Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Sometime in April 2010...

I had been thinking about teaching in Alaska ever since I found that my original degree I received (from an accredited institution that took my money, ran, and left me for dead) wasn't going to get me a very good job anywhere.  So I decided to enroll in a Post Bachelor's Teacher Certification Program (from another accredited University, obviously more legit than my first one) because all my family members were teachers and I basically knew that I could teach and the lifestyle is somewhat rewarding (plus I didn't want to work in the ghettos of Pittsburgh at Rent-A-Center or taking outrageous phone calls working collections, which so far were the highlights of my post-bachelor's degree experiences).

So I did some basic research and discovered that Alaska pays very well and has some excellent opportunities for educators, especially in the Bush.  Since I've never searched Alaska very much ( or really cared to) I had no idea what the Bush was.  Bush Alaska is the most desolate area in the United States, if you take a look at a map of Alaska, and focus on the central part all the way up to the North Pole, you will see huge areas of nothingness but: tundra, lakes, rivers, and mountains.  Few people live in these remote areas, so few towns will appear on the map...this area is what is known as "The Bush".....In fact no towns show up on the map, only villages.  What is a village?  A village is a place where there are no roads.  It's a place you can only reach by water or air.  You have to fly to reach most villages in Alaska (there's about a million definitions of what a village is up here).

My village is located right on the coast of the Norton Sound in the Bering Sea, it's called Unalakleet (sounds exactly how it's spelled).  There are no Walmarts, or Subways, or Carmikes or really anything in most villages like mine.  There are two small grocery stores (one looks like greenhouse from the outside), and a gas pump where gas is about $5-$7 a gallon (but due to the fact I haven't found a way to get a vehicle up here yet, gas prices don't really matter to me much...and I have no idea what the price is of gas in the lower 48 right now).  The term "Lower 48" is quite often used up here to describe the rest of the United States (it's 48 because Hawaii isn't on land).  I personally was never familiar with the term until I started researching Alaska.

Some more on geography, my house is located where the Unalakleet river meets the Bering Sea.  When I look out my back window (which is always a lovely view) I can see the sea, the river, and the mountains in the background.  The mountains aren't as big as the ones that I've been to in Montana, but still much bigger than anything I've seen out east.

Anyways, before I get too descriptive with this first post...back to Sometime in April 2010:

I had signed up for virtual job fairs for Alaska (Online Videoconferencing Interviews that Administrators in Alaska do to recruit educators...take place on stream sites like "Ustream") but I started to decide against going to Alaska after I watched a video about living in the Bush and how they didn't have plumbing (Not something I wanted to deal with).  But I received an email on this fateful day about a Virtual Job Fair where the school district was looking for people with unique backgrounds in technology, who were also new educators and currently student teaching (basically describes me and my situation in a nutshell), so I decided to take part in this virtual job fair from my computer in Pittsburgh.  Long story short, I applied for a great paying, great job in Bush Alaska, and was hired.

Basically from the moment I was hired I started shipping all my personal stuff to my village.  When I moved from Montana to Pittsburgh I was able to throw all my stuff in a car and go, but this was totally different.  The only way items would reach my village is if they were mailed up there (Air mail that is), so I had to literally mail anything that I cherished up.  And let me tell you something, those people who slam the U.S. Postal Service, I mailed a ton of stuff ( and I mean a ton), and a good amount of it was fragile.  Not only did all of it arrive successfully, but nothing was broken either.  I could have shipped everything using a private company (like DHL) and it would have cost me thousands, by going with the USPS it only cost me about $400-500 to get everything I basically wanted up there.

So I slowly shipped some of my things from Pittsburgh over the summer, and overall probably threw away well over half of my belongings because I really had nowhere to store things like: a Microwave, a Vaccuum, a DVD player, an entertainment stand, or a Big TV.  Sometime during the Summer I also bought my plane ticket (along with my wife's), it was a one-way ticket which I can honestly say was not cheap at all (But I guess that's why my starting salary is much higher than what I'd get paid in Montana).  And when August 18th hit, we flew up to Alaska, and the adventure began.

That basically sums up how I got up here, my next blog posts with focus on the main questions people have regarding life in the Bush:  Food, Water, Electricity, TV, Darkness, and the cold, cold....conditions...That are really starting to hit in December, currently a -25 with a windchill of -44....

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