Thursday, May 17, 2012

They have me headed south....

For the first time in almost exactly 4 months I have left my tiny valley home of Fairbanks AK and made it to the booming metropolis of Anchorage. This is actually quite a lovely city. From pretty much anywhere that you look, you will spot the towering, snow capped Alaska range. These picturesque mountains are what you would think of when you think of the rockies, they are not round and green like the appalachian mountains of North Carolina, but brown until your eyes reach the stunning snow tops. They are the back bones of Alaska. There also happens to be a very neat architectural trick that a lot of the buildings around town are made only of windows; so if you are not look directly at the mountains, you can still see their reflections in all the buildings. There is a brisk wind that seems to constantly flow here, which is actually what keeps Anchorage cooler than Fairbanks during the summer and warmed during the winter. Anchorage, like Fairbanks, is still recovering from a very difficult winter. Instead of blistery cold temperatures, they received the most snow fall they have had in about 45 years, close to 18 FEET! The lady running the conference said that it has only been in the past couple of weeks that the snow has melted. But I would have no idea. It has been nothing but bright and sunny since I stepped off the plane a few days ago. There are some key differences in Fairbanks and Anchorage. I feel that when imagining what my ALaskan town would look and feel like, I actually imagined something closer to Anchorage. It is a well planned out city, with central parks and community gardens. There are definitely hidden corners everywhere in this town that would make it a very unique and eclectic place to live. The people also seem more open to change and the acceptance of the social issues that in places, act like a plague, in Alaska. This may be because I have spent the last couple of days learning how to advocate for these issues, with like minded people, but as a whole Anchorage seems to actually MOVE. So far I have not seen a homeless person stumbling out of a bus onto the side walk in search for the closest place to sit down for a while, or even a person stumbling around the central bus depot. Which unfortunately, is an all too familiar sight in Fairbanks. Either way I have throughly been able to enjoy my time here in Anchorage and am already looking for ways to get back down here. So if anyone from the lower 48 wants to visit this summer, I would more than happily meet them in Anchorage for the week ;)

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

And so it is...

Sorry for the pause in my blogs of late, the weather has changed drastically in the past few weeks, so instead of bundling up in the mornings and braving myself for the teen and twenty degree weather, I have been hoping on my bicycle (a beautiful vintage yellow Schwinn varsity) and biking to work.  The sunlight has officially returned as well, inching closer and closer to the famed "midnight sun" we are averaging about 17 hours of daylight.  Although this is not the first time I have experienced this, during my study abroad experience in Estonia, the "midnight sun" existed as well, but it seemed to have a calming effect on the town; patios were set up, afternoons were spent lazily sitting in the sun, eating Russian dumplings and drinking beers while "studying" for finals.  Here this light has a sort of nervous energy that constantly reminds you...."this won't last long, better get off the couch and stay outside for as long as you can".  And this is precisely  what I am trying to do.  My roommate and I have joined a nature class at the creamy turned wildlife refugee every Thursday, I am heading up our garden project at work (still not sure how that one happened seeing as I have a black thumb and tend to kill anything that is green and good when left in my care....I killed a cactus once. A. CACTUS.), and I am spending about as much time as possible on my bike.

The birch trees are slowly waking up and signs of life are all over Fairbanks.  People are returning, festivals are happening, and the constant sound of hammering can be heard anywhere in the city.  Although we haven't reached the glorious days of summer yet, the break up has not been a disappointment!

Service is going well, the school year is winding down and so is my after school program.  Which means I will have plenty of time to write grants and start on my next youth activity, a resource group for young mothers in Fairbanks.  I am going to be linking them with agencies throughout Fairbanks to help them stay afloat and raise a healthy child.  This is going to last about 6 weeks and then it will be about time for the after school program to start back up.  I am also heading up and supervising our youth work experience.  I will have the opportunity to go to job sites with youth and make sure they do the designated work that has been assigned to them.  I am really excited about this because a lot of the sites are outside town limits and I will finally get to see what Ak looks like outside of Fairbanks.

