Archive for the ‘Culture Shock’ Category

Apparently You STILL Can’t Put New Wine in Old Wineskins

01 Apr

worldvisionWow.  So World Vision reversed the policy change on allowing its legally married gay employees to engage in sexual activity with their spouses. (Despite media coverage to the contrary, the policy was not really around hiring gay employees.  World Vision already hires gay employees, provided that they commit to the Employee Code of Conduct).

Well done, Evangelicals.  You won.  You withdrew enough financial support within 24 hours to bring the organization to its knees and open its eyes to the true message of Jesus.

Which is, apparently, that God is more interested in winning cultural/textual debates than alleviating poverty.

I keep hearing that this is acceptable because “World Vision is not the only way to help the poor.”  This is technically true, BUT…

It might be the only way to help that child.  You know, the one whose picture is taped to your refrigerator?  The one you committed to financially supporting, and who counts on your commitment for things like food, shoes, school supplies, and education?  Sure, you can maintain that you’re still fighting poverty by putting your money somewhere else, but you’ve sent a pretty clear message to that child:

“Enforcing my version of theology may not be more important than (the broad concept of) helping the poor, but it’s more important than YOU.”

I commend World Vision for backtracking on their decision.  I am saddened that they were forced to make that choice.  But I can’t fault them for bowing to the will of the evangelical base because as painful as it probably was for them, it shows where their priorities are.  They sacrificed their own policies (and in some cases, employees) to do what is best for the children that they serve, even though it’s not something they agree with.  They put the children first and stayed true to their mission.

The organization was correct in asserting that it had made “a mistake.”  But the mistake wasn’t when it backed off of policing the sexual activity of its employees.  The true mistake was assuming that its patrons shared the view that needy children are more than pawns in a cultural war.

“There is a tremendous amount of energy going into these [marriage or sexuality] issues from within the church, and certainly because of who we are at World Vision, we see that the issues of poverty and suffering and caring for the least of these around the world, these issues sometimes seem less important than these issues of policy and sexual morality in the United States.”

Rich Sterns, World Vision

See also: How Evangelicals Won a Culture War and Lost a Generation

 
Comments Off on Apparently You STILL Can’t Put New Wine in Old Wineskins

Posted in Culture Shock, Current Events, It's a Controversy!, Politics, Religion

 

Weenies

18 May

We went to Kindergarten orientation last night (KINDERGARTEN.  MAH BAYBEEE IS ALL DUN GROWED UUUUUUUP…) and they very adamantly advised the parents to dress the children warmly in the winter because if it’s above 40°F, they will be playing outside IN THE COLD.

40 degrees???

In Homer, the kids were playing on the school playground at 12°F.

But at least I don’t have to worry about buying snow pants this year.

 
Comments Off on Weenies

Posted in Culture Shock, Homer, School

 

Adjusting

16 May

I LOVE PAVEMENT. That’s one of the first things that hit me when we moved back. The roads? PAVED. The parking lots? PAVED. And it’s clean pavement, not covered in layers and layers of dirt and sand left over from the winter’s ice treatment.

I haven’t seen – much less driven on – a single dirt road since we left Homer. And I’m totally cool with that. My car is clean. A clean car – inside and out – is one of the things in life that just makes me smile.

Today we went to a bank. A real, live, actual BRANCH of Capital One and talked to a real, live, actual banker face-to-face.

I also took the kids to get haircuts at their favorite little “get a toy when you’re done” place. They both look pretty sharp, if I do say so myself. I was even able to keep Koren from getting scalped on top.

My skin is begrudgingly adjusting to the added humidity in the air. And makeup. See, I actually have to groom myself when I live in Texas. As in, daily showers and everything. And this is a place where makeup is not just reserved for evening dresses. Women here will actually apologize if they’re in your presence without their make up on. As evidenced by peopleofwalmart.com, pants may be optional, but makeup is not.

