New Zealand, I love you but… – Postponement 3 & 4

Still Friday, August 26, 2011.

So Thursday August 25 and today we met our 3rd and 4th postponements.  I have come down with a case of the crud.  Hopefully this will pass quickly and I’ll be able to fly with no problems.  The crud is a general term for colds and such in Antarctica but I seem to have gotten it early.  Not only have I gotten it early, I seem to have passed it to Pam.  Thankfully, no one else that was sharing the water bottle on Wednesday’s expedition has gotten ill.  Personally I think it is due to the new room that Pam and I were placed in.  We were once in the luxury side of the hotel and now we’re in the ghetto.

Thursday consisted of doing as little as possible other than resting and staying hydrated, only venturing out for food and beverages.  Today, Friday, Pam and I went down to Sumner since she didn’t go on the first trip.  We had lunch at the same indian restaurant that I did on Tuesday with the other group.  The tide was high (but I’m holding on – oh sorry, ADD again) so we didn’t get to walk on Scarborough Beach, but we did manage to get up close to the cargo containers that are stacked two high along the road to prevent rockslides from reaching the main roadway.

So New Zealand, you have my heart and I love you so but… I’m ready to go to Antarctica!

New Zealand, I love you even more – second postponement

I’m behind a few days, being that today is Friday, August 26, 2011 but oh well.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011 our departure to McMurdo was again postponed.  After having to transfer rooms on Tuesday morning after the announcement of the postponement, I woke up to another chilly morning.  I dressed quickly and headed to the dining room for breakfast, only to discover that breakfast wasn’t served for another hour.  I decided to walk about for a bit and headed south to enjoy the cold air.  After about 30 minutes, when the night started giving way to dawn, I turned back around and headed for the hotel.  I met up with David, who works at the power plant, outside of the hotel and asked him how he felt about all of the delays.  He told me that he was ready to get on the Ice.  He had messaged several of his friends who were/are currently down there working at the power plant and they told him that the weather was condition 2 in town but condition 1 on the runway.  Since the weather on the runway was so poor, we would have to wait for the weather to clear and for the runway to be cleared off before we could depart.  Lovely.

After a quick bite to eat, Pam (another one of the dispatchers and my current roommate) and I waited for Matt, Keith and Pat to join us.  The trip for the day was to the Sign of the Takahe.  From Wikipedia – The Sign of the Takahe is today a restaurant and function centre built in the style of an English Manor House. Designed by J. G. Collins, construction was carried out between 1918 and 1948. The Takahe also provides one of the better panoramic views of the city of ChristchurchNew Zealand, the Canterbury Plains and the Southern Alps.  ***Actually, today the Sign of the Takahe has a chain link fence around it due to renovations.  The need for renovations, of course, was caused by the February 2011 earthquake that occurred in Christchurch.

Anyhow, Keith bailed on us and told us he might meet up with us later, so Matt, Pat, Pam and I headed for the bus stop.  Now, we weren’t going to the closest bus stop because it costs 7.50 to leave from the airport area, so we trekked down just over 2 miles, crossing busy roadways to the bus stop, which is right next to a cemetery.  Then we waited…and waited…and waited…  Then an elderly gentleman came to the bus stop and told Matt that the bus was only five minutes away.  He also told us about living here during the earthquake.  His story of what he was doing and his memories of the quake are his to tell.  I won’t go into detail because it was a very traumatic experience and to see him relive it through telling us was hard enough.  I will say though that he and his family are all ok.

When the bus arrived, who do we find on it but Keith.  He caught it at the regular stop paying the full $7.50 while we walked to Timbuktu and only paid $3.20.  We also discovered that this bus would only take us to the park where we would have to switch busses.  We waited an additional hour for the second bus to arrive after being dropped off at the park and were glad to be on our way again.  Our driver told us that there was really nothing to see at the Sign of the Takahe, but we chose to ignore him and rode until the last stop on the bus route.  At first, it didn’t look like much, and the most interesting thing was the signs for Victoria Park.  Pat and Matt took off the steep pathway to the park, while Keith and I decided to hang around the lower area.  Keith had knee surgery in April and can’t place that much exertion on it and I, well, I’m way out of shape and decided to take a look at the actual building.  About the time I got to the fence, Pam came to us and told us she found a path to an overlook behind the sign.  So the three of us took off up the path, searching for hobbits, elves, and who knows what else.  After all, we are in Middle Earth.

