Thursday, August 26, 2010

traveling by sea

On Friday, we left Nome on a crab boat. Seventeen hours later, we arrived at Little Diomede Island. The crab boat we traveled on was named Inalik, which is also the Inupiaq name of Diomede. Captain Greg Alexander could not have been more hospitable, and his crew -- two young men named Gus and Stanley -- were kind and generous. Captain Greg is not only experienced on the seas, but he is quite the chef too. It was fine dining for us teachers. We ate crab salad with jalapeno dressing and barbecued ribs at 10:30 p.m. while the sun was still up. Gus and Stanley put together the salad, and Capt. Greg grilled the ribs to perfection. I will never forget their hospitality. In fact, there were only four bunks on the boat and a total of eight people, but they freely let us sleep on their bunks. Capt. Greg, Gus, and Stanley hardly slept all. I can't emphasize to you how much I appreciate their kindness. Because Gus gave up his bunk, I was able to have one of the best nights of sleep I've had in a long time. I slept for a full eight hours. The weather was calm, and the sea was still -- only a gentle rocking that put me to sleep quickly.

The next morning we had stronger waves, but the weather was good. I felt like I was on a seesaw and that the boat was going to tip over a couple of times, but Greg never flinched. It was so normal to him, and his knowledge and experience kept me calm at all times. The only time I felt nervous was when walking outside on the boat. To me the railings were completely inadequate, although I know Greg kept everything up to coast guard approval standards, but for someone such as myself, falling off would have been very easy. With a watery deck and my clumsy hands, I would have been gone. So, I mostly stayed inside, unless the boat slowed down to 3-4 knots. At that speed, I felt safer, but only on the lower deck. You know, Greg told me that he was writing a book and that I would be in it -- a chapter called "From Tennessee to Diomede." I am not sure if he was serious, but I should tell him that he is already in my book.

The sea was beautiful, and the sunset and sunrise was clear. I watched all morning for the place I was soon going to call home. And now that I am here, what do I see and hear and smell and feel? Instead of mourning doves, I hear seagulls. Instead of cars driving by, I hear the waves crashing on the sea. I see Russia from my front door, and I see white coffins from my back door. I see men hunting and women berrypicking. I hear children playing and dogs barking. I smell the sea, and I feel the mist that constantly surrounds me. I see little joyful faces -- the little children who cling to me and say "mine." What a strange, mysterious, and beautiful place I am in.

"He goes before you. He prepares your way." - Thomas a Kempis


Suzassippi said...

I am glad to hear you are there, safely and soundly. I have been thinking of you these past days, knowing you were traveling by sea. What an incredible experience you will have!

Meredith said...

Thanks, Susan! It was a great experience!

Amy said...

Hi, Meredith! I've been out of town for a little while, and I'm finally catching up with your blog. Welcome to Alaska! Your photos are AMAZING! It looks like you're having a great time so far. I'm jealous of your boat ride - I would LOVE to ride on a crab boat! What's the internet like in Diomede? Do you have to go to a public place for a connection?