All posts by Kari Welniak

Kari Welniak

About Kari Welniak

Hello! My Name is Kari Welniak, a junior biology major at Creighton University with the hopes of applying and going onto dental school after graduation.

Think Like a Journalist.

Its amazing how far this group has come five weeks later. It seems like yesterday we had our first class where we were first learning what B-Roll was, ISO, aperture, and various camera settings that still haunt me today. At times these past few weeks I sometimes catch myself “thinking like a journalist” by always asking questions and following up on them by digging deeper into my questions and the person I am asking them too. Its amazing that when we first started I had no idea how to use any of these settings. And if you were to hand me a t5i today I would be able to go out and start shooting film or take pictures. You think I would know how to use some of these settings considering my mother is a photographer and she has cameras and pictures allover the place. And now I find myself looking at and experimenting with all her old camera equipment. It definitely makes me more happy that I can now have this experience under my belt and have a greater appreciation for the photography field.

The night we had to sleep in the Anchorage airport and every night that first week we were back I was constantly thinking. I could not sleep because so many thoughts were running through my head about my experience in Bethel. In Bethel and with this class experience filming a documentary, I had a sense of purpose. This “vacation” was unlike any other vacation I had. While others were relaxing, this one was meaningful and gave me a sense of purpose and drive to do something for the Bethel community. As I was processing this, I kept thinking how can I keep this sense of purpose and drive with me when I return to Omaha? It was difficult to think about, but when the answer dawned on me it seemed so simple. Even though I’ve been born and raised in Omaha, Nebraska my entire life, there is a community that I still have yet to explore parts of. That is my new goal not just for right now or for a small while, but something I can become a part of for the rest of my life by helping out, serving others, or just enjoying. Its amazing what Bethel had to offer which really opened my eyes to see what my hometown, Omaha has to offer. That is definitely something that I will carry on with me, knowing that I can make a difference not matter where I am at in this world.

Thank you to all for this experience. It is one that will stick with me the rest of my life. I wish everyone could have the experience I had. My advice to all would be to stay engaged in your community, constantly know that everyone has a story waiting to be told, take chances while you have it, know you can do this anywhere in the world, and think like a journalist.

 

Life Goals. CHECK!

If you asked me five weeks ago what I would be doing in Alaska I would have simply just replied, “We’re filming a documentary!” But thats not just it. Now I would say I had the chance to tell a story. A story about the people of Bethel. A story about subsistence. A story about spirituality.

 Not only did I have the chance to tell a story and give people a voice, but I had to the chance to find my own voice. Even during these last two weeks of editing, I’ve found myself not afraid to speak up about issues that I care about. I think going outside the boundaries of your own comfort zone really forces you to look at yourself and ask, “Who am I and who do I want to be?”

A lot of the experiences I had in Bethel really solidified what I want to do with my life. For our small video project, I had the privilege to work with Stephanie Tedesco (also my plane buddy) and film Stanley Corp, the Bethel barber. At first I thought we would get some basic footage about what its like to be a barber. We got more than that. Stan gave us advice that will stick with me forever. He talked about how he likes people and getting to know people on an individual basis. At the end his one piece advice touched on jealousy and how its important not to hold grudges, be jealous, or dwell on the past. Its amazing how much a a simple man could give advice that applies to all aspects of someones life.

At the end of our interview, Stan pulled me aside and we talked about dentistry in Bethel. He stressed to me how important it is they need Dental care and someone to take care of these people in the villages. The day before while Stephanie and I were filming Stan’s barber shop, I stopped by the dental clinic and peered in through the window. Apparently, the dental clinic was opening in a month and the dentist had just come into town a month ago. It was great seeing the progress being made!

