Just as I posted all the places I had slept in the 2009 last February (, I thought I would share my somewhat less impressive list from 2010. In 2010, I managed to stay almost 5 months in Georgia and almost 5 months in Alaska. So with only two other months left to roam around and cross the country in my car once again, there aren’t quite as many different locations as my nomadic 2009.

Columbia, MO *
Duluth, GA
Comer, GA
Conyers, GA (Monastery of the Holy Spirit)
Vogel State Park, GA
Clarkston, GA
Toccoa, GA
Spokane, WA
Clearwater Lodge, Camp Spalding, WA
Washington, D.C.
Portland, ME
Saranac Lake, NY
West Chester, OH
Stoughton, WI
Denver, CO *
Jackson Lake Lodge, Grand Teton National Park, WY
Gros Ventre Campground, Grand Teton National Park, WY
The Reilly’s Backyard, Jackson Hole, WY
Seattle, WA *
Iron Creek Campground, Gifford Pinchot National Forest, WA
Camano Island, WA
Camp Adams, near Molalla, OR
Sitka, AK
Wasilla, AK
Anchorage, AK

25 different places
11 different states
New states visited: Maine, New Hampshire (drive through), Connecticut (drive through)
(ONLY!) 1 country

*indicates a repeat visit

Maine                                                            Watson Mill State Park, Georgia

MaineWatson  Mill Bridge TETONSCIMG0046

Jackson Hole, Wyoming                                                               Sitka, Alaska

Feeling Festive, Sort Of

As I have progressed into a more adult life (notice I said “more adult” not “adult,” because I will be attempting to avoid reaching that stage for as long as possible), I have had to confront a reality of life that many others must at some point also face: working on Christmas. This is the second Christmas Eve that I have worked (the other was a crazy night of hostessing at Chinook’s Restaurant in Seattle in 2007) and tomorrow will be the first Christmas Day I have ever worked. Unlike my last working Christmas Eve, however, all is quiet at work and yesterday my supervisor declared it a do-nothing day. Actually the language was more colorful than that, but as I try to keep my blog relatively clean, I’ll just describe it that way! We indulged in watching some feminist youtube videos (I work at a women’s shelter, what do you expect?!) and ordered in sushi for lunch. It was beautiful. One of the judges in town even stopped by the shelter to drop off boxes of chocolates, how could it have been a bad day after that?! This morning after shift change with my co-worker, a 70-year-old Tlingit elder, I gave her a hug wishing her a Merry Christmas and hugging me back she said I was a blessing to the shelter. Which, on this Christmas Eve away from family and many friends, made me smile.

After being told a few times by my housemates that I need to improve my holiday spirit, I have been attempting to embrace these joyful moments and recognize how this time of year looks in a different place away from Seattle or Missouri, the only two other places I have ever spent this holiday before. We have attended and volunteered at all the appropriate Christmas parties these past two weeks, so I’ve been festive when needed. However, at work, where Christmas spirit is variable among co-workers, I have subjected them to my “January 10th” rant. Let me explain:  Standing in my office one afternoon last week my co-worker said, “I’m not ready for Christmas!” To which I replied, “I’m ready for January 10th.” She inquired as to what was happening on January 10th and I responded, “Nothing! That’s why I’m looking forward to it! Christmas is over, people’s New Year’s resolutions have been broken so that illusion is gone, solstice has come and gone so we’re gaining daylight and we can all just move on to bigger and brighter things!” My co-workers were laughing, which really only encouraged me to continue down this road of honest expression, but I recognize that for those interested in fully embracing the holiday spirit, this is perhaps not the most productive of topics. So I’ve been trying to balance a little of both 🙂

To be fair, Sitka has been fun to experience this time of year. Swan Lake in town froze over completely while we had cold temperatures and clear skies for about a week straight. Once the ice was finally thick enough, everybody in town headed out to skate, walk, slip, and even give rides on a sled behind an electric wheelchair on the ice! On Monday, the kid’s first day off for Christmas break, the sunshine at lunch time made for perfect skating and Gina and I enjoyed a nice stroll around, across, and on top of the lake on foot!

And a moose got stuck in the ice!!

There Are Moose in Sitka!

