Fear i.e. Saying Yes

Today we had lunch with the guy who checked out Barrow for us a few weeks ago.

After the meeting, George told everyone his favorite part was watching my face. How it went from super enthralled, to super terrified, and back up to intrigued, and so on.

So true.

It was like all of my dreams come true. And all of my challenges.

I asked the guy so many questions– I sounded like an anthropologist. Which I guess is want to look at this experience like. What I like to look at everything like. I questions he didn’t have answers to, and he said that’s what he’s hoping we’re going there to find out.

The guy told us this place was the “least touristy place he’d ever been in his life.” And he’s a seasoned world traveler.

After lunch I went running for my second run of the day.


Non stop.

Then I went to a meeting later today when we had to tell what our plans for after this program were. And I told everyone my plans. And it felt so cool to say it outloud.

Last night Carinne, Colin and I watched I Heart Huckabees. It’s one of my favorite movies, and Carinne’s. And we realized that we are each other’s “other’s” like in the movie.

Different enough, but similar enough to show each other the world while also not letting each other get too bogged down by it.

I question today: why I am doing exactly what I am terrified of doing?

I answer myself later in the day: because it is exactly what I love doing.

Found a guidebook to becoming a travel writer. Learning a lot about how to potentially travel for free. And how to organize self, and sell self. All morning reading it it depressed me because it sounded too overwhelming. Then I found myself again and I see that it’s all about baby steps, and following the flow of life.

Who knows what will come of it, all I know is I love it.

And I’m going to get a masters in journalism/social work in the next ten years.

And right now I’m going to stretch and listen to music.

Just back from the Cantonese restaurant with my friend Hannah from Shanghai. She is so dear; we disagree fundamentally on almost everything.

But listen to one another with respect and a strange understanding that I’ve never experienced with anyone before.

We ran into each other when I was leaving my room after a morning of sleeping off anxiety, and was about to go off on a run. And I decided to say yes to life,

She really opened up to me at lunch. Told me everything. And I told her everything. All hestitations lost, a very disjointed and interesting cross sectioned conversation discussing out greatest fears and obstacles and dreams.

She told me also how she was worried about me whenever we were roommates that first month. Because I was always going out on runs, and never eating any of the food they provided. She thought I was anorexic.

I can see how it could be taken that way. I told her how running was my cure, and I only eat what I want to become.

Yesterday when we were moving back in, Izzy helped me carry my bags in, and then he plopped his sombrero down on my desk and sat down to talk for a few hours. Jess and Sydney joined in. We talked about revolution and independence and change and challenge.

And decided that we need to have a brainstorming/doing something session.

And then I had a weird evening of hiding from everyone, sleeping a lot and questioning myself. The first night in a new place is always the worst. After that I’m generally homefree, but I always expect so much of myself on those first nights, and am always disappointed when I have nothing left to give.

I was sitting on the fire escape with an empty notebook and no words to put into it, and Carinne and Alyssa walked past me. “That’s where the opossums like to hang out too, watch out for them.”

We really always do find opossums there. I told them that my mom always called me an opossum when I was a baby.

Later that night though, Colin walks in my room. And hands me a herbal present from Yosemite. And then we run off into the night air and talk about traveling and life. Both wearing flannel, both with faux hawks, both looking like we haven’t seen a shower in three weeks, both with odd piercings and tattoos. Both looking like exactly the type of people you’d either want to stay far away from, or spend the evening talking with.

And then awkwardly say goodnight to Colin. Not sure what that was about, but in my insecure state I fear that the friendship is over.

Which reminds me how dramatic I can be when I’m in this state.

And then I go to bed- the room to myself as Jess and Syd are out for the weekend.

And then wake up at 6:30 this morning, and am wired for the day. So I google the coffee shop nearby, which is closed for memorial day weekend, of course. So I’m trapped in the flea infested, chemical infested compound. So I take a bit of medicine and fall asleep for five hours, after trying in vain to read for two.

When I wake up I’m invited to go out for a drink tonight with someone else that I thought previously hated me. And I hate how much happier this makes my day. I don’t like being at the whim of other people. I don’t like not being in control. But that is exactly what I need to let go of, in situations when I cannot control anything.

