Ordering Sushi in Rural Alaska

We’ve had a busy week. The first quarter is ending, and grades and progress notes are due. Plus we’ve been getting ready for Halloween. So another teacher and I decided to skip cooking for one night and order food instead. 

This morning we called Chopstix, an Asian restaurant in Bethel, Alaska, to place the order. At 5:30 pm we got a call that our food was on the way. I took the school truck to the airport.  

 The plane landed just as I got there. It was “the big plane” — a Cessna 208 (with a center aisle) as opposed to a tiny 207.  

 This happy little box holds dinner for two people.  

 My two rolls, plus my half of the $25 freight charge, cost $40.40.  

 It was so worth it! 

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House Tour

Most school districts in rural Alaska lease furnished housing to teachers. My district is no exception. Today I want to share some pics with you, my dear readers. outside of houseAnd here it is! This shade of red is a common paint color in Alaska.entry to houseI’m lucky to have a roof over my front steps so they don’t get too slippery. The blue tote stores garbage until I can get to the dump.

view from the porch I’m also lucky to have a nice view from my porch 🙂

Moving inside… arctic entry This is called an arctic room or arctic entry — like a foyer, but less fancy. Basically, it’s a small room that separates the front door (brrr) from the rest of the house.

living room Take a right, and you’re in the living room.

shelf with items from Alaska wilderness A bookshelf in the corner holds some items from the Alaska wilderness: driftwood from the Yukon River, an unidentified green rock found on the beach in Gustavus, and a fossil.

birch tree paintingOn Labor Day weekend I made this artwork for my dining area. I painted the sky with a paper towel and the birch trees with an old credit card! Click here to learn how to make your own.

kitchen Here’s the kitchen. The art above the sink was made by Pat Minock, a local artist. He invited me to his house last spring to look at his prints. He’s a really nice guy with interesting stories. You can see and buy his art here.

hallway This is the hallway. To the left: pantry, roommate’s bedroom (not pictured), and my bedroom. To the right: kitchen, bathroom, and laundry room. At the end: spare bedroom.

pantry It’s hard to keep this space organized, especially when you buy groceries in bulk.

bathroom The bathroom is not too interesting, but it’s clean!

bedroom Most of my decorating efforts occur in my bedroom. I got the tapestry to hide some of the wood paneling.

bedroom  The curtain hides my closet.

top of dresser
photos on twine I have a few mementos on top of my dresser and some pictures hanging above.

laundry room The hottest room in the house: the boiler/washing machine room…

storage room  storage room…and through the door on the far end, the coldest room (which is really an attached shed): the storage/dryer room.

spare bedroom Finally, the spare bedroom.

I hope you enjoyed touring my humble abode! Feel free to leave questions in the comments.

Scenes from a Bush Plane in the Fall

Labor Day may be the unofficial end of summer, but here in Alaska, fall is in full swing. On Monday I took a Cessna 207 to Mountain Village, the site of the District Office for the Lower Yukon School District, for curriculum training. The pilot, other teachers, and I got a good view of the fall colors.fall treesThis picture was taken not long after liftoff in Pilot Station. trees and mountainsAs you can see, we don’t fly too high above the ground.trees on a mountain mountains and Yukon RiverI got to ride co-pilot. Every time this happens, I think about the book Hatchet. And I silently pray that the pilot won’t have a heart attack and force me to land in the Yukon River, leaving me to survive using the emergency equipment in the back of the plane. I have an active imagination 🙂tundra and laketundraI love tundra. Tundra is spongy and fun to walk on. It also smells amazing. I want to capture tundra in a candle. Pitka's Point and Yukon RiverThe village of Pitka’s Point used to have a school in our district. Due to low attendance, the school was shut down and the students now take the bus to Mountain Village.St. Mary's and Yukon RiverIt’s hard to see, but St. Mary’s is behind the hill.road from St. Mary's to Mountain VillageHey, look — a road! It even has a car. It goes from the airport in St. Mary’s (a hub), past Pitka’s, to Mountain.

This 26-mile trip takes about 15 minutes by plane. Within two months, the landscape will change to white, blue, and gray. No matter the season, I love looking out the window at the scenery of the Yukon Delta.

Moose Chili

When life gives you spaghetti sauce…make chili!
IMG_3898

You see, grocery shopping in rural Alaska can be tricky. Freight to this distant location is expensive, so local stores mark up the prices by 200-300%. I bought a bunch of groceries on Amazon and at the Anchorage Wal-Mart ahead of time, but it’s hard to know what/how much you’ll want to eat for a whole semester. (My frozen broccoli was gone in about two weeks!) And I forgot one important item that local stores don’t carry: tomato juice.

With the weather getting colder (10 degrees at the moment), I’ve been craving chili. Too bad…or so I thought. During last week’s trip to the AC, I found pasta sauce that was about to expire; I scored it for half off (about $2 per can)! And since necessity is the mother of invention, I decided to try making chili with what I have.

  • did remember to buy chili beans and chili powder in Anchorage.
  • do (for the moment) have running water.
  • Several locals have given me moose meat.

I mixed some water, chili powder, beans, and scrambled moose in with the pasta sauce to simmer. After it cooked for a while, I thought it still looked and smelled like, well, pasta sauce and beans. So I added my new favorite ingredient — green Tabasco — and some quinoa to make a heartier mealIMG_3901I topped it with some shredded cheese ($16 for a 2lb. block) and sour cream ($4.50 for a small container). It turned out pretty well!

