: While this book may not seem like an obvious suggestion, it is a fantastic read. In fact, it is one of my favorite books of all time. I also think it gives a cool look at local history, flora, weather, and wildlife in this region of Alaska. Proenneke's descritptions paint a vivid picture of bush living, and also of the intense isolation of living alone in the wilderness.

Books about teaching/living in Alaska that are still on my to-read list:
Winds of the Skilak by Bonnie Rose Ward
The Year of Miss Agnes by Kirkpatrick Hill
Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George
My Name is Not Easy by Debby Dahl Edwardson
Shadows on the Koyukuk by Jim Rearden

Other notable/similar books that I've read and recommend: 
Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer
The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

Your turn...What are some of your favorite books about where you live?
Currently listening to...Wooly Mammoth - Local Natives

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

June Travels

The month of June was hectic and fun for the Middleton family. We arrived back in the lower 48 during the last few days of May, and tried to get a little bit of r&r at my mom's house in Illinois before we started traveling all over. However, the "rest" part of our trip didn't last long, mostly because my mom and I started getting wild ideas to go places about two days after Cody and I landed in the state. We ended up hiking two different state parks in the first week of being there. We first went to Kankakee River State Park, which is only 30ish minutes from my mom's house, so we packed up the dogs and took them on a nice hike around the river. The second state park was a little further, but also super cool. We spent a day hiking at Starved Rock State Park, which I hadn't been to since I was a kid. It was gorgeous!

The next week I drove Cody down to his hometown in southern Illinois and I stayed there to visit for a few days. I actually went to college close to where Cody grew up, so it was a blast to drive around campus and check out some of my old favorite hangouts. It was also really nice to see Cody's family because I hadn't seen them in a year and a half.

From there, I headed back to my mom's for a few days (and finally got some of that much needed r&r) before jetting off to my dad's house in Michigan. I spent Father's Day in Michigan and my grandfather, who is 84, drove up to MI and spent the weekend with us too. It  was so special to get to spend a long weekend with two of my favorite guys. We spent a wonderful weekend living the lake life - floating, swimming, watching sunset from the boat. It was great.

My dad and I took a road trip to Virginia after Father's Day, where he then left me at my sister's house for 10 days. My sister and her family live near DC, and I really love going to visit them. She has three girls (17, 9, and 5), so we had a BLAST playing and hanging out all week. We did a ton of fun stuff, but my two favorite adventures were hiking in Shenandoah National Park and spending a beach day at Lake Anna State Park. The Blue Ridge Mountains were amazing. I fell instantly in love and stood in awe of them as we hiked.  It was a truly incredible trip!

At the end of my 10 days in Virginia I headed back to Illinois, which is where I am now. It's been a crazy, adventure-filled trip, so far. The adventure is far from over though. I still have a trip to Milwaukee for a concert this week, my oldest sister's wedding this weekend, a weekend trip to Beaver Island (where Cody and I used to live) next week, another trip to SW Michigan, and an end-of-summer cookout with my Illinois family. Somehow, I am going to pack all of that in before August 15th. Wish me luck!

Your turn...How is your summer going?
Currently listening to...Hurray for the Riff Raff - Blue Ridge Mountains 

Friday, June 9, 2017

Traveling Back to the Lower 48

Summer has officially begun for those of us who teach for Lake and Peninsula School District. Before it officially started though, we had a few things to do. The first week of summer vacation we spent in the village. Cody and I spent quite a bit of time with our friends, and I even got the opportunity to learn to paddle board. One of my good friends, Sue, has a paddle board in the village and she offered to teach me one afternoon. I went over to her house and tested it out on Loon Lake, which is the lake behind the school and my house. I was pretty wobbly at first, but it was such a blast. How many people can say they've had the opportunity to learn to paddle board while living in rural Alaska? Probably not many!


At the end of the week, I was sad to see our little village disappear in the distance as we flew away, but we were also a bit spoiled with gifts and well wishes before we left. We had quite a few people call or stop by to "visit" to tell us they'd miss us and to have a good summer. I was also gifted a beautiful beaded bracelet from a student and her mother, and then our good friends Al and Sue gave us amazing glass floats.

