Things that have been happening so far

Greetings all!

So it’s been about a month just over a month since I’ve written on here.  My current work schedule does not leave much down time for me to write, but that should be changing soon.  Why?  Because Mainbody is just around the corner.  Actually, it should have started yesterday last week but there were some gnarly storms that have, so far, prevented any planes from coming in.

The change of the seasons has me feeling pretty conflicted, as usual.  There are pros and cons, which I’m sure I have gone over before, but I’ll do it again for the benefit of any new readers that may be out there.

Pros:

  • Freshies – aka fresh fruits and veggies.  Right now I’d maim for a salad.  Or an orange.
  • New dispatchers – New dispatchers mean I get to go to night shift.  Now, night shift when it is daylight 24/7 doesn’t seem like that big a deal, but I am not a morning person.  Which makes me really grateful that I have a roommate that understands this and he makes sure coffee is ready before I get up.
  • Another pro, I already have my roommate for the season, so I’m pretty damn lucky there.  I don’t have to worry about potentially getting someone who is not understanding of my schedule.  It’s actually a friend of mine from my first season down here.  It works out well because he totally understands my schedule, isn’t a big party guy, and will be working during the day when I’m sleeping.
  • More people – I’m going to list this under pro’s and con’s.  New people means more energy and more liveliness around here.
  • PACKAGES! – Okay, I’m really excited about this one.  I mailed myself WAY more than I should have, however, I also did a crappy job of packing for winfly.  I somehow managed to only pack two long sleeve shirts.  Overall, that hasn’t been that big of a deal since I’m working 6 days a week, but it will be nice once I get on my summer rotation.
  • As I’ll be on night shift for a long while, I am excited about the nightshift community.  When your hours of socializing are outside of the norm, you get to know the folks who work the same hours as you.  Some of them will be calling for work related information, others will be at DayBar.  I’m also hoping for the opportunity to bartend again this season.

Cons:

  • More people – Right now, the galley is nice and subdued and you don’t have to stand in line to get food.  More people will bring more noise and lines.
    • Orange people also bring in the crud.

Scratch that.  In the past week that it has taken me to write this, we have gotten no planes.  We have people here that are ready to get out of here and back to reality.  New people, even with their germs and pestilence will be a welcome sight.

*Note, I don’t really think anyone will be bringing the bubonic plague down here.  I’m just in dire need of a salad.

 

Anyhow!  With the weather as it is and the schedule as it is, I haven’t been able to go out and take any photos, which is kind of a bummer.  But, things are going pretty great here for me overall.  I’ve gotten into a routine with my roommate and with my friends when I’m off work.  I’m finally getting back into the gym on a more consistent schedule.  I am down 20 pounds though, so that’s pretty awesome.

I’ll probably write another update later.  Just wanted to put out the word that I am still alive since Facebook isn’t currently working down here.

 

It’s good to be back

Hello friends!

My last post from Christchurch was almost two weeks ago.  It seems like the past two weeks have FLOWN by with getting back into the swing of things down here.  Here’s what’s been happening.

After an extra day in Christchurch due to poor weather on the Ice…  Hold on.  Let me back up.  So the extra day delay in Christchurch was interesting.  The hotel that I was originally staying in, The Crowne Plaza, was completely full the night we were delayed.  All of us Ice-peeps had to transfer to another hotel, but no one knew where they were being moved to…  It was a cluster.  A great big Charlie Foxtrot.  However, it all worked out and I happened to get placed in one of the Penthouse Suites at the Fino Hotel, which happened to be right down the road.  Rather than going out and enjoying the botanic park, I decided to spend my extra night in my super posh room because, let’s face it, who knows when I’ll ever get to stay in such a nice hotel room.  I had wine, cheese, and amazing bread.  I was good to go.

The following morning, it was an early pickup to head to the CDC (Clothing Distribution Centre) to gear up and board for the Ice.  This deployment I was able to fly down on the airbus.  My previous flights down I have either been on a C17 or an LC130.  After a 5.5 hour flight, we touched down at Phoenix airfield.  I had originally thought the flight was going to be much longer, but I was thankfully mistaken.

