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 Megan Jennings Litwin

Williston Northampton School
Easthampton, Massachusetts


Megan Jennings Litwin
Reflections on the Harriman Expedition Retraced

"I love the being on and by the water," says Megan Litwin. "I spent some summers on the coast of Maine, definitely my favorite vacation." Not surprisingly, her leisure activities center on water: kayaking, water polo, swimming. But this interest is nicely balanced by a political bent. "I am on student council and am active in planning and running events at school."

At school, she studies English, algebra, chemistry, Spanish, painting and design. These last two courses reflect yet another interest: photography. Her project for the Harriman Expedition Retraced is a photographic journal of the expedition.



Reflections on the Harriman Expedition Retraced

The whole trip went so fast, a whirlwind of images and ideas that I am still filtering through in my mind. When I think of Wrangell, I remember Sonya, the girl who sold me garnets. I remember the petroglyphs I saw on the beach. Then my mind jumps to a glacier I hiked on in the Harriman Fiord. In Russia, I have an image of a beautiful girl who was participating in traditional dancing. These are all such vivid memories that will never leave my mind. Given a chance, I would do it all again.

I would love to spend years traveling, learning the Tlingit language and traditions. One thing I find particularly intriguing is the Tlingit social system. For example, your grandparents can be years younger than you, if they have the same name as your biological grandparents. Although they are younger, you respect them in the same way as you would your elders.

In Yakutat, I met two girls who are not biological sisters, but are sisters within Tlingit culture. They are the same age as my sister and I. We had many things in common and they had many ideas and feelings similar to my friends and I on the East Coast. At them same time, they worry about things that do not even cross my mind. I wish that I could live with them, and learn what it is like for a girl my age in an environment that is so different from the one I have grown up in.

I would also like to go back to Unga Island, off the Aleutian Peninsula. I would like to spend time in the graveyard reading every gravestone, trying to imagine what those people experienced in winter in that isolated environment. On Little Diomede Island in the Bering Strait, I was so inspired by the way that these people live on a point of rock, receiving helicopter food deliveries once a week. Their strength, their will to stay in a Bering Sea winter is inconceivable to me. I wish that everyone could see what they go through to build an umiak boat out of walrus skin, then use the umiak to hunt these enormous tusked creatures.

My whole Alaska trip has forced me to realize how people live in different cultures. In my world, people go to the doctors every time they feel sick. For entertainment, they go to the mall and meet friends to see a movie. Many of the cultures and environments I visited in Alaska were very different from my life in Massachusetts. I am going to return to Alaska if it takes me years to get there. I want to visit with the people I met so I can tell them what an impact their lives had on me.


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For information on the Harriman Retraced Expedition e-mail: harriman2001@science.smith.edu

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