Lots of scenes from over the past three years in Alaska! The photos are in no particular order. Most are taken in Sitka, but some are from Juneau and other towns in the interior.
Well hello there. It has definitely been a while since I have written on this blog, and I'm not sure when I'll be on again. I have set some goals to write on here more often because writing is something I love and is a cathartic way to help me process life.
I decided to get on here today because I have a lot of people I want to thank for being "there for me." I am extremely blessed to have such a strong, well-rounded support system and as much as I like to think I can get through this roller-coaster of life as a "strong, independent woman," having this support has me feeling grateful I don't need to go through it alone.
These past six months or so have been particularly rough for me. My heart was broken, my confidence was shattered, my health took a backseat, and I felt despondent and lost.
I cried a lot. I ate a lot. I drank a lot. I reverted back to places I shouldn't have gone. I was in a bad place.
But lucky for me, I have an amazing family and absolutely wonderful friends. They have picked me up -multiple times. They have helped guide me back to healthy choices, a better mindset, and even put some smiles on my face.
I can hardly express how grateful I am for each and every one of you. Each of you have your unique ways of lifting my spirits. I'm grateful for the tough love when I need it, the hugs, the visits, the phone calls, the texts, the kitchen dance parties, the invites to do things outside of work and sleep. From friends who are thousands of miles away, to just down the street, you all mean the world to me.
I am in such a better place than I was a couple of months ago. I am back on track with my health, attitude, outlook on life, and I'm ready to take on what's next.
So, thank you, from the deepest depths of my soul, I am grateful for each and every one of you.
First of all, I want to thank everyone for the overwhelming support I have received since my last update. This transition has been difficult and after my last post, I received so much love, encouraging words, and just a ton of support, so thank you all immensely for that.
These past couple of weeks has been filled with tragedy, tears, triumphs, laughs, and adventures.
On September 18th, a former JV and best friend of my housemate, was killed in a biking accident. He was biking with a friend from Oregon to New Jersey raising money and awareness about JVC Northwest. He was just outside of Denver when a woman on drugs crossed into the bike lane and ran into him. On Thursday, I woke up to the sound of my housemate sobbing on the deck. She had a rough day at service the day before and I thought it was getting to her so I just sat with her while she was on the phone. After she hung up, she turned to me and told me that Eunjey was killed. I couldn't believe it. I had met him at orientation and just heard my housemate talking on the phone with him the day prior to the accident. Everyone in the house decided to take shifts to stay with our housemate so she wouldn't be alone. As a community, we really came together to support her and to support each other. That night, our housemate flew home so she could be in the lower 48 with her family and friends that also knew Eunjey. It felt like a piece of our community was missing, but our housemate came back about three weeks later. We are trying to be as supportive as possible for our housemate and to respect her needs in order to start this healing process.
It's been quite the jolt of reality for our community, but as I mentioned, we have really come together for each other. We are constantly praying for our housemate and Eunjey's family. We are learning a lot about ourselves and about each other, and are thankful to be in an environment that is so supportive and respectful that, personally, I feel is such a safe space.
Please keep our community and our housemate in your prayers as we continue to process this and try to learn how to live with this new reality. Eunjey was full of wonderfulness and will be greatly missed by many.
With having this tragedy strike us, we have realized how great of a community Sitka is and the volunteering community in Sitka as well. We have been getting to know the other AmeriCorps volunteers and friends of the volunteers better and it has been quite fun. As our friendships grow, so do the fun times. I am constantly being reminded of how each person has such an unique story and how interesting people are.
This last month has also been filled with visitors! Former JVs and our Program Coordinator have come into town. It's been fun showing them around town and it has made me realize how integrated to the town we are getting! We are being recognized everywhere and it's fun actually knowing people in town. I have never lived in a town this small, and while I am slowly realizing I'm really more of a city girl, it's been fun living in this small town culture.
I have been busy with lots of activities and adventures this past month. It has been making this transition a bit easier and a lot more fun! In the midst of many rainy days, we have been blessed with some nice sunny ones where we were able to drive up to Harbor Mountain and then the next day we hiked the ridge line, the beauty is beyond words and the pictures only capture a fraction of the beauty, but I just have to share.
Another small town fun Sitka event that happened was the Running of the Boots. From what I've heard, it started one year when the cruise ships stopped coming and tourist season was over and someone was so excited by that, that he ran through the town with nothing but his Xtratufs. It has now evolved into a short run with everyone in costumes and Xtratufs with contests, sales in all the shops, and lots of fish to eat. It was quite fun, we dressed as the Salmon life cycle including a fisherperson (me) and a bear!
