Call of the Wild: Christmas Bazaars and Sunsets

January 15, 2015
Sara Ecker, CCC-SLP
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Alaska Sara selfie Selfie during daylight hours

I love the arctic in the winter; it looks exactly as one would expect. The snow is so clean and white. The air is crisp and the sunsets seem to last forever. At first, the darkness can be oppressive. This was certainly the case when I stepped off the plane at 8 in the evening and didn’t see the sun until after noon the next day, through the school window. During this time of year, there are around 4 hours of daylight, from noon until 4pm. The sun starts going down sometime around 3:30pm, so there isn’t a lot of full bright light, but the sunsets are incredible. I took over 75 pictures of the sunsets on this trip. Although I think the pictures look stunning, the real thing I assure you was even more awe inspiring.

My December trip is only a week long, so it’s always very busy. If the weather is bad and flights are delayed or cancelled there is a strong possibility I will miss seeing Selawik, my small village to the east. Weather was relatively mild this time, so I was able to travel in a mostly timely manner, however, this trip I did get to unexpectedly see a few extra villages. Usually, I have direct flights to and from Kotzebue to Selawik. This trip, though, had two stops to Noorvik and Kiana on the way there and one stop in Buckland on the way back. On the way out to Selawik, the visibility was extremely poor due to snow and darkness. Although, I usually feel somewhat safe, I certainly felt trepidation taking off and landing each time! Regardless, all was well except for a few lost hours, which, when counting down from 12 total hours of student contact time, can seem like a lot.

Alaska runway In Selawik, watching as the plane leaves me and my gear on the runway.

It was Christmas Bazaar time in the Kotzebue! There were three Christmas Bazaars on the Saturday I was there. I was able to get a seal skin polar bear ornament and my co-worker/ friend Sadie purchased a fox fur hat. Other goods seen at the markets included arctic cranberry sauce, pickled salmon, fresh donuts, arctic dolls, earrings made of beads, fur and fish skin, lots of scarves, atikluk (lightweight hoodie), aitqatik (roomy mittens), headbands and bags made of fur or skins (seal and beaver are common). Traditional goods such as furs and skins are very common. I discovered that as a non-Inupiaq or native person it is illegal to own seal or polar bear skins, however a finished produced such as mittens or slippers can be owned legally.

My next visit is February, which is my favorite trip of the year! I look forward to telling more about my visit next time!


Call of the Wild logoHi! I’m Sara Ecker and I am a speech-language pathologist in search of exploration and adventure. Last year I found the ultimate assignment as a SLP in the Northwest Arctic Borough, Alaska. This year, I invite you to come along with me as I blog about my experiences in the Great White North. Join me as I travel to remote villages, survive extreme conditions and learn about the rewards and challenges of therapy 30 miles above the Arctic Circle. (You can read all of my prior entries here.)