The temperatures are dropping…below freezing now! It sounded like someone was walking around outside my bedroom, so I went to take a look and it was just a cold, icy wind…Old Man Winter is creeping around. But I looked up to see a clear night sky with the Big Dipper and the North Star almost right above me! I remember every night seeing the Big Dipper out my window as a child, but it was hanging upside down, dipping up the trees. I couldn’t even see the north star down there, because it was below the horizon.
On the way to work, all the puddles were ice this morning and people were scraping ice off their cars. The tundra has lost its brilliant reds and golds, and is changing to winter shades of brown. Apparently there is a huge flock of swans in Solomon (a village on the way to Council) that one of my patients told me today. And apparently the 3,000 ft mountains around here are snow-capped now and stunningly beautiful! Must get out and explore this weekend before the winter really sets in.
Today was wonderful (compared to yesterday)~I had some time in the morning to get a few things done, like get my TB mask fitted (the Alaska rate of tuberculosis is 10 times the national average, and of Alaska’s regions, Norton Sound is #1!). Of the number of affected Alaskans, 68% are natives, and 61% are men. The disproportion is most likely due to the close quarters in which the majority of native villagers live. The other thing that Alaska is number one for is STIs. I also found out today that >50% of Alaskan high schoolers are sexually active. This means lots of education and lots of condoms! One social worker said she has put 11,000 condoms in the bars this year!
I had morning cuppa (a Down Under tradition that I miss!) with another doctor and his wife. They are the family who gave me the blueberry bread, and who live in New Zealand, but are here for a few months for family events. Then at lunch, we went to the Wednesday noon Rotary club meeting, which is apparently a good place for connecting with people in town. That’s where I heard the public health talk about TB and STIs in Alaska.
The staff were sooooo, soooo encouraging today! And funny. They all cheered when I came in to work this morning and made jokes that I didn’t take the flight out last night. And that they were glad I actually came back. One RN came and gave me a hug and even told me that I did a good job yesterday, and that it’s always hard for providers to start here, but that everyone learns in time. And a social worker said a few times that they are so glad that I and the other doctors are here. It’s really nice to feel needed and wanted, even after a rough day. It makes everything better to be surrounded by Love and Gratitude. A really strengthening thing that the NZ doctor told me is that here, you really know you are making a difference. Clinic was much more normal today with the exception of a few things, some achingly sad, some sweet, some frustrating, some funny. But I didn’t send anyone to Anchorage! That saved me a couple of hours.
The sun was shining full out today, over the deep blue Bering Sea, (seen best from the big windows in front of the cafeteria). And I was given a loaner van! And the puddles turned back to water. At sunset I went down to the sea and walked on the beach with a splendid sunset, a full moon and a starfish.