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 unique. Over the next few days, we'll be publishing more than 20 of their stories.
HOMER — Odane Robinson came to Alaska from his home in Mandeville, Jamaica, more mentally prepared this year. Last summer, his first working at the Land's End Resort at the far end of the Homer Spit, he didn't know what to expect.
"I thought it was snow everywhere, and people wearing thick coats and dogsledding," he said. "After doing some research and stuff, I was like 'I guess it's bearable.'"
It turned out to be better than that. He was impressed by the stunning views of the Kenai Mountains and Kachemak Bay right outside the windows of his workplace. He saw eagles, moose and sea otters, animals he'd never seen before.
Robinson smiles and laughs with his co-workers into the night, and lingers to chat when his shift ends as a waiter in the resort's restaurant. That's a job he landed through the U.S. State Department's J1 Visa program. He's one of about eight from Jamaica at the Land's End this year, he said. The adventure was the draw, not the money.
"I think I could make more money being a waiter back home," he said.
And he's sharing the moments with his mother, too, by texting photos and showing her the landscape as they FaceTime.
"I actually tell her everything and I call her almost every day."
Back home, Robinson is studying computer science. But he's dreaming of a job as a commercial airline pilot and saving money for the training. He has one more year of J1 eligibility after he returns home at the end of the summer. Though he could choose a new adventure, for 2019, he's leaning toward a return to the Homer Spit.
"It's like a family here," he said. "I feel comfortable coming here."