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.