Well, I'm still here, I'm still in the slushy, sloppy, muddy, Bethel. The weather has degraded to a sleeting sort of rain, with fog and wind. I boarded two bush planes and took off twice today. Both times returned, the first because of visibility decreasing on Nunivak, the second time we made it all the way to the island only to be turned away because snow drifts had blown over the runway and then rain melted them in to one gigantic mud puddle. I pilot from another airline landed the plane against his better judgement and it was rough, he radioed our pilot and told him not to land. So we flew all the way back to Bethel.
One positive of the day (maybe the only) was that I sat with Margee and Ira David, two elder ladies from my island trying to get out also. One of the assignments for my cultural class is to do an elder interview and I got to spend time and talk with these two wonderful old ladies all day (8 hours). I have plenty of their thoughts to write about on topics ranging from accepting offers from Eskimos (something a polite white kid like me had a hard time doing), their dying language and culture, white people who talk to much, the death of a husband (I attended his funeral instead of my own grandfathers in November because of money and time and weather), knitting musk ox yarn, white people adopting Eskimo accents (they said I'm sounding more and more native which will be slightly embarrassing when I return to Washington) and the effect of the internet/iPods on the youth of our island. When I write the paper I'll include it in a blog post so I can share these amazing women's stories and perspectives.
The major negative of my day is that I only took enough cash for a return cab ride if needed (it was). So I didn't eat all day, I survived off of the coffee and free popcorn and some french fries. I sat and stood all day, my butt meat started to atrophy and I kept getting cramps in my back from all the sitting. I learned a lot about patience today. Days like this have taught me a lot about how much control we have over some parts of our lives (decisions and actions and attitudes) how we really can't control some things like weather and travel. I started to think about what messages were being sent to me on this day.
The elder women kept saying "We will make it home if God wills it" and "If God wants us to travel then we will" and "Pray Hard and it will happen." I just smiled and nodded and thought of the meteorological phenomenon and physics that were preventing us from reaching home. Whether it was a large spiraling low pressure resulting from sun to ocean convection and conduction as well as the Coriolis effect, or a omniscient super being that controls all the actions of the world really doesn't concern me because either explanation provided the same result, me stuck, still, in Bethel.
Cama'i was a very interesting event. I got to see many different Alaska native dancers, the governor of Anchorage, and even some Maori tribal dancers from New Zealand. I found myself still tapping my foot today. I got to go to my cultural class and I got to visit with many first and second year teachers. I think my biggest frustration over the weekend was my inability to stay out of social interactions that continually steered toward a complaining session on the challenges of teaching Alaska native youth. Everywhere I turned new teachers (myself included sometimes) would spiral into a conversation towards whining and complaining about our situations and often times would turn into a who could out complain who about their village situations. I felt myself wanting to talk less and less, and felt even more Kassak when I did speak. I think that there are so many problems facing Eskimo culture out here but equally I am constantly being reminded of the things I've always despised about my own culture. I remember many of the same feelings bubbling up when I would meet other Americans in Australia, Fiji and South America. Some times I am so embarrassed to be American and White and also a giant hypocrite. I just wish that I could be better at doing the things about Western Culture that I appreciate and also improve my skills at avoiding falling into its pitfalls.
I think I will simply leave this blog post with my greatest appreciation of the Cup'ig and Yu'pik culture I have observed so far. I appreciate (not so much students in school sometimes) how well they listen and keep their own thoughts to themselves. I am learning to listen with native ears and I have two elder women to thank for a major lesson in how to do so today.
I will double up on the Wednesday Update to include the weekend update information. I saw that I only had 17 readers yesterday and I hope to gain more back when I return.