Wednesday, December 31, 2008


We danced the night away at Icestock last night. Alex wasn't excited about waking up at 6:00am this morning to wash dishes. She made it to work on time and I just met her for lunch. She seems to be doing alright, but ready for the day to be over so she can get some more sleep.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008


It's a Wednesday and New year's eve in Antarctica. Tonight is the big Icestock Festival. It's an outside music venue with about 8 different bands playing (6pm - 12:30). It's 37F right now and no wind. Couldn't ask for better weather.

Alex is washing dishes, the dishwashers got their radio taken away for playing music too loud. It's sad.

I'm still opening boxes and counting things. I've spent the last week driving a huge forklift, moving huge boxes.

We still haven't decided how to spend the second half of our honeymoon. We spend a lot of time talking about our options. Last night we went to see a presentation on some folk's travel experiences in southeast Asia. They mostly went to old temples, elephant sanctuaries and street markets. Not really the type of trip Alex or I would go for, so we essentially didn't learn much, other than southeast Asia is really pretty.

Okay, I've got to get back to work...

Sunday, December 28, 2008

28 December 2008

Lucas and I had a super fun weekend day. We slept in, had a long and lazy brunch, went on a hike, read books in the greenhouse, finished laundry, and cleaned our teeny tiny room.

The Holidays in Antarctica were interesting. The energy in the galley was sad... Everyone missing their families just a little. My friend Ciara from Ireland and I sang Christmas Carols as we deep cleaned the dining room-- we only knew a few lines of each song...earlier on we made field lunches and prepped milk...we talked about how our families have formed who we are and our dreams for ourselves in the future...and we talked a lot about our moms, of course.

Dinner was nice. Lucas looked very handsome in his bow tie.

As Lucas said, we went to lots of holiday parties...the best one was "Jew you want to have fun?" which was Marci and Linda's Hanukkah party. Lucas made a dradle and I knitted... Lucas also made me a beautiful flower (picture to follow).

We are a little more than half way through the season. I can't believe it! Being in the greenhouse today made me so excited for New Zealand! Lucas was reading about hikes and we are both worried about our fitness's so nice to know that we have three months in New Zealand, so that we can take it easy as we break in to the trails. I want to spend three days soaking in hot springs and sleeping all day in a tent!

At the same time, I'm already a little sad missing my friends and my ridiculous job and the mountains of Antarctica... Our ginormous bed and the pretty sparkles that are all over our walls from the crystal that Andrea gave us...

sigh. All my love to everyone! Alex

Pictures from the observation hill loop--It was forty degrees before the wind chill!

Lucas' flower he made for me at the 'jew you like to have fun party'.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Friday, December 26

The hospital on campus has three beds. We have two doctors, two nurses and a dentist (I think). A multi-victim accident could easily overwhelm our medical resources. Thus, a group of volunteers is assembled and organized each season to assist if a multi-victim accident should occur. We call it the MCI team, mass casualty incident. I volunteered this year. The practice drill happened today. My role was to help carry victims on stretchers into the building when they arrived.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Day

It's Christmas day in Antarctica, Alex is working hard in the dining hall. I've spent the better part of the morning searching the Internet in hopes of honeymoon travel plans. I'm thinking maybe a long canoe trip in Australia and Alex is thinking maybe a long walk in Asia. We both change our mind most every day. We both want to do 3 months in New Zealand, so we have something concrete at least.

I finished a book I started reading a couple years ago, which is always exciting.

It's 30F outside with light winds and with predicted highs today of 36F. We in the warmest part of the summer right now, the weather will turn nasty again in a few weeks I'm sure.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Christmas Eve

It's Christmas eve in Antarctica. It's getting super windy and I'm guessing we have some bad weather coming our way. Alex is at work, I'm sure the dining hall is planning some extravagant extra-special meal for Christmas dinner and they (all the dining hall staff) are all working super hard.

It doesn't really feel like Christmas. Mostly because of all the daylight (I think), maybe the lack of commercials and Christmas sales, maybe because I'm not on my way to Ohio. I dunno.

Alex and I went to her department's Christmas party and a Hanukkah party on Monday. We stayed up too late and we were both dragging yesterday. We went to bed early last night and don't have any social plans for tonight.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

I've got sunshine...

The weather has been absolutely beautiful for the last few days...i hate to say it, but almost warm. Today, we went to dinner and I wasn't wearing any socks and Lucas was wearing a sweatshirt. The official temperature is about 34 degrees, but lord, after so long in negative numbers, it's just amazing outside.
I would like to say thanks to all those folks that sent us packages and letters and head scarves! The treats were so fantastic and we really enjoyed them all so much!
Town is getting ready for the holidays. There have been lots of parties to go to, a DA (my job) bowling night, and tons of chocolate passed around at breaks from my coworkers packages.
Lucas is quite a bowling star (I keep learning new things about him) and bowled a 145 at DA bowling night. I think I bowled a nine or something. I ended up just cheering for people and chatting with friends.
Someone stole 160 pounds of prime rib from the loading dock of the Galley. The prime rib was for Christmas dinner-- we don't know who stole the prime rib. All I know is that it must have been a coordinated effort because there is someone at the galley 24/7. There has been an extensive search, but no one has found it. It's been fun to try to come up with theories.

I still have antarctic sleep disorder. Today (our day off), Lucas and I slept for hours.
This continent effects people in different ways.
Nick, the baker, thinks that it's dehydration that makes people so exhausted and slowly start to loose the ability to process information (I've noticed myself becoming more and more absent minded).
Kira, my friend, thinks that it's lack of proper nutrition as most of our food is at least a few years old.
I think that being so close to the magnetic pole messes with you in some way.
Doctor Harry thinks that your body knows that there is no night, even if you simulate night by blacking out a window or having no window, so it's hard for your body to kick into REM sleep. You can sleep and sleep and sleep, but never feel truly rested.

