Saturday, July 15, 2006

What I Will Miss About Alaska

No, we are not leaving Alaska any earlier. Allen still thinks we will be moving in the November timeframe. A few things have occurred to me, lately, that I know I will miss. I was also asked recently if I would mind talking to an army wife, who may be moving up here soon, about living here. Obviously, I could try to scare her by emphasizing the -50 temps, darkness, isolation, and bears. OR, I could gloss over the cold and potential bear attacks, and emphasize the positive. So, that is what I will be doing.

Alaskan Winters
Ok, this is really probably the thing I will also miss least about Alaska, but it must be mentioned. It must be mentioned, because most of the year is winter. So, there are definitely good things about the winter. First of all, there are the winter sports, downhill and cross-country skiing, snowboarding, dog sled races, ice skating, snowshoeing, and hockey. There are more, I know, someone can fill me in. I don't do or watch all of these sports, but you could, if so inclined. I do think dog sled races are fun to watch and I will truly miss cross-country skiing when we are back in warm climates. The thing is, you don't have to fit any of these in to a little short winter or the bit of time that you have snow. The snow just stays here, so you can ski for many months, or ice skate or whatever you do. Oh, there is also snowtubing and sledding. I knew there were more!

Another thing, everything is prettier with a dusting of snow. Trees, hills, ugly houses, junk thrown on your lawn, all just look better covered in snow.

The Aurora
You can see the northern lights in other places. A couple of years ago it was supposed to be visible as far south as Texas. However, in all of the world, Fairbanks, Alaska is one of the best places to see the aurora. Every show isn't as awesome as others, but I always loved to see it. It is incredible. Pictures do not do it justice. I don't think videos quite capture it, either. You just have to experience it.

Laid Back
What I am mainly referring to is the dress code here. Katie mentioned last month that you can wear sweatpants to church in Alaska. And, you can. I love it. I know some of you are thinking, "Well, you could wear sweatpants to our church, we wouldn't judge you." What we are talking about here is that people wouldn't notice that you were wearing sweatpants to church or there was anything odd about it. I have never worn sweatpants to church. I actually don't think I've worn sweatpants in public, but I do love my jeans! I have worn them to church, many a Sunday. Speaking of loving my jeans, in other places I've taught, I could wear jeans at most once a week, for casual Friday. In Tennessee, we only had casual Friday once a month! Here, jeans, t-shirt, were perfectly acceptable attire for a high school teacher. I was not the most casually dressed person in the building, either.

Really, when it comes to clothing, it doesn't matter what you wear, anywhere. You don't worry about if what you are wearing is the latest fashion. (It keeps you warm, of course it isn't the latest fashion!) Clinton and Stacy would really have a heydey in Fairbanks!

My professors are also laid back. I would not have thought to turn in an assignment late or even ask for an extension as an undergrad. If there was a major catastrophe, maybe. (I'm thinking when Allen had surgery or computer scrambling a major paper.) Here, I forgot to turn in an assignment in one class. The instructor didn't mention it. Later, I realized that it was overdue. He wasn't at all concerned. He knew I would turn it in, eventually. Maybe this is a grad school thing???

Health Care
This may be true of all smaller military installations, but, even in the military, or at least the part I deal with, is more relaxed. Basically, health care. At Campbell and Benning, my health care was fine. I was seen, eventually, by a provider for the problem for which I had made the appointment. Shortly after arriving here, I made a well women's appointment. I was able to make the appointment for the following week, rather than waiting a month. I was so surprised. Then, at the appointment, the doctor wanted to know if I had any other concerns or any family history that affected my health. We talked for awhile about possibly getting my cholesterol checked (um, 3 years later, I haven't done that) and plans for baby making soon. After leaving the doctor's office, I went to the pharmacy for a prescription. There wasn't a button to push to take a number! I wasn't sure what to do. I just walked up to The window (at larger installations, they have no fewer than 8) and gave them my id. They just said "Hold on a minute," and I had my prescription with NO WAITING. One of the problems with this, is I am now used to this customer service. I like it. The other problem is, there are no specialists here. Any problems, they are sending you at least off post, but more likely to Fort Lewis, Washington.

You cannot truly appreciate a summer in Alaska, until you have lived here through a winter. You start getting excited when the temperatures reach the freezing point, stay that way through the mess of break-up, down to leaf day. Officially, I believe it is called "greening up" , but our pastor called it "leaf day," which I much prefer. We don't have a lot of variety of trees (I guess this is the reason) so they all bud pretty much the same day. That first bit of green is so exciting! And, of course, by this time the days are so long and getting longer. On sunny days, you might not need to turn on lights in your house at all. You might have a hard time getting to sleep in the sunshine, but you deal with it. It is not humid here, so there isn't that muggy, hard to breathe feeling you get in some places. It is also just not that hot. There are days where it gets pretty warm (80s, generally) but, most of the time, not too bad. So, this leads me back to my favorite clothing, you can wear jeans all year!

Ok, really I won't miss my friends in Alaska. Because, they won't be here! Within the next year or so, almost everyone I know will be moving. But, I have made wonderful friends here, and, even if they no longer live here, I will still associate them with our time in Alaska. I don't know if the smaller post, everyone far from family, or deployments have been the cause, but I actually have more friends here then other places we've lived. If only I could take my closest friends with me!

We also have a wonderful church here. I will miss it also when we leave, and most of those people are staying.

In addition, Ashlyn was born here. So, Alaska will also be a special place for me.

You tell me, what have I missed?

Will we ask to move back here? Um, no.


Vicki said...

What a nice reflection of your time there - thanks for sharing.

Katie said...

Oh yea. The health care is definitely laid back. Like "go home and have your baby unmedicated in your bathtub" laid-back. I HATE the health care up here! Its like a bunch of kindergarteners playing doctor. But, I agree with everything else you said. :)

Plus, no traffic jams, no billboards! I also LOVE always always looking for wildlife when driving around--and often seeing some!

Katie said...

I can't believe you're leaving in November!!! Wahhhh!

Angie said...

Yeah, I don't know that you are always getting the best care, but you could say that everywhere, I think. Friends I had at Fort Campbell were always told to come back when they were further along to have their babies. Of course, not when their water had broken, though!

Laura said...

I'm proud of you. For someone who really does not like it here, you sure found a lot of things that are good. (But I would hate to see the blog about things you don't like about Alaska).

I agree with Katie - no traffic and billboards - Yippee! And no matter how many moose I see, I still get excited.

Another thing I love is the lack of crime (other than ever other person driving while under the influence), and the teeny airport (pull right up to the door & no waiting in lines).

Angie said...

Don't forget about sex crimes. Alaska has double the average number of rapes then the rest of the country. That is scary. I do not want to raise my daughter here.

Yeah, I'm not going to do a post on what I don't like about Alaska.

C and J said...

I love your optimsm. It is contagious you know? I miss many things about Alaska. You guys, fishing, camping, skiing... I'll still be able to fish and camp here but the company will never be the same.

Great memories!!!

Angie said...

It is easier to be optimistic during the summer, when your husband will be home very soon, and you aren't planning on being here another winter, too. :)

C and J said...

4 more weeks to the day!!! Maybe sooner right? Isn't that the "no later than" date?

Angie said...

Well, the countdown is a full month, but he thinks between the 5th and the 8th!

C and J said...

Just in time for your anniversary.

Angie said...

I hope so!

Missing you in MT said...

Okay. 5 days is too long. I need a picture!! Have somebody take one of you, Ash, Ranger and or Armand.