Hello again friends! Long time no blog!
Earlier this week, my supervisor, myself, and another intern traveled to the Alaskan village of Elim! In pairs, all eight interns get a chance to fly out to more remote Alaskan villages (and I thought Nome was pretty remote…) to hold a day-long Summercise on the first day, stay the night, and work the health fair in town the following day. (If you’re curious, the other three villages my fellow interns visited were Shishmaref, Koyuk, and Shaktoolik). It’s worth mentioning that these towns are very small; Elim’s total population sits right under 350 people! The surrounding villages have anywhere from 115 – around 700 inhabitants, and they are rarely accessible by any roads. Instead, people and cargo alike are usually flown in by plane or helicopter, and sometimes by ship.
Although our trip to Elim was short, it felt meaningful, and I really enjoyed it!
Besides a smattering of houses, the village has a school, two playgrounds (which makes me happy 🙂 ), a “city center” building, a small library, a modest clinic run by the Norton Sound Health Corporation (where we stayed), a Boys and Girls club, and a general store. Despite the small size, you really can’t complain about the beautiful seaside views throughout the entire town, visible from every building.
The first day, we hosted a mini Summercise for the kids of Elim, giving them the freedom to direct how the day progressed. We started with ball games and trying kickball in a slight drizzle, then we headed inside when it started to rain harder. We were able to make our inside space fun as well! We played hula hoop games, created a small obstacle course, and held relay races- the kids loved trying out our durable potato sack race bags, and it was a blast watching and cheering them on! 🙂 We then had a snack of apple slice-grape cars (so fun!) with a “fluffy pb-yogurt dip”. The kids pounded through all the fruit, three tubs of yogurt, and half a jar of peanut butter! I was thrilled! I loved being able to provide some fresh fruit and introducing them to the idea of mixing peanut butter and yogurt to make a nutritious fruit dip! Later in the afternoon we played jump rope games, more hula hoop games, and used the schools playground. As 4 o’clock rolled around, I couldn’t drag myself away from pushing three different girls on the swings too quickly…and one of them told me she wanted “10 more hours of Summercise!” haha! I ended day 1 feeling tired but accomplished.
The health fair started at 9:00 am on day dos. The CAMP department had a booth with education materials as well as a table set up for cholesterol and A1c (diabetes) screenings. Going into this trip, I hadn’t had my counseling rotation at the hospital yet, so I still didn’t feel very confident pricking peoples’ fingers, and getting enough blood to run through Cholestec machine. BUT my awesome supervisor helped coach me through several patients, and by the end of the fair, I practically felt like an old pro! 😉 I was also able to just talk with several people while they were waiting for their screenings, and I even got into a discussion with one woman about diabetes. I was happy that I could answer a bunch of her questions! It’s really nice to simply chat with people instead of always being in a closed little counseling room. I feel you can gain a lot of information and insight from a seemingly simple conversation!
Before we knew it, it was 3:40, and we were racing around to catch our 4:10(!) Bering Air flight! The nice thing is that unlike your average commercial airport, getting on a plane in Elim is pretty painless. You pack up your gear, a four-wheeler and/or patient transporter truck drives you and your cargo about 5 minutes up to a dirt airstrip, you and your subsequent stuff is dropped off, and you stand on the side until the 8-10 person plane lands in front of you. [If you’re a nice person], you’ll usually end up helping the pilot unload his or her cargo from the underbelly of the plane before boarding 🙂 And that’s that! Surprisingly, these tiny planes actually have very smooth takeoffs and landings- and that’s saying a lot from a girl who REALLY dislikes takeoff!!
I left Elim tired and craving a shower…but also really happy and fulfilled. It’s sad to know I may never be back to that beautiful little town, but the experiences and memories made there truly meant something to me, and I’ll never forget Elim, Alaska!
Lots of love, and missing you all at home! xoxo