August 24 (Friday): Image #239

Eleven years ago today, at an outdoor chapel overlooking a deep gorge on the border of South and North Carolina, we got married.

Friedrich Nietzsche once said, "It is not a lack of love, but a lack of friendship that makes unhappy marriages." I've been fortunate to spend the last 11 years with my best friend. I plan on spending many more.

If you have the capability to watch video. . here's what happens when you let someone else use your camera.

August 23 (Thursday): Image #238

98 degrees, not counting the humidity.

August 22 (Wednesday): Image # 237

After 2 weeks of glorious sunsets, incredible vistas, beautiful people and good friends, I come back to this view from my desk at work.

Tuesday, August 21 (Alaska Trip Day #12)

DFW Airport. 7:20 AM. Fresh off the redeye from Anchorage, enroute to Jacksonville via a 5 hour layover in Dallas.

Monday, August 20 (Alaska Trip Day #11)

Sunday night found us back in Anchorage. I dropped off David at the airport, and had the better part of the day to burn. After a Salmon Sandwich for lunch, I played the tourist for a couple of more hours before I caught the redeye back to Florida. I found this cute little Husky puppy on the main street in Anchorage.

Sunday, August 19 (Alaska Trip Day #10)

After some of our group headed back home, David and I drove through the Kenai Moutains and headed down to Seward. Along the way, we stopped along the Kenai River and took in the sights--Fireweed (Epilobium angustifolium) along the river.

Sockeye Salmon (Oncorhynchus nerka) desperately trying to make their way upstream to spawn.

The harbor in Seward, Alaska. The town is named after William Seward, the Secretary of State under Abraham Lincoln, who purchased Alaska in 1867.

The sailor on the poop deck.

A glimpse at a Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus), fishing in a small cove in the Bay of Alaska.

Saturday, August 18 (Alaska Trip Day #9)

We left Hooper Bay this morning, flying out in the same small plane that had just delivered a fresh load of volunteers from the lower 48. As we took off and gained elevation, we had an excellent view of the city, looking west towards the Sea.

Would I go back? In a heartbeat. For all the undesirable elements of Hooper Bay, there were positive, redeeming qualities. Moments of beauty of joy and promise. The town and the people of Hooper Bay have their faults, just like we all do--it's just that their situation is different than the world I live in in Jacksonville, Florida.

Some people have asked...why spend the time and money in such an isolated place as Hooper Bay? Can't they just move somewhere else? The answer to that question is easy---this is their home. It's where they live, and where their ancestors and families have lived for a long time. We all have places that we call home, and these places don't always make sense to others. I would hate to live in Fresno or Ohio or Arizona, but there are millions of people who live there and would never want to leave. More power to them.

Samaritan's Purse draws its name from the Parable of the Good Samaritan, found in Luke 10:30-37. I like this story for a number of reasons, but here is a little nugget of truth that really struck home in regards to Hooper Bay. The Samaritan didn't ask the man what his religious or political affiliation was; he didn't ask him about any annoying habits or addictions or if they were of the same ethnicity or nationality. The Samaritan saw a need, had the ability to address that need, and took action.
The town of Hooper Bay needs help, and we were fortunate enough to be in a position to lend a hand. I know that lesson can be applied elsewhere as well.

Friday: August 17 (Alaska Trip Day #8)

Let me introduce just a few of the people I was privileged to spend 8 days with:

Tony; the project manager who isn't afraid to get off the four-wheeler and get his hands dirty.

DK, my former colleague from Summit Adventure, who now works for SP and his son Josh.

Aaron, with one of the many females that were magnetically attracted to him.

David, from my home church in Jacksonville.

Another David, this one from New York.

Helen; one-half of the wonderful kitchen crew.

Jay was the other half. Did I mention I gained EIGHT pounds while I was there?

Roy and Art came from Minnesota. Art (below) posing with his prize halibut.

Yours truly, on the shores of the Bering Sea.

Thursday: August 16 (Alaska Trip Day #7)

The Hooper Bay dump. Trash to the left, honey buckets to the right. If you need further explanation as to what a honey bucket is, feel free to send me a personal e-mail and I will give you additional details.

The cemetery sits at the edge of town, past the dump, on the edge of the tundra.

That's all for the bad spite of what might seem to be overwhelming odds and a miserable existence, many of the people of Hooper Bay find joy in the small things. And thanks to the work of the state of Alaska and organizations like Samaritan's Purse, the future is looking much brighter. In this image, local kids play around the base of what will be three large wind turbines, bringing reliable, cheap electricity electricity to this isolated town.

Wednesday: August 15 (Alaska Trip Day #6)

It had been cold and rainy off and on during our entire trip thus far. Today was and chilly in the morning, but the afternoon was bright and sunny.

We took the opportunity of good weather to drive out to the beach and prowl around the Bering Sea. Hit the surf, angle to the right just a bit, and in two hundred miles or so, you'll set foot on Russian soil.

Full disclosure: DK took this great picture.

Tuesday: August 14 (Alaska Trip Day #5)

Hooper Bay has about 1,100 people; about 70% of those are under the age of 18. Kids are everywhere; young, old, by themselves, with their favorite dog, on bikes, on foot, always curious and full of questions.

Monday: August 13 (Alaska Trip Day #4)

Unemployment runs about 30% in Hooper Bay, and alcohol and drug abuse are serious problems. Many of the parents get drunk or otherwise chemically impaired every night, and wind up shouting and cursing at each other, or worse. As a result, many of the kids choose to get out of the house at night, during the times of greatest turmoil.

Being so far north, the sun doesn't set on Hooper Bay until much later at night. In fact, while we were there, it got dark about 2-2:30 AM each day.