Walking down the steps of the airbus, my nose hairs froze.  As I crossed the ice to Ivan the Terra Bus, my glasses fogged over and ended up freezing.  But looking out towards the mountains, I could see the alpenglow.  My last redeployment, which for personal reasons I believed would be my actual last redeployment ever, I saw the same view, and cried.  My return brought tears again.  Tears of happiness this time.  Then I remembered how quickly tears freeze down here so I wiped my face off quickly and hopped into Ivan.  One of my friends saw how badly my glasses were frozen so he pulled me into the seat next to him, near the front, so I didn’t have to try to stumble my way to the back.  We chatted about things that had been occurring in our lives in the four years since we’ve seen each other on the way to Mactown.  It was good to catch up.

Upon arrival in McMurdo, we were taken to Crary for the arrival brief.  Which wasn’t exactly brief, but that’s normal.  Afterwards, Jonathan and I went to the Firehouse to get briefed on what all was going on and so Jonathan could start his shift.  I ended up staying for a few hours and then had one of the guys help me transport my bags to my dorm room.

I am living in BL209, which is the building I lived in my last time down, and I took over the room that Wes and Marsha were living in.  It was so awesome to walk in and see all of the notes they left me, as well as all of the other miscellaneous goodies.  Wes and Marsha are THE BEST.  Plain and simple.

Over the next few days, I managed to get my room set up to how it will best fit myself and a roommate when I get one for the summer season.  I’ll eventually take some pictures of it but I keep forgetting to.  It’s a little paradise in there, in my opinion.  I am amused with how much I love my oil diffuser and how people will walk into my room if I’m in there with the door open just to actually SMELL something.

As far as work goes, wellll…..   It’s been four and a half years since I was last here.  A lot of procedures and protocols came back to me immediately, and some others have taken some brushing up on.  Then there are other things that are brand new to me.  And the work load has been incredibly busier than the start of my other seasons.

Right now, I should probably add that I’m on hour 13 of a 10 hour shift.  So if this post is rambling and doesn’t quite seem coherent, that is why.

But Tori, why are you on hour 13 of a 10 hour shift.

WELL!

The weather has been NASTY over the past few days.  We’ve had longer Condition One declarations called in town called than I did during either of my winters.  This, of course, is causing people to be contacted in the middle of the night for alarms or system failures and the result is a lot of people are cranky right now.  I just got off the phone with someone who was not very happy but I know not to take it personally.  Just doin’ my job.

Before the weather turned bad on Saturday evening (keep in mind we are 18 hours ahead of east coast time) I had a chance to take a stroll down to Hut Point with one of my firefighter friends.  So before I continue this long rambling post, I’ll share some photos for your enjoyment.

Cheers!

Tori

Greetings, from New Zealand

Hello friends!

It is Tuesday morning around 03:39am when I’m starting this post.  I’m sitting in my super nice hotel room at the Crowne Plaza in Christchurch, NZ.  I hope that where ever you are reading this from finds you all happy and in good health.

The journey so far…

I spent two lovely weeks on St. Simons between Cayman and starting my travels.  Those two weeks went by incredibly fast.  I decided that I was not going to stress myself out trying to go and see too many people, and that if people wanted to see me, they could come track me down.  So that’s what I did.  It meant that I didn’t see a lot of people but the time relaxing was totally worth it.

The exciting thing that happened this trip, was that the majority of my Winfly fire guys had their ARFF burn in Jacksonville, FL.  This meant that I got to start my trip with them on Saturday.  Two of the guys were ones that I had worked with in previous seasons.  One Captain and one Lieutenant.

I got down to the Jacksonville airport super early because I hate long lingering goodbyes.  I dropped off my bags and got checked in with no issues (which was a good thing because last time I had to pay for my bags although the company was supposed to cover the fee).

I wandered around the airport for a little bit, just seeing if any of my boys were there.  I knew I was early and didn’t really expect to see anyone, but it didn’t hurt to look.  After my 30 LB carryon bag (it’s got a lot of camera equipment in it) started to get really heavy, I decided to have a seat and a drink to wait for them to arrive.  Time started ticking away, and I was actually starting to worry that they were going to be late.  So I messaged the Captain just saying where I was and I hoped that they got through security quickly.

