Posted by: gmelvin | June 25, 2015

Brevig Return

Walk_IceWell, I’m back to some blogging…hopefully, for a longer time frame than just the summer. It’s nice to wake up (for once) each morning without the needs of teaching hanging over my head. Don’t get me wrong – I enjoy the work, and I wouldn’t trade it. But work can cut into spare time opportunities.

I typically take the earliest flight possible when school closes for the summer. This year…due to various reasons…I hung around for awhile. A great friend worked on my ATV just before I flew out, replacing the primary clutch that broke off my Arctic Cat. This hasn’t been my year for riding out. Various breakdowns and trial-by-error lessons on operating snow machines (and one atv) made for some frustrating hours. I now have a better idea on what to do…and what not to do…

I took off around the outskirts of the village before my flight home. Well..I actually ook off two…or three times. Give or take. The freedom to go about anywhere you want on an ATV in Alaska is something nonpareil. And it’s much cheaper than driving for a pricey theater ticket into Muskogee, OK. The sea ice just started to break up, and the white hue of the ocean had now morphed into blue. Many villagers took off hunting or cleaning seal. Many even went “egging” – an actual hunt for wild bird eggs out on the tundra floor. Various birds lay their eggs on the ground (remember – lack of trees here), and it appears to be a very popular activity. I haven’t tried it out yet, but I wouldn’t mind if I was invited by a local.

Sea_Ice_1Ice chunks along the shoreline of Grantley Harbor


Our school is in cleaning mode now. In addition, two new units are being constructed for our growing staff numbers. It’s quite likely that I’ll move into one of these single units, since my current living quarters is designed for two people (and I’m the only human being in there).


It’ll be a bit smaller than my current unit – and the only downside is that I’ll be away from some great neighbors. They are in walking distance, but for me…that’s something to consider when you think about the kind of weather we have.

I’ll be back. In Brevig.


But I won’t be alone. My family is coming with me for several weeks, and they’ll get a taste of bush Alaska. For all but one, it’ll be their first time here. I hope they get outdoors, fall in the ocean, buy life at village prices, & help me set the gill net.

Something new for this year – I’ve bought a boat from a departing teacher. It’s an 18ft long boat with a 55hp engine. With accessories. This will be a very new experience for me, as I have very little boating experience. It’s in great condition, and I’m hoping to find someone to teach me the basics. I’ve been told that, particularly around Brevig Mission, boating can be a bit of a challenge. But it is fun, and it’ll be a first.

Site for new teacher single-unit complex

Site for new teacher single-unit complex

Finally, bush villages know about the difficulty in connecting to reliable and fast internet. Many rely on satellite internet, which has its own pros and cons. Last January, we got connected to a new service provider with “Lower 48” comparable speeds. It’s Exede, and they offered a plan that allowed for unlimited internet (but it does have a soft cap at 150GB). And ever since…we streamed Netflix.

The customer agent said that, at that time, our village was the farthest north they ever reached. YouTube is no longer a problem. And at peak speeds during midnight hours, I’m able to stream 2k on my television set. I really never thought I would see this day come.

The only drawback is an occasional, & seasonal, change of dish alignment. My dish is located about 5ft off the ground, and is subject to some interference issues. Any slight change in the dish direction constitutes a signal loss. Major winds. Weather. A 5-year old hanging off the dish. It happens – we adjust.

We' a few dishes

We’ve…got a few dishes

Fortunately, the installation guy left us with instructions on how to realign the dish. Basically, it’s trial & error until you get the dish correctly pointed.

I’ll start reposting more once I return. Hopefully, nicer pics will be available. Got an iPhone 6. Take it easy.


Posted by: gmelvin | September 7, 2014

Gone With the Wind (story format)…

     A moment of indecisiveness delayed the venture that morning, but a final text quickly keyed my neurons that it was really happening. A moose hunt. Previous plans for the hunt got delayed by infrequent cancellations, but I was ready to go. My hands immediately grabbed the outdoor backpack, and I began rummaging through my supplies. I’ve never been out this far, but I was told I’d surely find a moose. Going one-way to the river was an estimated 3-4 hour trip by some. A few quoted just several hours. Supposedly, however, this river would have frequent visits by moose. To get there, we would ride across the valley beyond the three or four mountains standing just north of our village. I’ve never traveled out that far over tundra, especially on a trip that had no discernible trails. I crammed some loose food pieces, and filled several bottles of water. Tarp – yep. Knives and bags – yep. Extra food – certainly. Thirty minutes later – I was out the door.

     The Agiapuk River (some may call it the American River – correct me if I’m wrong) lies some 9-10 miles north by northeast from the village. It’s supposed to be a large stream that’s easily navigable by four-wheeler. It’s sorta like California Creek, which sits several miles west of the village, and is more of a popular trip. Before I left, I quickly looked over the weather forecast. It called for some precipitation, but not much. Southwest winds. I did a final check outside and could clearly see the mountains (even though a high overcast existed). Everything looked good.

     The teacher who accompanied me had traveled some long distances and trails this summer, and she was willing to come along for the ride and moose meat. Our first stop carried us on top on one of the small mountains just north of the village. And by small…I mean ‘very small’ with a relatively smooth top. I had frequented the trail several time before, but I never rode it last year. We paused up there, and I pointed out a large lake that would be used as our first landmark point to find the river. We were currently directly south of that lake. Once we would reach the left edge of the lake (west side), we would drive northeast until we met the river. If done correctly, we would arrive just in front of the river’s fork. Several, low lying clouds did stretch over parts of the valley below. I then looked for a particular mountain top across the valley that I would use as a second reference point when riding on the tundra. It was covered in clouds at the time, but I saw they would move away once we reached the tundra floor.

      We drove down the mountain. Five or ten minutes after passing the base, we rode by an odd looking rock graveyard of sorts. Completely natural in appearance, but completely out of place on the tundra floor. It was a conversation starter. We soon reached the left edge of the lake, and then turned to a north by northeast direction. I still could not see the mountain used as a second reference point, but several other features around the horizon easily gave me good direction. It eventually appeared. Moving on forward, we drove through a number of large blue berry and salmon berry patches. They reminded me of a promise I made earlier to go out berry picking – still need to do that. Overall, the ride was not as rough as I had expected. While it still required you to stand up on the four-wheeler during the ride, it wasn’t always necessary.

photo 4

     To our surprise, we reached the river in just over two hours after leaving Brevig. Great time. We had a brief moment of feeling like pioneers in the “old” days, following directions to a place unknown in a world without road signs or automobiles. The ride had went much smoother than anticipated, and nearly all my concerns about the trip faded away. I then maneuvered my four-wheeler between several clumps of willows off the river bank, taking a bit of care not to tip it over as the ground got frustratingly uneven.