Even though I was sad to leave the village, I was also filled with excitement because I knew I'd soon be seeing my family and I hadn't seen them in ten months. Before heading all the way to the Lower 48 we first stopped in Anchorage for a few days. Cody and I both had doctor's appointments and the dogs needed health certificates from the vet in order for Alaska Air to let them fly (this has to be done for all dogs on commercial flights and it has to be done no more than 10 days prior to the flight date).

Our trip to Anchorage ended up being pretty fun too because we got out and did some exploring. My favorite place we went was Flattop Mountain. Flattop is a very popular hike in the Anchorage-area and I've been wanting to try it out for awhile. The trail is a little steep, but the views are fantastic and it's relatively short. Cody and I were up there on a very windy, clear day. The temperatures were a little chilly that high up, especially considering it was late May, but it was still totally worth it.

Finally, after nearly a week in Anchorage, we boarded a red eye flight bound for Chicago. This was our first big, commercial flight with the dogs and I was a mess dealing with them in the airport. TSA made us take them out of the cages in order to "check" them, plus the act of just not being able to see them for the duration of the 6-hour flight was stressful (for them and me I'm sure). However, they arrived in one piece and I'm sure they're infinitely happy that they don't have to board another airplane for at least another 10-11 weeks. Solid ground is their best friend at the moment.

After all the excitement, we are now all just relaxing in the Midwest. We have plans to visit Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan, Virginia, Washington DC, Florida, and possibly Missouri this summer, so it's going to be a busy trip. I'm so excited for a summer of fun and adventures, and I know that Cody and the dogs are ready for it too. I will still be posting this summer and covering some of our adventures, in the Lower 48, and then I'll be back again in August with posts about the new school year and our lives back in our little bush Alaskan village.

Your turn...Any big plans this summer? Tell me about them! 
Currently listening to...Kick, Push - Lupe Fiasco 

Sunday, May 21, 2017

The End of Another School Year

School officially ended on Wednesday, and just like that I've wrapped up my fifth year of teaching, my first year of teaching in Pilot Point, and my first year as a Head Teacher. It's been a wild ride, but I'm so happy with how successful this year was.

We celebrated the end of the year in a variety of ways. The first celebration was on the Friday before school ended and we hosted a preschool graduation (we had no graduating high school kids this year), an awards ceremony, and a potluck. At this potluck, we had a video tribute to our school year, which was beautifully created by our high school teacher Melissa. I think everyone really loved the video, so I thought it would be fun to share it here too.

On Wednesday, the last day of school, we hosted a cookout on the beach for all of the students. It was such a fun, special way to end the year. The weather was perfect - sunny and in the upper 50's. We cooked hotdogs, played football and frisbee, and climbed some of the big hills surrounding the sandy beach. I loved getting to celebrate the final days of our school year together in such a neat way. It will definitely be a memory that I carry with me.

Our first official day of summer vacation brought about ultimate relaxation for Cody and I. We had planned ahead of time to stay in the village for awhile, which has turned out to be a great decision because we've been doing some really fun stuff. Melissa and Ben, the other teacher and her husband, left on Thursday afternoon, so we sadly had to say goodbye to them as soon as school got out. Unfortunately, they won't be returning next year. They definitely helped shape our year out here though, and I wish them all the best in their next adventures.

As the final days of our first year of adventures in Pilot Point draws to a close, I can't help but think about how thankful I am for this experience. This has probably been my best year of teaching, so far, and I know that Cody feels that he has really found a job that he loves too. In fact, Cody enjoys it so much that he is starting a teacher certification program in August, which he gets to attend for free thanks to two wonderful tuition reimbursement programs (one funded through our school district and one funded through our village). This experience has opened many doors for both of us, and I am happy that we will be retuning again next year.

