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

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.