Saturday, November 17, 2012

A Lasting Impression

Farewell My Beloved Readers,

The news is true, this is my last post on my blog but before I begin my reflection on my time here, there were some interesting events from the past two days.  On Thursday, I did not have a presentation to give so I spent the morning preparing for the long voyage home.  While I was doing this, I got a text message from the girl who works at the front desk at Ilisagvik, asking me if I wanted to try on a traditional parka.  I accepted, of course, and met her by the front desk. 
When she brought in the parka, I was impressed by its size and design.  It was a beautiful piece of clothing that was super warm as I wore it around.  I was sweating profusely in the five minutes I was wore it but it was unbelievably comfortable.  I can understand why people can walk around when it is -40 below with that thing on.  I was later invited by this girl to go for a ride on her four-wheeler, which was quite the experience. 
We went right after she finished work and she had to pick up her boyfriend, who was a total jerk by the way, before we could go riding.  When we got the thing out of her garage, she took me for a ride to show me how it was supposed to be driven.  However, when it was my turn, I failed miserably.  I constantly pressed the throttle way too quickly and we jerked back and forth for about fifty feet.  I didn't even try to shift gears because that probably would have destroyed the vehicle.  Not only was I laughably bad at driving this thing, it was also freezing outside.  I drove for about four hundred feet and by the time I finished, my legs were about ready to fall off.  I survived the experience and can say I drove a four-wheeler on the tundra, so beat that Captain America!
Today, we had two presentations to give at the alternative high school in Barrow and I must be honest, there was little enthusiasm from both sides.  I really wanted the presentation to be over as quickly as possible because none of the students showed any real interest.  I was glad we were able to finish the presentation and get to relax for our final hours without anything to do expect for pack.  Speaking of packing, I have barely started and I'm not looking forward to the rest of this process.  Before we leave tomorrow, I'm going over to someone's house to watch my beloved UCLA Bruins destroy the weak Trojans of USC in their annual football match and after that I'll be very much ready to go.

Alas, my time for reflection has come.  There are few words to describe the time I have had here in Alaska.  I have seen so much, learned an exponential amount about myself and nursing, and have gained a great deal of confidence in my abilities as a nurse.  As I was looking back at what I had done during this six week period, I kept coming back to the overwhelming feeling of gratitude.  I am so fortunate in so many ways to have come up for my nursing education.  It is quite simply amazing that as a nursing student, I was able to go to remote villages and provide essential care to the children of these villages.  I feel so fortunate to have been able to go into schools and give multiple presentations to students who otherwise never would have seen nor heard about what I presented on. 
I cannot explain what it feels like to know I will be back in Minnesota after what has seemed far longer than six weeks.  In a sense, I feel like I have been in Barrow for many years and have seen myself age with slow grace.  Time flows by slowly in Barrow and what seems like a year is really only a month.  I have become so used to the flow of Barrow that I will have a difficult time readjusting to the ordinary pace of Minnesota and Gustavus.  There have been many moments that I wish I could reexperience because I know I will never have such opportunities again.  Oddly, I am sad about leaving even though I know it is time to go.  Barrow is such a unique city that when I do return to Minnesota, I will not be able to forget the scenery or people of this city very easily.
I have had such an amazing time in Alaska that long after this trip is done, I will look back at the many memories I have of this place in complete wonder.  I was a witness to two beautiful births and even got to hold a baby in my hands immediately following labor.  I won't forget the connection the infant and I had as a nurse was suctioning his mouth.  Even if it was for just a moment, our eyes met and there was a strange bond between us that forever be part of our lives.  Of course, the baby will not remember me but that day in Fairbanks will long be one of my cherised memories of not only Alaska but my nursing education. 
In the end, I would like to thank all those who made this trip possible.  My professors Barb and Lynnea, the International Education Office, Ilisagvik College, the North Slope Community Health Department, Fairbanks Memorial Hospital, and the many wonderful individuals I have met here. I could simply have not been able to come here without their help.  My gratitude towards these people is endless.
 I end with a quote from one of my favorite movies, Titanic.  It comes from one of the greatest film characters of all time, Jack Dawson. 
I love waking up in the morning not knowing what’s gonna happen or, who I’m gonna meet, where I’m gonna wind up. Just the other night I was sleeping under a bridge and now here I am on the grandest ship in the world having champagne with you fine people. I figure life’s a gift and I don’t intend on wasting it. You don’t know what hand you’re gonna get dealt next. You learn to take life as it comes at you… to make each day count.
For me, I came to Alaska not knowing what was going to happen or who I was going to meet but knew I didn't intend on wasting the experience.  Each day in Alaska was so different than the last and I believe I made each day count. 
Thank you all so much for reading and to all my Minnesota friends, I'll be seeing you soon!!!

