Tuesday, December 30, 2008

30 Dec 2008

Well, another year has come and gone ... kids grew taller, a little more wiser, and me--another year older. In our little corner of the world, 2008 brought us:
  • a drivers license for Kayla and her 2005 Ford Taurus (that smells of nasturtiums, even with dousings of Febreeze)
  • back surgery for the dog, who without it would have been paralyzed from the backlegs and probably would have had to be put down (he's his old self now, his back legs can't keep up with him though)
  • an 86 pound halibut for Stevo! in beautiful Homer Alaska. It probably weighed more, it bled out a lot before we got it weighed. Big fishy!
  • Jeffrey started Kindergarten at North Pole Elementary and he loves it
  • Nagyuk D grew leaps and bounds and is in the 3rd grade and did so good in soccer
  • I went and worked for our Wing Commander for half a year (tomorrows my last day :( ...)
  • Our whole family spent a lot of time on our boat (and on the road) traveling to where we could take it out. Spent a few weekends in Viva Valdez and Memorial weekend in Ho ho ho Homer.
  • Jeffrey tried his hand at shaving and cut up his upper lip with Stephen's razor
  • Raven gave herself a little hair cut, it wasnt bad at all, maybe about 20 strands of her bangs - which is much better than her first attempt at 2 when she cut to the scalp on hairs on top of her head (more than a handful and very noticeable)
  • Sarah Palin ran for vice presidency and lost out
  • My truck's fuel pump gave out
  • Stephen got (shhhh, dont tell anybody, BIFOCALS)
  • Gas was at its highest at almost $5 in Fairbanks
  • Our dividends included an extra $1200 (exact amount $3269.00)
  • Christina graduated from highschool
  • Reached -40 on Dec 29 in North Pole and will stay cold and temps go even lower this week
  • Donna moved out of mom's and into her new place
  • Lenna had her beautiful baby girl Robin Leena
  • Jeffrey and I spent at week in Kipnuk and went clamming in the Bering Sea and berry picking in the Yukon Kuskokwim Delta

So many good memories to cherish -- another year for more memories ... Have the best one!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Christmas in Kipnuk

In my home village, for as long as I can remember, the Moravian Church has held a community wide gift exchange. Those who want to participate, write down their name and clothing sizes and turn it into a proffer for the church, who compiles that list and then goes around to each residence participating to have individuals pick a name to gift that Christmas. The little strips of paper would be separated into two separate coffee cans. One containing male names and the other female - females would pick from the male can and the males from the female can. It was an exciting time when these people came around - it was exciting just to see whose name you picked. The proffers kept track of which name which person picked, because with a village of almost 500 people, there were times when a participating individual didn't get gifted for whatever reason. Money for gift buying would run out or spent elsewhere.
All these gifts were brought out to the Sunday School house or the Mission house, both buildings housed next to the church. There they are grouped by families, and alphabetically. After what seemed the longest Christmas Eve program, the gifts would be ready for pick up. Kids fidgeting and growing impatient minute by minute anticipating the service leaders request for a final song or the benediction of the service. I wonder if some leaders purposely prolonged the service just for that reason.
Families attended church dragging wooden sleds to haul wrapped boxes of all different sizes. Back then, when most people in the community just had CB radios to communicate with, about 10-15 minutes after the service was over, the radio would come to life with chatter thanking their gifters and wishing everybody a Merry Christmas. Most of the usual gifts received would be clothing and useful items like a bath towels, etc.
That same night after the gift exchange is community wide caroling. Those 12 years old and older participate. Individuals meet at the church and are grouped by which section of the village they will be spreading Christmas cheer. At the houses, the whole group enters, sing a Christmas song, and the hosts would have candy to pass out to the singing group. In the houses, stockings would be hung up with care and the carolers, fill up the stockings with goodies they've been given out from house to house.
On Christmas Day, kids go on stage at church and recite individual verse readings dressed in their finest. There's also the candle light service after the readings. Its beautiful singing "Morning Star" in candle light (I don't know if the song's title is Morning Star, taking a guess on it) After the service, the church hands out candy bags to all those that have attended and gives out extra bags to other family members that weren't able to attend.
I miss Christmas in Kipnuk, I hope we'll be able to spend it out there next year.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Dec 6

Yay! Happy Birthday to me today

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Thursday Thirteen

The past 13 days, I have:
1. Got the kids much needed haircuts and the hairstylist did a wonderful job on both, (clap clap clap) and worth the $37.00 for the two haircuts. We're definitely going back next month to the same place for cuts again.
2. Had my truck repaired by my private car mechanic (Stevo), thank you thank you! Truck starts up like a champ!
3. Read two books, "Plain Truth" by Jodi Picoult (very good storyteller) and "Salem Falls", by the same author - I'm reading up all the books she has out
4. Watched Fred Claus, twice with my kids ... its an okay movie .... it came out on DVD last Tuesday
5. Got a silver star in two levels of Legend of Zelda shooting practice game on the Wii
6. Crocheted a scarf and then unraveled it more than half way through because I didn't like the way it was turning out and restarted and finished it, now crocheting a matching hat
7. Wrapped three Christmas presents for my kids the day after Thanksgiving dinner and they can't wait to open them up
8. Sorted through my kids dressers/closets for clothes that they've grown out of - and bought underwear and socks for them after seeing whats in stock now
9. Decorated a gingerbread man project thing with Jeffrey for school with buttons, gumballs, a swatch of his old jeans and a patch to go with it
10. Updated antivirus definitions files for the two computers in the house
11. Forgot to bring my gym bag 3 times in a row to bring to work with me .. darn!
12. Cooked up chicken and sausage gumbo - yummy! I'll be cooking that up again
13. Bought hot pork rinds, had a weird craving for that time of the month, and now almost a full pack is sitting in the pantry because nobody else likes them

Saturday, November 29, 2008

North Pole Alaska's Xmas in Ice

For a second year, North Pole, is holding the "Christmas In Ice" event. A festival of ice carvings from ice artists all over the world.
You can browse through this wonderful, magic land of Christmas displaying splendid, intricate designs of these artists, all made from a block of ice.
The sculptures are beautful and imaginative, and to top it off, have the "feel" of Christmas. Even more so with the atmosphere that this season brings, especially in cold North Pole, Alaska, a place where the spirit of Christmas comes to life in December and lives all year long.

The event holds a competition for the artists and, for the first time this year, a Kids Ice Carving challenge.
On the opening day, the festivities include a fireworks display. Since we are unable to enjoy the full, extravagant displays of fireworks during the summers (because of never ending daylight), Alaskan's awe their sights of the colorful pyrotechnic entertainment in dark December.

On December 21st, Alaska starts gaining daylight time instead of losing.

Today 29 Nov, the sun rose at 10:15am and will set at 3:03pm .... 5 minutes, 28 seconds less than yesterday *** big sigh*** ... 22 more days

Nov 28

Thanksgiving has come and gone, part of the turkey gobbled up with all the yummy trimmings. (Left over turkey anyone?)
This year I made red cabbage/apple salad and a sweet potato souffle to go along with our festive feast. The crispness of the red cabbage and the surprising juicy sweet of a honey apple just adds the right combination to the taste buds. I added chopped pecans and raisans to compliment the colorful dish. The yummy sweet potato souffle (soo-flay), I had had before, but it was pre-made (store bought) and wanted to make myself. Very easy to make and tastes 100% better than the store bought one. The two extra dishes will definitely be a part of our Thanksgiving dinners again.
Along with those, we had the usual Thanksgiving fare, my special recipe potato salad, green bean casserole, cranberry sauce and of course pumpkin pie.
Kayla's BFs dad brought prime rib!!! along with au jus to soak it in and I couldn't have enough of it.
Jen and her kids helped us enjoy the day of food and it made it yummier. She brought her most delicous akuut that I couldn't get enough of the last time she had a nerevkariq.
The day flew by fast, I cooked all morning and then all of a sudden we were stuffed. All of the food looked like it hadn't been touched and my stomach still full. You know the saying eyes being bigger than the stomach? Well, my stomach was overflowing while my eyes were still filling.
For the day of Thanks, I am thankful for: my family, our friends, our health, the food we were able to enjoy, reliable vehicles (my car is "sick" but have Stephen's and Kayla's to get around in), tater tots, kleenex that won't irritate a runny nose, pretty smelling soap and the fact that somebody invented such a thing as nail clippers.....

