Saturday, February 12, 2011

Flying Wild Alaska

Much of last night's episode of Flying Wild Alaska took place in Bethel. It's strange for me to watch some of these reality shows about Alaska. Not only is Bethel tiny but the whole state of Alaska is really small. I've been here six years and it's amazing how many people I run into from all over the state where ever I go. If I go somewhere and meet someone new chances are very likely that we have a mutual friend somewhere and in no time we're chatting like old buds. So, when I watch the reality shows about Alaska most times I see people I know or even see on a daily basis. So when, I watch Alaska State Troopers or Flying Wild Alaska and they are filming in Bethel I usually know some of the people they show. Over Christmas break, when I was at home, I was watching Alaska State Troopers and watched someone get busted right in front of my current residence!

Last night my friend Brad informed me that another mutual friend of ours, K.C. was on Flying Wild Alaska. As soon as I found out the episode was going to be aired again at 11 p.m. I invited myself over to Brad's so I could see K.C's film debut.

Although they don't show K.C. in this clip this is part of the footage from last night's show. They got a few things wrong though. K.C. isn't a teacher out in Kwig, he's the Site Administrator (a.k.a. Principal) in the nearby village of Chefornak. Some of the footage is actually of them landing in Chefornak. You can tell because there was a "mountain" in the background. As someone who has recently been to Kwig I can tell you that there aren't any such landforms as far as the eye can see.

As we watched Flying Wild Alaska I turned to Brad and said, "You know, I do this crap on a daily basis and when I watch it I get much more excited about it than when I'm actually doing it."

What I love about the above clip also is that the pilot is that so much of it seems to relate to some of my most recent adventures. For example, high winds have caused me to get stuck in two villages, Nightmute and Quinhagak, the last two weeks. As some of you may know, my job the last two years has been as an itinerent Teacher Technology Trainer for Lower Kuskokwim School District. I'm based out of Bethel and I'm one of two people who's job it is to provide professional development, training, and work with students and teachers to integrate technology into the curriculum. I train on digital storytelling, SMART Boards, iMovie, podcasting with GarageBand, website design, etc. I went out to Nightmute the other week for a three hour digital storytelling inservice and ended up spending three days there. At one point I walked to the store to get some food and I swear I was walking sideways. When I was in Quinhagak I was working with some students on updating their school websites and using Pages to publish their school newspaper and meant to spend one night. While I was there the weather warmed way up and the winds kicked up making it impossible for planes to land for two days. Thankfully, my good friend Rachel Skime is out there and put me up for the three nights I was there. We played with puppies and visited with small children. It actually made me really, really miss my days as a village teacher.

When my pilot did eventually land on Saturday morning it had cooled off enough that the rain was turning into freezing rain. I was desperate to get out of Quinhagak as soon as possible to make another flight upriver. When the pilot landed I told him I needed to get out of there ASAP and I'd be more than willing to help him unload the cargo that was filling up the plane so we could get back in the air. Afraid of being grounded due to freezing the rain the pilot thought that was an excellent idea and together we had the entire 207 unloaded and were back up in the air in less than ten minutes. We got back to Bethel to find that Era had held my plane going upriver and I was able to make it where I needed to go that day.

The thing that I love about my job is that I get to meet so many people from the communities. Last night, as I was waiting at the airport for my flight in Kwig to land, an elder approached me. He asked where I was going and I responded that I was going to Bethel. During the next few minutes he told me he was 83 years old and had lived in Kwig all of his life. He pointed out where the houses used to be when he was growing up and waved his hand towards where the houses are now. He said, "None of that used to be there. The houses were all down there." He told me that when he was growing up they didn't have snowmachines and used dog sleds to get around in the winter and that they didn't have boats with motors but used qayaks (kayaks) to hunt and fish. My pilot then cut the engine and I thanked the elder for sharing before climbing into the plane. As we taxied toward the runway I smiled at the elder and waved. I could see him laughing and waving quite enthusiastically as our plane lifted off towards our next destination.

I also have to say that a friendly pilot out here makes all the difference on some of these flights. When you fly an airline often enough you get to know most of the pilots and it makes for much more enjoyable flights. On Thursday I met a really nice pilot and as we were preparing for take off he asked me how much I flew. I told him quite a bit. He got really serious and asked me if anyone had ever explained the various controls and how to fly the plane in case the pilot is unable. After telling him "no" I got a crash course in "pull this", "whatever you do don't push that" and "do this, but don't do that". I then mentioned, in a very joking manner, that I couldn't see over the dash of the plane and would have some issues landing it. He, still very seriously, said, "It doesn't matter, your pilot would just want you to keep the plane up in the air." Yesterday, as I was leaving Kwig, I was very pleased to see that the same pilot had come to pick me up. I crawled into the copilot chair, got buckled up, and after dropping some people off in Kipnuk, enjoyed the rest of the flight with my new pilot friend. As we landed in Bethel I said, "I hope you're my pilot every time." He looked at me and said, "I hope you're my passenger every time."

So there you go folks. A lengthy blog post. I hope to get back to blogging. I'm currently working on a blog post explaining my absence for so long. It's my goal to get back into the swing of blogging and to keep sharing my adventures!


Rachel said...

Welcome back to the wonderful world of blogging my Delta Jet Setting Friend! We've missed you:) Love the post!

Kale Iverson said...

miss you girl.

when are you visiting ?

Call me now.

Anonymous said...

Absolutely loved this post!!!!! You go Miss Erin!

Mom said...

We really enjoyed your stories Erin. I am so glad you are back to writing stories. I enjoy reading them so much. Thanks. Love You!!

Christina. said...

I love "Flying Wild Alaska". Barbara Ulroan's sister and family were in a clip from Bethel on "Alaska State Troopers" recently, too. The whole seeing rural Alaska with a different lens has really been interesting to me lately as well. Everyday is an adventure if someone is viewing our lives from the outside, right?