Tim and Billy outside Teacher Housing
This has been a fun week for the Phillips’s. We are on the second week of Christmas vacation. We had a great Christmas last week with the other teachers here. Kaitlyn and I had been going back and forth on whether we should go to Anchorage for part of the break or not. We want to save money for adoption, that’s the whole reason we stayed in Togiak in the first place, and we felt that going to Anchorage would just cost too much. However, we found a loop-hole. Our principal, Jason Mabry, informed us that we could fly to Anchorage using Alaska Airlines miles. So, we checked it out and he was right! A round-trip ticket between Togiak and Anchorage costs about 15,000 air miles. We decided to go for it and booked two round-trip tickets to Anchorage. We decided to follow suit with the using miles to purchase items and used our credit card “points” we had accrued over the past year and booked ourselves a hotel. This was absolutely fantastic, because it gave us the opportunity to go to Anchorage, buy food and supplies for the next four months, enjoy the city, and still feel good that we were saving money for adoption. We rented a car and decided that it was more worth it to simply pay for it out of pocket; we found a rental for $14/day. Not bad. Monday afternoon, about 4:00, we boarded a Pen Air plane and headed for Anchorage.
In Anchorage we stayed at the Homewood Suites. It is a “long-term” stay hotel that has a full size kitchen and living room in each suite. Upon arriving, we found out that this hotel didn’t just have a gourmet self-serve breakfast but a gourmet self-serve dinner as well! How many hotels feed you dinner also? We are totally going to visit this place more often. It worked out very well for us, not only because of the dinners provided, but because it had a full size refrigerator/freezer in it. On Tuesday, we went shopping and picked up a whole bunch of food. When we were done, we simply brought it all back to our room and stuck it the freezer until we needed to pack it up on Friday. It worked out great. After going shopping at Costco and Walmart we had lunch at a little sandwich shop called Terra Bella. It was in the corner sandwiched (no pun intended...well maybe it was) between a PetCo and a Bed,Bath, & Beyond. We both ordered the same thing, the combo lunch consisting of the daily soup special and half of a sandwich. We ordered the Turkey/Avocado sandwich with Spinach Curry soup. Neither of us were fans of the soup, but the sandwich was awesome. On our way out, we decided to go meander through Bed, Bath, & Beyond. As we walked through admired all the cool stuff that store has. We were looking for dish cloths, but ended up with a cool Pizza cutter, cutting board, huge digital clock, and a free massage on the demo massage chairs (we sat in the chairs for about 10 minutes each, there were two chairs). After our massages we went back to the hotel and had hotdogs with chili and cheese, not very gourmet, but free! We ended the night by going to a picture show (at a real theater) and watched Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol. We both really liked it, however the popcorn stunk.
Wednesday was our Anniversary. December 28. We have been married 5 years. We started the day out by going to the Anchorage Temple. In the temple I (Tim) bumped into a missionary that served in the same mission I did. Tyler Nickl from Bountiful, Utah. He was an English speaking missionary who served in a neighboring area to me when I was in Paso Robles. He married a girl from Wasilla and was up visiting her parents for Christmas. Elder Nickl is about 5 foot even. Very easy to recognize. It was great seeing him. Afterwards, we went to lunch at a Chinese restaurant called “Fudo”. It was recommended by our friends and colleagues from Togiak, Michael and Delorie Lee, who love the place. While there I asked owner/operator about the tea she had brought to our table. I was curious as to what it was made of, so I asked her. She responded by telling me all about it and encouraging me to try it. I respectfully declined and said I was simply curious and that I didn’t drink tea. She insisted, and said, “95% of people who try it like it”. She went away and I felt the pressure of avoiding drinking the tea subside. However, 5 minutes later she brought me a new glass with “diluted” tea she made specifically for me. She stood there and waited until I drank some. Talk about awkward. Caving a little, I reached and took a sip, and nodded, “Yes, very good.” With a smile on her face she walked away. Kaitlyn couldn’t help but to laugh, as I sat there sipping my water as fast as I could because the tea burned my mouth. Curiosity kills the cat (and burns his mouth too)!
Tim and Kaitlyn at Dimond Center Ice Rink
After some more shopping we went Ice Skating a the Dimond Center Ice Rink. Kaitlyn said that she hasn’t skated for years, and ice skating is suppose to be “romantic”. Let me tell you what, it’s nothing like the movies. It’s terrifying! Once you step onto the ice you realize that ice is hard, and if you fall, it’s not going to be filled with laugher and giggles, rather, back pain and emergency room visits. We must have looked like baby giraffe’s as we hobbled our way around the ice rink. After some time we both started to loosen up a little and we could both go faster. However, the thought of falling and being run over by some 8 year old doing some Brian Boitano triple spin always loomed in the back of your mind. We were out there for about an hour. Not once did we hold hands (for fear of falling down) or kiss under the snow flakes. Darn Hollywood. Afterwards, we met with tour Branch President, Max Swenson, and our Stake President, President Newman, and renewed our temple recommends. We’re instructed to renew them when we know we are going to be in town so that they don’t become expired. We also go to meet two sisters from our branch, Sister Gooden and her mother Sister Cole, both of which we’ve never met except for hearing their voices over the phone for church. We had a great time visiting and sharing stories. We visited for about an hour then went back to the hotel, ordered a pizza, ate some ice cream (real luxuries for bush folk) and watched the Food Network show “Chopped”. (In all seriousness, we did try to watch a “romantic movie”, however, our hotel room didn’t have a dvd player, so Chopped had to suffice).
