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!

Cultural observations and cross-country skiing

This is the majority of the little village of Kobuk, where I spent Wednesday.  This little place stole my heart in no time! I have been thinking a lot the past couple days about storytelling and how story content and structure can speak volumes about the storyteller's values and culture. A couple days ago a native Alaskan (adult, well educated man) told me a story that I will sum up the way I believe I'd have told it if it had happened to me: I heard a noise outside that sounded like gunshots so I grabbed my gun and loaded it, just in case. I didn't end up having to use it because the cops showed up and arrested the guy outside. The guy just snapped, and we never knew what his issue was--but he didn't hurt anyone. Now, when the native fellow told the story to me, he began by telling me that his grandfather had found some minerals and left for Fairbanks to make his claim official. Meanwhile, he (the man telling me the story) was at home with his family. When he heard gunshots outside, he instinctively grabbed and loaded the gun (though not because needing your gun here is routine--it's not) because his nephew was standing bedside him and "there's no way I'm letting anyone hurt him". Then he explained that his Dad told him to grab the gun, but he already had it ready. His story ended about as mine did.

What I find fascinating about our two accounts is that he felt he needed to explain why his grandfather wasn't home, while it wouldn't even cross my mind that his grandfather might be involved in the story; in every detail of the story he mentioned a family member and how they impacted this experience while, though I love my family, I would likely focus on how I felt, what I heard, what I could and couldn't see happening, and maybe my plans A, B, and C.

Fuzzy snapshots, which is all I've had of each village, is enough to show me how differently this culture views families than mine. I've found that asking, "do you have brothers and sisters?" is a much more successful ice breaker question than, "what did you for spring break?". The kids' faces light up as they list the names of their siblings and usually add in a few cousins as well. The schools have banners that read, "respect your elders" and the hallways are decorated with pictures of their village elders, appearing to be 80+ years old. Most of the kids were named after elders, so I'm treating little 2nd graders with names such as Seamore and Betty. They seem to be more respectful toward adults than many kids I've worked with in my Colorado experiences. Though the older kids don't want to be pulled for a speech-language evaluation, they never complain but sit and participate until I say it's over.

I can't remember a time when I saw pictures of older folks proudly displayed in any school in the lower 48.  I love this idea!  Let's all celebrate long life and wisdom!

Yesterday, when I arrived (by snowmobile since the plane couldn't land on the icy strip, 8 miles away) at the special education room in Kobuk, about seven 2nd graders lined up, shook my hand, and said, "hello, my name is _____. Welcome to Kobuk!" I can't remember the last time I saw something that cute! After school I had about a half hour before I had to board the plane, so several of the kids I treated took me on a tour of the town via cross country skiing. They were so encouraging as they taught me how to climb up hills in my skis and to ski down a steep hill onto the frozen river. They were so excited to be able to teach their teacher a new skill!

These three kids taught me to ski down this hill onto the frozen river.

 

I spent last night in a Kotzebue again and left this morning for Noatuk. Since I was the only passenger for that leg, the pilot let me sit right seat. I've flown over amazing landscapes this trip. Much of it it has been lakes and braided rivers but since it's all iced and snowed over right now it's hard to tell what is land versus frozen water covered in snow.

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At Noatuk today, I did five evaluations and have a few more to do tomorrow before flying back to Kotz. I'm spending the night in this school in my sleeping bag, on my ThermaRest. When high schoolers travel for basketball, specialists come to town, or someone is here giving a presentation, the school doubles as a hotel (at other times, it's a town hall). These schools have fully functioning kitchens, showers, and some have mattresses. I've felt very safe here and they give me keys so I can lock myself in a room at night.

It's gonna be a late night of report-writing, so I'm signing off. Thanks for reading!