Final Update on StoryCorps Unalaska!

Our "homemade" sign by the lovely Kristine.

Our "homemade" sign by the lovely Kristine.

Well, the Alaska Initiative of StoryCorps has officially ended.  Our equipment is boxed up, ready for shipment, and we are finishing up the paperwork that needs to accompany the last recordings.  A little snafu with the mailing – apparently for the way we want to mail the boxes, we should have used paper tape instead of reinforced tape.  Well…I am sure Kristine will get to the bottom of this!

We recorded 119 stories in Unalaska and Akutan.  That was 14 more than our official quota of 105.  When Kristine and I were first training, we thought that 105 was a number that we would surpass in a matter of weeks!  How wrong we were.  I have to give credit to my partner – the best – Kristine King – for her tenacity in enticing folks into the recording seats – week after week and month after month. 

The one and only!

The one and only!

We want to give a big thank you to KUCB, our partner in crime, who agreed to accept local recordings for editing and broadcast.  We thank the director and staff of the Unalaska City Library, for agreeing to be a local repository for the recordings, and for allowing us to use the Alaskana Room, on occasion, for recordings.  We are thankful for all of the help from April Pelkey and Darryl Pelkey in setting up our recordings in Akutan.  A huge THANK YOU to the groups who allowed us access and use of the AA room at the Burma Road Chapel.  Without your generousity of the use of the site, our goals would have been much harder to obtain.  We appreciate each and every minute that we spent there.  (Can you believe that on the last night of recording, we ran behind schedule, and actually were still there recording when our time ran out?  And we had such a perfect record!)  The use of the room was also a surprise icebreaker, as folks peeked their heads in the door, expecting an impromtu intervention.  Thanks for the laughs and the thought provoking decor.

MS

We thank our families for allowing us the freedom to take on this important project.  Especially, kids, grandkids, and husbands.  We thank our families, also, for those guilt and pity recordings that helped get us off to a great start!!  We thank Dave Isay and all of the staff at StoryCorps for hiring and working with us…yes we know we were a little unorthodox, but we can blame that on me and my bad influence on Kristine!  We met some incredible people through this project.  A huge shout out and thanks to the Unalaska blogging community for taking on the StoryCorps challenge early on in the project!

Last, and certainly not least, we thank each storyteller and their partner for braving the unknown and facing those obnoxious, intimidating microphones!  Thanks also for allowing Kristine and I the opportunity to get to know you a little better.  The tag line for StoryCorps is that listening is an act of love, and I have to say that our bonds to this community are even stronger (as if they weren’t strong before) for having been given your gifts of stories.

Kristine King, the strongarm, and Sharon Svarny-Livingston, the databaser.

Waiting to exhale…

So…we had the first cruise ship of the season.  Naturally, it had to be a big one.  Having not done a cathedral tour since last September, a couple of days ago I got the chance to do a dry run.  I thought it would be a good idea to get the rust out – you know – remember all those dates and saints and Russian names.  So I agreed to do a little tour for a Headstart field trip.

Good Lord!  I never realized how many icons I don’t know.  The kiddos wanted to know “Who’s that?” for every icon they could see.  Thank God some of them were too far up for them to notice, or I would still be there.  It was wild, sweet mayhem, let me tell you.

We had 3 buses today, with about 50 passengers per bus – give or take a few.  Wait, let’s make that give a few.  There were loads of people.  My volunteers didn’t make it by the first bus, so I was ever so thankful that Cyri Petrova and her mother, Rufina, willingly lent a hand.  By the time the 2nd bus rolled around, my wonderful (at times, yes, I admit it) husband rolled in.  Caleb is a pretty good enforcer.  It is pretty important to us that people do not wander around the church by themselves, so, in the absence of my mother, the absolute enforcer, Caleb was great!

I always forget how exhausted I get doing tours.  I finally realized why I get that way, several years ago.  Let me tell you a secret.  It is damn hard being PERKY for 3 to 4 hours!  Oh, and I had to move all the huge planks that were used during Easter, plus the long back benches before the buses got there. 

