Wednesday, December 12

Before I travel

"Sunrise at 10 am"
Anchorage, Alaska
December 2007

In a couple of days, we will start our travels that will take us all the way to the other side of the planet. First Seattle, with a short stop to visit family and friends. This stop helps with the thirty-something hours of planes and lay overs that it takes to get to Spain from Alaska. Then Spain, where more than going on vacation it seems like we are going on tour, just like those resurfaced Spice Girls are doing. We will be traveling a lot in order to see everyone: Madrid, Santiago, Teruel, Tarragona, and hopefully even Granada. And finally, before we get back home, we will take a real vacation in Egypt. David's brother lives with his family and we will have some time to rest, visit interesting things, and have Naím enjoy his cousins a little longer.

A part of me really wants to go. Another side of me, really wants to stay. That side would prefer to stay here, watching beautiful sunrises from my kitchen window at ten thirty or eleven, sewing beaver gloves for Naím, teaching yoga, baking bread, cooking, trading massage, enjoying our steam bath, shooting pictures, sharing time with David and Naím... This side of me wants to really live this luxury life we lead lately, with no stress, no hurries, no traffic jams...

I am truly grateful for the opportunity to live this adventure I am living in this inhospitable and yet cozy place on earth. I have not yet left, and I can't wait to come back...

Tuesday, November 27


"Hold on tight"
Aniak, AK
November 2007

Little by little things are changing and taking a more definite shape for us in this wild little corner of the planet. It helps that all of the changes are positive so far. Today I know that the day life takes me away from here, I will miss this little town in the Alaska Bush, my beautiful cabin, and the life I lead here.

One of the most interesting changes these days has to do with my relationship with cold. Up until not long ago, 32F was very very cold for me. In fact, it was freezing cold! Today, 32F is not really all that cold, just chilly. I go out to get some wood with a light sweater on at 32F and I don't feel cold. On the contrary, it feels cool and comfortable. That to me is quite interesting, believe me.

Other surprising changes which I am very grateful for, have stemmed out of my increased socialization as of lately. I have met a woman in town who is also a massage therapist. Who could have imagined that there would be two massage therapists in town and I would have the opportunity to trade and take care of myself in this amazing way. The first time we tried each other out, we were sold. So now every Sunday we meet at home. One week she gets a massage, the following week, I get one. From the table, we jump directly into a steam bath that David has been preparing for us. Well, he really prepares it for himself, but we go in first, just because he likes it so much hotter than ours. So hot, I would almost define it as masochist.

As if finding her had not been enough, it turns out that she has a child who is close to Naím in age. He is a very sweet boy and we've already found out that they get along great, so I'm sure they will be spending some play time together.

So little by little, we are creating an interesting little community around us. Without it, winters here would be much more difficult. Winters that every now and then, surprise us with cool and comfortable days, at 32F.

Changes are so amazing! We fear them so much (or at least I do!). Oh, the famous fear of the unknown! And then I realize that once I decide to live those changes truly being present, when I least expect it, I feel just fine and end up perceiving them as positive in my life.

It is true that humans have an incredible capacity of adaptation to the environment. We can get used to anything, regardless of how impossible it seems before living through it. And aren't we lucky it is this way?

Tuesday, November 20


Aniak, AK
November 2007

Ice is endlessly fascinating.

Sunday, November 18

Ice and frozen rivers

"New Ice"
Aniak, AK
November 2007

My solitary trip yesterday to the Post Office ended up being a lovely experience, despite the chill factor that turned those -4F to a crazy -50 something degrees. The sun, the blue sky, and the amazing amount of light thanks to the reflection of the snow made my day. I love this winter combination of sun and snow. It sure beats the hell out of the gloomy skies and rain tht I'm accostumed to.

I took my camera with me and I found out that the river had completely stopped. Ice was jammed up all over the surface and there were open waters here and there. Quiet waters, trapped among the ice, calmly surrendering to the inevitable transformation that lies ahead.

