Cheechako: noun. (From the Chinook jargon) a person newly arrived to the mining districts of Alaska or Northwest Canada; roughly translates to “newcomer” or “tenderfoot”.
Despite being a cheechako, I have learned a few things about life in the last frontier these past few months.
I would like to share some of these with you.
- Snow pants: wear them. They make weird swishing noises when you walk. On occasion, they will also make you feel like the giant marshmallow man in Ghostbusters, but if it’s below zero and you are outside, you should probably wear snow pants (on top of your regular pants, on top of long underwear.)
- No, really. Wear snow pants.
- There are many different dialects of Yupik and Inupiaq. Most elders speak English as a second language. Try learning some of the local dialect.
- Penguins in the southern hemisphere, polar bears in the north. And no. I haven’t seen any.
- Pilot Bread is a gift from the gods. Eat it. Share it. Make sure it’s always in your pantry. If you don’t have any in your house, you can’t call yourself a real Alaskan.
6. Vitamin D deficiency is real. Take supplements or get a sunlamp if you must: don’t get sad, get glad!
7. It’s not always cold here. Sometimes it’s windy, or wet. Own a windbreaker.
8. Pick berries in the summer. Fruit is expensive because it’s imported. Freeze whatever’s left over for the winter.
9. If someone offers you some of his or her game, take it. If you have any game, share it. Meat is expensive. Sharing is caring. It can be fun.
10. Subsistence hunting is not a sport; it’s a way of life. I can afford to go to the grocery store, but many Alaskan Natives in the rural areas rely on what they fish or hunt to survive. The hunt itself is a part of their culture. For more on this refer to 8&9.
11. Double gloving is more practical than mittens. Mittens are super warm but come at the cost of your finger usage. If you want to be able to grab for your keys or flash a quick ‘peace’ sign, double glove it, man!
12. Don’t joke about the weather.
13. Don’t joke about the weather.
14. Ladies: cut off your hair. Okay, I admit, this one is not for everyone. Life here is much more relaxed and low-key. If you ever wanted to cut off all your hair for practical reasons, this is the place to do it.
15. Having fun isn’t hard when you’ve got a library card.
16. Sled dogs consume about 10,000 calories a day. That’s not really related to me, but dude, that’s like 13 sticks of butter. That’s a lot.
17. As opposed to the lower 48 where you wait for it to cool down to see snow, here you wait for it to warm up. When it does, it’s a heat wave.
18. There is a difference between frostnip and frostbite, and you don’t want either.
19. Seeing the aurora borealis makes all the hardships worth it.
20. Always wear snow pants.