Friday, November 28, 2008

Break from the vacation

Well, I'm just attending to all the fun stuff like email, blogging, journal writing, and laundry (a rank lot, that) today in Alice Springs before heading out on a 3-day drive to Darwin. I had a great few days on the trip out to Ayers Rock, Kata Tjuta, and Kings Canyon. It was a little weird being on a tour, but there were some very cool folks that I got to know along the way. Anyhow, here are a couple pictures AR before sunrise and the Gardens of Eden in Kings Canyon.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

rainy day in Sydney

Well, today we have some pretty hard rain here in Sydney, so I'm taking care o' business under shelter for the time being. My flight was fine yesterday, and I spent the day wandering around town, mostly around Darling Harbour. I also finally got to see "The Dark Knight", which was groovy. Not only did I finally get to see it, but it was on an IMAX screen, no less. Town was hopping last night with all the hipsters and clubbers flouncing about in their dresses and remarkably effeminate menswear. I so drastically don't fit into that scene, whatsoever!

Anyhow, I plan to go out and see the opera house and the Bay Bridge today if the rain relents. Signing off from Sydney...

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Off to see the Wizard of Aus (tomorrow)

Buenos dias amigos!

Well, tomorrow I catch a ridiculously early flight to Sydney, Australia, where I'll actually be able to leave the airport and finally get to experience the country. I'll be there for 3 nights then wing off for the Red Center and Alice Springs. Over the course of about a week I'll make my way up to Darwin and then on to Singapore and subsequent destinations.

I arrived back in Christchurch last night and am just running some errands here in Cheech today. Since leaving Queenstown I have been to the ludicrously beautiful Milford Sound (it's actually a fjord, but who's counting) and then back across the island to Dunedin on my way to Cheech. I don't have the capacity to share any pictures from this computer, so sorry about that.

It's a strange process, this returning to the World. Farewells from friends can be a bit stressful, and you always hope that they aren't final. The Ice already seems a long way away, after just 1.5 weeks, but its effects run deeply. I think there is already some changes in me that are operating at very fundamental levels in my personality/values system. Maybe that's just me realizing I'm an idiot for leaping out of a perfectly good gondola...

I WILL see you later!

Monday, November 17, 2008

So far unemployment is a gas

Here are a few pictures to show what I've been up to thus far:

A pretty self-explanatory picture up on the side of the road while going over the Haast Pass. My sentiments exactly:

Me wearing some gear from Lord of the Rings on a tour in and around Queenstown. The cloak was insured for $10,000 because it is (allegedly) a prop actually used by Sean Astin (Samwise Gamgee) in the movies.

Me launcing myself from the 134-meter tall Nevis bungy jump outside Queenstown:

Tomorrow it's off to Milford Sound and the wonderful drive between Queenstown and that particularly scenic body of water and its surroundings. I'll be flying to Sydney, Australia on Nov. 22nd and be on the poisonous continent until the first week of December. More from the road as I can manage the internet access.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Chores done...commence relaxation

OK, so here in the lovely climes of Christchurch, NZ I have now got:

1) air tickets all the way home
2) passport-style photos for my Cambodian visa
3) all my gear shipped away that I don't need
4) anti-malarial and anti-bacterial medications for the less dulcet climes of SE Asia

With the "work" now finished, it is now time to begin this vacation in earnest. Tomorrow I'll head southwest towards Queenstown where I'll hopefully fling myself into a 400+ tall bungee jump and go on a Lord of the Rings tour. OH, SHUT UP! You'd go on one as well if it were your favorite book that you associate with your father and travel and all things good.

There are still some folks gradually coming off the Ice tonight, and other folks that have already headed to the four corners of the compass. I'm sure no small number of them will cross paths with me in the future; some definitely will for certain. It's always interesting to see just who and where you'll run into familiar faces here around town. My most intense experience upon returning to the World was smelling the plants and water as I crossed a bridge over the Avon River here in Christchurch the first night. It was like perfume, it smelled so good.

So, to quote "Closing Time", the last song that the Picardis played last Friday night at our final concert:

"Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end..."

Monday, November 10, 2008

waiting on transport

OK, so in about 2 hours we'll hop on some sort of transport out to Pegasus Field to catch a C-17 to Cheech. There are all of 14 passengers on a flight on a plane that can have two lanes of traffic drive through it. I'm sure there will be mountains of cargo to keep us company, though. McMurdo is surprisingly not all that busy, but I guess it's still relatively early in the season. It's interesting observing how people won't say "hi" to you in the halls, and how the DAs (I feel their pain) won't make eye contact with diners. I guess it's the same difference leaving my small, rural home and going to the big city where folks don't wave to each other as they pass in their cars. Anyhow, we should be to New Zealand and processing through customs and all that by like 8 or 9 o'clock this evening, and this chapter in my life will be closed.

