Tag Archives: sunset

Embrace It

When I think of Bethel, Alaska, I remember the constant sunlight, the flat, spongy tundra, the kind interviewees, and the amazing group I went there with. It did take some time to adjust, even to the simple things like no trees and constant sunlight.

During my two weeks in Bethel, I told myself to adjust and embrace.

Embrace the layers of long sleeves and sweatshirts you wear everyday. They’ll keep you warm enough to allow you to spend hours climbing on and filming B roll of the soft, never-ending tundra.

Embrace waking up every morning knowing your only footwear option is your rain boots. You’ll need them every time you go outside: on muddy roads, kayaking down a slough, and walking across (and almost getting stuck in) the little streams in the tundra.

On the tundra.  (Photo cred: Tim Guthrie)
On the tundra. (Photo cred: Tim Guthrie)

Embrace the hoards of eyeball-sized mosquitos that seem to laugh whenever you attempt to keep them away with bug spray. You’d be too scared out on sitting on the tundra at sunset at 11:30 p.m.

Embrace the queen bed you share with three other women. You wouldn’t have been blessed to wake up to 30 seconds of Jesse McCartney’s “Beautiful Soul” before Mari would hit the snooze button three times.

Embrace the sunlight. It’ll never be too dark to take walks on the tundra, and it will light up the clouds in the most beautiful way you have ever seen.

Tundra at sunset.
Tundra at sunset.

Embrace the 19 other people you’ve spent the past five weeks with. They’ll help you learn, they’ll make you laugh, and they’ll take great selfies with you.

Embrace the adventure, the landscape, and the people; they will embrace you back.

Finding Beauty No Matter Where You Are

I have been home from Alaska for almost a week now, and I admit it still feels strange to be back in Nebraska. It seems that no time has passed, yet so much happened to me while I was away. I am definitely missing Alaska, from the community of Bethel to the mountains of the Kenai Peninsula.

Fortunately I haven’t had a lot of time to think about the twinge of sadness I feel as we dive head first into creating our documentary. I don’t feel a complete loss of connection to Alaska as I re-watch interviews and look at B-roll. I have enjoyed listening to the stories of people we interviewed early in our trip and finding the best quotes in our many hours of footage. It was a tiring week of transcribing and editing video, but we have made great progress in our project.

As I tell my family and friends about my Backpack Journalism experience, I feel a sense of excitement as I talk about the wonderful people we met in Bethel and the issues of the area that we learned about and witnessed firsthand. There is so much to tell, yet I can’t find the words to tell about everything. All I can do is try to express my love for the beautiful state.

I always seem to fall in love with the places I visit. My numerous trips to Chicago have led me to decide that it is my favorite city. Visiting Oregon and seeing its splendor helped me determine that I want to live there in the future. During my service trip to West Virginia, I was amazed by its beauty during the fall and inspired by its people.

Alaska was no different. I feel fortunate to have spent so much time in a part of the state rarely seen by tourists. I came to admire the Yup’ik culture and subsistence lifestyle. I saw tundra, ocean, glaciers and mountains, all in one place. The people I met and the stories I heard changed my life.

Being a Nebraska native, everywhere else seems to be more beautiful and exciting than the flat plains of the Cornhusker State. No mountains or oceans, just fields and rivers.

Yet being back, I have come to appreciate the beauty of where I grew up and the city I call my second home. On my first night back from Alaska, I looked out toward the sunset from my 10th floor apartment window. I thought about the stunning Alaska sky, but then I realized that Nebraska has pretty amazing sunsets, too.

From the outside looking in, the town of Bethel, Alaska, may not seem like the most exciting place. But for the people living there, it is home, and it is beautiful to them.

Our very last interview was with a woman named Susan, who worked at the Immaculate Conception Church where we stayed during our trip. She was born in Bethel and has lived there her entire life. Her love for the community showed, and there was no place she would rather be.

“Bethel is our paradise,” she eloquently stated.

No matter where I may end up living in my life, for now I will appreciate the beauty and comfort of Nebraska and the people here who have impacted my life. I hope that I have the opportunity to travel to Alaska again soon, but for now I am going to love the place where I am now.

Bethel in a nutshell: big sky, clouds, painted dumpsters, water, mud and wonderful people. Photo courtesy of Claudia Brock
Bethel in a nutshell: open sky, fluffy clouds, painted dumpsters, water, mud and wonderful people. Photo courtesy of Claudia Brock

Boat Trips on the Kuskokwim

Nothing says Alaska like taking a boat ride on the Kuskokwim River, eating freshly-caught salmon and watching a spectacular sunset at midnight. In the midst of our busyness, I am thankful to have experienced some of these remarkable aspects of this beautiful region.

On Friday, a group of us had the opportunity to take a boat to the Yup’ik village of Napaskiak to shoot some B-roll footage for our documentary. We could not have asked for a better day to go out on the Kuskokwim River. The weather had finally improved; the blue skies and fluffy white clouds were welcoming after many dreary, drizzly days.