Just knowing that its important for people to have access to healthcare and dental care really affirmed my decision and life goal to become a dentist. Knowing that I would be able to make a difference and change someones life just by working with my hands and having that ability to provide dental care gets me really excited just thinking about it. I’m also excited just to be able to treat people individually and get to know their life stories, just like Stan gets to know every single one of his customers. I know I have a ways to go to get there (2 more years of undergrad, apply, get in, etc. etc.), but Alaska and speaking with Stan really motivated me to conquer this goal of mine. I don’t know if I will ever move up to Alaska, but someday I would love to go back someday and thank everyone that helped me with this decision.

(Sea) Lions and Bears?! OH MY!

Seeing the wildlife was my favorite touristy thing to do.
Seeing the wildlife was my favorite touristy thing to do.
Our trip in Seward was certainly one to remember. Just I was starting to get used to the wide open spaces in the tundra while we were in Bethel, we flew into Anchorage (cell phone service?!) and were immediately on our way to be a tourist for the weekend in Seward, Alaska on the Kenai Peninsula. It certainly was a change of scenery going from tundra to being surrounded by tall trees, massive snow-capped mountains, and the sea. I couldn’t help but get progressively more excited as we traveled deeper into the mountains and Kenai Peninsula. Our tour guides were the best, and certainly knew all of the places to stop to get the perfect Alaskan pictures. Some of the places we stopped at included the largest Alaskan water plane “airport lake”, a lookout point towards Denali, and a stop by the “Welcome to the Kenai Peninsula” sign.
That Saturday we saw tons of sea life. For the first time in my entire life I saw killer whales, whales (sadly no dramatic jumping out of the water pictures), sea otters, sea lions, and of course LOTS and LOTS of tufted puffins. When we got to the glaciers, it was like seeing a giant monster slowly steeping into the sea. It was amazing and really cool to see the ice breaking off into the ocean. However, at the same time it was hard to grasp the fact that these glaciers are calving, and very rapidly. It wasn’t until the next day when we hiked right up next to the glacier that it really struck me that the climate is changing up here. In the car about 6 miles away form the glacier we started seeing signs that marked years dating back to about 1800. As we got closer and closer to the glacier and saw a sign that read about 1960, we were only 2 miles away from the actual ice. When you think about it, thats 2 miles. Melted away in about 40-50 years. Thats when it hit me that this is climate change thing we hear about in the lower 48 is real up there in Alaska.
We then started the trek back to Anchorage. We ate dinner and enjoyed the summer solstice festival (longest day in Alaska!) in Moose Town. We stopped at the Alaskan National Wildlife Refugee where we saw caribou, moose, reindeer, LOTS of bald eagles, foxes, owls, and (my favorite) the BEARS! I was only about 6 feet away from one of the bears at one point (of course doubled up and electrically charged fence in between us). This trip for sure made a lot of firsts for me that I will never forget!

As our trip is finally winding down, I keep reflecting back on my experiences in Seward and in Bethel. The people we’ve met and the sights I had the privilege to see have touched us all in different ways. Some stories touch others more than others. Some stories teach us to reflect on our own lives and way of living more. Seeing really made me believe. And in some stories we find connections and friendships with the people we’ve talked to. No matter what, I realized that each person and everything has a story waiting to be told. 

 

River flowing through the mountains on the Kenai Peninsula.
River flowing through the mountains on the Kenai Peninsula.

“Stanley Corp. The Everything Man.”

“Stanley Corp. The Everything Man.”

Stephanie Tedesco & Kari Welniak

Writers.

 

Stanley Corp is not just your typical guy. He can do pretty much anything. Seriously! He builds furniture for almost anything and anyone, he knows how to do maintenance work, and he built and takes care of his fish camp off the shores of the Kuskokwim River in Bethel, Alaska. And his profession of choice is barbering.

 

What brought Stan to Bethel? His sister was living in Bethel when he was in search of work. Bethel held many potential opportunities. So one Saturday Stanley Corp arrived to Bethel and was working right away that Monday. Stan has been there ever since.

 

Stan stays involved with his community by participating in Church activities and inviting groups to have a real Alaskan fish camp experience. He makes everyone feel at home by starting a warm fire and starts up the grill to make hamburgers, hot dogs, salmon, and s’mores. He showed us how to fillet a freshly caught salmon and play basketball Alaskan fish camp style.

