So I’m back and have been back for a while. Of course I had difficulty actually sitting down to write about my experience right afterward because I was not only exhausted, but overwhelmed with work almost immediately. So the night before I left Jordan had texted me because there was a bad storm heading to Anchorage and possibly to Nome. There was a question of us ever getting out of Nome to go to Stebbins to begin with. Of course things went smoothly though. The flight to Nome was pretty awesome. I could see Mount McKinley from my window. Nome was different. It was smaller than I had imagined and because of the rain it was grey and much like a Michigan winter. Ray (our supervisor) picked us up from the airport and let me tell you smallest airport ever. There is one terminal and one gate. There isn’t a rotating thing for luggage, it’s just pushed through a flap. We got a chance to see Nome including the behavioral health clinic and gold drudges. Then it was time for our flight to Stebbins. I seriously thought I would have problems on the small plane, but it wasn’t bad. It hurt my ears horribly though, and Jordan had the same issue.
Now Stebbins. It’s on St. Michael’s island and made of volcanic rock. The runway is gravel, and there isn’t an airport. People met our flight, and someone took our luggage on a four wheeler to the health clinic for us. I don’t know what I was expecting, but it wasn’t that. For some reason I wasn’t expecting houses. Now don’t get me wrong. I wasn’t expecting igloos, but I guess I was expecting a more communal way of living versus families set up just like mine. Anyway, the houses all looked the same, and were small. The village is basically one or two roads made of volcanic rocks. Nobody really drives cars, there maybe are two in the village. Everyone has a four wheeler though. People were friendly probably because we were with Ray and he is like a celebrity there. I felt really conspicuous though being the only white person there besides the teachers. Not to mention I felt a little overdressed and let me remind you I travel in sweats. Of course they were lululemon and I had my new coat and boots.
Anyway, Ray forgot to arrange a place for us to sleep, so the first few hours were spent hunting people down to find a place for us. We ended up at the teen center with a woman who also was just getting in. She was there for headstart and comes to the village about once a year. Can we say obnoxious!?!?!! She had no social skills at all. She immediately offended me and Jordan and wouldn’t leave us alone to unpack. Jordan was awesome though, I was missing Jason and he let me use his phone to call him (yeah no Verizon cell service there). It really helped having Jordan there because he has been in a long distance relationship and was very supportive and understood the feelings. Anyway, the first night we slept on cots. The teens and kids were banging on the windows and screaming open up it’s the government. Of course Sarah had warned us about this, so I was expecting it. Plus earlier and the day we had heard stories of how the teens had blown up the supplies used to build sewers and equipment to get the town running water. It’s funny that they destroyed the things that would have gotten them running water and a flushing toilet. Oh yes they use honey buckets still. Anyway, the first night was miserably cold, so Jordan and I packed up our stuff and decided to opt for the floor of the health clinic rather than sleep in the cold teen building with the obnoxious know it all.
The first full day was spent kind of just hanging out in the morning. The village seems to go on their own time, and nobody seems to get out of their house before 10 or 11. Later that day we helped Ray with a mental competency assessment. This meant visiting a home. I can’t say much about that because of client confidentiality. I can say that seeing what some people are living in was eye opening. I would feel trapped if that was my daily life. The smell was so strong, and I am surprised I didn’t get nauseous. The person we assessed was so sweet though, and Ray was amazing with her. My heart broke hearing her story, and the abuse she is suffering from family members and possible abuse from people in her family who are in authority in the village. Nobody will go against that person. Basically in the village they have very little of what we use in modern day cities for entertainment. No malls, movies, gyms, etc. They have bingo every night, and a small store with junk food. I bought frozen veggies there and it cost me 10 bucks for the bag. When I heated them up they were a muted grey green. No wonder everyone fills up on sugar and frozen pizza.
Jordan and I spent a lot of time hiking. We climbed a volcano twice, walked along the beach, through the village. Basically we saw what we could. The jail is so small, and often when someone is psychotic they have to be locked in one of these sparse cells because there is no other place to hold them and they have to wait till someone can bring a plane in and get them to Nome, and from there they have to be transported to anchorage. We did get a chance to see the native dancers and drummers. They were very welcoming, and that was amazing to see. Its sad more children aren’t getting into their customs anymore. It was also heartbreaking to hear how children are often taken away from their homes and sent away because of the abuse they are experiencing at home. The woman at headstart was also rude and demonstrated why these people are totally against white people. She wanted to diagnose all the children with ADHD um no. They’re kids. They have energy they want to play.
We left the village and flew back to Nome on Monday. I left saying I’m glad they make us do this as part of the internship, but I definitely don’t see myself practicing in a village. It’s so isolating. It wouldn’t work well for me at all. Ray enjoys being by himself and it would drive me nuts. We got Thursday to catch up with Sarah and Jason who are the intern stationed in Nome, and then we were supposed to catch a flight back to anchorage. I was so ready for my own bed and to have my phone back even though Jordan let me talk to Jason every night. We got through security and then they announced our flight was canceled. I almost broke down right there. They really scared me by saying the next day’s flight was booked, but they ended up bringing a full flight up for us the next day instead of half cargo. Since Ray turns his cell phone off Sarah had to go check out a company car and pick us up at the airport. We dropped our stuff at her house and then drove the car back and walked back. I definitely cried. I just was so tired, but honestly it was awesome being able to talk with Sarah and learn more about her. It’s been a while since our camping trip. It was amazing of her to let us stay at her place too.
Finally Friday we got home, and I went straight to the gym and then had a phone date with Jason. Seriously though I was exhausted for a week after that. I had my MOVE groups starting this week and so much to do given I am the one leading and supervising the master’s students. Plus of course millions of normal clinical activities. The sun doesn’t come up now to almost 9 am and is down around 6 pm. That’s making me tired too.
I did go to my first Alaska Aces hockey game and had a lot of fun. Met some new people too who seem awesome. My MOVE group went well yesterday, and now I’m starting to feel a little less busy although I still am booked all week in the clinic. I just have this weekend and then the next weekend Jason will be here, so something to look forward to! I hope everyone is well!
pavel and i boarding the small plane
coming into stebbins
pavel with a volcanic rock
me and pavel exploring the island
pavel with some weird fungus
pavel and i on top of the volcano
pavel and i on the volcano
me hiking with jordan and stebbins in the background
beach in a parka?
pavel and i on the beach
leaving stebbins, the lake is the volcano and nobody has found the bottom
Nome the end of the iditarod!