Sunday, August 29, 2010

Views From the Sky

The colors and diversity of terrain when flying across the arctic is amazing!
Mountains and lakes as far as the eye can see.
The mighty Yukon River.
It was a full flight out of Arctic Village and we stopped in Venetie and Fort Yukon before landing in Fairbanks.
My view from the co-pilot's seat.
Rev. Trimble Gilbert preached this morning about the first being last and the last being first. He talked about the story in the Bible where Jesus tells the disciples to take the most humble seat at a wedding and then wait to be asked to a better seat. Never assume that you deserve a seat of honor. Trimble used the local example of when we are boarding the airplane to wait and let others get the good seats to make sure everyone has a place. I thought about this today and just stood off to the side as people were boarding. Then the pilot asked me to sit co-pilot! It was great because it was a full flight and I was not crammed in the back like a sardine!
I enjoy watching all of the equipment as we fly. I am learning how to read a lot of the dials so that I can tell how fast we are flying, what altitude we are flying at and how much longer until we reach our destination. The screen in the center is a Garmin GPS and often shows maps tracking our progress as well as other information.

Meal Time!

The other morning Sam cooked up a delicious breakfast of cheese omelets with sauteed tomatoes and caribou fry meat. We got to take home some leftover caribou meat from one of the community dinners and we have been eating caribou with everything!
Eventually your digestive track just needs a break from meat. So Sam made one of our favorites Tom Yum Khaa (Thai Soup) bush style. We didn't have lemongrass or lime kaphir leaves so he substituted some lemon and lime juices and it was still very delicious!
Tofu, shitake mushrooms, peppers, broth, veggies (we used peas) and coconut milk - this Thai soup is supposed to cure all that ails you! It is one of our favorites!
Jack wonders when he'll get his dinner!

Arctic Village Airport

Gretchen waits for her flight to Fairbanks at the beautiful Arctic Village Visitor Center.  Kind of a joke, I've never actually seen this building open.  Peeking in the window, I saw several posters with information on the Wildlife Refuge.  

This is the power generator building for the village.  Periodically a large cargo style fuel plane will land and refuel the tanks.  I don't know how much fuel they have on site, nor how often they have to refill.  Transmission lines run from the airfield generator into town, then branch from there.  The generator supplies all the power for the village, but the school has backup generators for when the main one goes down. Some people run Solar Power for tertiary components on their houses.
This is a Cessna Grand Caravan flown by Wright Air Service. These are the most commonly used passenger planes flown into Arctic Village. Sometimes you'll see a Navajo, but Grand Caravan's work better in the cold. They also carry more cargo in the underbelly.

Gretchen waits to board from the rear of the aircraft.
The usual mob swarms the airplane to load/unload baggage, cargo, and passengers.
A local student plays with pup Eva (this is the pregnant dog who came to church this morning and fell asleep under the pew!)
This kiosk was built in conjunction with the village and the refuge for travelers coming and going. The summer months bring an influx of hikers to this region either starting or finishing in Arctic Village after traveling the Brooks Range and surrounding rivers.
A local student plays on the "tail-stand" of the plane.
Gretchen got the best seat in the house!
Panoramic looking North from the airfield. Chandalar River running through the center.
Fall colors have arrived in full force, turning the trees and shrubs yellow, orange, and red.

Our New Cabin - The Mission


Come on in and take a tour! This is our main door, leading into the "arctic entry." The snowflake lights have been left up year round because in the winter they are the only light outside the door.
When you walk in and look to the right we have our water cooler and all our kitchen items. The box on top of the desk is for burnable trash and the can underneath the desk is for non-burnable trash. We have our very own burn barrel in the front yard where we burn our trash.
We have a fridge, two burner hot plate, microwave and a toaster oven we brought with us. That is the extent of our appliances. Just enough to get the job done!
Care to take a walk out in the garden? These lovely window coverings came with the house! So did the cute breakfast table and tall chairs. This is the "cute" corner of our house.

This is our bed. We are still working on unpacking and finding places to put everything!
We live at the mission, owned by the local Episcopal Church. Notice the sign on the front of our house. This is actually Sam's second time living in a home owned by the church. In college he lived in the "Luther House" at WVU. The stove is in the front yard because someone else wants it and we don't have a gas line to hook it up to anyway.
This is the view from the side. The outhouse is down a path out behind the cabin.
Thanks for taking the tour!

Sunday Around Town & More on Housing

Since it was a gorgeous Sunday afternoon I decided to grab my camera and capture some more photo's of town.  It was also a good time since nearly everyone is "Up River" or "Up Mountain". Meaning, we're getting close to the last couple nice weekends before Fall and Winter arrive, its also the time of the year the second herd of Caribou are pass through our area.  Up Mountain refers to the holy/spiritual mountain South West of Arctic Village called Daschenle (pronounced "Dutch-En-Lay").  Last night walking home from the school around 10:30pm I saw several campfires flickering all over the hillside.  Up River refers to traveling via boat up the Chandalar River to hunt Moose or Caribou.  Some people fish, but mostly for dogfood.  
This is the village Community Hall.  The second largest building in town after the school.

