McCarthy after 46 flights in 5 months

As of Saturday, I will have flown on 46 commercial flights since January. Whew! That is one personal record I hope never to break. Denver, Seattle, Dallas, Nashville, Anchorage, Ketchikan, Wrangell, Portland, Kotzebue, Ambler, Kobuk, Shungnak, and Noatak. I have loved my traveling speech-language pathology job but I'm looking forward to spending a while in one spot... McCarthy, Alaska. Once there I'll rarely travel over 30 mph, stay within a 10 mile radius, and enjoy the "simple" life--the kind without electricity, running water, or perhaps even a reliable means of transportation. I will have an outhouse, a heat source, a handy handsome husband, and my trusty hound. I think that before I experienced three-and-a-half months of "bush"living, I would not have believed going without "necessities" could be relaxing. However, I've found that life really is much more simple there. A smaller house means less time cleaning. A shower only 1-2 times weekly saves almost four hours if the whole process usually takes 45 minutes daily. Limited internet and no data means no movie nights and little time on Facebook. No King Soopers means one large grocery run before the season and supplementing your stash only occasionally at our general store.

What will I do with all that time? Walk. Read books aloud with Austin. Talk with people. Draw. Trivia night. Hike. Yoga. Softball night. Dinner with friends. Camp. Nap in my hammock. Take pictures of nature. Ahhhhhhhhhhh!

This is the cabin where we'll live this season. Isn't it sweet?!

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This is the store I will manage. Isn't it great?!

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I will work 5 miles uphill from McCarthy in Kennecott Trading Company. Lately, I've been working on purchasing merchandise for the store and I'm eager to see it all come together! We will open Saturday, June 14th. Here's to another round of adventures!

Totems

It's been a great week in Ketchikan! School days went by smoothly, the kids worked hard, and I finished work early yesterday... It was a beautiful, sunny afternoon so the speech paraprofessional took me to one of her favorite hikes and we walked her dogs around a gorgeous lake. It was lovely! Image

It seems that many people in Alaska look down on Ketchikan, but I really enjoy it. It is full of beauty, history, and very nice people. Another reason it's cool-- it has the largest collection of totem poles in the world (at least per capita)! On my first visit here, I spent an afternoon at Totem Bight State Historic Park and I learned more than I thought there was to know about totem poles...

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Highly respected artists were commissioned to create these works of art and, in this area, selected tall, straight cedars for their works as they were typically strong and straight. The completed poles were hidden until it was time to raise them. At that time, they were positioned to face the sea and the new owner hosted a feast while telling stories about the meaning of the carved figures on the poles. Totem poles represented a tribe's stories, proclaimed wealth, or honored the dead but, contrary to popular belief, were not worshiped.

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Totem poles last for about 75 years in southeast Alaska, as this is a rainforest. When a pole falls, the tradition is to leave it where it lies and allow it to return to the earth. While reproduction is often viewed as a lesser form of art, this is not the case in totem pole creations; it is viewed as reintroducing something meaningful into the world by new hands. If I remember correctly, unemployed men were hired during the depression to find and replicate fallen poles for cultural and historic preservation. This state park continues with that mission of preservation and education regarding this interesting art-form.

Next stop, Alaska's Largest Arctic Village

Ketchikan, Alaska was my speech-language job assignment for the months of January and February.  The second time around was much easier as I was already familiar with the kids, their objectives, the schedule, the town, etc.  Within the one month that I was absent, they'd gained an hour of sunlight on each end of the day!  No more leaving and returning from school in the dark.  It looks as though I will be returning to Ketchikan a few more times this semester, but my next stop is... Chukchi Sea VIllage of Kotzebue

KOTZEBUE, a native village (pop.3,600, approximately 70% native) located 33 miles of the Arctic Circle on Alaska's western coast.  Today, the sunrise is recorded for 9:18am and sunset will occur at 6:45pm; they are currently gaining 7 minutes of light each day.  Fast-forward to June 4th and the sun remains up until... July 9th!  The average high temperature for today, February 25, is 6 degrees while the low is 7 below.  Tourism, so says the internet, is limited as this is a working town.  However, native art made from mammoth and walrus ivory as well as furs and beadwork are of high quality and are 1/2 to 1/3 the price of that which is found in Anchorage.  "Cash is king" in Kotzebue and credit cards are often not accepted.  I stumbled upon a website's list of reasons to live in the arctic (http://kotzpdweb.tripod.com/reason.html) that I think is worth sharing: 

