Monday, October 03, 2005

24. Well, here I am

Wednesday, September 28
…..The Anchorage Airport is sort of eerie in the middle of the night because it feels so deserted. It feels oppressively silent, in spite of the noise, a combination of muzak, CNN coming from monitors all over the place, plane noises from outside, and snores from people sleeping stretched out across several seats with their heads on their carry-on luggage (whether to use as a pillow or to make it harder to steal, I’m not sure).
…..The plane from Anchorage to Kotzabue seats 27 passengers. I looked out the window as we were flying. It looked like a typical Alaskan scene: very dark with the sun low on the horizon. Then I realized that it was dark out because it was 7 a.m., and that light was not the sun out on the horizon, it was the light on the end of the plane wing.
…..(In case you need to know, if you need to ship moose antlers, an airplane will only take small ones that are packaged in an antler box. For shipping larger ones, contact Antlers Express.)
…..The airport in Kotzebue had two terminals, each the size of a living room. One is the gate for Alaska Airlines, one for Bering Airlines. Alaska airlines unloaded my stuff, and I had to get everything across the parking lot to Bering Airlines. Not too difficult if you can use a large cart, but Alaska A. does not have any carts. Bering A. does, but I can not leave my stuff at the first terminal to get a cart. I wasn’t really worried about anything being stolen (although I would bring my laptop with me) but it is against airport security. (OK guys, I’ve lived in Israel, I understand the need for security – although I think that neither Hamas nor al-Qieda are interested in Kotzabue Airport – but then at least have carts at both terminals) So I have to take my stuff with me while I go get the cart I need to take my stuff with me. Well, some nice guy went and got me a big cart and helped me load my stuff.
…..In the Bering Airlines terminal they let me have Max with me, so I sat with him as he sort of sniffed around. (Did I mention that I decided to leave the cats in Portland with my daughter?) Some man I had never seen before came up to me and stated, “You must be going to Deering.” I paused for a moment before answering “Yes.” He held out his hand. “I’m N7---.” I shook his hand and introduced myself, “I’m KB2---.” “A 2,’ he said. “You are a far way from home.” (A HAM radio call sign that begins with N7 is from Alaska. If the number in it is 2, it is from NY or NJ.) It turns out that he had been talking to Stephen (my ex-husband) in Anchorage and Stephen’s brother in Portland the previous night and they told him I was catching this flight.
…..The plane from Kotzebue to Buckland and Deering was the smallest commercial plane I have ever seen. (Anyone watch “Wings”?) There was a very thin aisle down the middle. On one side were five folding seats lined up one behind the other, which were all the seats that would fit the length of the plane. On the other side was Max’s cage strapped down, and a lot of crates of Pepsi. There was one other passenger. We flew over a lot of empty barren nothingness land and landed in Buckland. He unloaded the crates of Pepsi (If you live in Buckland and want Pepsi, I think your store now has a lot.) and the other passenger deplaned. Then the pilot was told that eight people were getting on for Kotzebue. So the pilot got more folding seats out of the back storage and snapped them in place where the Pepsi had been. “What is the in flight movie?” I asked. “Alaska scenery,” the pilot answered. Good answer.
…..When we landed in Deering a woman\greeted me, introducing herself as the school secretary. She loaded my packages in a large wagon behind an ATV (which is kind of like a 4 wheel motorcycle). I got on the ATV behind her and off we went to town. The ATV is kind of cool; the get the thrill of a motorcycle but it is a lot safer. She took me to my house.
…..Oy!!!!! The house gives “dump” a bad name. The floor is those beigish tiles you see in classrooms. They are cracked and broken and FILTHY!!!!! There are some rectangular carpet remnants here and there. The kitchen cabinet doors are broken or missing. There are no shades or blinds on the windows. The bed is not queen sized, like I had been told. When I moved the nightstand next to the bed it fell apart and I noticed it had been scotch taped together. There is a shower rod and shower curtain lying in the bathtub; maybe I can get it put together. (I am supposed to pay a $500 deposit in case my dog makes this place worse? If he makes it worse he deserves a medal for creativity.) The principal said that they had been fixing this place up – I can’t imagine what it must have looked like before. (Oh, well, all part of the adventure, right?)
…..The water is from a water tank in my living room. Fortunately he warned me in advance, so I brought a Brita water filter with me.
…..I met the principal. He is a pretty nice guy. He has worked in a lot of little Alaskan villages. We talked about the students, he showed me around the school a little, and he took me to the post office to get a PO box. (There is no home delivery.) I went to his house for dinner. His house looks dumpy from the outside, but is quite nice inside. It is quite small, but he was made very efficient use of the space.
