I realized that I won’t be around to mark the one year anniversary of moving to Bethel. I will be in Arkansas on that hallowed day, probably wearing flip flops and nursing a sunburn. The post I had half formed in my mind about things I’ve learned or realized over the last year will have to be thought about and executed sooner than later. So here’s a start. This list is subject to additions over time.
1. Indoor shoes are a way of life. Get a pair of boots that slip easily on and off. Wear them all year. Keep all of your nice shoes at work. Change shoes when you get to work. If you go to the gym, carry your gym shoes with you and change indoors. Same with exercise classes. You will make no friends tracking dirt all over the floor. Don’t plan your outfits around shoes when going to a party. Consider your socks carefully. You will be asked to leave shoes at the door of every house.
2. Bogs are a great slip on and off boot. Don’t wear them all day. They will cause shin and knee pain as they are so heavy. Take the 10 seconds necessary to change into a pair of real shoes even if your Bogs aren’t tracking mud and dirt.
3. After you go through about 7 months of fighting the fact that there is nothing to do and you are totally isolated from the world you will reach a place of peaceful acceptance. I can’t say you will LIKE being cut off from the world, but there is a serious lack of conflict when there are literally zero choices to make on a given day. Where do we shop? The one grocery store. What do we do for fun? Go to the one swimming pool. What movie do we see? The one that is out. Where do we have dinner? Home, of course. Where else would we have dinner?
4. Almost nothing commercial can survive here, so don’t get excited about any growth that you see. It will just close.
5. Give it time and you will stop panicking about all the children wandering around alone everywhere. You will never be able to reconcile the world you see here with people being arrested for having a “free-range lifestyle” down state. You don’t have to work for that here. It just is. I’m not necessarily condoning it. I’m just over the shock of it all.
6. You don’t die instantly even in deep negative temperatures. I really thought you did.
7. Invest in a good hat. You can layer all of your other clothes whether they are the top of the line or not.
8. If your ears, hands, and feet are warm then you will be fine. Walk fast to warm up everything else. (Assuming you are wearing reasonable winter gear everywhere else, of course!)
9. Not having extended family around means that there is never a time you aren’t directly entertaining your child. I didn’t realize how much of our social life hinged on our parents. Either interacting with them on visits or them taking our child for us so we could interact with our friends. Now it’s all togetherness all the time.
10. If you put a bunch of trash bags in the back of your truck and then forget to drop them at the dumpster, the ravens will absolutely destroy that trash and spread it everywhere. If this happens at work you will be called to the front and given rubber gloves to clean up the whole parking lot. People will chuckle at what an Alaskan novice you are.
11. The trash all over town isn’t just the work of people like I originally supposed. See the raven entry above.
12. I learned just this week that the reason I can never keep my kitchen clocks at a steady time is because the energy source for the whole town comes from engines. I can’t verify the total truth of this matter but apparently diesel engines?
13. We have learned over the last year how to live better in Bethel. You can totally move here and live a comfortable, easy lifestyle quite different from the one we described over the last year. Many people live pretty high on the hog out here and we are slowly making changes to live easier as well, now that we know what is most important to us. We won’t be going crazy though because I’m willing to give up a little water and space if it means more travel is in my future!