1. It’s not for everybody. Over the last twelve school years Steve and I have seen a lot of teachers come and go. Some make it an entire year. Some don’t, and that’s okay. There’s nothing worse than someone who stays but is unhappy and grumpy about it.
2. Getting supplies isn’t as hard as you think. Four or five planes come to Brevig Mission every day, bringing cargo and mail. We order food and household goods on Amazon.com and other websites. We might have less selection and wait a little longer for them to arrive, but it’s not that bad.
3. The darkness is worse than the isolation. We get down to two hours of daylight in the winter, so I walk to school and home in the dark. Nothing affects my mood more.
4. My students dress like typical high schoolers. There might be a few more hooded sweatshirts in the mix, but they wear the same brands of jeans and athletic shoes. Also leggings. The girls are nuts for leggings.
5. My students call me Angie. Some teachers are called Mr. or Mrs., but most in our school go by their first names.
6. We have access to medical care. I got antibiotics the same day my strep throat test came back positive. Levi’s split head was stapled without us ever having to leave Brevig. Emergencies are flown (relatively) immediately to Nome or Anchorage. The biggest obstacle to good health care is weather that prevents planes from flying. Everything else can be taken care of at the local clinic.
7. There are no cars in our village. The school has a truck. Everyone else uses four-wheelers (called “hondas”) and snow machines.
8. Cell phones are everywhere. There are a couple of Alaska companies that specialize in bringing communication to rural Alaska, so even elementary students have cell phones.
9. Christmas is loads of fun. The week between Christmas and New Year’s Day is full of traditional games, races, relay races, church services, and a feast. My favorite Brevig Mission memories are of midnight at New Year’s Eve when everyone hugs each other and wishes Happy New Year.
10. People are crazy friendly. This might not be true everywhere in Alaska, but it’s been true in Shishmaref and Brevig Mission. I can’t walk through town without being mobbed with hugs and high fives. Our kids are smothered with affection. People have opened their homes and hearts to us, and we’ve tried to do the same in return.