It's Friday and we discover that in this hangar they celebrate Friday with a barbecue lunch. The entire extended family is present, and it's a little confusing because despite the flat maps we usually work with, where east is east and west is west, the Earth really is round. Just as Russia turned up on the WAC chart for our destination, Russia features prominently in the history of Alaska. Russia owned Alaska until March 1867, and something that had never occurred to me until this trip is that the Russians who already lived here didn't just go home. It had been a substantial trip for them to get here; they had lives and homes and had intermarried with local people, and what difference did it make to them if the czar sold national ownership in their chunk of land to pay his gambling debts or raise money to invade China, or redo his winter palace, or whatever he was going to do with the money. So some Alaskans are of Russian descent and as soon as the Cold War ended they went right back to having good communications. One of the wives of this family was a high school exchange student, and her parents are here, plus the American born contingent break the American English-only stereotype and can speak some Russian. Even one of the dogs prefers Russian, responding lackadaisically to English commands and crisply to Russian language equivalents.
The lunch feast includes barbecued burgers with processed American cheese on top, potato chips, and slices of watermelon. I feel like it's the Fourth of July! There are kids running around too, speaking both languages. It's totally normal for an intermarried family, and such families are very normal at an international border, I just wasn't thinking of Alaska that way.
After lunch the AME sends us across town to pick up a part from a supplier at another airport. While we're waiting for them to find it, we notice a flyer for a customer appreciation barbecue that evening. Hey, we're customers. Think we can score two free barbecues in one day?
We bring the part back to the airplane and get everything into a tidy state just in time for the five o'clock quitting time here. But it turns out that by now we're family so they okay us working on the weekend when they aren't there. The charter company at the adjoining hangar will be there all day, so they can let us in. Superb! we should be finished by tomorrow.
And yes we do go to the other supplier barbecue, worth it both for the flawlessly cooked steaks--aren't the best steaks always cooked by a huge tattooed guy at an outdoor barbecue?--and the contacts we make with people who know the local area and the remote one in which we will be flying. The assessments of the place we are going continue to be grim, but now we have the names of some worse places around it where we should on no accounts go. Not that there are roads, anyway.
And on the theme of enjoying the generosity of others and of occasions for fireworks, I just got the minutes of a meeting on the Cambodia project. I couldn't be there, on account of being nowhere near there, but they felt my presence. It appears that Cockpit Conversation readers contributed about five thousand dollars towards building supplies. According to the minutes, I was singled out in absentia for my fundraising efforts, even though all I did was say please. You wonderful people did the rest. That goes to show that not only are you jaw-droppingly amazing, but that you are either intent on your anonymity or more generous than you are skilled at following directions. I kept a running total from the people who let me know they donated, and assumed the ones who didn't specify an amount were averaging the same as those who did, my number isn't close to that one. I am so grateful to all of you. You should see how happy I am. Notice that I've posted a blog entry pretty much every day since. That's part of my thank you to you.