Well I better return to work.  I hope everyone is enjoying the late spring, early summer weather and know that I am very jealous and miss it so!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Heavens to Betsy's, THE THAW IS COMING!

A spring time hello to all down in the balmy lower 48,

I am happy to report that spring time seems to be here to stay in the last frontier! The temperature will be in the 30s all week, and even though there is snow in the forecast, this the locals tell me, is a sure sign that Spring has Sprung and that the bitterly cold snaps are done! Which you definitely won't hear me complaining about, I am rebelling against winter anyway that I can- not wearing my snow pants, leaving the house in (insert gasp here) just my TOMS, wearing sunglasses to tempt the sun to stick around. And my hard work is paying off- today I was actually HOT! I even wished that I was wearing less clothing, definitely thinner socks! To end this joyous note of Spring time poking its head around the corner, the town of Fairbanks has even scheduled the GREAT CLEAN UP DAY! for May 5th. This is a day that everyone in town pitches in and cleans up all the trash that has collected in the ginormous mounds of snow (some are literally 20 feet high)over the past nine months of winter.

But in other news besides spring flirting with us frozen choosen, I have gotten to experience a couple "only in ALaska" experiences since I last wrote. This weekend I was lucky enough to not only visit the World Ice Carving Championships once, but twice! This competition brings professional ice carvers from all over the world for 72 hours to make an art sculpture out of either a block of ice or multiple blocks of ice. They were phenomenal. I was completely blown away by the minute details and time that the artist were able accomplish in under 3 days! There were also slides, an iceskating park, and a kiddy land. It was all pretty remarkable. (Pictures to follow)

The second big piece of news is that I have started the process for apply to graduate school. I had no idea how much goes into this. Besides completing the basic application, I have to take the GRE (not a simple task), find recommendations, write essays, track down and pay for my transcripts (this is the only time I have ever wished I didn't study abroad), prepare for interviews, apply for funding.....the list goes on and on. The good news is that because this is a "professionals goal" of mine, I get to count the hours of studying, writing, and tracking as work hours- not a bad deal for me!

Besides running around crazy for work and planning my young mothers' wellness groups this summer, I have been enjoying the sun and northern lights. I hope you all are still enjoying the balmy summer weather and know that I am still very jealous of you! miss you all!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Frozen Chosen

So I am up to about 2 months in the arctic tundra and things are definitely not heating up.  All the locals swear that summer is literally right around the corner and that I will never want to leave AK after experiencing the intense 24 hour days of summer bliss, but I am starting to get skeptical.  Every morning I am woken up to the chiming bells of my alarm clock, I hope that when I look at my iPhone, the temperature will be out of the negative, because then at least by the afternoon it will feel semi-warm (balmy 16 degrees anyone) but alas, this is not the case- it's -11, -15, or some really hard mornings, -22.  I normally let out an exasperated sigh and slowly roll out of bed to hit the showers and start my day- bundled up of course!

But other than living in a wintry wonderland things are slowly starting to pick up here.  My youth program has had at least 10 participants every day and I am busy working this week on recruiting more.  I have been charged with the task of making a shuttle to Access Alaska more entertaining so I am think of throwing a bus party or a "do whatever you don't do on a normal school bus" event.  Definitely still working out the kinks in that one but hopefully I will have some fun and entertaining stories to report next time I blog about this process.

In the mean time I hope everyone is enjoying their unreasonable warm springs! Know that the frozen chosen up here are very jealous of the sunny days, sun dress weather, and all things great that gets rolled into summer.

Hasta la Proxima Vez

Monday, February 27, 2012

things are speeding up in sleepy alaska

So sorry it has been a while since I blogged; of course many things have happened since I last blogged which is why I haven't written as much as you guys would like to know!

