Jeanette dropped me off at the airport in Fairbanks and that double rainbow was a good way to end my day. I was not in the airport long before my flight boarded, and the flight was only 50 minutes to Anchorage. The views were beautiful along the way, and I sat next to an army medic expecting his first child. His wife and her two kids live in Anchorage, so he was on his way to see them, happy that he would be moving there soon when he retired from army life. She is also in the service, and he is hoping to get into the Air Force next. I wish him luck.
I only had two hours in the airport and walked around a bit, and quickly it was time to board my flight back to Chicago.
It was an overnight flight and I found it hard to sleep, as well as too short to try to get any decent sleep, at under six hours total.
I arrived in Chicago and caught a cab to my grandma's house.
I spent the morning watching tv with her and then I was just too tired to stay awake, so I napped for a couple hours and then went for a run, thinking it would help me sleep that night. It was beautiful outside, with blue skies and fresh leaves everywhere. The plan for the evening was a game night and sleepover with my cousin Dawn, but when she arrived she surprised me with her brother Danny as well! He was supposed to work that night but took a vacation day to surprise me! We had such a fun night and stayed up until 2am being silly and playing games, including Quirkle which I first encountered at Toolik and bought online to take home with me. Cousins are the best.
The next day I got a haircut and we ran some errands for my grandma and then somehow it was 4pm and time to go. I hate saying goodbye, but it was so good to have the chance to stop in to see her on the way home. Dawn drove me to the airport where I sat for a couple of hours before boarding. I had forgotten to check in early enough to choose a good seat and showed up with a middle seat in the middle of the plane, but I asked and was magically given an aisle seat next to an interesting woman that I chatted with a bit. It was another overnight flight, and after dinner and a movie I tried to sleep, but was fairly unsuccessful, even with my new noise-canceling headphones. Oh well.
I've been home for exactly a week now. Coming home made it feel a bit like I had never left. I went straight back to teaching the day after I arrived, jetlagged and exhausted. My colleagues and students were happy to see me and to hear how well my trip went, but then it was back to work as usual. In some ways, it was like my excellent adventure never happened. With assessments to grade and lessons to plan, Alaska seems a million years and a million miles away. But I know how valuable my time in the field was, the friends that I made, and how much I learned while I was there. It will take a little time to reflect on my experiences and to assimilate them practically into my classroom, but the process has already begun.
I'm thankful for the support I have received from PolarTREC and CPS along the way. I'm happy that after years of applying that I was accepted for this experience this year. I'm glad that NSF and ARCUS see fit to fund such valuable professional development for teachers, and that they both advertised my journal during my journey. The staff at Toolik made my experience even sweeter, with their smiling faces at every meal, board games at night, including me in their general playfulness and saving me when I got locked out of my room. Also, literally sweeter with all the cookies, brownies, cakes, pies, puddings, you name it. Hopefully I will carry the memories of those delights far longer than I will carry my new found sugar addiction and the six pounds it left me with. And a huge thank you to Cory for seeing me as someone he could trust with his data, and as someone who he could deal with in the field for three weeks in one go.
It's all happened so quickly, from being accepted in January to being done in May, but I'm so glad I could participate, and I look forward to continuing my experience, from discussing it with students to presenting at an IB conference last this year. Thanks for following along and I hope you've learned some things about field work along the way.