I did a quick survey of my colleagues to find the questions they get asked most often when they go to the lower 48. Below is a list of some, but not all, of the more popular ones and the answers. The big one of course ‘what’s it like to live there?’ is too generic so hopefully this will narrow it down and taken as a whole give an idea of ‘what it’s like’.
Here are 5 to start, more coming soon…
1: How cold does it get? (Number one unanimously)
Short answer, very.
Since I have been here last year, it has gotten to -50 but that only for a few days. We had some other days of -40 and -30 but most of the time the temperature is between -15 and 15 degrees. 0 is
not so bad in my opinion but lower than that becomes unpleasant to work in. Seeing the popularity of this question I guess it deserves
its own post.
2: Is it dark all the time? Is it dark for months in the winter? (number two almost unanimously)
Short answer is no not all the time but a lot of the time for a long time.
For more read my post Hours of Dark
3: Doesn’t the government pay residents of AK oil money? Are you getting any of that?
This is in reference to the PFD (Permanent Fund Dividend). Though the original capital for this program came from oil money the payouts are interest and investment gains. What happened is a large portion of money was set aside as principal which is invested over the course of the year. The payouts are strictly the interest off those investments so the principal amount never changes (thus the permanent part of the acronym). So the amount payed has little to do with the price of oil or gas and more to do with the economy in general. Usually it is between $1000-$2000 per person per year.
To qualify you have to have been living in AK for 1 year prior to the March application deadline. My first March I had not been here long enough. This year I will apply in Anchorage over spring break. For those keeping score that would mean my third teaching year before I received any PFD money.
4: Do you see the northern lights all the time?
Short answer is no not all the time. Sometimes late at night but more often a faint white haze or ribbons of haze then the distinct green and red rivers of light you are imagining (those do happen occasionally though).
For more read my post on the Northern Lights
5: Aren’t you afraid of bears and wolves?
Many people are very fearful of bears and wolves but it is important to note that for much of the time I am here the bears are hibernating and usually will give you a wide birth provided you make some noise as you walk. Wolves are active all winter but I also know that fatal wolf attacks on humans are fairly rare, and the fact that I have never even seen one up here, though I certainly would not push my luck if it came to it.
In recent years there have been some cases of rabies amongst foxes such that locals are often just as worried or even more so, over a stray fox, than if there was a bear sighted in the area. And of course stray dogs can sometimes be concerning, but are usually fairly skittish of adults.
The biggest worry I have are bear cubs which are far more likely to be the result of a mother bear attacking and moose which are large and can be temperamental. In general making some noise as you walk is sufficient to prevent you even seeing most of the big game concerns but I do carry a .44 just in case.
And for those of you wondering I did watch the Super Bowl online with some teacher friends. It was difficult because it kept buffering and skipping so I don’t know much of what happened just the big highlights and a few disjointed half plays or worse spliced plays. Also, the commercials are not nearly as funny when you don’t get the whole thing.
Also this link will take you to a page which shows how to get to all the other posts and the photo gallery.
Don’t forget to comment and ask more questions!