  • Thunder (and Lightning) storms are rare.
  • 70 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit are considered HOT days.
  • 24 hour sun for 20 days in June, 24 hour Dark for 20 days in December, equal 12hr sun/dark at March and September Equinoxes. Always changing!
  • The Sun is in a different position at any given time of the day. In other words, that morning commute 'sun in your eyes' will only be for about a week.
  • Aurora Borealis -the Northern Lights- always inspiring and viewable 6-9 months of the year!
  • No fleas, no cockroaches, no ticks, few spiders (unless you bring 'em with you).
  • Little chance of sunburn, sunstroke or skin cancer.
  • Less light pollution for viewing the stars and planets.
  • Less crowding, less traffic. You can usually walk where you need to go.
  • Cold air is heavier, so aircraft fly better in the cold (to a certain degree).
  • With Global Warming, the climate is only improving!

I'm not quite convinced--I love good ol' Colorado sun--but I'll try it for a week!  I believe that during this assignment I'll be staying in the school.  I've been told that when youth travel to towns such as this for school sports events, they spend the night in the school buildings as lodging is limited.  Also, the focus of my job will shift from treatments (my primary responsibility in Ketchikan) to assessments.  I'm excited about this--I love conducting evaluations.  Well, now you know everything I do about my next assignment.   Here's to my next adventure!

OF NOTE:  Austin's sister, Maggie, just confirmed that she will be McCarthy's museum coordinator for the first half of the '14 tourist season!  Yes, that's the job I had last summer--more later about my plans for this summer.  It's gonna be great to have her as a neighbor.  Also my two brothers, Will and Jesse, are planning on fishing in Cordova, Alaska (1 hour flight south of us) in August, along with our buddies Ryan and Forrest!  Thus, my parents are planning on coming up for a visit!  How about you?  We'd love to have y'all!

Sunrise Over The Harbor

Sunrise over KetchikanI'm in beautiful Ketchikan and loving it (though I do miss my husband and pup)! I've been to school twice now and met all the kiddos I'll work with next week. I'm working with a great speech therapy paraprofessional. We'll work with kids on articulation (speech sounds), expressive language (formulating communication), receptive language (understanding communication), fluency (stuttering), dysphagia (swallowing problems), pragmatics in communication, and augmentative and alternative communication devices (communicating via iPad, other tech device, or communication board with pictures). Whew! I have my work cut out for me, but I'm looking forward to the challenge and excited to further developing skills I haven't used in a little bit. I love that I have the opportunity to work with young folks in schools, older folks at the rehab center, and people of all ages at the hospital--great way to staying sharp (and get back to Alaska for the summers)!

I've been using Siri for navigation on my iPhone but she has a very incomplete map of town, tells me to turn when there's no road, and has all roads mislabeled; I accidentally stumbled upon the correct school yesterday morning! It's like Siri is navigating based on an alternate reality of Ketchikan--perhaps a mirror image of town, upside down, and right below this Ketchikan. Tomorrow will be a great chance to find my way around town in the daylight (sunrise is around 7 and it sets at 3:30). I'll go downtown, read in a coffee shop, hike, and do yoga by the huge picture windows at "home" with the view above at sunrise!

First stop, Ketchikan!

Just like tourists on an Alaskan cruise, my first stop this winter is Alaska's southeastern-most town, Ketchikan. Known for salmon canneries and tourism, this coastal village boasts over 8,000 residents. And I'm heading there now! Austin's friend wanted experience landing at Denver International Airport in his 180, so he and Austin flew me to the airport this afternoon--I felt like a VIP arriving in such style! :) My flight to Seattle went smoothly and I'm writing from Seattle, Washington where I'm waiting to board my last flight to Ketchikan. Once I arrive to their tiny airport, I'll locate the rental car and drive it onto...the ferry! The airport is on an island; too bad I'll fly in after dark! I'll locate the vacation rental* where I'll be staying, go straight to bed and arrive at school at 7am sharp!

When I accepted the job, I was told that I would mostly be sent to rural school districts that don't have hotels. However, this assignment is different because this district has an SLP who is currently on medical leave. Another SLP and I will be splitting this month and next in coverage of her caseload at two schools. Thus, my living situation is different--my coordinator set us up with a vacation rental for the entire two months (same price as a hotel stay would be in the winter)! The house is situated atop a 165 ft bluff overlooking the ocean. It has a deck that faces the bay and is only minutes from the historic downtown!

Ketchikan has a movie theater, hiking trails, a cute downtown with coffee shops, and is usually rainy with temperatures ranging from 35-45 degrees in January. Ahhhh!