Friday, April 9, 2010

Homer Helping Haiti

A couple months ago I saw an article in the paper about a group of people in Homer who were putting together a group of families to take in medical evacuees from Haiti for a few months while the children recuperated from their surgeries. I asked my husband and kids, and we all agreed that we wanted to volunteer to be a host family. It was a pretty huge step, but we have all been firm that this is what we want to do.

The uncertainty has been great. It was said it might be anywhere from a few weeks to many months before we would get children placed with the group of families in Homer. Nearly weekly meetings have had speakers discussing what it is like hosting children from other countries, the application process, updates from Homer volunteer pilot to Haiti, Stephanie Anderson, some basic French lessons and more. We have solicited for airline miles to fly the children up here, sought donations for medical care and clothing, contacted the local Catholic church (as most Haiti children are Catholic), alerted the schools and organized French or Creole speakers to provide translation for children and families.

It is exciting to consider having a group of 10-20 Haiti children in Homer--a community of them, so to speak. It is a neat project and it is overwhelming to see how many people want to make a concrete difference in the lives of a group Haiti children.

If you are interesting in reading more about this group, check out our website at ,
our blog at,
or a recent article in the Homer News at

Reflections on Traveling Outside

Earlier this week my husband and I hopped in a plane to fly to Houston for a vacation/conference. On the flight out I was reading "Fifty Miles from Tomorrow" by William Hensley about the Alaska Natives who were some of the original users of the term "outside" for traveling anywhere outside of Alaska. It was perfect!

I hadn't realized how long it had been since I'd flown out. The first year in Alaska I flew outside 4 times for a week each time. Since then I have not flown outside. It was strange to see so many people, so much concrete, so many cars. It was a totally different experience than driving outside on our 10,000 mile, 5 week road trip last summer. That was a process; this was ka-boom, we're there.

The first two days of traveling, all I could think about was how jealous I was of my kids back in Alaska, out at the cabin (no running water or electricity) with my aunt and uncle, snow machining, sledding down huge hills (and snow machining back up) and crust skiing. Both Doug and I wanted to be back there with them rather than in the glamor and glitz of all Houston has to offer. Now, 5 days into this vacation, we're getting used to the traffic, noise and warm weather. When we helped do some landscaping for a Houston school on Thursday, I wore a t-shirt and shorts and was warm. It was 70 degrees--it rarely hits 70 degrees in Homer. I virtually never wear shorts outside in Homer. Here, every time we walk out the door of our hotel we feel slightly...naked...without our winter jackets.

It takes this culture shock of leaving Alaska to remind me of just how used to small town country life I have gotten. What is most entertaining are people's reactions to our introductions that include where we are from: "Wow" with a long pause is a common one, along with, "You're a long way from home." And when we took a behind-the-scenes tour of Johnson Space Center along with people from Australia, Germany and around the U.S., it was Alaska people were asking about! Much as it is cool to see famous people, go to professional basketball games, and more, I will be so happy to be back in Homer and skiing.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Crust Skiing

Crust skiing is a term that gets thrown about with anticipation and enthusiasm by Alaskan cross-country skiers. In Michigan I think we called it 'spring skiing,' but here it takes on whole new meaning with the large expanses of undeveloped and unforested land. When I rolled out of bed this morning and saw it was a beautiful day out, I felt some urgency to get my skis on and get out there before the sun softened the snow. Apparently I wasn't the only one with that thought! I checked my email and discovered a crust skiing/sushi party up by Lookout this afternoon, and another email from someone on the Homer Women's Nordic Team asking about crust skiing conditions.

As I pulled up to McNeil Canyon School there were 2 cars ahead of me, and one guy who was checking out the snow called over, "It couldn't get better than this!" as he cruised around an ungroomed but very skiable area. Three more cars pulled up behind me as I got my skis on. I cruised cross-country, checking out conditions, and decided to explore the area over by Eveline Trails adjacent the McNeil trail system. Over there I bumped into a couple friends and one of them gave a detailed description of crust skiing conditions (just so-so), what would need to happen to make it perfect conditions, and his estimate of when those conditions will happen (1 week).