It still shocks me (and admittedly, makes me a little giddy) how many stores there are here. I drive around just soaking them in. Container Store, Ikea, Home Depot, Best Buy, Target, Costco, Whole Foods, Toys R Us, DSW, malls, and any other store or service you could want – all within 15 minutes. I’m exercising restraint to keep myself from heading over to Allen for designer handbags.

I cannot wait to go to Costco. I have already visited Ikea, but just to window shop. Also, I really want to go to Container Store, but I can’t leave there without spending $100. There’s also the little matter that I don’t actually have a house to accessorize yet. So that one will have to wait.

Even when I do shop online now, I have more options.  While Bluefly and Amazon are great, it’s nice to be able to choose from more than two sites on the internet.  If they don’t flat out refuse shipping to Alaska (that’s a foreign country, right?), most stores would agree to ship to the Last Frontier only in exchange for my life’s savings, first child and perhaps my right arm.

I’ve fallen madly in love with Cragislist, and am knocking things off my “Things We Have to Buy” list left and right.  Washer – BOOM.  Dryer – BOOM.  Bed for Koren – BOOM.  Car Seat – BOOM.

Also, I’m seriously crushing on LivingSocial.com, ever since I got a dental exam, cleaning, x-rays, and teeth whitening treatment for $70.  I really need an exam and x-rays and was wondering how I would fit that into our budget.

* * * (insert random change of subject) * * *

The kids get worn out a lot easier here. Perhaps it’s the lack of an actual routine. Perhaps it’s the heat (which isn’t really hot, it’s just that we’re not really used to anything above 38 degrees anymore). But whatever the reason, once we hit about 3 in the afternoon, they’re pretty much done for a while. Today I’m making them take naps because they couldn’t seem to do “quiet time” without erupting into conflict every 5 minutes. I sent them to their rooms and 15 minutes later they were both out cold. Kaelin hasn’t napped in two years, and Koren had given up his naps a couple of months before we moved. Or so I thought…

He also fell asleep during dinner the other night. We went to On the Border (real! Mexican! Food! *) and he fell asleep on my shoulder while we waited for a table. He slept through the entire meal – we were fortunate to get a booth – and went straight to bed when he got home. Kaelin made it through dinner, but put herself to bed as soon as we got home, requesting that we do a bedtime story some other night because she was just too tired to get through one tonight.

We’re enjoying seeing family and friends again. We had the opportunity to see some friends at a graduation party the other night, and that was lots of fun. Madelyn is one of Kaelin’s favorite friends and her family came to visit us in Alaska, so we enjoyed getting to see them in person again.

I need to get on the ball with scheduling some play times for Kaelin and her friends before the kids start full-time summer camp programs in mid-June. Actually, there are a lot of things I need to get on the ball with, and I’m trying to knock a few off the list every day.

But seriously, after being bored out of my mind for 6 days in a car, I’m pleased as punch to be busy right now.

*Well ok, I know that among the purists of ethnic cuisine, the term “real” is debatable when applied to a chain restaurant, but what I mean by that is “Mexican Food” that’s worth paying for, and tortillas that weren’t purchased at Costco.

 
Comments Off on Adjusting

Posted in Culture Shock, Food, Kids, Makes Me Happy, Moving, Sponsored

 

Unrelated Little Tidbits that Aren’t Long Enough to Warrant Their Own Post

20 Jan

I love how my kids cheer for breakfast.  It’s great to bring a carefully prepared plate out every morning to the resounding cheer of “BREAKFAST!!!”

* * *

IMO, if it has to snow, it should be big, wonderful snowflakes, and not the tiny little wet snowy junk that came down all of yesterday.  I’m finding that I greatly prefer snow to rain when I have to be out in it… I just wish it didn’t stick around so long afterward.  I think Dallas has the right idea.  It snows, and it’s really exciting – then in 2 days the ground is clear.  EVERY TIME.