 

On top of staying involved with his community in Bethel, Stan loves his job as a barber. Stan gets to know all of his customers and a lot about the town. He treats every customer individually and loves to get to know them for who they are and not from what he hears. He is always giving out advice to his customers that keep coming back.

 

His top advice he gives out to a lot of young people that come into his barbershop is to take pre-marriage counseling before getting married. It worked for him and his wife. It taught him a lot about not having jealousy and never holding grudges about the past.

 

At a potluck that was hosted at the Church, Stan was more than glad to make an appearance. He loves to socialize with longtime Church members and newcomers. He knows how to make everyone feel welcome. He is glad to share his knowledge, life experience, and advice with his customers. He even has a sense of humor and likes to laugh. His signature smile and laugh will always leave you with a smile on your face.

 

To learn more about Stan and hear more of what he has to say about barbering, watch our video! https://vimeo.com/99769605 

Leah Renaud.

Leah Renaud and Kari Welniak working in the field. Photo by Scott Prewitt.
Leah Renaud and Kari Welniak working in the field. Photo by Scott Prewitt.

It was the first day of summer class and I had no idea who anyone was. Some people looked familiar from walking around on campus, but I never knew what anyone’s story was. There was one striking feature about that first day though that I won’t forget. Energy balls. They looked like little balls of oatmeal, granola, almond butter, white chocolate chips, and coconut all wrapped up in the shape of eggs in foil that came in a large bag. At first I was hesitant, but then after having enough energy to last me through the first day of video boot camp, I can never go back. Who gave me these weird concoctions you might ask? Leah Renaud.

Leah’s journey to becoming a journalist is not like any others. She first came to Creighton as a Biology/Pre-Veterinarian major. She chose Creighton in particular because she fell in love with the Jesuit education and way of life. Little did she know what where she would be today was a result form a series of surprises. After realizing blood and guts were not her thing, she tried Psychology. When that didn’t work out, she explored other opportunities. She knew she had always had a passion for graphic design and photojournalism. So one day she decided she would pursue her dreams. And now she could never be anymore excited to use her skills that she truly enjoys having and puts these to work.

When asked what was one of her happiest moments here at Creighton, she replied with the day she got her Delta Delta Delta bid card. Tri-Delta is one of the sororities here on Creighton’s campus. After meeting with Leah, I found it very inspiring to see someone who really loves the organization that she is proud to be a sister of. She works hard as the Vice President of Public Relations within Tri-Delta and is a national rep for Tri-Delta’s BodyImage3D. BodyImage3D® was launched by Tri-Delta as a multi-dimensional approach to body image awareness and education. The goal of the program is to promote an in depth body image as the central focal point for three key components: healthy mind, healthy body and healthy spirit. Leah expressed how thankful she was for the opportunities Tri-Delta has brought her.

Leah has been on service trips before, but her trip to Alaska was definitely one for the books. Leah first heard of the trip when she was doing her duties as a Resident Advisor in McGloin and started hanging up posters on the bulletin board. Then she came across a poster, “Want to travel to Alaska?” She quietly snuck the poster away and kept it until the day she moved out of her room.

 

Why did she want to travel to Alaska? Leah thought it would be an amazing experience to see what its like to live in a place where a different culture is still fairly predominant. And that it did prove to be one for the books.

Her answer to, “What have you gained from this experience in Alaska?” She answered, “You know, I kind of have this problem of leaving with a feeling of guilt.” I asked what she meant by this and she replied, “When I reflect on my own life and see the way I am living, it makes me feel guilty when I see the way these other people live.”

Especially after our interview with Nelson, its hard to swallow what climate change has brought to people who live thousands of miles away from us. The reality of climate change really came to life after hiking to Exit Glacier on one of our last days in Seward, Alaska.

