Monday, March 31, 2008

Still In Bethel

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.


Anonymous said...

Have you ever noticed how often traffic slows down when there is a car accident? We can't help, but to look. What is the saying, you might tell one or two people about a good thing, or a good place to go. However, you will tell at least 5 people (if not more) about some thing that was bad. For some reason, the 'bad' is what is exciting. Why else do girls go for naughty boys? :O)

When teaching writing to kids, I always use the idea of stories. A good story always has a problem, and there will be at least one attempt to solve the problem. A great story will develop the problem to create more drama and suspense, to pull us into the plot. Hopefully they will give us several different ways to solve the problem, but first we have to be pulled into the problem, to true appreciate the solutions.

Otherwise, if it just tells us about the daily events, the reader tends to get bored after awhile and stops paying attention. I think people in life are like that. Especially if you are 'stuck' somewhere away from home, family and friends.

Teaching is often one of those professions that 'outsiders' just don't really get. They don't realize what we do on a daily basis and its a lot of little drama that tends to add up. While we want to let it out, others may not really want to hear it, so we tend to store it away. However, the moment you get around other teachers, watch out, it all comes out-kinda like a support are so eager to share all of this stuff you wanted to share. Its sad however, that most of what we want to share is usually bad, not good.

Never be ashamed of where you have come from, where you have been, or where you will go. All of these experiences make us who we are. They are the teaching lessons that make us (hopefully) better people. Thus, help us to appreciate what we have and hopefully what we will give to others; even if it is an ear to listen to them vent from time to time. Its always easier to point out the faults in the world, then the positives. A true challenge, when they complain, begin to share all the good things.

For every yucky thing they say, find two good things to say. Its amazing. Your first grade teacher was right! For every negative put down, you must say at least three positive put ups!! Way to go first grade teachers everywhere!!!! :O)

IF all else fails, continue to smile and breathe, often people stop complaining to you when you don't interject into the conversation. Stay strong, positive and loyal to yourself and your beliefs.


Susan Iverson said...

Oh my gosh! You tell that pilot he has precious cargo on board and to be careful! I can now say I will see you next month and I want to make sure nothing happens to you. Please travel carefully! Love, Mom

Hal said...

Oh my goodness mom, you are too corny sometimes. Kale, what is it with the Iverson boys and bad luck at Airports. I hate airports!! Hope you get home soon bro.

alisha said...


sorry to hear that all the complaining was a real bummer on your time here in Bethel. You missed out on the occasions where we were together telling fun stories, having major snowball fights, dancing our interpretations of the native dances, and laughing into the night. I wish you would have come and hung out with us during those times. It does seem like that culture class of ours tends to bring out the worst in us all. I'm thankful that it's over. I'm sorry to have contributed to the negativity of your weekend. I also noticed myself talking less and less as the weekend progressed.

I hope you make it home today!

to view my other blog OUT OF THE CLOSET ATHEIST click HERE