An unconventional conversation
What Alaska Said to Guam
Life is about contrasts.
Who would have thought I’d be in such opposite places in the world one year apart? Like, did you ever think about where you were a year ago? And how they compare?
At the moment I find myself in cold, dark ALASKA.
I remember waking up and seeing sweeping ocean views of blue green tropical waters. It would take my breath away & I’d pinch myself and say, really? I was waking up in Guam, the beautiful US territory in the Western Pacific.
Today in Alaska at 9:00am it is still dark. There are no azure skies and ocean; I do not hear children’s voices running and playing on the beach. Instead I hear the crunch of ice beneath my feet when I walk to my car. Looking out the window, I see darkness, although when the sun at lasts wakes up, I will see various shades of grays, whites, & browns.
In Guam, I remember my glasses fogging up when I walked out of the air conditioned buildings into the hot, humid tropical air. The strange twist is that when I went to the library on base, I’d have to wear a fleece jacket to be able stay there for more than 5 minutes to deal with the sub temperatures of the airconditioning.
That’s contrast all right.
What if Guam had a conversation with Alaska? Reasonable, eh? They’re both the US, both not attached to the Mother Land.
GUAM: Hey there Frozen Man. How’s it going? I heard you guys got a lot of ice up there and not much snow this winter. That’s too bad.
ALASKA: yeah, it sucks, man. People are all pissed off ‘cause they can’t snow mobile or ski as much. So then they stay inside a lot, you know, it’s hard on people. Since we only get about 5 hours of daylight, it drives some of ‘em nuts.
GUAM: well here, we’ve got problems, too, but the opposite… it’s bloody hot here, you know?
And people are so unhealthy. They eat crap food, fast food. We don’t grow too much healthy vegetables, I’m not really sure why.
People get sad here when they go out to the beaches where there was so much fighting during World War II. You can feel the energy of the Marines who ran up on the beaches to take it back from the Japanese. I could see Jo shiver when she thought about her own boys who are Marines and how the Marines of 1944 were probably younger men than her boys are now. I noticed that she tried to make sense of the contrast of the beauty of the island and the horror that happened here. She could definitely feel the vibes here.
ALASKA: Well, we don’t have to deal with that stuff too much. It’s mostly the weather. Like driving on the ice. The other day Jo was driving behind a guy in a Jeep who lost control and he spun around and did a 360 right in front of her! She got a little freaked out, although the guy couldn’t have been driving more than 20 mph.
When Jo first got here, no one told her that she was supposed to clear the foot high snow off her car. She was merrily driving home one night and suddenly the snow came rushing down on the windshield and caused a complete white out! She was way freaked out that time but she jumped out of her car quickly, brushed it off before any other cars turned up. But for a few seconds there, she couldn’t see a thing. Only white.
GUAM. Wow. I don’t think she had any big problems here except for when the battery in the rental car went dead. Hertz just gave her another one.
But thinking about it, I remember this time last year she was getting certified for her scuba diving course. And I watched her get close to a panic attack over that little experience. She wanted to quit, she couldn’t clear her mask, and she hated the first day of class in the pool.
I heard her say to her son on Skype when she was ready to quit the course, “why can’t I just see the stupid fish in the aquarium?” And he said, “But Mom, it’s something we can do as a family. And you and I can dive when you come to Okinawa.”
I noticed she shrugged her shoulders and said… Okaaaay. And I could see he got to her on that one.
ALASKA. I’ve noticed she’s been a little skittish here, too. Actually, she’s been downright afraid. She doesn’t want to run into a bear, which, as you probably know is ridiculous because they’re all sleeping right now. But there are moose around town and they can get kinda mean and testy. And we do have wolves, too, but they stay way out on the bases. She also worries her car will break down and she’ll freeze to death.
But hey, it is rough up here. It’s one tough, harsh climate. It’s not a place to mess around in. It’s definitely not for sissies. And you’d be stupid not to have some fear. It’s dangerous up here.
And fair enough, it did get down to -19 while she’s been here. Even we Anchorage people think that’s cold.
We are you like you, Guam, in that the danger is balanced by the beautiful. Have you ever seen these mountains? The Chugach range surrounds the city of Anchorage. They are regal, lofty giants and the when you drive home from work, every day is a different view with these guys hanging out in the background.
GUAM: well, hey, buddy, I gotta go. There’s peeps on my beaches having fun, snorkeling, diving, picking up sea shells this weekend. So I need to just be there so they can love me a little more, you know?
Hey, why don’t you come down here some time? It’d do you good to get out of the cold.
ALASKA: look man, that sounds good but I’m busy, trying to deal with the weather. One day it’s 45, all the snow melts and the next day it’s 5 degrees so now there’s ice everywhere. You know, it’s just what we got up here. Jo loves it here even though she whines about it.
Nice talkin’ to you. Don’t get burned down there.
GUAM: Hey, take it easy man. Stay warm. And keep Jo safe. Tell her to come back and get some warm, tropical warmth sometime.