“This glacier, this change, had happened and is still happening in my lifetime. I looked at the clawed rock and I saw suffering. I looked at those smiling and taking goofy pictures as ignorant (even though I did get pictures in front of it). This once massive, beautiful structure stood with pride, yet now is literally melting, receding, and cracking, losing it’s place on earth.”

That one moment, standing on the edge of Exit Glacier made Leah realize the harsh truth of the matter; if people don’t see the importance of things such as culture and climate change, they are just going to keep disappearing.

After meeting with Leah Renaud you realize she is driven by a desire to learn and gain new insight, is constantly working on her design, writing, and public relations abilities, but also manages to stay a proud BlueJay fan, a constant human juke-box singing show tunes from many different musicals, Internet explorer, lover of puns, superhero nerd, a Dreamer and Doer. Now after meeting with Leah, one might ask, “How does one person do all the things Leah is able to accomplish and be so passionate about so many things?”. The truth is in the energy balls.

A potluck of personalities.

A potluck of personalities.

Last night we had the privilege of having a potluck hosted by the Catholic Church. Church member were very generous and brought us all kind of native foods that I’ve never even heard of or tried before! There’s always a first for everything! Some of the foods featured at our potluck that I sampled personally were seal soup, moose stew (one of my favorites), fish chowder with white fish and salmon, hering fish eggs dipped in olive oil (very interesting texture I’d say), caribou stew, moose stir fry, and salmon every possible way you can imagine. I decided not to be apprehensive about trying the new dishes because how many people can say they’ve eaten seal meat? All of the dishes tasted amazing! Our Creighton group decided that we should bring some form of Nebraska to the table. So of course we made a dish that included corn. Everyone loves cornbread muffins!

Samples of all the food that was hosted for us.
Samples of all the food that was hosted for us.

Not only was it great to see the variety of foods that were brought forth to the table, but it was also even better to see the people and friendships we’ve made during our short time in Alaska all come to the potluck. It just goes to show how great this community is. Some our friends that came were Connie and Arvin who showed a few of us to their fish camp the other day; Brian McCaffery, acting Yukon delta NWR manager and deacon of the Catholic Church; Cecilia, a Yup’ik woman, and her husband Mike; Alisha, our friend and fixer; Stan, a barbershop owner and amazing person who hosted all of us at his fish camp, Susan, who runs the Catholic Church behind the scenes; and Sarah, our guide and former Jesuit volunteer at the Catholic Church. Not only did our new friends show up, but members of the church also came to help us feel more at home and gift us with more food.

After our amazing feast all the students including Tony and Nicole all went on a nice long walk after dinner to unwind and goof off at the end of a long day. During our long walk, I realized that our own group is a potluck of personalities. The group wouldn’t be the same without everyone. It also wouldn’t be the same without everyone who was willing to help us out and make our time here in Bethel memorable and one for the books.

It also really hit me the various things I’m going to miss the most about Bethel. I’m going to miss these late night 11 pm strolls while it’s still light out. I’ll even miss seeing kids still riding around on their bikes at night with nothing but one layer on while you see me with four layers on. I’m going to miss just spending time with everyone literally 24/7 and eating every meal together like a giant family. I’ll miss our attempts at “jumping pictures”. It’s random moments like these I’m going to miss the most. I do know for a fact these memories will still continue to be made even after we come back from Alaska. I won’t lie. I was little homesick a week ago (Yes mother I’m admitting it!). Normally you are supposed to feel homesick after you leave a place. Now I’m starting to feel the post-Alaska homesickness. It’s incredible we’ve only been here a week and a half, but I feel like it’s not enough time. There’s still so much more to explore and learn from Bethel. Perhaps I could continue this exploring and come back one day. Maybe by that time I’ll be in or done with dental school and I could use my skills here. No matter what, I see myself coming back to this place I can call a home.

Quyana to all that have made this experience amazing!

Goofing off on our late night walks.
Goofing off on our late night walks.

My Aha moments.

My “Aha” moments.

