What It’s Like to Live in Bush Alaska

Living and ministering as a missionary in bush Alaska has its hardships and difficulties. You learn many new skills and things you never had to do before. Such as how never to leave the snow trail in spring. Which boots to wear for which season (yes, this is a skill). Work mud boots, light mud boots, snow boots, bunny boots, spiked boots, and town boots. The same goes for jackets, hats, and gloves. Who knew you needed five different types of clothing for one 9-month-long season. Anyway, the reason for all this is to say that some things are unique to village mission work and life in rural fields like Alaska.

Here are ten things I never would have said if not for this beautiful place we live:

1. I fly more than I drive. I should preface this by saying drive a car. We operate a lot of 4-wheelers and snow machines, but not cars. Our village is a 1.5 to 3-hour plane ride, depending on whether you take the mail route. So, we only go to town if we have to. Not only that, but the most efficient way to visit other villages around us is by plane. So yeah, lots of fly time!

2. Sure, I have been bitten by a fox. A funny thing is that this isn't uncommon here. There was a fox in town, and a couple of years ago, one was following someone downtown and tried to bite their behind. That's not my story; mine happened out trapping with one of my daughters, but all is well, just bruising, so no rabies shot needed!

3. I'm an adventurous eater. I love to try new things. Some of the things I've enjoyed trying are pickled moose nose, moose guts, fish heads, and moose head soup. I wouldn't mind trying some other foods, too: pickled beaver feet, cooked fish guts, raw frozen fish dipped in seal oil (this sounds amazing to me!).

4. Forty below isn't that cold. The ability to adapt to your surroundings is a fantastic thing. Also, I know how to dress right. When it is forty below for a few months, it gets really comfortable to work in. It makes it so that anything warmer feels too hot, and at -20 degrees F, you wish it would cool back down a little.

Become a missionary in Alaska.

5. Lynx meat tastes like turkey. While this is a very true statement, I still could not get past the whole eating-a-cat think. So there ya go.

6. When going swimming, remember a gun. This one always makes me think of the line from The Godfather: "Leave the gun, take the cannoli." Except here in bush Alaska, it's the opposite. Take the gun. You can leave the food if you want, but what's swimming without a little picnic too. Towels: check, Sunscreen: check, snacks and water: check, revolver: check. Ready to swim!

7. You can go outside and keep an eye out for that moose that's wandering around. Animals in your yard are a part of rural life in Alaska. Moose are often in town and could be about anywhere. It is amazing how such big animals could be so stealthy, but they can. We always tell our kids to be aware of their surroundings and watch for moose. One of my scariest moments was when a calf moose came speeding through my yard three feet from my kids. Thankfully, mama wasn't right behind him!

8. No, they can't go out now; a bear was spotted, and they are chasing it around. Bears are not tolerated in town. We will put up with moose but not bear. So, if there is a bear, it will be chased until it is caught or disappears. It is usually chased by many men with guns on 4-wheelers or snow machines. It is best to stay out of the way and let them do their job!

9. Wear a hat. It's fifty below. This is such a common thing to tell my kids. I don't know why it is so hard. They have lovely fur hats. It's -50 degrees, but they insist on wearing nothing or almost nothing. I am sure some other parents out there can relate.

10. No, you can't run outside barefoot because it warmed up to -30 degrees F. Here, -20 degrees is almost t-shirt temps, but -30 is still cold for bare feet... I have to remind one of my children of this. For some reason, she thinks it is summer just because it's not -60 to -40 anymore.

We have been living and serving in bush Alaska for about nine years now, and so many things seem so ordinary that I forget they aren't typical in other places. When we travel back to city life, sometimes what used to be normal now seems odd. In conclusion, things are different out here. There are so many more stories and adventures to be told about living in rural Alaska. Maybe someday I can tell you more. Come and explore the North with us!

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