SHIPPING STUFF TO A BUSH VILLAGE

After my hectic but fantastic week in Seattle, I flew to Anchorage at 6:10 a.m. on Wednesday, August 7th. The flight was super cheap ($100), smooth, and fast. I was picked up by Jack, a district representative, who carried my 50-pound suitcase to a truck he had waiting right outside of the airport doors. Talk about great service!

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Lake and Peninsula School District had arranged a condo where all of the new teachers could stay for a couple of days located five minutes away from the airport. Amazing, right? Let me just say, I’m loving my district.

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After a new staff breakfast at IHOP, a new teacher named Cara and I traveled to Walmart to buy rubber totes and to see if we could purchase pay-as-you-go cell phones. We discovered that only GCI, a phone company in Alaska, supports cell phones out in Bush Alaska. After we purchased our totes, we set off to find a GCI store.
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Kris, a district coordinator, generously drove Cara and I around Anchorage in search of a GCI center. We had trouble finding a store, but eventually came upon one after about twenty minutes of hunting. A piece of advice: Ask a trustworthy Alaskan for directions before setting out! At the GCI store, I bought two phones (one for me, one for my husband) at the cheapest rates. I bought the minimum number of minutes plus unlimited texting in the state of Alaska. All in all, the cost will amount to about $35 per month per phone.
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I unfortunately didn’t get any pictures at Costco. It’s safe to say, however, that pretty much all Costcos look the same. Cara and I took a couple of hours cruising all of the aisles one-by-one to make sure we didn’t miss anything. Using the shopping list that I mentioned in my last post, I shopped very strategically and walked out with almost everything I needed.
I should mention one hiccup that I had while at Costco. Although I went to a Bank of America in Seattle to sort everything out before I flew to Alaska, the bank representative I spoke with apparently failed to put the travel alert flag on my account. After standing in the long line at Costco, my debit card would not work. Thankfully, I had a very nice checker who let me step to the side while I waited, tapping my foot, listening to the automated Bank of America voice on the other end of the line. Finally, I was able to sort everything out and leave with all of my goods. Another piece of advice: Triple check that everything is sorted out at your bank before moving to Alaska, or anywhere for that matter! 
 
After an exhausting Costco shopping trip, we returned to the district-leased condo to pack our rubber totes full of everything we had bought.
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I pulled everything out of the back of the pick-up and wondered, “Where do I even begin?” Lucky for me, everyone there had already shipped totes to Alaskan villages before. They had lots of great tips for me. Their first pointer was that I should unpack all of the things that could be shoved into cracks or awkward spaces. Not only does this save room, it provides padding for the rough journey the totes will have from Anchorage to The Bush. All of the totes being shipped needed to weight 70 pounds or less. After a little struggle, I managed to get all four of my 18-gallon totes packed nice and snug. Toilet paper makes great padding!
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The next great pointer that the village veterans gave was to secure the lids of the totes with a drill and zip-locks. We drilled 6 holes in each tote, 2 on each end and 1 on each side. On top of that, we secured the lids with duct tape. Apparently, totes usually arrive at villages pretty battered and banged up. This is the reason for the locked lids and all of the padding. Better safe than sorry!
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After everything was secured and fastened, I needed to write my address in permanent marker on the lid of every tote. You can see that there’s a “4” in the top right hand corner in photo below. Since I’ll be using the tote again, it was suggested that I number the lids and the tubs of the totes so that I can match them up when I need to use them again. Great idea! By the way, the picture below also shows my mailing address if you want to send me love letters!
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Finally, we were able to head to the post office with our totes in tow. We had to use some brute strength to stack the totes and get them onto the counter, but we were victorious! Each tote costed about $25 to ship. Expensive, yes, but it’ll be worth it to have food for the winter!
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Although I had to jump a few hurdles, I’m pretty proud of my first endeavor shopping and shipping to an Alaskan village. I definitely know what to do and what not to do next time around. Hopefully this post will help future Bush Alaska teachers with their first venture shopping and shipping in bulk. Feel free to contact me with any questions you might have!
I should be receiving my totes within the next couple of days. I’ll report back with information regarding how they made out. I’m just hoping that my liquids stayed intact!

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