not now, arctic puffin!

I like seasons. I like the way spring makes everyone come alive, opening wide like blossoms splatter painted onto a tree. I like flip flops and Disney dinners and camp games in the summertime. I like fall sweaters, fall colors, football games and carved pumpkins. I like snow. And Christmas lights. And SNOW.

WHY DID BOSTON GET SNOW BEFORE WE DID?

Step up your game, Alaska.

Let’s go back, let’s go back. It’s the Thursday before Halloween—the eve of our first JVC retreat. I’m in my room “packing” aka wearing a Halloween sweater vest, staring at an empty duffel bag and checking facebook on my phone (simple living??). My phone has news for me: it’s snowing in Boston. ‘Tis the season for snow angels on Brighton Campus, sledding behind Stuart, and igloos in the mods. Life at BC has gone on without me, and I honestly don’t know how to cope with that. Maybe I can just close my eyes, spin in circles, and apparate, Harry Potter style, to Mod 11B?

I loved my backyard.

SOMEDAY. SOMEDAY IT’LL WORK. Till then, I’ll have to settle for 6 am flights to Anchorage. Anchorage might not have the mods, but it has the next best thing.

REUNITED!

Lauren Sposa, ladies and gents. Friend. Modmate. Southerner. Moose wrangler. Also, a JV in Alaska’s biggest city. This means that she knows the very best place to eat pumpkin pancakes—and y’all, after a 6 am flight, I would not be denied my pumpkin pancakes.

With Sposa as our tour guide, my housemates and I spent the morning stuffing our faces and touring Anchorage.

Highlights from our first morning in the city:

  • We found a lifesize cutout of Sarah Palin.
  • Noticing the artist’s signature on a wall mural, I promptly informed everybody, “That guy has a gallery at Disney’s Boardwalk!” Judge me.
  • Pumpkin pancakes.
  • Is that a reindeer in your yard? Yes, yes it is.

    don’t worry–Star the Reindeer was injured and can’t be released into the wild. Also, she has a facebook page.

  • PUMPKIN. PANCAKES.

So much excitement before noon! (Is JVC the opposite of college? I’m starting to think that it is. Yesterday, Anne and I solved a crossword puzzle while Martine crocheted and Patrick napped on the couch. Pretty soon we’ll all be retiring to Sarasota.)
That afternoon, all 30 Alaska JVs loaded up the vans and set off for a three-day adventure at Meiers Lake, a charming retreat center located in the heart of Alaska’s meth capital. That’s right, folks. Wasilla. I could see Russia from my house.

and the retreat center’s Episcopalian, so you know it’s cool

The retreat itself focused mainly on relationships, both with our housemates and with the people we serve. In preparation, we all had to take the Enneagram, a personality test that basically divides people into nine categories. Apparently I’m a Nine—a Peacemaker. I wasn’t sure I bought into it until I learned that Nines tend to zone out a lot, generally by watching TV…or football.

Yep.

And did I mention that it snowed?

if all the snowflakes were candy bars and milkshakes…

YESSSSS! Alaska FINALLY caught up to Boston on Sunday morning, and it was worth the wait. There’s something magical about the first snow. You wake up in a snow globe, everything all hushed and white, everyone excited, and you’re convinced in that moment that you will never, ever, even in the midst of a dreary February, tire of this perfect winter weather. Of course you WILL eventually tire of it. Maybe it’ll happen two days later, when you slip on the ice, fall down a steep road, and look up to see three guys with snowboards call out, “Don’t worry—we got it on video!” Yeah. Maybe then.

Till then, though, it was pretty great. Look at this sunset!

