Yes, even though I grew up in the middle of the midwest, Hooper Bay is home. Almost as if it was home beyond this lifetime... if you get into those things.
But it's a new year, and a new decade, and this blog has been around for 3 years now. I've learned so much about blogging and this internet world this past year, much in the last few months.
I was recently asked to join a group on facebook called, "I Am Eskimo" and my blog was listed as one of the group's favorite blogs. Thanks! I like it -- I like feeling like my blog is getting out there to the world -- AND the whole experience raised an interesting point of discussion and made me feel like I needed to re-asess and rethink about the purpose of this blog and you, my audience. I'll fast forward to the results of this thinking process and tell you that I feel great about this blog, its content, purpose, and you, my audience. But you may find this thinking process interesting, so I'll detail it below. :)
When I moved to Alaska for the second time, with my M.Ed in hand and ready to take on the rural Alaskan educational system, and with Esther as a babe in arms, I was sending monthly newsletter emails with a couple pictures attached to a group of friends and family. This was a success -- and the number of people who were interested in our adventures kept growing. So I decided to start a blog instead, so that I could post more pictures. I also had the motive of reaching out to teachers new to Alaska, new to Hooper Bay, helping them visualize their soon-to-be surroundings, and showing them by example how to make the best of their experience: to get out into the community and the tundra.
Then when the random readers kept appearing, I realized that my words were reaching kind of a lot of people -- not as many as the big bloggers, but maybe some who had never read anything about Alaskan life before. Maybe my voice would be the representation of Alaska for the reader in Brazil, in the middle of the Amazon Forest (for real! Check out the Clustrmap on the margin!). Although most folks in other parts of the world know by now that people don't live in igloos up here, Alaska is still a shadowy region in their minds, especially rural Alaska. And I have to say that a lot of what information does make it out is not good. There are books and movies that, because they need a climactic plot line and a hook to drag people in, show the ugly and tragic sides of Alaskan life (or the overly romanticized parts, which doesn't help, either). So it was at this point that I promised myself that I was going to show the positive and wonderful parts of living in Alaska -- not to gloss over the hard parts, or to put on a rosy show that was not truthful, but to give a portayal of healthy wholeness that is inspiring, to show the ways we deal with the hardships that everyone knows are there but that I choose not to write about.
One example is the book "Ordinary Wolves" by Seth Kantner, which is really a fabulous novel and has received critical acclaim around the globe from all my favorite writers (Louise Erich, Barbara Kingsolver). Although it tells an important story about cultural and identity confusion, does not give one positive depiction of an Alaskan Native person within its pages. I appreciate the catharic nature of his novel -- it must feel good to express the difficult experiences he writes about (though it is indeed fiction). And for many people who are going through similar issues as the main character, it may be a helpful read. I think there is a lot of power in straight-on dealing with the ugly, hard side of life, and in my personal life I am definitely on the side of talking about things directly and keeping no secrets. However, I believe the problem comes in when the book or other media that reaches a worldwide audience who have no context to embed the portrayal within, or any real life experience with a culture to balance negative portayals with positive ones, and that one piece of media becomes the representation of the entire culture to the reader who lives far away.
This area of the world has its share of troubles, troubles that have no easy solution, and troubles that it's hard to get a break from. But my answer to dealing with all of that is to focus on the positive, good things that are possible, to work on the things that can make even a small part of it better -- and to get outside. I really believe that the tundra heals all, if you give it a chance. Subsistence activities are the most healthy mind-body-soul activities I have ever had the honor to partake in, and I'm sure to a Yup'ik person, or any other native person, it is even more healing -- as Dr. Oscar Kawagley says, "Landscape creates Mindscape."
With Dr. Kawagley's quote in mind, I've chosen to raise my daughters here so that with any luck, they will be fluidly bilingual and bicultural. Although this blog may seem mommy-bloggish at times, it's really the story of our family navigating complicated ground -- and I hope that our success so far is inspirational to any of you out there who are contemplating the same thing, whether you are thinking of taking the plunge into village life or you are in a different culture/region entirely. I guess my point is this: it is possible to do important, meaningful work, be very involved in the village community and raise your family in a healthy way in rural Alaska, despite the challenges. And to prove it, here are pictures of my Esther, taken within a 10 day span -- she's riding the cultural divide with finesse, and I can't wait to see how she and Iris choose to negotiate the rest of their lives -- it's all new as they're living it; they're creating their future with each choice they make.
So please, enjoy the pictures and stories, and know that we are loving our life up here, and thanks for reading!