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February 28, 2003

Dylan

You'd think, with an hour of free internet, I'd have the time to write a stellar blog entry! As it is, after trying to take care of bank errands and such and (of course) getting nowhere, I'm left with seven minutes.

So why blabber? Tell us about the Dylan concert already!

Wednesday night, I attended the Ani Defranco and Bob Dylan concert.

It was wierd. I can't think of a better way to describe it. It really threw me
for a loop. It was bizarre. Because it was normal.

What?

Strangely normal. Disturbingly normal. I mean, come on! It's Dylan!

The crowd. Who are these people, anyway? There were a bunch of us from the ice, and we agreed that the crowd was a bit strange. Mostly older, but not washed out hippies at all--conservative-looking folks, the kind who would attend (as Rich pointed out) an event like, say, ice-skating. Perhaps they were confused, and thought they were actually attending a sporting event in the arena. The venue being the other thing that threw me. Definately more of a sports venue than a music venue--seats all the way around, with folding chairs arranged in an orderly fashion only about halfway back on the floor. And everyone used them. The seats, that is. For the first 5/6 of the show, virtually everyone remained seated. The crowd was dead. Some would argue that Dylan's essentially dead, but the crowd had him by a long shot. And we were the last show on the tour! If I were him, or Ani for that matter, I would have just turned and walked out. After all, there are better things to do on the last night of a tour than play to a room (half) full of dead people.

On a brighter note, the last four songs (3 of which were the encore) rocked.
He played mostly mellow music throughout, but then broke out with some swingin' swing, Blowin' in the Wind, another lively number, and ended with All Along the Watch Tower. Go Dylan. Shaky, scrawny-looking legs and all.

Ani, as usual, was a bundle of energy. Dre, if you're still reading this, you'll be happy to know (which you probably already do) that she has a new album coming out, and played one song from it, which definately caught my interest. I'm still on mostly complete Ani burn-out, but I'd definately listen to that song again.

Okay, enough of Beth being a kermudgeon. I'm over my time limit, but will take a couple more minutes anyway to tell you about the recent goings-on.

I made it to Christchurch. This is probably obvious. If I had three color pencils to describe Antarctica, they would be blue, black, and yellow (provided the paper was white). For New Zealand, they would be green, blue, and brown. I should probably throw grey in there, too, after all the cloudy days on the last leg of my journey, but then that would be four.

So in my last entry, I made it all the way through Fox Glacier. From there, I went to Arthurs Pass, but with a very significant two-hour stopover in Hokitika, a small, tourist-driven town on the beach. The beach. Although the weather was poor, I got to go walk out to the beach. And just stand. And watch the waves. And chide them for trying to envelope my feet. I got to listen to them crash, listen to the water roll the rocks against rocks in the sand. I saw the little droplets of water spray backwards into the sky from the breaking wavecrests. This I observed.

Then, I decided to try a local delicacy. I was going to wait until Christchurch to eat real food, but have a hard time resisting local favorite. So, I decided to try a white bait sandwich.

Bad move.

It is rare that I am so traumatized by a food experience.

In my journal, I said, "...but it's the local delicassy. --And, as it turns out, it's disgusting. What is this stuff, and what did they do to it? Scramble it up in eggs and put it on white bread, looks like. Hope it doesn't make me sick over Arthur's Pass." Appologies to any kiwis out there who love the stuff.

On from Hokitika to Arthurs Pass. In for a day hike, and then, as there was no accomodation for a second night, out to Christchurch on Friday. (Remind me to share my amazing kia experience at Arthurs Pass.) Besided, my travelling buddy was supposed to get in to Christchurch that night.

But he didn't. And not Saturday night, either--not until Sunday morning, 3 AM. Gotta love flights from Antarctica. But that's a story for another time. In the meantime, I went to an improv comedy show, saw a movie called "Moody Sunday" at the Art Center, and attended a rugby game (go Crusaders!). And, since then, the Dylan show. And eating lots of good food.

Okay, I'm way over my limit.

