Thursday, September 27, 2012

Internet Again

So we got our dish and got it set up and running this past weekend so we are finally able to keep people updated again. Jocelyn has been in Deering this week so I have been working on getting some things done around the house and with my other projects. We will try to get another post up this weekend hopefully with a couple pictures of our new home.

Monday, August 6, 2012

On to a new adventure...

We have just recently arrived in our new village of Buckland.  We are busy unpacking and meeting people.  I can definitely say this has been a MUCH better start to the year than last year.  We hope to have Internet soon and then hopefully Andrew can catch you all up on the crazy year we have had!

~ Jocelyn

Thursday, May 17, 2012

On the Move Again

Some of you know this but for those that have not heard yet, we are moving, again.  I have not been able to post to the blog due to being extremely busy packing so that we can go back to PA for a little over a month and packing to move towns.  That's right, we are moving villages.  The position that I have been in this year was funded by a grant.  This was the last year of the grant and a new grant has not yet been obtained so I had to look out for my family and find a more reliable income.  I headed to the job fair in Anchorage and interviewed with several school districts.  After much discussion Andrew and I decided that Northwest Arctic Borough School District was the right fit for us.  I accepted a position as the counselor for 2 sites.  We will be living in Buckland (all the way on the west coast side of the state) and I will also be spending a few days every couple of weeks in Deering (about 40 miles from Buckland).  Andrew and I are bittersweet in our feelings towards this move.  While we are excited about the new challenges and adventures, we are sad to leave The Flats.  We have become very attached to this quirky little community in the 8.5 months that we have lived here and will be sad to leave all of our friends here.  But it's time for new scenes and people.  I will write more about our entire year adventure once we have gotten out of Alaska and have a few more moments of free time, but for now we must be off to continue packing and preparing for leaving.  We will be leaving the land of the Indian and heading to the land of the Eskimo (that's actually what one of the native people here said to me, interesting to hear them refer to each group this way). 

~ Jocelyn

Thursday, May 3, 2012


One of our friends posted this yesterday and I wanted to share it with everyone.  In case anyone was wondering what it means to be a teacher.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Interesting Events at Midnight...

So everyone experiences a mishap or an accident once in a while and living in the arctic does not buffer you from these types of things. While Jocelyn was in Stevens Village helping with SBA testing, I had just such an experience.

It was about midnight and I was talking to Jocelyn on Skype and getting ready to head to bed when all of a sudden I hear very loud noises and it almost feels like the house is moving. I go to look out the window only to quickly yell to the computer “Joc if I get disconnected call my cell” There were a few words omitted from that quote. After I was confident we were not going to lose connection I calmed down a little and explained to her what I just saw.

I looked out the window to see a large “loader” going down the road dragging the power line that connects from the pole outside our house to the next pole right on the corner. When I looked out must have been just the moment when the cables were breaking and the pole on the corner was falling because all I saw was the blue light of electricity arcing and sparks flying as the loader drove down the road. As I explained this quickly to Jocelyn I realized that I am probably the only one here that was awake and saw this and I thought I should probably call the police to let them know if they didn’t already.

I am still on Skype with Jocelyn at this point and I pick up my cell and call 911. This was my first experience doing such a thing since being in Alaska and this in itself was an experience. First of all I forgot that 911 here is not what it is in most places. We do not have a local 911 operator and on top of that my cell phone is not a local Fort Yukon number. So I was connected to the AK State troopers dispatch and I forgot about that so when I started telling them about what was happening all they said was “Where are you?”  Once I realized what they were asking I said “Fort Yukon Police please” and I was connected to the officer here. Now, You have to understand that I know the cop that was on duty and as I explained this too him the first thing he asked was “are you drunk?” and I guess I would have probably had a similar reaction if I was him. I explained to him where I was and asked him to come down because I was not sure where the power line was in reference to my door to the house.