Your turn...What are your summer plans? 
Currently listening to...Electric Feel - MGMT

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Taking a Steam

When I first came to Alaska back in 2010, I found myself in an odd situation. One night, I was invited over to "steam" at a local woman's house. I had no background information about what a "steam" might entail, with the exception of my own very limited experiences in the sauna at my local gym. I happily accepted though because I'd spent the summer filthy and covered in fish guts. Upon arriving at the local woman's house, I was greeted with what can only be described as an outdoor shanty full of naked women. It was a surprise, to say the least.

After that first fateful steam, I slowly learned the inner working of "taking a steam" and what it means in Alaskan culture - particularly the culture in rural Alaska. You see, in rural Alaska it is extremely common for people to have a steam bath outside of their home. The building that it is in is typically a wooden structure, almost looking like a work shed. The steam baths are heated by some sort of stove (wood, gas, etc) and on the inside they look similar to a very rustic sauna.

Cody and I have been lucky this year because our good friends, Al and Sue, have a steam in their house. We frequently go over there for dinner and drinks, and then take a steam (just the two of us - Cody and I) after dinner. We take our towels, shampoo, soap, and all of our other bath essentials with us. The steam ends up serving as a way for us to get clean, which is the normal use for steams out here in the bush. Most of my students have steams outside their homes, and quite a few of them prefer to steam instead of taking baths/showers. After getting to spend so much time "taking a steam" this year, I can totally see the appeal. There's just something so incredibly relaxing and rejuvenating about washing with a bowl of warm water, in a hot box lined with aromatic cedar logs. It's a true Alaskan experience.

If you are lucky enough to find yourself in rural Alaska and someone invites you over for a steam - you have to try it!

Your turn...What do you think about "taking a steam"? 
Currently listening to...Misty Mountain Hop - Led Zeppelin 

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Honda Rides on the Tundra

One of the things I've been wishing for most since we arrived in Pilot Point is regular access to a Honda (aka four-wheeler). There are so many beautiful places around Pilot Point that we can't access by car or on foot. We've been shopping for a Honda for awhile this year, but have yet to find anything that we can purchase and get shipped to the village easily. Thankfully, we have some pretty awesome friends in the village. One of the local couples has been paticularly wonderful about offering their Honda to us on many occasions. While they were out of town last week, they gave Cody and I free reign of the Honda.

We did lots of little rides around town and a few short rides out onto well traveled trails, but we didn't have the guts to go anywhere too far away. Then, one day after work, our friend Warren offered to take us out on the back loop trail that goes 8ish miles out behind the village and then snakes around the river back up to the village, eventually ending on the other side. We happily agreed to tag along, but definitely didn't know what we'd gotten ourselves into ahead of time. 

You see, Cody and I have both ridden Honda's many times before, but neither of us have ever ridden one off-trail on the tundra, or through giant ruts, and definitely neither of us have ever gotten a Honda stuck multiple times in one ride. On this particular ride though, all of these things happened - a lot. 

Before entering the trail Warren warned us that it would probably be a little rough because of all of the recent rain and the frequency with which the trail had been used during hunting season (everyone has been going out for caribou lately). At this warning, I grabbed on tightly to Cody and hoped that I wouldn't get too muddy. After about three minutes on the trail - I had totally given up this hope. The Honda was bucking like a horse over the huge ruts, with me flying up at every bump. As we approached particularly crazy ruts, Cody would turn his head and yell, "HOLD ON!" After the first couple of minutes though I resigned myself to just keeping a tight grip on the handles at all times. The Honda got stuck at least five times too because the mud was so thick and deep, but we didn't mind hopping off and helping learn from Warren how to get the bike unstuck. 

The loop was incredibly scenic. Words can't describe adequately how amazing it was to be out riding in complete wilderness. We couldn't see the town, we never saw another soul. It was just us, riding around and enjoying the sunshine. We got off of our bikes when we were a few miles from the village and shot guns for a bit, and then we just lounged. 