Until next time,

beth

Posted by beth at 4:43 PM | Comments (2)

February 20, 2003

Arthur's Pass

Well, I've made it to Arthur's Pass. It's incredible. I'm on my way back to Christchurch, and Arthur's Pass is the most logical route, and it just happens to have some superb mountains and some reputedly good day hikes. It *also* happens to be raining.

The rain started when I was still down in Te Anau, on my way out from the Kepler. The Kepler is a well-know, 4-day loop in the southwest of the South Island. Three days in forest, one day above treeline. The only day you really need good weather is the day above treeline. I got it. I was very lucky--hardly a cloud in the sky. Views of the immediate valleys and the jagged-peaked mountains beyond. Views of the glacially-carved u-shaped valleys leading to large, deep lakes. Views of Te Anau, the town. That was a little weird. I mean, aren't I supposed to be in the backcountry?

I did like Te Anau, though. I took a down day there, just because I liked it. I got to see my first real sunset there, which I described in my journal with something like (okay, exactly like):

------
The sky went up in pink tonight. I don't know what happened. One moment it was sky, and the next, pink. I can't explain it. I walked past a pond and the was pink, too, except for the white spot of moon swimming in it.
------

It goes on, but my time is short.

I thought a lot on the Kepler. There is a lot of time for thinking when you're hiking alone.

Then, up by bus to Fox Glacier, which I heard was touristy so I planned to skip. I ended up going there to do a two-day hike called Welcome Flat, which has some nice thermal pools just by the hut. Unfortunately, it rained. Or fortunately. Whatever. To coin a cliche phrase, which some hate but which I think demonstrates wonderful perspective: It's all good. I hiked to the terminus of Fox glacier from town. My goodness! Touristy, maybe, but this place is amazing! As someone had told me just the day before, the touristy places are touristy for a reason, and you can't just discount them. Steep, beautiful, forested mountains, and a big glacier.

And, I'm out of time. Humph! Where are my coins? Oh, I've used them...

Posted by beth at 3:23 PM | Comments (4)

February 12, 2003

After Wananka

Aaak! Internet eating coins! I'd like to spend some time catching up, but the clock ticking makes me nervous.

I survived Wanaka. Quite nicely. My first New Zealand back country experience...and I was a bit spoiled. A steep (and I mean steep) hike up, but incredible views. Steep mountains, meadows, waterfalls, glaciers. Nice weather. I ripped my pants. Both buttcheeks. Just standing up, getting caught on some rocks. So I taped them up with electrical tape. The holes, not my buttcheeks.

Made it back to Wanaka yesterday. Made it down to Te Anau today. So many scenes, so many thoughts--What am I doing? Do I like travelling alone? What's the point? Does there need to be one? What do I want to do after this? Travelling, and otherwise? Sometimes, it's good to have time to think. And sometimes, there's too much time.

What else can I say in three minutes? It would take at least twenty, to just get started! Maybe I'll catch up in a bit.

Now, alongside a tranquil lake in a town called Te Anau. My new favorite activity is sitting out on the porch overlooking the lake doing nothing. Tomorrow, I start out on a 4-day treck (the Kepler, for those of you in the know). So, weather willing, I'll be back on Sunday. What's in store? I hear rumors of sandflies, which could well drive me batty, but I hear rumors of nice scenery, too.

Posted by beth at 4:58 PM | Comments (2)

February 8, 2003

Wanaka

I made it to Wanaka. I got on a bus this morning, and I came.

I bussed from Christchurch to a town along the way and then was offered a ride to Wanaka from a P.E. teacher who, with his son and son's friend, was there to pick up a Chinese student. So I cancelled my shuttle reservation. Buses are very impersonal.

From the bus ride:
Horizontal sheep. Sheep tend to cluster around structures. This particular group of sheep was stretched out along a fence, forming a horizontal white line, with several other lines running parallel above it. Horizontal sheep.

I can't even begin to describe the mountains right now.

In Wanaka, I met an adorable Dutch woman named Miriam and went to a rave party called Shakedown.

