Tuesday, October 14, 2008

These Boots Are Made For Walking

So, as predicted I arrived at the airport to be greeted by the dreaded words "So, how much do you weigh Donna?" I showed the nice lady my boots and we agreed that they were, indeed, very heavy looking. I then toddled off to the gate. When flying inside Alaska, you don't go through the usual security procedures. You just go and sit in the gate. This, presumably, is how the man sitting next to me managed to have an item of carry on luggage that I have never seen before. An axe. A big, shiny looking, yellow handled axe. That was all he had - obviously travelling light. The gate area was also full of men in camouflage who smelled of moose. Most of them looked me up and down as though I was a plump and juicy prey that they wanted to chase through the forest - and not in a good way. I could almost feel the shotgun pellets whizzing past my head.

There were also a couple of fishermen there on their way to Dutch Harbour. One was lamenting the fact that he had forgotten to bring a sheet and last time he slept on the ship's bed without a sheet he got an infection because of the dirty mattress. The other one said that last time he'd slept on that ship the mattress was covered in fungus. Lovely. I moved away, scratching myself. Remind me never to go fishing. Or sit next to fishermen.

As we queued up at the gate to get on the plane the lady who had checked me in upstairs waved away my outstretched passport. "I remember you from upstairs - the lady with the heavy boots." On my flight was one of the high school students from Aniak. He'd broken his leg playing volleyball and then had to wait for a Medivac plane to take him to Anchorage. Ouch. When anyone here is pregnant they have to leave the villages a month before they are due to give birth and go and stay in Anchorage or Bethel. They CAN stay but they need to sign a disclaimer that they understand they will not be evacuated in an emergency. It's beautiful here but it's a tough life in many ways.

I was slightly worried about the weather. It was snowing quite hard and the only way you knew there was a runway outside was the faint lights shining through the 4 inches of snow. The visibility was also pretty bad in the air. Planes were taking off and then disappearing within seconds. Back home, the whole country would have ground to a halt. Here, it is all just business as usual.

So, as we flew into a blizzard we had the safety demonstration "Ear plugs and sick bags are in the seatback in front of you. Anyone want a drink, just let me know." There was a breeze coming in from somewhere, but I was too afraid to ask where. I just kept my gloves on for the whole flight. We landed in Aniak - again in 4 inches of snow and walked into the terminal building (posh name for a shed) where Emily was waiting for me. She drove me to my home for the next couple of days.

We then went back to the school district where the school board was having their monthly meeting and wanted to meet me. So I had to say a few words about my trip last year and what I was intending to do this time, and I also showed them the anthology which they thought was great. They have lost over 40 students this year. High fuel prices and lack of jobs have meant that quite a few families have taken advantage of the extra high Permanent Fund Dividend they received this year to move into the cities. As a result, one of the schools in the area has less than the regulation number of pupils to stay open, so at some point it may have to close. As you can imagine, the closing of a school signals a bit of a death knell to a village, which is a real shame.

After the school board meeting, Emily let me sit in on her teleconference class which was excellent. The students can join in from schools in the school district by video conference and computer. They all have laptops as part of a program out here. We then went off to the only shop in the village. A pack of celery is $4.99. Another negative of living here - fruit and veg is excessively expensive. On the positive side, Emily left the truck in the parking lot with the engine running to keep it warm, just as she had left the door of the house unlocked when we went back to the school board meeting. How wonderful is that? If you stand still in Glasgow, someone will steal your shoes from your feet while you're still wearing them. I can't imagine leaving my home door unlocked or the car with the engine running.

This morning I am off to the Elementary School. I can't wait.

Tata for now.



Paulie Walnuts said...

You claim that 'standing still in Glasgow will result in someone stealing your shoes from you while you're still wearing them...'

I've got 2 problem with this..

1. Who would have the bottle to steal YOUR shoes?

2. Don't you wear really heavy boots?

I can only assume that any 'ned' wishing to nick your footwear is probably on a suicide mission!

And even if (and its a huge if) he did manage to steal your shoes, i doubt he'd be able to get more than 3 yards without putting his back out, given the weight of them!

Why did you mention celery? who eats celery? You go all the way to Alaska and you talk about 'celery'! you could have picked a more exotic vegetable or fruit..like asparagus..or kiwi.

I'd have forgiven you for banana even....but celery?

It's as bad as giving someone an elephant.....

ps. looks cold!!

Donna said...

Paulie Walnuts:
1. I didn't say MY shoes - I said YOUR shoes.
2. Yes, I do. VERY heavy.
Celery was the first thing I spotted. And I was gobsmacked by the price that I didn't really notice anything else. Well, I did. By the sorry looking kiwi fruit it said $3.99 but I couldn't work out whether that was per kiwi or per pound or per kilo. And I didn't want to embarrass myself by blogging an incorrect price for kiwi fruit :o)

As for the elephant - Ewan LOVED his elephant. So there.

Julie said...

Aren't you the woman who sees off thieving neds? Hmmmmm? Thought so! Loving the pics. Beautiful! J x

MugsyNoir said...

I enjoy reading your stuff. Keep it coming. I almost feel like I'm there...scratch, scratch, sniff, sniff, brrrr...

Donna said...

Jools - I am loving taking the pics!

Mugsynoir - glad it's giving you the whole experience - although I am sure you could do without the scratching!

garywarrenniebuhr said...

You keep running into smelly men. But you smell better than anyone I know. Can't you just give them some of what you are wearing.

I hope all went well in the class and I can't wait to hear how they liked the book! GWN

Donna said...

Gary - It was a great day - I am just about to start typing up a post. And they LOVE the book!

Cathy Lemann said...

I've found that small planes in Alaska are saturated with testosterone. Apparently you're encountering the same thing.


Cathy Lemann said...

Oh, another comment on pricing in the villages. They purchase their fuel allotment in August. Or, if not August 2008, it was when fuel costs this year were at their highest. Oil prices have gone from about $140/barrel then to $73/barrel today.
So, Sarah Palin and the Legislature gave all Alaskans who qualify for the permanent fund dividend, a one-time $1,200 energy offset.
Reports are that many villagers took that amount (it's per person, not per family) and used it to leave the villages.

Help for Bush residents moving to the city: That's the emergency

Published: October 1st, 2008 10:23 PM

If we in Anchorage are now having slightly lowered gas prices, the village prices are set for the year at a really high price. Donna, what does gasoline cost in Aniak??

Donna said...

Cathy - that's exactly what has been happening according to people here - although they think some of the families may comne back. Apparently, the schools in Anchorage and Fairbanks have seen a huge influx of pupils.

Gas here is $5.38 a gallon and will stay that price all winter. I believe in Anchorage it's about $3.95? Makes it very expensive to live here.