     The river spread out wide and long, and had some of the most natural rocks I’ve ever seen. We even found several volcanic rocks on the riverbed. Fast, clear running water made the picture even better, and I took note to drink from the stream if needed (cutting a moose is quite a bit of work). I also had fun predicting the most shallow crossings for our four-wheelers. It’s simply a hobby of mine, but it’s often useful when the water is high. Looking at the flow speed, the surface appearance of the water (ripples versus smooth), flow direction, color and hue, type of gravel (or dirt) on the riverbed, the river width, noticing the patterns of small gravel bar locations as the river turned, the angle of turn, and more could tell you loads of information about what to expect when crossing the stream. But before riding downstream too far, I built a small rock marker to identify where we should return back on the tundra.

     Having the wind mostly behind us, and going downstream, made for an easy ride. About thirty minutes into the ride, my eye caught something in the distance. We stopped, and watched as three large (but indistinguishable) animals ran on the mountain side. Musk ox? They had whitish patch of hair on their backs, which would fit the animal. Also, we couldn’t quite tell if they were coming at us or away. Still not sure – I grabbed my binoculars and saw they were three bears running away from us. I just watched in amazement at the wild animals, not taking in much account that my traveling partner might want to look. Realizing that, I handed over the binoculars. We sat there for sometime, motors off and patiently making sure they were running away from us. We never saw them anymore, but our guard heightened as we rode further downstream.

     Willows make for good hiding spots. Tundra bushes varying in height from mere feet to over your head, a bear or moose can be anywhere and clearly out of sight. We kept a close eye on our surroundings. Typically, noise from our four-wheelers would alert and sometimes move any big game animal (like the bear we previously saw) – but not always. About a week before this trip, I shot a caribou upstream on California Creek. Rather than completely running from the four-wheeler noise, he instead found a willow patch and sat down (mostly out of view). Following his antlers that stood out, he was able to be taken.

      We rode for several more hours, not seeing much other than a fantastic tundra view. I did notice the weather south of us (to my right). Mountains faded into white with the rain and increasing fog – promising a wet trip very soon. Occasionally, some precipitation would catch us on the ride, but not much. So far.

     After about an hour or more riding downstream without seeing anything, we decided to stop and turn back. Next to us, a steep slope of some elongated mountain made for some interesting wind conditions. The wind speed increased, and the drizzle that followed grew a bit annoying. We took a short break, and had an interesting talk about how chocolate chip pancakes packs as a snack on a trip that we were on. My snack was a bit better – sliced spam. I hunkered down on the leeward side of my four-wheeler, fixing my gloves that I mistakenly took off. My hands were wet, and it was a long struggle before they ever got back on the hand. I then filled up my friend’s four-wheeler with extra gas that I brought along for the trip. She had a quarter of a tank, but mine had enough to move on further. Once we tied everything back down, we turned around the four-wheelers and headed upstream.

     Then out of nowhere, I caught sight of two tall objects that looked out-of-place. Their silhouette looked like an animal, and both stood on a ridge just across the stream. Not quite able to see what I was looking at, I looked through my binoculars and saw they were moose! But the moment was short lived, as it was a mother moose with her calf. In Alaska, this would be an illegal kill.

     We paused for a bit, motors off as the momma moose looked us over. She soon started to move down the hill, and the calf eagerly followed. As she continued her walk, the pace picked up a bit and we noticed she kept coming toward us. For a moment, I took pleasure in the fact that we might see a moose up close. But only for a moment…and I realized what she might be doing. I watched her brisk walk closely, and soon realized her intentions as her feet stepped in the stream just across from us. I turned around, and told my friend to “Go! Go!” – quickly using my hands to point in the opposite direction. She turned on her machine, and made a quick 180* downstream. Momma didn’t like us, and she’s about to get physical.

     I looked back at the moose, now paused as she heard the ignition of the four-wheeler engines. Noticing I still remained, she continued her pace towards me. I quickly followed my traveling partner’s path, and took off downstream. She never looked back for awhile. I did, and saw the moose unable to keep up with us. I still continued, and kept going for about a half-mile. Seeing us speeding away, the momma moose returned across the stream and started running our way along the mountainside – but on the opposing side.


     We had another teacher several years ago who got charged by a moose while picnicking in a patch of willows. He had a nice husky dog with him, but still no one heard the animal until it was on them. He shot the moose just feet before it completed her charge. The teacher then dressed the moose on the spot, but had to give away the meat since it was an emergency kill out of season.

     My hopes of finding a moose jumped after this incident. After talking it over, we decided to go further downstream to see if a male moose was nearby. We spent 30-45 minutes looking, but to no avail. The temperature was dropping, and the lingering thought of the ride back didn’t bode too well. We turned back. Our trip now took us not only upstream, but against the wind. Wind speeds were predicted today around 20mph. About ten minutes later, we got rain. My eyeglasses got both fogged up and soaked with water, making it much harder to see. Occasionally, I found my four-wheeler washed up deeper than anticipated because of this weather. My friend was still ok for moving further upstream, so we kept pushing.

     We eventually found the marker, and I was quite thankful for placing it there. We rode up the bank, and found the path taken earlier when we left the tundra. This trail was marked by our tire tracks, but I soon lost it as we pushed deeper into the tundra. Visibility significantly worsened to a mile or less, obscuring the original landmarks that were previously used. We could not see the mountains near the village, west of the village, or even the mountains we just left. Everything was white. Predicting this might happen, I did a small search of my backpack for my compass…which happened to be missing. Next backup plan. I knew the wind was coming from the southwest. In theory, and based off that forecast, we could point our four-wheelers in that direction. We would either wind up at California Creek, or hit the mountain range just north of the village. Either outcome would be acceptable, for we would have a landmark to get back to our mountain (as long the wind stays true). After passing several small large ponds, my gut feeling took a bad turn. I didn’t quite know why, but my partner mentioned that she felt we did a u-turn somewhere at one of the large ponds.  The river behind us disappeared, and soon the ground below our wheels started looking strange. The rivets on the tundra floor were out of place (more than usual), and particular random rocks or ponds would pop up that made us think if we were traveling in circles. I soon felt the wind coming from a different direction, and couldn’t quite remember where that change took place. One side of me said wind in Alaska could change at a moment’s notice; however, my experience with riding said it has rarely changed to such a degree. Furthermore, there was no weather forecast stating such a change.

     We soon fell in the pitfall of second guessing ourselves. Did we u-turn? Why is she stopping and looking around again? Why are we randomly passing trails? Or landmarks that look strangely familiar? Why is the wind blowing a different direction? We never drove over those small rocks? The pounding realization that you’re second guessing yourself does strange things to your confidence in your own abilities. And…I believe…that’s particularly the time where you need to lose that confidence. My own confidence shifted into the Lord, and remembering that I was in his hands. I may not have known where I was going at the time, but I truely know what it’s like to walk without knowing where you’re going. I wouldn’t be a teacher if that wasn’t true. I was simply concerned over what was happening and how my traveling partner was holding up.

     A couple hours later, I saw a stream in the distance and believed it to be California Creek. But as we drew closer, I could see anything but California Creek. We arrived back at the same point where we departed the river.

