Now ever since my rheumatologist told me I couldn’t really get back into running or anything that would significantly affect my joints’ capacity to handle mechanical stress, the world of hiking seemed to be more appealing as I felt my leg muscles grow softer and softer each day.  I have gotten concerned that my soft tissues would eventually lose their tone and not be strong enough to support my joints. This was especially encouraged by my physical therapist after she helped me manage my cervical spine problems. So Sam and I started to go on short day hikes with elevation (as advised by my PT), and then we eventually progressed to longer hikes. I have had difficulty in making this a habit because of the cold (yes, I still haven’t gotten used to it), but Sam has helped me bundle up more effectively and of course the scenery is a reward that makes me look forward to it every time. Ever since we moved here, we have hiked a total of around 14 trails, some more often than the others, some didn’t actually have a trail like that time we hiked across the frozen Mendenhall Lake toward the Ice Caves last winter. I’d like to list them all down– makes me feel like I’ve actually accomplished something. 🙂

East Glacier Trail

West Glacier Trail to Mt. Mcginnis

Spaulding Meadows/ Auke Nu Trail

Lena Loop Trail

Herbert Glacier Trail

Airport Dike Trail

Mendenhall River Trail

False Outer Point/ Bluff Trail

Sandy Beach

Peterson Lake Trail

Salmon Creek Trail

Perseverance Trail

Granite Creek Trail

EagleCrest Trail

Ice Caves Hike

Not bad for first-timers, right?

Here’s Sam, calculating how many more miles before we reach the ridge.


We just moved!

We just moved! Well, technically we officially moved on the first day of May so it’s been more than a month since. I was in California reviewing for the Step 1 of the USMLE when we closed on our new condo so I was on Skype while Sam did all the signing of papers. I was with him (through Skype) when he first opened the door to the new place and though I was far away we could both feel each other’s excitement! This is officially our first place here in the US!

Although exciting as it may be, Sam couldn’t help but worry about the bills at this point. I guess that’s a guy thing? Because what I started to get worried about was how I was going to manage decorating the place while reviewing for the US medical boards at the same time! Haha!

This first month was just awesome. And everyday, we still marvel at how we came to this point- how God had been so faithful and how He continues to be faithful in every aspect of our lives, even in this whole home buying process! I couldn’t contain it any longer, that after about 7 months since my last blogpost I decided to document and write about this whole experience. And I think this deserves a whole new category too. I hope I will be able to keep up with all this documenting since I am still in the middle of reviewing for the 3rd exam and home decorating. But, I will try to do my best!

Here's Sam opening our front door with me on Skype!
Here’s Sam opening our front door with me on Skype!

The perils and whatnots of a snowy winter from a first-timer’s point of view

Spent my first snowy winter (December-February) in Juneau, Alaska. I’ve spent a number of winters in LA and it wasn’t as bad. I must admit, this time it wasn’t all fun, well except for the ski trips we had every weekend, and the Northern Lights, of course. But when one has spent most of his/her life in a tropical climate, avoiding the sun as much as possible for fear of getting burned, winter then gets to be pretty depressing. I was in LA in December and when I got here by the end of the month, it was snoraining (a term I probably invented to describe both the snow and the rain that fall simultaneously, otherwise known as wet snow). And it went on for a whole month, December 25-January 30 to be exact. By the end of January I was on my knees praying and crying for the Lord to give us sunshine. And He did. We had weeks of endless sunshine with occasional snowfall after that. They say that it was the warmest winter in Alaska by far. I’m glad it was, for me at least. While most of the continental US froze with record-high snowfall, we were blessed with sunshine. And the sunshine was a good thing for me. Sam did notice drastic changes in my mood that inadvertently coincided with the weather. As if RA flares, a shoulder injury and then surgery, plus no job, don’t at all affect my mood. So, aside from my weather-coinciding depression (which is not a peril at all), here’s what I found out about the perils and such whatnots of winter (in Juneau):

  1. It gets dark. Having large windows and more lamps at home would help. Oh, and don’t forget the Vitamin D supplements. Although I’ve heard about Vitamin D deficiency being linked to clinical depression, I’ve learned that it’s still inconclusive. I’d like to research on that too someday.
  2. Layer. The first time we learned how to layer clothes in winter was when we went to Beijing, and it wasn’t really effective because we didn’t consider the kind of material our clothes were made of. Technology has allowed manufacturers to create warmer and lighter layers so we don’t have to carry all that bulkiness with us, especially when skiing.
  3. The skin gets really, really, really dry. So apply moisturizing lotion as often as possible. I learned this the hard way. I neglected my skin, especially my face, and my face broke out really bad. I’m still trying to resuscitate it at this moment.
  4. Waterproof boots. This is a staple in every Alaskan’s wardrobe, especially if you live in Juneau. Believe me, walking in cold wet shoes is no fun at all.
  5. Shoveling. Sam lived in a farm most of his life so he’s been used to shoveling dirt, stone, gravel and sand. Shoveling snow is no different, wet snow and ice that is. Well if you shovel freshly fallen snow then it could be easier.
  6. Studded snow tires. We didn’t have to change our car’s tires since they were already all-season and we were told that Subaru’s build and tires usually do great in the winter. They really are great, well, except for that one time when we were driving through an inclined parking lot that was frozen and very slippery and Sam mistakenly hit the brakes, and the car slid sideways, all the way to the left.

I don’t recall everything for now so I’ll just add up to that list in the next few days.

