Bethel is many things. It's a cold, frozen land with few restaurants, little night life, and few people. Homes here, for the most part, look like shotgun houses that have seen many a winter. Pipes burst, cars rattle, and unlocked doors are common things. We have one traffic light, which turns out to be nothing more than a caution light for the hospital crosswalk. The months of November through March are very cold. Temperatures drop into the negatives during the day; the wind makes it even colder. Needless to say, it's a harsh environment to survive day to day life.
For the most part animals here are treated with kindness and respect. Many dogs here are sled dogs used for mushing. You have your common house pets and then you have your outside kennel kept dogs. Most of the K-9's housed outside are provided adequate shelter, but there are the few that are tethered to posts and treated poorly. Some are even housed in cheap five gallon buckets with a handful of hay provided for warmth. Dogs treated this way are frowned upon, but little to nothing is done about it. There's no animal control officer and no dog catcher. We do have a vet that is flown in once a month. However, because vet care can be expensive a vast stray dog population exists. Husky's breeding with Labradors is know as the Bethel Special. And it turns out, we were adopted by one.
The Husky/Lab mix showed up in our arctic entry one cold day. Past history revealed she was a bucket dog. She found a new home, complete with an eight foot ceiling and base board heating. She is a devout Redskins fan, taking over my official teams blanket for her very own. What she lacks in coordination and manners, she more than makes up for in unconditional love. Her name is Grace.
There are no chain restaurants here, with the exception of one. I ate at Subway for lunch today and was very happy about it. Instead of the nationally televised $5.00 sub, mine was a lot more. I know, some of you may think I was robbed at the cash register, but alas, I was not. Food is expensive here. What isn't hunted or fished is flown in by cargo plane or bush pilot. We live in a tundra town divided by rivers and mountain ranges. It's made up of about 7,000 people. Most of the residents here are Native Alaskan and to be honest, could care less if my little slice of heaven were to shut its doors tomorrow. Still, it was a nice feeling to be inside a warm restaurant with my favorite turkey and provolone, toasted, with oil and vinegar dressing, a side of sour cream and onion chips and a root beer with ice.
Over a week ago I traveled to Anchorage for a little winter shopping. Along the way I noticed an old train on the side of the road. I HAD to stop. My dad served many years as a train engineer for Norfolk Southern Railways and is now retired. Growing up we always heard stories of how trains work, where they go, and what they haul. Over the years my siblings and I have acquired a small, but notable, collection of memorabilia...most of it is coal and rail spikes. Still, they go great with my camera collection! And so it was on this day (because of Dad) that I stopped and admired No. 556. An American made Baldwin Locomotive built for war use in 1943. The trains were "stripped down" for war action and were nicknamed Gypsy Rose Lee, after the American Burlesque entertainer. How funny. So the story goes...this engine was spared war and sent instead to Alaska. Plowing through a ton of ice and snow, Number 556 carried passengers and freight from Seward through Anchorage and onto Fairbanks. She now resides in downtown Anchorage, acting as part playground and part history.
I've been living in Bethel, Alaska for about three weeks now. Job searching and interviewing. I keep my sanity by taking photographs of daily life here. Each time I leave the house becomes a new experience. You just can't walk down the same road twice without seeing something different. Life here in Alaska is cold...but beautiful and full of brilliant color. Now, if I can just manage to keep my toes warm...