We lived for ten years inKetchikan, Alaska
. The visitors bureau ads are absolutely right: "Visit Alaska, you'll never come all the way home." Although we (my wife, daughters, and I) are natives of California and Colorado and we are once again living on the "outside" (as Alaskans refer to everywhere else) we still feel that Alaska is home. We would love an opportunity to return there.
The complexities of life there are distinctly different than life on the Outside. We had no city water water system, nor any well. Rainfall (156 inches per year) was collected and stored in a 12,000 gallon tank standing next to the house. Monitoring and maintaining the water system was a new complexity for us.
Scraping snow off the barbecue grill so we could cook dinner was a new experience. Even though the stove in the house was working, we couldn't stay inside all the time.
Living on an island was also an adjustment. Swimming and cold water survival skills are required subjects for every child at every grade level from 1 to 12. Taking a ferry to get anywhere else you wanted go... even if you were flying there the airport was on another island which you reached by ferry. Virtually nothing other than salmon was produced locally; all foodstuffs, household goods, and supplies were brought in from Outside. That's OK as long as the weather doesn't disrupt the transportation system for more than a few days. Oh, and when school pictures are delivered you can't find a picture frame in any store in town for nearly a month afterward.
A peculiar torture was watching television (two broadcast stations from Canada) and seeing fast food ads. When you get a "Big Mac attack" and the nearest McDonalds is 700 miles away it can be discouraging. When we flew home from Outside friends would pay us $5.00 each to bring them Big Mac sandwiches which they microwaved and enjoyed, sometimes days later.
Of course some of these peculiarities were offset by sitting in our living room and watching the whales migrate past our front window. Or the bald eagles that nested across the street. Or the times we came home from work and found a brown bear on our front porch ("Let's get dinner in town tonight!").
© Copyright 1996 - James Card - Permission is granted for non-commercial use of all original material.
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