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A bittersweet goodbye

It was July 30th. We had shared tearful goodbyes (and a surprise little homemade scrapbook!) with our truly amazing supervisor Megan. Our house was thoroughly scrubbed and cleaned out. The living room was filled with everyone’s suitcases, backpacks, and totes, packed and ready to go. It was time to leave the place we had called home for the last 10 weeks.

Selfie stick!

Selfie stick!

I cannot fully explain how I felt that Thursday as we prepared to head out to the airport. On one hand, I was super excited to go back home to see the family and friends I had missed dearly over the past 2 months…however, I also didn’t want to leave the crazy, unpredictable, hilarious, and lovable life we created in Nome! Somehow, despite working, living, socializing, and really just being around virtually the same people 24/7, I can honestly say I really enjoyed the wonderful group of interns I spent my summer with. These people can’t be replaced y’all 😉 They each hold a different, unique, and yet special place in my heart. (How’s that for some serious cheese?!) Shout out to the Summercise interns of 2015- I love you all, and will never forget our experience together!

The girls!

The girls!

On the plane to Anchorage! So sad :(

On the plane to Anchorage! So sad 😦

I mean, I look pretty great in those waders...

I mean, I look pretty great in those waders…

The view from the Anchorage airport...even on the way out, Alaska never ceases to amaze me!

The view from the Anchorage airport…even on the way out, Alaska never ceases to amaze me!

Flying home!

Flying home!

Lastly...my first cup of Starbucks in 10 weeks! Yes, it had to be celebrated:)

Lastly…my first cup of Starbucks in 10 weeks! Yes, it had to be celebrated:)

Thanks to all who’ve been keeping up with me through this journey! It was truly amazing…I miss it every day, but have no fear, I diligently keep the memories alive…social media helps 😉

au revoir! xoxo

Michelle ❤

Summercise session 2 wrap up!

Hey everyone!

The end of July signaled the end of Summercise 2015…and the end of our internship! 😦 The final week of camp, the two of us in charge of the the 5 & 6 group decided that the last week would be EXTRA FUN. (Megan always wants us to “bring the fun”!) We had the kids outside every day thanks to some cooperative weather, and made plans for the last “class”. Usually, we split the kids up throughout the day, but we decided to keep everyone as one big group for the final day of Summercise. We started the day with our beloved outdoor game time, then came in to take some group pictures! Next, we started an assembly line for snack…we were making DIRT! Obviously not the healthiest snack, but hey, it was party day! After snack time we cleaned up and got ready to walk to the playground- hooray! All the kids get super excited when we visit the park, so the two of us decided what better way to end camp then going to the playground?

Smile! It was a pretty small group the last day, but we still had so much fun!

Smile! It was a pretty small group the last day, but we still had so much fun!

...and a silly shot! :)

…and a silly shot! 🙂

All in all, it was a great end to Summercise! Sadly, the next week we knew it would be time to finish up projects, clean our house, and get ready to leave each other, as our fly-out date was fast approaching!

Tune in next time for our sad goodbyes…haha!

The village of Teller

Howdy friends! 🙂

On July 17th, we were afforded yet another opportunity to travel to a village of the Norton Sound Region- Teller! This trip was not simply for sightseeing, despite the beauty of the area, rather we were going to do another day-long “mini Summercise” with the youth of the village!

Welcome to Teller!

Welcome to Teller!

The general store on the main road

The general store on the main road

Originally, we were supposed to do one Teller Summercise, as a group of eight. However, when we were talking with our supervisor, Megan, we decided that it made more sense to split us up into two groups of 4, and give two Summercise days instead of one! (2 is better than 1,because it equals MORE FUN! I digress…)

I was in the first group that made the drive to Teller, and all of us were excited! After we all experienced positive village travels in pairs, we were pumped to spend the afternoon with a bunch of new village kids, playing sports, games, and eating a delicious snack!

When we arrived, Megan drove through the town, and gave us the “tour” (which took about 3 minutes total) of Teller. Like the other villages we traveled to (shout out to Elim!), it was small, yet very pretty, with groups of ramshackle buildings in multiple colors, and more mining equipment spread throughout. Teller is mostly a fishing village, so there were several small boats on the shoreline, and numerous racks of drying salmon- YUM!

Salmon drying on a fish rack- thanks to Will for this picture!

Salmon drying on a fish rack- thanks to Will for this picture!

