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Janessa and Jared go home Thursday, their visit has gone so fast! They seem to have enjoyed their visit and to have gotten good rest, which was our goal. Evenings at our apartment are much more, um, active now, mostly courtesy of Jared. We’ll miss them, but are going south on Monday, so we’ll see them soon.
Saturday evening we got a box from Fred’s aunt and uncle. That in itself is exciting, but we opened it to find a “wedding shower in a box” that was much more exciting! My mom asked what that is, so here’s the list. A card, a schedule of events for our wedding shower (to commence whenever we wanted, which was right away), decorations for the apartment, a shower game, snacks and dishes and glasses, a customized CD of romantic music with a picture of us on it, and gifts. We had a blast! The gifts were all pertaining to the kitchen, which was great since we were still missing our stuff. We got knives, an ice cream scoop, spatulas, so much fun stuff! It was a great blessing. Our banner is still across our dining room, and we’re working on the candy still.
Yesterday, Monday morning, our stuff finally arrived! It was better than Christmas, finding stuff that we had almost forgotten we had. We now have a real mattress, a can opener, lots of spices (thanks to parents!), blankets, towels, a couch! Our apartment is now a glorious mess, but it feels much more like a home already, and we’ve already made much progress. Janessa and Jared were a great help with unpacking, washing dishes, breaking down boxes, consolidating garbage, and of course enjoying our couch. Tomorrow evening we’ll celebrate having our stuff and Jared’s birthday (February 6th), with pizza, soda and Jared’s gifts. Then I’ll go to my last night shift before we go south!
Though we love being here, I’ve felt more homesickness the last few days. Especially as I hear how much friends and family back home have accomplished in wedding preparation for us. Our wedding ceremony will be March 10th. We are married, as described here: Our Journey to Kodiak – Part 0 just in case you forgot or hadn’t heard. But the wedding is March 10th and we have been abundantly blessed with family and friends in WA, OR and CA who have worked hard and next week we get to see the result! And even better than that, we get to see our loved ones!
As of now our things still aren’t here. We’ve been told the barge will be docking today and sometime from that point to a few days later we will actually get our things. I’ve mostly adopted the sense that we will never see our things again (or rather not until we get back in March, after our vacation in the “lower 48”). So far we’ve been doing pretty well without all our things. We have reached the point, many times, of wanting something, as it would make operation X,Y & Z smoother, then remembering we do actually have such a thing, but it’s still in transit. It’s kind of silly. For example, we bought a $5 utility knife. This has become the knife of the kitchen. We cut meat, sandwiches, quesadillas, apples and pizza with it. We also wash it like 12 times a day, same as our dishes. Those five dollars were well spent.
In other news, Jared and Janessa have been here for a week. It’s nice having them here and not having such an empty apartment. The down side in there time here is that Jonelle has night shifts. She should be working evenings mostly and a couple night shifts, but scheduling is kind of crazy at the hospital now I guess. This means we see Jonelle for 3-4 hours and she is usually very tired, trying to adjust to her new nocturnal lifestyle. Hopefully this will change soon, as none of like it.
On the note of work, I had a meeting with the executive director of Kodiak Community Health Center, about working in their IT department (right now consisting of one guy). This facility is attached to the Providence hospital, where Jonelle works. That would be nice if we could work close like that. We’re hoping this works out, or anything else (though preferably something with computers).
In conclusion, many things are still up in the air, we are still working on settling in and so far we still really enjoy Kodiak. It is a beautiful place. Especially when the sun is out. Hopefully there will be many more sunny days in the future, and that the snow will go away at some point. As of now snow is still covering most of the walkways and paths. We’ve heard that it usually snows in March. So we’ll see what happens. The days are getting longer though, and the sun starts rising at around 7:30 now. Also, there are 17 days before our wedding and I don’t think either of us are really prepared for that, or really consider that it is that close.
Lastly, more pictures will come, someday, hopefully, when we actually think straight again and get the camera out.
“Wait for the LORD;
be strong, and let your heart take courage;
wait for the LORD!”
