Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Big Brother (or maybe just McMurdo) is ALWAYS watching

HOLY CRAP! I am exhausted, I am burnt out, I'm BEAT! This season, more realistically the job, has taken a toll on me. Every day seems longer than the next...both literally and figuratively, as the sun officially set for the last time on October 22. "One long day" has begun and while in the past this has been a neutral connotation it is slowly, and against my will, trying to become a negative one. However, I refuse to let anything about this place be negative and while there are aspects that are often hard to view as anything but, I have committed to the idea that it is what I take out of it...I'm releasing the negativity...I'm finding my chi...channeling my zen...at least I am trying.

With 24 hours of daylight it seems hard to believe that there is actually NOT enough hours in the day to do everything that I need to do but this is, in fact, the case. Being a supervisor and one of the only returners this year has proven difficult...and interesting...and even awesome all at the same time...exasperating, exhausting, exhilarating, emotionally draining...I'm sure you get the point. No day is like the last, and yet yesterdays issues tend to follow you to today. And while the job does seem to be dramatic at times I have also tried to be realistic about the fact that its what happens outside of the job that follows you to work that causes the drama...not actually the job. That has been one thing about this place that after one and half seasons I have still had a very hard time trying to adjust to. In the real world it is significantly easier to keep your professional and personal lives separate. You don't want to hang out with your employees then you go to the bar across town that you know no one will be at...you want to go on a date in peace and keep the discretion, you just don't tell your peers about it and then you find a quiet restaurant far away from all of them...you wanna commit social suicide on Halloween by dressing in a crazy costume, partying like its 1999, and dancing like a mad women till you can't feel your legs anymore, without anyone judging you and talking about you for weeks, then you don't invite anyone to the party...

Life doesn't work that way here. There is 1100ish people, two bars, 1 coffee house, one choice of restaurant (the Galley) and NO place to hide. Everything you do is on display and everyone is always very interested...My day-to-day life has never been this interesting..........to anyone..............ever. It makes it hard do anything discretely or keep anything under wraps. And so more often then not, the little drama's of every day life seem to tip-toe their way right into the office and right onto my computer screen (so to speak). Everyone knows what you're doing, who you're hanging out with, and where you were last night at 9:30, and while I will probably never be used to this, I have at least started to tolerate it...I have even decided if you can't beat them join them...When people have started to speculate I have spelled it out for them so there is absolutely NO speculation...but of course the speculation will always remain, so I often find myself laughing at the entire situation as a whole.................................

There is a positive side to this though, as I have discovered...(But first a little back info)...

One of the HUGEST problems here at good ol' McMurdo is infidelity (as a disclaimer [but not a justification] I would like to say that the crazy amount of alcohol that is consumed down here probably doesn't help). I don't know what it is about this place but it either brings out the worst in you or the best. I have a theory that people escape the real world when they come here, so essentially they can be anyone they want when they're here. In the real world they have spouses and children and responsibilities, etc. Here they can put all of those things in the back of their heads and wipe all of their responsibilities away...be college students again. So that being said, I have watched many men and women (experienced it myself even) meet people here on the ice and have almost a fairy tale romance (And I will say that this place is what fairy tales are made of so I can understand why the whimsey carries over into everyday relationships) only to be so rudely awakened when they find out their said "Prince" or "Princess" has a Prince or Princess of their own at home...and then the romance ends with one person hurt and jaded, and one who loses nothing. Not very balanced.................................

Now back to the positive side of the proverbial and perpetual busybodies that make up the McMurdo population...EVERYONE wants to be involved, and while in the "real world" that would make me want to claw my eyes out, here there are moments I do appreciate it, as it is these "busybodies" that will gladly run to you proudly exclaiming that the person you have chosen to spend your time with is...drum roll...married...

These people should NOT have to come to the rescue...But no one should have to ask a question like that either. I have racked up so many prerequisite questions that my initial interactions sound like job interviews...

"Name? Age? Are you unemployed? Do you have any pertinent baggage that I should know about now?

What?! No to all of those questions? Hmmmmmmmm...Well then are you gay?"

