Our view from our apartment living room window features a graveyard to the left, and beautiful houses to the right.
We are currently 320 within the Arctic Circle: Barrow, Alaska.
I sat next to two Barrow and Nome natives on the plane, and they taught me languages and cultures and they are soft spoken and quiet and respectful and listening and private but opening up with love. And I love this culture already and these people.
I can’t even begin to explain. I have a little bit of wifi right now, but need to soak it all in. Will write tonight (since the sun will not be setting and it feels like it’s 2 in the afternoon when it is almost 9 at night. 10 pm California time. And we’re up.
We’re so awake. We’re so here.
The next day we learn that polar bears cover their nose when they are out in the snow so that their prey doesn’t see their black nose in the white landscape and run away.
They cover their nose.
We were warned by multiple people as we walked out of the college doors to the beach.“Just want to let you know. We don’t see them often. But it is a real thing…”–
“Niquipiat” -traditional Inupiat foods.
“Plants that we eat” – Nauriat Niginaqtuat (reading right now. researching and learning all. feet getting cold because we’ve got the window open.)
The ground is frozen eight months out of the year here.
“One study– plants provided one to two person of the total calories, but fifty percent of the vitamin C.” -Jones
“Generations of Inupiat have lived healthy lives eating predominately meat and fat. They got all necessary nutrients because their diet included much raw or lightly cooked meats, including heart, liver, kidney, brain, eggs, the edible parts of stomach contents, intestines, bones and/or skin.” -Jones
“Plants are the main source of roughage, or dietary fiber, in the human diet. On an all-meat diet, roughage was supplied by eating appropriate parts of the skin, sinews, soft bone ends, and selected stomach contents. Even so, a meat diet has little roughage, so little, in fact, that a person who eats only meat and fat will anaq (have a bowel movement) only once every three to five days and then not a lot. It is normally firm and almost odorless and comes out easily. The unhealthy situation of constipation is avoided on an all-meat diet by eating sufficient oils and fats, plus whatever foods are available.” -Jones
“This is a book about being healthy (sayaktulikun). When you are really healthy, you are beautiul; you feel good in your body and your mind. You are happy and strong. A large part of being healthy is eating well-grown and properly prepared food.” -Jones
The rule about cars– cars stop for people wherever. kids walk out in street in front of them and the cars are expected to acknowledge this and watch out.
The weather changes instantly out here. It was a nice clear sunny day two minutes ago– and now it is turning into a blizzard. Can’t really even see outside.
So close to the sea– the weather is unpredictable moment by moment they told us. Evidenced now. Beauty.
When we landed in Barrow, Karlin turned to me. Before he spoke, he always turned, and looked at you. A momentary pause. And as the pilot was like, “We’ll be getting out in a few minutes” he said, “A few minutes here is probably more like thirty minutes. You should get used to this.” He smiled again, and laughed with the woman from Barrow sitting next to him.
Aluminum foil on the windows. We just have regular blinds— our sponsor told us last night that we can get aluminum foil to put over the blinds to make it darker. Right now it’s about as dark all through the night as it is when you shut your blinds at one in the afternoon during the day in the summer in Kansas.
Girls’ sanctuary. The boys are in an apartment across town, about a twenty minutes walk- across the lagoon.
Flying out of Sacramento yesterday, everyone thought we were firefighters. We had on our big rubber boots for the mud and snow up here, and then our uniforms.
This is going to be a hodgepodge first blog post from Barrow. Because A. There is just too much to take in already and B. I’m still a little bit tired. I’ll go back and edit this later. Right now I just want to free flow.
I think I might have briefly gotten over my fear of flying. I loved flying yesterday. I loved the people and the travel and the everything.
And always. Always. Go in for a business card. Walk back and grab it. Seal that interaction. You never know how someone is going to change your life.
–Met Carlin on the plane yesterday. Sitting in the back row. He was the most soft spoken, intelligent and intriguing person I’ve ever met on a plane.
He is the Chief Administrative and Legal Officer for the Ukpeagvik Inupiat Corporation. They don’t have reservations in Alaska, they have corporations. Which try to fix the problems that reservations pose in the lower 48, but come with their own complications according to Karlin.
Karlin, I learned, is a really powerful player in Arctic countries diplomacy and law and politics. When I told him that I majored in International Relations, he told me that this is the place to be thinking about international relations right now.
He explained that the Arctic cultures- are the hot spot for a variety of reasons– one of the only places left on Earth with such strong native cultures, the environment is a great source of oil and revenue for big corporations and countries fighting over it, and then you have global warming and the Arctic being the hotspot for climate change scientists. Which we have met plenty of, just being in Barrow a mere day.
I think I am supposed to be in the Arctic. I know it has something to teach me. I know I’m supposed to be here and move on from here to the rest of my life.
I asked him the big question as we were landing. What can we do to preserve native cultures in the world, how can we help? He answered with a prophesy more than a solution. He told me that when global warming really does destroy the world as we know it, it’s going to be the native people who have stuck together so strongly in harsh environments who will be the ones who know how to adapt to new extremes. Who know how to exist with whatever is thrown their way.
