Welcome Spring

DSC02101It has been snowing for twenty-four hours now, though the accumulation is only a few inches. In any case, Nicole officially has the better part of spring with her crocuses and butterflies. I went walking yesterday afternoon in the biting wind and snow, and the village was all but deserted. B and A slid up on a fourwheeler to offer me a ride. A’s loooong ponytail swung across her back as they slipped to a stop, and the wind picked it up and blew it into her face. B squinted and grinned at me, tipping his head to keep the sideways snow from blowing into his eyes.

“Need a ride?”
“No, I’m just going for a walk”
“You sure? This is the opportunity of a lifetime!” He gestured grandly.
“More like the opportunity of a deathtime!” (teachers have to make really lame jokes. It’s in the contract)
He chuckled, then, catching himself, quickly straightened his face to indignation.
“okay, if that’s how you feel”
B tried to make a big show and just skidded halfway across the road. A screamed and her ponytail swung wildly as they disappeared into the curtain of falling snow.
Every day this week, I’ve taken myself on a long walk. Until yesterday, it was warm and sunny, and I rambled willy-nilly all over the edge of the village, trying not to pop up in anyone’s back yard or to cross the invisible line around the village where Outdoorsy Girl Safely Exploring The Woods Alone turns into Stupid Outsider Getting Eaten. I wouldn’t bring that up again, but someone new warns me every time I turn around. I’ll take it as a sign that I’m growing to be well-liked.

DSC02077In these past few weeks, people have grown much friendlier. A few days ago, a student’s grandma stopped me on a walk to invite me on a trip to Big Lake during carnival, and to warn me not to go too far alone because of the wolves. This morning, A and her brother, B, invited me in for waffles and to watch part of Mr. Bean. Someone always says hello to me, now, and people will stop me to talk about their kids or the school or carnival. I’m glad that folks have, indeed, warmed up with the weather.

DSC02082This was taken from the bank of the river on our warmest day yet, looking down onto the frozen water. I like how it looks almost like a wave breaking on a beach somewhere. I had to try several times to get close to the way I wanted it, but I like how it came out. I’m learning.

I brought in a willow branch on Monday afternoon, and by bedtime its buds had popped out in all their soft, fuzzy glory. Spring is swift and opportunistic in Alaska, I guess. You could almost watch these buds burst like popcorn.

There are these wonderful, fat birds that I’ve started seeing around. I don’t know about birds, but they look like overstuffed super-sized birdfeeder birds. Obviously, this picture is of no use to anybody as far as identification goes, but I like the image very much.

DSC02094The fat ones make a nice change from the ubiquitous ravens, which were flying together in the snowfall this morning, making a peculiar bubbling noise. I like ravens well enough. They have these great big fluffy ruffs around their necks, like little black flying lions that eat garbage.

DSC02102My class is making pysanky eggs next week. It’ll be a little lame after Easter, but I think the kids will still dig it. They loved blowing eggs this week, and Shannon was awesome and let them bring their jars of egg down to the kitchen where she fired up the griddle and scrambled each kid’s individual portion for a snack. I have dozens of perfect, empty, white eggshells drying on the windowsill now, just waiting for the post to catch up with our activities.

My amazing parents sent Easter baskets for each of my students, filled to bursting. We’re going to have a lot of fun with the marbles next week when carnival and testing leave us with weird time to fill. The kids ate themselves sick before lunch, occasionally asking “Ms O! Is this a marble or is it candy?” Nobody died.

DSC02096Things have been weird at school. We have state testing confusion and personal issues among the staff out the wazoo. With carnival next week and Easter this weekend, we had a real pressure cooker going. It would have been fine, but the interpersonal problems with the staff have been getting to me. There’s subterfuge and manipulation and venom everywhere, and I don’t feel like I can really trust anyone.

My nerves finally got completely fried yesterday. After a few kids made heavy power plays, I broke. I tried to get it together during lunch, but, when the kids got back, I still had tears plopping off my face. I tried for a few minutes to cool it, and, to their credit, the kids did exactly what I asked of them.  When I realized it was hopeless, I went to ask Jake to find someone to cover for me. Instead, he dismissed the class early and sent me home to cry it out, which I did. My students were brilliant. They brought me cupcakes and feel better cards, and told me to call Sean so that I wouldn’t have to feel so bad. They were everything I needed to feed the kindness and patience and trust that had worn thin and snapped. It’s not the job and it’s certainly not the kids that wear on me: it’s the climate of suspicion among my coworkers that grinds me down.

There will be changes next year, and for that I’m grateful. I have my fingers crossed for someone who will climb mountains with me on the weekends and likes to play board games. If you are reading this, I make good pizza and great cookies, and I’m willing to learn to cross-country ski properly. DSC02099Carnival starts on Monday, and I’m starting to get excited. On my morning walk, a gentleman I know passed me on his four wheeler with two dogs hitched to a plastic sled running behind. In the sled was his four-or-five-year-old granddaughter, laughing her head off. My kids keep telling me how excited they are for the dog races and the princess coronation. C will be racing four dogs and also running for princess. She started making her own earrings during math class this week, when I deemed her sufficiently ahead in her work.

DSC02098I can’t wait to see her in her outfit with all that dark hair falling down her back. She’s usually very practically dressed with her long braid tucked into the back of her sweatshirt. It’ll be a privilege to see her in the dress and slippers that she’s been working so hard on with her auntie and grandma, and to hear her give her speech in Gwich’in. I’m going to ask her to make a pair of earrings for me. If she can be persuaded to make them, I’ll treasure them forever.

6 thoughts on “Welcome Spring

  1. Oh, how I understand and feel for you! I’ve been dealing with staff issues here and it’s the worst! That’s part of why I’m transferring next year. Too bad I couldn’t head up to Venetie, though! I do love mountains, board games, and cookies!

    • Alas! That would have been lovely!
      I am starting to think that teaching in the bush attracts and magnifies eccentric people, and that this can be either a good or a bad thing, depending on the particular eccentricities. I thought about looking elsewhere for work, but I believe the power piece in this chess game is going to be leaving us. With luck, we’ll have a strong team next year!

  2. Love reading your posts…sad that you have to put up with the craziness, but you seem like a hearty soul who will make the most out of a snarky situation. Blessings for that.

  3. So glad to hear there’s a general warming trend in the air 🙂
    I’m also terrible at identifying birds but wonder (because of the long tail feathers) if that’s a grey jay (whiskey jack) or a northern shrike?

    • a little googling reveals that those portly little fellows are certainly gray jays. This one was typically curious, following me for a while and flying remarkably close.

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