Friday, November 6, 2015

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

We have had a beautiful fall here in Alaska. All of September and much of October the trees have been vibrant yellows and reds, and the air has been crisp.

We have soaked up as much time as we can outside, knowing that each day brings a bit less sun and a bit more dark.

I got to join Grace's class on a field trip to the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. It was a cold but beautiful fall day. I love that we live somewhere that our kiddos can experience nature everyday.

Grace's teacher Mr. Daniels explaining different insects found in the wetlands.

Hockey is back in full swing. This year Steve is the head coach of Noah's team. At the beginning of the season, the UAA hockey team traveled to the peninsula for a scrimmage game. After the game, the players stuck around and let our local kids skate with them on the ice. The next morning they put on a free clinic for the kids. Only around 12 kids attended, so each child had 2-3 hockey players helping them out. It is so great to see these players investing in the next generation. Noah has a new favorite college team!

We have been very fortunate here at Alaska Christian College to have had the support of multiple governors. Our new governor is no exception. He stopped by to tour the campus, and took the time to  answer student questions. I was so impressed with the questions that our students asked him, ranging from subsistence rights, to oil, to hunting and fishing regulations. He addressed each issue and then took pictures with the staff and students.

As the weather cooled off the local animals were out and about trying to fatten up for the winter. This little guy got chilly and decided to knock on my window. :)

Our Paraprofessional Education program at ACC is growing quickly. Our students take advantage of the fact that there are several elementary schools close by, including my kiddos school right across the street. The "Children as Readers" paraprofessional class hosted a reading instruction session in the ACC library for some of our kids. It was a great opportunity for the ACC students to practice their teaching skills, and our kids to interact with the students outside of their normal school setting.

Towards the middle of October the clouds rolled in and it started getting significantly darker. One of the ways that we cope with the darkness here in Alaska is through light therapy. The light (called a happy light) helps to stimulate the cones and rods in your eye in a way that mimics sunlight and tells your body to utilize the vitamin D (which we have to take in the form of supplements) in its system. We notice a big difference when we take our vitamin D and use the happy lights. We are all less sleepy, grouchy, and moody when we stay on top of the "lack-of-sun" issue.

Our kiddos doing their homework in front of the happy light.

Our family got a short break from the darkness when we traveled to San Diego for a family wedding. Steve's brother and his family came back from Central Asia to attend, so we made it a priority to get down there to see them. Since we are in the middle of the semester we were only able to go for a few days, and we had to fly overnight on both ends of the trip to fit it in, but it was completely worth it!

Steve and Chris, after a morning riding the waves
Some of Steve's favorite memories are of surfing with his brother. Not only did he get to surf with his bro again, but he got to teach the kids how to surf! It has been 4 years since he had last surfed, but his love for the sport has not faded one bit! While one kid surfed, the other kids enjoyed boogie boarding, sand-castle making, and playing with their cousins.

It is hard having cousins that live so far away, but when the kids get together it is like no time has passed. The girls really enjoyed bonding through make-overs, nail-painting, and other girly activities.
Noah grumbled more than a few times about how Zak needs to hurry up and grow up so they can do more guy stuff.

Grandpa dancing with the kids at the wedding
The wedding was beautiful, and the time with family was priceless. It was great to re-charge before returning to Alaska to finish the semester strong.

 Shortly after we returned there was snow in the forecast. We have had a few big windstorms and some of the facia board was ripped off of our house. We haven't been able to repair it because there has been quite a bit of rain the past few weeks. With snow in the forecast that evening, and a short break from the rain, Steve and his buddy decided it was now or never on the facia repairs. We are so fortunate to have such good friends!

It was a good thing that they got the boards fixed, because we woke up the next morning to a blanket of snow.

Growing up in Colorado we had plenty of snowy Halloweens, but our kids haven't had to deal with snow on Halloween until now. It was fun to watch my kids try to figure out how to fit their costume's over sweaters and coats.

We had a few friends over so that the kids could trick or treat together. Living in a small town where you know all of your neighbors has its advantages- the kids made out like bandits!

We are slowly settling in to the winter routine. The kids still forget to bring their coats when we run errands, and last night Noah managed to make it out of the house with only one snow boot on (he hopped from the car to our destination.) 

Taylor is probably the least enthusiastic member of our family when it comes to winter. She pretty much spends her days sitting on our heat registers, in front of the fireplace, or wrapped in her electric blanket.

Driving down our street on the way to school.

Winter here is definitely beautiful. It can be difficult to deal with the dark, but our work keeps us busy, and the kids are going non-stop with friends, hockey, and school. We are looking forward to the holidays with family coming up for both Thanksgiving and Christmas. Stay warm wherever you are, and thanks for checking in!