Ok, its not really that bad (and I'm not really THAT crazy) but I don't have the best track record...One of the reasons I'm 25 and single...and SO PROUD OF IT!!! And while I realize I am reaching the age where a great deal of the men around me are married, "Are you married" is still NOT a prerequisite question that I should have to add to my list.

Oh Well, ENOUGH about the sour apples...there are people here who are absolutely amazing...people that I wouldn't be able to make it through some of these crazy experiences without (I would even say the whimsy and "fairytale" caryover into friendships as the friends you make down here are instantly, and insanely, bonded to you for life). People that remind me every day that honor, loyalty, honesty, etc. are still important.

I still love this place. I always will. If I ever leave here, never to return (as cheesy as it sounds), I will leave a piece of my heart here...in the pot room, I'm sure...

Antarctic Stats:

Temperature: 0°C/32°F
Windchill: -2°C/29°F

Visibility (miles): Unrestricted
Wind (knots): NE @ 4

Next Sunset: February 21, 2012 1:15am

Population: 1080

Still so in love with this place...

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Pot Room Physicist...Day 33ish

Interesting morning in the pot room today. The more time I spend in there the more I remember last year, and the many Sundays spent scraping the primordial goop off of walls and out of corners...and how greatful I was when I realized that it was a job I could deligate to others (terrible, I know). Nowadays though, I spend so much time in front of a computer that I often long for that contemptible pot room. I will suit up in the appropriate garb and send away other DA's so that I can have my sweet alone time with the heinous grime that builds up on the never ending stacks of pots. And while it is a job I now enjoy, it is still and always will be disgusting.

I was reminded today why it is that being a DA is actually, in its own right, a skilled labor. It is crucial that you have some understanding of basic physics, a strong stomache (a desensitized gag reflex), and above all else, a fabulous, almost twisted sense of humor. After retasking Michael this morning so that I could romance the pot room by myself, I prepared myself as though I were entering a nuclear war zone. Green Rubber gloves that reach to my elbows, saftey goggles that make me look like a mad scientist, and an industrial strength apron to protect my oh-so-delicate skin and clothes from whatever scary residue may come crawling off a pot. Is this neccessary you ask? ABSOLUTELY! There are actually days I wish I could put on a body suit and wear an oxygen tank to ensure complete protection from the smut you can not help but encounter. Unfortunately, that is not an option and this is where a basic understanding of physics comes in. There are many different shapes and sizes of pans that find their way into the pot room and there is a specific science to how each and every one should be cleaned to avoid showering yourself in crusty, leftover, tuna caserol or frothy pig blood. Anything square and flat needs to be pointed away from you to ensure that when a high powered stream of water hits it, it doesn't ricochet back towards your chest or face. There are the deep, stainless steel squares (probably the safest of all culprits) that you will typically catch no rebounds from as long as you are standing a safe distance away so as to dodge any rougue splashes. There are the huge plastic lexans-of course never used in the preparation of something appealing, like granola or some sort of mouthwatering dessert. No, of course not. Rather there is leftover juice from the 100lbs of beef that spent the night thawing inside of it (and here's where that desensitized gag reflex is handy...I fear mine will never be desensitized enough for this job). These lexans are so big that for someone as short as myself, the only logical way to clean it is to quite literally crawl in- I typically have to immerse my entire upper body into the scary cow-residue filled compartment in hopes that not only will I NOT get any of the nastyness on me, but also that I wont puke...that would only be a larger, slightly more gnarly mess. You would think that such a daunting container would be my least favorite to clean wouldn't you?? Well it's not. In fact the vessel on station that scares me the most, both in the pot room AND in the dish room...drum roll please...BOWLS!!!! Or really anything round for that matter(like ladels, which are quite possibly the absolute worst). While I have said from the start that a basic understanding of Physics is crucial, most moments that involve any sort of round container, and a high powered water hose, leave me further convinced, that not even Einstein himself could predict the trajectory with which the water that has hit the bowl, will then leave it...in lamemans terms: More often than not, you can expect a huge stream of water mixed with any amount of crusty remnants to come flying out of said bowl at high speed, usually headed directly for your face. And apparently I am at the perfect height to get a nice facefull, typically spaning from my forehead, all the way down to my mouth. Now, after more than a year, I may not have learned which angle is safest  for bowl washing, but I have learned that if you cant dodge the wall of water that seems to have targeted your face, the only option is to close your eyes and your mouth as tightly as possible to, ...This is were I often find myself with a bit of a dilema. Once a capable DA, now temporarily blind and mute. I can remove my gloves and paw my way to the nearest paper towel dispenser, in hopes that it has recently been stocked with, what may be, my only source of relief, or I can patiently wait for a fellow DA, or a cook in search of clean pots, to enter the lonely pot room and help me out of my ridiculous state. I typically prefer the first option as opposed to the latter, since most people who find you in this state usually end up laughing uncontrollably at your expense. And while I may sound bitter, I assure you I am not, as I too laugh hysterically if I am lucky enough to find someone else in this same state I so often find myself. We have all been there at least once, and probably will be there again many more times, but at least we're all in it together.

