Two months into my year in the Last Frontier…

Hello from Downtown Juneau!

I’m currently sitting in one of my favorite coffee shops downtown and am FINALLY getting around to updating this here blog business. I’ve been in Alaska for about two months now and it has been quite the roller coaster of changes. After getting here and moving into my new house, I started work almost immediately, was living with six other people who I just met, and had to learn all about this new place where I would be living for the next year. Needless to say, it was a little, okay a lot, nerve-wracking. I’m a person who is usually excited to try new things but I have to do it at my own pace and all of these things changing simultaneously freaked me out and continue to freak me out at times but overall, the first month has gone well!

My placement site is Yaakoosge Daakahidi High School which is the alternative high school in Juneau. Yaakoosge Daakahidi means “House of Learning” in Tlingit, which is one of the Alaska Native tribes in Juneau. Yaakoos focuses on the specific needs of each student and is a tight knit community that works to educate students in alternative ways and prepare them for life after graduation. Since accepting my position last Spring, my role in the school has completely changed. I was supposed to work on a program called BrainPaint but the district cut funding for it (as is the reality of the American education system, unfortunately…) so I am now in charge of something called the Learning Center. The Learning Center is a place where students can go to work on Independent Study classes, take a break from class if they are overwhelmed, complete work from other classes quietly if they need to, and just hang out for a few minutes if they need a break. The first quarter is almost over and while there have been lots of ups and downs, the staff and students have been welcoming and supportive. Most of the students that I’m working with have had to overcome terrible challenges in their lives and these abuses, by a variety of people and systems, have deeply affected them. It’s amazing how courageous, determined, and resilient my students are even though they have faced some abhorrent experiences, despite only being in high school. I am still trying to figure out what my role in their lives and the school is going to be this year but I really hope to be a person they feel comfortable confiding in and coming to with anything that might be going on. Any advice for becoming that person for students? I can already feel that starting to happen with some students which has been incredible but I want to be that person for anyone who needs it…Only time will tell I guess!

In addition to starting a new job and moving to a very new place, I live in community with people who, up until a couple of months ago, were complete strangers. This has been one of the most drastic changes of the JVC Northwest process for me. All of my housemates and I share money, meals, space, thoughts, stories, bad days, good days, and everything in between. We have a community budget to pay for all of our bills, housing costs, household items, and food. This shared budget paired with the JVC Northwest value of simple living was very difficult to get accustomed to but it’s finally starting to feel more normal. The sharing of a limited food budget was REALLY hard to get used to because of my love to cook and my former freedom in the kitchen. If I thought of a recipe that I wanted to make, I would just run out and get the ingredients at the grocery store, not really thinking of cost or how significantly food choices affect the world around me. At the JV house, we eat mostly vegetarian, even though none of us are vegetarians, and only eat meat when we get donations from people. So far, we have been extremely fortunate because multiple have given us salmon, halibut, and other meats. The amount of freshly caught salmon I’ve eaten in these last couple months has made me feel like a bear getting ready for hibernation! Even though the limited budget and community decisions about what to get at Costco and the grocery store were different, it has become a great learning experience and has allowed me to be more creative in the kitchen and always on the lookout for simple yet delicious recipes!

After we eat dinner together at night, there’s a lot of down time before we go to bed and we don’t have TV or internet (like I said, SIMPLE living) so we all hang out, listen to music, watch a movie together (yes, we do have a TV for movies), read, chat, or write letters and this relaxation time has been one of my favorite things about life as a JV. I’m finally getting around to reading all those books I have wanted to read for a while and I have always wanted to write letters on a regular basis which I now have a chance to do! The formerly overbooked and overworked English major is rejoicing because I am able to read for pleasure and not be stressed about it.

In addition to work and community living, Juneau itself is a wonderful place! There is an abundance of artistic influence here which is expressed through live music, art shows, gallery openings, concerts, plays, indie films, and so much more! I think it goes without saying that there is an overwhelming amount of nature stuff to do as well. Juneau has hiking, fishing, boating, hunting, kayaking, skiing, and berry picking and this list is limited. While I am more inclined to take part in the artistic side of Juneau, I am excited that I can try things that I have never really been into before, like hiking for example. There are hikes for all levels of hikers here and I am at a very low level so it’s a good place to learn. I am going to experience so many new things this year, both good and bad, and hopefully I will grow a lot as a person. I already feel like I am starting to change and grow and I am looking forward to using this year to cultivate myself into the person I want to be.┬áSome things make me homesick but I think it is just a testament to how much I love my family, my friends, and where I’m from and homesickness reminds me how grateful I am for all the opportunities and experiences I’ve had thus far in my life. Juneau and JVC Northwest will just be another chapter in my life and as in books, life is more fun when the chapters have lots of ups and downs.

Also, for anyone who wants it my address is:

3231 Nowell Avenue, Juneau AK, 99801 :)

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One thought on “Two months into my year in the Last Frontier…

  1. Kate Lord says:

    Great to read your blog…you are a thoughtful and interesting writer! Your reflections offer much to chew on…especially the changes you have been adjusting to in your living situation and forging connections to your students.

    On the cooking situation…think squash…roasted with onions and other veggies with a bit of olive oil & s & p…this means you will have less for your hair of course, but just wear a hat (a RED SOX hat) for a few days! I think you’re already making soup..but you can also roast acorn squash with nuts, a little brown sugar, cinnamon…you get the idea! && when you do have some meat (hamburg) a huge pot of chili will feed a lot of people or you could craft a simple shepherd’s pie with mashed potatoes, corn, cheese & don’t forget mac & cheese with a salad can be quite comforting on a chilly night!

    So interesting to read how much you want to connect with your students…honestly Mere, that is the name of the game in any educative situation…just begin talking with them…continue to chat until you begin to find at least one thing that might be common ground…a song, an event, the weather…whatever…all people really want is to connect with others (even the ones who present as resistant!) and it is this that will create your success there. Start small and do not feel a need to “be at their level”…just be approachable, reasonable, letting them know you have their best interests at heart, that you will assist them in problem solving, academics, etc., and mostly with your terrific sense of humor, that you can laugh with them! Feel confident that you have much to offer…because you do!

    Now about that chain wallet….:) actually hope that all is settled with all that…speaking of a growing experience! :)

    I am currently teaching landforms to my Gr.4 sweeties…so send me some glacier pics, etc. when you can…message or attach to email.

    Have you had fall as yet or did that happen in June?

    Miss & love you and am quite proud of you taking this on my sweetie! This is when the real growth does happen…dig deep…you have endless potential to deal and grow! Before you fall asleep each night focus on the highs of the day and smile and then make a plan to solve one of the lows, and “angels sleep on your pillow”! xxoo

    Love you so much!
    Aunty kdl

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