alaska is right

Well, hello!

No doubt about it – I haven’t written in awhile. Life has been more than crazy! As you might have seen on Facebook, I managed to cross the border SIX times this summer, and drove over 80 hours in total. By far, the hardest part of that journey was Ontario to Edmonton. I never EVER want to do that road trip again (unless I have a lot of time, much more money, and like 20 puppies in the car).

Being home was nurturing, but I still felt unsettled. To be honest, ever since graduation was in sight during my undergrad, I have felt a disconnect with myself. Don’t get me wrong, being in Ontario was the best thing I could have done with my summer – I loved every minute of it. But between knowing I’d truck from there to Edmonton, and from Edmonton to two ferries and a couple of days on the road, and then moving into a cabin that was baron of my (or anyone else’s) presence, I just haven’t felt rooted.

Good news? I AM rooted! Bee will be so happy to know that I am finding my center better than ever before. I am home. Alaska is home. My heart is so warm and fuzzy and happy here, I am just gleaming all of the time. When I am walking on campus, I don’t ever really feel the need to tap into my technology because I am so astounded by my surroundings. Am I actually here?

It must be true!

It must be true!

Before arriving to the much anticipated destination of Fairbanks, Alaska, Jessica and I had to make a few stops first. On our way through B.C., I dragged Jessica to earls.

About to get her Pan Bread and Parm Dip fix. Muahaha.

About to get her first Pan Bread and Parm Dip experience. Muahaha.

Earls is a restaurant very dear to my heart. I got exceptional training from earls 170th after my freshman year of school, and have been addicted to “the magic” ever since. Fun Fact – Blaine, Cannon, and I have ALL worked for this restaurant chain. We dabbled in a Mexican restaurant quite a few hours down the road, and wound up rather disappointed with the tastelessness of their cuisine. On the upside, they had wicked margaritas! Pureed pear was an addition that made them worth every penny.  I have decided to forgo trying Mexican food above the Mason-Dixon Line, let alone above the Lower 48.

Our ferry left Prince Rupert, British Columbia at 3 A.M. and arrived in Juneau, Alaska at 7 A.M. the next day (so 28-hours later). I may or may not have second-guessed driving across that border onto the Matanuska. It was a moment I was not expecting. For four years now, I have been away from Canada. There has been a great number of miles between my family and I – and for just a second, I wondered if recreating that distance in the opposite direction was something I wanted to do.

Of course I drove across the border. I am so happy I did.

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Boarding the Matanuska!

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Our epic palette. Too comfy to leave…

We slept for a lot of that ferry ride. At a short stop in Ketchikan, we grabbed snacks and I got over my seasickness. I’m telling you – that mess is real. I felt queazy for a good portion of that ferry ride, but tried my hardest to not show face.

When we arrived in Juneau, we promptly got coffee. On our way into the city from the docks, there was a Safeway and Jessica got way too excited. Apparently, she had been imaging a desolate place with nothing but snow. She saw a McDonald’s and exclaimed, “OH! MCDONALD’S!” I thought this was funny because she doesn’t even eat there… yet she was so happy to see that the land of my new residency was “civilized”. Safeway and Starbucks – it felt like home! We had a little time to kill and enjoyed our drive into the city, eventually finding our hostel. The Juneau Youth Hostel was absolutely awesome. We stayed for $12 a night, met really cool people, and did one chore each day. In Juneau, we walked everywhere. For breakfast, our first morning there, we ventured down to a restaurant that had the BEST smoked salmon I’ll probably ever eat. Thank goodness I am a pescatarian.

We spent the day being tourists. I had to remind myself that I am now living in Alaska and didn’t need to buy a bunch of souvenirs. Jessica, on the other hand, invested in a cute little rain jacket and super furry hat thing. We socialized, took many selfies, and overall made ourselves known in Juneau over the course of three days. I found Daddy’s jacket on the first day we were there. I got it from my Uncle David this summer, and had it packed away for Alaskan use. I opened up the roof rack on Sophie, and there it was! Those bright cool(u)rs just staring at me. Dad wanted to see Juneau too!

We went to Mendenhall Glacier on our last day. The experience was indescribable by words, so I am hoping these photos will do the trick.

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Thank goodness for the US Forest Service. I am very grateful we had the time go there. It was worth every minute of our day.

Leaving Juneau was a little rough. We had to be on a ferry rreeaallyy early (we actually fell asleep in Sophie while we were in line to board). And we slept the whole time. I managed to remember to take a picture of my traveling warrior of a CR-V while she was resting with the other cars on the car deck. I can’t believe how much mileage I have put on that thing this summer.

Catching a snooze.

Catching a snooze.

This was where we slept. Our "room".

This was where we slept. Our “room”.

Getting off the ferry in Juneau, we were faced with a road trip not for the faint of heart. The Alaskan Highway is BRUTAL. Thank you, Dr. Jackson for making sure I took the ferry as far as I could. We crossed the border again into British Columbia, and drove all the way through the Yukon Territory. The scenery was absolutely gorgeous. We were driving against the rise and set of the sun, so we didn’t have a lot of time to stop and take pictures. We indulged in a little yoga at a rest stop, though. And I managed to capture a shot or two 🙂 The mountains and their features are so defined that they look like drawings on a canvas. They are paper mountains.

We yelled at the mountain, and it yelled back. Echoes are COOL.

We yelled at the mountain, and it yelled back. Echoes are COOL.

Our arrival to my cabin was late – that’s for sure. My landlord had a bottle of wine waiting for us, along with a roll of toilet paper and lots of snacks! Jessica and I reassembled our palette in it’s new location, got cozy, and passed out.