Overall, we were out on the tundra for almost two hours. I was sore from head to toe and completely covered in mud, but I was also happy and content. The ride was probably one of my favorite memories from this year in Pilot Point. I'm so happy that we've been able to make so many good friends in the village this year, and I'm so happy that they are willing to share so many neat things about the area with us. I already can't wait to be back next year and having more adventures. 

Your turn...Do you have much experience riding Hondas? 
Currently listening to...Rabbit Heart - Florence + The Machine 

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Springtime Arrivals

The weather is changing. The change is subtle, but it is absolutely happening. Hints of springtime are officially in the air on the Alaska Peninsula. It helps that the sun is now shining for over twelve hours a day.  Sunrise is at 7:51am and sunset is at 9:15pm. We no longer live our lives in the dark. Instead, we walk to work in beautiful sunrise light, and we even go to sleep some nights with dusk still on the horizon. This newfound daylight has definitely been affecting our daily schedules.

At the beginning of the month, we had visitors to our little corner of the bush. Two student teachers from the University of Alaska came to visit Pilot Point as part of their Rural Practicum program. Our district frequently hosts student teachers, practicum students, and even tutors. They come to us from universities all over the US. However, Pilot Point is not often one of the places where these visitors find themselves. Our larger villages tend to be more appealing simply because there is more to do. Pilot Point, while being a nice little home for us, is also considered one of the more "boring" villages in our district.

With that in mind, I was determined to show our visitors that, while Pilot Point is indeed a quiet village, we are not a boring village. Cody and I were happy to pack as many fun activities as we could into the short week that the student teachers were visiting. We took them for drinks at a friends house, we hosted multiple dinners at our own house, we went for walks after work each day, we explored all of the special little spots in town, we went hiking, and we even had a bonfire in the middle of a frozen lake.

All of this wouldn't have possible three weeks ago. The single-digit temperatures, 60mph winds, and knee-deep snow kept us inside and in a state of hibernation. Thankfully, the sunny days and rising temps that signal the start of spring have officially broken through.

There are a few days next week with snow in the forecast, but it definitely feels like we've begun to turn the corner into spring. The longer days are perfect for adventuring and breathing new life back into everything, including us.

Your turn...Is spring starting to settle in where you live? 
Currently listening to...Head Full of Doubt - The Avett Brothers 

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Pilot Point Needs a Teacher!

This past year has been a wild adventure, and Pilot Point has been the central setting to that adventure. Our time here has been largely shaped by the people, and more specifically the other teacher and her husband. Unfortunately though, Melissa and Ben will not be staying in Pilot Point next year. This means that the secondary position at our school is open. I, of course, am anxious to see who will fill the role. Pilot Point is a wonderful little community, and I want the very best for our kids. It's hard to recruit good teachers for the bush, and it's harder still to recruit for such a small site. However, even though we are small, there are a lot of good things about teaching in Pilot Point.

Lake and Peninsula School District is one of the best rural districts in the state. LPSD is the third district I've taught for in my career, and it's the best by a mile. The benefits package is great. The administration is supportive, consistent, and easy to work with. There is very little turnover, which is a HUGE deal for a bush district. Plus, we use a standards-based system of grading, which in my opinion trumps traditional grading in every way. 

The class sizes are small. If everything goes according to plan, Pilot Point should have fourteen students (K-12) next year. The secondary position would most likely involve teaching 7-8 students. Imagine how many cool activities you could do with a class that small! Not to mention, the relationships you'd form with your students would be non-comparable to those you'd form in a big school. 

With only two teachers, we are really free to design the school to be what we want it to be. Honestly, Pilot Point's size gives us a lot of freedom that even many of the other sites in our district don't have. Our principal is on site about 3-5 days per month, but the rest of the time we run the show (and our principal is great too, which helps). Curriculum, class set-ups, schedule, and everything else is completely up to us. This year we've had a blast getting to make the school into exactly what we want. At any other school you definitely wouldn't have this level of freedom. 

