Monday, May 28, 2012

More about Point Hope

I just want to describe a little more about my experience in Point Hope:

 It was pretty evident that the community still highly relies on sustenance whaling as a major source for food. The locals kept saying how proud they were of their whaling crews for already bringing in 5 whales and lots of beluga. In fact, Joe, the restaurant owner cooked us a meal of beluga and bowhead whale (muktuk) on our last night in Point Hope. It was very chewy....

Point Hope is also know for their baleen baskets. Baleen is the filter-feeder system inside the mouths of the bowhead whales that catches the krill. Local artists utilize the baleen by making not only baskets, but pieces of jewelry, wall hangings, business card holders, etc. I bought a basket with some of the cash my father gave me (thanks Dad!). It was handcrafted by a 4th (or was it 5th?) generation basket maker, the 12 year old son (James Omnik Jr) of the very skilled artist James Omnik, Sr. The baskets are made of weaved baleen and walrus ivory, and usually run about $100 per inch, unless you can barter really well! 

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Point Hope

Last Thursday, I left for Point Hope on a flight by Era Alaska Airlines (yes, that's the one from the tv show, Flying Wild Alaska). I went there with the Barrow veterinarian, a US Public Health Veterinarian, and 3 Coast Guard people. Our plane was a small cargo plain that held 8 passengers. Era does not follow the rules of normal large airlines. We did not have to go through a TSA security check point, there were no stupid rules about sharp items or liquids, and there was no use of photo ID or boarding passes. Finally, the airport at Point Hope consisted of a parking lot and two trucks.

Point Hope is the second largest village in the North Slope with around 1,000 people. We stayed in the Whaler's Inn, one of two lodging options in town. Conveniently, the only restaurant in town was also located in the same building. The hotel was pretty basic, individual rooms, with shared bathrooms and a lounge room with cable tv, a microwave and a refrigerator. Instead of checking in to the hotel at the front desk like a normal hotel, we had to check-in at the local grocery store.

The North Slope requires all dogs to be vaccinated for rabies each year, rather than every 3 years. Since there is no local veterinarian in the village of Point Hope, the veterinarian visits once or twice a year and goes door to door and vaccinate all the dogs for rabies. This year we were also able to perform spays and neuters on some of the local dogs. In the end, we vaccinated almost 200 dogs and spayed/neutered 13 dogs.

We set up our clinic in the local police department's garage. The dogs were sedated with injectable anesthesia for the surgeries. I was the surgical assistant/anesthesia technician for most of the surgeries. I helped place catheters, prep the dogs for surgery and monitor heart rate and respiratory rate and inject more anesthetic if needed.

Most of the dogs in the villages are outdoor dogs that spend most of their lives chained up outside. Many dogs end up becoming pregnant and having puppies during the winter that often freeze in the cold or end up without a home, adding to the stray dog population. I was happy to help prevent unwanted puppies from being born by helping out with the spays and neuters.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Stay tuned...

Stay tuned... This is my last evening in Point Hope. I fly to Point Lay tomorrow and return to Barrow on Friday. I will write a post about this trip when I am back in Barrow on either Friday or Saturday. (It's difficult to blog from an iPhone)

Monday, May 14, 2012

Travel Day & Days 1-3

Ok, so I’ve decided it is time to write a little more about my adventure so far. Lets begin with the travel day.

Travel Day:
I was stressed. Surprise surprise. It’s generally difficult for me to pack for a weekend trip, but a whole 3 months, now that seemed impossible. I decided to bring one checked bag, one carry on and my backpack. My checked bag could only weigh 50 lbs or else I would incur a large fee, so it took some rearranging and some “Tetris” like maneuvers to get the bags packed efficiently. I managed to bring a ton of clif bars, 4 pairs of shoes, a pair of boots and slippers, as well as full size toiletry items (shampoo/cond, etc) and all my clothing items. I call that Skill.
My flight left at 11am and I ended up sitting next to a UPS sophomore returning home to Barrow! I basically bombarded him with questions for the entire 3 hours until our layover in Anchorage. He mentioned during our long flight that during the layover in Anchorage he had to stop at McDonalds to buy a about 5 burgers to bring back to friends and family. “But they will be cold when they get there!” I said. He explained that no one would care, they don’t have fast food up there and most people bring McDonalds back from Anchorage whenever they travel. Fast food is a luxury I guess most of us take for granted. In fact, I don’t even like McDonalds. There are way better fast food options to choose from! Once I boarded the next flight I noticed several McDonald’s bags & Happy Meals bags stowed in the overhead bins. He wasn’t joking.
The flight had a quick stop in Prudhoe Bay, at the town of Dead Horse (pleasant name, huh?). From the plane, I spotted the trans-Alaskan pipeline and a stretch of the highway leading to Fairbanks. That was the last highway I’ll see for a while.
I arrived in Barrow at 6pm, but there was a miscommunication and I didn’t get picked up from the airport until 7pm. I was given a tour of the town by truck that evening and finally settled in at Rose’s house for the night. (she is the veterinary technician who is renting me a room for the summer).

The next day, I spent the morning lounging around and getting to know my new roommate/landlord/coworker/tourguide and her boyfriend. They took me on another tour around Barrow and even put up with me in the grocery store as I ooo’ed and aaaahed at the prices. Wow, I’m going to go broke on just eating food. Good thing there aren’t any malls around here.

Today was my first day at work.  The clinic is larger than I expected and the day was really busy. I helped walk some of the dogs, went on an animal control run to catch a stray dog, filled out paperwork, and set up a brand new dental machine. Everyone at the clinic was friendly and helpful, except Rose. (Just kidding, she is great!)

Sunday, May 13, 2012

1st Day Photos

I have been in Barrow, AK for about 24 hours now and I have seen pretty much all there is to see. I went to the beach (as pictured above). I went to the grocery store and saw the outrageous prices (e.g. $7.39 for eggs, $9.99 for a gallon of milk, and $3.99 for a can of chef boyardee!) [below]
 I even went to hollywood and saw the "palm trees" made of baleen (whale teeth). [below]

I am having a great time up here so far. Tomorrow is my first day of work at the clinic. I'm excited to meet everyone there!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Pre-trip entry

In one week I will be on a plane, headed to the Top of the World, Barrow, AK. 

Why? Well, I've been offered an externship with the North Slope Borough and the Arctic Slope Regional Corporation to work with the current veterinarian in Barrow. This involves visiting some of the Arctic Slope Villages to vaccinate dogs for rabies and perform spays and neuters to control the domestic dog population. Rabies is actually endemic in the arctic foxes, so it is important that all dogs be vaccinated for rabies so that people do not encounter a rabid dog. In fact, I've recently received my rabies vaccine as well. Bring it on, Arctic Foxes!

I arrive in Barrow on Saturday, May 12th and will be flying out to Point Hope and Point Lay on May 17th until May 25th. Its going to be busy first couple of weeks!

I'm excited for this very unique opportunity and once in a lifetime experience. I have always wanted to meet my relatives in Alaska and to learn more about my native Alaskan heritage, I might even get to experience a whaling festival in late May or June! I will miss my family, friends, and my boyfriend terribly and I will miss the warmth of the hot summer sun., but it will be worth it. 

I can't wait to see what the next 3 months hold in store for me.