Friday, December 18, 2009

November 18, 2009

Tomorrow is Thursday, we will have been at our site for a week tomorrow. The plane only flies to our airport on Thursdays, so that's easy enough to remember. After we get off the plane, we have to find a truck to get a bumpy ride to the solwota (bislama for ocean) and then an hour long boat ride, then a short uphill walk to our house.
Our village is beautiful to say the least, we're on the side of hill beside the solwota, facing west's fantastic. Our house isn't finished being built, in fact, it has a long way to go, there's a frame and roof (most of a roof) but that's about it, we're optimistically hoping it will be finished by the end of the year. In the meantime, we are staying in a relatively modern concrete building, owned by the successful villager whose work requires he lives somewhere else. He's a provincial health director, so technically one of the big boss-man of Alex's supervisor. We're hoping he'll want to stay at his nice concrete house over Christmas and orders our house be completed...hoping.
Awkward is probably an appropriate word to use to describe the last week. The children stare at Alex and I A LOT, people regularly tell us things we don't understand, when we ask the same questions multiple times - we ALWAYS get multiple different answers. There's lots of us not knowing what to say or do. Children under the age of 5 or 6 and many of the old women in the village often don't speak bislama, only the local language.
I cut my hand (very minor cuts) multiple times trying to open these chestnut-like nuts, Alex enjoyed pointing out all the young children (ages 3 and up) who were much more efficient and much safer with a bush knife than I.
Alex and I planted some basil, mint, cilantro, lemon grass and aloe vera, and some tomatoes, literally - just squeezed some fresh tomatoes until all the seeds came out and then covered them with dirt - Does anybody know if this method might be effective?
We have two guitars with us and are finding the time to play with those everyday too, besides that, just a lot of awkward storian (that's story-on, bislama for sitting down and just talking with some one for no reason other than to story on and pass the time, Alex and I do it to make friends and INTEGRATE a buzz-word that Peace Corps uses a lot) with the locals, we're learning about the community and our bislama is getting stronger most days.
I'm going to finish now and save the precious computer battery-life.
Lukim yufala bak bakagen sam taem klosap

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

foam expanding animals

Alex and folks from the Pentecostal church, this day was the Sunday School breaking-up (closing for the year). Alex's host papa (in the blue, fully buttoned shirt), a preacher at the church, asked if we could lead one pleiplei (play play, (game)). We said yes, but weren't sure what to do with a such a mixed-age group (ages 2-14), especially since the younger children wouldn't speak bislama, (they speak only the local language). While packing in America, Alex and I had purchased these little foam pill-looking things that expand into animal shapes when put into warm water. We didn't have a clue what we would use them for, we knew we would use them with children, of course, but we didn't have any plans for how we would use them.
Anyways, we ended up doing a little toktok (talk talk) with the kids, asking them what they knew about Noah's Ark - Papa Leo translated for the younger children - then we gave them each one of the little pill-shaped-foam-things and put a bowl of water in the middle. The children had never seen the pill-shaped-foam-things before and didn't understand the connection to Noah's Ark toktok. The adults hadn't seen the pill-shaped-foam-expanding-in-water-animals before either, nor did they see the connection with Noah.
So all the kids put their pills in the water and gathered tightly around the bowl and started staring intensely. The pills were meant to be put in warm water, but we never read the instructions, so it took a while for them to expand, but the kids kept staring, their really good at staring, there was simultaneous 'ahhh' as soon as everyone realized the pills were turning into animals.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

english words in language

at some point the local language stopped developing and they just started using english words when new things came around. Alex and I get to listen to lots of speeches in language and it's kind of fun to hear the eclectic collection of english words that are thrown in, some words are to be expected like school and headmaster and concrete, but then there other words like report, boat (there's a language word for ship and for canoe, but a small boat with a motor is called a boatie), bullock (the bislama word for cow), truck, they count in english, church, and plenty more that don't come to mind now. I'll have to keep a list next time the opportunity presents itself.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

working on the house

That's my butt in the grey shorts. You can tell by the white legs. We're working on the walls of the house. I get the easy jobs - like cutting the ridges smooth on the bamboo that is to be used to make the walls. In this picture, the cement floor is finished. Workdays were happening on a weekly basis - until recently when the cement building with flush toilets took precedence over our house being finished. It's really sad.

Monday, November 23, 2009

November 23

hello everyone
alive and well in vanuatu. Peace Corps gave us a high frequency radio to use in case of emergency. Not that an HF radio is that exciting, but it came with a solar panel and battery, which is super exciting. I found the time today to hook them up and learned that peace corps sent us off with a fully-charged battery! Thanks Rodney! We recharged the Ipod, flashlight batteries, and the computer and are now working on the cell phones.

Twice weekly Alex and I and a decent portion of the village's population go and watch the ship (which comes twice a week), packages and people come and go, it's really fairly exciting to watch, today about 100 bags of cement came, sadly, our missing things did not arrive as of yet. We are still hopeful. We lost a lot of things in the package that didn't arrive, most notably, many books and a frying pan Alex and I literally spent hours walking all over Vila looking for, and the cutest cooking pot you've ever seen!

Alex and I are now official owners of an 'antap karen'. This island is essentially a hill and everyone has garden on top of the hill, alex and I have one now too! We planted pumpkins today and cleared some more space. I think we are going to try to plant some corn tomorrow. We are hoping to have a herb garden (karen is the bislama word for garden) near our house and the big karen on tap with sweet potatoes, pumpkins, corn, tomatoes and such things.

The issue with alex's papa turned out not to be an issue, I just explained to him that going to the near-Catholic church made us feel like we were at home a bit and it's important that we don't get too homesick. He seemed to think that was fair enough.

Today Alex is wondering if our time could be better spent having babies instead of hanging out in Vanuatu. We decided we'll talk about it in a year's time.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Sunday, November 22. 2009

all of our things arrived by ship yesterday, well, except the one bag and the propane tank that didn't arrive. We're hoping they were lost on the ship somewhere and they'll find them and give them to us next time the ship comes around (it comes twice a week, so it shouldn't be too long of a wait). Lots of food and kitchen supplies came, so it's been fun cooking for ourselves again. We ate baked bananas with chocolate for lunch yesterday.

Church was a bit of a story today, we decided to go to the Anglican church in town instead of the Pentecostal church. Alex's host father (we have different host families here) is the pastor at the Pentecostal church. It's evening now and we haven't seen or spoken with him yet. I'm a bit nervous as we might have our first mess to clean up in our site village. We were expecting for him to come invite us to a social gathering that's going on right now, but he never came and invited us, so we are a bit worried that we might have hurt his feelings by not attending his church. Here's hoping for the best...

In other news, our garden isn't going so well as of yet. I think we waited to long to put the seedlings we carried from Vila into the ground, most all of them appear to be dead or dying. I'm going to start planting seeds tomorrow, so wish me the best.

Alex's boss came in on the ship yesterday, so we hope to meet with her soon to start planning our future work.

Still not sure who is going to be supervising me...right now is just time for integration, I've got a few months before I need to get the lack-of-a-supervisor issue sorted.

