Wednesday, May 27, 2009

I'm leaving, on a jet plane..........

I scored a trip to Anchorage. For free (i'll tell you about that in a later post). So I am leaving on the 151 tomorrow and returning on the 153 on Thursday. That means I am leaving Kotzebue at 8:20am, arriving in Anchorage at 11:20am by way of Nome, then leaving Anchorage at 5:20pm on Thursday and arriving back in Kotzebue around 7pm.

Just over twenty four hours in civilization!

My friend Cathy was going to be heading to Anchorage later on Wednesday for a work conference, so she changed her flight to the same flight as mine and is going to show me the ropes of shopping, packing and shipping from Anchorage to Kotzebue.

What's on my agenda?

Well, first I have a super secret appointment on Wednesday at 1:00. I love secrets!
I'll fill ya'all in on it when I get back.

After that?

Target.......... I miss my Bullseye!

Costco..........groceries in bulk!

A haircut........I'm desperate!

Walmart.........only if Cathy insists!, I've gone this long without, why now?

Applebees........on request of my family that I bring home Honey Boneless BBQ Wings for dinner Thursday.

Alaska Airlines allows you to check THREE bags for flights within Alaska. So I will be heading there with only one change of clothes in my carry-on and returning with three Rubbermaid totes of groceries and household items that we have disovered we need.

I'm leaving my laptop at home. Mosty just to prove to my honey that I can live without for two days.

I hope I survive..................

Sunday, May 24, 2009

It's Break Up Time

From frozen solid:

To flowing chunks:

In less than four weeks!

Friday, May 22, 2009

You should make these

(photo courtesy of All

I hope there's some left when my family wakes up in the morning!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Goodness comes in a wax box

One of the major frustrations I have encountered is the lack of good produce available here. The grocery store that Dave works for does have a produce department, but for whatever reason the quality is less than stellar and the prices are outrageous (groceries in general are so expensive, but that's a whole different, carefully worded post!).

A couple of weeks ago some friends told us about Full Circle Farms in Carnation Washington. They offer bi-monthly organic produce delivery to our village (and many other locations in Alaska and Washington) so Dave and I decided to give it a try.

Signing up was simple and quick online. We were given the option of "permanently excluding" three items. These are things that you never want in your box. Our three permanent exclusions were brussel sprouts, beets and parsnips. On the Thursday before our village's scheduled delivery we received an e-mail declaring that weeks box contents. From Thursday until Saturday we were able to log into our account and make up to 5 substitutions to our box or add additional content to our box. Substitutions are free, but adding contents does cost additional. I only made three substitutions trading tomatoes for kiwi, lemons for more apples, and asparagus for avocados.

Tuesday is pickup day in Kotzebue. All of the boxes are air freighted in and delivered to a church. My friend Bree was kind enough to go by and pick mine up and delver it to my house for me!

There was a few casualties in shipping in that three of the five kiwis and one of the mangoes were smashed and split open by heavier produce, but I was told that the farm will take care of that, so I sent them an e-mail today. Other than that we are very happy to have found this service!

Monday, May 18, 2009

I told you

Function trumps fashion:

Photos courtesy of Cathy

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Let's go fly a kite

Today my new friend Cathy and her son Noah picked us up and took us just outside of town to fly kites. Until today I had not had the chance to get out this direction and had no idea that in order to get there we had to cross the airport runway. Just as we were approaching the runway so was this cargo plane. Thanks for yielding, Cathy!
At the top of this hill is this peculiar site commonly referred to as "the golf ball". This is part of the US Air Force White Alice project.
Kite flying was fairly successful. It was pretty windy out and we had cheap kites, but the boys were able to get them up.

From the hill that we were on we could see back down into town, as well as across the tundra and across the Kotzebue Sound to the beautiful mountains.

It really is cool to see another part of God's amazing creation!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Photos of our new life

Scroll down for the exciting conclusion of Our Arctic Adventure.

Cooper in front of one of the snow drifts on the way to school.

Our first family photo in the Arctic. We are standing on the Kotzebue Sound. It is a large body of water that seperates the peninsula that Kotzebue is on from the Alaskan mainland.
The ice should be breaking up soon.

Waiting for the start of the Kobuk 440; a 440 mile dog sled race that starts and ends on the Kotzebue Sound.

The Kobuk 440 start line.

Only on the Arctic. Care to guess what this is?

A closer look.
It's someone's catch of the day; a caribou and a sled full of shee-fish.
Taking advantage of the natural refrigeration (freezer)!

This barge travels out to the larger barge to ferry freight in.
When the sound is not frozen solid that is.

The sun already well above the horizon at 7:30am.
The entire story of how we came to live in the Alaskan tundra can be read here.

On to Kotzebue (Part 10 of our Arctic Adventure)

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5

Part 7
Part 8
Part 9
Somehow, amongst all the flight delays and airport closures, our flight to Kotzebue left Anchorage on time. We were on our way on a 737-400 Combi; cargo in the front, passengers in the back.

