TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. - Norris Pavala will soon be finishing his service in the Marine Corps. He aims to attend school in Seattle to become a computer hardware analyst.
To me, the Marine Corps is a smaller representation of the world. If you just look at it, it's just normal, everyday kids, trained to be Marines.
It's hard to compare (Alaska). I think Hawaii would understand, because in Alaska, yes it's part of the United States, but we've always felt like we're a part of the “Lower 48.” We always say “Lower 48” because we include Hawaii in our plight. I'm sure Hawaii feels the same way we do.
Anchorage, it's the biggest city (in Alaska.) I think it's up to 300,000 people now. I was there my whole life.
I remember laughing when California had a snow storm and they're like “put on your jackets. It's going to be 60 degrees.” And we're up there in single digits like, “Can we have 60-degree weather right now.”
Now, 60 degrees is chilly to me. It's tough when I go back. I went back about 2 years ago. My mom opened the door for maybe a split-second and a cold breeze came through. It felt like Death's hand just came and grabbed me. I felt this chilling embrace. I crunched up and yelled at my mom to close the door. It was only a split-second, but I thought I had died.
Before joining the Marine Corps, I was born and raised there. What's funny is, when I would go to warm up my car, I would just go outside in shorts and a t-shirt. I would run outside barefoot in the snow and ice to warm up my car. I'd be shivering, but I could take it.
Well, thanks to Sarah Palin, everyone thinks we talk in a Canadian accent, but we really don't ... at all. I actually looked it up. Somebody asked what kind of accents we speak in Alaska. Some person said, “Well, my son came back from Alaska with his wife and they speak Canadian so they must all speak Canadian.” No.
A lot of people will ask me if there are a lot of Eskimos up there. The first thing I say is, “Alaskan Natives.” And “Yes, but there are a lot of Caucasians as well.”
During the snowy seasons, you can make up driving lanes on the roads. A four-lane road will turn into a three-lane road. My friends and I would be so excited for fresh snow and we'd be the first ones driving into it. We were like, “Yes, we make up the roads.” That's also how we'd know if someone is new, because they'd start driving on the sidewalk.
Of course I miss my family but that's a given. I miss when the snow is setting in and it's falling down. Everything is all white but you can still see the mountains and it's dead silent. I miss how you can smell the air and everything around you.
I took a personality test for jobs, and my scores were hilarious. I answered all these questions and my scores were realism, 40. Cool, ok. Investigative, 42. Ok, that sounds like me. Then social, 2, and I was like, “What?”
No middle name. It's not boring, it's awesome. It's N.P., no problem.
I'm looking forward to being older than 25. You start meeting people that are been-there, done-that, kind of people.
For me, I kind of realized that video isn't something that I could get into as much as I thought, but more as a hobby and doing things on my own. Working for somebody else, and creating what somebody else wants, I don't know about that. Creativity is all in the eye of the beholder. So, for a job I'm probably going for something more realistic.
It's been a hell of a ride, but I'm glad I did it.
This is how I think of it when I get out. I want to start seeing the sights and traveling more. I've been wanting to go to New Zealand for 2 years. I wanted to do a solo hike there. If not there, somewhere.
I went to New York City once and I went to that park in the middle. I saw that they can pretend to be in the woods and then you look to the right and there's a building.
I don't really place myself in these names, these brackets, these labels. I just live.
Article and photo by USMC Cpl. D. J. Wu
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