Monday, January 28, 2008

Around Town

A while back I had this great idea (I thought) of making a video tour of the village. That could be fun, right? Well, I'm sorry to say that it hasn't happened yet. My video camera recently developed a glitch and refuses to download the videos to my computer.

Bummer.

I'm still hoping to put that together at some point. But, as an alternative, I've been collecting shots of the area over the last few weeks. Rather than post an unmanageable stream of photographs, it would probably be kinder to share a few at a time.

I'm not sure if these photos will answer often-posed questions, inspire new ones, or maybe a combination of both. Although it can appear forbidding, it really isn't as bad as it seems. And, for better or worse, this tiny village is home.

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So I guess the best place to start is at home. My house is a duplex and I live on the right-hand side. This is my sixth year in Atqasuk and my fourth year in this house. It's a half-mile walk to school and a little farther to the all-important post office, but I like being slightly removed from the village. I have a great view of the river from my bedroom window and a pond across the road shared by loons and swans every summer.

My House-Winter

The first buildings that I pass on my trek to school each day are a huge garage storing heavy equipment and the fuel station where vehicles can be filled with gas or diesel...at prices that make walking seem like a really good deal.

Fuel Station

Parked at the fuel station

Price of Gas 1-26-08

Between the fuel station and the school, a sentry of satellite dishes stand at attention. All television, telephone, and computer connections are dependent upon satellite signals. Though the airport is our physical lifeline, these towering sentinels are definitely our gateway to the outside world!

The big dish

Newly-built snow fences are our only defense against the wind and blowing snow. Drifts can accumulate quickly during a blizzard, but snow fences help a great deal. Two summers ago the borough (county) hired a crew to repair our old snow fences and add several new ones in an effort to break the path of snow following easterly winds. Now if we could just do something about the blizzards that come from the south and west!

1-26-08 016

1-26-08 009

Snow fence close-up

Well, that's probably enough sight seeing for one session, huh? Anyone ready to book Atqasuk as their vacation destination yet? Okay, maybe July would be more enticing.

18 comments:

Karen said...

Kimberlee these photos are really good. Are you still using that little camera? I suppose I could go out to flickr and check, but I'm too lazy. You are doing a great job telling the story here. I can't wait for the next leg in your journey!

Kimberlee said...

Hey, Karen! Thanks! I AM still using that little Sony Cybershot 3.2. It's still hit or miss for me, especially with the tricky light conditions that we have here...either not much light or way too much reflecting off snow. You gave me good advice about learning to use the camera, but I haven't had much time for doing that. Although these photos do seem a little dark, that IS what it looks like around here at this point in the year. So, I guess it's okay that they are a little dark. I've been setting the camera on "night" setting most of the time. That seems to gather up the most ambient light, but it would probably help if I was using a tripod and THAT just isn't going to happen while it's this cold. Besides, most of the photos from around town were taken on the spur of the moment...no tripod handy.

Thanks for checking in and saying hello! It's great to hear from you! :)

bryan said...

Thank you! I have been curious about the town. A good friend recently sent me a book that says that if you want to know a person, you have to know their story. :) And the town is a big part of your story. We are looking forward to the next installment!

Bryan said...

BTW, Love the first shot, is that the moon in the background? I just love the whole coloring, light level, everything.

Kimberlee said...

Thanks, Bryan! I am so glad you like the photos. There are PLENTY more where they came from! :) That IS the moon shining behind my house. Unfortunately, it appears much farther away than it did in actuality. There is something that happens with some cameras that I don't really understand. Even zooming in as much as possible, some distant objects appear even MORE distant through the lens. Maybe someone who understands cameras better than I do (that could be almost anyone) can explain it to me. But it WAS a very quiet, peaceful evening and I DO think that translates pretty well in that particular photo. I'm so glad you liked it. I'll try to add more soon! :)

Steve said...

Kimberlee, those pictures are wonderful. I love the blue tint of all the snow; somehow that makes it look colder than just white snow.

Thanks for the mini-tour.

Kippi said...

The pictures are great! I agree with Bryan my favorite is the one of your house with the moon in the background. I also agree with Steve...it looks so so so cold. I don't know how you do it everyday walking in that snow! You are my hero! Kippi

Kimberlee said...

Steve,
Thank you so much! I'm really glad you like the photos. I like the colors this time of year as well...very soft...peaceful. The sky has that "mood ring" quality that I've mentioned before. Sometimes it's more dramatic than these photographs depict. I'll try to share more very soon.

Kippi,
I'd like to tell you that it's not as cold as it looks, but that would not be true. It's cold. I wear liners inside my gloves and tuck my gloved hands inside the sleeves of my parka. That works pretty well. But, the day that I took these photos, my hands were aching from the cold...even with the gloves on! It's hard to believe, but it only takes a minute or two for the cold to penetrate the gloves and then it's really hard to warm up again. I wear plenty of gear and my boots keep my feet toasty, but the hands are always a concern.

Thanks to you both for stopping by!

Steve said...

I like the snow fences. They are so straightforwardly utilitarian, unlike my own somewhat artistic nature. Yet they are, in fact, very artistic themselves, completely normal and strange at the same time. (Like the Belton standpipe!! -- I don't have pictures; perhaps there's a link somewhere.)

Jackie said...

The colors and the softness are beautiful - I especially love the colors in the 2nd snow fence picture. I'm really glad for the tour - it has already cleared up one wrong idea I had - I have always pictured you living in the left side of the duplex - I suppose because you did in New Orleans. Now I'll have to adjust the picture in my mind when I talk to you on the phone :) which is about as hard as learning to call someone by a new name.

