It’s been a big week.
Upon returning from Spring Break, I got word that my research proposal had been approved by the Institutional Review Board at APU, which means I have a green light to start collecting data for my thesis project. From what I’m told, getting one’s ducks in a row for approval is often a superlative pain in the ass, so I’m glad to have this hurdle out of the way.
Perhaps more importantly, at least in a long-term sense, is my next piece of news: I accepted a job. For next season.
Those who know me best were surprised when I first started considering another season up here, as I’ve historically spent a great deal of energy being homesick, questioning my decision to move north, and generally wishing I was anywhere but Alaska.
Some of those things are still true. Take, for example, our recent attempt to spend a Friday night seeing the new Wes Anderson movie.
“It’s not playing up here,” Bix informs me, having scoured the movie listings online.
“Why not?” I whine, stomping my foot as though I’m six and he’s told me I can’t have another cookie or I’ll spoil my dinner.
We both know the reason.
“We live in the Cultural Third World,” he sighs resignedly, and we get our coats. To Blockbuster, then.
A lack of cinematic sophistication is not the only way in which the Last Frontier is behind the times. High school mascots still include the Wasilla Warrior, a red-skinned and otherwise offensively rendered member of an ambiguous (not Alaskan, not that it matters) First Nations tribe.
Also, if you refer to the people from whom the forty-ninth state was usurped as “First Nations” up here, you’ll invariably get a blank stare in response.
“You mean… Indians?” ask our neighbors and coworkers.
The Wasilla Warrior—that relic of a simpler, smaller, less politically correct era—is not alone.
Opportunities for the kind of youth development and mentorship Bix is best at are, at best, few and far between in Southcentral Alaska. Programming for kids who are preoccupied with survival in the city simply don’t exist in the way they do in the Lower 48. To be fair, while our Cultural Third World status is at least partially responsible for the absence of such non-profits as Playworks and Big City Mountaineers, another factor is at least equally culpable:
We don’t have big cities.
To say green spaces still exist in Alaska is a profound understatement, and that’s why we’re coming back.
Of course, there will be setbacks. For example, I couldn’t have predicted that we’d spend this weekend lying around our hovel in fever sweats instead of outside enjoying the aforementioned green (or, in our case, finally, white) spaces.
In fact, the only outside time we got this weekend occurred in the wee hours of Sunday morning, when our building’s fire alarm went off.
As the inhabitants of the Castle groggily emerged and looked about for signs of smoke, I reminded myself that things could be worse.
We could be standing out here for an indefinite period of time in January instead of March. We could have a passel of little kids to dress and comfort and carry down the creepy stairwell where I’m pretty sure a homeless man is living. We could be unable to competently walk down the stairs for reasons more permanent than our hallucinatory fever dreams.
By the time the fire department showed up—no frills or flashing lights necessary for the Castle, apparently—most of our neighbors had collected in the parking lot to watch the firefighters shuffle into our building.
Personally, I would have liked to see a little more fanfare, what with having been dragged from my deathbed and all. One firefighter carried what appeared to be your standard, regulation-sized fire extinguisher, and he was the most prepared of the bunch. I hoped he would leave it in one of the Castle’s many empty fire extinguisher holsters, all of which are currently sporting foul language and renderings of large, scary-looking penises where fire extinguishers should be.
Still, I guess I’m glad to know that in the event of an emergency, the fire department will eventually show up, albeit with less pageantry than I might like, with the equipment I imagine the Castle is required by law to provide its residents. Oh, and I guess I should say something like:
More importantly, I’m glad our building didn’t burn down and everyone is safe and so forth.
Really, I am glad for that. I’m just sick, and a little cranky, and also not very nice to begin with.
Despite my ill humor, I have a lot to be grateful for.
I am elated that the Alaska Avalanche School would have me back for another season, and I’m very fortunate to have fallen in with the mentors I have there and at APU. I’m also supremely lucky to have a partner who’s willing to make some sacrifices in terms of his own career (and live for another winter season in the Cultural Third World) so I can take another step closer to my dream job.
Of course, as we finish our coffee, stuff our backpacks with the requisite gear for an adventure, and head outside to play in the Last Frontier, another season doesn’t sound so bad, after all.