I was out on the road for a jog, 10 pm at night. As light as it always is out, and fire engines and alarms and dogs and people all over the place as usual. And I slow down and start to walk close to the convenience store, and this little man in front of me slows down, and turns around to talk to me.
He introduces himself as Henry Roy, a 60 year old Indian American man from San Diego wearing a blue parka. He moved here two months ago and is seeking interaction, you can see it in his eyes. And, honestly, my eyes probably look much the same.
He asks me where I’m from, and how long I’ve lived in Barrow. I tell him I’m from Kansas, and am out for a late night snack because there is no food in my apartment. He thinks about it, and offers me the can of mushroom soup at his house. I say that is really nice of him, but I’ll be okay. I’m going to buy a bag of goldfish and make a night of it. When in Barrow. I would never eat like this anywhere else, but when preservative foods are the only things on the shelf, that’s what I’m going to grab. I really need to make lentils, but I just don’t feel like doing that tonight. I will get to it tomorrow. Tonight, goldfish dinner. Going against everything I stand for, but in fact being everything I need tonight.
I exchange numbers with Henry, and say we could do a potluck sometime. We talk about the isolation, and he tells me how he’s lived in isolated areas before, but was always within driving distance of a city. This, this is something entirely different. I ask him if he’s planning on staying, he says “we’ll see.” And he says, “you’re probably wondering why I decided to come here. But I am getting older, and I have to make sure I have job security for myself.”
I ask him where he works, and he points to the building. Because we live in Barrow.
I leave the store with a bag of goldfish, that I eat within ten minutes of getting back to my apartment.
Henry texts me after I finish the goldfish, saying he has rice and Indian curry if I want some. And “the curry might be a little bit spicy, though.” I say that sounds wonderful, and maybe another night. I am unsure if it is creepy or not that I am texting a elderly man, but I am thinking that he’s probably just feeling the same isolation that I feel. Maybe I’ll bring a friend over to his house some night and get to know him.
He texts me back, “No problem, just did not want you to go hungry. It’s the way of the North but I understand.”
There you go, my first street friend in Barrow. Maybe a little sanctuary to escape to, if he isn’t scary.
And I thought that as soon as I got off that plane, it would be smooth sailing.
In Balinese culture, the word view is that “nothing in the world- nothing in the universe- is stable. One can never know what is going to happen next.” Every two weeks, with the full moon and the new moon, an event called the Barong takes place to remind the villagers of this concept.
“Suddenly a horrible cry is heard, and through this entrance a frightening apparition appears: a screeching old witch in a terrifying mask, breasts made of horizontally striped cotton- bold black alternating with white- hanging to her knees, and a tongue that seems to be one fire hanging between her breasts.”
This apparition is called Rangda, possibly related to India’s Kali.
“In all of the times that I have seen the Barong, it continues like this: Rangda becomes stronger, so strong in fact that she is able to turn the men’s daggers against themselves. They are forced to turn their wrists so that the kris (sword) is now aimed at their own chests… The men are obviously in a deep trance, not the relaxed kind we have learned about in the West. In this trance each of them staggers, bent far backward, holding back the kris that seems to want to pierce the chest of its owner… This goes on for varying lengths of time, until, when the men seem at the end of their endurance, the spirit protector of the village enters: Barong, a wonderful monster, a mythical beast, with a huge carved head… The important fact to remember is that no one ever knows the outcome. A dance is a stylized story, and we often know how it ends. But the ending of the Barong cannot be predicted. Having watched this dance several times, I believe that. It is obviously a battle of spirit- good and evil. But that is a Western simplification. The Barong ceremony is not about these two opposing spirits. Rangda is the spiritual force of destruction, Barong is protection, and the people are the spirit of survival, of growth, of life.” -Wolff
“We can heed the call
We can trip and fall
We can read the scrawl on the garden wall
Let the ashes fall
Upon us all or not at all it’s in us all
Can we say it’s cool
From a heated pool
When we give a jewel to a starving fool
And if we can’t be cruel
Then let us take the tool
And change the rule, change the rule
When we’ve all begun to see the world we’re on
Don’t you see there’s only one
Then we’ll all begin to see the skin we’re in
It’s just the same
There’s only one
There’s only one
Do we have the grace to begin the race
in another place
Face to face
Do we stand the pace or do we let the case go to
waste, got to waste, go to waste
Do you like the taste”
-There’s Only One, Graham Nash
Carinne and I are planning on playing on our skillsets, and doing outreach. She’s going to design posters, and I’m going to work the social media. And we’re going to advertise these cooking classes that we do weekly, but we’re going to try and make it a cooking exchange. So that it isn’t just American soccer and smoothies, but it is that, with the door open to learn traditional cooking from the people here as well. Let’s share ideas instead of imprinting ideas on others.
What Laura is aiming to do is cool, but I think she is blinded by her vision. That she can’t take into account the things that we are stuck on, or that we as new eyes are seeing. The danger of the wood, and the cultural tensions that we can attempt to soothe with a little bit of tweaking and awareness. I hope that she lets us have this freedom, because I think that we do bring valuable integration skills with us. Just as desirous of learning the way the people here live, as sharing our ways of life with them.
“One of the basic tenets of Malay culture is that nobody tells anybody what to do. Adults never order a child older than about two to do something or not to do something. The language does not allow for such commands.
…The Malays approach decision making in very round about ways. Their language does not lend itself to being specific. It is a language of indirection. Until the modern age there was no word for I. The word that is used now originally meant “your humble servant,” or “your slave.”
Simple Maylay and Indonesian have no tenses; the context of a sentence determines whether a statement is meant to refer to present, past or future (rarely the future). But more than anything else, it is a language of poetry, of hints at meaning rather than exactness, of allusions rather than pointed information.
…Maylays are peaceful people who value harmony above all. No one becomes angry because that embarrasses both parties. No one even raises his voice, ever.”
“From the time I was in high school, I never took the slightest interest in nationalism. My eyes were always drawn toward a much larger world, and it has always been my dream to come up with some ideas that might be helpful to other people around the world.”
“This Japanese word jiko means “universal self” or “whole self.” We live simultaneously as a personal self, an individual taken up with everyday affairs, and as a universal self that is inclusive of the entire universe.”
“There is no way we can say that our way of looking at things is absolute. If you and I are sitting together, you may think that we are both looking at the same cup in front of us, but it’s not true. You look at it from your angle and from your perspective and I view it from mine. There’s no ground for our saying that a fact we know or an idea we embrace is absolute.”
“What we call ‘I’ or ‘ego’ arises by chance or accident, so we just let go instead of grasping thoughts and ‘I’. When we let go of all our notions about things, everything becomes really true. This is the fourth undeniable reality, complete tranquility, or nehan jakujo. It is also described as ‘all things are as they are’ shoho jisso. Therefore, when we let go of everything, we do not create artificial attachments and connections. Everything is as it is. Everything exists in one accidental way or another. This is the present reality of life. It is the reality of that which cannot be grasped, the reality about which nothing can be said. This very ungraspability is what is absolutely real about things.” -Uchiyama
FUCK YES INSPIRATION EXCHANGE IN BARROW, ALASKA.
Laying out world blanket and reminding myself of why I’m here. And how I can never control it all. And it’s most likely to be okay. And how I’m learning so much about the world, and the nature of people and priorities. And strengthening confidence in my own ability to establish priorities. And learning to separate emotions from the issue more. And even if I can’t do that like a professional yet, people still follow me. And are inspired by me. And are learning to question authorities because of me. And I’m not a crazy. I’m just a person. We’re all crazy. And not one of us are alone.
“When your love has moved away/ you must face yourself and you must say/ I remember better days/ Don’t you cry because she is gone/ She is only moving on/ Chasing mirrors through the haze/ Now that you know it’s nowhere/
What’s to stop you coming home/ All you got to do is go there /Then you’ll really realize what’s going down/
Went to a strange land searching/ For a truth you felt was wrong/ That’s when the heartaches started/ Though you’re where you want to be/ You’re not where you belong/ When your love has moved away/ You must face yourself and you must say/ I remember better days” -Better Days, Graham Nash
If we survive fucking Alaska, we ladies are going to be a force to be fucking reckoned with back in the lower 48.
We are just beginning.
It’s all beginning.
It’s always beginning.
“We have walked into a trainwreck here,” Carinne observed at lunch. She’s been struggling with it all as well, overstimulated and confused. But she’s reminding herself daily that she’s a “visitor here” and to free herself and embrace the world around. Wherever we are at. We’re not here to change anything, we’re here to take in what we can.
-Emailed Laura to set up one on one meeting to discuss project, wood concerns, and where to go from here.
-Set up a meeting with the girls to discuss how we’re going to approach tomorrow
-Email Heather about hours. Only need 75 hours of work to finish the program. That means I can work a few days a week, and finish the program. So….
–Ukpeagvik Inupiat Corporation phone number and address compiled for research tomorrow. I will either take a sick day, or I will be at the library tomorrow doing outreach work for Laura to promote her events. And I will call the UIC. And I will meet Laura at the library to discuss it.
“Please forgive if I don’t walk
Off that plank stuck in your eye.
I’ve got my life to love
And I’m here to take what’s mine.
I’ve got my life to love
And I’m here to take what’s mine.
Growing up child
Is just a matter of time,
For giving all you’ve got,
So won’t you dance under the sun.
Feels like you’re giving up your soul.
I’d rather give it freely
To the ones that I call home.”
– Growing Up, Run River North
Original Wisdom, Robert Wolff
Opening the Hand of Thought, Kosho Uchiyama