The kids are super amazing. Our kids are awesome! Seriously, our biggest behavioral issue is kids throwing the basketballs too hard in the gym. The relationships that we've been able to form throughout the year have really made a difference in the school climate, and now there really aren't any big problems. That being said, they're kids and they will push your buttons, but they are SO GOOD. 

The community is nice, safe, and supportive. I never feel unsafe walking around in Pilot Point. In fact, half the time I'm out walking people stop me to say hello or to ask me if I need a ride. Cody and I get invited to do stuff fairly frequently, whether it's dinner at someone's house or ice fishing on the weekend. It's quiet and very non-rowdy. We also have a VPSO, which definitely adds to the feeling of safety in the community. 

You'd get to work with ME! That's right - you get to work with me, and Cody, and I'll even let you play with our dogs. That right there - total selling point (ok, maybe not...still throwing it out there though!). 

Pilot Point is an awesome little village, and we need a teacher who is going to be the right fit for our school. A single person, a couple, or even a small family (our students would LOVE more kids to play with) would be great! If you or anyone you know would be interested in teaching in our little community, please feel free to contact me! 

Your turn...What are some of the "pros" to working at your job?
Currently listening to...Empire - Trampled by Turtles 

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Five Things I Want Incoming Bush Teachers to Know

This weekend is the Alaska Teacher Placement (ATP) Job Fair. At the job fair, much of the recruiting for the upcoming school year is done. Teachers fly from all over to convene in Anchorage. In the coming weeks, other fairs will be held in Portland, Minneapolis, and Austin. In the past I've posted links and stories about topics I think are important for incoming teachers. Here you can find my post about "How to Find a Teaching Job in Alaska." Here you can find my post about "A Day in the Life of an Alaskan Bush Teacher." There are so many things that I think are important for new teachers, especially first year teachers, to know before they take the leap and head out on this great adventure.

With all of these things in mind, I thought I would share my top five tidbits that I think incoming bush teachers need to know. There are definitely more than just five important things to know, but these specific things have been on my mind lately and I wanted to share.

//Five Things I Want Incoming Bush Teachers to Know//
  1. Teaching in the bush is unlike teaching anywhere else. There are a lot of unique things about living in rural Alaska, and teaching seems to further amplify all of them. For starters, your relationships with your students, especially in small sites, is extremely different than anywhere else. In urban areas, it would be seen as very inappropriate to have students at your house. In our community though, a chorus of, "can I visit??" follows us constantly. There are also many cultural norms, like raising your eyebrows to indicate that you agree, that you have to get used to. Because of all of these new things, it is incredibly important to be an adaptable person and to remember that you do not always know what is the best or the most culturally-relevant for your students. 
  2. Involving yourself in the community is important. Many rural communities are used to teachers being very insular, or even leaving their village after mere months (heck, some teachers don't even make it off of the airplane). It can be hard for the locals to accept new teachers because of how often they've been burned in the past. It took us many months, but we've slowly worked our way into a routine of getting invited to do things out and about. Now, we regularly get invited to play cards, take a steam, go ice fishing, and etc. It definitely took time to form these relationships though, and we wouldn't be nearly as content with life here without them. 
  3. You must be content with yourself. Teaching here is incredibly isolating in a lot of ways. As a person, you really have to be ok being alone with your own thoughts. A negative person or someone with self-destructive tendencies would struggle immensely in such an unforgiving place. Being content also applies to your family that comes to live in Alaska with you. Cody and I had to really work to create some kind of balance because we see each other 24hrs/day (literally). We work in the same classroom all day, we come home together, and then we repeat the next day. Our relationship has grown stronger, but it has also been tested. All personal and familial problems will be magnified, so it's important to weigh the considerations of your own sanity before you take the leap. 
  4. The winters are long.  The Alaska Peninsula, where I live, experiences far less extreme temperatures and daylight patterns than much of Alaska. However, it doesn't matter where you are in this state - the winter will be long. The sun won't rise until after 10am, and it will be dark by the time you get out of work. In some places, you may not see the sun for months. Some people, like myself, don't mind the lack of sun too much. There is a big difference between "not minding" something and "being happy" about something though. If you are new to the state, the winters will affect you. Take some vitamin D, stock up on hobbies, and make sure that you are keeping yourself busy and happy. 
  5. The kids will get very attached to you, and vice versa. The kids in rural Alaska can be amazing. I may be a bit biased, but I think Pilot Point kids are some of the world's best. They are kind, thoughtful, loving, affectionate, smart, witty, and independent. My relationship with my students is so personal because we see each other every single day. We work one-on-one in our classroom, they follow me on walks after school, and on the weekends they help me grocery shop. Early in the year, we didn't have such a close relationship. They were, understandably, a bit slow-to-warm because of how regular teacher turnover has been here. As the months passed though, and they realized we were committed to staying all year, their warmth towards me (and Cody) grew exponentially. 
Teaching in the bush is an amazing adventure. However, it isn't for everyone. For us, living in the bush seems to work, and we intend to keep doing what we're doing for the foreseeable future. In fact, my contract has already been signed for next year. We will be returning to Pilot Point in August for another year of adventure and wonder.

