timistravels

My job allows me to visit a lot of Alaska on a yearly basis. I wanted to capture the trips in one location!

Chevak, Alaska; pull out a map!

March 22-25, 2016

When doing superintendent searches I get to go to a lot of great places, and this adventure lead me to Chevak. I flew from Juneau to Anchorage and Anchorage to Bethel on an Alaska Air jet then took a smaller airline (Grant Air) to Chevak. Chevak is located on the north bank of the Niglikfak River, 17 miles east of Hooper Bay in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta. Chevak is a Cup’ik Alaska Native village. The original tribe is the Qissunamiut Tribe. Commercial fishing and subsistence activities are an important part of the local culture. The community is not on the road system. The landscape consists of flat tundra and there are no trees, hence when it snows there are a lot of drifts and whipping wind! However, the river and rolling hills create a beautiful village and there are mountains with trees in the distance.

Alaska Native Cup’ik’s have inhabited the region for thousands of years. Chevak is also known as New Chevak because residents inhabited another village called Chevak before 1950. “Old” Chevak, on the north bank of the Kiuqllivik River, 9 miles east of Hooper Bay, was abandoned because of flooding from high storm tides. The name Chevak refers to “a connecting slough,” on which “Old” Chevak was situated. Chevak is one of two remaining Cup’ik communities.

Fish, seal, beluga, walrus, clams, waterfowl, editable plants and berries are harvested in this maritime climate. Temperatures range from -20º (with windchill) to 79ºF, while we were there it was 23 with windchill down in the single digits.  Snowfall averages 20 inches per year. Freeze-up occurs at the end of October; breakup occurs in May or June.

I have to say the Cup’ik people are very friendly and proud of their local traditions and culture, and Chevak is said to be the friendlies village in Alaska. There are a lot of snowmobiles/snow machines AND 4 runners in town, but very few full sized vehicles.  It is a dry village and the sale, importation or distribution of alcohol is banned in the village.

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taking advantage of the strong winds that blow through Chevak.

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School District Logo

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kids are so happy and loving!

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The Pledge of Allegiance in Cup’ik

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When you enter the school there are cabinets full of traditional art!  Aren’t these beautiful?

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Unalakleet, Alaska with no snow in January

Jan 20-21, 2016

As I flew into Unalakleet my heart sank and I was so saddened to see that there was almost NO ice in the Bering Sea and there was no snow on the ground.  Over the last 7 years that I have been coming here in Jan. this is the least snow or ice I’d ever seen.  I realized that I wished those that think ‘climate change’ isn’t real could come here to see this.

I could only imagine what the locals must be experiencing and someone directed me to this article.  http://www.adn.com/article/20141116/facing-climate-change-unalakleet-will-endure.  It really talks about how the locals are affected by the climate change that is occurring in the region.

My training went wonderfully, I sang an Aleut song with the group.  We had a great time learning, dancing, singing and sharing stories.  I got to visit my friends there and spend time with their children, and you all know how I love being ‘auntie timi’ for an evening.  I love that 3 of the people who came for training brought their small children because we are there for ALL the children of Bering St. School District.  AND I LOVE that I got to see a former student of mine, Donald.  He picked me up at the airport and we got to have lunch together.  He is from here and though he went away for college, he’s back home. These are the reasons I love to visit here and why I can’t wait to return.

 

 

 

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Nome, Alaska’s and a visit to NACTEC

Jan. 13-15, 2016

January in Nome is a lot different than June J https://timistravels.wordpress.com/2015/08/07/council-alaska-and-the-last-train-to-nowhere/ but one thing that is similar is that it is bright and sunny regardless of how long the sun is in the sky. When I was in Nome in June the sunrise was at 4:40 a.m. and the sunset was at 1:20 a.m. for 20 hours of sunlight. In January the sun rose at 11:40 a.m. and set at 4:40 p.m. for 5 hours of sunlight.   The sunrises were absolutely beautiful as were the sunsets!IMG_2854IMG_7402IMG_2898IMG_2843IMG_2845IMG_2851IMG_2852

I like to take a few pictures of grocery store items just to give readers an idea how much items are in the places I visit.  Remember Nome is a ‘hub’ community so their prices are lower than the villages outside of here.

