Friday, June 27, 2008

gettin' itchy for the final frontier

well, i've officially been in fairbanks a month now
things have definitely settled down
the days lazily float along
and for the last week i feel like ive been on a much needed vacation
class is a joke
i dont mean to brag, but the amount of effort i need to invest in my studies in order to receive even above a 95% is virtually nil
last week i skipped all but one class, studied only for a couple hours before the exam by reading the lecture notes (which was like reading Jane/John stories), showed up late for the test, and scored 105%
so i really am feeling like im just paying for my credits and not gaining much other than a nice review which i could get by watching reruns of Bill Nye the Science Guy
oh well
this week too the daycare started cutting back my already-too-few hours so ive had a bunch of free time
some of it i've squandered, i must admit
but a lot of it has been soaked up by leisure activities that i've been long overdue to reacquaint myself with
reading, for example - now im tackling another murakami book, Kafka on the Shore
i love reading this bizarre japanese guy
much of his writing style i really appreciate and am inspired by
and cooking!
i had a craving for this African-chick-peanut soup my mom used to make so i got the recipe from her, biked to the store, and barricaded myself in the kitchen yesterday evening...
the verdict: delicious!
and plenty of leftovers too :)
(thanks mom!)

however, to the crux of my present sentiments, 'wither, alaska?'
ive been here a month, and other than the initial 2.5 weeks while i pitched tent, ive seen very little (firsthand, at least) of the beautiful surrounding nature im hearing so much about!
and im hearing a lot
i want to get out and hike, camp, canoe, run from moose, eat out of a can, and most of all, find the majestic isolation that can only be found in alaska
but im a student...
with a job...
and no car...
and little cash...
and even so, im getting to that point (i can see it not far off in the future) where i feel like saying 'screw it!' and go gallivanting off into nature
it's coming...
i know it...
i hope im ready...

Monday, June 23, 2008

midnight sun festival

as you probably already know, june 21st is the longest day of the year in the northern hemisphere
well in fairbanks, this is a special day of celebration
i mentioned before that during the summer, there is hardly any night-time at all
the sun just barely dips below the horizon before it is seen rising again
the sky dims for a bit, but there is never any feeling of 'night'

since we moved into our apartment, hiuyan and i are much closer to the downtown than when i was in the tent
it's not big, about the same size as hilo, and it too has that certain 'small town charm'
so when we heard about the 'midnight sun festival' we got pretty excited
we weren't really aware of anything more than its existence

we biked into town around 6 and hung out at a coffee shop for a while before plunging into the throngs on the street (probably all of fairbanks was there, which isn't much, but still a noticeable change from the norm)
yeah, there was a rock wall
surprisingthere was a breakdance ring
people could enter their names for the competition which was a bracket-style series of face-offs
that was pretty sweetcaribou-steak w/ honey mustardlive music was all over
best spot was sittin on a curb listening to some jazz and eating a caramel apple with m&ms stuck all over itcute?
...or disturbing? old-timersone of the star-attractions was the midnight baseball game, featuring fairbanks' team, 'the gold panners'
it starts at 10:30pm and no artificial light is used
nearly everyone is drunk by this time and there is considerable shouting
this pic is probably at about 1am - this is as dark as it will get
really fun to watch this year was the panners' pitcher whose name, which we determined from the all the yelling, was 'bill' - a 60+ year old player who pitched for over 5 innings
there was one spectator who repeatedly encouraged 'bill' to go 'all the way' and we were soon caught up in this sentiment
the panners won decisively
it was not a thing to miss, and we were glad that we decided not to
despite being tired, it was so cool to bike home at 2am in the warm dawn
i still haven't gotten adjusted to daytime/nighttime here

