Learning the difference between a strait and a flush or two pair and four of a kind can be a real challenge for someone who didn’t grow up playing cards all the time AND isn’t good with numbers. I’m more of a board game person or a truth-or-dare extraordinaire if there ever was one, but put me at a poker table and I will lose every penny I have.
One night each week, a teacher named Paula cooks snacks and invites some teachers over for a night of laughter and light gambling. As a poor college graduate with no career to speak of yet, I kind of refuse to play with my money because I’m so bad at it, but I do love to go for the company (ok you got me, and the snacks.)
What I love most about poker night is sitting back and watching (and sometimes joining in on) the teachers interacting like a family unit. We sit around the kitchen table in our socks and sweatpants, laughing and joking, trading poker chips back and forth with each game. They make up their own versions of poker games, bending rules and creating new ones.
Some of the teachers are from all over the Lower 48—from the odd places where coke becomes POP and where words like candy are pronounced with only two syllables. They all make fun of Kim and me for our southern drawl—our tendency to stretch two-syllable words into three syllable words (ca-un-dy). Some of the people around the table are native Eskimos, so their English has that very specific Yupik sound, and even their senses of humor add a diverse and interesting element to the night. Because the teachers live in such a tiny community and know each other so well, the familial dynamic is fun and comfortable.
It’s not just the accents and the humor; it’s the fact that each person is just so drastically different. We have the girly girl, the mother figure, the talkative one, the sporty one, the principal of the school, the awkward ones (no, not me this time), and then there’s the girl who said she’d never live in Newtok (yes, me). It’s amazing how families like these are born out of circumstance, and, as the newest outsider, I feel honored to be able to observe and experience this special kind of communal camaraderie for a few months. Even though my lack of poker skills will hopefully fade with time, I know the memories of these poker nights will never go away.