At various points this summer, I thought about not coming back to Nunap.
I enjoyed being comfortable in sandals and shorts. The hills and trees provided a much-needed break from the monotony of the flat tundra. I loved having places to go, things to do, and people to see. Driving my car was a joy; the ability to go anywhere, whenever I wanted, a huge freedom.
But I gave my word that I’d be back for the school year, and I was raised to keep my promises. So I spent a day packing up my life and once more boarded a series of planes to return to southern Alaska.
My first taste of the village hit me in Anchorage. As I taped up a tote, a voice behind me said, “Look, you can wait with CJ while I go get the rest of the boxes!” I turned to see Jenny and her daughter Lil’ A standing behind me with a full luggage cart. For a miracle, Lil’ A smiled at me and let me scoop her up in a hug, and did indeed stay with me while Jenny retrieved the rest of the boxes from the car. I wound up staying with them all the way to the gate, and even sitting with them on the flight to the Hub. We parted ways there; they got a ride back to Nunap on a boat, while I was scheduled to take one of the commercial bush flights. Two hours later, I reached the school dock at the village and began hauling my luggage to my new home.
One of the advantages of working in a place like this is that after only one year, I have enough seniority to grab one of the single-teacher houses. It’s more of an apartment, really; two converted classrooms in the old school building, commonly called the Kindergarten Building because that classroom is still located here. The building also has two of these apartments, the teacher workout room, and storage space. Another advantage: The building has Internet! No more hanging out at the school at all hours!
Anyway, my good friends Lucas and Andy live in the other apartment in the building. They greeted me with a hug and a handshake and informed me that dinner was at their place at 5; the restaurant was actually open and having a sale. I pulled out my keys as I approached my own front door. Taking a deep breath, I unlocked the place and stepped inside. All of my things still sat where I’d left them, which was a relief; there’ve been problems in the past with teachers’ things getting moved or taken while they aren’t there. The last occupant had clearly just given up when it came to packing. I found pens, pencils, clothing, various non-perishable food items, and dishes soaking in the sink. I knew the place needed a serious cleaning, but at the moment I just wanted a rest. After a quick trip to the post office and store, I went to Lucas and Andy’s place and did just that. Kelly also came over; the four of us had a great time getting caught up after not seeing one another for two months. I was a little unnerved that Mick joined us for dinner, but he didn’t make any more transphobic “jokes”, so all went well. Actually, he, Kelly, and Andy all came back to my apartment afterwards to start with the cleaning process; over the next couple of hours we vacuumed, scrubbed, and got rid of LOTS of garbage.
I spent all day yesterday on a cleaning, unpacking, and organizing crusade. Lucas and Andy graciously lent a hand in moving furniture so that the kitchen/living/dining area could be vacuumed and mopped. I even found about $10 in change and loose bills! Last night, I once again had dinner with Andy and Kelly. We were joined by Aly, one of the many new teachers this year. She’ll be teaching fourth grade, which means she has my kids from last year and will be in the classroom across the hall. It’s funny; talking with her I can hear myself at the same point last year. She seems cool, and I look forward to getting to know her better.
Teachers have in-service starting on Monday, and the kids start on Thursday. In the meantime, I’ve still got to finish getting my apartment set up, and there’s berry-picking this afternoon. One thing’s for certain: This year will be another adventure. Welcome back!