My computer battery is down to 27%, so I'm going to call it a day.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Good ole Bethesda

A small yacht, in the Port Vila harbor, we walked past it one day on the way to a restaurant rumored to have good burritos. Alex's home town is Bethesda, Maryland.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

alive and well in vanuatu

Alex and I are proud to announce we survived peace corps pre-service training. Survive being the key was a lot of work, they had us doing presentations in a foreign language to people in the village on week 3. I certainly had some unrealistic expectations of what training would look like, it was a lot messier than I had envisioned. Alex spent a few days convinced she was going to get fired because her test scores weren't high enough (and their were plenty of test to worry about). In the end, everyone who wanted was sworn in as a peace corps volunteer this past thursday. Three people from our training class have returned to america already, all for personal reasons.
We ate a lot of rice and white bread and canned fish, but also some fantastic tropical fruits, fresh fish (including a curried shark one night that was just incredible) and plenty of root vegetables.
The tsunami warning was something else, the whole village - and neighboring villages - all headed into the bush and on top of a hill as a precaution. Some folks brought supplies to survive (suppose the tsunami did come), which really made us think.
Bislama blong Alex mo mi i stret. Tija blong mifala emi talem mifala "Bislama blong yu emi namba wan". Mifala ting se emi no gud tumas, be i stret. It's a hard language to express yourself, as it is meant to be simple, there are no words for wonderful or pretty or incredible or awful or terrible or advanced or such, there's only good and no good. Alex and I were both graded as advanced speakers, but were not as optimistic about our language skills.
We been assigned to the island of Pentecost and will be heading there in a few days. We will be in a village of 600, on the northern part of the west coast of the island. Alex will be working with the health dispensary in the village and I will be doing whatever the village wants me to do. Sadly we will not have internet access - if somebody would be willing to receive letters from us and post them on this blog, we would be so grateful...
We've got to go now, but we plan on posting more before we leave for Pentecost.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

me, Alex and mama

Alex and I with our training village host mama on graduation day, got to love matching outfits.

Friday, October 30, 2009

first visitors

Our first visitors - Doug, Kelley and Davey. Friends from Antarctica, we left the ice in February and honeymooned until we left for Peace Corps in September. These three stayed in Antarctica, spending the entire winter there. They got off the ice in October and decided to spend a couple weeks in Vanuatu. We hadn't seen them or talked to them since February. During the final two weeks before going to Pentecost, we were staying in a hotel in Port Vila. We were on our way to morning training when we here someone saying Alex's name. We look up to see Doug and Kelley sitting on the computer. Without knowing we were even in country, they checked into the same hotel, in the room right beside ours. We ended up spending a lot of time with them in Vila, even taking in some tourist attractions including a waterfall and a circumnavigation of Efate Island.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

hello everyone!!!

Alex and I are alive and well in Vanuatu. By chance, I have found myself in front of a computer for a few minutes. We have two more weeks of training (without internet access) and then off to our village for two years. We learn next week what village we'll be in. It's all pretty exciting, training is hard work most days. The place here is prettier than could have been expected and everyone is so nice. The language has come along relatively well, I feel I can speak okay with a patient listener. We'll be alright and we'll get writing on the blog as soon as opportunity to do so presents itself.

Friday, October 23, 2009


myself, training village host brother Lentley and friend Tava. This picture is from antap, when we had to run to the hills because of the tsunami warning. These two were certainly my two closest friends during training.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Alex and I with our friend Laura, got to love matching outfits. This picture was taken one Sunday morning after church.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

September 11

Alex doesn't agree with me, but I see many similarities between departing for Peace Corps and departing for Antarctica. Both involved us flying west to a city where we got on a shuttle bus that took us to hotel and then we spent the next day (or two if your going to Antarctica) in training and then a big bus takes you to the airport many, many hours before your plane leaves and you wait and try to write reflective blog entries.

Beyond that, there's this energy that comes with meeting a bunch of strangers who have been brought together for a common purpose we have all individually chosen.

We are certainly not all here for the same reasons, but there's an underlying feeling of likeness or kinship or something. I felt the same feeling with Antarctica (again, not so sure Alex would agree).

There's a lot more homogeneity with the peace corps group than the antarctica group. We are all (I'm assuming) educated and have been assigned to Vanuatu because of the handful of technical skills Vanuatu has requested. We're not trying to run a city that requires vastness of backgrounds, skills and knowledge as required for the ice.

I think there's more of a social-worky stereotype with the peace corps and less of the escapist mentality that shadows Antarctica.

Whatever the actual reality of similarities between experiences doesn't really matter, it's just fun to think about.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

3 weeks down

Today makes 3 weeks (a full 21 days!) we've been in Vanuatu. It's 7:30 on a Sunday evening and close to our bedtime. The weather has been great and everyone is so nice. We went to church this morning. The service (as is typical in this country) was done in three different languages, the local language, bislama and english. Songs are in all three languages - sometimes in the same song, our church has an entire hymn book in the local language. The bible readings switches between bislama and english, the sermon is usually in bislama. Today's reading was the passover - you know - everyone needs to put some blood on their door so the devil doesn't get them. I could kind of imagine our village getting together an organizing some type of 'blood on everyone's door' committee. Not that it's anymore relevant, but it did some how feel more possible - which I appreciated, thus helping the 3-hour service go a bit quicker.

Our training village is on the North coast of Efate island in a small village with about 500 people. We spend two hours a day in language training, but it seems to be enough as we are both doing fine with bislama, we can both make small small talk with a patient listener.

Training is training, we were warned about it before we got here. You get told what to do a lot and sometimes not all of the trainers are on the same page, so we end up spending plenty of time determining what we are meant to do. In the end, everyone wants us to do well and we'll be fine.

We're thinking of you guys...

Friday, September 25, 2009


Our host mama (from our training village) with some random (for Alex and I) children, weaving a mat. The mats they make here are fantastic, beautiful, just made of locally materials, and the mamas could make them with their eyes shut, though I can't imagine a reason you would need to make a mat with your eyes shut.

Friday, September 18, 2009

first kava

This picture is of Alex's and I's first kava experience, a gathering at the country directors house and an introduction to kava for all of the new volunteers. It's true what they say about kava tasting like dirt. After kava training and tasting we had a big feast of cheeseburgers and pasta salads and such things. One of our co-volunteers got much too [kava] drunk to be at the country director's house.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Alex's first island dress! Don't you think it's sexy?

Friday, September 11, 2009

Los Angeles

Hello Everyone! We are at training right now. We've met lots of great people and are doing the usual orientation tasks. We leave tonight for Vanuatu!

Please remember that we will not have access to technology for a while. Our trainers asked us to remind all ya'll that no news is good news. Please write us snail mail letters and we will write back...promise!

We'll post on the blog and answer emails as soon as we can.

Wish us luck!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Last Night in Maryland

Lucas writes....We fly to Vanuatu tomorrow. The living room of Alex's parents is currently taken over by our packing activities. There is literally clothes, electronics, books and plastic bottles everywhere. We bought snorkeling gear and limited ourselves to 10 books each. Alex picked up a how-to book and an educational DVD on how to play the guitar, she's hoping to get a cheap guitar in country as to sing me love ballads every night before she sleeps. We bought some Uno cards and colored pencils to bribe children (for friendship) and some cheap solar-powered calculators to bribe adults.

We expect to be up late packing tonight...

Alex and I have had a beautiful time these past 2 and a bit months, visiting many (though not all) of our favorite people. Except for one Antarctican we (by chance) ran into in a bar in Pittsboro, NC and a girl we met in New Zealand that we saw (by chance) at a puppet show in Chapel Hill, all of our visits were with friends we hadn't seen since we left for Antarctica nearly a year ago. Everyone was so kind and it felt good to be so loved and welcomed by so many sweet, gifted and wonderful people.

