Social Circles

The last couple of weeks have seen us settling into Bethel life pretty well. We have gone to some social gatherings, joined some classes, and just generally started connecting all the people/places we know together.
I am still working everyday in the schools, almost exclusively at Rolo’s school. It is to the point now that I know almost every kid’s name and they all accept me as part of the general landscape. Need a push on the swing? To tell on someone? A band aid? A hug? That blonde lady that is always here will do just fine! Through this work I have met enough people to feel like I have social interaction on a daily basis and can no longer dress like a crazy homeless person when going to the store.
I joined a Zumba class to stay active, preemptively fighting off the seasonal affective disorder I know might occur in winter. This class is inhabited by many teachers from Rolo’s school. It is also inhabited by several people that brought their kids to Rolo’s dance camp/ballet class.
Rosalind is taking ballet. I had no idea how seriously it would be taken. Every kid was decked out in full ballet gear. I immediately ordered Rosalind some clothes, but there was nothing I could do for the first session. Somehow the stores up here don’t carry a full array of ballet tights, leotards, skirts, and split soled ballet slippers. Shocking, I know. The second day of ballet class one of my Zumba classmates brought me an extra leotard and skirt for Rosalind. Just because.
One of Rosalind’s other ballet class friends turned out to be the daughter of some of Sergio’s law colleagues in town. As luck would have it, the day I met them at ballet was also the day we were supposed to go to a party at their house. The fact that I met them and felt comfortable is what probably got us to their house as we tend to chicken out of social engagements. I’m so glad we did! We had a great time and there was soooo much delicious smoked king salmon. Rosalind had the best time she has had since moving here. The little girls of the house seem to be Rosalind’s long lost soul sisters. They just all fell right in together and played dress up all night and put on plays for the partygoers. They also had a swing hanging from the ceiling in the playroom, so it was definitely Rolo paradise. Anyway, at this party we finally got to know our own neighbor better since she was there. I also spotted another person that turned out to be the sister of the host and she is also in my Zumba class. Of course.
I could go on with these kinds of connections all day. The small town vibe is strong here! It is very nice. I’ll give you a break on the connection thing but I do want to mention the kindness thing again. One of the reasons we went ahead and got a car is because as people got to know us it became almost impossible to walk. To do so meant that we would have to refuse the numerous offers for rides we were being given. If you don’t bring much of a lunch to work at the schools, you can almost guarantee you will find something. In the last few weeks I have been given smoked salmon, crackers, homemade bread with homemade blueberry jam, chocolate covered pomegranate seeds, Reese’s cups, a sort of Yupik ice cream made out of Crisco and berries, pie, zucchini bread, fudge, cupcakes, dried pike with seal oil for dipping, and moose. When I said something about how good the moose was I was offered up half a freezer full of frozen moose. And yes, I fully intend to go get some. That’s just how things are here. I always take a perfectly good lunch to work and want for nothing, but all food is shared food. It occurs to me as I write this that maybe I should make some cookies or something to take this week. After this week I will be at the high school as a long term sub until Christmas. Hopefully it will go as well as the elementary schools have.
Small towns have some really nice aspects to them. A nice side effect to living this far off to the side of the world is that while people may know all of your business, they don’t judge it. On the other hand, I have to catch myself on a daily basis not to joke about the behavior of a student or the guy I had to wait to stumble drunkenly out of my way in the grocery store parking lot because inevitably those people will be related to the person I am speaking with. Luckily I never say anything unkind here, but you like to understand the connections before you speak.
Despite our general social dysfunction we have been invited into the Bethel world pretty freely. You can see how some people come here and never leave. There are some parts of this town that make you feel like you have stepped back sixty years in time to Alaska’s Mayberry. Kids play outside freely, people walk around, you see people you know at the grocery store, and church is the social center for a lot of people. That is not to say that there aren’t some things in this town that make you scratch your head or mentally run screaming. I knew I had reached a new level of Bethel acceptance when I let that drunk man just keep stumbling in front of my truck for a couple of minutes. I didn’t bat an eye. Nor did it occur to me to help him in any way as there was no danger to either of us. I just waited until he unknowingly swayed out of my way, put the truck back in gear, and drove on.

3 thoughts on “Social Circles

  1. It sounds like a wonderful little town, I am so happpy that you are all feeling at home, of course I miss you imensely but I want you to be happy.

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