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2022 Arctic to Manhattan Winter Semester Blog #1

Greetings from the 2022 Kroka Arctic to Manhattan Winter Semester! My name is Satya, and I’ll be writing to you every now and then over the course of the next five months. Right now, we’re at Basecamp, Kroka’s campus in Marlow, NH, preparing for expedition. Each day we are busy working, training, and studying from before dawn until long past dark. 

January at Kroka basecamp

The sun rises as we do our morning chores. First a glow, then a fiery outbreak of orange and red textured by faraway clouds. At eight o’clock, we congregate in the farmhouse to sing and eat a delicious breakfast, made with care on this particular morning by Aeron, our Navigator. Every member of our thirteen person group has chosen a Big Job, which is a set of additional responsibilities within the group, which we’ll have for the entirety of our time together. 

Diego and Britta out for a walk

Lucas, the Hygiene and Laundry Manager, reminds us to collect our clean clothes before he puts them in the compost, and so we run to put them away in our cubbies before our daily lesson begins. 

Lucas and the laundry

This week we studied energy by examining the heat and water systems in the farmhouse. Each student found the tanks and pipes in Kroka’s Mechanical Room and created a diagram illustrating the flow of water and heat throughout the building. We also played with batteries, light bulbs, switches, and relays, solving puzzles by creating circuits with different behaviors. 

After class, we head outside to our skis, which Noah and Phoebe, the Ski and Boat Managers, have carefully maintained and waxed for us. Skate skiing is our workout of the day, and it culminates in a high energy relay race full of cheering, panting, and lighthearted competition.

Fern and Satch during skate ski practice

Lucas, Phoebe and Sarah during ski practice

Now it’s one o’clock and time for showers and lunch! Fern, our Medic and Bathroom Hygiene Manager, reminds everyone to take their vitamins, and Alex, the Kitchen Manager, reminds me and Fern that it’s Saturday – our turn to do the dishes. 

Noah hafting his knife in the shop

After we’ve all eaten and showered, we split apart to work on our Big Jobs. Jenny and Diego, the Food Managers, head downstairs to the Food Room, where they weigh out food for the entire five months ahead. 

Jenny weighing out 5 months worth of oats

Elijah, the Camp and Tent Manager, moves all the tables to the side of the room to make space to practice setting up the canvas tent we’ll be bringing north. Sarah, as Sewing and Woodyard Manager, sharpens her chainsaw and works with the sewing machine. 

Elijah measuring and cutting lines for the new winter tent

In the workshop, others are busy making knives. Hours of rasping, drilling, and sanding go into creating a beautiful, strong, shaving-sharp knife which will be gifted to another semester student. Using our hands to create something beautiful and useful calms and centers us, and we take pride in our work. 

Aeron and Fern hafting in the shop

Knives in process

Phoebe hafting in the shop

At five in the evening, we study together, journal, and write letters before eating dinner at six. Teresa, the Energy Manager, stokes the wood stoves before our day ends in a lantern-lit circle. Once Sivannah, our all-knowing Logistics manager, briefs the group on tomorrow’s schedule,  we are ready to gather and reflect on ourselves, both individually and as a group. 

Sivannah creating the semester itinerary

Teresa’s knife during sheath-making

As I stumble towards my warm yurt each night, I pause for a moment to look at the stars before going to bed. They give me a sense of direction, time, and place. Here I am, tiny little Satch, shivering in the starlit night, living and working in community with my fellow humans. My Big Job is Scribe, Academics Manager, Van and Trailer Manager, and Water Manager. I am responsible to the group for these things.

Phoebe gifts Sarah the knife she made for her during the Knife Gifting Ceremony

This has been a week of many highs and lows. Our inner weather is a winter blizzard, we say. It’s windy, loud, and hard to see ahead, but exciting and beautiful at the same time. We’re still settling in on our sixth day living together, and we’re feeling disoriented and confused, but also alive and full of anticipation. The fear of the uncertainty ahead and the pain of leaving behind our loved ones surface again and again, but the countless joys of our life at Kroka lift us upward.

Alex takes a dip in the Kroka pond after ski practice

Satch, Sarah, Jenny, EJ, Misha and the rest size up the next drill during ski practice

We glow with a feeling of accomplishment after skiing down the whole hill without falling over, after discovering the function of relays in an electrical circuit, and after giving away our polished knives, the results of a long, careful labor. We find peace in the simplicity of having everything we need and not too much more. We have gratitude for the warmth of the Farmhouse and the luxury of our daily showers.
As we build our community here at Basecamp, we remember that while six days have passed, there are months of journeying ahead of us. We celebrate and struggle with the joys and frustrations of being always together, and we know that these joys and frustrations will grow to feel natural. We play the guitar and join each other in song, and as the blizzard howls we keep each other warm, our minds on the 750 km ahead of us.

Wet breath biting bitter ice
Grind tang molten sparks fly
Fierce fire thighs lunge turn
Snore shiver sweat sniffle sing
Laugh cry whisper scream listen

Fern takes dip

Your Scribe,