Sunday, July 12, 2009

Summer's half over

It seems like the last 6 weeks have just flown by. Summer's half over and I have only 4 weeks left here. No word yet on where I'll go in September but I'm keeping my eye out on new openings. It's still early for things to post for September. So for now I'm going to enjoy my time left in AK and plan for my time off afterwards.

I've participated in 2 runs during the last month. The first was a 5-miler in mid-June for the Alaska Women's Run that literally ran right by my house. There were so many people and it was such a perfect day to go running. My landlord was able to stand on the top of the house and take a picture down the street showing what the procession looked was so phenomenonal seeing all the people running. It ran thru downtown and down the coastal trail to the Chester Creek trail back to where we started at the Sullivan Arena. The run was only for women registrants but there were still men running in support. There was plenty of food and drink afterwards, especially fruit and this delicious bread from the Great Harvest Bread Co. I ran about a 9-minute mile which for me is fast. It took a minute or two to reach the start line because of all the people. The other one yesterday in Eagle River for the Bear Paw Festival was a 5K. There weren't as many people, the skies were overcast but the route was flat. Root beer floats were available aftewards and I got a t-shirt and a reusable grocery bag. Afterwards, my friend and I went to our friend (who also ran)'s home for a bbq. I got to eat fresh fish caught in the river, red salmon and halibut. yummy!

I got to experience the local bar scene in Eagle River. My friends, who live there, had a wedding in Anchorage and picked me up afterwards to go there where we met up with friends who were coming from the Matanuska Glacier north of us. Can we say dive bar and white trash? It was run just hanging out with them though. We all had to stay over at our friends' house as we were not in any condition to drive.

Summer stolstice came and went. Here in Alaska, there is the maximum amount of daylight for 3 days, June 20-22. It never really gets dark because even though the sun sets, there's still enough light to sustain some light until the sun begins to rise again. There were all kinds of celebrations for the solstice. My friend and I went to one of the local bars and danced the night away. It was so cool to come out at 300am and still be able to see everything. I also watched my friend finish her first 1/2 marathon. Kudos to her!!!

On June 26th, my friends and I went out to a local sushi place...yummy! I haven't had it in awhile and it was so good. Aftewards, we went to see Jeff Dunham, the ventriloquist, who I've seen on Comedy Central many times. He's hilarious and has an eclectic cast of characters.

Of course, went to July 1st tap, this time it was outdoors at Moose's Tooth. the Wailers played although we didn't hear much of them as we were eating dinner inside. It was fun just to hang out with friends outside in the nice summer weather. I was able to hang out with my friends at Humpy's for awhile on the night before the 4th of July, that would be July 3rd! Didn't go out until 11pm and stayed out for a couple of hours. That made it hard to get up the next morning to go hike up to Crow Pass near Girdwood. It was such a beautiful hike with glaciers and mountains under the glorious sun. I was sore the next day and the day after but it was certainly worth it. I went to my friend's house in Eagle River for a bbq but I didn't do anything that night as I was tired. I heard fireworks but I don't know how good they were as there was so much light.

For the last 2 weeks in June I was house-sitting for a co-worker who lives near the Delaney Park Strip. It was wonderful to have the place to myself, have use of their vehicle but still be near downtown. It makes me yearn to have a place of my own that I'm not just there for a few months at a time. Some day....

So after the Bear Paw 5K and bbq, my friends and I went out's a common theme, me thinks. I had more drinks in one day than I think the rest of the summer put together...but they were delicious, coconut rum and pineapple juice...very summery! We danced the night away, even my guy friend who rarely ever dances, was up there shaking his booty. I wonder what got into him? It was fun and can I say, he's got wonderful, muscular arms! I'd like to have those wrapped around me...wait, I did, when we were dancing! He seemed more attentive and wanting to touch, hold me...hmmm, what should I make of that?

I found out that my friend who was planning to come up to visit and cruise back down after my assignment is complete can no longer come because she became ill with Lyme Disease. I'd still like to do the cruise so I'm trying to find someone else to go along and I've even asked my guy friend since he's thinking about leaving Alaska by the end of August. I'm hoping he'll decide to cruise down with me, if not, then I may just go single. We'll see. I'm still planning to rent a car and go to Denali Nat'l Park to see Mt. McKinley and Kenai Peninsula, hike some more and see whatever else I can before I leave Alaska.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Summer's here

We're rolling right into a fabulous summer. Everyone has said it's already been a better summer so far than it was all last year. We've had many sunny days with fair temperatures, in the high 50s to high 60s and the occasional rainy, actually more drizzly, day. All in all, wonderful.

