Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Nearing Nanwalek

TB test. Ferry ticket with berth. A few hour layover in Homer, the land of my birth. Raid the grocery store for two weeks of sustenance. Coffee date with historian friend to get the Nanwalek scoop. Crash course in new video editing software. Sleeping bags for me and my son to set up camp in the school library. Prepare sense of humor for inevitable Alaskan December weather delays.

This is a smattering of my prep list as I ready myself to travel to Nanwalek to teach a film workshop for the first two weeks of December. I am busy, but not bored. Nothing about traveling to rural Alaska could surprise me anymore, except, perhaps, a lack of surprises. The unexpected is precisely what I love in village life. The car without seat belts, or without even a door. The airplanes that depart according to sun and wind and mood. The communication that goes on without words, but with nods and looks and familiar gestures. The startling and wonderful lack of cell reception.

I prepare to travel with my 5 year old son, who already considers himself my co-teacher, and has claimed a tripod as his very own. Work and mothering merge for me in rural Alaska, where a child warms the mood when I come as yet another stranger in a countless stream wandering through, some with cleaner agendas than others. I am thankful that I am not a stranger when I leave. My son is a huge part of why we are welcomed.

I prepare myself for the task at hand. The Prince William Sound Science Center and the Gulf Watch Alaska Program hired See Stories to dive into stories of oceanic health and environmental sustainability in a post Exxon Valdez Oil Spill (EVOS) context. I will spend two weeks with a team of Middle School science and drama students as each one of them creates their own unique documentary film. They will interview elders, community members, and each other. The ocean is everything for an Alaskan coastal community, and I am convinced the best ocean scientists are those who grew up mind and body depending on the water. Many of them have no degrees or recognition, and yet they are the ones we ought to turn to for insight and answers in the face of global warming and disasters such as EVOS.

As Kodiak 12th grader Debora Bitenga's film on EVOS captures fisherwoman and educator Jane Eisemann saying, "after 25 years I think we can celebrate our successes and how far we've come in terms of preventing an oil spill, or cleaning up one, if another one happens, but we have a long ways to go..."