We’ve begun making adjustments to life here in Kodiak. Some of these have already become outdated as the weather has warmed up some (mid-30’s instead of 2-20F). Some are just part of being here. We’ll start with wardrobe. In San Diego, our standard wardrobe was shorts (for Fred) or lightweight pants/capris (for me), a t-shirt or tank top and flip-flops. In Port Angeles/Sequim our standard dress was street shoes, jeans, t-shirt or long sleeve and sweatshirt or jacket. That’s winter wardrobe, if you were wondering, though the only real difference between winter and summer dress on the Peninsula is that you switch to flip-flops in the summer. And can sometimes wear capris or shorts. Here in Kodiak they have had what we are assured is an unusually cold winter, with more snow than usual. So up until this week our standard dress was thermal pants with jeans, wool socks and snow boots, long sleeve shirt or thermal shirt or both with a coat and often a sweater or sweatshirt as well, gloves, often a scarf and or hat. Neglecting one of these items led to bitter lamentation and vows to never repeat the mistake. Ice cleats were also growing popular in our daily preparations. They fit nicely over the sole of your boot and keep you from imitating an Ice Capades routine on your walk to and from your car. Since it has started thawing some, even if only temporarily, we have begun to ditch some layers, though the cleats still come in handy on walks.
Driving is another adjustment, though Fred has done most of it and handled it admirably. In San Diego you deal with traffic. On the Peninsula you occasionally have to be careful of hydroplaning, and sometimes mild traffic, but not much else. Here we had the constant (until this week) ice everywhere, that gave us the fun of sliding through a stop sign and across one of the busiest streets, sliding past our turn multiple times, spending two days stuck in our parking space, you get the idea. That said, our car and its driver have handled pretty well, comparable to most of the locals. We also deal with “Rush Hour” around 6pm, when it takes us all of 8 minutes to get home from Safeway instead of 5 or 6. There is also the isolation. If you want to get anywhere other than Kodiak, or the villages that share the island, you take a 4 hour plane ride to Anchorage or a 10 hour ferry ride to Homer and proceed from there. Which is better than other places in Alaska that are only accessible by plane.
We’ve had to adjust to the cost of living, primarily with groceries. A flat of apples will cost $10 or more. Bananas might be 59 cents each. A $5 footlong at Subway in San Diego or Washington is $7.50 here. We go to the grocery store and cringe as we shop, paring our list down as we go. However, we have been blessed with friends who gave us several meals worth of halibut, with family sending spices up in our shipment of belongings, and with an enjoyment of cooking from scratch, so this adjustment too is manageable. On the note of shopping, there are 3 grocery stores in town, of various sizes, one small Walmart and several small, specialized stores. A McDonalds, Subway (in Walmart and downtown), Starbucks (in Safeway) and KFC/Taco Bell represent the fast food industry.
We have been adjusting to a continually changing sleep pattern, as I have worked day shifts, then evening shifts, then night shifts and am now alternating between evenings and nights. Fred adjusts some with me, so that both of us are tending to stay up late and sleep in, him until mid-morning, me until early afternoon. Every few days it switches again, making for fun planning (“When are you heading to bed tonight?” “Are you sleeping at home tonight or tomorrow?” “Do you want to run errands without while I’m asleep or wait until I’m up and do them during rush hour?”). Fred has handled it well, making sure I get enough rest and keeping things running smoothly at home, while looking for a job too.
Speaking of Fred, we have been adjusting to being married, which is still novel in a lot of ways. And wonderful. We take care of each other and enjoy both the care and the caring. God has been very good to us, showing Himself to be our provider again and again, as He gently laughs at our worry over the present and future. “He did not bring us our this far to take us back again, He brought us out to take us into the promised land.” Clinging to His promises, we continue to move forward, adjusting where needed as we go.
Our First Weeks
The next morning I went out to the car to see if I could find our extra tube of toothpaste, as we had run out last night. I went out sometime a little after 9am, and it was dark. There was no inkling that the sun had decided to rise yet. Aside from that I couldn’t find the toothpaste, so I asked the front desk and went about getting ready for the day. The night before Jonelle and I had decided to check out Kodiak Bible Chapel this morning and maybe other churches later. We looked up when it started and directions to get there. Service starts at 10:45am and it would take about 10 minutes to get there, so we figured we would leave sometime around 20 after, just in case we got lost.
We found the church alright, after sliding past one of our turns once and turning around. We were also a little early, so we just wandered around, lost, and found a place to sit in the empty sanctuary. After a couple minutes the Assistant Pastor’s wife, Suzanne, came over and greeted us. I think we had a flashing sign that read: “We’re new and lost and have no clue as to the usual operations of this congregation” over our heads. She was very nice and gave us lots of information on Kodiak, places to look for work, people to get in touch with, and activities going on. After telling her that we just moved and were waiting for the rest of our things to arrive she told us to come by her house later as she had extra things, left behind from coast guards leaving, that we could have.
