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> July 28, 2006 - Interpreting the Culture, What brings you to Fairbanks?
Jason_Petula
post Jul 30 2006, 01:37 AM
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The first part of this journey involved getting to Fairbanks aboard a commercial airliner. Unfortunately, there are no direct flights to Alaska from northeastern Pennsylvania. Fifteen hours later the plane dropped me off in a city that has a much different look and feel than other cities. The first hint of being away from home was from the newspaper under my hotel door when I awoke in the morning. The Daily News-Miner headline was ‘Wolf chases cyclist before getting hit my truck on the Dalton.’ Reading further, the police report described injuries a couple received after hitting a moose.

The waitress refilling my coffee interrupted my reading with an unusual question, “What brings you to Fairbanks?” I explained and noticed that she carried on similar conversations with other people in the restaurant. Why I found this unusual is because she conversed with people. I have noticed this ease of conversation everywhere. Back home it is easy to go days without anyone talking to you. People race around with MP3 players in their ears or chat on their cell phones. Not here! People actually seem to enjoy talking with other people. It is as though they genuinely want to get to know you better.

One of these conversations revealed something interesting about Fairbanks. The city is very spread out and many of the homes are hidden within forests of birch and spruce trees. What I noticed was that many of the roofs were metal. In my neck of the woods, people rarely use metal on their roofs because falling rain creates a terrible pounding noise throughout the house. So I asked, “Why are most of the homes covered with metal roofs?”

The answer offered to me made perfect sense. Fairbanks has a semi-arid climate. Therefore, it is susceptible to forest fires. If hot ambers fell on a shingled roof, the house would most likely burn. In addition to fire resistance, I imagine the use of a metal roof is a matter of economics. The cost of shipping heavy shingles to Alaska would greatly increase the price of a roof.

Today involved a lot of running around to pick up last minutes necessities before heading into the field. Most of these supplies were obtained at the social center of Fairbanks – Fred Myers. Fred Myers is a large store that sells just about anything from avocados to Zambonis. As I paid for my items, the checkout man noticed my t-shirt which was inscribed with the words Penn State. This started a volley of questions because his younger brother went to school there. As I chatted with him for a few minutes I could only smile at his last question, “What brings you to Fairbanks?”

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Airline route taken from Scranton to Fairbanks
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