This afternoon I told one of my co-workers that I love my job if for no other reason than being able to see seals, penguins, and field camp bound-helicopters outside my office window every day.
That and being able to say things like “That’s affirmative, Shakleton!” on HF radio without any irony.
I would apologize for not writing in three weeks, but I’m not sorry. I’ve been busy, and while night shift usually affords me the time to write, I’ve been busy with job applications for next season. Yes, I am coming back next season, if my employer and the United States Antarctica Program will have me.
Some highlights from the last three weeks include attending the Vehicle Maintenance Facility Christmas party, unicycling in the fitness room with a co-worker’s borrowed unicycle, playing with radios in the ham shack, having my friend Deany show me how to operate a forklift, enjoying mild weather (we hit 34 degrees on New Year’s Eve), performing at Icestock (more on that later), and celebrating my 26th birthday by watching softball games in the sun with friends.
I’m also making tentative plans for my first six weeks post-Ice, which will likely involve four weeks of volunteering at a Buddhist meditation center in southeast Australia and visiting Auckland and more of the north island in New Zealand.
I’ve been here long enough now that McMurdo Station feels like my new normal. It feels normal to sleep on the top bunk in a dorm room. It feels normal to sleep with a blackout curtain on the window. It feels normal to eat cafeteria food 24/7, to have slow Internet, to get all my news from the dog-eared copies of “The Times Digest” that show up in the galley (cafeteria). It feels normal to wash and hand sanitize my hands before entering the galley, and to have unlit candles on my birthday cake due to the high fire risk in Antarctica. It feels normal to make phone calls on a phone that looks older than I am, to walk on volcanic rock, to see seals every day, to work 12-hour shifts, to talk to field camps and South Pole station on shortwave radio, to have free pizza and yoga classes available every day, to get free clothes from “Skua” (our Goodwill at McMurdo), and to go weeks without fresh vegetables.
Bottom line, McMurdo feels like my home. Good and bad, I like living here. I like the simplicity. I like the people. I like always being busy, either with work or with extra activities. It can be monotonous, and I sometimes miss trees, almost-daily kale salads, and having a Walgreens available.
But more often than not, I feel so lucky to be here.