Much happens in a year, many of our friends are starting families, my niece is walking, friends have moved and switched jobs and found new loves. My grandmother celebrates her 90th birthday with all 16 of her children (and probably most grandchildren and great-grands) next month. One of Alex's good friends is having a baby this week and two of the closest people in her life announced engagements (one was a technically only a announcement of the inevitability of an engagement, but that's besides the point) last week. The point is a lot is going to happen in the next two years and knowing that we will be warmly welcomed into so many homes (and by so many amazing people) when we return home is a big deal.

Love you guys, wish us luck and pray for us.

At 12:15 am Alex writes: I am printing out the last of the paper work we need to go abroad. All our bags are packed and ready to go. I told my grandmother goodbye and we both cried. I ate ice cream with an old friend on a bench yesterday...We've known each other for fifteen years and can still talk until 1:30 a.m.

I can't believe that our friend and family tour is over! I loved seeing those folks we could catch and I hate it that there are folks we couldn't catch this time around (Julie, Joey, Mike and family, Lorena, Jen...and so many others)

There should be a word for feeling scared and excited all mixed up together. It's a delicious feeling...I am enjoying it.

Today at the dinner table, my mom reminded me of the two peace corps volunteers we met in Lesotho, Africa. I had told my mom that I wanted to join the peace corps and she wanted to gather information about what this peace corps thing was all about so she invited them to dinner at our house. That was in 1997... sometimes dreams take a long time to come true.

Thank you to everyone who supported us on our way to Vanuatu. We couldn't have done it without you! We probably won't be able to post a blog entry for a little while as we will not have access to technology. Please feel free to write us letters about anything and everything! We promise to write back! All my love and hasta la vista! Alex

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

almost time to leave

Lucas writes....We fly to Vanuatu tomorrow. The living room of Alex's parents is currently taken over by our packing activities. There is literally clothes, electronics, books and plastic bottles everywhere. We bought snorkeling gear and limited ourselves to 10 books each. Alex picked up a how-to book and an educational DVD on how to play the guitar, she's hoping to get a cheap guitar in country as to sing me love ballads every night before she sleeps. We bought some Uno cards and colored pencils to bribe children (for friendship) and some cheap solar-powered calculators to bribe adults.
We expect to be up late packing tonight...
Alex and I have had an beautiful time these past 2 and a bit months, visiting many (though not all) of our favorite people. Except for one Antarctican we (by chance) ran into in a bar in Pittsboro, NC and a girl we met in New Zealand that we saw (by chance) at a puppet show in Chapel Hill, all of our visits were with friends we hadn't seen since we left for Antarctica nearly a year ago. Everyone was so kind and it felt good to be so loved and welcomed by so many sweet, gifted and wonderful people.
Much happens in a year, many of our friends are starting families, my niece is walking, friends have moved and switched jobs and found new loves. My grandmother celebrates her 90th birthday with all 16 of her children (and probably most grandchildren and great-grands) next month. One of Alex's good friends is having a baby this week and two of the closest people in her life announced engagements (one was a technically only a announcement of the inevitability of an engagement, but that's besides the point) last week. The point is a lot is going to happen in the next two years and knowing that we will be warmly welcomed into so many homes (and by so many amazing people) when we return home is a big deal.
Love you guys, wish us luck and pray for us.

Friday, September 4, 2009

september 4

So, we fly out in like six days, it's pretty soon, and we're pretty excited. We are currently at the outer banks in North Carolina and will be here for two more nights before returning to DC for a few rushed days of packing and then we're outta here Thursday morning. Our 'friends and family' tour has been fantastic, we've been able to spend a few days in the life of many of our closest friends. There's been lots of babies and young-uns on the tour and we've had lots of conversations about our baby plans. It seems a large proportion of folks believe we're going to be pregnant sooner than later. funny. We've also talked to everyone about how the economy has been treating them and it seems many are struggling - many are working less hours than they would prefer, but everyone seems like they are going to be alright at the end of they day. Alex and I are happy to ride out the recession in the South Pacific...

Peace Corps sent us a letter to pass on to family and friends, it seems fine to me and includes our address - so check it out:

"Dear Families,

Greetings from the Pacific Desk in Washington, D.C.! It is with great pleasure that we welcome family members to the 2009 Vanuatu training program. We receive many questions from Volunteers and family members regarding travel plans, sending money, relaying messages and mail, etc. As we are unable to involve ourselves in the personal arrangements of Volunteers, we would like to offer you advice and assistance in advance by providing specific examples of situations and how we suggest handling them.

1. Written Communication. (Please see #3 for the mailing address to the Peace Corps office in Port Vila, the capital of Vanuatu) The mail service in Vanuatu is not as efficient as the U.S. Postal Service; thus, it is important to be patient. It can take 4 to 6 weeks for mail coming from Vanuatu to arrive in the United States via the Vanuatu postal system.

We suggest that in the first few letters sent, the Volunteer family member give an estimate of how long it takes to receive the letters and then try to establish a predictable pattern of how often the volunteer will write. (Keep in mind that written correspondence sometimes wanes as the volunteer’s service progresses.) Also, try numbering your letters so that the Volunteer knows if one has been missed. Postcards should be sent in envelopes--otherwise they may be found on the wall of the local post office!

Volunteers often enjoy telling their “war” stories when they write home. This is one of the exciting and adventurous elements of serving as a Volunteer. Anecdotes in letters might describe recent illnesses, lack of good food, isolation, transportation challenges, etc. While the subject matter is good reading material, it is often misinterpreted or exaggerated on the home front. There are two Peace Corps medical officers at the Peace Corps office in Vanuatu. In the event of a serious illness, the Volunteer is sent to Port Vila and is cared for by our medical staff. If Volunteers require medical care that is not available in Vanuatu, they are medically evacuated to a nearby country (Fiji, Australia) or the United States. Fortunately, these are rare circumstances.

If for some reason your normal communication pattern is broken and you do not hear from your family member for an abnormal amount of time, you may want to contact the Office of Special Services (OSS) at Peace Corps Washington at 1-800-424-8580, extension 1470. Also, in the case of an emergency at home (death in the family, sudden illness, etc.), please do not hesitate to call OSS immediately, so that we can inform the Volunteer. You may call the above number during regular business hours, as well as after hours and weekends. Tell the operator your name, telephone number, and the nature of the emergency and the Duty Officer will return your call.

2. Telephone Calls. The telephone service in Vanuatu can be inconsistent at times, as well as pricey. During training, your family member may have scarce access to email, but some of the host training families may have phones in either their homes or at a nearby location. Your family member will communicate what that phone number may be.

During their service, access to email should be available—albeit not necessarily at all times. They will also be able to inform you of their telephone number once they arrive at their permanent sites in the country.

The Pacific Desk maintains regular contact with the Peace Corps office in Vanuatu through phone calls and email. However, these communications are reserved for business only and cannot be used to relay personal messages. All communication between family members and the Volunteer should be done via international mail, email, or personal phone calls, unless there is an emergency and you cannot reach your family member.

3. Sending packages. Family and friends like to send care packages through the mail. Unfortunately, sending packages can be a frustrating experience for all involved due to the high incidence of theft and heavy customs taxes. [I, Lucas, have read that including Christian propaganda on packages significantly decreases the likelihood of theft]. You may want to try to send inexpensive items through the mail, but there is no guarantee that these items will arrive. We do not recommend, however, that costly items be sent through the mail. You may use the following address to send letters and/or packages to your family member until he/she has informed of a different address:

Alex Amorin & Lucas Obringer
Peace Corps/Vanuatu
PMB 9097
Port Vila
Republic of Vanuatu

It is recommended that packages be sent in padded envelopes if possible, as boxes tend to be taxed and opened more frequently.