In the last 6 weeks, I've logged many miles. I spent the first 3 weeks of May at home with my brother, sister-in-law, 3 yo nephew and newborn niece. It was wonderful to spend so much time with them..but I did earn my keep. I was the late shift for feeding my niece...I think she's got a hollow leg. She wants to be fed every 1.5-2hrs and we've had to resort to bottle feeding so that my sister-in-law could get some rest and I could help out. While it was tiring, it was a wonderful experience to spend so much time with the new baby. I was also able to spend some time with my wonderful nephew who is so cute and adorable but certainly has his tempermental moments. He's having some difficulty adjusting to the time that his parents can't spend with him, although he is loving towards his new sister. I was also able to see my parents and cousin from Korea who drove up to my brother's place for a long holiday weekend. We were then able to celebrate my nephew's 3rd birthday who was thoroughly spoiled with all things 'Cars', 'Spiderman' and occasional 'Winnie the Pooh'.

I did some running while I was there, got bit by some, what seemed to me, humongous blackflies and mosquitoes, and helped out with indoor and outdoor chores. It kept me active and feeling likeI was helping out. It was tough to leave and come back to Alaska. However, I know I'll see them again in about 3 months so I was able to control the tears.

Returning to Alaska, it was a little tough with the 4hr time difference and the long flight. I've been able to get back into somewhat of a routine with working and going to my fitness classes, mainly yoga and weight training. Throw in an occasional run, biking on the local trails and biking to work and I'm feeling good about getting fit and toned. I'm trying to watch what I eat but I have these cravings that I can't help but indulge. My friends in NC sent me my hiking boots, bike helmet and a couple of summery clothes and I picked up a couple of things that I had left at my parents house so I now feel like I have something for the summer. I brought a suitcase full of winter clothes to my brother's so I wouldn't have to deal with them when I leave here in August. So everything I have now has to fill one large suitcase, a carry-on size duffle bag and backpack, otherwise it goes to charity. I refuse to get another suitcase and to ship things home!

Since the original subletter has returned, I have now moved to the room next door where my former roommate has moved in with her boyfriend and I'm subletting her room. It's got a queen-sized bed...much roomier and more space in the room. Some of her stuff is still here, but it's no big deal as I don't have much.

I just found out that a couple of friends from Hawaii are coming for a visit in early July. Finally, I get to visit with someone! Fortunately, I have the first couple of days that they're here off so I'll be able to hang out with them. Then they go on an Alaskan cruise and they'll be able to tell me how it is. I'm still trying to get in touch with my friend who has said she's coming at the end of my assignment to see if we can go on a cruise back down to the lower 48s.

So the other night, my friend from work and I went to June's 1st tap at the Bear's tooth, mainly to watch the BoDeans play. They were amazing and a lot of fun to listen to. Then Friday night, I met up with a couple of other friends from work for the 1st Friday art walk thru the galleries downtown. We capped the night off with a martini at a local bar...yummy, caramel apple.

My friend and I hung out last night at this oceans festival on the west end of the Delaney Park strip downtown. They had info booths, food, beer garden and live music. It was nice just to sit around, chat, people watch, have a beer, eat some reindeer sausage and chill. It was a beautiful sunny day with a little breeze. It was 10pm and the sun was still up. With the sun staying up so late, it's so hard to tell what time it is and you don't realize how late it is until you look at a clock.

It's been a wonderful weekend so far. I have to go do something outside since it's so sunny and warm.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Oh, what a day and night!

Well, I successfully got over my cold without too much fuss. A stuffy nose which made it a little hard to breathe, eat with an occasional running of the nose was the extent of it, fortunately. It did prevent me from working out for a whole week. However, it did not kill the appetite! I guess I won't be one of those people that waste away during an illness. When I finally did get to exercise again, I went all gung ho and overdid it on one day which made me really sore and tired. I started running a little bit in the morning, actually only 2x this past week, to get ready for a 5K that I ran yesterday. It was light enough but certainly not warm enough until I got going. I wasn't sure I was going to be able to run it with my friends because I didn't get to train for it much but I did ok. It must have been all the working out I had done prior to getting sick which was good for my endurance and strength. My girlfriends and I started the run with a couple of guys who left us in the dirt pretty quickly. For someone who trained less than I did, which was basically not at all, they were gone like their pants were on fire! However, I'm hearing that they're sore and fortunately, I'm not. So I guess I wasn't as bad as I thought. It did tire me out and so I had to take a short nap before going out.

