Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Let the Adventure Begin

Before I officially accepted my position at Meade River School's newest 6th/7th grade teacher, I had the opportunity to visit where I would be soon calling home. In May, I flew by myself north to Barrow, Alaska. I stepped off the plane onto the steps leading down to the runway. What was I getting myself into? I saw snow. Not just a small spattering signaling the end of winter, moving into spring, but drifts. Large drifts and snow falling from the sky. Real glad I remembered to bring my jacket. What a warm welcome and hopeful sign for the future. Luckily, I was able to move past the weather and started to see all that Barrow and the North Slope had to offer me.

As I walked into the small shed the townspeople referred to as the airport, I met several smiling faces. Everyone was very kind and I quickly introduced myself as someone coming to teach in the fall. Most of the people living in Barrow and the outlying villages are Inupiat. The Inupiat people are very proud of their heritage and value their culture. It was a great relief to know that they would be accepting of outsiders coming in to teach their children. I hoped people in my village would be as welcoming.

The day after arriving in Barrow I took a flight out to my village. The flight itself only took 25 minutes, as Atqasuk is only 60 miles from Barrow. On the ground in the village I noticed that there really is no actual airport, simply a runway and a gravel patch where people come out to meet the airplanes to help unload. The plant manager for the school, Mel Wong, was waiting for me, waving a large sign with my name on it, he said just in case he missed me coming off the plane. The plane only holds four people plus cargo.

Mel is an amazing guy. He does absolutely everything in the village and will be the first one there if you need a hand. That day he gave me a tour of the whole village (it took about 15 minutes) and also showed me around the school. I stayed the rest of the afternoon, catching the 2:00 flight back to Barrow and thought over my recent life changing decision. I wasn't doubting myself at all. I couldn't believe what serious change it would be, but I could definitely see myself there, living and teaching amongst the villagers, slowing becoming part of the community. This was a seriously reassuring feeling.

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