At the end of the path was a large observation area.  What we saw took our breath away.  From where we stood, we had a great few of Sumner’s coastline, the city of Christchurch and the Southern Alps.  Using my higher power lens, I was able to see much of the area that was affected by the earthquake.  I know I mention it a lot but once you see something like this, it is hard to get over.  the devastation is positively mind-blowing, as is the strength of the people of New Zealand to rebuild and move on.  The southern Alps are incredible.  Had I known that we would have this much time in NZ before going to the Ice, I would have taken a trip to see them closer.  Perhaps I will have a chance to do this when I redeploy from McMurdo.  Our timing to the observation area was perfect because a tour guide was there and explaining different sites to his patron.  I’d also like to take one of his wine tours when I get off of the Ice too.

After we left the observation area, we met up with Matt and Pat and headed down the hill to have lunch at a little coffee shop overlooking the city.  The lunch was excellent and afterwards we waited another hour (we did a lot of waiting this day) for the bus to come and take us back to the city centre.

It was another fantastic day in New Zealand.

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New Zealand, I love you – First Postponement

Greetings all!

I am still in New Zealand.  Today is Thursday, August 25, 2011.  Our original flight out was supposed to leave on Tuesday, however, the weather conditions were poor so our flight was postponed.  I am glad for the postponement rather than a boomerang.  So here is what I have been up to.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011 – I woke up at 0200 hours and walked outside barefoot for one last chance at walking on grass before heading to the ice.  It was cold and the grass was wet, but I didn’t mind.  Another one of the dispatchers, Pam, came and knocked on my door at 230 to make sure I was awake.  I started getting all of my things together and loaded onto my luggage trolley and then there was another knock at the door.  “Tori the check in time is delayed until 0700”  Excellent!  I could sleep longer.  At around 630, Pam came and knocked on my door again to inform me that the flight had been postponed and we were going to be here for 24 hours.  Woohoo!  A free paid play day in New Zealand.  I wasn’t going to argue with that.

I joined the rest of the masses in the lobby at 0800 to meet with the USAP rep who would be distributing our per diem funds.  After getting my money, I went to the room and collected my cameras because hey, I was in New Zealand and I wasn’t going to waste the day sitting in the hotel.  I stopped by the front desk to ask the receptionist if there were any good areas to go site seeing.  She brought out a few bus route maps and pointed out a few locations that I might be interested in seeing.  I then ran into Pat, Keith and Matt.  Pat is a nice older lady from Colorado who will be the pharmacy technician on the Ice.  Matt is from Larabie Wyoming and he’s going to be doing something with machinery and Keith is from Louisiana and he is with the safety department.  I told them that I was going down to Sumner and they decided to join me.  So off we went.

We took Bus 3 down to the shore.  The route took us through parts of Christchurch near the devastation downtown, but the actual downtown area is completely blocked off from the February 2011 earthquake.  I’ve never seen an area affected by such devastation.  Sure, I’ve seen pictures and such online and on the news, but actually being there is completely different.  Despite the devastation, the continuing demolition of buildings and the obvious toll it has taken on the citizens and local economy, I have never been to a more beautiful, clean place where everyone is polite.  New Zealand, I love you.  I love your beauty and uniqueness and the way your people treat each other.