From the rave:
Feeling base in my chest. It's not an uncommon phenomenon, but I took to putting my fingertips up agains my ribs and feeling them vibrate. I probably looked like a dork, but then so does everybody at a rave. Fascinating.

The rave was outdoors, about 20 minutes from Wanaka along the lake, in an incredible setting. I got my first really good dose of stars. I expect and excellent one tomorrow night, camping, should the weather hold.

Plan: Spend one or two nights backpacking up the M-something valley. Leaving tomorrow morning 9 AM. Which means I need my sleep now.

Not bad for a first day on the road. Why did I not get out of Christchurch sooner??

Posted by beth at 11:52 PM | Comments (1)

February 7, 2003

Last day in Christchurch?

What, am I still here? Yes. Yesterday was not very productive. Productive? What? Aren't you supposed to be on vacation?

Yes. But I'm having a hard time finding my ideal travelling mentality. Yesterday, it was feeling like a chore. Bus schedules and trip reservations and accomodations and blah blah blah blah blah. So I looked into bookings and then didn't make any. I had a nice tea with Erin and took a nice nap and then, in the evening, after I'd given up, went for Vietnemese food with Erin and Jen and then went by myself for a walk through the botanical gardens. They didn't strike me as much as they might have had I gone there immediately after getting off the ice, but they struck me as they would have struck me anyway, which was still nice. I went at the best time of day--dusk--and strolled and then sat until almost dark. I savored the intoxicating smell of the roses, white, pink, red, yellow, and mulled over the thick, thorned stems. There is an alpine ash that looks like about 12 trees spiraled into one, and I spent a good amount of time looking at that as well. I ended by a pond. Lilly pads, calm water, insects singing. "In the garden. The light from the sun is fading. The sky whitens, and the trees darken in hue. Insects sing songs of clicking and whirring behind me; ducks cackle in the distance. I can still see a hint of orange in the small tree across the pond." Afterwards, I met up with Erin and Jen for desert. Chocolate mousse. Very fancy. Decadent. And, well, chocolate.

Today, running errands. First stop: Immigration. Several of us (I ran into others from the ice) didn't have the letter we needed to extend our visitor's permit. I need to go back.

Then, shopping. Getting a few items to send down to some friends who are wintering over.

Then, to the CDC (Clothing Distribution Center, part of the U.S. Antarctic Center). To hand over the package for my friends, to pick up the letter for Immigration, to drop some of my things and to pick up some others. And, to do a few things on the internet.

Where should I go? Logistics, logistics. Most likely, I will head south, to the fjords.

Posted by beth at 11:33 AM | Comments (1)

February 5, 2003

Food Fantasies

Sal, Rich, and Mike gave me a Christchurch primer in McMurdo. Sal demanded a full food report from my first days in New Zealand. The following is from an e-mail I wrote to them, with the subject heading "Food Fantasies."
-------------

Food, for Sal's sake.

Yesterday. I took care of my things at the CDC, checked into the
YMCA around 10 AM, and I crashed. When I resurfaced, I went
downtown and began to run errands. I realized around 4:30 that
I'd better to get something to eat before going into the travel
agency or I may become comotose at the counter. I grabbed the
closest, quickest, simplest, non-fried thing I could find:
poppyseed bagel, toasted, sundried tomato and feta shmear. As
I ate it on the street, I realized this was my re-entry into
non-McMurdo food. An American eating a frickin' bagel, which was
mediocre at best.

For dinner, Thai. Not at Anne's, not at Mai Tai, but at Sala. We
were the only customers. Should be a bad sign, but the food was
alright--although almost devoid of spice. We ate an almost completely
vegetarian meal. It was awesome.

This is what I did today.

I went to the Coffee House. I went inside. When the server
started to fetch a menu for me, I said, "No, thanks, I know what
I want." "Well, that makes it easy, then." "I would like the
salmon eggs benedict." "Eggs benedict with salmon." "And do you
have mango star tea?" "Yes, we sure do." "I'd like some mango
star tea, then, too."