And then there are those folks that can go to work, play on sports teams, go to the bars every night and not feel like they are going to die. Who's a mystery, but I most certainly miss my old energy levels. Supposedly, your body returns to normal after you leave antarctica. Lucas said to me once that going to antarctica is good for you because it rings you out and when you enter a "normal for people" climate again, you appreciate the twinkle of the stars, green-ness, humidity and all the millions of little things people take for granted. I'm looking forward to experiencing the world in a whole new way...

We're at the half way point and folks have been talking about their post ice travel plans. Lucas and I still don't know what to do for three months so if any of you all have any ideas, shoot them our way. We're throwing around walking part of the Great Wall of China, doing a pilgrimage in Nepal, walking another pilgrim route in Europe (maybe the Camino Francais, but from Paris all the way through to coast of Spain). Who knows! Hopefully, we'll be in good shape for our island, wherever in the South Pacific we may be.

As I am writing this, there is weather coming in from West Antarctica. I've taken a picture (this is the view from our lounge window)--All my love to everyone--Alex

Monday, December 15, 2008


Alex and I are now waking at 5am each morning, we have to make ourselves go to bed early to ensure we get enough sleep. We are barely getting enough sleep and both would agree we could go for a bit more. As a result, we haven't been doing so well keeping up with daily task (like vacuuming and blogging).

This story happened about a week or so ago, but I'm just now getting around to blogging about it.

Alex really loves her coffee. On our way out of Chapel Hill, we stopped at Weaver Street Market to pick up 3 lbs of Alex's favorite coffee (Panzanella's house blend) for Antarctica. At 5:30am (~1 week ago) Alex used the very last of her favorite coffee (which was super sad). We had heard rumors that a plane was flying into town from Christchurch and that maybe, just maybe it would have packages aboard. The plan arrived and on it was a package for Alex from Andrea. And inside the package was fresh coffee from North Carolina! It was absolutely perfect timing...Alex didn't have to suffer a single day of drinking cheap, stale dining hall coffee.

Good work Andrea!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Peace Corps Nomination

We have gotten our Peace Corps nomination! We will be going to one of the South Pacific Islands: Fiji, Kiribati, Micronesia and Palau, Samoa, Tonga, or Vanuatu.

I will be doing health extension and Lucas will be doing business development.

Lucas wrote Evan, our recruiter, an acceptance e mail today.

This means we will be back in the States by August 1 and we will be leaving for the South Pacific sometime in September.

It's been so strange for me to mentally and emotionally change regions of the world. I was sure that we would be in Latin America. Convinced. Or Eastern Europe as that would be my least favorite place to spend two years...but the Pacific Islands?? Not on my radar in the least. The night before we got our nomination, a dorm mate of ours was presenting a travelogue on Fiji. She was a returning Peace Corps volunteer and lived in a traditional village for two years. I had talked to her before about the Peace Corps in general and about her experience and the talk was really late at night (8:30!!! That's late for me!) so Lucas and I decided to skip it and go to bed instead....that's how far away the South Pacific was in terms of possible placements....and now here we are, going to the South Pacific. That day, I went to the computer lab during my break to see what these islands were called and wrote them on the back of the copy of the email so I could tell people (or at least read them off to people when they asked). I was in the dish pit for most of the afternoon and Lucas would tell me facts he had gathered about each island and where he thought we would be based on programs from the dish pit window. It's looking like it will be Vanuatu as it has both our programs but who really knows. It could be anywhere!

I've spent the last couple days letting the information soak in, Most likely, it will be volcanic (like Ross Island where we are now), we probably won't have running water or electricity, and we will both be completely outside of our comfort zone.
I think that's the best part about this placement as opposed to Latin America. Although Latin America is huge and incredibly diverse, it would feel more comfortable and familiar to me where as it would be totally outside of Lucas' comfort zone. This way, we will both be starting out at the same place: completely and totally lost.

Also, I think there's something special about polynesian culture and I'm excited to see how I will change and what I will learn. When I was a little girl, my favorite book was island of the blue dolphins. I would dream of her lifestyle and wished that maybe one day, I could live like her, even if she had it really hard and lost her whole family. I think it's because she lived by the sea and I love the sea.
I'm really scared, too.
I know I will have meltdowns. I know that we are asking a lot of our young marriage as Lucas and I will be our only support system-- I know that sometimes, I'll miss creature comforts like temperature control, grocery stores, mosquito free lifestyles, and ice cream. I know that I will miss my friends and my family--I know I'll feel really trapped on an island floating on the south pacific far away from anything that is familiar...why my soul craves this is beyond me...I look forward to living a simple life-- to see if it's really something I want; I look forward to building a solid foundation for my marriage, I look forward to living so close to the natural world and most importantly, I'm really excited to know my new neighbors and to wear a mumu everyday (Lucas tells me that women wear mumus--a throwback from missionary trips of the 1800s)

Lucas and I told our parents today what our placement is going to be. When I told my mom, she mis-heard me and thought I said "Egypt", which freaked her out because she wouldn't be able to sleep at night if I was in the middle east. So when I repeated myself and said "no, mama, the south pacific" you could hear the relief in her voice...It was a great way to break the news to her.

Lucas' mom, Jane, told us about family priests who worked or have worked in the South Pacific which is nice to know and maybe we'll go visit one of them.

Our Antarctic friends are all excited for us and we may have a wave of visitors come February and early March of next year.

Of course, all our friends and family are more than welcome to visit us!
I've included a few photos so ya'll can see where we might be going--all my love, alex


Children on the beach of Vanuatu

Can you tell I miss kids? Kids canoeing in the water of Vanuatu-- We keep reading that the water is gorgeous!