When the cop got here I saw his car out on the street I went to the front door, opened the inner door then unhooked the outer door and pushed it open. I wanted to make sure the power line was not right in front of me. The door swung open and I could see the power line about 5 feet away and I had just enough room to get out without putting myself closer than my comfort to the power line. I got out the door and Justin (the cop) saw me and asked if I could get to the street. I looked at the power line making a solid barricade and yelled back “NO” and then walked the other way toward the back of my truck.

Just when I got in a place to be able to talk to Justin a little clearer he got another call, apparently related, so he asked if I would be ok for a bit and that he had to run, I said yeah, just call the power guys and let them know. I looked around at the broken pole and the lines on the ground and I decided I wasn’t going to sleep any time soon. The power line was on my roof as well as the cable television wires. The pole was in the road blocking the road and my driveway. I went inside put a light in the window and grabbed my camera and went out and took some pictures. 

So to make the rest of the story shorter, it wasn’t till 6 am that the power guys were done and we got power back and I finally went to sleep.  It did make for a long night and a VERY long next day when I got called into work early. But just like all of our other experiences in life, it just makes you realize you can never plan for everything because there will always be something that messes with the plans.

Oh and for those that are wondering what happened that caused this craziness here is what we found out… It turns out that 3 of the guys who just recently came into town to work for AMI (the company that handles the tank farm, gravel pit and other related things) decided to get drunk and take a joy ride in the company truck.  In the process of doing this, they got the truck stuck (nice going guys).  To remedy this, they went and got the “loader” to get the truck out.  They brought this down the road that is between us and our next door neighbor, something that is not done normally cause the lines hang too low for this, hence the resulting lines being pulled down.  The call that Justin got was apparently about the same guys causing problems in the middle of town (not totally sure what but I’m sure it wasn’t good).  The question I have is if you see sparks and arcing electricity, why would you keep going to the point where you pull down the pole too, or were they just THAT drunk that they didn’t notice?  I think the quote that best summed up what happened was by one of our school board members and the local airport agent, “We have enough drunks here.  We don’t need to import more for the summer.”

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Gaining Light and Other Updates

So the Spring Equinox has passed us by and we are on the upswing of light.  This may seem like an easier thing to adjust to than loosing all light but in all honesty, it is WAY harder!  Why you ask, well think about sleep schedules to start with.  We went from it being dark all the time to having more light than we are used to back in PA at any point of the year.  The sun is rising around 7am and sets a little before 10pm at this point.  It really messes with the internal clock.  I find that I am shocked by the time of night just about every night.  The other night was a classic example of this.  Andrew and I had just finished dinner (mind you we don't get to eat till after he gets home from work at about 730pm or 8pm) and were getting ready to sit down to watch a movie.  I happened to look at the clock and explaimed, "Holy cow it's 930 already?!"  Andrew simply looked over and said, "Yup."  Then we both laughed.  This is the kind of thing that keeps messing with my mind with this added light.  Mind you there is still snow on the ground so my brain keeps saying the sun should be gone by 6pm not 9pm! 

But while the increased daylight is very difficult to adjust to it also has a lot of advantages.  We can take walks after dinner and not have to take flashlights with us and not be worried of wild animals as much.  It also means that we don't have to spend as much in electricity since we don't have to have as many lights on.  It makes most people happier (but also means that children have A LOT more energy).  The biggest advantage to more daylight, SNOW MELT!  (We just hope this doesn't happen too fast cause we don't want flooding.)  And just as PA has Phil, we have river breakup.  We haven't had this yet (which is good) but I have been told there is nothing quite like it.  Most people describe the noise that it makes and how neat it is to watch.  I am looking forward to witnessing this natural phenomenon.

So I know there has been quite a gap in posts, and for those that have been waiting to hear more news from the north, I apologize.  Things have been VERY busy here this last month.  The craziness started with spring inservice.  Andrew got to join me with the dogs for the first half of the week so it was nice to get some time away from the village together.  After inservice, I was co-teaching a session at the Voc Ed for middle school students on digital media and career exploration.  It was a lot of fun but very exhausting as well.  After this I spent the next week getting things prepared for our Skills Academy (a class at the Voc Ed to help students in passing the High School Graduation Qualifying Exam - HSGQE).  The following week was the Skills Academy.  I spent the week in Arctic Village teaching classes for the teacher that came down to teach the Skills Academy.  I came home for Sunday and then turned around and headed back out Monday for Chalkyitsik.  I returned on Tuesday and have been madly trying to get the Career Pathways trip together that will be happening at the end of April.  This whole week has also been Spring Carnival here in Fort Yukon. 

