I’ve found that I try to live my life an adventurous style, and that the majority of the time when planning my next trip I’m pretty quick to jump the gun of accepting a position without much thought. And I usually realize (often a week or so before leaving) what I’ve actually gotten myself into and that’s when the panic sweats kick in! Well, maybe not to that extent, but you get the point. All of the sudden I’m a week from embarking on a life changing adventure – one that requires me to take a huge leap outside of my comfort zone. Almost as much as my trip to Africa last year, this latest jaunt to Alaska epitomizes my tendency to dive head first into something that I have some intrinsic desire of getting myself into. The point being that it’s easy to sign the dotted line months before a commitment --- Sure I’ll head up to Alaska a few months from now, sure I’ll jump on some fishing vessels and head out into the Bering sea with it’s 20 to 40 foot waves and fifty mph winds, no problem! Of course, it’s all talk until that day creeps up on you and every night I lay awake in bed thinking I’m that much closer to actually fulfilling this ‘dream’ I’ve had for so many years to work up in Alaskan waters. But it doesn’t really become real, not even the day before leaving as I’m rushing to pack my last minute goodies and the warmest, most Alaskan-worthy clothes I can find. No, it didn’t become real until the minute I stepped onto that flight to Anchorage. That for me was the moment of no return. The threshold, the moment of truth, the instant I realized I was really about to go through with this thing. Yes this was it, there was no turning back, and that’s when the wave of anxiety hit me as it always does at some point when I take off on some grand adventure. I used my last minutes in the contiguous 48 to make a quick call to my dad – I can only imagine the desperation in my voice as I nervously questioned him what in the world I was doing and how I was going to survive the madness of the untamed Alaskan sea for the next few months! He provided me with fatherly words of wisdom that eased my nerves – at least for the minute or so we chatted. Words of wisdom never seem to have a lasting effect when you’re off gallivanting to a far off land! Of course at this point there’s nothing I can do but sit back and try to enjoy my last four hours in a familiar setting (the airplane) before stepping off into the vast unknown.
Stepping on to my flight to Anchorage – the point of no return!!! A pretty nerve-wracking moment!
Not surprisingly, stepping off the airplane into Alaska was no different than stepping off the airplane in any American city – your cell phone still buzzes, the signs are still in english, you still pay in dollars…I guess it wasn’t as dramatic of an entry as I was expecting, pretty nonchalant even. I grabbed my bags, stepped in a cab and headed off to the bunkhouse. Now for some reason I expected to be met by a group of scruffy, weathered guys who I would be working with over the next few months (that’s just the impression I get when I think of Alaskan fisheries!) but to my surprise I looked at the room assignments and as fate would have it, I ended up in a room with four girls! Hah! Just when I think I’m not going to see even a trace of a female for months, it turns out I’m living with four gals during my three week training course. I was absolutely shocked! And to find out that the class itself is about 50/50 boys and girls, I still couldn’t believe it! These are some tough chicas, that’s for sure. I’m sitting over here shaking in my boots just thinking about the work we’ll be doing on these boats and they all seem to be perfectly content…hmm, what a strange picture that one is. Anywho, today was our second day of class and wow is it intense. Starting at 7:30am and going straight through until 5:30pm, talk about a looong day in the classroom. And to sit through three weeks of this, it’s not going to be pretty. Though I suppose its for the best…after all, I would hate to end up out at sea for weeks at a time without any clue of what I’m supposed to be doing. Ok well that’s about it for now, I’ll keep this bad boy updated as I go!
North Pacific Fisheries Observer Training Center! Aka my home for the next three weeks
Keying fish in the fish lab
Here’s our bible. This thing is about the size of a phonebook!