Ice is absolutely fascinating. It takes the most amazing shapes. The small and apparently unimportant things sometimes hide a beauty that is only revealed to those who take the time to stop and look.

Saturday, November 17

Adventures on a Saturday

Aniak, AK
November 2007

First thing I do every morning as soon as I land in the kitchen to make breakfast, is check the outdoor thermometer. Today, I freaked out. Not other than -4F. I will admit I am a little scared of going outside in this kind of weather. So just because of that, that is exactly what I am going to do. So I can start shaking away this fear. As Eleanor Roosevelt wisely stated: "You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face... do the thing you think you cannot do." I should add that aside from gaining strength, courage, and confidence, I also gain resistance to cold weather in this particular case.

So, I will bundle up really well so I can go on my ATV and not freeze in thirty seconds. And when I say really well, I mean really well, because taking into consideration the chill factor and all, I will be feeling some -40F in my face.

Imagine that, a simple drive to the Post Office on a Saturday morning, turns into a personal challenge and a great adventure!

Wednesday, November 7

I like Mondays

Aniak, Alaska
November 2007

One would imagine that in the Alaska Bush, living many adventures to tell your friends every single day should be easy. In reality, when one lives her life mostly dedicated to the care of the home and its inhabitants, be it in Alaska or wherever, most of the adventures end up smelling like dirty diapers and fried onions.

The adaptation process to my new housewife life style is not being easy. Mostly because for over 20 years I have been defining myself as a professional working woman, financially independent and gastronomically unfit. To change this definition for one that implies doing house chores all day long, being financially dependent on my husband, and cooking every day brings along quite a share of internal re-structuring. It becomes an eclectic process that includes getting over old sticky prejudices or developing a previously inexistent creativity in areas that used to be abandoned in my life, say the kitchen. These new learnings add a transcendental and necessary touch to this process, since its most mundane side can be compared to the act of making a bead necklace without having tied a knot at the end of the string. When I believe I am close to the end and I lift up my work to look at it proudly, all the beads roll all over the floor and I must start all over again. And again... and again...

And then there is the mother area, that leaves no choice but to reinvent yourself from the ground. I have never felt so at home and so out of place and incompetent, all at once. It seems so easy to know exactly what you would do before you actually have any kids. And then they show up in your life, with their smiles that melt universes, those tantrums that test the strongest patiences, and those things only they can come up with, which leave you shocked, or laughing uncontrollably, or both at once. And life changes, because even if they say that life doesn't have to change with children, it does. For good, for bad, for everything...

And finally.. Monday arrives! With it's bad reputation, bringing me back to a part of my self. A part I left behind a while back, that feels good, that brings out the best in me, that I was missing, and that I recognize as authentically mine. Thanks to the opportunity of starting to offer yoga classes in town and later attend a women's group that blends craft making with talks and laughter, life in Aniak is taking on a different color.

These recently started activities offer me a lot. Yoga classes give me the chance to have somewhat of a professional life (even though I'm not really a yoga teacher and I don't even charge for the classes), to feel again like I am collaborating to the wellbeing of others, and to finish getting rid of my fear of leading groups. The women's group gives me the chance to get back to working with my hands making crafts, something I have always been passionate about and I had forgotten somewhere along the way. My first craft is turning into a trappers fur hat, made out of fox, to make sure that at least my ideas and ears don't freeze this winter. But the most important thing is that both groups give me the chance to meet some of the people that live here and start having a social life.

On Mondays I get back a part of myself that I need in order to keep on moving forward. It is being the key element in helping me reach that precarious balance between giving to others and giving to myself. Because without this balance it is so easy to lose myself and end up being swallowed by life, instead of living it fully.

I like Mondays.

