Saturday, January 15, 2011

              Here we are in Barrow--America's Northernmost City.   Those are whale bones behind us.
                                   The village here is allowed 13 whales during the whaling season.
 These are the ONLY trees in Barrow.  They are at the summer camp of the Eskimo whalers.  The footprints in front of them are polar bear tracks made the night before.   We heard about the polar bear later in the day.  The palm fronds are actually whale baleen.
 Special parking, but too bad we were walking.  You can see the pilings under the building.  All buildings are built on pilings off the ground.  If a house was built on the ground it would melt the permafrost and the house would sink into the mud. 
                            The Inupiat Heritage Center.  Behind is a bowhead whale skull.  The Inupiats are
                                                    the main group of Eskimos here in Barrow.
                         A bowhead whale.  This is one of the main sources of food for the people here.
           On the beach of the Arctic Ocean.  The ocean begins at the ice chunks just a few feet behind us. 

Going to Barrow was another great adventure.  The weather was nice for us, only about -10 degrees and not much wind.  It was still pretty cold walking around.  We flew to Barrow to visit a seminary class.  It consisted of the teacher Todd Henke, and three boys. We really enjoyed the class.  We even got to present a short lesson on reading and studying the scriptures.  Todd and his wife Elaine have a little boy about 2 months old.  They invited us for caribou tacos the night we got there.  They were pretty tasty.  (The limit on caribou for the natives here is 1 per day every day of the year.  However, the caribou are not around right now.  The natives here are subsistence hunters.  Their survival is dependent on hunting and whaling.)

After seminary, we checked on Elder Peck and Elder Uele who are assigned to Barrow.  They live in the Branch building in a classroom turned into a bedroom.  It really works pretty well.  They were going to serve at the Senior Center, so we went along.  The Senior Center is a place for senior citizen or "elders" as they call them.  However anyone who wants lunch can come to eat.  I had a very interesting conversation with a very animated Eskimo lady.  We saw her later at the grocery store and took her picture.  A lady who works at the Senior Center, offered to drive us and the elders out to see Point Barrow about 9 miles away.  Everything is very flat!!!  We stopped to take a picture of the Arctic Ocean--quite frozen.  The three palm trees are pretty much a landmark here.  As you might have noticed, the sun has not come up yet in Barrow.  It will probably rise for about 15 minutes in a week or two.

The price of groceries in Barrow are crazy.  Since everything has to be flown in or brought in barges when the ocean has melted, prices are sky high.  Milk is $10 a gallon.  Apples and onions are $3.50 a pound.   I saw a gallon of bleach for $14.50.  I really didn't want to believe it.  The elders try to buy milk when it is half price because of the date and put it outside to freeze until they need it.  It works.  We visited the High School there because Todd Henke is the shop teacher and he asked if we would like to come look around.  Not a normal tourist attraction. 

We were very fortunate to be able to stay with a member, Dave Elbert, who lives right across the street from the airport.  His bed and breakfast was full, so he offered to have us stay with him.  Since he also owns a house in Fairbanks, we hope to see him and his wife this summer. 

It never ceases to amaze us the things we are seeing here in Alaska.  This is a wonderful and beautiful world that God has created for us.  We are so thankful for all the blessings we have received.  Family, friends, health, and the gospel of Jesus Christ bring us so much joy.

Qakugulu - See you later!
Jim and JoAnn

Sunday, January 9, 2011

A beautiful scene along a finger of the Cook Inlet near Anchorage.
The Portage Glacier Lake.
It was so quiet we were able to hear the ice cracking on the frozen lake.
Anchorage Temple
There is a ski resort here in Girdwood.

This week has been busy and fun.  We had inservice meetings in Anchorage to teach us more about our responsibilities with the Institute and the seminaries.  We took a short flight to Anchorage and planned for extra time to allow us to go to the temple there.  We arrived late Wednesday afternoon and were met by a missionary from the mission office with a car that we were able to use there.  We visited the mission office and met the other couple missionaries that work there.  It was great put faces to voices that we have heard on the phone.  Anchorage is surrounded by beautiful mountains. 

Thursday it was a beautiful sunny day.  We couldn't believe how much higher the sun was in the sky.  We took a drive to see the Portage Glacier and drove through the longest combined highway/railroad tunnel in North America.  It takes 6.5 minutes to drive through it.  The tunnel ends in Whittier at the mouth of Prince William Sound.  It was a beautiful drive.  That evening we met with President and Sister Dance (our mission president) and had dinner with them.  They are wonderful people and we have grown to truly appreciate their council and direction.  After dinner we went to the Anchorage Temple.  It was a good thing that we found it earlier in the day.  We missed it completely the first time around.

Friday was filled with meetings and directions on how to better help seminary teachers and to accomplish what we are expected to do with the Institute program.  That evening we were able to attend the temple again.

Saturday we had a few hours before our flight and spent time driving around Anchorage in the fog.  Even though we were very close to the ocean, the fog was too heavy to see anything.  We decided to look into some gift shops to keep warm and to see some fine Alaskan artwork.  I was very excited to find an Alaskan Igloo Nativity set to bring home as a remembrance of Alaska.

Each day we are reminded of the importance of  family and friends.  Our lives have been enriched by each one of you.

With love,
Elder and Sister Spens