On the bus to Sumner, we met an elderly gentleman named Joe.  Joe is an American who met his Kiwi wife on-line ten years ago, sold all of his possessions in the US and moved here.  He loves it here.  I understand his sentiments.  Joe told us much about the area and pointed out several areas that were affected by the quake.  Before he did this, I’d been looking at the cliffside homes in awe but when I started seeing the destruction that was caused to them, I felt sorry for the people who owned the homes.  I can’t imagine working your entire life and putting all of your money into a dream home and then, one day, a major catastrophic event occurs and your dreams are literally crumbling out from under you.  I know it can happen anywhere and at any time, but actually seeing this saddened me.  When we arrived in Sumner, Joe directed us to an indian restaurant where we should eat due to the delicious food and reasonable prices.  We thanked him and hopped off the bus.

The restaurant was called IndianBlues.  I had the Chicken Frankie which is a lot like a grilled chicken wrap from any restaurant at home, if you added curry to it, and a Kingfisher Premium beer (not to be confused with the Kingfisher Strong).  I like indian beer.  I need to find some back at home when I return.  The others in the group had excellent food as well.  I believe there was a chicken kebab, naan bread and some buttered chicken (which looked like chicken curry).  After we ate, we started walking towards the Scarborough Beach.  On the walk to the beach, I made a huge error in judgement when I saw an old white VW beetle.  I ran up and playfully punched Matt in the arm.  From that point, the game was on.

The water at Scarborough Beach is a beautiful blue and it reminded me much of the water in the Turks and Caicos.  Normally I would have kicked off my shoes and ripped off my socks to take off down the coast but there were contaminated water signs up.  Due to the problems with the sewer systems after the quake, a lot of sewage and waste went into the ocean.  In fact, most of the houses in Sumner have a “Port a loo” in front of it due to the ongoing issues.  I can’t imagine paying a million dollars for a home and having to use an outhouse.  We walked down to Cave Rock and Matt immediately decided to scale up the side of it.  He does a lot of rock climbing at home.  I freely admit that I am clumsy and thought it best not to attempt to do such a thing.  Pat, Keith and I wandered around towards the entrance of the cave, not going in of course, and watched as some smaller rocks fell into small piles along the cave floor.  I just hoped that Matt would come down from there quickly.  After he finally came back down, we went walking along the beach where we found dozens of perfectly broken sand dollars and other shells.  I stopped every few minutes to take pictures of something because it was all so beautiful.  The tide was coming in, so we walked up one of the beach access paths and headed towards the clock tower.

The clock tower was just that, a big tower with a clock.  While walking around the tower, I heard the sound of rustling and footsteps quickly approaching me.  The next thing I knew I heard “PINK PUNCH BUGGY!” and Matt nailed my arm hard.  The fact that he saw it and ran to do this made me laugh instead of feeling too much pain.  Yes.  We brought the game to New Zealand.  Why?  Because we’re awesome like that.  By the end of the day, the count was like 15 to 7 with Matt winning.  But that is because he was seated in front of the bus.

We continued to tour the town a bit, and then caught the bus back to our hotel.  Overall, it was a fantastic day.

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The toilets don’t flush counter clockwise in New Zealand.

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The water actually goes straight down.  Just a tidbit of interesting information should you need it.

So, the story thus far.

After a very long day of traveling on Friday (?)  I think it was Friday.  I’m pretty sure it was Friday.  Yes, it was Friday.  Ok let me tell you how Friday (and Saturday, Sunday and Monday) went and what kind of crazy schedule I have been on.

Friday August 19, 2011 – We had a half day of orientation at Raytheon Polar Services in Centennial Colorado.  We went over a BUNCH of safety topics like “Don’t wander away from paths that are marked, you may fall in a crevasse” and “If you see this label on a container, stay away from it” which was followed by “What this is and how this will kill you”.  On the lighter side, we also went through a brief synopsis of how to sort our trash.  Antarctica recycles 60% of all things thrown away.  It’s rather impressive and EVERYONE has to sort their trash because the “wasties” (garbage people) don’t have time to sort it all.  After orientation, the 109 people in our group piled into two shuttles and a huge passenger bus and headed towards the airport.  It took about 80 minutes for all of us to get checked in at the airport, so for those who flew out at 4:30, they didn’t have too long to wait.  I, however, was in the group that didn’t leave until 1930.  So I got to hang out at DIA, which is not a bad airport to hang out at, and then flew on a smallish plane to LAX.

