Friday, January 21, 2011


On Wednesday the whole school took a sledding trip after lunch. It was the first day that we have been able to see the sun above the mountains, which is surely a cause for celebration!
It was a brisk -29 degrees when we headed out to sled, but none of the kids complained about the cold.

Gretchen piled on a sled with a group of girls....

We got a big push, and away we went! Rocketing down the hill and out across the frozen lake. We were sledding on trails packed by snow machines, so we went really fast! By the bottom of the hill our eyelashes were frozen together and we were squinting to see!

The kindergartner at our school keeps up with all the big kids.

Sam's middle school boys had some daring runs and some pretty fantastic crashes.

Check out the view from the top! Hiking back up the hill in layers and layers of clothing is always a challenge, but it is a good way to stay warm.

Hold on! Don't forget to hold on! He was laughing by the time he reached the bottom, but the look on his face at this moment is sheer terror!

It isn't a resort, but the sledding hill was long enough for a few turns.

To warm up we built a fire and roasted a few marshmallows. At 30 below everything freezes! We stabbed sticks into rock hard frozen marshmallows and let them toast over the fire for quite awhile before they became soft. I had never roasted frozen marshmallows before!

Sam, our photographer, poses for a self portrait. He took some runs down the hill too, but since he had the camera we didn't get any pictures of him on the sleds.

We were out for almost two hours and the kids would have stayed out longer if we had let them! It was a blast!


When I got back to Arctic Village on Tuesday a few of the girls asked to come over and visit. They love to come over to our house, have snacks, play games and hang-out with us and Jack.

When we got to our cabin the fire had gone out, so all the girls piled on the bed under blankets while I got a fire going and warmed up the cabin. We watched Fantastic Mr. Fox and had clementines, popcorn and hot tea. We also folded origami boxes and made fortune tellers.

Jack was a little hesitant to share his space, but he loves kids, so he jumped right up and cuddled with the girls!

The girls would have hung-out all night if I had let them. They really love to come over! Eventually I told them that I needed to spend some time with Sam and it was time for them to go home.
I think someone put on the wrong boots....
She really wanted to try and walk home in Sam's boots, but I convinced her that she wouldn't make it very far in boots that come up to her knees!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Arctic Village Elections

Tuesday evening after school Sam and I were asked to help officiate the Arctic Village elections for Village Chief, Second Chief and Council Members. As non-Tribal members we are not eligible to vote and we are considered to be non-biased. We walked over to the community hall at 4:15 when we were told the elections would begin and we were some of the first people there. After the village administrator got on the radio and made some announcements other people began to show up and by 5pm the election process began.

The first order of business was to vote on an election policy and the terms of office for Chief and Council. Apparently terms had been drafted at an earlier meeting, but they still needed to be voted upon. There was some lively discussion regarding who can run, how long the term of office should be and wether of not the people who run can hold paid positions within the tribal council as well as being on the village council. Sam and I sat back and watched this grassroots democratic process that was like no other we have ever witnessed. Many people got up and spoke. Two elders told stories to make their points. One story was a vivid description of racing down a mountain in a toboggan. Everyone starts out in the sled and things are going well until you hit a bump and someone gets launched from the sled, then you take a turn and lose a few more. Before reaching the bottom of the mountain, the few people left are holding on for dear life. This story was told complete with comments interjected in Gwich'in and dramatic motions to illustrate what was happening to each rider. In typical Native fashion, the moral of the story was not directly stated, but the implication was that the political process in the village always ends with everyone in a huge wreck at the bottom of the mountain and that there needs to be more rules and structure to help the process be more effective, ie - keeping everyone in the sled. It was a well made point and created lots of laughter.

The whole election process was a three hour event at the community hall. Dinner was provided as well as plenty of coffee and tea. Raffle prizes were given throughout the process to help keep enough voting members present throughout the evening for the election to be official. By the end of the evening a new Chief, Second Chief and 5 council members with two alternates had been elected, so it was a successful process. Pictured below is the new council and Chiefs.

Arctic Village Council and Chiefs for 2011

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Christmas Vacation

On December 18th when Sam flew out of Arctic Village it was 50 below. Even Jack was shivering as they waited out in the bitter cold for the plane to come. When they landed in Fairbanks it was only -30 and by the time we drove to Anchorage it was hovering around 0. Sam experienced a 50 degree temperature change without even leaving the state! By the time we arrived in Miami the next day 70 degrees was a welcome warmth! Florida had been having a cold streak, but we weren't complaining. It was still 120 degrees warmer than Arctic Village!

As Sam left the village, when the plane started to climb, he realized that it was the first he had actually seen the sun in three weeks! Which is precisely why we headed to the Caribbean; for a super dose of sunshine and vitamin D! Sam's parents, my parents and three of our four siblings were all able to join each other on a cruise for Christmas.

I read the John Grisham book "Skipping Christmas" as we flew to Florida. It made the time pass quickly on our long flights as I read about a couple who made plans to take a cruise and skip Christmas. The difference for us was that we weren't taking a cruise to skip Christmas...we were going with our families...we were taking a cruise to Celebrate Christmas. What says "Peace on Earth" more than all you can eat buffets, hot tubs and scuba diving? Okay, so it wasn't exactly traditional, but it was a great time! We enjoyed being able to be with both sides of our family and celebrate together in the sunshine! We have had snow since September. Who needs a white Christmas when you have snow all the time?
The whole family, ready to go!

Sunshine, Blue Water and Beautiful Beaches!

We saw some strange creature under the water!

Sam and his Dad out for a sail.

Sam and I in Roatan, Honduras

Gretchen getting ready to go diving!

Our dive boat in Roatan

Beth and I posing by the boat after a day of scuba diving!

My parents at dinner. We all ate together each night, enjoying elaborate spreads of food that none of us had to cook!

Me with my siblings on the dock in Cozumel, Mexico

Sam and I in Cozumel after one of the most amazing days of diving we have ever had! In Cozumel everything is drift diving because of the strong currents. During a 45 minute dive with a max depth of 70 ft. we were carried 2 miles with the currents! We saw barracudas, sea turtles, lobsters, crabs, and hundreds of amazing fish. Of all the places we dove on this trip, Cozumel is the one that we are eager to return to and explore some more!

Yes, there are PIRATES in the Caribbean!

More Pirates, ARGH!

We spent Christmas Day on the boat...
Merry Christmas!

Beth and I entered a Ginger Bread making contest.

Rudolph on the Roof!

Santa's Sleigh on the Roof too!

Russell/Chamberlain's in our formal ware, minus Grant who was watching the Eagles game.

The Chamberlain's in our formal ware

After dinner Trivia Contest with the whole Family!

We know our movies (at least Grant does), our team tied for the grand prize - reusable Princess shopping bags!

A Very Merry Christmas was had by all!