What town is closer to Siberia, Greenland, Russia, Canada, and the North Pole than it is to our families? Kotzebue, Alaska, with a new and improved medical facility that is looking for another Physician Assistant. Who is interested in this position? Yes, my adventurous husband. He had a telephone interview this week and they want to fly us up there for a site visit.
What do I think of this possibility? I'm still trying to figure that out. Obviously, being so far from family is a down side. Some of you have promised you'd come visit if we moved to Alaska because you've always wanted to see it, but you may have been thinking of the Denali side of Alaska rather than the Arctic tundra side, which is Kotzebue's official location and climate. There are some tourist attractions there, like the NANA Museum of the Arctic, where they have great "exhibits that depict many facets of life in one of the harshest climates in the world." (Interesting side note, though--speaking of harsh climates, I just checked the very reliable weather.com, and it is currently 40 degrees warmer in Kotzebue than it is here! So I guess I can handle it. I still took the kids out to playgroup today, like it's completely normal to go out looking for fun in 1 degree weather.)
Another adventure of living in the arctic circle: on June 2, the sun rises in Kotzebue and doesn't set until August 8! That's 37 days! (Don't believe everything you read on the internet. I actually read that on some site that I now can't find, initially not mentally calculating that claim. Hmmmm. More reliable sources say 20 days of daylight, from June 11 to June 30.) That would be pretty cool. Wild, but cool. And I have never seen the Northern Lights. I'm pretty sure we'd be far enough north to enjoy them on a regular basis. I am a little intimidated by the fact that there are no roads to Kotzebue. In Kotzebue, yes. Into Kotzebue, no. Which makes relocation more than a bit of a challenge. We can ship everything, it is a port city. But how would we get our car there? If we get it there, will we be able to bring it back? We've been trying to keep up with our goal of going to the temple at least monthly up here in Montana, where it's a 4 hour drive. Can we afford to fly to the temple in Anchorage that often? Even half that often? Xander will love the fact that to go anywhere, we'd have to fly. He laments the fact that he hasn't been on a plane since before he can remember--a week before he turned 2, to be precise; once we had to pay for a plane ticket, we became a 100% road trip family. We love road trips. I would miss that freedom. Back to church stuff, they do have a branch in Kotzebue, which is reassuring. I'm sure we'd have plenty of chances to serve. And there's no better way of staying warm than that.
It would definitely be a new cultural experience. The population of Kotzebue is just over 3000, about 75% of which are Eskimos, "among whom subsistence activities are an integral part of the lifestyle," according to the Maniilaq Association (it's the Maniilaq Health Center that is interested in hiring Aaron). They also say that the big thing in the summer is setting up the North Tent City Fish Camp to dry and smoke the season's catch. That would be pretty cool to see, if I didn't happen to be allergic to fish. Will the natives think I'm some kind of freak of nature--allergic to fish?!
From a professional standpoint, they do have a team of Physicians and midlevels who are willing to train a new graduate. I'm sure he would get great experience and learn a ton. And in an area that under-served, loan repayment would be a shoo-in. He would have to travel by bush-plane to outlying Inupiaq villages 4 days a month to serve the satellite clinics, but he just sees that as part of the adventure. Plus, the pay sounds pretty good. Although, who knows what the cost of living will be like, since I imagine they have to import every food except fish (see above).
Aaron is wondering where I put my sense of adventure. I have been telling him for a couple of years that I am totally willing to love living in Alaska for a stint. That it would be a fun family adventure! And I thought I had been gearing myself up for extremely remote tundra, since I reasoned that the gorgeous parts of the state wouldn't be so medically under-served. Why does the definite possibility feel so much more daunting than the vague plans?