No longer Alaskan Cristian

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Time to Teach!

Hello Readers,

Well, the end of this journey is finally near but I still have stories to tell.  On Monday and Wednesday, Aly and I did several presentations at Barrow High School and Eben Hobson Elementary and Middle School, which is in Barrow as well. On  Monday, we only taught for about half an hour in the high school's library but I enjoyed it.  Wednesday was a much different story but I'll get to that later.
For our presentation at the high school, we talked about health careers, particularly nursing.  We showed up to BHS about twenty minutes before our presentation and set up in the beautiful school library.  We didn't have many students come to the presentation but those who did were fairly interested.  I'm not going to lie, I could have done a much better job of preparing for the presentation but I believe I got my message across.  There were five students who came and all expect one wanted to be a nurse.  I really enjoyed talking about nursing and what are the best parts of it are, in my opinion.  Aly did a great job of covering the parts I did not delve into and she explained things very well.  I was glad she was there to back me up.
Our trip to the middle school on Wednesday was much different.  We had to be there at 8 in the morning, which sucked because I have gone to bed around 1 or 1:30am every day since I've been in Barrow.  I don't know why I'm doing this to myself but I literally can't get myself to lie down on my bed before that time.  Anyway, we arrived at the school and brought in our needed teaching materials.  The plan for the day was to give six seperate presentations to six different classes, all of which had different age groups.  I gave presentations to sixth through eighth grade students and I could tell the maturity difference in these grades as well as their ability to pay attention.
My first class, I gave a presentation on community health and they really enjoyed what I had to say. I tried to involve as many students as I could and I also tried to make as many jokes as I could.  I can't say if the latter was very successful.  Some of the students were more involved than others but in general, whenever I had a question for them, mutliple students wanted to answer it.
For my next presentation, I talked to the students about blood pressure and taught them how to take it on their peers.  I did a really good job of keeping a fun and easy going mentality throughout and the students really enjoyed that.  I had them all laughing on several occasions, which was really nice to see.  However, the best part was how excited they all were to take blood pressure.  Some of the students couldn't wait to get out of their chairs to grab a blood pressure cuff and pump it up on their friends.  The only problem was that I had one stethoscope for a class of about twelve students and by the time the teacher got more, it was the end of their class period. 
My next presentation was about nutrition and the benefits of a healthy lifestyle.  I gave it to a small class of sixth graders, who were mildly interested in what I had to say.  I didn't get through the entire presentation because I only had half an hour to talk about the many aspects of nutrition but I hit the basics.  I tried to ask as many questions as possible and in general, most of the students wanted to answer them.  This presentation was not very interactive and I kind of felt bad towards the end but I believe the students did learn something yesterday.
The next class I had reminded me so much of myself when I was an eighth grader.  They were highly disruptive, annoying, and had very little interest in anything other than being annoying.  It's amazing really how eighth graders are amongst the most annoying people in the world and I feel sorry for all of the middle school teachers who had me has their student.  I gave a presentation on hand washing and disease prevention.  I tried to see what the students' hygiene practices were but when I asked who washes their hands on a regular basis, all of them did.  I hope none of them were lying but if that were true I was impressed.
 I did a little activity with the students so that they could see the effect of handwashing.  There is a substance called glow germ that shows the amount of germs on your hands under a black light.  The class was very excited to do this but a majority of them had highlighter all over their hands, which completely messed up the process.  Instead of seeing germs on their hands, all they saw were whatever they highlighted.  It completely ruined the experience for me because I wanted to see how good glow germ was at exposing germs. 
For next two classes I taught blood pressure again and it went really well.  Both of the classes were highly interactive and enjoyed taking blood pressures on each other.  I loved seeing the expressions on the student's faces when they first heard the Korotkoff sounds.  It was almost priceless.  I really believe I got a large portion of these students to be interested in a health career and I'm proud of myself because of that.  It was a fun experience to see these kids have their first knack at an important part of a nurse's job. 
In general, I had a great time this week teaching the students about various topics.  It was fun to see the interest in most of the students when it came to any of the topics I taught about.  I also highly enjoyed working with this age group.  Although they can be annoying at times, students at this age group are so interactive it can be a lot of fun.  I have one more presentation to do at the alternative high school tomorrow and that's about it for my time here in Barrow.  I hope those students will be excited and interested in what we have to teach.
Anyway, Barrow is starting to get really, really cold.  The ocean is starting to freeze, which only means even more cold.  It is also getting even windier here and that is by far the worst part of the climate.  To make matters worse, the amount of sun I see everyday is getting less and less.  It doesn't get bright till about noon and by the time you are used to seeing the sun, it starts to go down.  The average amount of daylight is around three hours and rapidly decreasing each day.  We are super lucky to leave on Saturday because Sunday is when the sun goes down and doesn't come back up until January.  I can call myself lucky. 
I can't believe I have only two days left here in Barrow but it is finally happening.  I will write more about it tomorrow so check in on this blog tomorrow evening unless you have better things to do!  Thanks for reading!!!