We arrived in Kotzebue around 7:15 and were greeted by Dave's boss and his family (whose daughter happened to be coming in on the same flight as us from the state Science fair). We loaded our luggage into the truck and headed out for the tour of our new town and the grocery store where Dave would be working.

In all the research that I had done before we headed here, nothing could have prepared me for what we saw. This is an isolated native village. Think indian reservation, only worse. There was more snow than I had ever seen, and buried in all that snow was so much garbage and junk. It was so ugly and I was not prepared for the visual impact.

By the time we arrived at our apartment we were exhausted and hungry and I was so overwhelmed by it all that I broke down crying. This town was ugly, there was so much snow, and on top of it all the previous tenant in our apartment must have smoked like a chimney because it stank so bad. By the time we had some dinner, found our suitcase with our bedding and collapsed into bed it was after midnight.

Tuesday we spent the morning wandering around town getting life set up. We registered the boys for school, went to the post office to get our PO Box (there is no street mail service here), the cable company, and the phone company. We also headed over to the grocery store to stock up and were in complete shock at the prices that we could not bring ourselves to buy much more than a days worth of food.

Wednesday Dave started work and the boys started school. Fortunately, that first week of school we were able to get a ride from Dave's boss' wife, because it was cold in the mornings. That entire first week it never got above 0 degrees and the mornings were -15 to -20 with evev lower windchills! That morning, after I walked the boys to their classes, I stopped in to chat with the principal for a few minutes, and as I was leaving she asked me if I would be looking for a job? They had an opening for a secretary for the primary grades and if I was interested I should apply. So I took the paper work and filled it out. Less than a week later I started working at the school! I love the job and it was a great opportunity to get out of our smelly apartment to meet people.

We have now been here five weeks and the initial shock has worn off. The weather has warmed up, we are now seeing highs in the mid to upper 30's, although there have been some 40 degree days. The snow is melting very quickly; all the roads are clear of snow and now just covered in giant puddles. The new issue is that all this water has no where to go, so the city has been working overtime to pump the melted snow out onto the frozen Kotzebue sound.

We have traded our snow boots for mud boots and have quickly learned that function trumps fashion in the footwear department.

The last day of school was last Friday, and we are laughing at the irony of "summer vacation" while there is still piles of snow on the ground. I still have two weeks of work at the school and then will probably be working on projects at the district office as needed over the summer. Dave is really enjoying his job, and while it is the same industry he has always been in, it is very different from what he has experienced before. We are slowly getting over the cost of groceries, I shopped yesterday and my heart only skipped one small beat when my total bill came up to $490 for two weeks worth of groceries. The good news is there is nothing else to spend our money on; only a couple of restaurants (none of which we are brave enough to try), no Starbucks, no movie theatre. We walk everywhere, unless someone happens to be going our way. (We left both of our cars in Vancouver and Dave's dad was able to sell one of them the week after we left. The other we are hanging on to for the time being).

The boys have adapted so well, we are truly proud of them for being so amazing in this transition. They have both made a couple of friends, and as predicted my blonde hair, blue eyed boy was quite the novelty to the third grade girls! Both boys are looking forward to VBS this week at our new church.

Our apartment smells a little better; I painted a couple of the walls that seemed to be seeping nicotine, although I could certainly use some great "smelly" stuff to help mask the lingering odor (if anyone wants to send me a small gift a candle or air freshener would be very appreciated!)

The visual "ugliness" of the village is still there, and quite possibly worse as the snow melts and unburies a long, harsh winters worth of garbage; however, I barely notice it anymore. I am starting to see beauty in the great people that I have met here!

So here we are, living 30 miles North of the Arctic Circle and it was all God's plan.

Now, who wants to come visit?

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Let the Adventure Begin (Part 9 of Our Arctic Adventure)

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5

Saturday morning we left for the airport with one last possible hitch in our plans. Mt. Redoubt. The Alaskan volcano had been erupting daily for the entire week and we knew that flights into Anchorage had been cancelled all week long because it.

Our first leg of the trip was a short flight into Seattle and we knew that flight would not be affected by the volcano but we were uncertain about our flight from Seattle to Anchorage. A big part of me was hoping that it would be cancelled. All of my family lives in the Seattle area and if our flight was cancelled due to the volcano we would have been able to get together with them before we left.
As we exited the plane in Seattle, we scanned the departure screens for our flight. It was on time! We had 30 minutes until our flight to Anchorage left and of course it was departing from a gate clear on the other side of the airport. We grabbed our carry-on's and heavy coats (which we were carrying because we knew we would need them as soon as we were in Alaska) and booked it across the crowded airport, stopping only for a quick potty break.

When we arrived at our departing gate there was at least 150 people crowded around the Alaska Airlines counter. I was a little confused about what was going on so I worked my way over to the gate to ask the agent there. She told me that they had already boarded the plane and the people there at the counter were trying to get re-booked and were waiting for their name to be called off the standby list. Since we already had our boarding passes we needed to board right away or they would give our seats away.

