Training begins

Apr 24, 2014 | 0 comments

I still can’t believe how beautiful it is here. Even from where I’m sitting in the library to write this, a huge bank of windows overlooking the ocean provides a postcard view of the golden sunlit, forested mountains and islands capped by some low clouds. It’s unreal. And I’m getting paid to live here!

It does come at a price though. And that price is that I spend 40 hours a week working my tail off. This week has kicked off with a full schedule of training to prepare the 7 of us interpretive seasonal rangers (“interps,” informally) for a summer of cruise ship tourists and other visitors.

Training has included everything from the nitty-gritty administrative computer certifications to practicing with bear spray, to learning the park’s history, to team building, to law enforcement, to biology lectures, and everything in between, with more to come.

The tidal flats outside the office

So far, the weather has been incredible. It changes by the minute, but even when it’s been cold, windy, and cloudy, we haven’t really gotten more than a few minutes of rain. In the evenings after work, it’s usually sunny, which makes me feel guilty for being so worn out. I should be outside running or hiking! Hopefully soon I can find an active routine for after work that doesn’t involve getting home, making dinner, and then crashing, exhausted for the night.

One of the totem poles

Today I spent my lunch break birding the trails at the park. I’ve gotten 4 lifers in the last 2 days: Black oystercatcher, chestnut-backed chickadee, varied thrush, and northwestern crow, all of which are very common here, but specific to the area. A couple of the other interps are active birders as well, so it helps to have other people around who know what they’re looking at.

My Tlingit style salmon

Today after some super-riveting Operational Leadership, we walked downtown to a local native art gallery, owned by an artist who carved 5 of the park’s totem poles. It was really interesting hearing about the different forms and processes of the native art, and I feel like I definitely have a better understanding of the basic shapes, symbols, and meanings of the poles now! Afterward, we did an exercise where we had to make some of our own artwork using the traditional styles (tough life, I know).

Some people in our group found it extremely hard and frustrating, but once I got used to it I thought it was really cool (not to say I’m very good at it, but I can see how it would get easier with practice). There are 3 basic shapes you’ll see repeatedly in this type of pacific northwest art: ovoids, U-forms, and S-shapes. Drawing these was somewhat of a challenge, but I can’t imagine carving these shapes into wood!  The good news is, each Tlingit/Haida artist has his or her own style, so there’s not exactly a “wrong” way to do it, as long as you’re interpreting the 3 basic formlines into each figure. I’m pretty proud of my salmon, not gonna lie.

Every day has been chock-full of training sessions, but I still feel pretty unprepared for the first cruise ships that will be arriving in a couple weeks. Apparently each cruise ship can have over 2,000 passengers, who are bussed into town for a few hours and frantically dash around trying to see everything they can. It sounds like there might be a dozen or more of these tourist influxes this summer, during which it will be all-hands-on-deck for the NPS to lead as many programs as we can. From what it sounds like, Sitka is also attempting to increase its cruise ship traffic in the coming years, as Alaska is heavily promoting its cruise ship tourism throughout its coastal areas. Good news for the town economy, but there seems to be an overall cynicism from the locals on the cruise ship tourists. Everyone kind of rolls their eyes or groans when you mention it. I can’t wait!

Still so much to learn and do and see! Hopefully this weekend I’ll be able to get out and take more photos, as my pictures so far have just not done justice to the beauty of this place.


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