Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Testing Testing...

I've decided to set up a blog for the duration of my trip to Alaska, so that I can keep track of all the things I'm doing (memory of a gerbil), and so that my Mum can keep track of where I am and make sure I a) haven't been eaten by a bear, b) haven't been abducted by very short sighted aliens and c) that I'm wearing clean knickers (I've never actually understood that one - is it in case the aliens go back to the Planet Zog and report that earthlings are not very hygenic?)

Anyway, this is just a test blog to make sure I can cope with the technology. And, even if I can, I'm not sure of the availability of wireless access from some of the far flung places I'm going to (so, Mum, please don't assume that if I don't post to this blog I have become a 16 course dinner for a grizzly).

I'm going to a crime fiction convention in Alaska and, as part of the trip, I am doing the Authors To Schools programme. They send you out into the Bush (or, as I know it The Middle Of Nowhere) for a few days to a local school. I'm going to a school district in south west Alaska. The district is 12000 square miles and has only eight villages! I'm going to three (600 residents, 500 residents and 130 residents) - all of which can only be reached by small plane or boat. Except in winter, when you can drive on the river.

(This is a view of the river from one of the villages in Alaska I'm visiting. Doesn't it look gorgeous?)

The school district has a small plane like this one or, as the teacher I have been corresponding with tells me "a TINY plane, are you OK with that?" I am very much OK with that. However, I'm not sure about my mother. I'm sure her fears of me falling off a glacier or being eaten by a bear now have a third companion.

She has been sending me 'How To Look After Yourself In Alaska If You're Stupid And/Or My Daughter' comments. She keeps phoning me up and saying things like "If you see any red berries that might be cranberries don't touch them. Because they might not be." and "If you are stuck in the middle of nowhere with nothing to drink, lick ice...or was it...don't lick ice..." and "Remember to pack a shovel."

A friend in Alaska sent me a website about what to do if you have a close encounter with a bear. It had some very handy tips including...

*Bears Don't Like Surprises!* Damn - that's the giftwrapped dead fish out then.

*Bears Are Always Looking for Something to Eat!* I know the feeling...

*Identify Yourself* OK, now I have to practise my bear meet and greet..."Hi, Mr Scary Looking Bear. My name is Donna and I am just about to run away."

*Don't Run* Damn - that's Plan B out the window then.

*If Attacked - If a bear actually makes contact, you have two choices: play dead or fight back.* Is that IT? No third option? No 'talk your way out of trouble'? No, 'back away singing 'The Sound of Music''? No 'give up your wallet and cell phone and sob hysterically'? The section then goes on to say: The best choice depends on whether the bear is reacting defensively or is seeking food. How do you KNOW? If it's carrying Walmart bags you're OK because it's been shopping?

So I am visiting 3 villages over five days, and speaking to about 20 classes of children whose ages range from 5-18. I'm looking forward to it but also nervous. I've never done anything like it before and, quite frankly, I don't have a clue what I am doing. I am going to get by with a mixture of Bluffing and Chocolate. It's got me to where I am today after all (just in case you were wondering, that's a fat bluffer by the way). I'm staying with teachers in each of the villages. It's really lovely of them to be so hospitable to someone they have never met, I hope they don't live to regret it. And one of them has arranged a pot luck supper with a native Alaskan family. How excited am I?

As well as this, I am going to stay with good friend in Seattle for a couple of days, before meeting up with other friends in Anchorage. I have a number of sightseing tours planned:

A trip on a catamaran (this is the very boat I am travelling on) in Prince William Sound which looks absolutely stunning, to see whales, and glaciers calving (that's the glaciers which are calving, not the whales.

An all day trip on an ATV through the back country up to a glacier (yes Dad, I'm afraid that means I'm driving - I can hear your sharp intake of breath - but they've assured me that the fact that I don't drive doesn't mean I can't drive an ATV. And Mum - it's entirely safe. It goes about...oooooh....one mile an hour and I shall be wearing safety gear and clean underwear. Besides, there is nothing to crash into. Apart from glaciers. And bears.

A flightseeing trip around Mount McKinley, which is the largest mountain in North America, landing at a secluded lake. For pictures - not skinnydipping.

So, my suitcases are packed (only 9 pairs of shoes this trip - I'm being restrained). I think one of them is over the weight limit, but hopefully it will be OK.

Here's the offending suitcase (known as Big Red). By the way, all those Cadbury's Animal biscuits are NOT for me, they're for the children. Honest guv'ner.

I'm off very early on Friday morning. With any luck, I will be able to post and include photos while I'm away. If not, I'm sorry for wasting your time so far and see you all in October.


Stuart said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Donna said...

Whoops - sorry Stuart, I was playing about with the settings there and deleted your post in the process. Thank you - I will hit the bear with my handbag - excellent advice since my handbag weighs a ton. And don't worry I will take loads of photos.

Bev said...

Donna, i'm so envious of you i could spit :-) seriously kiddo please travel safe, and have a wonderful time. don't worry about not doing well. you'll do wonderfully, and the teachers your staying with and the kids you will be talking to will think you're wonderful and will love you. you're a special person.