Last night, my 3 girlfriends and one of the guys that ran the 5K met up for a night on the town. We started out at Crush, a wine bar, downtown. It was really cool and low key and fun. We got to taste different wines, hang out and got a wine buzz. In fact, my lips got numb! I guess that's what happens when I basically drank about 4 glasses of wine. I got the flight of white wine muscats which cost about the same as one glass of wine but gave me almost 3x as much. Then a bunch of us bought a bottle of our favorite muscat, Eberle. From there, we went to Humpy's so some of us could get some real food. There I had an apple cider and a few cheese fries...yummy! One of the gals had to go home because she had the unfortunate luck of having to work today. We tried to go to Subzero, a martini bar, but the mood was too mellow for us. So we returned to a previous haunt, the Avenue. There, the music was 80s, so it was good, and we played a game of pool, which I suck at. We ended our night by checking out the Anchor, which was more nightcluby than a bar. It was too much for us and so we were out in about 10-15 minutes, heading home. All in all a good day...probably the best so far. It gave me hope that I'd be leaving here with some good friends.

Monday, April 13, 2009

I can see the sidewalk!

Yes, Virginia, spring is finally here! Or so I thought until the snowfall last night that left about an inch of snow on the ground. Oh, how I wish for the warmer climate of...anywhere! The only consolation is that the days are definitely getting longer...we're at 14.5hrs between sunrise and sunset which doesn't include the light that comes before the sun actually rises and sets.

I have not seen any moose lately. Now I am hearing about bears that are a part of the landscape should I decide I want to go hiking. Not so much now! For some reason, moose don't seem as scary as a bear, call me crazy. Fortunately, bears aren't as common in the neighborhood as the moose.

So I saw Jake Shimabukuro, the ukelele player. Isn't it ironic that I would see him in Alaska when he's actually from Hawaii and I was there this time last year? It was pretty amazing what he can do with that ukelele...if I didn't know any better, I would think he was playing a guitar. There were a lot more people than I thought would be there..there's much of a Hawaii base than one would expect. I also went to the first tap at Bear's Tooth with a bunch of people from work. We had dinner beforehand at a place that doesn't accept reservations during prime dinner time. We had to wait for a table, for a bunch of people that were just hanging out after paying their bill. We kept giving them the eye to urge them to get up and leave. I ordered a chicken and chorizo pizza which was missing the chorizo. I don't know how they could have missed such an integral ingredient as one that is included in the name of the pizza. They brought me a side dish of chorizo which doesn't quite make the pizza and I got a free dessert out of it. First tap was fun, just hanging out with my friends, I definitely don't go for the beer.

A friend invited me to an arena football game. Each time only plays 8 players, on a shorter field, about half the distance and width of a regular football field, and it was played indoors. It reminded me of the flag football league that I played in while living in southern CA. Arena football is new to Anchorage and so the team they played, all the way from Maryland, smoked them. There's always the next game or next year.

Well, it was first for me...going to a roller derby game which is fairly new to Anchorage as well. A co-worker is on a team that was playing during the half-time of the main event. It was and wasn't what I imagined. Definitely ladies in their costumes on roller skates going around a short track but not as fast moving nor as physical as I expected. I pictured the roller derby of the 70s. Not so much as it seemed some of the gals seemed like they could barely stay on their feet. it was another night of fun and frivolity, hanging out with the crew from Providence. There was quite a contingent representing the dept.. We got to try a drink called "Hop, skip and go naked" which is a mixture of lemonade concentrate, vodka, pale beer and water to taste. Not as bad as it sounds and not as beery as I would have thought. A bunch of us were outside tailgating during part of the 2nd half of the game, reminiscent of the good old college days. Afterwards, a group went out to eat and then it dwindled to where only a couple of us went out afterwards. We had so much fun that we're planning another night out in a couple of weeks where we can stay out later (a lot of the crew had to work the next day so couldn't stay out late). Looking forward to it. I must be getting old because I was tired the next day and now today I'm fighting off a cold, hoping it doesn't get past the stuffy nose and headache stage.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Spring is upon me in AK