     I could barely believe it was the same river. I quickly drove down the bank and went searching for the rock marker I had built earlier. Surely enough – it was there. We basically made a full 360* ride in the tundra that took several hours. My partner soon traveled down the bank, and we kinda just looked at each other. The weather was much more miserable than when we initially left. Low visibility and temperature, a good wind, and rain continued to dampen our spirits. Also, our gas was low again.

     I filled her tank up, and kept a few gallons aside for when I would need it. We had to decide whether or not to try again, or wait for the weather to get better. Only problem however…it was close to seven in the evening. It would be getting dark by the time we reached the village. Also, there’s a question on if the weather would improve. We literally had just enough gas for one more shot at the village. We did a thorough search of my backpack for the compass, but couldn’t find it. We then remembered our iPhones had a compass, and we pulled them out. It was then we noticed that our compasses varied by about 180*. Eventually, the decision was made to use mine as the primary compass. I knew the direction that the river ran, and the wind direction still corresponded with the weather forecast. My iPhone played true to these directions.

     We took the same path out of the river, and this time I put my full trust in the wind. And a little in my compass. Pulling up on a flat spot just off the river bank, we pointed the four-wheelers and had the chilly wind blow directly in our faces. It was not much sooner than we found a trail that strangely looked like ours. It even pointed in the right direction – southwest and into the wind! Taking a closer look at the trail, I could tell by how the grass laid that this was our original trail (and nobody had driven over it in the opposite direction). As we rode, the trail occasionally faded and appeared about a hundred feet later. That made me somewhat thankful for the rain, for the precipitation kept the trail intact. We would occasionally stop, and check the compass to confirm both the wind direction and how each other felt about our own direction.

     As we continued, we would sometimes find other trails pointed perpendicular to our trial. I’ll never know for sure, but we assumed that it was ours when we had second guessed ourselves earlier. After about an hour though, the trail disappeared completely and we were left to the direction of the wind. The tundra did feel right at this time, but it no longer allowed for the trails to remain as easily visible as when we had left the river.

     I remember driving that tundra with my mind literally screaming that I was heading in the wrong direction. While I was still in the wind, there wasn’t anything physical that I could see or latch onto as a reference point. We continued, and drove on more that day. My partner never stopped to check directions as before. It was then that my thoughts meandered off the lessons I learned in church as a kid. There are so many spiritual growth spurts in the scenario of being lost in the middle of nowhere. It pleased me. I chuckled with the thought on how the Bible allegorized the Holy Spirit as wind, and I understood.  We were soaked. We were cold. We did not know where we were going. My teacher friend appeared a bit worried, but she was remarkable in keeping a positive attitude in the whole outing. After a couple of more hours, we hit the large lake just south of our village mountain. And boy did that feel good!

     It just faded in softly, but I could soon see several rocks jutting above the lake surface along the shoreline. I looked down at my right, and saw the length of the lake with trails running parallel. We were at the northeast point of the lake. Seeing the other trails made me believe that I finally came to the right point! Both of us quickly followed them along the shoreline. The elation was great and lasting, but I soon came to a realization that something didn’t feel quite right. The wind was not supposed to be coming from my two o’clock position – it should have been on the opposite side. That opposite side should have been my southwest point. I stopped for a moment, and looked down at the trails for something to tell me where I was at…it never came. The wind continued from the two o’clock side of my face. I then pulled out my iPhone compass, and it also read that the wind was coming from the southwest. I asked my friend on her thoughts, and explained my concerns. She also commented that correcting the turn to the wind and compass readings felt completely off track. We paused there a few more minutes, and I just made a decision: we’ll just follow the wind as before.

     The lake soon disappeared, and once again we were in the same boat of second guessing ourselves. But the wind felt right – and that was the only thought we believe upon. I noticed a trail coming up on us. It didn’t completely point southwest, but something about it just made me feel right about taking it. I signaled that we should make a turn onto that trail, and she followed. After about twenty or more minutes though, through the fog, large silhouettes of something faded into view. They were rocks – our rock graveyard! Then a few minutes later…we were at the base of the mountain that we used to come into the valley. We made it back!

     We climbed the mountains with lights on and added caution. A trail was somewhere on the other side, and we had to find it by first reaching the top. As we pressed higher, the fog got thicker and the wind speed got worse. It was still raining. But we made it to the mountain top, and paused a moment for rest. We kinda remarked on if we were on the right mountain, but neither of us really believed it. However, at that height, we were able to text a friend in the village of our whereabouts. I also filled up her four wheeler, and finally poured some in my machine. Our ride down was a bit slow – partially because we never found the trail, we could barely see fifteen feet in front of us, and it was wet. At one moment, I had to jump off my four-wheeler to bring my partner’s wheels down a steep slope.

     We made it down in one piece, but undershot the trail we needed. We had to ride the mountain side due east to find the trail, while pointing the four-wheelers a few degrees back up the mountain. The slope was grassy and shallow, so there was no chance of suddenly dropping down. The only real danger was the tundra, for the mountain slope had very uneven slopes and angles that could quickly tip over a four-wheeler. I found myself constantly looking back at my partner to check whether or not she took a particular mound well (for I had nearly tipped).

     After about 10-15 minutes of rough riding, we hit the original trail that we had taken previously to go up the mountain. Little by little, riding on that trail along the mountain side and eventually into the village, small lights started appearing in the distance. First, the airport lights. Then a few village lights, and then all of them. It was a very beautiful sight, and we rode into a village of activity that knew nothing of our ‘short’ adventure. We drove up to the teacher duplexes, and a large group of young kids playing out in the dim light asked us where we were. I can’t quite say I paid much attention to them. I looked back at the mountains we just crossed, and saw a very low overcast that allowed a partial viewing of the mountain base.

     I walked into my house that night with my cat begging for food. After feeding him, I took a long, hot shower. I sat down on my couch, and had chocolate chip pancakes, spam, and a cup of chocolate milk. Home couldn’t have been more pleasant.


Posted by: gmelvin | August 21, 2014

Closing the Summer… (Pt. 2 of 2)

Gill Net & Salmon Pt. 2

     Now, some of you may remember that I made a special tarp cover to protect the inflatable raft from being punctured by annoying flounder (if not – see below). We never got around to using it. Another solution had presented itself…just pull out the net with rope, and take it back in by using a pulley-type of system. It’s actually a popular way of using the gill net here I guess. I just never got around to doing it.

Covering Interior

     Needless to say, the use of the inflatable boat will be much smaller this season. It’ll only be used for the initial set-up and the take-down.

     One of my later pulls had an interesting catch. Crab. I never heard of anyone here catching crab before, and it was a nice surprise. Crab are actually popular in several nearby villages, like Wales or Little Diomede. However, those villages are on the tip of the peninsula near much more marine wildlife. Whales. Crab. Seal. And more. And yes – you can see Russia from your window.


