Playing a native game that helps you learn to jump
[This post is from the Engaged Life community manager Kristina Smith's blog from her time as a volutneer. Kristina spent a year in Nome, Alaska where she was a volunteer at KNOM. This entry was from her time in Buckland, Alaska.]
Flying on a Black hawk helicopter.
If anyone ever gets the opportunity, DO NOT turn it down.
I reported to the National Guard Hanger around 9:30 a.m. and was told to grab some ear plugs and head downstairs to be briefed. There were five civilians and three National Guardsmen. We took off in the Western Alaska darkness around 10:15 am. I sat in a seat facing backwards, alone. My entire body regretting that choice until we made it to Buckland, Alaska.
We flew north east to the village of Buckland, where the temperature was predicted to be at least -25 F, not including any sort of wind chill.
We watched the sun rise over the snow covered tundra and on into the mountains. Coming close to peaks and summits, gazing at the blowing snow swirling on the ground below.
As we grew closer to our destination, I actually saw some trees. Simple pleasures, especially when you do not see any for months at a time.
On Frozen Bering Sea
We landed just after the sun had come up- approximately around 12:30pm. We were greeted by villagers on snowmachines, 4-wheelers, and a truck looking to give us a lift to the elementary/middle/high school. Getting my backpack on and securing my gloves a National Guardsmen opens the door and screams ‘Its 45 below be ready.’ It seemed that everyone went into preparation mode for the arctic temperatures. I zipped up my jacket, secured my scarf and hoped that my clothes would suffice.
I stepped off the helicopter, took a breath and my glasses fogged up, and in turn, froze. So, I am standing there, blind and wandering into a bed of a truck that I hope is headed to the elementary school, but I saw the red of Santa’s pant leg piling on… so I felt secure.
We drove through a row of houses and approached a beautiful school that I learned was just built seven years earlier.
We unloaded the truck and headed inside. Looking around I see kids, teachers, and administrators barking orders and kids obeying everything coming out of the adults mouths. I was impressed, they seemed to be running a tight ship and I did not want to step out of line.
We were set up in the library, the elves went to work and Santa got ready. I had my KNOM duties to do so I got the Marantz recorder ready and acquainted myself with my surroundings and defrost my glasses.
The students filed in one class at a time by grade. We learned that an elder had passed away and the funeral was during the scheduled time- so we had an hour to see between 150 and 175 students, take a picture with the Jolly Old Man and hand them their gift. Glorious.
They brought students in one class at a time and the children stood tolerantly for their turn, I have never seen kids so well behaved.
One student was making sarcastic comments and passing out jokes. I was behind him and he turns around and said ‘What is this? A recorder?’ I told him it was and he faced me and said- ‘Wait, I don’t know you.’ I told him what I was doing and he felt the recorder and commented on how big it was and questioned my attendance. His name was Jeremiah. A boy behind him poked him and froze and, without missing a beat, Jeremiah said the boys name and said to stop, he knows that poke.
Jeremiah is blind, and told me that he may not see the computer screen but he can be brutal with computers- I believe him.
The students as well behaved as they were, did show excitement when they received their gift, no one, not even a baby cried when they sat on Santa’s lap. Amazing.
We got through everyone.
The National Guard entourage gathered everything up in the library and tried to figure out how er would get back to the chopper. In 45 below, walking did not sound too pleasant. A teenager walked in and her mother, the principal, asked ‘Did you try to start the truck this morning?’ and she simply stated that it would not even turn over. That is what happens in 45 below, if something was not already on, it is too late.
A man was walking through and said his truck was on and he could drop us off. Walking outside I tried not to repeat my previous mistake, and made an air hole through my knotted scarf, it worked… for a minute.
We landed in Buckland around 12:40 and suddenly at 1:40 pm we are headed back to the Back hawk. Talk about a quick trip!
We loaded up and this time- I faced forward.
The trip back was exciting. It was like we were on a roller coaster or in a movie because the pilots decided to have a little fun. We would circle and sometimes maneuver to see caribou herds or a frozen creek bed.
We dove to the ground, spin around and flew over some amazing Alaskan wilderness.
I made it home safely, and exhausted. A trip needed, and I would do it again in a heartbeat.