Friday, February 6, 2009

...And he began to feel some movements on the surface of his skin. When he looked, he was covered with fur. Continuing on, he thought to himself, "I was a human a while ago. I am so embarrassed, I should be living in the wilderness."
-- excerpt from Yup'ik story of the fox, told by Alma Keyes
The temperature can change quickly in Bethel. Not long ago it had been a comfortable -22 degrees. Overnight, the temperature had soared to a scorching +26 degrees. The snow, as it fell, had become wet and sticky, people began to walk around with jackets unzipped (or even without) and vehicles tended to leave a lengthy stopping distance between them and the next vehicle.
The small house my roommate and I share had abruptly won the battle against the cold outside; with the previously-set maxed-out thermostat pumping heat out endlessly the temperature inside rocketed towards 85 degrees, no longer suppressed by an external Arctic temperature. Prior to then, despite the thermostat's setting, the best heat we could muster was a comfortable 63 indoor temperature. However, it wasn't just our thermostat that suffered.
As a health care provider, I've often noticed unusual cases popping up when a sudden temperature change occurs. Whether this is to barometrics, actual temperature, or my own delusions, I'm not sure. Regardless, I'd been scheduled to follow Dr. Hartman, a resident physician, during the day. Each patient I saw seemed to present unusually to me. There was unexplained recurrent bilateral sinusitis, somatic patellar pain, and aneurysm induced nocturnal anxiety.
Beth, a pharmacist here, was kind enough to take Erik and I out for lunch. Bethel, it seems, offers a wide variety of foods. There are Greek, Japanese, Chinese, Italian, Mexican, and traditional American options in town. The only chain restaurant I've come in contact with is a lone Subway, tucked away on a side street. Sushi was our destination and we were not disappointed. Though I'm sure the fish had been frozen (as most things are here), it tasted relatively fresh and was prepared nicely. Beth then asked if we'd mind if we might stop by her house and take her dogs for a walk. I was eager to be reunited with the polar-bear-sized yellow lab I'd met at the superbowl party, so I didn't complain. We arrived at her house outside of town, where a 20ft high snow pile sat in her yard.
"I should have realized why everyone was parked on the road that the weather was going to be bad earlier this week," she said, pointing at the snow. She explained the plow had come by and blocked in her driveway, causing her to have to hire out the bulldozer to free her in time for her shift. The polar bear, Blitz, bolted towards us from the living room, in the process knocking everything off the coffee table with his massive tail, which was frantically waving side to side. He bounded out the door and into the snowy yard after Daisy, Beth's other dog, a terrier.
Soon it was time to leave and we readied ourselves for going back to work. "I hope I have my keys," she said as we walked back to the jeep. She searched through her purse. "You know what's funny? I don't." She turned and stared at her own house, the door firmly shut behind her. She expression was blank, as if she were watching a movie.
She soon called her husband, who worked nearby, who retrieved the keys for us. Afterwards he gave Erik and I a tour of his cleaning shed, where he cleaned and prepared all the animals he caught. His students were busy making caribou bratwurst. They boiled one up and provided me with a sample. Attempting to block out the scent of gamey flesh emanating from the unprocessed goods in the shed, I found it to be delicious.
I finished the day (and the week) counseling patients and updating this blog, which I had originally planned to have finished two hours ago. This weekend, the Bethel Actor's Guild is putting on The Wizard of Oz...I think I'll go.

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