Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Wainwright Day 1


•Tuesday, November 22

This morning Steve picked us up at 7:15 a.m. to go the 2 blocks to the airport. This time we flew ERA instead of Alaska Airlines. We met the guidance counselor from Anatuk and he’d been at the conference that Vanni was supposed to have gone to last Saturday. Dave had attended a pre-conference and a post-conference connected to the counselors’ convention and just came into Barrow last night, stayed at a Bed & Breakfast, and was going home today. He had lived in Minnesota near Nashua and gone to UM for his counselor’s degree. His wife and 3 daughters live on the Slope, and his children are the only non-natives in their school.

They called for the plane about 8:10, but it wasn’t making a triangular flight today, just doing to Anatuk with about 6 or 8 passengers. We were the only 2 passengers on the flight to Wainwright at 8:30. It was about a 12-seater, and the pilot asked us to sit in the front, across the aisle from the boxes of groceries they were hauling to Wainwright. It was just a half hour flight. When we arrived, they loaded the cargo into the back of a pickup while another truck shown its lights on the plane to provide light to unload. There was another guy with a pickup, and he gave us a ride into the hotel. There was no terminal building, and we walked down the steps of the plane onto the runway.

The guy dropped us at the hotel and we were given room 3 (there are 12 total). The rooms are upstairs over the restaurant. All are operated by the Olgoonik native corporation. After getting settled, about 10:30 a.m. we went across the street to the corporation store. The store manager Joseph called Carl’s Army buddy Terry Tagarook on his cell phone, and Carl talked to him. Terry said he would stop by when he was done getting ready for the feast on Thanksgiving. (I assume that meant going into the ice cellar to bring up the whale blubber to share.) Then we walked down the street about a block to the Alak School. Vanni had e-mailed them that we were coming, and everyone was very friendly and welcoming.

The assistant principal took us into her office and then gave us a tour of the building, introducing us to the high school social studies teacher and English teacher. The assistant principal is Aleut and came from St. Lawrence Island. Her husband is a retired principal and just came up from their home in Anchorage for a visit. He is going to Point Lay next week as interim principal for a couple of weeks. The assistant principal is in her second year here.

Then we visited with the principal Herman Gervig. He is from Montana and this is his first year here. The school has about 180 students in the building from 3-4 preschool through high school. All of the students are Inupiat. Most of the teachers are white, but the 3rd and 4th graders were in a computer lab with headphones learning the Inupiat language and their teacher is a Wainwright native.

About 11:45 we went to the cafeteria for lunch. They have a meal program for the elders to eat for $3.00, kind of like at the senior citizens center at home. One of the gentlemen told us he was the one who had driven us into town from the airport. We had popcorn chicken, cooked carrots, potato wedges, an apple, and milk.The teachers came in around noon, and we visited with the English teacher, social studies teacher, and special ed teacher. Carl made arrangements to come to the second hour social studies teacher’ class tomorrow to show is Vietnam slides. They all mentioned that Vanni had e-mailed that we were coming.

After lunch we came back to the hotel for a nap. It was light about 11 a.m. and the sun was down by 3:30 p.m. The sun no longer rises above the horizon so the sky just seems to get lighten. Here at the hotel I had the special for supper. It was chicken and shrimp curry served over rice with a bowl of mixed vegetables. Carl had a hamburger steak with mashed potatoes and gravy and mixed vegetables. They just write our purchases down on an invoice. Pop is only $1.50.

We’re still waiting for Terry Tagarook, Carl’s Army buddy, to stop by. We have been in Alaska a week now. Oh, when we arrived in Wainwright, several people warned us that wolves have been sighted in town. There was a confirmed case of rabies, so all dogs have to be tied up.

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