Also, does anyone get to keep their vehicles inside a building? I'm so thankful to have a garage - I can't imagine having to warm up a vehicle from neg.40 or so everytime it's used. That would be enough to cause me to walk...but I guess not if I had to carry a lot.

Kimberlee said...

Well, Steve, I was curious about this thing called the Belton Standpipe, so I looked it up. Interesting! South Carolina is just full of surprises, isn't it? :) They even have a festival dedicated to celebrating the Standpipe! I need to read more about it, but here was one photo that I ran across.

http://www.waymarking.com/waymarks/WM2BAB

I wonder if our lowly snow fences rate a festival? LOL!

Kimberlee said...

Hey, Jackie! I agree with you...I love the softness of the colors, especially in that second snowfence photo. The thing that I really like about those shots is that they actually turned out showing exactly what the sky/snow was like that evening. So many times the camera just can't accurately capture the low-light (or blindingly bright light) scenes.

I can't think of anyone who has a garage for their vehicle. Borough and school district vehicles ARE kept in huge heated buildings, but no one has that luxury at home. They do, of course, have to plug in the vehicle every night to keep the engine block from freezing (you already have experience with that). But, you are right, it's VERY uncomfortable getting into a truck that's been sitting in the extreme cold overnight. Most people start the engine twenty or thirty minutes before they have to actually drive anywhere, but that doesn't give the heater time to warm up. :(

John said...

Kimberlee - love the blog, and I'm most impressed that you walk to school. The video of the walk to school and the frozen eyelashes have me shivering already! How many layers do you have to wear?

We suffer from the overheated buildings problem in the UK as well. I end up having to wear a sweater in the Summer because the air con is cranked up so high and just a shirt in Winter because the heating is up so much. Madness.

Anyway don't complain too much about gas prices. This week I paid £1.03/litre in the UK. According to Wikipedia there are 3.785 litres to a US gallon which makes it $7.65 / gallon at current exchange rates.

Kimberlee said...

Hi, John! $7.65 per gallon, WOW! While the price of $4.10 on the gas pump (in my photo) is the residential charge per gallon, the school district and other commercial entities around the village pay in the neighborhood of $5.00 per gallon. But that is still a far cry from what you are paying! Yikes! You're right, we shouldn't complain! And, of course, other areas of Alaska are seeing gas prices much more in line with the rest of the U.S. Our fuel costs are much higher here because everything has to be flown in via airplane. I heard the other day that the fuel plane only carries 5,000 gallons of fuel at a time. When you consider that the fuel tank at the school holds 10,000 gallons...you can imagine how many trips it takes to keep this village running! I'm not sure if the 5,000 gallon limit is a weight issue or has to do with safety/environmental considerations, or what. That's something I'm curious about and will check into further. At some point, I want to video/photograph the airport when the fuel plane comes in. It's quite an imposing figure on our tiny dirt/snow runway! :)

As you mentioned, I do wear several layers of clothing in the winter. Thankfully, the dress code at school is not strick. Most people wear jeans or something similarly comfortable. Jeans do tend to be cold in the winter, though. So, quilted snow pants are a must when the temperatures dip below zero. I usually wear a short sleeved shirt with some sort of fleece sweater/pull-over on top of that and then my heavy parka on the outside. My snow pants have a lining inside the legs with elastic that fits around the ankles protecting the legs from wind. That probably sounds like overkill, but one year I did get a little frostbite on my shin because my pant leg (different snow pants) had shifted up around the top of my boot allowing wind/cold air to penetrate. A few minutes of that was all it took to burn the skin. It wasn't a horrible injury, by any means, but since then I have favored overkill when it comes to dressing warmly in the winter! :)

In the summer, temperature regulation is even trickier because temps will get up into the seventies/eighties in the warmest hours of the day, but will drop down into the teens/twenties in the coolest time. It's not uncommon to see kids wearing heavy jackets with short pants! I guess that's one of those Arctic Anomalies, huh? :)

Thanks for stopping by, John. I enjoyed your comments and I hope you'll visit again!

Johnny Rae said...

Brrrrr, makes me happy that it was 79 today...Fat Tuesday...complete with 97% humidity and 68% dewpoint. Tomorrow will bring a cold front and down into the nice 50s.
I love the pictures...especially those of the moon. It is nice to have such a knowledgeable tour guide!!! And one with such a flair for words. Looks like you traded levees for snowfences!

Kimberlee said...

Hi, Johnny! It's good to hear from you! :) The fifties sounds nice...almost eighties...not so much! LOL! I can't believe I completely forgot it was Mardi Gras season! Wow! I guess our cold temperatures have slowed my brain, huh? I like that idea...trading levees for snow fences. I hadn't thought of that, but I guess it's really true! Funny! I hope you are enjoying a couple of days off and are catching lots of beads. :) Thanks for stopping by!

Steve said...

Like Jackie, I always pictured you living on the left side of your duplex, too...don't know why.

Kimberlee said...

That's funny, Steve. I have mental pictures like that, too. I guess it's the imagination's attempt at making sense of bits and pieces of information. Kind of like a putting together a jigsaw puzzle without the box top to use as a guide. :)

For example, discovering that your house is near the church was a big surprise since I'd always pictured it far removed from everything...even neighbors. Seeing the photos of your kayak arriving completely changed my image.

When I bought the duplex, the previous owner asked which side I wanted to live in. I chose the right-hand side because it was still brand new...no one had lived in it yet. It seemed FRESH which was a new experience for me since I'd never lived in a new construction before. ALSO, and maybe more important, I knew that in the summertime the sun would be blazing through the bedroom window on that (northern) side of the house from about 2 to 4 AM each morning. The right-hand side gets the light too, but not as directly. And I've never regretted that choice!!!
:)