The service was good and afterward there was a potluck. So we stayed around for that as well. We got to meet more people and found out that there are quiet a few people associated with the hospital at this church, one of which is Suzanne’s dad. Suzanne’s parents were also very kind and helpful in getting us acquainted with Kodiak, and also offered us furniture to borrow as we waited for our own.
After church we went and found our apartment. We pulled everything out of the car, which was wonderful. We didn’t have to worry about repacking or what to leave and what to take. We could finally move in. After just sitting and relaxing a little we went out to pick up things we were offered at church. Before we went to bed that night we had an inflatable bed, a card table and chairs, and some rugs, cleaning supplies, shower curtain and towels. God is good!
Monday morning Jonelle got a call from the hospital saying she could start orientation. Before this we thought she would have to wait until her license went through. Also, one of the guys that had put in the carpeting of our apartment came by to finish the job, as they had to stop early because it got too late. By the end of Monday Jonelle had her first day of orientation and our carpeting was finished. I worked on organizing all the stuff we had more or less just dumped in the apartment when we moved in.
The rest of the week Jonelle continued with orientation while I drove around town, figuring out where everything was and getting various things done and checked off our list. In short I: got us a P.O. Box, set up our account at the electric company, KEA (Kodiak Electric Association), did our laundry for the past couple weeks, mailed off our request for a marriage certificate (so we could work on Jonelle’s name change), hooked us up with an Internet connection, and printed off resumes.
The following Monday I got an Alaska driver license and a library card. Both of which were an adventure. First I needed three forms of ID for my license, one being my social security card, which was in San Diego (which my mom mailed up for me). I couldn’t get a new one or anything of that nature, as a guy comes to do social security appointments once a month (which we are now currently waiting for, for Jonelle).
Then, for my library card I needed an Alaska ID with my local residence on the ID (so a driver license would work, once I had it. I also needed something like a bill mailed to me, with my address on it. When I had those and I was being set up with a card I answered the following questions: “What’s your phone number? Do you have a local phone number? (No) Do you have a work phone number? What’s your email address? Is this your mailing address? (To differentiate between our 2 addresses) Who is a contact we can get a hold of if you aren’t available? (My wife) What’s her phone number? Does she have a local number? (No, but she works at the Hospital –Oh that’s good) What’s her email address? Goodness, I felt like I was applying for another driver license. When I got a library card in Washington it consisted of me showing the lady an envelope with my current address (because I wasn’t at my San Diego address anymore) and she gave me a card.
We are continuing to get settled and hopefully keep this site more up to date, than trying to type up some adventure from weeks past, like this, again. Hopefully pictures will also follow and be more prevalent as well.
Day 7-10 – January 12-14
Homer to Kodiak
The next day, our first day in Homer, we did nothing. We sat around, mostly in bed, watching TV, eating, almost sleeping, and a whole lot of not driving. It was wonderful. We had talked about going out and eating dinner at some restaurant we found, but when that time came around Jonelle wasn’t feeling so great. I, on the other hand, had energy to burn and had developed some restlessness and wanderlust after staying inside all day. So I decided to see what I could find and maybe bring something back for Jonelle.
I wandered down the road a little, but didn’t really find anything. I don’t know how far I went. I don’t think I went more than a mile (there and back). Regardless I called it quits after a little while of fighting to walk through 2 feet of snow (instead of walking in the road) against cold, snow blowing, wind. I headed back to my nice warm room and beautiful wife. We snacked on the food we already had for dinner and watched food channels, and had fun thinking about food we could be eating.
By 11am, Friday morning (the next morning), we had packed up the car and checked out of our room. We now had 10-11 hours to kill, waiting for our ferry. The ferry was originally going to depart at 1:30pm that day, but was delayed 12 hours and so would leave at 1:30am the following morning, with check in at 10pm or so.
So we set out to explore the town and occupy our time. We drove around a little, and went out to the Homer Spit, where the ferry terminal was, and wandered around in one of the open shops. The view from the spit was beautiful.