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

A Book Review

I'm an avid reader and usually don't do reviews, but this book I felt needed to be "reviewed."

I've read a few books from Jodi Picoult and have never been disappointed with her writings. She gets to the "core" of everyday life.

The first book I've read from her writings was "The Pact", and I was enthralled by it. Staying up way past my bed time and into the night to read what was going to happen next.

This book was no different. Its mesmerizing and when I read it, I couldn't guess what was going to happen next.

Its a story about a 13 year old girl named Anna, that has an older sister who has Acute Promyelocytic Leukemia. Its a cancer of blood and bone marrow.

Anna was conceived by her parents as a "designer baby" to match the older sisters DNA so that whatever her sister needed, she'd be the exact match (blood, tissue, etc.)

There is an older brother who was sadly not a match, so the whole family lives around whatever happens with Kate, the sick child.

Anna decides to sue her parents not to be a donor anymore and hires a lawyer to represent her.

This book goes through the throes of teenage-hood and involves the lives of the characters. Anna, Kate, the dad, the mom, the older brother, the lawyer, and the guardian ad litem (a court appointed guardian who mediates between the minor and parent and gives their opinion to a judge on whats best for the minor).

My Sister's Keeper was so involving that I even went through the book club section and read through the questions and thought about what my opinion was about the whole situation.

This book comes close to my heart because my oldest brother died of leukemia 26 years ago. I don't know what kind of leukemia he had and now it makes me wonder. Would any of us (3 brothers and my sister) would've been able to help ....

Update on our dog Duke

Our wire haired dachshund, Duke, aka Maurice, (Duke, given name from his previous owners, and Maurice, given name by the current owner, Kayla) was paralyzed on his back legs when his back gave out due to interverbral disc disease that dachsunds are common to. Our friendly neighborhood vet put a catheter in to help him empty out his bladder (thats why that big thing is on his collar to keep him from picking at it in the picture) - but even through all that, he managed to push the catheter out two days before his surgery. His muscles were strong enough to push out the catheter, probably was very uncomfortable for him and who could blame the poor creature. He'd still drag his back legs to get to places (sniff out by the table for droppings from the kids at meal time, get to his food bowl, or go to his usual place by the patio doors.)
Stephen flew him down to Anchorage to get his back surgery on Monday, and at the clinic he was sniffing out markings and making his own markings from the scent of the other animals. A good sign, that he still had muscle control. The surgery was done and they cleared out one disc, which was "cottage cheese-y", all broken down and calsified, not 2 like the x-ray showed (I think, hmmmmm, makes me wonder now .....)
He was back to his old self again the next day (today). The clinic said, of all the dachshunds they performed surgeries on that day, he was the only one to eat and was back to his old dachshundy self again after the surgery.
He will have to go through physical therapy to help out his back muscles, and the doctor said he had a very good chance of recovering. We're hoping to get him back on Thursday. More updates to come....

Friday, October 31, 2008

Our poor dog

Yesterday our poor dog's back legs stopped working. He has whats called interverbral disc disease which is common in his breed.
He has two discs in his back that have calcified, meaning what should be cartilage, (like the soft stuff on our ears), turned into bone.
What was really surprising was how fast this progressed. He was fine all day, running around, jumping on furniture, pretty much going crazy like a super bouncy ball, and then all of a sudden he was having trouble walking. He was shaking really bad and feverish.
Kayla and Stephen took him to the vet this morning and they did some xrays and they showed that 2 of his lumbar region discs (where his lower legs are) were moved way up and had slipped above his spine, pretty much making his lower legs paralyzed. They gave him steriod shots and some medication to help with the pain and gave the option of doing surgery and steriod treatment (which both may or may not help him out). The vet said we'd have to "coax" him to relieve his bladder (meaning push on his bladder to empty it) and that if he needed to empty out his bowels, he'd have no feeling at all of the urge and the bowels would just empty out themselves.
He's been a part of our lives since Jeffrey was less than a year old ... so pretty much a part of our family. Since he's really Kayla's dog, we left the decision up to her. Poor girl --- she first decided to just do the steriod method. Stephen called me while the vet was talking about the options and it made me cry too, as much as I say how much I dislike the dog, but feeling what Kayla must be going through made my heart ache. The vet said he was a very good candidate for the surgery and could get him scheduled for surgery on Monday. Right when they got back from the vet, we decided to go ahead with the surgery. Stephen will fly with him to Anchorage on Monday and hopefully Duke should be well enough to come home on Thursday. If the surgery doesn't help, there's a specialist here that concentrates on dachsunds who does therapy and helps dogs adjust to those cart things, I guess dog wheelchairs. But, keeping my fingers crossed that the surgery will help.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Cell phones

Remember the days when we never even thought about these things???

One of my earliest memories is going to the big, old school house building in Kipnuk to wait for a phone call by the only phone there was in Kipnuk. And you had the option of doing a collect call, where the other person you're talking to pays for the call, or the "time and charge" call where you talked for however long you wanted to talk and then a few minutes after you hung up, the operator would call back and tell you how much you had to pay for the conversation you just had. There was a phone operator sitting at the phone waiting for the phone to ring, and they would announce over the CB radio, and say something like "Ella, you're going to get a call from so and so in 10 minutes, please come to the old school building to take your call." Or if you wanted to make a call your self, telling the phone person you're doing a time and charge call (or collect).

I once got such a call from Takuskuaq, one of my bestest childhood friends, right after her and her 3 brothers and her mom and dad moved to Kwigillingok. She is about 2 -3 yrs older than me and we shared chicken pox, tea (coffee, water or milk), roaming in the tundra, and so much laughter together. I missed her if we didn't see eachother during the day and when we were sick, we'd even go see eachother and once, she walked me home half way even when she was sick with a blanket wrapped around her because we wanted to see eachother so much.

I remember that they had a sailboat that hung off the ceiling that belonged to her dad. Her mom made us matching crocheted headbands one time and it was so neat to wear the matching things together.

They lived in a house in Kipnuk that they sold to Joe Paul which now houses one of Nallaq's kids. At one time, it was a store called the "Cracker Jack Cabin". Our favorite teen hangout in nowhere Alaska. There was a jukebox in there, where for a quarter you got to pick 4 songs and our favorite was "Dream Dream Dream" by the Righteous Brothers. And us trying to show off our alto voices and showing off that we could harmonize.

I can't remember what Takuss and I talked about that time, but that we missed eachother and she told me that little Kwiggers had their faces against their windows trying to look inside their house and seeing who was in there. She wanted me to call her collect, but I never had to courage to go up to the stern phone operator to say I wanted to make such a call. We continued our friendship through letters for a long time, way into my high school years. They had moved away when I was in 2nd or 3rd grade.

So that is my perspective of those long ago days and being able to instantly be in phone contact with anybody these days.....