As always, if you're interested in coming to the bush - send me a message! I'd be happy to answer any questions that you have and offer support, advice, or just an ear to bounce ideas off of.

Your turn...What are some tips you would like to offer newbies at your job?
Currently listening to...Love is All - Tallest Man on Earth

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Pilot Point Carnival '17

In many of the villages in our district, "Carnival" is a big deal. Carnival is a weekend of fun events, hosted by the village. We'd been hearing about Pilot Point's Winter Carnival practically since we stepped off of the airplane back in August. The kids are constantly raving about it and asking us things like, "Are you going to dance with me at the Carnival dance?!" With the students so excited,  I couldn't help getting a bit hyped up about it myself.

Friday afternoon we released from school at lunchtime and then the village officially kicked off the Carnival with a kids cooking competition hosted at the school. This was probably one of my favorite events of the whole Carnival because the kids were so incredibly excited about it. The competition was set-up like the show Chopped. The kids each had a basket of "mystery ingredients" and they were given one hour to create an edible dinner meal. Each kid was assigned an adult to help them chop things, get supplies, open packages, and other safety-type things, but the adults weren't allowed to give any meal/cooking ideas. The winning dish ended up being a great curry that one of our fifth grade boys whipped up.

Other fun events that we participated in on Friday included: a poker run, scavenger hunt, dinner hosted at the school, and a dance. Our village flew in a band from the neighboring village of Kokhanok. The band was missing a drummer, but they were in luck - Cody keeps a great drum kit at our house here! So, Cody joined the band and ended up playing three nights in a row. He had so much fun getting to play with an actual band for a change, as opposed to just jamming at the house solo. The kids also enjoyed seeing Cody play, some of the littlest kiddos even got a drum lesson from him one evening. Meanwhile, I was recruited by the little girls to dance non-stop the entirety of the band's performance.

The second day of Carnival began in the morning with a community breakfast. After breakfast, there were many events planned. The first event of the day was the Air Drop. For the drop, a local pilot flew really low over a designated spot (this year it was Loon Lake behind the school), and he threw candy and prizes out of his airplane window. Everyone in town ran around the lake trying to collect the items. It was a freezing morning for the event, with temps in the single digits and waist-deep snow drifts on the lake, but we still had a blast.

Throughout the rest of Carnival we continued to try and participate in as many events as possible. We played bingo, ate dinner at the big community feast, went to the dance every night, played the raffles and cakewalks, and what seems like a million other little things. By Sunday, we were exhausted. Lucky for everyone else, there was no school on Monday or Tuesday following Winter Carnival. Unlucky for me, I had to travel for basketball early on Monday morning and didn't get to enjoy the necessary recuperation time after all of the excitement. Even with the extreme busyness of the weekend, I couldn't help but feel extremely happy that we got to participate in such a unique community event. I'm already counting down until Winter Carnival 2018!

Your turn...Does your community have any unique events that they celebrate?
Currently listening to...Move to the Mountains - Clock Opera