This guy was still kicking in the boiling pot

     If you asked me how he tasted, let’s just say I’m glad I don’t go to Red Lobster anymore. But cracking open an animal that was definitely alive just a few hours ago wasn’t the easiest sensation. Furthermore, I wasn’t too sure what I would see once I pried his hot shell open.

      However, you now see a perfect example of why I’m thankful for other internet bloggers (specifically, those who instruct how to cook, open, clean, and eat freshly harvested crab). Using my butter knife to open the bottom shell and clean out the inner guts, I had some nice, fresh crab meat.

Unalakleet In-Service Time & Story

     For all Bering Strait School teachers, the annual in-service at the head village school of Unalakleet takes place just before the start of school. Teachers are flown (on the district dollar) from their site village to Unalakleet. We sleep in classrooms. We endure cold showers. We receive teacher training and school policy updates. And we eat real good food…

Our brave pilot for BSSD. I wonder if it's harder flying the plane during bad weather...or flying teachers during good weather

Our brave pilot for BSSD. I wonder if it’s harder flying the plane during bad weather…or flying teachers during good weather

      Aside from sleeping on blow-up mattresses or cold showers, I believe most teachers enjoy the in-service time. You have more chances to connect with other teachers – many who are friends. You get needed training that often you miss (or wish) you had during your last school year. Plus, you get a final chance to experience life out of the village with a better stocked grocery store. Local, smaller villages don’t hold much. But a 40lb weight limit when flying in and out to Unalakleet makes you second guess what you bring or take out with you. My trip out of Brevig Mission to Unalakleet came early. The SPED admin at the district office invited me to work on a couple of agenda items for other SPED teachers, and I was eager to come in a few days early. I flew out with my principal that morning, and had a chance to meet several other new teachers who arrived earlier for additional training.

     Last year’s in-service somehow brought Chuck Yeager into the school (you know…the guy who first broke the sound barrier). I still can’t fathom how or why the famous pilot visited the school during in-service, but I still remember the dumbfounded gasps of teachers in the gym as he appeared out of nowhere. This year, we had a nice visit from a local talented opera singer who currently attends UAA.



Kira Eckenweiler

IMG_1027     My flight back into Brevig took an interesting turn. Many teachers had their bags packed in the Unalakleet High School gym, and I took the chance to sit down on the bleachers to work on my mandated, online training modules. Five minutes later, I noticed part of the Brevig teacher staff had returned from the airport. It turned out bad weather forced several other teachers from another village (who were on that flight) to wait for better conditions. Thus, a number of other seats had opened for Brevig, and I was asked to take one of the opened seats.


Got a nice ride in the co-pilot’s seat on the way back to Brevig!

     About twenty miles out from my village, the pilot flashed a METAR weather report on the GPS system. The conditions read about 1/4 mile visibility with a 100ft overcast – a nice weather report that noticeably caused the pilot to consider again his options. I say ‘again’ because no good pilot would take off without having some idea of his destination’s weather. We continued. As we approached, I could see a very low overcast situated nicely over the village, but it didn’t cover much of the ocean and the coast. Our pilot circled west of the village (we approached from the southeast), and I found myself easily picking out key locations which I personally four-wheeled across while we flew anywhere between 100-150kts at an altitude of 100-200ft through thick fog. And it was all in the nice comfort zone of the co-pilot’s seat.

     Using his instruments, the pilot made a nice approach to the runway. The only issue…we were still about 50ft in the air and the runway was directly to my right. After a few nice alignment corrections on that same approach, we touched down in the middle of the runway (and by middle, I mean lengthwise of the runway). I soon heard a nice cheer from everyone behind me. We slowed down quite easily, and we had plenty of runway to spare. 

Situation Update

     A couple of days ago earlier this week, I reported that the village held a funeral for the young man lost at sea. Minutes before and on the day of the funeral, we had a similar incident involving a firearm. The effect on people here in the village is deep, and harder than what can be taken at face value. Furthermore, school is just starting. I will not say much about the incidents, but I will say that many here have taken strong initiative and leadership in bringing everyone together. And what has impressed me the most is how the senior youth (who are still in school) have pulled their peers and friends together in very creative means for safety and encouragement. I do have a new level of respect for the youth and many other villagers here, and I look forward to spending the new school year in Brevig Mission.

Posted by: gmelvin | August 17, 2014

Closing the Summer… (Pt. 1 of 2)


     Last week, I closed off the summer fishing with having prepped the boat and gill net. But if you noticed, I had quite a large boat. Since I’ve been asked how I got the boat down to the ocean…look below…

      Could I have used something else than cat litter? Yes. But I didn’t want to give any chance of something else puncturing thru the boat, and a good weight was needed so the boat wouldn’t fly off the four-wheeler when I rode down to the beach.

     We caught a good number of salmon, but the closing of the season has limited our numbers. When I first started out freezing salmon, I had trouble of keeping the fillets fresh for a good period of time. But as of last year, I started a habit of wrapping each fillet tightly in cling warp. I would place them in freezer bags that were air tight, and they typically lasted for the whole school year.

Rinsing off the blood and tiny rocks


Wrapping the salmon fillet tight in cling wrap minimizes any air touching the fillet. Air tends to ruin fresh meat when frozen for an extended period of time

I squeezed as much air as I could out of the bag and label the number of fillets. I never wrote a date because they won't last beyond the end of this school year.


In the past, we’ve been finding loose boards on the beach to fillet salmon. We had no table, and usually filleted on the ground. It was kind of a mess. This time…I wanted a fillet table. On a dry, summer day, I drove out near the lagoon and picked up good pieces of driftwood and other discarded pieces.

Driftwood used in building a fillet table

     I was lucky in finding a few particular pieces that suited my plans. It took me somewhere between 6-8 hours, but a good design finally fell thru. A teacher friend of mine recommended to have the fillet table “mobile,” meaning it didn’t have to stay out on the beach all night (and all winter & spring). It was a great insight, and I soon had the table fitted perfectly on the back of my four-wheeler.

The flat part of the fillet table detaches. It's supported by four wooden beams underneath, and four protruding nail heads on top (so the board won't flip).

     You can see a small metal bar between the flat fillet board, and the main section of the fillet table. Two beams of wood slide under that bar to hold the fillet table in place when driving to the beach. Additionally, heavy-duty tarp wrap around those two beams under the main part of the table to prevent any tearing up of the four-wheeler seat. There are some nice splinters in driftwood. The table supports three adults filleting salmon at one time. The two angle tables are measured at 15* and primarily allows blood to drift away from the salmon. The slits were glued in place to minimize blood on the flip side of filleted salmon (which theoretically was supposed to make it easier to clean).

     Sadly, it’s not the most professional. I never included a blood catch on the side edges due to time constraint (it was time pull the net…didn’t want to wait). Plus, the slits aren’t working out as well as I hoped. The salmon would slide a little when filleting. All in all – it works. It was a good learning experience, and it has made it easier to clean salmon. It’ll be a keeper.


