Monday, June 04, 2007

My First Kiddos Graduate from Savoonga

Former Student (Heather Peneyah) and new family. 10 of my students from this class didn't graduate and are now raising families.
Harriet Peneyah--Amazing Elder/Woman. Raised her grandkids alone..It was nice seeing her happy. She sure loves her great grandkids.

Savoonga's New Housing..modular homes. Almost all of Savoonga now has running water and from the home visits that I did (which was a lot) it has really made a great difference in quality of life.
Frontier Flying Service. I took this plane all the way from Fairbanks to the island (with a few hour layover in Nome) for $360.00. I wish they had this when I lived on the island. We flew to Gambell first on the way in and I saw the Siberian coastline mountains punching through the clouds.. It was awesome. There are things I really miss about island living
IslandScape. Looking West from Savoonga. You can see the Bering Sea and the mountains in the distance.
John's House (Taay Taay). This is where he lives with his grandmother and may siblings.
Polar Bear Ruff and Whale Baleen. Outside Daryl Kingeekuk's house. His uncle is known as the polar bear whisperers of the village.
Dried Seal anyone?
Taay Taay in his bedroom with best friend Thomas from Gambell. Thomas flew over for John's graduation.
Native Drummers
Me getting jiggy with it native style: dancing to a dance called "little diomede". I used to have native dancing taught in my class every Wednesday's...I was happy that I still remembered a few. After this dance the whole village (sitting behind me) clapped and cheered.. I guess they never seen a white girl get down like that "smile". One of my former students went out with me so I wouldn't have to embarress myself alone.
How cute is she?
Stomach of something wild? Didn't get the story, sorry
Whale in the sunset. The village had gotten 4 Bowhead whales this spring. Everywhere I went I was being offered Mugtuk (whale blubber). Honestly, I think I'm starting to like the stuff. I even brought a bit back for my Healy students-it was an experience I think they will never forget.
Taay Taay's little brother (yet another John).
My new family...me, Taay Taay, and Mark..an emotional moment
Hanging with the Grads...post graduation.
Taay Taay...John Toolie...World's coolest kid
Taay Taay with mom and another little brother
Savoonga kids-my next mission
Savoonga's Playground
Me, getting ready to take the walrus hide boat out for a sail on the Bering Sea..."Smile"
Aren't they cute..I think he has a hair ball. (notice I'm not commenting on the gun...what can I say, I've been up here so long that I've assimulated...this seems normal to me).
My kiddos...Freeman, Brianne, Taay Taay, Chales, and Daryl.
Savoonga cemetary. I have 6 former students and a few friends that lay here now. I hiked out here to pay my respects and to get this photo. It's a mile West of the village, half way out I remembered I didn't have any polar bear protection but figured I was safe (having never really seen one during my 2 years on the isalnd). I love the whale bones with the Bering Sea in the background. They are burried with their crosses facing the village. When I returned I learned that a polar bear was sighted by the cemetary later that morning....ummm.
Savoonga from the air...
Old Savoonga
Kids native dancing...wearing Nike clothes..I noticed that the language was starting to leave the village (that made me sad) but I was happy to see that the kids still dance.

There are a few mile markers that bring tears to your eyes and make you feel really old. I hit 2 of them really close together. One, my first 6th graders from Savoonga graduated from high school and second, I turned 34 and realized that 99% of my friends where married or had babies on the way.....but, got to tell you, when I really step back and look at life though....it's all good and I love it! I am soo thankful that I was able to take a few days off of work and fly out to see Taay Taay and my other kiddos graduate. These kids were my first skiers and will always be very special to me. I was suprised about a few things on this trip. First, Frontier Flying Service started a new flight: Fairbanks to Savoonga for $360.00 RT (Alaska Airlines costs $1200 from Anchorage)..if I had known that earilier I could have made Savoonga my vacation home this year "smile". Second, I was suprised to find that most of the village still loves me and wants me to move back. Many people asked me when I was "moving back home to Savoonga". Thirdly, I was happy to see that the dogs were being treated much better, and Forthly, I was suprised to find that my "self adopted" boy Taay Taay now has another father figure in his life..a very special man who I was honored to meet. His name is Mark and he was John's High School Teacher for a few years..Mark, like me, recognized how special Taay Taay was and has made a special place in his life for him. I spent a lot of time with Mark and John during this trip and it was awesome to see how much they cared for each other. Mark is a great hearted man, and in a way, I feel like I've gained a family with them both. Most of the kids are coming to Anchorage (either UAA or a trade school)...it is also a big reason why I'm moving there as well. I hope to be able to be there for them. No Savoonga kid has lasted more than a year in the city. I think that it's great if they choose to move back to Savoonga (villages need leaders and productive citizens) but in today's world they need further education and/or skills/trade training to make it. I'm hoping that a few of them will come be mentors for the outreach program, they were interested when I talked with them. These are great kids, I'm very proud of them, especially John (Taay Taay)-He is the first in his family to graduate from High School, and he has overcome a lot to do it. It was a great trip and I'm soooooo thankful that I went.

1 Comments:

Blogger Laura Smyth said...

First of all ~ Happy Birthday Beautiful :-) Sounds like quite an amazing adventure out there! Call any time!

9:13 PM  

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