Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Juneau to Anchorage on Alaska Airlines

Screen shot 2014-06-24 at 3.42.50 PM

I have such mixed feelings towards Alaska Airlines. I am about to vent, so if venting bores you, just skip down to the pictures.

I love that Alaska Airlines is truly Alaskan, formed of a conglomeration of smaller companies that used to fly Alaska, and that they truly serve Alaskans well. Alaskans get all kinds of perks on Alaskan airline. So when they board, it’s like “these special people, and then these special people, and these special people, and all the rest of you” and like there are six of us not-so-special people still standing there waiting to get on. After my first flight with Alaska, I learned not to carry any carry on baggage; just a large handbag I can tuck under the seat in front of me; all the overhead compartments are full.

Yes. I know. It sounds like sour grapes, and it is a little bit. I’ve been special too, on other airlines, and you get so you kind of like being treated special. I just take a deep breath and tell myself that old saw “every monkey gets his turn in the barrel” which is sort of a karma thing, everybody gets lucky some time and other times everyone has to take a turn in the barrel.

Here’s where the grapes really got sour. I am a cherry picker when it comes to trip planning. I don’t always get it right, but I put a lot of planning into finding the right small tours, the right schedule, the right seats, the right accommodations. I love the special details, and I take pride in juggling all the factors and getting a strategic plan together.

I found the perfect reservations, reservations that got us from Pensacola to Juneau in one day, and then from Anchorage back to Pensacola in one day. For three months, I gloried in the perfection of those reservations, until Chelsea called me and said they had changed everything.

It was horrible. I had to make decisions I wasn’t prepared to make. Chelsea did her best, but I was no longer in control (OH NO!) and I just did the best I could. She really did work with me. I was mad about the circumstances, but she did her best to find a solution. Just about every change cost me money, including the worst of all, because I am not special on Alaskan Airlines or American Airlines, we had to pay $25 every time we checked a bag, and every time we had a (mandatory) overnight, we had to pick up our bags and PAY AGAIN THE NEXT DAY! It irked me because I had us starting off with Delta originally, where our bags go free. Hey, these $50 (for two people) charges add up fast!

Of course, any seasoned traveller will laugh at “perfect” travel plans. It is a set-up. There is no perfect; God-with-a-sense-of-humor will always humble our human arrogance when we think we have achieved perfection.

So you know our trip started badly with the continuing weather delays in Dallas Fort Worth, and that was not American Airlines fault, but even so, neither was it a fun way to start our vacation.

Now, leaving Juneau for Anchorage, it’s a piece of cake. The hotel is five minutes from the airport and car rental drop-off is just out the back door. Juneau airport is small, and friendly feeling. The Alaska Airlines baggage check-in was compassionate. She looked at our trip history so far and said “you guys don’t have to pay today” and that small gesture really made us feel good.

At our gate, I took a photo of the entire upstairs waiting room. This is the whole Juneau airport:

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At our gate is a pictorial history of Alaska aviation, but it doesn’t answer my question: What was the other airline that flew alongside Coastal Airlines out of the downtown amphibious airport?

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The plane we are on is kind of old-timey, and it is stopping in Yakutat and Cordova, two fishing villages, en route to Anchorage. There is no first class on this flight, but there is freight, and evidently a whole lot of freight. I have never seen this before, but the front part of the airplane is all blocked off with this black curtain/built-in thing for freight:

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Sitting next to me is a man exactly my age who grew up across the channel from me. We were the same year in school, and he is cousin to the girls I played with when I was a kid. We didn’t know each other. As a grown-up, he piloted ferries for the Alaskan Marine Highway System and now does special contracts, guiding the large cruise ships through the various ice fields. And, he tells me, the other airline flying out of Juneau when we were kids, the one with the green planes, is Ellis Airlines. Wooo HOOOO! He tells me before we take off so I quickly text my Mom’s old friend because she was stumped, too! I knew it started with an “S”, LOL. Isn’t life funny, how you can end up sitting next to the right person at the right time and place, and ask the right question?

Anchorage airport is much larger than Juneau, but as we pick up our rental car, the man behind the counter learns we are former military and gives us a great car, and map, and lots of good directions to get us headed towards Seward. Life is sweet, in spite of all my griping and sour grapes.

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June 25, 2014 Posted by | Adventure, Alaska, Bureaucracy, Civility, Cultural, Customer Service, ExPat Life, Geography / Maps, GoogleEarth, Humor, Interconnected, Living Conditions, Local Lore | 2 Comments

What a Girl Hears When You Tell Her She’s ‘Pretty’

Tell your girls they’re smart, and handy, and that they can do anything they put their minds to 🙂

June 25, 2014 Posted by | Women's Issues | 4 Comments

Celebration 2014: Friday Afternoon Dancing

For the first time ever, the announcer tells us, the groups are all ready on time and the dancers ready to go – they are astonishingly ahead of schedule.

We return as a group of mixed dancers, from many Alaskan tribes, and some dancers with roots in classic “lower 48” tribes, so they all respect one another’s traditions, share, and do a little bit of everything. I kind of like this kind of flexibility. Some of the female costumes are a little ummm . . . skimpy . . . for the cold Alaskan climate, LOL, and some of the tattoos a little un-Alaskan and it doesn’t matter, they make it work.

The Celebration Hall is full and brimming over, dancers and their families in the waiting rooms, behind stage, in the halls, in the gift stores, children wailing for their Moms or Dads, it is totally a family affair. Grandma’s step in and help, and the dance goes on.00Afternoon

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June 25, 2014 Posted by | Alaska, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Community, Cross Cultural, Cultural, Events, Friends & Friendship, Generational, Interconnected, Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

An Ice Cream Break and Totem Cones in Juneau

“Are you from the Philippines?” AdventureMan asked the man behind the counter as he dished me up a cone of Huckleberry (Blueberry) ice cream.

“Yes, there are many of us here,” the man answered, and told us how one of the fastest growing demographics in Alaska is the Philippine community.

“At home, we are so poor,” he explained. We are lucky to have a one room shack for a family, and for water we have to walk a long way for running water. It is very bad.” He looked serious.

“How do you like it here?” AdventureMan asked, and the man grinned. “Life is good!” he said, with enthusiasm. He also mentioned the Mexican population in Alaska is growing almost as fast as the Philippine population. Who knew?

Normally, I don’t eat ice cream, but I have been craving something with either blueberries or rhubarb, two fruits that grew in Alaska when I was a kid, fruits we ate, jellied, froze, stored for later use. I had seen neither. Some might argue that huckleberries and blueberries are not the same. I don’t care. It is close enough for me. I also love that the cones are so extraordinary, artistic even, with their Alaskan Haida-esque sculptural quality:

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And here is the proud cone-maker, also from the Philippines, who has a view to die for, the same view as from The Hanger on the Wharf, as she makes her specialty cones:

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They insisted on giving us a 10% discount when they spotted my husband’s retired military ID card as he pulled out his wallet. They also shook his hand and thanked him for his service, a sweet and unexpected kindness in faraway Alaska.

June 25, 2014 Posted by | Alaska, Arts & Handicrafts, Community, Cooking, Customer Service, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Interconnected, Quality of Life Issues, Travel | 2 Comments