Sunday, September 13, 2009

A week in Perryville...home sweet home

View of the village from above the tsunami shelter.
This was a busy week with school visitors and meetings. The past two weeks I’ve been in my home village of Perryville, almost too long because the more I get settled in, the harder it is to leave. I’m usually gone from Tues. to Thurs, but I had several IEPs and other special ed tasks I had to attend to. I have students on my caseload in grades K-12, so many different situations arise when writing IEPs and adapting curriculum. Needless to say there’s never a dull moment. Most of my students are at the age where they are beginning to develop transition plans for life post-high school. This is a high interest area of mine and when I go back to school for my "third stripe", I intend to specialize in secondary transition services. Transition planning in Alaska is a whole different ball game than the lower 48. I’ve had to learn about the different agencies available to natives who are tribal enrolled. I’ve taken a crash course from the elders on commercial fishing since it’s a high interest job. In order for me to help the students plan for life beyond high school and experience a successful transition from school to life I must understand the lifestyle and what’s important to them. Being involved with the community and the students outside of school is the best way to do this. Life is much slower and simpler in the village. Not a lot of multi-tasking going on. Family is valued and rigid schedules are not.  Preparing for winter includes many hours of picking berries, cleaning and smoking fish, hunting moose, fishing and more fishing. It gets harder every year for people in the village to live the subsistence way of life, mainly because of the high cost of fuel.  It's a misconception the subsistence life doesn't include money.   Rural families use money in order to purchase basic goods and services: fuel oil and electricity for heat, light, and power; subsistence equipment like guns, ammunition, fishing nets, power motors, gasoline, rain gear, and so forth. Money is used to invest in the tools for hunting, fishing, and gathering.  In order to remain in the villages and maintain this way of life it's important for recent graduates to obtain employment outside of the village for part of the year.  This means attending vocational school or college in Anchorage or Fairbanks, which involves adjusting to a faster pace of life with many more people, cars, decisions, money, and of course cell phones.  Short urban experiences will be necessary for the students to learn skills to cope in this environment.  Working with other staff in the district to provide this will be an exciting project. The best part about being the only sped teacher in the south is that as long as I’m working in the district I’ll have the same kids on my caseload every year, which means being more effective and making a bigger difference in their lives.
A powerful statement from an elder in the village when I spoke with him about subsistence life:
“Subsistence defines us.We battle the elements and sometimes risk our life to get the foods we crave. It is not an easy life,but it is ours.”
A short hike behind the village there is a perfect place for spotting big game.  If only I had a skiff to explore the many rivers that are rarely, if at all, used by people.  The other 3 teachers and myself went in on buying a honda 350 rancho, which will be delivered on the barge in the next month or so.  This will allow us to cover more ground, set traps, hunt moose and escape bears, amongst other things.  We bought it off another teacher in the district and got a really good deal.
The mosses and lichens that cover the tundra are as soft and thick as new carpet.
More good times fishing with the kids, it's exciting when you discover the river with lots and lots of salmon swimming upstream
The fog looked really neat from afar, but made for limited visability on our boat ride home.
My excitement over the weekend included fishing and duck hunting with Andrew and some of the students. The results were dead ducks and some delicious duck soup and course many fish.  Andrew caught several more halibuts and gave me two, but informed me it was time for me to learn how to clean and fillet them. I’ll let you know how that goes next week, for now they're resting in the freezer. I’ve actually learned quite a few new skills and intend to acquire many more before the year is over. I’ve learned to make bread, granola bars, basic canning, and how to smoke fish. Linda, a veteran bush teacher, is going to show me how to sew mittens using beaver fur, which may sound easy, but my domestic skills end at washing dishes. I'll buy some fur at the local fur store when we're in King Salmon for October inservice.  We are planning on trapping this winter, my job will be setting the traps, I'm not going to check them or skin animals, that's where I draw the line.  We checked out the areas this weekend and even came upon an old trapper cabin.  I’m beginning to enjoy the slow pace of village life and adjusting well to no TV, no cell phones, and no starbucks. Alaska really is the last frontier, and I feel very lucky to have the opportunity to experience it before humankind invades it.

A night for howling at the moon!
This is the view from behind the school, the pictures don't upload very good on this blog, but if you look closely in the middle you'll see the volcano spitting, it's very cool.


Terry said...

Candice... I'm Really enjoying your Blogs. You've never been one to turn your back on a challenge. Good for you! Be careful... Terry

Anonymous said...

Dear Candice,

You are an amazing teacher, photographer, adventurer, and niece. I am so enjoying your blog and know that you will get your third stripe as you are already gaining your area of interest. Do you really eat all the fish you catch? Watch out for the mercury! Your students and the families have much to gain from your presence there, and it sounds like you are gaining much from them. No cell phone is good...less brain radiation damage. We love you and look forward to many more photos and descriptions. 32 days until the wedding for Meg and Mandy is enjoying her work in New York. We are so proud of all of you and your new journeys! Take from Chicago, Aunt Karen P.S. got your dad playing tennis again...called him "Happy Feet"..only problem was he fell down one time trying to be the old athletic warrior!

Anonymous said...

Hey Candice,
It is nearing midnight, but I had to get my update on life as a Special Education teacher in Alaska. As I continue to read your blog, it seems I read and learn more and more about bears. I wonder if the founders of Build-A-Bear stores ever got as up close and personal with bears as you have? I continue to be amazed at the knowledge you are gaining from your time away from the Rock! I had a great laugh when you mentioned your skills at Kon-o-Kwee with the archery picture. Just think, if your aunt was still teaching she would be heading to camp next week. Ah, what a shame! Hang in there, Candice, the snows are coming and the beauty will be as you have never seen before. You might need a St. Bernard to get you through the snows. Do the planes fly in the snow..and if not, do you just get the days off?
You will be an awesome professor someday because you are experiencing the difficulties of making education relevant to a location and culture. You go get 'em, Candice! Will miss you at the wedding next week. Love always, Aunt K