We all piled into the boat and set off on our expedition. It was thrilling to get out on one of the last wild rivers flowing through the United States. The Kuskokwim is so important to the people of Bethel and the surrounding villages for transportation and food.

Along the way to the village, we made a few stops along the river to try to find moose. Even though we never found one, the meadows and marshy landscapes we saw were breathtaking. I am still holding onto hope that I will see a moose before I leave Alaska.

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After the beautiful boat ride, we reached the village. As we got out of the boat, I noticed the peacefulness of Napaskiak and immediately felt that by bringing in all of our cameras we were intruding on the lives of the villagers. We had a limited amount of time to get our B-roll, so I knew I had to overcome my discomfort to find the footage we needed.

The eight of us split up into groups, so Leah, Morgan and I headed off to find interesting shots around the village. We communicated our whereabouts in the village by using walkie-talkies — an incredibly fun and useful addition to our adventure.

As we were setting up our cameras to shoot video, all of a sudden two young girls appeared and wondered what we were up to. Soon more and more curious children started to emerge as we moved around Napaskiak. They were incredibly respectful and stayed behind the cameras instead of trying to get in our shots.

The houses were very small and connected by boardwalks, so villagers traveled to and from different structures by bike or four-wheeler. Napaskiak had a Russian Orthodox Church that we peeked inside. We also chatted with a village police officer, who was very friendly and joked that he just didn’t want us to take pictures of him.

We received word from John via our walkie-talkie that it was time to head out. As we packed up our gear into the boat, the village children swarmed around us saying they didn’t want us to leave. I am sure we are the most exciting visitors they have had for a while.

The team was all set to go, and we all waved goodbye as we started back down the river. I couldn’t help but feel sad as Napaskiak became a faint sight in the distance. I find it hard to imagine winters in such a remote place. Villages throughout the region face great challenges due to their isolation from more populated areas. Despite the difficulties of village life, I am humbled by how welcoming the people of Napaskiak were and will always remember the lively spirits of the children.

During our journey back to Bethel on the Kuskokwim, I witnessed the most spectacular sunset I have ever seen (the one odd thing about it was that it was at midnight). No photo can do it justice, but I was able to capture a photo from our boat. It was a truly wonderful day.

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On Saturday the entire Backpack Journalism crew took a boat ride on the Kuskokwim to a fish camp. We enjoyed a fun and relaxing cook-out of hot dogs and hamburgers. In addition, we had a taste of salmon that had just been caught in the river. I am not a huge fan of fish, but I thought this salmon was absolutely delicious.

Besides eating great food, our evening at the fish camp was spent in the great outdoors enjoying the presence of some fantastic people. It has been just over a week since we arrived in Bethel, and I am so thankful to be sharing this experience with fellow journalism majors, Creighton students and faculty, and friends old and new. Whether we are playing card games, preparing meals or just laughing uncontrollably, I am loving my time in Alaska and will be sure to make the most of my last week here.

 

Sending my thoughts and prayers to the people of my hometown of Norfolk and the rest of northeast Nebraska, especially those affected by the terrible tornadoes in and around Pilger. 

 

Chasing Sunsets

Where do I even begin? It’s Tuesday night now, which means we’ve spent Sunday last minute packing and traveling, Monday napping and planning, and today full of interviews and filming. These three days have gone so fast, it’s incredible that tomorrow is Wednesday already.

Time moves rather interestingly here in Bethel. Or rather, due to a three hour time difference and a lack of using our cell phones, I just never know what time it is. Add in the strange hours of the sunset/sunrise and I have no idea what’s happening.

Before we get too far into the week though, I want to talk about our flights. Perhaps due to thrill of the trip or just feeding off of each other’s excitement, our flights here were amazing. From Minneapolis to Anchorage, we were chasing the sunset. What started as a night flight soon became a dusk, then early evening flight. Time was moving backwards and we were gliding in the middle of it.

We passed city lights, complete darkness from lack of cities and then the most beautiful mountains I’ve ever seen. (Side note: someone take a vacation to the mountains up in Canada with me). I didn’t think it could get any better until I realized that the beautiful, rolling “snow” between the peaks was actually just clouds, and I still have yet to see the other half of that world.

Pause the incredible flights for a second though and queue the Anchorage Airport: home of people sleeping anywhere and everywhere, the first place I wore a sleep mask and the best Cinnabon cinnamon roll you’ve ever had at 1AM/4AM, depending on whose time zone you’re talking. For about 6 hours we joined this public slumber party and then boarded our final flight.

While there were many more clouds and not really any mountains, our trip to Bethel was wild because we flew over lots of water and fishing boats. For a while, some of us were concerned because we didn’t really see the land we were supposedly landing on.

We made it though, and after getting settled into our living arrangements, we promptly laid our sleeping bags out and woke up four hours later. Which was only two in the afternoon, despite our insistence that it had to be more like 8 PM. I think eventually we’ll adjust, but for now, we continue to chase the sunset, that now seems to never come.