LAX, I don’t like you.  The folks working the Qantas counter were terribly rude and the seating area was uncomfortable.  We were supposed to have a two hour layover but it turned into a five hour layover.  Five hours of sitting around, while you’re already tired, in uncomfortable chairs (at least I had remembered to wear really comfy clothing) and buying overpriced drinks from a drink machine… Yeah, I don’t think I’ll be flying through there again (if I can help it).  Anyhow, we finally got onto the plane for our 13 hour flight (yes, 13) and I discovered that I was not in an aisle seat or a window seat…. I was seated in the middle row between a very large Kiwi and a very muscled firefighter (one of our group).  To say I felt like a sardine is an understatement.  I was squished.

The flight to Auckland New Zealand was…  it just was.  The actual plane performance part of it wasn’t bad at all, meaning there was little to no turbulence.  I decided that since I was utterly exhausted, I would attempt to sleep.  I couldn’t lean back in my seat without getting smothered, so I decided to lean forward and rest my head on the back of the seat of the person sitting in front of me.  He is also in our group.  Apparently he didn’t see me or feel me leaning my head on his seat because after around 30 minutes, he leaned his seat back.  I had just fallen into the “twilight” of sleep and then my forehead was rammed by the TV display attached to the seat.  I looked at the firefighter sitting next to me, asked him if I was bleeding and when he said no, I asked Alan (the guy sitting in front of me) to keep his seat like that because I was going to lean against it and sleep.

I was rather irked to realize it had only been three hours between the time I fell asleep and the time I woke up.  I thought it had to be at least 10.  Oh, also since I was sitting between these two thick armed guys, I had no room to put my tray when we were served dinner and breakfast.  I had to lift the tray up and hold it with one hand while trying to eat with the other.  Needless to say, I only picked at my food.  During the flight, we got up and kind of shuffled up and down the aisles in an attempt to stretch our legs.  At one point, I thought that I would not get back to my seat due to the number of people that were doing the same thing.  So I managed to get about 4 hours of sleep total.  I watched on our flight tracker as we went south of the equator and crossed the International Date Line.  I know, I’m a geek, but I thought it was pretty cool.  During the morning part of the flight, I had a conversation with the firefighter, Brook (yes it’s a guy named Brook) and it turns out that he’s from middle Florida.  Most of our group are Fingees and he and I compared tales about how we decided to take this exciting adventure.  He was actually considering taking a contract job in Afghanistan or Iraq but decided that, while the pay might be amazing, the living conditions might not be.  I was, and still am, inclined to agree with him on that.  When the captain announced that we were preparing for descent, several people started stretching their arms after putting their seat backs upright and that is when we realized how bad we smelled.  Oh it was awful.  The time was approximately 10am on Sunday (but Tori, you left on Colorado on Friday and flew out of LAX at about 0300 on Saturday)… Remember, I’m about 18 hours AHEAD of everyone in Brunswick thanks to crossing the International Date Line.  I haven’t truly lost my mind.

The arrival in Auckland was interesting.  We had been warned on the flight about making sure we declared anything that needed to be declared, and made sure we had no fruit in our luggage or caked on dirt on our shoes.  We basically ran through the airport in order to get our luggage, get through customs and attempt to get onto our next flight.  The flight was scheduled for 1340 hours.  We were informed by the Qantas folks in Auckland that they would take all of our luggage (which was already tagged through to Christchurch but since we were flying a domestic flight, we had to retrieve and place onto trolleys) over to the terminal which was about a mile away.  So we made it through customs and started bookin’ it to the Jet Star terminal.  We arrived 45 minutes BEFORE our luggage did.  We had to grab our luggage and go through the check in process again.  THIS is when Tori’s bonehead move of the trip happened (I’m so glad to have gotten it out of the way early).  So I go to check in.  I was the very last person in our group checking in for the flight.  The clerk (I guess they’re called clerks) told me that the flight was full and I would have to go on the next one.  My supervisor, Lori, was standing next to me and asked the clerk if she could switch our tickets.  I told Lori not to worry about it, I would be fine and wait until the 1740 flight.  So Lori got on the plane and I was left in Auckland.  I really didn’t mind the fact that I was there.  They have a very nice terminal at Jet Star.  I was able to exchange my money for New Zealand dollars.  I had some excellent sushi and talked about rugby (which I know nothing about) with a few rugby players over a few beers.

