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The Alaskan Connection

By Xiao

When a bunch of fresh leafy rhubarbs and a pile of old Alaska magazines landed on our doorstep. We knew we had another friendly Alaskan encounter. In the beginning, I thought people were being extra nice to us because we were special. Two young PhD physicists from another continent, spending their summer in Alaska in a shining aluminum tube, the American way, not your average tourists. But I was wrong. When more and more people went out of their way to help us, offering valuable advice, sharing their favorite/secret locations of berry patch or fishing hole with us, without looking for anything in return, it was refreshing, to say the least. Without them, we are just passing through. Instead, we were invited into their lives, they showed us the true Alaska. I now know it was the Alaskans, not us, who are special.

Among the places I have been to, only Tibet has comparable natural beauty as Alaska. Everywhere you go, you are immersed in unexpected beauty. Everywhere you stay, you melt into your surroundings. There is a Chinese saying, certain place nurtures certain kind of people. People are shaped by their environment. The grandeur of Alaska makes people humble. The harmony of Alaska nature makes people relax. Here, the relationships between nature and people have been redefined, here, the interaction among people are reevaluated. Coming to Alaska, I learn to be appreciative again.

There have been days when we listened to our friend, Alaska Joe’ stories till it was dark. The chase of his prized king salmon, the “feeding” of a grizzly along a trail at night, the explaining he had to give to his insurance company about the damages done to his truck by two Kodiak bears that rocked his trailer with two clients and him inside. There have been days, when I would just sit by the window, with an old Alaska magazine in my hand, for hours at a time. There were stories of average Alaskans over the years, whether they came to Alaska for a frontier dream, or in search of freedom. There were facets of memories of same event which you can piece together for a more complete picture, whether it was the big earthquake in the 60s or the “into the wild” as it happened. There were adventures of the legendary “wolf man” and the journey of famous milepost and Iditarod. Issue after issue, you get a peek into Alaskan’s life through the series of “half baked Alaska”, whether it was their coexistence with animals, being dog, bear, moose, fish, or mosquito; or their culture transition over the years. Issue after issue, you get a taste of Alaska through the recipes, the sourdough bread, the berry jam, the salmon dish, and the jerky. Issue after issue, you start to understand Alaska through Alaskan’s own eyes. Issue after issue, you get to know more of the people on this land through bits of history in their own words.

As we learned from the note left by our friend, the stack of magazines were given to him when he moved to Alaska. Now they were passed on to us. The knowledge, the stories, and the kindness are thus passed on from person to person, forming a connection which makes Alaska and Alaskan unique. It was our first trip to Alaska, yet we are permanently linked to Alaska through the Alaskans we met.


Comment from psi
Time: October 30, 2008, 3:12 pm

You guys must have missed Sarah’s town… :D
But I guess she still shows -in a way- that “Alaskans are special” (though not a native-just as your friend)

Comment from Xiao
Time: October 30, 2008, 9:49 pm

We did not miss her town. Actually, when the news that she became VP candidate came out, we were there. :p She is pretty native, special, maybe.

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