Our dream hut--we'll see where we will be living!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Sunday's hike

On Sunday, Alex and I went for a hike on the sea ice. It's summertime and the sea ice is slowly starting to melt, at some point (probably ~2 weeks) someone will determine the sea ice is no longer safe for travel and the trail will be closed. The trail is ~5 miles and entirely flat.

For reasons unknown to me, Alex wanted to walk fast. Here's a picture of me protesting the quick pace:

And pictures of Alex being pretty:

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Penguins and stardust

One of my favorite people I've met so far in Antarctica is my co-worker, Doug. Doug was an animal trainer in Denver before coming down here. He trained tigers, sea otters, and other kinds of big animals that might like human flesh. One day, Doug and i were breaking down the line and I was teasing him just a little about a girl named Kelly that he was spending more and more time with. There was something serious about the way he took the teasing, and after a little while, he told me that the girl that he loved the most and was going to be his wife, Ashley, died three years ago. Doug also told me that his sister named her third child in memory of Ashley and the child died in her fifth month of life.
We talked about grief and how precious life is...we talked about thirty three year olds feeling ancient...we talked about how maybe, just maybe, the human heart's capacity for love might be immeasurable...At these times, I always talk about my grandmother, abuela Blanca. My abuela always told me that the human heart is capable of great great love. She truly believes that her first husband had something to do with her meeting and falling in love with her last husband, whom she spent 20 happy years with...she just knows that this is true...So I threw that out there to Doug...that maybe, just maybe, he can explore this new relationship and it might be what Ashley would want for him...maybe...or not...who knows the ways of the world...but maybe...

A few weeks later, the morning crew and the bakers were at stretch break (we all have to stretch two times a day for fifteen minutes as a group). We were stretching and talking about penguins. I told everyone that my grandmother had a penguin. The story goes as follows:
When my grandfather had died, my mother and my aunt were in the United States and my abuela lived all alone in Uruguay. My grandmother says that this was the hardest period of her life and that she's never felt such sharp and present loneliness.
I think her heart told her that she needed to be by the sea, so she spent the winter in Punta del Este, a town on the Atlantic. Every morning, she would go on a walk to the port and back. On a cloudy day, a man called out to her from the pier and asked her if she'd please buy a penguin from him. Apparently, they had come in on an iceberg from antarctica (this happens sometimes) and this man had one left. My grandmother bought the last penguin and named him pengui.
Pengui brightened my abuela's life--In particular, he became my abuela's ambassador to the outside world. It can be impossible to connect with people when a heart is shattered making grief even more lonely.
Because of pengui, strangers would come up to her to see the penguin and ask her questions about the penguin--She quickly became the penguin lady and slowly but surely, she didn't feel as alone.

This is a family story.
Part of the narrative of my family that I have never once questioned and took as true.
These kinds of things happen in my family.
These kinds of things happen to my abuela.

Nobody at stretch break believed me.
One person said "you know, I really want to believe that story"
another person said "it's a beautiful story, are you sure it's not a metaphor for something else?"
somebody else said "how can you believe that!?!"

I have never once questioned this family story.
The first time I doubted it was in my thirty second year.
When I got home I asked Lucas if he thought it was true and he said yes (he heard it straight from my abuela, so maybe that's why).

I called my mom and told her that I needed to know the truth: was the story about pengui true. She said she swore it was..
I talked to my abuela and she swore by the bones of her dead sister that it was true (you don't swear by people's bones in my family unless you really mean it)

A few days ago, Doug and I were washing dishes. Doug said that Ashley's birthday was the day before and Kelly had gotten him a stuffed penguin to commemorate the day. Doug said he named it pengui--for my grandmother--
I said: "Doug, it's a true story!"
he said: "I never doubted it wasn't".

Friday, December 5, 2008

Saturday, December 6

It's Saturday and the weekend begins in 5 hours! Alex and I have dinner plans tonight with some of her friends and a couple of bottles of wine. We don't have anything planned for tomorrow, probably a lot of sleep and maybe a hike if the weather is nice.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Friday, December 5th

The last entry I wrote was on Monday, and here it is Friday, again, already! Time moves at a different pace down here, I swear, it's crazy! Time is passing by so quickly. Alex has been going to Yoga classes much more since she started working mornings. She's talking about going to some type of aerobics class this evening. I've been spending most of my working-day outside, which I'm loving, and not really doing anything of interest or productivity during my off-time. I don't know where all my free time goes.

It's my lunch break and it's time for me to get back to work, so, talk to you later :)

Monday, December 1, 2008

Monday, December 1st

I remember a blog last year when I wrote about how the McMurdo-life becomes mundane with time. It was definitely much later in the season last year, but still the same feeling. Work starts and ends at the same time each day. We have been almost all places we can go. There are no weekend getaways, road trips, or going out to eat after work.

The recreational department has activities scheduled most evenings for us, but those become mundane in the sense that it's a scheduled rec activity each evening - Go to work, eat, go to rec activity, go to bed.

That being said, Alex is in a yoga right now (with a awesome instructor) and the Planet Earth (BBC nature-film series) folks are giving a presentation tonight on how their filming went this season (apparently, one should expect lots of starfish in their next series). So things aren't so bad, just a feeling one gets living in a world so different then I'm used to.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Perpetually Sleepy Morning Staff...Doug, Ciara from Ireland, Alex, Annie, Drew (stlyin' a hairnet because he missed hairnet Friday), Lesley, Kira (of the line musical), Meghan

Alex Sterbac-ing the counter (sterbac is the cleaner we use and it's now a verb in my life) --Notice how incredibly DIRTY I am-- this is what I look like every night after work :(

Some of my night crew girls! (From left to right back to front) Kat, Sara, Jen, Kendra, Maria, Alex, and Jess

Thank you!

i just want to thank everybody who gave me a shout out for my birthday! It was really fun and i never ever expected to turn thirty-two in Antarctica! Endless wonders never cease. I had to work on my b-day, but I got to pick which tasks I wanted to do and the music in the dish room and the pot room! I also got sung to a whole bunch which is sure to bring in a great new year.