And then, I sat outside. My mango star tea arrived shortly, in a fancy
silver teapot. My eggs benedict arrived shortly thereafter. Actually,
my eggs benedict arrived while my tea was still quite hot, so I ate
the breakfast first. Mmmmmmmmm. Sal, good call. Exquisite. Then,
the mango star tea. Sweet and full. My new friend Erin showed up,
and then Ginny and Ruth, and then Ginny and Ruth left, and Erin and
I sat drinking tea. And tea. And tea. (I had quite a nice pee later.)

Late in the morning, we went to the beach. Erin (glaciologist),
Jen (electrician's helper, waste water), Victoria (comms), and
P.J. (Palmer). Rich asked me recently what I do at the beach.
"What do you do?" he asked. "Put on sunblock and just lay out?"

Today, this is what I did.

I put on sunblock and I layed out. I ate strawberries and grapes and
Toblerone and a plum. I put my feet in the water. I ate bread and
brie and gouda and fresh tomato and fresh basil. I was too full to cut
into the mango or the pineapple. I went on a walk down the beach to
use the restroom, and then I felt much better. I watched the seagulls
harrass each other. I got sunburned.

Dinner was salmon pasta at Dux. The pasta was a little salmony (I know,
I know, it was salmon pasta...), but the Ginger Tom was awesome.

Posted by beth at 11:10 AM

February 4, 2003

Re-entry

It's green here. It's green, and there are birds other than skuas, like the little fat brown one in the park, and there are funny spikey purple flowers and fat bees pollinating them. There are children in loud vertically stripey black-and-white sports coats and ties with stripes running horizontally, there are Japanese saleswomen who don't know the word sandals, there are price tags and advertisements and signs that spin. Birds that scream like children, and children that scream like birds. The smells of mildew and duck scat. And there are the cars. Cars, cars, cars. Vrooom vroom. Bzzzzz. Shoooooooeeeee.

And, there is me, alone. Alone, and tired.

------------
So said I sometime around mid-day.

Life became a little nicer after a nap and some food, and nicer still when I made a friend. Her name is Erin. She is a glaciologist at UW, and I befriended her in the cafe at the Y. Whew. So, no need to feel sorry for me anymore. Unless you know how indecisive I am, which is to say unless you know me, and then you can feel sorry for me because I have to figure out where I'm going.

Posted by beth at 9:46 PM | Comments (2)

Christchurch!

I made it! ...No, really--I made it!

Our transport left McMurdo at a bit after 9:15 PM, with a scheduled take-off of midnight. My friend Mike is conveniently working nights, so I had the pleasure of chatting with him while waiting for boarding. Waiting, and waiting--we were postponed until 1 AM because the runway was not ready in Christchurch.

But, we did depart shortly after 1. And, we did arrive in Christchurch about five hours later. Yep. We're here.

So far, I've only seen the airport. It was a trip to get off the plane into this weird, thick air. Humidity. And, although it was 6 AM and overcast, it was warm. Way to warm for Antarctica clothes. I was immediately grumpy. Who are all these people? What's all this pavement? What's up with this clammy air? Plastic signs? I want to go home.

Okay, give me a few hours. Give me a walk in the greenery of the park, and I'll probably be fine.

We turned in our issue gear and I sorted my things, taking with me (almost) only what I want to bring touring. That took a while. It is now 9:20 AM, and I am almost ready to set out into the outside world. It smells wet here. Everyone else on the plane seemed to have a posse. I am posse-less. It's a little sad. Exciting, in some ways, but a little sad. I'll probably forget that I'm sad when I go to get some brunch. Mmmm, brunch....

Posted by beth at 8:18 AM | Comments (6)

February 3, 2003

Still Here Part Billion

The story continues.

Where am I? I'm in McMurdo. Still.

I am back in the 'office,' with my laptop again set up, listenning to Paul Simon's "Rhythm of the Saints," which is the only C.D. I didn't pack.

This is what happened.