Has it really been 2 months since my last entry? Wow, how time flies! Not much has happened that's newsworthy. A couple of weeks ago, I agreed to stay longer in Alaska. So I'll be here through the summer, reportedly the best part of being here. It's the reason I decided to come to AK during probably the worst time of year, the middle of winter. Actually, with the exception of about a 2 week period where it was -20F, the weather has been really tolerable. Now the spring's coming, the warmer weather is upon us which makes the road a nightmare. The snow and ice are melting, leaving a slushy, wet mess. Some places on the road are a huge collection of dirty water that drivers love to go through quickly, splashing the sidewalk and beyond. Fortunately, I have chosen not to walk right now, otherwise I'd be very pissed off because I'd be soaking wet. The daylight is getting longer, it seem like by leaps and bounds. Today sunrise was at 7:35am and sunset is 8:37pm so that's more than 12 hours of pure daylight. Of course, it starts getting lighter before sunrise and stays lighter past sunrise. Last night, because of the cloud cover and the snow falling, it seemed like it was lighter which was probably due to the lights of the city reflecting off the clouds.

Earlier this month was the infamous Iditarod Snow Dog Race where mushers and their team of 10-14 dogs travel over 1100 miles from Willow, AK (about an hr outside of Anchorage) to Nome, AK. It usually takes them about 10-12 days and some don't make it for various reasons. The ceremonial start takes place in Anchorage downtown area the day before the official start. The dogs are so excited and hyper that they have dog handlers who try to keep them in line while waiting for their staggered start. The dogs wear little footies to protect their paws from the cold snow/ice. There's over 3000 volunteers along the way. There's also a smaller dog race the week before and snowmobile race. I had a patient who was in the snowmobile race and crashed the first day. For 8 days prior to the start of the Iditarod Race, there's a festival called Fur Rondy. Included is a Running of the Reindeer (reminscent of Running of the Bulls in Spain), an outhouse race (where people build outhouses and race them), dog sled rides, exhibits/displays of Alaska.

In the past I've written that I've seen moose in the city. The closest has been 2 blocks at the bus stop where I was waiting. Well, the other night, I saw one across the street from where I'm staying, just chomping away away on the tree branches. I was so excited, running around the house, grabbing my camera and putting on my boots and coat. My roommates were laughing at me but I was so fascinated by a moose being so close to me in the city! Wouldn't you be too!

I had an opportunity to work at an outpatient hand therapy clinic here but my schedule at work didn't work out. I would have worked every day but all the daylight would have helped me feel more energetic. It just makes me want to work in outpatient with my next assignment.

So I've been the popular Bear's tooth bar/restaurant and seen a movie on their screen for only $3. They have a First Tap on the first Thursday of each month with a band playing. I plan on going on April 2nd and Flowmotion is playing. Then I'll see Ozomotli which I heard about in L.A. and they sound really funky and fun! I would like to see the BoDeans during their June First Tap. Then Jeff Dunham, the ventroliquist/comedian is playing here in June. They have some pretty firstrate performers coming all the way to AK. However, I am noticing that they're here in the summer, not in the winter! Tomorrow I'll see Jake Shimabukuro, a ukelele cool is that!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Time is flying by!

Where has the time gone? It's already been three weeks of being in Anchorage. I've settled into work nicely, adjusted my body temperature to the colder weather, am working on my core balance walking on the very icy sidewalks and roads and have gotten involved in some of the activities around this most northerly city.

Work is..well, work. It's the usual fare working in an acute care hospital that's also the biggest hospital in AK and the only trauma hospital in AK. They will medivac people via helicopter from all over the state...and have you seen how big the state is? I've already met people from various areas of this vast state...Nome (the end location of the Iditarod, about 1100miles from Anchorage), the Aleutian Islands (that tail that extends west of the main part of the state), Pribilof Islands (two small islands in the middle of the ocean north of the Aleutian Islands - look it up, it's amazing that people live there), Fairbanks and places in between. I actually met a patient who lives in a small cabin that doesn't have running water, he uses a port-a-pottie for an outhouse and showers at the local laundromat (he lives in a cabin a couple of hours from Anchorage). It's amazing to me that people still live like that - and he loves it!