As JVs here we occasionally get the opportunity to housesit for people headed out of town. This past week we have had the pleasure of housesitting for a “Sitkalebrity” (a local celebrity in Sitka), Tango the Golden Retriever. His owners have written children’s books about him, which they sell at Old Harbor Books year round (one of my favorite locations in town connected to Backdoor Cafe, perfect!!) and also sell them on the street when the cruise ships are in town. Tango has quite a reputation and we’re honored to be filling his food dish and throwing the tennis ball for him this week. He even has his own website! He joined us on our hike to a frozen waterfall last weekend and did a great job chasing squirrels and chewing on frozen sticks.


Nick and me at the falls on a lovely winter afternoon.

Nick and me at the Frozen Waterfall

And I have promised Mr. Nicholas Campolettano a huge shout out on my blog because 1) he’s an awesome FJV from last year who returned to Sitka to work at the SAFV shelter again and 2) he sometimes brings me chai lattes from the Backdoor Cafe when he comes into work as he did today which is absolutely awesome!

That about sums up the JV Christmas report from Sitka, Alaska. All my housemates are here for the holiday as well and we’ll be celebrating together tonight with dinner and presents.  I’ll finish off my 2010 posts with an annual blog post favorite that I started last year. Until then, I hope Santa treats you all well and  of course, Merry Christmas!

So This Is Winter

I am both happy and a bit disappointed to report that nothing in the last month has been anything like I described in my last post. I thought perhaps with the winter darkness I would be all the more encouraged to post regularly, but I think instead the lack of daylight has perhaps thwarted my writing enthusiasm. We are also not taking weekend outings on boats and hiking to beautiful viewpoints quite as frequently which might have something to do with my lack of bragging on my blog!

Things have calmed here, it is dark, and I live on an island in Alaska. It’s times like these when I am tempted to ask myself, “Who thought this was a good idea?” But, all is well and feels relatively normal. I think it’s funny the reactions that I get from people when I say I’m in Alaska for the winter. If I may, I’m just going to dispel a couple of rumors. First, I live about fifty feet from the ocean in the very southern part of Alaska, which means it really doesn’t snow here much. In fact, this year, Seattle has already received more snow than we have here in town. So, no, it’s not really snowy here. I experienced colder temperatures and far more snow when I lived in Spokane! Second, it is not dark here all the time. The perception that the sun never rises in Alaska in winter would apply more to a place like Barrow, Alaska which is in the Arctic Circle, not Sitka which is basically on coastline that should belong to British Columbia.

Thanksgiving came and went without too much uproar. I worked during the day and found myself cooking two turkeys with a resident in a wheelchair. It was quite an experience, especially considering I had never cooked a turkey before! She was the enthusiasm, I was the hands and legs, and together we pulled it off! Since the resident had experienced just a few more Thanksgivings than I, she offered her expertise and even share her secret of putting bacon on the outside of the turkey, YUM! After getting off work I joined my housemates and we headed to the teen foster home here where my housemate, Holly, works. She has been slaving away in the kitchen all day cooking for us and the teens there, so we got to join in on the typical Thanksgiving meal that left us groaning with joy, which, in my opinion, is just the way it should be! This was my first Thanksgiving away from home (just as this will be my first Christmas away from home and family as well), but there was no shortage of turkey and stuffing. I also had my first visitor to Sitka! Braden, a JV in Anchorage, came to Sitka for Thanksgiving weekend where we did almost everything there was to do in Sitka in November in three days. The list isn’t too extensive, but we packed it in and had a great weekend!

Otherwise, the routine here has continued like normal with work and various community events like the Grind, trips to Baranof Island Brewing Co. (which has quickly become a local favorite since opening last spring!), watching the Gonzaga basketball team embarrass themselves (not in the Top 25 anymore!) at local establishments that have cable, and a “NashVegas” party for my housemate, Jackie, to celebrate her 23rd birthday. I’m enjoying being here on the island and avoiding most of the crazy holiday consumerism. There isn’t a mall here, no Wal-Mart, no hours of waiting for sales on Black Friday. Town is lit with festive lights on the main roads and there’s a twinkle of holiday spirit as you walk the streets at night. Other than that, it’s pretty quiet and the days when fisherman and tourists filled the local roads and waters seem long ago! This past week, my housemates and I celebrated our four month Sitka anniversary, which means we are officially 1/3 of the way finished with our year long commitment to JVC. I’m certainly not counting down in any way, but rather looking back. In some ways, it feels very successful to have been here for these four months so far, and in other ways, it feels like we have a long way to go! All I know is, come December 21, I will be greeting the solstice with enthusiasm like never before! I hope this Advent season finds you well.