After I went up to the seating area at my gate, I started looking at all of my travel information paperwork.  THAT is when I realized that I didn’t need to follow the rest of the herd all the time.  THAT is when I realized that I was SUPPOSED to fly on the 1740 flight, not the 1340 one.  Did I feel like a moron?  Yes.  Did I start laughing hysterically when I realized it?  Oh absolutely.  The plane actually left at about 1800 from Auckland for the hour and a half flight to Christchurch.  If you ever are in a place where you can fly on a Jet Star flight, I highly recommend their services.  I thought I was the last person in our group to arrive but I had discovered that Safety Dan (people on the Ice don’t have last names but are often referred to as their job title and first name) was on the flight with me.  Dan is a Kiwi originally from Auckland so he had gone to visit his family and had his flight changed to leave at the later time.

I arrived at the Christchurch airport and when I was walking down to the baggage area, I was greeted by Pam and Renae, my roommate and another one of our dispatchers.  I was so glad to see them because even though I was told that the hotel was just a block away, I get lost easily and having not have slept for days, I needed a guide.  It turned out that several people’s luggage was on my flight since it didn’t make the 1340 flight and Renae was one of them.  After she grabbed her stuff, we loaded up our trolley carts and headed to the Sudima Hotel.

Why it didn’t occur to me that people here did not drive on the same side of the road that people at home are supposed to drive on, I don’t know.  We almost got taken out by a Hyundai.  Well, let me take that back.  Our luggage ALMOST got taken out by a Hyundai.  It is a pretty good thing that I learn quickly and have not made that same mistake again.  We made it back to the hotel, and despite the fact that I was tired and smelly, I decided that I deserved a beer.  Walking back into the lounge area, I discovered that I was being called “the girl that got left behind”.  It actually bought me a few sympathy points though.  Well maybe not sympathy points but I did get a free drink out of it.  After I consumed said drink, I went back to my room, discovered that toilets don’t flush counter clockwise down here, rid myself of travel stench and passed out across the middle of the bed.

Monday morning I woke up at 0600, went and had an amazing breakfast consisting of fresh fruit, eggs benedict, lamb and sautéed mushrooms.  After breakfast, Renae, Matt, Rudy and I walked over to the CDC (Clothing Distribution Center) in an attempt to get our ECW early.  Unfortunately they wouldn’t let us, so we walked over to the Antarctic Experience exhibit to check it out.  After we realized we had to PAY to see the exhibits, we decided we would just check out the gift shop and head back to the hotel.

We returned, along with the rest of our group, to the CDC at 1300 to watch an orientation video and receive our clothing.  Every article of clothing has to be tried on.  My boots were two different sizes so I had to switch them for correct ones since neither was the size I needed.  We all looked funny waddling around in our parkas and snow pants.  Pictures of me in my stylin’ outfit will come after I get on the Ice.  I also had my computer go through a second check for USAP standards and it passed (woohoo) So I will be able to use it on the system in Antarctica.

When we came back to the hotel, Pam and I went over the schedule (I think I have them convinced to go to the 12 hour 2 on/2 off schedule that we used to be on) and then I napped for about an hour.  She and I met up for dinner at 1730 and decided that we would try to go to sleep early since we FLY TO ANTARCTICA TOMORROW!!!!