(L:R) Gala, Robin, Kaitlyn, & Tim in Anchorage
We spent our last day, Thursday, by starting off going to the Temple again. We participated in a Sealing session. We probably won’t be in Anchorage again until May, so we want to make sure to stock up on our Temple blessings while we can. We met up with our friend from Togiak, Robin Jones, who now is the Counselor/Asst. Principal in New Stuyahok and Gala Coopchiak at a local coffee shop. We visited with them for about two hours. Since visiting with her, we found out that she was proposed to by her boyfriend, Ben Griese. We are really excited for them both. They are both really great people. We finished up some errands then went to dinner at our friends house, Chris and Julie Peterson. Chris is the Bush Branch clerk. We usually stay at there house whenever we are passing through. They are an awesome family. We left there house about 8:30, (a little earlier than we would have liked), in order to go to the Post Office. In Anchorage there is a Post Office that stays open until midnight each day. It is frequented by many bush residents. It actually is kind of fun to go there. There are always so many people from all over the bush. This time we met a lady named Ida who worked for the North Borough School District. She is native and greeted us with a traditional Inupiat handshake (same as normal handshake, except she used her free hand to grasp the underside of the hands being shaked). She yipped at me when I offered my hand to be shaken with my gloves still on. Apparently, that’s impolite. I was just cold. Oops. On our way home we stopped by McDonald’s and bought cheeseburgers for all the teachers who stayed in Togiak over the break. We put them in the pizza box that we ordered earlier that week and stuffed it in one of the freezer bins we were taking back to Togiak. The cheeseburgers were very much appreciated. You forget that sometimes the little things in life that everyone craves is a McDonald’s Cheeseburger. :)
Rental Car that was awesome
I must say that I have failed to mention the true champion of our trip. It was the Subaru Outback, our car rental. Anchorage was filled with ice and was incredibly slippery. We were originally given a front-wheel drive, non-traction tire Toyota Camry. However, after 13 miles of driving, we went back to the dealership and exchanged it for something safer. I must say that I am a fan. It was a great little car. Plenty of room for our bins, all-wheel drive and big enough to fit comfortably in. I understand now why Subaru is the unofficial car of Alaska.
McDonald's Cheeseburgers in a box, the two missing didn't make it home
While enjoying Anchorage, a nasty weather system moved into Togiak. Well, to be more accurate, the void of a weather system in Togiak made things rough. The temperature dropped to -30°F and hovered around there for the entire week. On our flight back we got a chance to feel how -30°F feels. The little planes we fly back on don’t really have adequate heat. Bush flight passengers know to bundle up in the winter. Both Kaitlyn and I were in our winter clothing, however, our winter clothing is not rated for -30°F, as we came to find out. -30°F is a whole different kind of cold. For one thing, the snow acts differently. It squeaks when you walk on it. Actually, it’s more like walking on a Styrofoam. The oil in your 4-wheeler thickens up and the electric switches cease to work. It hurts to breath, because it shocks your lungs and you have to breath through your mouth because otherwise your nostrils will stick together. In the middle of all of this, our heater went out. Something happened to the boiler and we’ve been low on heat. Not completely out, just marginally warm. We were instructed by our maintenance man to simply turn on our oven and open it’s door to warm our house if we needed. Luckily, today the temperature rose to 5°F. It feels like we are in a heat wave. :) I just want to point out that it was in the 40°F’s in Idaho this past week. That’s a difference of 70°F between Togiak and Rexburg. This weather is abnormal for us, and will most likely move on soon. However, it sure has been a fun experience!
Okay, now that I am through trying to justify my actions, lets get to the good stuff. Firstly, there are so many things to see in D.C. that you can't fit it all in a few days. We walked and walked and tried to visit as many things as we could, and we still didn't get through half of the things. Here's a break down of our trip.
Day 1 - Fly to Seattle and spend the night with Carmen and Jeremy and the highland dancing sensations! That's always one of the best parts of any trip.
Day 2 - Jensen's introduce us the the Seattle Farmer's market and Vietnamese food. I always enjoy whole-in-the-wall establishments. We got on a flight around 2 p.m. that had 30 or so empty seats. At one point Kaitlyn had one bench to herself and I had one for myself. It was pretty low key. 5 hours to D.C.
