With the dawn of a new year upon us, I have been reflecting upon being halfway through my volunteer year here at KNOM. I came across this little diary entry recently and thought it summed up my arrival to rainy Nome, Alaska quite well! What an adventure it has been so far. I’ve grown so much here in just these past few months. I can’t wait to see what’s ahead. Until then, enjoy this entry from August 4th, 2012.
After an extended layover in Anchorage due to what was apparently a considerable amount of rain in Kotzebue and Nome, I have finally made it to my destination. While I was fine perusing the shops in the Ted Stevens airport, a more restless man encouraged an airline employee to talk to his mother on his cell phone as Mom apparently claimed that the weather was clear and fine. Later, another man said he was phoning Kotzebue so his aunt could also confirm that our plane was clear to land. Apparently weather in Alaska is maintained by a complex matriarchy of keen relatives.
Auntie and Mom must’ve been looking out of the wrong window because it was nothing but rain and fog once we lifted out of Anchorage. The leg of my trip that took me to Kotzebue was delightfully tense. As our stewardess began explaining the safety features of the 737 we were on, which by the way I always pay attention to only due to the fear that for some reason the flight attendant will take it personally if I don’t, our seats were pointed out as having floatation devices under them. This bit of information was quickly followed up with “Oh, I’m sorry, not this plane, no. I apologize, it is pretty late.” I never learned from our sleepy stewardess if there were indeed flotation devices or not. I guess that in the event of a water landing it really isn’t any of my business anyways. She also mentioned in that same spiel that we’d be flying at an altitude of 37 feet which, if I’m not mistaken, was incorrect.
We might as well have been flying at 37 feet when I first saw Kotzebue through the fog. I have heard it called the most interesting landing experience you can endure on a commercial flight in my travel books about Alaska. Just as you think that the pilot has gone rogue and is going to skip the plane like a smooth rock onto the shore, you land on a piece of runway that at first glance looks like a residential driveway of only moderate length. Just as you breathe a sigh of relief that you reached the landing without said rock-skipping, you realize that the plane is once more drawing near the other end of the isthmus. At this point, I closed my eyes which must have evoked some kind of protective magic because I disembarked the plane via the stairs and not the life raft.
I arrived in Nome to a warm welcome from KNOM volunteers and staff members with the radio station’s banner in hand. It was great to see so many of the friendly faces that I interviewed with months ago as well as new folks whom I will be working alongside. As if landing in Nome wasn’t surreal enough, when I got into the station vehicle to make it to my new home, we listened to the very radio station that I will soon be on. After what felt like a few days of sleeping beside drink machines in airports across the US, none of the wires in my head were connecting about actually starting the experience I have been waiting months for.
After some much needed sleep I am a little more aware of what has transpired though much of it still doesn’t seem real. While I can acknowledge my shift in geography, it is the part about working for the radio station that I can’t wrap my head around. I can’t wait to begin my training on Monday. I just hope that I can show some semblance of capability once I get to work.
The current volunteers, who will be leaving within the next few weeks leaving the house clear for myself and four brand new folks, have been very accommodating in showing me around Nome. I got an excellent guided tour yesterday from Matthew who not only is a station volunteer but a pretty active community member and a volunteer EMT for the city. I got to see all of the important stuff – Town Hall, the Post Office, and of course, KNOM.
Matthew mentioned I needed to meet Velvet Eyes. As we walked up to a trailer with Christmas lights strung in and around the fence, I couldn’t help but wonder if he was leading me to the town clairvoyant. But alas, Velvet was little more than a reindeer with a trailer all to herself. I’m not saying she can’t read the future just because she’s a reindeer. She just seemed preoccupied with a corn cob and discarded arugula.
To end the night, I was taken to what is probably the most conventional eatery here (including the very bizarre Subway) for pizza. A $22 pizza, some live music from a community member, and a few yawns later I was pretty ready to pass out from 23 1/2 hours of traveling.
I put my night of welcomed rest to good use today to get some of the touristy picture taking and sight seeing out of the way. When I stopped by the visitors center to grab a map the attendant joked that she could provide me with a number of maps and brochures but really, “all that you need are none”.
Well I’d keep posting photos but I am starting to feel like one of those people who invites you over to show you their Hawaii vacation slides from fifteen years ago. So until next time…