Lots has changed in my lunch lady life. As Lucas mentioned, I moved to the morning shift. For those of you who know me well, mornings are not my strength, especially in Antarctica where there are no natural sleeping cues (like the sun going down). Also, five am comes very very early and there is no forgiveness for deciding to read one more chapter in my book before sleeping. My second day on mornings, I was literally holding my eyes open with my hands. I haven't been so tired since my wedding week or graduate school. The wonderful bonus is that I get off at 4pm! which means I can go to Yoga class, see Lucas more, and have a leisurely dinner.

I got mornings because two of my co-workers quit. The quitting set the kitchen and especially the DA staff in a bit of a stir as it was reflective of the RIDICULOUS management of the kitchen (it's been years since I've worked under such poor leadership) and quite a romantic love story (my two co-workers are traveling in New Zealand as we speak)... It's a shame that things are the way that they are, but I like most everybody I work with and am very grateful that this job is temporary.

We had a lovely thanksgiving dinner-- Work was easy and fun as we had a full staff and lots of volunteers. I laugh a lot at my job because it's so ridiculous and so funny--For instance, two days ago, I was working with my friend Kira on the line. The line is where all the food is...kinda like a buffet...and we have to make sure that there is enough food and that it's kept relatively clean. I usually like the line because it's fast paced and you have to work as a team. That day, Kira and I were both wearing yellow gloves (the pans are really really hot and if you're not careful, you'll burn yourself), had our matching outfits on(blue shirts and black pants), and spoons in our hands (we use spoons to lift up the pans from the buffet line). I started singing "a whole new world" and Kira sang along with me and we ended up doing this kind of synchronized dance (as we were wearing matching outfits) and laughing so hard we were both crying: When in my life am i ever going to be a lunch lady in an impromptu musical in Antarctica? So this is how I stay sane.

Lucas and I are enjoying spending so much extra time together. He is so sweet and wakes up at 5:07 am with me and comes to breakfast. When we get home from work, we usually lie in bed and watch the sparkles on the wall from a crystal my friend, Andrea, gave to us before we left North Carolina and talk. Our room is so so small that the bed is the only place where we can hang out. We have a very sweet and simple life.

I have finished my first scarf and I love it! I've also learned how to purl-- Next, I'm going to learn how to increase and decrease stitches! Knitting is great fun--It's nice to have something to do with my hands all the time.

I went to a great yoga class today and tomorrow I'm getting my hair trimmed. Love to you all--Alex

Thursday, November 27, 2008


It's Friday already, and the final day of the work week for me (Lucas). Tonight starts a two-day weekend to give thanks. There's a big party tonight to start off the weekend, (we'll be sure to laugh and dance!) With the two-day training and the five-day work week, this has been another super quick week.

Alex started working mornings this week, so we are getting a lot more time to hang out in the evenings.

We had some nasty weather this morning, worse we've seen yet. It didn't last long though and it's not-so-bad-at-all right now. Below is the day's official weather report:

Snow Craft 1

I spent Tuesday and Wednesday at a training called 'Snow Craft 1'. The two-day training was about what one should do if one was to get stranded somewhere away from campus. There were 15 students in my class. We mostly listened to a lot of lectures and then set-up camp and spent Tuesday night out on the permanent sea ice. We set-up tents, built walls out of snowblocks to protect us from the wind, dug a kitchen area that allowed us to cook out of the wind and such things. Some folks dug trenches to sleep in, but I just found a spot in a tent for myself. The weather ended up being super nice, which made me happy. The sun shined all night with almost no wind. The low for the night was 14F. I had a little trouble falling asleep due to the 24-hour daylight.

Wednesday morning we packed up camp, listened to more lectures, watched a couple of training videos, and were finished. I made it to my room by early afternoon and was happy to get a quick nap in before meeting Alex after work.

I didn't take my camera to the training (couldn't find it), but was able to get a few pics from other folks. This first picture is of the camp, it's early in the day, before the wall to protect us from the wind had been built. The teepee looking tents are way old-school, it's the same tent design they were using on the first expeditions to Antarctica. They are still quite popular here.

I spent most of my time hanging out in the kitchen, though I didn't make this next picture. We dug the hole and built the wall for wind protection and so we could cook standing up.

I will see if I can get some more pics.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

6:00 am

It's just a little past 6am, on Monday morning. (Noon on Saturday on the east coast, I think). Alex switched to the morning shift. We had breakfast together, then her shift began at 6. My work day doesn't start until 7:30, so I've got a bit of time to myself. Campus is significantly quieter this early in the morning (we were doing breakfast ~6:45).

Our weekend was super chill. We hung out at the wine bar on Saturday night and spent most of the day on Sunday sleeping in, watching movies, surfing the Internet, reading books and Alex spent some time knitting. Not so much different than what we would do on a cold winter's day in the states. Except that it's summertime here and the weather was relatively nice yesterday. We are both just tired; Alex's job is physically demanding and I spent a lot of time working outside last week, which just wears me out.

I get this Saturday off (my Thanksgiving holiday), looking forward to the two-day weekend.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Coffee House Mornings...

I am sitting with my friend Brian at the coffehouse on campus. I just had breakfast with Lucas; and Brian has just gotten off work. I am working on my first cup of coffee; he is working on his third glass of wine and drawing as anatomically correct of a human form as he can after three glasses of wine-- He has had a full day of life as he is a night shift worker or [aka] midrat (also in the dining hall) and I have barely began my day...Bob Dylan is playing on the stereo and the lighting is just right if you've just gotten off work or have just woken up. This is the first morning I have come to the coffee shop and I really like it.

