After much deliberation, I’ve decided to go for a teaching job (elementary) in Alaska when the time comes that I have my degree. I know we have some Alaskan Dopers here, so can anyone give me advice/knowledge about life up there? Also, am I insane for wanting to move from Pennsylvania to Alaska?
Well, first you need to tell us **what part ** of Alaska you want to move to. Anchorage is completely different from Fairbanks, which isn’t at all like Juneau, which in no way resembles Ketchikan, which isn’t Nome. Anchorage is just another city, albeit 15 minutes from God’s Country. Fairbanks is unfit for human habitation. Juneau has politicians in it, and you aren’t allowed to hunt them.
Taking Anchorage as the place you are going. Cold in the winter, but not as cold as Chicago. Wet all the time (Great Alaska Rain Festival: Jan. 1st - Dec. 31st). Wonderful people, but 30% more men than women. Prices are high, because everything has to be brought in from Outside. Excellent brewpubs. If you suffer from SAD, you are going to be hurting. Start hanging out at Mr. Whitekeys Fly-By-Nightclub out on Lake Spenard. Wait for Chefguy to fill in the blanks. Specific questions answered quickly…worthless opinions offered even quicker!
I’ve narrowed it down to the health care and school district-equipped cities on the mainland- Anchorage, Fairbanks, Nome, or (possibly, if I’m that adventurous) Barrow. A big list, I know, but I have two years to decide.
Isn’t Juneau only accessible by plane or something like that?
Fairbanks is (checks to make sure this is in IMHO) everything bad about Alaska piled into one ugly lump. It is too freaking cold in the winter, too freaking hot in the summer, infested with blackflies and mosquitos the size of a Cessna, it has all the culture of Billings, Montana without the charm, and I once got a speeding ticket there!
Juneau is only accessible by water or air.
The Bush is The Bush. Anchorage is actually a nice little city. Kinda dirty, but that comes from discovering things that had been buried under the snow come May.
Friendly strippers, too. P.J.'s, in Spenard was a favorite hangout. Of course, that was only because I worked for the record store across the parking lot!!
At last, I’m needed!
Start with the ‘more men than women’: maybe in the distant past, not so now.
Bad stuff - 90 degree plus in the summer, down to 60 below in winter; voracious mosquitos; lots of smoke problems from the annual forest fires; solid Republican base, but people are an interesting lot.
Good stuff - Has a university campus; people are somewhat…unique
Bad stuff - politics are thick; school district politics are thicker; if your politics are to the left, you will be eternally frustrated; is becoming somewhat congested, but not nearly as bad as most cities.
Good stuff - all services you would expect in a city are here; prices aren’t that bad anymore; international airport; two university campuses; decent hospitals; moderate climate (I disagree with the comment about being wet all the time) with temps up to 75 in summer, down to below zero for brief periods in winter; aforementioned brewpubs are great, with local microbrews nationally recognized; LOTS of schools. The average cost of a house in Anchorage is now somewhere around $175K (I think).
Bad stuff - dealing with the Alaska Native community can be challenging and discouraging; LONG winters, chilly, short summers; isolated; miles and miles of nothing but miles and miles; goods and services are spotty and expensive; rapidly eats up and spits out those with romantic notions of living on the frontier.
Good stuff - cultural exposure; hunting and fishing
Nome: See “Barrow”, with the added attraction of the annual excitement of the Iditarod finish line.
Juneau, Ketchikan and SE Alaska: rain, more rain, and still more rain; spectacular during the two days of sun each year; best fishing in the world; deer hunting; mountain climbing; isolated; expensive.
Personal comments: If you’re coming up here to be another of those who just want to make a bunch of money and then leave, please don’t bother. If you are relatively young and want to make a go of the place, the rewards are great. If you’re going to sit in your apartment all winter and whine about how much the cold weather sucks, stay where you are. It will never get better for you, and the risk of depression, alcoholism and suicide is very real.
Take a look at this site for lots of good information about the state.
Why is this so bad?
Let’s see…come up to a place, take a job away from an Alaskan, put nothing back into the local economy, leave and invest/spend your money in another state, where they get the tax revenues.