We drove back into town and hung out at the Starbucks in Safeway, where we were able to connect to the Internet and check and send some emails. After a little while we headed back out to the spit and drove around a little. We found a pizza restaurant at the edge of town, before really entering the spit. We decided to check that out and eat lunch there. We were also excited about the lighthouse right by the restaurant. As it turned out, it wasn’t a real lighthouse, but it was still nice.
After lunch we drove around some more. Are you noticing a pattern yet? Yeah, there wasn’t a whole lot to do, though mostly because we didn’t have a set place to park our car, or a place to stay other than shops and our car.
Anyway, while we were driving around we saw another moose! It was really exciting! We actually saw it a few times, as we drove back and forth. I started driving down other roads to see if we could get a better view of it —yeah, we’re tourists (kind of), fascinated by a moose (or at least I was). Jonelle laughed at me, to which I asked her what else we were going to do.
After following that moose for a little bit, we pressed on to explore other parts of Homer. And what do you know, we found another moose! I love Alaska!
Soon other cars wanted to drive down the street we were stopped on, so we moved on. Guess what we did? That’s right! We drove around some more! Gosh this was getting silly. How much longer do we have? 6 hours?! We’re never going to leave!! AAAaagggghhh!
At one point we went over to the beach, parked the car and slept in the car for an hour or so. That was pretty nice. A little uncomfortable, but the rest was nice. We also got to watch a beautiful sunset.
Other fun things we did to occupy our time include:
- Trolling through some more shops.
- Finding a starting bookstore, owned by a Russian family, that Jonelle and I have decided to visit again, someday, when we have money.
- Finding some more moose, and following them around.
- Watching the movie “The Adventures of Tintin” in 3-D! Where I impressed Jonelle by eating a pint of ice cream within the duration of the movie. (And then explained it wasn’t that impressive).
- And, of course, driving aimlessly some more.
Finally, we decided to just head over to the ferry terminal and wait there for the duration of our time. We got there to find a mostly empty lot. We figured more people would probably start coming in a half hour or so. After a little while, people still weren’t coming. I noticed there were now people in the terminal building and decided to ask them about departure and checking in. I was there informed that the ferry had been delayed again and wouldn’t be leaving until 6am the next morning! Bah!
We were able to check in and sit in line until we had to check in for boarding at 5am. So we pulled up behind another vehicle already there, because I couldn’t figure out where “line 3” was in the vast blanket of snow on top of the lot. We then went to sleep as best we could.
At 5am we were able to board the ferry. We were so tired that we parked the car, checked in to get our key, found our room, brushed our teeth and went back to sleep. Ten hours later our ferry arrived in Kodiak. We were still tired, but found better rest in a bed than in the car. We packed up and headed out.
Now before this, when we where at the Starbucks in Homer, we looked up directions to the Comfort Inn, where we would be spending the night. We would be going southbound from the terminal, toward the airport, away from the city. Our directions described getting to our destination as basically being right there, by the airport, plain and easy to see. This was not the case.
Yes, the inn was right next to the airport, but rather hidden, unless you knew what you were looking for. Given this, Jonelle and I drove for an hour or so beyond the inn. We passed the airport, the coast guard, and what seemed to be all civilization on Kodiak. I was beginning to think that they just built a road to nowhere, just for kicks and giggles. I’m still not sure what’s out that way. We eventually gave up and turned around, because there was no way it would be out this far.
Sure enough, we had passed it. By 7pm we were able to check in at the Comfort Inn and sink into another wonderfully soft, comforting bed. We ate pizza we saved from Homer and watched some TV. We were so relieved at finally being in Kodiak, finally at our destination.
Day 6 – January 11
Tok to Homer
As in Haines, waking up on land was wonderful, but we were still feeling the effects of being on a boat. That morning we went to the Fast Eddy’s restaurant for breakfast (which is were we checked in and out for our room). The food there was amazing! So much that I was going to tell the waitress someone should give the cook a hug. This could have been exaggerated some, given our lack of very many warm meals through this journey and tiredness. Regardless the food was really good and I left a comment about this in their comment box.
Today we were going to make it to Homer, or at least try. This journey would be a little more than 200 miles longer than the journey from Haines to Tok. We packed up, said our prayers and headed out.
The journey was pretty straight forward: drive forever. Driving was pretty nice and quiet. We listened to some Redwall books on audio, talked, Jonelle called home and some other people while cell reception was available, and we just kept driving along. After some time I saw a moose! That was probably one of the most excited I got driving along. I was so happy. Before that we had seen many bald eagles, and started keeping track of animals we saw along the way (sans ravens which we weren’t too interested in). A little while longer I saw another moose! This was turning out to be an amazing day!
