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