A Little Adventure for the Weekend

Have I mentioned how much I love Alaska?! It seriously, has got to be, one of the most beautiful places to live. I wake up every morning with a beautiful view of the mountains. I see moose feeding on the flats. I see eagles soaring and roosting atop the tallest trees. Winter nights, although fridged, are beautiful. The stars above your head, the moon reflecting on the mountain tops, lakes, and rivers. The northern lights dancing and playing overhead. Each day I am reminded of what an awesome God we serve! I am reminded of how truly blessed I am. I am reminded of the opportunities I have had here in a place so far away from home.

This past weekend was one of many incredible weekends since I moved into town. I went to the ceremonial start of the Iditarod and helped celebrate the birthday of my best friend. We stood outside, braving the single digit temperatures, to support the mushers and their dog teams as they ran down street. It was so exciting to see them before the start of their 1,000 mile journey to Nome.

I’m learning that as an Alaskan, adventure is always just around the corner. And strange activities are always on the agenda. So after the ceremonial start we took off to the peanut farm to play some ice bowling. I can honestly say that was the first time I’ve ever been ice bowling. Of course, here in Alaska this is just a norm. Just like showing off your fur hats, mittens, and coats, wearing xtra tufs or sorrels, braving the crazy cold to partake in interesting activities, and walking straight into a moose when you are outside for a Sunday stroll.

If you are interested in following the Iditarod click here and follow these men and women through the last frontier.

Below are some pictures of our Saturday adventure…

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Christmas Vacation

So I’m not going to lie my Christmas Vacation was amazing! I have often found myself after a difficult week at school dreaming about the cruise and the sunshine and longing to go. I mean, really, I’m not picky I’d go anywhere. Anywhere where there is sunshine! For Alaskans the winter is really long and hard. I mean I go to work in the dark and I come home in the dark for most of the winter (thank God the days are getting longer)! While Alaska is truly a beautiful state I was thrilled when we left the state for sun, sand, and water!

So we flew to Florida at the end of December and left out on our 5 day cruise the beginning of January. All I can say is it was amazing! We went to two of my favorite places Grand Cayman and Cozumel! I faced some fears about being in murky water with big fish and standing in waist deep water with stingrays! Honestly, the dolphins where incredible that was an amazing experience, however I screamed multiple times like a little girl when the huge stingrays came around. Lets just say it was fun but I would never do that again. Haha! We then went to one of my all time favorites Xplor park. We went zip lining, paddle boating through caves, I risked my life in the back of an amphibians vehicle as two 14 year olds drove me through caves and narrow rope bridges. Anyways, I survived and so did everyone on the trip!

Enjoy some pictures from my vacation =)

 

Before I left I was able to hang out with one of my old students Xavier and his family for Christmas

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Now on to Florida, Grand Cayman, and Cozumel

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Then we returned to Alaska on January 8th and celebrated my birthday!

 

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Oh, What a Ride it has been

I am now half way through my fourth year of teaching and well…. so much has happened! Let’s just say it’s been a little bit of a crazy ride! I am just now feeling as I can sit down, gather thoughts and well if you are interested bring you up to date. So where else to start than the beginning.

Back in August, I was so excited to begin my fourth year of teaching in the village. I had prepared my classroom and was ready to conquer 2nd grade with the kids I had taught since they were just tiny Kinders. I was excited and ready to conquer the challenges of teaching a grade I had never taught before. However, due to unforeseen circumstances and a little nudge from the big man upstairs, I felt my only option was to leave a beautiful place. I had to leave my home of the past three years. A place where I had made connections with people and don’t even get me started about God’s beautiful country out there. So in a weeks’ time I had to pack up my two-story apartment, have a sale, and ship all my totes and boxes to town. I had to leave many things behind but the thing that hurt me the most was leaving “my family”. This village had shown me compassion since I had walked off that plane as a frightened, unsure 22-year-old. I immediately fell in love with Mountain Village and it’s culture and now a piece of my heart will reside there.

For a while after leaving the village, I really struggled. I would ask myself “did I make the right decision?” I would get mad at myself for making the choice (probably the hardest choice I’ve had to make thus far). So here I was jobless, feeling worthless, depressed and just emotional and physically tired. One day in my state of despair, I opened my bible and found one of my most favorite passages now:

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Ecclesiastes 1: Everything is meaningless really got me thinking… Being without a job is scary, moving is scary, finding something new is scary… I keep stressing about finding job, a car, my own place to live…But in the grand scheme of things where I live, what I do, and where I work is meaningless unless I’m doing it in Christ… Meaning comes from Christ… If you aren’t doing it in Christ it doesn’t mean jack squat.. Thanks Solomon for sharing some advice “meaningless, meaningless, utterly meaningless, everything is meaningless…” In Christ alone is where meaning is found.