Well.  An hour later they showed up.  Because they knew what I didn’t.  Our flight was delayed.  I forgot to change my number for the flight notifications.  Silly Tori.

Anyhow, we all met up and there were hugs, high-fives, handshakes and fist-bumps.  And a lot of laughter.

The flight kept getting delayed and in spite of going and checking the status frequently, we ALMOST didn’t hear them announce the last call for boarding the plane.  Seriously, Jacksonville?  Where were you announcing the boarding calls to?

So we all dashed to the gate and made our flight.  Next stop – Houston.

We arrived in Houston and a few of us started branching out, making our way to the bathrooms, or in search of food.  By the way, part of my excitement was because I knew I would have someone to watch my bag so I didn’t have to haul my 30 lb bag around with me everywhere.

And there were more people I knew!  Which meant more hugs!  It was amazing to see people I haven’t seen in at least four years.  Catching up with them was fantastic.  I also got to meet a few other Firehouse guys, which was great. Then we all boarded our flight to Auckland.  The 14 hour, 50 minute flight that we all just love so very, very much.

I got on the plane and slept the first 8 hours.  I was asleep before take off.  I woke up freezing cold and found my blanket and retrieved my neck pillow thing that Jonathan (one of the other dispatchers) and snagged for me when it fell down at some point.  We had just flown past Hawaii, well pretty far south of Hawaii, when I checked the map.

I managed to doze off an on for the remainder of the flight.  Overall, not too bad at all.

When we arrived in Auckland, we all got our bags and transferred them over to the domestic departure bag drop and then started making our way to the domestic terminal, which is just down the road from the international terminal.

We walked outside to be greeted by temps in the mid 50’s.  It was GLORIOUS!  I was super gross from traveling and sweaty from hauling my bags around, so this weather was delicious and I just wanted to run around and play.  Instead, I did the responsible thing and went to get checked in and find the next gate.  Which meant I also needed to find food.  And coffee.

New Zealand flat whites are something I have missed.  There is something about coffee tasting better in the southern hemisphere.  I’m convinced of it.

Boarding the plane, I found more people I knew.  Which meant more hugs!  Seriously, I haven’t hugged this many people in YEARS!  It was fantastic.  Next stop, Christchurch.  And oh, when flying into Christchurch, I could feel the tears welling up because I had forgotten how beautiful this country is.  Flying over the snow capped mountains… Seeing the ocean through the other window in the plane…  I have missed this country.

Thankfully, all of my bags arrived with no issues.  Once we all collected them, we met up with the fine USAP folks who gave us our envelopes confirming our hotels and providing our shuttle passes so we can get back and forth to the CDC – Clothing Distribution Centre – for those of you who are not familiar with the program acronyms.  And then we all loaded up in various shuttles and headed to our hotels.  Now,, this was close to noon, and as I’m sure most of you have stayed in hotels, you are familiar with the fact that check in time isn’t normally until around 3 or 4.  This trip, I was booked at the Crowne Plaza hotel, downtown.  I had never stayed here before, so I wasn’t really familiar with the area or the hotel itself.  All I knew was that at that point, I wanted food and a shower.  Not necessarily in that order.

While en route, I met one of the Stewies who is coming down for her first season.  We chatted for a bit and were the only two in our shuttle to get out at our hotel.  We walked into the lobby and found a fair number of other folks who had been on the shuttles ahead of us and found out that the rooms weren’t all ready for our arrival.  We hung out in the lobby area for a while and chatted with some of the others with the program.  After about an hour and a half, my room still wasn’t ready, so I left my bags with the good reception people and Jonathan and I headed out in search of food.  The shower would have to wait.  But I didn’t feel bad about being all gross from traveling, because he hadn’t showered either.

As we were wandering down the street in search of vittles, we saw a large portion of our fire group walking into Rockpool.  I had never been there before so I figured that I’d give their food a shot.  The 8 of us ordered various things from Shepard’s Pie to Fish and Chips to Lamb.

I went with lamb.  A lamb shank with gravy and mashed potatoes.  And broccoli.  And it was good…  Oh so very good.  However, I did eye the lamb roast that one of my compadres ordered.  If we end up getting delayed, we may have to stop back by so I can have that dish.