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Thursday 13

Thirteen things to be happy about winter snow:

1. Its white and clean - crisp and so fresh looking away from the dirty looking sense that fall brings with rain and old leaves

2. You can burn a lot of calories cross country skiing on it - Stephen and I took up skiing in our neighborhood park area and its beautiful to get out in the cool air

3. Snow insulates your house, your yard, etc from the cold - to keep pipes from freezing and insulating perennials

4. To make snow angels - plop down on the snow and move your arms and legs all around and make a pretty impression on the sheet of white snow

5. Its pretty coming down in huge snowflakes - especially when its not too cold out and trying to catch a flake with your tongue

6. Instant fridge for whatever you want cooled off - throw out a few cokes and they cool off instantly

7. Snow machine riding in the big white - so much fun whizzing around and feeling the air whooshing past along with the world

8. Its a nice escape from mosquitoes - no question about that

9. To make snow cones with - yum snow cones, especially on a hot summer day

10. Makes cleaning up yucky dog poop easier - our damn dog, Duke -- what a pain

11. To make snow men with - and then destroy them (hehehhe)

12. Have a snow ball fight - the best is the wet snow.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

North Pole, Alaska

This is the sign next to the Baptist Church on St. Nicholas Drive in North Pole, Alaska. There is an RV Park behind it, and then the famous Santa Claus House down the street from it.
North Pole was given its name in hopes of attracting a toy factory into town that never transpired for some reason that I'm too busy to look into. Its an attraction to many tourist, both in summer and winter seasons. The famous Santa Claus House is situated here, like I said, with its exotic, Christmasy goods for sale all year round. On Wednesdays and Saturdays, you can find Father Christmas there ready to hear your wishes and dreams for the holiday season, or whenever you happen to stop by. We've never been lucky enough to catch him there, must be the other days that we stop by --either that or he's on break, feeding the reindeer right outside or getting a yummy mocha from the coffee shop right inside.
North Pole is home to about 7,500 souls, a lot of the folks working out of Eielson AFB or Ft Wainwright. Downtown North Pole boasts a Pizza Hut, Blockbuster, McDonalds, a couple of banks, an AT&T Store, Wendy's and the famous Pagoda Restaurant. Another place to get a good meal is Dalman's right on Badger Road with friendly folks to serve up a meal. There are 3 gas stations, Sourdough, Tesoro and ... is it another Sourdough???.. hmmmm, I'm not exactly sure, but right within less than 100 yards from eachother.
There is a highschool, a middle school and an elementary school - with more than a few churches within the area, of all denominations. A senior center, dental and optometry offices, even a couple of salons that offer day spas. There is a hotel opening up right next to Safeway, an indoor play center with laser tag and electric go-carts. You can also find the Chena Lakes Recreation Area right outside the city area open all year round. There's a kids park, lakes to fish in, picnic tables and pavilions, ski trails, and hiking trails. Also near the park, is the Chena Lakes Flood Plain built by the Army Corps of Engineers.
Weather here is extreme -- in the winters, down to -60 in the coldest of days. The sun rises about 10am in the morning and goes down about 4pm in the afternoon. Snowfall is about 6-10 inches.
Summer days are long, about 16+ hours of daylight from June - Aug with mid 70s and low 80s degrees as the norm. Tons of mosquitoes but lots to do.

Friday, October 17, 2008


I learned to knit by watching ladies during the Women's Fellowship/Ladies Aide nights when I was about 7-8 yrs old at the Sunday school building or the mission house of the Kipnuk Moravian Church. It was Tuesday and Friday nights and I forget what the difference between the two was, but it was pretty much the same women getting together to knit/crochet whatever their fancy struck, all in the name of raising funds for the church. They also did embroidery and cross stitch projects. Some of the beautiful products they made were afghans, warm hats, beautiful knit mittens and comfy socks. They'd hold a sale displaying their handiwork along with baked products. At Christmas time, they'd hold a gift exchange among all who wanted to part take and hold an afternoon of fun and games to celebrate.
One of my memories was watching Carrie Paul knitting away, I had learned to crochet with help from my mom and wanted to try out the other crafts the other ladies were involved in. My first knit project was a sock of various colors and with different types of knitting weaved into it. I was probably 7 or 8, my aunt hung it up in her house as a display, and the funny thing was, it actually looked like a sock! hehhehe. I also crocheted (sp?) a v-neck sweater with various scrap yarn for my sister when she was 2 or 3 yrs old. It was going to be for Oscar, but I got tired of it and ended it early, but it fit her. I made her wear it but she didn't want to wear it outside of the house. What a project it must've been, because now, I only do small projects, like hats or scarves, nothing too fancy. Right now I'm knitting a hat for my sis, I went at it full force for 3-4 days, and slacking off now so close to the end.
Knitting to me, is a relaxing, take a break, let my mind wander kind of thing. Kind of like doing a jigsaw puzzle, concentrating so hard on something other than the norm. Like a solace from the stressors of life.
I bought this book from one of the local craft stores called the Encyclopedia of Knitting. Its pretty interesting, there's on article in there showing pictures of a knitted sock with intricate designs that was made in Egypt during the Cleopatra era.

**image from craftgossip.com

Friday, October 3, 2008


October is breast cancer awareness month - but every month should be a time of awareness for this horrible disease for us boobied people.
I attended a luncheon today at the beautiful Princess Hotel in Fairbanks where proceeds of the yummy lunch went to the Breast Cancer Detection Center of Alaska. Its an annual fund raiser to pay for mammograms for those that can't afford such a procedure.
The luncheon was a Gala Hat Affair. I saw a beautiful array of hats both on display and covering the crowns of many attendees. There were also baskets, jewelry, and art to bid on on a silent auction. There were women of many walks of life and also men supporting this good cause.
According the the National Cancer Society, 1 in 8 women will develop this type of cancer. Its the second leading cause of death (lung cancer is first) in women. In Alaska, 300 women are diagnosed with this cancer and 60 of them die to this disease every year. Early detection through mammograms and with monthly self breast exams increases the chances of surviving.
Many of us know a person who has been affected by this cancer, whether it be a friend, a mother, a sister, an aunt or maybe ourselves.
Join the fight to find a cure.

Monday, September 29, 2008

A Slave to the Clock

The race starts at 5:30, mostly 5:45 or maybe a little bit later when the snooze goes off for the third time or the showers in use before me...
Then its tarry and toil before 6:35 to make it on time.
I gotta shower or be sleepy, my face like sandpaper and feel yuck the whole time.
Search for lunch boxes and insert homework to where it didn't get put. Hurry up and heat water for life giving tea.
Where is my sock? Where is my hair clip--I'm gonna be late!
Buzz through the driveway, uh-oh where's my ID, I need it for work!
Get out of my way, drive on the right lane, I'm gonna be late!
Glance down at the clock its 6:54, I still have time ....
get to the gate and there's ten million people, there isn't a chance and then I remember, I set my clock fast a sigh of relief ... and over again, the very next day

Friday, September 26, 2008

Money Money Money!

Who hasn't dreamed of coming into some extra money and then buying whatever their heart desired? This is what I would do with the beau coup bucks when I ever come into this extra cold, hard, cash ....
-- thank God for the luck that I ever came into the cash
-- pay off our house and build the house of our dreams in a beautiful scenic area with an ocean near by
-- buy an RV so we can travel everywhere with the comforts of familiarness to bring with us
-- get my dream car, a metallic royal blue, convertible Camaro, with leather seats, and a HUGE muscular engine
-- get rid of my poochy areas HAHAHAA
-- buy a "winter" home in Maui
-- vacation to a fun place with friends
-- treat my nephews/neices to new wardrobes
-- gift my brothers with boats of their dreams
-- get the red four wheeler my son's been wishing for
-- pay a village elder person's heating fuel bill
-- get my husband season tickets to OU football games
-- have our yucky dog professionally groomed regularly
-- hire house hold help
-- weekly massages/salon type stuff for myself
-- buy a luxury ocean boat
-- quarterly excursions to places I haven't been with my family, (if we go too often, we might get tired of traveling)
-- retire from work (my husband and I)
-- create a scholarship fund for native females
-- treat my mother on a trip wherever she wanted to go
-- have my whole family visit me
-- pay a grocery bill for a stranger
-- buy jewelry
-- build a dream house for my sister
... and then after that, sigh ... and think about the times when I'd wish for that kind of $$$$

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

I remember ....

