*NOTE: For seven weeks in the fall of 2005, I worked in a small town of Skagway, Alaska. I didn't know anyone when I moved there and had to adapt quickly to the climate, people and town that was oh so different from the little mormon college I was used to attending. To give you an idea... The most popular T shirt sold in Skagway read: "SKAGWAY- A SMALL DRINKING TOWN WITH A HIKING PROBLEM." Anyway, below is the most memorable moment and an overall review of what I learned.
September 11, 2005
Okay, okay, okay,
I can never keep up with all this stuff that is happening to me. It’s all so crazy and a lot more dramatic than I would like to write (if you can imagine). I’m still raging around Skagway with my hair all wild and no make up on. I used to get dressed up for the day but something about this place makes people sooo lazy that little girls from Boise who actually take the time to get ready intimidates the locals. Either that or it makes them give her free stuff. But the stuff doesn’t out weigh the hassle of brushing my hair.
I finally went on the train on my day off yesterday. The train here is like the ultimate tour. It’s about a three hour round trip with beautiful scenery. I heard from all the tourists: "Oh you have to take the train! It’s so amazing- it cured my terminal illness and saved my son from a well." So naturally I didn’t hesitate to take the free ticket I got. And the ride was magnificent. Alaska really is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been. Besides Rexburg, Idaho of course.That same day a friend of mine who works as a mountain guide (yes, he does have a beard and refers to it as his "mane" as he strokes it lovingly) took us all up the mountain and we got to go rock climbing. The hike up was gorgeous and I almost fell off the rock but my skin caught me. More like the rock caught my skin. Either way I have this real cool cut on my hand. Yeah… I’m hardcore.
So remember that little apartment I talked about? The one I live in above radio shack? Well, it’s nice and all but I’m afraid that I live in the ghetto of Skagway. Inner city Skagway if you will. Since it’s in an alley across from the bar a lot of people stumble out into our alley all drunk and pass out. Not to mention some of the most raging alcoholics work as mountain guides who live right across the alley from us. I’m convinced they don’t have a bathroom because they all gather together and pee on the dumpster. My roommates and I are seriously considering starting a gang just so that we can fit into our surroundings.One night, Juleen and I were trying to sleep at about midnight when we started hearing all of this hootin and hollerin from the alley and from the mountain guide’s house. Now, usually the parties can get loud so we were just trying to ignore the screaming but we heard "Yeah- look at that over there!" I asked Juleen if she thought the northern lights were out. Didn’t take us more than a second (no- literally a second) to jump out of bed and run outside. I was in my short shorts and a tank top- but I had enough thought to throw on my hiker's hat, slippers and a scarf. I couldn't find my coat, but that didn't really matter. I was distracted by what I saw.
Gorgeous light filled the sky. Green beams danced across this canvas along with pinks and blues and purples. The whole bar (which was basically the whole town) stood out in our little g-fab alley and yelled shouts of appreciation. It seemed that the louder we yelled, the brighter these lights got. Then a mountain guide pulled out a banjo (yes, a banjo) and started singing some song about northern lights and everyone joined in singing and dancing and looking up at the sky. It didn’t matter who you were or where you were from- we were all grateful for what was being shown to us. There wasn’t a fight in the alley that night and the guides found a bathroom. I felt like I could just stand there forever with these people and enjoy what God was giving us. And when you looked into the glazed eyes of the lady who doesn’t shave her armpits you could see that same longing for that moment and those lights and this town to last forever. And all I could think of was how blessed I was. I had seen the northern lights dance. The church is true.
Still in awe and a little dirty,
September 30, 2005
I’m home. The flights were short and it took me a total of twelve hours to make it here- but I’m home. The bumpy flight from Skagway to Juneau got me turned inside out. I looked at the pilot and said: "I know you hate to hear this, but I’m not feeling very good." He dived for the "strategically placed vomit bag." It would have been a good idea for me to eat breakfast. There I was, dry heaving in the co pilot seat while two very prestige Wells Fargo businessmen were trying to ignore the whimpering girl in front.
The flights back home gave me a lot of time to ponder my experience. Excuse me; the LAY OVERS gave me a lot of time to ponder. Surprisingly, I have lost weight but my face is breaking out from too much chocolate. I gave my roommate, Jennifer, a Book of Mormon. I took a walk in the rain my last fifteen minutes in Skagway. It wasn’t until I talked with an old roommate who acknowledged that I sounded "confident and more mature" that I realized that I just may have gotten something out of this whole thing. Munching on my fast food in the airport I came to grips that I did learn some things. I’m not as hard nosed as I had thought.
*I learned that you can’t stress. Not even about big things like where you’re going to live next week. Do all you can and then have faith. For me, it was not about taking leaps- I’m good at those. It was about sitting still.
*With boys, actions speak much louder than words…
*Hypocrites really do bother me. I’ve never really had a problem with people like that before but I’m sure I never want to tell someone how to act and then act differently. It’s all about example.
*Family follows you everywhere. Not only parents and siblings, but best friends and acquaintances that leave you hanging up the phone knowing there is at least one place you could go and be put up with.
*He’s just not that into me. He’s ignored me for six months. I’ve stopped waiting and I’m not afraid anymore. Love is a verb to be shared. Waiting and holding it is no way to live.
*Barbara was a lady from California who came into Del Sol one day. She’s a very homely woman who carries a cane. I offered to help her find things and she immediately started to purchase everything I showed her. She talked really loud and her crooked tooth smile looked drained. We talked and "shopped" for a good hour and a half. She’s funny. While holding her things for her in line I asked her if she was traveling with her family. She told me she was alone. Barbara has cancer. She had it once before but it had come back and she has a few months to live. For the past ten months, she had been bed ridden. "I had told my doctor- make it good enough for me to walk, because I’m going on a cruise to Alaska and Hawaii." Three months later her doctor handed her a cane. "I said- you done good, doc’! See you in three weeks. He tried to stop me but I had my cane…" I learned a lot from Barbara. I’ve known to look and live, but she showed me you also gotta walk. You might be dependant on someone (a doctor, parents, God) but once you can go you go. Walk, look, and live. Thanks Barbara.
*Sometimes you just gotta buy milk.
*There are good people in the world. My strategy for getting the store more money was to flirt and dance with the old men. The longer the men were in the store, the longer they let their wives shop, and the more she spent. I was doing some fancy footwork with an older gentleman when he asked me where to go for good ice cream. His wife insisted that it was no weather for ice cream and I recommended fudge. Twenty minutes later, the man brought me a few pieces of fudge and thanked me for dancing. There are people who smile, leave and forget. Then there are people who buy fudge for the T- shirt girl.
Everyone I ran into "up north" has taught me how I want to be or not want to be. Six weeks has shaped my life for a good long time. I’m still trying to figure a lot of stuff out- but let’s all hope I don’t take what I’ve experienced and screw anything up. Life is just too short for all of that mess.
With Love (no really- with a LOT of love),