If you combine these two factors, you create a situation where people are up all night. People yelling, couples fighting, dogs barking, four-wheelers racing around town--the hours from midnight until 6 AM are the busiest, loudest time of the day. Conversely, the town is deathly quiet until noon or so every day--everyone one is sleeping on or sleeping it off.

We started serious work today...putting up sheet rock on the ceilings of the buildings (in Hooper Bay, they refer to the ceiling as the "lid") and finishing some general framing of both buildings.

Sunday: August 12 (Alaska Trip Day #4)

On Sunday, we went to church at the Hooper Bay Evangelical Covenant Church. Including the 12-15 members of our team, there were about 50 people present, the vast majority being kids. The rest of the day, we walked around town, checked out the job sites, talked to the villagers, and rested up to start work early Monday morning.

Here are two pictures; the first of the pastor's current house, and the second is the new house being built by SP.

Saturday: August 11 (Alaska Trip Day #3)

We had come to Alaska to take part in a project with Samaritan's Purse(hereafter known as "SP"), an international aid and disaster relief agency located in North Carolina. Our good friend and former Summit colleague DK now works for SP, and he and his son Josh were coming along as well.

SP is in the second year of a project in the small village of Hooper Bay. Hooper Bay is about 500 miles west of Anchorage, in far western Alaska. It sits on the Bering Sea, about 300 miles from the Bering Strait and Russia. There are no roads to Hooper Bay; it is accessible only by plane or by boat. It is a small village, about 1,100 people, and is almost exclusively (98%) comprised of Yupik Eskimos.In 2005, the school caught fire and burned; the resulting fire also burned 17 homes in the community (when you consider that there are only 40-50 homes in the entire town, that's a lot!). Franklin Graham (yes--he's Billy Graham's son and also the CEO of SP) was in Alaska at the time, and immediately flew to Hooper Bay to evaluate the scene. What he saw then, and what we saw these past two weeks, is hard to believe.
Most of the town of Hooper Bay lives in Third World conditions; no running water or sewer systems in their homes, and although most have electricity, some do not. They have oil furnaces to heat their homes, but since the price of oil is $6.00+/gallon, many heat with driftwood collected on the beach. There are dirt roads in town, but only 2 or 3 vehicles. However, the villagers have a huge collection of four-wheelers that they use for transportation. Most of the homes look derelict and abandoned; you are shocked to find out that an entire extended family lives here. For many months of the year, the town is covered in snow and ice, with 18 hours of darkness each day. Abuse, in all of it's various forms, is very prevelant in town, and depression and suicide are major issues, especially among the teens in town.

In this inhospitable place, the Yupik Eskimos have lived for centuries, and they thrive here. It's their ancestral home, where generations and generations have lived. They have no desire to move anywhere else, and SP is committed to making life better. In 2006, SP built 5 private homes for families, and this year is building a combination church/youth center for the village, and a home for the pastor of the local church. These were the two projects that we came to work on.

Today was a travel day: we flew in a small plane from Soldotna to Hooper Bay, and landed in a pouring rain. We spent the rest of the day making ourselves at home in our new accommodations, a series of tents pitched just outside a temporary sewage lagoon built several years ago (and mainly unused). SP has 10 weeks of teams coming this summer, and this is where they live while in town. The two large brown tents are a bathhouse facility and dining facility; the six small tents are for sleeping.

Friday; August 10 (Alaska Trip Day #2)

We had a day to burn before we had to be in the town of Kenai, and since the time change had us both up and wide awake by 4:00 AM, Aaron and I toured Anchorage like the normal tourists who come in from the lower 48:

posing with the stuffed grizzly bear

eating reindeer sausage for breakfast

and visiting the statue of Balto, the world famous sled dog.
Balto, of course, was the lead dog on the dog sled team that took diphtheria serum from Anchorage to Nome in 1927 to stop a fatal outbreak of the disease. Each year, this run is relived as the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Ride. (On a side note, if you want to read a spectacular book about the event, I highly recommend The Cruelest Miles, by Gay & Laney Salisbury). You can read more about this historic event here:
Late in the day, we hopped a short flight down to Kenai, where we met up with five more members of our team. We'd fly out to Hooper Bay on Saturday morning.

August 9; Thursday (Alaska Trip Day #1)

I just returned from two weeks in Alaska, and in playing catch-up here on Filatore, I also want to give a brief snapshot of my time in the Last Frontier. I'll be honest...I might even post more than one image to tell the true story.

140 years after Alaska was purchased from the Russians for a mere $7.2 million (that's only .20 an acre!), we started our descent into Anchorage with this fantastic view of Denali. At 20,320' in elevation, that's roughly 20,320' higher than where I live in Jacksonville. Aaron and I would spend the night in Anchorage (it got dark about 12:30 that night) before we rendezvoused with everyone else tomorrow in the small town of Kenai.

August 8 (Wednesday): Image #220

I didn't really take this photo, but I did make it on Google Earth. I leave bright and early tomorrow for Hooper Bay, Alaska, where I will be working on a project with Samaritan's Purse. I doubt that Ginger will update this while I am gone, so you will have to wait until I return (I'll be back late in the afternoon on the 21st) to get an update.
Until then, here is some recommended reading from Patagonia, about various adventure stories, Denise's trip to the Azores, or Mel walking around at work with a Wheat Thin box down her pants.
See you in 14 days.

August 7 (Tuesday): Image #219

It's not the sweat of my brow. . .it's the sweat of my nose.

August 7 (Monday): Image #218

"A man who works with his hands is a laborer. A man who works with his hands and his brain is a craftsman. A man who works with his hands, brains, and heart is an artist."
-Louis Nizer

On this day, I was just a laborer.

Aug 5 (Sunday): Image #217

We spent most of the afternoon at the beach with several families from work.