The Kenai Peninsula comes alive during summer. Tourists, fishermen, seasonal workers and year-round residents share highways and harbors from Homer to Seward. ADN's Tegan Hanlon and Marc Lester recently spent a week meeting some of the people who make the Peninsula unique. Here are some of their stories.
STERLING — When Darika Jessing went back to Thailand after losing her job in Arizona, her friend told her to get a massage to help relieve some stress. It changed her life.
"I was like, 'Oh my God, it feels so good,' and it's just good for you," she said. "I went to school. "
She moved to Sterling. Some of her relatives live in the area. She opened up a Thai massage business off the highway. A Thai massage, she said, is more like yoga and involves more stretching. She combines the techniques with a typical deep-tissue massage. She said she struggled her first year in business.
"You don't know what you're doing and you don't know how to deal with people. So, not good. I almost quit. I almost go do something else," she said. "But then second year, I learn. I do better."
Jessing is now in her eighth year as a masseuse in Sterling. Her business operates out of a small, tan building. A colorful sign out front reads "A Summer Massage" in upper-case lettering next to her photograph. She keeps the business open May through September and then returns to Thailand. She said she saves much of the money she earns during the summer so she can live off of it all year. Food in Thailand is cheap, she said, and she has a house there.
"This job is perfect for me," she said, as she sat behind her desk one evening.
Her favorite part of the job is meeting new people. Most of her customers are tourists. Talking to them has helped her improve her English, she said. At first, her relatives in Alaska constantly pestered her to try speaking English. Now they can't get her to stop talking, she said, laughing.
Jessing has also grown to appreciate Sterling. It's so peaceful and quiet, she said.
"When I get up in the morning, I don't have to hear anything," she said. "I just love it."