I ended up having to find a new place to live because one of my roommates decided that she simply could no longer live with us.  This was sort of a shock, although she had found a gentleman friend and was never at home, she also did not seem very unhappy when she was home.  So when she informed us she was leaving, we knew we were in trouble because we couldn't afford the rent.  After about two weeks of searching and 15 apartments later,we finally found the one we could call home! It is a small two bedroom (I am happy to report I have my own room in this apartment!) that is near the university.

Being near the university is great for a couple of reasons:
*we are now on both the blue and red line that run all day on the hour until around 9 pm- big change from the yellow line that only ran until 6:30 and took a two and a half hour break in the middle of the day.  Also the yellow line only went to a handful of places in town, now we have access to pretty much anywhere! so YAY!
*we can walk over to the university, sit in cute used books and coffee shops, and participate in activities on campus (like the Ice Rock Wall!)
*there are actually less lights because we are near Creamer's Field, so we can see the northern lights much much better!

SO having to find a place to move to, moving, and now getting settled has been a stressful experience to say the least, i feel like moving is the underlying theme to this blog! Hopefully this is the last one for the year!  But in the meantime, while all the moving was going on some other exciting events took place!  About a month ago the Yukon Quest dog race started in Fairbanks and ended in the heart of the Canadian Yukon.  It is over 1,000 miles and is the old dog sled routes used for mail and gold rush.  It is actually a bigger deal in Alaska than the Iditarod that will be starting this following weekend! Many of the same dog mushers compete in both races and the favorite this year is Lance Mackey.  He has actually won both races in the same year (a feat that is very very hard to do) He is kind of like the Michael Jordon of Dog Races.  He did not win this year's Yukon though because he is racing a new sled dog.  The winner,Hugh Neff, won by 22 seconds! Very exciting? The dogs of course were adorable because they were so excited to race and they all either had booties on or actual dog sledding socks. I have to say it was an exciting Saturday~ if you want to learn more about the Quest go to:

Work is picking up rather quickly and for the most part my days are packed from 8 am to 5 pm running around Fairbanks, advocating for youth, promoting the after school program, and general making connections throughout the community that we can use in the future with our consumers in the youth in transition program.  Some days I am stuck in the office catching up on paperwork and organizing things for the program.....i have found these are my least favorite days.  The days that I can go out and interact with people are the days that I enjoy the most.  I think this comes from my Peace Corps experience where, every time I walked out of my door and interacted with host country nationals, I was doing my job (a job that I came to love).  So for future employment options I think I am going to have to find something that allows me to be outdoors!. I really enjoy the youth advocacy that I am getting to do, so maybe something that allows me to advocate outside of an office?  Who knows!

For those of you interested, here is the link to the iditarod's home page.  There are only 4 days left before it starts and this will give you up to date information on the race and who is in the lead!

Today is another snowy day in Fairbanks and the temperature has dropped back down to the single digits.  I am just glad it is not in the negatives again! Having your nose hair freeze is something that is only enjoy able the first couple of times you experience it! Although it is still very cold and very snowy, having the sun as a prominent presence throughout the day makes it much more livable! by the end of this week, including twilight times, we will have 12 hours of sunlight! the sun never gets very high in the sky, but it is nice to have it there! Makes things feel like they are slowly waking up from their winter slumber!

Well I think that's all for now, pictures to come!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Santa Claus' favorite coffee

Hello again!