While in Nome this time I was privileged to tour the Northwest Alaska Career and Technical Center or NACTEC as it is known in the region. NACTEC is a joint venture between Bering Strait School District and Nome Public Schools. The focus of the center is vocational and life skill training for students of both districts. A major focus of the school is not only technical skills, but employability skills.

Students attend for 1, 2 or 4 week sessions. Students must apply to attend and travel to Nome for these programs. The students live on campus while they are in town and in there lies the life skills; meal prep, cleaning of common areas and rooms, laundry, time management and living with others. Many of these youth have not been out of their remote villages ever and most will be away from family for the first time.

Classes taught include:

  • Introduction to the Health Field
  • Emergency Trauma Technician
  • Health aid pre classes
  • Profession in the workplace
  • Native Arts and Business and Marketing
  • Business Entrepreneurship
  • Small Business Grant Writing
  • Facility Maintenance Introduction
  • Heavy equipment
  • Renewable energy
  • Welding
  • Arctic survival
  • Outdoor leadership/Guiding
  • Culinary Arts

Studies are indicating an increase in graduation rates that coincide with with the start of NACTEC being offered to village students.    It is a wonderful program.

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Cuba; Some final thoughts!

Cuba

Overall; Dec. 18-29, 2015

In retrospect this was a very memorable trip for a lot of different reasons. Cuba was fascinating, fun and (really) frustrating at times. Up front I know it would have been a lot less frustrating if we spoke Spanish fluently. Our most said words were; “hablo un poco español”, but by the end of the visit it had improved a lot, but those that speak Spanish will do much better. If our first night had started off better it may have eased some of the continued stress of the trip. Sadly our Cubana air flight was 5.5 hours late getting into Havana, THEN our luggage took another 2 hours to be delivered. Finally, as we cleared customs my husband’s Passport was stamped. We had been told “they never stamp Passports, only the travel visa”, well ‘they’ were wrong.  We worried a lot about this, and in the end just had to stop thinking about it.

Thankfully we had 25 Euro to pay for the cab ride to our casa because the Exchange booths at the airport had run out of money. BUT since we were so late NO ONE was at our rented apartment and at 1:30 in the morning we were not surprised but we were so tired.  Eventually a neighbor across the hall heard us knocking and came out to see what was going on. He called a woman upstairs and about 20 minutes later she came down with the key. Finally to bed by 2 a.m. It was a long day. We knew of the US embargo against Cuba (who doesn’t) but President Barack Obama’s recent efforts to restore relations with the Cuba gave us hope about our visit.   In the end it was NOT a problem to have a stamped passport, OR that we got in late, but all those things added stress when we didn’t need any!   We had a lot of highs and a I had a lot of lows, here are a few of our thoughts on the overall trip:

  • Our first 4 days in Havana it rained each day, mostly on and off and actually it cooled down the city and offered great views of waves breaking over onto the streets of Havana.
  • The food is very, very bland and there is not a lot of variety. We heard that there is a food ‘revolution’ happening, but for the most part it is chicken, pork, beef, lamb, with rice and boiled veggies. If we were lucky we got some tomatoes, cucumbers and greens on a plate before dinner. We brought some Chipotle sauce and carried it with us to use on virtually any meal!
  • There is limited wifi and you can purchase a card with a code to use it. When we saw 100’s of people with cell phones OR computers sitting in a park we realized that must be where the wifi exists. Each town had one main park/square with it available. It was 2 CUC’s for 1 hour of usage.  We were happy to find any at all as we had not expected any opportunity for communications.  It was nice to let Mom know we were safe.
  • There are 2 forms of money, the peso’s the locals use and the CUC’s that most tourists use. However, IF you can get some peso’s it costs less for you to purchase street food, pizza’s, churro’s etc. They are MUCH cheaper with peso’s. For Example: a pizza on the street might say “10 peso’s (local money) or 2 CUC’s (tourist money)”. The rate is actually 1 peso= .27 CUC meaning that it costs that the pizza for 10 peso’s would actually only be about .40 CUC’s  a lot less than 2 CUC’s. We traded some of our money for peso’s and were glad we did for a few of these opportunities. Cabs were another place we wish we had more peso’s.
  • We did eat several street side pizza’s. Usually a great breaded crust and a little bit of cheese with some sauce on the top.  They were good.
  • For the most part you will only use CUC’s but most people also accept Euro’s.
  • We met some local’s at our first rental and they helped us secure lodging for our last night in Havana. They also showed us some of the ‘ropes’ of cab rides etc. We will certainly keep in touch with them as they were very helpful and we will suggest to our friends to go through them to rent places in the future etc.
  • The locals are very nice and are very happy to see engage in conversations or at least attempt to engage in conversation with you. The locals are very helpful allowing you to use phones or call their friends to ensure you get to do what your plans dictate.  They do NOT want to talk anything about politics though our last hosts were the most vocal about it. Lionel was an engineer who spoke English, Russian and Spanish. He’d lived in Russia for a year back in the 80’s. He is a very PROUD Cuban and spoke highly of free education, free medical etc.
  • Cubana Air is known to be late, if you fly them be sure to build in an extra day between connections!
  • There are a lot of means of transportation, typical yellow cabs (we never used one), the old 1950’s taxi’s, bicycle taxi’s, pod taxi’s and horse or cow pulled carts.  Nothing is off limits.
  • Casa Particular’s are the way to go for lodging. You typically meet local people and it helps with the transitions. Everyone was more than willing to let us use their phones to call ahead to the next place to stay.
  • All men stare inappropriately at all women.  it is a tad disconcerting, and it is very cultural.  I didn’t appreciate it.
  • Most hosts will offer to make you breakfast and dinner for an additional cost. Breakfast is a great deal and starts your day off on the right foot. We never had dinner as we didn’t want to be tied to a time frame.
  • Yes there are old cars, EVERYWHERE. Most don’t have their original motors, but the car bodies are original! Some are in better shape than others.
  • We met a lot of tourists from Europe and enjoyed the company of other world travelers.  Germans, Polish, French topped the list, but there were so many languages being spoken around us it was hard to discern them.
  • I/we need to improve on my Spanish… my limited words helped a little, but most Cuban’s speak none to very little English. The younger kids are now being taught in school, but up until 10-15 years ago they learned Russian! It was fun to talk with the youth that are learning it as they really want to practice!

In the end our Cubana Air flight was on time leaving and we made our connections. Nothing I worried about happened, and we are really, really, really happy we went to see Cuba now, before KFC, McDonalds and Subway line the city streets.

FYII: Our agenda was such:

  • 4 nights in Havana
  • 3 nights in Viñales
  • 3 nights in Trinidad
  • 1 last final night in Havana before flying out the next day

 

https://timistravels.wordpress.com/2016/01/02/various-sights-in-havana-cuba-hotel-national-hamels-alley-etc/#comment-371

https://timistravels.wordpress.com/2016/01/02/vinales-cuba-my-favorite-part-of-the-country/

https://timistravels.wordpress.com/2016/01/02/trinidad-cuba-history-and-beaches/

 

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Trinidad, Cuba; History AND Beaches

Dec. 25-28, 2015; Trinidad Cuba

Trinidad was settled by the Spanish in the early 1500’s with a focus on gold and farming and later in the 1800’s it became a hub for tobacco and sugar. Though once sugar trade slowed, the town almost collapsed. Because of perseverance efforts it became a UNESCO World Heritage site in the late 1980’s. There are remnants of the early Spanish settlers in today’s Trinidad.  The first thing we noticed as we pulled into town (in our 1950’s something station wagon, packed with 9 passengers and our driver) were that the streets were narrow and most are cobblestone.IMG_2680IMG_3595IMG_2690

It is much smaller than Havana, but larger than Viñales.   Our Casa Particular was just blocks from Plaza Mayor. Surrounding the Plaza were many historic buildings, most hosting small art galleries and or stores with traditional Cuban items for sale.     We read that in 2011 there were 4 restaurants in the area and now there are 90. Most have very similar menus, but we managed to find some unique places to eat.

