Sunday, July 19, 2009
Okay, back to talking about McCarthy, Alaska. If you haven't read Part I, please click here before reading Part II.
First of all, let me say that my friend Tracey tried to give me the heads-up. She told me that McCarthy was very remote, very 3rd world. But I didn't really get it. I knew that the road leading to it was unpaved--rocks, cliffs, danger. I didn't realize that this wasn't just the case with the road leading to it but this was it. So when we left paved road and were driving the 2 1/2 or so hours on the rugged road, I thought it was just what you had to go through to get there. Who knew that this was there?! I understood that there would be no cell phone service, no Internet. What I didn't know is that there would be no outlets in the room at all. I didn't know that I couldn't plug in my flat iron! I didn't realize there would be no clock. I also didn't know that the bathroom was a shared one in the hallway. And I didn't know that there would be no television. In other words, I ain't know nothin'.
When we parked the car, the man who took our parking money filled us in on the ins and outs of the town. I think he is like the closest thing McCarthy has to a mayor or something! LOL! Anyway, at that point, we had to gather our belongings and either walk or catch the shuttle. Even though all around me I saw...nothing...just miles of dirt--and having walked just a few feet was already filthy due to all the dust, I still didn't get it. I still thought somehow that this road would lead us to where we had to go. I just didn't understand that this was where we were going. I looked around me, and all I could see in my mind was the mission field. For real. It was like walking down the streets of Africa--only less developed! Actually, it was like a combination of the greenery and remoteness of the mountains of Guatemala--where I went on a missions trip a few months prior to going to Africa--and the look and feel of Africa. After a while--and numerous questions to April--it started sinking in: This was where we were going--and we came on purpose! And then the terror hit!
We got to Ma Johnson's Hotel, and I opened the door. By the way, they don't give you a room key because they don't lock the doors. Picture a New Yorker like me processing that one! Before me was the smallest room I'd ever seen: two beds, a sink, and a...door! I was like, "Wooo." I have to admit, I felt squeezed--to death. And being claustrophic...well, you get it.
In all fairness, though, I have to say this. An environment like this shows you how much you rely on modern technology: cell phone, Internet, television...breathing room (LOL!). So although I seem to be complaining, it really was a needed experience. In the same way that one needs to leave the United States occasionally to get a proper perspective of life, experiences like these are needed, and I'm glad April took me. Do I mean that? I think I do. Now, I would never want to go back, but for that one experience, yes. But I was in bed before 9:00 that night. There was only so much staring at the wall I could do. So after dinner and the museum, well, it was bedtime as far as I was concerned. It was one of the few times since arriving in Alaska that I had gone to bed prior to 2 a.m.--and of course it was bright as day outside, which is the case all the time during the summer in Alaska!
I was so glad when Saturday came because it meant that we would be leaving soon. Look, I said I was glad I came; I didn't say I wanted to stay! We did the copper mine tour, which really was something to behold. The machinery in there is amazing. As April said, it speaks volumes about the CAN DO spirit people had. In the early days people really did have such incredible vision and drive--and the work ethic to make things happen. I wish we could go back to that mentality, although not that time. Touring that mill house, I could see that nobody came to McCarthy seeking what the government could do for them. They knew that if they wouldn't work, they wouldn't eat. So they endured the cold, the noise, the water dripping, the tough Alaskan working conditions because that's what they had to do--put feet to their faith and make things happen. There would be no stimulus, no bailout, nothing like that. They had to take the bull by the horns--or at least the moose--to build a life for themselves and their families.
Well, it's impossible to describe all of McCarthy. I'm not even tempted to try. Let's just say, I could have easily been in Africa--from the remoteness, to the dust, to the bugs, to the lack of ammenities, and even to the sense of history and pride.
Look at the pictures. They don't do it justice, but they're a start. If you're brave, you'll visit McCarthy, Alaska yourself one day!