(my dad ....)

- the quarters you'd send for Mom to dole out during the summers you went away fishing
- the tshirts and sweatshirts you'd bring back for us from your summer away
- my blue Snoopy watch I got one summer as a surprise
- the smell of the pancakes and the aroma of bacon before school on cold winter mornings
- the swish of your feet down our hallway at home to waken me up for breakfast
- I remember you and I watching the "Challenger" exploding
- the time you asked for my help to clear a river dam a beaver had built on the water we traveled
- your snore.... and I knew we were safe at home
- the bluegrass music you'd have on the staticky radio
- the flannel shirts that you liked to wear
- calling me Piip and then Ella, later in life
- helping me wash dishes, because I hated to so much
- your variety of groceries, so yummy they were
- the way you'd say 'kiagpaa' before sitting down to enjoy a meal at the table
- the times you, me and mom went to the early morning service on cold Easter mornings
- the concern in your eyes when you learned I was leaving our home
- hearing your voice so happy to hear me over the phone
....and most of all, I REMEMBER your warm, strong embrace to welcome me home

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Fall in Alaska

Fall is upon us full swing. In the Yup'ik culture, its a time of gathering from the land to prepare for the long, dark, cold winter. This time of year, black berries, red berries, "mouse food" (roots), and qusuuqs (a type of fish) are harvested.
Mouse food (roots gathered by "tundra" mice and stored away in caches under the arctic tundra) is as close away as going to your nearest tundra and feeling with your foot a softish spot and digging up underneath to see if its a cache of food "tundra" mice store away. I say "tundra" mice because I'm not sure of the scientific name of the mice that inhabit the Yukon Delta area and because I don't know if its a different type of mouse/vole/lemming, etc. The one's we'd see, would be what we called "angyayaagaq" (little boats) because they would swim and look like "little boats" with their long bodies. There are three different types of roots that we would find in these caches. One is tear drop shaped, utngungsak (utngu - is wart), I guess sak (is kind of ???) and the other is negaasek - a stick-like looking root, tan in color and kind of tastes like a potato. Another is a fuzzy shaped looking root. It looks fuzzy because the rest of the roots are gnawed off the meaty part of this rectangular looking root. The root taste sweet and very yummy. These roots are added into soups or mixed into akuutaqs.
Qusuuqs are caught using a net - hundreds of them. They range from 6-9 inches in length. The fish is gutted and then "braided" with grass around the head/gill area and hung to dry. It is also boiled or baked. The livers (tenguq) are boiled and whipped and mixed with black berries. Its puce in color - and an acquired taste to enjoy.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Games We'd Play - Yupik Style

**image from majikimaje.com

Even beyond the extreme subzero temperatures, especially after a long stretch of days in whiteout blizzard conditions, you'll find Eskimo children exerting pent up energy out in the arctic environs of coldest Alaska.

In Kipnuk, during recess (even in winter) we'd play hopscotch. The snow would make nice grooves where our feet would land and would help when throwing our trinkets even from afar. My favorite thing to throw was a bracelet or a little keychain because the aim would be much better than something not attached to anything.

We'd play, what we'd call "bat". There would be an "in" team and an "out" team and can be any number. All we needed was a ball and anything to hit a ball with. Kids on the out team would be spread out anywhere they liked. The "pitcher" would stand face to face with an "in" team member and just throw the ball up in the air. The "in" team member would try to hit the ball while it was in the air, and try to avoid an "out" team member from catching it. If an "out" team member caught the ball after it was hit with the "bat" - the in and out teams would reverse. The "in" team members would have to run across to a decided area and then back to get to hit the ball again. If the ball is retrieved before all the members got to the "safe" zone, the ball is thrown to any member of the opposite team not in the "safe" zone and even if it scraped a piece of clothing, the sides would reverse. There would be a lot of little rules and they would be decided before the game began. Game ended when curfew rang at 9pm sharp.

Another game we'd play was "Ak'am taigukut" -- here we come again. There would be two teams and can be any number. One team decide on a theme and then would act out whatever they were doing without using words. Kind of like charades, but with a twist. When the other team guessed what your "theme" was, the team having their turn would run to the side they came from and whoever was "caught" would now be on the opposite team until the "other" team is out of players.

Then there was "Go" - one person stands in front of others and tries to make the other members laugh out loud. Who ever laughed out loud first would get to go next. Sometimes we'd even make it to where you smiled, you had to go next. It did not count if you forgot to say "Go" when it was your turn up. And nobody told you that you hadn't said the magic word until you tried to say it was somebody elses turn. What great fun we had playing this silly game!

Another was "cavteq" -- it was played in a porch where you had an enclosed area. One person would go down the stairs and close their eyes and the others would try to find a way to hide themselves away in that very tight area from the "it" person. The "it" person would then try to find the others with their eyes closed and try to guess who they came upon. If they were wrong, they'd have to try again, if they guessed right, it would be that persons turn next.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Wolves in the Tundra

The day started warm, with a cool breeze blowing west from the Bering Sea, swifty enough for the mosquitoes and keggerpayagaqs (gnats, aka no-see-ums) from milling around our blood filled epidermi (aka skin). Perfect weather for berry picking. My mom, Donna, Masualuk (aka Musty) and I headed out in Musty's 16 foot skiff towards Ciuqaqlliq in hopes of filling up our empty berry buckets with puyuuraaqs (wild, sweet raspberries). There were many water fowl lazing about and resting along the quick swelling and flowing waters of the Kugkaktlik River of Kipnuk. I saw all types of ducks, fatty Canadian geese, Cranes and so many different kinds of sea birds along the shorelines of the waterways of that area. It was early enough that not too many people had ventured off into the wild to disturb these winged creatures. It was peaceful and the hum of the outboard motor seemed like it was a part of the peace and not a disturbance to the quiet. The day was starting out nice, the sun almost half way up the sky and not shining too brightly yet. A few random clouds splashing in the big, blue, tundra sky with a promise of another beautiful day in Yukon Delta Alaska. We made our first stop in a grassy area and as soon as we stepped foot off the boat, we were stepping on huge, red, juicy puyuuuraaqs. I found that the grassier the area, the bigger the berries were. Every where we stepped, there'd be a vaster area of the cluster of these yummy berries.

We filled our buckets about half way up and finally decided we picked most from that patch about noon and headed on towards Musty's boat. We had a lunch of dried, salty, smoked King Salmon with freshly made akuutaq (cloud berries) and macutaqs (dried dolly varden) and a nice cup of percolated coffee better tasting and not as acid-y as the stuff served at Starbucks. I'll take a cup of that coffee any day! I also munched on Ritz crackers and a granola bar to round out my nutrition intake for the noon day meal.
We headed off to another part of the river and by then, I thought about what people had been talking about lately in Kipnuk. Seemed there had been sighting of wolves in the areas where the berry camps were situated. Musty ventured off the west side of where the boat was parked and Mom, Donna and I went the opposite way. We were on ground for less then 10 minutes and I happened to look towards the horizon and saw 3 - four legged creatures in the distance loping away. I yelled "Qimugtet!"(DOGS!)" while turning toward the boat. Mom and Donna were close enough to hear me and ran towards the boat too. In our "tundra" minds, that would only mean one thing! We scrambled on into the boat and could still see Musty looking around into the grassy shores of the river, oblivious of our alarm. Donna yelled out his name "MASUALUUK!" but the wind blew her yell the opposite way and there was Musty still searching for the yummy berries with no indication at all of our startled selves. "MASUALUUK!", the second time and he turned around and started towards us. When he got close enough to earshot, we told him there were "dog-like" creatures inland. He grabbed his birdshot and his 12 gauge rifle and ambled on up inland to check out our commotion. He walked a few feet towards the "knotty" hill area in front of us and not too long after, we heard a shot go off. We could see him from where we were, but couldn't really see what was going on. Another shot went off, and he disappeared in the knolls. Finally, we could see him coming back towards the river we were on and he when he got back, he kind of chuckled, "Those things you thought were dogs were a pack of foxes, there's a den near the lake in front of us" --- what a sigh of relief that was for me~~, whew!
We stopped a couple of more times, the next stop, we saw moose tracks along the grass, which put us on a "bigger" guard of our surroundings and after that, I think our motivation of berry picking was completely gone.