Dog selfies on the boat that took us to Stan's fish camp!
Dog selfies on the boat that took us to Stan’s fish camp!

Last Wednesday we had the privilege to participate in an all day long workshop with Rose Dominic, a Yup’ik woman, and Ray Daw, a Navajo man. Rose and Ray hold these workshops for villages allover the main Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta and throughout Alaska. These workshops are intended to help the people through their healing process and understand what happened to them when change was brought about so rapidly and suddenly to them. Many of my classmates have already written about the workshop because this day was a very important day for all of us. I believe the workshop really set the course for our documentary and helped us get rid of our Eurocentric views and really understand what life was like when missionaries came and boarding schools were set up. Not only did it help us understand what happened, but I believe it made us feel, know, and understand what it means to be and live in the Yup’ik culture.

My Aha moments so far on this trip:

  • When Ray stopped in the middle of his speech and sang his Navajo song and explained what Aha meant. Aha means when you are experiencing a moment of happiness and wonder that you just have to sing from the mountaintops. That is what an Aha moment means.
  • During Ray’s song I flash backed to standing and looking out on the hill in the tundra that took forever to walk and climb to. We saw all of Bethel on one side and on the other tundra that just seemed to go on forever.
  • Realizing how isolated we are in Bethel. There are no roads, highways, or streets that lead anywhere outside of Bethel. There are only roads within Bethel with no stoplights.
  • Sitting on the bank of a river and diving into my fresh salmon caught 20 minutes earlier.
  • Listening to the Yup’ik people tell their story in all of our interviews.
  • Enjoying the golden hours and the sun set that lasted about 4 hours all with my new friends Arvin and Connie and with my camera crew, Nico, Tony, and Tim.
  • Meeting people that are just so welcoming and will come up and talk to you.
  • Sitting by the warm fire on a cold day at Stan’s fish camp.
  • Going to mass and hearing the Yup’ik songs at the beginning and finding myself catching onto the language and singing along with the Yup’ik hymnal towards the end of the mass.
  • Learning new Yup’ik words.
  • Taking walks along the Kuskokwim river and chatting with friends.
  • People gifting us with native food and just being so generous.
  • Waking up in the morning and walking out to the lake behind our little “cabin” and seeing a complete reflection on the lake
  • Playing basketball Alaskan fish camp style at Stan’s fish camp!
  • Going to sleep with the sun still up and waking up with no alarm to the sun. goodbye annoying alarm!
  • Wondering how blessed and random it was that I got to go on this trip and the trip to the fish camp. The universe has a weird way of working doesn’t it.
  • When Rose explained what a family structure meant in Yup’ik culture. At the heart of a giant circle is spirituality. That is surrounded by the young people and children in the tribe. Around the children is the elders who provide the wisdom and teach the children the ways to live. Around the elders are the women of the tribe who care and nurture for everyone. Then around the women are the men who protect and secure the tribe. She showed us in a demonstration and had us actually sit in a circle. I got to be a child in the center!
  • Realizing how blessed I am and what a great Alaskan family i have here. I know for a fact that these are some great people that I have the privilege to share this experience and journey with them.

Cheers to the beginning of week #2!

Walks along the River are the best!
Walks along the River are the best!

A little taste of heaven.

Talk about one heck of a week. It can’t already be the end of week #1! There is so much Bethel has to offer. It is hard to explain in words my experiences so far to anyone else. Maybe thats just the Biology major in me struggling in this Journalism field. 😉

Here’s a glimpse of some of my Bethel experiences:

  1. Bethel pizza is amazing. Ramen (was amazing that first day! )and oatmeal on the other hand get kind of old after having it for one week straight.
  2. Gas is almost $7.00 a gallon.
  3. We walked to our first Bethel Saturday Market and saw all the gorgeous local native pieces of artwork, clothing such as Kuspocks, food, and tools. I bought fireweed jelly (YUM!) and some cool eskimo paintings to take back.
  4. I’ve gone to two fish camps so far and seen the delicious Red Salmon butchered right before my eyes. Call me a pro now at butchering fish.

