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.