Sarah in Alaska

Hi everyone,

I kept saying I'd do it, and here it is: a journal of my adventure in Alaska.

Becoming a Volunteer Teacher
I arrived in Dillingham three weeks ago after a fantastic holiday in Florida with Hunter. It took me a day to re-organize the kitchen and unpack the majority of stuff I mailed up here when I left Canada. Twenty-four hours later, with the help of dial-up Internet and one terrible novel about orphans in India, it became crystal-clear that being a homemaker isn't the life for me.

I called a friend of Hunter's who mentioned he could use my help and volunteered to teach Grade 3 at the Seventh Day Adventist School. One day later, I reported for my first day of school. I figured teaching these kids had to be better than doing house work... I think I was sorely mistaken.

I have three kids. Yes, only three. Each needs a helping hand in their studies and apparently, that's where I come in. This gig is challenging on so many levels. First of all, who remembers what an addend is? Up until a few days ago, I sure didn't. I learned to fake it and encourage my kids to "look it up" in their textbooks. If they knew I didn't have the foggiest idea what they were being asked to do, I'd be toast.

Second challenge is dealing with the constant tantrums, pleading, stalling, attention seeking and tears. I wish these kids would come up with something original. It's been three weeks and they haven't changed their drill since Day 1. Here's how it goes:

Me: [insert kid's name here], it's math time. Please take your seat, open your book to page whatever and we'll get started. Read the instructions and if you don't understand or get stuck, let me know and we'll work on the problem together.

Kid: Noooooooooooooooooooo-ah [must get the "-ah" in there for effect.]

Me: Come on, get moving.

Kid: I already did this

Me: Oh good. Then show me your work and we'll work on something else.

Kid: Opens text book starts turning to the page that he says he's done but hasn't and screams: "I'm not doing this, this is stupid. I hate you. I hate math. I need help. I don't get it." (Note that he still hasn't got to the page in question).

Me: I don't need you to like me, just learn math. Get yourself a piece of paper and we'll get started. We'll take it one question at a time and you'll be done in no time.

Kid: Tosses pencil on the floor, fiddles with eraser, crosses arms and stares at floor and restates his feelings for yours truly and the subject matter in question.

This goes on for about 25 minutes until the kid finally gets into his math...if I'm lucky. On a good day, kid does his math. On a bad day, kid goes and sits in the other classroom to do math with another teacher (but only after screaming that he doesn't have to, hates me, doesn't want to and thinks this is stupid).

On top of these theatrics, my favourite little guy burst into tears today because he missed his Mom. Poor kid's got a tough go at home and there really wasn't anything I could do to make it better. In the end, we decided to make his mom a card at lunch. At least it let him do something with his feelings.

How to be a Canadian
I had lunch with my favourite little guy (FLG) today. He asked me if Canadians speak differently that Americans. So, being a true Canadian, I taught him to say, "How's it goin' 'eh?" I explained to him how and when to use 'eh. He thought it was all sorts of fun.

Later that day, his dad came to pick him up from school. Dad showed up in the class room and FLG looked up and exclaimed, "I learned to speak Canadian today." His Dad asked him what he learned and he said, "How's it goin' 'eh" with a huge smile across his face. Then he said to his Dad, "let's go 'eh", turned to me and said, "see you tomorrow 'eh." Very cute. That didn't make up for the general jerkyness of the other two but it make it worth my while to show up today.

Dillingham in General
Hunter and I are having a great time together. It's almost fishing time so we bought fishing licenses last weekend to beat the mad rush that will ensue later this week.

It snowed quite a bit last week and now the snow is rapidly receeding. It got up to 13C today, which is balmy by Dillingham standards.

The ice in the ocean and in the big lake down the road broke up. The entire town is waiting for the big ice chunks to go away before eveyone launches their boats in the water. Next to some guy named Byron going to jail for 7 years (he tried to mow people down with his plane), it's the only thing people are talking about here. It'll be worth taking pictures of the boat ramp at Aleknagik Lake this weekend - I predict mayhem.

The people up here are so nice and so much fun. We've been to parties every weekend since I got here. It's been great meeting all these new and interesting people. One thing for sure, you don't have to dress up everywhere you go...I love it. Haven't worn heels in a month, you can't beat that.