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We tried to buy tickets for the bus back to Havana however they were sold out. We then found a guy selling taxi rides to Havana (common) so we gave him our address and asked him for a pick up on the 28th at 8:30. All set, right? (there will be more to this story). We walked around town quite a bit and saw more of the beer carts in the local neighborhoods.

On our last day here we took the on/off bus to the beach arriving about 11:30 and staying until the 5:00 bus home. There were very few people in the water and not sure why but suspect 2 things, 1) water was dirty 2) jelly fish, we saw many folks running out of the water with big red blotches and needing vinegar to pour on the bites, hence we did not venture into the water, but the breeze felt good.  IMG_7251

The sunset our last night was beautiful and we watched it from the Plaza Mayor which was a perfect location! The Cuban music steaming from 5-7 different locations around the plaza added to the experience. Trinidad is a beautiful community full of life and history. I will remember most the cobble stone streets, the horse ‘taxi’s’ and carts and the beautiful sunsets.IMG_2766IMG_7256IMG_2747IMG_7259IMG_2768

On our departure day we were ready and on the porch of our casa by 8:15 and our ‘arranged’ taxi never showed. By 9:00 we headed over to the bus station and got accosted by folks as we walked with our backpacks asking if we needed a ride to Havana. We ultimately ended up in a comfortable 1980’s van with 9 other riders. (25CUC’s/pp), and arrived at our Havana casa about 3 p.m.IMG_2716IMG_2737IMG_3599IMG_2749

 

 

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Viñales, Cuba; My favorite part of the country

Dec. 22-25

Viñales, Cuba

For 35 CUC’s /pp we took a personal taxi to Viñales. Our driver Pepe brought his 8 year old son John Anthony with him as they were on vacation from school. It was a delightful ride and John Anthony sang “happy birthday” to me J. His English was about as good as my Spanish so instead of ‘birthday’ he said ‘baby’ which made me laugh even more!

The ride was 70% along a highway but what stood out most were all the people along the highway either 1) waiting for a bus or such or 2) holding out money hoping that a taxi might stop and pick them up. Something you’d never see in the states! There were also a number of horse drawn buggies along the roadway as well… as we learned to say “only in Cuba”.

The last 15 miles were off the highway and took us towards the community of Viñales. The landscape was rolling and green. All of the Cuban we met constantly said that Viñales is “so much natural” and we could not agree more. It was beautiful. Pepe took us right to our Casa where we met Isabel and Mario our hosts and the nicest people!

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most of the homes here are ‘casa particulars’ allowing guests to stay in one of their rooms.  The town is lined with brightly painted homes.

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horse or cattle drawn carts were everywhere on their streets

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farm country

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valleys of the area

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Pepe and his son got us here safely

Got settled in and ventured out to explore the town. Stopped for a drink and eventually dinner before going back and sitting on the porch chatting and drinking with the other family that were in our Casa, Aleksandra and her parents visiting from Warsaw, Poland. She spoke fluent Spanish and English so it helped us all communicate.

The following morning we awoke and decided to take the taxi tour ($10/pp IF you get 4 people for your car.). That is when we met Claudia and Robert from the Netherlands, a brother and sister that we ended up really enjoying spending time with. The taxi took us to 2 caves, (Indian Cave) one we got a short board ride down a river before leaving, we went to a big famous mural as well as some fancy hotel with a pool. Lastly we went to a traditional tobacco farm where we watched a guy make cigars and he gave one to Harry.   We met the ‘kids’ for dinner at the best restaurant I found in Cuba, El Olive, a Mediterranean place that had pretty darn good food!

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Mural de la Prehistoria; The snail, dinosaurs, sea monsters and humans  represent the theory of evolution.  You don’t need to pay the entry fee to see it as you can stop along the road and take a photo like this.  It is a bit of a disappointment as I thought it was prehistoric artwork!  Wrong. 

The final day we headed into the town center and stumbled upon their weekly market.  It was funny that the road was closed off for the farmers to come to town and sell their goods! There were vegetables, pigs and one of our favorite things, a beer truck.

