Moai on Easter Island

Moai on Easter Island

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Upon Leaving The Ice

I often talk to people who tell me how lucky I am to travel or how they wish that they could.  Almost anyone can travel if they really want to.  They just have to be willing to cut those strings that are holding them in place.  That can be uncomfortable to do, but often worth it.  

A Weddell Seal rests in front of the Barne Glacier.

The citizens of Antarctica have quite a different view on traveling.  I've never met so many people without an excuse to drop everything (or most things) and travel.  Sure there are some people that go down there just for the money or just to get out of debt, but most of them go down there for the adventure and the excuse to travel afterward.  It is refreshing to not hear excuses as to why they can't travel. Instead of dreaming of places to go, Antarcticans are always planning the next trip.

McMurdo Sound, Antarcitca

I've been back in New Zealand for five days now and Antarctica seems like a dream.  It is as if the rest of the world has stood still for the last year, but while I was on the ice for what seemed like forever--just like in the Chronicles of Narnia.  As strange as it sounds this was one of my major realizations of getting off the ice: the rest of the world continued to work while I was in McMurdo.

This year's last field work for me in Antarctica: delivering cargo across McMurdo Sound to Marble Point.

My reintroduction hasn’t been as extreme as I expected it.  I had months to think about how shocked I was going to be and I’ve been let down.  Everything just feels normal again.  I’m not looking forward to this grand moment when I see a tree again.  I’m simply back.  I was hoping for more.  I do walk around grocery stores in more of a daze than I used to and it took me about 20 minutes to pick out a bag of coffee on my second day back.  I know everyone is moving faster than me, but I was hoping to be more uncomfortable in such a situation.  I even feel like I have a purpose when I walk into the produce section. 

Akaroa, New Zealand
Managing my own newfound freedom has been hard to re-learn to do.  After 14 months of working 9+ hours a day six days a week I have forgotten how to do what I want to do.  I am in luck however because most of what I want to do is just cook and eat and enjoy “new” sounds and walk around and enjoy “new” views. 

Akaroa, New Zealand
While thoroughly enjoying walking through the forest and grassy fields I find myself reluctant to touch too many plants.  I have an undying urge to hug every tree I see and feel every leaf but I am afraid to.  I am afraid that they will disappear between my fingers or turn into the fake office plants that are scattered around McMurdo.  I don't want that disappointment.

The garden of the hostel I stayed at in Christchurch, New Zealand.

The absolute scariest part of my re-entry has been learning how to walk.  Throw me in the middle of an icy road with shoes that don’t have any traction and I can do just fine.  But now that I’m trying to negotiate muddy trails with slick wet grassy I am doomed.  I haven’t fallen on my ass yet, but have been very close many times.  I went for a hike in the hills above Akaroa yesterday and on my way down I would stop at the top of every steep muddy section the same way any other person would stop at a rocky precipice or an icy cliff.  Then I’d try to plan a decent route and walk down bent at the waste taking each timid step with the hopes that I wouldn’t slide to the bottom.  With each slip I’d throw my arms up in the air in a theatric dance move in a feeble attempt to stay on my feet.

Akaroa at night.

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