We continued driving along and found a few more animals. A little ways down the road there was a porcupine crossing the road. I had never seen a porcupine in the wild before, and lo and behold here it was crossing the road. Luckily I didn’t hit it. It was an interesting thought process as I approached it though, “What is that? It looks like a small bunch of a brier. But it’s moving. What is that? It’s a porcupine! Look Jonelle! A porcupine!” We also saw a white rabbit cross the road. The thought process was similar, except I already knew what this was, “Ooh look a rabbit! Jonelle look at the bunny! There is a rabbit crossing the road! Look!” Yeah, it didn’t take a lot to make me excited. In all, for our trip so far, we saw 3-4 moose (I only saw 3), 1 porcupine, 1 rabbit, 13 bald eagles, and a bunch of ravens (I think they’re ravens).
We finally made it to Palmer, where we filled up our gas tank and then kept driving along. I mention this as Palmer was the first area that we saw a decent number of people driving here and there. Up until this point we might see some one every once in a while, but now there were scores of drivers all around us. It was kind of a nice break to the lonely drive we’ve had so far, but at the same time I did enjoy not having to worry about what some other driver is going to do.
Palmer is apparently the unofficial capital of Matanuska Valley, which is something of a government experiment. It was created to be an agricultural center and the government brought over farmers from Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota to start up an agricultural community in the Matanuska Valley. While the plan didn’t work right away, descendants of these families stayed and found their niche. Palmer is now basically a giant farmer’s market for all the villages and towns around it. (According to our travel planner, “The Milepost 2011, 63rd edition”).
Going on, after making it through Palmer we made it to Anchorage. By this point I was tired and ready to be done driving for a bit. However, there were a billion people driving around in Anchorage. Unfortunately we got there around rush hour, and Anchorage is basically to Alaska as Los Angeles is to California. Jonelle and I decided right then and there that we never wanted to live in Anchorage. This may be unfair, but oh well. I know San Diego is really bad during rush hour, which is why I always avoid freeways during 3-7pm (as much as I can), and I love San Diego. Anyway, we made it out of Anchorage and I pulled over at one of the viewing points along the Knik Arm and we switched drivers.
Jonelle proceeded to drive for the next couple hours while I slept. It was wonderful to rest. It was also interesting to stare out the side window. After a while I was pretty alert again and rested enough to take over driving again, whenever Jonelle wanted to switch back. We changed drivers again a little ways out of Soldatna, on the side of the highway, and resumed driving.
We finally made it Soldatna. This was a wonderful relief, as we didn’t stop for food or anything in Anchorage, because we didn’t want to stop anywhere in or nearby Anchorage. So we pulled up to a gas station and filled the gas tank and went in the shop. It was wonderful to stretch out again. We got some junk food and hit the road again. By this point it was about 7pm and really dark, but we were so close to Homer and really just wanted to get there and not think about driving anymore, or about the impending storms my parents kept reading about and updating us on. So we pressed on for Homer.
As we went it did start snowing. By the time we were 50 miles out of Homer the roads were pretty bad. There were, however, other drivers out on the road, so I didn’t feel so bad at continuing on. By this point I was pretty much wholly focused on driving. I was going about 15 under the posted speed limit signs, at most. For a lot of this trek I found myself behind a semi-truck, but did eventually get around it. It was nice to know there was a truck on the road, and behind me. Then I could drive a little faster and if I got stuck, someone would be along soon.
Sometime around 9pm we finally made it into Homer. We were so ready to be done driving that we pulled into the first lodging we found, the Best Western Bidarka Inn. We parked the car and checked in to get a room. After checking in I wanted to move the car closer to our room and Jonelle wanted to start unpacking the car. So we set about our own projects. Mine didn’t work out so well as I got stuck in the snow after backing up a little ways out of the spot I was in.
I couldn’t move anywhere. I was about to attempt putting chains on the car when a cab driver offered to pull me out. So we got the tow rope out and hooked it up to the car. The cab driver then had to go do something, so I decided to make another attempt at moving. I was able to rock the car back and forth (drive and reverse, over and over) and eventually built up enough momentum to get the car going. I then kept going and quickly pulled into a spot and was done.
We were so tired and so happy to be done driving for a while and just relax for a couple days.