Debacles of Rural Travel with AM-azing Moments
Recently, I made travel reservations to travel from Anchorage to Emmonak to Bethel to Hooper Bay. If you’ve ever traveled in rural Alaska, then you know travel is always “weather permitting,” as my grandma always says. I flew from Ted Stevens International Airport in Anchorage to St. Mary’s Airport and was weather delayed to Emmonak for four hours before Hageland Aviation decided to cancel the flight. Junior, the ticket agent indicated I had to stay overnight in St. Mary’s. I decided to take the 10-minute flight to Mountain Village to stay with my grandma and family. I had one duffle bag and two boxes of materials, supplies and snacks.
When I arrived in Mountain Village, because it was so unexpected, no one was at the Mountain Village airport to pick me up so I took the cab. It is spring break up season in the villages so the roads were slushy, muddy and there were loads of snowy pot holes. At my grandmother’s house on the hill, my Uncle Eugene came out to greet me and help with my duffle bag. I decided to leave my two boxes at the St. Mary’s airport. My grandma was out visiting my auntie. Shortly after arriving, he went to pick her up by 4-wheeler. When they both arrived, he pointed at my bag by the door and said, “Look at those.” My grandma exclaimed, “Who’s stuff? We must have allanaqs (Yup’ik word for strangers).” I was hiding in the kitchen and peeked around the corner and said, “Hi Maurluq!” She squinted and said, “Who are you?!” I said, “Its Miisaaq!” She mostly knows me by my Yup’ik name.
She was so excited I was there and over the course of the evening, she told me, “I feel like its a dream that you’re here!” and also bobbed her head up and down and sang, “Oh! What a day!” We had some traditional food of reindeer stew and dry fish. My aunts and uncles came to visit. I walked to the store and met my Uncle Ted to give him a Big Mac that my cousin requested in Emmonak. He said, “This will be my main course for dinner.”
The next morning I received a phone call at 11 a.m. from the ticket agent in St. Mary’s that I needed to get to the St. Mary’s airport by 11:30 a.m. to catch the flight to Emmonak. I could not find transportation from Mountain Village to St. Mary’s; the snowmachine trail on the Yukon River was too slushy and soft and the 207’s were not flying due to fog. After consulting with my colleague in Anchorage, I decided to forego the Emmonak trip and continue with the original flight plan to go to Bethel and fly to Hooper Bay on Friday morning. At noon, I flew from Mountain Village to St. Mary’s and waited for 3.5 hours for the next flight to Bethel. At 3:30 p.m., the pilot called to board passengers and we stopped in Mountain Village to pick-up two passengers. That whole time, I could’ve waited at my Gram’s. Between the flights, they lost my two boxes; and sent my duffle bag to Anchorage. That evening, they had to rush my duffle on an Alaska Airlines flight to Bethel.
The next morning, I flew from Bethel to Hooper Bay and waited at the airport for a staffer to pick me up by snowmachine from the airport. I ran into Albina, my relative who was picking up her daughter and who I had never met before. She knew who I was because she read my name on my duffle that was on the previous flight and it was sitting on the runway before I arrived. When I arrived at the school, I was greeted by the school counselor and Renee, a fourth grade teacher. Renee is an Eskimo to the World blog reader and Facebook friend. She introduced me to her class and for the rest of the day when I would see her students in the hallway or at lunch, they would yell, “Hi Trina!” Renee invited me over for dinner that night and asked where I was going to stay? I told her, at the school. She asked if I would like to stay with her in her extra bedroom. I enthusiastically totally accepted the offer.
After I met with the key stakeholders at the school, I went to Renee’s and had a ginormously bestest time. We made salad with mizuno lettuce and her husband, Albert, made spaghetti. Her brother-in-law took me on a snowmachine ride around town, to the beach and hills on a sunny, beautiful day. We told stories, laughed and laughed hysterically some more. Renee is recently graduated with a Masters in Linguistics. She has three children, two of which are attending high school at Mt. Edgecumbe in Sitka, Alaska, and one son on-the-way. Her youngest, Kevin’s Yup’ik name is after my uncle, as well as, his English name is after someone who passed away from Mountain Village. Its funny because when I was in Mountain Village, I was thinking about my uncle and saying his Yup’ik name in my head, Ugachin. Not sure if I’m spelling it right. One of the stories Renee told me was that the new school is haunted. She said the custodians see a little girl in a white dress in the hallways. I am so grateful I did not stay at the school, by myself, on a Friday night.
The next morning, I woke up early. Albert and Kevin were up early getting ready to go to Kuzi for manaqing. Albert was cooking breakfast and Kevin and I were talking about his favorite subjects in school, he showed me his Native Youth Olympic moves and showed me his Number 1 Basketball Player Trophy, which is pictured above. All in all, despite all the debacles of rural travel, I shitreously had the best time with some AM-azing moments.