I can control how I react. I just need to get back to that.

So I’m going out for a few hours tonight, and I’ve been jogging, and I’ve started James Joyce’s Dubliners and now I’m stretching on my room floor.

I cannot keep this room clean. And I cannot minimize. I need to pack. It looks like we’ll be getting two bags for Alaska, then a carry on. So we’ll be able to take all of our warm clothes. Working on it.

Yesterday we learned more about Barrow. It is sure going to challenge each of us in our own way. I think that all of us have our own reservations, but we are all there for each other to support one another through it. Which is the beautiful part.

But fuck.

On our safety preparedness list: polar bears (the college that we’ll be working at is on the beach, so there will be bears there. They are usually languid and just hanging out. But once one makes its way into the town of Barrow a mile away, where we’ll be living, is when they are not just hanging out, but are on the lookout for food. Meaning that any person in their line of sight is it. So we are supposed to (run?) we are unclear about what to do in this situation. Previous caution against bears is to make a lot of noise and back away slowly, but with polar bears you don’t want to attract their attention, you just want to get out of there. Do you run? You don’t make any noise? These are the questions.)

And then the locals also told us on a phone call last night that the other hazard to look out for are the foxes in the area. They have rabies.

Alcohol is illegal in the city. Which is going to be a challenge for a few of my teammates.

Matt, our sponsor in Sacramento, told us that his friends lead tours in Alaska every summer. And, at least with Grizzly Bears, it actually attracts the bears to the area. So you spray it, and then there are twenty more in no time.

So much for that idea.

The dogs there, they are there to work. We are not supposed to go up and pet them, especially because they are not socialized. We are supposed to treat the work sleigh dogs as you would treat a seeing eye dog.

We are required to bring our sleeping masks that we recieved. The locals have told us that it will take us at least a week for our bodies to adjust. And that it will be more stress on our body than we are thinking it will be. Their exact words: “Your bodies will be thrown for a loop the first few weeks.”

Skype is not possible, not video connection on the internet. It’s going to be super slow, beginning of the internet type of connection. And probably really spotty phone coverage.

They are thinking of us starting work at 9 am, which is great. Because we’ll have daylight for as late as we want after work.

The only place with wifi is the public library, which is where we are encouraged to spend our time. There are no coffeeshops, and only four to five expensive restaurants. Talking 30 dollars for a pizza.

There are 1-2 paved roads in the village.

When you walk into someone’s house, you are supposed to take your boots off right away. We will only be bringing out rainboots, not our combat boots, as we’ll be in snow and sludge everyday.

There is a community center and a gym.

They are going to up our food stamp budget of $4.25 a a day per person for food to $6.75 per person per day. Because of the ridiculous inflation prices, because anything not produced locally has to be flown into Barrow. And the only thing produced locally is seal blubber and whale meat.

Which brings us to our mission there: we are working with an “end to diabetes” campaign in the village. Because the people there literally eat no plant food at all, only meat. Partly because of tradition, and mostly because it’s the only thing that is local and affordable up there. It’s a huge hunting culture, and we have been advised not to be militant vegetarians, etc. Which I wasn’t planning on being, but it will be a big shock to see people eating so much meat. And I’m not a fan of guns. At all. Not something I’ll be doing as an extracurricular.

The college we’ll be working with has 100 native students.

The Diabetes program: build a tundra gardne to encourage plant consumation and to encourage a renewed relationship with the traditional culture. Food security, sustainability and plants.

The other people up there will largely be scientists doing climate control research, which we will be helping with in addition to our work with the college. –

We will always have Sundays off, but we are invited to participate in the many cultural events happening while we are there. Including a blanket toss, which involves tossing people up in blankets and having them land on their feet.

Anywhere in Barrow you can see the plane come in, as the city is only three miles wide. So our sponsors will just see when we arrive, drive over and pick us up. –

We will also be working with the youth group in Barrow, working on diet.

They are an active sustenance hunting community. We will be learning all about whaling.



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