NOAA Teacher at Sea
Onboard US Coast Guard Ship Healy
April 20 – May 15, 2007
Mission: Bering Sea Ecosystem Survey
Geographic Region: Alaska
Date: May 15, 2007
I waited until most people had left the airplane before I gathered up my gear, treasures, and technology equipment. So many people, in such a hurry, and my senses were overloaded; the bright lights and loud sounds of rush hour in a huge international airport shook me to my toes. I continued through the terminal as I had approached my entire journey, one step at a time.
I realized there were only one or two airlines in this terminal so I knew I had to do some investigating. Walking, walking, walking past many, many, many people, gosh that was something! I had to kindly interrupt a Security Guard, an airport cleaning staff, and a sky cap before I even approached the terminal of my last flight.
Los Angeles airport is set up like a big horseshoe with the terminals like nails in the hoof. In the center is the giant Star Wars Air Control Tower that looms over the site like Darth Vader. Everything is concrete, or blacktop, or steel, or glass. The cars, and taxis, and police vehicles zoom around the loop at racecar speeds. No lie, I ran into the same police motorcycle three times as I walked from one end of the terminal complex to the other.
I got into my home terminal and had to check through security once again. Since my breakfast yogurt was ‘safe and under control’ in the wastebasket in Anchorage, I had to purchase my protein and calcium from yet another vendor. I found my gate and a good wall with an outlet and floor space . I sat down, plugged in my computer and stretched out my legs. Leg room would be precious on the flight.
There was a layover of at least an hour until the gate began to fill with excited tourists getting ready to go to the vacation of their dreams. So I worked away on my computer, updating images, and cleaning up photo files. Even though the flight was delayed, then delayed again, and then delayed indefinitely, I wasn’t upset. One step at a time I got here, and one step at a time I’d get home.
I saw a grown woman throw a temper tantrum. I saw another man talk in a mean voice to the airline check-in lady. I saw a baby child take wobbly steps around and around the gate. “Would you please watch HIM!” the mother hissed at the father. The father rolled his eyes and opened his cell phone, attempting to reschedule a flight that may or may not be cancelled due to repair. “What is the hurry?” I thought and then I realized that if I lived there I would be desperate to go to paradise as well.
Finally, whatever had been broken, was fixed. The pilot gave her thumbs up, and I was on a plane bound for my home on an airplane that was full, full, full of people. Five short hours later, I was home, the air full of honey sweet plumeria and humidity. Without rain there are no rainbows.
I saw my husband before he saw me and I choked up, just a hitch. I was home. I was really home. He had kept the house clean, and fed all the animals, had done all the yard work, and managed everything while I had spent 38 days in a galaxy far, far away. For that and him I will be forever grateful.
But there are so many to thank.
My risk-taking principal who believes in his teachers.
My uber substitute student teacher, who taught ME about fighter planes and MY STUDENTS so much more.
My mumma, who gave birth to more than just me. She kept an entire binder of my journals and questions.
My sister, who kept me in the dark, so I wouldn’t slip into a crack.
My daughter, who is a source of constant interest and growth.
My students who delight in learning from me as much as I do from them. Their warm Aloha from the boots they signed always kept my feet and my heart warm.
My Inupiat Eskimo friends, who gave me so much more than I could ever offer. All I had to do was listen with my eyes.
PolarTrec support staffers who make it all look so easy but know that it’s not.
NOAA and the Teacher at Sea program. Now it’s my turn to tell stories and inspire the next generation of marine biologists, waitresses, gardeners, truck drivers, and the homeless not hopeless.
The kind Fed Ex shipper, Ed, who gave me a box, wrapped up half my cold weather gear and offered to take me to the post office because it was too expensive to ship it from there.
All the researchers on the Healy for having so much patience with me and my questions, and tolerating me. But especially the bird men and women, the ice seal team, the algae population explosion experts, the nutrient decoders, the fish stalkers, the lovers of marine mammals when they aren’t studying plankton (a life style). Heck, everyone who had to put up with me and my eternal enthusiasm. Thank you.
The Coast Guard women and men of the Healy, I was never afraid because I knew you’d keep me safe. Look for an increase in enlistment from Hawaii in about 5 years…
And thank you, for following my mission. I hope you will continue to check back as I will continue to post and share what I am doing with what I heard when I listened with my eyes.