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!

Ben Harper Kind of Day

Front Street runs along the frozen Kotzebue Sound I woke up this morning in Kotzebue and, by God's grace (really!), I made it onto the plane with everything I need for the next three days: testing manuals and protocols, food, sleeping bag, laptop, clothes, etc. Ask my husband, parents, siblings, former housemates--I never leave my house without coming back in once or twice to grab items I've forgotten. Keeping track of all of my luggage is one of the hardest parts of this traveling job!

I was the only passenger on the plane this morning and was looking forward to taking pictures of the landscape and noting the changes since my last visit. However we climbed a few hundred feet, soared through a thick layer of clouds, and popped out on top: the sun above and a terrain of clouds below for the whole trip to Ambler, Alaska. This was a Ben Harper kind of day. I popped in my headphones and listened, first, to "With My Own Two Hands" and imagined what good I might do with my hands today. I ended up using them, mostly, to turn the pages of "The Little Mouse, The Red Ripe Strawberry, and The Big Hungry Bear." (If you aren't familiar with this story, just know you're missing out on what is, from my perspective, the greatest book ever written.) We used it to make predictions, discuss new vocabulary words, introduce prepositions, generate adjectives, and sequence parts of stories. I felt like it was making good use of my hands.

Another song I heard during my 40 minute flight above the clouds was "Amen Omen." Though I'm not certain of its full meaning, it is obviously a farewell song: "Amen omen, will I see your face again?...Can I find the place within to live my life without you?... I listen to a whisper, slowly drift away. Silence is the loudest parting word you never say...Now a voiceless sympathy is all that remains..." I'd never before listened closely to the lyrics but they came back to me today when there was talk of a village elder who had passed away. The 92 year old woman was flighted to Kotzebue last week and passed away there. A considerable number of children were absent today as the woman was their grandmother. I was told that passing of an elder brings the community together as there is no funeral home nearby. Her body was brought back on this afternoon's flight and her family will build a casket, construct a wooden cross-marker, and prepare her body for burial.

Perspective on death, I imagine, is one of the largest differences between my culture and that of the Inupiaqs here. I purchase individually wrapped chicken breasts from the grocery store while they hunt, kill, and preserve Caribou meat. I work in a hospital and nursing home/rehab center and, though it is not uncommon for me to lose a patient to death, I never lay eyes on them in that state: one day I see them and the next day I don't. However, folks here are intimately connected to end-of-life. It's strange to think we can live so differently within one nation.

News from on top of the world

ImageAfter commuting to work yesterday by plane, I rode from the airstrip to the school in a giant sled pulled by a snow machine (and I mean a GIANT sled--there were three adults with all our baggage in there)! I completed my first day of speech-language therapy in Ambler, Alaska. It's a sweet little town where "everybody knows your name," and perhaps a bit more than just that. As I walked around a bit of the village, people greeted others by name and knew that I didn't live here just because they didn't know me.

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The kids were fun to work with--lots of smiles. My favorite moments during school yesterday were (1) When a girl was describing a picture to me and said, "the boy is about to 'kutuk'." After asking her, "what is 'kutuk?", she looked at me as if I were crazy and gestured "fall down" and her facial expression said, "duh." (2) The posters around the school are different than those I remember seeing as a student (you know the type, "there's no 'i' in team"). One reads "if we don't lead the way, who will?" and another, "respect our elders." (3) During my first treatment, a student interrupted me and said "would you like to buy a birch bark woven basket?" to which I replied, "that sounds nice. I don't have a lot of room in my bag, though. Do you make them?" She explained that her mother makes the baskets. At the end of the school day, I had a call on line 1. I answered and the girl's mother had called to see if I wanted a basket.

image When I checked in at DIA, I checked one bag with almost everything I was taking: food, clothes, toiletries, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, groceries, etc. That bag didn't make my last flight from Anchorage to Kotzebue because the plane was overweight so they left mine and 40 other bags behind. After a series of events, it is now Tuesday morning and I still haven't seen my bag. They apparently flew it to Kotz but forgot to unload it. So when it arrived in Nome, Alaska (the next stop) they send it back to Anchorage as no one was there to claim it. It's supposed to return to Kotz this morning where it will be sent to the village where I will be later today! All that to say, I've been wearing the same clothes and without toiletries since 2 a.m. Sunday. But, last night the special ed director in Kotz flew me a bag full of food, toiletries, and clothes--I'm so thankful we're the same size! Of the treasures in the bag are packets of instant Starbucks coffee (Hallelujah!) and approximately six Snickers bars! Well, off to get caffeinated…

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