All these red planks were piled in the St. Innocent chapel.

All these red planks were piled in the St. Innocent chapel.

So that got me a bit tired.  But it is that PERKINESS that does me in, for sure.

CB showed up with some folks who were doing video work.  I put a real downer on their plans when I had to let them know that since I didn’t have permission from the Bishop to film in the church, alas, no cameras.  They were very gracious.  And we had a good time talking before the 3rd bus showed up.  Great seeing you on this side, CB.

I am awaiting my new couch.  It was supposed to be delivered to Ashley Furniture in Anchorage on Thursday.  They will deliver it to ACE.  It didn’t come in today, and I don’t know yet if there is a plane tomorrow.  How disappointing.  If you knew that I have been without a couch since August, you would be disappointed for me, too! 

StoryCorps has less than a week of recording time left in the Alaska Initiative.  Kristine and I facilitated number 109 this evening with lovely storyteller Jane Bye, and interviewer Anne Hillman. 

Don’t forget to attend the Coffee House this Saturday at 7PM in the Burma Road Chapel.  Should be lots of fun.  I missed the board training provided by the City of Unalaska for non-profits due to my work and volunteer schedule.  Hopefully they will provide a training video.

Have a great weekend everyone!

We’re Home!

Just a quick update. Kristine and I went to the community potluck last night and enjoyed the company and the wide variety of food.  I think we ate a little too much.  It was wonderful.  Vera Pelkey’s fish pie was delicious.  April made some great corn muffins (we got to swipe a few for our breakfast this morning) and a beautiful angel food cake with salmonberry glaze.  Plus, many other dishes.  Our offering was salmon spread with crackers, and tangerines and apples.  Needless to say, our tummies and taste buds were quite satisfied.

We got a call a 8:30 this morning from Demetri Tcheripanoff, Sr. that Penair was planning to have a plane over before 10.  We hauled our luggage down to the boardwalk, Demetri picked it up with the four wheeler.  I must say, Kristine must have a really lop-sided idea about flying in the Goose.  Both the trip over and the trip back were on flawless days.  The water was glassy smooth again!  We landed in Dutch Harbor (yes, the water) and had Kristine home by 10:30 to see Maxman, Joe, and Mamma for Easter.

Great trip.  Wonderful people in Akutan.  Good to be home.  So far my hubbie is happy!

My Dad said, according to my husband….

According to my husband, in the highly competitive contest to guess the departure date and time of Kristine and Sharon from Akutan, my Dad said that there is always the Tustemena.  It will arrive in Akutan on April 18!!!  Thanks, Dad.  Kristine and I were happy to hear that, because that would mean that we would be back in time to record Mom’s story before you guys head out for vacation!  Ha!

Zoya Johnson, talking with my Dad, Sam Svarny, at the StoryCorps opening reception.

Zoya Johnson, talking with my Dad, Sam Svarny, at the StoryCorps opening reception.

When Kristine and I started working for StoryCorps, after training, Kristine came home with the equipment and I stayed in Anchorage to record at AFN.  Kristine’s mother was in Unalaska so Kristine and her mother, Carol, were the first Unalaska StoryCorps conversation.

Grandmother and Mom, Carol King with the real Batman.

Grandmother and Mom, Carol King with the real Batman.

Kristine and I feel that it is appropriate that my mother be the last Unalaska StoryCorps conversation.  So Mom, get your stories ready.  We’ve  got our listening ears on!

Gert Svarny at the StoryCorps Unalaska opening reception.

Gert Svarny at the StoryCorps Unalaska opening reception.

Whoops!

Trying to look out at our gorgeous view this morning.

Trying to look out at our gorgeous view this morning.

Oh dear!  Our 11 AM fight is not looking too good right now.  I am letting Kristine sleep….maybe she won’t notice what is going on outside her door!!  We are becoming very good at creating meals out of our weirdly paired supplies.  Kristine learned a new way of fixing salmon spread.  We just added horseradish.  It was delish.  It is funny how we think about food so much over here!  And appreciate it.