As I stated, the flight was cancelled on Friday due to weather between here and Christchurch. They would try for Saturday. On Saturday, the weather looked good. Our scheduled transport time was 11 AM. It takes about an hour to get from McMurdo to Pegasus, the runway for wheeled planes on the permanent sea ice. As I was heading up from Crary (science building) to my dorm room to call it a day, I learned the plane had been delayed. It had not yet left Christchurch. Transport time was now "TBA." Rumored reason for the delay was mechanical difficulties. Not long after, the transport time was set for 2:30 PM. The plane had supposedly left Christchurch.

We were on. At 2:30, I headed to the MCC (everything has an acronym and darned if I know what half of them stand for), where we had done bag drag, and checked in and boarded a Delta. We all wore our ECW (puffy warm issued clothing). There were about 120 of us. The 141's capacity is 140. It would be a full flight.

I napped on the way to the runway. I had conveniently not gotten sufficient sleep the night before--a good strategy for making a journey pass quickly. Why would I want it to pass quickly? Before we left McMurdo, I was already gone. I tried looking out the back window of the Delta, to take in a last impression of town and to reflect upon it, but the view was limited and the windows quickly steaming. I let go. Not here, not there, but in transition between the two. Limbo. I like this travelling limbo. And, I generally like to be left alone during this travelling limbo. I'm my most antisocial while travelling; it is a time to reflect, to contemplate, and to rest.

I was in the same antisocial mode when we arrived at Pegasis. The day, though cold, was beautiful. I spent a bit of time outside looking for one last (?) time at Mt. Erebus before entering the passenger terminal. Inside, I dozed.


["Ivan" the Terra Bus. In case you can't read. Wait a minute...]


[A delta and a van, our other forms of transport.]


[Clouds over Pegasus.]


[Mt. Erebus, presiding.]


[Our 141.]

We waited to board until almost 7 PM. As with the Herc, they took us in fives and loaded us into the 141. They put the men in the back and the woman in the front, based on the distribution of bathrooms. They gave us each a sack of food. Strapped in, up against the red webbing, same as the Herc, four long rows stretching through the belly of the plane: two on the inside facing out, two on the outside facing in. I was on the outside facing in. We ate, we put our earplugs in. We closed our eyes.


[View down the aisle.]

At 7:20 PM, the plane took off. I was very aware during the take-off of the lack of windows. Nothing to see at all. No reference to how fast we were going, where we were, how we were angled. Just a pull towards the back of the plane that had to be resisted. Was it more settling to have my eyes closed, or open? I couldn't tell. I tried both. Neither felt quite right. Eyes shut.

Twenty minutes into the flight, several members of the flight crew standing at the front of the plane motioned towards the back. Despite the deprivation of hearing and sight, we all somehow seemed to know to open our eyes, to take out an earplug, to look and listen to see what was going on. One crew member got clumsily up onto the bar backing the inner two rows of passenger seating, in his bunny boots, and made his was to the back, dismounting the bar to look out of one of the plane's few windows. Shorly after, a voice came dim over the speaker system, almost drown out by the noise of the plane's engines and muffled through earplugs. One of the crew members pantomined the same information for us from the front. The landing gear would not come up; we were headed back to Pegasis.

We were twenty minutes out. I dozed for the return flight, which seemed significantly longer. My calculations say thirty minutes. We landed. We looked to the crew for the word. Word was, take your carry-ons and your lunches with you; we're going back to the passenger terminal. We're going to take a look at the plane and see if we can figure out the proplem, and then assess whether we can fix it from here. If we can't, you'll be headed back to McMurdo and Scott Base.

To the passenger terminal. Waiting. Close to 9, there was an announcement. We have a departure time, they said: 22:30. (Oh, we're going, we thought.) There will be an announcement at 22:00 regarding whether the plane will be taking passengers, they said. (Oh, we might not go, we thought.) If we can't get the landing gear up, the plane will be headed back to Christchurch without passengers.

Another hour to wait, just to find out? No. About five minutes later, the same man called again for our attention. You're heading back to McMurdo, he said. We can only take about 50 people now, and will have to wait for another Delta for the rest.

It was important to me to get on the first round of transport. I had a birthday party to attend.