We hope this information is helpful to you during the time your family member is serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Vanuatu. We understand how frustrating it is to communicate with your family member overseas and we appreciate your using this information as a guideline. Please feel free to contact us at the Pacific Desk in Washington, D.C. if you have any further questions. Our phone numbers are 1-800-424-8580, ext. 2523 or 2502, or locally, 202-692-2523 or 202-692-2502.


Shelley Swendiman
Pacific Desk
Country Desk Assistant

Dear Prospective Volunteer: Please give this letter to your family and
ask them to hold on to it for as long as you are in Vanuatu."

Here's hoping for lots of loving letters...and we promise to write everyone we receive letters from...

Sunday, August 30, 2009

one year anniversary

Today we have been married for one year. It's been really fun.

Saturday, August 15, 2009


Alex and I received our tickets to Vanuatu. We leave for L.A. on September 10th, spend a day (the 11th) in training and fly at 9:30pm (on the 11th). We have a 3-hour layover in New Zealand and then a 3 1/2 hour flight to Vanuatu.

We're excited about it all. The plane tickets make it feel more real. We've still have a few more items to purchase/find and plenty more friends to visit and then we're off to our island.

We find ourselves spending a lot of time reading about Vanuatu on the Internet. I've made up some index study/flash cards with vocabulary words for the new language. We'll spend ten weeks in language training. The language we'll be learning is bislama. It's a pidgin English. 95% of the words are of english orgin, so, in theory, it should be a relatively easier language to learn.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

saying goodbye and shopping

We said goodbye to my parents, I will be 35 and sun-tanned next time I see them. Before returning to America a month ago, I was super-excited (more so than one may expect) to see my parents. Saying goodbye to my parents a few days ago was much sadder than I had anticipated as well. My dad told me to make sure "neither of you do anything stupid" and mom gave us a packet of pepto-bismol.

I act much more like a bratty 13-year-old during visits to my childhood home. There's something about being around one's parents that always makes me act in such a way. Alex acts that same way around her parent's too, so I guess maybe it's kind of normal.(?)

We've spent the better part of the last two days shopping. $425 later we have almost everything we need for two years on a South Pacific island. We bought flip-flops, the thinnest t-shirts we could find, long skirts for Alex and rain covers for our backpacks - very different than shopping for Antarctica.

Monday, August 3, 2009


Alex and I are at the village library in Rockford, OH. Checking emails and such things. Alex is on facebook and I figured it's been a while since we've blogged.

During the past 3 1/2 weeks we have hosted a garage sale, attended a mostly-amish company's picnic, spent hours playing with our neice, toured Detroit, listened to rainbow relaxation tapes, sold quail at a flea market, toured an industrial chicken barn, went shopping for island clothes in Ann Arbor (Michigan), watched relay go-cart races, walked a 5K run, harvested blueberries, drank beer and talked politics with a priest, ate a lot of ice cream, painted a bench and began learning a new language.

There's something special about immersing oneself into another's life. Something really special.

We fly to D.C. tomorrow.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Childhood memories...

Alex and I have spent the better part of the last three days sorting through all things remaining in my childhood bedroom as well as everything I put in storage in a spare bedroom of my parent's home (aka "the toyroom") four years ago before leaving for Scotland. We're having a garage sale tomorrow, July 18, from 8-4. Stop by for a visit if you are in the area (and buy an old t-shirt for only 50 cents!!). We'll be sitting by a campfire and drinking a few beers.

We're heading to Michigan sometime in the next couple days to visit some of our friends. All is going well. We'll start our Vanuatu packing after we get back from Michigan, then off to DC to visit Alex's family. Okay, there's a mouse in the kitchen so I'm outta here.

Monday, July 13, 2009


hey everybody,
sorry the blogs haven't been coming regularly. We've been at my childhood home, in Ohio, for the past few days. We have done several outings with my family, and I've been surprised by the number of folks mentioning having read this blog.
So a lot has happened in the past week. We spent a week in California, visiting Alex's cousin. We spent the fourth of July drinking wine, eating crab and posing for pictures under the American flag. We went shopping at several charity shops (I scored a new pair of gorgeous shoes for $6) and mostly just enjoyed the weather and our return to the states.
Last Wednesday we flew into Dayton, Ohio. We ran (walked) a 5K with my mom (my time was 50 minutes and 1 second), attended a go-cart race with my Dad, visited lots of relatives at a family reunion, helped mom buy old furniture and received our official peace corps invitation to serve for the next two years in ....(drum roll).... Vanuatu!!! Here's to not eating canned turkey tail for two years!
We were hoping for (and sort of expecting) Vanuatu, it seems like a good placement, we leave on September 12th, so we have just over two months in America. We plan to spend some time with my parents and some time with Alex's parents and visiting friends.
Starting September 12th, we will have three days training in the states (I'm guessing mostly paperwork and safety briefings) and then we head to Vanuatu for 10 weeks of training. During this time we will learn more specifically about our assignment, start learning the local language and begin to understand the culture of the land. After the first 5 weeks or so of training, we will go on a visit to our proposed site and finally learn where we will be spending the next two years of our lives. After training, we move to our site, spend the first two months living with a family and then get our own place.
Alex's position is community health extensionist and my position is small enterprise development advisor. Peace Corps sent us pages and pages of information to read, plenty more forms and about 5 more essays to write...good times. We've finished the readings and Alex has started in on the essays.
Vanuatu is an island in the South Pacific, it's a chain of 83 different islands, sort of between Australia and Fiji, north (well north) of New Zealand. Most of the 83 islands have their own language while everyone speaks a pidgin English known as Bislama. We'll have 10 weeks to learn enough of the language to get ourselves started. I'm intimidated about learning the language, though it's said to be a relatively simple language. Internet research suggest the people are really happy, the houses are simple and pretty, Alex will have to dress conservatively (think long skirts and the occasional mu mu). Vanuatu is known for it's kava, a narcotic drink the consistency of mud. I've seen canoes in pictures. They eat a lot of sweet potatoes, coconut milk, plantains, and such.
Alex is super excited about the fresh mangoes and pineapples.
We plan to stay in Ohio for the next few weeks and hit up Michigan to see Andrea and Luke (and belly). We will then be in DC for a while and hope to get to North Carolina to see so many of our friends we miss so much!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

On the way HOME

Alex and I spent a total of a month in Australia, dividing the time between three organic farms and Alex's uncle (technically mother's cousin) and his daughter. We stayed at an orchard, a sheep farm/cut flower/seedlings and a baker/permaculture instructor/endangered and indigenous foods importer. Among other adventures, I found myself helping butcher a couple sheep one week and kneading 150+ loaves of bread the next. We enjoyed the farms, but even more so I enjoyed meeting Alex's kin. Rafael headed to Australia roughly the same time that Alex's mother headed to America. It was neat to see the similarities and have experiences with Rafael and Daisy that were similar to visiting Alex's parents.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Patience is a virtue...

Hello everyone! Lucas and I are at my tio Rafael's house reading and relaxing before the asado tonight. An asado is a traditional barbecue in the pampas regions of South America and for me is what my family does when they get together. This asado will have a tango theme as my uncle has become a tango fanatic.

Lucas and I have had reliable and FREE internet access for the last few days. I have been checking my e-mail every morning hoping that the peace corps will tell us what country we will be living in for the next 27 months and when we will be leaving. As of yet, we are still going to the South Pacific and we are leaving in September.

