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Luxuries in Rural Alaska

Running water is a luxury in Eek, and many other villages of bush Alaska. 

          I’ve known many students who have the daily chore of hauling water to their home or taking the honey bucket to the dump.  The first year I taught here I lived in a classroom at the end of the school.  The school is one of the few buildings in the village that has running water.  Unfortunately, to get to the school restroom, I had to go out one door of the building and back in through another door.  I was always afraid I’d walk out some night, forgetting my keys, and freeze to death. 

          On my first Saturday morning in the village I got up very early for a walk.  Image a place with no cars and only simple dirt roads.  The quiet was only broken by the rustle of the breeze or an occasional barking dog.  As I walked through the still sleepy village, an older woman stepped from her home with a bucket and dipped it in a nearby rain barrel.  I felt like I had been transported to a different time.       

          I’m thankful that I now live in an apartment behind the school that has running water, but it is still a luxury for most of the village.  However, cell phones are common and the students are very skilled with computers, ipods and other technology.  Kids will sometimes gather in sheltered spots to connect with the school Wi-Fi.  It may be snowing, but they’re using Skype to talk with friends or updating their Facebook page.

          The embedded video is a recent creation from Tuntutuliak, a village just across the Kuskokwim River from Eek.  The video shows how students are familiar with both technology and, thanks to television, pop culture.  Just today I heard that broadband Internet will be available this week in Eek.  That just seems incredible to me.  Can running water be far behind?