Fun fact about Xtratufs (sort of;) they are known as "Sitka Tennis Shoes." I thought at first they were only called that in Sitka, but then learned they are known as Sitka Tennis Shoes even up in Anchorage, Seward, and other towns up there!
Every month, Sitka has a local "talent showcase" called The Grind. I guess it is tradition for the JVs to be the dessert judges, tough job, right? After seeing all the desserts entered, I happily gave my judging position to my other housemates as there could only be three judges, and there were four of us there. I helped with the lights and then clean up. It was fun seeing the community come together for this and seeing all the amazing talent. They even honor outstanding community members which was nice to see.
Also in the next group of photos, there was an incredible double rainbow earlier this month. I guess even though it rains pretty much every day, there is some beauty to it as well. Again, these pictures hardly touch the marvel that it was.
My service at Brave Heart Volunteers is really picking up, I have a lot more responsibilities and I'm having a ton of fun with the other staff members. From pranking each other to teaching them about hashtags, our office definitely knows how to have fun while being productive! It's been a great balance, and after a crazy week, I'm ready to get back into a more steady routine there. Julie and Jessica from BHV even took me fishing the other weekend!! It was an epic Alaskan adventure with lots of laughs, bear tracks, and fun.
October 18th was Alaska Day!! Basically, Sitka is the only place it is celebrated because the transfer of the land happened here. On October 18th, 1869, Russia sold the U.S. the land Alaska is today and it's one of the favorite holidays of Sitkans! There was a parade, lots of activities, seafood chowder, and then a great night scene at the bars with the Seattle Fire Fighter Bag Pipers in town!
So thank you again for all the support you all have been providing me! I hope to be more on top of posting on here, I have so much more to say!! I leave you with some random pictures from this past month!
It's been about a month here in Sitka already. I've started this blog post about four times now and I couldn't figure out why I just had little to say. I think it's because contrary to other adventures I have been on, this is the most "real life" adventure I am partaking in. My everyday activities are really not that "interesting;" I volunteer 40 hours a week, I have community meetings with my housemates, I go on walks, I read a lot, I skype with family and friends...there aren't many exciting adventures to report on.
I've also been dealing with this huge transition in my life which isn't the most glamorous process. Actually it's not really one transition, it's more like a ton of smaller transitions that are making my new life quite the adjustment. I just graduated college, I'm 3000 or more miles away from all my favorite people, I moved in with five strangers, and I'm living on an island.
Don't get me wrong, there have been some amazing moments of self-realization, recognition of the beauty in Sitka, fun times, and side busting laughter; but as of late, I've just been feeling a general sense of being down and the feeling of something missing.
This is where I am reminding myself that it is only month one of this journey and transitions always do take some time. Studies show it takes six months to a year to fully transition into a new city and life. I guess now is the time to start working on my patience.
Ok so let's bring the mood up a bit, I really love my position at Brave Heart Volunteers (BHV.) I enjoy what I'm doing and love all the people in the office. I really feel like I produce a productive attribute to the agency and I have fun while I do it! The staff at BHV are so much fun to work with and are extremely supportive in the job and in life.
I've also been able to go to church thanks to my new friend, Dixie. The story of how I got connected with Dixie is quite fun; my Aunt in Wisconsin works at a specialty store and noticed a woman there was from Alaska. After mentioning I would be moving up to Sitka in the near weeks, Dixie said was from there and goes to the luncheons BHV puts on! Dixie's daughter is married to one of my high school teachers' brother. Then at my first Luncheon put on by my agency, I met Dixie and there you have it, the start of a beautiful friendship. She takes me to Bible study and church and then we go grocery shopping and play cribbage. She is one of the sweetest people in my life and am excited for this friendship to grow.
Also, let me tell you a little about the church that I go to. It's Grace Lutheran Church, and currently it does not have a pastor. We stream the service from Anchorage, AK on the TV in front of the alter. We sing along to the hymns and do everything like if there was an actual person standing in front of us. The first Sunday I went, I was the 5th person in the congregation that week. It is a different experience for sure, but I've been getting used to it, and last Sunday there were 9 of us there!
I'm still getting used to the small town atmosphere, and kindness and generosity of our fellow Sitkans. Even the people driving are extremely nice to pedestrians. Once I was walking close to the curb, having no intention to cross the street, but a car stopped for me to let me cross. I was so shocked and a little confused so I crossed the street and then crossed back after the car was out of sight, but was reminded of the kindness of those I am surrounded by.
The salmon are starting to die and the smell is ripe, especially if you go for a walk near the river, it takes a few minutes to get used to the smell. It is still an amazing sight to see all the salmon swimming upstream and fighting for the best spot to spawn, if you can handle the stench, it's a beautiful process to watch.
