There hasn’t been much going on in the last few days. The station shuts down the bars when the cargo vessel is docked, so there have been a lot fewer drunken messes to mind and a lot more movies being watched in the evenings. There have been a lot of goodbyes as well, which puts me in mind of the end of the school year during my childhood – international schools always have a high rate of turnover and the end of the year usually meant at least one or two close friends would be leaving for another country. Today was probably the hardest for me, as I said goodbye to Roger.
We didn’t know each other for very long – only about three months – but the nature of relationships in Antarctica is, as I’ve said, far from the norm. In three months, we traded more stories that I would usually share with any one person all year. And I talk a lot. He taught me the difference between a fireman and a firefighter, what a box alarm is, and how to play shuffleboard. I taught him the alphabet game, that you never skimp on anything that comes between you and the ground (that one is via my father, of course!), and how to work more efficiently in the kitchen. We shared goals, hopes, dreams, and fears. His favorite dinosaur is the T-rex and if he could have any superpower, it would be to agelessness. We once had a rather memorable discussion about the meaning of the ability to perform simple arithmetic functions while experiencing extreme discomfort or extreme pleasure. There was a lot of laughter and rough-housing and pranking and dozens of little emails exchanged every day to keep us both entertained at our respective jobs. He had my back every single day and it was an intensely comforting thing to know.
Unfortunately, while I knew much and more about his fiancée back home, and had been told repeatedly how much we would get along, he had neglected – and, in fact, scrupulously avoided – mention of me to her. Having known the discomfort of feeling like your significant other has hidden something from you, I would not wish it on anyone. When I learned this, I decided that it would be best that Roger and I no longer continue to be friends, rather than try to maintain contact and have him either perpetuate the omission of my existence or admit to the omission in the first place – either of which would cause tension in their relationship. He wasn’t thrilled about this and neither was I, but even he had to admit there was no good way for him to say, “Oh by the way honey, this is the woman that took all those pictures I sent you – we were pretty much inseparable on the Ice and I think you two would get along really well, too!”. So the goodbye was understandably hard.
So I’m choosing to look forward to what comes next. I’ve made plans to go horseback riding and swimming with dolphins in New Zealand, where I’ll be back to my hostelling days. I had hoped to get some climbing in but alas, the budget required I prioritize and after my stay on the Ice, I think getting out into nature with animals is a must. In Australia, I’ll be visiting friends – more like an aunt and uncle – I haven’t seen in 7 years, since I stayed at their farmhouse in France right after college. I realized earlier that this means they have absolutely no knowledge of my relationship with Darragh and I found that strangely gratifying – that maybe my whole identity didn’t get wrapped up in him after all. They’re also the couple that introduced me to rugby. Then it’ll be off to Malaysia to see my parents and eat amazing street food from my childhood and visit my first home. After that will be Viet Nam to relax at the current “home” with my folks for a bit and then off to England to visit friends and old haunts. I’ll be staying in London with two dear friends who have an amazing food blog now – www.criticalcouple.com, do check it out – and they have planned quite a tour of the culinary highlights of London for us which I am eagerly anticipating, particularly after the 10 weeks of no Freshies. I will hopefully also get to meet up with friends from high school, college, and culinary school and perhaps even spend a day or two staging in some Michelin restaurants while I’m there. But best of all: I shall partake of the best birthday present ever thanks to Philip Quinn: tickets to TWO Heineken Cup Quarter Final matches, one featuring the completely drool-worthy Tommy Bowe (whom I am going to marry once he gets over his Ms Wales 2009-turned-model-turned-nurse girlfriend), and the second featuring the Boys in Red, none other than Munster themselves.
I wish I could more properly convey just how over-the-moon excited about this I am but it’s hard to do when you haven’t seen the moon in months! So that’s what I’m focusing on and it looks to be amazing and wonderful and possibly a little overwhelming given our state of isolation here but there’s nothing for it but to dive right in, right? And for the next 8 days, I will continue to cook for the ever-dwindling population and maybe start thinking about packing.