My phone rang around 5:30 this afternoon. On the other end of the line, I heard a recorded message from Senator Mark Begich of Alaska. Like most people, I absolutely detest telephone solicitations, especially political ones, but, before I could make a move to hang up, I heard him say something about discussing the health care bill.
Now that caught my attention.
For weeks, I've been reading online articles and listening to online radio broadcasts in an effort to understand what in the world is going on with Obama's health care reform efforts. I'm all for reform where reform is needed, but I must admit that much of what I've read and heard has me rather concerned. So I was more than happy to hear what the new Senator from Alaska had to say.
Within a few seconds, I realized that Senator Begich was not soliciting anything or even giving a prepared speech. In fact, the phone call was actually part of a statewide "Tele-Town Hall Meeting."
All across the state, telephones rang with an invitation to talk with Senator Begich (personally!) about health care reform. I have no idea how many people were home to answer their telephones or how many took the senator up on his offer, but for about 30-40 minutes participants from all corners of Alaska called in and were free to ask questions.
Living in a bush village, away from the action and access of important cities, it's easy to feel voiceless and unheard. Today was the first time I've ever felt connected to my government apart from the occasional privilege of casting my vote.
I have no clue whether this "Tele-Town Meeting" thing is a new idea or has been happening for years, but I just want to go on record as saying that I appreciate having that opportunity. I applaud Senator Begich for taking the time to reach out to those he represents in a practical and tangible way. It was a great connection!
And those aren't so easy to come by in Alaska...or anywhere else.
In fact, for a few days at the end of April, the North Slope experienced a dramatic temperature spike from the mid-20's up to and above 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Everything began to drip and slush and flow at an amazing, completely unexpected, pace. That sort of thing doesn't usually happen until June.
Unfortunately, with early spring comes early thawing and hatching of about a kazillion mosquitoes.
Now, I can appreciate that mosquitoes have a place in the "circle of life." I can appreciate that many migratory birds feed on mosquitoes. And I appreciate that mosquitoes feed on the nectar of flowering plants and can be credited with some of the pollination of the tundra that occurs each year. I can even appreciate that female mosquitoes need protein for the development of their eggs. But I find it very difficult to appreciate being the source of that protein!
It's not that I've been off or away or had nothing to share.
I'm here...haven't been anywhere. I have quite a collection of summertime photos cached away. Some have been on my computer for weeks and weeks, unshared, growing stale, gathering virtual dust.
The truth is, I've been stumped...baffled, discountenanced, disquieted, stunned.
Like the unfortunate comrades of the playground duck, something came along that knocked me for a loop.
And I couldn't write about it. Still can't, exactly.
Let's just say that the buggy side of the dog expanded its borders for a while. The cool summer wind that holds bugs at bay died down and an uncomfortable stillness pressed in heavily against my heart. Then began the irritating buzz of a thousand doubts around my ears, each whining a plethora of reasons to fold it up, pack it in, silently succumb.
How could I write about that?
Thankfully, the wind reappeared before any succumbing came to pass. Huffing and puffing, it sent the bugs packing, back to the grass where they'll wait and hide.
Welcome to the Arctic! This space is dedicated to observations and experiences related to daily life in the Inupiat Eskimo village of Atqasuk. Questions and comments are invited. Thanks for visiting! Quyanaqpaq!
nuna:tundra, the land atikluk:snow shirt, parka cover
Interested in Inuit culture? Check out these films...
The Fast Runner is an excellent representation of ancient Inuit culture. The R-rating is for nudity, violence, and some language. Subtitles are utilized throughout. I do not recommend this film for children, but it's an extremely accurate portrayal of the culture. It was introduced to me by an Inupiat woman who raved about it. And I agree!
For a preview, click here.
The Snow Walker is another excellent representation of Inuit culture circa 1940's. This film is rated PG, I'm guessing for language. No subtitles that I remember. It starts a little slow, but gets much better. It will leave you with a deeper understanding and appreciation for the survival skills of this culture.
For a preview, click here.
Great For Kids!
Whale Snow by Debby Dahl Edwardson is a warm and culturally sensitive story centered on the Inupiat subsistence tradition of whaling. It is available in both English and Inupiaq translation. The illustrations, by Annie Patterson are exquisite and add to the quiet softness that the story inspires.
To order this title on Amazon.com, click here.
The Alaska Geographic series is an excellent informational resource. The edition entitled North Slope Now deals exclusively with this area and even features relatives of my students. Although it was published in 1989, it is still current enough to provide a general understanding of culture, lifestyle, and issues faced by this northern-most region.
To order this title from Alaska Geographic, click here.
More about Kaktovik Disaster of 2005 (from Dec post, "The Edge")