Other highlights of the retreat:

  • Late-night Sposa chats
  • Actually getting to know the other Alaska JVs, which clearly didn’t happen during Orientation. Sitka, Juneau, Anchorage and Bethel are such vastly different experiences. This state really is huge (10 Floridas! 69 Massachusettses! 470 Rhode Islands! USELESS TRIVIA!).
  • A pseudo-Newlywed Game challenge between the four houses, featuring such questions as, “Does this roommate squeeze the toothpaste tube from the bottom, middle, or top?” What? I’m not watching Anne squeeze her toothpaste every night! And who squeezes toothpaste from the top? Our backup plan, whenever we didn’t know the real answer, was to make as many Parks and Rec references as possible. Patrick’s parents are now named Ron and Tammy #2.
  • Each house was in charge of cooking a meal. We made chili and cornbread, which was delicious, but that’s not even my point. My point here is that, after the meal, we also had to do dishes. This means I was reunited with a Hobart-like industrial dishwasher, which I rocked with all the panache of a former Junior Counselor. Camp Illahee, you’ve trained me well.
  • One of the Bethel JVs asked me about Kilwins on St. Armand’s Circle. Sarasota! ICE CREAM! References to my hometown are scarce in Alaska, so I appreciate them.
  • Bananagrams. Always banagrams.

On Halloween, back in the comparatively big city, my roommates boarded a flight back to our island home. Meanwhile, I stayed in Anchorage an extra day to shop/sleep/observe Sposa in her natural habitat.

Let’s start with Halloween night. We had trick-or-treaters! I dressed up for the occasion.

You thought I was kidding about that Halloween sweater vest. No. This is very real, and I bought it at the White E (thrift shop) for $1.50, and I cannot WAIT to see what they have to offer at Christmastime.

If you’re wondering why we look so startled, I have two words for you: pull back. The pull back is a Very Special Trick in which you take a deep breath immediately before your photo is taken. It’s supposed to make you look like a model, but it actually just makes you look ridiculous, so of course we used it all the time last year. I never could figure out how to pull back without laughing. Anyway, in our ongoing quest to bring the mods to Alaska, Sposa and I taught it to everyone. It was grand.

The next day, I lunched with Lauren at her office (office lunches? If I didn’t know any better, I’d say we were adults or something. Luckily, that pull back photo proves otherwise). Afterward, I gave in to a temptation that doesn’t exist in Sitka: I went shopping. I found a collection of Joyce Carol Oates’s short stories in a used book store, and obviously I am far too much of an English nerd to leave “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” sitting on a shelf. Then I bought a fleece at REI and a winter headband at a cute little boutique, and now I’m out of money till at least December. In my defense…my ears were cold! Anchorage is cold! Alaska’s COLD! The wind spent the whole day whipping snow into my face, and then I slipped on that icy road. Thank goodness it’ll never be 20 below in Sitka (and if it is, something is WRONG, and you should probably come save me). My wallet is also much happier here, where there are no pumpkin pancakes or boutiques to tempt me. As much as I loved and needed that chance to get away, see other parts of the state, and talk about BC, I came home ready to love Sitka even more.

I also came home to this on my pillow.

JVs have a glorious tradition of thievery and messing with stuff. While we were on retreat, some former Anchorage JVs snuck into the current JV house and piled all of their mattresses in the foyer. They built a tent in the living room—and then put another tent OVER the first one. They made the giant marlin over the fireplace mysteriously disappear. They moved their shower doors to the front yard. They took the shower curtains. They stole the silverware drawer. They took the Whos’ feast! They took the Who-pudding! They took the roast beast!

Sorry. I’m ready for Christmas already. Anyway, this is what the JVs do. We find the most coveted little trinkets in other JV houses and then we…borrow them. It all stays in the family! The other JV houses know they can return the favor, so it’s harmless. Mostly. Patrick made the mistake of snagging this bobblehead Buddy the Elf, which, as it turns out, is more than just a house decoration. It’s actually Whitney’s personal bobblehead. Oops. We’ll give him back to you, Whitney!

Kids, I believe the lesson in this story is DON’T STEAL. Become a pop star and they’ll give you things for free.

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