23 May 2012

reflections: closing in on two years!

So I was sitting here, taking a break from visiting with relatives and preparing for travel, and I saw that someone was reading this post. I re-read it and was pleased to see how many things remain true! Here is the original post:

It's been nearly two weeks that we've been here, and I have some reflections to share.

It's amazing to live in a place like this. JoElle and I are constantly awed by the natural beauty of the Sitka Sound, the Tongass rainforest, the mountains, and the weather. We can look out our front window and see the Pacific Ocean, replete with fishing boats, cruise ships, and recreational vessels, Seren gets to watch planes all day taking off and landing at Rocky Gutierrez Airport, and we can walk to the back of the house and see a mountain covered in forest. Beyond the physical beauty of this place, there is so much more going on.

On Saturday, we had to rush through the first Farmers Market of the summer so that we could get over to the library in time for a children's program. I've been to many farmers markets before, but never one where you could buy fresh-caught seafood, sea asparagus, and salmonberry jam in addition to the usual fresh breads, locally-roasted coffees, and fresh produce. I just made dinner tonight out of black cod and sea asparagus from that market, and it was amazing (not intended to be self-congratulatory). Side note: if you like to cook fish and haven't tried black cod, DO IT. It's creamy and buttery and amazing, and almost the same size fillet and cooking time as you're used to for salmon.

We have yet to meet an unfriendly person here. Almost nobody here wears a tie to work. When they say "Alaska formal" means jeans and a collared shirt, they really seem to mean it. The only thing you need to say to get twice the help you were already getting (which is usually already twice what you'd get in the contiguous 48) is that you're new in town. That immediately leads to questions about where you live, how much you like it, and a sincere wish that you'll stick around. I've been asked a few times what brought us to Sitka, but never once have we been asked that in an incredulous tone. The people here know how good they have it, and are simply interested in knowing what excuse you have for living in such a great place.

Seriously, we've been pleased to find almost everything we've found here. Good Asian food and Mexican food restaurants that deliver, electronics shops where you get real help from the knowledgeable staff, great parks, tons of places to walk or run or bike or simply sit and relax and watch the activity around you. The drivers on the biggest road on the island will actually stop of their own volition to let pedestrians cross the street! For a brief while, I was worried that I wouldn't be able to indulge two of my favorite vices here, though. In my mind, there's little better than a good local microbrewery and an old (think Big Lebowski) bowling alley. Before we left, I looked on BeerAdvocate and Google and everywhere else I could, and it seemed like there was a chance that a brewery might exist in town. The other day, we located it! Baranof Island Brewing has only been in business for part of the summer according to its staff, but it is worth knowing of! When I stopped in, they were out of three of the four brews that they normally keep on tap, but their Baranof Brown Ale was almost perfectly balanced for me: thick (not watery at all), smooth, a bit creamy, with plenty of malt and only enough hops to keep it tasting like beer. This is the beer I kept hoping that Prescott Brewing Company would figure out how to make.

I'm still looking for a place to bowl in town. If we can't find one, we may have to build one. Until then, I can settle for a place that's 99% perfect.
Since then, I can assure you that my impressions remain almost exactly the same. I've learned to live without bowling (although Seren is excited about trying again when we're in Cleveland!) and I haven't had as much time for beer. We'd love to be able to buy a house or some land here, but the prices are so high that it's difficult. We still love the people and places and restaurants and local businesses, and the new additions have made things even better. We've also made some great friends, several of whom we never would have crossed paths with in any place other than Sitka.

On the whole, we're doing pretty well here. I wouldn't recommend Sitka to everyone, but it sure seems right for us!


  1. I'm glad you like it!

    I don't see a Sitka move in my future -- I rather suspect I couldn't get a comparable job :-) and anyway I imagine I'd have the same issues with Sitka weather that I did with Portland's.

    1. Thanks, Gordon! While I'd love to have you here, I imagine your wanderlust would put you in the poorhouse, with boat or air travel being the only ways off the island!

  2. it's always nice and refreshing to hear what you have to say about life in a place that is home. some day i, too, will find home. and hope that it does for me what it sounds like it has done for you and jo

    1. I still marvel at how we managed to wind up here so early. The only two professional jobs I took previously aligned perfectly to prepare me (and my resume) for the job I have now, and we moved here completely sight unseen. When we came here, we committed to putting in at least two or three years so that we could restore our finances for another move, if that was needed. Now that we've been here this long, my school could burn down and we'd find a way to stay, we love this place so much.

      You're a wanderer, but I'm sure you'll find a place to slow down eventually. Then again, I sometimes think that you're happiest cultivating relationships around the world so that there are pieces of home everywhere for you.

  3. I am so delighted to read this, and know that your family was just as captivated with Sitka as I was, and remains so. This town is better for your professional contributions, and those of us who know you and your family are better for having you in our lives.