Friday, August 18, 2017

Things I Miss

I recently called home, and my parents were asking me if I missed the sun or summer.  I figured that I'd make a blog post dedicated to things that I miss (aside from freshies because that's an obvious one).  It's weird what things you'll feel like you're "going without" when on the ice for this long (and being this isolated of course as well).

At Palmer I remember missing some of the smaller things like nail polish that I had back home.  I tried to be prudent this go around and bring those items with me.  And yet, I find myself not even using them!  I guess they weren't all that important after all.  Here is what I am missing this time:


  • Weather.  In Massachusetts, we get all four seasons.  My first year living in Colorado didn't exactly provide me with them.  It essentially remained hot year round, and hot for me in the winter is anything above 30 degrees in December/January.  The fact that I didn't break out a peacoat until, well, ever really was sad.  The fall was much too warm for my taste (seriously?! 70 degrees in November??), and the colorful leaves aren't as colorful as home.  Then again, I can't really expect autumn to be any better than how it presents itself in New England.  At the Pole though we don't get any weather...at all really.  This includes snow.  I know, shocking, but it's too cold here for it to snow so we don't even get those beautiful flakes.

  • The sun's warmth.  I think this one is another obvious one though.  I don't necessarily miss the sun itself because I know what it's like here with sun (no sleep as it never sets), but I miss feeling its rays.  While the sun is starting to come up and we can see its glow on the horizon right now, I won't feel any warmth until I get to New Zealand.

  • DOGS!  Oh my God do I miss dogs.  I keep looking at adoption ads and upcoming litters for sale of various breeds.  I more specifically miss my dog, Lilly, but she's warm and safe at home in Boston with my parents.  I will be so excited to pet a dog again when I leave.  

  • Walking.  Another weird one.  It's too cold for me to spend too much time outside walking around.  I get all paranoid about damaging my facial skin from the wind too so all of the layers on my face can make breathing uncomfortable.  I try to walk on the treadmills here every once in a while so I'm not totally just sitting on my ass, but that's really boring.  It's not like there's much outside stimulation.  I am so looking forward to walking to the point that, gasp, I am excited to get back to CO and go hiking, snowshoeing, whatever have you.  Who would have guessed I'd be excited to do outdoor sports?!  Certainly not my friend Emma Soucy.

  • Cooking.  We don't really get to do much cooking just for ourselves down here.  If we cook, we are supposed to cook for the whole station.  I did that a few times at Palmer and helped Mike in the kitchen quite a bit, but it was a smaller population there.  I'm just not interested in cooking a meal for 46 people.  I miss cooking whatever I like and just for myself.  

  • Good Internet.  Also an obvious one.  It sucks not being able to load bank accounts most days or getting up early to use the internet on the good satellite only to find out that it's down for the day.  I'm looking forward to being able to stream on YouTube and Netflix again as well.  We have lots of movies here, but not many new ones or ones that pique my interest. 

  • The smell of rain.  Not so much the water itself, but how water makes our olfactory senses work overtime.  We can pick up on the smells of flowers, grass, and other wildlife.  Hell even the dirt.  I miss all of that.  There aren't any scents here, and the greenhouse smells more chemical to me than like the earth. 

  • Looking like me.  Odd again.  I am always in Carhartt bibs here and most days when not in them, I look like a freaking hobo.  Sweatpants and old sweatshirts or tshirts abound.  It's because I didn't want to bring any nice clothing down and ruin it.  It's also pretty pointless for me to do anything to my hair or wear makeup here.  It'll be nice to get home and not feel like a slob.  Yeah, I could put jeans on, but they don't really keep me all that warm.  Oh and dresses...yeah can't wear those here.  

  • Sunglasses.  No sun here so I don't need the.  Even with the sun up, they won't help me much.  My Ray Bans are metal-framed so a big no-no in the cold.  They also won't do much to protect my skin from the cold wind so when the sun is up, I'll need to wear my goggles for some kind of sun protection.  Why do I miss my sunglasses?  Because I usually end up using them as a de facto headband.  I don't know how else to keep my messy hair out of my face so, yeah, looking like a bridge troll it is.

So there's a short list (or not so short) of things I can think of right now that I miss.  I only have 77 days left until my assigned off-ice date of November 4th.  Weather can always push it back, but I'm hoping that I get to leave on the assigned date (means I'm out of the Pole on the 3rd, one night in McMurdo, and Christchurch on the 4th).  It may take me a while to remember how to be a functioning human in the real world.  Let's hope I don't embarrass myself out there too much.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Christmas in July and other July Events

It's been awhile since my last post, but this is mainly because I was hoping and waiting for some photos to be put on our Common Drive on the network.  I haven't been great at taking photos this winter, so I've mainly been relying upon other people's efforts.  Recently a few photos were uploaded to the I Drive (Common Drive), so here we are!