So it’s officially spring, and it’s been warmer and more sunny, which is good. I would definitely try to avoid spending next winter here in Alaska again. Keyword is “try.” Of course I still don’t know if my husband would be ok with that, and even if he would be, I don’t know if I could stay away from him that long.

We went snowshoeing, and my boots got wet. This was at Mendenhall Lake, which was frozen, so we could actually cross over to the glacier, but we didn’t. I’m the one in pink (of course). And the one in blue is Michelle.
See, even the Northern Lights get depressed in winter, especially when the clouds cover them. Photo by Sam.

Sam’s First Snow

Of all the things I love documenting, it’s my husband’s firsts i love the most. This week we experienced our first snowfall, and boy what a snowfall that was! Reports tell us we had a total of 14 inches in 2 days alone, but I think it was more than 14! As if I knew. Since it was our first time seeing a lot of fresh fluffy snow (we’ve seen fake snow, and snow on the ground, but nothing like fresh fluffy snow!), Sam had all the energy plowing the entire driveway! And of course I also had the energy to instruct him on how to do it better, which didn’t help at all, by the way. So, since my “instructions” didn’t help at all, and because I really wanted to help, I just ended up taking the hand-held snow plow (also spelled as snow plough)  from him for short periods of time to allow him to rest. So,  it’s hello again, painful joints for me. Anyway, here are some of his reactions as we waited for our first real snowfall:

Day 1:  It’s snowing! Yay! Snow! Snow! Snow!

Day 2:  Have you seen how much snow there is outside?! You’ve got to come look!

Day 3:  (when he came home from work at 6am) I couldn’t find my car under all that snow! Oh no, and it’s only the first day of snow!

My reaction: You wanted snow, God gave you snow 🙂

Look at him:








You wanna share a room?

I took an exam in Anchorage more than a week ago, and what was supposed to be a daytrip turned into an overnight action-packed adventure. Excuse the exaggeration. The flight from Juneau to Anchorage at 6 o’ clock in the morning was rather uneventful. It was my return flight at 8 o’ clock in the evening on the same day that turned out to be a shocker. Since I took an exam, you could imagine how much stress I’ve been through the past week, not being able to sleep much, let alone eat 3 meals a day. And so as expected, by the time I was on the plane back  to Juneau, I was exhausted. And because I couldn’t wait to get home and sleep, I let out a huge sigh when the captain announced that we were preparing for landing. I didn’t see much outside the window since I was on an aisle seat. What I saw were clouds and some lights. As the plane descended and while I was counting the minutes and happily looking at the visible lights and rooftops out the window, longing to be in the comfort of my own bed, the plane suddenly shifted and pulled up. What had happened?

“Sorry folks, 0 visibility down there, we will be landing in Sitka instead.” Groans and irritated chatter. By the time we were at the airport in Sitka, everybody was on their phones talking to their concerned loved ones about the change of plans. Honestly, I was lost. Do we wait for the fog in Juneau to lift? How long could that take? Do we sleep at the airport? Just as I was going to ask a crew member, we all then received news about having to pay for our own hotel room because the airport was closing in 30 minutes and “weather difficulty” didn’t count for airline-sponsored accommodations. Everybody was angry. This lady was really mad at one of the crew members and said, “I will never fly Alaska Airlines again!” And then I thought, “Isn’t this the only interstate airline in this part of the country? Does that mean she’s never going to visit Alaska ever?” I was waiting on the sideline, hoping something good would end up happening after this angry lady complained about not having enough funds for a hotel room (which was pretty much the same as my predicament), but I ended up being told by Sam to just get a hotel room and get some rest rather than stress about the cost and end up getting sick.

People started looking around for potential roommates and so I found myself searching for one as well. I approached this really nice lady and asked, “You wanna share a room?” To my relief, she gladly consented. From then on, we talked nonstop. Even when we were already both in bed, we continued to talk about our families, how she came to live in Juneau, common friends, her daughter, and a whole lot more. We fell asleep at around 1 am, woke up at 4 am and headed to the airport, since we were told our flight was going to be at 6 am. But of course we waited for 5 more hours at the airport. Foggy weather being as unpredictable as can be, we left Sitka at around 11:30am. Boy was I relieved to see Sam’s smiling face in the driver’s seat as he parked the car on the airport arrival curb. His “Welcome home!” was enough to remind me how exhausted and hungry I was, and so I broke down in tears.

Given the number of times I have to travel in a year to and from LA to visit my aunt, my rheumatologist, and my gynecologist, I would suppose this experience will definitely not be the last. Next time I will be more prepared. If it hadn’t been for Sam  telling me to grab a couple of granola bars before leaving Juneau, I would have collapsed from hypoglycemia before we even got back. Pessimism aside, you remember when the apostle Paul told us to “give thanks in everything”? Well, I am definitely grateful for this experience. I am thankful for the opportunity to visit Sitka, even if it wasn’t the most ideal tour package, at least the hotel shuttle driver was kind enough to give us a little history. I am also thankful for having met a new friend. She’s Asian, Thai, actually, and she was really nice. Most of all, I am grateful because the pilot decided to land the plane safely in Sitka rather than risk all of our lives landing on an invisible runway. Although this last item- the risks involved in landing a plane without being able to see the runway- had to be explained to me by Sam over and over again before I could understand why the plane didn’t have fog lights or if it did, why it didn’t help, or why the pilot had to actually see the runway before being able to land, or why the fog couldn’t be “fanned” out of the runway. Yes, I can be that naive.

Rocky Gutierrez Airport (Sitka)
Rocky Gutierrez Airport (Sitka)
At the Departure Area (Sitka)