I have officially made it 2 weeks in this years coldest place on earth. I am starting to get the hang of living here- as long as I am dressed appropriately normally the cold really isn't too bad! I finally received the huge box of blankets, jackets, snow pants, and other warm clothing so I feel much better equipped to handle being in -30 to -50 degree weather everyday. The weather man keeps telling us that we should have a break in the cold and it be up to a toasty 25 degrees ABOVE zero by tomorrow, but I'm not so sure!!! This past weekend it was below -50 so we ended up staying inside watching movies, playing board games (Chris my roommate is a fanatic when it comes to board games) and praying we didn't have to leave the house! Chris and I did venture out long enough to throw hot water from a pot and see it freeze in midair which is what the picture that looks like a bomb went off is!!! It's funny talking to native Alaskan's about doing things like that because they all say "it never occurred to me to try that!" I guess it's like flying kites at the beach for us! Even though it was cold by Sunday both Chris and I were going stir crazy and decided during the afternoon when the sun was out to bundle up and venture to the grocery store, Fred Meyers, about a mile away. It was really nice to get out but by the time we arrived we both had an ice mustache, our eyelashes were completely white with frost, and all my nose hairs were frozen. It was pretty hilarious looking! The good thing about this kind of weather is that it is so dry here as soon as you walk back inside you immediately shake the cold! Fairbanks is actually considered a tundra/desert so I have to constantly remind myself to drink water! While in the grocery store we discovered santat claus' favorite coffee: ST. NICKERDOODLE! hahahaha I thought you all would enjoy that! I thought it was quite charming! Well time to get back to the grind but look out for more post next week!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Settling into a winter wonderland!

Greetings from north of a north pole! Ok so I am not really north of the north pole but I am north of a town called the North Pole. Things seem to be going well, after a very long day of traveling Wednesday, I finally arrived in Fairbanks- was taken to my home, put my stuff down and ran out the door to go to karaoke, which we later found out was cancelled due to remodeling but went to UAF's on campus bar instead and enjoyed some of alaska's fine microbrews (already a plus from Guatemala!)
On Thursday I was up early to start my training at Joel's place. Joel's place is a non-profit that allows a safe place for youth to hang out. It is a skate par, a coffee bar, and offers one hot meal a day. It was founded in response to the many runaway youth in Fairbanks 12 or 13 years ago. I know its hard to believe that there would be runaway youth in Alaska, but it is actually one of the biggest issues. Having places like joel's place help cut back on drug use of teens, prostitution, and deaths by freezing. So it is really awesome to be working with a program that was made solely to help protect vulnerable people.

yesterday we met up with this lady named sister Barbie. Her nickname comes from the various charitable things she does throughout the north star burrow. She has been very helpful in helping us locate furniture for our home and connecting us to several different organization which is very kind of her, but I have to admit she is by far the most eclectic person I have met in Alaska thus far. We went to her house outside of the town North Pole to meet her for our grand furniture adventure. She was wearing a custom made beaver coat that went down to her ankles, with neatly curled blondish white hair. I quickly learned that she was a born again Christian that loved to tell stories! Which oh lard we heard some stories while driving all over the frozen north in search of the furniture that had been moved from one of her 3 storage units to another one. After we finally found the furniture, she treated us to dinner at Pikes. Pikes is an incredibly spendy (that's Alaskan for expensive) restaurant right on the river front. The river front is frozen over right now so it has actually become an ice bridge! There is a pool of money every year for the person who guesses the time and day the river will have thawed out enough for a car to fall through!!! Hahaha I think you can actually win quite a bit of money too! After dinner we politely declined her invitation to hear jazz music and be on a Christian radio show because we were so tired from the day.

Yesterday was a lazy day, we laid around and enjoyed the last bit of our weekend before starting at our sites today.

So far my service site is very nice! I am in charge of an afterschool program that assists youth in achieving career goals by helping them attain their GED or high school diploma and though career development trainings. Today. I worked at a fair for the homeless community of Fairbanks. It was amazing all the resources this fair pulled together! Most of the booths required a referral form for future appointments but Joel's Place was handing out winter clothing that had been donated, a salon was giving away free haircuts, and there was a free manicurist and pedicurist to help clean up the appearance of the homeless people there. It is a great program that the town of Fairbanks offers every year! I am slowly learning how people just lose control and find themselves in situations they never thought they would be in. And this can range from drug and alcohol use to wrong investments to being fired from a position and not being able to get int the system long enough to stay a float. Today was very eye opening for me and I am excited to learn more and participate more in this side of life. I am hoping it will further my education of the "real world" and allow me to grow ever more open, patient, and understanding.