Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Will Wander for Experience

"When I was a kid, we were somewhat nomadic," she related. "We went to fish camp, we had a summer and a fall camp and a winter camp, and we traveled far. We also had a permanent home in Bethel. Respectfully, traditional people were taught to leave camp areas better than they found them. There is no evidence at all of my family ever being in those places, because my dad kept the camps up well. Life seemed very carefree and peaceful then."
-- Yup'ik Mary Stachelrodt in Lowry's Natives of the Far North

I recovered slowly, but more or less fully from the "Bethel Crud," and had been looking forward to my three day weekend. Saturday morning I woke and hopped in a cab to watch the Bethel Shotokan Karate Club practice.

I arrived in time to see a fairly large group of kids finishing up their practice, practicing Heian Shodan. The kids practice was before the adult practice. I was pleased to hear them counting in Japanese and watched as a few kids practiced with very focused expressions. Soon the practice concluded and the instructor came to greet me. He introduced himself as Ted Berry and talked a little about their practice. They were part of the International Shotokan Karate Federation, a branch of the JKA, which had split from the SKA, the organization to which I belonged, several years ago. I watched the adults (and older kids) practiced and although the practice was different from my own, it felt like home hearing the kata being announced, the cry of "hajime!", and the sound of over a dozen karateka kiai in the dojo space.

There were significant differences as well--the movements were very diliberate, almost as if each kata were being counted by the movement instead of the kata as a whole, they "popped," making their gi snap with each movement (though not as much as some JKA karateka I'd seen), and they waited for the instructor to announce before they began their attacks in kumite. I had seen these differences before in karateka coming to practice with our SKA group. I was invited to attend Monday's practice and did so. I enjoyed the kata practice. Ted came up to me and said "I notice you don't wait very long in between movements," as a general observation, which was undoubtedly correct, comparatively. I knew that sometimes I had the tendency to short-change movements for the benefit of continuous feeling throughout the kata and took the opportunity to attempt to make each technique correctly. It was a fun practice with kind people.

My new roommate, Eric, arrived on Sunday. A pharmacist currently living in Seattle, he had spent some time in Anchorage and signed up for a 2 month stint in Bethel at YKHC. He enjoyed photography, and within an hour of his arrival had removed his camera equipment and was educating me on "camera tossing" and "water world," two new methods he was interested in. Camera tossing is done at night, where a neon sign is the target of the shot, the shutter is opened for a second or so, and the camera is tossed in the air, so that the result is a swirls of color. That night, he practiced taking "water world shots," using a glass illuminated by a light in a dark room, taking pictures of the ripples and patterns the light made. He maintains a website of his photography as well. He seemed like a nice guy and I anticipated a pleasant two weeks with him.

Sunday night one of the pharmacists, Greg, picked me up and took me to his home to show me some of the processing that occurs after an animal is trapped. It's been a record year for Greg, trapping a total of 17 lynx, 2 wolves (with the help of his partner), plenty of fox, and a handful of mink. Compared to the lower 48, he explained, much of Alaska was virtually overrun with wildlife. He insists trapping has not had a negative effect on the population as a whole. Regardless, I was interested in the cultural learning opportunity ahead of me and proceeded to help him skin a lynx, which definitely goes down in the books as something I didn't think I'd be doing on my clinical rotations.

He and his family welcomed me to stay for dinner, where we had a Korean dish made with caribou. It was tasty. I drove Greg's Durango back to the "prison row" housing, which was somewhat daunting considering it was snowing a thick, wet snow, the roads were slick, I was in a vehicle I'd never driven before, in a town I'd never driven in, and was without any form of identification. But I made it back without incident, left the keys in the ignition for him to pick up the next morning, made sure the doors were unlocked and went in to go to sleep.

Monday the temperature dipped from the low 30's to the negative teens. A howling, 45mph wind had picked up during the night and had frozen Greg's doors shut, effectively locking his keys in the car. After some struggling, we managed to get it open using some boiling water along the seam of the door. Mandy showed up and we attempted to enter one of the respiratory therapist's house to get her birth certificate, which she'd left by accident before leaving to Anchorage. We were unsuccessful. Security here, it seems, is pretty tight.

This morning the temperature fell to -27 with 5mph winds. It will make for a good trip when I wander over to behavioral health to round with a nurse practitioner there.

1 comment:

  1. I congratulate you on everything you are doing, and everything you have learned so far. We need more people in the world like you :)