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Exploring Alaska

The end of summer was a whirlwind of activity. We crammed in as much fun and adventure as we could during July and the beginning of August. Our kids headed back to school the second week of August with mixed feelings. Grace is now in fourth grade, and Noah is in second. I can't believe how much they have grown since we moved here over two years ago. Noah has the same teacher that Grace did our first year here, and Grace is thrilled that her new teacher emphasizes science every afternoon, letting them look at pond scum through computer-synced microscopes. 

Our ACC students returned Thursday, August 21. Once again we are breaking records with the size of our student body. We have 74 students after the add/drop deadline. We have only had one commuter student leave. To have retained all of our students through the first two weeks of school is really an answer to prayer.

The night that the student's arrived, one of the President's Advisory Council members found out that he would not be able to go on a trip that the entire PAC was taking out to the villages of Shaktoolik and Unalakleet the following day. I (Lindsay) was asked if I wanted to take his place. Whenever possible, ACC tries to get it's non-native staff members out into the villages so that we can better understand our student's culture. I was extremely excited by this opportunity, but still had to get through registration early the next morning.

After registering most of the students (our Academic Dean graciously finished registration for me so that I could go) I hopped on a King Air and flew four hours North-West to the coastal village of Shaktoolik. Shaktoolik is a small village (around 400 people) wedged between a river and the Bering Sea. It has been relocated many times due to flooding issues.

Half of our team flew on the King Air, half flew on the Kodiak pictured below.

We were greeted warmly in Shaktoolik when we arrived. Everyone was so excited and proud to show off their village. Several villagers (including one gregarious 8 year old boy) gave us a tour of the top sights, which included the Native Corporation store (a general store for those items not available through subsistence living), and a beautiful school.

The school serves children K-12, and is amazing. There are smart boards in each classroom, and a large gymnasium. Schools like this were built by the government after the Molly Hootch Case in 1972 (interesting article on this case here). 

Along the beach separating Shaktoolik from the Bering Sea, villagers have buried non-working construction equipment, trucks, and other large debris to try to form protective berms that can help keep the harsh storms, common to this region, from flooding the village.

After our tour of Shaktoolik, the local church was excited to perform some of their choir's songs for us. They kept joking that they hoped the rain would come so that we would have to stay because they liked the addition of our voices to their choir. They are such genuinely nice people.

Shaktoolik from the air. The water at the bottom of the picture is the Bering Sea.
 After the choir performance in Shaktoolik, we loaded back into the planes and headed towards Unalakleet. The rain did hit (just a bit late for our Shaktoolik friends) and once we landed we had to huddle in a small room until the four-wheelers and pickup could come pick us up from the landing strip.

The church in Unalakleet has been here for over 125 years. Some of the very first believers were here in Unalakleet, and they have been ministering all across Alaska since that time.

Stained glass inside the church

One of the buildings near where we stayed.
On Saturday we traveled by truck and 4-wheeler out to the children's camp just outside of Unalakleet. This camp has been serving Alaskan kids since the 80s, flying them in from villages all over the state. Every child that comes to camp signs the wall of the main building. I recognized many names of our students and their siblings from over the years.  For many of our students, this camp was the first place they heard the gospel.

Several of the PAC members decided to go fishing with a local guide. The camp director, Nick, was kind enough to take a few of us who were not serious fisher-people out in one of the camp boats. I caught my first silver salmon and we saw some beautiful sights.

About an hour up-river our boat's battery died. Fortunately there were a couple of old oars on the boat and we were able to (mostly) keep ourselves out of the trees and off of the sandbars as we floated down-river. While we were waiting for one of the other boats to come help us (they had caught over 100 lbs of fish and didn't want to pause in the cleaning of the fish to come get us right away) Nick taught us some moose calls. So we floated for an hour or so, and called for moose. This is how many Alaskans hunt moose, so that they don't have to carry the moose all the way back to the village. Instead, they can load the moose into the boat and float it home.

Eventually, one of the other boats made its way up to us and gave us a jump-start.

We spent that evening at the home of a local pastor, Chip, who has served in numerous Alaskan villages over the years. This is the view of Unalakleet from the hill above his home. The hills were covered in various berries, and the tundra was beautiful.

To get to Chip's home, you either have to travel by 4-wheeler, or walk. We did some of each, stopping to taste the berries along the way.

Sunday morning, after a beautiful church service we visited the Unalakleet cemetery. Curtis Ivanoff, whose family has lived in Unalakleet for many generations, talked about the great men and women who are buried here.  The large tombstone in the picture belongs to Axel Karlson, the first missionary to Alaska Native People. Uyaraq, the first Native missionary (known as the "Eskimo Paul") is also buried in this cemetery- you can learn more about him here.

Seeing all of the history, and experiencing the culture, has given me a deepened respect for our student's heritage. They bring so much richness and depth to our community here at ACC. I feel very humbled and blessed to have had this opportunity to learn more about this incredible place from where many of them come.