     After a good length of time working on the gill net, we headed back. The night was a very cool one, and a low fog started drifting in from the west. Seizing an opportunity (which a teacher later called me ‘crazy’ for doing so), I took a rocky trail up the small mountain out north of the village. Below are pics of the trip…


Villagers like to stack rocks or spell out words on top of the mountain. Quite a few mosquitoes on the mountain top


A herd of musk ox had the same thought of a mountain trip. But they didn't seem too pleased when they heard the four-wheeler engine


     About ten days later, search-and-rescue found the missing villager. He was located three miles west of the village, and washed up on shore. See the KNOM Link. His funeral was held last Wednesday. However, the story didn’t end here. Something else major has happened, but strangely has not been reported yet in the news media. I’ll mention it in a later post when a news article comes online. Please have prayers for the village – there’s been major troubles come up within the past few weeks.

    The next part will be posted soon this week.

Posted by: gmelvin | July 23, 2014

Thru the Storm…

Subsistence Permit



I spent my initial week or two in Brevig with laziness – whenever it came to setting the gill net. Four-wheel rides were a bit more exciting, especially as it was partly cloudy outside. A chance I knew doesn’t always happen in Brevig. But did I set the gill net during the nice weather?


But somewhere between the 2nd and 3rd week, I did muster enough motivation to set the net. Only one issue – bad weather. Strong south winds. Rain. And waves. Lasting for a little over a week with few calm periods throughout.

Brevig Mission Weather

Almost looks like snow from winter


I thought about mailing him back for a refund

I thought about mailing him back for a refund

Right at the start of the storm, I got mail. A Sea Eagle 8 fishing boat (aka a very rugged 9ft inflatable raft). And the best part of this delivery? I got it in less than a week after being sent from Oklahoma!

USPS has a guaranteed delivery service by a ‘certain’ date. If the date is not met, you get a refund. This explains how I got the package so early. One major drawback though with this service – it’s HIGHLY expensive!! While you will surely get the package on record time, it’s always a gamble (sort of) that your package will arrive AFTER the guaranteed date…if your aims is to get the refund. If it does go past the date, however, you have a speedy delivery service at no charge. So, I decided to try the system…

I had two boxes, which were mailed out on Thursday from Oklahoma…totaling almost $300 for the service. One box (very elongated) weighed 10lbs, and the other box 40lbs. USPS guaranteed that the boxes will arrive on the following Monday. What happened?

I got the 10lb box on Monday. But the 40lb box arrived on Tuesday. Sure enough – and on the following week – I got a money order refund for the ‘late’ 40lb box valued just over $200!


InflatableLast year, my inflatable punctured due to halibut. Whenever we heaved our gill net over the side of the boat (to pull out the salmon), small needles from trapped halibut would rub too close against the boat. That’s why I had to buy a new inflatable – my last one was made irreparable due to the halibut.

Supposedly, my new inflatable will counter the halibut from puncturing the boat again. The boat is said to be puncture proof, and came with high ratings from a number of websites. In theory, problem solved.

But in Alaska, often what can go wrong…will go worse.

Before I flew back into Alaska from the Lower 48 this summer, I purchased three particular items: a tarp, a sleeping pad, and a Grommet Kit (ring fasteners). My idea is to tightly wrap a heavy duty tarp around the sleeping pad like a Christmas present, and fasten it together with the Grommet Kit rings. Once finished, this covering would be tied against one side of the inflatable boat and serve as an added protective barrier against the halibut.

The make-up of the protective covering

I do hope this idea works











So whenever we would pull the gill net over the boat side to retrieve salmon, any trapped halibut in the gill net won’t be able to puncture. The newly fabricated covering would serve as an added protective barrier. If any halibut did somehow puncture the tarp, they would also have to go through an inch-thick sleeping pad AND another layer of tarp before reaching the skin of the inflatable boat.

This should work.

I haven’t tested the covering yet due to weather conditions. Weather has been inconsistent – sometimes good, sometimes bad. Waves are too strong for the gill net, and I’ve only been able to roll out the net on the beach (on a calm day of course). We’ll see later this week when the weather is supposed to clear. Hopefully, I’ll be eating salmon soon.

Final Product

Final Product

Partially Gill Net

Rolling out the net

The gill net only took a hour and a half to roll out. For myself...that's actually fast

The gill net only took a hour and a half to roll out. For myself…that’s actually fast


The missing villager went missing during this storm

During that same week, between one of the calm moments of the recent storms, I took a couple of fishing poles out to Grantley Harbor. Hoping to catch a bit of dinner that evening, I had high hopes. On the way with my four-wheeler, I happened to stop by and visit a friend (local villager) who had given my dad and I a slab of smoked, dry salmon several years ago. His family were standing outside their fish camp, looking out over the harbor. His son had gone missing during the storm.

There are more details behind the story, but I will not write them here out of respect to the family and those involved. It’s not a very calming story. You can find some of the details on the following links below to KNOM Radio Mission’s website:

 – As Search Continues

 – Troopers Suspend Search

The next day, I joined in the village search for the missing person. I traveled both sides of the village on the four-wheeler, reaching points that I’ve never seen before or reached. I only found a large dead walrus that washed up on shore during the storm, and several moose. As of today, the missing person has not been found. I ask anyone reading this blog for prayers on the family and their son.

An army helicopter was dispatched to search for the missing villager

An army helicopter was dispatched to search for the missing villager


I didn’t really want to take a picture of the walrus – so here’s a pic of a moose that you can’t really see in the background


Well, that’s all for now folks. We have teachers coming into the village soon – some new, some current. It should be an interesting year with a few changes on the way. Hopefully, the weather will clear up for casting out the gill net.

Well...our trailers and duplexes now have fuel for the year

Our trailers and duplexes now have fuel for the year

God bless!


Posted by: gmelvin | July 10, 2014

Alaska Summer 2014

It’s hard to turn your back when you’ve left Alaska, and that’s one of the reasons I made my Lower 48 summer short. Going now into my fifth year of teaching, I left Oklahoma sooner than usual. One reason: Needing to spend some outdoor time in Brevig

But first…

Last spring, my four-wheeler gave me issues. Creeping on its own when out of gear, start-up glitches, and odd engine noises had prompted me to get it to Nome for repairs. Unfortunately, on that icy road trip last spring, the machine “gave up” somewhere at the 45 mile marker on the Nome-Teller Highway. In case this happened, another teacher rode with me in a separate four-wheeler as back up. However, the icy road did not allow any traction when I tied both four-wheelers together for towing purposes. We left the machine on the side of the road and instead drove back to the village. The broken down four-wheeler sat out the road for about 3 weeks. Thankfully, the village pastor heading into Nome picked it up for me and brought it in to an atv workshop

Once I landed in Nome last week, I taxied over to the local atv dealership to pick up my new purchase – Arctic Cat 500XT. My plan was to drive it on the 70+ mile Nome-Teller Highway, and arrive in Teller to get picked up by a local villager with his boat. Brevig Mission sits across the bay (Port Clarence) with no incoming roads; so, villagers typically arrive by boat or plane.