The wind is not too strong.  The visibility is the problem.

The wind is not too strong. The visibility is the problem.

We’ll go for a hike today if the snow is not hitting our eyes too hard.  When we were walking Wednesday night we had to turn back because it hurt too much!  We both love walking on the boardwalk.

With my admiration….

My visit to Akutan has been a lot of fun.  The stories we have gotten so far have been great.  There has been a lot of joking about who has a story and who doesn’t.  I swear, everyone we talk to tries to point us in another direction by saying “I know who you should talk to…”

This morning we facilitated the much awaited conversation between April Dawn Pelkey and her husband Demetri Tcheripanoff.  (Thank you April and Demetri, so much for coming in and allowing us to hear your story.)

April and Demetri with me during their StoryCorps conversation.

April and Demetri with me during their StoryCorps conversation.

After laughing (trying not to make any noise) and crying and laughing again, and watching April interact with her husband, and hearing about her life, it really got me in a pensive, thinking mood.    I started recalling the stories from Hugh, Darryl, Joe, and then April, Demetri, and Christopher Tcheripanoff this afternoon, and I was overwhelmed by admiration for the love of place that was revealed in all of the conversations.  As someone who believes, to the depth of my soul, that the best place on earth is the Aleutian Islands, and that I belong no where else, it was humbling to find the same sentiments here on Akutan Island.  It is uplifting to know that everyone has worked so hard to keep Akutan vibrant and growing.  And equally important that there are Unangax of the “young generation” stepping up to the plate to carry on the work and traditions.  Believe me, if I wore a hat (which I can’t because I look really stupid in them) my hat would be off to this community.

Helloooo from Akutan!

Kristine and I had an absolutely perfect flight on the Penair Grumman Goose from Unalaska to Akutan.  It was so smooth that Kristine’s window didn’t even get wet in the water landing.  Pilot Steve Hakala is one of the best anyways.  I told Kristine that I really didn’t know that many people in Akutan, but it seems that everyone we saw, I knew!  April came to meet our plane, (Akutan- Village Life on the Rocks for you blog followers) then got us checked into our rooms at the Akutan Bayview Hotel.  Dimitri Tcheripanioff brought our bags and equipment on a 4 wheeler which was very much appreciated.

An absolutely beautiful day for flying.

An absolutely beautiful day for flying.

We invited folks to come to our workspace, provided by the Akutan Corporation at the Bayview, and we were happy to get 2 people signed up for sessions.  Hugh Pelkey came in first and spent 40 minutes talking with me about his life, with 2 amazing stories of survival.  His descriptions of the events, as well as his discriptions of life in general, were vivid.  We hosted Hugh’s bother Darryl Pelkey later in the evening.  His story took us from Akutan, to the West coast of Washington, and back again, leaving us with a clear understanding of his appreciation of life in the Aleutians, and how you can make a difference in the lives of those living around you.

harbor

Looking across the bay.

Our morning started with a trip outside to look at the calm beginnings of a new day.  Yikes!  Another gorgeous day.   Our first session was a conversation with Mayor Joe Bereskin.  Joe talked with me about Akutan and the importance of becoming involved to make where you live the best it can be for it’s residents.  We touched on topics of politics, fisheries, hydro power, geothermal power, education, and the absolute beauty of Akutan’s boardwalks!!

Brand new City Hall and some of the boardwalk.

Brand new City Hall and some of the boardwalk.

Several of our conversationalists were unable to attend, so Kristine and I took a walk to the Trident plant.  Oh my goodness.  That trek was long and had a bit of mud involved!  We hadn’t really planned on the trek, so we didn’t have our brochures with us.  We had to come all the way back to town, eat our scrumptuous soup dinner and trek all the way back with our brochures in the hopes of getting some folks from the plant to participate tomorrow.  Kristine and I were amazed that the Penair Goose made six trips today!

We are eagerly awaiting April’s and her husband’s conversation tomorrow morning.  CB, if you are reading the blogs while you are on vacation, just know that April is enjoying some sea salt caramels from Unalaska!!!