Thursday, September 25, 2014

Fish Cutting, Steams, and Qaspeqs Oh My! Some of My Village Experiences.

     I have had so many great experiences since I have been in Eek. The Yup'ik experiences have been the best though!

     A couple of the other teachers went fishing with some people from the village and when they brought all the fish back I got to cut some of it up. They caught Silver Salmons and Loni, the secretary at our school, showed me how to use an uluaq to cut the fish. An uluaq, we call it an ulu, is a curved knife with a handle on the top. They are super sharp and great for cutting meat and just about any other type of food.

Learning from a pro!

Trying it on my own. It was messy, but a lot of fun!
The reason I have my hood up and look kind of like a dork is because the bugs were really bad. They were drawn in by the blood and they were biting like crazy!

If you look at what I'm holding in my hand, that is an uluaq.

Dirk, Ashley, and I having a good ole time cutting up some salmon.
I think I cut three fish before I stopped, definitely a great experience!

     One of my other great experiences was having a maqiq or steam. (kind of pronounced mockik.) I wrote about this briefly in my New Teacher Training post. The easiest way for me to describe a steam is to compare it to a sauna. It's like the Yup'ik version of a sauna, except it is way way hotter. And this is how people in the village bathe; some call it a steam bath. 
     Ashley and I steamed with Loni. She was a great teacher and walked me through the whole process! I packed a bag with a change of clothes, towels, wash clothes (two), water for drinking, shampoo and body wash, and cardboard to sit on because the floor in the steam room is hot. I used one of the wash clothes to get wet and put over my face so it wouldn't be too hot.
     Typically, steams are a small, (about 12x8) simple structure built with wood. Steams can vary in size and how they are set up, so I am strictly talking about the one I was in. There was a changing/cooling room with a bench, light, and a bucket of cool water. The water is for each person to put in there basin that sits in the steam room and gets warm. You can also use it to cool your water off if it gets too hot. Then there was a door that separated the changing/cooling room from the steam room. You go in the steam room and there is a large barrel drum stove with rocks partially on and surrounding it. A basin of water, used to pour over the rocks for steam and to warm your cool water, sits on top of the stove. You use a long stick with a can on the end to pour the water over the rocks on the stove. Then there was a basin of water for each of us to use. 
     Basically, you go in, sit down, and get really hot. And I mean HOT! As soon as you step into the steam room it is super hot. Once everyone gets pretty warm you scoop up some water (the amount depends on how much steam and how hot you want it) and pour it over the rocks. I made sure to cover my face every time the water was poured. It sizzles and the steam rises up and then it will slowly rains down over you. It is really important to be still for a short period of time right after the water is poured because you could get burned. You typically pour water over the rocks three or four times and then you go out and cool off in the changing/cooling room. You sit around and talk for a little bit then repeat the whole process again. You repeat the entire process about three times and then you bathe. You use your basin of water, bathe, dry off, change, and there ya go! 
     This was a very interesting and enjoyable experience. It was extremely hot; I don't think I could explain how hot it was. But it was very relaxing. Afterwards you have to make sure to drink a lot of water to rehydrate yourself. Then you go to bed, fall asleep instantly, and sleep like a rock.

     Qaspeqs (pronounced Kuspuk) are a traditional Yup'ik garment worn by Native Alaskans. It is also worn by non-Natives. I ordered some fabric and Loni was kind enough to make two for me. Qaspeqs are a hooded overshirt with a large front pocket. Traditionally they are tunic-length, falling anywhere from below the hips to below the knees. They can also be worn at a shirt length.

This one is the longer more traditional style.

This one is the shorter shirt style.

     Qaspeqs are made with a variety of fabrics and a variety of patterns. One very interesting thing about qaspeqs is that everyone that makes them has a different style. A lot of people, familiar with the villages, can sometimes tell witch village it was made in based on the style. They are actually super comfortable and you would be amazed at how many things end up in that pocket by the end of the day!

     Hope you guys enjoy reading about my experiences as much as I've enjoyed having them! Until next time!

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