Saturday, April 20, 2013

More about Alaska, the First Year

There aren't any jobs out in the villages to speak of except with the school.  The schools are the centers of the villages.  Typically they are the only facility with running water.  So, everyone can come in to shower, do laundry and fill water jugs for home use.  Some villages ration water.  I'm also getting the sense that the schools, in some instances, may be the only facility with electricity.
One of the villages on a bay is putting up some sort of fish packing plant so that might actually generate some jobs.  But the local population has been without work for generations.  Prior to the white invasion, work meant getting through to the next day.  You had to hunt or gather fuel or fish for survival.  Now, all of that has been taken away and you get a check just for living on the tundra.  There are a lot of school absences when those checks are issued.  Resources are limited, so heading off to Anchorage for fun and shopping is a yearly event.  For a few weeks after, I often saw HD TV’s being transported by bush plane passengers, among other high dollar items that typically would be over priced or unavailable in the villages.

            Weather is always unpredictable.  As it proceeded toward winter, the temperatures dropped sharply, so much quicker than in my own southern Ohio.  When speaking casually to a couple of native women, I commented, “I don’t know how y’all stand it, I mean it’s only November.  I can’t imagine how it’s going to be in January.”  The two women both looked at me and said, “did you REALLY say ‘y’all’?”  Without skipping a beat, I replied, “I’m a southern Ohio hillbilly, of course I did!”  I have found my slightly southern lilt and country expressions charm most of the Alaska native people. 
The travel is always a challenge.  Travel arrangements just prior to Christmas had been made in a way not to my liking.  I ended up taking three days getting back to Ohio for Christmas.  It didn’t look like I would make it back in time to open presents.  I called my son explaining that my next connection in Seattle was impossible due to an unexpected snowstorm; he asked if I had my passport (which, ironically I did have) he made the interesting suggestion of routing through Tokyo.  After pulling up a map on line, I suddenly learned that I was indeed closer to Japan than the lower 48.  While I did make it back in time to enjoy the holidays, I didn’t have to detour through Tokyo.   I will say, however, that there is nothing like sleeping in an airport to remind you how old you really are.

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