The Kenai Peninsula comes alive during summer. Tourists, fishermen, seasonal workers and year-round residents share highways and harbors from Homer to Seward. ADN's Tegan Hanlon and Marc Lester recently spent a week meeting some of the people who make the Peninsula so unique. Over the next few days, we'll be publishing more than 20 of their stories.
COOPER LANDING — Michael Snow offered to share one of his homemade burritos with a stranger as he watched his friend fish for salmon off the banks of the Kenai River on a rainy afternoon.
The trip was part of Snow's two-week vacation from his job. He hasn't had too much time off in the past few years. He had three children to raise alone in a new country.
"When you're just starting out, you need to work hard," said Snow, 47.
Snow and his children moved to Alaska about four years ago. They're from the Philippines. Snow said he left most everything behind when he came to the United States, including his construction company. It was hard, he said, but he was determined to send his children to better schools.
"I'm an engineer in my country," he said. "But when I thought about the education system in the Philippines — it's much better in the U.S."
When Snow and his family first got to Anchorage, he worked three jobs: one at the U.S. Postal Service, one at Fred Meyer and one at Walmart. He slept only about two hours each day. Then, his name was Tolentino Villamor. Thinking back, he's not sure how he balanced it all.
"I guess it's called grit," he said. "We survive because I work hard."
He said he was always thinking about his kids, Antonio, Kernell and Quency who are now ages 20, 19 and 17. He's quick to tick off their achievements. Earlier this year, Kernell's grades earned him a spot on the chancellor's list at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.
"They're all doing good in school," Snow said. He's very proud.
Snow became a U.S. citizen in September 2017. That's also when he became Michael Snow. Too often people had mistakenly punctuated his last name with an "e," he said. Once, the misspelling appeared on his plane ticket. When the last name on his ticket didn't match the one on his driver's license, someone called immigration authorities, he said.
He didn't want that to ever happen again. In Alaska, he said, people know how to spell snow.
Snow now works one job as a mechanic at the post office. It's a good job, he said. He gets to pick two weeks each year to take a vacation. He likes to choose a time in the summer. This summer, he's fishing.
He said he doesn't know too much about Alaska yet, but he does know people here like to fish.