You may want to check out this thread.
Okay. After looking at the options I think I could really put down roots in Anchorage. Barrow and Nome put me off for being too remote- I’d assume in the winters it might be hard to fly out, and with my stomach issues I’d be frightened to go too long without access to good specialized health care. You’ve scared me off of Fairbanks with that temperature variation- Anchorage is actually more calm weather-wise than Pennsylvania.
Also, school-wise, expenditures are better than in my hometown, as is the teacher/student ratio. The Anchorage School District seems to be one of the biggest employers in the city. Rent for an apartment is pretty high (avg. $1030/month for a 2-bedroom), but all I need is a room, not a 2-bedroom apartment. I could, from current listings, get a studio for 700 a month or more. The mean wage for elementary teachers hovers around 50,000. And from what I’ve seen, I’d be very happy staying there for quite some time.
Now, as for transportation in the city: Would a vehicle be preferable? Is there public transportation? If a vehicle, what kind?
Argh. Note to self: Remember that Robin signs on to every computer in the radio station. Sorry, Robin.
The present Superintendent of Schools in Anchorage is Carol Comeau. She has risen from playground assistant to this position and seems to be very competent. The schools in Anchorage take a critical beating because of the perception that there is a lot of waste and bureaucracy, and that property tax money is being squandered.
Transportation: Public transportation has taken a beating over the years, primarily because of the Republican politics (no, I’m not trying to turn this into an argument; it’s just reality). Thanks largely to my wife’s efforts, there has been some turnaround. She created a grass-roots organization of bus riders and employers here that has successfully lobbied for more routes and more buses, despite resistance from former mayors and car dealers. She’s now on the Public Transit Advisory Board under the current mayor, but it’s still an uphill battle.
The buses typically run about every hour, so it’s not always practical to use them. If you need to run errands during lunch, you’ll need a car or bicycle. If you end up living in The Valley or in Eagle River, you will most definitely need your own wheels. I would recommend something like a Subaru or other small 4-wheel drive vehicle, although it’s not really necessary most of the time. It does give you some measure of security when the snow flies. I don’t use studded tires, but some folks feel safer with them.
They also enacted strict alcohol prohibition a few years ago. This is more strict than the Volstead Act of the 1920s; you’re not even allowed to possess the stuff.
If that matters to you.
Yeah, many of the villages are “dry” by choice, which is a good thing, considering the ravages that the white man’s demon has wrought. Bringing alcohol into a dry village or selling it to the locals will land a person in the slammer.
As a current pedestrian (will be buying a used car once I have to start doing coursework in actual schools), I’d like to tell your wife she’s doing a wonderful thing, especially in a city with two universities. I do bicycle or walk pretty much everywhere in dry weather, so I’d be up for riding if the city’s not too abominably big. I’ll look into sturdier vehicles when I go to buy one.
Not really an issue for me, as I drink very rarely(ridiculously low tolerance), but do you know why? Were there alcoholism issues?
People routinely bicycle throughout the city (even in winter, for some hardy souls). It’s not that big a place. In normal traffic, in a car, you can get from any one point in town to any other point in town in about 15-20 minutes. There are numerous bike trails.
Alcohol has ravaged the Native community in the past and continues to do so today. The “drunken Native” is a time-worn cliche that is unfortunately based in reality. At the anual Alaska Native Conference, Native leaders exhort their people to reject demon rum.
Just be careful of the moose!
(No, I’m not just being a wiseguy. I’ve been to Anchorage, and moose really do walk around the city freely.)
You also get bears in the dumpsters. Every year, there a few auto-moose accidents. The local charities get the meat and the driver gets a story to tell his insurance adjuster.
Bears are common on the Hillside area, not so common in the flatlands. Moose are very common and very dangerous. Hundreds are killed on the highway every year. Most people are lucky enough to survive the collision. An on-foot encounter may not have such a fortunate ending, particularly in the spring, when they’re hungry, in the fall when rutting, or in the winter when they’re freezing their asses off and starving.
Last time I had one rummaging through my dumpster was when I was living on the shores of Lake Spenard…not exactly Hill Country!