* * *

Can I just say that I’m proud of my husband for being such a hard worker.  He’s started his own company with a friend and has been taking on some projects in addition to his full-time job.  Yesterday he worked 15 hours and potentially has several more projects in the pipes for the next 6 months or so.

* * *

Koren’s newest thing is to say something that’s either outrageous or doesn’t make sense, and then “I’m just jokinnnn'” with a huge grin.  He’s such a ham.

* * *

We had a lynx in our yard.  Jens saw it when he was on a work call.  Had he not been on the phone, he probably would have gone out and shot it, because it was dragging one of its front legs.  We’re glad Hastings wasn’t tied up outside at the time.  Injured predators tend to go for easy prey, like tied up animals or children.  This one was in such bad shape though, it probably won’t last much longer.

* * *

Also in the wildlife category, Jens scared a moose half to death when he leaned over the railing in the dark and spit on it.  He didn’t know the moose was there and got quite a shock when it reared back in surprise.

* * *

Kaelin is getting so spoiled at school.  Her teacher is a fisherman whose family is like modern day hippies.  His wife sports dreads (this is Homer, where the women in dreads outnumber the women who wear makeup) and they raise just about every kind of animal you can imagine.  And they all come to school.  The class has a pet guinea pig, Bear, who is a permanent resident and you may remember as our house guest over Christmas break.  But the kids have also gotten exposure to lots of other animals that come to class on occasion.  Hen-hen the guinea pig, Bella the Hamster … Tuesday they got to meet Andromeda, a 3-day-old baby goat.  Today they get a puppy.  Kaelin is in hog heaven amongst all the animals.  She tells me that SHE got to hold Andromeda TWICE, when all the other kids only got to hold her once.  Koren seemed pretty indifferent to the goat but is excited about the puppy.

* * *

This is a note for CRAFTERS (or anyone who needs to buy gifts for them) – Joann’s is having a 40% off sale THIS WEEK ONLY on just about everything that pertains to scrapbooking and card-making.  Also, you can use coupon codes NFSE20 and NFSE22 online to get 50% OFF any item that’s not already on sale.  That’s some pretty significant savings, so get thee to the store!!!  Joann’s is on my Awesome list lately, because their online store will still ship most orders all the way to Homer, Alaska for less than $8.

* * *

Our library has been out of commission for over a week.  The server went down on the 11th and nobody knows what to do to fix it.  So no one can check out any books until they get it up and running again.  Bummer.  At least they still do Story Hour on Wednesdays.  Yesterday, the kids made a craft that will be displayed in some Art gallery in town during the month of February.

* * *

We’ve been to our little Homer Theater a couple of times in the past month.  When we moved here, this theater had a sign out front for several months that read, “Boiler’s broken, bring your coat to the movie.”  The lobby/concessions is the size of my kitchen (maybe) and they only take cash or check.  They have PEPSI signs everywhere but only serve Coke.  The bathrooms hold one person at a time.  There’s only one screen, it’s a bit bigger than our media room screen in Dallas, and they play 2 movies per day.  And the movies are on actual film strips.  Fun times!

* * *

PRODUCT RECOMMENDATIONS:

  • Safeway/Tom Thumb’s “O” Brand Organic No-Stir Creamy Peanut Butter is the best peanut butter in the world.  It’s organic, but you don’t have to stir it up or refrigerate it (is it just me, or is cold, hard peanut butter the WORST).  And it’s the best tasting peanut butter I’ve tried, organic or otherwise.
  • Organic Valley 2% milk is the bomb.  It’s slightly more expensive than Horizon, but has better animal management practices and tastes even better.  FACT: Organic Milk tastes better than the regular hormone- and antibiotic-laden stuff.  And it won’t make your daughter grow boobs at the age of 9.
  • I’m not a fan of most greek yogurts, but Fage yogurt is awesome.  I can never go back to American yogurt.  Ladies, suck it up and get the 2% instead of the Fat Free.  It’s worth it.  I particularly like their little duo cups that have the yogurt on one side and the fruit mix on the other, so you mix it yourself.  It doesn’t get runny like the other greek yogurts that try to put it all in the same container.
 
