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