Alaskan Cristian

Monday, November 12, 2012

A Welcomed Visitor

 but Hello Readers!

The final week of my Alaskan voyage is now upon me and it is nearly time to reflect on all that I have done here but before I can do that I have a few stories to tell.  This past Wednesday, our Public Health professor, Lynnea, came up to Barrow to visit us and check in on how we were doing.  To say seeing her was greatly appreciated by both Aly and I is an understatement.  We were both very eager to see a familiar face that could give us the latest news on our sorely missed classmates and I must say, some of the stories were scandalous!  Can't believe you did that during clinical, Laura!
Anyway, around eight thirty on Wednesday night Lynnea safely arrived in Barrow and took the short ride over to Ilisagvik College.  I almost forgot how tall Lynnea was when I first saw her as she was getting her room key from the residential advisor.  One of the first things she told us was that she came bearing gifts from our classmates.  I was super excited to see what she meant by that as well as to see if my classmates really missed me. 
When we got into Lynnea's room, she brought out a giant bag of candy and letters made from our classmates.  There were multiple letters for both Aly and I, which made me miss everyone even more.  I did not immediately read all of them but when I did get the chance, I couldn't stop laughing.  While we were sifting our letters, we all began talking about Minnesota, Gustavus, and whatever else came into our minds.  At one point, Aly and Lynnea started to talk about shoes, which meant shutdown mode for me.  Lynnea tried to get me back into the conversation but I was already past the point of no return. 
The next day, Lynnea wanted to take pictures of the ocean and other semi-interesting things that surround the college.  We walked around outside for about ten minutes and we were all completely frozen by the end of it.  However, Lynnea did get some great pictures!  Once we done with this, Aly and I went into town with Lynnea to show her the tourist destinations of the city.  We first took her to AC, which is the supermarket in Barrow, to show her the ridiculous prices that can be found there.  She was just as appalled with the outrageousness as I was when I first saw the prices at AC.
Following this, we went over to Inupiat Heritage Center to get a dose of culture.  The museum had a fantastic exhibition on whale hunting, which did a great job of telling the story of those who are whalers in the North Slope.  However, that was the extent of the museum other than some taxidermied birds.
The museum is connected to the library and we happened to walk in after our time in the Heritage Center.  The library in Barrow is amazing and a place I highly recommend to anyone who will be coming to this city.  We planned on coming the next day to work on whatever we needed to get done and check out the extensive selection of magazines, books, and DVDs the library had. 
On Friday, we had a very mediocre lunch at the cafeteria and returned to the library at 3 in the afternoon.   I was hoping to get some papers done on Google Docs while I was at the library but the internet was either painfully slow or did not work at all.  It was incredibly frustrating and I spent the rest of the time reading a book about the hunt for Osama bin Laden and an interesting article about a hacktivist.  In general, I enjoyed my time at the library and I will be returning there for the next several days to study. 
After the library, Lynnea was being very generous and decided to treat us with a meal at Brower's Cafe.  This was greatly appreciated by both Aly and I, for we can barely handle the food at the cafeteria anymore.  It just so happened that as we walked into Brower's, they were playing one of my all tme favorite movies, Predator, on the gigantic tv they have in their resturant.  We arrived just as Arnold said one of the all-time great movie quotes, "Get to the Chopper!!!".  From that point on, Lynnea and Aly were going to have a difficult time getting my attention during dinner as this battle of Alien and Human played before my very eyes.  Following dinner, we returned to Ilisagvik to rest our weary heads and prepare for whatever would take place the next day.
Saturday was not as eventful but we managed to go to the gift shop in town and checked out what they had.  Amelia, Ellen, Saskia, and Coco, I found all of you some sweet Christams presents, so prepare yourself for the awesomeness.  I had a lot of fun checking out the various odd items this place had and managed to find something for myself as well.  We returned to Ilisagvik with with bags full of goodies as well as hungry from our shopping adventure.  Lynnea was once again in the generous mood and bought a large pizza from one of the few pizza joints in Barrow.  It was decent pizza but way too much food and we were unable to finish the entire thing amongst the three of us. 
Sunday was a mixed day because neither Aly or I wanted Lynnea to leave.  We went to Pastor Morrow's church service, which was our last as well.  I can't believe that this Sunday was the last one I will spend in Barrow, the time has oddly gone by very quickly.  At the end of the service, we had a short chat with the pastor and thanked him for everything that he had done for us.  He told us that he would meet us at the airport on Saturday to say goodbye, which was really nice of him.  Following church, we returned to Ilisagvik and prepared to say our goodbyes to Lynnea. We went with her to the airport and wished her a safe flight.  As I am writing this, Lynnea is probably on some uncomfortable red eye flight back to Minnesota.  I hope you're having fun, Lynnea!
These past four days went by way too fast for me and I was generally sad to see Lynnea go.  It was so nice to see my professor outside of the classroom and get to know her better as a person.  The conversations between the three of us were great and it was so funny to see what Lynnea was interested in.  Her music choices were not what I would have expected and I had a great time discussing this with her.  I also loved talking about the different television shows we liked and who were our favorite comics. 
In general, these past four days were amongst the best I've had here.  I was so happy that Lynnea had the opportunity to come up here and visit us.  It also made me miss my classmates even more.  I hope all of you are getting along without me! 
Well, I'm really tired and it is super late here in Alaska so I'm not sure why I'm still up.  This week Aly and I will be giving presentations to the schools in Barrow, which should be fun!  But before I can do that I must go to sleep.  Thanks for reading!