Sad note – The Brewer’s Arms – my favorite place to eat here, is closed.  I had been wistfully dreaming about going there for WEEKS leading up to my departure.  Gah.  Devastating.

After we had finished eating, Chief Pahl met up with us at Rockpool.  None of the new guys had met him yet and when they first saw him as he was walking up the road, one of our FNGs blurted out “Holy shit!  He is tall!”.  It made me laugh because I think I had the exact same reaction the first time I met Chief in Denver 7 years ago.

Catching up with him was excellent and we found out the other two dispatchers due at Mainbody are all PQ’d and good to go.  Hopefully it will be an excellent dispatch crew.  It will be a change from my previous seasons as Lori and I will be the only two females in dispatch.

A little while later, we decided to part ways and make our way back to the hotel.  My room was finally ready and I was past ready for a shower.

I have a nice big room with a king size bed that I will thoroughly appreciate sprawling out across for as long as we are here, because I know in a few days I will be stuck with a little single bed.  For the next several months.  But that’s ok.  And it felt great to shower, although, I was admittedly confused at first on how the set up would be with more than one person in the room.  You see, the shower is completely enclosed in glass.  You can see all the way through the bathroom from the bed.  I was too tired to be concerned with that though because I had my room all to myself.  *Note* this morning, I found the nifty switch that lowers a shade outside of the shower to block off the view from the bathroom to the rest of the room.

So, this is what all has happened over the past few days.  It is now almost 04:30 on Tuesday and we have our day of orientation at CDC starting in a few hours.  My alarm is set for 0630 so I may attempt to get a little more sleep.  Again.  I tried when I originally woke up, but that didn’t happen.  I guess that is what I deserve after I went to bed at 5pm last night.

Stay cool!

Tori

It’s too damn hot here

I don’t know how many people still read this, or if anyone is interested…

I’ve decided it’s too hot in Cayman, so I’m getting ready to return to the Ice.

Living in a tropical paradise has had it’s ups and downs.  Up – I’ve made some amazing friends.  Down – I hate taking 911 calls about mango thieves.

Stay Tuned!

But Tori, Why South Africa?

If you’re reading this post, hopefully you have read the one I posted prior to this stating that I am embarking on a two week vacation in South Africa next month.  I know I post big news events before I make a life change by moving somewhere new, but rest assured this is just a vacation.

Alright, so top five reasons for this trip are:

  • Cage diving with Great White Sharks
  • Exploring several of the national parks including Kruger, Hluhluwe-Imfolozi, Mount Zebra, Karoo…
  • Seeing South African Penguins
  • The various vineyards
  • BECAUSE I HAVEN’T BEEN THERE YET

For those of you who are interested, here is the itinerary for our two weeks of exploring.

South Africa Itinerary:

15 May – Arrive at approximately 0830 at JNB (airport in Johannesburg).  After grabbing some coffee and SIM cards so that we’re able to give updates from the road, we will pick up our rental car and head to our first place of interest – Kruger National Park.  The first night there, we will be staying in the Lower Sabie Rest Camp.

16 May – We will get up to explore the area between Lower Sabie and our next rest camp – Satara – during the day.  Head to Satara to set up camp and possibly catch a nap before our first game drive of the trip, a sunset drive in Satara.

17 May – Exploring the area of Kruger between Satara and Pretoriuskop rest camp where we will spend our last night and have our first night game drive of the trip.

18 May – We depart Kruger pretty early to head to our next National Park – Hluhluwe-Imfolozi.  We will be staying at the unfenced Mpila camp and taking another night game drive.  This is the night I’m not expecting to sleep much.  There is one fence that is meant to keep elephants out of the camp but everything else can get in.  Lions.  Hyenas.  Zebras.

19 May – After getting up and exploring Hluhluwe a bit, we will drive to our next destination – the Drakensberg Mountains and the KwaZulu-Natal Park.  We will be staying at one of the lodges since the higher elevation may make it a bit chilly for camping.

20 May – Hiking around in the Drakensberg Mountains for a bit and then off we go to Golden Gate Highlands National Park where will explore and camp for the night.