Kevin and Jen, who ran the camp that Lucas worked at in North Carolina when he got back from Scotland, walked in just a minute ago. They are also midrats and our next door neighbors at MMI.

Yesterday, Lucas and I were talking about how we've been here for what would constitute a while. We haven't just gotten here anymore. On my way to the coffee house, I realized that I have gotten used to McMurdo's energy--to all the people everywhere all the time...

I finished a book about fruit flies and the history of genetics and molecular biology...and I'm almost done with my scarf...I love being married!

A few days ago, the mail gods and goddesses were so kind to me... I got THREE LETTERS--two from the best pen pal in the world, Sabrina Beth Bazin, a birthday card from my wonderful mother in law, a reimbursement check for over one hundred dollars AND an awesome package from my friend Lorena! It can't get much better than that! All my love to everyone--alex

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Wednesday, November 19th

On hot days, like today, steam rolls off the frozen ground. It's neat. I didn't really experience the steam too much last year, as I was working at night (the sun is still out at night but it isn't as directly overhead) and didn't spend as much time outside. I like the idea of campus thawing. There are puddles all over campus and significant amounts of water running down the streets. This is the beginning of the muddy season. When we first arrived, everything was frozen and snow covered most of the ground. After the snow is done melting and everything dries out, we will begin the dusty season. And shortly before we leave, everything will start to freeze up again.

The muddy campus suggest the end of the frozen-ness that was here as we arrived; like the first trout lilies signaling the end of another Appalachian winter.

I've spent the entire day working outside the past two days. I definitely feel more worn out after being in the cold all day. My plan for tonight is to shower and sleep.

Wishing everyone all the best.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Monday Morning

Alex and I did most of our Christmas shopping and watched a couple movies over the weekend. We have one store on campus and the New Zealand base, just 1 1/2 miles away, has a store as well. The selection isn't much, so one ends up looking at everything multiple times.

It's snowing a bit this morning, which isn't so common. We like the snow, it makes this place look prettier.

Friday, November 14, 2008


It doesn't feel like it should be Saturday yet. Time feels different down here. Last weekend feels so long ago that I barely remember any details, but, at the same time, the week just flew by and I can't believe it's Saturday (the start of our weekend) again. I think it's a combination of the long work hours, the endless social opportunities and that you don't really have any traditional chores to do after work hours (no driving, no cooking, no washing dishes, no cleaning bathrooms, no shopping, no walking the dog and no errands to run).

I like the time issues. I like the novelty of it.

I just ate lunch, it was these awful hot dogs that were too salty, overcooked asparagus and Oreo cheesecake (that was pretty tasty).

Alex was filling the juice machine. She has plans to hang out with her girlfriends afterwork at the coffeehouse.

The weather is calling for a high of 24F today, which is super hot for this early in the season.

We are both doing well.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Tuesday, November 11

The alarm goes off each morning at 6:20. Sometimes Alex joins me for breakfast (more than you would guess, if you know how much Alex enjoys mornings). Alex eats lunch with her co-workers just before she starts working at 11:00. I get off work at 5:30, eat dinner and have a few hours to myself before Alex gets off work at ~8:30. We then have just a couple (1 1/2) hours to hang out before I start thinking about heading to bed.

We have both been sleeping a lot and barely avoiding getting sick. Alex finds time to journal, read and knit. I can't say I've been doing much of anything productive with my free time, mostly napping and socializing. Alex has made a few friends at work; most of my friends are pals from last year.

Alex and I both get Sunday off. We've done a few hikes and gotten off campus some. We've seen a seal and a skua (a skua is a sea gull type bird, but bigger and comes to Antarctica this time of year). Alex (and I too) commented on how nice and warm the weather was yesterday, the high was ~18 degrees F. Alex got one of those sunburns that you can only get in Antarctica.

We both seem to be feeling more comfortable with our job and are starting to get the hang of things. Today, I finished the fire suppression system report I've been working on for at least a week. Alex was getting ready to refill the ice cream machine last I saw her.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Bertha dies again...

But not by my hands this time... A few days ago, my buddy Chris, comes back to the pot room where I was scrubbing away to tell me that he killed Bertha by blue tray in the gears...Special forces had to come down and Bertha survived to sanitize dishes again. Chris and I decided that we should put DA's (what we're called) pictures on the side of Bertha that almost do her in...
I'm slowly starting to form my tribe of friends... Maria, a social worker in California whose family is from Mexico, and I had a long talk in Spanglish after stretch break. Mostly about how it's hard doing work that has no meaning and how we both thought we would enjoy mindless work more. We also talked about how much we missed our close friends from home...our community... and how strange it is to live in an unfiltered community--You have to see and interact with EVERYBODY, if you like them or not. That part took a while to get used to, but I think I'm okay with the whole communal living thing again.

My knitting is going well...I have a good bit of a scarf done and I'm going to learn how to purl next.
Lucas and I went to Castle Rock for a hike(the pictures are from there--it was about 7 miles). the weather was divine and the wind was just a whisper. I'd say it was almost warm for down here-- I had to strip down a layer...I never knew I could say that the cold is all relative. That same day, Kendra and I went to the airfields on campus with a guy who was checking generators. I think I ended up being some kind of chaperone, but it was so nice to get off campus...I have a really bad sunburn on my face because I didn't put on sunscreen and the ozone hole is unforgiving even to my Latin skin. Lucas looks healthy with a rosy glow even if he didn't put on sunscreen-- it's not fair!

I have been sleeping like I have mono. It's like I'm paying back all those all nighters in college and graduate school back...I usually like to get about ten (TEN!?!) hours of sleep to feel totally rested, but could sleep for like twelve or thirteen hours if I could. I'm just trying to enjoy it and I know that's the only reason I haven't gotten frightfully ill like a lot of my love to everyone!!!! alex

pics from Sunday's hike

Friday, November 7, 2008

Friday, November 7

The weather was absolutely fantastic today, and the warmest we've seen yet. 14F and no wind.