    Behind the scenes of the camera crew filming our red salmon/dinner filleted right before we ate it. Photo by Kari Welniak
    Behind the scenes of the camera crew filming our red salmon/dinner filleted right before we ate it. Photo by Kari Welniak
  5. I had the privilege to join Nico, Tony, and one of our professors to shoot B-Roll on a fishing boat of a man and his wife while they checked their nets, bring back their fish to their fish camp, and enjoy a little taste of heaven while sitting outside watching the Alaskan sunset on the Kuskokwim river.
  6. We also stopped by the Napaskiak village and filmed some B-Roll of some kids and the Orthodox Church on our way to fish camp. This village did not have any main roads. The roads were all made of wooden boards and people drove 4-wheelers to get around!
  7. I witnessed firsthand my dinner caught in a net, brought back to a fish camp, filleted before my eyes, and barbecued on a grill right before my eyes.
  8. I love filming B-Roll!
  9. After 12 hours of filming we went back to their house and ate more fish! Salmon spread, pressure cooked salmon, and more salmon jerky!
  10. If there is an apocalypse I’m moving to Alaska and living in Bethel. These people spend June fishing and drying their fish for the winter. They spend the next few months moose hunting. And then in the fall they spend their time berry picking in the tundra. I think I’d be set for life.
  11. Tundra tea is probably the best tea I’ve ever had. Especially with a Bethel crud cold.
  12. We walked on the tundra for an hour and a half! And yes I couldn’t feel my legs the next day. Walking on a squishy mattress is exhausting!

    Taking pictures of the tundra that goes on for ever and ever and ever! Photo by Kari Welniak
    Taking pictures of the tundra that goes on for ever and ever and ever! Photo by Kari Welniak
  13. One night I managed to stay up to 3 AM and witnessed the sun set and rise all within a matter of 4 hours.
  14. Homemade berry cinnamon jam is the best thing ever!
  15. Learning Yup’ik words are so cool! Kenka means unconditional love. Quyana means Thank you. Goudak is eskimo ice cream (crisco/seal/fish oil, sugar, berries) which I still have yet to try.
  16. The river is FREEZING! I wore 6 layers on top and 3 layers on bottom when we were in the boats.
  17. We explored an old abandoned BIA boarding school which was pretty spooky.
  18. Basketball played at a fish camp with deflated basketballs, no net, and on grass is the way to play basketball. I think we can all agree the game of Knock Out will never be played the same!
  19. Showering after 5 days with no shower really does make you feel and look like a new person with all the dirt and fish smell washed away.
  20. Salmon egg salad is the way to go people.
  21. On top of all my experiences so far there is still so much to learn about the Yupik culture and native town of Bethel.

Kari’s great Alaskan adventure to be continued…Quyana!

Subsistence

We were blessed to have been given three salmon from last years harvest. We prepared them three different ways (parmesan & garlic, mayonnaise & dill, and pepper & lemon). Talk about YUM!! Photo by Kari Welniak
We were blessed to have been given three salmon from last years harvest. We prepared them three different ways (parmesan & garlic, mayonnaise & dill, and pepper & lemon). Talk about YUM!! Photo by Kari Welniak

Lately I have found a recurring theme in almost all of our interviews so far. Almost everyone has mentioned that even though there are problems in the community, there are also many strengths. Just by talking with our friend Alisha, I have learned why many of these people stay and come to love this community. So far I have come up with my own reasons (with a few quotes from our interviewers) why I have already fell in love Bethel, Alaska.

