Well I get the distinguished honor of chaperoning our students on their second NYO trip of the year across the water to Nelson Island's Toksook Bay. Its so distinguished that they only let white 25 year old guys who's only wish in life is to lay on the couch and watch college football all saturday take the prestigious job. In fact you have to have chaperoned the week before, and you have to have been going on almost a month straight with out one extended weekend in order to go. In addition, one of the criteria for being allowed to go and watch the teenagers strut their stuff for the other flightless birds is that you also must be completely bat shit crazy to accept the job. Lucky for me I fit all these specifications I get to go and stay up all hours of the night sleeping on the floor with flatulent teenage men and the ever present ominous death gray clouds hanging in the sky outside taunting you saying "You're gonna get stuck and have to stay there for days muhahaha."
I wish I could say that I enjoy Native Youth Olympics. I'm sure at higher levels its much more exciting. But if you've never been to one or are from a different part of the world and have no idea what NYO is then let me break it down.
There a bunch of events that loosely mirror, or at least represent, a traditional skill from the old way of native life. There are various forms of feats of strength, flexibility and endurance not that unlike track and field events. Many of the events involve jumping and/or touching small leather balls hanging from strings. Other events include ripping sticks from you opponents hands or hanging from moving poles.
The annoying part is that you're supposed to stay quiet the whole time. Talking is generally taboo until a person gets knocked out of a round at which time whether you know the athlete or not you are supposed to clap for them. What makes this so frustrating is that there is usually like 15 rounds of every event so the amount of waiting and meaningless applause is unbelievable. I know that people would probably say its because I am white, and white people talk too much about stupid shit that I should learn to appreciate silence and enjoy the event. But everyone I know day in and day out on my island is either under 18 or over 40 so excuse me for wanting to talk to people my age (other teachers), when in a rare blue moon I get the chance to see them.
Anyways, Often NYO meets start at 1:30 pm on Friday and go till noon the next day, only stopping to eat and go to bed after midnight. The rest of the time people just sit in silence watching the athletes, while local townies and kids come in and out constantly ramming candy and soda pop down their throats as if it was the last time they would taste the sweet nectar of sugar. Its like watching a cricket match (which last 3 days sometimes) but with out the australian beer or enjoyable outdoor weather.
Socioculturally its a people watching fiesta. Large packs of girls constantly file in and out of the bathroom checking and rechecking themselves now that boys from different villages are around. Boys stand stone solid with their "Hip Hop" "G-Funk" "Gangster" looks trying to look buff and tough in their baggy jeans, pierced lips and straight brimmed baseball hat underhood for the new ladies in town. (on a sidenote, I find it utterly fascinating that native Eskimo teenage boys emulate the inner city look and culture as their own yet if you were to put one of these kids in a "hood" in real life they would crap themselves).
Meanwhile the "native" youth Olympics are often run by and large by "white" people, not to say that locals don't help out, they definitely do, but its less then you would imagine. Wait, lets try that, So imagine the scene, After teaching an entire week of 5 different classes a day, you're in a village in the middle of a frozen tundra packed in a less than regulation size gym with sugar crazy eskimo people sitting in silence watching teenagers fly through the air as white people record the results and tell everyone shhhh and nomadic herds of teen age native girls flutter by packs of statue like teen eskimo boys dressed like Eminem. All the while you clutch to your styrofoam cup of overly roasted Maxwell House coffee that tastes like tar and gives you added gut rot on top of what you already had from the mystery "stew" the night before so lovingly prepared by the lunch ladies. And all this anticipation builds until the amazing moment where someone announces the winners over an archaic intelligible P.A. system at lighting speed and half in Yupik language only to usher everyone out as quickly as possible afterward so that you can frantically gather up your team of students and make it to a frozen snow laiden airstrip in time to fly your single engine plane back across the Bering Sea in time to hopefully catch a football game or two.
And then you get one day off and do it all over again. So do please excuse the sarcasm, but no, I'm not that into NYO.