Alaska is a place where the simple things become complicated and the complicated things become simple. For example, booking a plane flight in the lower 48 (or "outside", as it is called here) is a complicated matter. We need to verify who you are, your credit card information, if you want to book the fight for someone else of if you are booking for yourself etc, and that is just to book your ticket. Then there's getting on the plane. I don't have to tell you all about this, you know how it goes... In two words: security, bureaucracy.
Then there is booking a flight in Alaska: A conversation between myself and an air taxi.
Me: Hi I'm a new teacher moving to New Stuyahok and I need to get a flight there from Dillingham. I have never booked a bush plane before so I'm not sure exactly what I need to do. (Expecting a bit of explanation)
Bush Pilot: When do you want to go?
Me: August 4th
Bush Pilot: when does your flight get in from anchorage ?
Me: leave anchorage at 8 due in Dillingham at 9:30
Bush plane: ok ... (Long pause)
(My thoughts: Hmmm, Is this conversation over? Did I give him my name?)
Me: What time will the plane leave for New Stu?
Bush Pilot: Do you need to do anything in Dillingham first?
Me: No, I don't think so
Bush Pilot: Ok, we will probably leave around 10 or 10:30
Me: Ok, did you want my name?
Responding in a voice as if to appease my strange desire to give him my name he says "uh, yeah, what's your name?"
Me: Wesley Nelson
Bush Pilot: ok, the plane is navy blue, so when you see it just come on out to where it's parked.
Me: ok, how much does the flight cost?
....And on it goes, you get the idea.... simple to the point of confusion
I should note also that you pay for your flight after you have landed. It is more like a taxi; You get me where I want to go safely and then I will pay you.
Simple right? Just go to the grocery store. And when there is no grocery store, the simple becomes complicated.
There are a couple of main ways to get groceries, food, and supplies of any type to the village.
1. Order it from the Internet: Amazon.com has free shipping for Prime members. This may not seem like such a great thing, but shipping a case of canned goods, or even something small, to a remote village may cost more than the goods themselves. Amazon either hasn't noticed this loophole, or they make up for it in the vast amount of products they sell to residents in the bush.
2. Have a bush carrier company in Anchorage shop for you, box it up and fly it to you. These companies usually have a standard mark-up on products and an online catalog that can be perused to place orders. Delivery is included in the product mark-up price. It's spendy, but it's food. Not to mention they will ship fresh and chill items, which cannot be done via Amazon or other methods.
3. Go get it and ship it to yourself. This means flying to Anchorage (about $600 round trip), going to wholesale stores, and anywhere else you need to get things, boxing them up and shipping them yourself. I did this. It is a bit stressful (especially as a first-timer) and a lot of work running here and there and getting everything in order.
4. The best, cheapest and funnest option is to hunt, fish and forage.
On a related side note mail is delivered more or less everyday-ish weather permitting (the weather often doesn't permit). The bush plane company contracted with USPS for mail delivery is infamous for going on weather delay for the slightest weather conditions. All other bush pilots have no regulations, they fly whenever they deem it flyable. This can be scary is hairy weather, but hey, they are in the plane too.