Sunday, October 30, 2011


Back in August when I was on Kotzebue for teacher in-service I took pictures of the prices.  I wanted to then take pictures of the prices here in Kobuk, but that is a lot harder to do.  I will try to get some pictures of that up, but the prices here are written directly on the item or sometimes aren't on things at all and you have to ask.  At O'Brown's there is a list of the prices for the frozen foods written on the freezers.  Nonetheless, the pictures here will show you why I order a lot of my food from Amazon and otherwise buy it when I'm in Anchorage.  Of course, many of the things available in Kotzebue aren't even available in Kobuk and even the things that can be purchased in Kobuk often aren't predictable.
Dreyer's ice cream $14.99.  You can sometimes get ice cream here in Kobuk.  I know one of my colleagues bought the generic flavorite brand (the only one available) for $13.75. 
Note: the sale prices and everyday low prices of $3.59 and up.  I bought a can of Del Monte mandarin oranges for $3.75.

Yes, that does say that milk is $11.89 for a gallon.  In Kobuk you cannot even buy fresh milk.  The only milk for sale in Kobuk is the ultra high pasteurized kind that comes in the box and doesn't have to be refrigerator until it is opened.  I bought a case of this kind of milk in Anchorage and have been using some of it, but I'm not a big milt drinker.  The school gets its milk as powdered milk which comes in 55 pound bags!

$5.39 for a small jar of peanut butter.  That's why I order mine on Amazon.  I can get 6 15-ounce jars of Skippy All Natural peanut butter for $11.99 with free shipping. Can't beat that price...

The cereal on the upper shelf is $7.95 a box.  The cereal on the lower shelf is $6.15 a box.  

This stuff can't even be found in Kobuk.  I order my vegetables via full circle farms!  I get a box of 10 items every other week for $69.25.  I can modify what's in the box and cancel an order if I'm not going to be in town.  I also canceled some orders right after my last trip to Anchorage because I brought a lot of fresh produce back with me.  I have occasionally seen different produce items for sale in the stores - carrots, lettuce, tomatoes.  Onions are often available.  I don't know how much they cost though.  I did buy an avocado once.  I paid the low, low price of $3.49.

The is a random picture that I didn't think I had posted before.  Here is an Everrets Cargo plane.  This plane felt huge when it came in and is MUCH bigger than any of the bush planes, but I doubt it is really all that big...
I have bought a few other things in Kobuk.  I bought a 1 pound box of blue bonnet margarine.  The kind that costs $1.30 in Anchorage and I think you can get it in NC for $1.  I paid $5.75.  I also have bought a dozen medium size eggs for $6.25 and a bag of Dorritos for $13.50.  I don't drink Pop, but at one store in town you can buy it for $1.25 a can (if they have it) or at the other store (which is more likely to have it) for I think $1.85 (not positive on this price).

An attempt to give the layout of Kobuk

My Dad asked me to try to take pictures that show the layout of town.  This is actually, very difficult.  I have tried to take a few shots to give part of the village layout and I will see what else I can do to add to this.  Hopefully, if I can find the time I will label an ariel shot of Kobuk (I think I took some fairly cool ones from the air).  I also took a close-up of the ambulance because my dad wanted a picture of the ambulance up close (an earlier entry has the ambulance meeting the medivac plane).  So here are the pictures.
The village ambulance.  When I looked in the windows before it appears that the ambulance is mostly empty.  Thus far I have only seen the ambulance used to transport from the clinic to a medivac plane.

The east side of the village (except for uproad or what I refer to as the Kobuk suburbs). The building in the right foreground is the clinic.  The ambulance is on the left.  Behind the ambulance is the greenhouse the school is building. My house is the redish building in the back.  The satellite dish on the left is for the cell phone.  I don't know what the big satellite dish on the right is for.  There is also a smaller (probably 4 foot diameter) dish mounted on my house.