After a morning of scrubbing out pans, climbing into lexans and attacking the never ending battle of the "bowl trajectory", I took my pot room "costume" off and paused for a moment. I took a look around at the remnants from DA's past that could be found permanently drawn onto walls, etched into corners, and written onto the ceiling (the word "Gullible" is actually written on one of the ceiling panels, Im sure, often used to prank a fellow DA) and I realized, once again, how small I really am in the big picture...how many people came before me and how many people will come after me, but also how proud I am to be apart of that bigger picture. There may be a million DA's...but at least that makes each of us one-in-a-million ;)

Stats for the day
Temperature: -33°C/-27°F
Wind Chill: -49°C/-56°F (Also refered to as F'n COLD)

Visibility(miles): Unrestricted
Wind(knots): E @ 16

Sunrise: 6:50am
Sunset: 6:47pm

Population: Holding at 456 since we have had no planes

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Nacreous Clouds, The Library, and Auroras...One of these things is not like the others

Day number 17 is ending rather fabulously. I have finally found a place on station where I can escape and plan to be, for the most part, alone! Yay, for libraries!! I will be volunteering at the McMurdo Library 2-4 times a month for the next 26weeks and so far in my volunteering experience I have had all of 5 patrons (two of which don't really count because they were coming to see if I was interested in coming out with them later...they had no immediate interest in books) So perfect peace is what I have found...and a pretty large expanse of books...Well large considering where I am.
And while I cannot yet say that the population is getting to me, I can only imagine how long it will be before my inability to get away from people will start to wear on me. Better that I find solace now. Along with the Library the chapel has turned out to be a sanctuary in itself. I cannot pretend that I am using it for religious reasons, but I am using it for reasons of solitude...and as dramatic as it sounds, sanctuary. Monday, Wednesday, and Friday find me in the Chapel for Yoga at 6:30. I may not be reading a bible, but in Jessica's world there is little else more spiritual for me than watching an amazing sunset over an unbelievably large expanse of ice while I forget about the stress of my work day...and that's what I find in the Chapel three times a week (BUT, no matter what anyone tells you, Yoga is NOT relaxing. Its hard...and it hurts...but its still great)

Other news for the day is the Nacreous clouds that have finally decided to show themselves. It seems so late in the season for them to just be showing up now, but I suppose everything that has happened this year has seemed later. And even though that can be very easily attributed to our late deployment this year, I have still found it a little unsettling how quickly winfly is becoming a thing of the past. After sunset the light lingers a little longer and I didn't see it coming last year, but I'm prepared for it this year and I know that on of these evenings that sun will NOT be going down.

That being said its stargazing/Aurora hunting time! A nice long walk under the beautiful bright moon in search of some astronomical phenomena is how I plan to end day 17...