After Megan and Kendal dropped us off at the community center building, they left for the clinic to perform health screenings for the afternoon. After quickly eating lunch, the kids started to arrive! This group was collectively a little older than the group I had at Elim- more pre-teens than gradeschoolers- but it gave way to some serious fun! One group of boys ended up teaching our male intern Will how to “whip and nae nae” to Silento’s song…and someone definitely took a video! Haha!! We also enjoyed playing “Eskimo kickball”, tug-of-war, hula hoop games, and Jump the River. We met some really great kids that afternoon, and we all left Teller on a high note (which we celebrated and talked about more after some napping occurred…). I’m super grateful that our experience this summer allowed us to visit the outer villages of the Norton Sound area, as all of them left their own special mark on each of us.

A rocky shoreline...

A rocky shoreline…

4th of July weekend and more!

Hola mis amigos! These past two weekends have turned out so well they seriously seem to fly by. Really…like supersonic jet speed. Over fourth of July weekend, the original plan was being out in Council, a small town used mainly for cabins and camping. However, for a handful of us, the plans changed…and we ended up having a truly fabulous weekend! Friday night, we accompanied some friends fishing (we watched/walked along the beach), engaged in plenty of girl talk, watched movies, and shared a bottle of a classy adult drink 😉 *antioxidants and resveratrol people!*

Dorothy Falls...simply amazing

Dorothy Falls…simply amazing

Saturday turned out to be a gorgeous day, in the mid 60s and sunny!! We met up with one of the RDs from the office, her husband, dogs, and ADORABLE baby girl. They are honestly the coolest couple- they fish, hike, hunt, skin the animals they harvest, and are just super interesting. For example, the dietitian, Kendal, graduated high school early and backpacked around Italy in her senior year! Her husband is awesome too, and looks like a total bushman…in the BEST way. He’s all about plaid, boots, and has a great beard! 🙂 He also shot a HUGE bear that broke records, and got his picture on a hunting magazine! Also the two of them are the cutest parents, and watching them with their daughter made my heart melt a little. On the fourth, they were kind enough to take our little group hiking to Dorothy Falls, then invited us into their home, showing us their pelts, maps, and native jewelry. We ended up hiking around the tundra for almost 3 hours, and enjoyed beautiful views, as well as great conversation.

Crossing a stream

Crossing a stream

At the bottom of the valley! There was a fair amount of elevation change, which was challenging, but fun!

At the bottom of the valley! There was a fair amount of elevation change, which was challenging, but fun!

This past weekend was amazing as well. Friday we drove out to Salmon Lake, and got to enjoy not only gorgeous views, but some wildlife! My eagle eyes (HA!) spotted a young moose in the bushes on the way down, and on the way back we saw not one, not two, but a whole family of musk ox…with babies! They were so fluffy and really cute! Seeing a moose as well as baby musk ox were on my Alaska bucket list as “must-sees”, although I wasn’t positive that I would actually get the chance to see either! Needless to say I was pretty excited. 🙂

Juvenile moose!! (thanks Bailey for the clear picture!)

Juvenile moose!! (thanks Bailey for the clear picture!)

Meandering musk ox

  Meandering musk ox

Looking STRAIGHT at the car!

Looking STRAIGHT at the car!

Later that night, I met some more of our group and had a fun night out, singing kereoke and perfecting my foosball “skills”.

Saturday and Sunday were just as amazing and relaxing. Some people went out to Salmon Lake to go camp overnight, while another group of us stayed back for yet another fun-filled weekend! Saturday we did some grocery shopping and tried to fit two people to our bikes, while enjoying the sunshine-y weather. We also tried our hands at making creme brulee, because it’s our one intern bestie’s absolute favorite desserts. After making them, we walked down the beach, and had a bonfire. The weather continued to be perfect- mostly sunny and around 60. When we returned home, we found that our creme brulee turned out AMAZING…which made me really happy that the special dessert worked out for him. I just love being with these people:) We ended Saturday piled on blankets and pillows, and crashed out to a movie. Sunday morning began with coffee and a quick breakfast, then we all decided to get back into our respective workouts. We’ve been a little to tired and lazy, and we all admit to neglecting our usual routines 🙂 We then cooked up a storm, making crepes from scratch for lunch, as well as a variety of pizzas for dinner, then a few of us went to the theater to see Jurassic World (side note- good movie!). Now, Sunday is winding down, and we’re all relaxing, getting ready for the second week of Summercise session 2 this week! More on that to come!

I can hardly believe July is half over…where has time gone?!

Have a great week everybody!

Traveling to the Village of Elim!

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!

Areal view of Elim!

Areal view of Elim!

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!!

My apologies for the shoddy picture, but here's one of the little Bering Air planes we took!

My apologies for the shoddy picture, but here’s one of the little Bering Air planes we took!

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!