Alaskan Cristian

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

We're going on a bear hunt!

Hello Readers!

Sorry for the very late entry but I was glued to my computer all day following the elections and had no time to write about Alaska.  Well, since the last time I was here I enjoyed a very nice trip to Kaktovik, Alaska.  Kaktovik is about twenty to thirty miles from the Canadian border and just at the edge of the Brooks Mountain Range.  It is also on a small island which makes it even more remote than any of the other villages in the North Slope.
The reason we went to Kaktovik was to help with the public health nurses with a health fair that was taking place at the school.  It was open to anyone in the community and there were representatives from the police, fire, community health department, and Ilisagvik College.  The people who ran the fair had prizes to raffle away to entice people to come and attend.  I had the lucky job of taking people's blood pressures and BMIs.  I am not the best at manual blood pressures so it was very good practice for me.
The first thing I noticed about Kaktovik when we flew in was the ocean.  Unlike in Barrow, it was frozen.  This was something I had never seen before and a fascinating view from the plane.  I also immediately noticed the mountains in the background.  It was nice to see mountains instead of the  flatness that I see here in Barrow.  Unlike it Atqasuk, the airport in Kaktovik had a hangar but that was it. 
The second I stepped out of the plane, I felt an immediate ten to fifthteen degree drop in the temperatures.  It was freezing outside and the wind made it even more unbearable.  I had such a hard time walking outside the entire time I was in Kaktovik that it actually hurt to be outside.  For all you Minnesotans reading this, imagine the coldest day in January you can remember and that is what it felt like. 
When we arrived to the school, we immediately set up for the health fair and ate sandwiches provided by the Borough for lunch.  The sandwiches had more turkey than bread and it became exhausting to finish at one point but don't worry Saskia, I did consume it all.  We sat around for about an hour waiting for people to show up and I walked around to see the individual booths that were at the health fair.  Once people did begin to trickle in, I had a hard time getting them to sit down and have their blood pressuer taken but for the first five people that did come, I did a really good job!  I am not the best at manual blood pressures and there were several people that I had to redo because I just could not get an accurate number but in general I believe this skill of mine is getting better.
The kids who came to the health fair were a lot of fun and I had some of them laughing and playing with me.  There were spongy orange balls given away at one of the booths and some of the kids were playing basketball with them so I decided to join.  I had some of the kids try and shoot over me without getting blocked but most were unsuccessful.  There was one kid who had no luck when trying to shoot over me but kept trying.  I admired his never give up attitude but I also enjoyed my blocking skills. 
When I first started with taking blood pressures, almost no kid wanted me to do it but after they saw I was not a scary monster but someone who wanted to play with them, they changed their minds.  After awhile, some of the kids wanted to check my blood pressure.  This attracted a huge crowd of kids and I had at least five kids wanting to take my blood pressure.  It was actually a lot of fun seeing the enthusiasm of these kids and was a willing subject for their first try at doing a manual blood pressure.  However, one of the kids pumped it up way too high and actually really hurt arm but it was a success for both parties. 
As the health fair was drawing to a close, Bertand was going to take a group of us on a polar bear hunt in Kaktovik.  The village of Kaktovik is home to a very large population of polar bears and this was probably my best chance at seeing a nanuq (polar bear in Inupiaq).  We went over to the airport, where according to Bertand a majority of them hangout.  We drove all over to see if there was any to been seen but alas, there were no furry, cuddly bears. 
After our unsuccessful bear hunt, we waited for our plane to come and pick us up.  While we waited, Bertand and I walked around to look at the stars and the very faint Northern Lights.  The night was perfect for the Northern Lights.  Usually, it is cloudy at night and blowing snowing is the only thing one can see once the sun sets but that night was beautiful.  I saw so many stars that night but my dream of seeing the Northern Lights again was slightly dented but I'll take what I saw and bring it with me as a cherised memory.
Well, the rest of the week is quiet expect for the fact that Lynnea will be here later today!!! I'm excited to see my professor as she is someone I can talk to about school, nursing, and life in general.  I am also interested to see her outside of the classroom and clinical experience to see how all three of us interact without school as the main focus of our lives.  I'll keep all of you updated how that goes plus nursing friends have fun at the pizza party without me!  Jeannie since I can't be there, try and save me some or else you have to bring me to Dairy Queen so I can get free food again.  Have fun and be safe everyone and thanks for voting!

