To recap: [I spent the first 10 weeks of summer in Philly working at a research lab, 2 weeks on vacation throughout North America, and 2 weeks at home in Georgia.]
Fun fact: I learned the word “miscellaneous” because it was the name of a thread in the Pet Society online forum…
Here’s to the last few bits of peaceful, sun-drenched summer. I’ll miss the perpetually decrepit state of my summer apartment kitchen (maybe), the frittered-away afternoons when I planned during work things to do and sights to see after work, and the smell of my mom’s home-cooked Chinese meals at noon. It’s funny–did the food from home get better, or does it taste sweeter because I’ve slowly realized this small suburban place I grew up in, with all my mom’s dumplings and weird vegetable dishes and cabbage 包子, really is home?
My mom made the executive decision to stay in Seattle for one night since it’s three times cheaper to fly from Anchorage to Atlanta with a stop in Seattle than to directly fly. Seattle is a quaint, charming city with pockets of forests and underground spaces. I took a walking tour of Seattle’s underground which holds a surprising amount of the city’s history, from its urban development (and all its sewage problems) to the lively, city culture present today. The quaintness and bits of old city remind me of Philly, except Seattle is by the water and has a large seafood presence. I wish I could have stayed longer and perused every single booth, eatery, and store at Pike Place Market. My senses were overwhelmed by the prodigious amount of fresh produce, (smelly) salmon, fragrant flower arrangements of peonies and zinnias and roses, and tempting bakery aromas that wafted through the air and graced my little snout.
Let it be known that cruises are an unsuspecting form of evil…insidious in the delectable quality of its food and the downward tilt of the TV in your room that encourages you to lie down and watch a movie or two…succumb to the vortex of television….
1741 – year of the Native’s first contact with the Russian Orthodox.
example of Russian influence: the Tsimshian people used to cremate the bodies of the deceased but eventually transitioned towards burial at the ground site of totems.
Saturday, August 5: Juneau (capitol)
helicopter ride + dogsledding on top of a glacier
weird pang of sympathy and sadness watching the dogs so arduously drag us heavy humans around the glacier-top. But the musher (the dog’s [human] leader) spoke fondly of his dogs and how our tourist dogsledding escapades were good conditioning for his dogs since they compete in 100-mile-long marathons during the year. I guess dogs are meant to run.
was lucky enough to catch the salmon run in Juneau’s freshwater creeks. During this time of the year, throngs of salmon migrate upstream from saltwater bodies to the freshwater streams where they were born. The phenomenon is spectacular; there are wriggling bodies of fish all throughout the creek. There might have been more fish than water.
dad was elated like a 5-year-old child marveling at the world through fresh eyes while sister was too sad to watch the salmon. Because of the low-tide, the fish kept sliding down the incline since the water was so shallow…but they continued jumping and inching forward even after being swept back to square 1. Pretty painful to watch a losing battle unfold in front of your eyes. We left quickly after, but I hope high-tide came and helped the fish swim safely to their destinations.
Sunday, August 6: Skagway
a town with a humble population of around 1000 people. Everyone gets their mail from a single post office in the center of the town.
insane hours of daylight. Consequently, the flowers here grow lush and vibrant.
architecture resembles an old Western town. All the buildings are the original ones from the establishment of this town because there haven’t been any fires since who knows when!
salmon swim upstream to spawn and lay eggs for a new generation. After completing this duty, most of the fish die. I understand this is the circle of life–bears and birds eat the carcasses of these fish; new baby fish are born; repeat. But there’s something bittersweet about this cycle. Salmon wander far from home into the ocean to mature and grow strong, and then when they’re of age, they put all their energy, blood, and sweat (do fish sweat?) into reproducing, just once. I wonder how these salmon feel about their single (but noble) purpose in life.
by the way, the boy in the second-to-last picture is holding up a salmon that he caught nimbly by reaching into the stream with his bare hands. Shortly after seeing the giggling, splashing children and their fruitful labor, my dad threw off his socks and shoes and waded into the creek to catch his own salmon. Of course, all these salmon were gently returned and sent on their way since it’s illegal to catch salmon in Alaska without a license.
I’ve realized that I’m not very keen on writing utilitarian travel posts. I’d much rather write about the feelings evoked from experiences than the nitty gritty dates and locales because I’m too clumsy with facts to retain the integrity of the details. However, with great industry and dedication to the 1.5 readers of this blog, I will attempt to recount, informatively and reflectively, the two days I spent in British Columbia.
After 3 short nights in Banff, I flew to Richmond, British Columbia, which is a city in the Metro Vancouver area. The area has quite a bit of history: in 1997, when sovereignty of Hong Kong was passed from the U.K. to China, a mass wave of Hong Kong citizens emigrated the heck out of their home country. At that time, Canadian citizenship was issued under a weird process and could essentially be bought, so wealthy Hong Kongers flooded into the Richmond area with crisp, new Canadian passports. These Asian influences reverberate throughout the city of Richmond today. I indulged in the permeating aroma of fresh red bean mochi bread and poked my head into every Asian supermarket I could scout out while walking aimlessly through Richmond. The street signs might have had more Chinese than English, and the looming apartment complexes seemed perfectly grafted from the heap of high rises in Beijing.