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

melodicas, daisy tea, 30 meter telescopes

sorry about the bitterness of the last post...
searching for an apartment was truly disheartening
one 'night' (it is never really dark) i was sitting in the tent pondering over the sad realization that i probably would be thoroughly satisfied with living out of a tent if it weren't for this anxious need to secure more comfortable accommodations
oh well
the trial is over
freedom is at last at hand
oh joyous muse, with thy glittering kindness thou hast showered over this humble wayfarer a thousand blessings within one
no more the roots do they hinder mine nightly slumber
no more the welts brought forth by mosquitoes do they irritate mine hide
no more the belongings which delight me must they remain enshrined in parcels unopened
no more the endless droves of sandwiches will they mingle in mine unsatisfied paunch

hiuyan arrived last tuesday!!!!!!
and what's more, it was half an hour before i went to the airport that i received a call from a leaser with an offer for an apartment - one that was just what i wanted
the entire atmosphere for over 2 weeks evaporated within an hour
my girl was finally here
and the search was finally over
we stayed 2 nights in the tent (that was enough for ginny, i guess) and moved in last thursday
it worked out great cuz we got our stuff set up and made the necessary trips to the store for food and supplies (hiuyan had the inspiration of taking a suitcase to fred meyer since we had to walk ~2 miles) by the weekend
i'll post some pics of the place soon

on another note...
what i really wanted to post was about the incredible experience i had last night
hiuyan and i were sitting on the floor of our main room (we have no furniture other than an inflatable mattress) under the light of the sunset shining in through the window
we were drinking daisy tea (it's incredible. really.) and just lounging about
hiuyan mentioned that she brought along a melodica from hong kong (that's one of those piano/harmonicas which you play by blowing into a tube)
this naturally got me very excited and in no time i whipped out my guitar
i felt suddenly inspired to play together
i know hiuyan plays piano so beautifully and that it has meant a lot to her throughout her life
what a perfect way to enjoy this quiet evening!
so i started to play and tried to encourage her to join me
i was just playing some simple chords over and over again
she was apprehensive because she had never played like this, with someone else, before
i began to realize how personal her music was to her
and as i kept playing i described to her how it felt to me to play like this
the music in your heart really flows into your head and out through your fingers and lips
you dig deep within yourself
and it doesnt matter what you play or how many mistakes you make
she couldn't do it, not even play one note
that was okay, i thought
i'll just keep playing until she joins me
and show her how comfortable i am exploring my feelings like this in front of her
for those of you who know it, playing music for yourself is such a personal and beautiful thing
so many times i have been far away somewhere, sometimes literally and almost always emotionally, and there is no one to comfort me, no one who can make me feel alright, except me
and discovering that through music is simply amazing
as i played, my memories touched upon these times
and my perspective shifted from attempting to draw for hiuyan my place - where my music and emotions formed the earth and sky - to becoming lost in that place myself
it surprised me, as i heard myself describe my experiences with music such as this and heard myself play, how quickly the melody from my soul came pouring out of me and wrapped itself around me
i dissolved into the notes, into the daisy tea, into the candle smoke, into the sunset, and left the world behind till i was nearly moved to tears
as my fingers grew tired and sore, the music faded from the room
but my heart was so full of music, i didn't hear the silence
i had to go outside to be alone for a while
there was so much i had forgotten about me
about how i've always been there for me
and how much i love myself
and how much i need to cherish myself and remind myself of me
it was truly glorious
my emotions made me speechless for a long time
until i drew my girl in close and held her with more presence of myself than i am usually aware of
hiuyan had told me about how she loved the idea of the new 30 meter reflecting lens telescope that is being built on mauna kea, hawaii because once it is finished, we will be able to see not only things that are far away, but things that are actually really close, but too dim to see with what we can look through now
this struck me, too, as such a fascinating and beautiful metaphor...
to be able to see those objects that have been right there, so close, all along...
to me, being with hiuyan tonight was my 30m telescope
seeing things that were right there in me all along...
i had forgotten them; forgotten even how much i needed to search for them

rosy fingered dawn was beginning to glow around us
and my heart would not stop soaring into the limitless sky of my being