While I was in Arctic I had some new experiences as usual.  I got to play radio bingo.  Ok so I have to explain this cause it is truly unique and a total blast! Everyone in the village has two-way radios and that is pretty much the communication system for the village as many homes still do not have phones.  So every evening, it's time for Bingo.  You hear on the radio "Bingo players time to get your cards."  And then the craziness begins.  You call in (on the radio of course) that you want to play.  When they have enough players to have the game they send out a runner on snow machine (4-wheeler in the summer) and they bring you your cards for the evening.  Then, once all the cards have been taken out to those playing, you sit at home and listen to the radio for the bingo calls.  If you get bingo you simply call out on the radio.  They send the runner to your house with your prize if you win a round.  It takes quite a while but is totally fun.  No I didn't win anything but I had a great time playing.

The last night I was in Arctic I got to help butcher caribou.  Well I got to take pics while three of the ladies did the butchering cause there wasn't enough room to add me.  It was a really unique experience and very interesting to watch.  Unlike butchering that I am used to, there isn't really any rules to this process here.  Basically the meat is cut from the bones (leaving a good bit on the leg bones for soup later) and separated into two kinds of meat, frymeat and drymeat.  I haven't really been able to tell much of a difference between the two kinds but the ladies butchering knew so all was good.  Since I was there with them during this, they gave me some of the caribou to take home (we had a very yummy dinner on Sunday... just ask Andrew).

So this week has been carnival.  It's not like a carnival that we are used to back in PA.  Actually it is quite different.  There are all kinds of activities that are related to winter but no games like we are used to in PA, but that is quite ok.  There are snow machine races, snow-shoeing competitions, other silly races that are just fun cause they are hard to do in the snow, and of course basketball tournaments.  The biggest part of the carnival is the dog races.  The final race is a two day Men's Dog Race.  They race 28 miles each day.  It's amazing to watch cause it only takes them about an hour to go 28 miles!  There were 7 teams this year and after hearing and seeing the excitement of the dogs for our little race I can only imagine what it is like for the Ididerod with over 60 teams.  This was quite the talk yesterday as the winner won by 1 second over the 2 days combined and what made this even more the topic of conversation was that the second place man was our local 2012 Ididerod musher! 

So that's been my month.  The next month is no slower.  I leave for Stevens Village on Monday for the week to do the state testing with the students there.  I come home for a few days and then head out on the 12th for Anchorage for a few days.  I come back to head out again for the Culture Camp in Arctic.  I literally come home from this and turn around and go to Fairbanks for Career Pathways for the week.  Then I finally get to come home.  I will be home for a total of 9 days in April if I go on all these trips so it is going to be incredibly busy!  I don't know yet what May holds for me but as of right now I don't have to travel until we come back to PA unless I am to go to the village graduations.  It's definitely going to fly by.

Friday, February 24, 2012

A New Kind of Shopping

So most people will probably cringe when you start talking about powdered milk and freeze dried vegetables but we have learned to adapt. We have been living here in Fort Yukon for 7 months now and have learned a lot about how to adapt to a changing environment of available amenities. Although we do have a fairly well supplied store in town it can be very spendy to shop there. One example is the cost of a gallon of milk. In Pennsylvania we used to purchase a gallon of milk a couple times a week for about $4 per gallon. Here in Fort Yukon the store does not even carry gallons, only half gallons. A half gallon of fat free, 2% or Homogenized Whole Milk will cost you about $8. When you do the math it becomes very prohibitive for us to maintain the same milk drinking habits we had in PA.  Not to mention the fact that the milk here is ultra pasteurized and is not that pleasant to drink.  It tastes about the same as the shelf-stable stuff, which some people like but we most certainly do not.

