This past week, the Lake and Peninsula School District held its annual volleyball jamboree in Kokhanok. Kokhanok, a village of about 170 people, is right across the lake from Newhalen. Schools from across the district came to compete in co-ed 3-man and 6-man tournaments. Since Newhalen is the only school in the district with an all-girls’ team that competes at the state level, we could not qualify in the tournament. Our team only came to practice, compete, and socialize with other students in the district. It was a jam-packed week of volleyball, games, and spending time with friends.
This year, our district trained several teachers to instruct air rifle shooting. At school events, students get to compete in air rifle contests to see how accurately they can shoot. Each student was able to shoot at five different points from about fifteen feet away. Since subsistence hunting is so common out in Bush Alaska, this was an excellent opportunity for students to polish their riflery skills.
While we were staying in Kokhanok, we got a wonderful surprise: snow! On the first day we arrived, the first major snow of the season decided to grace the area with its presence. The downpour didn’t stop until after we left! Some of the girls on the team and I decided to go out for a walk to enjoy the winter wonderland.
When the girls weren’t playing, they were able to finish some schoolwork and relax. When they’re not texting on their cell phones, they’re watching movies or reminiscing over old pictures together.
On our last evening, the student council hosted a dance. All of the girls dressed up and did their hair. One of my girls who wants to become a beautician volunteered to curl my hair.
The dance was typical of the high school dances I remember. Shy students sat on the bleachers as the poor student council members tried to choose songs that would get people out of their seats. After several failed attempts, someone put on the “Cha-Cha Slide” and finally got the crowd to move. The night continued with other wedding classics such as “The Macarena” and “The Chicken Dance.” Students also pulled out a couple dozen chairs so that they could play several rounds of musical chairs.
On the last day of the event, awards were given to the winners of the tournament, highly-skilled volleyball players, and students who showed the best sportsmanship. Two girls on my team received medals for winning the bump contest and another received a sportsmanship award. I was a proud coach!
During this trip, I also met a student teacher named Abby who is currently working with kindergarteners in Port Alsworth. I was so thrilled to know that she had read my blog and that it helped her become better prepared for life in southwestern Alaska! After she finishes student teaching, she’ll return to Alaska after Christmas vacation to become a tutor in Port Alsworth. You can read more about her experience at her blog, Alaskan Adventure.
After our long week, we flew home over forests, rivers, and mountains covered with a fresh blanket of snow. It was such a beautiful flight; I couldn’t stop staring out the window.
The Kokhanok jamboree was a huge hit for all who attended. It was great connecting to other students and teachers in the area. I’m so glad that we had the opportunity to visit a neighboring Bush Alaska village and experience its charms!