At work, they ordered all of the equipment/parts for the fire suppression system for the powerhouse upgrade project a few years back. They haven't started that phase of the construction yet. Everything is on campus, but no one really knows what all we still have available and where it's all at. The problem is - the old fire system got unapproved and someone needs to create a new design that can get approved. So, my job for the last three days has been to create an accurate list of all the equipment/parts assigned to the upgrade project fire system that we already have available on campus. The new system design will (hopefully) use all of the equipment/parts they already have available here.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Wednesday, November 5th

I went as purple for Halloween.

I'm watching the commentary following the election. Alex is at work, for another hour. I chatted with her at dinner, she was wishing she could be celebrating instead of working. Rumor is the wine bar is the place to be, we'll see.

More ice cave pics...

As promised, I got some more ice cave pictures from a friend.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Sunday, November 2nd

Alex and I had our first off-campus trip. We signed up to go on a trip to see the ice caves. I don't really understand how the ice caves happen, but they only happen when the annual sea ice melts past the glacier, which apparently happened last year. To get to the cave, we rode for about an hour in these big vehicles they call Deltas.

The ice cave is at the very front of the glacier and is in-between the glacier and parts of the glacier that have fallen off (if I understand correctly). To enter the cave we had to walk up about 20 feet from the sea ice and then slide back down into the cave.

The cave was fantastic inside. It was tricky to get good pictures. Because of the ice, the cave was very blue inside. When we used the flash, everything looked white inside, losing the blueness. When we did not use the flash, there wasn't enough light, so the pictures came out blurry. We got a few pictures, but nothing that could do the cave justice. I'll try to get some pics from some friends.

I like this picture of Alex on the sea ice.

Friday, October 31, 2008

breaking bertha

In the antarctican galley and maybe in antarctica in general, there are pet names for everything. The ice cream machine is named frosty boy, the pot room sanitizer is named slim and the dish machine, where you run all the dishes after washing them, is named bertha.

There are several DA's (dining assistants or lunch ladies as I like to call us) that are assigned to different tasks throughout the day. My last task of the day yesterday was the dish room behind bertha. My friends, Lesley and Metro, where spraying down dishes in the front of bertha and Me and my buddy Chris where catching the dishes in the back of Bertha and putting them away, including the silverware. We have to put silverware in these small white holey buckets on a rack and bring them through bertha three times. it is the responsibility of those in the back of Bertha to do the sorting. Anyways, I was bringing up knives for their last run through bertha and there was a lot going on up front. Lesley took the rack from me and all the knives fell and one of them landed in the gear of bertha and got all kinds of stuck. Apparently, I had used the wrong rack to put the holey buckets in. We stopped the machine and I realized that I killed Bertha. We got a lead lunch lady, we had to call special forces, and the dishes just kept stacking up. While we were diagnosing the problem, my eyes started welling up with tears and i quickly went to the bathroom. At that moment, I realized I probably killed Bertha and would get the next moment I realized that it was too expensive to fire me so I was stuck here in antarctica being a lunch lady (which made me cry harder)...and then I thought I could quit and work at a domestic violence shelter in Auckland, NZ. My old supervisor has a friend that is a director of a Domestic Violence agency in Auckland and I thought that if worse comes to worse i can beg my old supervisor to beg her friend to hire me. Lucas could stay in Antarctica and we'd meet up when it was over...This was comforting to me...I splashed water on my face and opened the door. In the hallway was Lesley who could tell I was crying. She came over and gave me a hug and I told her my plan and she said that I was supposed to be here (in antarctica) -- Anyways, after waiting with baited breath, bertha got fixed. A few of us stayed later and knocked out all the dishes...I went home (back to my dorm) and told my friend, Kendra, who was sick and missed all of it...she could tell that I was upset and asked me what was wrong... very seriously I told her that I killed Bertha and she started laughing hysterically. Her laughter attracted, Eli, and DA from last year that
made light of the situation, too... Anyways, I can tell I'm still decompressing from my old job...and that I miss being a social worker...and that all the change of the last few months is catching up with me. Lucas is amazing as always. Solid and sweet and happy. He's so present with his life; always accepting the "what is" of a situation and being okay with it. It's really great and grounding.
I am going to nurture my fragile sense of happiness; knowing that I will be doing what I love (social work) for the rest of my life if I want to --and if it took being a lunch lady in antarctica to bring the point home, then so be it. Love and miss all of you...alex

Co-workers and I

Co-worker Rocky received a care package and shared the cookies with the crew.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

I drove the forklift around campus and up and down this great big hill today. Spent most all of the day re-arranging big boxes in this big warehouse. We might start working outside by the end of the week.

Spent yesterday evening playing Euchre with buddies while waiting for Alex to get off work. So much fun.

Our friend Katie did a PowerPoint presentation on her off-season travels to Southern Africa. My favorite picture was of some type of monkey riding on the back of some type of deer/antelope animal.

Alex woke up early this morning to go to a driver training. I haven't seen her since breakfast.

She's chosen an excellent Halloween costume for the weekend festivities.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Monday, October 27, 2008

We set up our fly trap in the office today. It was a mix of balsamic vinegar, banana peel, and Dr. Pepper. We had about 20 flies by close of business today. Big hopes for the overnight catch.


Sunday's Hike

Sunday, October 26, 2008

knitting in the lounge

Hi everybody-- hope everyone is doing well. Lucas has been writing in the blog and commenting about fruit flies while I've been learning how to "cast-on" Grandma Obringer's yarn onto knitting needles. As some of you know, this is my Antarctic dream--knitting in warm clothes and drinking warm drinks all of which is coming true today.
Tomorrow, Lucas and I will have been in Antarctica for two whole weeks.

