Saturday, October 2, 2010

Taking Julia north

We have been here one week and one day. We are Mary, (me) a 27 year old housewife and mother to Julia, 6 months. My husband Dave (32 years old) is here too. Here is Sleetmute, Alaska. A native Yupik village of about 100 people. 200 miles west of Anchorage accessible only by plane. We are here because Dave is the high school teacher in the public school. 
To begin with our travels, we were summering in Stockholm, Wisconsin. Dave left us on August 11th to begin teacher inservice and shortly after, to begin school. Julia and I stayed in Stockholm until September 5th, at which point we drove to Oregon with my brother. It took us 3 nights and 4 days, and Julia was most accommodating. She took multiple 1-4 hour naps and I was able to eek more car seat compliance out of her by performing the dangle breastfeeding move that I perfected on the drive to Wisconsin at the beginning of the summer. Most uncomfortable for me, but anything for peace and quiet. Anyway, we got to Klamath Falls, Oregon where my folks live and stayed there 5 nights. During those 5 nights, Julia perfected her ability to army crawl and also sat up on her own for the first time. We left kf for Seattle, staying one night with my sister Caroline, and one night with my friend Erin. After that we headed to Dave’s dad’s house for two nights and then to Dave’s mom’s house for two nights. On the18th, Julia got her 6 month vaccines and weighed in at 20 lb 11 oz and 27.5 inches. There’s good reason I call her my punker chunker bean. 
The morning of the 20th, David sr. drove us to the airport and we navigated security. They make you feel guilty for being there. I didn’t know that in addition to removing my coat and shoes, I had to remove julia’s coat and booties too, so I got barked at for that, and then barked at since I was supposed to take my stroller to the other side of the security line. (like I would venture back there on my own!) they did let us skip standing in line and sent us on the fast track to the front with the VIP people. That was nice. So we made it through security in about 20 minutes, then got to sit around for two hours until the flight left. 

The flight was completely full, but we had an aisle seat which turned out to be a great help. Julia immediately fell asleep when we got to our seat which meant that I had to get up twice with a sleeping baby to let the other people in my aisle, but she stayed asleep through taking off, so no wailing. Soon after she woke though, chipper and ready to explore! I couldn’t fit the tray down in front of us, so I had to juggle her and the barf bag she was destroying with the bag of peanuts and the beverages the stewardesses were handing out. Soon she was no longer enthralled with the barf bag, and spent awhile leaning over my shoulder smiling at people behind us, and then demanded down! So I put her down in the aisle and picked her up again every two minutes or so to let another person walk by or to let the beverage carts go by again. This and a trip to the restroom for a diaper change kept her relatively happy until time to descend, when she took another little nap. All in all it was a very smooth little bit of travel. In Anchorage, some family friends met us and took us to Costco and Fred Meyer and to Safeway to do all our last minute shopping. This consisted of buying a cooler and Rubbermaid tote, and all the meat, dairy and produce I could stuff in them. This was necessary because while the village does have a store, it is a tiny one and an expensive one. Our dry good shopping is done in anchorage and mailed to the village, or done online via Fred Meyer’s bush Alaska portion of the website. Walmart will package and ship dry goods to you, as will SpanAlaska. But if you want produce in the bush, you are going to have to cough up some money. So what did I buy? Chicken thighs, pork loin, ground beef, a half gallon of half and half, two bags of green beans, a carton of blueberries, frozen berries, frozen corn, frozen peas, 9 red and orange bell peppers, two avocados, 10 bananas, two turnips, three parsnips, one sweet potato, and three big blocks of cheese. (Dave had purchased eggs, shelf-stable milk, more cheese, butter and carrots along with the dry goods, so I didn’t need to get those) Shopping done, we spent the night with our friends, and the next day we got ready to get on our bush flight into the village. The flight time wasn’t set until that morning, in true Alaska fashion, and we showed up on time only to be told that there’s some folks wanting a scenic tour, so would we mind coming back in a hour and a half. Nobody seemed to throw a fuss over that, so we didn’t either. We went to a quivut wool store to check things out. (from the muskox, the warmest and lightest wool anywhere, but probably the most expensive too) and got something to eat before heading back again. 

This time we loaded up properly and got underway. Julia got to wear her ear mufflers, a last minute purchase that I’m glad I made. It was really loud in the airplane. There were headphone for the adults that let us talk among ourselves, and our pilot pointed out the various glaciers, mountains, passes and crashed planes while freely giving his opinions on global warming, religion and politics. We made it to Sleetmute without crashing ourselves, and finally got to be reunited with Dave after 5 weeks of separation. No more single motherhood for me, thank you. 

I also got to meet the elementary teacher Angela, her husband Taylor, and their 17 month old daughter, Keily. As I was meeting the principal, Susan, there was a commotion on the other side of the plane. A fight had started between my landlord, Henry and one of the villagers on the plane. accusations over stolen goods were thrown and denied, and it probably would have come to a fist fight if a third villager and her baby hadn’t stepped in and yelled at them about fighting in front of her child. After it was over, and we were all kind of reeling from it, people kept telling me that it was a really unusual event, and Sleetmute isn’t normally like that. We loaded the bags and coolers into a 4 wheeler and drove about 30 seconds to our house.

 It’s small, a bedroom, a bathroom and a kitchen/living room, but it’s clean, no bugs, no mold and no rodents, so I’m content. I spent the first 4 or so days here re-arranging dave’s bachelor pad set up to suit me, and now we’ve started to get a routine:
Wake up between 715 and 830, change and dress Julia, and then she plays while I get dressed, tidy the bedroom and get myself breakfast. After all that, she nurses, and takes a morning nap. Then we go for a walk using the backpack or stroller. She often takes another nap in the mornings, and I eat lunch with or without her joining me in her high chair. We go over to see Dave at the school at 1215, when his kids have lunch, then come home and if she didn’t take a 2nd morning nap, then she gets one now. At 2 30 we bundle back up and go check the mail at the post office. We come home, and unpack whatever box came (there appears to be no rhyme or reason for when boxes come. Things I mailed two weeks before arrive intermingled with things I mailed later. Boxes I mailed together come one at a time over two weeks or more. Regular mail seems to come at the regular fast pace. For the first 5 days here we had 6 cloth diapers. I was pretty happy when the rest finally came) and then Julia plays until she needs yet another nap in the later afternoon. Dave comes home about 4, and one of us makes supper. I go over to the school to check my e-mail (haven’t got it set up in the house yet) and then the evening is filled with showers for everyone, or socializing, or watching a show on tv. That’s how our first week has played out, at any rate. 

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