Alaskan Cristian

Sunday, November 4, 2012

When are you going to come back?


I know it has been quite the break from me writing in my blog but I had good reason.  I was in a little village for the past week without any internet so I believe I can be excused.  Anyway, about this village I went to. 
Long before I arrived in Alaska, I knew I would be traveling to a remote village somewhere near Barrow.  I did not know what village or where they heck I would be spending a full week doing God knows what.  Three weeks before I came to Alaska, I was notified by Barb Zust that during the week of Oct 29th, I would be working with a public health nurse in the little village of Atqasuk.  Initially, I was super excited but the more I looked into Atqasuk, the less I could figure out what my feelings were towards this expedition.
Atqasuk is a small native village that was incorporated in 1982 after many years of being a gathering spot for hunters and fishers. It is situated along the banks of the Meade River and has a population of about 260 people. The population of this village is almost entirely Native Alaskan and the only non-Native Alaskans in Atqausk are those who work at the school. 
First of all, I couldn't even pronounce the village's name.  To me, Atqasuk was an impossible word for my brain to even try to say but a couple days before I left, I finally was able to manage this simple task.  Another part about my trip to Atqasuk that had me nervous was what life was going to be like there.  I couldn't wrap my head around how people live in small communities seperated by hundreds of miles of tundra and survive.  To be honest, I was expecting something crazy but what I actually experienced was one of the most rewarding weeks of my nursing education. 
In the days before I left, I was packing and calling the people who were helping me for my trip.  I would be going to Atqasuk with a public health nurse named Bertand and that was about all I knew about him.  I called him two days before and let him know who I was and asked him questions about what I should bring along to the village.  He seemed like a fairly nice man but I wouldn't really know until Monday morning. 
My flight to Atqasuk was supposed to leave at 8:15 in the morning but the night before Bertand called me saying that we were going to take the afternoon flight because he had just returned from vacation.  This was a great relief to me and meant I got to sleep in, which is really nice up here because if you wake up around seven you think it is still one in the morning because of how dark it is.
Bertand picked me up at Ilisagvik at 11:45 and we headed over to the airport.  The airline we took is called Era and it is the only form of transportation from village to village in Alaska.  They fly all over the state in very small planes and carry cargo to the outlying villages. 
After we had checked in, I talked to Bertand about his career as a nurse and why he was in Barrow.  When he was 19, he joined the Army and worked in hospitals around the country that served veterans.  He later went onto working in Europe for the military and left just before the invasion of Afghanistan.  He told me he worked all over the country but enjoyed working as a public health nurse in the remoteness of northern Alaska. 
When our pilot was ready to go, he called everyone's name that was supposed to be on the flight and led us to plane outside.  The second I saw the plane, I freaked out.  It was the smallest plane I had ever seen and could not believe I was about to fly in that thing.  When I was getting into the plane, I had to bend over so as to not hit my head against it.  To make matters worse, Bertand told me to sit up front directly behind the pilot to check it out.  I normally don't have a problem flying but this time was much different. 
Once we took off, we flew over the Arctic Ocean, which was not cool.  That body of water was the last thing a nervous flier wanted to see but we were quickly flying over the tundra again.  To be honest, seeing the tundra from the air made it seem so much more peaceful and not as immense.  There is a beauty to the tundra that I did not think was possible.  Anyway, throughout the flight my nerves were not calming down and at one point there was a large beeping noise that came from the cockpit that one only hears in movies as the plane is about to crash with all the passengers dying in a massive fireball.  However, there were no problems during the flight and we safely landed in Atqasuk.
When we got off the plane, I could feel an immediate drop in the temperature and snow was flying into my face from all directions.  To make matters worse, no one from the health clinic bothered to pick us up but we luckily got a ride from a very nice couple. 
The health clinic in Atqasuk has one dental room, one emergency room, another room for checkups, and a room for the public health nurse.  There are also living quarters for those who work in Atqasuk for the health clinic and that was where I stayed for the week.  Initially, I thought I would have to sleep on the floor but they had comfortable beds for us and a large shower.  We weren't the only people staying there at the time but we managed to get our own beds.  The two other people were health aides and their job is crazy.