I know that the two programs that leave in September 2009 in the South Pacific are Micronesia Palau and Vanuatu. There could not be two more opposite programs. Micronesia Palau has had several volunteers terminate their tour early, so much so that the Peace Corps sent consultants to try to help them out while Vanuatu has the highest extension rate of any country in the Peace Corps. In Micronesia Palau, the main diet are things like turkey tail and SPAM with little access to fresh fruits and veggies while in Vanuatu most everyone has their own garden and fruit trees. We can eat pineapple with ZERO guilt because we are eating locally and in season! In Micronesia Palau married couples live with a host family their whole tour of service while in Vanuatu, we will have our own teeny tiny house. In our travels, we've talked to people that have gone to Vanuatu, and the first thing they say are how wonderful the local people are. I can go on and on.

As you can probably tell, I've spent lots of time researching our destiny on the internet. One of the best things I've run into where other people's peace corps blogs.

These are my people.

All the blogs reflect the process that Lucas and I have had to go through and it feels really great to know that we are not the only people who are obsessed with how hard it is to sit with the unknown (it's harder for me than for Lucas). And there's something else-- I feel like I am a part of this special community of people that are an interesting mix of crazy and incredibly responsible. The application process is long and competitive and not everyone would be willing to leave their comfort zone for twenty seven months.

I'm excited for my future colleagues!

Most of all, I feel so grateful that I will be sharing one of the most life-changing experiences of my life with Lucas (Hopefully in Vanuatu!!!!). We've made the decision that we will go anywhere we're sent and that we won't stay if it's really really bad (like if we are eating turkey tail every day, are being completely unproductive in our assignment, our host father is a total jerk, and there are no redeeming reasons to stay one minute longer).

For now, though, we look forward to learning more about organic and biodynamic farming! It's been a super fun honeymoon so far!
All our love to everyone!!!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Rafael & Daisy

Alex and I are living the good life in Adelaide, Australia. We are visiting Alex's Uncle (technically Alex's mother's cousin) who immigrated to Australia (from Uruguay) ~40 years ago. Rafael has a South American/Australian accent, drinks matte every night, has cases of wine in the kitchen, cooks asado every Tuesday and goes tango dancing three to four times a week. Rafael's daughter, Daisy, is finishing her last year of university and has a banking job lined up for after graduation. They are both super nice and accommodating. Alex is very much enjoying catching up on family gossip and I am reminded of my insufficient (nearly nonexistent) Spanish skills. We are both enjoying feeling at home for a bit.

Friday, May 22, 2009


Alex and I have spent the last two weeks on organic farms, working a few hours a day for room and board, and to learn something about the industry. We've been pulling weeds and harvesting salad greens in a greenhouse most recently. Spent this morning at the Farmer's's now nap time since we woke at 5am this morning.
We head to Australia in 7 days...our New Zealand time is coming to an end...

Friday, May 8, 2009


Walking down the trail seems to give one lots of time to think, which is nice if you have nice things to think about and not-so-nice when your thoughts aren't so nice.

Fortunately, being on my honeymoon, I've had lots of nice thoughts to think about.

Alex and I like to dream about what our future holds for us - our careers, our family's values, our future shack, financial, lifestyle priorities and such things...And we've had lots of time to think.

We've been reading this book together, the author used the phrase "season of speculation" to describe gardening in the winter time. It struck both of us that this time in our lives is very much that. I like this time.

Alex and I just finished a 4-day/3-night hike. We essentially circumnavigated the volcano from the Lord of the Rings movies (Mount Doom). The landscape was mostly rocky and exposed (no trees). The weather was windy but nice on the first day and then we were beaten with rain, hail, snow and lots of freezing rain (all with heavy winds, making everything come at us sideways). There is absolutely no denying it's winter (or at least late autumn). We were walking over frozen puddles and through snow on the last day of the hike. I think we've walked our last tramp in New Zealand. We are back in Auckland (same room as last time I blogged) for a day or two to check out the city and they heading north, hoping to wwoof.

Friday, May 1, 2009


hey everybody,
Alex and I flew to the North Island this afternoon. We're at a hostel in downtown Auckland, the largest city in the country.

On our date this evening, Alex and I chose to go to the Mexican restaurant in town, maybe we're a little homesick, or just ready for a something different. We realize that the South Pacific isn't necessarily known for it's Mexican cuisine, but we figured it would be fine. Turns out south pacific Mexican cooking uses a lot of soy sauce, yep, lots of soy sauce. It wasn't even Asian-Mexican fusion, just beef covered in a rich, thick, sweet soy sauce with flour tortillas on the side. It was a fine meal, just in no way Mexican.

We appreciate all the emails about the pig flu, thanks for all your concerns. We promise to wash our hands and not touch anyone.

We're heading out of town tomorrow, without a plan as of yet. We're considering WWOOFing (willing workers on organic farms) for a couple weeks. We've been reading a book about gardening, and it's sort of inspired us to want to meet folks living the sustainable farm dream.

We're doing well and have no flu-like symptoms.

Sunday, April 26, 2009


We are certainly entering into Autumn in beautiful New Zealand. The air has a new crispness about it, the leaves are changing and the nights are downright chilly. I bought a wonderful down jacket last week. I've missed the last two years worth of Autumns, leaving for Antarctica in early October. This one feels extra special, I love the smell of Autumn, a smell I'd somehow forgotten about until last week.

Alex and I are in Christchurch. The weather is gorgeous outside, but we are both sitting in an internet cafe with a rather long list of computer tasks. It's quite depressing to be honest. We have additional issues to deal with for Peace Corp medical clearance, we're changing our plane tickets, planning the Australian leg of our honeymoon, checking email and such things.

Our last trip was by bicycle. We spent 4 days biking 150 kilometers of a former train rail line. The trail is quite popular and passes through a rather poor and rural section of NZ. The trail has virtually saved the tiny communities along the former train route. The scenery is lovely and picturesque, and with the Autumn colors was a real treat. It's a significantly dry area and the land is only good for grazing herds, mostly sheep, some cattle and deer. We enjoyed four days of calm, sunny, crispy autumn weather. There's something truly romantic about riding a bicycle side-by-side with the love of your life. I think that's why it's regularly in the movies as part of two people falling in love. It all makes sense now.

Alex and I fly to the North Island on the 1st of next month. We hear it's very different from the south island.

Friday, April 17, 2009


Hi everyone! We put some photos of our tramps on the blog. We put the pictures on the corresponding entries so you'll have to scroll back through to see them. Note that all the black spots on Lucas' shirt on the Rees-Dart track pictures are an awful biting fly known as the sandfly. We are convinced that the sandfly is the sole reason why the south island is still so wild and beautiful. I hope you enjoy!

I have never in my whole life experienced mud in this way. Eighty percent of the trail is mud (from ankle deep to over knee deep) and the other twenty percent is gorgeous beaches. Mud became a way of life from talking about it during and after the day's walk to scrubbing it off boots, rinsing out socks, and washing off what we could from our pants and shirts. Lucas and I would usually spend ten minutes in the nearest river getting the big bits off before we would go to the hut to tackle the smaller bits. Lucas' pants are still a new color and my shirt is tie-dyed with brown blotches!

This picture was taken right as the tide was going in on Mason's Bay. A beautiful wild of the many we walked through.

In many ways, this walk was an incredibly emotional one for me. The mud was hard, the track was exhausting as it had all these sharp hills and so so many roots. The weather was incredibly variable--in less than an hour we had hail and then the sun came out and it turned so hot and then it hailed again. We must have changed clothes at least four times...and then there were moments like these where the beauty of the landscape was unimaginable...To the right of this veiw, you could see the whole sand dune valley and it made the whole day worth it.

