Hay River Saturday November 15th

We set out on the drive to Hay River at 5 am this morning. The skyline was amazing for the last hour and a half, it looked like the tips of the trees were aflame in fuchsia and magenta, gold and orange. The radio transmission went on and off, potions included CBC or a country station from Calgary and the trees went from being a metre high to 20 metres only a half a km down the road. You drive through so many different kinds of soil along the same road. We arrived around 8:30 and had breakfast in a motel surrounded by northern men wearing caps and light jeans and rubber boots. The food was surprising good. Terry got his winter tires and we did some scouting around for the presents the kids had asked for for Christmas. the owners of the general stores each want to provide you a better secret deal then the next one. Each greasy little man or elderly woman has a different sales pitch and talks in a quick clever whisper. We made some good finds. We have to go back and actually buy them because the school board has to provide the cash, which like everything else will take FOREVER. Hay River is about the size of grand forks, a little bit bigger actually and has all services, even french immersion. Although the libraries don't have colour photocopies like i had hoped and i saw a few drunk native men stumbling across the road. I me the principal of a school in Kinaska, which is about 3 hours from where I am. She is starting a dog team with her students. They have adopted five old huskies, although she told me two dogs would be more than enough power to pull the average person 100m/h. They often have to tie weights behind the sleds so the kids don't fall off. The power of twelve dogs in the big races must just be astounding. We drove to Great Slave lake which has the clearest water I have ever seen. It has a beautiful beach and looks almost tropical never mid the birch and spruce trees surrounding it and the cute little sail ships that are docked at the bank. There is a cannery and a little fishing community that consists of short wood shacks and bars with boarded up windows, the only buildings that survived the flood that overtook the area 25 years ago. Hay River is completely frozen with huge wave ridges all down the centre of it. very neat looking.I On the drive back i saw a brilliant red fox and a marten.I got to see the sun go down at 5:00, completing the day and giving the trees and snow this amazing clarity. Everything was glittering. The country music whined on into the evening and the conversation was easy.

Thursday November 13th

Today we got the kids to write their letters to Santa, i.e. Me. They get to choose a gift from one of the catalogues that is of 50 dollar value, which one of the 11 year old girls, the only academically inclined one, Alisha, called "cheap." They also complained that they had to write the letter because last year they did the entire thing online.  and then i vomited a little bit......

Apparently it takes the letters too long to go all the way to the Canada Post volunteers and back so we will just write the replies. I made the judging ballots for my karaoke nights, they are very cute, big coloured elementary looking numbers. Unfortunately it had to be cancelled this week because everyone was leaving for hay river Friday after school. including I. Even more unfortunate that no one told me, luckily I asked who was coming. The rec director will soon loose her job to a relative of a band member. She married into the reserve and is therefore considered a outsider no matter her involvement with the community and its children. Her daughter is in my school and is often mace to feel like an outsider by the other kids. She has stared hyphenating her name to have her mothers german name and her father's Slavey name on the end to up her status. Terry tells me that there is a scapegoat family in each community consisting of people that either married in or are of family lines that clash with the founding families of the community. The rec directors family is such and she will be kicked out at the bands convenience. The girl replacing her is the casual teaching assistant at the school who will soon be replaced by a permanent person and loose her job. It is especially unfortunate because she took the rec job as a favour to everyone because no one would or could fill the role. Blood lines are so binding. 

Wednesday November 12th

Well they shot the dog before I could decide so that's that. It was probably for the best anyways. All of the 6 puppies are gone from outside so I guess they took care of the whole litter in one go, what a waste. The social worker came to the school today and it turns out that more of the kids have learning disabilities and FAS then I had realized. And only one of the kids live with their birth parents. We are going to have some kind of addiction prevention activities because apparently some of the students are already struggling with the same addictions as their parents. I find this hard to believe, the oldest one in 14 and she is definetly not the one so it is very sad to think of who it could be. It was Terry and the 5 year old Esmerelda's birthday so I made a marble layer cake and some party hats. Good pictures for the newspaper:) 

Tuesday November 11- Holiday

Today was a perfect kind of day. The sun was brilliant, bouncing off the snow and shining in my eyes. I woke up early and decided to go for a long walk. I walked down to the landing strip, or what they call the airport, keeping a close eye out for the snow tractor that seemed to be gaining on me. The squirrels make the strangest sounds, like little wheels in music boxes turning and producing these hideously shrill little songs. I walked out on to the landing strip and then got nervous that a plane would speed in and land on me or the tractor would pull up behind and bury me in snow, or I would choose the wrong path and step on a rabbit snare so I started to walk back. i took a trail that had a lot of footprints in it and closely inspected the ground looking for what I imagined snares to look like, large mouth like traps that would crush my legs and make me stand in a painful position screaming for help all day until Terry flew in and started looking for me. A small rat ran across my path, marking the only excitment of the walk thank god. Terry later got back with my winter clothes with him. A parka, snow pant overalls, winter boots with a 10 cm rubber sole, a balaclava, a neck warmer, fleece longer underwear and under shirts, leather gloves that do all the way up to my elbows and would be a comfortable fit for my dad. We had a bit of a fashion show. The clothes put about an extra hundred pounds on my frame and force me to either roll or crawl or remain stationary. The goose down parka really smells like some kind of game meat. After we went on a drive to 'warm the car up.' The drive turned into a three hour trek in which we had a long detailed conversation about hunting techniques and preparing game meat. I had a million questions and now know how to skin a grouse in one motion by spreading it's wings, putting one foot on its neck and pulling swiftly forward. i also have a good understanding of the labours of removing moose hair and seal meat delicacies. We arrived at the most beautiful frozen waterfalls called Sambaa Deh in Slavey. Which means 'water up' I believe. Apparently it has several meanings depending on the tone of your voice. The water was dark brown and there was a thin stream of it dripping through the huge rock faces and plains of sleek ice. Later I baked bread, which didn't turn out well. It was like a giant crust. I think there is a curse on everything I cook here.

Monday November 10th

It is about 6:30pm and I am standing beside my house outside. my house is the last before the open road to civilization. It winds around the corner to the wolverine landing strip where you wait to catch the plane out in the middle of a snow pile. i am standing in a puddle of light cast  by the street lamp above me and staring at the emaciated trees that make up the forest surrounding me. They seem to be about the same width as the wrists of the 4 foot tall 11 year old girls in my class, with the same strange gray smudges on their skin and dents in their sides. Still, the snow settles perfectly on their every right angle.  They are completely still in a kind of unearthly silence. Behind me every once in a while I can hear the huskies whimpering and howling at their chains, their yelps have the same intensity as babies and little girls in distress. It seems that if you freed them from the shackles they spend day and night in they would run right across the river and up on to the moon. The there's the shrieks of kids playing out in the cold, doing god knows what, getting their limbs cut off skiddoing, begging their daddies not to shoot their doggies, drinking with their uncle- fathers or jumping off the mountainous snow hills the tractor adds to every morning. 

Rhonda on of our grade 4 students got her thumb cut off on the weekend snowmobiling. They drove her 3 hours to Hay River and then flew her to Edmonton, 6 hours without any medicine. 

I got a call from Donna, a lady that has a new litter of puppies that are always out in the cold beside the school. She told me that they have two females left and they are going to shoot them so do I want to take one?