Alaska in My Mind

Norwegian Joy in Skagway, Alaska

March, 30, 1867: What Started it All

The United States bought ALASKA for 7.2 million dollars from the Russian Empire. It officially became the 49th state of the US on January 3, 1959. Alaska is the largest state of the USA by total area at 663, 268 square miles. It is over twice the size of Texas, the next largest site.

Alaska is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen. It has its own kind of magic that can effortlessly put one under its spell. I was very fortunate to go in and out of this place for five weeks. In total, that was five Alaskan cruises that gave me enough time to see its lakes, mountains, waterfalls and glaciers. The ports that we visited were Juneau, Ketchikan, Icy Strait Point, and Skagway. We also went sailing around Glacier Bay.

My Ship of Joy

April 6, 2019: Goodbye Singapore

My long day just finished and I was alone in my cabin. I remember looking at a special set of small things that in the last few weeks have served me very well. A map, a few left-over coins, a fridge magnet, and a train ticket. These things took me places and rewarded me with the best memories.

That was my last day in Singapore. I was aboard Norwegian Joy. We were going to Japan and then after just a day we would sail for Vancouver, Los Angeles, and finally Seattle which will be our new home port. From there we will start doing Alaskan cruises in time for its spring and summer seasons.

As the next chapter began to unfold, I remember not being able to contain my joy. My excitement just overflowed. I kept thinking about many beautiful tomorrows.

Where I can smell cherry blossoms. See good friends I haven’t seen for so long. Touch and feel the snow. And witness the most magical light show of all.

May 7, 2019: Hello Tomorrow

After a long dry dock, we finished strong. A month just passed. It was Norwegian Joy’s first official cruise. I was out with friends in the cold. We were following a long line of people waiting for the shuttle bus that would take us to downtown. We were in Juneau, my very first Alaskan port.

I bought two precious things that day. A beanie and a nice pair of boots. You see, I didn’t come here prepared. The whole time, I was thinking I’ll be spending half of my contract basking under the Caribbean sun. It was a good switch though brought by an unexpected detour. Alaska is a place full of pretty things far too many for me to count. Here’s a short list of the places I visited, the things I did, and the lessons I learned.

Oh! The Places We Go

May 8, 2019: Railroad Dock (Skagway)

White Pass train in Skagway, Alaska
The White Pass Train in Skagway

The rain went hiding. Your blessings remained. My hands were freezing because of the cold air. My eyes were filled with awe and wonder. My heart leapt with joyful prayer.

The snow-capped mountains were amazing. I saw a long train left to go there. I wish next time my friends and I can go hiking. It’s a long walk they say. It takes many hours and certainly tiring. But that’s okay. I imagine the view will take my breath away.

I walked around the town and immersed myself in shops filled with delightful products all locally made. I bought another fridge magnet to remind me of moments I wish to keep.

I couldn’t help but smile. Thinking how great are Your plans and how marvelous are the work of Your hands. Some months ago, I was under the heat of the Caribbean sun. Now I’m here on a completely new land. In a few hours, the ship will be surrounded by ice. I’m excited to see orcas, otters, and all things divine.

May 10, 2019: Creek Street (Ketchikan)

Creek Street in Ketchikan, Alaska
The vibrant colors of Creek Street

You give beauty for ashes, strength for fear, gladness for mourning, and peace for despair.

The historic Creek Street is one of the most popular things to see in Ketchikan, Alaska. Known as the Red District in the past, the place is now home to restaurants, shops, museums and public dwelling.   

Unexpectedly, I found this charming place in the company of two kind strangers who instantly became my friends. It’s been a fun day Lanie and Blessel. I’m glad the crew drill was cancelled and today’s weather was perfect.

As we find our way through the colorful houses, wooden stairs and bridges, I can’t help but think of how things were here before and how they changed. The beauty lies not just in the structures but in all the stories they told. Because from mud it transformed to gold. From a fool’s paradise rose a fountain of hope.

I guess that’s my story, too. Thank You for bringing me to You.

May 14, 2019: Lumberjack Show (Ketchikan)

The Lumberjack Show in Ketchikan, Alaska
Spruce Mill vs. Dawson Creek

In praise of rugged woodsmen and a rowdy good time! Lumberjack is a person who falls trees, cuts them into logs, or transports them to a sawmill. A female lumberjack is called a lumberjill. The Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show is a tourist attraction in Ketchikan. It honors an industry that was the backbone of Ketchikan’s economy from the late 50s to the 70s.

This morning, my friends and I treated ourselves to an action packed and laughter-filled show that featured the great lumberjacks of two rival camps – the American Spruce Mill and the Canadian Dawson Creek. They competed in various events that involved saw, ax, rope, chainsaw, and of course wood.

The whole time, the athletes’ skills and strengths were put to a test. The crowd has been great, cheering for their favorite teams. After an hour of intense fun, the American loggers were declared winners.

Thank You for free tickets to an amazing show. Lumberjacks!!! We salute you all! 

May 15, 2019: Mount Roberts Tramway (Juneau)

View on top of Mount Roberts in Juneau, Alaska
View on top of Mount Roberts

What a beautiful day! The woman I met and walked with early this morning said, “You are never alone.” Thank you Vicky.

I rode a tram that took me up to the mountain. The view took my breath away. And indeed, I met strangers who became friends. Kind people who shared in my joy as I capture photos of moments I may never have again. Thank you Ate Baby and Kuya Romeo.

The sun shone bright and I thought it would be hot. The temperature changed and it was chilly at the top. I was welcomed by a lovely sight. There was still snow that I can finally touch. The feeling was wonderfully weird as I hold them in my hands.

Thank You for another heavenly surprise. Before my stay here ends, I pray You also make me see the lights.

