A Trip to Bethel
Eek, the village where I teach, is out on the Yukon-Kuskokwim delta of Alaska.
The village sits on a bluff just above the river Eek. There are so many lakes, streams and ponds in this region that most are unnamed. Where there is land it is often marshy. Even in the village the ground can be spongy this time of year. That is why there are no roads that leave the village. The ground just isn’t firm enough to support a road and the vehicles that would travel on it. The one dirt road that goes the length of the village is has numerous bumps, dips and pools of water. Until freeze up, when all the rivers and streams are well frozen over, if you travel out of the village it will probably be by boat or air.
Last week all the teachers in the Lower Kuskokwim School District were called into Bethel for training. For most that meant flying by bush plane. Eight of us from Eek crammed into one small bush plane for the trip. The picture above was taken on the tarmac in Bethel as we were about to return to Eek. The scene would be typical of anywhere in the delta region, except the village runways are dirt.
Once in Bethel the school district sent a van to pick us up. Traveling in this region means learning to wait and becoming accustomed to cramped, cold conditions both in the planes and sometimes on the ground. When the luggage was loaded on the district van there was not enough room for all the people, but no one wanted to wait for the next trip. No problem, we kept squeezing. We’re all friends. That is me in the brown coat.
You know that space between a van seat and the wall of the vehicle, you can fit someone there, and I have photographic proof. It does take a special kind of teacher to work out here, but we all arrived at the district training in one piece and in good humor.