Lucas and I couldn't believe the ammount of people that came on this tramp! We thought we would be the only crazy fools that would undertake such a hike! This was our main crew: Three Germans ("team Germany") and two Canadians ("team Canada"). The picture above shows all of us in a four person bunk. We all ended up sleeping together because the hut was over-full. The night before, it was just the seven of us. The Germans made a fire and we all sat around drinking tea and drying out are clothes and boots. The night before that, we were all stuck in a hut with these JERKS for hunters that took over the whole hut and were boated in from the mainland with all their stuff.

Thursday, April 16, 2009


Hello Everyone!
Thanks for the comments and the emails, it's always good to hear from you guys. We are alive and well after a demanding 12-day tramp through beaches, MUD and boulder gardens. We arrived in Dunedin last night and plan to spend a bit of time off the trail. We are both tired from the Stewart Island trip. We saw our first wild kiwi, a dead penguin, lots of hail, knee-deep mud and pretty beaches. We met lots of trail friends and ate a whole lot of rice and lentils. I think I've had enough powdered coconut milk to last me a few months....

We've got pictures to upload and lots of stories to share. However, first I need to find something to eat.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Stewart Island

We arrived on Stewart Island this afternoon to do a tramp we've been talking about since this time last year. The tramp takes the average hiker 10 days, we've packed 14 days worth of food. It's a classic hike. Most folks we talk to that have done the tramp say they are glad they did it but they would never do it again. The trail is said to be ankle-to-knee deep mud most of the way and the sandflies are heavy. The weather is calling for rain for the next 10 days, so it'll be interesting. We'll see...

We hitched a ride on a jet-boat to get across a major river crossing on our last hike. Funny!

No card reader to post pictures from this island, but soon..

Monday, March 30, 2009

Milford Sound

We just finished a 10-day hike yesterday and hitched into Milford Sound. It's not really a town, just a pub, a lodge and a information/booking place. We might take a boat ride to see the sound and then were going to start heading towards Stewart Island for a long tramp there.

Our laundry is starting to take on life of it's own. It no longer even smells remotely clean after we wash it. I dunno. I think it's combination of a whole lot of funk, cheap laundry soap and over-used/under-maintained washing machines. Either way, we stink.

Besides that we are doing well, feeling stronger on the uphills and confident in what we're doing.

We'll get some pictures posted soon.

pics from our last tramp...

Thursday, March 19, 2009


Takaka is in the far north of the South Island, Queenstown is in the far south. Alex and I spent the last four days on the road traveling from Takaka to Queenstown (13 hours driving time). We met a commercial fishing boat chef on his way to a 6-day shift on the boat, a man on his way to 4 days of coal mining, a young American girl who is trying to immigrate to New Zealand, a Indian couple from the UK that travels the world working in the oil industry, a local farmer who was proud his kids don't get bored on the farm on weekends, an accountant on his way to meet with some important money people and probably a few more I'm not recalling. All of the New Zealanders shared a common love for the 'native bush', from coal miner to accountant all could point out the native trees, the native birds and tell us the history of the land.

We spent one night on a beach in the middle of nowhere and enjoyed the first campfire of this trip. We had lunch at a salmon farm. We had this sandwich the call 'white bait', which is sort of like a bunch of minnows fried in egg. We past oceans, mountains, beaches, native bush and waterfalls. We spent hours on the side of the road, attempting to entertain each other while waiting for a ride.

We've been eating a lot of cheese, tomato and avocado sandwiches and Alex has had a nice cup of coffee every morning.

Sunday, March 15, 2009


Hello everyone! Lucas and I got back from the Abel Tasman sea kayak/tramp trip yesterday and are now in Takaka, which is in the North West corner of the South Island at a hostel.

We had a lovely three day sea kayaking trip. The water was an incredible shade of blue and the coastline was a mixture of golden beaches and carved out cliffs. One of the major highlights was seeing a seal colony with baby seals. THEY WERE SO CUTE!!!!! We had one seal that kept swimming around our boat until we left the reserve.
On the third day, we dropped off our boat and slipped on our backpacks and continued on foot. I loved the way we did this trip as we got to see the coast line from two different perspectives.
There was something really special about this walk as we were so aware of the tides (they dictated whether or not we could cross the estuaries when we were on foot and dictated whether or not we had to drag our heavy boat to the high tide line). Also, there were so many amazing little ecosystems going on everywhere...We spent a lot of time looking at all the sea critters and birds.
Tomorrow, we are going making the long trip south to Queenstown to do eight days of tramping on three different trails. I will miss this wild little corner of the South Island. This is where we spent most of our time last year and somehow, we ended up here again. We really know it.
Lucas is chopping up peppers right now and I should go and help make dinner. We are having gnocci with mushrooms, peppers, garlic, shallots, and tomatoes. All my love, Lucas and Alex

Sunday, March 8, 2009

back in town

hello all,
Alex and I just rolled into town last night. First thing we did was shower, then get something to eat (pizza and beer), now checking email. Our hike ended up taking 9 days (I think, you kind of lose track of time). The hike was great. This corner of the country is really tropically feeling, lots of ferns and fern trees and just super green and palm trees and ferns growing out of the sides of trees, maybe how I would picture the northwest US (though I 've never been to the northwest US). The birds (robins and fantails) like to eat the flies that you stir up and any bugs unearthed by your footprints, so they will get within 2-3 feet of you and seem to be following you down the trail with you at times, it makes me feel like the birds aren't afraid of us, like we're friends. I like to imagine that's how the world used to be, when everyone had enough and we didn't have to be afraid of each other.

The trail was an adventure, our second day out had super heavy rains, numerous stream crossings (including one that was almost waist deep in a pool underneath this giant waterfall) and a saddle pass. Our boots were dripping wet the entire trip. We met lots of super cool people from all over the world, some out for a few days and others on a once-in-a-lifetime super vacation. Met a young Frenchman who was in the middle of a year-long vacation. We ate well, including some free food (one two different occasions) and some beers from a group of fishermen who had helicoptered in to fish trout in the local river.

Our next trip is sea kayaking in the Abel Tasman National Park. We'll spend today doing laundry, buying groceries and taking care of the trip planning details, spend tomorrow night in the town near the trailhead and hit the the trail Wednesday.

We are doing well.

Alex sends her love

Friday, February 27, 2009

zero day

Yesterday, Alex and I took our first zero day (no walking) of our backpacking honeymoon. A 20-year old German girl gave us a ride to the town we are in now on her way to her new job at a dairy farm. We catch a bus in an hour to the trailhead to start our next hike. It's beginning to rain as I write with forecast calling for heavy rains tomorrow. (Maybe another zero day on the trail?)

Hey Everybody! This is Alex writing now-- I want to wish my mother a happy happy birthday (our today--her tomorrow)! The last week and a half has been so so fun! It's been so great not being a dish washer and not having to wake up at five am every day... Antarctica feels like a dream now...
Our last hike, the St. James Way, was beautiful and right at my fitness level (easy walking--only 66 km. We spent the night yesterday with two Antarctic friends that picked us up from the trail head. We've been letting go and letting God when it comes to our transportation from town to town and it's working out pretty well so far. Lucas and I take five minute shifts standing out on the side of the road and trying to hitchhike. I get really bashful asking people for a ride; I think Lucas is a bit more of a natural, but he would disagree. Yesterday, it only took us eight minutes from first thumb out to getting in a car!

We are leaving soon for the Leslie-Karamea tramp that will surely kill me. It is seven to nine days of walking on some rough, mountainous terrain with a pretty intense river crossing (wet boots and hopefully not a wet pack). This hike will put us in a good spot to get up to the Abel Tasman region where we will do a lovely 5 day sea kayaking trip and we can get a tan and look healthy again.

