Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Culture dispatch from Homer, Alaska.

Joanna Tornes telephoned her regular culture dispatch from Homer, Alaska on the Wednesday WCRX-LP, 102.1 FM radio program. Her telephone call is subsidized by the staff and volunteers of the Homer, Alaska chamber of commerce.

Joanna’s first comment was that daytime temperatures in Homer are in mid-forty degrees Farenheit. She also commented that this has been a cool summer. Joanna reported that the signs of autumn were coming on. Ground dogwood with red berries is evident; fireweed is turning with its long purple flowers as part of the early autumn landscape.

Joanna commented that when the purple flowers reach the top of the firewood plant, it is a sign that summer has ended. She also commented that this year the fireweed flowers are a sign of the "lack of summer" because this summer was the coolest ever recorded.

Joanna and her sister Ginger are being visited by another sister, Angie, and her husband Mark. Both guests were part of the culture dispatch, Angie as an active speaker and Mark as a disembodied voice in the background.

Angie and Mark are residents of Milwaukee, Wisconsin spending their summer vacation in Alaska.

Angie is a 1974 graduate of Bexley High School. Mark did not offer any educational or cultural credentials which might explain why he was left as a background sound.

Angie described their trip on the ferry boat from Bellingham, Washington to Juneau, Alaska. She said the trip is “incredible” and the boat is neat and clean with good meals. Sensational views of whales spouting and breeching make the travel unforgettable.

The ferry is called the Columbia. Angie and Mark were on the ferry for two nights with a cabin. The cabin was spartan but comfortable and warm. A forest service ranger gave daily lectures about the sights visible from the ferry.

Angie and Mark also traveled on another ship, the Taku, where they had a cabin for the trip to Sitka, Alaska and they also took a high speed ferry from Juneau to Homer.

For dinner on their guests’ first night in Homer, Ginger and Joanna took them to the Finns Pizza on the spit in downtown Homer. They arrived after eight o’clock and found Finn's Pizza to be closed that evening so they went to Fat Olives for dinner.

Joanna returned to the telephone and discussed some Russian cultural influences. She said that she has made a trip to a town called Ninilchik to see Russian Orthodox church architecture. She also said that there is a Russian tea room on a distant island that she has not visited.

The Homer orchestra had its music week.

Joanna attended a Buddhist retreat at the Alaska Culture Studies Center. This was a four day event that stretched over the weekend and she attended Friday through Sunday. The Center is located at Patterson Bay and is primarily concerned with marine and coastal environment matters.

Joanna’s Buddhist weekend was filled with sitting postures, meditation, dharma talk and vegetarian food. The instructors were Buddhists monks from Anchorage, Alaska. Their talks touched on life and awareness of the moment and the connectedness of all living things.

Meals for this Buddhist retreat were in silence and outdoor walks were silent experiences too.

During one outside session, clouds disappeared and sun shine appeared and invigorated the experience.

Joanna then discussed the karma experience of “dip-netting” on the Kenai River. This is a fishing technique that uses nets to catch fish. It has become such a popular sport that it has spawned “combat fishing" where people fight over prime dip-netting spots. Dip-netting is also popular on the Anchor River and the Russian River.

Joanna also reported on her shopping for fishing waders. She has been pricing french-built waders. For hip waders the typical retail price is in the range of $40.00 to $80.00. The retail price for chest waders begins at $90.00.

On a recent fishing venture, Joanna caught two fish. The fish were cleaned and filleted by a local native with an uhlu knife.

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