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> The Bag is Packed!!!, I'm ready to go!
post Jun 25 2005, 02:52 PM
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TREC Teacher

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Well, I managed to fit all of my stuff into one big backpack, which was my goal. Although there is no lying that it is filled to the complete brim....However, it is nice to have already had the experience of going to the arctic so I have a better idea of what to bring and what not to bring. I am assuming (which is always a terrible thing to do) that the weather in Canada and Alaska in July cannot be any worse than the weather was in May in Siberia last year, so that was my thinking when I packed.

The last few days have been quite busy with last minute details. Max and I have both been working hard to try and make some contacts in Tsiigehtchic in Canada and Pilot Station in Alaska. This has not been an easy task as it is hard to call someone out of the blue and try to explain what we are doing there and what we are looking for, especially because in addition to calling just to make some contacts, we also had the purpose of trying to find someplace to stay as neither of these villages have hotels or bed and breakfasts or even grocery stores!!! So far we have been about 50% successful. In Pilot Station I managed to talk to the tribal leader named Martin Kelly and he has been extremely helpful. While we are there we will be staying hopefully at the school which has showers and a kitchen. So, we will have to load up a cooler when we are in Anchorage and bring it with us. This is much better than the alternative that we were imagining, which was eating Twinkies for breakfast, lunch, and dinner (if we didn't have access to a kitchen!)

However, in Tsiigehtchic we haven't been as lucky. We have made contacts with some people, but haven't yet figured out where to stay--so we may be driving down from Inuvik a few days to Tsiigehtchic. Atlhough it would have been nicer to be able to stay in Tsiigehtchic, at least we do have the option to drive down--if we didn't have anyplace to stay in Pilot Station who knows what we would have done. Anyway, one of the skills that I learned last year in Siberia is already being used again now, and that is to just be flexible and set up as much as you can but also trust that things will work out okay.

I have to say that I feel really lucky to be heading off on my second expedition, and that I feel much more in a partnership with Max this year--that we are heading off together to first and foremost do the science sampling connected to the PARTNERS Project, but also to really work on the education and outreach with the communities that we will be staying in. Last year, in Zhigansk, Siberia, it made the interaction so much more rich by having the community involved, especially the students of Zhigansk. Unfortunatly, it may be a little more difficult to get the students involved in Tsiigehtchic and Pilot Station because it is summer vacation. However, the flip positive side is that the language barrier will not be as much of an issue in Alaska and Canada. It was so fun to get students involved with the project last year, because it gave them the opportunity to participate in "real" science, something that can really get kids excited about science--and something all students should have the opportunity to do. However, what makes the education with this project even more engaging is that it is connected to global climate change, and that the sampling sites are in these arctic students' backyard--it truly is exciting!

Finally, as I anticipate leaving for this trip, I am constantly remembering the absolutly warm reception that we got from everyone in Zhigansk and I just wonder how this trip will compare with that. There certainly are a lot more dynamics playing into the culture of scientists and the culture of Natives with this trip. Although I only know a very small portion of the history between scientists in the arctic and the people of the arctic I know that the relationship has not always been the most rosy--and even from talking to people on the phone in Inuvik, one woman flat out said that residents had sort of had it with scientists coming into the community (there is a proposed oil pipe that might be going through Inuvik which has a lot of scientists and outsiders coming in to that community right now). So, it will be very important for us to keep that in mind-that even though we are super enthusiastic about the project, we need to be careful to understand some of the history or baggage that goes along with scientists going into a small arctic community and trying to collaborate. However, I feel in my bones that it is all going to work out great--we also have some history to look back on....

So, the next time I write--I'll be on my way to the midnight sun.....

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