How I’ve survived my first Alaskan Winter

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For a girl originally from a tropical Pacific Island, moving to the sub-Arctic (Nome, Alaska) was a scary thought.

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I had no idea if I could make it through the cold, dark winters or not…but I figured there’s only one way to know! I’m not an expert, but here are some of the things I’ve done to get through my first winter so far:

1. Find community, make lots of friends. We need community, and the warmth and love it brings, can stave off the bitterest cold! I love this family! And Carol, their amazing mother, is a fellow third culture kid!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

2. Take Vitamin D, Vitamin C and Zinc supplements. For all the sickness going around, so far I’ve only gotten a head cold, but I overall have been well! supplements

3. Get out every day possible and come face-to-face with the Sun. I need the light, the warmth, the reminder that there still is Light. (that iceberg is 10-12 feet tall!)OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

4. If you can’t get out to greet the sun for whatever reason, get a SAD lamp. My favorites are: Philips Hf3470 Wake-up Light, White. You can set this one to slowly get brighter to mimic the sunrise, PLUS it has bird song that sounds beautiful (optional setting)! Phillips sad lamp

and NatureBright SunTouch Plus Light and Ion Therapy Lamp. It’s so bright–it’s enough to make you smile! Sad lamp smile

5. Eat lots of fresh vegetables and fruits! Fresh produce

6. Find something creative that you enjoy doing indoors. I love art, and making things–I really want to learn how to knit cute things like these Eskimo slippers (made by a sweet Inupiat lady from Wales, AK): Eskimo slippers

7. Invest in a good, warm coat. “There’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing.” I first heard this from my Norwegian professor at the University of Minnesota, and it’s a circumpolar saying that really is true. Buy a good, solid coat. even if it is expensive. After doing tons of research, and talking to people and lots and lots of outdoors people, I chose Canada Goose-the Mystique. I love it! I feel like I am crawling back into my comforter every time I put it on, and it makes easy to get up and brave the cold outdoors then!
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Me and dog
8. Get other warm layers.
Like this wool sweater, hand knit in Ecuador. They know how to make warm clothes! OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

9. Exercise regularly. My favorite now is candlelight yoga. Especially here, because it’s dark so much! I learned to do candle light yoga in Denver, and I am so grateful. Here it makes it feel like it is okay that it is dark–because the candle light validates the darkness…or the dark validates the candles. :) I do it when I get up, and it gives me something to look forward to, to get out of bed for!
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10. Get some awesome videos about the place you are living, to relish it, to enjoy it and admire the history of the world you now inhabit. I have personally loved the 1922 film, “Nanook of the North”, “The Fast Runner. Nanook of the North

11. Get warm bedding–fleece sheets, electric mattress pad, microfleece blankets all help keep you warm and toasty at night!

11. You find your happiness and your peace wherever you choose it.

12. Live open-handedly–give freely to others.

13. Live open-handedly–let yourself receive from others. A gift from my neighbors.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

14. Get Bogs. Water-proof, insulated, warm boots, rated to -30 degrees is good. I like these McKennas, because I can also wear them to work! OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

15. Make lots of warm drinks. For your soul comfort.
Morning coffee OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Evening tea
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16. Know that everything is impermanent–the darkness, the cold, the ice and snow.

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snowflakes that stay

17. Surround yourself with your favorite things, beautiful, fun things that you enjoy.
It is such a pleasure to eat from this plate!Talavera plate

And to drink from this handmade mug:
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18. Be open to what is. Accept it, embrace it. this is hands-down the best advice that I received from some friends when I interviewed in Alaska. They said the people who stayed–and really liked it–were the ones who didn’t have any expectations of how things should be, nor were they judgmental about how things are; rather they just embraced it, as-is.
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Sunday Art Therapy

I had a day off (except for rounding on one patient). My hospice patient died last night, which is merciful for her. Fittingly I just found the Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, a beautiful look at the natural acceptance of the whole circle of life, which is healing. I discharged my other patient, and then I got to go home and do some art therapy!