Unlike Nome, Elim has trees!:)

Unlike Nome, Elim has trees!:)

Lots of love, and missing you all at home! xoxo

The same…and different

One of the funniest things that interns and imports alike agree on about this town, is despite being very much a part of the mainland, there is a definite sense of always being on “island time” in Nome. For better or worse, the pace of life here is very laid back and unhurried. (And no, I don’t think it’s just because it’s legal to grown your own marijuana here…hehe). Most people here are simply very relaxed, and informal, which is kind of a nice break from my usual suburbia and metropolitan areas back home!

Downtown Nome from afar

            Downtown Nome from afar!

On the subject of home…there are some serious differences between my suburb of Cleveland, Ohio and the coastal town of Nome, Alaska!

  • First of all, people rarely lock their doors and/or cars, which was strange at first, but it’s just the way of life here.
  • Overall dress is quite informal as well; jeans and sweatshirts are the norm at the hospital, unless you’re wearing scrubs.
  • Most of the time, you can leave your bike lying around without a lock, and it’ll still be there when you come back for it.
  • The street is “busy” if there’s 3 cars in a row
  • People recognize you and will probably talk to you within a few days of being in town…if you aren’t local, you stand out 🙂
  • You can build bonfires on any beach out of anything burnable…driftwood, pallets, boxes…
  • There are no stoplights (!)
  • The majority of roads aren’t paved, they’re simply hard-packed dirt. Between the dirt roads and beach sand, it gets super dusty here. They actually have a truck that drives around spraying water behind it to keep the roads packed down!
  • This one might be a little strange, but where I live, I constantly see squirrels, deer, chipmunks, raccoons, and sometimes opossums. Here in Nome, there are numerous birds and random dogs loitering about town, but no little mammals running through the streets! I actually kind of miss greedy little squirrels…
  • I thought the gas prices at home were getting out of hand, but gas here is usually between 5-6 dollars per gallon! Yikes!

…And there are a few similarities (which are sometimes nice reminders of home). There is in fact one chain restaurant- a Subway. However not only is there a full-size movie theater attached to it, but there are NO 5-dollar footlongs…more like 7-dollar footlongs. But there is a great beach view, so I can’t complain too much 😉 It’s kind of nice not having a barrage of the same cookie-cutter eateries around town. I’ve also seen quite a few Subaru vehicles driving through town…since I drive a used Subaru at home (and love her), this makes me happy. The grocery store also carries a few varieties of sweet potato, and seeing as I am a self-proclaimed sweet ‘tater lover, I end up buying these guys regularly! Lastly, Alaska may be the land of the midnight sun, but it’s the same sun I see back in Ohio. Super cheesy…but when I look up at the sky, I know everyone is looking at the same burning ball of gas! Oh the feels 🙂

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Enjoy your week everybody!!

Week one of Summercise- COMPLETE!

Wow what a week! As you can all probably tell by my lack of posting, we’ve been quite busy! We work at the hospital in the mornings planning, organizing, and preparing for Summercise classes, as well as our different projects. Summercise runs Monday-Thursday, from 1 to about 4:30 in the afternoon. Those kids keep us busy for sure! I work with another intern with the 5- & 6-year-old group, and the other 6 interns work with the 7 & up crew. We also have assistants, who range in age from high school freshmen, to college students. It’s a lifesaver to have extra hands on deck!

This session, the classes I’m leading are Gardening n’ Grub, Movin’ & Groovin’ (a movement, music, and rhythm class I designed!), Zumba JR, and Kartwheel Kids (a gymnastics class with another intern- my adorable roommate!). We stay super flexible with the younger kiddos, and sometimes the technical “lesson plans” get tossed out the window and/or completely changed, but we keep them active and learning all afternoon! The best parent “complaint” is that by the time they get home, their kids are completely exhausted. That means we’ve done our job 🙂

We interns have also been able to experience some “only-in-Alaska” fun as well! We’ve met some really nice people…actually most everyone here in Nome is extremely friendly and kindhearted, which is greatly appreciated by us non-locals! We’ve gotten opportunities to hike through the tundra, walk along and build bonfires on the beach, gather sea glass (LOVE the green!), go 4-wheeling (extreme for this newbie!), climb through an old mining dredge, see musk ox, and explore town by both bike and foot. Needless to say, when we can catch a few hours of sleep, we take it! Most nights, as soon as my head hits my [extremely comfortable] pillow, I’m out like a light!

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Interns on bikes! We absolutely love biking around Nome!

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One of the many places where gold mining occurs

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There’s old mining equipment all over Nome…and anyone can feel free to walk around and explore! Which of course we did 🙂

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We are now fans of Bering Tea Co.- their coffee is organic, local, Alaskan brewed! It’s absolutely delicious, especially for someone like me who likes a bolder brew. Alaskans know how to brew their beans!

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It’s a beautiful life ❤

Peace and love friends!