Friday, June 5, 2009

Please Report Unattended Baggage

As I sit here in the airport, there is a man being trained as part of the custodial staff. He looks like he is about 43, and from the way the lady who is training him talks to him, it sounds like he must be on hard times. There is a certain way that people speak to someone who is taking a job purely out of need and not desire. It is like a mixture of pity and contempt but without any malicious intent behind it.

The Anchorage airport is virtually empty right now. A couple of passengers are walking toward their gate, dragging behind them a train of shabby wheeled luggage. Another man rises like a grumpy bear from the corner where he was sleeping as dad and I set our stuff too near to him. The custodial staff wheels his squeaky cart down the terminal, and the only other man in the area is testing his blood sugar with a black self tester.

I think I prefer airports when they are empty. Something about the quiet intercom and the sleeping travelers is very peaceful to me. It helps me to think. The other thing I like about empty airports is that you are never rushed through security. Nobody is behind you in line so you can take as long as you want to put your boots back on, and while you are doing it you can ask the security staff a friendly question or two. It is like drinking a cup of coffee with a bear.

Was Alaska Worth It?

This trip has been very good for me. Though I don’t feel like I have been greatly changed or learned some life affirming truth, I do think that I have had a wonderful opportunity to grow closer to my dad and talk with him about some stuff that I wanted to talk to him about. I also think I have sorted out a little bit better what direction I need to go with this life. Finally, this time has been a good starting point. It has been a gateway to bring me into the next phase of my life. I am so glad that G-d has given me this opportunity.

On another note entirely, I took a picture of a pretty Alaskan girl today. This was note worthy to me because I have noticed that girls here do not seem to be quite as cute as girls in the south. Researchers are still in debate about the cause of this interesting phenomenon.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

And There She Was...

In the Valdez museum yesterday we watched a video about the earthquake of ’68, and one of the narrators of the video was a lady named Nancy Lethcoe. Today, as my dad and I hiked the goat trail through Keystone Canyon, we rounded a corner and found Nancy walking straight toward us.

Nancy was very excited to find to Alabamians hiking on the trails that she helped to clear. She was so excited, in fact, that she made us turn around and took us back to a spot to show us some downed telegraph wires and explain to us the history of the trail.

We asked Nancy about how people made it in a town where a gallon of milk cost $7 and tourism only lasted for a few months of the year. She explained to us that the median income in Valdez is $66,000 a year, but that if you were not a part of Aleyaska, the company that installed the Alaska pipeline, it was very hard to make a living at all.

Another girl that we talked to, who moved to Valdez from Ecuador three years ago, said that she had to work very hard every summer because there was nothing for her to do in the winter.

Much Later That Day…

We travelled from Valdez all the way to Anchorage this afternoon, and on our way into town we decided to stop at the Alaska Botanical Gardens, a not for profit garden located next to Campbell Airstrip and a local school. The Gardens were neatly designed with good walking trails and many small metal tags to identify the native plants that were growing naturally (a.k.a. randomly) throughout the garden.

We decided to hike the garden trails as a way to stretch our legs, but also because we wanted to see the Iditirod trail which circles the garden. We hiked the trails quickly, seldom stopping because of the swarms of mosquitoes that surrounded us.

At one “scenic” overlook, we noticed several cars stopped on the roadway below us. Without paying them much attention, we continued down the path to avoid mosquitoes. As we rounded the next corner, I looked up and there not 12 yards away from me off the side of the trail was a black bear with two cubs.

Without even stopping to take a picture, I said, “hey bear!” and turned around to walk back down the trail where I had come from. My dad and I stopped about 30 yards down the trail and turned around to watch the mother bear who was not paying us any attention in spite of the small size of her cubs.

I took several pictures as we backed down the trail, but I wish I had taken my dad’s advice, and taken a picture of the mother bear immediately as I saw her. A picture of a black bear from only 12 yards would have been a close up portrait with the lens that I had on my camera at the time. I guess my mothers warnings have had their effect on me afterall.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Congenital Heart Defect

Dr. Griffith recently told me that going on a road trip with someone is the best preparation for marriage. I can see why. Living in close proximity to someone else for most of the day is not easy. Even being with my dad this much, who I know well and who is a relatively peaceful guy, is difficult. I found myself getting frustrated with him this morning over something as simple as how to empty the sewage from our RV.

Outwardly I was frustrated because I felt like he never bothered to do things the right way, like pulling up directly alongside the dump station instead of catty corner, but inwardly I am sure this comes from something deeper. I doubt my frustration has anything to do with him actually. I think that my frustration is an outward manifestation of some heart problem that I can’t quite identify.

It is very easy for me to become frustrated or irritated by someone who does something in any way other than how I think it should be done. In fact, it is easy for me to become frustrated with someone for no reason at all. I am an easily frustrated person. What does that mean about me?

I just finished praying that the L-rd would reveal to me why I am so easily frustrated and irritated. I hope he will teach me this over the course of my trip.

On Another Note…

Valdez strikes me as a very odd town. It has a strange blend of urban and rural feel to it. The town started in 1898 as a gold rush boom town, built on soft, super saturated ground at the base of the Valdez Glacier which was the first route that prospectors took into Copper Country. After the massive earthquake in 1968, in which the town was torn to bits, the dock sank, and tsunamis killed 33 people, the town was relocated to a more geologically stable area, with perfectly laid out blocks.

The blocks and sidewalks make the town feel like a city, but the large spaces between buildings and the mix of residential and commercial buildings give the town a more rural feel. The city is neither urban nor suburban, but it is not quite rural either.

Surprisingly for a town of 4,000, Valdez has a community college and at least 4 museums, three of which we visited today and all of which were of good quality. The museums deal predominantly with the history of the town, but also feature videos and exhibits about the Alaska pipeline which ends across Prince William Sound. One of the Museums contains an impressive collection of stuffed wildlife, Native art and tools, and other items collected by Maxine Whitney, an early resident.

The town definitely deserves its nickname, the Switzerland of Alaska, because everywhere you look, you can see beautiful snow covered mountains. Not only are the mountains beautiful, but so are the birch forests, the rocky beaches along the sound, and the bald eagles that roost in trees all over the valley. I wish that I could be here to see the bears, eagles, and fishermen that come out for the massive salmon runs.