Once on the plane it was only a few minutes until we were pushing away from the gate for our flight to Anchorage! It was a very nice flight. Both boys were excited to be able to watch a movie and I was even able to get Cooper to take a two hour nap!

We arrived in Anchorage, gathered our seven large suitcases from checked baggage, found the biggest cab we could and headed for our hotel. The gal at the hotel check-in counter was very surprised to hear that we had made it in on a flight that day. Apparently the airport had been closed all morning because of the volcano, and we later found out that it closed again 1/2 an hour after our flight arrived and it remained closed for the rest of the weekend.
But we had made it into Anchorage!

That weekend was spent relaxing, exploring Anchorage, and shopping for extreme winter clothes. We also ate out at a few of our favorite restaurants and took the boys to a movie; knowing that it would be the last of these things for quite a while.

(This is the house that I lived in when I was a little girl. Ben and I went out looking for it on Sunday afternoon. It was so weird to see it after nearly 30 years, the house itself looks exactly as I remembered, the neighborhood does not!)

Monday morning Dave headed over to his orientation meeting at company headquarters. While he was meeting the big wigs the boys and I wandered around downtown Anchorage, enjoyed a Starbucks breakfast and spent a couple of hours at the Imaginarium.

By the time we got back to the hotel around 2pm Dave was already there and he had news that our flight out had been cancelled due to another volcanic eruption. So we called the front desk to request cleaning service since we would not be checking out and I sent Dave and the boys out to find something to do while our room was cleaned. During this time I was on the phone with our travel coordinator from Dave's company working out the details of another day in Anchorage. While she and I were on the phone she decided to recheck our flight status and found out that the airport had reopened and our flight was departing on schedule in less than two hours!

I found Dave and the boys and somehow we managed to get all of our stuff into suitcases and loaded back up in a cab. When we arrived at the airport we were once again greeted with throngs of people. There were lines of weary travelers everywhere and tv reporters trying to get the latest coverage. By this time we had a little more than an hour until our scheduled departure and the lines to check in were so long it was questionable whether we would make it in time. After about fifteen minutes in line, with no movement, a ticket agent came by saying that if we already had tickets for flight we could bypass this line and move over to another counter to expedite check in. That counter was right next to where we were standing so we were able to get right over there to be second in line. As we were placing our bags on the scale to be checked in I was a little worried that we may have gone over the 50lb weight limit after we had added our new purchases, but our heaviest bag weighed in at 49.7 lbs. Within 1/2 an hour we were checked in, through security and sitting at our gate waiting for our flight to Kotzebue and the beginning of our new life.


The final chapter of Our Arctic Adventure is scheduled to post at 7pm(Alaska time) Monday evening.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Our Last Week in Washington (Part 8 of Our Arctic Adventure)

I was really hoping that our last week in Washington would be relaxing.

But, there was still so much to do.
We had moved out of our house and were spending our last week living with Dave's mom and dad. Dave was working through Wednesday of that week and I was still busy trying to get the house ready to rent and shuttling the boys back and forth to school. We were also trying to sell both of our cars, but in desperate need of them still!
We had some interest from potential renters, but no commitment yet and I was starting to stress out. We really did not want to leave the house un-rented.
Still the week went well. Somehow we were able to get all the work at the house done by Thursday and that day we received a call from one of the potential renters; "she definitely wanted to rent our house and was in agreement to the terms of the lease. Could she come meet me on Friday to sign the lease?"

Whoa, this was a huge answer to prayer! Without going into details, we had asked for a somewhat extreme condition in our lease offer to her, and she agreed to it. Only God!

That week I was also blessed with the opportunity to hang out and say goodbye to my amazing friends. On Wednesday morning my friends from my son's elementary school held a going away breakfast at a local restaurant. It was so much fun and I felt so blessed by each of the women there that I called friend:

Thursday afternoon I snuck away to meet my friends Vicki and Vanessa for lunch. We always have such a great time together and this was no different, except for the fact that there was a lot of tears. After lunch we decided that mid-day ice cream was in order, especially since we were celebrating Vicki's b-day!

Friday was the day of goodbye's. Both of the boys spent their last day at school and saying goodbye at the end of the day was tough.

Friday afternoon we went by our house to meet our renter. She showed up with cashiers check in hand, we did a walk through, signed the lease and handed her the keys. It was bittersweet to say goodbye to our home for the past five years, but we knew that we were stepping through a door that God had opened for us.
Friday night our very good friends, the Storacis', opened up their house for a going away gathering. Oh what a night that was. It was so amazing to see so many of the people who had been part of our lives for the past 15 years come through those doors.
We were blessed! It was definitely an emotional evening. Saying goodbye is never easy and around midnight, after everyone had left, we said goodbye and headed back to Dave's parents for our last night in Washington.
That night brought very little sleep for me. I still had many suitcases to get packed and closed and before I knew it it was morning and we were headed to the airport for our 9:30 flight to Seattle and then onto Alaska for the beginning of our new adventure.

A sneak peek for LeeAnn: