Tuesday, 27 March 2012

like weeds

My kids are growing up so fast!
Seriously, it is insane to think that we are going to have a four year old in just a little over a month.

Ever creative and gifted Grandpa Kurt just sent us this great gift that he made for the kids.  It's a growth chart for them he made to look like a ruler.  And the best part is, we can easily take it with us when we have to move.

Sunday, 25 March 2012

get down

Just a Sunday afternoon grooving to some beats I heard at Amy's Zumba class

Friday, 23 March 2012

up north II

Ok...photo time.

Flying into Anchorage.  I was so happy to have window seats on all my flights.

Then we sat on the runway in Anchorage for an hour and a half waiting to go to Kotz.  Our plane had something wrong with the windshield  and they couldn't fix it right away but they found us another plane.  It was killing me!  But it was pretty.

Flying out of Anchorage

On the way to Kotzebue

I was very hungry once I finally arrived.  After picking me up on a four-wheeler, Kris cooked me up some caribou tacos.  

Amy starting up the four wheeler in the next morning.

Then Friday we woke up and headed back to Kris' apartment where he was busily making us sourdough pancakes, an AK treat.  And they were gooooooood!  Then we got busy getting ready to head out to the Iten's camp (friend's of Kris).  They have a "camp" - I use that word loosely because it was good living - about 25 miles from Kotzebue, across the sound.

Amy putting oil in the snow machine I was going to use.  (Also referred to as a "rig" or "snow-go" by Kotz dwellers...I was trying to pick up as much of the lingo as I could).

Kris packing up the sled he pulled behind his machine to haul out all we would need for camp.

Amy then took me out for a short snow machine lesson.  I had never been on one before.  But I hope I'm on one again soon!

Kris' apartment


There were other friends of Kris and Amy headed out to spend the weekend at the camp too, but after hearing that it would be a while until they were ready to go (they have 2 and 4 year old daughters and I know what it's like to pack for little people - and I can't imagine how much more time it takes when packing for below 0 temps), we decided to hit the trail.  As I said, this was my first snow machine experience and it was so fun.  So, so fun.

The trail across the sound is marked by small willow branches that are placed by workers after the water freezes over.  It is considered a federal highway.  All the willows also have a piece of reflective tape so you can find your way in the dark.

Trail break

Kris fully enjoying a burrito I brought him from Chicago.  From Lawrence Ave to to the tundra.

Amy and I all geared up.  I was wearing 2 pairs of long-underwear, sweat pants, heavy duty snow pants, 2 base layer shirts, a lighter jacket and then the parka that was lined with fox fur and weighed about as much as I did, two layers over my face and a beaver-skin hat.  The snow machine I was on had heated  handle bars (!) which was awesome so I just had pretty regular gloves on.  And then I was wearing bunny boots which are super warm rubber boots.  Luckily gear is in abundance in Kotz so Amy and Kris were able to borrow all I needed to stay warm.  And I was warm.  It's amazing what a big difference the right gear makes.  The snow mounded up behind Amy and I is from a ice road that gets plowed during the winter so cars can travel between 2 of the towns. 

Made it to the Iten's camp in just a little over an hour with a couple of stops along the way.  It was sunny with no wind and was about 10 degrees above 0.  Perfect traveling weather.

The cabin.
Ed and Ruth are the owners of this idyllic little spot.  Ruth is a teacher and Ed is a carpenter.  He built their cabin mostly from materials cast off from jobs that he's done.  They spend large parts of the year apart because their work often takes them in different directions.  When we arrived, they were just heading out to do a little camping together.  It was so great that we got their before they left though because they raise sled dogs and they were taking 2 teams of dogs out with them on their trip.  Ed has  run the Iditarod  about 10 times, coming in second once.

Some of the dogs.  I think they had about 45 or so.  

Fixing the sled before taking off.

They also have 4 Icelandic horses.  They were happy that we were all coming out to their place so we could take care of the animals while they were away.

I didn't think there were any trees on the tundra.  In Kotz there were very few, but at the Iten's it was beautiful woods all around us.

Packing up the sled

The cute couple

So once the sled was fixed, we helped hitch all the dogs up.  

When you move the dogs, you have to hold their front ends up off the ground so only their back legs are touching.  They can pull SO strongly that if you have all four of their feet on the ground, they will easily break away from you and be off.

And off they go!

Inside the cabin


Horses coming to find us because they wanted breakfast.

SUPER smelly fish we fed the sled dogs that remained behind at camp.  I can't imagine what this stuff smells like when it is not froze because it was...wow...smelly.  The dogs get enough water from the fish that they don't have to water them separately.

Amy cutting up fish

Amy and Jojo - their friends from town's dog.

This is Otto.  He's still a puppy so he was in a different fenced in area and isn't learning to pull a sled quite yet.  

The girls watching the world

The cabin has no running water so they chop ice and then melt it on this wood burning stove that heats the place.  There is an outhouse out back.  And they hook up a generator at night in order to be able to use lights.

We ate like kings out there.  Blueberry pie - berries straight from the tundra!

We stayed at the cabin 2 nights and had a great time relaxing, taking care of the animals, reading, playing with the girls, eating, talking to friends, eating some more, hauling wood, hunting (Kris went looking for a moose), eating more and just enjoying the outdoors.  Yes, it was cold.  The coldest temps I have been in for at least 3 years.  But 0 degrees in Kotzebue is so much different than 0 degrees in Chicago.  There is an excitement about winter there that is so contagious and the sound freezing over opens up so many opportunities that are not available come spring and summer.  And to those that have had weeks of temps reaching -50 degrees and colder, a +10 degree temp is beautiful weather indeed.

Back at Kris' apartment enjoying "The blessed trinity" - a little treat his mom created.  Marshmallows and cheddar cheese melted on saltine crackers.  Yum, yum, yum.

And then we got to pickle a sheefish!  Amy's landlord had done some fishing and gave Amy and Kris one of his fish.

So it was just outside staying frozen and when we got back we got to pickling it.  I was a first time pickler, so I learned a lot.  Amy and Kris had done it before and I have reports that it is good eating once all is said and done.  And I have a jar in our fridge now that will be ready to open in a few days time.

Amy and Kris do a lot of subsistance living which is so awesome.  Kris hunts for nearly all the meat they eat and also they fish.  They pick berries in the summer and are learning more about what's available in the area that they can try and pick this summer and fall.

Amy took Monday and Tuesday off of school so we could just hangout.  It was so fun driving around town on the four wheeler and just getting a sense of what life is like.  Gassing up the ride - at over $7 a gallon.  Ouch.

Kris is buying a house!  It's right on the sound so he's going to have an amazing view.  He doesn't have the keys yet so we couldn't go inside, but it looks like an awesome, cozy little place.

View down the street from the house

Looking the other direction down first street

Almost all the homes have a cunny chuck (no idea if that is how it's spelled), which is a hallway leading into the house before you get to the actual door.  The cunny chuck leading into Kris' apartment now, all frozen over.

View from Kris' apartment


Amy's apartment

View down Amy's street

View other direction down Amy's street

Museum at the Parks and Rec building

Bayside Restaurant, one of 2 (I believe) restaurants in Kotz.  Serving up only the finest in American, Chinese and Japanese cuisine.  It was everything you can hope for in a little dinner. 

School that Amy and Kris work at.
We headed to school right as classes got out one day so I was able to meet some of the kids that Amy works with and also some of the other staff.  Amy is an aid for some of the special needs kids and it was awesome to see her with them.  Although I only saw them together for a few minutes, I could just tell how awesome she is with them and how much she cares for them and how much they love her.  She rocks.

Kris' classroom

More pickling to be done.

Heading up to cemetery hill

View of Kotzebue from cemetery hill

I wish I had had my camera out when I landed in Kotzebue.  It was just crazy to see this little town in on this flat expanse of snow that stretched as far as I could see.  And I am so grateful that I had the chance to go on this adventure and now know where Amy calls home.  There are 2 words for "to know" in Spanish and I think the difference between them is brillant.  "Saber" mean to know a fact, or to know information...head knowledge.  But "conocer" means to experience something, to know it intimately.  And it makes my heart so happy that I now "conocer" Kotzebue, and not just "saber" about it.  I think that some people think that Amy is a little crazy for moving to the ends of the earth.  And maybe she is. But I caught glimpses during the short time I was there of great reasons to be in and invest part of your life to the community of Kotzebue. 

I love this girl so much.  And I think she is incredible.  And she was incredible before she moved to Kotzebue.  And I know how rare it is to have a sister that you can also call your best friend, and I thank God daily for that.  It's kinda weird now that we are all grown up and our lives have taken us in different directions.  I mean, I think I knew that it would happen, but I wasn't processing what that would mean at the time.  And who knows, maybe we'll end up living close to each other again someday.  Life is sometimes crazy like that.  But until then, I'll just soak up as much of you as I can get when I can...kinda like that Alaskan sun.

Thanks Kris.