soul searching in the snow

I can’t believe that it has been almost 2 whole months that I have been here on the Ice! 

The time has been flying by so quickly.  I’ve made some outstanding friends and have overall met some amazing people.  I’ve also learned several important things.  I’ve done a fair amount of soul searching while down here.  I’ve got my own personal goals to accomplish while here, and so far, things are going uphill, as planned.

I’ve learned to appreciate  good conversations and kindred spirts. 

I’ve learned that it’s foolish to judge someone based solely on their appearance.  There are people here that I admittedly would probably cross the street to avoid if I were anywhere but Antarctica, however, I find myself having great conversations with them.

I’ve learned that you should always eat your fruits and vegetables when they’re offered to you because who knows when the next time you will see them will be.

I’ve learned that it is possible to get through the day without sending and recieving dozens of text messages.

I’ve learned that drama is not necessary.  This SOUNDS like common sense, however, it’s amazing how many people thrive on drama and drink it in like water.

Sure, a lot of those things seem like they are simple lessons, but looking at where I am now as opposed to where I was in the first half of the year, it’s shocking to see how things have changed in my own life. 

Coming down here has been an incredible, life changing experience. 

Don’t get me wrong, I loved my job at home, but I had also grown comfortable in my position to the point where I was numb to the problems that were actually occurring.  The problems that drew my attention stressed me out to the point where I hated going in to work (but Tori, you said you loved your job.  Yes I loved my job but it still depressed me to have to go in and put up with all of the problems).  I didn’t like being in charge of EVERYTHING, I didn’t like the person it made me become.  I became withdrawn and anti-social.  I quit caring about things like my house, my health, hanging out with people that I adore…  It was a rough time.  But there are some things that I miss…

I miss my family, the Bakers, other close friends and last, but not least, my dog.

I’ve actually been trying to figure out what else I miss and all I could think of were things that I actually miss the idea of.  I’m sure this will change.  I miss green grass and trees.  There.  Now I feel like I haven’t completely abandoned everything.

I adore Antarctica with her crazy, beautiful weather.  I love seeing the snow.  How on earth I have managed to stay in Brunswick GA my entire life is rather odd considering my affinity for snow.  I love walking to work and hearing the soles of my shoes crunch through the snow.  I love looking out of the window in the lounge and seeing the Royal Society Mountain Range across the ice.  I love hearing the wind batter the doors and sides of buildings that I’m generally warm and cozy in.  I love how, on especially cold, blustery days, everyone says “Hello” when they pass eachother outside.  We’re generally all bundled up and it can be difficult to tell who is who, but you always say hi to people when you pass them.  Why?  Because when the weather is really bad, you don’t know if that’s the last person you’re going to see…  Ok, I haven’t been through weather THAT bad yet, but on our -81 degree day, that is sure what it felt like.

Part of me wonders why I love this place so much.  Is it because it is completely different than everything I’ve ever known?  Is it because I know I only have a limited time here, therefore the value of everything is much more precious?  Or is Antarctica, the continent with the harshest conditions on the planet, the place that I have been needing to go to for a very long time to help me discover what in life is worth holding on to and what is worth letting go…

Don’t worry, I’ll get back to more informative posts about the different things around and about McMurdo.  I just felt it was time for a good rambling post about my own personal feelings on this experience thus far.

Take care-

Tori

Night shift in the light of day

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Greetings all!

Since I’m now on night shift, I am hoping that I’ll be able to update my blog more often.

Last night was my first night on the night time shift.  The evening started out well and I was kept company by Lt. Phil Brunelle and Fire Fighter Mike Allard.  The group at the station was down by three members.  The reason for this was due to the need to have staffing at Station 2.  Station 2 is located in “Ice Town” out at the Ice Runway.  Unfortunately, we don’t have the staffing for a “permanent” Ice Town group to go, so we have to send personnel to standby when we have intercontinental flights occurring.  When we get a C-17 or an LC-130 landing at the runway, the shift that is technically off duty has to respond to stand by for landings and take offs.

Things were going fine until Phil kicked his flip flop into Mike’s face.  This was all in good fun and it occurred after the bandages had been thrown at each other, as well as the great rubber band battle of October 17, 2011.  Once the shoes came off, the boys decided they might better call it a night.  Mike went to find something to cook and while he was in the kitchen, Renae came over to keep me company for a bit.  It’s weird to be in this situation where we find ourselves not being able to hang out with each other in the evenings.  We’d developed a bit of a pattern over the past 7 weeks (wow I can’t believe I’ve been down here 7 weeks already) of hanging out in the evenings.  The next 6 weeks are going to either fly or drag by.