So the temperature in the last 3 weeks has yo-yod (?spelling) from -17F to 42F which melted all the pretty frozen ice off of the trees as well as the packed snow on the roads and sidewalks which covered the several inches of ice beneath. This created havoc on the first day of the warm spell during which it rained. It was a compete mess because the roads were so icy that cars couldn't make it up some of the hills around town and would slide down or it was scary coming down those hills. There were over 150 mishaps of cars sliding off the road (nothing serious - mainly into snowbanks) and plenty of accidents for the police to handle. The buses weren't even running for a couple of days because of the icy conditions so one day I ended up walking and the next day I was lucky enough to have a co-worker pick me up on the way. I had to eventually break down and buy these stabilicers which go over the soles of my boots so that I can walk on the sidewalks without feeling like I'm slip sliding away! And I bought them at the REI store here!
For those of you who can relate, the -17F (about -26C) is so cold that your nosehairs freeze when you breathe and you can't expose your hand for more than 30seconds without it feeling like it's frozen. Now it's about 20F (-7C) which is very comfortable for winter weather.

I've joined some meetup groups here in town so I've met up with some gals for drinks and dinner and am going to learn some cooking techniques from a professional chef. I've already visited a local bar for dinner and drinks and was supposed to visit another but I flaked because I was too tired and it was past my bedtime. And that was on a Friday night! Boy, am I getting old! I walked around the downtown area a couple of weeks ago and saw these awesome ice sculptures honoring the 50th anniversary of AK's statehood (1959-2009), visited the Anchorage Museum (which showcases amazing pictures, crafts and artifacts chronicling the the city's and state's amazing history) and saw the souvenir shops.

Since it's so cold, I've joined a local gym to take fitness classes. For those of you who know me, know that treadmills, stationary bikes, weight machines and I are not the best of friends. I have to have someone telling me what to do and others to egg me on (if they can hang in with the class then so can I!) A little internal competition never hurts. The gym's expensive but it's necessary in this weather since I can't exercise outside. I'm not about to go out and get all that ourdoorsy equipment just for a few months, although I did buy a pair of ice skates for $10. I had a New Year's Resolution to lose a few pounds and to have fabulous abs for this summer. I'll let you know how it goes.

I've also gotten my library card which will come in handy. That's something I like to do everywhere I go. The selection may vary but it never hurts to have some books to read, no matter what the genre.

Well, that's all for now, folks. Will keep you posted.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Close encounters of a MOOSE kind!

I arrived in Anchorage Friday night with a temperature of -16F (-27C). BRRRR, it's cold here...the only saving grace is that it's dry (as evidenced by the static raising my hair on end) and there's not really any wind to speak of. As long as I was appropriately dressed and my body parts were covered, it was tolerable. It did look beautiful as I got my first glance outside the window at the trees. The branches were all covered with frozen ice and it really did look like a picturesque winter wonderland. It's definitely a vision that I had never seen before, not even back home in Canada.

The next couple of days I got myself settled, went to the grocery store, joined a gym and walked around a bit. I saw this spectacular view of the Chugach mountains to the east of the city that seemed so close that you could almost touch them. It made me want to go there and hike up but since I didn't have the equipment, I did forego that thought! Before I arrived in AK, I had joined some meetup groups and I met up with some of them from one group Saturday night. We got together at a local bar/restaurant for drinks and dinner and then watched fireworks celebrating AK's 50th year of statehood. They were beautiful against the backdrop of the dark black sky and the stark white snow/ice. Everyone was very nice and friendly...I look forward to more activities with them.

My first couple of days of work were spent in orientation and reading manuals...boring!!! I had a quick orientation on Monday and was told that I would be free to go home. However, I thought I'd drop by the dept. to introduce myself to the supervisor since I was in the neighborhood. Well, it's a good thing I did as she wanted me there to start the dept. orientation. (I got a phone message later from HR to go there). The hospital has a lot of useful equipment to make things easier for staff but from what I've seen, some of their programs/protocols are lacking therapy involvement.

So how does a moose fit into all of this? Well, I had been told that it's not unusual to see moose around town. Little did I know how true that would be for me, in such a short amount of time. I was walking out of the satellite building where my orientation on Monday was and on my way to the main hospital. To my utter surprise, I turn the corner and see a giant moose eating leaves from a tree. It was less than 50ft from me, just chomping away on the tree branches, not a care in the world. It looked at me for a moment and then went back to its business of filling its stomach. After I picked my jaw up from the ground and my eyes went to their normal size, I walked to the other side of the street. Unfortunately, I didn't have my camera because it would have been a really cool pic!