I found a beautiful painting of the Winter Solstice that captured how the solstice feels, that I wanted to paint. My rendition:
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Tundra Sun:
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The photograph of the mid-day sun over the frozen Bering Sea.
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I also painted the board I found in the dirt on the side of the road. I saw this sign a while ago, and I’ve wanted to make it forever!
This kitchen is seasoned with Love
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It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas! Nome Alaska -style

Polar Bear with a Santa Hat! (This is looking out the window at the DMV at the polar bear on the DMV building). :) And yay~I finally got my Alaska driver’s license–three months later!:
Polar bear with a santa hat

Red-nosed reindeer on the hospital wall
Reindeer on the hospital walls

On Dasher! On Dancer!
On Dasher On Dancer instagram

Pretzel snowman–made and sold by the native Alaskans who sell crafts and goods in the hospital:
pretzel snowman

There aren’t many trees in Nome, so these are doubly lovely!
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My Dream Car…All I want for Christmas, Santa!
4 Wheel Drive

All Is Calm, All Is Bright:
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Winterized!
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Winter Solstice in Alaska

We are past the Winter Solstice! Hallelujah these short days are now beginning to get longer!!! Growing up in Papua New Guinea I never really was aware of the solstice, because along the equator the days are all about the same length all year. Here in Nome, just below the Arctic Circle, I have become acutely aware of Planet Earth’s shifting tilt as it makes 20 hours of difference of light!

This is how much sun Nome gets at the solstice, December 21 (Picture from the Nome Nugget):

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Sunrise at 12:03, sunset at 3:56pm

The North of the Earth is tilted away from the Sun. Can’t wait till it tilts back into the Sun’s face!
Nome ↓ (up by that ice shelf)
December-winter-solstice-2013

Highlights of last week:

Lots of Christmas goodies and treats from co-workers. People so generous and lives open-handedly here! It’s a really, really cool community.

Lots and lots of medical experience! Had another trauma patient with a an eye socket blow-out fracture.

I intubated another patient with respiratory distress–this time successfully! I had a few critical patients that required higher level of critical care, for whom we basically instituted a rapid response (which in Denver we had a whole team of people specifically designated with extra training and set roles) to get them quickly taken care of.

I have done 2 ABGS (arterial blood draws), put two people on BIPAP (a breathing machine that is the step before intubating them), delivered another baby, sent several people to Anchorage.

In the meantime, every day I am learning heaps! One of the attending physicians reminded me that the learning curve out in your first year out of residency is about 60 degree upward slope. And in our fairly new hospital everyone is working to continually improve our systems to provide better patient care, and it is really cool to be at a place where everyone cares so much about our patients! It’s also kind of cool to be at a place where there are lots of improvements to make, because it’s fun and exciting to be part of developing new processes and implementing new ways to help everything work smoothly and efficiently! We have great administrators who really care about our patients and make sure the staff are well cared for.

Bearing Tea Co. = bearing happiness

It’s always nice to find a good coffee house where you live, and in Nome, we have a gem! There is the best little coffee shop next to the gift and music shop called Bearing Song and Gifts Shop. You can get a warm drink and home-baked goods~like warm fresh muffins, and sit and enjoy the creative, home-made decorations of this cozy, welcoming place.Bering Tea Co

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Mason jar lights

Mason jar lights

Mason jar chandelier

Mason jar chandelier

Cozy corner where I had  a warm, fresh-out-of-the-oven muffin

Cozy corner where I had a warm, fresh-out-of-the-oven muffin

Reading nook

Reading nook

reading nook 2

Bookshelf driftwood

Bookshelf driftwood

weathered coffee table in the sunlight, olive sofa

weathered coffee table in the sunlight, olive sofa

white piano

white piano

window seat

window seat

This is a Russian ukelele:

look a little closer. the details are the best part! :)

look a little closer. the details are the best part! :)