Thursday, January 31


"Home and steam house"
Aniak, Alaska
January 2008

For the past two weeks, we have had no running water. Even though melting snow on the wood stove may have a romantic touch to it, it surely disappears completely when it's time to wash dishes. Today, finally, the house has return to its normal state and water runs through the pipes, carrying incredible amounts of rust along. But that is what you get when you live here in Aniak.

I do have to say that we have been very lucky. Somehow it has been possible that George, one of the few handymen in Aniak, in a record time of two weeks, has found and installed for us a new water pump. In Aniak, this is ahuge. And I'm not kidding. Here the norm is that anybody will make you wait for months before deciding to do any kind of work for you. Because they feel like it, because they can, and because they don't want to work too hard. Or maybe it's just that they don't like us foreigners. Anyway, you can't open the yellow pages and call another plumber, because there are no yellow pages and no other plumbers.

The few businesses in town are a grocery store, a gas station, and a cute and very small pizza cabin. Coming from the country that probably has the greatest number of bars, restaurants, coffee shops and pubs per square mile, living in a town where there is no place for social gathering other than Bingo is odd, to say the least. We have bingo of course, but no restaurants or bars.

I'm losing my train of thought here, let me regroup. Being without running water for two weeks has made me think about the little attention that we place on so many things that we take for granted in or "civilized" civilization. To open a faucet and have cold or hot water instantly. Hit a light switch and light appears. Put dirty clothes in a machine and they come out clean. Flush the toilet and get rid of your shit. Commodities that nowadays we take for granted and even think we have the right to have. And no, what they really are is a luxury.

My daily shower has always been my favorite moment of the day to go through the list of things that I am thankful for in my life. Now my list includes things such as a water pump, a washer, and a water pipe, even if it's all rusty.

Sunday, January 27


Aniak, AK
January 2008

Today, the family has grown. Just like that, without warning, a young dog has found his way into our home. Black, white spot on his chest, hair not long or short. Shy, scared, he looks almost like a puppy and has that look in his eyes so characteristic of dogs that have been mistreated in the past. For months now I've been holding my ground about not having a dog again, but those eyes won the battle today. Naím has named him Randi and Tola has seriously hissed at him to let him know who is the real boss around here.

Randi will be a good companion at home during David's numerous trips. He will also be great on our hikes. It's always nice to have a dog with you in addition to a GPS, so necessary to go anywhere in this chaotic wilderness that surrounds us. We will have to see how he reacts to the presence of a wild animal, whenever we encounter one. Here they say that if a dog is unable to jump between a bear (or any other animal) and you in order to defend his owner from an attack, you are better off shooting him dead. Tough people up here.

In Aniak, no home is without dogs. At least two or three, and up to fifteen or twenty in some cases. Most of them are sled dogs. After moose season is over, in late September, they start running the dogs using the four-wheelers, getting ready for winter. Many people here are into mushing. It used to be the common transportation many years ago, but with the introduction of the small planes first and the snow machine later, they have been relegated to a winter hobby.

Perhaps you have heard about the Iditarod, the most famous sled dog race in Alaska. It starts in Anchorage and goes all the way to Nome, about 1200 miles west. This annual race commemorates that twenty of Alaska’s best mushers and their teams took a five day journey in 1925, through part of this same trail, to deliver medication to Nome. Because of this, it was possible to avoid a larger expansion of a diphtheria epidemic in the area. Be aware that the epidemics killed about 60% of the native population in the beginning of the 20th century. Because of this, the members of the expedition (both men and dogs alike) are considered national heroes.

Each area in Alaska has its own personal Iditarod race. The one in Aniak is the K-300 and sadly, it ended the day before we arrived back in town from our Christmas vacation, so we couldn't see it as it came through town. We will have to wait for next year.

In the meanwhile, maybe we can start training Randi to pull Naím's sled.

Friday, January 25

No light

"Before night falls"
Castro de Baroña, A Coruña
December 2007

There are days in which optimism, happiness, and the desire to stay in Alaska just evaporate. The same than the water on the pan on top of my wood stove, which helps improve the relative humidity of the air.

Those are usually also days in which I am always cold, I have a harder time taking care of myself, I feel very lazy to do any yoga even though I am aware that I feel much better afterward... Those days in which things don't seem to make much sense. In those days, the only activities with a clear objective are those related to cleaning, cooking and being a mother. en fin, en los que en que las cosas parecen no tener mucho sentido. En esos días, las única actividades con un objetivo claro son aquellas que están relacionadas con la limpieza, la cocina y la maternidad. When I reach that point, I start becoming gray and dark.

Evidently having a cold doesn't help at all. I've dragged it around for weeks and I haven't left the house in fear of catching pneumonia again. It also doesn't help that I still haven't started up my yoga classes, my all girls craft group, or my photography walks...

