Turns out, tomorrow morning, I’m leaving on a jet plane for Antarctica. The continent. It’s a different one than I’ve been on. I heard a statistic that fewer than 1% of the world population has ever set foot on Antarctica. I choose to think that is fact without any further research. In theory, tomorrow night at this time, I will have been one of those people. What. A. Trip.
Today was so weird. In the best way. I started the day with breakfast at 6:30. Continental breakfast downstairs (not included in my free room, regrettably) with one of my new coworkers. First training via zoom was at 7:30 til about 8:15. Second one was at 9 until 10:30. 10:30 we were to be picked up by shuttle buses to take us to the Clothing Distribution Center to pick up our Extreme Cold Weather gear. They issue gear so we don’t turn into popsicles. Which works out well, because I don’t want to turn into a popsicle.
So the bus gets here shortly after 10:30, thankfully, because the training lasted until about 10:29 so I was rushing. In fact, I forgot my shuttle voucher. So I ran back upstairs to get the voucher and I ran back down. Then I realized I didn’t remember a pen, so I ran back upstairs and I ran back down. Got my steps in this morning because I wasn’t exactly awake yet, and I had had a full morning already. I’m happy my room was basically above the front door of the place.
We get to the Clothing Distribution Center and get funneled into a room where we watch a few videos on being in Antarctica. Turns out it’s a different continent. Never been on it. Lotta new things. Like, for example, ees cold. Hence, ECW gear. Right. We finish the videos and head into the changing rooms. These giant rooms have bright orange bags – of which I got two – that have our gear in it. Somehow, they had not gotten my sizes when I had originally sent them, so I had to follow up last week with all of the sizes and they got everything together for me. I hadn’t mentally planned for two bags worth. Wasn’t a big deal, I was just surprised.
Take the bags over to the bench and start trying things on. We have a big puffy red jacket called “Big Red.” We have overalls and fleece pants. Fleece jacket and a neck gaiter. Gloves and gloves. What they call “bunny boots” which are waterproof boots that look like bunny feet. A hat. Goggles. And more. And in my second bag, I got six pair of work pants with elastic waist bands, six polo shirts with badass USAP logos on the back of them, and a hat. Not a bad outfit, but I would say it is possible that I could love the pants more than I do. Oh well. NBD. I’m one of the last two people in the room to try everything on. I sign off on it and give it to the head coordinator guy, who is very nice and helpful. Head outside to the lawn and see people eating. I found a guy – Shawn – who was eating sushi and he told me to go here and go around there to find it, so I went and got some of my own. Pro tip: don’t get sushi when you’re walking around with a mask all the time. But the sushi was good, and we have to wear the masks so nobody gets sick before going down to the ice.
Food’s done and we’re all just kind of hanging out. Mingling a little bit. You can tell the people who’ve been down to the ice before versus the ones who haven’t. Next up was the rapid test for Covid. I have to say I was most concerned about this because if you test positive, you have to – at the least – quarantine in a hotel room for a week before going down to the ice, but at the most you might not be able to go I assume. We get in line and get tested and I tested negative, thankfully, and then we sat through another safety training video then we were pretty much done. Waited on the shuttles to take us back to the hotels.
I turned around and went out to do some shopping because throughout the last couple of free days in Christchurch, I’ve made the acquaintance of a couple other coworkers as well and they kind of gave me a peek behind the curtain with regards to things I should think about bringing down to the ice. So first, I went to my room, packed most things up, and weighed everything because we are only able to pack a total of 85 pounds. Right now, pre-shopping, I’m at 75 for two checked bags (carry-ons don’t count toward the weight and we basically wear 90% of the clothes we just tried on), so I had some room to spare. I went around to a couple stores and picked up some last-minute items and then headed to dinner.
The last couple days have been pretty fun, since I mentioned it. Went to the botanical gardens. Found a tiny bookstore. Walked forever around the city. This is a pretty cool little town, but I’ve found a few things out: 1) I’m very clearly not from here, 2) They speak English, and I speak English, but we don’t speak the same English…and when I try…see #1, 3) and I’m looking forward to seeing what it’s like in Feb/March, whenever I redeploy because evidently it’s just gorgeous.
Send positive vibes for clear weather and a painless trip tomorrow morning. I hope my next post to you comes from the ice!