Saturday, January 14, 2012

Cold, Cold weather

Well, life has been pretty crazy.  Since I last wrote, I did make it to Anchorage.  My flight got into Anchorage around 1:30 on Friday afternoon and I left at 11 am on Sunday morning so it ended up being an abbreviated trip.  Then I got back to Kobuk for a crazy busy few weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas.  In that time my middle schoolers asked me (more than once) to be their basketball coach and I agreed, we had a school event called Santa's workshop where I baked gingerbread houses (in advance) until I thought I was going crazy (but that seemed to be a big hit) and of course we had all the end of semester hubbaloo. School ended on the 16th and on the morning of the 17th I flew first to Kotzebue and then on to Anchorage.  I had scheduled my flight out of Anchorage for the 19th (t 11:15 pm) to give me 3 days to get there so I wouldn't miss my flight.  Seeing as how Christmas can be a really hard time to get re-routed.
I had no problems getting to Anchorage though.  We even had some fun.  One of my co-workers and I were on the same flight to Kotz.  We then called a friend from Shungnak to meet up for lunch because he had flown to Kotzebue the day before.  We ran into a district maintenance guy that my co-worker recognized and asked for a ride to the Bayside Inn (where we were meeting our friend).  He agreed and we followed him out.  Another co-worker of his drove the truck up to the loading doors at the Era Terminal and the first guy told us to hop in (I'm intentionally leaving out the names and I hope this doesn't get to confusing).  So we get in and the 2 guys load the truck.  Apparently the first guy doesn't tell the 2nd guy he's told us he'll give us a ride because guy 2 opens the door and goes "Hey, there are people in our truck."  We explain and then make a joke about hi-jacking the truck.  They drive us to the Inn where we find out that 4 of the guys on staff in Shungnak are all there.  So we hang out.  We go to the AC store (AC stands for Alaska Commercial and is a chain in Bush Alaska).  At the AC store we meet a man who offers to drive us all in the back of his pick-up to the museum (which is across the street from the airport).  We take him up on it and go to the museum until it was time for our flight.   When we got back to the airport we found even more people we knew.  A very large portion of the passengers were teachers.  One of our friends from AKT2 was also on the flight (she teachers for Bering Straight School District and had gotten on in Nome).  I counted at least 10 people I knew on the flight.  Which considering it was a combi plane (cargo and passengers) and therefore only had 72 seats was a really high percentage.
Anchorage seems to average about 40-50 degrees warmer than Kobuk and it was definitely felt warm.  It was so great going to church the next morning.  I love my little church in Kobuk and it is a great place to have, but there's just something about getting a couple hundred people (more than are even in Kobuk) together singing praises and Christmas songs.  Sunday night was the encore presentation of the church Christmas program and I was stoked to get to go to that too.
Monday night I boarded a flight to Denver (and from there to Dulles and then Greensboro). Unfortunately, the flight was late getting in because of a strong headwind.  They assured us that the headwind that had slowed the plane down from Denver to Anchorage would make up the time as a tailwind while we were flying from Anchorage to Denver.  Unfortunately we had other problems too.  We boarded the plane and then they were de-icing.  But as they were de-icing whoever was working the de-icer sprayed the fluid into the engine intake.  It knocked out all the systems on the plane.  When they rebooted the engines wouldn't start up because it had gotten into the oxygen systems and they had to get some sort of oxygen cart and stuff.  We ended up taking off from Anchorage 2 hours late.
I got to Denver where I had had a 2 hour and 8 minute layover and there was an agent at the gate with connecting information.  She told me my gate and didn't tell me, but I saw the words run on her paper next to my flight.  I didn't run, but I did hurry.  I didn't even stop to go to the bathroom (something I really wanted to do).  I got to the flight while it was at the last of the boarding calls and made my flight to Dulles.  I had another layover there and that flight was about an hour and fifteen minutes late departing, but I made it to North Carolina safe and sound.
While I was in North Carolina, the temperature in Kobuk dropped.  On Christmas day the temperature went down to -47F.  The day after Christmas I was at a gas station in North Carolina and the man across the pump from me said, "You need a coat." (It was about 50 degrees and I had a short sleeve shirt on)  I told him that I lived in Northern Alaska and it had been 47 below (I got the number a little wrong) the day before and no, this was warm for me.  he replied, "wow, that was not the answer I was expecting.  Negative 47!" I don't know what he was expecting for an answer, but I'm not surprised to hear that my answer wasn't it.
I got back to Anchorage without any problems and had another couple of days before I had to leave for Kotzebue.  I spent Monday night January 2nd in the new hotel in Kotz.  It was pretty nice.  The district put me up (without the district discount the rate is somewhere around $300 a night.  Even with the dstrict discount it is expensive) because the next day I had an in-service for a new drafting class I was teaching. Tuesday was my in-service (I was the only female, which didn't bother me, but the man in charge kept saying things like guys to everyone and then getting all embarrassed since I wasn't a guy.  I told him there was no need to worry and I use the term guys to mean people all the time - I think that made him feel better).  Tuesday night we stayed at the ATC (Alaska Technical Center - owned by my school district) dorms.  The dorms weren't open yet so it was only the 6th of us plus to instructors from the ATC (also male).  I was put on the second floor all by myself, which felt a little odd, but it was okay.
Wednesday morning I flew back to Kobuk.  I got a real warm greeting that made me feel good, but everyone was telling me about how cold it had been.  It had just warmed up that day (we hit -32 F that Wednesday).
The following Friday night the temperature plummeted back to the -50s and on Sunday morning (last weekend) we bottomed out at -59F.  The crazy thing is that by Tuesday we had warmed up to +6F!  A 65 degree temperature swing in 48 hours.  We then dropped back to -30 on Wednesday, -40s on Thursday and -50 on Friday.  This morning (Saturday) the low was -55.  I think most everyone who reads this lives in a warmer climate.  When you feel cold just think of me and you won't feel so cold.
The good news is our daylight has increased tremendously.  On the solstice we only had 1 hour and 4 minutes of daylight with the sun not fully breaking the horizon.  Now the sun fully breaks the horizon and I believe our daylight count today is up to 3 hours and 56 minutes.  Yesterday was the last day that the sun set before school got out (yesterday's sunset was 3:28 I think and school gets out at 3:30).  The increasing light I think is already making people feel better (although with all the cold a lot of us have been sick.  Myself included).