Well, I'm going to go read a book for a while and not work. This is strange, but not unwelcome, after 13 months on the clock.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

purgatory or McMurdo-same diff

Well, we're gone from Pole, but still on the "Ice". The Ice sure looks like a lot of dirty, muddy roads here, though. I guess that's part of being back in the World, though. The flight was nice, and we went over some different stretch of the Trans-Antarctic Mountains that didn't look familiar from the other 4 times I've flown between Pole and McMurdo. It's nice and warm here, and ECW seems pretty superfluous. I can only imagine what warming up another 50-60 degrees Fahrenheit will feel like tomorrow when we arrive in Cheech. Our "bag drag" is at 8pm, and it will be loads of fun packing back up and getting weighed in for the C-17 flight on the morrow. There actually was a C-17 on the ground out at Pegasus Field when we arrived at Williams "Willy" Field, but they didn't try to put us on it. So, I took a nice shower and ate a nice dinner in the back room of the galley, and now I'm enjoying the luxury of 24/7 Internet for a while. I can't actually think of anything to read about right now, though. I'd rather be reading a book in the grass in the Botanic Gardens in New Zealand. But, I'm not on call for a fire brigade and I'm not on permanent call for any science, so (I guess) life is good.

The end draws nigh

Well, I have finished my turnover and am set to depart the South Pole for an interim night in McMurdo before flying on to Christchurch, New Zealand on Tuesday. There has been so much to do ere I could actually walk away from the job that it really has not yet sunk in that I will not be here as of mid-day today.

I started this trip back in early October 2007, and I am still here. I've been through the frenetic rush of summer, and long slog of winter, and people that have been out in the World have now returned and it is time for me to go. The station is seemingly packed full of new faces (some familiar, some not), and the galley seems to be a madhouse at meal times. Leaving is not going to be an easy thing.

I've had a lot of time to discover new things about myself that I didn't know even existed. I'm lucky that they are on the whole positive and welcome discoveries. I've found new friends, and hopefully most won't be simple acquaintances that will fade with time. I've seen and done things I never would have dreamed possible before actually living them down here at Pole.

Walking across the flight line and crossing the threshold of the LC-130 today is going to be a really difficult challenge. I want to hold onto this experience as long as possible, and a return to a bit more normal life in the World seems to be a proposition that does not shine as brightly as this has. I doubt many of you readers will be much interested in reading about me being unemployed and living out of my parents' barn come New Year's Day.

That being said, my favorite book says essentially what I'm feeling right now at the conclusion to one of the most remarkable years of my life thus far:

"For the Third Age was over, and the Days of the Rings were passed, and an end was come of the story and song of those times."
~J.R.R. Tolkien, Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

Saturday, November 8, 2008

on the bubble

Well, I still don't know exactly when I will be leaving what once was South Pole to me for over 9 months. I say "what once was", because we've been inundated with folks for the summer, and there are only just under 20 of the 60 winterovers left on station. I am supposed to find out at 3pm whether or not my boss and replacement feel comfortable letting me leave after these few days of turnover training. The next day I might be able to leave is Wednesday, based upon the flight schedule. I have a feeling that the decision will be made to keep me here until then. It stands to reason that seeing most of my friends leave and feeling crowded out of my own home by hordes of (mostly) strangers, as well as my trepidations about not having another job lined up yet, have conspired to leave me in not the best of moods. Still, it's an interesting change of perspective from a year ago. I'm sure there were winterovers that felt exactly as I do now, and it's good to keep that in mind.

More news will be relayed when it is available (and the satellite is up)...

Thursday, November 6, 2008

flight of the bumble-tech

Well, some folks that spent the winter here got to leave yesterday. A whole mess of new folks arrived, including the 3 guys that are here to replace me. I guess that should make me feel good about myself that it takes that much manpower to cover what I did this year, but right now it's just a scheduling/training nightmare. Today is pretty much being sacrificed to turning over the emergency response teams to the newbies, so science is pretty much shot (except for the fact that I still have to get all the daily science checks done on top of all the ER stuff-typical). I'm scheduled to leave on Monday now, and hopefully that date won't slide any further.

"I have a bad feeling about this..."
~Any number of characters in Star Wars

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

taking the stage one last time

Well, whether it happens tomorrow or Saturday, this will be the last time the Scroggin' Wankers or Picardis perform together. It has been a good run this winter, and I hope these summer folks take the time to show up to the concert. I'll have to find time to help set the gear up around my much-belated turnover to 3 people allegedly arriving today. I also took my last creative spin as a poster maker, and managed a pretty decent advertisement for The Scroggin' Wankers a couple nights ago:

Despite my departure being only a few day away, it still hasn't really sunk in yet. I feel like I've been here a very long time, but the end doesn't really register as being in sight. I have nothing definite planned once the new year rolls around, and that's making leaving seem a very mixed bag of good and somewhat bad. It's going to be hard to top this place for quality of living and sense of adventure. I have been very lucky to have had this time here.

If all the flights happen today, we'll have 2 LC-130 Hercules, 1 Basler, and 1 Twin Otter arrive at Pole. There are a bunch of folks set to depart, which is fine with me, as I'm tired of watching them lounge about not working for the last few days.

Adversity is the first path to truth.
~George Gordon Byron

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

hurry up and wait

Well, we're still waiting around for planes carrying replacements for us to arrive. The last few days it has been weather forecasted for here or McMurdo that has impacted the nominal flight schedule. I'm pretty much guaranteed to be here through at least early next week, if not the middle of next week, so as of Monday I'll start losing out on travel plans already made for New Zealand. At least the three guys replacing the one of me should be well rested and ready to go after cooling their heels at McMurdo for so long. It's starting to get weird being here overlapping dates on consecutive years. Deployment to the Ice now feels like ancient history, and I've still got plenty of work left to do before I am released from this contract. Below is a picture from fire school last year; I've always like things pyrotechnic:

Hey, and I just had to run off to respond to a false fire alarm in the garage! The excitement never stops at rock-em' sock-em' South Pole.