He taught me some words in Inupiat. Showed me an app. Ordered coffee in Inupiat with me.
He told me that Barrow will be the most interesting place I could visit in Alaska. The most unique place. The place where someone with an interest in international relations should go.
When we landed, he said, “Welcome to the Arctic,” in his calm, warm voice.
I was all smiles. I couldn’t help it. He and the woman sitting next to him pointed out the landscape to me. “That’s the sea.” “That’s the tundra.” “This is Barrow.”
Getting off the plane he told me that he would give me his business card inside. And when we got inside I hesitated. He was this important man, super busy, what time did he have for a recent college graduate with no knowledge of the Arctic except a plane ticket?
But I decided to go for it and walked over to him after a few minutes. And he handed me his business card, and I shook his hand again.
And then I emailed him this morning. And he emailed me back right away with information, and said our paths were sure to cross again in the future.
Inupiat Values on the back of Karlin’s business card:
Paaqlaktautainniq- Avoidance of Conflict
Piqpakkutiqagniq suli qiksiksrautiqagniq utuqqanaanum allanullu- Love and Respect for Our Elders and One Another
IIlagiigniq- Family and Kinship
Inupiuraallaniq- Knowledge of Language
Anuniallaniq- Hunting Traditions
Qiksiksrautiqagniq Inuuniagvigmun- Respect for Nature
I asked Karlin how to say hello, he told me there is no such word in the language. You would probably say “Welcome.” The words to say this had a throaty g sound, kind of like in the German language. He said I pronounced it really good– I have since forgotten how to say it. I will learn again. While I’m writing, I’m actually also researching the culture and the language. There is so much to learn. Six hours of sleep a night is going to do me just fine.
It looks like the native way to pronounce the name of the city is: Utqiaġvik
Inupiat is a completely oral language, so when they had to create a written form years ago, they borrowed letters from different languages, including the n with the swirl over it from Spanish.
The previously guy I sat on the plane with– to Anchorage, I didn’t talk to the whole time until we had landed. And then he gave me some great advice on the culture and the people of Barrow. Which is always on everyone’s bucket list. He told me that the Inupiat people are a very quiet people, with great respect for their elders.
Realized how much more I need to learn about the culture.
Back at our new apartment, I realize that it actually came in handy to be paranoid about carbon monoxide detectors this year. I actually brought my own detector with me, because of all of the drama it caused me in Willits, California. I decided after that I would always travel with my own carbon monoxide detector.
And before our new sponsor left, she casually warned us. “Oh. And this carbon monoxide detector by the door. If it ever goes off, take it seriously. It’s okay if it’s not a real gas leak, but you’re definitely better safe than sorry. Everything is powered by gas here– with old pipes. I’ve called about a gas leak before. It was a false alarm, but you’ve got to be sure.
Karlin was telling me about this on the plane– how there is so much natural gas in the area. That there are only three shipments of gasoline up to Barrow a year, and that the people wouldn’t really be able to exist the same way if there wasn’t the abundance of natural gas.
Just looked at a map– and saw that the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is to our East.
Karlin talked about that. I was talking about Russia being to the East. And he was like, actually Russia is to our west.
Polar bears: he told me to treat the idea of polar bears like you would international relations. If you respect them and give them their space, they respect you and don’t bother you.
So Alaska does not have reservations– they have corporations. Karlin was telling me that it was in an effort to do things differently– to not make the same mistakes that the lower 48 made with reservatations. And for better or for worse– it is what it is. He’s going to email a powerpoint presentation on the information. He actually offered to sit down and go through it with me on Sunday, if he has time. Which I can’t imagine he could– he’s meeting with someone at every moment of the day, and then his dad also lives in Barrow. He’s just here for the week. The corporation is based in Anchorage. It’s called the Ukpeagvik Inupiat Corporation.
I don’t know these people at all yet, but from what I have learned already about them, I think that it will be an experience of a lifetime. They really are a quiet and humble people, and I feel I have this easy flow with them. Our communication styles seem to be cut from the same cloth. Like I said, I can’t make any assumptions yet, but I have never been around such a calm, introverted and humble population. A welcome relief from traditional Western mandatory extrovertism
Both the northern and southern hemispheres of our earth have similar air currents formed as our planet spins. In the northern hemisphere, the air heats up during the day, rises, and spirals east to sink down at night further north. Thus, any dust the air carries moves relentlessly toward the poles. This causes no problems until man created persistent organic pollutants (POP), which are toxic chemicals that vaporize at normal air temperatures. These travel around the world, ever moving north until temperatures toward teh Arctic are too cold for them to vaporize, and there they stay- accumulating forever
Our sponsor just dropped off her two daughters at our apartment while she takes the boys to the college out of town. Back in twenty minutes. Just met these people and babysitting adorable kids.
Talking about the Velveteen rabbit. All hanging out on our living room floor.
Outside is the first snow at the top of the world for us.