Sunday, September 16, 2012

Q & A

We’ve had visitors from all around the world— the US, Canada, Ecuador, Australia, the UK, Germany, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Sweden, Norway, Ukraine, Russia, Vietnam, South Korea, India, Ethiopia, and Iraq. Surely some of you must have questions! Please ask away in the comments, and I will answer as best I can.

Our first round of questions comes from some young friends in Germany. Without further ado:

Do they play basketball there?

Yes! Basketball is really big in rural Alaska because it can be played indoors, and it’s fun to play even without a lot of people. There aren’t enough kids at the school to have a team, but kids play basketball in PE and there’s open gym for the whole community twice a week.  

In addition to the basketball court at the school / clinic / city hall building, there are a lot of abandoned basketball courts in old military facilities. There are also lots of bowling alleys!

How do they heat the houses?

We have baseboard heating that is powered by heating oil. Each group of houses has a big tank. I really hope that ours is full for the winter! Someday, the island might find a way to harness the significant hydropower potential, in which case I imagine the hearing might switch over to electric.

How many kids are there on the island?

There are 18 students at the school (from kindergarten through 10th grade). There are also about three younger kids who aren’t quite old enough for school yet—the youngest is six months old. 

Overall, the population is around 150, but it really varies week to week. There are probably 100 permanent residents who are consistently on the island.

Do the kids come and watch the plane land every week?

There are always lots of people down at the airport, including kids. Plane day is exciting because of the new people, packages, and mail! Even though the Post Office is technically not open, usually if you hang around at the right time you can get your packages right away. So far it’s taken about two weeks to receive packages we’ve ordered from Amazon Prime—where we used to live in DC, we’d often receive those packages overnight.

Do they have cold or hot bath water?          

We have hot bath water! I’m not sure we (or at least I) would be living here if we had no hot water.

The water comes from sources on the island, and it tastes very good—like fancy bottled water. However, we have to filter it because there are toxins and pollutants on the island, and because the water processing plant doesn’t always run consistently. So far, we haven’t gotten sick—so either our filter is working well or the water is pretty pure to begin with.


  1. Thank you, Olivia! I just read the answers out to my kids and they were very thrilled. What with the basketball, and the bowling alleys, and the heat and hot water taken care of, my kids can imagine living there. Of course, we'd raise the child population by a fifth! Hm... ;-)

    That was very sweet. Now they want to know where the which toxins and pollutants are in the water and where they come from. But take your time. You can delay this until the winter!

  2. Olivia- Meghan B. here. I'm the one visiting the site from India!! I don't have any questions yet but am loving your blog so keep posting! Hope all is well.


    1. Awesome! I hope you're loving the new gig. Let me know if you need any freelance writers :)

  3. While hiking on Adak we used a steri pen and a straw filter on waterfall water and didn't get sick, even when we accidentally drank the water that hadn't been zapped by the steri pen. We did worry about all the stuff buried everywhere, all the structures sinking into the ground, the immense buried landfills, the bombs, the drums, etc. At one point we thought we saw oil sheen on puddles in the tundra but Fish & Wildlife said that's rainbow color is created by some of the plants.

    1. Good to know! I'm sure we would have gotten sick by now if there were biologicals to worry about, since we're so thoroughly ignoring the boil-water warning, but I'm still pretty concerned about the lead, jet fuel, etc. I would prefer my brain and ovaries in good working order at the end of this!

      Are you guys still in Barrow? Must be getting chilly up there!


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