Monday, April 29, 2013

If you don't like the weather in Alaska . . .

Wait five minutes!  It WILL change!  as the saying goes.  I was weathered out and unable to get to the village, so I spent the day in Bethel, working on new referrals there.  Trying again Wednesday to get to the islands and get my work done.

In the meantime:

The weather continued to escalate and while some days the warmth of the sun would beat through the plexi windshields of the airplanes, the air outside was indescribably cold with winds that cut through clothing like a knife blade.  Being in that climate is just plain painful.  Your legs, feet and hands hurt and it becomes difficult maneuvering limbs or gripping anything.  Holding on to grip bars on the snowmobiles becomes more and more difficult.   I often noticed large burns on the children’s cheeks.  When I asked one pixie looking student what had happened to his face, he matter of factly said “frostbite”.  I tried so hard to mask my horror.  As time passed, I saw more and more children with burn like marks on their cheeks.
Climbing in or out of the planes required caution:  one slip and falling on the ice would be very painful.  Sometimes the winds moved the planes while people were in them, but the propeller wasn’t moving, the plane being pushed by gales that indicated flight was hazardous, but it was the only way to get to where you were going. 
The streets in Bethel built up thick layers of ice.  They were rutted and difficult to navigate.  Large graters periodically came through and chiseled off the topmost layers to level the thick ice and also to provide some texture to the ice for traction.  Without that remedy, the streets looked like they were covered with a thick layer of glass that was more than slippery, it was downright treacherous. 
            Sewage pipes froze, even though they were heated, and that prevented school from convening.  Water pipes burst in a couple of the schools, leaving a soggy mess in hallways, tiles coming up off the floors and everything was saturated with water that then froze on the floors.  There was no way to shower or wash clothing, let alone find sufficient water for cooking or cleaning up after.  Day after day was a new challenge.  

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