Friday, January 29, 2010

Monday Afternoon in Alaska
Monica's Travel Journal Continued
(part 7)

We left the cabin fairly soon after it became light. (It got light about 10:30 each morning.) Back in Nome, we gathered up what all else we wanted to take back to the cabin. Then, we went into town to get some boots for Ransom. She didn't have thick fur between the pads of her feet, like Gabby did, and the snow kept getting painfully packed between the pads of her feet. Lisa had seen some dog boots at the local pet supply store. We turned out there around 11:30. Though the sign proclaimed their hours to be 9-5, the store was locked up tight. Lisa said that is one of the frustrations of Nome...the fact that posted store hours are more a suggestion of when you might possibly find the store open rather than any firm commitment that it will indeed be open during the stated hours! She said it is pretty common for people to just close their store up in the middle of the day if they have something they would rather be doing than tending the store! She said, it was an extension of the whole "Nome time" concept. The same culture that takes for granted that workers chronically come dragging in an hour or two late, without seeming to feel the least embarrassment or regret! Nome time. (Kind of like hosts and hostesses who can't seem to awaken until the sun finally comes up, halfway through the day!)

We left the closed store and decided to go look at the Ski-doo (snow machine) store. Lisa immediately fell in love with one of the snow machines on the floor...a very sleek, snazzy, showy model. She and Iran spoke at length with the salesman and then we went back to the pet supply store to see if the worker had returned yet. Nope. It was still closed. So, we went to the Artic Cat (another brand of snow machine) store next. There Iran saw a wide track, heavy duty model that he thought would be more useful to them. Lisa didn't think the Artic Cat was as classy looking as the Ski-Doo, but Iran explained to her that the Artic Cat was much more functional and would hold up better. The Ski-Doo gets better gas mileage, but the Artic Cat has lower maintenance and is a more rugged machine. Before leaving the store, Lisa and Iran decided to buy the Artic Cat Bear Cat. They hadn't realized before their first winter in Alaska how necessary a snow machine is. Far from a luxury item, the snow machine in the winter (like the four wheeler in the summer) is actually a lot more useful than a car for getting around the ice caked streets of Nome and beyond. After Pastor Bruce's sled broke while Lisa and Iran had it borrowed, they had gotten a bit more nervous about using the borrowed snow machine. The Artic Cat salesman told us their snow machine could be unpacked from the box and assembled before closing time that day.

We went back to the pet supply store to see if it was open yet. Nope. Then we went to Airport Pizza. Iran wanted Chorizo pizza, but Lisa didn't think it had been any good last time they had it, so she ordered 1/2 Chorizo and 1/2 Hawaiian. When the pizza came, the Chorizo half was DELICOUS! The Hawaiian 1/2 was good, but all three of us totally agreed that the Chorizo half was by far and away the best! The spicy Mexican sausage and jalapeno peppers just hit the spot in the Alaskan cold! While we were eating, Phil the Crabman arrived. (Lisa's nickname for him!) Lisa told me that this man has worked many times on one of the very ships featured in the TV series, "Deadliest Catch". This time around, though, he wasn't getting crabs from a ship, but by drilling holes in the ice of the Bering Sea and setting his crab pots in them. Lisa and Iran had hoped he would be able to get us some Alaskan King Crabs and, while we were eating, he called to let them know he had just come in from the Bering Sea and he had ten crabs for them! When he heard we were at Airport Pizza, he hopped on over there. Lisa and Iran were delighted and promptly bought all ten of the crabs. They also asked Phil if he could weld the ski back on the borrowed sled. He said, he could, so they gave him the sled. (We had been carting it on top of the Mariner.)

We made one last run over to the pet supply store and FINALLY it was open! We got four booties for Ransom and then headed over to Pastor Bruce's to get the still squirming crabs boiled. (Pastor Bruce had the large pots needed--AND he knew how to season the crabs!) Pastor Bruce and Gloria were only too happy to boil the crabs up for us. We had originally been planning on leaving some of the crabs with Pastor Bruce and Gloria and taking our portion of the crabs on back to the cabin to eat later, but they seemed so disappointed when they learned we wouldn't be eating with them, that we changed our plans.

We went back to the Artic Cat store to pick up new snow machine while Pastor Bruce cooked the crabs. Then we went to Marie's house to pick her up so she could join us at Pastor Bruce's for dinner. Marie was the woman (originally from the village of Gambell) who got up in the middle of the night recently (when Pastor Bruce and his family were away in the Philippines) to help Lisa and Iran butcher a road kill moose that the state troopers had offered to the church. Lisa had been dubious when she had seen Marie arrive with a small curved blade. Lisa thought the little tool Marie brought would not be up to the task. She had been very wrong! Turned out that Marie could butcher that moose with her little blade twice as fast as Lisa and Iran combined with their much larger, more impressive cutting implements! As Marie had labored through the night with Lisa and Iran, she had sung hymns in her native tongue, Siberian Yu'pik, making a memory for Lisa that she will treasure forever. That night, after we feasted on the most delicious crab I have ever tasted (super tender, juicy, sweet...TONS of meat in each crab), I asked Marie if she would sing a song for us in Yu'pik and if I could record it. She was delighted to! I wish I had stayed closer to her with the camera, though, for she (like every native Alaskan I met while there) is very soft-spoken. Listening to the video later, I was sad that her voice is so faint. But, if you turn your volume up all the way, you can hear two beautiful songs on the video here in this post!

After the eating and singing was finished, we settled into a spirited game of "Catch Phrase". Pastor Bruce, his twelve year old son (JR) and Iran were on one team while Gloria, Lisa, and myself were on the other (the guys against the girls!)...with Marie observing. (She didn't want to play, but sure enjoyed watching us get awfully silly!) We played until nearly midnight. I was EXHUASTED! (It was 3 am Missouri time!) We decided it was too late to go all the way back out to the cabin, so we decided to spend the night at Lisa and Iran's instead and wait until daylight to return to the cabin. Unfortunately ALL my stuff was at the cabin, including my contact case, contact solution, and glasses! I have really dry eyes that barely tolerate contact lenses as it is, and had never slept in them, but, considering I am legally blind without them in and considering the soft lenses would have been ruined if left out all night, not in solution, I didn't have much choice but to sleep in them. Little did I know then that not only would I have to wear them all day Monday and all night Monday night, but all day Tuesday, all night Tuesday night and all day Wednesday as well, before I would finally take my contacts out of my eyes. Such is Alaska...nothing ever seems to go as planned!

(Lisa thought these particular crabs were small, but, Pastor Bruce pointed out that this early in the season, they will be...that these were younger crabs. They looked HUGE to me! And they certainly were delicious!)

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