Thursday, January 2, 2014

Coming and Going

Suffering through the interminable minutes of a staff development session scheduled on the day before a three-week vacation was hard enough. The weather was crap, which is normal for this time of year, and so far, planes were not flying. We weren't worried; we were scheduled to go out the morning of the next day, thinking, we'd have plenty of time to pack, clean up, and leave the house in a condition we wouldn't be too depressed coming back to. We went to bed, woke up bright and early the next morning to...freezing rain and high winds!

We sat around and waited, listening to any chatter on the VHF that might lift our hopes that at some point in the day our plane would fly and we would begin our vacation in a timely manner at our house in Kenai. Scheduled flight time came and went. It was clear we would not make our connection either, but still we were hopeful, ready to go when the plane did arrive. Finally, mid-afternoon, and the skies cleared! The village agent called and said the plane would be coming in 20 minutes. We called for our ride and made our way to the airport with a month's worth of clothes, toys, and gadgets, a dog kennel, cat carrier, and high expectations of a few days to relax and enjoy Christmas vacation on the Kenai Peninsula...alas...this was not to be. With a brief fiasco at the Tuntutuliak airport, which is best left undescribed...for now, We did get to Bethel, where we faced a small airport terminal packed wall-to-wall with travelers trying to go home to their villages or away for a while to distant cities, towns, beaches, and famous mouse empires. None of us were going anywhere that night and so with furrows in our brows we all went off and found places to sleep there in Bethel.

Our only choice, since we had pets and friends already out of town, was the once celebrated, but now less so-hotel in town that would accommodate our pets. We got the "teacher" discount rate, so we only paid about twice what anyone anywhere else would pay for a comparable room, but hey, it's Bethel! Morning came and we proceeded as if we would indeed be leaving Bethel that morning. The cat who is 15 years old and doesn't handle change well, had other plans. He crawled under the bed and then up into the coils of the box spring. This, of course, was about a half hour before we were due at the airport, and so dismantling the bed to retrieve the cat was not the welcome task it might have been, had I more time on my hands. We stuffed him unceremoniously into his carrier.  A bit more exasperated, but still optimistically, and with an actual reservation in hand, along with our menagerie, we made our way back out to the airport and waited patiently for our flight time...which came...and went...with no explanation except, "It's on weather-hold." Oh yeah, and, that morning, I had dropped my iPad on a metal grate outside the hotel. The screen flipped confusedly through the glass that now resembled a spiderweb more than a high-resolution LCD digital display. I turned it off and stuffed it into my back pack, deciding to think about other happier thoughts, like getting the hell out of Bethel before Christmas eve. We were still hopeful that the plane would land and take us away...until...it didn't. Apparently, the runway in Bethel was too slippery and, indeed, no larger planes landed that evening.

Back to the hotel we went for yet another night, with nerves now frayed well past easy tolerance of a minor inconvenience.  Grouchy would be understating our mood at this point, and the animals had had more than enough too. But after three days waiting, we would NOT have to wait a fourth, and, though late by a couple hours, the plane boarded and we were on our way. The rest was actually quite uneventful. We got to Kenai, found the car parked, and with only a little shoveling and scraping uncovered it enough to drive home to our house that would be "ours", for at least a few days. We settled in and enjoyed eggnog, good food, and the prospect of not thinking very seriously about school for most of the next three weeks. Three days bitten out of it did leave us with at least a bit of resentment though.

In the course of the 14 years we have traveled in at out of the Kuskokwim delta region, we have always had impeccably good fortune at Christmas time anyway. This was indeed the first time that we actually got stuck heading out of the village. Anger, frustration, and feelings of being cheated by fate is common but  railing at the forces of nature, or even the airline operations managers does very little to improve ones situation. The sky will clear when it clears, the planes will fly when they fly. Rather like second-guessing a referee's call or a coach's decision, many a frustrated passenger has conjectured that a plane COULD have flown today, because on some OTHER day, (by ones own myopic perception) just LIKE today, the planes flew! It makes us feel smug and superior for a moment, perhaps, but it won't get you coming...or going any faster than just chilling at the airport and enjoying the company of kindred spirits, some even your old friends and former students, who are in the same boat as you and want desperately to get home just as badly as you do...but they are also glad to see you too.

Happy New Year!

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