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Monthly Archives: October 2008

So, on Decem…my mistake, on Novemb…oh, right, on October 9th, 2008, we here in Kwigillingok experienced our first snow of the season. Having lived in Washington state, I have witnessed some early snow falls, but I’m certain I have rarely, if ever, noted snow before late October/early November. Even then the snow was a fluke and lasted no more than a day or two before melting away into obscurity. The snow that fell, back on October 9th, yeah, it’s still here. In fact, the 4 or 5 inches that fell is frozen solid and every few days or so we get a fresh dusting.

Forgive the dark photo, it was almost 9 a.m.

Forgive the dark photo, it was almost 9 a.m.

How cold could it be? That was your question, right? Around the first snow we recorded 11 degrees Fahrenheit. Since then, the consistent temperature hovers (not to imply hot air has to do with anything) around 20 F. We have had a few days with a wind chill of 3 F. I’m sure not to mention this too often, or else the natives guffaw and remind me the wind doesn’t count. Sure, tell that to my hypothermic digits – I had to take my hands out of my pockets to unlock my door – foolish,  thin blooded me. 

There were parts I did not appreciate. The longer I live here the more disillusioned I become, naturally. We explored parts of the tundra not even mapped out by the natives nor experienced by more than half of anyone living in the village – yet, while we were out there, my company exhibited practices parallel to any of the wasteful, inconsiderate people I am all too familiar with through my experiences in more…”civilized” populations. Any time we paused for a snack, either of them thoughtlessly chucked their trash, i.e. wrappers, cans, etc., right on the tundra or in the water. More times than I care to recall, either of them shot at and killed a creature, i.e. snipe, muskrat, field mouse, etc. that neither one had practical use for other than to waste a bullet. I am thankful for the experience in that it was one i’ve never had – yet, there is more ammo (apologies for the pun) to support my inclination to believe the human condition is the same wherever you go; just some are further ahead or behind on the time line of opportunity and “civilization”. A glimmer of hopefulness in this lesson of mine is that my company is younger, (20 and 18), and perhaps not yet discovered a certain appreciation. Of course, such a criticism based on two in a village of many, is more reflective  of my own myopic cynicism and bias. It was an eventful day, regardless.

going home

going home

 

   I had a bona fide tundra experience yesterday; actually, I should say i experienced the tundra. I joined two students in “buktoqing” – I don’t know if that’s the actual spelling, but that’s how it sounds. Ultimately, we went bird hunting. However, in order to do this, in the tundra, which at this point in the year is a million little lakes and streams with patches of land in between, is buktoqing. The most efficient way to travel over such terrain is to haul a canoe over the land then, when you come to a waterway, throw the canoe down and row until you hit another patch of land.

I had the fortune of going with a couple of adventurers and they set out to cover as much territory as we could in the ten hours the daylight allowed us. At one point, they consulted a map, looked at me, back to the map, then out over the horizon. Finally I asked, “are we off the map?” Ken replied, “we are very much, “off the map”.” It was my first time hunting, so that was, enlightening. I did shoot one Canadian goose, even fetched it myself. My catch was also to be my payment to my host, for transport, ammo, etc. His mother had a warm meal waiting for us upon our return. She personally thanked me, in Yup’ik (quyana), for the goose – which is a blessing for the family, since most still practice subsistence living; but a chore for her since cleaning the catch is a woman’s responsibility. I learned this last fact after inquiring with my hunting host on how to clean the birds. He went into great detail the process, then when i asked if he would instruct me he promptly explained his mother cleans the catch and in such a tone i understood the discussion on that topic was over.

I have already been invited to next week’s hunt – i am undecided.