First Day in Tuluksak!

Look, I’m typing this from my real leather couch!

Delayed flights on every leg. Two duffels each at 50 lbs and a tote at 55. The Juneau Alaska Airlines gave me grace, but the Anchorage AK Air made me pay. Bethel in the afternoon in early February and there’s open water everywhere. You could see some snow machines on the river, but later talking to folks they said very few would do it as it was a wet ride, and dangerous. Sunny clear skies and 40 degrees as I sat exhausted at Ravn air after lugging all those bags single handedly through the check in. This was at like 12:00 noon. A two hour wait for my flight.

Folks had been trying to get to Tuluksak for three days, but planes couldn’t land because – get this – the runway was too icy. The warm days had melted the surface of the snow and ice that is usually hard-packed like concrete, and then at night it would freeze smooth as glass. But today the runway had been graveled, so we were good to go.

They had added an extra flight just 30 minutes before mine for all those that had been stranded in Bethel. One of the passengers came up to me and asked if I was that guy that was going to Tuluksak for some undefined reason. I guess I stood out. She was a delightful person named Lesa Meath who works in Tuluksak for a week a month. We’ll talk more about her later.

So, this flight that she was on made it to Tuluksak. And then they called my flight. This was a Cessna single engine 6 seater – the small one. I folded myself in the back with another guy from Tuluksak named Roger, and an elder sat up front who was heading to the neighboring village of Akiak. This was kind of funny because normally, as the Tall Guy, I sit up front, and instead here was this tiny lady who was not much taller than the flight yoke (is that what they call plane steering wheels?). We took off, made a nice slow circle around Bethel, and landed again. Though it remained sunny in Bethel, fog had set in at Tuluksak, just 45 miles away.

I sat at Ravn on weather hold for another 3 hours until they finally cancelled the flight. So I went to Bethel’s only bar – OK, it is a place called Fila’s Pizza, and it serves beer and wine. It is set up as a restaurant, but there are four stools set over by the the waitron station, so that’s the bar. There’s another story’s worth of stuff about my experiences there, so we’ll save that for another post. But what an interesting experience to be having a good IPA and a decent pizza in a place that I’d known for 20 years as a dry town.

Back to Ravn first thing in the morning. My flight would still get me to school in time for a SIG Grant meeting (whatever that was) that the principal, Sharene Craft, wanted me to attend. But, instead I sat for another 5 hours on weather hold. And then, my name was called, I was back on a plane (co-pilot seat, this time!) and in no time I was in Tuluksak!

I dropped off my bags and went straight to the Library, but, alas, the meeting was long over. But there sat an exhausted Sharene and Lesa regrouping after their long meeting. They are both delightful people, and we had some fun just chatting and figuring each other out. I want to save writing about them until I get to know them a little better, but they both certainly helped to put me at ease about whatever I’m getting into. Not that they we telling me things would be easy – they both were clear things are going to be challenging here. More like here were these two lovely people who were game to make whatever positive difference they could, and they were open and honest and game to have me jump in, too.

My little apartment is right across from the entrance to the school. Only teacher housing and the school have full plumbing. The rest of the village uses honeybuckets and there’s a launderette. This kind of creates a caste system in other places I been that are like this. We’ll see. I’ll post more pictures in a bit. There’s no internet over here, though I can use my cell phone for short bursts. For regular internet I’ll need to find some place in the school. There are several empty classrooms right now, so that won’t be a big deal.

The place is much better than I expected. It is clean, the kitchen is great, there are THREE chairs, and this crazy leather couch! One big problem is that someone built I loft for the bed. This is going to put my nose about 5 inches from the ceiling. And the frame for this thing is exactly six feet high. And I’m 6’2”. So going under the loft has me stooped over and doesn’t make it that much of a usable space. I think I overheard Sharene talking to her husband (he’s the shop teacher and Other Duties As Assigned) say that she wished that had come down. Maybe I can help.

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