[Wrote this for the BSSD Blog, but thought you might all want to read it- it’s about the marathon shopping I did in Anchorage]
Flying in to Anchorage and truly entering Alaska for the first time in my life was an astounding experience. No offense New Hampshire, but we simply don’t have mountains like that back east! I was like a little kid in that airplane, leaving smudges on the window where my nose pressed as I tried to glimpse everything. As breathtaking as the view was, what truly left me speechless was the experience that I had with the BSSD Welcome Wagon in Anchorage.
Think of all the jobs where new employees are given a staff handbook and told the time to show up at work tomorrow, without any sort of orientation. Hah, I laugh at the idea of being given only a staff handbook, I was given a staff member! A super friendly BSSD teacher greeted me at the airport, helped me carry a gargantuon duffle bag, and answered lots of my questions.
The next day, I awoke in a nice dorm at the University of Alaska Anchorage, well-rested, happy, but still completely clueless. I had heard lots of things about “guerilla shopping trips,” I kept wondering who this Fred Meyer was that people kept talking about (we don’t have those back East), I had heard the post office was open 24 hours a day and you had to ship your clothes to yourself. All in all, I knew that I needed to do some shopping and shipping, but the logistics of this all were a mystery. Luckily, two BSSD staff, the lovely Damon and Heidi, had given up a day of their summer to help baffled newbies like myself. They took me to Fred-Meyer where I stocked up on spices and bought coolers. From there we went to Costco where I bought food in quantities I had never seen before- a gallon of honey, 5 pounds of cheese! After that, it was a trek downtown to 6th Avenue outfitters to pick out a winter parka that is suited for the climate up here. Following that, we went to REI to look for more outdoor gear and I got a great pair of cross country skis for less than half price. Then, it was off to Wal-Mart for some more tubs to ship everything in. If I didn’t know better I would have thought that I was in some reality tv show where the contestants’ endurance and shopping abilities are being put to the test. It was certainly a full day, but it was thoroughly enjoyable day. I finally had a chance to ask those questions I had been thinking about all summer, I heard some great stories about what it’s actually like to teach up here, and I just got to chat with some wonderful people.
Often, new teachers are handed a set of classroom keys, told where their room is and are left to fend for themselves. In Anchorage, I was handed a shopping cart and a Costco card and all the support I needed to begin a successful year of teaching.