Alaska – it’s own kind of “mission” trip

This guest post comes to you from one of my college girlfriends, Rachel. Thankfully facebook wasn’t around at that time or else I would actually have (scandalous) photos from our college years together, our many St. Patrick’s Day in Savannah, any random Thursday night, and my 21st birthday. Trust me, none of our stories had anything to do with God. In a weird turn of (social media and life) events, we’ve actually been huge supports for each other this last year! I introduce to you, my dear friend, Rachel Sugrue…

1048146_10151532298776028_978316853_oI’m Rachel, Amanda’s friend from college. I’m here to share with you my experience of taking a leap of faith and leaving my hometown of Warner Robins, Georgia last August to experience something different that the world has to offer, by way of the US Government.   I accepted a promotion to work as a Labor Relations Specialist for the Army in Fairbanks, Alaska.

The first things that people said were, “Don’t you know it’s cold there?” or “What did your Mama say?”  The answers are yes and she said GO!!!  I appreciate all of the hard work my family and friends did in preparation for my exit and in moral support.  It’s really nice to know that you’ll be missed and how much people really do love you and are there for you when you need it the most.

As I was saying goodbye to my mom at the airport, it finally hit me.  “HOLY SHITAKE, I’m moving to ALASKA!”  Over 3,000 miles away from everyone and everything I know.   Right before heading through the security checkpoint I broke down and cried, and mom hugged me and said, “Your dad would have been so proud of you, I’m proud of you.”  That’s it!  All I needed to hear.  I think we spend our lives trying to make sure our parents are proud of the way we turned out.  I hope that the way I live my life is a reflection on them and my entire family.  I want to make them proud.  So here I am, on the great Alaskan adventure.

The first thing I did was try to find a place to live, a church to go to, and somewhere to watch football.  I’m proud to say that I accomplished all three within 7 days of arriving.

Some interesting things you may not know about where I now live:
1.  You are paid to be a resident.  The Permanent Fund Dividend (PFD) is a dividend paid to Alaska residents that have lived within the state for a full calendar year. Shortly after the oil from Alaska’s North Slope began flowing to market through the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System, the Permanent Fund was created by an amendment to the Alaska Constitution. It was designed to be an investment where at least 25% of the oil money would be put into a dedicated fund for future generations, who would no longer have oil as a resource.
2. In the winter, there are long hours of darkness only four hours of daylight at winter solstice (December 21st). In the summer, there are long hours of daylight (about 23 during summer solstice).
3. If you hit an animal with your vehicle you must immediately call the authorities so that they may salvage the meat.  Failure to salvage edible meat is a serious offense and penalties here are stiff. If no attempt is made to salvage meat, the minimum fine is $2,000 and 7 days in jail. The more egregious charge, of wanton waste, carries a maximum penalty of one year in jail and a $10,000 fine.
4.  Some people live in Dry Cabins.  Dry cabin living, a.k.a, living without running water.That means no plumbing.No toilet.No shower.No kitchen faucets. These modern amenities are replaced by outhouses, five-gallon water jugs and trips to the laundromat.Why would anyone live this way in one of America’s coldest cities? Dry cabin communities are partially a product of geology – yes, you read that right. Patches of ground remain frozen year-round in the Interior; that permafrost presents builders with a lot of problems. You can’t dig into frozen ground, so installing septic and water systems becomes difficult if not impossible. People turn to dry cabins instead. Some are drawn to dry-cabin living for the mystique that the lifestyle offers. Others gravitate toward dry cabins for economic reasons.
5.  From September to Mid-April you can see the Northern Lights, a common name for the Aurora Borealis which is a natural light display in the sky particularly in the high latitude (Arctic and Antarctic) regions, caused by the collision of energetic charged particles with atoms in the high altitude atmosphere (thermosphere).
6.  It’s cold here, but a dry cold :).  The typical winter temps (Oct-March) are 20F or less.  In the summer: 70-80F. Extremes: -50F, +95F.
7.  Sadly, there aren’t Eskimos running around a rubbing noses with everyone.  Alaska has 231 federally recognized tribes in the Eskimo/Native American population that live across 586,412 square miles of predominantly roadless land.

I was given the advice by some old Sourdoughs early into my residence that you’ve got to get out and do stuff no matter how cold it is.  With the investment into appropriate weather gear and sheer determination to explore; I just trust that God has it and leaped into activities like snow machining with complete strangers, snow shoeing, hiking with bear spray, swimming in glacial lakes/rivers, camping in a -20 sleeping bag, leaving the house at 3 a.m. -30 to view the Northern Lights, sledding,  playing at the ice park, volunteering with dog sledders, and trying and liking wild game such as moose and caribou.

I haven’t even begun to discover all that Alaska has to offer, but I think that I have grown so much in my short time here.  On a personal level; I’m more independent, open-minded, outgoing, and patient.  Before I moved, a good friend gave me this advice.  She said, “Keep dreaming those big dreams and trust that when you are there, you are exactly where you are meant to be.  Leave your heart wide open. See the blessings in your surroundings if things get tough.  Learn all you can from the people who are waiting to meet you.  Face all fears, take all chances.  LIVE WIDE AWAKE to all that God is doing and enjoy the ride!”  I couldn’t have said it better myself!  JUMP RIGHT IN!

Thanks Amanda (Hug & Kiss) for allowing me to guest blog.  I’m so glad that we get to share

rachel 1
My hope is that Rachel sets up shop in Alaska long enough for me to come home from Uganda and visit her. She’s in her own little foreign world, figuring life out, and I couldn’t be happier to be moving through life with her.
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