Lentils and Learning

Drinking tea with honey and looking out the window at the landscape. At the city. Ate some quinoa and spinach as a fourth meal.

We’ve actually been eating exceptionally well so far.

Today we had our orientation at the hospital, and Laura let the hospital know that we were functioning on a budget 25% below the food stamp budget in Barrow. The average minumum wage out here is $20 an hour. And we’re working with about $5 a day per person for food.

Which is not impossible, but definitely a challenge. And if we can do it, that’s going to prove something to all of us about how to live on a budget. How to make things work. And also how difficult it can be to make it work when you don’t have a good educational knowledge about how to feed your body to reach its full potential.

Because we could be eating Doritos all day.

But I’m really pushing for vegetables and lentils and rice. And so is our sponsor, which is great.

She told us yesterday at the store that about the only realistic thing we could fix for supper was lentil stew. Protein and veggies. Not complaining at all about that- it’s what I’ve been trying to eat all year.

But our team tried to buy a few packages of lunch meat– and our sponsor was like, whoa, whoa, whoa. You’re buying what?

It’s $12 for a package of lunch meat– ten slices of deli meat.

Reindeer, however, is really cheap. Obviously, since they don’t have to ship it all the way across the world. It’s produced right here. And thus next week we’re going to buy two big chunks of frozen reindeer meat for each house, and see how it goes.  Only about $6 for more than a week’s worth.

But today at lunch at the hospital, because Laura told them the extent of our food budget while here– they invited us to each spend $25 on lunch. On them. And we get to do that every Monday. I bought a huge fresh salad (thinking about how each part of that salad was flown into this city from all over the world, though) and a bowl of fruit, and two yogurt parfaits.

So nice.

But that’s the other thing we learned today– the communal, utilitarian community structure. Instead of greed and hoarding money and resources being respectful like it is in traditional Western capitalistic society, up here, it’s the people who share the most who are the most respected.

And they are definitely sharing.

At least twice a year, all the whalers and fishermen gather in the middle of town, and distribute their catches for the year. And it’s just open and communal. The joy of handing out fish to one another. And not asking for anything else in return besides community, and everything that comes along with that.

Which is everything, I would also argue.

So beautiful. So excited to learn more about the culture and the people.

So far the local people have proved some of the most humble, quiet, respectful and warm people I’ve ever met. But also really private. We’re definitely not going to just waltz in here and understand it all. We’ve got to take it at the pace we get welcomed into it.

Food justice, that’s a whole other thing. There are so many components to our stay here: food justice, cultural exchange, cultural understanding, politics of the land and environmentalism versus native interests, wildlife right around the corner, and a communal way of life all the way up at the top of the world that was unreachable until 1980s when the airport was built.

Change is really resisted in Barrow, for good historical reason.

We are the only unarmed people in the city of Barrow. Talked to people about all the wildlife in the area… it’s an Arctic mecca. Want to write more about it later tonight…

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