We arrived in Kotzebue around 7:15 and were greeted by Dave’s boss and his family (whose daughter happened to be coming in on the same flight as us from the state Science fair). We loaded our luggage into the truck and headed out for the tour of our new town and the grocery store where Dave would be working.
In all the research that I had done before we headed here, nothing could have prepared me for what we saw. This is an isolated native village. Think indian reservation, only worse. There was more snow than I had ever seen, and buried in all that snow was so much garbage and junk. It was so ugly and I was not prepared for the visual impact.
By the time we arrived at our apartment we were exhausted and hungry and I was so overwhelmed by it all that I broke down crying. This town was ugly, there was so much snow, and on top of it all the previous tenant in our apartment must have smoked like a chimney because it stank so bad. By the time we had some dinner, found our suitcase with our bedding and collapsed into bed it was after midnight.
Tuesday we spent the morning wandering around town getting life set up. We registered the boys for school, went to the post office to get our PO Box (there is no street mail service here), the cable company, and the phone company. We also headed over to the grocery store to stock up and were in complete shock at the prices that we could not bring ourselves to buy much more than a days worth of food.
Wednesday Dave started work and the boys started school. Fortunately, that first week of school we were able to get a ride from Dave’s boss’ wife, because it was cold in the mornings. That entire first week it never got above 0 degrees and the mornings were -15 to -20 with evev lower windchills! That morning, after I walked the boys to their classes, I stopped in to chat with the principal for a few minutes, and as I was leaving she asked me if I would be looking for a job? They had an opening for a secretary for the primary grades and if I was interested I should apply. So I took the paper work and filled it out. Less than a week later I started working at the school! I love the job and it was a great opportunity to get out of our smelly apartment to meet people.
We have now been here five weeks and the initial shock has worn off. The weather has warmed up, we are now seeing highs in the mid to upper 30’s, although there have been some 40 degree days. The snow is melting very quickly; all the roads are clear of snow and now just covered in giant puddles. The new issue is that all this water has no where to go, so the city has been working overtime to pump the melted snow out onto the frozen Kotzebue sound.
We have traded our snow boots for mud boots and have quickly learned that function trumps fashion in the footwear department.
The last day of school was last Friday, and we are laughing at the irony of “summer vacation” while there is still piles of snow on the ground. I still have two weeks of work at the school and then will probably be working on projects at the district office as needed over the summer. Dave is really enjoying his job, and while it is the same industry he has always been in, it is very different from what he has experienced before. We are slowly getting over the cost of groceries, I shopped yesterday and my heart only skipped one small beat when my total bill came up to $490 for two weeks worth of groceries. The good news is there is nothing else to spend our money on; only a couple of restaurants (none of which we are brave enough to try), no Starbucks, no movie theatre. We walk everywhere, unless someone happens to be going our way. (We left both of our cars in Vancouver and Dave’s dad was able to sell one of them the week after we left. The other we are hanging on to for the time being).
The boys have adapted so well, we are truly proud of them for being so amazing in this transition. They have both made a couple of friends, and as predicted my blonde hair, blue eyed boy was quite the novelty to the third grade girls! Both boys are looking forward to VBS this week at our new church.
Our apartment smells a little better; I painted a couple of the walls that seemed to be seeping nicotine, although I could certainly use some great “smelly” stuff to help mask the lingering odor (if anyone wants to send me a small gift a candle or air freshener would be very appreciated!)
The visual “ugliness” of the village is still there, and quite possibly worse as the snow melts and unburies a long, harsh winters worth of garbage; however, I barely notice it anymore. I am starting to see beauty in the great people that I have met here!
So here we are, living 30 miles North of the Arctic Circle and it was all God’s plan.
Now, who wants to come visit?