Saturday, April 7, 2012

So A Priest, A School Psychologist And Three Fishermen Walk Into A B&B

A traveling low vision therapist looks at them and says, "Is this a joke?"

(Har Har.)  No really.  That's what I said. And then I became somewhat normal again while we ate our bacon, eggs and toast.  Finally.  A real breakfast at a B&B.  No more granola stirred into a half a cup of yogurt.  That's the real joke, that anyone ever thought crunchy horse food in a cup of thickened sour milk constituted breakfast.

We're in Sand Point, AK on the Popof Island, Shumagin Island group, south of the Alaska Peninsula, still in the Eastern Aleutian Borough.

The priest is here to conduct Easter mass at the mess on Trident Seafoods compound.  The commercial fishermen are stopping over on their breaks from cod season, which was a little bit longer this year.  The school psychologist was at King Cove the same time I was this week.  He has 30 hours of leave before he hops on another plane to another district school. 

And me?  I'm just hanging out for the weekend until Monday when I can see some people here who can't see very well anymore.  I hook them up with all kyna goodies, and even a little bit of hope after the opthamologists tell them there's nothing else to be done for them.  I travel with about 100 pounds of equipment to show and tell and give away.  Some very simple adaptations and some very sophisticated electronic devices. 

They are so appreciative of even the smallest things, like orange neoprene glare reducers that fit over their regular glasses.  These little plastic goggle-like cheapos that cost about 2 bucks actually restore a bit of vision for most people.  They filter out blue light and when people put them on, thinking they will just sort of shut out a bit of glare, they are surprised to find an amount of visual clarity has been restored.  Not really magic, but people break into surprised smiles and say things like, "Hey, this is great!"  They roll their heads around taking in a sweeping view of the room.

"It makes things sharper!"

"My eyes feel more relaxed."

"I'm seeing things I didn't know existed before. Can I order some of these for my friends?  Oh, nevermind.  They're not blind.  I'll just get some for me."

Here's a representative picture just because I'm having a hard time blogging without posting a picture:

No.  Not representative of glare reducers, silly.  Of the Aleutians!

Well, back to more about me.  I was socked in by windy snow in King Cove, waiting and figuring out a way to get at least as far as Cold Bay so I would have a better chance at reaching Sand Point on a later flight.  At Cold Bay, they have a runway that can accommodate a real airplane, even though it's still small enough for me to call it a knock-off of the real thing.  If I couldn't make it out yesterday, as I so fortunately did, I would have had to wait another day or two (no flights on Sunday) to see to business here and that would extend an already expensive trip. 

I got a heads up on a Peter Pan fishing vessel charter, but missed the boat as I waited around to hear about it.  Finally got a call from Cold Bay terminal: "We're flying over to pick you up in twenty minutes."  So, I rushed around to find a ride, left the key and my billing address on the seat of my rental car, and hot-footed it to the tarmack to catch the flight with the school psychologist and another fisherman. 

We were all very relieved and happy.  I feel as though I have been initiated into an "odd-mix" club of people who finally accept that this is how it's done because you don't really get to decide.  My supervisor keeps telling me how lucky I am to get to travel when 95% of the rest of the people in the state don't have that kind of fun in their jobs.  Her statistics are quite off the cuff, as you would imagine, but I've met a few of the 5 % and some of them aren't that excited about it all.  Some have families they have to leave behind for too long, having been given a job they didn't really bargain for.

So far, most of my business travel has been in the winter--this worst winter Alaska has seen in decades!  I have taken lots of pictures of this last trip and as I have already lamented, am unable to post them from my phone where I don't get network access.  They aren't the lush, lovely oceanic/volcanic island pictures I would get in warmer times and climes, but there is something to be said for snow on sharply jagged mountains and huge ice chunks floating on water.  Until I make it here in the summer, I can only wonder and feed off other people's pictures. 

And as I've said before, the most enjoyable part of traveling for me is the actual work with people thing that I do.  Having said that, yet again, it is with great anticipation that I am planning a trip to Manley Hot Springs (in the interior) for the summer!  I think I fly into Fairbanks for this one and then charter a flight to the village out Manley way.

This...we're going to call it "spring," no matter what it feels and looks like...this spring I have a trip coming up to Unalaska, which is further south on this chain of islands I'm on now, part of the Pacific Ring of Fire, by the way; Copper River/Glennallen/Valdez; and another little jaunt down the Kenai Peninsula to Seward, Soldotna and Homer in June.

Then I am going to take a real, personal vacation to Utah over the 4th of July. 

Hey, I hear someone's power tools buzzing outside my window.  Does that mean it's clearing up enough to do projects outside?  I'd better go check on that.