But first...Donna Messes Up.
So, last night I finally got back to Aniak after being fog-bound in Kalskag. Before we left, all the teachers left me in the school in Kalskag to answer the phone (so, Ewan, you were right - first I was a pilot, yesterday afternoon I was a teacher's assistant (one of the teaching assistants didn't turn up so I got to spend all afternoon with one class). I read to them, helped them with maths (oh-oh - the poor kids are going to fail their next test, and drew a picture of a vampire spider for Halloween), and then I was school receptionist. Strangely enough, no-one who called was remotely surprised to hear a very English voice answering the phone with "Hello, Lower Kalskag Elementary School."
We arrived in Aniak and came to the school and had something to eat, and I spent time with the lovely sisters Juliana, Kendel, Miranda and Emily. At this stage I did not know where I was staying. Emily, who I was staying with, has broken her wrist so she and her boyfriend Ronnie had gone to Anchorage to have her wrist operated on (another problem of living in the bush - you can sometimes wait nearly a day before you can get to hospital).
Well, it turned out that I was still staying at their house. Ronnie had left a message at the school saying "The door is open, help yourself to anything in the fridge." Yes - bad idea (Paulie Walnuts - you will be pleased to know that there is a chunk of cheese in there the size of a small house). They left for Anchorage on Sunday and their house has been unlocked ever since - one of the lovely things about living in the bush.
I didn't really want to stay there on my own - a bear might come in and eat all the cheese, so Sue came to stay too. Being the big city girl I am I locked the door when we were inside...and forgot to take the lock off this morning and locked us out. With visions of having to break a window to get my suitcase Sue and I set off for the school. I managed to get hold of Ronnie's sister (everyone knows everyone else here) and she's going to go round and unlock it again - or maybe just break in - I'm not quite sure.
Today is 'in service' for all the teachers from all the Kuskokwim villages in the Kuspuk school district (Ewan - if you like the word Kuskokwim, you would love Chuathbaluk, which is pronounced Chuccchhhbalucccchhh as though you are getting something horrible out of your throat. It's really hard to pronounce and I keep getting people to repeat it to me. It means 'Big Blueberry Hill' in Yup'ik and non natives just call it Chewy). Schools are off and all the teachers and teachers' aides are here, so there are about 40 or 50 all gathered together. They have training sessions on various things and a bit later this morning I am doing a session on creative writing.
Just now the Superintendent spoke and as part of his speech he presented me with a Certificate which says:
"Certificate of Recognition - On October 14, 2008, the Kuspuk School District Board of Education would like to recognise Donna Moore for a multi-year Writing Literacy Partnership between Scotland and 10 village schools along Alaska's Mid Kuskokwim River that inspired students to write their own creative stories. You believed in them, gave them praise and confidence and they will always remember you for that."
I just cried in front of 40 or 50 people. How embarrassed do I feel?!
By the way 'The Bush' in Alaska is any community not on the road system. There's a guy here from Texas who has come to speak to the teachers about a computer system they use. He was telling me this morning that when he was arranging his transport he spoke to the administrator from the school district and said "So, when I get to Anchorage should I just hire a car?" She laughed uproariously and explained that he would need to fly to Aniak. "So, when I get to Aniak should I just hire a car then?" Oh, the poor, poor fool :o)
And Aniak has more roads than anywhere else. Kalskag is the next biggest and has a couple of roads but most people still travel by ATV or snow machine. There are some trucks there - they either bring them in by barge in the summer, or drive them down the ice road (the river) in the winter. But once they break down, they just die there and stay there forever. Parts of Kalskag are a truck graveyard.
I forgot - in Sleetmute I ate raw turnip and it was yummy.
Tata my lovelies,