Christmas in July is a yearly tradition at the Pole.  It occurs the weekend closest to July 25th, this year being on Sunday, July 23rd.  The week before the celebration, volunteers decorate the galley with Christmas trees, lights, garland, and all other tacky Christmas decorations that you can think of.  Kim spearheaded the efforts this year, and the galley looked great and well-lit.


The decorations

A few days before Christmas in July, a group of us got together to decorate some sugar cookies in the galley.


Cookie decorating!  Turns out I suck at this.
Cookies.  The ones I decorated have M&Ms clearly lined in a pattern or look like a small child attempted it.

On the 23rd, Kim got up early to bake us all some continental Christmas brunch items.  She was also kind enough to supply the station, with help from some donations, champagne for mimosas.  Our plumber, Brian, took it upon himself to donate some spicy vodka for those who love Bloody Marys.  For those of us who love Christmas, we spent the day in the galley watching a variety of Christmas movies.  A Christmas Story is traditional and thus it was watched.

In the evening, Kim served Christmas dinner.  Her dinner entailed some of the traditional dishes you would expect for Christmas in various parts of the country.  Roasted turkey, mashed potatoes, turkey gravy, stuffing (she called it dressing?), and a sweet potato dish.  I don't know much about sweet potatoes and marshmallows as I hail from the great area of the US that is New England.  We don't exactly eat that there in my experience, but I'm sure the southern folks on station loved it.  There was also a Christmas punch that, well, tasted like Christmas.  It was some sort of vodka cranberry spiced punch that had hints of nutmeg and cinnamon.

After dinner, we began the Yankee swap (White Elephant for you heathens not from New England).  While there were a few gifts that were homemade and Antarctica related that I wanted, I knew that my number was too early in the game for me to go after those coveted items.  It was best that I strategize and go for something that's acceptable to me but also that I would not lose.  I stole a bottle of Glenlivet then from our station doctor.  It was a sure bet as that would be the last available steal for the gift.  I figured that Jason would like the scotch so he could have it, and perhaps he could go for something that I wanted since his number was later in the game.

It worked out pretty well!  He stole (for the final steal and again from Sarah - don't worry I apologized to her after for targeting her gifts) an original copy of a National Geographic issue about the South Pole.  The issue was published sometime in the 1950s and is in beautiful condition.  I really like flipping through it to see the advertisements from back then (oh yeah and the stories are cool too).  There were some crackers and a candy bar in the box as well, but the real meat of the prize was that magazine.  And, luckily, Sarah got a great gift that wasn't stolen from her in the end - a machined miniature version of our pole marker for next year.  I unfortunately am not allowed to share photos of the marker until January 1, 2018 when the real deal is revealed.

As for other July shenanigans, I had a birthday at the beginning of the month.  Birthdays at the Pole are starkly different from birthdays at Palmer.  At Palmer, I remember the galley being decorated on the day of my bday with some Happy Birthday signs like the ones that you would see at children's birthday parties.  Mike, our chef that winter, went above and beyond for me that day as well.  I got to try some of his award winning cowboy coffee, and he cooked a Massachusetts-themed dinner (fisherman's platter) that, as usual, was delicious.  My cake was an ice cream cake that looked like something out of a bakery.  He made his own ice cream with Bailey's, Kahlua, coffee, etc.  It was my 21st, hence the alcohol theme for his ice creams.  I also was gifted a balloon, Sam Adams, and a signed card from the station that day.  Some mystery dried fruit appeared from the recent ship's port call at the station so there really was a surprise gift that day.

At Pole, most of those things don't happen.  I am going to wager a guess that it is because the population is full-time double that of Palmer, although at the time of my birthday at Palmer we had just around 40 people on station.  Here, the galley crew were kind enough to make me something for dessert that may fit my fancy.  I find cake to be putrid little sugar bombs so that was not what was made.  They made a peanut butter mousse instead which certainly was able to calm my sweet tooth and peanut butter cravings.  The whiteboard sign in the galley also said happy birthday.  Dinner that night followed the menu and recipe as dictated by Denver, and there lies the largest difference from Palmer to Pole.  I had an enjoyable and relaxing day.  I slept early in the evening as I am always tired by the end of the week here, and I really can't complain about it too much.