Anonymous said...

This is fabulous of you to share your trip with us! I very much look forward to hearing and seeing the Alaska sights and your wonderful time there! ENJOY!!


Anonymous said...

My god, you've got so much stuff lined up, I don't know which bit to be most envious of! Have a fab time - and thanks for setting this up so we can all join in. Cheers, m'dear - J x

Paulie Walnuts said...

Actually you numpty, there is a 3rd options of dealing with grizzly bears as it states in my SAS Survival guide to Alaska...page 12, chapter 13.'if attacked by a grizzly stand your ground, dont move and make yourself as big as possible by pulling open your jacket, this gives the illusion that it is facing a bigger enemy and is less likely to attack you..' Thats expert advice from the countries elite special forces. though of course it begs the question 'why have a survival guide to Alaska?..' it must be bad eh. still, you'll be off ya tits on cheese no doubt, so good luck sister. Paul xxx

Paulie Walnuts said...

...oh..sorry...ive just read that advice is for confronting penguins.

It just says 'offer salmon' if its a grizzly.

you packing any John West? Morrisions do a good one...

lots of love
Paul xxxx

Anonymous said...

Good luck Donna, You'll have a great time. You're a brave girl and you'll be rewarded with all the great things you'll see. R x

Donna said...

Bev - aw thanks - so are you!

Bobbie and Jools - it's going to be great fun! I will try and update as much as possible, technology willing.

Mr Walnuts - I TAUGHT you the word numpty - you can't use it on me :o)So I need to offer a penguin my coat? Is that what you're saying?

Robin - cheers :o) I know you'll all miss your morning and afternoon Earl Greys. Needless to say, I won't think of you all back at the office ONCE!

Paulie Walnuts said...

Ere Moore, ive dug up some fun facts about Alaska for ya to read while you much your way thru the Cadbury Animals Biscuits...(for the kids my ars*!)

1. in some areas it gets 24 hours of daylight. (take your eye mask)
2. Its 2 times the size of Texas with 33 thousand miles of coastline and the only state on 3 different seas, Arctic, Pacific and Bering.
3. Temperatures can drop to -78.
4. It has 3 main bears Kodiak, Polar and Grizzly. most 11ft tall and 1,400 pounds. (dont offer them biscuits if you see one)
5. It was purchased from Russia in 1867 for 2cents an acre.
6. The state flower is the forget-me-not.
7. The state sport is Dog Mushing (that doesnt mean sit on them to death D)
8. The state gem is Jade. State mineral is Gold
9. They make cheese from whale fat and its called Orcadam. come in a black and white wax coating.

oh..and dont eat yellow snow.


Donna said...

They ARE for the kids - honest. I only tested a couple of bags to make sure they were OK...

Temperatures will not be droping to -78 (is that when hell freezes over?) Currently they are 5 degrees colder than Glasgow, or 9 degrees in ...errrr...the other one.

I can assure you that if I am approached by something 11 feet tall and weighing 1400 pounds, I will NOT be stopping to ask it which family it's from. Unless it's a very tall Mountie.

Re point 7 - I am afraid I have been blackballed from the Husky sledding place due to my request to "ride a husky". I did, of course, mean one of the little sleds.

Lard cheese? How delicious.

Thank you for your hard work. I'm sure, given time, I could find some out for you about Essex :o)

Paulie walnuts said...

Talking of Essex..Whats the difference between an Alaskan seal and an Essex girl?...

Ones got a moustache, lays on its back and smells of fish...the other ones a seal.


Anonymous said...

I understand Anchorage has bears wandering about in the streets, along with Moose. There are two idiots who chase them, put them in cages to release in the countryside. They are an idiot man and an idiot female. Take care they do not mistake you for an idiot. Also beware of the chocolate, it goes very hard in the cold and could damage the teeth of the kiddies you plan to bribe with it.

Donna said...

Dear Anonymous...Dad, is that you?! It's fairly easy to mistake me for an idiot.

Anonymous said...

Yes, but you know how shy I am. No mistake.

Donna said...

LOL. Thanks Dad. See folks, it's not just my Mum, even my Dad thinks I'm an idiot. Either that or my family all have a warped sense of humour. Shy???? On family holidays we used to lose you for hours at a time because you were too busy talking to people.

Paulie Walnuts said...

Donna..its not just your mum and dad that thinks you're an idiot either....

..and as for your dad talking to strangers..thats something you might want to keep within the family dear...men in white coats and all that!

hope the flights were fine and your chocolate..sorry, kids biscuits, found there way to America alright.

take care

Anonymous said...

Yes, Donna, how interesting that you and your Dad love talking to strangers for hours...and I bet you always have a humourous story to tell afterwards. :-)

And also yes, hope your flights went well and that the kids' biscuits arrived just fine. :-)

Hmmm I seem to just be repeating other people's remarks...does that mean I should look for a white coat following me? Will just say it's Alaska's snow, ha.

Take good care, report to us when you can, and as always, ENJOY!