Tag Archives: fish camp

Oh I Was Born a Ramblin’ Man

Well, I’m hooked.

Fishing puns aside, ((Brad Dice, I hope you’re reading this) Actually they use nets up here, not hooks), my experience in the YK Delta of Alaska has further affirmed my choice to pursue journalism as my career choice.

Author’s note: I usually put a lot of thought into my blogs, thinking hard on structure and creativity. This one is more of rambling thoughts, quickly putting my thoughts into words for my own sake. Thus, the title. And as a music enthusiast I must pay my respects to those who rambled before me:

The Allman Brothers Band-Ramblin’ Man

Led Zeppelin-Ramble On

Additionally, it’s an excuse to use my SUPER AWESOME FISHING PUN. 

Anyway, I always liked the idea of working a job where I simply had conversations with people, thought about it for a while, and wrote a story. Up until now, my experience with this has largely been confined to what’s known as the “Creighton bubble”. I enjoyed working on stories about my own community, but I craved interaction with people and places different from me.

Well, this trip has more than satisfied that craving.

The people of the YK Delta more than welcomed us. They embraced us.

From visiting fish camps:


Chris, Donna, and Zohn's newly discovered and beautifully rustic fish camp
Chris, Donna, and Zohn’s newly discovered and beautifully rustic fish camp

to tasting an amalgam of native foods at the parish potluck:

Seal stew, Moose stew, corn bread, grilled salmon, and friend bread all in one meal
Seal stew, Moose stew, corn bread, grilled salmon, Moose stir fry, and fried bread all in one meal. Not Pictured: Life-changing salmon chowder.

I was afforded an opportunity to peak into peoples’ lives, and that’s a big deal. There is a fine line between observing respectfully and invading rudely. Yet another fine line sits between a story as a vessel of truth and as an objectifying window. The people we have met with, interviewed, and filmed ran the risk of invasion and objectification, yet they trusted us to observe and narrate truthfully.

I really think this team can fulfill that trust.

Our team has been stellar on this project. Each person has prioritized the documentary above all else, including personal comfort (lack of sleep, limited showers, zillions of mosquitos, dirty clothes, the list goes on…). No one complained. Rather, we embraced it. I honestly think that commitment will shine through in the final cut.

Alas, we leave Bethel tomorrow. I have been witness to so many cool/badass/transcendent people and experiences, I need some time to process it all. It’s all jumbled up at the moment. But two experiences in tandem provided a clear bookend for my Bethel experience.

Last night, our crew gathered in the church for a reflection. John encouraged us to sit in silence for a while, practicing the Ignatian spiritual practice called the Examine. Sitting there in communal silence, we each went into our memories to center ourselves and our thoughts. After a while, Carol spoke aloud, expressing her feelings and thoughts on the experience. Every person eventually shared something they were thinking about. Often there were several minutes of silence between speakers. I remember sitting there with my eyes closed, hoping that John wouldn’t call an end to the reflection, simply so that I might spend more time in communion with the people I had worked with, slept with, dined with, played with, and learned with. I went in with a heavy heart and lots on my mind. I came out with the weight off of my chest. At peace.

But the night wasn’t over.

We realized that the clouds had cleared, so Nico suggested that we go to the Tundra to get a time lapse of the sunset. A few of us piled into the truck and went out there. We set up the cameras and sat down to watch:


You have seen the river sunset, now here is one on the tundra
You have seen the river sunset, now here is one on the tundra

Nico, Hayley, Hannah, Tony, Catherine, and I sat until nearly two in the morning in a cloud of mosquitos, just talking, looking, and listening.

As they say:

Everything in front of me was beautiful

Everything behind me was beautiful

Everything above me was beautiful

Everything below me was beautiful

Everything around me was beautiful

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!

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!