I’m not saying this passage just solved all my problems but it truly inspired me. It helped me and encourage me to get through these small tribulations in life while I tried to decide  what to do next. Should I go back to Missouri and give up the “Alaskan Dream” because that would be easier or should I stay here and try. After talking to family and friends and praying ALOT the answer became evident that I should stay here in Alaska. I began September subbing a couple of days in the Anchorage School District. Then one day I received a call unexpectedly to interview for a 3rd grade position. I wasn’t super thrilled about a third grade position to begin with but I wanted a teaching job, so I interviewed. A few days later I found out I had gotten the job with a new stipulation I would be teaching kindergarten. I was thrilled. I immediately called my family and friends that had been so encouraging. Among those called was my grandmother who I had been in contact with often after I had left the village. She says “Courtney I knew you would get the job. I wasn’t worried.”  Of course I giggled at her when she said this because she always “knew” everything. But she was right if we have a relationship with Christ we should be confident in him and know that he will provide. And well, HE has provided so much for me in the last 7 months.

After about 2 months into my new job my grandma found out she had cancer and was put on hospice. It was so close to Thanksgiving break so I took off a few days so I could go home and visit her one last time, unfortunately she didn’t make it until I came home. I took it really hard but I’m once again thankful for the way God works. If I had still been in the village it would have been even more difficult and stressful to make it all the way back to Missouri.

Through all of this God had provided me with an amazing support system that really helped me get through this difficult time. While no one enjoys trials and tribulations, the Lord has shown me that he truly works in mysterious ways. When we allow HIM to help, He will provide what we need when we need it. Like Shannon L. Alder says “after every storm is a rainbow”and I truly believe that.

Year THREE!!!

Life, as we all know has a way of keeping us busy. Two months into school, 17 days until Halloween (which my students are so excited about), and 2 months until Christmas break (which I’m extremely excited for as I will be home this Christmas). Where has the time gone!?!

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My students are in the routine of school and I am loving every minute of it! Keep in mind these are the same students I had last year and this year… and let’s just say life in Miss Courtney’s classroom has done a 180! Behaviors have positively changed, students are typically on time and at school nearly everyday, improvements are being made and I’m asking myself… Did I teach that to these students? There is no way that was me… Was it? Many of my students are already exceeding well beyond where I was expecting them to be. I guess I, two months into school am still in shock of the milestones my students have achieved. I have students READING and WRITING!!!! And guess what?! THEY LOVE IT!!! And in case you couldn’t tell… I’m one proud teacher! As I reflect upon where my students were at last year and where they are now, I am amazed. But, it goes to show what a whole lot of love, support, and trust is capable of doing in a child’s life. It’s like the saying goes “A child doesn’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.”

So as you have figured out school is one of the many things that has kept me very busy. But I’ve had a few other fun things that has made life interesting…

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I CAUGHT MY FIRST MOOSE!!!

It was probably the most excited thing ever! And in case you aren’t aware…WAY BIGGER than a deer!!! When I first shot at it I didn’t even think I was the one who killed it. I’m pretty sure I probably closed my eyes after I pulled the trigger (I’ve been told I tend to do that). hehe! But I shot ‘er alright… straight through the lungs. In case you have never seen the process you have to go through in order to get the moose home let me just give you a visual…

In the village we travel by boats when the river isn’t frozen… So that day we had traveled way up the Yukon River and had searched all day for a moose to “catch”. We finally stopped and climbed up a bank where we had seen a great big moose which unfortunately took off because of the unfamiliar noises. So as we walked around and waited 3 moose began to swim across the slough. So, naturally we began running toward the moose (I mean you have to get a good shot). Finally, the moose is shot from the boat and of course decides that it wants to fall towards the water… That means you have to quickly get it to ensure that it doesn’t slide all the way in the water. So we (two grown men and myself) proceed to strategically pull this rather large, extremely heavy animal towards land on the tiny beach. Which takes at least 30 minutes of pulling this leg then that leg, and now let’s get the head and pull over here. After that is done it is time to get it cut into manageable sizes so we are capable of taking it home and cutting the meat. I knew I should have ate my wheaties that day I was shocked to realize on my own I couldn’t even get the animals’  leg into the boat. I stood by and attempted to help about 1hour and half later all the pieces of the moose were in the boat and we were heading home. All that to say, it was definitely a lot tougher than I realized and a lot of work to catch a moose.