…..His dog is so unbelievably cute, I just don’t know how to express how adorable he is. Jack is a “labradoodle”, part yellow Labrador and part standard poodle. He is big – 95 pounds – and has sort of wild hair that flops in his face. Sorry, I just can’t describe what a great dog he is. The principal drove out with me on his ATV and Jack ran alongside.
…..The town itself is kind of dumpy, although some houses are nice. It’s the dumpiness of the majority of houses that give the town the feel. There are no roads. Everything is pretty much in one row with a wide dirt path on one side, although some places there are buildings on both sides of the path and some places there are some buildings in back of others. The whole town is maybe half a mile long and two buildings wide. My house faces the path, and since there is nothing on the other side of the path, it faces the Bering Sea. Nice view from my front window.
…..Many people drive ATVs. There are a few cars in the town, maybe 5.
…..I found the store. They have some stuff, very little. You can tell by looking through the store that people are getting food from elsewhere. For example, they have chicken coatings and those packaged dinners to which you just add chicken, but they don’t sell any chicken. The principal said that they order food from Costco or Fred Meyer and have it shipped from Anchorage. I bought a loaf of bread, a jar of peanut butter, and a jar of jelly for $13.
…..I have not found any salmon. I figured there would be a lot of it. A number of people are having moose at the moment; someone shot one.
…..This town is very windy. It is because it is on a very thin peninsula and the water blows in from the sea.
…..I think this town is able to exist because of government subsidies. The principal is concerned about the rising cost of fuel and what it will do to this town. It makes it more expensive for people who have to fly to other towns, and it raises the cost of shipping in goods. (Before I came here, when I was filling up my car, I thought that at least I won’t have to worry about the cost of gasoline. But then I realized that it affects the price of everything here.)
…..I bought a TV from the woman who picked me up at the airport.
…..Well, good night for now. Layla tov.
Thursday, September 29
…..I got to the school early. Some one told me that the most economical way for a teacher to live is to fill up on the school’s breakfasts and lunches. Breakfast was blueberry pancakes (with real blueberries in them, not those packaged things with a few little blue dots of blueberry flavoring and artificial color).
…..The school had an assembly to introduce me, so I was told to get up and say a few things about myself. The kids seemed shocked at the idea of growing up in a city of eight million people and that I went to a high school of three thousand students in a building with six floors (including the basement.) The principal introduce me as someone from New York City, so I speak differently. The students asked how New Yorkers talk. I didn’t know what to say, so I said that I say “Yo” when I call someone over.
…..He told me about bout the school. For elementary school, they have “levels” instead of grades. Students stay out on the first level (when they start what would be first grade) and instead of just going up a grade a year, they have to pass a test to get to the next level, whenever they are ready, not necessarily at the end of a school year. (This sounds terribly politically incorrect to me. If kids move up individually, rather than as a group, then some students are “left behind”. Just the fact that it is politically incorrect would probably make me like it, even if I didn’t like the idea, which I do.)
…..A number of people have asked me where I was on 9-11. (I was living in Oregon at the time.)
…..I need to get my telephone hooked up and DSL. Apparently the cable TV only has 3 channels. Satellite TV is pretty good, but you have to buy your own wire and dish and the initial cost is about $500. I went to the town office to look into getting telephone service and DSL, but that office had closed early today so the woman could go berry picking.
…..The electricity went out for a few minutes. Apparently the generator for the town stops every now and then and has to be restarted. I realized a bit later that my house was chilly. A girl who had dropped by showed me how to restart the heater. When the electricity goes out, the heater has to be restarted. One concern of mine is my clock radio – if the electricity goes out during the night, it won’t wake me in the morning. (Didn’t that happen in one of those “Home Alone” movies?)
….. I would be going nuts with loneliness if it wasn’t for Max. He is devoted, and does this cute little happy dance whenever I get home. As my ex says, “Schnauzers are cool people.”
Friday, September 30, 2005
…..My first day of teaching. So far, so good. I have five classes – High school geometry, middle school math, high school earth science, middle school earth science, and math skills. The largest class is 13 students. The students in my classes overlap a lot, so I have a total of 27 students (with a total of 10 last names – there are a lot of siblings and cousins here.) I think I am really going to like teaching here. The small classes are a bit more informal than I am used to, and the students are pretty well behaved. (By contrast, the school where I taught last year is averaging 37 students in a math class, with classes going up to 45 students. The classrooms have room for about 35 desk.) It is just so much easier to give the students the attention they need in classes of 13 students!!!