Sunday, August 31, 2008


We spent the afternoon at Birch Lake today -- roasted up some hot links and hot dogs while the kids played on the big "toy" they have on site and played checkers inside the recreation area.
While we were waiting for the coals to die down from our simple meal, Stephen and I wandered into the forest to see what we could find in the wooded area. We didn't go very far and I think we were in amongst the giants for less than half an hour and collected this fungus among us. fungusamungus. These are collected from the birch trees, usually dead ones but you can find some from the live, tall ones. I think they form out of mushrooms - naamell. But the burnt down ash of these fungi are worth at least $60 per little cake frosting containers in Kipnuk! I might go into business, tll hahhaaa. While I was in Kipnuk, a merchant came to my mothers selling this ash for $60 bucks a pop in those little containers. He had said he had sold 3 of them before he got to my moms.

I might try my hand at burning these down and see how much I could get off of the stuff we picked, but I need a place to burn them in. Anyone have a 55 gallon drum they want to get rid of?

While we were getting the boat on to the trailer, I came upon this:

Its bear scat!! I've never seen any before and it made me more aware of our surroundings after Stephen told me what it was ....

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Cloud Berry Bread

This recipe I got from my sister in law, instead of blueberries, I added cloudberries to the mixture. It was delicious and very easy to make!

2 cups flour
2 cups pancake mix
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 egg
About a cup of water
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup berry or fruit of your choice

Mix together dry ingredients then add in nuts and berries and water. Grease two bread pans and divide evenly to pans. Bake for 50 minutes at 350.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Seven Things I did

I got to do six of the stuff I wanted to do while I was in Kipnuk

1. Went berry picking with my brother James and his family and went again with Masualuk for puyuuraaqs. Saw tundra foxes that I thought were wolves at first while we were out and came upon moose tracks.

2. I ate fresh clams that Pinvuq caught and so delectable they were. I like mine steamed and dipped in seal oil. Jeff and I went with Donna and DJ -- the ocean was beautiful.

3. I took a steam bath at BBJs and at Pinvuqs and so very refreshing they were -- Jeff took his first bath at Pinvuqs.

4. I ate a variety of "ethnic" foods. This imarpinraq was caught by Pinvuq and boiled my mom (hehehhe).

5. I got to see a lot of people at church:

6. I took a lot of pictures, here is my Aunt Nangyun weaving a basket:

7. I didn't get to go to a seal party "uqiiquq", but I enjoyed every minute of home.

Our Visit

Jeffrey and I spent a week at home and what a great time we had! We got to Kipnuk on Tuesday last week around 7pm after waiting 5 hours at the Yute Air terminal waiting on our flight out of Bethel. We had a great time with family and friends and I got to enjoy fresh sea food while I was out there. I trudged the tundra for berries a few times. I went berry picking with my brother James and his family, and here we are enjoying a lunch of uquumelnguq before tiring our backs picking cloud berries at the Maklagtuli River.

Donna and I picked berries near the airstrip with a few of the boys (they didn't pick, they ate what they picked) and I found a nest of these:

We also went clamming in the Bering Sea, it was beautiful:

They were delicious!:

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Eskimo Joke

**image from ltscotland.org.uk

Two eskimos, a big one and a little one, go to their local Alaskan convent with a question.
The big one nudges the little one and says, "Go ahead, knock on the door, knock on the door."
The Mother Superior answers the door.
Again, the big eskimo nudges the little one and says, "Go ahead, ask her the question, ask her the question."

The little eskimo timidly says, "May we speak with the midget nun that lives here please?"
The Mother Superior answers, "There are no midget nuns living here."
The big eskimo starts nudging the little one again and says, "Go ahead, ask her the other question, ask her the other question."
The little eskimo asks in a quavering voice, "Well. Are there any midget nuns in Alaska?"
The Mother Superior responds uncertainly, "Why no, I don't believe so."
With this the big eskimo falls down and rolls on the ground, clutching his belly as he laughs uncontrollably. "See", he says to the little eskimo, "I told you you "effed" a penguin!"

**joke from Aarons-Jokes.com

Monday, August 18, 2008

Trip to home

Jeffrey and I are travelling to my home town tomorrow. It was kind of a last minute decision, but I've been yearning for home for a while now. We'll be spending a week there and these are 7 things I hope to do while I am there:

1. Go berry picking (packed our boots first hoping we'd go the next day after arriving.)

2. Take a hot, relaxing steam bath with friends and catch up on our lives, funny happenings, and of course, the latest gossip.

3. Attend an uqiiquq (crossing my fingers!) Those are a lot of fun--a group of women stand together and enjoy time together trying to catch goods thrown by a generous giver. Most household items are thrown, towels, toilet tissue, spoons, most anything!

4. Enjoy fresh steamed clam dug from the sandbars from the Bering Sea the same day!

5. Visit as many people I can. I remember I used to name all the people by how the houses were situated when I couldn't fall asleep at night.

6. Take a lot of pictures -- I forget to take pictures while I'm out there most of the time!

7. Eat as many a variety of Yupik foods that I can find. Usually get invited to lunch or dinner to different peoples houses, so I'll take advantage of that as much as possible.

Saturday, August 9, 2008


One of my most favorite places is Valdez, Alaska. I recommend anybody and everybody to visit this beautiful place if you get a chance. Its a five and a half hour car ride for us from humble North Pole, and so worth the trip! I first visited Valdez in Summer 1993 with Kayla's aunts and grandmother and loved the wonderous glaciers, the waterfalls, the sea of green, the majestic mountains and the atmosphere of the quaint fishing town. There's always a stir of activity at the docks, whether it be fishermen coming in from a day of lolling in the waves of Prince William Sound, birds of all kinds, playful sea otters and curious seal lions. Valdez is the home of the termination point of the 800 mile long Alaska Pipeline that gushes black gold from the cold subterrain of the Arctic all the way up on the top of Alaska. We spent last weekend in one of the many campsites the town has to offer. We trolled the two bays outside the narrows for hours on end, trying our luck with the Silver Salmon swarming in the emerald waters along with many other hopeful boaters . What a thrill and a rush of adreneline it is to find your fishing rod trembling and yanking with urgency when a Silver hits! Stephen's pole was the lucky one this trip. We got 3 silvers and 1 pink (that we threw back) before we had one big one snap the line with Stephen's lucky lure, lucky diver, lucky flasher in its mouth. Who knows how big that one had been. Darn! Oh, and I almost forgot, we had lost the "lucky" net in Jack Bay when we took off to Galena Bay in hopes of catching the big one. Turned the boat right around and just when we got to where it was, it sunk underneath to the deep to swim with the jellyfish, well maybe the halibut, never to be seen again. We'll be going back in a few weeks, this time earlier in the day, Thompson Pass is horrendous when the sun goes down. Its a very strong pea soup fog going up a steep hill and then back down with just steel siding on the road and a barely visible stripped off striping to guide you. I couldn't imagine traveling that stretch in the dead of winter when snow fall is heavy. That is the only part of traveling to Valdez that I do not enjoy.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Rain Rain Rain