I waited for over an hour (with my bags) at the dealership before the manager met me, but the wait didn’t matter much. I was getting there one way or another. After a quick stop at the Nome AC store for groceries and gas, I turned out on the road.


Heading out of Nome


Long and winding road


Getting close…



First sight of Port Clarence (in the distance)


Part of the point got washed out in some storm last year


The boat which took my four-wheeler across points (somehow)

The trip took over two and a half hours. It may sound like the story ended there, but it didn’t. Around nine or ten o’clock on the evening I arrive, I realized my backpack was missing. Ever lose a Mac Air, iPad, camera, and several notebooks at once? I just did…

I think I kept a cool head about the situation (ask my neighbors if you think otherwise). I made a number of phone calls to the villager who boated me over, and I asked a number of villagers working on their gill nets at fish camps along the point. Nobody had noticed any backpack, and I started to think somebody took off with it. And I did start praying.

The next day, I made a visit to the fish camp of the villager who boated me between points. He called a relative fishing on the other side (in Teller), and asked him to look around. Sure enough, the green backpack was there – along with the entire contents. I was amazed, relieved, and blessed for answered prayers.

Couple who boated me across points - and who made the call to find my backpack!

Couple who boated me across points – and who made the call to find my backpack!

Now, I felt I can start enjoying my summer. I made a call that Monday to Papa Murphy’s, and ordered pizza from Anchorage. They offer free delivery on Bering Air, and I only had to pay shipping from Anchorage to Nome via Alaska Airlines (relatively cheap). Add a nice coupon (buy one, get one free), you’ve got a nice cheap dinner for a couple of days. Other great times in the past few days have included late night board games, and outings in the tundra in search for Quivit – or musk ox hair. Musk ox shed some of their hair in the summer, and you can occasionally find the hair (quivit) stuck in the willows or on the ground. My neighbor and I are now collecting quivit to sell in either Nome or Unalakleet. Quivit can sell for a very high price. So other than downright irritating mosquitoes (and the backpack situation) – the summer started out quite well.

Quivit blown into willows along the local lagoon

Quivit blown into willows along the local lagoon

Not much, but still great to pick up

Not much, but still great to pick up

No quivit here

No quivit here

Posted by: gmelvin | June 7, 2014

Travels in Lucca

Walkway into Lucca

One of the many entrance walkways into the walled city of Lucca, Italy

You don’t find these temperatures in Alaska.


A good train ride drains the soul of any energy to stay awake. No matter how hard I try, I cannot remain physically alert. Whether the sound of rolling wheels along the train track, or the gentle rocking back ‘n forth motion of the car? Not sure – train rides just make me sleepy.

The ride to Lucca was no different. I took the earliest train possible that Saturday so I could get a head start on sightseeing. This was the better choice, especially as the hotel (named Hotel Rex) allowed me to check-in early. They spoke English, and the breakfast being served that morning had yet to end when I arrived. My luck – breakfast it was.

Located just a few hundred feet to the right of Lucca’s train station entrance, Hotel Rex employs a very relaxed hotel staff. I recall seeing an elderly gentleman doing a few, small bits of work around the lobby. He was the manager…and I enjoyed talking with him (wish I knew Italian). I then walked into my room – which was as tight as a large closet. But it was comfortable. It happened to have a second level that held a king sized bed, along with plenty of shelving space and a small satellite television. Now, the bottom floor had a bathroom about half the size of my living room (which doesn’t say much), and a similar tv set as from the second floor. Overall, it was the best room I’ve had on the trip.

Not necessarily a comfortable staircase to climb

Bell Tower climb in Lucca – took a few breaths to make it to the top

My first objective was to get a feel of Lucca.

Lucca is a small town in Italy whose major attraction is a wall. The “original wall” that dates back to the 11th-12th century. It remains intact around the city, and tourists are allowed to ride their bikes or take slow strolls on top as they please. Lucca still adheres to original Italy traditions, and is a small enough town that I would highly recommend to anyone who wants to avoid the city. Even still, there is much to do here.

I first journeyed into the local cathedral and purchased a ticket that covered additional access to the museum and duomo. Awe-inspiring architecture and size epitomizes many churches in Renaissance Italy, and Lucca’s cathedral was no different. After the cathedral, I found the duomo. This particular duomo had an underground area that contained old stone relics and mosaics dating as far back as 2a.d. – 3a.d. But perhaps the highlight of this duomo was their bell tower. As I browsed around, I noticed a small side room without any restriction to access. So…I checked it out.

To my surprise, I found myself gazing up at an ole metal staircase whose height extended quite high into the air. Loosely speaking…I believe…someone had nailed a staircase into the old inner stonewall of the bell tower…and furthermore, welded that staircase frame-by-frame onto the support (pardon the punctuation usage). Great place for a fright flight. I took it.

This staircase ended with a 10ft metal ladder to the top – which hosted the best view in the city.

I toured the museum afterwards. I recall viewing elaborate gold clothing fixtures for priests, several plastered head sculptures of John’s head on a platter, and gold-lined priestly garments. Great artifacts. I then walked back to my room and rested for a few minutes. Next, I checked out a bicycle (free rental for those staying at Hotel Rex), and took a ride out to the Italian countryside. This was another reason for visiting Lucca. Other than biking on top of the wall, there are a number of trails outside the city that take you deep into the countryside. And the weather during the entire trip couldn’t have been any better.

Hungry for lasagne?

Hungry for lasagne?

I finished the day with a lasagna dinner and a cup of cappuccino. The restaurant is called “Old Charlie,” and is located in the Piazza dell’Anfiteatro. I didn’t do much the following day, for I had to take a train back to Florence and meet up with the group.

So, as usual, the train ride to Florence hit me like a pill of Tylenol PM. But before I finish writing, there’s one more story to tell.

Earlier, I had received general directions to the place I would stay in Florence…but it wasn’t until I arrived in Florence that I realized I forgot to look up the specific location online. Great. The place – a hostel – was located somewhere near Hotel Giorgio (but I didn’t know from which direction). I then took the risk of asking an elderly couple (who happened to be walking by) for directions to the hostel in Italian.

Fiume Serchio

I biked on a small trail that kept close to the Fiume Serchio – a flowing stream just north of Lucca

The good news – they understood my question. The bad news – I did not understand their answer. As they realized my confusion, the couple did something that I did not expect.

They pointed to the back of their car, and directed me to place my luggage inside.

They were offering a drive me to the hostel. Now to everyone reading this post, I DO NOT recommend that you repeat my next, upcoming response. I accepted their offer. I did have a gut feeling they were true to their intentions (not just because they were old); so, I placed my luggage inside and hopped into the car. In one minute, I was at the hostel. A young girl was just going inside, and had the door unlocked. She understood some English, and directed me to the check-in desk on the fourth floor. The elderly couple wouldn’t accept any compensation when I left, and drove off with the feeling of doing a good deed. When I arrived at the check-in lobby, my professor just happened to be sitting nearby on a sofa. Feeling quite relieved to see someone I knew, I immediately thanked the Lord for getting me there safely.

