Helloooo from Akutan!

Kristine and I had an absolutely perfect flight on the Penair Grumman Goose from Unalaska to Akutan.  It was so smooth that Kristine’s window didn’t even get wet in the water landing.  Pilot Steve Hakala is one of the best anyways.  I told Kristine that I really didn’t know that many people in Akutan, but it seems that everyone we saw, I knew!  April came to meet our plane, (Akutan- Village Life on the Rocks for you blog followers) then got us checked into our rooms at the Akutan Bayview Hotel.  Dimitri Tcheripanioff brought our bags and equipment on a 4 wheeler which was very much appreciated.

An absolutely beautiful day for flying.
An absolutely beautiful day for flying.

We invited folks to come to our workspace, provided by the Akutan Corporation at the Bayview, and we were happy to get 2 people signed up for sessions.  Hugh Pelkey came in first and spent 40 minutes talking with me about his life, with 2 amazing stories of survival.  His descriptions of the events, as well as his discriptions of life in general, were vivid.  We hosted Hugh’s bother Darryl Pelkey later in the evening.  His story took us from Akutan, to the West coast of Washington, and back again, leaving us with a clear understanding of his appreciation of life in the Aleutians, and how you can make a difference in the lives of those living around you.

Looking across the bay.

Our morning started with a trip outside to look at the calm beginnings of a new day.  Yikes!  Another gorgeous day.   Our first session was a conversation with Mayor Joe Bereskin.  Joe talked with me about Akutan and the importance of becoming involved to make where you live the best it can be for it’s residents.  We touched on topics of politics, fisheries, hydro power, geothermal power, education, and the absolute beauty of Akutan’s boardwalks!!

Brand new City Hall and some of the boardwalk.
Brand new City Hall and some of the boardwalk.

Several of our conversationalists were unable to attend, so Kristine and I took a walk to the Trident plant.  Oh my goodness.  That trek was long and had a bit of mud involved!  We hadn’t really planned on the trek, so we didn’t have our brochures with us.  We had to come all the way back to town, eat our scrumptuous soup dinner and trek all the way back with our brochures in the hopes of getting some folks from the plant to participate tomorrow.  Kristine and I were amazed that the Penair Goose made six trips today!

We are eagerly awaiting April’s and her husband’s conversation tomorrow morning.  CB, if you are reading the blogs while you are on vacation, just know that April is enjoying some sea salt caramels from Unalaska!!!


StoryCorps Unalaska Hoping for Akutan

In the hopes of making it to Akutan next week for some StoryCorps sessions, I have changed my header to the mode of transportation that will be ours for the trip.  Everyone who flies around the Aleutians knows the Grumman Goose.  It is the plane to take when runways are in short supply. 

The photo is courtesy of Alaska Airlines pilot Burke Mees, who spent more than a few years piloting the Goose for Peninsula Airways.  Burke continues to maintain his ties with Unalaska as he still comes out to do check rides with the other Goose pilots.  And he comes to Unalaska for vacations!

My husband, Caleb, is an airframe and powerplant mechanic, and he had a love-hate relationship with the Goose.   I like the Grumman Goose so much that we  got married in it.  It was April 5, 1997.  Hopefully flying on April 6, 2009 will bring the same good luck for Kristine and I and StoryCorps! 

In the terminal with our kids.
In the terminal with our kids.
Pilot Burke Mees telling me that we can do a fast quick ceremony at 2 PM, or he can do the Akutan run first, then we can take our time getting married!
Pilot Burke Mees telling me that we can have a fast quick ceremony at 2 PM, or he can do the Akutan run first, then we can take our time getting married!
We are all on board - except Laresa.
We are all on board - except Laresa.

Laresa had never flown in the goose before.  She got on, and she got off!

Getting ready.
Getting ready.
Magistrate Kate Nixon had to pretty much yell the vows.
Magistrate Kate Nixon had to pretty much yell the vows.

Yes, the engines are extremely loud.  It felt pretty funny shouting, “I do!!!!!!”

Alena, Scott, Burke, Caleb, Sharon, Hope, and Mike.
Alena, Scott, Burke, Caleb, Sharon, Hope, and Mike.

Freezing our butt’s off on the tarmac for the after shot.  We then adjourned to the aerology building – now the WWII Museum – for our reception. 

Kristine and I are going to have so much fun!  April, hope you are ready for your 40 minute conversation!  Only audio, no video.  A couple of snapshots for posterity.  See you soon.

StoryCorps Unalaska Update

 StoryCorps Unalaska is quickly approaching the point of no return.  April 30th will be our last recording day.  This evening  Kristine and I recorded our 72nd Unalaska story.  Woo hoo!!!  We are getting so close to our goal of 105 stories.  We have booked slots up and actually only have about 25 slots available for booking. 

Kristine and I have gone all philosophical during breaks while waiting for folks who have forgotten their appointments  (isn’t that a nice way of putting it?).   We have decided that although we have always appreciated the people in Unalaska, we have been priviledged to get to see factions to their personalities that sometimes are not visible as they present themselves to the public.   We are so in awe of this opportunity.

That being said….we are having a HOOT of a time.  Team Unalaska is dedicated to hard work, but we are the team that just has to have fun. 

Kristine and I have both interviewed priests.  Sorry, StoryCorps NY, this is as close as we could get.  Lots of grey space between us. 

Sharon and Rev. Dr. Michael Oleksa.
Sharon and Rev. Dr. Michael Oleksa.
Kristine and Father Nelson Marilag.
Kristine and Father Nelson Marilag.
We have facilitated for mothers and daughters.
And fathers and daughters.
And mothers and sons.
w & son
And a husband and wife, or two.
k and joe
gigi 2
A couple of sisters.
a & l
s & w
A veteran of three wars.

US Army, Retired Samuel R. Svarny

And best of friends.
T & S
We have our standard issue box of tissue for those tender moments.
Things can start out quite seriously.
And sometimes just take on a life of their own.
mel and alena
Kristine has gotten quite the reputation around town.  We joke that we will have to put an ad on channel 8 and in the Dutch Harbor Fisherman letting people know that after April 30 it will be safe to approach Kristine again. 
She has, unfairly, I might add,  been called a stalker and has been accused of ambushing people.  We are tricksters of the best sort.  And in all this nudging, and cajoling, we have not had one person who did not enjoy the experience.   And I’ll tell you something…she is the best partner in the world!
New York thinks that Kristine’s and my blurry pictures are because Unalaska people are just so full of energy that they can’t stand still.  We let them think that, but secretly, Kristine and I have both vowed to stand still ourselves when shooting pics!
So, let me invite you all, once again, to give Kristine a call at 359-8016 to schedule your conversation before StoryCorps wraps up the Alaska Initiative.  Ya won’t regret it.  And Akutan….here we come!
Tell your story.   Pass it on.  Remember, for Alaskans, its free.