Archive for February, 2008

Home Again, Home Again, Jiggity-jig.

February 27, 2008

Well, it’s been a while.  So here’s the story: Things were wrapping up nicely in Antarctica.  I was doing as little work as possible.  I was planning my travels with Shane and my visits to good friends in New Zealand.  I was excited.  On the night of the 7th (the night before I was to leave Antarctica), I gathered up a gang of friends and we headed out to the Happy Camper site so that I could see the finished Quinzee that I worked on.  We hiked out to the Happy Camper site out on the sea ice and it was a beautiful evening.  The sun was shining brightly and we were all in good spirits.  

I got to go in the quinzee and let me tell you, the rest of the gang had done a great job finishing that structure.  It was HUGE.  As I climbed out of the quinzee, however, things took a turn for the worse.  I took two or three steps and the next thing I know, my ankle turns inward and I collapse on the ice.  It hurt like hell.  I got up and with some help hobbled back to the road and flagged down a shuttle that took me into town.  I went into medical and got x-rayed.  No broken bones, which is nice….or so I thought.  Apparently, sprains can take longer to heal that broken bones.  My ankle hurt like hell and I couldn’t put any weight on it.  It was swollen and bruised and I had to be on crutches.  My flight the next day was cancelled and I ended up laying in my bed watching movies for a few days.  It was horrible.  I couldn’t do anything.  I couldn’t get my own food, I couldn’t carry anything….I was useless.  I was so afraid that my travel plans would be screwed up.  

On the 11th (I think) was was told that I’d be leaving Antarctica.  I had my roommate take my bags over the the bag drag area and a shuttle picked me up and took me to the airfield.  I had a hard time keeping back my tears of frustration.  The plane ride was horribly uncomfortable.  Five hours crammed in a military flight doesn’t help your ankle.  My plan was to wait it out in New Zealand until I was able to walk again without crutches.  I had no idea how hard that would be.  After the first few hours I knew that I couldn’t do that.  I had been told that it would be maybe two full weeks before I’d be able to walk without crutches and then another two weeks before I’d be back to normal.  I couldn’t do ANYTHING.  I had to take a taxi across town to get food.  I had to ask my friends to help me with everything.  I was miserable.  so I had to make the tough decision to leave my travels behind.  The hardest part was telling Shane.  I still feel bad that he’s there all on his own.  I’m sure he’s fine, but I feel bad about how the whole thing turned out.  

Anyway,  my pal Alex was also heading back to the states to go on tour with The Pharmacy so the plan was that he’d help me through the airports and be able to cruise through to the head of the lines with me.  However, when we got to the ticket counter in Christchurch, it was revealed to him that he would not be able to travel due to ‘structural damage’ to his passport.  Bummer Alex.  However, he did eventually make it back to Seattle.  So I’ve been hanging out with Ingrid, ‘the wieners’, Maggie, and Hannah even came down to visit.  But basically I’ve been laying around with my foot up and watching illegally downloaded movies, listening to a bunch of mosh metal/hardcore, and reading comics.  Not a horrible life by any means, but I’m kind of sick of not being able to get around.  I can hobble without the crutches now, but not for very long distances before my ankle gets angry with me.  

So, if you’ve got  suggestions of media I should check out, I’d appreciate it.  

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Sickness, burns, & bowling

February 3, 2008

It’s been a while, and for that I apologize. Things have been kind of hectic and crazy here. Summer is coming to an end and the sea ice is getting thinner and thinner as it melts away. As you all know I got booted out of the power plant, which was not the best thing that could have happened to me. I was really enjoying working there, and I felt like I was putting all of my energy into doing the best I could there so that I could get the pay increase only to be shot down and sent off to do pointless busy work for the rest of the season.

I may as well have just walked off the plane because I now had to do all new things in all new settings with all new people. I knew NOTHING. I was a sheet metal worker for a day, then a plumber for a few days, then an electrician with short stints in the sewage plant again (which felt so strangely home-y and familiar that I kind of enjoyed sucking up shit with a wet-vac).

And then, of course, I got sick. I felt horrible. I would be out of work for a day and then I would have to go to medical and check it. I got tested for the flu THREE times (which involves a nasal swab….strangely ticklish and painful at the same time) as well as a strep test. They just determined that I had a bad case of the “McMurdo Crud”. I ended being out of work for six days in a row. It was crazy. At least I was not quarentined. I ended up watching a LOT of television and movies, which was fine, but got boring after day three or four.

After finally healing, I headed back to work with Kevin the electrician. Kevin is a super awesome guy. He and I had to put in electrical meters and CTs. I learned a bit about electrical work, which is nice. And then I was told that I’d be going to Happy Camper!

Happy Camper is an over night camping trip out on the sea ice. You get to learn basic survival skills and have a great time with your team. Our group was nice and small (ten people), plus it was composed of almost all DAs and janitors (the two closest knit groups of workers on the station). Great people in my group including Moira, Eli, Severin, & Alice. We put up tents, built a quinzee (a kind of igloo type shelter), built wind walls, dug trenches, and just generally worked our asses off….which is good to stay warm. The helicopter pilots here on station like to buzz the happy campers and we were no exception. They flew over us at about 20 feet above the ground! It was so scary and exciting. Kind of felt like I was Rambo (in Rambo 4, you know, when he’s doing all of that winter snow training). Then it was time for dinner. We had to melt snow and boil the water to make our food. The next thing I know, someone has accidentally poured boiling water all over my left hand and I’m on the back of a snow mobile headed back to town & into medical. I ended up with second degree burns on my palm and thumb and was unable to go back and actually spend the night with everyone else. Bummer. And after I’d spent so much time shoveling.

The last few days have been easy though, because I am physically only able to do one hand-work (not “one hand-jobs”). So I did a bit of work for the electricians, but it’s basically been me standing around doing watching. And if everything goes as schedueled, I’ll be out of here on the 8th, which translates into two more working days! I’m so excited to get out of here. I can’t even put it into words. My travel plans (which as pretty loose) are as follows:

– about a month in New Zealand visiting old friends, meeting new ones, hanging out with my McMurdo friends in Wanaka, and sharing it all with my great buddy Shane who is coming down to meet me.
– one week in Australia hopefully feeding a baby kangaroo to a crocodile (you’d better be right, Taavo)
– one week in Hawaii getting more second degree burns from lava flows
– back home to beautiful rainy Portland, OR!

Oh, and the other night I FINALLY got to be a pin setter at the McMurdo bowling alley! I’ve wanted to do that since day one. The McMurdo bowling alley is, apparently, the last manual pin setting bowling alley on the whole planet. The Brunswick bowling pin company has tried to buy the equipment back from McMurdo, but they won’t sell it.

Wish me luck!