So, guess where I am sitting – besides at a computer. Well, I told you Winfly happened, a total of 6 days of flying, that was over a week ago. Anyways, Antarctica is another closing chapter on my travels.
It’s strange to even try to go back and remember what the last couple of days were like, I had to reread my blog to see where I left off. So, shall I catch you up?
The few last things that stick out about Antarctica was a lovely extra day off on Thursday when I was supposed to clean my room. Inspection was on Friday at 1:00. I worked Friday morning, 6:00 to 4:00. My last day of work.
Well, I don’t know what happened to my time but it was 11:00 on Thursday night and I was out at Galllaghers trying to have a good time with everybody. There was 3 of us on the third floor of 207 that had been in denial about actually leaving Antarctica. Cora, Emily and I were in the same state. We just couldn’t believe and didn’t want to accept that our rooms would soon be barren and no longer ours. Well, we paid dearly all through Thrusday.
After being out at the bars long enough to say some good-byes and have a drink I went back to clean my room. I packed and cleaned till 5:30 in the morning, got dressed and went to work at 6:00. I thought I was toasted earlier in the week but I was walking on egg shells hoping I didn’t mess up that morning, trying to seem busy and as if my last 9 hours mattered. I was actually doing well until Christina came up to me, asked how I was doing and how my room was. I was still trying to work out when I would vacuum. She told me she would take care of it and just like that all the stress on passing room inspection was taken care of. What did I do? Cry. Perfect too, I was right at the condiment aisle, the crossing over from food line to tables, basically it’s the middle of the Galley. I can’t get over how sweet she was. Christina is like that though, she is one of those people that I just need to study and try to find out how to emulate. She has volunteered to help shovel every morning this winter, she scrubbed down Emily’s bathroom for her for room inspection, she’s always finding little ways to help people. Anyways, she said that she had been so glad that I had come out Thursday night instead of staying in to clean that she thought perhaps I hadn’t been able to finish my room, she had guessed right.
Anyways, I found Mandi in the dish room, someone who isn’t freaked out by tears. She was in a lovely mood as well. On Thursday she had been floating on a cloud, a cloud of happy painkillers. She was telling me how wonderful it was to work in the Galley, how many new people she had talked to and how nothing was bad. She had really done a number on her ribs when she had fallen in the dish room a couple days ago, she even missed a day of work.
Friday night was Kaoroke night. I had a 20 min. nap and then I went. There were some random people in elf suits, Andre in his Santa suit and makeshift horse tail whip. Us galley girls somehow ended the night singing some Madonna song that had somehow become our good-bye song, is it called “Life is a Mystery”? We had already done a group hug singing “Leaving on a jet plane” in Southern a couple nights previously. That had included a lot more winter-overs.
Friday night was rather anti-climatic. I think everyone had driven themselves into the ground earlier. We found a small group of 4 hanging out in the upstairs lounge of 155 just sitting and talking about the good times. I guess this was after Emily was flashing everyone in the 207 lounge and a few other crazy activities that I didn’t pay much attention to.
What I do remember is going to breakfast in a white-out the day of our flight. Things suddenly looked a bit dismal for a plane landing. Our flight was to leave at 11:00 but by the time I was getting to breakfast they had bumped up the time to NOW. Suddenly all the final good-byes, gathering info and last minute stuff was out the window and I was rushing to get to the Supply building (is that 175?). Everyone was up there. I got to say good-bye to a bunch of other people. Poor Jana was almost sobbing but at least that gave me the encouragement not to be crying. I did get to give Mandi a hug good-bye. Did I say good-bye to Christina? I hope so.
Check-in is red and orange and echoing chaos. It was a mob of Red parkas and orange duffel bags. The humurous thing about the massive duffel bags was the announcement given on our bag drag day about carry-ons. The Air Force was now required to comply to the AA rules and regulations (did I use the right initials?) that meant all carry-ons had to fit in a little box “this big”, you know, that standard size that’s just a little bigger than a brief case. This is when you are required to have in your carry-on or on you Big Red (the parka), snow pants, bunny boots, bear paws (the huge mittens), 2 pairs of socks, long underwear, a hat, and as a DA we had to be carrying our uniform and our kitchen shoes. They also recommend that you carry an extra change of clothes and toiletries in case the flight is cancelled. You don’t get access to your checked baggage until Christchurch. Plus you have to have your laptop or it’ll freeze waiting to be loaded, as well as your camera. This is all before you try to stuff in anything you would actually like to have on the plane to make the flight more enjoyable. Anyways, it was amusing to see the mass of duffel bags stuffed to the brim and passing by the tiny little constructed cube that was supposed to indicate the size that they MUST be.
I was a panic. I couldn’t believe that I was actually leaving, everything was happening so fast and it was all so strange. The weather was so white and eery. I wasn’t accepting the chaos like I usually do. I wanted to find people to hug and say goodbye to, I wanted to keep close to Jason to have someone familiar around me. Then we got seperated. I passed Bruce who was helping people load up, he quickly told me that Jason and I were to sit up in the front Delta with him, our passing conversation reminded me of covert Resistance message passing. I found myself sitting in the back of a crowded Delta with Kiwis leaving Scott Base and a bunch of Mac Town people that I hardly talk to. It’s a long ride out to the plane, a long good-bye as everything passes by and I thought about this as I considered wether to make a big enough fuss and leave or to just sit still and accept that I had gone to the wrong spot. I think Kiwi Sarah was afraid I was going to have a Rain Man episode as I bounced around looking this way and that for Jason or Bruce or someone else I knew or an exit or whatever.
I escaped though. The Deltas are the monstrous vehicles that go anywhere. There’s a ladder to get in them and some sort of rule about dismounting in the presence of the driver or something. I finally realized that Bruce had meant for me to ride in the actual Delta cab. That’s what I did when Autumn and Josh opened the door and asked about available space. I offered up my seat and I was free! I waddled to the cab and there was Jason – well, his stuff at least, we found each other then and he helped load my things up. There’s no way to hurl up the mass of the duffel bag to the height the seats are at. Everything was OK and it was all awesome. We got a front row view of the fog and got to listen to all the radio conversation. The plane had landed. The plane was being unloaded. The plane was waiting for the passengers.
When we got out at the runway the firefighters were out and about and I got to give Andre a good good-bye, although he’s the one that picked me up. It was the last good-bye of McMurdo though and it was a sobering moment for me. This was it. The plane was really here, it was really going to take off. I was really saying good-bye to an entire town of friends that no longer exhisted. My contract in Antarctica was over, my time in Antarctica had ended. I got on the plane, fumbled this way and that for a seat and went to sleep.