A health aide in Alaska essentially means you are providing any basic medical care that a patient needs when they come into the clinic.  In all of the villages in the North Slope, there is a health clinic that has at least one staffed health aide that is on call 24/7.  If a person in one of these villages needs emergency care for a heart attack, the health aide is the one to deliver this care.  If a mother needs to give birth and was unable to go to Fairbanks or Anchorage to deliver, the health aide is the person who delivers the baby.  It's unbelievable the amount of responsibilty these people have and the burn out rate among these individuals is very high.  Alaska is the only state that has this kind of medically care because of the shortage of primary care physicans and nurses in this state.  I have the utmost respect for these people and I could not imagine doing that for a living.
After a short day of giving immunizations at the clinic, Bertand and I had dinner in the living quarters and relaxed for an hour or two.  He took me over to the community center in Atqasuk to meet the people of this village and to experience their way of life.  The community center has a bingo room for anyone who was interested in that and a large room for the kids to play in.  The night we came in, the people who worked for the community center were making a four square court.  I love that game and quickly participated in it once they finished with the court. 
Of course, I dominated but that's besides the point.  What I did love was how interested all the kids were in me.  I was attacked by five six-year olds and was asked numerous questions about who I was.  The all loved asking me silly questions and enjoyed making fun of me.  I had so much fun that night and it was obvious that I was going to enjoy my time in Atqasuk. 
The next day, Bertand and I traveled over to the school to conduct a school wide TB test on all of the children and teachers.  TB is quite prevalent in Alaska and this test was one of the main reasons for Bertand's visit to the village.  Of course, there were kids who cried when they got their shots but a majority didn't mind and actually enjoyed the experience.  I got really good practice with PPD shots and managed to make only one kid cry during the process.  I would call that a success.
I also enjoyed seeing all of the kids I saw from the night before.  They clearly remembered me and once again made relentless fun of me.  I ate lunch with the kindergartners and had them all laughing.  It was so nice to see these little kids with smile on their faces and not having a care in the world.  These kids and their positive energy were my favorite part of the entire experience and I already miss them all so much. 
On Wednesday, Bertand and I gave immunizations to the children of Atqasuk and asked their parents about how their children were doing in school.  Generally speaking, most of the children were up to date on their immunizations and the parents had no problem with allowing their children to get flu shots or the HPV vaccination.  There was also a Halloween fair at the school that day, which I got to attend and it was a lot of fun.  The school hosted a costume contest for all the villagers and the babies that were dressed up were unbelievably cute. 
The next day, Bertand and I returned to the school to get the results of the TB tests and thankfully, there were no positive reactions to the shots.  This process did not take very long and we had to wait for an hour to get the results from the afternoon kindergarten class.  While we waited, we played basketball game with the fourth graders, which was so much fun.  I dominated all of them and showed the village kids how the game of basketball was meant to be played.  It did help that I was a solid foot taller than all of them but still, none of them could stop me. 
After the game, we had lunch with the morning kindergarten class, where I had them all singing their ABCs to me.  They were so cute and I had them all laughing again.  At one point during lunch, a girl wanted to play tag with me and started running from me the second I would get up from the table.  This quickly turned into me chasing about 15 little kids around the gym, which then turned into 15 little kids chasing me around the gym.  Once they manage to catch me, they attacked like a swarm of bees and were on top of me in seconds.  I could throw one kid off of me but one would quickly take their place and I was quickly struggling for air.  Luckily, Bertand became their center of attention and he had to fend off a gang of determined five year olds. 
When we had finished running for our lives and checked the afternoon class we returned to the health clinic and gave about twelve more flu shots.  Bertand allowed me to give a majority of these, which was excellent practice for me.  There was a blizzard the last day I was and it was actually quite scary.  I had never seen an Arctic storm before but it was really bad.  The wind was well below zero and snow was coming from every direction.  It was painful to be outside and I had to walk two kids home from the health clinic following their flu shots. It was terrible five minute excursion and to make matters worse, one of the girls wanted me to carry them all the way home.  I'm glad we didn't have our return flight that day because all of the flights were cancelled in the North Slope Borough because of the weather.  The next morning, Bertand and I left Atqasuk and luckily for us, the weather calmed down.  The flight was relatively simple but we had a layover in a village before we headed back to Barrow. 

