There’s been a mass exodus out of Nome with travel opportunities in the programming department recently. Emily and Tara went to Elim two weeks ago while I went to Kiana this weekend.
As Tara has already mentioned, the first time I went to Elim last year I devoted an entire blog to my love for trees. My tree-hugging friends will be glad to hear that Kiana was also filled with trees, but more importantly, with people, and rivers. (Kiana means “place where three rivers meet.”)
Kiana is not your average KNOM travel destination. It’s not in our district. It was a longer flight, I took two bush planes to get there, and when I finally arrived I found everyone in a whirlwind of commotion and couldn’t bring myself to intrude on teachers rushing to print award certificates and run their classes.
I went to Kiana to attend a school & community celebration, (think “Standardized Testing is Over” party), and to gather materials for a radio spot series I run on Inupiaq dialects. I scored a free Rosetta Stone for Kobuk dialect Inupiaq from their cultural education teacher and ate fry bread covered in frosting which, if you were wondering, yes, was very fried and delicious. I’m not in the news department but I told myself maybe I could get some interviews and write a profile while I’m here, maybe I could get my feet wet as a news reporter.
That didn’t happen.
I was in the school cafeteria for maybe two minutes before a 10 year old girl walked up to me.
Hi. Who are you? What’s your name?
Where did you come from?
Why are you here?
How old are you?
You’re older than my mom!
How many kids do you have?
You don’t you have any kids? That’s weird.
Do you have a sister? I have a sister. (Calls out name)
This is my sister.
Hi. I’m her sister. Who are you?
What’s your name?
Where are you from?
How many kids do you have?
You don’t have any kids? That’s weird.
This went on for a few rounds with five other girls. A little overwhelmed, I snuck out of the school and went on a walk around town by myself.
Listening to people’s stories is my favorite part of going anywhere or doing anything. I’m not used to being on the receiving end of questions, and when I am, it makes me nervous. So I pondered why this is as I walked in circles.
People smiled and waved at me saying, “welcome to Kiana” (In a town of 360 you know who’s not one of your own). I said thank you and waved back.
So I wasn’t aggressive enough to be a reporter. Fine. I could still interview people. I did it all the time, on the air. I just had a different style. I thought, maybe you won’t leave here with a story but go easy on yourself, rejoice in the little victories of your day-to-day life, like successfully ditching a group of small children or how perfect your DJ shift was yesterday. Next time you see those kids you’ll grill them on their favorite school subjects and who they want to be when they grew up, maybe throw in some complex math questions to trip them up, show them who gets to ask the questions!
I took a deep breath and pulled out my water bottle, sitting down by a rock for a short break. A cute dog on the road saw me and approached. I played with it and pet it because I thought that was standard operation and decorum for when you see cute puppy dogs.
As I got back up and continued on my walk I peered behind me and there he was, following me. I tried losing him but he seemed to think it was a game and always turned up, excited to see me. Then another dog joined in, then another, it was like watching The Birds, but with cute puppy dogs. Then school got out and it wasn’t long before the girls hunted me down.
We walked and the questions continued. I tried to sneak in my own inquiries but they diverted my words. Their eyes said, “Sorry Miss, but you don’t get to ask the questions in this town.”
Why do you like trees so much?
What’s the capital of Liechtenstein?
Do you have an iPhone?
Do you play basketball?
Do you know how to sew?
What do you know? Do you know anything??
They walked beside me in the shape of a little mushroom cloud. They talked me into riding their child-sized Polaris snowmobile. I wondered where their parents were. They waved at a green house. Someone by the window waved back. I tried to lose them again. I ran. They ran faster. I walked towards the frozen river. They followed, always followed.
Finally, before boarding my flight out of Kiana I laughed and whispered under my breath, I hope you girls consider careers in journalism. They said I was funny, and asked me more questions.