Day two: tour day. During a tour headed towards Victoria (the capitol of British Columbia), as I bus’d further out of Richmond and away from its stout Chinese storefronts, the landscape quickly petered out into rich farmland boasting an endless acreage of blueberry, cranberry, and raspberry bushes. The tour guide mentioned an environmental awareness diet called the 100-mile diet, in which people aim to eat food produced/grown at most 100 miles from where they live. This “eat local” focus fosters a healthier environment by supporting local farmers who adhere to proper and mindful agricultural practices such as letting the land lie fallow.
The bus drove through several First Nations lands. The First Nations are the Aboriginal people in Canada who live south of the Arctic.
The tour guide recounted a recent, experimental educational restructuring in the First Nations schools. To combat the high dropout rates and low student morale, the curriculum was restructured to be half conventional Western, with typical math, science, and literature, and half First-Nations-based curriculum, centered on the history, culture, and heritage of the people. This initiative, after just a few short years, made incredible transformations for the schools and the communities, as graduation rates shot through the roof and teenagers reconnected with their ancestors’ culture and rich heritage. This sense of pride in one’s culture is so beautiful to me…to be unrooted, culturally and identity-wise, is to feel a gaping sense of loss.
Victoria is linked to all the other islands of British Columbia by the ferry system. My mom and I were jaw-drop agape by the sheer size of these boats. The ferry’s first few decks are these spacious parking garages for tour buses and automobiles…. that’s right; this weird ferry form of transportation transports other smaller forms of transportation….
Victoria is a cute, bustling island with throngs of tourists and float planes on the horizon. My parents and I walked down the main streets, stopping in shops and bookstores that caught our eye. One tucked-away Italian pastry shop had the most amazing sfogliatella (I wouldn’t even know where to begin in describing this food…like a hybrid of a croissant and a pie crust of a thousand layers…)
The crown jewel of the tour was the Butchart Gardens. I’ve never seen an environment so captivatingly whimsical before. My mom was frenziedly snapping photos of singular flowers that were novel to us Georgians. Meanwhile, I became utterly lost in a fairyland from simply trying to wrap my head around the beauty of the Rose Garden with its rows and arches of tea roses. This garden surely has singlehandedly ruined all other garden experiences for me…
I interrupt the onslaught of travel posts to present you with a wall of incoherent text. Ok, go.
August 17 was my birthday; I turned 19. I’ve always had an odd relationship with the concept of a birthday. There’s this weird self-consciousness and hyper-self-awareness that has always dictated my life. On one hand, receiving attention and facebook paragraphs that stand in as birthday wishes make my head bubble and fizzle like a glass of champagne. But I hate acknowledging that birthdays seem inherently important to me because I shouldn’t need this pampering attention or bask in it either. Why do I keenly yearn for an instant-gratification-esque form of human attention?
But I digress.
It is 3:36am. I need to count my blessings!
This year, my dad wrote me a card/letter for my birthday. This is special because I’ve never received a card from my parents before for any sort of occasion. I just want to………….my heart is just………I am just incredibly thankful for my parents. I am learning every day what unconditional love means and what kindness and patience look like. In 2017, we love unapologetically and convey how much we appreciate others’ love loudly and clearly.
But I don’t want to grow up.
When did I transition from a bouncy, annoying pre-tween who practically prayed to blossom into adulthood into a jaded, old, misanthropic grandma? I like being young. I like reminiscing about my childhood. I like the past.
I have been rifling through old letters and cards and mementos that I stuffed in a paper bag throughout high school. Isn’t it weird how these little pieces of paper carry so much personal significance? This tiny college-ruled paper changed my life and viewpoint. And this wrinkled card earthquaked my heart and pulled me back to earth. These snapshots of time are so valuable to me…they preserve all the scenarios and circumstances surrounding each letter, and I hardly recognize myself anymore in those times. The shitty thing is that it all seems so sweet and fragile and perfect, these perfect amber casts of the past. Why did I (time?) have to go and ruin things? I never even asked to grow up.
So tonight, I feel strange. I feel lonely, melancholic, nostalgic, and indignant. Indignant of change and dynamism and letting go of the past. And I’m 19. I’m (practically) an adult, so I will be as childish and ridiculous as I so please today (and maybe tomorrow).
First stop: Banff National Park in Alberta, Canada.
This year marks the 150th anniversary of Canada, so all the national parks in the country are free admission to anyone who stops by. Naturally, my nature-photography-fanatic mom seized this golden opportunity to lug around her 40-lb monster of a machine in an attempt to snapshot the rugged beauty here…and let it be known that I doubled as her pack mule and did not appreciate having to carry the burden of that heavyweight camera.
Complain as I may, I empathize with my mom’s shutter anxiety in this dreamscape of a place. Discordant list of nice things:
the turquoise-emerald hue of the lakes in Banff National Park (Alberta, Canada)
the color palettes and landscapes here seem fitting for Hans Christian Andersen fairytales, so beautiful you have to wonder if it’s all a fantasy
leafy-green, dense forests which offer occasional glimpses of a family of moose
the lively, bubbling creeks of Johnston Canyon with water so clear and ebullient that you finally understand what it means for water to be “dancing.”
the sunset behind Bow Lake, painting the sky with shades of pink and purple (in the words of Emerson, the tree hugger: nature wears the colors of the spirit). Nature is grand and wondrous and humbling all at once….
edit: oh god I just reread this, and my writing makes me want to barf