This Thanksgiving, I am thankful to be alone. And I don’t mean it ironically, but most sincerely from the bottom of my heart. I am alone because I am fortunate. I am alone because I am loved enough for my family and friends to let me go off and reach my own stars. I am alone because I love my family and friends enough to be able to leave and come back, knowing I still have a home and a community.
I am thankful to be alone because it allows me to reflect on these things and realize that not only am I comfortable enough with myself to enjoy a Thanksgiving in solitude, but that I also have so much to be thankful for.
Yesterday was my long-anticipated trip to the native village of Shishmaref, located on a 3 sq. mi. island on the northern coast of the Seward Peninsula. It has a population of a little over 560 people, over 93% Alaska Native, and 52% youth. There is no running water except in the school and a couple public buildings; most water is derived from chunks of ice melting in big trash cans in peoples’ homes and offices. I went to one of 2 little stores in the village, and found it stocked with a few nonperishables (including lots of sodas, processed foods, etc) and only a couple fresh produce items since food availability and shipments are inconsistent.
Upon arrival, we hurried around to various people and places trying to organize the day’s scheduled meetings. Everyone was very friendly and welcoming. Eventually we ended up at the Shishmaref School and ran around between a high school classroom, the cafeteria where a Thanksgiving meal was being prepared for the village elders, and the principal’s office to announce the meeting I was trying to organize with the youth. We let all the high school students know what I was doing and to meet me at 2pm in the Friendship Center in town to talk about their experiences at Serpentine Hot Springs. They seemed a little shy, but interested.
After all the kids and elders ate, we were given food from the school cafeteria — a lunch tray of turkey, potatoes, bread, and peaches — and then went to go set up for the meetings.
|The Friendship Center|
I was given use of the Friendship Center, a big building in slight disrepair being used mostly as storage and for meeting space. Two o’clock came and went, and I was still sitting in there alone. I wandered around, took pictures out the windows (didn’t want to be too creepy) and doodled in my notebook. I decided by 3:30 I would start packing up.
|View out the window|
|For some reason antlers were stacked on a lot of roofs|
|My own Thanksgiving feast|