Unalakleet: People

15 Oct

One of the noticeable pieces of Eskimo culture is that there’s a strong history of storytelling.  When folks get together, they tell stories of funny things that happened last year, 10 years ago, or when their parents were young.  And no matter how many times a story has been told and retold, it gets the same uproarious laughter when the punchline is reached.

When Jens’ family gets together, approximately 50% of the conversation consists of stories or updates about people from Unalakleet.  Having no visual or experiential point of reference whatsoever, when the conversation veers that way my eyes typically glaze over and I start thinking about whatever project I’m currently trying to muddle my way through, while half-listening with one ear.

So I was really pumped about finally MEETING some of these people and being able to put faces and places to the names.  Here are just a few…

Joel and Olga

Joel and Olga, our hosts while we were in UNK.

Joel is the pastor of the Unalakleet Covenant Church.

Inside the Covenant Church. The recess behind the pulpit used to be curtained off, and when Jens was 1 he would run back there during the sermon to poop behind the curtain. I hope he doesn't mind me announcing that to the world.

Oyoumicks

This is Joel Jr. and his family - wife Sarah and two boys, Jonas and Lucas. Joel Jr. has been Jens' friend since they were 2. We call him Joey to avoid confusion, even though he doesn't really like it.

Sarah

This is Sarah, Joey's wife. She grew up in the lower 48 and moved to rural Alaska after college to teach. She picks berries and fishes and combs qiviut out of musk ox pelts and smokes salmon and helps with the children's ministry at church. She raises two boys in a 400 square foot house and keeps them from killing each other while her husband works long hours as a pilot. She's sweet, classy and totally awesome.

Brothers

Joey and Sarah's boys, Jonas and Lucas. They're good kids.

Eva and Family

This is Joey's sister Eva and her family. They have been living in Anchorage but have just moved back home to Unalakleet.

Emma

This is Eva and Jason's little 1-year-old, Emma. She's very quiet (all kids are quiet compared to mine, but still...) but she can wrap you around her finger pretty quickly.

Sarah and the cousins, who play really well together. The boys just can't give Emma enough love and she's a trooper and doesn't complain when the occasional toy bops her on the head.

Kris

This is Kris, who knew Jens when he lived there as a kid. It really surprised me how many people still recognized Jens, since I personally think he looks totally different than he did as a kid. Kris teaches at the high school now.

Like most small villages, there are a few prevalent family lines, and everybody seems to be related in one way or another.  Also, everybody knows everything about each other.  A person’s last name says as much about them as a resume.  And people seem to have very long memories.  Many of them even remembered Jens’ grandparents, who were teachers in the village for a few years back when Jens’ dad was kid.

(to be continued … )


 
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