Yes, I know it’s been over a month since I have posted. Lots to catch up on, so let’s get started:
Clearly I must report on Alaska Day since 1) it’s the most ridiculous holiday in Sitka and 2) I mentioned it in my last blog and probably got the most comments, both on and off the blog, about it. How else can it be described except to say it was a time of true chaos and fun? It certainly lived up to the legends Sitkans tell about it and it even brought along a few extra surprises. As mentioned the “day” was really more of a week/weekend long event. The Seattle Firefighter Pipes and Drum band arrived on Saturday to truly kick off the festivities. Now, I may have seen them at some point during my time in Seattle, but I don’t remember, because who really cares when you see stuff like that in Seattle? But let me tell you, when these men in kilts arrived in Sitka you would have thought each citizen had won the lottery. From Saturday until Monday evening, the band was paraded around town playing at various locations, wrapping up each night by making the rounds at the local bars. They were warmly (sometimes too warmly) welcomed at each bar and after playing a few of everybody’s favorites (wait, who has favorite bagpipe songs?!) they enjoyed numerous rounds of drinks that were purchased by local fans. Here’s the band seen in Sitka’s finest establishment, Ernie’s.
I happened to see the firefighters perform all three nights, as well as at the parade, and even enjoyed a rather hilarious conversation with one of them with my co-worker and FJV (former JV, 2009-2010), Nick. Apparently it is in fact possible to bring joy to the rainest month in Sitka, the cure is simply more bagpipes!
On October 18, the official Alaska Day, I woke to the sound of hail pounding our window and boisterous thunder ripping through town, though I have been told on many occasions that there is “never lightning in Sitka.” However, after rather turbulent weather in the morning, the clouds broke and the town came alive. After a brief stop by the Sitka Fire Department’s open house . . .
(where Jackie and I considered becoming firefighters), more people than I have ever seen at once in downtown (yes, even more than a cruise ship day) lined Lincoln Street to watch the parade. It might not look dramatic, but this is quite a showing for Sitka!
The Army, bagpipers, Coast Guard, local Search and Rescue, middle and high school marching bands, and a life-size humpback whale carried by about thirty people were just a few who participated in the parade through town.
After cheering on many of our friends in the parade, we headed to Castle Hill where the reenactment of lowering the Russian flag and raising the American flag takes place (this is also where transfer originally occurred in 1867). A roll call of all 50 states was presented (don’t worry, I cheered loud and proud for “WASHINGTON 1889!”), followed by ceremonial gunshots from the Army atop the hill.
Finally, the Coast Guard performed a demonstration of a water rescue just offshore from town.
After all these festivities it seems every place in town had an open house with munchies, we stopped by Sitka’s very own brewery, Baranof Island Brewing Co. (amazing!!), and we finished off the weekend with a trip to the P Bar where all of Sitka’s finest were celebrating (I hope not to step foot in there until next spring, the trips have been frequent enough!). Basically, I’m really glad Alaska Day only happens once a year, but what a heck of a day! Tuesday back at work required much storytelling from the weekend and recapping with various co-workers.
So after just barely recovering from Alaska Day, my housemates and I jumped on a plane bright and early Friday (Oct 22) morning to join the other Alaska JVs for a our first retreat! About 30 of us spread out in four different communities this year (Sitka, Juneau, Anchorage, and Bethel) congregated at the Anchorage JV house, piled in mini-vans, and headed to a camp just outside Wasilla (no, I didn’t see Sarah, please don’t ask). We spent the weekend relaxing, trading stories, reflecting on our time as JVs so far, and sharing our (random) talents at the coffeehouse social. All-in-all, a fantastic weekend to be with others, take a break from the regular routine, and enjoy some quality JV bonding. I even got to see my good friend Ian from Gonzaga, who is currently a JV in Juneau, yay!
So . . . after returning from retreat, my housemate Jackie and I stayed in Anchorage to attend a conference put on by the Alaska Network of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault for a little professional training. We got to explore Anchorage a bit on Tuesday before the conference began and then were flooded with information, stories, research, and tips on D.V. for a few days. The conference was informative, but tiring and mostly it was enjoyable to be in a different setting for a few days outside of working at the shelter and to spend a little more time with the JVs in Anchorage.
Then . . . (I promise, I’m almost done) I hopped on a plane in Anchorage to fly to the mid-west for my grandfather’s funeral. It was a really beautiful gathering and celebration of his 96 years on this earth with my entire family. We came together from as far away as Alaska, Florida, and even Honduras to honor his faithful life of work and service. Allan Purdy was an incredible man.
And finally, I conclude this random and extremely long post with my adventure back to Sitka, which, when we tried to land at our first stop in Ketchikan, was unsuccessful after we flew straight into a thuderstorm, were struck by lightning, were unable to land there or anywhere else in the SE Alaska, and were then re-routed all the way back to Seattle. How did I feel about that? Not great. It was a rather unpleasant experience and I would really love to never be on another plane that is struck by lightning. Ever. Again. So much for lightning never striking in Southeastern Alaska! So, I gave it another shot on Tuesday (after calling my mom from Sea-Tac airport to request a pick-up on Monday night only a few hours after drop-off), but we were delayed several hours in Seattle and had to switch aircrafts due to mechanical issues. Needless to say, I spoke with Alaska Airlines today and was “politely assertive,” as my mother said, in requesting a few extra frequent flier miles for the rather ridiculous flights I endured last week. Lastly, tonight, I sit at my dining room table at home in Seattle where I am currently helping my mom recover from total knee replacement surgery. She is doing well, I’m playing the domestic house-daughter role this week, and I will be returning to Sitka for “normal” life on Sunday. I think . . .