Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Life in Anchorage

August marks my fifth month in Anchorage, and it's hard to believe I have spent nearly half a year here. It feels like just yesterday I was in Virginia Beach, wearing flip flops in November. At six months pregnant with only three months to relocate across the country, I spent my last few days frantically researching homes, doctors, and parkas. I had little time once here to catch up with friends from home. At seven months pregnant, trying to unpack a home with a toddler underfoot was no small challenge. We were blessed with finding a lovely two story home complete with a back yard, hardwood floors, and a fireplace. I found a great doctor who was willing to let me VBAC, and we had a very beautiful natural birth. Now that our newest bundle is sleeping more, I have finally decided to start a blog and chronicle our adventures in Alaska.  

People are so curious about this state, as I was when we first learned of our upcoming orders. Two of the most common questions I get from friends are, "So, do you like, live in civilization?" and, "Oh my gosh, have you seen Sarah Palin?"

Contrary to what a lot of people may think, we do not sit around endlessly tweeting Sarah Palin. We are not "roughing it". Anchorage is a city just like anywhere else, except noticeably smaller. We do have modern amenities. We even have traffic! Here is what it is like to live in Anchorage:
  • Anchorage is very small. With a population of just 200,000 we have a very tight knit community. The people here are some of the friendliest I have ever met. I got stuck in the snow while driving my first month here, and within two minutes I had 3 strangers who offered to assist me. Within about 5 minutes, I was on my way.
  • You do need to be a little outdoorsy to live here. I would have gone stark raving mad this winter if I did not bundle the girls up and get out for a few minutes each day, no matter how cold or dark. Plus, a lot of activities are outdoors, like Fur Rondy, the kick-off to the Ididarod complete with food and fireworks. 
  • Anchorage is very diverse. There is a military community, a large Alaska native population, many ethnic minorities including Pacific Islanders and Asian, oil-company workers, outdoor enthusiasts, and hippies who want to get away from the lower 48 and enjoy our lax laws. 
  • Alaska truly is the last frontier. Alaska is huge and sparsely populated, with not a lot of government to enforce laws. People come here to be left alone. Many homestead. The land is diverse. Up north is a vast treeless expanse and down south is a coastal rain forest. 
  • The wilderness is right here, right on our doorstep. Literally. I get moose in my yard once or twice a week. People die in avalanches, get mauled by bears, or suffer hypothermia - all within or just outside city limits. There is unparalleled access to public lands and wildlife. The Cook Inlet and Chucagh range surround Anchorage. Some of the most beautiful hiking is just ten minutes from my driveway. 
  • The winters are cold and dark; the summers are bright, rainy, and less cold. I saw very little daylight when I arrived here in February. In the middle of summer, I think I had about 2 hours of darkness.  It is called the Land of the Midnight Sun for a reason, but our biological clocks have adjusted accordingly. 
  • It's really expensive to fly to or from here. Shipping costs for imports can be almost as expensive as the item itself. Since I tend to hang out on Amazon like some people do on Facebook, I have discovered some things that ship here for free. Actually, it's just plain expensive to live here. Cost of living is high. 
  • Oil money does exist. Thanks to the Permanent Fund Dividend, residents can get up to $1,000 a year. 
  • Getting dressed up means putting on your cleanest flannel.
  • Alaska comes with it's own vocabulary. "Break-up" season is spring when the ice breaks up, and the "lower 48" refers to, well, everyone else. 
Alaska has been a true haven for us, a refuge. Upon first arriving, the winter seemed harsh and unyielding, the mountains forlorn and distant. Eventually, the snow seemed inviting, the fireplace cozy, and coffee comforting. I have begun to feel a connection to this land. It breaks you down, but then builds you back up. It's healing. Whether we stay here just our three year tour or longer, this place will always have a very special place in my heart. 

1 comment:

  1. This sounds so amazing and terrifying at the same time. Needless to say, Daniel and I may be joining you next summer! hah! Keep posting! I love this!!