08-01-02, 12:03 PM
I had breakfast with the church group. Heath made omelets for everyone. They were tasty and the breakfast was a great start to the day. I joined the group (Angie, Angie, Craig, Don, Willie, Heath, and Erin) on their daily visit to the community center in Tanacross (about 5 miles West), a native community of Athabascan Indians. From noon to 4pm we served hot dogs and the church group presented crafts for the children of the community as well as had bible discussions. This group, coincidentally lived in St. Louis (Balwin area) near my aunt Lisa and Uncle Bob and family. It was easy to see this group was heavily involved in their Lutheran church (St. John's) and religion was obviously a big part of their lives. I don't really believe in the "missionary" part of their work here, but Tanacross is another native Alaskan community that seems to be plagued with alcoholism and desperately needs positive mentors. Even though this group is finishing up a short weeklong stay, I think these kinds of visits can be positive. A more radical point of view could be that these visits are making the Indians loose touch with their original culture, but I believe the damage was done long ago when Christianity was first introduced long ago, not to mention alcohol. These natives are part of our culture now. I would just like to see them have more opportunity and better quality of life. So, at 4pm, we went back to Helga's for dinner. Everyone was pretty exhausted from the daily activities with the children, who ranged from 3 to 14 years old. We ate spaghetti, cooked by one of the Angies, bread and green beans, and pea soup and cucumber, tomato, and onion salad made by yours truly. It was quite a meal and quite the dish work afterwards! Don, who looked to be in his 60's was my dish dry guy and we chatted about his life on the dairy farm as a young guy in the 40's. It was a tough life back then! Seven o'clock rolled around pretty quickly and we headed back to Tanacross for an 'Ice Cream Social'. It was a hit and the kids and everyone loaded up on chocolate and vanilla with chocolate syrup and M&M's. After ice cream, I had a nice chat with Don again about the many inequalities in the quality of life in the world as well as the general apathy in people regarding environmentalism. We walked out to the basketball courts where the kids were playing ball with a couple of guys from the group. We talked about him being in the retirement stage and how it was a big transition and also about how meaningful and rewarding outreach programs, mentoring and volunteering was. Around 9pm we headed back to Helga's. Helga had returned from Fairbanks and our first meeting was unfortunately less than pleasant. She had been a bit upset finding me here early, especially with her paying guests here and all, and she definitely was not afraid to tell me how she felt about it. The unexpected finger shaking had brought my elevated mood down at that point. So far the day had been excellent, I was having a great time in Tok and Tanacross with her guests, and now I'd gotten off to a bad start with my first Servas host who I'd been looking forward to meeting all day. Fortunately, things turned around quickly and Helga and her partner Bill were very welcoming. Helga is a German born artist/free spirit and Bill works in construction management and architecture and is originally from Montana. As it grew late, we all had some great conversation despite getting the bad news from the vet about their golden retriever, Betoven, having a terminal kidney illness. Around 11:30pm I stepped out to pee and decided to go for a walk with their other golden, Sunny. We took a nearby trail a couple miles out before turning around. I jogged a bit on the way back but didn't want to overwork my legs, which were already very sore from the two previous days of biking. Being here in Tok in such good company is perfect timing as my legs are in need of some good rest and recovery. I hope to be spending the weekend here if I am welcome. The church group takes off tomorrow afternoon. We are going out near Tetlin with Bill tomorrow to a community called Mentasta to see a bit of his working environment.