IMG_2597We then secured our taxi to Trinidad then hired a taxi to take us to Cuevas de Santo Tomas (caves). We paid $13pp for taxi ride and $10pp for entry (You MUST have your passport to enter). Helmet and headlamp were given to each of us and we headed up a steep 200 foot climb up rocky, unstable terrain to the entry of the caves.

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Once in the caves we needed to use the headlamps because it was dark yet sadly my battery was old and the light was really weak. The route we walked in the cave was really wet and slippery, no handrails or the like to guide us or to hang onto.   It was simply not enjoyable and a bit of a disappointment. Not to mention it was HOT inside the cave, something I was not expecting. With the size of the cave we were disappointed by what we actually ‘saw’ on the tour.

In the end our time in Viñales, Cuba was delightful. We enjoyed the natural surroundings and the people. Isabel and Mario were wonderful hosts and even with the language barriers we managed to communicate. We were sad leaving them when our cab arrived on Christmas morning.

 

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Various Sights in Havana Cuba, Hotel National, Hamel’s Alley etc.

Havana, Cuba

Dec. 18-22 and Dec. 28-29, 2015

We shared the streets of this historic town with 1000’s of visitors and the 2 million permanent residents.  Havana was discovered 400 years ago by the Spanish and because of this has influence from the Spanish culture. The Spaniards built forts and a wall around the city, many of which still stand.

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La Cabana, Fort Saint Charles

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El Morro Castle

 

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The first few days there were HUGE waves coming over the wall.  Kids LOVED it.!

 

The first thing we did was visit the nearby Hotel Nacional as it was close to our Casa Particular.   We actually bumped into people we’d met the day before at the airport and flew with to Cuba. Was nice to see familiar faces.   They were from Chicago and mentioned that they had just run into Rahm Emanuel, the mayor of Chicago inside the hotel lobby.

The hotel opened its doors in 1930 as it was designed by and for American tourists only and at first no Cubans were allowed to stay there.   The Hotel is a dominant site in Havana and the tours we took passed by it several times. The view from the garden was a 180 degree view of the harbor.

We walked inside and immediately were hit by the history of the area in the lobby. There are still decorations in the Cuban style of 1930s, chandeliers, mahogany furniture and brass fixtures. There are photos of famous visitors around the hallways including Fred Astaire, Frank Sinatra, Gary Cooper and even Walt Disney.

Walking in the grounds of the Hotel Nacional de Cuba we noted more history immediately. Walking into the ground level ‘museum’ we read of the Cuban Missile Crisis, (or as they say in  Havana the October Crisis).  We continued to the underground tunnels that make a circle underneath the hotels lawn and gardens. The tunnels once housed periscopes used by Cuban intelligence in espionage efforts but never nuclear arms.   It was very interesting to walk on these grounds.

As we continued our explorations, we knew that there were 3 parts to Havana, Old Havana, Centro and Vedado.  Our casa was between the University and Habana Libre, and walked to Old Havana each day (about 1.5 miles). We would walk through Centro as we headed towards Old Havana. There is so much history in the buildings and such, however many are crumbling and falling in on themselves, so it is sad to see that the Cubans have not been able to save more of the historic architecture of the area.  IMG_7034IMG_2171IMG_2099IMG_2300

One of our favorite stops was Hamel’s Alley an alley painted by the neighborhood to tell the story of Santera, the Afro-Cuban religion.   Each time we walked through it there we musicians playing music. This was the one spot in town that I felt as if everyone expected money.

We spent our days roaming the Old Havana area full of history and the governmental center of Cuba. We walked through narrow streets and old buildings with balconies full of laundry, plants and people. Many of the home owners offer a room in their home for guests called ‘casa particulars’. They ranged from 20 to 40 CUC’s a night. (when we visited a CUC is 1/1 with the $ but there is a 10% exchange rate).

Some areas of city we enjoyed more than others, I enjoyed the San Fancisco area a lot. The Cubans are trying to renovate many of their plaza’s including Plaza Vieja, Plaza de la Catedral, Plaza de San Francisco and Plaza de Armas as well as the walking only streets: Obispo and Mercaderes both of which we walked on a LOT.

