The Alaska Series: The House

2 of a 5 part series. Read part 3 here. 

When I stepped off of the plane, I was pleasantly surprised that it wasn’t super cold. It was in the mid-60s (and would stay that way almost the entire time I was there).  I was greeted by one of the Professor’s students, Mary, at luggage claim. She was from Germany, but had come to Alaska to study marine biology. This puzzled me as we weren’t exactly near a beach (but maybe about a 30-minute drive from the North Pole?).

“Many different bodies of water are accessible from Alaska,” she explained as she walked me to the car. “This is actually one of the best places in the world to study sea life.” We stopped in the front of an old, silver, broken down looking car. The seatbelts were chewed up and it was filled with the stench of wet dog. There were clumps of dog hair everywhere. She passed me the keys. “This is your car.” Cool, I thought.

We first went to pick up the dogs – both who were half of my size – and then drove out towards the house where I’d be staying. As we drove, I watched the city slowly disappear. Four left turns and nearly 50 minutes later we were bouncing down an unpaved road. There were nothing but trees, valleys and the occasional trooper car.

The drive to the house.
The drive to the house.

“15 minutes,” Mary reminded me. Finally, we pulled up to a driveway, peeking through the trees. The house itself was charming, with big sweeping windows and lots of open space. I pulled out my phone to take a picture and was dismayed to find that I had absolutely no cell phone service.

Mary looked at me sympathetically. “If you drive back into town, you’ll have service again.” I paused, picturing an emergency where I’d have to drive nearly an hour just to get help. I quickly brushed the thought away and kept moving.

The wood furnace that I never really figured out how to use.

“This is the outhouse,” she explained. I peered in.

“What exactly is an outhouse?” I asked. It turned out to be a hole in the ground, outdoors, where you could… take care of your digestive needs. It was similar to a port-a-potty.

“Try not to put toilet paper directly in it. If you do, it’ll fill up too quickly and you’ll have to build another hole.” I eyed the mosquitos and flies buzzing around the hole and shivered.

There also wasn’t a shower.  I was told that there were businesses in town with public showers that I could pay to use or I could grab a bucket and head out deeper into the woods. I checked my privilege before I opened my mouth to complain.  Clean, fresh water to shower, drink and clean with was a luxury that could be bought. Not everyone had easy and (relatively) cheap access to water the way that I’d always taken for granted.

Me as a first year! This was my first day of college, actually, and I was sitting on the floor in Dillard dorms. I’d just been taught how to tie a bowtie. The first of many lessons I’d learn in college.

I thought of Dillard, the dorm I’d lived in my first year of college. When I first moved in, it felt like the wilderness. My classes and the corner were about a hundred miles away, my friends in old dorms refused to visit me because I lived “too far” and I felt very alone in my single room. We even had a different dining hall than everyone else (shoutout to Runk). It hadn’t exactly been my favorite place, but at least I’d had my own bed and access to hot showers. Around day 10 of living in Alaska, I began to fantasize about living in Dillard. It hadn’t been so bad, right?


But I figured I’d learn how to make things work in Alaska. And I did.




2 of a 5 part series. Read part 3 here. 

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