Musing on food and cooking ...

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Back to Alaska, Part 5!

God, will I be glad when this is over! I certainly enjoy sharing all this with you but it is taking almost as long to talk about the trip as it did to go on the trip!

Anyway, I am happy to talk about our favirote place. Ketchikan. It it wasn't our favorite place just because it was sunny and in the low 70s, either. The poor Ketchikans were terribly stressed because it was so hot. Frankly, I was as content as a cat on a hot rock.
Anyway, Ketchikan was totally cool! Totem Bright State Park was amazing and our trip to the Saxman Native Village (really, an actually Tlingit village) was mondo fun!

Again, we got up early in the morning to get out the door. But since so many people had early morning tours, we didn;t avoid the rush. Instead, we waited and waited in line. It didn;t help matters that we were almost an hour late docking. Many folks didn't make their morning tours. I hope they got reimbursed.

We made our tour. Onto a nice tour bus we went and off for a short tour around the town. The highlights? A little park that was really beautiful and the redlight district, which I wish we could have walked through. Lots of cute little painted houses.

Once the house tour was done, we headed out of town to Totem Bright State Park. Along the way, we saw some interesting "boat" houses. To avoid paying property taxes, many of the loggers used to build shacks on floating rafts that rose and fell with the tide. Because they were never really on solid ground, they didn;t have to pay taxes. Then we got to the park. I was disobedient and headed out into the woods along the path (it's a one-way path. What's the worst that could happen!? Well, bears I suppose but since it was me, I was never going to see one anyway, so whatever.) So I headed out and took some great tree and rock pictures (most of my pictures are of trees and rocks. I can't help it. It's genetic.) and then I hit the totem poles.

Like, wow! So beautiful! So impressive! So damn tall! Each pole tells the story of a particular event in the history of the tribe that cares it, traditionally. Nowadays, they sometimes aren't based on a historical happened but rather tell a different type of story. Each different symbol has a very complex meaning. It used to be that the women would chew salmon eggs, spit out the mess, and mix in different botanicals to make paint. Now they just get it at the Ace hardware. Totem poles also used to be erected and left to decay naturally. But so mnay were stolen or damaged by white men, that there is a lot of care taken to preserve them; some are even stored inside.

After spending a lot of time at the park and taking a million pictures, we got back on the bus and headed back to the pier, where we caught another bus for our next tour - to the Saxman Native Village. An actual functional Tlingit town, we got to learn more about Tlingit history and language. We watched a short film and then went to the ceremonial lodge to view a traditional dance troop. Yours truly got to put on full regalia and dance! It was so exciting. Women's dancing among the Tlingit is even less physically active than women's dancing among the Ojibwe (if you are a regular woman and not a fancy dancer), but it was way fun! It reminded me of when I was a little girl and we would go to the pow-wows in Wisconsin. I would dance so much, I would wear holes in my mocs. Once, I got pulled off the floor, because - at 8 or 9 - I was a little too young to be dancing in the eligible young women's dance. I was mad as hell and threw a hissy fit! No need for a hissy fit among the Tlingit. They let me dance.

Our guide was actually a white woman. She reminded me a lot of my friend Timi from Kentucky...similar voices, similar mannerisms, similar body types. This guide had some sort of an interesting relationship to the Saxman villagers; I am not certain what it was but it felt like family.

We got to see a totem pole carver working and learned that he makes about $60K per average pole. Nice! And beautiful work. I was going to swipe another curl, but I found an interesting knothole from a piece of wood being readied for carving that I was able to take home with me.
I didn't get many pictures at Saxman because my camera battery died. But I did get a tasty reindeer jerky snack and a not so tasty salmon jerky snack. I just don't like salmon. I just don't! But I do like reindeer, which makes sense as I prefer eating venison whenever possible. In fact I got some cooking on the stove right now....

Well, we were pretty tired after Saxman, so we headed back to the ship. Mom went on board and I did a quite sprint through the town to see if there was anything I actually wanted to buy. I found a hidden Native artists cooperative and purchased the most beautiful scrimshaw bracelet made of fossilized mammoth ivory. It was so fabulous, I didn't even blink at the price. Which is rare for me.

We got back to the ship and it was italian night at dinner! I have to say, of all the food on the cruise, the italian was the best. Other than a few occassions when they added brown sugar to the sauce to stretch (nonononono!!, the Italian food was pretty decent. I had my favorite dish - amatriciana, which is paste in a tomato sauce with onions, garlic, and pancetta.

The next day was another at sea. Another boring day. A day of total hell for me.

Nothing went right. I can't even remember everything that just didn't go well. Everything tasted funny. I didn't feel 100% and I was bored and crabby. I decided to go sit in the hot tub. That always cheers me up. Well, not here. The hot tubs were filled with nasty little 10-year-old girls. Unsupervised. One of them informed me that fat people shouldn't be allowed to wear swimsuits. So I sat next to her to make her uncomfortable. Then I went back to the room and tried to read. After dinner, I wanted to go see The Matador, a film I had been wanting to see for a while. It was great! Until about half way through when it died. And couldn't be fixed. So I went back to the room, where Mom was resting and we decided we wanted a snack. Maybe pizza. There was a pizza place on board so i decided to go up and get one for us. I get there, and am informed that pizza cannot be ordered take out. Well, shit. So then I decide on peanuts. And they have no peanuts in the store. Only a $4.50 container of Pringles. Pringles it was. I took them back to the room and shared them with Mom and went to bed. Tomorrow, at Victoria, it must be a better day.

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