From here you can see just the edge of the clinic with my house and the GCI satellite.  the house behind the satellite belongs to the Baptist pastor and his family.

The southwest corner of my house with the red building front and center being the  post office (on the first floor) and the city government offices (on the second floor).  The blue building behind it is the school.  The tank that is partially showing on the left side of the picture is attached to the yellow building that can only be partly seen.  The tank is the water tank and the yellow building is the washeteria.  This used to be where the people could come to do their laundry.  Now it is only used for treating the water and isn't open to the public.  Most people do their laundry at home.  If they don't have a machine then they use someone else's.  Two of the four teacher housing units have washers and dryers (mine does) and two don't.  The three teachers without laundry do theirs in the school.

The back side of the post office and city offices.  On the left just through the trees is the baptist church.  More or less to the left is the river (although still a ways).  One of the stores (O'Brown's picture shown in a previous post) is down the road that starts past the first building on the left (I think the road runs between these two buildings).  I'll have to take pictures of the other side of the village later.  I guess that means there is more to come...

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Life gets busy

Sorry it has been over two weeks since my last post, things have just been a touch on the crazy side.  Two weekends ago we went to Shungnak to buy gas because the city of Kobuk was out of gas.  That was a lot of fun and was my first trip to Shungnak.  Then last weekend I taught on Friday until 3:30 and then went to the school office about 3:45 to start listening to the VHF.  at 4:20 I left to go out to the airport to catch a plane.
 I flew first from Kobuk to Kotzebue. When we landed in Kotzebue I was yawning up a storm and I said something to one of the other passengers about being asleep before I arrived in Anchorage.  The pilot overheard me and said, "Oh, you're going on the jet.  That's no fun.  You have to sit on the plane in Nome..."  (Note: around here a plane is a non-specific term.  A plane is either a bush plane, a jet or sometimes it is a cargo plane, but if it is not specified as a jet plane then even the cargo plane (or for that matter medivac plane) is a propeller plane.)  I  then talked to him a little more and mentioned something about coming back in reverse on Monday (I think he asked me when I was coming back).
We flew from Kotzebue to Nome and the plane parks on the tarmac.  The passengers who are going to Nome get off and then an agent comes on board and gets the names of all the passengers still on the plane.  Then very slowly (because they have to go through TSA security one by one after the plane lands and deplanes) the passengers bound for Anchorage get on the plane (The 6 am flight leaves Anchorage and goes to Kotzebue, then to Nome and then back to Anchorage.  at 11 the next flight goes Anchorage -> Nome -> Kotzebue ->Anchorage and the last flight goes Anchorage->Kotzebue-> Nome -> Anchorage) the Anchorage bound passengers board.  As these planes were boarding I got a bit of a surprise.  One of the passengers was a very long time friend of my parents!  Matter of fact I had seen him about 10 days earlier when he had come to Kobuk for work and had brought me some fresh produce and cheese goodness.  He was on his way back home to Fairbanks (Alaska is the smallest big state).
So I got into Anchorage at 10:30 after having started working before 8 and of course I couldn't go straight to bed because I got to see my grandmother and then I had to call a friend and so it was after midnight before I got to bed.
The next day I went to a really awesome workshop, which was the purpose of the trip to Anchorage and the thing that paid for said trip.  I got some cool ideas and lessons plans and gadgets and even used one of them this week.  Saturday evening I went biking with a friend, dinner and then shopping!  You cannot make a trip from a village to Anchorage without shopping!  When I went to church on Sunday several people even made comments about how they were sure I was doing a lot of shopping.  When I was catching the plane in Kobuk the Era agent who met the plane seemed a little worried and asked me if I was moving out. When I told him that my tubs and cooler were empty he seemed a little relieved (that made me feel good).
