Kodiak Island This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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     Last summer I went to Kodiak Island in Alaska with my father, who isa teacher. Of hundreds of educators applying for a grant, he was one of three awarded a paidvacation where the teacher is required to absorb as much as possible. Upon returning they mustregurgitate everything learned and provide an educational experience for students.

Myfather and I had been to Alaska once before, but never to the hidden jewel of Kodiak Island. Ourtrip was for two weeks but the grant required a week in the classroom. Fortunately for us, theisland’s teachers were having their summer workshop during our visit.

“Thetemperature in Kodiak at the moment is 55 degrees, and there’s not a cloud in the sky,”stated the pilot as we prepared to land. Cool air met us in the most unpolluted, refreshing way. Wepicked up our rental car and soon were unpacking in a quaint bed and breakfast called (if you canbelieve it) Make Your Own Damn Breakfast. In accordance with its name, Dad and I went to one of thefew grocery stores to stock up on essentials as well as get our fishing licenses. Milk was fivedollars for half a gallon, bread was three dollars, and apples were almost a dollar each. Dadpointed out that the prices were preposterous because everything had to be barged in from Seattle.

Driving back to our place, we couldn’t help but notice the beauty around us. It wasthen that we realized why Kodiak is called Alaska’s Emerald Isle - everything was lushgreen.

Although we had been in transit for 18 hours, our excitement was so great that weexplored the city of Kodiak for the rest of the day. In Fort Abercrombie, the local national park,maps indicated that only about an eighth of the island is habitable while the rest is ruggedterrain. We went down to the harbor with its fishing boats and barges. Adjacent to the harbor arethe original Russian Orthodox churches established in the late eighteenth century by Kodiak’spatron saint, Herman. The mountains had beautiful snow crests and were encircled by Sitka spruce.

At 11:30 that night we decided to retire, though the sun still had not set! BecauseKodiak is so close to the North Pole, the days are extremely long in summer and almost nonexistentin winter.

The next day we awoke to find a tangible haze outside. The drastic change wasunbelievable. By eight o’clock we were in class with 30 teachers from grades one through 12from the entire island. The workshop was about the Alutiiq, the original inhabitants of the islandbefore Russia colonized it. Over the years the Alutiiq were forced to accept the outsiders’traditions; those who did not were beaten. Their language and customs were almost dead when a groupof anthropologists visited the island in the 1960s and discovered the need to preserve this fadingculture. To date, only 30 Native people speak the language fluently, with 90 percent over the ageof 75. The Alutiiq run the risk of losing their entire heritage but over the past ten years, amaster/apprentice system has arisen in which an elder works with an apprentice to preserve thelanguage.

To help the teachers increase their understanding of the Alutiiq culture, guestspeakers and various elders lectured us and gave demonstrations of how life used to be with theunderlying key being subsistence living. As a class, we used deer hide and Native tools to try ourhand at sewing. We carved a whale and darts out of wood and simulated a game that had helped themwith their accuracy in spearing whales. We even went beachcombing to get an idea of the aquaticlife of Kodiak. On the beach, one professor demonstrated how to harvest, dry and prepare seaweedfor eating. We also learned about the local trees, shrubs and vines, including their medicinalvalues.

Although the lecture series was outstanding, the weather was anything but. Theentire week, the temperature never rose above 45* and it rained constantly. This led us to wonderwhy an island with an average of 60 inches of rain a year had no flooding problems. Later wediscovered that in 1911, a volcano erupted on the mainland and sprayed ash across the Bering Straitto the island of Kodiak. We concluded that the mountainous terrain eliminates water from settlingand that any water is absorbed. The weather was so ugly that I could see why there were so manyrehabilitation clinics on the island for substance abuse.

Finally, the weather that almostruined our vacation let up and in a moment, we were in paradise. Some even consider Kodiak thenorthern most of the Hawaiian islands. With the return of the pristine weather we decided topitch a tent and enjoy our surroundings.

Kodiak has three distinct habitats: the oceanenvironment; the forests with moss hanging from every tree branch; and the mountains where thelargest brown bears on the planet dwell - the Kodiak brown bear.

We took a bear viewing tripto the island’s interior in a float plane. It was these 600-pound hairy mammals thatgave us the biggest thrill of the trip. We spotted a mother bear and her two cubs playing in thewater and watched them scoop out a salmon, leaving the carcass for bald eagles to scavenge. Thebiggest problem on our excursion was not the fear of a bear attack, but the incessant mosquitoes. Ican still hear them ringing in my ears.

The next day we took a kayaking trip to the Islandof Uzinke, population 80, with one church, one gas pump, one store ... that’s isolated. Thefollowing day we went out in an attempt to catch one of the most prized fish in the Pacific - theAlaskan King Salmon. We only caught a few cod not worth eating, but the boat ride was beautiful,with the sun glinting off the water and sparkling in our eyes.

In the city, due to theextravagant prices, Dad and I ate breakfast at Subway almost every morning. There were a fewexhibits and museums in the city; we especially enjoyed the Baranov Museum’s footage of the1964 tsunami that destroyed the city. Before we left Kodiak, we were able to watch some Nativedancers in their full garb dance to the rhythm of a tom-tom.

Not many people know aboutKodiak Island, but if you ever get the opportunity to visit, everything afterwards will be secondrate.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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Angry_Sparrow said...
May 23, 2014 at 5:45 am
I'm sorry, but your grammar is atrocious. The overall story itself was good, but I flinched every time I saw you fuse or misspell words.
 
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