Monday, March 30, 2009

Mt Redoubt, Hear ME Roar...

So Mount Redoubt has been on high alert for eruption for a few months now. It is located on the top of the Alaskan Penninsula (not the panhandle where Juneau is, the one that goes down into the Pacific and turns into the Alaskan chain -- that bunch of islands that stretch nearly into tommorrow), across a strait from Anchorage, Kenai, Homer, etc. Actually I have been worried about my friend Jill who lives just north of Kenai, because her town is at high risk for ash fall, and what would she do about all the dogs she's got in her sled dog lot? But it seemed like another "hurry up and wait" kind of situation, with the eruption imminent for months.

However, it did erupt -- a few hours after my mom arrived in Hooper Bay to visit during her spring break. We all breathed a sigh of relief because she had gotten here -- all flights to and from Anchorage were cancelled after the eruption because of the danger ash poses to airplane engines (yes, no "Lost" situations while my mom is on the plane, please). The bush flights were unaffected -- the ash was blowing east from the volcano, towards Anchorage, and not northwest, towards us. Even if it did blow northeast towards us, I'm not sure if we would have been affected -- it's pretty far away.

So we relaxed and enjoyed our week -- though I caught one of the only stomach flus I've gotten in the past few years, and while I worshipped the porcelain deity, my mom got major quality time with both girls.... :) Here are some cute pictures of our visit:

So on the day she was to leave Hooper Bay, it was gorgeous weather -- cold, clear, calm. The volcano also erupted again that morning. With such crazy storminess we've had this spring, it's impossible to say "wait and see" if you're flying out. You have to jump on the first plane that comes because you never know how it's going to be in 15 minutes. So we did all the research we could do, checking on the Alaska Airlines website and calling them by phone -- by the time my mom's plane came to bring her to Bethel, they had not cancelled any flights from Bethel to Anchorage, so in good conscience, even though I wanted to keep her here indefinitely, I sent her off to the plane.

And then got her call a couple hours later that her flight was cancelled -- the volcano erupted several times that afternoon. It just kept spurting up ash, like brimstone belches or something. And here is the source of my ire: Redoubt, just get it overwith already! I mean, a volcano should just erupt, right? Erupt and get it over and done. Not all these puny eruptions here and there. They are messing up our lives! (And everyone else's lives: check out all the cancellations on this flight arrival/departure board at the Anchorage airport:)

Mom did make it to Anchorage the next day, on the ONLY flight to make it out of Bethel that whole week (after a nice layover in Bethel during which she at least got to experience the Camai festival, Bethel's big dance event), but was then totally and completely stuck in Anchorage. At first they wouldn't even rebook her flights, because everything was so up in the air, and the volcano kept shooting up ash every couple hours. So she found a cheap hotel and settled in for the duration. (And at home, I was freaking out that she was neither here nor there, not with us, not at home, all that wasted time she could have been with us; I should've just kept her, I should have let her go a day early, to the point I was annoying myself with could'ves and should'ves).

She was down about it at first, because she knew she'd be missing work on Monday at least, but then she started to look around herself at the wierd situation she was in, and she started to enjoy the adventure of it all. The airport was an eerie place, she said, with the kiosks covered with garbage bags to protect them from the ash:

And the piles of baggage that were lost from their people due to flights being all messed up and all over the place:

The wierdest part of the story is what happened when she called to book a night at a hotel. She asked for the airport shuttle from the hotel to pick her up. They replied that they weren't allowed to drive due to the ash -- and she looked out to see that there were no cabs lined up, either! She finally found a hotel that would send a shuttle for her, and the driver was wearing a mask. She was entirely creeped out, telling me on the phone, "Cate, it's crazy here!" She took this picture of the notice in her hotel room:

So after several tries and false starts of going to the airport and booking flights, only to have them cancelled and rearranged due to the most recent eruptions, she got on a flight out of Anchorage Tuesday morning (after leaving me on Friday afternoon!) to Chicago. Redoubt erupted a few minutes before they took off, and I guess the pilot said that they just had to get out of there before they were grounded again -- so she made it in the nick of time.

My mom is so awesome, to go through all this to come see us. She is an amazing mom and so wonderfully supportive-- I'm so lucky to have her. But, that volcano on the other hand -- look out, Mt Redoubt, Grrrr.

Oh, yes -- In other news, Iris pulled herself up to stand the night my mom arrived here -- a full week before she was 7 months old. Eeek! I'm scared out of my wits that she may be walking soon, and that she'll be accident-prone (aka hell on wheels). But on the other hand, she is so cute; amazed and proud of herself, it's hard not to just enjoy. Here are some pictures for your enjoyment as well, of the girl standing up:

Monday, March 23, 2009

Yuraq makes March happy

Yuraq is traditional Yup'ik dancing, and every March Hooper Bay has The Louie Bunyan Festival in which the dance groups in town dance for the community, as well as groups from visiting communities, such as Chevak, Scammon Bay, Stebbins, etc. Every year different groups come, though the villages close by almost always come (and Hooper Bay goes to their festivals as well). I wrote more about the history of the festival in the spring of 2007 here and here.

It was my goal to bring Esther to practice with the school dance group every Sunday night and perform with them this year. We did it! I am beginning to feel more and more tied in to the dancing each year; I am beginning to remember the dances (instead of just having to watch and follow one of the leaders), which frees me up to be more creative with the movements. The crowd loves expressive dancers and funny endings to songs; they love to laugh at silly and vehement dancers, which encourages the dancers to be sillier and more vehement. The songs and lyrics are all very old, but they are free to be interpreted in new ways. It feels like this is one tradition that is not dying out because it is adapting to the new world; of course it is not the same as it once was, but nothing is. What will survive are the things that can change and yet stay the same in substance... I think this is one tradition that is just that. Here is a picture of the girls in their matching qaspeks that I made for them:

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Snow Sailing!

We have been having the stormiest spring I have experienced since I've lived here, with a storm every other day or so for the last couple weeks. But out of a crazy windy storm today was borne an exciting and perfect day for a fun arctic activity: sailing across the snow in a sled. A couple things have to come together to make this happen: hard snow (which was a given with these warm to freezing temps we've been having, which makes the snow melt and then freeze into a hard icy layer on top when the temp goes back down), good visibility, since it's dangerous to play out far from home in bad visibility (the storm we had today had a LOT of snow and just about zero visibility at some points, but it all cleared out by 4:pm), and a huge wind -- yeah, I'd say 53 knots is a strong wind!

Inez, Jasmine, Esther & I experimented with this yesterday, and while the kids just zoomed along like magic -- especially when they decided to use another plastic sled instead of the tarp -- it wasn't as dream-like for the adults, who were kinda heavy... but, hey, we still got to slide along, albeit slowly. But, man, holding up that tarp sure makes the arms tired! I realized I am getting old today when I got out of bed and between my arms being sore from holding the tarp & sleds (&Esther, at points!) against the wind, and being sore from slipping and falling on the snow-covered ice at lunchtime yesterday (after which the wind blew me several feet along the ground -- crazy!), my body is rejecting me, which is what my dad used to say. All in all, though, a fabulous fun activity. I loved hearing Esther and Jasmine's giggles!

In other news, Iris crawled her first crawl steps yesterday. *sigh*
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