After Renae left around 0200, time started to creep by.  I was fixing to go into serious cleaning mode in the dispatch room when the phone rang and someone requested the fire department to respond at a quarter til 5.  So we sent the crews out, and in order for the scene to be worked completely, I had to call out the off duty crew as well.  I will admit that I took great pleasure in waking up the guys that were off duty, I mean, if I’m awake they should be too!  I did feel kind of bad though when a few of the guys showed up with incredibly sad looks on their faces.  I had the guys out until shortly after 0630.  At least it wasn’t a call where they had to go out for 5 minutes, disturbing their sleep, and then have them attempt to go back to sleep.  If I’m going to cause chaos, I may as well REALLY cause chaos.

After I got off work at 0700, I went to the room to change and thought about heading down to Southern Exposure for “day bar”.  Day Bar is held on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays for the night shift group that might not get a chance to go out with the folks who work the town schedule.  As I was walking down Highway 1, which is the main corridor located in the building I live in, 155, I ran into Rick.  He was laughing about my Facebook post that I put about 15 minutes before the chaos started.  I had written “Good Morning from McMurdo Station Antarctica.  It’s 0430 and all is well”.  Long story short, there was a comment made by my dearest eldest sister that I was mean for waking up all of the guys, and I had previously told Rick that I was only mean on Thursdays so of course he had to make a comment about that since it is only Tuesday.  He and I decided to unwind at the Coffee House over some tea.  We talked about several things, the call of the evening and life in general.  Out of all of the people here, he’s probably one of the most interesting ones.  One of the talks we’ve had in the past regarded the fact that our age group (28-35) seemed to be the minority around here.  Now, before I came down here, I saw that the average age of person working at McMurdo was 36, but that’s because there are several young 20 somethings, and then there is the 40+ age group.  Right now, most of my peers are having children or too involved in their careers to take off and do something like this.  I would also like to say that I don’t think there is anything wrong with having kids or being too involved in a career to do something like this.  Kids, right now, just aren’t for me.  Yes, I know I generally say I’m too selfish to have them, but not seeing kids (except in pictures) for 4 more months may make me reconsider my current stand on children.  I shall move on from that little tangent now…  We wrapped up our little conversation and I headed off to bed at around 0930.

So I find myself here at work again after about 5 hours of sleep, a hot shower and a decent meal.  The kids are all asleep.  Hopefully I won’t wake them up.  But if I do, I’ll do it with a smile.

-Tori

Time flies when you’re having Fun!

Greetings and Salutations to you all!

I apologize most profusely for not posting a blog more recently, but things have been incredibly busy down here at McMurdo!  We’ve gotten a whole bunch of new people with the flights come freshies and more packages!  I actually recieved three packages this week but they were inadvertently placed in a closet and I wasn’t told about them until this morning.  Two of them were ones that I packed for myself (thanks Debbie for shipping them!) and one was from my parents.  These were in addition to the two that I received last week – THANKS GRANDMA and MOM AND DAD! 

So let’s see, what has been going on…  I’ve been down to Hut Point only once since my last post.  I took my roommate Renae down there since she hadn’t been yet.  I made the mistake of not wearing enough layers and underestimated the sheer force of the wind and managed to get windburn on my legs through 2 pairs of pants.  Not a good thing.  Thankfully I got my package with lotion the next day.  There was only 1 seal out which was kind of a bummer since she hadn’t gotten to see any yet, but it was still exciting for her.

Let’s see, what else.  Oh!  I, along with 3 of my firefighters, got to go down and watch Lindsey, one of the weather forecasters, launch one of the weather balloons.  We had to go through the waste water treatment plant (which smells a bit like 341 in certain areas) and then out onto Sausage Point *Sausage Point is called Sausage Point because many moons ago, a large amount of cargo containing sausage was unearthed.  So, without much fanfare, Rick took the balloon and let it go.  It floated away, looking like a giant jellyfish in the sky.

Speaking of skies, as I’m now transitioning to night shift, I’ve tried to stay up late.  I can say that the skies are orange around 3am and then fade into a shade of indigo, but it’s no longer completely black at night.