We won't be able to blog for the next ten days or so (maybe twelve if the rain keeps up)--All our love, Alex

Thursday, February 26, 2009

back in town

Alex and I spent the last six days hiking our first trail in New Zealand. We finished the trail and hitched to the campground we're at now. Many thanks to Karen and DJ from Antarctica, who picked us up and brought us here. We enjoyed talking with them, they are considering the Peace Corps and they just got married on Christmas day on the ice this year.

We asked the DOC (department of conversation - the park service of New Zealand) for an easy hike to help us get in shape. The hike was exactly what we wanted. The trail stayed in the valley mostly the whole way, but super pretty with mountains surrounding us. Lots of cows. We met some nice folks and spent multiple nights with a couple who works at some huge industrial mines in Australia. Alex and I were feeling the few hills we walked, but we did alright. Hoping to get on the next trail tomorrow or the next day.

Feeling rushed with this blog entry as we are again paying by the minute...

Alex was able to get her polio booster shot in Christchurch, so we've gotten all the medical stuff taken care off for Peace Corps and we just have to wait for our contract offer.

Friday, February 20, 2009

New Zealand

Alex and I are safe and alive in rainy New Zealand. We are back in the world of paying for the internet by the minute and having to buy food. We are starting off our honeymoon with an easy 5-day trip. all our love alex and lucas 40 second and I pay more money----

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

it's time

It is our last morning in Antarctica, probably forever. Our flight is scheduled to leave the ice at 4:15pm. It's bitter and sweet. We are sad to say goodbye to so many fascinating and special people, but we are tired. Our bodies need humidity and rest and reasonable diets.

Before we met, Alex and I both dreamed of an extended honeymoon. We've worked hard for it. We've felt work days drag on forever, antarctic COLD and sore hands from washing too many dishes.

It's been amazing and exotic too. Our memories will be of our friends, our hiking trips, conversing/hanging with Alex while she knit, trips to the wine bar and the mountains.

The honeymoon will be the longest I've ever lived out of a backpack.

Hey everyone! This is Alex...Yesterday I washed my last dish and scrubbed my last pot. It was my last painful five am morning wake-up (no matter how much sleep I got the night before, every morning hurt), it was the last time I had to mop and sweep the floor and take out the trash. It was the last time I had to wear my ugly outfit and be on my feet for nine hours straight. My DA days are officially over. Lucas was a doll and came to volunteer on my last day of work since he had the day off and I still had to work (see picture)...

I've been waiting and wishing for this day to come. Some days more than others. And then my friends started leaving...and I realized how much I've grown to love these people; there's something about group trauma bonding...and now it's my time to go and I'm realizing how much I love this place, too... With everything and all of it, I would have to agree with Lucas that it IS a special place... It breaks my heart a little that we will probably never come back (maybe when our unborn children go to college...)

It's been a really great way to start our marriage. Lucas and I have had way more good times than bad...we lived happily in a tiny room the size of a matchbox. I think we'll be fine in the peace corps!

For those of you who have known me for a long time, living out of a backpack for five and a half months is a BIG LIFE DREAM!!!!! I can't believe I get to share that with the man I love.

We haven't heard anything yet from the Peace Corps. We will let you all know the second we hear something.

Thanks to everyone who sent us snail mail, e-mails, packages, and commented and read our blog. Thank you especially to our families who have been such a source of both logistical and emotional support. We could have never done all of this without you! Next time you read this blog, it will be all about our honeymoon! All our love and bye to Antarctica! Lucas and Alex

We plan to continue blogging at this address.

Friday, February 13, 2009


Alex's penguin

the supply vessel

Lucas' coworkers

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Penguins and computer screens

Alex is still working as hard as ever in the kitchen. The town population has decreased significantly but the number of dishwashers has as well.

Alex saw an Emperor penguin two days ago. I think it helped make this place feel more like Antarctica and little less like a giant kitchen full of dirty dishes.

I've finished couting things and now spend my working day entering the data into several different reports. I had the worst headache yesterday after staring at a computer screen for 10 hours.

We are both doing well and can count the number of days we have left on one hand. (We fly north on the 18th).

The temperature outside is 9F with heavy winds (-8F windchill). Looking forward to some sunny, humid days in New Zealand next week.

Monday, February 9, 2009


I've finished with the 12-hour shifts. The supply vessel is scheduled to leave sometime today and all of the Navy boys who flew down to unload the vessel were on the plane outta here this afternoon. For the next two weeks, we will be seeing planes flying folks home every other day until the last flight on February 23.

I have today and tomorrow off. I slept for about 20 hours today. Not sure what I'll do tomorrow, as the weather isn't so favorable for out-of-doors activities. The weather website isn't working, but I bet it's -10F at least.

Friday, February 6, 2009

It's the final countdown!

Hello everyone! There is a HUGE snow storm outside right now. My head hurt all day which usually means there is some sort of barometric pressure change.
So much is going on right now!
Lucas and I mailed out our Peace Corps medical packet a few days ago which means that we are done with the application process except for my polio booster that I will get in New Zealand. Once we send proof of vaccination in, we'll have to wait six to eight weeks and we'll know where we are going! Lucas and I hope it's Vanuatu, but we keep hearing that anything can happen-- for all we know we may be spending the next 27 months in Uzbekistan! Anyways, I'm excited to have work that is meaningful again.

Our time in Antarctica is coming to an end and I am having lots of mixed feelings. In so many ways I am really ready to get off this dead volcanic rock and ice block. I am tired of waking up at five in the morning six days a week and working ten hour days. I am tired of the sun always shining and having dry skin all the time.
Yet, the mountains in the far-off distance are so beautiful; i see them everyday on my way to work. I love walking to hut point after dinner and seeing seals and looking for whales and penguins with Lucas. Sometimes, I really like washing dishes and pots-- it's a great way to think and pray.
I've learned a lot about myself doing this type of work... It's been nice to laugh at myself--there are some things that are so very "me". I walk around the galley with the same cup of coffee all day and I raise my hand during stretch break to point out ways that our systems could run smoother even if I really don't want to care at all. I bring a backpack to work full of everything you can think of and I walk slow. My lunch lady friends can very easily believe that I drive a car slow too.

I've enjoyed my co-workers. Most of them are way younger than I am and it's kind of fun to be the old married lady that goes to bed at 8 p.m. Today I almost cried looking at their sweet faces--it will never be the same... not like this... ever again. Every ending always evokes every other ending for me... so bittersweet... I am so grateful for such a wonderful life.

Sometimes it's hard for me to be around all the different kinds of energy here. There are people who are lost and running from something either internally or externally; there are people who are bravely taking their lives into their own hands and having a big, wonderful adventure to the farthest corner of the world; there are people who are older tradespeople and journeymen making a living; there are orphans who no longer have families that they are attached to, and there is everybody in between. It's a like a bunch of peter pans and lost boys(girls) decided to come to Antarctica to see what it would be like . Every person here is transitory and outside of their every day lives... Lucas loves this-weird-antarctic-energy. He loves this community. Loves it. He likes that there are all these random people in such an isolated place...

It's the weirdest commune on the planet hands down.

I, on the other hand, don't love it. I don't love the culture--there's too much drinking and debauchery for my tastes... and I've met lots of people that I think are amazing and enjoy seeing everyday. There are so many of these contradictions that it makes my head hurt in the pot room.

