“Bethel is the place to be”

On our descent into Anchorage, we got a small taste of the beauty that is Alaska. Snow-covered mountains, a green valley lit up with city lights, with gorgeous bodies of water sprinkled throughout.

We had an amazing view of the mountains from our terminal in the Anchorage airport. We also got to see the beautiful changes in the sky throughout the night- none of which involved the sun actually setting. This was fascinating for those of us who have never seen the sky lit up at 1:30 in the morning.

After flying through the night, the leather seats in the terminal felt welcoming and we all fell asleep for a few hours (nearby dozens of other strangers-apparently it’s a normal thing to sleep in that airport). Boarding Alaska Air to Bethel was a relief. After that exhausting day of traveling, we were happy to be on our final leg of the trip.

Our descent into Bethel was much different from our descent into Anchorage. The flat land of the river delta landscape was beautiful as well, though slightly anticlimactic after seeing the mountains and scenery of Anchorage.

The freezing weather hit us the second we stepped off the plane. It didn’t warm up all day though, a constant cold drizzle of rain continued for the remainder of the day, and would intermittently turn into a hard, slanting (oh, and freezing) rain. If this is summer in Alaska, I honestly would never want to experience winter here.

I’ve also never seen so much mud in my life. Our walking tour of Bethel consisted of trekking through miles of mud-covered ground. It was almost impossible to tell the difference between the road and the mud on the side of the road, as every square inch of ground everywhere is covered in a layer or two of mud. We walked through the main part of “downtown” Bethel, which was basically just a four-way intersection. Many of the houses throughout Bethel are littered with scrap metal, wood, furniture, broken down cars, and trash. All the clutter is a result of poor methods of disposal in the town.

Above-ground water pipes also spread throughout the town. The pipes have to be above-ground because the permafrost is too solid, making it difficult to dig and bury them in the ground. Some neighborhoods receive direct plumbing from those pipes. However, most houses have to get their water tanks delivered by a truck on a bi-weekly basis. The Catholic Church where we are staying had to get a tank delivered this week as well as next week in order to accommodate our water usage as guests.

Despite my dreary descriptions, there are beautiful parts of Bethel. The dock and the waterfront are scenic, almost every dumpster in town is painted colorfully with images or words, including one that reads: “Bethel is the place to be.” And I guess it is. The people are great here. The Yup’ik people welcome visitors with open arms, as long as the visitors express a sincere interest in learning about them in a respectful manner.

The sense of community is so strong here that many people that visit to do volunteer work end up staying for years, or even moving here permanently. Many of the white citizens that live here only meant to be here for a year or two, but have ended up living here for almost 20 years.

All in all, the first day in Bethel was cold and wet, and we are all still getting used to the constant daylight…or trying to at least. Right now it’s 10:35 p.m. and the sky looks like it’s about 5 p.m. Anyways, sorry for the lengthy descriptions, I figured my mom will appreciate knowing the finer details since she can’t text me right now–hi mom!

More soon-

Here’s where we are staying!

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3 thoughts on ““Bethel is the place to be”

  1. Hey kid! This is your Dad, Wow what an experience, sounds very cool. I love reading your blog, and am looking forward to keeping up to date on your excursion.
    I also watched the video of you before you left, you are awesome and I’m sooo very proud of you and your team for what impact you are making on the people of Bethel.

    Its definitely a different area of Alaska, I have never been outside of Anchorage, but know there is a variety of terrain throughout the state, just from flying over it.
    Thats interesting about the way they have to get water, even in the 21st century!
    Hope to hear more about it. The Yup’ik people are so lucky to have you all there, I’m sure they are great people. So much history in their culture.
    Love you Dad.

  2. MARI! it sounds like you are having a blast, but hurry up and come home! (And no, you cannot stay there:)) I love you and love reading your blogs!! Can’t wait to hear more about it in detail when you get back!!:) keep fending off those black bears, and make sure you keep your igloo clean.

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