Friday, December 25, 2009

Moose Droppings & My Brother's Wedding

Dearest friends and family,

Here is the replacement vehicle for Ingrid, who left us in July, was sold for $500, and was resurrected the next day by the pilot who purchased her. Hmmmm…..confused? So were we!
I’m sure all of you lower 48ers have been busy these past 5 months since my last post… for me….ahhh…I’ve just been relaxing up here enjoying the beauty and magnificence of Nome, Alaska. The months have seemed to fly by, some faster than others.

Since my last entry, my hair has grown a few inches, I've gone to Anchorage twice, I've attempted to ride my snow machine unsuccessfully, my nose hairs have frozen on my 5 minute walk to the gym, I've traveled to several more of the surrounding villages, and I've been back to Indy once for my brother's wedding on Halloween. Did I mention that it was -22 degrees Fahrenheit a few weeks ago (hence the reason my nose hairs froze and my eyelashes would stick together every time I blinked – that was a new and exciting experience). I would recommend you try this at home, but I’m not quite sure how you can replicate this
phenomenon without venturing up for a visit.

June, July, and August are berry picking time when the PT department has a mass influx of natives who come in with complaints of what Joe and I call "berry pickers back" or "berry pickers hip" from bending forward for hours at a time. Despite our attempts to correct their faulty habits and advise them against placing undue stress through their lumbar spines, they come back every year with the same problems. Maybe we should invest in one of those robots that can talk for us so we won't sound like a broken record! But, berry picking is one of the subsistence activities up here in which most people partake, myself included.

We made salmonberry, blueberry, and fireweed jelly this year – delicious!! I did get quite a scolding when I ate all of the non-gift salmonberry jelly in 2 weeks J hehe. I blame the mercury! If I lose my mind while I’m here and become slightly demented (in a good way of course), you can blame the blueberries and salmonberries…well, and probably the musk-ox, moose, caribou, and every other animal that feeds off the poisoned earth in and around Nome.

In lieu of gardens, here in Nome, we have dredge bucket flower pots

In August, I was baptized at Salmon Lake, about 30 miles outside of Nome. Pastor Harvey is on the left (my right) and my boss, Joe is on the right (my left). The water was freeeeeezing and of course I was submerged for a good 2 seconds. I almost drowned, but Joe decided he wanted to keep me around in the PT department so he pulled me back up! haha. I jokes.

This is Salmon Lake in August (Coordinates: 64.9028, -165.0086)

Most of the locals thought it was warm in August - 60s, however, being an Indiana girl, I was I'm naturally cold anyway. I’m finding that my body is getting used to these frigid temperatures and I get these hot flashes when I’m wearing too many layers on my way to work…or perhaps that’s just the menopause symptoms creeping up on me. Hehe :P

While we were out at Salmon Lake, Paula (Joe’s wife), Martina, Dawyn, and I saw a herd of musk-ox (Ovibos moschatus). They are magestic looking creatures whose hair flows in the wind and puts you in a trance-like state. They have this coarse, thick guard hair that surrounds the finer quive which people here make neck gaiters and mittens out of to stay warm. My theory is, if I’m ever stranded outside of Nome, I’ll just wrap myself in a musk-ox hide to stay warm. According to various sources, the Musk-ox died off in the 1800s here in Alaska and were re-introduced in the 1930s from Greenland. They look similar to bison…and they have a 4 chambered stomach. Too bad I’m not a musk-ox! I would make sure 3 of the 4 chambers were for desert!!!! The rest of course would be for the mercury berries. I’d change into a crunchy girl. :P (Joe and Paula know what I mean).

In September, Phil and I went down to Anchorage for a weekend and drove to Seward (south of ANC) and hiked around in the TREES, around some big hunks of ice called glaciers, and ate at real restaurants like IHOP!!!

This is Exit Glacier at dusk – many of these are taken by Phillipe (the amazing photographer). The glaciers are melting…hmmm…global warming?

Portage Glacier

Several times on our drive down the Seward highway, we had to stop and take pictures…..breathtaking beauty like I’ve never seen!

Above, you'll see several different views from the roadside, the hike up to Exit Glacier, Exit Glacier itself (that big hunk of ice that was once known to flatten anything in its tracks- also seen in Titanic)

You may also note some random Goats – I think their names are Billy and Billy Junior, followed by Geraldine in the back. They were out for a leisurely stroll when we were at Exit Glacier. Curious little animals they were - even sniffed our bag at one point when we were off taking pictures! 

And then there's Phil...contemplating the meaning of life before he jumps into the water head first without a life vest!

I’m not sure, but I think this might be the alien space ship next to Exit Glacier.