I'm sad that Lucas and I probably won't come back. With all of it and everything, I would come back again. The amount of money we can save is fantastic and there is something special about this place... maybe because it is all about contradictions and hard edges... I don't quite know.

I'm so excited to see children and dogs. I can't wait to feel humidity and see trees and strangers. I can't wait for someone else to wash my dishes and to eat fresh food (most everything we eat expired in 2004)... and I might even miss this place... maybe a little. My love to everyone..Alex

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Vessel Offload

The supply vessel offload seems to be going slow. Mostly (as I understand) because one of the cranes is having some difficulties and all of the milvans (the big metal boxes they put everything in and load on the ship) froze together when vessel went through some nasty storms on the way here from New Zealand. I (like many) am working 12-hour days until the offload is finished, so it's sad.

Alex and I are sleeping a lot lately. It seems we are always tired when we wake up in the morning, no matter how much sleep we get. We slept 11 hours last night. We are looking forward to some serious sleeping-in in New Zealand. 1 before 1.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Supply Vessel

The supply vessel was scheduled to arrive about 4 hours ago. I haven't been out to see if it arrived, but it should be here. The supply ship is the final task that must happen before the season ends. Folks will start leaving in greater numbers pretty quickly after the supply vessel departs.

Campus has a bit of a different feel during offload, and this different feeling is a constant reminder that the end is near. There are lots and lots of folks (over 100) from the US Navy that were flown down here a couple of days ago to help unload the boat and a handful (~40) folks from the New Zealand Defense Forces. Many of the jobs on campus (including mine) require working longer hours help facilitate vessel offload. The bars on campus are closed down during offload and the store is only open for two hours each day.

With the constant reminder, I think it is nearly impossible not to start getting excited about returning to the land of trees, children and stars. Alex and I have started talking about what we want to eat when we arrive in New Zealand. I want to eat Avocados and expensive apples and ice cream that was made with milk, cream and sugar.

Gotta get to work.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Thursday in Antarctica

It's Thursday morning, almost 6:30am. I start work at 7:00am. I am dressed in my insulated overalls, insulated work boots and long johns. I am sitting in the computer lounge in building 155. The dining hall is in this building so it's by far the busiest building on campus. It's still pretty quiet. There are plenty of folks in the hallway that appear to have just gotten out of bed; but plenty of night shift workers too, who have been up all night and their working day is now coming to an end. Folks in the computer lounge are mostly checking emails or facebook, keeping in touch with the rest of the world. Some are searching the internet for after-ice travel plans.

There are lots of new faces in town: folks who have been in field camps/South Pole station all season and are just in town for a few days on their way home, folks who just arrived to help unload the supply vessel, and the first of the "winter-over-ers" that will be staying all winter.

The post office has advised us to tell friends and family to not mail us anything else, as it may not arrive before we leave. We have just less than three weeks until we are outta here.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Friday mornings

It's Friday morning, about 6:30am, Alex and I just ate breakfast. Alex started working immediately after breakfast and I start in about an hour. I will mostly be counting pipes and cross-referencing numbers today. Alex was in charge of making sure the food didn't run out on the serving line.

Monday, January 19, 2009


It's windy outside, 22 knots. The temperature is 14F, but with the windchill it is said to feel like -2F.

Last I saw her, Alex was busy washing plates and getting ready to start washing pots. I've been working outside all day, cutting the ends off of wooden boxes so I can count how many pipes are inside.

We went for a short hike last weekend and watched several movies. Alex did some knitting and reading. We are both tired and enjoyed the lazy Sunday.

The doctor on campus is a former Peace Corps training director. He's been super helpful, guiding us through the Peace Corps medical/dental process.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Coffee House

It's Sunday evening, Alex and I are sitting in the coffee house (aka wine bar). Alex is being responsible and writing letters to friends and family in the states. I am mostly staring off into space, people watching and complaining about my sore leg muscles. The coffee house is very cozy, it's all wood paneling on the walls and with some old-school wooden skis and sleds for decorations. There aren't any windows and the lighting is dim, giving us a chance to escape the sunlight that seems to be wearing on us more and more as the time goes along.

We have a window in our room and a black cloth that gets velcro-ed onto the window at night, but it still lets in plenty of light and, thus, never really feels dark.

Alex started knitting a hat today, her first hat attempt. She's using some beautiful yarn she bought in Asheville before we set-off for the ice.

We've decided on New Zealand and Australia for our honeymoon. Doing mostly long walks, probably more time in New Zealand than Australia.

Alex saw a penguin last week, pretty exciting.

There are a lot more seals since the ice breaker arrived.

Monday, January 12, 2009


The icebreaker arrived today, it's pretty exciting, kind of the beginning of the end. the Oden will spend the next two weeks or so breaking a big enough channel so that the fuel tanker and the supply ship can bring in everything campus will need for next season.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Sleeping outside in Antarctica...

I never in my life thought I'd come to Antarctica...I certainly never thought I would ever spend the night outside in Antarctica! Two days ago, I got the e-mail that I was selected to go on a boondoggle. A boondoggle is a morale trip for folks on station that aren't scientists. It's a big treat to be able to go on a boondoggle. I really wanted to go dive tending or learn how to drive a snow mobile, but I was chosen to go on happy camper...a bit of a misnomer.
I can't say I was too psyched to go, but I was really happy to get out of the galley for a few days. So I went and I had more fun than I thought I would. The weather was gorgeous during the day while we built an ice block wall (there were ten of us so it took a long time) and set up camp. This crazy fog rolled in later on and it became condition 2 (fourth picture) shows the fog rolling in). We couldn't see the outhouse from our camp! I slept really well considering I was sleeping outside in Antarctica.

Lucas and I went to our redeployment meeting and it's looking like we are leaving on February 18th! So soon! It's both really exciting and really sad as we're pretty sure we won't come back here.

Lucas and I got our Peace Corps medical packet (thanks mom and dad) and we'll hopefully be able to do most everything in Antarctica. This is the last big hoop we have to jump!!!! YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY! all my love--Alex

Friday, January 9, 2009

Snow Craft 1

Alex is attending the Snow Craft 1 training tonight. It's a two-day/one-night training, all about what to do if one was to get stranded for a night away from campus. The course is nicknamed 'Happy Camper'. Alex is learning how to build a snow wall to protect her from the wind, how to cook when its so cold, how to use the radios, identifying and treating hypothermia, things like that. The course started at 8:30 this morning and will finish up ~3:00 tomorrow. Alex will sleep on the permanent ice shelf tonight (which is like a glacier on top of the ocean), either in a tent or some kind of snow structure she'll learn how to build.

Good times.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

February 18th

Alex is in Yoga right now. She should be finishing up pretty soon. I'm watching the news in the dorm lounge. I spent the morning driving the forklift, mostly moving big spools of wire; and spent the afternoon on paperwork.

Alex and I found out today that we will be leaving the ice on February 18th (if the weather cooperates and supervisors don't change their mind, either of which is entirely possible). We have to attend a training tomorrow to learn everything we need to do before we leave.

The icebreaker should be reaching the ice edge this Friday, which means we should be seeing the first of the three ships by the middle of next week.

It snowed today, it seems like it's been a while since the last time it snowed.

Friday, January 2, 2009

It's Saturday!

It's Saturday and another working week is almost complete! Alex and I have started counting down our time left on the ice. We have ~47 days left.

The temperature reached a high of 39F yesterday, looking about the same for today.

Our friend, Evan - who works at the South Pole, sent us a six-pack of beer that he brewed at the pole. They get all of their water at the pole from melting the snow that's there. I'm pretty excited for the south pole brew.