Sunday was another busy day filled with church and lunch and more shopping and then of course the packing.  I mailed two tubs and took a cooler and a tub on the plane with me.  I was a little nervous.  Alaska Airlines allows 3 checked suitcases up to a 50 pounds each free of charge, but the bush planes allow a lot less.  Bering Air only allows 50 pounds for free and Era allows 80.  I was flying Era, but I had 96 pounds.  When I checked in I was holding breath ready to ask her to look the other way on the 16 extra pounds (something they will sometimes do).  She didn't say a word.  When she said, "Alright, you're all set." I let out a sigh of relief.  It was kind of funny though.  While I was waiting for the plane the pilot walked through the waiting area and recognized me.  He made a comment about I see you're on the return trip.  I didn't even recognize him until AFTER her spoke to me.  He was our pilot back to Kobuk.
The upper Kobuk [river] consists of 3 villages.  Ambler, Shungnak and Kobuk.  Ambler is the furthest away (from Kobuk, it's the closest to Kotzebue) at around 20 miles, then comes Shungnak which is about 8 miles (as the crow flies) from Kobuk.  My flight back landed in Ambler and then Kobuk.  I was surprised though because there was quite a bit of snow on the ground in Ambler, but none in Kobuk (there is now though).
When I got back to Kobuk I was really made to feel welcome.  The Era agent helped me carry my stuff and then a whole bunch of the kids that I ran into welcomed me back very enthusiastically.  It was nice.
But things just got busier after that.  Tuesday the superintendent came.  After school there was a long meeting about the new school (or really the massive school addition project).  Then we met with the principal of Shungnak and Kobuk because he was doing the formal evaluations on Wednesday of the three of us who are non-tenured.  After that I cooked dinner for him and one of my other co-workers.  Then the students had asked me to please do homework club (I usually do it on Mondays and Wednesdays, but Monday I wasn't back in time for homework club and didn't have time/energy/desire to do it later at night) so I agreed to do homework club from 7:30-8:30.  Made for a busy night.
It gets still busier!  Wednesday morning on the morning from my AKT2 (Alaska Transition to Teaching) mentor/evaluator arrived to do informal observations on Wednesday and informal and a formal observation on Thursday.  I had to meet with her Wednesday night.  However, I didn't have to meet with her for all that long on Wednesday night because I had actually had a lot of my meeting with her on the plane on Monday (remember I said it is a small big state - we were on the same flight from Anchorage to Nome to Kotzebue on Monday).
So by today (Friday) as you can imagine I was pretty exhausted.  After school today I just went home and crashed. Unfortunately today was the end of the quarter and so I have to have grades in by Monday. Guess what I'll be doing a lot of over the weekend?
No blog entry would be complete without pictures to show people my world.  So I'm going to upload photos from the trip to Shungnak and photos of the river from a few days ago.  If I have any pictures of Kobuk with the snow I'll upload one of those too, but I don't remember taking any... Enjoy the pictures!
Look carefully, against the mountain you can see the plane landing in Kobuk.  This picture was taken from the boat on our way to Shungnak.

Again looking carefully at this picture will reveal many things.  Not only the price of gas, but also the Inupiaq words for gas and diesel are included on here.

Shungnak Clinic

We got a ride back down to the river with the gas (33 gallons is a bit heavy).  The new village in Shungnak is built up on the top of a steep hill.  That makes everything a touch far from the river.

The village you see right on the river is the old village of Shungnak.  There are people who still live there, but there is no running water or electricity.  Up on top of the hill you can see part of the current/modern village of Shungnak.

I found this picture, but I think this was one or two snows ago.  I don't think it makes much difference it has been pretty warm today (upper 30's) and so even though we got more snow than is in this picture, the snow has been melting all day)

The school.  Again after a previous snowfall.

The pretty dead tundra on my way to Kotzebue last weekend.  I saw some caribou herds, but by the time I decided I should take a picture and then got out my camera, I didn't see anymore.

The river two days ago (looking up river).  It is getting more and more ice build up.  Plus this was the start of the current snowfall.

Two days ago: the view looking down river.