So here it is, 9pm on Monday, August 22, 2011 and I am fixing to attempt to go to sleep.  We have to be at the CDC at 0400 hours to get dressed and check in our luggage.  Our flight should leave around 0900 provided that the weather is all clear at McMurdo.  If it isn’t, I hope they realize it early so we don’t boomerang.  We’ll see.

Well, Goodnight!  Hopefully my next post will be from Antarctica!

The beginning of the adventure of a lifetime

Thursday, August 18, 2011

So yesterday I arrived in Denver and met up with my roommate Renae. We hopped onto the Red Lion Inn shuttle with about 6 other people and headed towards the hotel.

There were four of us in the shuttle with no previous “ice time”. I was sitting next to a very nice lady named Rhoda who is spending her 13th year on the ice. Rhoda took time to answer any questions that we had and she joined us for dinner. She told us that everyone is willing to answer questions posed by first years but not all of them are going to be nice about it. She thinks of herself as a mentor, and judging by the scores of people that greeted her with hugs, she is pretty well liked on the ice. She does something with aircraft maintenance. I’ve also met Mikki, who works in the clinic and a girl who I swear is the future image of my oldest niece. She showed up wearing this little tank top, skinny jeans and cowboy boots. Yeah, that’s Delaney in about 10 years.

Last night I was utterly exhausted so after drinks and dinner, I went to bed, falling asleep before 9pm. It was still light outside. Of course I woke up at 0400 today and was ready to head out by 0500. I met up with Renae in the lobby to get breakfast and then we just hung out until we hopped on the shuttle this morning to head to Raytheon Polar Services headquarters.

The whole orientation process was a bit mind boggling. We went to four different tables to sign different paperwork and get our financial information all set up, then we were color coded and sent off to the main auditorium for the introduction. After a very, very long introduction by the program manager, Lori, my new supervisor, took me, Renae and Pam (another dispatcher who is down for her second season on the ice) to meet the fire Chief who is my boss, as well as one of the fire Captains.

The Chief is very much a by the book, no nonsense kind of guy. He demands the very best from his employees. He has a very dry sense of humor and can be somewhat intimidating. He is very straightforward and doesn’t believe in people doing stupid things that can cause them or others to get hurt. I like him. The fire Captain seems like a pretty nice guy. He is about 7 feet tall. No lie. The Captain is going down to the ice with us and the Chief will join us at Mainbody. I also received my uniform polo shirts and uniform t-shirts. Happy day!!!

**Mainbody is the “summer” season on the Ice. I will be going down at Winfly on the second flight. There will only be three flights going down for Winfly. The first arrived a few days ago and I’ve heard they were very lucky as they didn’t have any boomerangs back to Christchurch. Hopefully that luck will hold.

We went through human resource issues, financial issues, computer security issues (I had to download another antivirus software program and so hopefully my computer will pass the inspection when I get to Christchurch)…grr… because as of right now, I won’t be able to get onto the USAP system with it while I’m there. I’ll be able to take my computer, but I won’t be able to blog or post pictures from it. Sooooo I’m hoping that I’ll pass the next screening. I got my super cool luggage tags as well so I’ll be all ready to head south soon!!!

I’m too excited to sleep!!!

Yes, like the old Walt Disney World commercials with the adorable little kid yelling that to his parents when the tell him to sleep, I too am far too excited to sleep.

Today, Wednesday August 17th, I start the multi-leg journey to Antarctica. It feels like I applied just yesterday.

Tuesday night I had to say goodbye to my dear neighbors, the Bakers. I won’t go into great detail, but the Baker family and I have been through a lot together and they hold a special place in my heart, and I will miss them dearly. Mike, Debbie, Meaghan and Jass (and Kayla) I love you all very much and I will miss you. I can’t thank you enough for everything you have done for me.

I also got a chance to say goodbye to my sister Beth and youngest niece Reba. They are taking care of Phoebe, my sweet little doggy. Thank you for everything Poopsie! I love you!

