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Stephanie's View of Life on the Yukon 9/10/2003

Dear Friends and Family,

After reading Brian's first emails to all of you, I was a bit reluctant to write my own email because his have been SO good. However, Brian has been encouraging me to do so, and we know that many of you are curious about how STEPHANIE is doing, so here it goes...

I am so pleased with our life here so far. Although we had read as much as we could about the area and people before we arrived, it was a complete unknown and we were full of questions. Slowly, things are becoming demystified.

One of the many blessings about this move is that instead of being sent to the very remote Steven's Village, we were placed in the less remote Fort Yukon where there are more people! And, surprisingly, there are many people close to our age and status (married no kids). I have enjoyed getting to know them and am encouraged about the blooming friendships. Those of you who have worked with me know that I have a propensity for popping in your rooms after school to see "what's going on." Well, that hasn't changed, and by doing this, I've been able to get to know many of the teachers here. Many are native to the village, which is fantastic! I'm so encouraged to know that there are individuals who have gone on for their education and have returned to make a difference in their village.

This weekend, we decided to head out of town and see how far we could get. Just as we approached the edge of town, one of the native teachers drove up with her daughter and grandchildren and invited us to go berry picking with them. We drove out of town and picked wild cranberries for an hour or so. It was wonderful! I now have some homemade cranberry rhubarb jam that is delicious. We were also given some caribou meat this weekend. I haven't cooked it yet, but we're looking forward to trying it. We've also been offered some fresh Halibut, but have had to turn it down until we buy a freezer. After spending $1,100 at the grocery store, our freezer is pretty full at the moment!

Something I was not expecting was the "them" and "us" mentality that is present among the Natives (Gwich'in Athabascan Indians) and Non-natives (anyone not born here). There is a long history here of whites coming in and trying to assimilate the natives - especially in the schools and churches. There are many who attended BIA (Bureau of Indian Affairs) schools and were severely punished for being Gwich'in. This abuse has left the people angry and desperately in search of their lost culture. My heart breaks for them, and as much as we don't want to be, we are the enemy. I am determined, however, to get to know the other teachers and to learn from them. I can not change the past, nor was I a part of it, so I will continue to be positive and do what I can to improve the life and future of the village.

As far as just ALASKA goes, I love it. I don't miss the hot Texas weather at all. We've had some great fall weather mixed with a fair share of rain - something we didn't see much in Abilene! Snow is coming... it's expected in early October. To prepare for this, we've had to make some major clothing purchases. I bought a good "fall" coat (which is what lower 48ers use for skiing) and a heavy winter coat (complete with the fur ruff and down fill). Although we did try to avoid it, Brian and I have many matching outfits and could be considered poster children for Columbia! I'm still in need of snow pants and cold weather boots, but we still have some time (negatives start in November).

We were also lucky to get our first glimpse of the Aurora Borealis a few weeks ago. One of our new friends called around 12:30AM and said, "Go outside the Northern Lights are out!" We quickly got dressed and went out toward the airport. While it wasn't at it's peak, it was pretty amazing. The ribbons of light blue light were streaming through the sky and, as they got bigger a red glow began to show through at the bottom. They're at their peak in the fall and spring, so I'm sure we'll spend many more nights outside. When they get better, we'll certainly take and send some pictures. Of course, if you really want to see them, you're welcome to come visit!!!

Posted on Wednesday, September 10, 2003 at 08:29PM by Registered CommenterBrian Rozell | CommentsPost a Comment

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