Thursday night I went to Scott Base with Rick.  The main purpose of this visit was to enjoy Glenlivet.  I have no shame in saying this.  We have no Scotch at McMurdo.  This saddens me.  So we went for scotch and to socialize with the Kiwi’s.  Then came back and went to the coffeehouse where I probably played the best game of dominos that I’ve ever played.  Then we went on to have deep conversations.  I love the conversations down here.  It’s so nice to have so many different viewpoints on things. 

I’ve seen several mirages lately – also known as Fata Morgana.  To my brother – Yes, the mountains that were in those pictures listed as mirages were, in fact, mirages.  It’s amazing.  I will post pictures tomorrow night when I’m actually using my computer. 

So things are still going well.  I will have more time to write tomorrow night since I will be back at work.  Love to you all!

Tori

 

Ahhhh-ctober!

Today is Thursday, October 7, 2011.  This week marks the beginning of Mainbody or “Summer”.  It means that the winter-over crew is departing and the hordes are arriving.  It also means receiving somewhat regular shipments of mail and FRESHIES!  Never in my life have I ever been so excited about eating a salad as I was today at lunch. 

Back at home, where fresh fruits and vegetables are convenient to purchase, I never gave much thought as to what I would do if I couldn’t have regular access to veggies.  For the past three weeks or so, we have been eating over or undercooked frozen or canned veggies, but today I was able to have a salad with fresh carrots, fresh broccolli, fresh cucumbers, etc…  Nothing is better than that.  Nothing.  Well, perhaps the banana I had with breakfast was better, but who’s comparing.  There were several different meat toppings offered (ham, shrimp, I’m not sure what else) but all I wanted were the veggies.  Oh, how I have missed them.

So along with the wonderful goodness of freshies, we also got mail!  Thanks to Mom and Dad for the calling card, to Debbie for sending me my mail and the card, and to Kati for sending me Cannon’s birth announcement.  It is so nice to get mail.  I was sitting in the Galley yesterday, playing a game of chess, and one of the DA’s had recieved mail from home which included several letters from friends.  It was the first time I’ve seen someone cry down here.  I wanted to go give her a hug.  It’s funny, after 6 weeks here, it feels like I have known several of these people for much longer.  My sister, Beth, asked me if I have had any deja vu experiences down here with people I’ve never met before, and I have.  “That, is how you know you’ve found your people” she replied.  She has had a similiar experience before when she went to Penland. 

More people have arrived.  Our population has easily doubled over the past week.  Where it was once easy to hold a long conversation after dinner with the folks I was sitting with is now becoming difficult.  More people also means more work.  The first day people arrived I think I took 6 phone calls from people locked out of their rooms.  The fire department doesn’t let them in, but since the number (non-emergency) to the firehouse is posted EVERYWHERE, we are generally the first place people turn when something has gone wrong.  We also recieved many calls from returnees who wanted the phone numbers of their friends who wintered or came down at winfly.  It’s also amusing to see people with tans.  All of the color that I had has already faded.  I can’t imagine how I would look after a winter. 

I know I haven’t been updating my blog on a regular basis, but in all honesty, my days off are generally dull if the weather is bad.  If the weather is nice, I try to go out and see different things, then I’m too tired to write about it.  Living in a room with no windows makes it rather easy to sleep all day as well.  Of course it is a bit of a shocker to walk outside to find the sun shining and beautiful blue skies.  I tend to kick myself when that happens, for letting the day go by while I’m slumbering away.  Today I got over to the quiet coffeehouse in order to write this.  The coffeehouse is generally unlocked during the day and only serves people later in the evening, but there are two computers set up for use over here. 

The daylight is present much of the day now.  We’re at just over 16 hours of daylight per 24 hour period.  I have watched the past few sunsets and twilights in an attempt to soak in the last of the colors that I have never seen anywhere else in the world.  I haven’t seen any Nacreous clouds in weeks and I am sad to say that I believe the chance to see the Southern Lights is gone.  I guess that means I have to come back next year.

On another note, I believe we will soon be finding out which of our firefighters are going to be stationed at the South Pole for the season.  There will be a few there perminently, and 6 others that will rotate out through the season.  I’ve grown rather accustomed to the group at the station.  It will be sad to see some of them go.  The one major difference I have come to know in dispatching here and dispatching at home, is that here, we’re part of the family.  At home, the dispatchers are treated like they’re not part of the public safety matrix.  It’s an unfortunate thing. 

Much love to you all and I hope you (whereever you are) are being blessed with wonderful weather.

Tori