Day 3 - Eat a very expensive breakfast in the hotel restaurant. We visited the Holocaust Museum. Wow, it is a really big place. Something that was really interesting, at least for me, was that at one point we got to walk through one of the train cars that transported people to Auschwitz. Upon entering the train car I felt an incredible feeling, that I can't entirely describe in an email, and left as soon as I exited the car. Of the whole museum, that part stuck out to me the most. It was like I could feel the fear of the people who once inhabited the car. We next followed the parade of motorcycles (apparently motorcycle riders ride to the Lincoln Memorial every Memorial Day, not the best day to visit the President Lincoln). We walked over and looked at the Washington Memorial (from afar) and continued on to the WWII veterans memorial. We then went to the Lincoln Memorial and had to traverse a crowd of leather wearing, tattoo showing motorcyclists. We then visited the Korean War Memorial and Vietnam Memorial. We tried to go see the National Aquarium, but decided that free exhibits were more fun than $12/person tickets to see exotic fish. By this time we were so tired of walking in the blistering sun that we went back to our apartment.
Day 4 (Memorial Day) - We started our day by trying to go to Arlington National Cemetery. Firstly, let me tell you that if you wan to go to Arlington don't choose Memorial day. It's funny how that never really crossed our minds until it was ultimately too late. When we arrived everything was closed down and there was a mob of hot angry tourists numbering about 400-500 waiting to enter the cemetery, but were unable because it was locked down awaiting the exit of Vice President Biden (who had just given a televised speech honoring veterans). Since the park didn't know when V.P. Biden was going to actually leave, everything was on hold. After waiting for about 45 min, we decided that a glimpse was good enough and decided to return to D.C. and begin our Smithsonian experience. The funny part is that as we walked back, with the entrance to the underground metro-rail in sight, V.P. Biden decides to come out and the police make everyone on the sidewalk stand still and wait for him to drive by. Finally, we did make it back to D.C. (only after a sardine like packed ride on the metro) and wen to the Museum of American History. This museum is all about pop culture and things we use everyday. We go to see Dorothy's Red Shoes and Kermit. Most importantly we go to see the remnant of the "Star Spangled Banner" Flag that flew over Fort McHenry in the war of 1812. It was really neat and really huge. We next wen to the Natural History Museum (Night at the Museum stuff) and had a blast learning about evolution! Really, this museum is basically filled with a bunch of stuffed animals, not much to say.
Day 5 - We got tickets to a tour of the printing and engraving bureau and watched them print the new $100 bill which will be released in late fall. While we were waiting for the tour to start a stranger stopped by us and offered two tickets to tour the inside of the Washington Monument. Of course, we accepted and it was a blast to travel up the 50 stories inside the tallest free standing brick building in the world! Actually, the ride was about 30 seconds and was pretty uneventful, but the view was cool. We then went to the White House visitor's center, which surprisingly is no where near the White House. Frankly, I think the President must have a hard time living there knowing that everything he sits on is older then him and is worth more. It's a museum in itself. Says the visitor center. We couldn't get an actual tour because apparently you need to write your congressman and ask for one. Lame. We wen to the National Archives next, and for a history teacher, this was the krem de la kreme! We got to see the Constitution, Declaration of Independence, and the Bill of Rights. Even better, we got to see the MAGNA CARTA! Holy cow, the MAGNA CARTA! That was way cooler than the Constitution, written 1215 A.D. and was surprisingly not guarded, which means somebody (me) got ridiculously close to it. :) We finished our day at the Air and Space Museum, which by this time was near the end of our stamina. We were so tired that we flew the museum, only spending about an hour there (which, if you've never been to a Smithsonian is lightning quick).
Day 6 - We rent a car and go the D.C. Temple. Really neat. One of my favorite designs. I think it is so pretty. Upon entering we noticed that there was see through windows, which surprised us because one can't usually see into the temple from the outside, especially behind the closed doors part. Overall, it is shaped similar to Provo where the Celestial Room is surrounded by six Endowment Rooms. Interestingly, the Endowment rooms don't have a middle isle, which means that the men and women sit next to each other. Not often that one gets to hold hands with their spouse during and Endowment session. Neat.
We then drove the 2.5 hour trip (4 in actuality w/traffic) to Monticello. Monticello was Thomas Jefferson's residence after his presidency. It is in a beautiful mountain top over looking the University of Virginia. This day was probably my favorite because of the shear beauty of the area.
Day 7 - Spend entire day flying back to Idaho Falls. Washington D.C. to Seattle was packed 3 to a bench all the way through. We need to become richer and get first class because full coach stinks.
Things learned from D.C.
Firstly, we realized that big city life is not in our future. There were way too many people to feel comfortable. People drive crazy in D.C. There are lot of jokes about Utah drivers out there, and perhaps some of them are true. D.C. drivers made Utah look like model citizens.
Secondly, don't visit D.C. on Memorial Day.
Thirdly, riding the Metro wasn't that bad, once you get the hang of it. Just don't ride the green or yellow lines, we got a lot of crazy looks being the only caucasian folks on the train for 30 sec. Scary. I mean...I was fine.
Fourthly (and most important) - don't rent a 4 star hotel when you're a 2 start kinda person. Give me a continental breakfast any day.
Tim & Kaitlyn
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