My trip to Lucca had ended, and now the week in Florence just started. If you would like more pictures from the Lucca side-trip, see this Facebook link.

And now for a few, unordered pictures of my time in Lucca.

Depictions of John the Baptist - I cannot think of a good reason for the re-creation of this event

Depictions of John the Baptist – I cannot think of a good reason for the re-creation of this event

Broken piece found under the duomo

Broken piece found under the duomo

View on top of the bell tower connected to Lucca's duomo

View on top of the bell tower connected to Lucca’s duomo

Posted by: gmelvin | June 6, 2014

Remember what Bilbo used to Say?

“Remember what Bilbo used to say: It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.” – JRR Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings


GroupPistoiaSuch an appropriate quote. The experience of first stepping out, especially by someone who for much of his life just kept to himself, is an experience I cannot forget. Today, I am working on a master’s degree in library and information science, and I am about to receive a small taste of global librarianship.

But before I write any further, this particular post will set itself apart by a large degree from my previous posts. I will dive more into personal, abstract thoughts…rather than concrete details of events that I’ve experienced. While this deviation is partially due to course requirements of the Italy trip, another purpose is to describe my growing thoughts over basic librarianship, and my initial reaction to working with people from other countries. I will be as brief as possible.

Libraries typify an international language medium by which expression and preservation of history, culture, and knowledge are made through both the now and ages to come. Each one has her voice…a dialect I suppose, and she can be best described as more of action than object. It’s not really what a library “is” that matters, but what the library “does.” What purpose does she serve? How does she impact both present and future? What makes her an important and irreplaceable member of the community? A library cannot be defined as simply four walls and a roof. She should instead be defined as a voice that evolves with the needs of her community. Thus, approaching now from a global perspective, the opportunity I had in Italy with meeting members from libraries all around this world proved to be a most unique and enlightening experience for how libraries live within their communities.

Forty coordinators from sixteen nations – southern, central, and eastern Europe – have traveled to the San Giorgio Library in Pistoia, Italy to discuss new ways on how to reach out with more depth into their communities. During those three days, I had awesome one-on-one conversations with people from Azerbaijan, Moldova, Armenia, Spain, and much much more! Some had moved from the U.S., while others started their American Embassy life from simply low-key articles found in local newspapers. Even the Ukraine-Russian conflict had several interesting impacts on participants (especially as representatives from Ukraine were present). I’ve established several contacts, and have received some interesting details on daily life from places across the globe.

Discussion over lunch with a coordinator from Spain.

Discussion over lunch with a coordinator from Spain

By far my first…and hopefully not the last…my interaction with an international community of the 21st Century American Spaces workshop is something I highly regard in terms of importance and potential. And by potential, I refer to the potential benefits that participants may implement thru the outcomes of this workshop. Now, while I understand that working with representatives from other nationalities is quite commonplace in today’s world, such has never been an opportunity that I thought I would have the privilege to both participate and be a part.

Some in our group were somewhat daunted to present before this congregation of international representatives. And for good reason. We are students, from America, and not many of us have experience to present or talk before large crowds. But we did know this…and as a group, I believe we presented exceptionally well before the international audience.

Part of our class syllabus requires several presentations to be given that reviewed emerging and/or common themes found in American libraries. Presentations were divided in groups of two students, and were given twice that week. The first presentation took place during the 21st Century American Spaces workshop. We had no interpreter, for the common language was English. This presentation was short, and consisted primarily of a brief review into our topics. My group topic – along with a fellow classmate – was Sensory Storytelling.

Our second presentation took a different route, even though we presented in the same library. We specifically talked in front of the library staff and interested general public. We required an interpreter. Everyone spoke Italian.

To some, I guess, it may feel somewhat strange having another speak in a different language. Such reflected my initial feelings as well…until I got up to speak. Truthfully, in all points, the talk and interpretation instead felt natural – and I cannot explain that feeling. I found that an interpreter gave me a chance to recollect my thoughts when I didn’t have to speak, and it proved easier to remain more composed and observant over the audience.

Our interpreter actually taught as an English Language Learner instructor in a university next to the library. We talked for some time afterwards during a break, but I wish I had more time to get to know both her and the audience later that day.

I believe I’ll close up rather quickly now. In closing, I would like to say that I’ve been quite blessed to get a chance and opportunity to make this visit and presentation in Pistoia, and I hope for something similar in the future. The first week of Italy effortlessly jump-started my mind into transition from the USA. The following Saturday of this week, I will leave for Lucca on a personal, short one-day vacation trip. A nice retreat.


Can you promise that I will come back?”

“No…and if you do, you will not be the same.”

~ The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012)

Opening dinner with coordinators from Azerbaijan and...I believe...Moldova

Opening dinner with coordinators from Azerbaijan and…I believe…Moldova

Group photo of 21st Century American Spaces Workshop participants

Group photo of 21st Century American Spaces Workshop participants

Posted by: gmelvin | May 25, 2014

First Italian Impressions – To Pistoia

Alitalia International Dinner

Hey – “Free” Food!!

First – a link to my Facebook Photo Album – Lucca & Pistoia

So, I’ve decided to post two separate blogs. My first will cover small oddities seen in Italy – with a tale or two about the general flow of things. My second will cover the 21st American Spaces Convention here in Pistoia. The convention is my first opportunity to work (in some degree) with the international community.

I hope to make it interesting enough for everyone to read; otherwise, I just wasted your time.

I am staying at the Resedenza d’epoca Puccini in Pistoia, Italy. They do have a Facebook web page. Obviously, this place looks the same as any other building on the street – the construction workers just wanted to make it hard for foreigners like me to find their way around town. I didn’t know where I was going for the first few days.

But before I move on, keep in mind that my descriptions below are limited in view. I’ve only visited Pistoia (and the rest of Italy) for a short amount of time. Descriptions may not be universal among all of Italy:

ImageHave you ever watched Agatha Christie’s Poirot TV series? That’s the only reason why I believe I know what the second toilet is for… In one episode of Poirot, Inspector Japp obnoxiously washes his face in something very much like the smaller toilet in this picture. It also took me awhile to figure out how to flush the thing. See the two buttons?

I know how to turn on room lights, but it’s not that simple. In essence, I had to ask someone in my group with more experience in Italy. Apparently, to save electricity, this Bed&Breakfast requires you to slip in your door key card in a small slot to bring power into the entire room. I think it’s also a safety catch. When the guest leaves the room, keys are typically taken.

Lucca, Italy

Lasgne & Cafe @ Old Charlie, Lucca, Italy

Italy is hyped on café – specifically cappuccino & espresso in small cups, on a small saucer, with a small spoon. Some will drink Americano. Some will drink regular coffee. But when it comes to the Italian’s casual breakfast, it’s cappuccino (with a pastry). No mochas. No large cups. No Starbucks. I really miss bacon, sausage, and eggs when it comes to this breakfast.