1. The tundra is like a giant squishy mattress that just runs on forever. Not to mention that it is really fun to jump in the mud and accidentally get stuck in!
2. The people are so welcoming! While we were on our walking tour the first day, people rolled down their windows and yelled, “Ya Creighton!” (20 people walking around with cameras in a town of 6,000 people tend to stick out like sore thumbs).
3. You don’t survive as an individual in this community, but everyone supports and takes care of one another.
4. There is a strong sense of when you take from nature you also give back to nature.
5. The Yup’ik culture. I am so fascinated with the interconnectedness with the community’s sense of faith, culture, and nature.
6. The word “ella” (pronounced sla) is one my favorite Yup’ik words. This word means many things. In fact some people respond by saying it means everything. It means universe, nature, and weather.
7. Subsistence. You only take what you need in order to survive.
8. All food and where it came from has a story. Buying things off the shelves in a grocery store has no story. You don’t know where it came from or how it came to be versus if you were to grow it yourself, hunt, fish, or gather your food.

Quyana! Thanks for reading!

Our new home for the next two weeks is at the Catholic Church. A statue of Mary sits right outside the Church with a view of the small pond right by the Church. Photo by Kari Welniak
Our new home for the next two weeks is at the Catholic Church. A statue of Mary sits right outside the Church with a view of the small pond right by the Church. Photo by Kari Welniak

Touchdown ALASKA!!!

My first Alaskan sun from the airport really took some getting used to. It was only dark from about 12:30 AM till 4 AM. Photo by Kari Welniak
My first Alaskan sun from the airport really took some getting used to. It was only dark from about 12:30 AM till 4 AM. Photo by Kari Welniak

Touchdown ALASKA!!!

Well folks we finally made it! There has been a lot packed into these past two days so I’ll give you a short briefing.

I survived my fear of planes on all three flights along with my plane buddy and fellow classmate, Stephanie Tedesco. It kind of threw me off when we saw the sun set in Minneapolis, but saw it come back up on our flight to Anchorage. It did not quite settle in yet that I was going to Alaska until I saw the snow covered mountains and ice filled rivers from thousands of feet above. We finally arrived in Anchorage at around 12 AM, but in actuality it really felt like 3 AM Omaha time. It was quite the scene seeing 20 students and professors along with all the travelers spending the night on the seats all throughout the airport. That was a first for me! It was amazing how the sun worked because it never fully set even at 3 AM. This really threw me off, but I did not care because we were all sleep deprived so we passed out pretty well.

Now it really settled in once I saw the Alaska logo on the outside of our plane. We were welcomed to Bethel with signs all over the airport saying “EXIT, WELCOME, and BATHROOM”, in the Yup’ik language. After our short tour of Bethel from the airport to the Immaculate Conception of the Catholic Church we finally caught up on some sleep with a nice long four hour nap. Somehow we managed to squish three mattresses into our little room for six people. I love my new sleeping bag that makes me look like I’m in caccoon!

After being all rested up, I put my new rain boots to good use and took a walking tour of Bethel with our group. Some of the things I noticed included the following:
1. All the buildings are on stilts.
2. There were a lot of dogs! People mush them in the winter time.
3. People walk everywhere as much as they can. There’s my exercise for the week!
4. The main boardwalk is beautiful and walks right over some tundra. This part was my favorite!
5. Tundra. Tundra. Tundra. Tundra. Tundra is everywhere!
6. There are a lot of “American Chinese” food places.
7. People rolled down their windows and were yelling, “Ya Creighton!” Yes, the Creighton crew has officially arrived!
8. All of the trashcans are decorated and painted.
9. There are signs all along the roads that are in the shape of salmon and have sayings to help protest the restrictions on salmon fishing.
Towards the end it was raining hard (The rain always comes and goes even when its sunny out!). Yeup! We are in Bethel, Alaska! We finally came back and had pizza and socialized with some people that we were going to interview, meet with, and help us with our documentary. The person I found the most inspiring was our friend, Alisha. The reason why she came to Bethel was because she wanted to get away from materialism and consumerism and found a true good culture. She found people who actually do things for each other and care for one another because everyone benefits form everyone. She also showed us a small video of why she fell in love with Bethel. Just listening to her and my first day in Bethel, I could already feel the beginnings of my love for Bethel start to grow.

To be continued!…