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An Ode to Six Months in Alaska

So, I have officially made it six months in Alaska without dying in a snowbank (shocker for everyone in my life honestly) and I have thoughts (not a shocker for everyone in my life).

When I first moved to Anchorage, my expectations were low. Like one grocery store and two street lights low. So, imagine my surprise when there were buildings? That were tall? And TWO Targets? Expectations shattered.

But, I also made the fundamental error of deciding to move in March, right when COVID-19 graced us with her unrelenting presence. That took the terrifying realization that I chose to move to a city where I knew absolutely no one to a new peak – pun intended.

Mountain "peak" photo to go with my bad peak pun...

I did what any normal person would do in the middle of a pandemic trapped in an empty apartment – hunkered down and decorated via Amazon Prime. However, I spent the whole summer wishing that I could do all of the fun things I thought I would – late nights that I did not even realize were late, getting acquainted with all the local breweries and bars, and bonfires with s’mores.

I cannot hold that against the city though. As an outsider, I was welcomed with warm arms, or warm elbow bumps, by everyone I met. I have never lived in a place where everyone is so friendly all the time and willing to include you.

Coworkers would reach out to introduce me to people that were close in age that had also moved to town, a sorority sister (shocked I was in a sorority, I know) found me via Instagram, and Red has been my lifeline from going crazy.

There have also been a surprising number of things I could continue to do even through quarantine: hiking trails have stayed open (and Red has dragged me out more than once on those), restaurants adapted by opening outdoor seating areas, and activities like the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center are still open.

You can feed bears at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center (when they are not hibernating) and it was one of the coolest things I have ever done.

And, the city provides free COVID-19 testing that is surprisingly really easy. All I had to do was drive up and get my throat swabbed to learn I did not have the plague at the low, low cost of free. Even when I visited Seattle in September, I had to pay for a coronavirus test so I was shocked how simple it was to do here. I have also decided the throat swab is so much better than the nose swab.

That is not to say that my first six months have been all rainbows and sunshine. Sometimes, I really hate it here. I miss my friends, my family, and temperatures above 80. It is hard to be an expat in the middle of a pandemic and it is hard to be away from my support system, no matter where I would move. I also love to lay outside and tan but with summer temperatures that rarely got over 70 this year, I spent this summer in a sweatshirt debating if I needed to bring another coat with me.

My idea of summer fashion in Anchorage is a warm coat and running back inside after attempting to wear a dress.

The city also is small. I am used to the Seattle and Bay Areas as my idea of population centers so having a downtown that is only a few square blocks has been hard. I want to be able to walk around and explore but can only get a few blocks before it is time to turn around again.

I also had multiple life or death ice experiences during breakup season. Okay, maybe not life or death but falling on ice HURTS and somewhere in April I thought I would never see trees with leaves ever again.

Red demonstrating the slip and falls I became well acquainted with this spring.

But, it’s nights when I go to Point Woronzof Park to watch the sunset that I am reminded how lucky I am to live here, even if it will not be my forever home. The sky is bigger than anything you will ever see and the clouds are a million shades of pink. Standing there with the inlet water lapping at your feet, you remember that not everything sucks and you can get through the learning curves of living here, one pair of spikes at a time, and that everything that is hard about living here also is the reason you get to enjoy a view like that.

So, here’s to my next six months, and however many more there are to come, as I learn how lucky I am to be one of the 730,000 people who live on the Last Frontier.

My favorite place, Point Woronzof Park to remind myself why it is so worth it to be here, even with all of the challenges.

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