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trying to do some renovations!

We also took the ‘on /off’ open topped bus ride around the town. It was well worth the 5 CUC/pp cost. It took us outside of the downtown center and out to the suburbs of Havana. We were on it for a full 2 hours and then asked for a transfer and eventually rode it back towards our casa.

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Top of the bus!

The bus takes you through the city centre and out to the Miramar (consulate) district, to the Plaza de la Revolucion and back through other suburbs, along the Malecon and into town. We sat on the opened top level of the bus, yes we had broken seats, occasional rain showers and the exhaust fumes were as strong as you might expect, but we enjoyed the ride. JUST know that this is NOT an ‘informative’ tour. There is someone talking occasionally but the sound does not travel to the top level and it is not ‘full of information.’IMG_2193

And we did the ‘touristy’ thing of renting a 1950’s car for a one hour tour, that basically followed the same route as the on off bus, for double the cost!  It was worth it though if for nothing else, the experience.

All in all Havana will leave us with memories but happy and frustrating.  The quote in the Lonely Planet guidebook truly defined our trip:

” Timeworn but magnificent, dilapidated but dignified, fun yet maddeningly frustrating ~ Cuba is a country of indefinable magic.”

We are thrilled we saw it BEFORE it is full of KFC’s/ McDonalds/ and other typical American businesses that are sure to be there in the next few years.

 

 

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Cordova Alaska, 2012 Record snow, 2015 NO snow!

Feb. 3/4, 2015

I have visited Cordova a lot over the last few years, but it is stunning how different a few years can make.  3 years ago they were buried in snow and today there is NONE… the white stuff on the ground is frost. Here is the post from 2012 and some photos from today!  They made national news in 2012 because of the snow and the National Guard was called in to help shovel the snow off of roofs.

https://timistravels.wordpress.com/2012/01/16/cordova-alaska-during-snowpocyolypse-2012/

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Much like my last blog I am here help the board hire a superintendent, this is the information they put in their ad.  Enjoy

“Cordova is located at the southeastern end of Prince William Sound in the Gulf of Alaska. The community was built on Orca Inlet, at the base of Eyak Mountain. It lies 52 air miles southeast of Valdez and 150 miles southeast of Anchorage.  Winter temperatures are mild with average snowfall of 80 inches though this winter they have made national news with their record snowfall! Cordova has become home to those that enjoy the natural beauty of the area and for those that love the out-of-doors. Fishing, hiking, hunting, and most outdoor activities make Cordova’s unique surroundings desirable for many. Summer temperatures average from 50 to 63. Cordova is accessed by plane or boat. It is linked directly to the North Pacific Ocean shipping lanes through the Gulf of Alaska. It receives year-round barge services and State Ferry service.

 

The area has historically been home to the Alutiiq, with the addition of migrating Athabascan and Tlingit natives. Orca Inlet was originally named “Puerto Cordova” by Don Salvador Fidalgo in 1790. The town of Cordova was named in 1906 and the City was formed in 1909. Cordova became the railroad terminus and ocean shipping port for copper ore from the Kennecott Mine up the Copper River.

 

Cordova supports a large fishing fleet for Prince William Sound and several fish processing plants. Over 300 of the 2100 year-round residents hold commercial fishing permits, and nearly half of all households have someone working in commercial harvesting or processing. In the summers, Cordova doubles in population as fishermen and others flock to town for involvement with the fishing industry. Copper River red salmon, pink salmon, herring, halibut, bottom fish and other fisheries are harvested. The largest employers are Trident Processors, Cordova School District, Cordova Hospital, the City, and the Department of Transportation. The U.S. Forest Service and the U.S. Coast Guard maintain personnel in Cordova.”

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Unalakleet, Alaska~ Jan. 15-16, 2015 and NO SNOW!

Jan. 15/16

Last year I was unable to fly into Unalakleet because they had so much snow, this year, NONE.  Unalakleet is on the NW coast of the Bering Sea, just under the community of Nome.  It was a beautiful day as I flew in and the sun was setting over the community.  It was in the high 20’s low 30’s while I was there and I enjoyed a quick walk to the beach and the ability to beach comb a bit!    The Elders are worried about the continued warming of the region.  There were locals that had just gone out on a seal hunt, not normal for this time of year.

