Finishing up in Sitka . . .

9-17-2015

We’ve been busy in Sitka this week.  It was time to harvest the garden at the Russian Bishop House. Local kindergarteners plant the garden in the spring. A very giving local volunteer oversees the garden throughout the summer with the help of park rangers who water and weed. On Harvest day the now first graders learned about slugs from Ranger Anne and plants from Ranger Em. The garden is harvested and the food taken back to their classrooms where I’m told they make soup and all partake. All total there were approximately 120 first graders who learned, harvested and headed back to help make soup.  Volunteer Mara helped wash mud off the vegetables and consoled one young man who did NOT want soup.  He wanted to keep his carrot and eat it right now.  He was not going to put this carrot in the main bag with all the other vegetables because they were going in the soup!  (He carried his carrot back to school!)

And the plants
Ranger Em talking about plants.
Its all about the slugs
Ranger Anne and her slugs.
Vol Gardener
Volunteer Karen hard at work.
Volunteer Gardener hard at work
The garden is in front of the Russian Bishop House.

Big news of the week! Drum roll please. I drove the Bubble Car!!!!! and it was loads of fun.  Drives just like a golf cart.

Grandma in the Bubble car
It’s the Bubble Car with me inside!!!

Salmon spawning season is coming to an end and you can smell it for sure.  While there are still a few still spawning, many have completed their life cycle and  passed on. They will serve as fertilizer for the new growth that will come (both in and out of the sea).

Salmon are still here
There are a few continuing to spawn.
The smell begins
The salmon are dying and the smell begins.
Salmon spawning coming to end of life cycle
Seagulls coming in to capture some lunch.
Bird Fest
Many seagulls arrive for their feast. These are just a few.
Bird flying in for catch
Here’s one flying in for a catch . . .

The Naa Kahidi dancers (local Alaskan Tlingit Native dancers) perform weekly.  I had not seen them yet and wanted to make sure to do so before I left.  Tickets to this event came courtesy of a sweet tour bus friend (Jolene) who comes on ship days with many folks to tour the national park as well as other Sitka sites. She is an Alaskan native and works closely with the Naa Kahidi dancers. Since British James and I had never seen them, she gave us tickets and we attended together. Now I understand why their regalia wear has all the white buttons as well as the different clan symbols on the back. The lights make the buttons glow like diamonds and the symbols on the back of their robes designate their family clan.  I also understand what a clan house is too. The clan house was where many family generations lived together. Here are some pictures.

The clan house
This is a clan house. Generations lived together in a house like this. The fire pit is in the center and the chair sit on ledges used as beds. The elders slept on the lowest levels, close to the fire.
Naa Kahidi ceremonial dance
These are the dancers in the Naa Kahidi Clan House. Notice the carving on the wall. The “birds at the top are called the “Love Birds” and represent the Raven and Eagle.
Naa Kahidi dancers
Another view.

Tommy Joseph continues to make progress on the recarving of the cormorant pole.  He carved the feathers this week.  What a beautiful site this is to see as something of such magnitude begins to take shape with these intricate details.  Not likely he will finish before I leave but it will finish in just a month or so.

Comorant Pole redone
The pole is taking shape quickly.
Comorant Feathers
Look at the feather detail. Just beautiful!

Another thing I learned this week was about fish skins and how you can make these into a variety of bowls, bags and clothing.  These skins were used to make rain coats in the early years.  Hard for me to imagine how many fish skins and the time it would take to gather and tan them such that they could be used.  Leota, one of our Alaskan Native artists who works in the cultural center at the park, is making bowls and bags from these skins.  She soaks them in alcohol to cure them and than works them into these bags and bowls.  I continue to be amazed by the artistry here.

Fish Skin Bag
A Fish Skin Bag.
Fish Skin Bowl
Fish Skin Bowl (and it doesn’t leak either!)

Another kind of artistry here is the Rangers and their interaction with the children.  The Junior Ranger Program is a real hit and all the Rangers take it seriously.  Once the children complete their Ranger activity book they are reviewed by a Ranger and then sworn in as a National Park Service Junior Ranger.  Look at these kids faces after Ranger Erin swore them in and gave them their badges!  It’s delightful to watch.

Ranger Erin with her Jr Rangers
Ranger Erin and her newest Junior rangers. Check out the admiration from this little boy Benjamin!

It’s been really rainy this week.  Nothing new to the locals.  I wanted to get a picture of the Sheldon Jackson College and got a selfie as well.

Sheldon Jackson 2
Sheldon Jackson College and the Sitka Fine Arts Camp
Selfie in rain storm
Me trying to get a Selfie in the absolutely pouring rain. Proves I’m here but that’s about it!

On a little personal note I will tell you I have had a few ‘graceful’ moments.  Not being one of my strong suits it doesn’t take long for me to make an appearance in one form or another.  One recent morning, in a downpour of great magnitude, I am walking to work.  I have my headphones in and am listening to The Vinyl Cafe as I walk.  As you can see in my selfie, rain wear leaves me pretty covered and I actually enjoy the walk.  A few minutes pass when a truck pulls up and offers a ride.  Here’s where it gets dicey!  I climb in.  Okay, I thought I might need a boost but I managed to get my leg up high enough to make the “leap” in.  I go to sit and find I can’t because I forgot the rather large backpack on my back.  And I find I don’t have enough room to make the turn to get out of it.  My driver just looks at me as I make these gyrations (probably wondering who this wacko is).  When I finally get it off and sit back, she says “Seatbelt?”  Crap, the gyrations begin again because I’ve sat on it and can’t get my “arse” to move!  Next time – I walk!!!

One last note of news for the week.  I have two roommates  coming on Saturday!  More to follow on them.  Can’t wait to make new friends!

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