Wednesday, July 30, 2008


**image from

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

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

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