Thursday, September 29, 2011

You know you’re a JV in Ashland, when:

-You live in a ski chalet called Tall White Man Lodge
-Everyone in town knows who you are even though you don’t know them
-Your local restaurant, the Justus (pronounced “Justice”), only has 7 menus to share amongst customers
-You drive 45 mi. just to pick up pizza
-Your bath is really just a swim in the Tongue River
-You learn to tell the difference between a rattle snake and a bull snake, which just mimics a rattle snake
-Kids know you’re a JV because “you have that JV smile” (one of my favorite)
-You star gaze on the top of your roof
-School is closed not for snow days, but for “cold days” when the temperature drops below -25
-You shop at the local Amish store, where dented cans sell for 10 cents and expired chips sell for a dollar
-You go “worming” down by the river to find tenants for your worm bin
-You save your recycling in your garage for the next trip to Billings
-A two-hour drive is no longer a road trip, but just normal
-You stop swatting at flies or bugs around you because it won’t make a difference
-Grasshoppers fill the air like a swarm of bees when you walk through your “lawn”
-You think somebody you know waves at you as you drive 70 mph down the highway before you realize that’s just Montana courtesy
-You have buffalo for every meal at the cafeteria because the school owns their own buffalo ranch
-You’re invited to watch a naming ceremony, eat fry bread and stay up ‘til midnight watching drum circles and dancing at Crow Fair, the “teepee capital of the world”
-You eat honey-flavored processed “real white meat” chicken fingers and instant mashed potatoes every day for a week because its what the old JVs left in their house
-You make homemade yogurt and labna (greek cheese) from the expired milk that is given to you by the community
-Everyone invites you to their house to watch TV because they know you don’t have one
-Cleaning the toilet becomes a “social justice issue” because you let it mellow when its yellow
-You've eaten fried grasshoppers, just because

I'm sure there will be more to add as the year goes on...

Don't Blink

August 29, 2011
“Welcome to Ashland, don’t blink because you might miss it!” That’s what Tony Uceda told us as he drove us through downtown, the two-block long section of highway 212, where the speed limit slows to 35 mph and then 25 mph before picking back up to 70. There’s no stoplight and not even a stop sign, just a few buildings. That’s not to say I haven’t found everything I need here. There’s two restaurants in town, the Justus and the Hitching Post, the Community Bank, the Post Office, the Clinic, one gas station, two souvenir stores, one grocery store, a new movie rental and greasy snack shack, a coffee and wifi booth, one hardware store, six bars (hmm, that’s a larger number), a ranger’s station and even one of two county sheriff’s offices. All on first street, well Highway 212. And, I can’t forget one of our favorite places to go, the Amish (yes, real Dutch Amish) store, where you can buy dented cans, expired food and 5 lightbulbs in a six pack for real cheap! So, this is where all that stuff goes if it doesn’t sell in the store…

When I introduce myself, I always say I’m from a small town called Snohomish (which as someone recently pointed out to me, is actually a larger place that likes to act like a small town). Ashland really is a small town. Wikipedia says there around 450 people in Ashland according to the last census. However, a local told me it’s closer to around 350. It’s like the Cheers theme song, except instead of a place where everybody knows your name it’s a place where everybody knows who you are. From our porch you can see all the buildings in Ashland, so it doesn’t feel as isolated as I know we are.

Since we’ve been here, we’ve gone swimming in the Tongue River, started a compost and garden, gone to Crow Fair, the country’s largest Powwow, experienced a week of forest fires (smoke filled the valley every morning-it was like living in a cloud), spent a Friday morning at the diner in town like a local, gone hiking, gone worming, (haven’t gone fishing yet, though the Bighorn, a national blue ribbon fly fishing river, is not far away), gone to mass at the St. Labre Teepee Church, and spent a lot of time in community. Check out my “You know you’re a JV in Ashland, when…” list for a more comical synopsis of our first two weeks. I hope to update it throughout the year so stay tuned.

I just started work in the dorms last night. The fires delayed the start of school until today and the kids arrive Sunday night before school if they stay in the dorms. It was nice to get to know the campus in emotional safety of peace and quiet, but it was great to experience the energy the kids brought. This is my first day of school as a non-student after 17 years as a student! No more homework! But, just as much excitement for what lies ahead. Kathryn Cody, another JV, and I will work in the dorms after school from 3pm to 9:30pm Sun-Thurs. Our time will be filled with study hour, dinner, games and conversation, organized activity and spontaneous fun, and something I’m really looking forward to: JV Night. JV Night will be something Kathryn and I plan, a space for reflection, fun, relationship building and who knows what. Every night will be a little different. My goal is to create a space where the kids feel safe and comfortable to share things that reside deep inside themselves. I have heard from Ivan Small, the Director of Schools, that sometimes these kids aren’t listened to at home. Last night, Kathryn and I were talking about the importance of affirmation, acknowledgement and respect in our lives. I hope to offer as much to the middle and high school kids I’ll be working with.

It should be a really interesting, challenging and exciting journey! I hope to share it with you.