May 15, 2019: Holkham Bay Glacier Fjords (Glacier Bay)

Glacier Bay, Alaska
This one’s for the countless ooohs and aaahs. The bliss in freeze. The unforgettable magic.

From 5 pm until 9 pm, we were cruising around Holkham Bay Glacier Fjords. I was in awe and was lost for words. I have never seen something like this before.

I saw many waterfalls, giant mountains and countless icebergs. It was a sight I will never forget. The floating ice, small and big, had their own rhythm and seemed to happily dance with water and wind. The sound of them breaking was like a soothing music.

And there was that giant glacier. The name, I am trying so hard to remember. A wild beauty that brought me to tears. For You’ve been gracious and faithful to Your promise. You’ve showered me with favors and blessings I do not deserve. Thank You for Your love that never ends.

May 21, 2019: Totem Bight Park (Ketchikan)

Totem Pole in Totem Bight Park (Ketchikan, Alaska)
Totem Pole of a man wearing a hat

Totem Bight is a historical park that houses 15 totem poles and a native American Indian community house. These poles were never worshipped. Some served to record family stories and histories, proclaim wealth and status, or honor the dead. Others graced house fronts or served as posts to support the clan houses.

In the 1900s, native villages in Southeast Alaska were on the decline. People migrated to towns to work and the totem poles they left behind were soon eroded by weather. In 1938, a program aiming to salvage these monuments began. Skilled carvers and young artisans were hired to repair the poles and to learn the art of carving them.

Red cedars are typically used for the poles. More than the desire to build with the intent to finish, the carver’s willingness to wait for the log to take shape is also the subject of a laborious test.

Today’s lesson is about being patient. To try to understand even when one’s upset. To shut the mouth rather than utter words that can hurt. Because people make mistakes. Family, friends, strangers, myself

May 23, 2019: Gold Rush Cemetery and Reid’s Waterfalls (Skagway)

Reid's Waterfall in Skagway, Alaska
With my new friend Fam

Two giant sister ships met – Norwegian Joy and Norwegian Bliss. I was hoping to see an old friend but found two new friends instead.

My feet were heavy and my shoulders were down. I was walking a little bit sad. There I was in between two ships devising a new plan. The people I know were all gone and I wanted to do more than just eat and shop.  

There were doubts in my head yet forward I marched. My steps were unsure, slow and unsteady at the start. I convinced myself along the way, I’ll meet someone. Imagine my joy when two angels showed up. I was beyond happy and grateful to have met Fam and Dang!  We went to see the Gold Rush Cemetery and the Reid’s Waterfalls nearby.

For You shielded me and cared for me; You guarded me as the apple of Your eye. Thank You for a fulfilling walk. The world is my playground.

May 30, 2019: Nature Trail (Icy Strait Point)

Icy Strait Pont in Hoonah, Alaska
Rebel – a sister and a friend

Today we went to Icy Strait. I didn’t see whales nor seals at the beach. But I saw other things much to my heart’s content.

We went into the forest where we were welcomed by gigantic trees. I sensed fear in me with a grounding joy attached to it. Because I realized that there will always be something bigger than myself.

This simple walk took away my conceit. And replaced it with peace. That soon turned into bliss. For I was walking with a friend/sister dearly missed. Thank You for today’s gifts.

June 6, 2019: Lower Lake Dewey (Skagway)

Ship crew members hiking the Lower Lake Dewey in Skagway, Alaska
Crew Club activity. We went hiking after the weekly crew drill.

Today my feet and legs are aching. But my heart keeps rejoicing. Thank You!!! I went hiking earlier. The 3-hour walk was exhausting. But the wait and the sweat were worth it.

The picturesque scene lingers. I cannot take the view of the lake off my head. I don’t even have to close my eyes to imagine it. That was rare beauty we saw. It was pure and real. Truly mesmerizing.

I was in many different states of peace and bliss. I wish we stayed longer. With no cameras to click. Only sit and look and feel. Admire something so wonderful that I can’t help but give praise and thanks.

Thank You for taking my feet there. Thank You I walked with new friends. I look forward to many more travels that lead me to people and places. All those wonderful feelings and moments that make me feel Your loving presence. And make me see Your beautiful face.

June 12, 2019: Nugget Fall and Mendenhall Glacier (Juneau )

Mendenhall Glacier visitor center in Juneau, Alaska
Last cruise

Amidst the rain, You were my sun and shield. You covered me with Your grace and glory.

This morning I rode a blue school bus that took me to Alaska’s most accessible glacier, the Mendenhall. It was huge and wide, ultimately beautiful. I walked the shore of a lake and followed pathways that led to the thundering Nugget Fall. It was a sight to behold.

Everything went fast. I only had a few fleeting hours. But I’m certain the memory will last. Until another marvelous surprise comes. And what I thought was the greatest and most lavish will be surpassed.

Thank You for this happy adventure. I can’t wait to see the future. The rain showered me with Your favor. Give me more and more and more.

The Milk with The Boy

When I was a little girl, I remember looking at a cute young boy. His blue eyes were piercing and his hair was brown, almost gold. He has that happy smile on his lips that was infectious and pure.

The boy’s angelic face became a familiar brand icon of a milk product in the Philippines that flooded many grocery stores. Above his head was a red rectangle with white letters that spell the word ALASKA – big and bold. That milk product became famous and so did the “Alaska boy”.

Some years later I found out he was nothing but fiction. An artist’s mere rendition of someone from another place, another world. Another world which I’m grateful to have explored.

Who would have thought? That one fateful day my feet would walk his world. Almost unbelievable. But this I know is true. With God, all things are possible.

Follow your dreams.

Jen

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.