So I have decided to extend my yoga mat in front of the fire and do a little yoga and self-massage mix. And since the sun has come out, when David comes back home from work and Naím wakes up from his nap, we'll go for a walk to the river with my camera.

Because after three days of dark grayness, I'm bored of myself.

(Original post published in De acá para allá on January 25, 2007)

Tuesday, January 22

Home sweet home

"Mountain Sea"
Alaska on our way to Aniak
December 2007

Finally, we are back home. After three days of planes, airports, and little sleep, we have finally reached Aniak. Winter greeted us with an incredible 40 F, when last week it reached 40 below. And even though the snow is melting fast, I am happy that life is offering us a smooth transition instead of having to dive into the crude arctic winter right after the Egyptian sun. It seems that around this time of the year there is usually a rise in temperatures and we've arrived just on time to enjoy it.

The return has forced us to start living the most pure Alaskan lifestyle, that is, with no running water. While we were gone, and due logistical errors, we ran out of fuel before we expected, so given that outside it was 30 below, the house froze. Because of this, pipes burst and with them, also the water pump, which cracked from side to side. And without the pump, evidently, there is no water.

So here we are, melting snow to wash dishes and shower in the steam house. To wash clothes we will go to the community center, because washing them with melted snow is not something I'm thrilled to experience. I just hope the snow doesn't melt completely, or we will run out of regular water supply. However, it's great to be home, build fires, and enjoy my cat's purring again.

Well, I better try to get back to sleep. Jet lag is bad right now, so here I am, blogging at 2 AM after having slept five hours and be awakened by a crying little boy, who happens to have the same jet lag then his parents.

Friday, January 18

In the city of the thousand minarets

Cairo, Egipto
Enero 2008

Cairo, the city of the thousand minarets, is at once chaotic and comfortable.With approximately 16 million people living together in a huge city, the only thing that doesn't exist here is silence. If it's not the calls to prayer that come out of the speakers of every mosque and ripple through the city like a never ending wave, then it's the incessant honking of the cars and their noisy engines.

Many years ago, I also spent a few days in Cairo. The only feeling I can remember of my visit was panic. Panic due exclusively to the chaotic traffic that runs through the city. This time, thanks to Hassan and my brother-in-law, my new heroes at the wheel, the impression I take a way with me is, Al Hamdu Lellah, much richer. I guess that for those of my friends that are form Mexico City, Cairo's traffic wouldn't be so shocking at all, since they are quite similar. Though there is a fundamental difference: in Mexico I have seen stop lights and drivers who respect them. In Cairo, I have mostly seen yellow stop lights that warn you about intersections. And then, each one figures it out on their own. Cars, people, donkeys, horses, sheep, motorcycles, bicycles, and the occasional freeway sweeper dance and improvised choreography sharing the same space and intertwining without any apparent order and with surprising success.

Though its hard to not feel on occasion like a walking coin, just for the fact of being European in an African country, I take with me a nice impression of the people. I especially liked the natural way in which men express affection among themselves and toward children. This is very unusual in our western societies, where the image of two men holding hands still bring out judgmental glances and where a man smiling or blowing kisses to a child in public would be taken as an unequivocal sign of child molestation. In the western world, women are the only ones allowed such public displays of affection. Then, of course, we have the other side of the coin, since displays of affection between man and women in public are quite discreet. I guess we can't have it all.

We did a few of the typical tourist routes that are inevitable in Cairo: the Pyramids, and the Sphinx, the Citadel, a few mosques, the Coptic neighborhood, Khan el Khalili street market... But the best moments were spent getting lost in small streets away from the masses of tourists that invade Cairo, especially in this time of the year. We walked through very narrow streets filled with skinny cats, garbage, and men drinking tea and smoking sisha. We explored parks like oasis, where young couples go to take their loves for a walk. We ate in small restaurants where you couldn't find a letter, nevertheless a word, that looked familiar (thank god for David's ability to read Arabic and more or less understand what was it that we were about to eat). Watching a woman's extraordinarily happy smile when I asked her to show me how to put on the typical head scarf in the traditional way.

I have not described in justice what I experienced. There are many more impressions, moments, curiosities... many bits of life not told. It's been a great adventure that has reached its end. Tomorrow we take off for Madrid, Sunday we continue in route to Seattle, and Monday we will be back in Alaska. It's been five weeks full of all kinds of emotions, reflexions, entertainment, lots of friends and family, and lots of sun and great weather.

I would not have changed this trip for anything. I have the impression that I have learned a lot and now it's turn to really internalize those teachings. That is, from my little frozen bit of the world, close to the North Pole, and within my daily routine, which I can't wait to get back to. See you there!

Sunday, January 13


"A smile from the sky"
Andorra, Teruel
January 2008

With all these travels, I have lost my words. So many airplanes, cars, landscapes, people, foods, smells, and emotions, that my body and soul are numb.

So I drop by to leave a smile captured in the sky a few days ago. From the sky to me, and from me to all of you that drop by here.