Antarctica has it's own incredibly strange sense of both time and place. A few days ago, while walking home from skua ( a skua is a scavenger bird in the Antarctic region as well as a funky free "thrift store" where you can get anything from clothes to VHS movies about the turkey federation), the wind was blowing so hard that it created this cloud of snow crystals--when the sun hit the ice crystals they looked like phosphorescent light in the ocean at night, except it was in the atmosphere at ten p.m... In-between the buildings, the mountains glowed pink and gold in the distance with the wind picking up snow-- a sand storm/snow storm-- a frozen desert--I finally understood what that means. It was really cool to see and experience a remnant of the ice age-- and at the same time, there is a reason why homo-sapiens only have small colonies on this continent-- it's too harsh, not really for us, and we probably shouldn't be here. I don't think I've ever felt so unwanted by nature before-- and I've never felt my mammal-ness; my homosapien-ness so much.

Today we went for a hike (I did leave inside)--Gorgeous, absolutely gorgeous....and so so cold. Lucas had ice crystals in his beard and our water froze...the frozen ocean had these super cool ice miniature plate tectonics in action.

Being a lunch lady is getting better. I'm still decompressing from doing crisis work and have to remind myself still that messing something up is not the end of the world-- that I am in fact, a lunch lady. I'm not a great lunch lady, either, which has been a little hard on the ego... I've tried to bring lots of awareness into my day and notice my thoughts and how other people affect me and making sure I let it go. it's really not worth it. I had one of the lead lunch ladies try to tell me how to cut tin foil in a more efficient way to place on large cookie sheets. The long and the short of it is that I had found the fastest way, but he had to try his way (which I already tried)--I just sat back at watched him. Again, this is my biggest problem and I'm really enjoying it--

I really like my coworkers-- they're fun and crazy and sometimes, I laugh so hard at what we're doing and where we are and how ridiculous it all is that it makes it all worth while. When in my life am I ever going to be a lunch lady again in Antarctica???? never!

being married is way more fun and way more different than I ever thought. I love knowing that I can fall more and more in love with Lucas everyday and I don't ever have to think practically about my feelings...I can just feel them and be madly in love because it's okay--we're married!! it's nice to make plans for the future without having to have any hard "where is this going" talks--I just love it! All my love to everyone! Alex

Friday, October 24, 2008

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Pets are not allowed here, neither are plants or children. The only animals we will see are penguins, seals, a few types of birds and (possibly) whales. There are no insects either. Occasionally a few bugs make it in with the fresh fruits and veggies, but they can't live outside (and we go through the freshies pretty quickly), so they don't last long.

I am assigned to work in building 121. Building 121 is an electrical supply warehouse upstairs (where I work) and beverage storage downstairs (and the band room). All the soda and beer in cans and bottles on campus is stored on the ground floor of building 121. At some point over the winter, a number of beer bottles were broke/cracked/leaked or something and created a big puddle.

So I'm not exactly sure how, but a whole lot of fruit flies found this puddle and are living in our building. I killed two flies yesterday!

As I understand, the plan is to lower the temperature in the building to the point where it kills the flies, but not so cold as to freeze the soda and beer.

Friday, October 24

It snowed today, quite a bit by Antarctica standards (it doesn't snow much here, seriously). I spent the morning finding/counting things in the flammables warehouse and the afternoon cross-referencing numbers. Alex was putting away silverware last I saw her.

I met an electrician today who came to Antarctica in the hopes of making enough money to start up his own non-electrician small business when he returns to the states.

Received an email yesterday from the safety department encouraging everyone on campus to "Please utilize this safety alert to generate a conversation about how to avoid the use of brute force in your work center. "

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Thursday, October 23

This is my boss' 9th season on the ice. When he was 40, a couple from their sailing club invited Mike and his wife to sail around the world with them. In order to do this, Mike and his wife would have to quit their solid employment and cash in their entire retirement fund.

Mike and his wife spent the next few months asking the advice of older, retired sailing friends. In the end, the consensus was that they totally had to cash in their savings and do the trip.

Mike is almost 57, working hard and loves to talk about his big sailing adventure.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Wednesday, October 22

Spent the entire day taking inventory in the flammables warehouse. I am starting to get a hang of the whole process, but still a ton more to learn. Alex is busy working hard in the kitchen and I'm getting ready to head to bed for a nap (after a late evening last night).
The temperature is 5F, we had BBQ ribs for dinner and life is pretty good.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Tuesday, October 21

Spent 4 hours being trained on how to operate forklifts (this is in addition to the 2 hours of classroom instruction received yesterday).
After work, my buddy (who has been on the ice since last October) hosted a get-together at the house on campus designated for such purposes. We made veggie sushi rolls, drank wine and previewed movies for the Banff Mountain Film Festival showing. We then headed to the bar for a get-together hosted by Alex's co-workers.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Monday, October 20, 2008

I spent the afternoon working in the 'Flammables Warehouse' - the building on campus where we store all things that are really, really flammable. My job is now the 'power/water house upgrad audit'. This essentially means I will spend the next 4 months opening boxes, counting and confirming part numbers. The upgrade supplies have been spread accross campus, so I will get an opportunity to work in multiple warehouses and a number of 'Outside Storage Areas'.

The fire suppression system in the flammables warehouse (which covers the entire inside of the warehouse with some type of foam-powder stuff) has been disabled because it has accidently gone off twice in the last five years.


Sunday, October 19, 2008

Alex's first post

This is my first post to any blog ever.
I'm sorry I have not been as faithful as Lucas, but I will try to get better. The last month or so has been so intense-- We've been reconnecting with friends and family and doing so much travelling. New Zealand was/is beautiful as always. We stayed in the same hostel where we got engaged! We were only there for about two that time, we managed to meet these interesting people in the christchurch square-- one of whom (I can't pronounce or try to spell his name) invited us to the hare krishna temple for dinner-- We ended up getting a huge vegetarian meal and I saw the most gorgeous child ever-- she had these amazing dark eyes--

Our flight to Antarctica was so early in the AM-- We boarded this crazy military plane with all this cargo. It was really loud and uncomfortable. I ended up reading most of the time and trying to absorb everything that was happening. I looked out the window, at one point, and the sea was covered in ice--we were getting closer and closer.

