March 3, 2014

Saturday Adventure 1: The Old Site

March has been such a beautiful month so far… 
only the third day, but in Alaska, you take what you get.

When the sun is shining here, you don't let it go to waste.
After Saturday School, (Yes we have Saturday School every Saturday for two hours), Grant comes to me and says, "Is your camera ready? Want to go on an adventure to the old site?"
When Grant says let's go, you go.

So Grant, me, and three other teachers hopped on two snow machines and took off.




Grant decided to take us to the old site. 
Newtok was not NEWtok before, it was "OLDtok". haha just kidding.
Grant told us the Yupik name of the old site, but I cannot remember it, nor could I have even attempted to write it.
But anyways… the adventure took us about three miles outside Newtok.

These pictures show Newtok on the horizon.

When we first pulled up to the site, the only remnants that showed a village was once here were these crosses. Obviously, this part of the village was the cemetery.




Grant then directed our attention to the mound in front of us.



This mound was the high ground that the old site used to sit on.
This site included houses and a church. They moved the site to where Newtok is now in 1959. The reason they moved was because they could not bring the school building over to the site, so they just moved the site to the school. The only building they brought over to Newtok was the church.


How did they move it, you may ask? They brought the church from the old site to Newtok using dogsleds. Yep, good old fashioned mushing. If that isn't Alaskan than I don't know what is!

While we were exploring the old site, being the trapper's wife that I am, I saw some fox tracks.
Josh would be so proud, wouldn't he!


The mounds make good hiding spots for foxes because they like the higher ground.
All of a sudden, Grant hops on a snow machine and goes to check it out. He then comes back and picks me up. What does he show us? A fox hole!



And no adventure would be complete without some survival tips from the Yupik culture.

The first is the grass out here.
If you are ever stranded, you need to find this type of grass because it makes for some good insulation. I have heard about this before as one of the teachers told me this grass is what they used to knit socks and boot liners out of because it kept the warmth.


So of course I had to try it out. Not too shabby, if I do say so myself!


The second tip is that there is always something to eat on out in the wild.
Of course, it depends on the season, but there is always something to find. One thing I did not know that grew out here was something like a wild celery stalk.
Of course, it is winter, so it isn't good to eat. The best time for this is in the spring/summer. Still, I thought it looked really neat with the frozen icicles.




This is the "meat" part of the plant.  I can see how in the summertime it would be good, but at this time, it just tasted like a stick. Yes, I tried it.



This day the sky was clear and the sun was shining. It really was beautiful. This made it super easy to see across the river at Nelson Island. Nelson Island is wonderful, because it has these big hills and is just so much different than the tundra land that Newtok is.



So besides the tundra land that helps these people survive, rivers are a common thing around these parts. There are so many waterways connecting different parts of the bush, it is unbelievable. One of the unusual things about the old site is how small the river is that ran by it.

Of course it is frozen and it all looks white, but I hope you can see the outline!

Like I said before, because the sky was so clear, we could clearly see a good ways out in the distance.



The group together and Grant pointing out in the distance.

One awesome thing we saw in the distance was the mud volcano.
This is an actual volcano that I've heard a lot about. It definitely would be cool to go see it up close sometime!

You can see it in the distance in the right corner of the picture. So cool!

So to end this part of our trip, we headed back to gas up for another leg of our trip…
Guess you will have to wait for that blog post!

But on our way out to the old site, I noticed the cemetery for Newtok. So on our way back to the village, Grant stopped so I could take some pictures. I have seen the cemetery from the plane, but never actually walked out to see it. I was glad I could finally see it up close.



I asked Grant about the cemetery, because I am more interested in how people are buried since one of my best friend works in mortuary science.
In this cemetery, he says there are a few hundred people buried. The crosses don't really mean anything.
In Newtok, they do dig graves, but in Kipnuk, where Grant is from, he said that people are buried in a box, on top of the ground because the ground sinks so much. So instead of digging into the ground, they lay the box on top and cover the box with sod. I thought that was really interesting.

But to end this part of our journey, as we were leaving the cemetery, we came out into open land. Grant stops the machine, hops off, and says "GO!". I looked at him, extremely confused. He says he wants me to be able to tell Joshua I actually drove a snow machine. And drove it I did! With a little stop and go, stop and go, I finally got the hang of it. Of course, I'm sure it was only a 10 second drive, but it sure felt longer! 

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