Thursday, October 18

Trip to the big city

Mountains near Anchorage
May 2007

About 12 years ago, I arrived in this country with the honest intention of staying just for one year. My first culture shock episode happened inside of a supermarket. I was used to small privately owned stores, and I believe there was only one supermarket chain that had opened in my hometown at the time, which I didn't use very much anyway. Here in the US, on the other hand, the great majority of the supermarkets are enormous stores where you can find at least 100 different brands of cereal. Who on Earth needs one hundred brands of cereal? I thought it was ridiculous and unnecessary, a perfect example of the obscene abundance that characterizes this country.

In the little rural Alaskan town I live in, we have a supermarket where there is probably not more than 5 brands of cereal to choose from. A store where prices are too high, vegetables look too much like plastic, and there is lots and lots of dust. We use it basically to buy eggs, those sprinkled with who knows how many types of hormones and antibiotics. And that is just because it would be hard for eggs to arrive safely in the mail or in our luggage. The rest of what we eat and otherwise consume we buy in the city.

Once every two or three months, just like we are doing now, we come to Anchorage. It's the closest city and the biggest one in Alaska, though it's not the capital of the State. This is also something that has always been interesting for me about this country. The biggest and best known city in the State is never the capital of the State. Completely the opposite of the Spanish logic, where the majority of the capitals have the same name as the provinces they are in, and in most cases they are also the largest cities. One would imagine, coming from Spain, that New York would logically be the capital of New York State. But no, it's Albany. And who has ever heard anything about Albany?

Anyway... since there is no other possible transportation from Aniak, coming to Anchorage implies an hour and a half flight over tundra, rivers, lakes, mountains and glaciers. A simple shopping trip then turns into quite an adventure. We spend hours and hours running from one place to the other buying wholesale food, tools, construction materials, clothes and everything else we will need in order to spend a few months in the bush until the next upcoming trip to the city. Then we have to pack everything you bought into boxes and take them to the Post Office or one of the cargo business at the airport. Mind you, there are very long lines at the Post office usually. And we finally go back home loaded with huge coolers full of fresh vegetables and fruit, as well as refrigerated and frozen items we could not send through the mail. This shopping style is called here "guerrilla shopping." It is a true pain in the ass and pretty stressful, believe me.

On the other hand, a trip to the city also implies the possibility of going to a restaurant, getting a cup of coffee or a drink, going to a park with the kid, walk into a store just because you feel like looking around, driving a car... Many things that you take for granted living in the "civilized" world and that nowadays are an amazing luxury for me.

I would have never imagined that walking into one of those huge stores that scared me 12 years ago, say a Safeway, would feel so comforting. Yes, a Safeway, comforting!! And I don't just get this feeling when grocery shopping. I get it even when experiencing most of those things that I have always disliked from the cities: traffic, noise, concrete, people that pass by without looking at you, or the innumerable straight lines in the urban landscape.

The peace that you get from that which is familiar is something truly powerful. Regardless of it is supposedly "good" or "bad" for you.

Monday, October 15

My environment

"The Kuskokwim's break-up"
Aniak, Alaska
May 2007

Since today is October 15th and a few days ago I signed up for Blog Action Day, I'll take this chance to talk about why I happened to land in this corner of the world. It has to do with environmental issues.

David, the man I share a journey an a small and beautiful family with, accepted a job in January that implied leaving everything behind and moving to a small town in the Alaska Bush for a period of at least three years. The decision was not an easy one, but we took it and here we are.

Now, David works as the Director of the Kuskokwim River Watershed Council, trying to build the organization from the ground. It is a bit surreal that a guy from Andorra de Teruel, in Spain, has come to Alaska to create an environmental organization that represents the interests of the 29 Yup'ik and Athabascan tribes that live along the longest free flowing river in the US. It is not an easy job, believe me.

The project is still in its initial phases, creating a board of directors with representatives from the different towns and tribes. The idea is to eventually start developing projects that will help in the conservation of the river. The work will focus on environmental issues, though the social and cultural areas are also tremendously important aspects of it. Projects such as river water quality monitoring and recycling programs are starting out. An interesting project that is developing is a summer camp in which elders and children will share a few days together and explore a variety of cultural traditions. Those traditions that with the impact of western civilization and especially television, are slowly dying out. If you are interested, you can visit the Kuskokwim River Watershed Council's website.

