Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Cold

Yes, It is cold here.  This past week we have had the coldest temperatures that we have experienced yet.  It has gotten down to -62 a few times. It may have been colder than that overnight, but when you wake up in the morning and are getting ready to go to work and the needle on the thermometer is pointing below -60 all you think is “Brrrr.”  Well, Sunday it was that cold and there was no way the truck was going to start given that extreme cold, so we decided to go for a walk.  Jocelyn wanted to take some pictures and I needed to walk up to town anyway.

Getting ready to go out in these conditions is a workout in itself.  First you need to make sure that if you recently showered you are completely dry.  The last thing you want is any excess moisture that could freeze to you.  Next comes the first layer, some people wear them, some don’t, but thermal base layers are a good idea when it is this cold.  Next comes the “Normal clothes” so put on your jeans, shirt, sweatshirt or fleece and whatever else you might be wearing.  Don’t forget to wear good socks. Natural wool heavy socks are the best. Jocelyn wears a pair of “regular” cotton socks and then one or two pairs of the wool socks over top.  Next comes the bibs or snowpants.  These are essential, as they are what keeps the wind off of your legs and are a lifesaver out there.  After your snow pants you have to put the good boots on. We both have Rangers.  (Jocelyn doesn’t like hers, I loves mine.)  When you lace up your boots, you want to make them secure but not too tight.  Pulling them too tight makes the insulation almost worthless (this is why Jocelyn doesn’t like hers, there is not enough room to put her pant legs inside of the boots).  Next comes the coat.  Not your typical winter coat that people from Pennsylvania are used too.  Jocelyn wears a 650 down coat and I wear a Carhartt Arctic insulated coat.  After the coat, you have to make sure you dress the rest of the way fairly quickly cause indoors you will very soon overheat.  After the coat you put up your hood from your sweatshirt or put on you liner beanie, then you will put on your neck gaiter or scarf (or both in Jocelyn’s case) then your hat.  Hopefully you have a good fur lined hat cause let’s face it, mother nature knows what she’s doing when it comes to furs that animals have here (Jocelyn doesn’t wear anything inside of her hat as she says hers is more than warm enough to handle this cold). Then make sure you have your skin on your neck covered everywhere, and if you wear glasses, this is your last chance to take them off, and you really should.  Next you pull in your hats, gaiter, hood and whatever else to make your head good and warm. Next you put on your liner gloves (necessary) then your heavy gloves or mittens, and if your gloves do not have a long cuff, either have a friend help you pull your coat cuffs over them or make sure you have a pair of wristlets.  Jocelyn discovered how these can be a lifesaver when she is taking pictures.  Once you are all bundled up, don’t wait around, get outside. If you let yourself get too warm, it is more shocking to your system when you do go out in the cold, plus if you start sweating this will cause you to get cold quicker outside.

The other tricks are to not leave your boots, coat or bibs close to an heat source, making them too warm will make you start sweating which will cause you to get very cold very quickly outside.

This is the process to get ready to go to work, to go play, to go do anything outside if you will be out for more than 5 minutes or so.  You really do have to be careful here, but if you take the proper precautions, and make sure you are always prepared you can enjoy life in the arctic and find out how beautiful and amazing this place is.

And here Jocelyn is with all her gear on other than the gaiter cause that's just way too warm indoors.
Up next.... pics from our crazy walk in the VERY frozen North.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Loosing Light

This is something that people ask me about almost all the time.  For some reason people think that we go from 100% light to 100% dark over night, but just like back in PA, it’s a gradual thing.  There is a much more significant time shift here than back in PA obviously but it’s still not all at once.  We have been steadily loosing light since we got here and will continue to do so until there is none for a couple of days/weeks.  I have not been too affected by this shift in light, but it does still mess with your sense of time.  Just like back in PA, when there is very little light in the sky, it is also cold, this means you stay inside.  And just like in PA, when you are in the house, you turn the lights on.  So like I said it is not as noticeable (until you look outside at 330 and it’s as dark out as it would be at 5 or 6 back in PA).  We don’t have television (ok we have a television but all we can do with it is watch DVDs) so we spend a lot of time doing other things (you know, those million and one hobbies that Andrew and I seem to torture ourselves with). 

There are advantages to being here with the light waning though.  The biggest one is that you are actually awake when the sunrises!  And that is something that is absolutely BEAUTIFUL!!!! The sunrises and sunsets stretch as far as the eye can see and because it is sooo flat here, it goes for literally 360 degrees.  The colors of the sunrises/sunsets are AMAZING!  They are so intense and there are so many colors at once.  It’s almost like a rainbow every time (ok well minus the greens and not in “rainbow” order). 

Another advantage is that when you want to take a nap in the middle of the day, you don’t have to struggle trying to block the sun out of your bedroom! 

We are now getting quite a bit of light.  It's crazy how fast it seems to return.  Yesterday had the most amazing sunrise (at around 1030am).  I wish I had a camera with me but I was in the middle of work and I didn't have a chance to get back to an outside window before it went away.  I will try to describe what it looked like.  The whole sky was a brilliant pink, not just the pale pink of the sunrises back in PA but bright like a pink highlighter.  And when I say the whole sky I mean every last bit from horizon to horizon.  It was like we were on the inside of a giant Easter egg.  The funniest thing about it was that we were all gaping out the windows at it like we had never seen the sun before.

Today when we were done with school as teachers (around 430) a couple of us came out to go home and someone made the comment, "There's still daylight!"  It took a moment for the rest of us to register that yes there was still day light (albeit dusk) at the time of day when we are going home... something that hasn't happened for over a month.  You wouldn't think you would be that awestruck by such things but it really is startling to realize when daylight returns.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Finding Space

The most difficult commodity to come by is space… space for storage that is.  When you buy food for months at a time there is a lot that you need to store.  Also there is the matter of clothes and other things that need to be stored somehow but accessed daily as well.  We have found many creative solutions to this issue…

Remember those things that you put under your bed back in the dorms?  Well they serve a very practical purpose up here in the bush.  Unlike in college when really it was just a place to hide dirty clothes and such, here we store extra food, suitcases and dog crates (that we won’t need till we travel with the dogs again), not to mention boxes from items that we want to keep to pack them up in when we have to move. 

Another solution… “Alaskan suitcases.”  They are not cloth.  They are not on wheels.  So what are they, you might ask.  Well Rubbermaid Roughneck Bins, of course!  We ship everything in these tough guys.  Trust me, the cheapy ones at Walmart DON’T hold up to the extremes of Alaska.  And yes we really do use these as luggage when traveling to the city.  When you go in you take several of these with you, stacked together, so that you have them to ship your groceries back in.  They work much better than boxes and stack much better than an actual suitcase.  Not to mention, the extra ones that you have at home turn into great TV stands, coffee tables, night stands, dressers,… well you get the picture.

There are surprisingly few shelves in homes here.  But not to worry!  Unlike in homes back in PA, the spaces above the cabinets are left open.  No decorative trim here, but rather many more cubbies for STORAGE!  Don’t forget the ever popular top of the refrigerator.

Many homes have caches outside that allow for more storage.  These are little sheds.  Ours is actually where our landlord keeps various maintenance things for our house and his.  While we don't use it personally, having him keep these items in the cache has freed up some space for us.

So that is how we solve this dilemma of space shortages.