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Getting reacquainted to life in the 49th state

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POSTED April 8, 2014 12:47 a.m.

It’s Saturday. This morning I woke up, had an omelet made with a couple eggs from a dozen that cost $2.50, filled up my truck ($4.25 a gallon) and drove to the river .9 miles down the road for my 42nd day of fishing so far in 2014. 

That’s my weekend now, or my new afternoon recreation after substitute teaching at the school of 143 kids K-12, or the school in the neighboring town which is the largest on the island with 80 students in the high school alone. 

A lot has happened since Oct.1 when I left Manteca. Among other things like driving to Alaska and moving into my old room – I’ve taught with former classmates and I’ve taught the kids of former classmates. I filled my freezer with deer; collected four wolves with two buddies on a trapping adventure; checked shrimp pots even after one of the engines died and the other was coughing; snowshoed up the hill behind town to snowboard down the logging road which has been blocked off for close to a decade; landslides knocked out the power to a town and internet for the entire island; oh, and I joined not only Instagram, but Twitter as well (@alaskalund). 

I fished 26 of 28 days in February and caught more steelhead than I ever had in my life, all in the river just down the street. March brought a lull in fishing, but the excitement of the boys basketball team at my alma mater bringing home the state championship. 

I subbed for elementary PE and learned that if little kids are trained to stand on a dot of a specific color which is supposed to be placed in a specific spot on the gym floor, you better get that dot in the right spot otherwise there will be crying. I also learned that it is difficult for me to communicate with large groups of kids under 9 years old because they don’t understand sarcasm and I don’t understand why they cry. My students in Manteca would figuratively cry when I revoked their Alaska story privileges but this is literal. You would have thought I sold their baby penguins. 

The biggest issue with moving back to the island hasn’t been the lack of what contemporary society deems normal when it comes to modes of entertainment or the isolation that comes with island life. By the way, I screwed up big time when I was in Manteca over spring break. I was so focused on getting all the food I can’t get here that I completely spaced replacing things like my hiking boots and running shoes, which are on their last legs. There is one store with a limited selection here and Dick’s Sporting Goods wants $64 to ship two pairs of shoes. Ridiculous. So I should have bought what I needed while I was back in civilization, but after six months of going to the same three places to eat out, two of which are pizza joints, I instead demanded a couple buddies take me to Buffalo Wild Wings to stuff my face – in the process I forgot I needed shoes.

Anyway, the worst part about being here hasn’t been the rain, the cold, the snow or kids who cry because I tell them to stand on the baseline rather than sit down.

Though I’m living the outdoorsman’s dream, it’s strange living without the specific goal and routine. For 10 years I was assigned a content area and given students to instruct. Within the expected chaos of being a teacher, things were predictable, as was my life. So, occupationally speaking, it’s strange not being accountable for the long term. Socially, not encountering Manteca residents (students included) who thoughtfully, and prayerfully wished mom well before and after her brain surgery has been an adjustment.

Since mom is doing well, the biggest daily stress in my life comes from the two weekly columns I write for two separate publications and orders from an editor who overseas an outdoors magazine in Alaska and one in California. I didn’t think my outdoor exploits were worthy of that sort of word count, and they might not be, but I’ll gladly take the pay checks until they find someone better. 

In the meantime, it’s supposed to be in the 80s in Manteca this week. Just over half that here. But it’s getting me thinking about my first summer as a freshwater fishing guide. Rather than let the Manteca guys have my leftovers, they’ll have first shot this time. I’ll instruct rather than shake my head, help rather than haze. 

Like pretty much everything else in my new life, it will be fun. Different, but fun. 

That’s what life’s about. 

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