Meanwhile, at home, we try to live a life as sustainable as possible. This implies reducing as much as possible the use of fossil resources, trying to recycle as much as possible in a town with no recycling programs yet, and obtaining a big portion of our protein through hunting and fishing in the area. Hopefully, next summer we will have a garden big enough to produce vegetables that will last part of the winter.

What seems impossible to avoid here is the use of one of our biggest contaminants and resource suckers nowadays: airplanes. I recently learned that 1 out of 69 people in Alaska is a pilot. And it is not surprising. Most part of Alaska is like the area of the tundra we live in, with no communication by road other than to get to the dump, which is about 2 miles outside of town. We live far away from Alaska's small road system. At least here we have the river in the winter, and for a few months out of each year, it freezes over and turns into a giant Ice Road, connecting all the villages in the area and allowing people to ride in snow machines or trucks from one place to another.

I'm still scared of going on the frozen river, but I hear that there are trucks that drive on the ice when the ice is at its thickest, so it must be pretty safe. You'll hear all about it! :)

Wednesday, October 10


"Inside the fire"
Aniak, Alaska
October 2007

One of my daily jobs, in this new "mother and house-wife" life that I lead lately, is the one of tending the fire and keeping it alive all day long. It's our only source of heat. Yes, there is an oil stove under the stairs, but we are hoping to use it only when temperatures drop below -20C (more or less 0F). Brrrrr......

Living with fire is a new experience for me. I've never had it in my life on a daily basis. Fire has always been a sporadic thing: during vacations, camping trips, or those moments in which a lit fireplace adds a romantic touch to a lazy winter afternoon.

Six years ago, I shared a weekend with a Lakota Native that spoke to us about his culture's "Sacred Fire." It is a ritual that facilitates the transition of the spirits from this world to the next. When a loved one dies in the community, a man of the family starts a sacred fire. It must stay lit for four days and four nights. In this tradition, men protect the sacred fire and women give them support and food during the process. Smoke leads the way and becomes the connection thread between both worlds.

Each and every one of us carries inside a sacred fire. Its flame can be more or less awake, and even at times it may look like it is completely dead. But no, this flame never dies. It is dormant, transformed in amber and hiding under the ashes. It waits patiently for the moment we have the courage to question our own inner emptiness, look at it directly, and feel its chill. Only by doing this does the fire resume its dancing liveliness. Only when we pay attention to it and take care of it. Only when we take care of ourselves. And only by doing this can we take care of others and at the same time allow others to take care of us.

I must care for my sacred fire in order to care for our fire... I must tend the fire...

Saturday, October 6

Skin and Fur

Photographer: Chío
Seattle, WA
August 1997

Skin. That primordial organ that offers us our first and most vital information. The largest of all the senses. That elastic wrapping that is capable to stretch in amazing ways and then come back to its original position, with more or less success. That eternal companion that contains us, protects us, and draws our boundaries. That skin I always envied in my sister, because she was the one that inherited Grandma Rosa's, instead of me. That which I see changing every day in front of the mirror while it shows me that life really is passing by.

And here, in Alaska, being in contact with other types of skin. Skin that far away, in the "civilized" world, I would've never considered putting over my body. That other sister skin, the ones that the animals wear. So necessary here, such a part of what living in contact with nature with a subsistence economy really is.

Yup'ik believe that when an animal crosses your path, it's because it is offering itself to you. And the correct thing to do is to be grateful, receive the offering, and hunt it. Of course, to truly honor the animal, you must utilize all the resources it is offering. They generously give up their meat to feed us, and with that same generosity, we must offer it first to the elders. They offer their fur as well, which will be transformed into warm and soft gloves, hats, and mukluk boots. Nothing goes to waste, it would be an offense to the animal.