I think that's it for now. Keep in touch! I try to respond to emails as best I can. I'm still on facebook, twitter, and instagram so if social media is your thing like it's mine, hit me up!
I leave you with just a few pictures, enjoy!
P.S. I got my nose pierced! Probably what I should have written about as it was one of the bigger adventures/adrenaline rushes since I've been here, but I forgot about it until now! ha.
This is a long overdue post, according to the many people who think I may have fallen off the face of the planet. I promise, I'm still here!
All last week I was at Orientation in Portland, Oregon for JVC Northwest. It was an intense week of learning all about what JVC Northwest entails, the history, paperwork, and lots of getting to know the other JVs (Jesuit Volunteers.) It was full of ups and downs and all the emotions in between. It started to hit me during that week I will not be back in the lower 48 for an entire year. I met so many amazing people and got great contacts for helping each other out throughout this next year. One of the most powerful moments all week was the missioning ceremony. It was a church service to bless all the volunteers before we set off the next day, or for us, that night. You could feel the power of the Spirit and pretty much everyone was full of emotions and tears.
About 2am on August 10th, the Sitka, Juneau, and Bethel (all in Alaska) groups left for the airport; and after a long morning of traveling, we made it to Sitka! When I say "we," I mean me and my 5 other housemates.
We've been exploring town these past few days along with visiting everyone's service sites. I even climbed (half) of one of the mountains! It has been incredibly beautiful. Today (August 13th) is the first day we are experiencing the clouds and slight drizzle. People have been letting us know it is not usually this nice, so we have been soaking it up!
The town has been incredibly welcoming, it seems people love the JVs and other volunteers on the island and all have been great. I cannot wait to really dive into this community!
I bought my XtraTufs yesterday. They are rubber boots pretty much everyone on the island owns. So I'm pretty much a local now, haha totally kidding. I stick out like a sore thumb, but I'm sure my newbie status will quickly go away.
When you step outside, you can smell the salt water and fish, I kind of love it.
I start my service at Brave Heart Volunteers tomorrow and I'm stoked. It will be an amazing experience to have and I cannot wait to get started!
So not much has happened yet, but thank you for your patience in me getting this out to you. I only get internet at the library and one coffee shop in town. I may not get on everyday, but please feel free to email me and I will get back to you as soon as I can! It will be a new and different change of pace for me, as I am used to instant access to everything. I'm nervous right now, but in the end, I think it will be a good thing for me. Plus, I kind of love that (right now at least) every time I've been able to get on Facebook, I've had over 40 notifications. Thank you so much for the love. <3
I'll leave you with just a few more pictures, I haven't taken many yet, but I'm sure throughout the year, you'll get a good sense of Sitka and my JVC Northwest experience! Thank you for joining me on this new adventure!
Hello family, friends, and all those curious souls out there,
This past May I ended the amazing adventure of college when Bill Cosby helped ring in my graduation from Marquette University. Graduation day was one of the best and happiest days of my life. It was long, but so worth it. I worked hard for my degree and the celebration was so much fun. Grandpa, Grammy, Mom, Dad, Sierra, Lukas, and Jae all came down to help celebrate by cheering for me as I felt like a rock star walking across that stage. It was just so much fun. I got a Bachelor of Arts with the majors of Social Welfare and Justice and Journalism. My sash I am wearing represents my the time I spent in South Africa with the South African flag.
These past four years, I really came into my own. I gained many amazing friendships I know will last a lifetime. I am so proud of who I have chosen to surround myself with. I have had so much fun this last year with everyone and loved all our adventures we had. I crossed many things off my bucket list from hosting theme parties to going to Mardi Gras in New Orleans, to flying to D.C. for a weekend to protest something I am passionate about; along with many things in between. Below is just snippets of my senior year of all the fun I had. :) (Pics are in no particular order)
My roommates became more than best friends, they became my sisters. We have grown so close over these last four years, I'm sad this chapter of my life is over. These girls are amazing, they will forever be in my life, my kids lives, and my grandchildren will be hearing stories of my best friends. The timelessness of our friendships is already evident. I love you girls! xo
And a special note for the best friend I've ever had, Mel. Mel has been there for me through thick and thin. She uplifts me when I'm down, and celebrates with me on my highs. Our friendship is one of the most special and precious things I have in my life. This next year will be difficult without being able to have our "Bride Day Fridays" or our runs to the grocery store on a regular basis, but I know this distance will only help our friendship grow. We survived me being in South Africa for 5 months, this is just a bit longer. You will kick butt this year in PA school, and a plus side is that I won't be there to distract you with my endless updates of celebrity gossip. ;) Love you best friend!!!! <3 xo
Ok, now onto what most of you are here for; Alaska.