Getting to a comfortable place here has been a lengthy task. Jessica and I spent nearly two weeks sleeping on the floor of my cozy little dry cabin. I couldn’t get a bed for the longest time because 1) I don’t own a truck, and had to find a reasonable mattress price at a place that also delivered and 2) we didn’t have any money. The process of getting a grad student set up for direct deposit and overall employment is apparently difficult when you live in another country. Sigh. It’s all over though, and I have a beautiful pillow top mattress now! AND a box spring. After three years of sleeping on dorm mattresses at State, and then a year of having a really, really, reallllllllly old mattress at my trailer, then sleeping on a couch, a ferry floor, and a cabin floor for the duration of my summer, words cannot explain my gratitude for Jeffery at Sears giving me a brand new, pillow-top mattress set for 60% off.

Getting warmer!

Getting warmer!

While we weren’t focusing so much on the bed issue, we did focus a lot on the “dry cabin way of life”. I hauled my first 6 gallon jug of water from a place on Old Chena Pump Road called “The Fill”. You deposit dimes or quarters and just fill ‘er up!

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A “jug friendly” spout!

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Cheap cheap cheap!

We soon got used to washing our faces without running water, and brushing our teeth at places other than home. Oh! And we paid for our first shower! There is laundromat here that you can go to to shower with a 15 minute time limit. That was an adventure, I must say. Soon after, we found out how easy it was to shower on campus, and I’m still regretting the $5 each we spent on our showers that day. Jessica and I used our spare time to get our groove back as the dynamic duo in the gym. It felt good to be reunited.

We had many adventures while she was here. We experimented with food, beers, venues, and routes to school. It’s been interesting figuring out the roads here, and I couldn’t have done it without my ship captain next to me.

The day Jessica left, I attended my first social gathering. The Peace Corps fellows held a potluck for anyone related to the Peace Corps. I put my new crock pot to good use and made a gluten-free, vegan chili (which was a hit).

Rediscovering my Suzy Homemaker ways.

Rediscovering my Suzy Homemaker ways. I got a crock pot for Christmas when I was 14…

Right now, I have a small group of friends/acquaintances. Nina Olivier (easy last name to remember 😉 ) is really sweet. She is from California and graduated school in Washington. She is hoping the Peace Corps will take her to the Philippines, where she can do work with fisheries systems. Jordan Richardson is also Californian, but went to Mizzou for undergrad. She was like me – initially a pre-vet student, who discovered she wanted to influence more than what that career would allow. She is hoping to work with livestock and essentially the meat production industry (not in America). These girls are in the same year and program as me, and I am grateful to have comrades in the fight for a Master’s degree.

Today is the last day of my first full week of classes and work. Being a T.A. has already rocked my world in a very good way. I really enjoy the teaching aspect and could see myself doing something like this in the long run. My classes are all heavily politics-based. I am in a Human Dimensions and the Environment course, as well as a Political Economy and the Global Environment. I am also taking a Research Methods course to help design my thesis project. I will say, I am tremendously intimated by the age range. The average age for a graduate student is 33 here at UAF. The minds here are so much more developed, and I’m eager to reach a point of knowledge similar to those surrounding me. Needless to say, I am very happy to be in graduate school. I was not done learning by the end of my undergraduate career.

I am having some anxiety about human influence on the earth, though. These classes are digging up a very passionate hippie in me that I tucked away when I got to university. Those who went to high school with me know exactly what I am talking about – and it’s flooding back. I am so passionate about this stuff, and haven’t found an outlet for it until now. Many of my classes are discussion based, and we basically all sit around, talk about problems with the economy and the influence it has on our precious Earth, and then discuss ways we can and will fix it. I am inspired, but also stressed out. I hate to be a consumer, but I also live in a society where it has been made necessary.

You can expect to see a rant or two on here eventually. I am going to need a place to vent.

When I get my place looking the way I want it, I will post more pictures. But for right now, there are suitcases and rubbermaid tubs EVERYWHERE. I did, however, buy myself a drill the other day. Uncle B was handily available to walk me down the power tool aisle at Home Depot and assist me in picking out a Ryobi Lithium 18V Impact Driver and Drill kit 🙂 I bought myself some drill bits too! I’m just building away up here in Alaska!

The handywoman life.

The handywoman life.

Nina and I FINALLY got the keys to our office today. There has been a lot of mix-ups between our HR lady, another HR lady, the key guy named Tommy who has a label-maker obsession, and ourselves. I look forward to setting up my office and taking more photos of life up here!

There is an Outdoor Adventure club here that coordinates well… outdoor adventures. You can have ZERO gear and they provide everything. I am planning on going snowshoeing in the Denali, ice fishing, cross-country skiing (which people use as a mode of transportation to get to class, apparently), and hiking to a natural hot spring (Chena Hot Springs). I’m looking forward to exercising my right as an outdoor enthusiast and utilizing all that this conserved nature has to offer.

I almost forgot!
The other night, there was a full moon, and I took a hike by chance. I am so thankful I had my camera. It rose so quickly into the sky. I would look away for what seemed like half a minute, and it would be so much higher when I glanced back. The coolest part was that I could look to the left of campus and see the moon, towering over Fairbanks, and I’d look to the right of campus to see the sun tucking itself in for bed behind the mountains. It was really lovely.

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“Well, hello!” said the Moon.

Goodnight, said the Sun.

“Goodnight”, said the Sun.

So many more posts to come.
Thank you for reading.

Olivia

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