By Sarah Chatta

Ayubowan! Namaste! Salam! Xin chào! Privyet!—or ‘Hello!’ in the predominant language of every country I’ve visited since graduating from college less than two years ago. You might notice that most of these countries have tropical climates, which is why I am remarkably over-dressed for Haines’ spring weather in a hat, gloves and a down jacket.

Don’t let that fool you. This is my sixth time in Alaska and my family has a bit of history in the area. My great-great-great grandfather came in 1898 looking for gold. He was last seen on a ship bound for Dutch Harbor that never reached. Three generations down the line, my grandmother got hooked on the Alaskan wilderness after paddling in Glacier Bay in 1986. She has visited dozens of times since, mostly in the form of self-guided kayak trips through bear country with her friends-accomplices, Barbara and Peggy. When I was fourteen-years-old, she enlisted me on one of these adventures. Two days in, she almost got me killed in a squall, as we weaved our boats through sea stacks with six-foot-high waves crashing over our heads. Eventually we found shelter in Elfin Cove, and we learned that the fishermen had decided it was too rough to go out that day.

Years later I attended a liberal arts college nestled between Ohio corn fields, where my Indian father says I studied highly impractical things: creative writing and Russian studies. Both parents hope that I utilize my education by finding employment in the U.S. government. Unfortunately for them, I love storytelling too much, and that’s why I’ve spent the last couple of years working at a magazine in Russia, gathering oral histories in India and reporting in Sri Lanka.

How did I land this gig working for the Chilkat Valley’s premiere newspaper? It’s a not-so-funny story about a political coup in Sri Lanka that unseated a prime minister for an extended period of time and threatened the country’s nascent press freedom. Despite the somewhat desperate circumstances that brought me here, I feel incredibly lucky to live in Haines for the next six months, a town that looks more like the inside of a snow globe than a real place.

Everyone here is extremely kind. I already owe thank-yous to my landlady, for letting me borrow her sleeping bag, the guy who gave me a ride into town that day, and the folks who gifted me two weeks worth of firewood. Haines would be a much colder place without you.