During my senior year, I began to think about my future and what I really want to do. After much thought, prayer, and contemplation, I decided to dedicate the next year of my life to volunteer service to gain more experience in the non-profit world. I really wanted to gain another perspective from another culture. After a ton of research of many different organizations, I found JVC Northwest (Jesuit Volunteer Corps Northwest) and it seemed like the perfect fit.
After a long interviewing process, I was accepted into the corps and then offered the position at my top choice in Sitka, Alaska at Brave Heart Volunteers.
Sitka is an island close to Juneau, Alaska. It is 4,811 square miles total with a population of around 9,000 people. Sitka has an oceanic climate with "generally cool temperatures, and abundant precipitation."
Sitka is located under the "A" in the photo below, and below that is a photo from Google images of Sitka. (So freakin' beautiful!)
Many of you who are thinking, "why have I heard of Sitka, Alaska?" The answer is probably because you have seen one of my favorite chick flicks, The Proposal. Although Ryan Reynolds character may have said he was from Alaska, they actually did most of their filming in Maine. (bummer) But it's still cool!!
I am less than a month away before I leave for my orientation in Portland, Oregon! I leave for Portland very early August 5th and then up to Sitka on the 10th. I will be living with four others in a house that is provided for us. I will be getting just enough money to pool together with my housemates for food and utilities.
The four pillars of JVC Northwest are Social Justice, Community, Spirituality, and Simple Living. I think most of you know which one I will have some adjusting to. The simple living will be an eye opener for me, I definitely enjoy shopping for new outfits for occasions, and going out to eat with friends. Without earning any money, these are luxuries I will have to do without.
I am stoked, to say the least, for my time at Brave Heart Volunteers. I will be a Community Outreach Coordinator. Brave Heart Volunteers is a non-profit on the island that works with the elderly and the caretakers of the elderly. I will be setting up events to get the community involved and getting the elderly involved in the community, and with the caretakers to help against burnout. I'm still learning of what I may and may not be doing so it might be change. I'm super excited about it.
This service is a year long, I will be returning just about the same time in 2014. I will still have Facebook and email, so feel free to contact me there!! Also, I welcome visitors. It is a little expensive to get there, but if you are up for it, please let me know so we can plan accordingly!!
I will be updating here of this new adventure of mine so stay tuned my friends! Prayers and happy thoughts are always welcome, thank you in advance!!
This week I had my YouTube debut with my good friend Mark! We actually became friends because of our love of YouTube and he now works for Youtube as a content creator! We decided to do the tin can challenge that has been circulating among our favorite YouTubers. I headed to Mark's house and we went shopping right away for the canned goods we would be eating. We were pretty safe with our choices as we both were pretty chicken about doing anything too disgusting. We set up right away at his house and got to the challenge. Right away, Mark gets the salmon. I was shocked the worst one was chosen first but extremely happy it wasn't me who had to eat it. (Sorry Mark)
The challenge was pretty quick, but then we proceeded to fangirl for I don't know how long on camera, basically forgetting we were filming. We went back to saying the goodbyes and cleaned up. After we turned off the camera, Mark and I then fangirled for FIVE hours. All about YouTubers, dreams of the future with YouTube and so much more.
I had so much fun. Mark and I really understand each other and are quite similar that conversation flows so easily. Mark is a hilarious comedian, great friend and overall amazing guy. He has such a bright future ahead of him and I will always be a supporter and fan.
Under the video, I have all of Mark's information. Check out his stuff, follow him on twitter, like his Facebook page, and watch his videos!!
More of Mark:
It's no secret, one of my favorite blogs to follow is Thought Catalog. It has great submissions that are pretty funny as well as thought provoking. I came across this article talking of foods that no one is allowed to dislike and found myself actually laughing out loud.
I find myself slightly judging people who dislike these foods, mainly because they are such staples in my diet. I just wanted to share with you this article that hit close to home while making me laugh.
6 Foods That No One Is Allowed To Dislike <-- Click!
If you know me, you know that I spent five wonderful months in the beautiful country, South Africa. It was a huge part of my Marquette experience and when given the task at work to compile our Marquette experience into a video, the topic was an easy choice for me. It showcases bits and pieces of my five months there in just three minutes. Take a look, enjoy, and if you want to read more about my South Africa experience, check out the blog I kept while there! Click here for that link!
My name is Shoshauna. I'm a proud feminist and loyal cheesehead. I love fiercely and am passionately trying to accomplish my dreams.