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The school performed the annual Christmas (variety) Program. It included speeches recited by the district winners, some humorous, some dramatic, some in English, some in Yup’ik – all entertaining. Also, and mostly performed were holiday songs by students from kindergarten on up through high school.

What greatly impressed me when I first discovered it and still…uh, okay, dazzled me, throughout the performance was the vocal and singing talent of the students. They seem to do it so effortlessly and their enjoyment for singing must contribute to each and every one of their ability to do it. Confession: I went to church services to just listen to the congregation sing, of which, 80-90% of the time is dedicated to.

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ugly-girlChantel Snyder, my local nemesis. She was one of the first children to speak to and interact with me. I remember like it was yesterday… only a day or two after I arrived in the village, she and her band of ruffians had been cruising the board walk on their bikes. They kept their distance, measuring me up from afar. Finally, leaving her minions stationed, probably for swift retreat or as some diversion, hoping I would remain fixed on the larger party, she approached deliberately and directly on that little, pink bike. Only feet from where I was standing, minding my own business, taking photos of the geography, she suddenly veered, tires screeching. “Hello,” I’m sure I offered. She gave me one hard look then screamed, “Ugly boy!” I recall distant laughter and this girl, her name unbeknownst to me, turning her head back and jutting her tongue out at me, as she rode back toward her chortling cohorts .      More recent encounters begin with side glances and restrained grins, then a stream of vicious barbs, all started by her, of course. “Ugly fat head!” – “Ha! I’ve seen gnomes with more prominent noses!”,  “Ears like a moose!” –  “I was never as short as you.”,  “Icky breath!” – “Insults from those with such an affinity for pastels weigh nothing!”, “Stingy!” – “Ha! You don’t even know what that means!” – “Means you don’t share!” – “Touche Chantel, touche.” Smiles are exchanged, and like two noble samurai on a single path, we part ways, silhouettes fading into the fog…only to surely meet again, in a similar and equally ridiculous competition.

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.

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