Tag Archives: wisdom

Quyana, Bethel

Today was our last day in Bethel, and I think all of us are feeling a little sad. We’ve grown to love this small town. I know that for me personally, I will always feel a connection to this part of the world. At the beginning of the week, I said that Bethel seemed like a wise place. This continued to be true throughout my entire time here. Almost every day, this community taught me something important.

Bethel taught me to be patient. There is a different sense of time here. The only time to rush is when the weather is perfect for fishing. Actions are methodical and intentional. Responses to questions are proceeded by a short pause in which the person responding truly thinks about what they will say.

The natives taught me to be generous. We were given delicious food that people either caught or prepared themselves. The people of Bethel offered us boat trips and opened up their fish camps to us. They gave us their time to fully answer every question we had.

The tundra taught me to be present and look for beauty in everything. The tundra is constantly changing. You could miss the most amazing view if you aren’t paying attention. Not only do you have to pay attention, but you also must make a decision to see the beauty before you. Out in the tundra, it’s cold, there are mosquitoes everywhere, and the landscape appears barren. However, if you look closely, you will see how intricate the whole ecosystem is. Every foot of it is a sea of diverse life.

Finally, this part of the world has taught me to be fearless. Yes, I will gut that fish. Sure, I’ll try that piece of seal. Yeah, I’ll go on a river trip to a remote village. And of course I’ll trudge out to the tundra at midnight with water and mud up to my knees to watch the sunset.

The beginnings of a midnight sunset on the tundra.
The beginnings of a midnight sunset on the tundra.

I’m so thankful for everything I’ve learned here. When I first came to Bethel, I never imagined that so much wisdom would be shared with me. Now I can’t imagine my life without that knowledge. As we prepare to leave Bethel, the only thing I can think to say is thank you. Quyana, Bethel.


Bethel: Welcoming and Wise

Arriving in Bethel on Monday was like arriving in a different country. As the plane descended, the only thing that could be seen for miles was the green arctic tundra. Suddenly, the small patch of buildings that is Bethel appeared.

Our view from behind the church where we're staying.
Our view from behind the church where we’re staying.

As soon as I stepped off the plane, I knew immediately that I would love Bethel. Maybe it is the comforting smell of a recent rain, or maybe it’s the kindness of the people I’ve met, but Bethel feels so welcoming. On just our first full day, we were given two freshly caught fish for supper. It’s truly humbling to be met with such open arms.

I’m beginning to see already how different Western culture and Yupik culture is. While interviewing today, we were told a fantastic story about the meaning of subsistence living to the native Yupik people. While talking to a friend, a native Yupik woman was saying that “white man’s food” (food from the grocery store) doesn’t fill her up. When asked why, she replied, “Because there is no story behind it.” For her, it not only mattered that she had food, but also who hunted the moose, which family caught the fish, or where the berries were picked at.

I think that all of us have a lot to learn from the people of Bethel. From our first interviews, it’s obvious that everyone has so much wisdom to share. I can’t wait to learn more as the weeks progress and begin to integrate these new world views into my own life.