If you want to know more about Unalakleet, check out my blogs from Jan. 2012 and 2013!  Here are some pics!  The photo of me is with Donald Masters, Donald originally from Unalakleet is a former student of mine (at UAS).  He’d gone south for college but has moved back home~ and I got to see him, what a treat!

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landing in Unalakleet! Sun starting to set about 4:30!

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swinging around to the airport

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Sunset on the day I left, this is a beautiful community.

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drift wood on the beach, locals use it for fire wood

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another view looking down the beach

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long lost friends… last saw each other over 15 years ago! JOY

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Little Diomede, you CAN see Russia from this Alaska town!

Jan. 15-16, 2015

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Opik and her scoop to help grab the crabs with! (photo courtsey of Opik Ahkinga)

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this photo was taken on Little Diomede but you can see how close Big Diomede is. Big is part of Russia! (photo courtesy of Opik Ahkinga)

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Little Diomede sits in the Bering Sea just off the coast of AK near Nome.

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This is Little Diomede (photo by Opik Ahkinga)

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There is one helicopter flight in/out of Little Diomede each week, there are no planes as there is no place for a runway. This is a remote community.(photo by Opik Ahkinga)

Okay, NO I did not get to go to Little Diomede, but there was a woman at my training ( which was held at the regional office in Unalakleet https://timistravels.wordpress.com/2012/01/24/flying-wild-alaska-unalakleet-adventure-jan-16-18-2012/?preview=true&preview_id=34&preview_nonce=6a772c9321 ) that grew up there.  I felt like a reporter asking her questions about her home town!  Her name is Opik Ahkinga, Opik is her Eskimo name and the name she has always gone by.  Opik translates to “snow owl”!

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Happy Crabber Opik Ahkinga! So blessed to meet this woman! (photo courtesy of Opik Ahkinga)

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the hole made in the ice to get crab! (photo by Opik Ahkinga)

Opik spends much of her time helping her village become aware of humans environmental impact.  She shared many stories of growing up there and how for years there were ‘disposable’ items such as water bottles.  They had never seen such a thing, but once ‘western ways’ moved to Little Diomede there was a need to educate on how to remove unwanted material.

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a days catch! (photo by Opik Ahkinga)

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one by one! (photo by Opik Ahkinga)

Another interesting discussion I had with Opik was her talking about subsistence living.   She is a crabber.  She crabs by digging a hole through the ice of the Bering Sea and dropping a line with bait.  She prefers smelt, but any fish is acceptable.  She drops down about 60-80 feet but can go down as deep as 100 feet.  Opik talked about 2 main kinds of crab that she gets; Blue King which is very tasty, Blue King is fished where there is a rocky bottom.  The other is Red King, not as good as good as Blue but still yummy.  Red King is caught in more mucky bottom areas.  In the winter these crab come ‘in’ to spawn where in the fall and summer they are further off shore.

And though Blue King is so sweet and tasty, the Spiny King is the best!  Historically  these Spiny Kings were found Japan and eastern Russia.  The first time they were found in AK were off of Little Diomede in 2003.  However, by 2010 they were really showing up in the waters around St. Lawrence Island and other communities in the Bering Sea.

Opik shared other interesting stories with me including the fact that she remembers going with her Grandpa to the international date line to trade with the Russians. Big Diomede is part of Russia, though it is just miles from Little Diomede and can been seen across the Bering Sea.  The international date line separated them and they are less than 2 miles apart.  Big Diomede is actually only a Russian military base.  Both Big and Little Diomded ‘communities’ are on the west side of the islands.  She shared that her father used to go to school on Big Diomede.  Another story was that  in 1952 her uncle (mom’s brother) went out to hunt and  was found and taken by the Russians.  He was kept captive for 50 days before he was released and sent home.

There is so much history in this part of our great state and so few know anything about it.  I feel blessed to have met Opik and look forward to more conversations in the years ahead.

side note that made me smile; the mascot for Little Diomede; the “dateliners”  isn’t that cute?

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