This story is Chapter 1 in my Dillingham Adventures. Enjoy!!
Growing up in Boise, Idaho, I considered myself a Tomboy. I liked the malls, shopping, going to movies and other things convenient to life in a city, but I lived in a suburb on an acre of land where we raised cows, horses, pigeons, sheep and other animals. I shot BB guns, played in mud, caught frogs and grasshoppers and played with worms. I have an older brother, so sometimes, when he let me, we would play “Cowboys and Indians” and I got to join in the fun with his friends. My world enlarged the year I left to Bible School at Christ for the Nations in Dallas, Texas when God placed a roommate in my life named Mindy.
I knew she was a different kind of woman when we began unpacking our things and pulling from our boxes the decorations we were planning to hang on the walls. I pulled out floral calendars, candles, and my favorite stuffed animal, and Mindy pulled out deer hides, fox tails, and raccoon tails. The deer hide went up on the wall and the other fuzzy tails were attached to each of the pull string lights in the two closets of our apartment. I was speechless!
Now Mindy liked girlie things too, but her growing up years consisted of events that I never participated in as a kid–like hunting. She was a fantastic cook, made beautiful beadwork jewelry, and decided to learn to play bluegrass fiddle while she attended school.
I was in awe of this lady. She told me stories of spending her summers working in Alaska, away from her family, hanging nets in a village called Dillingham. She talked about her morning runs along Aleknegik Lake. She talked about her hunting expeditions and other things she did outside in the wild. Her life was such a contrast to mine that I barely paid attention. I couldn’t imagine her life and was certain mine would never even come close to hers. Well, I should have paid attention.
I’ve heard it said many times, that God places people in your life to round off your edges and to prepare you for future events. This was true of Mindy and me. I didn’t always understand her. She didn’t always understand me. I liked security and playing it safe and she loved taking risks. We rubbed on each other some. We disagreed on many things. But then she would cook and I would be disarmed by her wonderful culinary gift.
She only stayed one semester, so I didn’t get to spend more time with Mindy, but after reflecting on my past 15 years of life, there are many things I have found in common with my roommate.
Within my first year of marrying my Alaskan Sweetheart, Jamin, I found myself living in a fishing village in western Alaska. After the conclusion of the salmon fishing season, my husband got a job in this village putting up a steel building for the DOT at the local airport. It would be a project that would take about three months. I was four months pregnant with our first child by the time I packed up our stuff and headed out to meet Jamin in this place. Everything about the village was culture shock to me. The airplane that flew me there alone scared the heck out of me. It was more like a metal tube with glorified lawn chairs for seats. I wasn’t certain of it’s ability to fly. I had to pack food for our time out there because grocery prices in the village were ridiculously high, and some items unavailable. Where was I headed? Why, Dillingham of course!
We lived in a boat for a few days while Jamin searched for a home for us to rent. When he finally found that place and took me to go and see it, I was in shock. It looked like a toolshed. “Are you sure this is a house?” I asked. The landlord opened the door to the little arctic entry and then into the building. There was some mold growing up a wall along the stairwell, and a few mushrooms blooming on the stairs. The kitchen area featured a full size cooking range/oven, an apartment-sized refrigerator with enough freezer capacity to house a half gallon of ice cream, and a few kitchen cupboards. The landlord scratched his head as he looked around and said, “I thought for sure I had a kitchen sink in here!” Hmmm……do people steal kitchen sinks and then cover up the hole with countertops? I mused. So the only running water was in the little bathroom to the right of the kitchen where there was a bathtub/shower and a small sink. There was a small living room area, and up the stairs was the loft where we could make a bedroom.
The house was not insulated, so our time there would have to be temporary as winter set in. There was no source of heat in the home either, but the landlord promised to bring us a space heater and wouldn’t charge us extra for electricity. Well, the price was good, it was all we could find and so Jamin and I made an agreement: If he would harvest the mushrooms on the steps, I would bleach the wall and we would make the best of it. So it was agreed. We were now in our first home!
Oh, If I hadn’t have been so sick with that pregnancy! I mentioned that the only running water in the house was in the bathroom, so all dirty dishes were washed in the bathtub. Only the smell of the food made me so nauseous that I couldn’t wash dishes during the day. Jamin would very often come home from his long day of work and take a shower with the dishes…sort of a pre-rinse cycle! Then after dinner the two of us would work on them together.
What does a nauseous, pregnant woman do with her time all day in a village? That is a good question! Well, I slept a lot and I ordered cd’s books and videos through the mail to entertain me. Jamin’s parents bought us a tv and shipped it out to us along with a couple of book series so that I could read. I remember taking a bicycle to the post office and balancing the box with the tv on the seat of the bike as I walked it back to our home. I did a lot of balancing acts on that bike with our laundry, the mail, and any groceries I purchased. I wasn’t very quick walking that bike, and I would often have a drunk older native man follow me on my way complimenting my blue eyes and hoping to befriend me. I think he needed someone to buy his alcohol because he was no longer allowed in the stores. We had many “chance” meetings on my errands to the grocery store, post office or laundromat. I wasn’t in any danger, but it took me awhile to get used to this new place and this new culture. I should have paid more attention to Mindy’s stories.
To be continued……