Keep Up

Over the weekend I felt incredibly homesick. A break in our schedule allowed for down time, and I used mine to think about home. I thought about the new off-campus house I just moved into, and found myself missing my pink duvet covered bed (not that I don’t LOVE sharing a queen size mattress with my friends, Catherine and Erin, here). I thought about my family and friends and starting having 6th grade crush thought like: “are they thinking about me?” “are they thinking about me thinking about them?” “are they thinking about me thinking about them thinking about me?”

Needless to say I felt ridiculous as sad as I coped with this homesick feeling that had been a stranger to me since the summer after my 7th grade year when I went to sleep-away math camp for a week- because what 12-year-old doesn’t want to create their own Caesar cipher? I used some of our precious internet bandwidth the text two of my favorite friends, Anna and Claire, and they helped me to feel connected to home but also re-excite me about the project I am doing here.

I wrestled with why I was missing home so much and decided that it was because home is easy for me. At home I know what I will be doing and when I will be doing it. I love that this trips unfolds itself before me but it is sometimes difficult being surrounded by so much newness. I feel like I am racing behind this culture, trying to keep up as I learn but not being able to see far ahead of me.

On Saturday we had a fairly open day and were able to go to a fish camp for a cook-out. It was so pleasant to be able to spend time with the team and eat some salmon caught minutes before we ate it, and of course s’mores! However, before we even got to the fish camp, the person driving our boat made a detour at his fish camp where we had to hop out and help clear brush with him, a detail our lovely Dr. Z forgot to share with us.

Our group eating at the fish camp around the fire pit. Photo by Tony Homsy
Our group eating at the fish camp around the fire pit. Photo by Tony Homsy

20 minutes later we were deep into the Alaskan woods, stepping through boot-deep mud, and being attacked by huge mosquitos due to the stagnant water near us. I could no longer see our guide ahead of me but could here the far off whir of his chain saw. As I was hacking at the dense brush with my scythe-like tool I had one of the biggest, “what am I doing here?” moments of the trip. I could not keep up.

On Sunday I had the opportunity to attend the Russian Orthodox Devine Liturgy. I donned a head scarf and knee length skirt and went to the church with 4 others. The service took two and a half hours and we stood the entire time. The whole, beatiful service is sung in English, Russian, and Yup’ik and the welcoming deacon gave us a song book so we could participate. However I found myself always pages behind where I was supposed to be in the song book and felt increasingly overwhelmed at this religion I had never participated in before. Once again I could not keep up.

The Russian Orthodox Church that sits at the edge of the tundra
The Russian Orthodox Church that sits at the edge of the tundra

Today Dr. O’Keefe’s daughter and son-in-law spoke to us briefly about their time spent here in Bethel, and Chris seemed to be speaking directly to my anxiety. He said that he really felt a part of the culture here when he became intentional about his living and tried to learn as much from everyone he encountered, but did not dwell on lessons that did not resonate. We only have a few days left here I hope that I am able to see every experience as a learning one, and remind myself that it is easier to keep up when I am unburdened of homesickness and longing. While my feet are in Bethel I’m trying to keep my mind and heart here too!

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