Friday, June 6, 2008

the fruitless quest...

i will bitch now.
whoever thought finding an apartment in fairbanks would be this PAINFULLY IRRITATING?
apparently, even though it's a holiday for students and teachers (and the U. is a HUGE percentage of the population), there are more people coming in than leaving
even so, no body wants to rent to a short-term applicant cuz then in the winter they're scrapin' the barrel
so generally what's available to me are the shitty, white-elephant flats
and even THEIR rent is OUTRAGEOUS
so i have to spend HOURS a day biking all over fairbanks just to be either turned down or revolted
yesterday - 4 hours spent on search, 15 miles covered
it's a part-time job that pays in frustration and fatigue
the worst part is continuously getting your hopes dashed until they take up a permanent residence at the bottom of the proverbial well
at least their rent is free

Monday, June 2, 2008

fairbanks - a cold welcome (the people - warm)

armed with a rolled up newspaper, i crouch over my computer
one eye cautiously patrols space around me for invaders
ive killed about 5 mosquitoes just in writing the last 2 sentences
my dedication to blogging has never prevailed so valorously

it's been just about a week since i arrived in fairbanks
words can not describe the ease with which i have adjusted to and fallen into this place
allow me to briefly go over the major events since my arrival

got off the plane at 7am and picked up my luggage in the deserted airport
grabbed a cap outside and made it to the hostel within minutes
lined things up with the manager (swiss german named irene) and had my tent set up within 20 min
i was alseep again in no more than 1 hour after spotting fairbanks from the airplane window
even napping during the day was friggin' COLD
so i walked to fred meyer (about 15 min away) - what would be a common jaunt for me over the next week, as the bus to the university stops there - and bought a much needed sleeping b. and some food
got online and chatted with the g.f. (there's actually wireless here - hence my ability to blog under a cloud of voracious bloodsuckers)
eventually i noticed it was late as hell (didnt even realize since the sun BEGINS to go down at around 12:30) and slept uncomfortably on the ground, but at least more warmly than before
school the next day!
BIO 105 is as much of a joke as i predicted - nearly everyone seems pre-pubescant and the material belongs in a high school biology class
nevertheless, the prof is nice, and some other guy gives me a wonderful tip on where i might be able to find a place on campus where i can shower for free
i anticipate a pretty tedious experience in the classroom over the upcomming weeks, but try to look on the bright side and see it as a way to bring everything ive learned thus far full-circle
next day, after class i go to visit a daycare i heard about from papa (my grandpa) - i had been inquiring regarding a job and they said 'drop by, mister!' - no one is there
go back to Go North and hang out with some puerto ricans who kindly share with me some music, smokes, and beer (hostles are great!)
class again the next morning and hours of staring at paramecium in the microscope
i visit the daycare again (called OpenArms) for an interview and am greatly encouraged
i now understand thier apparent unrestrainable enthusiasm at hiring me (besides my incredible resume, personality, and repore) - i will double their male population (the other is the cook)
friday - no class; i go to openarms for my first day and to float around the classrooms
the kids are awesome - i get to work with toddlers, woddlers (1 year olds), and preschoolers (the place has about 150 kids and 30+ staff; wow)
the place and people really make my old job at KinderCare look like hell in comparison (which it was)
im scheduled to continue working in preschool age which is FANTABULOUS
i even have a chance to practice my crummy japanese skills with a cross-cultural family when they pick up their kid
side note: the people in fairbanks are sooo friendly and considerate; they really look out for each other - from what i hear from people who have lived here a while, this is due to the transitory habitation of most people (what with a huge military base nearby and the U.) and the ungodly long nights in the winter during which suicide rate and alcoholism would like increase 10-fold if not for the community
saturday i am forced back to UAF to do some labwork, but at least i get a chance to take another free shower and escape the forest vermin for a while
i chat with my prof about finding some kind of biology field work through the school and she gives me some books on local botany to read
super (non-sarcastic)
i buy a 12-pack of beer to count down the days until my girl arrives
meet some more hostle guests and play my guitar around the campfire
sunday (today) i go to the church (openarms is lutheran affiliated) cuz i heard from the director that 3 kids from the daycare will be baptized
i meet the hyperactive 60-year-old pastor who knows me already (the work of my papa, no doubt) and ive barely shaken his hand after church before he offers to let me borrow his son's bike (wow!)
no more bus
no more hoofin' it
he comes by the hostel and drops it off in the afternoon
gotta test manana - big whoop
my mind is on my darling who just left for taiwan for a week, the piece of cold chicken-thigh i left in the fridge, biking into town ASAP, and showering (hopefully) soonerthe pic of my sweetheart that smiles at me every time i open my laptop and sustains me until she arrivesmy tent - caribou site
that's all for now, yo's

