Things I miss.

While things are great down here on the Ice, I do miss some things.  Things that I used to take for granted.  I don’t miss them to the point where I am homesick, but I miss things like:

  • My family
  • My friends
  • The sweet, earthy smell of freshly mown grass
  • The metallic smell of rain
  • The smell of the marsh, river and creeks around Blythe Island
  • Driving down 303 with the windows down, singing along with the radio
  • The farmers market downtown and the produce section in grocery stores
  • Having my own bathroom
  • Thick, plush carpet
  • People under 21 (namely my nieces, nephew and the young Mister Baker)
  • Good toilet paper

I don’t miss things like:

  • Mosquitos and sandgnats
  • Hot weather
  • Humidity
  • Traffic
  • Frogs
  • Children screaming in restaurants
  • The feeling of “there’s nothing to do in this town!”
  • Washing dishes
  • Buying necessary stuff like lightbulbs, toilet paper, laundry detergent, etc…  I have had to buy laundry detergent here, but… it’s just different.  I didn’t have to “go” somewhere to get it.

Things I would have missed if I had come home before the start of the winter season:

  • My winter Ice family
  • Auroras
  • Total darkness all the time
  • The weirdness that occurs here on the Ice

So far I have enjoyed the winter season here.  The weather has been nice, not too cold…  I know most of the people in the station, which is nice.  It’s a pretty close knit community.  There are some people that choose not to socialize too much but we accept it as a choice that they have made and there isn’t any pressure put on them to go out and do things.  There are often times that I prefer to stay in and hang out with one or two of my closest friends, and everyone is okay with that.  Had I done that during the summer, I would have been constantly asked (mainly by my co-workers), “Why didn’t you go out last night?”  or “Is everything ok?”.  During the summer you were expected to go out.  If you didn’t, you were depressed and something was wrong…

Summer at McMurdo… well, had I gone off to college, I’m sure that’s what it would have resembled.

Winter at McMurdo is a totally different feeling.  It’s not a popularity contest.

So to answer the unasked question – Yes, so far I prefer winter.

Days off – part 1

So a while back, I posted what my typical work day is like and I wrote that I would also write what I do on my days off.  Well, being that I’m an extraordinary procrastinator, I’m finally getting around to doing just that.

It depends on the day of the week and what is going on in the world that dictates what I do on my days off.

For instance, if my first day off falls on a Sunday, I stay up after work.  I am in charge of writing the events on the Rec Board on Sunday and Monday morning.  The Rec Board is a big whiteboard located just outside of the Galley.  Every week, a list of recreational events comes out and each day the activities of the day are written up.  During winter, we had some amazing art work on the board.  One of the electricians, Jason, drew penguins that most people on station loved.  They were penguins with attitude.  I, on the other hand, have close to no two dimensional art skills, but I can draw a wicked stick figure.  So I do.

After I decorate the white board, I take a shower, check out things on Facebook, and then go to church.  We have a non-denominational service every Sunday morning between 10-11.  Even though the service is non-denominational, it is basically a catholic service  I’m actually surprised at the number of catholics here.  After the service, there is a separate communion service for the catholics that attend the service with the exception of Easter Sunday.  During that service, we all had communion together using a loaf of bread from the galley and a jug of grape juice after going to Hut Point to watch the sun rise (yes, my blogs are horribly out of order, but I’ve been in writing mode).

After church, I go to brunch.  Sunday brunch is my favorite meal of the week hands down.  And when I’m off, I get to sit and socialize with different people for a few hours over good food.  After brunch, I generally go and nap for a couple of hours, then I get up and head to either the gerbil gym or the big gym since I’ve started playing McMurdoian version of tennis.  It’s actually more like racquetball.  And I am horrible at it.  But it’s a good way to get in around an hour of cardio.  After working out, I go to the sauna for a half hour and then shower and by that time, it’s time for dinner.  After dinner, I either head to the coffeehouse for a bit, depending on the movie that is playing, or I head to my room to watch one of the movies that is playing and crash out.

If my second off day falls on a Sunday, I generally do the same thing, but I wake up at 7am to start the process.

Some of my whiteboard art and a few pictures from the Easter Service.

I like the night life, baby

If you recall (and if you don’t, you can read one of my early blogs) I spent some time during Winfly looking for Auroras.  When most people that I know think of auroras, they think of two things.  1, they think of Sleeping Beauty (you know, Princess Aurora), or the aurora borealis, the Northern Lights.  Well, being located where I am, we have the the Southern lights, the Aurora Australis.  Now that we are in winter, I find myself checking the sky frequently for auroras.

I HAVE FINALLY SEEN THEM!!!

The first time I saw an aurora, I didn’t have my camera with me.  I was walking home from the bar and was stopped by an inebriated individual who was staring up at the sky.  I stopped to talk to him and check to make sure that he was ok when he pointed at the sky and said “Hey, I think that’s an aurora”.  It was a very faint streak through the sky and honestly I couldn’t tell if it was a smudge on my glasses or if something was actually there, until it disappeared.  After that though, I have been constantly on the watch for the lights.

A few days ago, I walked out the back door of my building to head to work and glanced at the sky.  I was rewarded with several minutes of auroral (if that’s actually a word), action.  And luckily, I had my camera!  According to everything I’ve read, the aurora action this year is supposed to be rather intense, so I’m looking forward to more opportunities to witness these amazing phenomenons.  I’m sorry that the pictures are kind of blurry, I didn’t have my tripod on me and in order to take a decent picture of an aurora, you have to shoot using a very slow shutter speed.  But, enjoy!

Goodbye Sun!

April 24th, 2012 marked the last sunset of the season.  I was worried that the weather that day was going to mimic the weather from the day before, when we were borderline condition 1 weather.  Condition 1 weather is classified as “Windspeed over 100 knots (60 miles per hour)Visibility less than 100 feet (30 meters)Wind chill below −100 °F (−73 °C)Description: Dangerous conditions; outside travel is not permitted.”  Fortunately the day was gorgeous.  Sunrise time on April 24th, 2012 was 12:31 and sunset was 13:10.  Rick and I walked down to Hut Point to watch the sun set one last time for the winter.

From our vantage point, we didn’t actually see the sun.  What we did see, however, was a brilliant orange glow across the horizon, the Royal Society Mountain Range was softly highlighted in pink, and the colors all reflected off of the ice and patches of open water out across the bay area.

We sat on the ledge and talked about how lucky we were to be here.  We talked about our favorite points of the summer season and things we were looking forward to during the winter.  We took the time to enjoy the moment, ask God for a blessed and safe winter, and after about 30 minutes, wandered back to the metropolis of McMurdo.