An Eskimo Village

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Keith E. Payne

Adventure Traveller

  1. Age: 32
  2. Nationality: USA
  3. Where was your adventure?: United States
  4. How many days was it?: 1.5 years
  5. What type of adventure?: It was not an Adventure!
  6. Give us a general overview of your adventure:
    I received a job offer to teach high school math and science while finishing up my Master’s degree in elementary education. Although I was not technically qualified I was hired because there are not a whole lot of certified teachers beating the door down to go live in the Alaskan bush 400 miles from the nearest road system. I flew up to Alaska 6 days after I graduated with my Master’s and came out to the village on Dec. 29th, 04. I decided to come because I had no idea that you could go teach in an Eskimo village so I had very few preconceived notions about what I was getting myself into…and that’s usually exciting.
  7. Was it difficult?: yes
    Why or why not?
    This is a difficult adventure for a number of reasons, but not the reasons one might initially come up with. It gets to around -50 F pretty regularly during the winter here, and most of our travel is by the river…on snow-machines in the winter and boats in the summer. It is desolate and remote on the tundra but those are not the things that make this adventure so difficult. It is the fact that most of the people in the village where I live have given up on life. They have been given everything they need for so long with nothing asked of them that it has eroded their culture down past the foundations. Teaching here in the high school is the type of experience that keeps you wondering what in the hell you are doing. That’s the hard part. Having said this, I would like to make it clear that this is not necessarily the norm for Alaska’s villages. Many villages are thriving culturally and the schools are able to contribute to the community. This village just isn’t one of them.
  8. Would you recommend this adventure trip to someone else? Why or Why Not?
    Yes. I would caution people to research the villages they intend to live in carefully though. Even in the place I am living there are lots of opportunities for adventure once the snow flies. Until then alot of tundra villages are pretty funky and depressing though. Either way you are going to have a bunch of good stories from living in the bush for a couple of years.
  9. What do you wish you would have done differently?
    I can’t really answer that I would have done anything differently because I met my wife here. I actually experienced the “Love at first sight” bit that I had always believed to be bullshit. If I hadn’t done it the way I had done it, I would\’ve never met Liz.
  10. What kind of advice can you give to other travellers going on this adventure?
    Don’t get too wrapped up in the village politics, and learn some meditation techniques.
  11. What type of gear did you bring?
    Quilted cover-alls, 2nd hand Bunny boots and cross-country skis, ski-gear. There are alot of guys out here that spend tons of cash on gear for travelling the river and tundra but even at -40F going 60mph on a snowmachine I’m warm and happy in my Army surplus gear.
  12. Where is your next big adventure? Why?
    My wife and I are planning to go for a walk in Nepal next year. This past summer we took a 15000 mile road trip all over the U.S. and back up to Alaska so that we could meet each other’s family and friends. It was fun but we had terrible car trouble most of the summer and spent an unbelievable amount of money, so next break we just want to walk and take the place we visit in completely.
  13. Did you travel before or after your adventure? If so, where?
    I have travelled all over the U.S., quite a bit in Mexico and some in Central America.
  14. On your adventure, what person did you most identify with?

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