Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Foreigness of Life in Alaska--NOT!

It has taken over two years to get to the point where I have to shake my head and remind myself that I am in Alaska. It no longer seems like the exotic, wild place it was when we first moved here.  Just like anywhere else, budgets are tight, life is busy, cars and appliances break down, it snows, it rains, it ices, there are good times with friends, and on and on.

I no longer think about bears and moose quite as much (though of course it is prudent to look for the mama moose and her 2 babies that hang in our yard when we walk at night).
Subarus are standard fare, particularly old Subarus that have survived since they don't salt the roads up here.
 Beards are such a common sight, even those large flowing beards on young men, that I don't notice them much anymore.
Bald eagles are still special, but not so unusual as to ooooooh over since I will see at least one most days it seems.
Sunrises and sunsets are spectacular here, though I wonder if I just never noticed them in the midwest?
The short days I do still notice (we're nearing the shortest daylight hours of the year!), though I noticed short days in the midwest too.  Here they are just shorter--somewhere around 6 hours of sunlight on the shortest day, though daylight hours are longer with dawn and dusk extending for well over and hour before and after the sunrise and sunset.
I take it for granted that if I want cheaper food I have to drive 1 1/2 hours to Kenai or Soldotna, and even cheaper food (read:  normal price for Lower 48) requires a 4-5 hour drive to Anchorage.  That's less work than those who live in the bush, or Valdez, or Tok or many other outlying towns.
Mail order is becoming standard fare for us and the latest discovery is zappos.com:  free shipping on both orders and returns with shoes being the main item we have difficulty finding up here.  We swap companies that have good shipping policies to Alaska, and shun whenever possible those who charge exoribent rates.  Gift cards do the job for holidays much of the time.
Service seems to be uniformly poor, but there are occasional pockets of good service that earn our loyalty.  The typical attitude seems to be, "You should be happy we're here at all!"  And to a degree, they're right.  We should be happy we have enterprenuers who are willing to run businesses at all.
Small, private businesses rather than chains are the standard fare in Homer, and the longer I am here the more it seems that Homer is a metropolitan area.  In fact, it is not considered rural by Alaskan standards.
I continue to be impressed with the talent and offerings in this little burg.  The Nutcracker is a stellar performance by local kids each year, Community Schools offers oodles of activities, there are dance classes, voice lessons, theatre, and more than anyone could possibly do.  That's not counting the "free stuff":  parks, hikes, skiing, beachwalks, etc.
Is it me, or are there more people with passion about issues who are willing to take a stand?  There are more radicals here, or else I just never saw them in the midwest.

Ultimately I have learned that this is just another place to live (albeit, a place I really like living!), and wherever you go you are still the same person and will have many of the same challenges.  Life is about survival, and also about self actualization--seeking that sense of meaning and purpose.  This just happens to be where we've planted ourselves for the moment as we live our lives.