AISES, Alaska, alcohol, Anchorage, Anchorage Mall, Boeing, Case Western, dance, dancing, diversity, Egan Center, Electric Slide, friendship, Gangnam Style, Michael Jackson, Native American, rave party, solo travel, student, Thriller
I never talked to Josh again that night. I didn’t avoid him on purpose, but I was in need of spending time with more and more different people. I didn’t want to be stuck in the same, stagnant group. Besides, I was so enthralled with my new friends Kelsey, Karina, Nathan, Isaiah, Kamuela, Albert, Tylynn, and Jeffrey, all from the Hawai’ian school. They introduced me to people like Riley (from a Californian tribe) and Areidy (Mexican).
Before the dance, Tylynn, Isaiah, and I went to the Anchorage mall to find some dinner. I got odd Mexican food, and they tried a “tornado potato”. It was all kind of lousy, and we laughed because it was Mexican food sold in Alaska by Asians! When I told Isaiah I could go for some poi, he looked ready to hug me. “I’m so glad you know what that is!” he said. I told him I always spell Hawai’i with an apostrophe and he was equally excited, telling me it was a start.
The mall itself was unusually large and strangely laid out, with a shoe store sitting at the base of an elevator and several stories of steps. We brought some food back to Kelsey, waited a little, then went to the dance.
The dance was sponsored by Boeing and I have never seen anything like it. We were given shutter shades and glow sticks as well as fake teeth. There were some snacks, but of course no alcohol. I had slowly learned how taboo alcohol is in the Native culture. Well, at least around the Elders. The kids were just as crazy as any other. However, “alcohol, illegal drugs, and harassment” are completely forbidden by AISES, so as to “reflect the ideas of our Native communities”. We were expected to “promote the well-being and growth of all people” by supporting an avoidance of mind-altering substances. I knew this was just centered around the fact that alcohol has such a grip on our Native communities, in ways we would like to forget. However, it wasn’t stopping the youth at AISES.
Some people at the dance didn’t smell sober, but most were. There were people dressed like any typical teenager, some wore ordinary clothes with large, Native jewelry, and then there were the Elders… men and women dressed very traditionally, standing around the dance floor. There were tables, but not many used them. Once the dancing started, I learned immediately how up-to-date this community was on their moves. There was a Thriller dance competition where one of the winners aggressively danced backwards into Albert. There was also a lot of Gangnam Style dancing and moves to dances that I didn’t even realize had moves. We did the Electric Slide and several chains snaking around the floor.
My Hawai’ian friends were the best dancers I had ever met, Tylynn in particular. Isaiah taught me to relax and enjoy it as much as they did, then he asked me to slow dance with him. This, I was better at. When the salsa music came on, the whole room began cheering. I guess Mexican culture is one of our own! I danced with Isaiah and Jeffrey, mostly, and it was amazingly fun. We left the dance floor completely exhausted, laughing at the Boeing representatives who must have found us absolutely insane. But they sponsored a wonderful event. It was everyone’s highlight of the Conference.
That night, we talked about buying some cases of local brews and finding a park to watch the Northern Lights from. On the way back to my friends’ hotel, we got distracted by a cooler of ice cream. I’m not sure how the dare began but, before I knew it, Karina, Isaiah, and I were standing outside without jackets, shoving ice cream down our throats as quickly as we could manage. At one point, Isaiah even took off his shirt. I was shaking so violently that I got ice cream all over my face. Isaiah ran in behind the others who were too cold to continue taking photos. Karina and I finished our ice cream, proud to have completed the challenge, and returned inside.
We sat around in the lobby, deciding what to do, when an extremely drunk Navajo guy and girl came into the lobby. They introduced themselves. The guy was more with it than the girl he had in tow, and she was clinging to his iPad. He left her on a couch and went to the front desk. On the way, he introduced himself to us… again. We all looked at each other with raised eyebrows, not liking this guy very much. Then Tylynn suddenly stood up. “Should we help her?” she asked. We looked over to see the girl passed out on the couch in a pool of vomit.
And thus began an endless night. Rather than having the fun we intended, we babysat a poor drunk girl we didn’t even know. But we felt like it was our duty. Our duty to help her, to save her from the scumbag taking advantage of the fact that she was incoherent, to return her to her proper hotel and room, and to keep the Elders from witnessing the scene. We managed to evade the man long enough, with the help of the sympathetic lobby woman (who wanted to cancel his room because she disliked him so much for what he was doing), then we slipped the girl into a cab. Isaiah and I took her to her hotel. I found her key and answered a call from the man, telling him to bug off. She gave us money for the cab and we pulled her upstairs. She was so sick and still vomiting that we couldn’t bear to leave her. I called a recent friend on her phone who promised to show up immediately. I put the girl’s phone on silent and charged it on a nearby charger. When the friends came through the door, they told us to go downstairs where another girl could give us a ride. I was relieved because Isaiah said he would walk me to my place, then go alone in the dark. It was almost 5am and I couldn’t stand seeing him go alone. We got into the Tahoe outside and were delivered home to sleep out the few hours that remained.
Oh, alcohol. We try to move on, but you keep reminding us of our weaknesses.