“‘The Time Has Come,’ The Walrus Said”

Sorry, I’ve just always loved that verse from The Walrus and The Carpenter and I use it probably far too often.

But the point: the time HAS come to say goodbye to McMurdo – tonight is my last night here, provided our flight goes off without a hitch tomorrow which is becoming admittedly iffy as it gets later into our “autumn” and the weather gets worse.

First, the packing out experience: You start the day before your scheduled departure by packing up everything you’re taking off the continent; it cannot exceed 150 lbs. Then you have to return your TV – if you have one – to the housing department. Then you need to clean your room and bathroom in time for your room inspection – dusting, vacuuming, scrubbing, disinfecting, etc. You also need to ensure that your room is put back more or less the way you found it. If you fail room inspection, apparently they will withhold your contract completion bonus or something like that. Finally, at a time assigned to you by the first letter of your last name, you “bag drag”, which means you take everything that is leaving the continent with you and drag it up the hill to Building 140 where the bags to be checked are weighed, tagged, and taken away to be put on a cargo pallet. Your “boomerang bag” gets weighed and tagged as well although that goes in a separate storage area since that’s what will be returned if the plane doesn’t leave. Then you get to stand on the scale with all your required inflight ECW gear and your carry-on and get weighed yourself. Again, this is somewhat terrifying because you’re not used to seeing such large numbers come up when you’re standing on a scale. You’re then given your boarding card and NZ customs forms and told to return at the scheduled transport time the next day.

This, of course, means that the clothes on your back are what you will have until you get to Christchurch tomorrow. Ick. On the plus side, you’re now footloose and fancy free – you don’t generally have to work on your bag drag day – and the bar is open now because the vessel has left – although it’s only the one bar now, as Southern was converted into a lounge for the Winter. So I headed to Gallagher’s for a few social ones –

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Then I headed home fairly early and invited friends over to drink the remaining beer and wine I had stashed in the dorm fridge. They were all too happy to relieve me of my burden, as you can imagine. Once the booze was gone, people headed home and I came down to my 208 lounge one last time to write this.

I’ve been thinking about the things that have surprised me about life down here and the things that might stay with me – I like the bacon now, even though it’s tissue-paper thin and never crispy. Wednesdays to me will now always mean waffles for breakfast, cookies at lunch, and Mexican food for dinner. Sunday nights are for burgers, Fridays are for cupcakes, and Thursdays you should take a break at 10am and eat a biscuit (or scone, as the Kiwi/American argument continues).

I’ll really miss conversations with Russell where you “fall down the rabbit hole” and wind up on a completely unrelated and usually slightly bizarre topic.

Me N Russ

I love that there are no bugs or allergens and that sometimes, when the wind stops blowing and the station is completely still and you’re sitting out at Hut Point or at the top of Castle Rock, you can hold your breath and hear what silence actually sounds like; without even the beat of a butterfly’s wings or the rustle of leaves. The continent exudes a raw power that is almost palpable when you step away from station – it could so easily swallow you; I find it intoxicating. I love that life is simple – you work, you play, you sleep. The people you meet here have such amazing stories and backgrounds that it’s sometimes like opening a National Geographic magazine every time you sit down to a meal with someone you didn’t know before. I will miss the people I have come to know and love here very much but I will miss this continent desperately, for it is now a place I call “home”.  I know exactly how blessed I am to do that.

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