What a dreary, yucky, wet and cold July/August its been. There's been flooding in our area and the temp barely reaches 60 degrees during the day. There's puddles everywhere and the asphalt is eroding on the pavement all over town. Depsite the rain, we took time to go to the Tanana Valley State Fair twice! We got to see flowers, produce, arts and crafts made by our fellow Fairbanksans. Along with that, horses, cows, rabbits, cavies (I didn't know what they were, but read on one of the signs that they're also called guinea pigs), ducks, pigs, sheep, oh and goats. We pigged out on the usual fair "fare", Jeff enjoyed 2 ears of yummy corn slathered in butter, I got my corn fritters, all six globs of them dipped in honey butter, and oddly, Raven enjoys Beef Bulgogi. We ran into one of her friends at the Korean joint serving that dish at the fair, and he asked "Why are you eating here?" when we could've been bingeing on turkey legs and candied apples or that other yummy stuff the vendors offer. We screamed on the rides, well I did, Nag and Jeff just laughed, waited in lines, and played over priced games for silly stuffed animals that our darn dog will end up chewing up anyway. Stephen and I went to see Steve Holy in concert at the fair on Tuesday night. That was awesome - it wasn't too crowded and you could go right up to the stage during the event and he had a signing after the show! I bought a kewl tshirt and had him sign a CD and got to shake his cold, clammy hand ... hehhehhee.

**image from saynotocrack.com

Wednesday, July 30, 2008


**image from freewebs.com

I recently read an article in the paper about this subject. We've experienced it, know people who experience it every day of their lives, and sadly, most too often, a strictly avoided subject by those exposed to it. We don't want to know that its going on, don't want to admit that its something we live with everyday, whether its happening to a neighbor, a friend, a family member, anybody.

To some its an everyday, expected thing, most often its children who grow up experiencing it and then they themselves become the ones doing it.

Is it human nature? In the genes? Learned experience? Whatever it is, its evil.

"Oh, its just the way he is..." "I shouldn't have opened my mouth..." "It was all my fault...."

Most often its women who are on the receiving end of this violence, and usually women with children. Women who are dependent on the abuser for everyday living, making it all the more harder to find a way out of this poisonous environment. And then, when they do finally get out, somehow, their next relationship is just as or even more violent.

We hear about it, and close our hearts, because we don't want to accept that its there. Its something we hear about on TV and think, its not happening to me, I'd never live in something like that. People in these situations don't all of a sudden come into situations like this. Nobody, in the spur of the moment decides, "Oh, I think I'll terrorize my family/wife/husband today."

We hear about those that get away but end up going back to the abuser time and time again. Just to go back to an ever increasing turbulent life ..... we hear "Its never going to happen again"... but it does and will, over and over again.

To end, there's hope ... you know, things will not always be the way they are now, we can't change people, people change themselves. It doesn't all of a sudden happen because the word "Sorry" was brought up, it happens with time ... and sometimes, that time never comes. Its up to us, to change our surroundings to have that time come for us, because the other person can't bring it to us no matter how much we want them to.

Have hope, bring it to yourself, to others, especially children ... there's greener pastures, happier times, laughter and most importantly, peace. You know its there, you've been there before, and its still there, waiting for you.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

It's the time of year when tundra berries are ripening. Harvesting the fruits of our land is one that most families of the Yukon Kuskokwim Delta (and probably most regions) partake in. The berries that I'm familiar with growing up in the Kipnuk region include cloudberries (naunrat, not to be mistaken with salmonberries, according to Wikipedia), crowberries (we call them black berries, tan'gerpak), red berries (tumaglit, lowbush cranberries) and blueberries (sur'at).
What I remember most about this season is long boat rides into our camp area deep in the rivers of the YK Delta. My father would first bring all necessary equipment to the site, set up the tent, and all other items needed for a longer than an overnight trip. My mother would prepare food, pack up pots/pans, extra bedding, etc for our extended stay in the tundra (usually 3 or 4 days, some stay much longer.)
First day of cloud berry picking was probably the most productive day of all the days we'd spend out there. With buckets in hand, and a not yet sore back to go along with it, overseeing a vast sea of orange/red on that colorful tundra, our motivation would be brimming.
But...not for long, unfortunately. Mosquitoes would hamper our productivity and just the monotony of picking one berry after another with our buckets not seeming to get any more fuller drained our once overflowing motivation.
Meal time would bring a much needed break from the chore and for that we'd have white fish fresh from the waters. We'd eat our fish boiled and then seal oil poured over it and sprinkled with salt. Food seemed to taste so much better eating outside and mom would joke we should go out to the tundra to have our meals since everybody ate everything off their plates.
There's a fresh water spring to the north of where we'd set up camp, the water naturally cool and so crisp. You could taste a little bit of the tundra in it, and very delicious when prepared for tea.
Our camp was right across the river from Mr and Mrs Luke Amik's camp on the Maklagtuli River (I think, have to verify that with one of my brothers). They'd invite us over for tea or they'd come over to visit. We'd tell each other how much was picked that day and let each other know which areas have been picked already. Sometimes berry picking "rogues" would pick in the areas that were usually picked by whoever has a nearby campsite. There was an unwritten rule/agreement between campers in that area that those areas belonged to those camped nearest and know not to pick there.
Up to 30+ gallons would be picked, enough to last all through the long, cold winters. Berries would be prepared as a dessert mixture of crisco, sugar, and berry juice. Also a different recipe was with milk, sugar and seal oil, known as "makaaq". One recipe that I particularly enjoy is the Nelson Island Recipe (as I call it). Mix a 1/4 cup of crisco with hot water and sugar until the mixture is fluffy. Mix in 2 beaten eggs and then the berries. It tastes kind of yogurty, uses less crisco, and very yummy. (A picture of my latest concotion is shown up there, yum!)

Friday, July 18, 2008

Parallel Parking

I'm not a parallel parker. I'd rather park a block further away (even 3 blocks away) to avoid attempting to parallel park in between other vehicles. I don't know how I did it for my driver's test, I practiced a lot and prayed a lot to get a vehicle in between two cones before that nerve wracking day and passed! And to this day, have never parallel parked that way.
My girl has been driving now for about 8 months, and she is doing a better job at parallel parking than I ever did! She doesn't have her license yet, but practising, because practice makes perfect. (I still think she takes the turns too fast, but overall a pretty good driver.)
My husband drives a Chevy Silverdo and zips that monster into tight spaces like the pic, take it, they're not that close, but still, a little too tight for me.
Yeah, I can't parallel park, I did it once for the test, but never again. I can park behind a car as long as the vehicle behind where I'm parking is at least 10 yards away.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Thursday Thirteen

Thirteen things about our house ...
1. It has 22 doors (Nagyuk counted them last year for a school project)
2. The tile floors in the kitchen and bathrooms are freezing when its cold out
3. Its white with green trimmings
4. Needs a thorough cleaning, as always
5. Was completed in 2002
6. Has two jacuzzi tubs (aaaahhh.....)
7. Has birch, pine and willow trees surrounding it
8. Been egged at Halloween the first year we were here by neighborhood rascals
9. Endures beatings from a 17 yr old, an 8 yr old, a 5 yr old and a dog daily (well, me and Stevo too, I guess)
10. Was built by a local builder, who built it for himself, but decided to sell
11. Sits at the end of two streets
12. Has a slough running in the back thats a home to ducks, frogs, and lots of mosquitoes
13. Its comfy, cozy, we miss it after trips and we call it our home sweet home
**image from thesun.co.uk

