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Archive for January, 2011

Week 4

When you live in a place where you can’t just stroll down to your family piercing and tattoo parlor, sometimes you need to get a little creative when you want something done. For example, my gauged ears. Really long story really short, I’ve been using sawed off pieces of a white ballpoint pen recently as gauges, but this wasn’t cutting it. They were too small and frankly, too ugly. So I got the clear plastic caps of some gel pens, sews and sanded those off…

…and after a day or two of stretching I was able to get them into my ears:

I wanted to show them off. Because just like how I couldn’t just go find a ready-made pair of these, I also couldn’t go show off my creation to anyone. Well, except a handful of elementary students today who told me my ears were gross then then tried to poke them. (“DON’T… touch me!!”)

That’s just a super tiny example, but I really don’t think people can ever actually fathom what it’s like up here. To live up here, and work at the school, and trying (trying) to teach up here. It’s like a different planet. Utterly and completely.

And you know, something that’s a super fun adventure. Tonight I joined over a dozen other teachers and we snowshoe hiked in the dark up this great ridge to where a tall lit-up cross overlooks the entire town. We built a blazing fire and hung out and laughed in the face of the -40 degrees weather with a strong biting wind. Just for kicks.

Then I have all this week, where my teeth hurt so much I could barely eat and I spent 5 days playing phone tag with the clinic, just trying to get in to see a dentist. After watching the nurse clean off the dental tools with a hand-wipe (the dentist made her throw them out before they looked into my mouth) I was told that all 4 of my wisdom teeth need to come out. When I told me dad and he suggested I get a second opinion, I had to laugh and ask “Yeah? Where?

The train, traveling from 365 miles away, took 24 hours to get here this week.

I haven’t seen produce without rotted spots on it since Christmas.

There are quite a few things I love about this place. Like I said, the hike tonight was super fun. And even some of my most irritating and annoying students at times have a certain charm to them. I would never write off a single one as utterly hopeless or beyond trying to help.

But sometimes I really feel like I can’t take much more. I want to quit, completely. And I hear people scoffing and putting down the idea and telling me to “suck it up”, “it’s just one school year”, “it’s only until June”.

Thanks. You’re super encouraging.

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I’m so tired


I miss the sun. I’ve just finished my 3rd week back teaching after Christmas break, and I didn’t realize I’d miss the sun quite so much. It’s at least light when I get on the bus to go to school in the morning. And it’s not completely dark yet when I get home. It’s getting lighter. but I still really miss it. Sometimes it begins to creep up through trees as the bus rides along the very top of the ridge between one valley where I live, and another valley where the school is. It looks so golden and brilliant and orange. Brighter and more colourful then I ever remember it being. There’s been a blizzard today. the wind bangs at the windows and makes the wood in the house creek. The snow squeals under my boots as I walk over it, and the wind bites at the little bit of exposed face from my bottom lip to my eyebrows and makes me take in big lung fulls of icy wind. I like the cold, and the snow, and the wind. I like being out in it, skiing or walking, being so far away from everything and everyone that I can can hear is the wind and myself. I feel alive and nostalgic, and very very alone. I really miss the sun. I hope these next five months aren’t like this past week at all.

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One Hungry Caribou

I’m back north. Without Eric this time. He stayed in WNY because he has an opportunity to record the next Pocket Vinyl album with our really good friend Jon McKinley. I miss Jon, he’s a super great guy, and I wish I could be down there when he gets back up to Houghton for his final semester. But instead I’m here, just finishing up the first week of teaching for this new year. Classes themselves were surprisingly easy this week. I miss Eric and so many of the people we got to visit with over the Christmas break, but it’s sort of a dull as opposed to sharp missing; and besides, wedding preparations are keeping me too busy to long for something else. I started putting the invitations together today. They’re pretty intricate, unique, and completely handmade. And we’re inviting a TON of people. I’ll put up some to show once they get sent out, which will be within the next month or so.

Besides that I’ve been working on quite a few projects: I’m now editing linoleum prints Eric and I made before Christmas for a counting book featuring caribou, I’m putting together images for a children’s book about a bush hung with glass bottles, and organizing my thoughts and ideas together for illustrations for a collection of African folktales.

Sometimes I type these projects and accomplishments out and sit back and look at them and think how great it is that I’ve done this. I remember joking with my friend Leah once after writing out my resume that it made me sound like the most talented, awesome person ever, perfect for any job or position.

Instead though, lately I’ve been feeling very dissatisfied and kind of ashamed of how I am. Ok, maybe “ashamed” isn’t the right term here… But as much as I love so many of the people we got to see over Christmas break, I often found myself feeling very uncomfortable and insignificant compared to them, and wanting to hide away, fearing that they could see through to how I’m really not that great at all.

Once I got back to Schefferville, and even though I wasn’t entire sure what this dissatisfaction in myself was, I decided I need to do something. I read the classic 1 Corinthians 13, and saw so little of myself in those verses. So I’ve been slowly going through them, praying for one thing that love is each day. Today was “Love does not boast”.

So I prayed that I would not boast. This one was strange because, as I said, I have been struggling with this feeling of not being “good enough”, so how could me boasting even be a problem? And that’s sort of where my answer lies I think: To boast in God and who I am to Him, instead of boasting in my artistic accomplishments, or my speech, or my looks. There is nothing to boast in in those, because they all mean nothing without Him.

This is something I know I have learned before, and I will probably slip and have to learn again. Which is exhausting and frustrating… But I guess, relieving at the same time: to realize that I don’t need the crutch of my accomplishments or even the approval of anyone to see me as great. Or as insignificant.

Knowing it is one thing, believing it is another. I still have so much work to do. But at least I don’t have to do it for people, or even for myself.

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