Life “On Campus”

Sometimes you get roped into doing things…

Each May ARAMARK hosts “Trashin’ Fashion” in Denali.  It’s a fundraising event that is supposed to raise money for local schools while raising awareness about recycling and the environment.  I’m not so sure it succeeds on either count, but that’s another story.  I was “encouraged” to participate this year, which meant getting on stage wearing nothing more than a costume “barrel.”  Making it even more fun is that the event was on the day most of our managers arrived – meaning we were already pressed for time.  Oh well.

Our Operations Manager got suckered into wearing this dress “decorated” with branches & lichen. He was a good sport about it.

Sometimes people ask me what it’s like living up here, so perhaps it’s time to share a bit of what it’s like to live here, “here” being in a dormitory for a 188 room hotel just outside the border of Denali National Park.  We have 128 employees, and all of us live on the property.  Most employees are in their 20’s, with a small number of older folks.

Part of my job is coordinating employee activities.  Monthly we do an employee appreciation event, on July 4 we cooked out for both lunch and dinner, played music, and had manager vs. employees volleyball games.

The managers… well, we got our butts kicked. Yes, that’s me with the balding head…

We also do things like photo trips, ping pong tournaments, movie nights, and of course… ice cream socials.

On July 1 I ran in the 2nd annual “Mine Race” – a 10k run through the hills of the Healy coal mine.  I didn’t win but I felt like I held my own!

We also sponsor two running races in the park, to raise money for local non-profits.  Last year I raced, but I decided to volunteer one of this year’s races.  My co-worker Jake won the 1/2 marathon with a time of 1 hour, 15 minutes.

One of my employees got this nice aerial shot of our property on a recent flightseeing tour.  As you can see, we’re surrounded by some fantastic scenery!

Some friends occasionally say something along the lines of “I wish I had your life.”  In some ways my life is pretty cool.  I’m good at my job.  I live at a national park that is one of the premier travel destinations on the planet.  I don’t pay rent for 5 months of the year, and I spend some money on food purely by choice.  I get to go flightseeing, river rafting, and more for free.  Yes, very cool.  Spectacular, actually.

BUT, there’s a catch.  I live in a old, dark, moldy dormitory.  Unless I leave property, I am never “off work” due to the nature of the beast.  Most of the employees are in their early 20’s, and we all know what that means for noise.  When they get rowdy at 2am, guess who responds?  This afternoon, returning to property from my weekend, I was roped into an hour of work because no one else knew how to solve a problem.  I no longer get the fresh and local food I grew used to in Colorado.  And of course, between job constraints and the realities of life in central Alaska, my social life is…. non-existent.

So should I return for a 3rd season?  I love my job, but I recognize that I’m starting to burn out again living on property, just as I did when I worked in higher education.  I like Alaska, but I can’t get excited about it.  I certainly enjoy my several months off in the fall, but it’s not financially prudent either.

Advice taken gladly!!!!

More blog posts coming ASAP.  I’ve been a slacker about posting, but very soon I’ll have new posts up with lots of pretty pictures.  And some fun adventures.

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