It just goes to show…if you find yourself in a situation where you have moose meat but no tomato juice (ha!), you CAN make chili. 😉chili in bowl

Free Meat

Hello, all the way from Pilot Station, Alaska!

I’d like to start by apologizing for the lack of updates. I’ve faced a series of obstacles in connecting to the Internet, and since I’m in a remote location, the only thing to do is be patient. I’ll do my best to catch you up over the next few posts.

Note to Mom: I know how you feel about dead animal pics, so you might not wanna read this 🙂

Soon after our arrival in the village, we learned that Alaska Fish and Game leaves free fish by the dock twice a day. A little before 8:00 one evening, we hiked down to the Yukon River, bucket in tow.

cliff on Yukon River
It’s a beautiful river, by the way.

Yukon River dock

Then we waited for the boat.

boat coming in

Sometimes it brings lots of fish (60 one evening!), and sometimes it shows up empty. So we always make sure the locals get fish before we take any. Alaska Fish and Game will bring fish like this until the end of September.

I named my first salmon Loretta.

salmopn

Then Eddie, the husband of another new teacher, showed me how to gut and fillet it.

Eddie cutting salmon

My turn!

Brittney cutting fish

I looked like I’d murdered someone by the time I finished.

after cleaning a salmon

But I had about 10 servings of salmon.

salmon pieces

This past weekend, a student came to my door with a gift: all four legs of a moose!

moose quarters

His grandmother, one of the elders of the community, asked him to share his first moose of the season with the teachers. Jessica and I shared one leg.

cutting a moose

It took us about an hour to cut up. After splitting this leg with Jessica, I gave about a third of my half to some teachers who didn’t get a leg. And STILL, I ended up with 9 bags of meat!

Eddie estimates that one leg of a moose is more meat than an entire deer.

bagged moose

I ordered a meat grinder so I can use the meat like hamburger this winter.

Our Assistant Instructional Leader (AKA Assistant Principal) cooked some up right away. Then he, another teacher, and I brought the meal to the home of the student and grandmother who gifted us with moose. This is the customary way of thanking people for sharing with us.

I feel blessed to have so much meat in my freezer for the long winter ahead. Even more so, I feel blessed to live in a sharing community. In such a harsh and remote climate, cooperation is the only way to survive. At new teacher orientation, we were even cautioned not to encourage competition in the classroom because it goes against the values of our students and their families. The sharing nature of these people is just one of many characteristics I’m learning to love about the Yup’ik culture.

Things People Say When You Tell Them You’re Moving to Alaska

If you’re planning a move to Alaska, be prepared — you’re gonna hear this a lot!

word bubble

What part?

Pilot Station.

What’s that close to?

St. Mary’s, Marshall, Mountain Village…

And what are those towns close to?

Nothing really. LOL!

Why?!

I’m young. I’m single. I want to. Why not?

 

Are you gonna live in an igloo?

Nope, I’ll live in a furnished trailer, leased by the school district. I’ll even have electricity!

Did you know they have six months of darkness and six months of light?

I’ve heard that, although the description is not entirely accurate.

Have you ever been to Alaska?

Heh. Nope!

What do your parents think about this?

They’re used to me living in another state. They’re excited. I think my dad is already planning my retirement!

How did you hear about your new job?

Through Alaska Teacher Placement, an online job board.

 

Are you gonna become an Eskimo?

Hmmm. I don’t think I’ll be able to change my ethnicity.

It’s so pretty there!

I’ve heard. Can’t wait to see for myself!

You’re crazy!

That’s very possible.

I’m jealous!

Sometimes I’m even jealous of myself!


That’s all I can think of right now. I’m landing in Anchorage in three weeks!

Shipping to Bush Alaska

Confession time: I’m a lazy mover. It’s a sad fact, considering how many places I’ve lived. I tend to get rid of stuff rather than carry it somewhere new. (I even wrote a post about what I won’t be packing.) And worst of all, I tend to pack things in garbage bags rather than boxes, with little to no packing material.

So, moving somewhere only accessible by tiny plane is a challenge for someone like me. Furniture will be provided, but everything else must be mailed in. And, since it will be hard to replace most items once I get there, I want to make sure nothing breaks. I mailed my first 18-gallon tote this past weekend, and this was the process…

First things first, heed this warning.

suffocation risk warning

It may be tempting to mail your children rather than splurge on their airline tickets, but this is not advisable.

Next, choose your packing material. For this tote, I used socks, oatmeal, and dry beans.

socks as packing material

socks as packing material

bean packing

Fill the tote.

full tote

Then have a friend drill holes in the tote, secure with zip ties, and add Gorilla tape. Thanks, Marc! (Fun fact: I had my Skype job interview in this very tire store. It was fun explaining to the interviewer why there was a fish on the wall behind me.)

adding zip ties

Finally, write your school address on the lid. Also make sure to number your totes and keep an inventory of what’s in each one. Tote 1 contains a combination of hard and soft materials:

  • scarves
  • towels
  • sweaters
  • jewelry
  • kitchen utensils
  • Pyrex
  • Microcooker
  • glasses
  • oatmeal
  • beans
  • socks

ready to ship

The lady at the Post Office didn’t look at me too strangely when I brought in this tote. She did, however, charge me $62 to ship 38 pounds at the slowest possible rate. Yuck! Thankfully, I’m only planning to send about five of these.

Please pray that everything arrives, intact, by August 6th!