Always Adventures…

It’s already the end of week 5 and I feel as if we have just started school! How time sure does fly when you are having fun (or maybe just when your really busy).  Between my parents coming, trying to be the best I can be for my students, grad school, hanging out with friends, and going hunting I have been beyond busy but I wouldn’t trade it for the world. Although life isn’t always the easiest and can get a little crazy from time to time, I realize I am beyond happy in “beyond rural Alaska” as my roommate always says.

Let’s just say the first few weeks of school was pretty rough. I have a classroom full of BIG personalities. I love every single one of my kids and am so happy they are part of my classroom. Although somedays can be challenging with 14 Kinders and 2 first graders I love them all so much and they are beginning to understand the concept of school and behaviors that make their teacher happy! We are making progress! 😉

My parents came to the village earlier this month. They seemed to enjoy the experience. I had to laugh because one night we were setting around the table and I asked what they wanted to do so I say ” I mean we can walk… (I sat thinking of more options)… I finally  said well I guess we can walk to the dump, to the river, or to the airport.” Finally we landed on a 5 mile walk to the airport down to the river and all around the village. I really enjoyed having them here, as did all the kiddos! Oh course, I’m not sure my mother was too happy with me when I took them to “the track” which is a place away from the village where many of us go to have bonfires right next to the river. If you ever walk it’s a long walk through trees and tall grass. Upon getting to the edge of the river we sat on a log and got out a snack. While we were sitting there I asked is that what I think it is? Sure enough it was a rather large bear print. Of course, silly me thought only black bears lived in Mountain Village. Obviously, I had been told wrong because those were tracks of a brown bear! I was in trouble the entire walk home.

Most recently, I went on a hunting adventure. I was out to catch my first moose (unfortunately that didn’t happen but maybe next time). We left early in the morning by boat to travel the Yukon to catch really whatever we could find. We went nearly to the coast where we chased a seal for a while which somehow escaped three boats! We saw many moose as we headed towards Mountain and we, for an entire day were surrounded by the beauty of God’s creation. No disruptions, no cell phones, just peacefulness and beauty.

I feel that God has blessed me here with many incredible friends and a wonderful life that I love. Honestly, I wouldn’t trade this for anything. I love the kids I work with, I love the beauty of this place, and most of all I love all the wonderful friends that I have here. I am excited to see what adventures the next few months may bring!

Here are a few pictures.

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3 Months, 4 Countries, and the beginning of Year 2 in Alaska!

It’s amazing how fast time flies when you are having fun and loving life. Honestly, I couldn’t have asked for a better year in Alaska. I’ve made amazing friends, I’ve learned a lot about myself and the ways of another culture, which I have definitely fallen in love with. I’ve learned a lot about teaching, coaching, and living life in rural Alaska. And now, I can’t believe I’ve not only completed my first year of teaching, but I also enjoyed my first work free summer and was able to do what I love: traveling the world!

Mexico was a lot of fun! It was my sister’s first experience in another country (I mean I think she had cross the border when we were kids but you didn’t need a passport at that time). Regardless, we were in our tropical paradise for a week. I think for my sister it was a bit of a culture shock. She had never been somewhere where people spoke a different language and who got really close when having a conversation with you. It was definitely a blast to explore Mexico with friends and family. Here are a few of my favorite pictures from the trip!

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Wow! Is all I can say. A life long dream finally came true. I was able to travel to New Zealand and Australia. I met up with a group of 25 others and began a 3 week unforgettable journey in the North Island of New Zealand and up the Gold Coast of Australia. Countless beaches, beautiful sunsets, and long bus rides filled each and everyday and many memories were made with new friends along the way!

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I’ve been all over the world but, until this summer, I had never been to our neighboring country, Canada. It was by far the best road trip I have ever taken, or perhaps, I just took it with some pretty spectacular people! Regardless, our 5 day adventure with much wildlife to be seen, spectacular views, and our awesome playlist were some of the best days of my summer!

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DSC_0013DSC_0980Night at Chena Hot Springs

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Of course, I also enjoyed my time in Southwest Missouri and spending time with friends and family. Between the fish fries, late night sonic runs, drive in movies, swim parties, travels and camping adventures I would have to say this summer has been the best summer yet. But, you could say after four countries in three months, I’m definetly excited to be back in Alaska and begin my 2nd year teaching in my new role as a Kindergarten teacher!