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Humungo (to us) Halibut

Fourth of July weekend we traveled 670+ miles to Homer from our humble abode. It was a long drive so we camped out along the way. We set up camp at Montana Creek Wednesday night next to a few Army guys who were there to try their luck at kings swarming in the creek. Fishing for kings was closed during the week, so I don't know if they snuck out at night to fish while everybody was asleep. One of them was from my husband's home state, the great OK. (How's Oklahoma? Its OK) One of them came over to our side of the campsite wearing a crocodile dundee hat with a big machete to top it off. He had brought a sharpening stone and was trying it out slashing bushes there. The campground had a few other questionable characters, one across from us was playing a fiddle/violin/whatever in the evening (classical sounding music).
We left the next morning hoping to catch lunch at our favorite restaurant in the State of Alaska, The Outback Steakhouse. We pulled up, no cars at all in the parking lot, and saw to our dismay that they opened at 4pm -- darn, what a bummer! We went to our next favorite restaurant in the great State of Alaska, The Golden Corral. I gorged myself in the fresh salads, the great array of every food (almost) imaginable and their delicious buns.
We made it to beautiful Homer later that day. We had planned on camping up on the hillside at a city campground. We got there, found a few open spots and then found out people could call ahead of time to reserve places (either that, or the park person there that night got a few extra $$$). We ended up camping out on the spit. Which wasn't bad at all, a little crowded, but nice and close to the boat dock/showers/shops/restaurants, etc. We cleared away rocks from the camp area to put our tent down and I was worried we'd be freezing at night being right on the waters of Cook Inlet, but it turned out very comfortable. It was breezy and no mosquitoes to swat away. Eagles soar everywhere and the scenery, breath taking!
We took our Duckworth 18 footer out the next day out to the bluffs. We trolled along (I had finally got Stephen his Father's Day gift, a halibut rig, while we were down there) I had my salmon rig hoping to catch a few. Not too long into our trolling, Nagi asked "Dad, should I get the net ready?" And Stephen got a hit on his, he got it almost out of the water but it swam away, darn!! Meanwhile I switched over to hali style fishing stuff, and my pole kept acting funny and kept asking Stephen how I would know if there was a fish. I dont know how long we had that in the water when we finally decided to pull our stuff in to move to a diff location. Reeled in and what do you know, there was a fish at the end of my line! It wasn't very big, but I was satisfied. Stephen also got another one (right after Nagi asked again if she should get the net ready!) It seemed to be the same size that had gotten away. Five or so pounds bigger than mine. We headed back in, happy that we got at least fish to bring with us.
The next day, we left around noonish. On the way down the dock I ran into a fellow Kipnuker (Cathy Paul) who was down there for the halis with her family from Anchorage. What a nicest surprise! Her daughter was needing to use the bathroom and we were about to leave the crowded boat slip, so I didnt get to visit with her. We headed out to the same area by the bluffs. The water was so calm and beautiful. We trolled for a LONG time with no hits at all. We were about to head back and decided to anchor down. Maybe a few minutes after anchoring, Nagi asked again "Dad, should I get the net ready?" and for sure, Stevo had something on his line! It took him maybe 20+ minutes to reel the big board in. He took his first look at it when it got up close enough and said "I don't think that net will work" With the help of Andrew (my girl's first serious BF) they got it in. Stephen had "red neck" rigged a gaff before the trip (which worked prefectly) and finally pulled it in with the gaff. It was humungo!! When the fish was finally in the boat, we asked "Now what?" We had no idea how to kill it. He had it laying down with the "white side up" and whenever it plopped around, Andrew would put pressure on its head and it would calm down. We headed back, and got it to the back of his truck. Took it over to the cleaning station and it was still alive! Stephen went over to ask people hanging around the cleaning station on how we could kill it. One of the guys came by to look at it and thought it was about 60-70 lbs. (He was asking if we had gps coordinates on where he caught it, hehehhe). Since there was a line at the station, we decided to take it over to a weighing station to see if they'd let us weigh it, just to see. We got it up to the scale, Stephen was behind the fish, and the nice lady who let us weigh it, asked "How much did you think it weighs?" It was 86lbs! I filleted it for 45 mins! What a big fish! That halibut rig Stephen got the day before was paid off plus more that day. What a humungo fish! And delicious it is ....

Thursday, July 10, 2008


I believe in God, I pray, I go to church once in a while, but not an avid follower of religion. Somebody asked me if I was religious, and I asked what defines "religious"?

I grew up going to church, 9am Sunday School services at the Kipnuk Moravian Church. And most everybody would go, and we'd ask why one didn't attend if they weren't present for the service. Then there'd be a 10am service (that we never attended). Peggy Brown's dad would give her an extra dollar for offering for the morning service, but we'd go spend it on candy at Ciiskuaq's store, I forget the name of the store "_______ Ice Cream Store" (and they never had ice cream). Candy bars were 25 cents, and we'd be best friends with Peg until the candy was gone. How horrible and heartless we were. Mondays were choir practice nights. Tuesdays were when they had a teenage service, then Wednesdays was a prayer service, where you got to go on your knees on the pews and take a nap if you wanted to. Choir practice for the Sunday evening service was on Thursdays. Fridays, I think we had another teen night, and then Saturday was the Young People service, I guess for those that were out of high school, etc. Sundays were the Sunday school service, then a morning service and then the evening service! There was a full week if you wanted to spend your evenings at church. I don't think I ever went every night of the week for all the services.

My aunt Nangyun, you couldn't find her on Sundays because it was church and visiting day, I don't know if she'd go to all the services too. To me, she is what I'd consider "religious". She's an avid bible reader, hardly misses a church service, prays before every meal and every night at bed time. Her prayers are at least 10 minutes long and so elaborate. Everything she plans ends with the words "God willing".

I miss going church at home, the beautiful singing, the readings from the bible that makes you ponder about God, life, the person you are .... and even looking around and staring at people when the sermon was a little dull.

Earlier years, it was embarrassing (at least to me), to leave the church before the service was over. There'd be stern, mean looking men by the door who'd ask you where you were going. We'd look towards the door in the back to see if anybody was near it and walk out as fast as you could and just as you thought you were homefree, somebody would grab your coat from the back to ask "Where are you going?" and send you back to your seat. Once, I pretended to have a nose bleed just to get out that door!

Monday, July 7, 2008


**image from myextralife.com

Tuesday, July 1, 2008


Yupiugua, (I am Yup'ik) I was raised in Kipnuk, Alaska in the South Western region of Alaska. I was raised in the 70s in a small village 4 miles from the Bering Sea. I come from the village on the bend of the Qukaqllik (Middle) River.

This is my family.

My parents are James (Miisaq) and Mary (Tuqucaq) Mesak. My last name is derived from my father's Yup'ik name, whose name he got from his father. (Names are passed on in the Yupik culture and who knows how old our names are, I wish I knew.)

My grandparents died when my dad was a mere boy and I never knew them. He was forced into a children's home, run by the Moravian Church on the Kuskokwim River. He was there until his uncle decided to take him home, his mom's brother, Ciuliq, Lewis Samson. He passed away, and I hear he was a great man. Loved God dearly and such a very wise man. I wish I had known him, for I love him for taking my Dad in when he had nobody else. From there, my father went to live with James Samson, the younger brother of Lewis. I hear his daughters would tease him and probably made him laugh like sisters would do, for in the Yup'ik culture your aunts and uncle's children WERE your brothers and sisters. To this day, the Kashatok brothers consider my dad their brother.

Growing up, I had 4 brothers and my baby sister. Chester (Pamsuq, named after my Mom's dad) who was born first and died at 16 from leukemia. There's not very much I remember about him and that saddens me. He lived with my aunt Nangyun, next door to our very smallest house. His best friends were Pat and Vern Samson, my dad's uncle's sons (in the Yup'ik culture, brothers) We'd go to church on Sundays and after the services we'd come home and they'd imitate whoever sang that day or did their bit during the service. Most of the time, it would be Qiuran, our neighbor, a bachelor, older than my dad, who'd make little streams for water that would gather in front of his house. And how we'd laugh because they'd imitate him exactly, to the intones of his voice and fluctutations and gestures.

