Events that garnered attention only a few hours ago are quickly trumped by the red-hot event of the moment. I’ve been trying (for days) to write about the blizzard that blew through last weekend and I guess I’ll eventually get to it, but the basketball games of this weekend have edged their way to the top of the queue.
Last night, after a rip-roaring evening of high school basketball, I walked home under a (long awaited) crystal-clear sky. Bright white moonlight splashed right through the big dipper over my head onto every snow-covered rooftop in the village. Smoke stacks billowed their hot breath into an easterly wind. My face was cold, really cold, but my head was full of thoughts that left me feeling warm inside, almost down to my toes.
There is something mysterious, maybe even beautiful, about basketball in a bush village. The fact that it exists at all is a kind of miracle because it is impractical and unpredictable on almost every level. The unexpected is often the only thing you can expect with any certainty. This weekend the scoreboard clock ceased to function during the third quarter of a game, so the person running the clock had to use a stopwatch and announce the time on a microphone....and nobody complained! Referees and coaches tried to keep the players on track and aware of game time, but once I overheard a player respond to a whistle by running up to her coach and asking, "Is that the end of the game?"
Unlike small towns on the road system, games between bush village schools require flights. That’s expensive (really expensive). So games are few and home games are fewer. Opportunities for parents and community members to actually see their children play are rare and visiting teams usually play without the luxury of fans to cheer them on.
Games always require at least one overnight stay (bad weather may necessitate longer). That means baggage and sleeping bags will adorn the floors of classrooms around the school.
This weekend it meant providing dinner on Friday night, breakfast and lunch on Saturday, and snacks in-between. It takes a lot of work, both paid and voluntary, but anyone who attends one of these events can tell you that the money, time, and effort are all well spent.
Somewhere in the mix of the challenges and inconvenience interesting and sometimes surprising things spring forth. Things like kindness and generosity and respect and ingenuity.
How do you put a price tag on those?
This weekend, the opposing school turned up with a small girl’s team and only two boys. Their boy’s team automatically forfeited due to lack of players and that could have been the end to a very expensive story—but it wasn’t.
Players from our Eagles teams, both boys and girls, willingly donned Qavvik jerseys and made up the difference on the court. And they didn’t stop there. Not only did they wear the other team’s uniforms…the borrowed players put their whole hearts into winning…for the other side.
(beginning the first overtime)
One game went into double overtime and was won in the final five seconds with a single shot by one of our boys wearing the Qavvik’s colors. Spectators enthusiastically cheering for both teams went wild at the buzzer. Fans, players, and coaches all agreed that it was one of the best games they’d ever seen. No one seemed to mind (or even remember) that the credit for the win went to the other team.
It was just fun.
And that makes me smile.
I think it says something about a game, a school, and a community when such cooperativeness can be fostered alongside the drive to win. Of course our teams want to win as much as any other, but sometimes basketball really is about the simple joy of getting to play.
Welcome to the Arctic! This space is dedicated to observations and experiences related to daily life in the Inupiat Eskimo village of Atqasuk. Questions and comments are invited. Thanks for visiting! Quyanaqpaq!
nuna:tundra, the land atikluk:snow shirt, parka cover
Interested in Inuit culture? Check out these films...
The Fast Runner is an excellent representation of ancient Inuit culture. The R-rating is for nudity, violence, and some language. Subtitles are utilized throughout. I do not recommend this film for children, but it's an extremely accurate portrayal of the culture. It was introduced to me by an Inupiat woman who raved about it. And I agree!
For a preview, click here.
The Snow Walker is another excellent representation of Inuit culture circa 1940's. This film is rated PG, I'm guessing for language. No subtitles that I remember. It starts a little slow, but gets much better. It will leave you with a deeper understanding and appreciation for the survival skills of this culture.
For a preview, click here.
Great For Kids!
Whale Snow by Debby Dahl Edwardson is a warm and culturally sensitive story centered on the Inupiat subsistence tradition of whaling. It is available in both English and Inupiaq translation. The illustrations, by Annie Patterson are exquisite and add to the quiet softness that the story inspires.
To order this title on Amazon.com, click here.
The Alaska Geographic series is an excellent informational resource. The edition entitled North Slope Now deals exclusively with this area and even features relatives of my students. Although it was published in 1989, it is still current enough to provide a general understanding of culture, lifestyle, and issues faced by this northern-most region.
To order this title from Alaska Geographic, click here.
More about Kaktovik Disaster of 2005 (from Dec post, "The Edge")