These were some reds (red salmon) swimming in the river on our hike....yummmmy!

I also picked a fight with a tree in the forest that subsequently failed as I slid down the side of the trunk when I lost my balance (I’m 37 according to the Wii fit balance test – not the most reliable source). However, Lauren does NOT give up, and did challenge the tree to a duel again, this time WINNING!

Standing on top of the tree

This was one of the views from the dredge….the sunsets are gorgeous here…you can never take too many pictures! At this time, we still had somewhat normal amounts of daylight. God creates such beauty!

Another one of my favorite pastimes (ok…I only did it twice) was climbing around in the gold dredges close to town. I’m not quite sure if it as legal, but I never saw any signs saying otherwise. The dredges are pretty dilapidated and unsafe, but once in a while everyone has an urge to feel like a monkey and swing around on old chains and climb in dredge buckets, in the dark, right?!

I met this crazy boy, Niko, who might just be a younger version of me…either way, here he is, trying to determine if any electric current is still flowing through the veins of this beast!

View overlooking the water from inside the dredge

Dredge Buckets chillin' and hanging out. I think Tuesday nights, the call a meeting to order to determine their fate...they haven't gotten very far yet!

And then we found the switch to turn on the entire contraption!!! Mwahahahaha!

Since July, I’ve gone to White Mountain, Golovin, Shaktoolik, Elim, and back to Unalakleet. Each village was unique in its own way. So far, I think Elim and White Mountain have been my favorite. I bonded with one of the elders in Elim who told me I could come live with her anytime J. The health aides in white mountain were just genuine, sweet people and showed me around the village when we had down time. White Mountain also has treeeeeeesss!!!! Willow bushes just don’t suffice here in Nome. It is a tradition for some, to cut down a willow and use it as a Christmas tree- if you can picture the tree from Charlie Brown’s Christmas, you have the right idea of how it looks. For me, I just like to get stuck on top of willow trees while riding snow machines. That was my first close encounter with the willows here in Nome. Thank goodness for Joe who came to help…lifted the back end of the snow machine in about 30 seconds and unstuck we were…if I was a little taller and had Arnold biceps and thighs, I too could have saved the night!

Sunset over anvil with the White Alices......who wouldn't want to live here?

October - My Trip Home to Indy
I threw this salsa picture in here because it represents how crazy I am – after flying for over 14 hours, I came home, changed clothes, and went out salsa dancing – barely even having time to relax for more than half an hour!! The next morning at 9AM, we left for Ohio for Jeff’s wedding…

On October 31, 2009 my one and only brother, Jeffery, got married in Cincinnati Ohio to the beautiful Jennifer Limle – now Jennifer Alborn. I was blessed to be able to attend the wedding and share the day with them. It was one of the best wedding receptions I’ve ever been to, and Jen and her mother spent 2 days organizing it and decorating. They did such a great job!

Evan and I were cousin dates – the oldest and the youngest first cousins :P cute aren’t we?

Above: Mom and Me
Dad and Me
Grandpa Alborn and Me
Jeff (the brother) and Me

END of Trip Home.....

And now…let winter begin…

This is the Bering Sea setting itself up for freeze time…in t-minus one month!

It snowed here in Nome in the beginning of October – hence frosty, who was created on Anvil Mountain on October 4th. He met his demise several days later when the weather warmed up just enough that he melted :(

I’ve bought about 3 different coats since I came here..just to make sure I don’t turn into an ice pop…this blue one is my big poofy coat that keeps me looking Nome stylish followed by my huge, red, Eskimo parka that will allow medivac rescue teams to spot me from miles away. I’m not sure how I’m going to move once I come to a standing position, but I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it! It is a fully functional parka with a coyote fur ruff and a temperature rating down to -40 degrees!

Behind the rec center where I work out (nearly every day), there are mountains in the distance that were illuminated by the sun on this particular day and I couldn’t resist capturing the moment.

And then the part I dread – the snow and wind combined…

Here we have front loaders that plow the snow into the middle of the road and later, a dump truck will come by and put all of the snow in the middle of the road into the dump truck, and transport it to some place behind the rec…a new way of plowing the streets.. and they don’t use salt here! So good luck making sure you don’t bite it on the way to work or the store!
This was the day the Rec center closed early because of 60mph winds..but I still went to the gym before they closed!! Determined I am!! :)

In November, my friend Shanna, her boyfriend Sam, and I all went out past Anvil mountain onto glacier creek road and Sam caught this view of the northern lights with his camera. They were like little bursts of light that disappeared after 10-20 seconds…amazing!

View of Norton Sound Region from the AIR!

Pre and post freezing of the sea…

The hospital in the Winter months.....