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Saturday, January 7, 2012

CHRONICLES: A Brief Cultural Lesson

I was going to wrie about something completely, but I thought i'd have to preface it, and that just became this blog entry. Enjoy!

I should tell you about some differences in names and definitions that people here use from people back home. First, when I was in school, I was taught that Alaskan's referred to where I lived as part of "the lower forty-eight". Actually, we just call it "down south". I was also taught that the area I live is called "The Panhandle". We call it "South East". Where I live is specifically "Southern South East", but it's South East.

In Colorado, we had natives, locals, and transplants. Natives were people born in Colorado. Locals had been there for 10 years or move, and transplants were usually recent arrivals. We also had "Californians" and "Texans", but they remained "Californians" and "Texans" as they never really "got it." Alaskans have Texans, too, but they don't get different things... like that Alaska is more than twice as big as Texas. However, transplants don't exist here. Once you're here for a few month, you're Alaskan. That being said, locals are also Alaskans, but if you call someone who was born here a "native" and they aren't descended from the indiginous people, you're wrong. In Alaska, native only applies to the original heirs of the land. In local cases, those are the Tlingit, Haida, and Tshimsiam tribes. Putting things together, I suppose the racial divide here is much more recent than it was in Colorado, where we simply called the Navajo by their name, as we did the Cherokee and the Ute, etc.

Another cultural difference is that, at least in Colorado, there's a large feeling that the land is ours to protect. Here, there seems to be a large feeling that the land is ours to exploit. I can't say I have strong feelings either way, as I'm an avid outdoorsman who enjoys scenery who also enjoys not paying $4.059 at the pump. So while I'm not a big fan of tearing up the hillside to get at everything we need to get to, nor am I a fan of clear-cutting a forest for profit, I feel compelled to say that if you have so much of something, you can utilize it responsibly and everyone's happier for it.

Anyway, I'll have to write another entry tomorrow and try to get on topic. All of this was going to be a preamble to me talking about wind and rain. Sheesh!

THOUGHTS: There's Rapids Behind That Bend

Here you are on a nice float trip, something akin to Ruby Horsethief on the Colorado River stradding the Colorado/Utah border. Mellow. Tie the boats together and start drinking. Throw some sunscreen on and enjoy the heat. Put your life jacket on and take a swim. No big deal.

But then suddenly you hear it, the droll rumbling up ahead. The relaxation of your trip so far has dulled your wits, and you think that you'll just climb back in your raft and enjoy the mild excitement that awaits. The rumbling grows louder. You proceed slowly, non-shalantly rolling over the edge of the boat and enjoying the sunlight. The walls of the canyon seem to come alive with noise. Your heart, despite your mood, starts to race. The river starts to bend. You begin to trust your instinct. The smell of churned water fills the air. Panic sets in as the adrenaline injects itself into your veins.  You've got to start paddling. Hard. Hard! No time to strap everything down! You've been too neglegent, and now, there's only time to make sure you get through alive! Paddling hard! Paddling!




...the fight is over. Time to assess what your laziness has cost you. You now know that, no matter how calm the river may be, you'll never lose your trust in its nature again.