As you can see from my pictures, our skis broke through the crust, so it wasn't quite perfect crust skiing yet. Earlier in the day (it was 10:30-11 a.m. at the time) conditions would have been better, and it always helps to be lighter! With anywhere from 2-4+ feet of snow on the ground still, depending on upcoming temperatures, we could still be skiing for another month or more yet.

I've never really gotten into crust skiing before, but the attraction is clear. Ditch the little groomed circles that we call ski trails and just strike out for any distant mountain, ridge or landmark. The weather is warm, tans are the norm, people sightings are rare and the freedom is delightful. For my first time ever, I am anxiously awaiting crust skiing! I just have to watch out for bear fresh out of hibernation and crabby moose!

Friday, April 2, 2010

Friendly Neighborhood

When we were looking for a house to buy around Homer last year we were looking for a certain number of rooms, with a view, good roads for walking on, space to play and a garden, among other things. What we really lucked out with, though, was finding a house of choice in a really nice neighborhood.

The first month we lived in our new house we knew most of our neighbors in sight. We would meet them walking on the road, and sometimes we would be with one neighbor on the road and another would drive by, stop, and we would get introduced to them. There's Liz with the 30 apple trees and Elizabeth across the street. There is Soundra who has to walk across the bridges to get to her place, and the Arndt's whose son and my son are buddies. Carrie has a wild horse, and then there's the delightful lady with the thick accent from Germany who likes to talk plants. Judy connects us all since she and her husband were some of the first people to build on this road 30 years ago. Greg and Judy both came by and dug up some iris I was getting rid of, and Judy also took us for a walk through our family doctor's beautiful garden when we were walking by one day. It goes on. We've met other neighbors at parties, on the ski slopes, at meetings; one even was a blog reader of mine before moving up here to Homer (I haven't actually met her yet, just email correspondence!).

I read about people who don't know their neighbors and I can't imagine it. Well, actually, I can. Most other places I've lived since I left my childhood home I haven't known my neighbors. But this neighborhood we landed in is delightfully friendly and comfortable. When we meet people out walking a conversation ensues. Most people are the sort that we enjoy talking to, they have interesting stories, and an amazing number of them love gardening and plants, giving us a never-ending topic.

Ours is a walking neighborhood, which makes it conducive to getting to know neighbors. A connector trail to the next road over allows for a loop walk of about 30 minutes. Every day people walk by, up or down. If we're out we wave and they wave and sometimes they walk up the drive and talk. The only time there are not walkers is when the road is a sheet of ice, which was for a couple months this winter. As the ice melted the foot traffic increased.

To me this is the ideal sort of neighborhood to be part of. It was an added bonus to finding a nice home in a good location.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Homer Hitchhikers

Hitchhikers are an Alaskan special. We have seen and picked up more hitchhikers since we've moved here than ever in our lives.

Around Homer, I see hitchhikers almost daily. Most of them are heading one way or the other up East End Road. Occasionally they are heading out of town up the Sterling Highway. Enough of them are regulars that you can tell they use hitchhiking as their main form of transportation to or from work, as they often show up at the same time every day. Many times they are people I know--store clerks, students at the college, etc. Some are men, some are women. Some are well dressed, while others look like bums or backpackers. Their stories, when we pick them up, are always interesting and it ends up being a bright spot in my day. Others I don't pick up because I don't see them in time or because of heavy traffic or because there is no place to pull off. Other times we don't have any room in the car. There are a few hitchhikers that I still think of and regret not picking up.

Hitchhiking is not something I have ever been comfortable doing, so in a weird way I admire these people. It helps me appreciate having a car and being able to come and go at will. We are blessed to have wheels, and the money to afford gas!