For me, this past week was the best experience I have had so far in Alaska.  Everything about Atqasuk was so much different than anything I had ever experienced, it was amazing.  Life in a village is so much slower and relaxing.  People there are really welcoming and happy to see a stranger.  I felt so at ease in Atqasuk because of their way of life.  I was never looked at differently because of who I was and people were actually happy to meet a new comer to their village.  The kids especially were excited to meet this new and strange looking guy.
They were by far my favorite part of the entire week.  It took them only a couple of minutes for them to warm up to me and loved seeing me after that.  They loved playing tag, going for piggy back rides, and laughing.  I miss them all so much and hope they don't forget me any time soon because I know I certainly won't.  At one point, one of the kids asked me when I was going to come back to Atqasuk.  I quickly replied by saying I didn't think I would be back anytime soon but the more I thought about it, the happier I became with the thought of returning to Atqasuk.
I had an amazing time in an amazing place.  When my plane was leaving Friday morning, I kept thinking about how fortunate I was to be in Atqasuk and how sad I was for leaving.  Maybe one day I will return, maybe I won't but what I do know is that Atqasuk changed the way saw life and the little things that make it special. 

Alaskan Cristian

Monday, October 29, 2012

The Village

Hello Friends!

Hope you all had a glorious weekend and managed to stay warm during a cold weekend, from what I've heard.  The temperatures in Barrow are finally starting to drop, which took forever according to the locals here.  Never fear readers, I'll keep myself warmer than a pig in a blanket.  Anyway, today I'm going to Atqasuk, Alaska for four days and this will be my last post until Friday.  However, when I do return I hope to have a very special story or stories to tell.
This weekend was modest but enjoyable.  Aly and I finally got away from Ilisagvik College for the first time since we got here so that was beautiful.  I had been meaning to go into town for the past few days but never managed to do so.  There was a volleyball tournament at the high school, which seemed like a perfect way to meet some new people. 
When we got there, Delta High School and Eivlgeik High School were about to start playing.  Being in that gym and watching those girls play volleyball made me miss high school sports so much.  It brought back so many memories of me dominating every team I went up against and never losing my cool in the heat of the moment.  Both of those past statements are a bit of a stretch but I was a killer placekicker for my high school's football team for the one year I was on it. 
Both teams were not very good especially Delta.  I wanted to go out there and help them hit the ball over the net.  Seriously, I couldn't count how many times those girls hit the net on a serve.  As my sisters and brother painfully know, my serve in volleyball is almost too hard to handle.  I know I could have destroyed out there but then again I am 23 years old and a guy.  However, I want the Delta High School girls volleyball team to know they have a nemsis in me.  I challenge you, Delta High School girls volleyball to match and don't be surprised when I win!
After the game, there was about a twenty minute break before the next one and I decided to go buy something for myself in town and to get out and see Barrow.  I didn't bring my gloves or hat with me and it was super windy on Saturday.  I was out for about ten minutes and froze but I got what I needed.  Aly and I stayed for another game and headed back to Ilisagvik.  The rest of the night consisted of me watching college football and finishing up my community assessment papers.  One part was glorious, the other not so much.
On Sunday, Aly and I went to Pastor Morrow's church service.  It was a nice service with some great hymnals.  The gospel reading at this church is first read in Inupiaq and then in English.  Pastor Morrow tried to do both but someone who obviously spoke Inupiaq stopped him less than half way through and finished it for him.  Inupiaq is a crazy language and hearing someone breeze through words that are over twenty letters long is unbelievable.  I thought Pastor Morrow was doing a fine job in Inupiaq but when this lady took over, I was blown away.
The rest of my Sunday consisted of me studying for my next OB test and getting ready for my trip to Atqasuk.  I'll be going with an RN named Bertand, who seems really cool.  I feel like we are going to mesh really well.  I'll be giving immunizations and taking people's blood pressure, under Bertand's supervision.  I wouldn't want to risk his license for a mistake I made!  I'm very excited to see what village life is like in Alaska.  Atqasuk is home to about 250 people and is 70 miles south of  Barrow.  I have no idea what to expect but I'm prepared for anything.  I'm bringing a lot of ready made food with me and it's taking up so much space in my luggage. 
Well, readers, I'll be gone for a few days but don't worry all will be perfectly normal when I return on Friday.  Until then, thank you for reading and have a good week without me Gustavus (I'm not sure that is possible)!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Haunted House

Hello Everyone!!!