Comments Off on Unrelated Little Tidbits that Aren’t Long Enough to Warrant Their Own Post

Posted in Culture Shock, Film, Hobbies, Homer, Kaelin, Kid Quotes, Koren, Lists, Pets/Animals, Promo, School, Thumbs Up, Wildlife, Work

 

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 … )

 

Unalakleet

15 Oct

I just realized that I never actually blogged about our trip to Unalakleet, which we took in August.

Unalakleet is an Eskimo village located on the Western coast of Alaska, squeezed between the ocean and the Unalakleet River.  There are no roads to that part of the country, so the only way in or out is via plane.  The population is less than 800.

It’s the village where Jens spent the first 12 years of his life.

He has been back a few times but this was my first trip to UNK to see the place where he grew up and meet the people and environment that had such a profound impact on him.

I knew I was in for a bit of culture shock when we were picked up and driven home from the airport on an ATV.  UNK has one (dirt) road and no stoplights.  Transportation is mainly on ATVs (four-wheelers) in the summer or snowmobiles in the winter.  Even the 80 year old women truck around on these.  And they’re totally fun.

ATV

You'd be surprised how many people you can actually fit on one of these.

Because the only way to get supplies or anything else delivered in UNK is via plane or the (very) occasional barge, recycling is a big part of the culture.  Need a place to wipe the snow off your boots before entering your house?  Just lay down some old snowmobile treads!  Need a fence for your garden?  Bury one edge of an old ladder in the dirt, and voila!  Also…

Spool Table

Need a table? Find an old cable spool.

Boat Seating

Need seating in your boat? A couple of old school chairs should do it.

UNK is a subsistence culture, which means that a good portion of their food comes from living off the land.  For a few weeks out of every year, everyone takes advantage of the long summer hours to gather and store as much food as possible so they can get through the long winter months.  The main sources of their food storage are salmon from the river that borders the town, and blueberries from the hills that surround it.

Our first evening there, we took the opportunity to go upriver and try a little blueberry picking on the tundra.

Blueberry picking

Blueberry Picking

The mosquitoes were beyond insane.  Despite hoods, coats, and GENEROUS use of bug dope, I still came away with about 20 mosquito bites from the couple of hours we were out in the field.  Fortunately, I seem to be less allergic to Alaskan mosquitoes than Texan mosquitoes, so while they were a nuisance, at least they didn’t swell up as big or itch as unbearably as usual.

The biggest problem was that they kept flying into my eyes, probably because it was the only part of my body not coated in bug dope.  But it’s a little difficult to pick berries when you can’t SEE.

Unalakleet Blueberries

Jens with the town of Unalakleet in the background. Behind the town is the ocean.

2 hours of picking netted us about 2.5 quarts.

Blueberry picking is surprisingly demanding, physically.  Walking through tundra is actually quite difficult because the ground is full of little invisible pits so you’re constantly having to balance yourself on little tufts of moss and falling into little knee-deep holes that you can’t see because of the way the plants cover them.  In addition, you’re constantly bending over, which can do a number on your back after a few hours.

The women of the village go blueberry picking for weeks in the summer, for hours at a time.  Another day, we went out with some of them to pick up in the hills.

Caravan

Our berry-picking Caravan. Olga (in front) had nearly reached her goal of 20 gallons of berries for the season.

We rode the ATVs about 45 minutes up into the hills to find a spot that hadn’t already been picked through.  They picked for 5 hours.  We gave up after 2.

Also, the berries are very soft, so if you set your bucket on the ATV for the ride back, you’ll just end up with a bunch of juice.  For the record, holding a gallon of berries suspended on your arm for 45 minutes on an ATV ride back to town is … challenging.

(to be continued…)