It’s not uncommon for the customer to drink the whole cup on the spot it was served – even if that spot is the counter of purchase. Even more so, I have not seen one person with a coffee cup outside. I’ve been told (please recall my limited experience) by one lady that many Italians are just as surprised on the amount of coffee Americans drink in a day. She’s always assumed it’s the physical or psychological feedback of what a person gets when holding a coffee mug.

Pistoia, Italy

Saturday morning in Pistoia, Italy

Literally, I’ve only seen one truck since I’ve been to Italy. I’m sure they’re more – but apparently not many residents have visited Oklahoma. Everyone walks, or drives a car, or rides a moped. Most vehicles here are smaller, as they have to fit through the tight streets and walking pedestrians. The cars are quite respectful in stopping before a walking pedestrian; whereas, if this was done in America, you would have someone yelling your face off!

ImageI unwittingly started Italy without a wall adapter. Big mistake. Fortunately, the library lent me one for the day to use during the conference. When I asked the library tech guy about loaning the adapter out for a week, he replied that I could keep it. Many thanks to the Biblioteca San Giorogio staff!

Pistoia, Italy

Waiting for the train to Lucca, Italy

New Italy Travelers – Be Warned!!

We arrived at the train station a few hours before our ride to Florence. Several times, small boys would run up to us and offer assistance in getting to our destination. They never asked me. While I am the only guy in the group, it proved quite burdensome for the others. Worrisome for me. The boys were quite proactive in taking the baggage and forcing help.

Something then happened that still to this moment, I have yet to figure it out. I will make this short.

We were in a small train café shop – inside the station – and I recall some guy having a sort of confrontation with the cashier. This guy quickly walked out, and I never grasped what the conversation was about.

We left the café about 15min. afterwards. As we walked out, I noticed that same guy on a nearby bench inside the station. This was nearby the shop, and in easy view of everyone inside the shop. Still not thinking much about him, we stepped outside the building and stopped in the middle of the sidewalk. I then happened to turn my head, and was somewhat surprised to see that same guy standing just outside the doorway looking at us.

I looked at him. He stared back, but didn’t move from his spot. A few in our group left for some sightseeing along the streets, and I remained with the two that stayed. Not feeling too comfortable with my back towards this guy, I informed the remaining ladies that I wanted to settle down near a concrete column attached to the train station. It was nearby, and offered me a good view of everything moving around us. No of the remaining ladies were aware my thoughts, and I hesitated to say much of anything on the belief that I might be over exaggerating the situation.

When I sat my luggage down, I leaned against the wall and exchanged another quick glance at the guy. One minute later – he walked by, gave me a hard look, and left the train station.

A few seconds later, I realized he left in the same direction as the others who went sightseeing. I couldn’t call anyone, because no one in the group had the phone. I also didn’t want to leave those that remained. But I will say I was a bit pre-occupied in thought.

There was another man near the train station that kept my attention until those who went sightseeing arrived back to us. I won’t go into details, but it was enough to keep me on alert. As a word of caution, newcomers to any foreign destination are relatively easy to spot. I can be over-thinking the whole situation, but it’s usually best to be aware of one’s surroundings.

If you want more details to the thing that happened after that guy left, just post a comment or send me a message.

Posted by: gmelvin | May 22, 2014

Getting to Italy…

Melanie Safka Album ArtFlying at an altitude of 37,000 feet – listening to “Animal Crackers” by Melanie Safka – and now writing a oddball blog about listening to “Animal Crackers” at 37,000 feet! Ever hear of Alice’s Restaurant?

What a week! Wish I could say more…but unfortunately not much for reasons of personal obligations. I can say I came down with Strep. I lost much work time on my last week of school, and it significantly dimmed my chances for a safe trip to New York.

But I made it.

It’s time now. Having been accepted in a special Global Librarianship class, I flew to Syracuse, NY for a one-week class orientation…which will be followed by two weeks of Pistoia and Florence, Italy! First international trip!

Why? My first week in Italy will involve both attending & giving presentations to librarians from all across Europe. My second week will consist of tours to the Uffizi Library, Galileo Museum and Library, Berenson Library, and more! They will be exclusive tours not available to the common tourist…


So…ever had the moment when you did something wrong, and it turned out to be the right move anyhow?? I got on the wrong flight!

All flights that morning got cancelled. Heavy fog in Nome. That meant a required work day at school – which was no problem for me. I had enough paperwork to keep me busy forever due to having strep. But that didn’t leave me with comfortable feelings for the remainder of the day.

Forecasted was bad. I called frequently that afternoon…likely nagging the Bering Air flight coordinator to the point of hatred. At 3:30, he cancelled the flight. Anyhow – predicting this could happen…I double-booked with the competing bush airline Ravn Alaska.

Here’s a tip:

–       In bush Alaska (at least in my area), you can book over the phone a flight without paying upfront. If a cancellation is likely to happen (because of potential bad weather for example), call the other bush airline just in case your original booking gets canceled. If that original booking is cancelled, simply hop on the other bush airline that you’ve booked on the phone and pay once you arrive at your destination. Be careful: Do not pay for the flight until you arrive at your destination. The reservation person will not usually ask for payment on the phone during a booking – so just don’t ask.

I was surprised Ravn Alaska landed. In the past few months, they’ve had a number of crashes. I’ve thus heard the FAA imposed a number of flight restrictions on Ravn. Thus, they’ve been avoiding our village for even the slightest amount of bad weather – which is extremely frustrating here.

But…the plane landed in the fog…and I never saw it until it was on the runway. Surprising! When they parked, I handed over my luggage and hopped on board. I then saw…I believe…a training exercise going on for IFR flight. What luck?!?

The pilots wanted to go to Shishmaref (another small village) and then return back to Brevig, dropping off the villagers traveling from Shishmaref. We took off with little turbulence, but lots of fog! When we arrived in Shishmaref, one passenger departed and a lot more got on the plane. Only we had a slight problem…that “slight” problem being “one” man without a seat in a cramped plane. We all just looked at each other.

“Which one of you is from Brevig?” shouted the pilot. Image

“I am, sir!” raising my hand.

Poking his head inside the plane from the open door, “You’re supposed to be on the second flight from Brevig.”

I kinda gritted my teeth…squirmed a little…and calmly responded that I was not told otherwise. The pilot conceded it wasn’t my fault, and stepped out to talk with the copilot. About a couple of minutes later, a villager spoke up and stated she would be more than happy to come into Brevig the following morning. Relief.

But…her heroics were short lived. The pilot soon asked everyone departing to Brevig to exit the plane. Conditions had worsened in the village, and he wouldn’t fly into it.

So I got on the wrong flight, which happened to be the only flight from Brevig to Nome that day. God really does work in mysterious ways. Nothing happened on the way to Syracuse, NY.

Now to Italy!

Older Posts »