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

court and x.jpgcourt and nan.jpg

court and denali.jpg

Now on to Florida, Grand Cayman, and Cozumel

beauty.jpgcourt and mike.jpgcj.jpg

DSC_5486.JPG

AN12-20170105153755a.jpg

court.jpgboat.jpg

 

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

 

birthday.jpg

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:

Ecclesiatstes.jpg

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.

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.

IMG_0235 IMG_0342 IMG_0263 IMG_0276 IMG_0308 IMG_0316 IMG_0356 IMG_0358 IMG_0355

So much has happened in just a few short days since my last post! I’ve learned you can make bread…..in an oven. Mind blowing, I know, especially when all your life you believed one must have a bread maker to make bread. Obviously, I was shown there is a way. I learned the technique of braiding the bread. I pretty much feel like a pro! I’ve also learned that you can use dried eggs and dried milk and your waffles will still taste the same! And if you want to really want to make them extra good add some handpicked blueberries from the tundra! So whenever you all want to visit I will be pretty much as good as Betty Crocker, Rachel Ray…you know all those great cooks!

Monday was a beautiful day here in Alaska! I can honestly say that was the first day since I’ve been here I thought it was HOT! (I believe it was only 68 degrees!) I took advantage of that and went on a stroll to walk along the Yukon River! Many locals are still on the river fishing for Salmon and we saw a few women cutting, cleaning and smoking the fish so it can be saved for the long winter. The view along the beach is just breathtaking. I still can not believe this river will be completely frozen over in a few months! But until then I am enjoying this beautiful weather and taking advantage of the berry picking and trying to not think about how cold it is going to get in just a few months!

The kids here are just so stinkin cute! They all want to know your name and what grade you are teaching! It’s so funny to have a 5 year old come up to you and quiz you about where you live, what you teach, what you name is, and the list goes on and on. It just funny, no matter where you go, kids are kids.

I have spent many hours in my classroom this week shifting my piles to different corners of the room trying to organize and prepare for my 13 1st grade students. I am so excited to meet these kiddos! I found out that I have an aide that will help me throughout the year! It’s been great to have another body to help me finish cleaning and preparing the room! I can’t believe school starts in just a little over a week! I still have so much to do, but I am so excited to begin teaching these precious little children!

ImageImageImageImageImage

From Anchorage to the Bush

Wednesday morning I boarded my plane to leave everything I have ever known behind and to come and experience Bush Alaska! Talk about scary! I boarded my 28 passenger plane and left the world as I knew it behind. Less than two hours later, I had arrived in St. Mary’s. Ok, when I think airport I defiantly don’t think one room building with coffee brewing for the passengers….but that’s what it was. Soon after arriving my name was called and was told they were ready to take me to my village (which is only a 10 minute flight). The pilot came and got me and took me to this thing that looked like a toy plane! I couldn’t believe that is what was taking me to my new home! Even better, I got to ride shotgun! So after about 3 hours, landing on two gravel strips and praying that this was nothing like that “Fly Wild Alaska” show (where they start throwing my luggage out) I arrived in Mountain Village!

Upon arriving I was taken to what I like to call “My Shack”. I guess things could ALWAYS be worse. But after seeing that I was ready to call Mrs. Sara Lay and have her come pick me up! I wanted to go back to all that I knew. I mean being a first year teacher is kind of tough anyways then throwing a new home, new culture, and a new way of life in the mix is well, a little overwhelming! As of now though, I am enjoying and absolutely loving my new home. I’ve started to meet many of the students that will be in our building and various people in the community.

In our village we have two small stores, and three very small churches. Aside from that there is really not much to do. We’ve went on walks around the village, and walked to the Yukon River (which is right down the hill from my house). Saturday we decided to venture out to the tundra to do some berry picking. Ok, when someone tells you there is a nice little blueberry patch over there, I think hey there must be normal sized bushes with decent sized berries on them. NOPE, that’s not what they mean at all. They weren’t bushes at all they were little pieces of grass that baby sized berries grew on. Regardless, we came away with a plethora of berries and this morning was able to make blueberry pancakes.

Until the next adventure!

Lets go shopping!

20130803-005446.jpg

This week has flown by but somehow we have managed to accomplished a lot! From almost getting sick over taking a test for a drivers license to running all over the state of alaska to get a phone that works in the village….Then came the fun part……

I had my first ever experience shopping for the Bush.

Ok, so you may think going to Walmart is the worst experience ever but just for a moment imagine this…

4 stores
Grocery shopping
10.5 hour day
Outrageous traffic
Stocking several months worth of food
Driving carts that look like small trailers
Packing 7 18 gallon totes
Hauling them to the post office
Basically doing to post office mans job

Yeah, believe me this girl will never complain about having to make a run to Walmart.

I cannot express the joy that I was filled with when I sat that last tote on the scale for that post office man. I have never in my entire existence shopped that long for groceries and the next time that happens will be WAY TO SOON! All in all, it was a very successful day. Thankfully, I had the help of an expert, ms. Amanda Hunt. Without her the day would have been….well I don’t even want to think about that….it definitely would not have been successful. Enjoy some picture below of our shopping extravaganza!

20130803-005425.jpg

20130803-005506.jpg