Sunday, June 1, 2008

eagle creek - an excursion into the heart of oregon's natural beauty

thank you to greg and lucas who finally made their pics of this trip available
now i can write about it!

after a month of unemployment and living in Tigard, OR suburbia, i decided it was high time for a little adventure
i needed to experience the strongest and freshest atmosphere of freedom possible
backpacking seemed the most likely choice to me and i was prepared to head out alone if necessary
as luck would have it, however, based on the most favorable weather forecasts, i managed to pick a date that fit nicely with greg and lucas' work schedules (an unprecedented accomplishment, even when purposely attempted)
incidentally, it also turned out to be on my birthday
so that was that and we prepared to go
i read about eagle creek in a hiking book, and it seemed like a pleasant hike - not too strenuous, isolated from civilization, feasibly approachable for a two day journey, and full of beautiful waterfalls and wilderness
with a comfortably-late start, we were off!
on the roadat the trail head, tying down the gear (greg doesn't think the folding chair is a good idea)lucas soon has trouble with his sleeping bagwater continuously poured down the cliff-faces, often creating this surreal cascading effect that was captivating and sonorous
as luck would have it, i actually did choose a beautiful day to set out and the sun was shining more brightly than it had for a long time
as a result, the snow had been melting a LOT
that meant there were waterfalls EVERYWHERE with dripping cliffs along every path
it was as if the whole valley was melting away
and it seemed as if we were venturing into a place well apart from the world of mana pretty, mossy forestmore cascading cliff flows - where the steepness of the cliff angled back in on itself, the falling water created a sort of tunnel as it poured over our heads and past usgreg spots punchbowl falls and a path that leads down to its spoutpunchbowl fallsthe canyon from abovethe falls up closeat a quiet place on the valley floor, a little upstream of punchbowl, we take a break in the sunshinewe climb back up to the path and soon stumble across a bridge leading to the other side of the valleylucas on a different bridge that takes us across once againnow the cliffs are getting more vertical, so that the path has to be cut into the rock-face
the views are spectacularthe thundering tunnel fallsentering the tunnelawe-inspiringyet another bridgeanother breath-taking waterfall
this one is unnamedlooking back from the top of the unnamed falls - now we are really high up
greg stands at the edge of the path where it curves around the cornerno far is our camping areadelicious camping-fare: crackers, cucumber, summer sausage, cheese, winethe camp was ~30m from the top of the waterfall
as a result, all the nearby wood and heather were unsalvageably damp
despite the asset of our eagle scout (greg) we had no fire
we were forced to resort to alternative methods of keeping warm, the details of which we will take to our gravesgettin' cozy until greg's camera flash blinds us, causing permanent damage to our retinasa refreshing and chilly morning the return journeytunnel falls once againour final moments behind the beloved falls

home (and breakfast) is in sight

thanks so much to lucas and greg for this indescribably awesome trip
i really need this
and especially what with leaving the northwest for what will likely be a long time...
it was the best birthday ever!