Stats for the day

Temperature: -25°C/-13°F
Windchill: -25°C/-13°F

Visibility(miles): Unrestricted
Wind(knots): Calm

Sunrise: 8:46am
Sunset: 5:01pm

Population: 457

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Day 11

Spent the better part of my morning in the Pot Room with "Red", as I have resorted to calling him, talking about all sorts of different things. And While the conversation was nothing short of interesting the part that moved me the most started with a conversation about my intent to return next season. While I could not whole heartedly answer the question, it put into motion an entire conversation about the experience as a whole...the job, the social life, the scenery...everything. I spoke of how much I really do love this place and how much I appreciate it (even the second time around) but I also mentioned how ready I was to leave when the time came...but above all how QUICKLY the time came to leave.

Once that sun comes up for good the days run together and the only way you can tell the difference between Wednesday and Saturday is what was served for lunch; And you'll know a week has passed because its time for your day off again. You can't remember what you did 2 nights ago because there is no more night...There's not even a waxing and waning moon to guide you through a month...and before you know it your life has turned into one long day...but as the old adage goes, once the day ends, you find it wasn't long enough.

And here I am again, in a pot room at Winfly, and I'm preaching to someone else what I should in fact be preaching to a mirror...for now the sun is still rising and setting but the tide is changing quickly and my "one long day" will be here again before I know it.
I haven't even taken pictures yet which I find just a little miserable, and so I think the time has come to change my "sophomore" ways and feel what it feels like to be a "freshman" again. A place like this deserves to be appreciated and reveled in.

I'll take my own advice on this one, and just as I wrote on September 15, 2010 (on my first trip down south), I'll appreciate the little things in life, the everyday things...the things that may seem normal now, that will seem like gold once they're gone.

Stats for the day:
(Today was the 7th or 8th day of "Condition 2" weather out of the last 11...translation-Crappy[but still beautiful] weather)
Temperature: -12°C/10°F
Windchill: -23°C/ -9°F

Visibility(miles): 2 in snow and blowing snow
Wind(knots): SE @ 11

Sunrise: 9:38am
Sunset: 4:12pm

Population: 470

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Day 9

So, of the 2 planes that they had intended to land on Saturday, only one of them made it. We're waiting on the other plane as we speak, that has been continuously delayed due to weather. The window of time that they can fly these planes to the ice is closing rapidly as the agreement between the NSF and the air force states that the C17's can be used for transport up until August 31st. The mad rush begins... :)

On a happy note, they have found an ice breaker!! For those who have not followed the icebreaker conundrum, the Oden which has been the icebreaker for McMurdo for many years now, backed out this year due to economical issues. The icebreaker is crucial in the running and maintaining of the station as the vessel and the fuel tanker can not make it into McMurdo Sound if it is not escorted by an Icebreaker.
Russia has apparently decided that they can help us out! The press release can be found on NSF's Website

Stats for the day:
Temperature: -14°C/7°F
Windchill: -20°C/-4°F

Visibility(miles): Unrestricted with ice crystals
Wind(knots): light and variable

Sunrise: 9:57am
Sunset: 3:54pm

Population: 362

Friday, August 26, 2011

Day 7

The wheels are up!! This plane just might make it...Better a week late than never!

Stats for the day:

Temperature: -11°C/12°F
Windchill: -19°C/-2°F

Visibility(miles): Unrestricted
Wind(knots): N @ 11

Sunrise: 10:18am
Sunset: 3:35pm

Population (if this darn plane finally lands): 464

Now I am gonna go enjoy some sunlight while I have the chance...Whats more, I'm gonna go enjoy the peace and quiet while its still available...

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Day 5

The second flight of winfly that was supposed to have arrived on Tuesday has been delayed for the third time in a row due to weather. I must say though, as much as I want to see the people on the next plane, I love it when McMurdo looks like this. White and dim just like a winter day :) Weather like this is not as common as one would think, and there is something about it that is EXTREMELY peaceful... unfortunately I will have to walk home in it...that won't be quite as peaceful.

Temperature: -13°C/ 9°F
Windchill: -26°C/ -15°F

Visibility (miles): 1/8 in snow and blowing snow
Wind (knots): SE @ 26 gusting to 38