So my plan is to wake up at 0300 hours (I know I’m a little not-so-normal), to double check all of my luggage, make sure that I’m not missing anything and to get ready to head to my parents house for breakfast with a side of tears. Yes, I’m excited (very very very excited) about going, but there is nothing like family. I am so lucky to have a family that supports my decision to embark on this journey. I knew that when my Dad e-mailed me while I was on my way to California in July and told me that he and Mom supported my decision 100%, I knew I was doing the right thing. Your parents know what’s best for you. If you’re a young person and you’re reading this, listen to your parents. If you’re an adult and your parents give you advice, listen to them.

Ok now that I have gone off on my little ADD tangent (ooh look! A butterfly!) allow me to get back on track.

I leave today at 1138 from the Brunswick airport. After a short layover in Atlanta, I fly to Denver. This is where I will first meet my future roommate in person. We’re both FNGs (*pronounced fingees – Ice terminology for New Guys. I’ll let you figure out the F part). Then we will spend Thursday and part of Friday at orientation at Raytheon before flying to Las Angeles. Once we get to LA, we have a brief layover (3ish hours) and then head on to Auckland, New Zealand. This portion of the trip will take approximately 13 hours. After arriving in Auckland, it is on to Christchurch New Zealand on a quick 2 hour flight. I get to relax a day and a half in Christchurch. The only major, yet rather important, thing I have to do there is obtain my Extreme Cold Weather (ECW) gear. THEN I, along with 100ish other people will board a C-17 (I will confirm this in Denver) and head south 5 hours to ANTARCTICA!!! Hopefully we won’t boomerang.

*Boomerang is the term for heading down to the Ice and then heading back to New Zealand before landing due to hazardous weather. If you boomerang, then you just have to try again later and hope for better luck.

So those are my travel plans. I will be headed to a place that most people don’t consider going to and I will be going there for 6 months. I am only taking two suitcases of clothes for weather that is nothing like I have ever experienced before.
Before I allow myself to ramble on any more, I am going to attempt to catch 40 winks. Good night/morning/afternoon to you when you read this!


Well I might need that…

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Packing for Antarctica is an experience. First off, it’s the middle of Summer and in southeast Georgia it is highly difficult to locate clothing suitable for cold weather. Hooray for online shopping!

But really, I’m kind of winging it on what to buy. I have taken the advice of my future supervisor and have gotten fleece pants to wear for work. I’ve also bought a coat. I haven’t owned a coat in years. It just doesn’t get cold enough here to warrant wearing one. I have also purchased a few other clothing items, turtlenecks, long-johns… I still need jeans, socks, boots… This weekend is going to consist of locating those last missing things.

At first I was worried about the fact that I’m basically going to be wearing the same things over and over but so are 1200 other people… No big deal. So now I’m looking through what I currently own and trying to decide if I need it on the ice or not. Or if I want it. Will it be destined for a Skua bin early on in the trip…

* A quick note about Skua bins. Everything on the ice gets recycled or shipped back to the states. Or it goes home with those who brought it. Skua bins are big recycling bins that are sorted by what is in them. Different categories are clothing, shoes, books, decor, magazines, movies. You get the point. It’s a free Goodwill. The word “Skua” is a real word. It is a type of bird that migrates to Antarctica during the summer months (humans aren’t the only crazy beings that flock there). Skua’s are scavengers. I have read that they are like rats with wings and talons. They have been known to dive-bomb people walking through McMurdo. People normally carry things above their heads to prevent said attacks. Picture a large dark demonic looking Seagull. If you have ever seen the movie Happy Feet, the birds that threaten to eat the cute little dancing penguin are Skuas. So, since they’re scavengers, it is kind of fitting that the bins (that anyone is free to go through) are named after them.

Back to the subject of packing… So I was told that I can either take some “comfort food” with me or not. There is a cafeteria that will be the main place for meals and such, but if I wanted anything in particular that wasn’t perishable, I could bring it. Since I don’t think I can get away with bringing a few rib-eyes or sushi rolls, I decided on things like powdered soup mix, hot chocolate mix, individual microwave-able mac n cheese things, canned olives, and other random stuff. A lot of it is going to be boxed up and shipped down before I go so hopefully I will get it by October. I may send a few shirts down too so I can have the excitement of getting “new” clothes while I am there.