I made it on, but barely. I took the second to last seat. 'This is so funny,' I said aloud, and the woman across from me said, 'Oh, you like this?' I had to explain myself. 'Well, I kept extending and extending and extending my stay, and then I was finally set and ready to leave on Tuesday, and I got bumped. Then, cancelled on Friday, and now this.' And yes, I did kind of like it. But I didn't dare add that.

We made it back to McMurdo around 10:30 PM. Changed quickly out of my ECW. Vowed to drink lots of water before going to the party. Was offered a margarita in the hallway and drank that instead. Then, on to the party. Everyone in McMurdo was quite amused by our boomerang. It's quite common to boomerang coming to Antarctica from Christchurch, but not at all common the other way around.

They didn't even try to get us out on Sunday. Or, if they did, they didn't tell us about it. We're scheduled to leave tonight: Transport at 6:15 PM, take-off sometime around 10 I think. Which means we get into Christchurch around 3 AM. We'll see, though, what really happens; I'm guessing the departure is dependent on whether they get the plane fixed. I've given up on saying goodbye to people. We might leave, and we might not.

In the meantime, it's nice to be essentially done with my work and to be able to just chill out, work on the blog, relax, and reflect a bit. AND plan my travels in New Zealand. If you have recommendations or contacts, please send them ASAP! Yeah New Zealand! I'm ready for the next phase.....

Posted by beth at 8:53 AM | Comments (4)

February 1, 2003

The End?

Well, this is it.

Well, this might be it.

If I leave tomorrow, this is it.

I was originally scheduled out for January 14. I extended and extended and extended and extending, processing the GPS data, until Tuesday, January 28. Then, I was going to leave. For real. My friends here didn't believe me. Yeah, okay, we'll see you tomorrow, they'd say. No, really, for real this time, I'd say. Really. I'm not going to change it.

I didn't. But they were still right. I got bumped from Tuesday's flight. I found this very funny. So did they.

I was rescheduled for the Friday flight. Friday. That was today. I did bag drag Thursday night, which means I packed up all my stuff and took it up to the cargo building and had it weighed and me weighed and left the checked baggage there and took my carry-on back to my roon. Friday morning, in a groggy state, I went about running errands. Transport to the runway (out on the ice) was scheduled for noon. My friend Anne saw me up in cargo around 8 AM. Are you happy to be staying today? she asked. What do you mean? I asked. I'm really leaving this time, I said. She had some news for me. The flight had been cancelled.

I went back to bed.

Tonight, I think there's a good chance we'll actually go out tomorrow. We're scheduled for transport at 11 AM. I won't be heartbroken if we're still around. For one thing, it's 3:44 AM and I'm going to be ridiculously tired tomorrow. For another thing, there's always more work to do. For another thing, there's a birthday party tomorrow night.

If I do leave tomorrow, is this the end of the blog?

I've done a terrible job of keeping up on it anyway, so I feel like I've already dropped it. But it's a great way to keep in touch with all of you who actually read it. I've thoroughly enjoyed being able to share stories, and being able to get feedback and stories and hellos from anyone who's written me. Thanks for that.

As for the end.... Well, it's just another beginning. I don't plan on spending a lot of time on a computer, but I have some friends down here who made me promise to e-mail them in detail about my meals. Food fantasies. As some of you know, I do rather like to eat. Mmmmmmmm...... So, I just may share my culinary experiences in New Zealand through this blog. It's still related to Antarctica, after all. Reentry is one of the most interesting parts of being away.

My plan, in brief (should be easy, since it's devoid of detail anyway): Travel the South Island of New Zealand for about three weeks. Meet up with folks getting off the ice around that time for the Bob Dylan / Ani DiFranco (Dre, are you reading this?) show in Christchurch on February 26. Spend a few weeks traveling the North Island. Maybe somewhere else if finances allow. Go to Hawaii. Come back to mainland US by about mid-August to attend--ay, to participate in!--dear friend Tanja's wedding in Rhode Island (yeah 712).

All tentative. Just like my departure date from this damn continent. I love this place.

Posted by beth at 2:45 AM | Comments (5)