It is easy to understand that the local people are against hunting as a "sport." The type of hunting that the white man practices so much here. The tourist, that thrilled by the adventure of bow-hunting a bear in the mountains of Alaska, leaves the animal to rot in the wilderness, decapitated and dishonored, while he leaves proudly with his trophy. One more head that will soon hang in some wall in Munich, Chicago, or Madrid. I have never liked to see heads hanging from walls. Though seeing them here in peoples homes takes a different meaning, like so many other things.

It is impossible to see this world through civilized eyes. I am in the process of a full mental reconditioning in order to be able to accept that some of my truths and values will have to step aside for the time being. As with everything, there is a process of adaptation that transforms you, and you never know who you will be at the end of that process.

Friday, October 5


"Sunset with friends"
Beach in Queiruga, A Coruña
August 2007

This image, captured this last summer in Spain, makes me think about how important friends are. I know that the quality of the friendships that we will develop in Aniak will be one of the key factors in determining how well we adjust to this wild and frozen land.

Little by little I'm starting to socialize and meet some people in town. The summer has gone by and with it the frenzy that accompanies it. Most of the subsistence activities last the few months between break-up and freeze-up. Once the salmon fishing, berry picking, and moose hunting is over with in the Kuskokwim River, frost has arrived. So, as we pick up our first crop of potatoes, people start to look for activities that will help them get through the long and dark winter months.

One of these activities is gym class 3 times a week at the Elementary School gym and volleyball twice a week at the High School gym. Basketball season is also coming up as well as wresting for the school kids. There are other activities in project, too. I want to be able to contribute with something to the community activities... so, we'll see what happens...

I very much appreciate technology at this time in my life. It helps me feel close within my distance.

Wednesday, October 3

Magic places

Breitenbush Hot Springs
Oregon, USA
September 2004

This is one of my favorite places, one of the most magical ones I've even been at. Lost in the Oregon mountains, it used to be an old hippie commune. Today, it welcomes visitors that want to disconnect from the world and spend a few days enjoying the outdoor natural hot springs, the organic food, and most of all, the silence. There are no televisions, no cellphones, no cars, an no one seems to be in a hurry. There are none of the things that abound so much in modern daily life in the city.

Our home in Alaska has recently brought me memories of Breitenbush. I like this unconscious connection and it makes a lot of sense, really. On one hand, we don't have TV, or cellphone, or a car, and we're really not in a hurry to do much of anything. On the other hand, we have turned our shed into the original steam house that it used to be. To come out of the intense heat into the most clear and starry nights I have ever seen, adds a touch of intense mysticism to my life. Regardless of the -20F temperatures.

Castro de Baroña, A Coruña, Spain
December 1999

I remember many afternoons, a long time ago, up on those cliffs at El Castro watching the waves below us for hours. The power of the Atlantic Ocean crashing repeatedly against the rocks was mesmerizing.

That power of nature is the same one I encounter around me here, though in a very different form. It's at once more subtle and wild... and it intimidates me...


"Good Morning"
Castiñeiras, A Coruña
August 2007

This image represents for me the closest thing I have to this thing called roots, a place of origin... To wake up each day looking at the Atlantic ocean washing into the sound is a privilege I have enjoyed for a little over twenty years and for which I am greatly thankful...

In those moments in which I resource to images to find my center and my inner peace, I tend to wander out this window...

Tuesday, October 2


"Sunrise over the Kuskokwim"
Aniak, Alaska
April 2007

I started this blog in Spanish a few months ago because I needed to learn to love this place. More than anything, because I planned on being here for a few years and I wanted to be able to remember this time in the future and know that I had been happy here. It's inhospitable and cold, but I was sure it could also be cozy and warm. It would depend on the mind frame I decided to look at it with, each and every day.

Through photography, one of my passions that had been sitting still for a while, I wanted to start this journey and put it out there in the cyberworld, to share with friends and anyone else that would like to hang out in Alaska for a bit.