Next is Thomas (Arnaaquq) who we endearingly call Piipicaiyuk (a name given by Pamsuq). He's a comic, a typical Yup'ik man, and a father of 4. If you saw him, you'd know you're seeing a Yupik Eskimo man. He's tall (but most Yup'iks aren't) wide, open, and very friendly. Don't tell anybody, but he likes to hear what the women folk are gossipping about. My mother's friends would come for tea and I, being my curious self, would seat myself next to them and listen in on the latest gossip around the village and BBjai would ask me later what they talked about. I've learned from him that there IS a lighter side of Yup'ik men.

Pin'vuq (James) - my favorite brother, probably because I got along with him the best, comes next. He's 2 years older than me and I love him dearly. He's named after my mother's mother, her Kass'aq name was Julia. I'd try to tag along with him where ever he went. The movie "Excorist" was on public TV and we watched it together. I got so scared and pretended to go to the bathroom and went to bed. And when he came to ask me if I got scared, I said "Are you coming to ask me that because you're scared?" To prove to him I wasn't scared, I stayed up and watched the rest of the movie with him. He saved a life of a Kipnuk boy by darting away a bullet with his hand. The doctors were amazed that the bullet went over and under his "hand bones" and just shattered this pinkie bone area. If you look at your hand and turned it side ways as if you're saluting, is what he did to keep a bullet from smashing into the brains of a Kipnuk teenager. The bullet went in from the pointer finger side and exited on the pinkie side. I remember that day because Acai came running into Lenna's mom's house and said Pinvuq had a big cut. A plane came to take my Mom and Pinvuq to the hospital to see how bad the damage was. I remember somebody had wrapped his hand in lots of paper towels and was holding it up way above his head. When the plane arrived, I was going to sneak into the plane to go along with them, but Tun (one of my Mom's friends) held me back. When the plane took off to flight them away, I was screaming and crying as loud as I could and I flung my rubber boots off my feet as far as they could go. I laughed because one of them went in a muddy swamp. Pin'vuq came back with a hard cast that he would use as a "weapon" against BBjai, his adversary in life. He has full use of his hand to this day.

Next is Oscar, my Puma. I miss him. He lived a short life like Pamsuq did. And like BBjai, if you saw him, you saw a Yup'ik man. We fought like monkeys growing up and there's many funny memories I have of him. He's named after my mother's step father "Arruyak", Oscar Kanuk. OKMP!!! I hope you see this now Osc! He'd call me totem pole, because I'm so short, but have the personality of a totem pole. He was born December 2, 1971. I remember that he was the cutest baby you could ever see, and I loved him to pieces. He'd tease me and say, I should have a dot on my upper lip, and point and dig it in. Just a mere glance of him pointing to a place on his upper lip and digging it in and at the same time sticking his tongue out... I'd run at him and pummel him and then check to see if there was such a dot on my upper lip. (Now I do have a spot, but so close to my lip, it doesn't count, cuz its not the same place he'd point at) The day he died, I thought my world had come to an end--he wasn't supposed to die, he was supposed to be right there teasing me and making me laugh over stupid little things of life. Puma was my "funny bone", the brother who made me realize life didn't have to be all serious all the time. My son is named after him, and he's living up to the name! But I do miss my Puma, which I called him after hearing a thing on TV and I thought the word sounded so funny. Pooma pooma!]

Last but not least is Donna. I used to tell her that she's named after Donna Summer (the singer), I wonder how Mom came up with the name, maybe it WAS afterall Donna Summer hehehehe. But she did tell me that she thought of the name Carla. I couldn't wait for Mom to pop her out. I'd run home everyday to check our house to see if anybody was in there at recess. In the village, (to this day), prego mothers are expected to go to Bethel to wait out the term of their pregnancies a month before their due date. While Donna was hot in the "oven", I had gone to Bethel with Mom to go to the dentist, and I was thinking I'd be there the whole time until Donna was born. Much to my dismay, I was sent home, by myself without the new baby or Mom. One day, as I was rushing home, on my daily checks to see if anybody was at our house, Siiyaq stopped me (he lived like 2 houses away) and said "You're Mom's home!" and I didn't believe him. It had been many, many days that I had been checking to see if Mom was home and it was hard to believe that it had come true. I ran and DID see my mother, with a brand new, hairless, chubby baby! I cried and was so happy that the day had finally come! Thats the first memory I have of my sister ....

That is my family ... a family I was born to, the family I was raised in as a Yupik.


X words I know:

- The letter X - I made that once on a string, in first grade, when we were showing what we could make with a piece of string

- Xylophone - what a nice instrument to hear

- Xray - tooth xrays, (ouch) my mouth's always too small for those big awkward things they need for those and Kayla's had to have some taken on her elbow, oh and Jeff, when our neighbor's kid ran over him with his 4-wheeler

- Xavier - my friend Hazel's brother and a friend from Toksook

- Xenia, a name I've heard before, from the Bethel area, I think

- Xbox - Kay and Jeff like playing Halo and I like the game American Idol

- X- my kids say "You're a big X" and make the sign to me when they're not happy with me and then a circle, when they're happy or decide I'm not as bad as they think I was

- The X on tic tac toe, and nobody wants to be the X

- X marks the spot for treasures we'd like to find

- X the letter we'd try to find on Sears and Roebucks catalogs to bide our time when we didn't have TV

- XXX --- eww LOL

- X the mark people would sign because they don't know how to spell their names

XOXOXOXO - sealed on envelopes

Monday, June 30, 2008


There's walls everywhere, a stoppage, a no-go point, a dead end.
Sometimes they're a good thing, sometimes they're not.
My walls are different from yours, but probably not by very much.
I try not to invade yours, because I don't want mine trumpled on either.
My walls protect me, but then keep out other things too.
Things that might be joyous, things I've never experienced, and didn't know I liked.
Walls put up a front that keep others from reaching you, or you reaching them.
They have their walls, you have yours.
Walls keep in everything that we'd like to express, but don't.
Because of walls.

Visiting Etiquette by Ella

Summer is the time when thousands flock to towns, villages, cities, so many different places to visit families, friends, or just to go. We're going on an adventure ourselves down to visit the breathtaking town of Homer this weekend. We've never been and I hope I'll remember these few etiquette tips while we're down there. Let it be known, we're not visiting anybody, we're gonna camp out (weather permitting).
1. Let whoever you're visiting know way ahead of time that you're coming (a week at least would be nice) There have been times when I'd get a knock on my door and opened the door to people I hadn't seen for years saying, we're here! with a weeks worth of luggage and 5 other people I don't know with them. Its nice to see people, but not when they're expecting you to house and feed them for longer than a couple of days.
2. Don't call from the airport that you're here and need a place to stay.
3. Help out -- whether it be picking up groceries, taking the trash out, or just picking up after yourself.
4. Don't expect to be driven around wherever your whim is to go that day.
5. Pay for gas, we're going out of our way to accomodate you, and its not "nice" to ask you to help pay for some expenses, but please ask if you can help pay, your answer will most likely be "Thank you very much!"
6. Help out in the kitchen ~~ you're an extra mouth to feed, help do the dishes pleeeeaaasseee!
7. I have children, if you buy treats (chips, candy, etc) buy enough for everybody, it'll make my life so much easier.
8. Please don't rearrange my kitchen arrangement, its that way for a reason.
9. Please don't wake up very early and wake everybody else up (esp on a weekend) and please don't shush my kids, I'll shush you back.
10. Reciprocate the favor to people who have welcomed you to their home.