Figuring out how much I should take in the way of hygiene products is also interesting. How much shampoo and conditioner will I use in 6 months? It is heavy and I don’t want to over pack, but I also don’t want to take the chance of the store there not having the kind I like to use. And what if I ship it and it bursts all over? That would suck to get an empty, sticky bottle of shampoo. These are things I never really think about from day to day because we have the convenience of “civilization”.

So, if anyone wants to send me something (and I would be appreciative of anything) please remember, if it’s food, it needs to be non-perishable. Don’t send me liquor. And please done use any packing material that will cause way too much excess waste. Packing peanuts or “angel poop” is forbidden on the ice due to the possibility of it escaping and getting tossed about all over the landscape by serious gusts of wind. Also, as tempting as sending glitter filled envelopes is… Same story.

Well, tomorrow is my last day at Glynn Brunswick 911 and I better get some sleep.


Holy crap I’m really going!

Monday, August 8, 2011

I found out on Friday, August 5, 2011 that I PQ’d for my Antarctica trip.  This means I am physically qualified to spend 6 months in the coldest, driest desert on Earth. 

Holy Crap.

I’m really going.  I officially turned in my resignation on Friday and that was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.  I’m excited, but it was still hard.  I’ve been working here for over 10 years and it feels like my second home.  Most people here think I’m crazy. 

There’s no turning back now.  I’m going to Anarctica.

My dog care has been settled and my dear darling eldest sister is keeping Phoebe.  The Bakers will be watching over my house.  I’m thankful that I am able to order cold weather clothing on the internet because it’s sure difficult to find it this time of year around here.

For some reason I have a fear that I’m going to have cold feet.  Not cold feet as in afraid to go, but I’m worried that my feet are going to be physically cold while I’m down there.  For some reason this is my biggest worry.  I am worried about that and running out of memory space on my external hard drive.  These worries won’t stop me from going.  I can buy more socks and more memory space.

Oh, if you want to write me or since I’ll be spending my 30th Birthday on The Ice, here is my mailing address while I’m down there:

Victoria Parker

PSC 469  Box 700
APO AP 96599-1035

Don’t put Antarctica anywhere in the address field.  Just my name, Winfly, etc…

If you send me something, I will send you something 🙂 

I’m over the moon giddy about the fact that I’m doing this. 

McMurdo Station

This is McMurdo Station where I’m going.  The brown building in the middle of the photo (with the vertical white stripes) is the Fire Station.  That’s where I will be working.

Victoria in Victorialand

One of the popular sayings on The Ice.

Today is July 22, 2011 and I am getting started on my Antarctica blog. I am still in the hot and humid Brunswick Georgia but in less than a month I will hopefully go to the land of ice and penguins!

For those of you who do not know me, my name is Tori Parker. I’m currently the Operations Manager for the Glynn Brunswick 911 Center. I’ve been with the department for just over 10 years and I love what I do. I am, however, in need of some adventure and excitement. I’ve lived in Brunswick, GA my entire life and have rarely experienced truly cold weather. I don’t think I’ll have any problem with the cold though. Don’t worry Uncle Cam, I’ll do my best to avoid frostnip and frostbite.

The way this whole crazy plan came about was through a combination of curiousity, boredom and someone saying to me “You’ll never apply for that job, you’ll never leave this place”. I applied on the 26th of June and was given a job offer on July 1, 2011.

The current plan is to depart for Colorado on the August 17, 2011. After a day and a half of orientation, myself and approximately 100 others will start the journey to McMurdo Station (known as Mactown) by way of L.A., Aukland NZ and ChristChurch NZ. I’m excited and somewhat nervous.

I’m still waiting to be PQ’d (Physically Qualifed) by the medical department with Raytheon, and I should know something by next Wednesday. I will update my information on here and my personal Facebook page.