…..The people in this town are very friendly. Most people say hello when you pass them. If you have a question you can stop pretty much anyone and ask them. Actually, if you just look like you have a question, someone will probably come up to you and ask if they can help.
…..I went back to the office for cable and DSL, but the office was closed so they could go hunting. Someone in one of the other offices told me that she thinks I did get phone service, but she doesn’t know where my phone jack is and no one there knows what my number is. So I head into the weekend with no internet, telephone, or TV, and feeling extremely depressed. On the other hand, at least I did manage to get water. (I have a big water tank in the house, and when I run low I get someone to come fill it up.) So I handle it the only logical way and buy a huge bag of potato chips.
….There are five little girls, ages approximately four to twelve, that seem to like hanging out in my place. Cute kids, but I am just in no mood for them today. Besides, they keep playing some sad song on my computer that I didn’t know I had and never heard before, but some parts kind of hit home.
…..One of the girls brought me a VCR she said her family doesn’t use any more.
.…I finally decided to go to the school. They were having a basketball game where students signed up to be on teams of three. I wasn’t that interested, but it is certainly less fattening.
Saturday, October 1, 2005
…..Well, I figured out what that huge freezer in my kitchen is for. Someone came by last night to give me a chunk of moose he shot. What am I supposed to do? I took it and put it in the big freezer. Someone came by later with a huge chunk of caribou, still with fur on it. I put that in the freezer too. I really appreciate the gestures, but what am I supposed to do with them? I’m a Jewish girl who grew up in New York City – meat comes cut up in pieces on styrofoam trays with plastic wrap over them.
….I found the library and took out the book. OK, just kidding. It is in a very small room, and does not have much, and most of what it does have is for kids, but I found a few books by Leon Uris, and some by Mary Higgins Clark. So I checked out a copy of Mila 18 and a CD by Reba McEntire. The librarian said that if I bring her the title and author of a book I need, she can probably get it through inter-library loans. That’s good – I need books to finish my master’s thesis for Portland State University.
…..It snowed today. At first it was just flurries, but then it started sticking. The sea is not frozen at all though. It does not seem to bother Max at all.
Sunday, October 2, 2005
…..I found the phone jack. And yes, I do have phone service. I tried to call Stephen, but I don’t have long distance service. I figured I could call Stephen from the school phone, and have him pass my number on to everyone else. When I called the operator (in Kotzabue, I think), however, she refused to tell me my number. Said it is against policy.
…..Someone left a big bag of VHS movies by my front door. I don’t know who. It is a pretty varied assortment. (Thank you to whoever!!)
…..I have a bad sore throat. When I get sick I get cravings for hot Tang. I did look for it at the store last week, but they didn’t have it, and today the store is closed. Tomorrow I will see if hot cherry Kool-Ade works as well. (I doubt it!!)
…..Today I’ve been feeling lonely and depressed. I know everything will pick up once I have TV, internet, and a telephone I can use. Desperate Housewives is on and I am missing it. (My mother is taping it for me, however, and will mail me the tape.) The school was getting rid of some books, and said I could take what I wanted, so I took a bunch and have been reading about one a day. They help.
…..Then a couple came by to say hello. It was so nice to have adult company!! They introduced themselves as Chip and Agnes. Agnes had her newborn baby strapped to her chest. It turned out that their daughter was the one who brought me the VCR, and they had dropped off the movies. They decided to do away with TV, so they have no use for the VCR. He said they have a lot more tapes when I am done with these. She is Inuit, he obviously is not. I forget where he was from, Montana, I think. He told me he is from “Area 51” which is how he refers to his house since he is in house number 51. (I asked him how many people here get the reference, and he said very few.) They have seven children, one of whom is one of the girls who has been here. Chip is really into hunting, which he began doing as a child with his stepfather. I am really glad they came by; it made me feel a lot better!!

I don't think it's the Bering Sea you're seeing out your window. The Bering Sea is to the south of the Bering Strait. If you were on the south shore of the Seward Peninsula, you'd be seeing the Bering Sea. On the north, I think it's the Chukchi Sea.

Sorry if I'm nitpicking
On my map, It's called Kotzebue bay.


It's SOOOOO great to hear from you! a git gezint un gebentsht yor!
I think Kotzebue bay is part of the Chukchi Sea. But I could be wrong.
HI MOMMY! I'm glad you have an internet journal that I can follow if I ever wanna keep dibs on you. I will send you a few things of tang! Love you!
A lot of folks here think moose meat is really tasty .. ask one of the locals to show you what to do with it. Give Max a nose tweak for me
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