I like traveling by myself sometimes. I get to meet more people from wherever I’m visiting. And I like observing people sometimes too. The anthropologist in me coming out I guess.
I stayed at the school in Toksook. The cook there is maybe a 30something old Yupik guy, and he introduced himself to me as “Sammy,” but then whispered that his real name is Simon. His mannerisms are very effeminate, and he seems to really enjoy taking care of people. He was there until 10 last night preparing the food for tonight’s prom, then had a bunch of nieces and nephews to take care of when he got home he said. I usually bring my food with me when I travel to the village because I never know what’s going to be available wherever I’m staying. I’d come down to the kitchen to make my sandwich or heat up whatever instant soup I brought, and eat in there. Sammy would come keep my company while I ate, and kept offering me more of whatever he could from the kitchen. This morning I was eating my oatmeal with him and he went and scrounged me up a half bruised half brown (probably had been frozen at some point in its journey from South America to Alaska’s subarctic coast) banana. He set it by me and said “here, more nutrients for your baby.” It wasn’t the most appealing banana but I know how precious fresh produce is out there and he was very happy to give it to me. So I cut it up and put it in my oatmeal. “There isn’t your oatmeal so much better with that?” I had to agree.
The kids love my big belly. As soon as I walk in the school I’m surrounded by a bunch of girls rubbing my tummy asking me “you got baby?” I was talking to one group of girls for a while and one of them started pointing out to me their boyfriends, so we talked about their boyfriends for a little bit, what they like to do – hunting, playing computer games, basketball, etc. I asked her how old she was and she said she was 13 and her boyfriend is 14. They looked so young! I’m old man. I told her that my husband and I first met when I was 13 and he was 14. Her face broke out in an even bigger smile “reeaaalllly?” and they all giggled.
Now I’m sitting in this restaurant above the airport in Bethel. A group of army guys came in dressed in their fatigues. The two sitting at the end of the table towards me seem so different from each other. One is a big white guy who must have ordered the all you can eat pizza and pop deal because he first sat down with 4 pieces of pizza piled on his plate and went back for more at least twice, and gulped down two Mug roots beers. I’m not criticizing, I’m sure he gets lots of exercise. He’s not fat. I just heard a polite southern accent. The other one is a smaller black guy, who sat down with a Vitamin Water. His order came out and it was a big salad. Before he ate he bowed his head in the midst of all the lunch hour commotion and took his time to pray. He then proceeded to eat slowly, carefully chewing each bite. I didn’t really see any of them talk to each other. They seem comfortable in their silence with each other. Quiet companionship. I wonder where they are from. All thrown together in Bethel, Alaska.
Anyway, good site visit. My AmeriCorps Member there is doing a great job. It’s so beautiful and sunny out there now. It’s spring time in the delta (Yukon-Kuskokwim). 17 hours of sunlight now 6am to 11pm. I was waaay over dressed. Just two weeks ago I was out this way, and when I passed through Bethel it was still full of snow, windy and cold. I wore my snow pants, big boots with wool socks, hat, scarf, etc. on the plane out to Chevak where it was even colder. Now all the snow is melted in Bethel. And Toksook Bay, which is on the coast, is pretty warm now too. Everyone’s busy with seal hunting and duck hunting. Anna’s mom gave me a goose to bring home. I tried helping pluck a chicken one time in Nicaragua for sopa de gallina. I really sucked at it. Maybe EJ’s mom can help me. It wasn’t too muddy yet but it was a little hard sloshing through the soft snow, I kept sinking. My feet were too hot in my boots, and my jacket was too warm—good thing because it barely still zips over my belly. I’m walking around just in my sweatshirt. When I was walking around yesterday there was a little boy playing outside his house wearing just his t-shirt, a diaper and his mom’s big boots. I tried asking him if he was cold but he and the other boy talked to me in Yupik.
The Alaska Airlines flight just got in and the airport is full of Mt. Edgecumbe students on their way home.