We discovered that if you regularly drink powered milk you do in fact get used to the taste, and it isn’t actually that bad. One of the tricks to drinking powdered milk is to make sure it is as cold as possible, sometimes even with ice cubes in it.

When we were getting ready to head out to the Yukon Flats region of Alaska we knew we were going to run into these issues so we stocked up on some of the necessities and had them shipped to us. As we began to run out of some of the things we stocked up on we began our search for new sources of food to stock up for the winter. We discovered some others here in the area that buy freeze dried vegetables and meats and said they are happy with them. We were turned to a company called Shelf Reliance and we ordered a kit of things to try.

In October we got our first package of fun lightweight food. We got an assortment of vegetables, fruits and even a couple meats and a few other things. A couple of days after we received our shipment, I decided it was time to try a few things and see how we like what we got and see what else we might want to order. I made omelets for breakfast, made almost entirely from ingredients that I had to “reconstitute” with water.

So the first ingredient to make an omelet is egg. Whole egg powder is a strange thing to work with. To reconstitute you mix 1 tbsp egg powder to 2 tbsp water per egg required. I decided I was going to make a 3 egg omelet to split with Joc and see how we like our strange stuff. So I mixed the egg and while I was letting it sit for a few minutes I looked through the cans of other things we had that I might put in an omelet and decided on Green Peppers, Onion, TVP Ham and Diced Chicken. I put a tablespoon of each freeze dried item in a bowl added up how much water I needed to reconstitute them all mixed that up and let it set while I started cooking the egg. I discovered that cooking reconstituted egg powder is a little different from cooking regular egg, it requires a slightly higher temperature and acts a little bit different as it is cooking, but I managed ok. So the only thing I used that was a fresh ingredient was some shredded cheddar I had in the freezer.

When the omelet was done I tried it and was happy with it, Jocelyn tried a bite or two and asked if I would make one for her but to add a  little salt and pepper, I knew I forgot something. I made her omelet for her and we decided that it was actually amazingly good and given the cost of the ingredients and the ease of storage of all the ingredients, well worth it.

So after our first experiment we decided we really liked what we got and decided to get more. We got a couple of other kinds of meat and some more fruits and vegetables.  We also liked the milk soooo much that we got a whole case!  Since getting this, we have been drinking a lot more milk (it’s actually pretty affordable, a gallon is about $5.50!).  The best thing about all of this is that Jocelyn is able to have real food when traveling and not just canned soup.  It’s really easy to take with her and is really easy to make in the limited kitchens that the schools have for the traveling staff to use.

We also make pizza regularly.  We never thought we would like pizza made at home but when you don't have a local pizza parlor, you learn to adjust.  Joc despises frozen pizzas, saying they mostly taste like cardboard and don't have near enough toppings.  We found that Jiffy makes a great pizza crust mix that's easy to make and tastes really good.  We have tried to make our own crust but for the hassle it's not worth the $2 savings.  The store has the mixes and pizza sauce and even having to buy these here it's not that expensive.  The most expensive part is the cheese but even that isn't that bad if you watch the sale items at the store.  So we have gotten to be really creative with pizza toppings and mixes.  Since neither of us likes sausage, we are able to make a supreme pizza that is much more to our liking (we substitute roast beef from Thrive for sausage).  Having the Pampered Chef Large Bar Pan is the key to making wonderful pizza as the crust turns out crispy on the outside and still soft on the inside.  

Sure we still eat "fresh" foods but not as much as we thought.  When we "go to town" (aka flying to Fairbanks), we usually stock up on meat and butter.  While the butter powder is actually really good, it is sometimes a pain to wait to "churn" butter (put it in the kitchen aid and whip for 15 minutes or so).  We buy butter as more of a convenience thing than anything else.  The meats from Thrive are really good but they do actually end being more for the most part unless we are not able to get into Fairbanks to do our own shopping.  We have learned better ways to buy in bulk and also are pros at finding deals in the local AC (1/2 price items are actually really worth it).  

So this is how we live now... Not bad at all if I might say so!

~ Andrew