Though I’d had minimal experience working in radio before I applied to KNOM (the few shows I helped a friend with in college, mostly for laughs, barely count), I could mostly guess what a position on the news team was going to be like. (Exactly like Newsies, right?) The big question for me was, what else was I going to be doing in Nome when I wasn’t at work?
One of the most challenging parts about being a KNOM volunteer, for me anyway, is filling those hours between work and sleep. Nome is a small town, and it can take some work to find things to do. For every wonderful night spent playing music with a bunch of great people in someone’s living room (or, better yet, around a bonfire on the beach), there are nights with nothing to do and little danger of anything just suddenly happening. So you find things to do, activities to get involved with, projects to work on.
For me, what to do in Nome outside of KNOM got answered in a big way when I arrived in town just in time for a free CPR certification class offered by Nome’s all-volunteer ambulance department. The CPR class eventually became a class that would let me test and certify as an EMT-1. A year into my time with the ambulance department, I’m still with it and getting ready to take an EMT-2 class in April. Outside of a general interest in learning basic life saving skills, I never would have guessed I would be an EMT before I came to Nome.
In addition to all the regular duties of being a member of the department, the ambulance squad also does things for the community, like going door to door to hand out gifts to needy kids during Christmas. That’s me on the right; I think I make a good Santa.
EMT takes up some time, but what else is there to do in Nome? When the weather’s nice, getting out of town and going for a hike can’t be beat. And when the weather isn’t nice, snow shoeing, skiing, biking, and other activities are usually available. Without access to a snowmachine or a four wheeler, it can be hard to get deep into the country, but there’s more than enough tundra to explore even just a few miles outside of Nome. Over a year and a half in, and I’ve spent many glorious afternoons hiking all over the mountains, hills, and tundra just outside of town.
To fill the time, I find myself getting involved with other programs in Nome, too. Last fall, I helped a bunch of kids at the Rec Center with a rock climbing class. Along with another instructor, I belayed the kids and taught them how to tie some knots, despite never having gone rock climbing myself. I’ve also found myself spending time at the Rec Center for its facilities, but also its great classes like yoga and kickboxing. There are classes to take at Nome’s Northwest Campus, (part of the University of Alaska system), plays and musicals to star in, open-mic nights where you can share your music, poetry, short stories, or whatever. (Still waiting for a Nome-grown standup routine.) But I’ve also found myself with plenty of time to read some good books, watch some Netflix (discs; the streaming just isn’t possible with our slow and capped internet connection), attempt to learn to play the piano (and fail miserably), and learn a few great recipes. And though the dark winter is never far away, sometimes having tons of snow has its advantages. Like having a snowball fight in July.
In short, like anywhere, Nome will have highs and lows. When it comes to filling the hours outside of the station, I’ve found that it takes some work to find the highs. But they’re usually worth it.