I haven't posted in a little while, and a lot has happened.
First, the good. I got to talk to Matt on his birthday for well over an hour (on Skype). That was so much fun! And funny. I couldn't get my webcam to work, and he couldn't get his mic to work. So I could see him but not hear him. He could hear me but not hear me. I got to do stuff like tell him that some guy was staring over his shoulder. At the end of the conversation he said he had to write some e-mails before his time was up, and we said goodbye. But he didn't actually end the call. It took me a moment to realize what was going on. So I said into my mic, "You look very serious." I saw him start laughing as he realized what he'd done, and then he ended the call. It was so good to see him laughing so much, though. We had a blast. I've missed him! I need to get my webcam working, so that he can see me, too. Oh, and another mic because I broke mine. I didn't realize it was tangled around my legs and I started walking away...yeah.
Now the bad. Shane's in Barrow right now. He was supposed to leave last Friday night, but he was getting a ride from his idiot boss, who decided to run some errands even though they were cutting it close, and so they missed the flight. On the upside, we were able to go to the Marlin to hang out with James and his dad and brother. We watched someone getting arrested for DUI, were accosted by a seriously drunken native guy, and then stayed up the rest of the night so that I could get him to the airport at 5 a.m.
Ever since getting there, he's been putting in 12-13 hour days, while never getting a chance to sleep more than about three hours at a time because someone (usually his boss) is always knocking on his door. Yesterday was the first day he "only" worked 8 hours. And he sounds more and more exhausted and defeated every day. It sucks. The only good thing is how much money he's making, with a $95 per diem (food is ridiculously expensive up there, which is why we went shopping and he brought up most of his food) and already over 16 hours of overtime. He was approved for 38 hours of overtime, and I think he'll probably use all of it. Because there's nothing else for him to do. Wednesday was possibly his worst day. One of the guys he works with went home that night because three separate cars swerved to TRY to hit him. Shane saw some guy beating his girlfriend in the street, most of the people he saw were drunk before noon, and some guy went to his neighbor's house to start vandalizing stuff. Most of the population up there is Native Alaskan, so they get checks from the government and a lot of them don't have jobs. They also fall into the category of subsistence hunters, so Shane was absolutely sick at all the wasted meat he sees everywhere. After all, they don't have hunting limits so what do they care about waste? Why should they fix that snow-go or four-wheeler when they can just wait for their next government check and buy a new one? I agree with Shane that to get the money, they need to put restrictions on it. Like, if you don't have a job then you need to put in a certain number of hours of community service. Teach the youth about the rich cultural heritage, the songs and dances and history! But they don't, at least not in the villages. And this has been going on for so long that many of them don't even realize that most people don't live this way, they don't stay drunk all the time and they don't consider it normal to beat your wife and have 18 kids that you can't support and just waste or destroy everything you get. When I said some of this Shane teased, "Are you racist?" I don't think it's racist to know that they could be so much better than this, because the actual Native culture (not what's being lived in the villages) is very cool. But because of some of the government policies (like giving out free money just for being Native, or having no hunting limits so people can do things like slaughter 50 caribou that they have no intention of eating--that happened two winters ago, and there was nothing anyone could do about it because it's not illegal for subsistence hunters) and because of a culture in the villages that is based on defeat (pretty much anyone with any drive gets a good job and gets out of the villages), there's this horrible, distorted view of how life should be lived. Or they just don't care. And it makes me so sad and upset. Plus, there's a LOT of racism on their part, so if someone does go out to try to help people and make the community a better place, it's more than just an uphill battle, it's almost impossible. They view white people with distrust because, somehow, we're going to make their lives worse than they already are. And I get that, historically, yeah, we've screwed up their culture. But I really don't think there's much anyone can do to make their lives more miserable than they already are. I can't imagine living that way.
Since Shane's been gone, I've been spending a lot of time doing stuff like cleaning. I clean when I get lonely or bored. So it's been driving me nuts that the vacuum broke a couple of weeks ago, because I desperately want to clean the carpets. I've cleaned out the kitchen (twice), dusted, cleaned the bathroom, done laundry, and I even cleaned off Shane's desk a bit. I'm running out of cleaning to do. It's a good thing this weekend is going to be busy. I need to finalize some plans for my brother's wedding, go shopping (I need shoes, since I'll be in the wedding and Johanna wants the bridesmaids to wear silver sandals), run a bunch of other errands, and help James and Lucy move into their new house. They bought a house! I'm happy for them.
Shane gets home Monday night. Maybe. They might keep him until Tuesday, but he said he refuses to stay there after that. I think, if only for the state of his mental health, he needs to get out. He's my happy-go-lucky guy, and I hate hearing the depression in his voice. I've never heard him like this before. And he can't even tell me all of it, because of the rules for census workers. Even if he went to someone's house and there were heads in jars, he wouldn't be able to even call the cops about it. So some of this stuff, he's going to have to live with without telling a soul. It makes me very sad for him.
Tonight I have two softball games, and before that some of the guys and I are going to the batting cages because I really, really need to work on that. The first couple of games I got on base every time, and now I can't get on base at all. I'm determined to do better than that!