Andrea Irigoo and I HAD to be friends. The story of how we met proves God has a sense of humor (something I have never questioned, by the way). Picture me standing in the tiny but crowded Kodiak airport, my 5ft self holding a sign with "Andrea" written in pink highlighter. I'm picking up a camp volunteer from Kansas. Up walks a girl with the best smile I've ever seen, wearing a K-state shirt. "I'm Andrea." Great! Sign goes down and we chat while I help her get her bag. It takes me 20 full minutes to find out I have the WRONG Andrea! It would take a whole other story to explain how she re-entered my life again and again. Yep! Definitely destined for friendship.
When you see Andrea, you probably wonder how I could have thought she was a mid-westerner. With her beautiful carmel skin, dark almond-shaped eyes and high apple cheekbones, she is a perfectly stunning representative of her 100% Central Yupik heritage. (Hey, the K-state shirt threw me off!) Yes, the girl is from Nome, Alaska, a town well known for off-shore gold dredging and as the end of the famous Iditarod annual sled dog race.
Andrea is a true daughter of Alaska.
Andrea currently lives in Kodiak. On any given day you might find her playing with kids in a local after school program, playing her guitar, surfing, or playing...I mean working...with me in my studio. Do you see a theme here? This girl loves to have fun!
I was inspired to name these earrings after Andrea (sorry, they are sold). The description might help you get to know her: "This girl dares to be different! An undeniable daughter of Alaska, she embraces the sea in a way that shapes and defines her. Full of personality, she draws people in instantly."
Read my interview with Andrea Irigoo below.
You and I met on your second visit to Kodiak. Tell me about your first impression of the island.
I originally moved to Kodiak in 2010 with a really good friend of mine and we came in on the “Tusti” [ferry boat Tustumena]. It was my very first time on the ferry, my first time ever in this region, and my first time having a winter without snow! I get off the ferry and it was pouring rain, and I thought man… this place sucks. But then the sun came and I fell in love with the scenery. Since then, I have been back at least five times.
What are your favorite things about Kodiak? What draws you back?
After being able to explore the island and discover places like fossil beach, Abercrombie, Near Island, and Pasagshak, I came to love the outdoor adventures. Where I am from, just traveling there in itself was an adventure, but we also don’t really have “designated hiking trails” to drive to and hike. What I really enjoyed about Kodiak is knowing that you can be safe and hike without the worry of getting stranded in the middle of nowhere and getting lost. So that is one of the reasons that brings me back.
You are a musician. How has Kodiak influenced your music?
I play many instruments, but my favorite for the past few years is the guitar. I used it to compose a song that has a bit of Kodiak in there. One verse says, “There’s some waves, long and wide. You can ride them day and night,” which talks about Pasagshak, [the part of Kodiak] where I learned to surf.
What are your plans for the future
My plan is to finish my Bachelor of Science in Human Services with an emphasis on Social Work and hopefully get to work somewhere in Alaska in that field.
You certainly seem to be walking your own path. What advice would you give to other young women?
Find who and/or what pushes you past your comfort zone. I found people who pushed me or saw something in me and took their words of affirmation to heart and delved in wherever it took me. Someone saw I was talented in music and told me, “You should go for this!” I did! I became a pretty good musician. Basically whatever/whoever opportunity that was put in front of me, I took it to my own and discovered myself. I knew someday I needed to impact either my future children or the community that I later grew to love and wanted to help, by participating in opportunities that were offered.
Also with my background of small community life, it was rooted in me that we always help others who needed it. My religious background with "loving thy neighbor as yourself" and The Good Samaritan story has also been a factor of my journey. Along with pushing past persecutions of my background and people assuming who I am, I am making [life choices] I like more, allowed me to make my own fate.
Does this make anyone else want to learn surfing? Or take up guitar? Or become a social worker? This young lady is so inspiring. Share this with someone who can use some inspiration today. And don't forget to post a comment! (due to a technical glitch, you may need to re-route to this post by visiting my main webpage here and finding the "Blog" section in the menu. Sorry about the hassle. I'm going to work on fixing the problem.)