Tag Archives: Tad

Five Farewell Thoughts

Today we spend our last day in Bethel, interviewing a few more people and enjoying the town that has touched us over the last 10 days.

I found this quote a Pinterest a few months ago, and I can’t find to whom to attribute it. I find it very appropriate for this trip. It goes,”You will never be completely at home again, because part of your heart will always be elsewhere. That is the price you pay for the richness of loving and knowing people in more than one place.”

I know Bethel will always be a part of my story, just as much as I hope we have become a part of its.

As I say so-long and farewell to Bethel, I reflect on the top five things I’ll miss the most:

1. The individual people who have been so open and welcoming to our group:
Every time we meet a new person, whether it’s for an interview or just to get a taste of the Yup’ik culture, I am shocked by how open and willing that person is to tell us his or her story. We’re a big group, almost a force, and most often we have lots of questions about the culture. Every question, no matter how long it takes, is answered well. I am so grateful to have met people like Cecilia, Tad, Sarah, and Stan (the barber in town who took all of us out to his fish camp). They have made this trip so wonderful and so incredible.

2. Experiencing “real journalism”:
I was excited to participate in “real journalism” from the beginning. I had the chance to be the interviewer, take notes and listen for good quotes in other interviews, try my best to shoot b-roll and even cover or take notes during a town-hall style meeting. I’ll miss having interviews to go to, but hopefully one day I’ll be interviewing people every day.

3. Trying new things:
This is probably the only time in my life I’ll be in Alaska, so I tried to say “yes” to every opportunity I had. I said “yes” to eating lots of salmon, reindeer and moose. I said “yes” to going to a fish camp and just going fishing. I said “yes” to kayaking (and regretted it a little). I said “yes” to exploring the town with my peers at 10:30 p.m. because it looked like it was 3 p.m. outside. Saying “yes” with almost no regrets was a great feeling.

4. Disconnecting myself from the outside world:
I loved not having cell phone service up here. It’s going to be so sad when we travel to Seward tomorrow and our phones will work again. I don’t text a lot on my phone anyway, but it’s been great to take a breather from social media, except to post my blogs on Facebook and Twitter. I will miss taking a break from one world to be completely present in the current one, something I’ve done on this trip.

5. My crazy and amazingly wonderful peers and professors who have shared this experience with me:
This group, gosh, where do I even begin? Even though 20 is a big group, every member has gotten to know every member fairly well. Each of us has put our all into this project, and I can’t wait to see what our final product will look like. I’m going to miss seeing all 19 of my group members every day, all day. I’m going to miss our games of B.S., Bananagrams and Mafia. I’m going to miss sharing two queen sized mattresses with four other girls and sharing one bathroom with everyone. I’m going to miss the laughs, the tears and the serious moments. I might even miss Mari calling me “Baby Madz.”

The girls of this fantastic group, having fun on one of our late night walks. Photo Courtesy of Kari Welniak.
The girls of this fantastic group, having fun on one of our late night walks. Photo Courtesy of Kari Welniak.

So to my peers and to Bethel, thank you. For every moment.



Fishin’ Around

Yesterday’s topic of the day was fish, which only seems appropriate, considering the people in Bethel live off of fish.

I mean that quite literally. We’ve seen this theme, living off of the fish one works hard to catch, in many of our interviews. In fact, subsistence and the king salmon fishing restrictions are the main focus of our documentary.

I heard the impact of the fishing restrictions on subsistence lifestyles today at a town hall-style meeting. It was hosted by the Kuskokwim River Salmon Management Working Group, a group that makes recommendations about fishing and listens to villagers’ and city residents’ issues caused by the restrictions.

I heard lots of comments about fear of starvation and eventual death because of the restrictions. Villagers, who live both upstream and downstream, are concerned that there are no fish on their drying racks. (After a fish is caught, it is cut and then hung to dry.) One man started to yell, accusing the members that they have fish on their racks but they don’t seem to care about those who have caught nothing.

This is an example of salmon drying. This was taken at Cecilia's house; she has a small shack full of fish that have been hung to dry.
This is an example of salmon drying. This was taken at Cecilia’s house; she has a small shack full of fish that have been hung to dry.

One man went so far to “guarantee” that if the restrictions continue, lives will be in danger. He stated that people were going out with riffles. (We think he means people are attempting to shoot at Alaska State Troopers who patrol and see what people are catching, making sure they are not catching king salmon.)

We stayed for three hours of the discussion, and none of us knew how long the meeting actually lasted. We had to leave because we had a potluck dinner at the church.

Yesterday morning, the C-team got to go out on a boat with a true fisherman (it was arranged because we didn’t get to go on other adventures earlier in our trip). I was freezing. I had five sweatshirts, two layers of socks, a hat and gloves on, but my toes and fingers were still frozen by the end.

Despite the cold, it was a really cool experience. Tad, the fisherman, was going out to check his net as well as his brother-in-law’s nets. He checks them twice a day, once in the morning and once in the evening.

He probably caught between a dozen to 20 fish in his nets. The majority of them were red salmon.

As we watched Tad pull his nets into the boat, it was exciting every time we saw fish caught in them.
As we watched Tad pull his nets into the boat, it was exciting every time we saw fish caught in them.

He pulled his net out of the water little by little. When he came across a fish, he untangled the fish from the net. (I tried to suppress my squeals as I saw a fin or gill move.) As the fish fell to the ground of the boat, he put his pointer and middle fingers in the gills of the fish and broke them, causing the fish to bleed out of its gills. He threw them one by one in a bucket full of water.

He threw two fish on top of the bucket, explaining he would feed those fish to the dogs. These fish were rotten; they were previously caught in a net and had escaped only to run into his net.

I have to admit seeing a bucket full of fish and blood was pretty gross at times, but seeing part of the process of preparing fish is probably something I won’t ever see again.

I think back to yesterday, to the fisherman, to the commitment and effort he has to put in in order to catch food for himself and his family and how he goes through that process twice a day. It certainly made me appreciate the fish I was fed at the potluck. (The hard work the fishermen put in definitely pays off; the salmon here is absolutely amazing, by the way.) It also makes me fearful that I’m going to have a hard time going back to eating my mom’s salmon, which is bought at the grocery store.