21 May – Wake up, make some coffee and off we go to Mount Zebra National Park.  We will spend a few days exploring here and taking in a night game drive as well as a morning session of Cheetah Tracking!

23 May – After spending time at Mt. Zebra, it’s off to Karoo National Park for some more sightseeing and exploring. We will be camping in the Karoo and hopefully I’ll get some good astrophotography shots since light pollution should be very low.

24 May – Checking out the Karoo for a bit and then it’s off on our final long drive to Simon’s Town!  We are renting a lovely cottage in the area.  This will be our home base for our visits with the African Penguins at Boulders Beach, two scheduled cage dives with African Shark Eco Charters (www.ultimate-animals.com) and our day on the Vinehopper checking out several vineyards.

29 May – Flying from Cape Town to Jo’burg to pick up a car and head out on the road one last time to visit the Cradle of Humankind at Maropeng.  After checking out the site of our ancestors, we will head back to the airport for the long flight back to the states.

Whew.

Upcoming Adventure Notice

Greetings all!

For those of you who may be wondering, life in Cayman is still good.  Hot and humid but good.  I’ve put in my request to extend my contract for another two years.  My current 2 year contract will be complete in September, so fingers crossed that I get an extension.  I enjoy the slower pace of life here and, of course, the beaches.  The job is still great and the benefits are amazing.  One of my favorite benefits is the vacation time.  In my old place of employment in the states, one accrued vacation hours monthly and could only take time off when they had accrued enough hours.  Here, you are allowed use of all of your vacation time starting at the beginning of the year.  You don’t have to wait MONTHS in order to use the time that you’ll gain.  It’s wonderful.  And thanks to our 4 days on, 4 days off schedule, one is able to take a mighty long vacation at a time.

SO!  With that being said, I’m getting ready to take the trip of a lifetime next month.

Hang on to your hats:

I’m going to South Africa for two weeks!

Just a fair warning, the next several posts will be all about the trip.

Cheers!

Tori

The not-so-good things about paradise

Okay I did a flip side of this post prior to writing it so please don’t read this first and automatically think I’m miserable.  I’m not.  I’m just now writing things that I don’t like or that I’ve missed by moving here.

  • Mosquito season.  Oh wait.  It’s always mosquito season.
  • It is always hot.  ALWAYS. Which brings us to…
  • Swamp ass.  If you have to ask what this is, consider yourself lucky.  It’s that uncomfortable feeling you get in places not spoken of in polite society after sitting around in a wet bathing suit all day.  Or just plan sweating all day.
  • Roosters crowing at 0300 right outside your bedroom window are annoying as hell.  They’re also annoying when they do it at midnight…0100…0200…0400…  Actually they don’t have a time setting so they’re likely to do it any old time they feel like it.
  • People that don’t know where they live.  Really?  Learn your street address!
  • Tourists that don’t know how to use roundabouts.  Granted it took me a bit to figure out how they work and switching lanes and such, but I hate getting behind cars with white tags when I’m in a roundabout.  White tagged cars are rental cars.
  • I don’t really complain about the cost of living here or the fact that things are much more expensive than what I would pay for in the states because I EXPECT it to cost more.  So when people bitch and complain about the cost of things, especially when they’ve been here for a while… get over it.  90% of the people I’ve heard complain are those who chose to move here.

Things that I miss include:

  • My family, of course
  • My friends
  • One of the big things that has stuck out lately is that I miss the work interaction with the police/paramedics/firefighters that I was/am friends with.  I miss joking around with or hassling my favorite medics when they would call in for times on a call.  I miss officers calling in and saying “That person is flat out bat shit crazy” or being filled in on what happened on the scene of an incident.  We don’t have that here.
  • Chickfila.  I miss Chickfila.
  • And I can’t forget my dogs.  I’m having to resubmit the boy’s application.  The picture made him kind of look like a pit mix so I’m figuring I can wait a few weeks and then resubmit it.  He may have to be under an alias name, but I think he can live with that.

As you can see overall there aren’t too awful many negatives about living here.  And with 15 months left on my contract, I have about 9 months until I have to decide on whether or not to request a renewal.  A lot can happen in that time frame so we will see how it goes.

Cheers

Tori