Imagine we're having a conversation, you and I, and you ask me about Fairbanks. Simple stuff, like where do we shop? What's the weather doing these days? Is stuff more expensive here? I decided to pack this post full of all of those small factoids. Because life here, while similar in many ways to life back home, is most definitely different.
+ + The temperature is slowly creeping up. Alaskans consider temps above zero to be warm. At 20 degrees, folks think a heat wave has come to town. Drew came home sans jacket the other day because he said it was, "So nice outside." Yesterday, I saw a guy walking down the sidewalk in only a t-shirt. And (horror of horrors), I ditched my extremely warm parka on a trip to the library a few days ago because I felt too WARM. I walked into the building rocking only my Columbia fleece. Am I (gasp) turning into an Alaskan?
+ + We haven't seen a moose in months. I don't know where these guys are taking their daily jaunts, but apparently not in our neighborhood. I miss them. Their gangly legs, extraordinary height, rambling walk, and close proximity to my dining room window made me feel close to nature. Plus, they're just cool.
+ + Maybe you're wondering what we do all day. Drew is on call one solid week, off the next (a Thursday - Thursday deal). If it's a call week, he's in at 8AM and out by 4:30PM. On those days, Lukas and I drive him to work so we can have the car. If he's not on call, his hours are 6AM-2:30PM. There are pluses to both kinds of days. If I have the car, we hit the coffee drive-thru after dropping Drew off. Happy and half caffeinated, we head home for breakfast. Lukas usually takes two solid naps during the day (1.5-2 hours long), and at some point, we go to the library or grocery shopping (i.e. we find something fun to do that doesn't involve the house). If we're housebound, it's a short day because Drew is usually home by 3. At that point, there's all sorts of adventures to be had. Maybe we meet Drew's co-workers at the local brewery. I might head off to a spin class. Or maybe all three of us go out. I hate not having a car but I absolutely love Drew's schedule. It's a rare night that he isn't home before Lukas goes to sleep. And he's usually the one putting Lukas to sleep (win!)!
+ + I've become adept at sliding around on icy roads in our small SUV. The few times I've forgotten and taken to the neighborhood roads like a Durham-ite, the consequences are instantaneous: I hit the break for a stop sign (instead of gently slowing to a gradual stop), the breaks creak unhappily, and the car slides, leaving me unnerved. Winter driving here is an entirely different beast. If you think about the tortoise and the hare...well, I'm definitely a hare when it comes to driving. Here, the more tortoise-y you drive, the better. Slow and steady, that wins the race in Fairbanks.
+ + Food is expensive, whether it's at the grocery store or in a restaurant. Simple meals (cafes) cost about $25 and mid-level restaurants (think pub style) run about $75 for two. But since there aren't nearly as many dining options here as in Durham, our credit cards are handling the new location just fine. My favorite locations so far are a crepe place downtown (oh my gosh, do the owners know their stuff when it comes to sweet & savory crepes), this Thai restaurant, and a coffee shop that's officially become the Alaskan version of my beloved Joe van Gogh (I think God was having mercy on me when he plopped me so close to a local coffee roaster -- He knew how hard the adjustment would be AND how much I love my lattes).
+ + There's snow and ice everywhere, but since the temperature has started to (slightly) rise this month, people everywhere are abandoning their snow boots for normal footwear. We packed light, so it's either Nike sneakers (rubber soles, not much tread to speak of) or leather booties (even worse tread). Maybe I'll just tramp around in snow boots until all the snow and ice melt...
+ + I miss Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, even Harris Teeter, like they're my good friends. But Fred Meyer isn't too shabby. Imagine a much classier version of Walmart merging with Costco. Now add just dash of the fun that is Target, and you'll have an idea of what Fred Meyer is like. They sell Converses, couches, DiGiorno pizza, OshKosh overalls for kiddos, Private Select ice cream (Kroger brand -- if you haven't had it, it's absolutely amazing), reindeer hotdogs, swanky cheeses, office supplies...seriously, the sky's the limit here. For a town with limited shopping opportunities, Fred Meyer does its best to provide a quality, one-stop shop experience.
+ + I swear elves come out at night to plow the sidewalks. You'd think there'd be no reason to plow sidewalks in February or March; it seemed like a logical assumption to me too. But no, people regularly walk, bike, even RUN, on the sidewalks here in temperatures ranging from -10 to 20+ degrees. And let me clarify: when I say "plow," I mean remove several feet of snow. In general, sidewalks and most side roads in Fairbanks do not see the light of day. They're continually coated in a thin layer of packed, icy snow, the sort that reflects like a mirror when the sun hits it. I keep imagining myself going out for a run...and falling on my face.
The photo above was taken while standing on the frozen Chena River, where Lukas and I went to watch the beginning of the Iditarod.