This is the Village Council, basically a Town Hall.  Also serves as hub for all Village logistics, like maintaining fuel and electricity.  The Chief works here along with a small staff.
This is the post office.
This is the clinic.  They don't offer very high levels of care, most emergency services have to be flown to Fairbanks or Anchorage for treatment. Minor scratches and illnesses can be treated. They can call in medevac planes from Fairbanks.  Its less than a 50 minute flight.
This is the village store and youth center.  On the right is the village store, they offer several different dry goods (pasta, stuffing, chips, rice,), canned goods (soups, veggies, sauces), and frozen goods (meat, pizza, etc...).  They also have various circulating refrigerated goods like eggs, bread, and fruit.
The youth center is loosely run as a hangout spot for teenagers.  I've never actually been inside, but this is where BINGO is managed from, the main fundraiser for youth.
This is the local Episcopalian Church.  It is the only church in the village.  This is the second church building in the village and was constructed within the last 20 years.  See my previous post for pictures of the original church built in the 1920's.  
Here are several of the homes/cabins around the "downtown" area.  Notice the caribou antlers lining the roof.

These are actually my next-door neighbors.
This is what they call a "cache".  Basically a storage shed adjacent to a house full of excess junk.

-New Housing Project-
Now more on the housing project.  There is a push this summer to construct new housing in Arctic Village.  Every couple years as part of a state/federal housing commission the village receives money to contract new housing.  An outside Project Manager visits periodically from the state to track and help with constructing new housing, but it is primarily internally run.  There are several villagers with extensive carpentry and construction background that run these projects.  All the labor is hired internally which stimulates the local economy, especially for men out of high school up to 20's and 30's.  
The homes have more of a modern design, and are much more efficient for this climate.
The village council maintains a list of people authorized a new home.  Preference goes to large families and elders living in old rundown and unsafe homes.  Once homes are complete they are turned over from the housing commission to the village council who places families.  After the family lives in that home for 5 years the deed becomes theirs.  If you move out of the home before 5 years the home goes back to Village Council. 
There are many different generations of homes as you can tell from my earlier posts  and pictures of cabins. The newer houses are wood sided, while older ones are still made of log. Some people choose to build their own homes from log or other material as traditionally done.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Science Camp- First 3 Days of School

As tradition has it, the first three days of school in Arctic Village are dedicated to "Science Camp". No one really could tell me how long this has been going on, but the Elder who originated the camp died several years ago, so its been happening for a while I think.

The main proponent for camp is a couple Elders from the Village associated with "Friends of ANWR". Also involved was the Wilderness Society, Fish & Wildlife Service, several Elders and Chiefs from Venetie, and a couple other random people that I have no idea how they got here...
Arctic Village School doesn't have a transportation service, most kids walk, some get dropped off on 4-wheelers, and older kids even ride dirtbikes to school.
Mother Dixie, sleeping with puppies Daisy and "Blacky", waiting for students to come play.
Jack also came to the first day of school, but was left tied up outside.
The camp began with an activity to explain the Scientific Method. Students had to alter three items they were wearing to have a partner practice observation and identification skills.
Next we played the "Caribou Game". This was meant to teach students values of subsistence hunting and wildlife/habitat conservation. Similar to "Red Rover", students lined up facing each other. One side was Caribou, the other Habitat. Each had to decide whether they would be Water, Food, or Shelter. The Caribou then ran to pair up with a like item from Habitat. Those unable to find a like partner, died and became Habitat, those that found a partner both became Caribou to depict survival of the Herd. When the herd became to great, hunters were introduced. Caribou killed by a hunter became hunters. At the crux of the game Hunters became so great in number no Caribou were left, teaching students hunting conservation and management skills. The concept of not taking more than you can use is commonly practiced and taught in this society.

Next one of the villagers taught a class on solar power. The above panel was handmade for about $400. Its more than enough to power several electronic components in a small cabin.
We also took a tour of the Washeteria, which gets 30% of its power from Solar panels on the roof.
Students learned about watersheds. Using samples of rain water, river water, and tap water they measure dissolved oxygen along and pH.
Pete, a Chief from Venetie gave a couple classes on Reservation history. Varapu, the older girl pictured above was visiting from her village in Finland. She explained how her people herd Reindeer, and subsist off these herds, very similar to how Gwich'in people follow and hunt Caribou. It was really neat to show students on a map where they lived, then trace across the North Pole and show where Varapu lives in Finland. She also explained the similarities and differences between her environment and ours.
Next we had two guests from the Tanana Chiefs and Hunter Education to teach gun safety. Every home in the village has multiple guns. In fact most guns are seen hanging over the doorway or propped in the corner of a cabin, always loaded...
Students learn safe handling skills while exchanging a weapon between friends.


Students identify the skulls of 14 different animals from Interior Alaska.
Several of the guests packrafted into Arctic Village after 18 days crossing the Brooks Range and Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Many students have never seen a packraft before.
The last day was dedicated to classes and lectures from village Elders.

Trimble teaches students how to build a fish trap from willow branches.
Shadowed by the death of a local village Elder, Science Camp was a little toned down this year. Usually students spend more time outdoors, but due to rain two of the days were held inside. I plan to incorporate several of the concepts and ideas learned during science camp throughout the school year.