When we finally landed, I put on all my big United States Antarctic Program issued clothes and said a small prayer as I was getting out of the plane-- The COLD was so incredibly COLD that it deserved capital letters-- the kind of cold that slaps you in the face...the kind of cold that is a presence--forcing you to always remember that it's there--it was the coldest I have ever felt so far in my life (-17 F) as I am from the south and have always hated winter-- The second thing that I was struck by was how incredibly beautiful the landscape is--A surprise to me as I've seen Lucas' pictures. They were beautiful and he would always tell me that the pictures didn't do it justice-- now I understood what he meant....

There were shuttles to come meet us and take us along with our belongings to the town of McMurdo. I tried to keep tabs on Lucas as we all looked the same in our Huge red parkas. It turns out I had met our shuttle driver, shuttle bob, in christchurch, NZ last year. Lucas and I climbed into this unheated tin can on wheels and drove to Mcmurdo-- it was too cold to take pictures, but I wish I could post a picture of this transportation device so you all could see what I was talking about...

McMurdo was not as ugly as I thought it would be. It's acutally kind of cute, in it's own way. We live in a teeny tiny room in a dorm called Mammoth Mountain Inn or MMI. It's not very mammoth at all. I really like our room and the dorm, but lots of folks complain about the size. I'm just grateful I don't have to share my room with four other strangers.

I started being a lunch lady the very next day after getting on the ICE. It turns out that I was the last and only lunch lady to arrive to the ICE so it was a little awkward for a few days. Everyone I work with is really really nice. I'm slowly making friends.

The bummer is that Lucas and I don't get to see each other very often because our schedules are different. Thankfully, I got Sundays off so we can spend one day together. The nice thing is that I get to go to the gym every morning before work and listen to "this American Life" on my I-pod. I enjoy having quiet time as life has been so busy for the last few months...

I will try to be more faithful about my posts-- my love to everyone--alex

Friday, October 17, 2008

Friday, August 17

I spent the better part of the afternoon working outside. The first time I've spent a chunk of time outside while on the job. The weather was sunny and 1F. I’m exhausted....but the weekend starts tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Tuesday, October 14

Today was our first day of work on the ice. I met my co-workers, my supervisor, the director of spply and spent the better part of the day in various trainings. I will be working for electrical supply. Basically, we have two warehouses full of anything an electrician may need to do their job. My job is "Responsible for receipt, storage, organization, inventory and issue of supplies." I think I will spend the majority of my time opening boxes and writing down what is in the box. Alex gets off work in a few minutes, so I'm off to meet her.

Monday, October 13

We arrived to fabulously clear, sunny and windless day in Antarctica. The temperature was said to -17, but it was so bright and sunny it hardly felt that cold. There is much less snow this year. We sat through a variety trainings, mostly just various people telling us how important to be safe. We settled into our room, picked up sheets for our bed and spent the evening hours rearranging our 6 pieces of furniture. Two beds, two wall lockers a desk and and a desk chair. The room is tiny, tiny; but my roommate is pretty awesome...
I am enjoying reuniting with may friends from last season.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Thursday, October 9, 11:12pm est

Going back to the ice feels different than last time. This year the group is much smaller, we don't have that one drunk girl demanding everyone's attention, and I find myself much more apprehensive than last year. My excitement and anticipation is not as overwhelming as it was last year. Last season, I believe, I was so anxious to learn what this Antarctica thing was all about and completely entranced by the entire process that any fears, concerns, worries, etc took a back seat to the novelty of the experience. This year, with novelty and anticipation lessened, I am thinking more about the upcoming hardships. I wonder if I have gotten myself in over my head with the new job, if my expectations of this season are too grounded in last year's experience. I worry what Alex's experience will be like, and to what degree our time on the ice is dependent upon each other's experience. I wonder if I will put on as much weight as I did last year, if I will get enough time to myself and what I am failing to expect.

Thursday, September 9th

Today's plan:
6 am wake up, catch shuttle at 7 am, training until noon, take the shuttle to the Denver airport, wait for hours, fly to the Los Angeles airport, wait, fly from LA to Auckland NZ, wait, fly from Auckland to Christchurch, pick up our hotel reservation, take shuttle to hotel.

Our itinerary has us arriving in Christchurch on Saturday, October 11 at 10:20 am.


Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Tuesday, October 7th

Alex and I are at the airport in Dallas, TX. We are both laying on the floor. Alex is reading a national bestseller and I am left attempting to entertain myself. We are on our way to Denver for two days of training before the long flight to New Zealand. We'll spend two days in New Zealand and are set to arrive in Antarctica on the 13th. Our mailing address will be:
PSC 469, Box 700
APO, AP 96599-1035

Thursday, September 11, 2008

September 11, 2008

We survived! Alex and I wed on August 30, 2008. We spent a few days in the mountains of West Virginia to celebrate our marriage and are now back in Chapel Hill, NC for a few weeks. As we unpack from the wedding, we are beginning to prepare for our upcoming adventure. On October 13th, Alex and I are scheduled to arrive in Antarctica, to serve as good old-fashioned work-camp laborers for 4 1/2 months. Alex has taken a job as a dining hall assistant (lunch lady) and I accepted a position as a materialsperson (described by my supervisor, "it will be like working for a large and complicated Home Depot, except in a frozen desert"). We'll see...

Our Antarctic time should bankroll us a more proper (6-month South Pacific) honeymoon.