Sorry for the long absence!  There honestly hasn't been much for me to write about these past couple of days so I decided to wait a few before I wrote my next post.  Well, to say one thing, my time here has been slow.  Not because I want it to be or because it's any one's fault but that's just how life flows by here in Barrow.  For the past three days, I have not left Ilisagvik College other than to go to the beach.  However, those walks along the beaches are so beautiful I just wish I could share them with someone.
My time here at Ilisagvik has been interesting and I have tried to meet as many people I can.  Through the many interactions I have had here with students, employees, or professors, I have met individuals who are really interested in their future as well as the community of Barrow.  It has been an intriguing step back to see students who are just starting their collegiate career and to hear about their futures.  For many, school wasn't their first option immediately out of high school but later on decided they wanted to make a better life for themselves.  The courage some of these students is honorable and their lives are so similar yet different from mine.  It is hard to explain but I enjoy being around ambitious people who don't have the means or connections other people have.  Their way of life and how they grew up is some much different than from what I have been used to that in a way they make me want to work even harder to succeed.  I will really miss Ilisagvik even though life here can be quite boring at times.
On Tuesday, Aly and I met Merri, who is the Allied Health coordinator here in Barrow.  She is the person who is helping set up all of our presentations at the schools in Barrow.  I am super excited to teach middle and high school kids about healthy lifestyles and health careers.  I love being a nursing student and if I could convince even one kid in my audience to want to become a nurse, I would feel like my task was complete.  Of course, my Public Health professor might not think that if I do a terrible job of conveying my message but hey it's worth a try. 
As I have said before, I have gone to the beach to walk along the Arctic Ocean and it's been such a peaceful experience.  There were only two other people on the beach when I went out and there was nothing for miles in either direction.  No polar bears out there either because that is a legitimate concern for beach goers.  Don't worry Muti, I'm always on the lookout!  I've always gone up to the water to feek how cold it is and the verdict; cold.  I won't be swimming in the Arctic anytime soon! 
One of my goals while I am here in Barrow is to see as much wildlife as possible.  I've been lucky so far and saw a snowy owl perched on a telephone pole.  It was such a beautiful bird and I was close enough to it at the time that I got to take a couple of pictures of it.  The other two animals I want to get a glimpse of before I leave are the Arctic Fox and a Polar Bear.  It just so happened that I got to see an Arctic Fox today!  At the time of when I saw it, I was working on my community assessment project and was having a difficult time trying to complete it.  I clearly wasn't focused on writing several pages but I was grinding away.  All of sudden, someone in the room I was in looked out the window and got very excited by something that was outside.  I quickly got up to see what the commotion was all about and saw an Arctic Fox!  It was a tiny little thing that had black eyes and a complete white coat.  It was the cutest little animal I had ever seen.  I sprinted back to my room and grabbed my camera. 
When I came back, the little fox was gone but someone had told me it had gone to the other side of the building.  I ran over to that part, went outside, and waited for it to pop out again.  The fox was actually quite hard to find because of its coat but when I did see it, I tried to get as close as I could to take pictures.  I got several great shots of the fox and walked back towards the entrance.  There were two guys waiting at the door, looking at the fox as well and bewilder by what I had done.  One of them told me I was lucky it wasn't rabid or else it would have sprinted at me and bit me, "as hard as a little pit bull".  I was glad it didn't or else I would have been in major trouble.  The two gentlemen clearly knew I wasn't from Barrow and asked what I was doing here in town.  I told them who I was and what I was up here for.  They seemed intrigued and said goodbye to me as shook their heads at this crazy visitor.
Tonight, I participated in the Ilisagvik College's Haunted House, which was a lot of fun.  I played the part of dead body being experimented on by a crazy doctor.  As the doctor was pretended to cut me up, I would jump up and scare the passer bys.  It was so funny to see the reactions of some of the people who came to the Haunted House.  There were little kids crying, teenagers screaming, and grown women screaming at the top of their lungs.  Not only that, but I got to meet a lot of really cool people who were also helping out with the Haunted House.  This college may be small but it isn't lacking in diversity.  There is another Haunted House tomorrow and I probably will help out again. 
On Monday, I'll be going to the small village of Atqasuk, which is south of Barrow, to help a public health nurse with immunizations.  I am really excited about this and can't wait to see what life is like in an Alaskan village.  Thank you for reading and I'll try not to have such a long break again!

Alaskan Cristian

Here is a picture of the Arctic Fox!