The sun's out in Mac Town. Kind of weird to think it's been weeks since I've seen it. For folks who were here over the Antarctica winter, it's been months. We've had sunlight since I've been here, but the other day, I was walking across town and got sunspots in my eyes and thought how weird it was that the sun was actually out. I wonder how I would do in an Antarctic winter (they call it "wintering over"). Would I snap and attack someone with a hammer? (Don't laugh! It's happened! Not very long ago, actually...) It's weird because when I got here just a few weeks ago, it was dark by 4 p.m. Now it's still lingering light at 9 p.m. or later, and soon, we won't have any darkness at all. It happens so fast! It's not that slow light change I'm used to seeing in Minnesota.
Here's more big news -- today I got trained to drive around this crazy little town! I get to drive these big vans that are so tall I have to use a little step and strap to get up into it. Weirdly, I never pictured myself actually driving down here. Those who know me well know how much I LOVE driving on snow and ice. But I'm groovin' on it down here, because not everyone gets to get behind the wheel. Of course, I'm being trained so I can go lift heavy things into the vans and then lift them out again. There's always a catch.
Anyway, here's a few more questions and answers for you following along ...
What's a freshie? (AKA, why is it you can't have evil tomatoes?)
A freshie is what we call your basic fruits and veggies down here, nice and fresh and raw and tasty. We were dropped off in August, and the next plane doesn't arrive here til October, and that's a recipe for some bad bananas. Those stalwart winter overs go months without a plane, and so freshies are hard currency for them. Never never never get caught throwing out fruit here. You will shortly be dead, if witnessed. We do have a smallish greenhouse that produces a little bit of yumminess, but it's pretty small, and there are a lot of people hungry for lettuce here.
How do you get a gorilla costume in the antarctic? go to the costume shop on the corner?
Thanks for the question, GB Brian. Weirdly, there is a costume shop here, and it is on the corner! It's actually a little service they call gear issue, in which you can rent all sorts of fun things, and then get your money back when you return them in good condition. I can get cross country skis there, shoes for the bouldering cave (yes, there is a bouldering cave) and even a gorilla suit. Who knew?
From Colleen in Appleton: If it's a dry cold due to the lack of precipitation, then does it work to your benefit as in a dry heat?
Colleen, I don't actually know the answer to that question. But it's a good one. If I was less lazy, I'd investigate. It often feels pretty cold, wet or dry. I was in a building today that was actually colder than it was outside. Some of these storage buildings really trap the cold -- it was kind of weird, because it was pretty cold outside to begin with.
From Jeremy, my wonderful ex-roommate: I would love to know more about this conference that you mentioned in Denver, how you marketed your skills, and how you went about networking.
Most of the work down here that isn't scientific is done by employees of that wonderful ginormous military contractor called Raytheon. This year, Raytheon has subcontracted all of the station services (dining, cleaning, etc.) to a company called NANA. And once a year, these two companies have a massive job fair, through which many many people here are hired. It's in Denver. It's in April. Mark your calendars and save your pennies, because you have a much better chance of getting here, if you go there. (They usually post the one-day job fair date on the company website sometime after the new year.)
How did I market my skills? Turns out I have very very few skills that qualify me for a job here! They want useful people, like heavy equipment mechanics, plumbers, sous chefs, etc. I am none of these. But I did wait in all sorts of long lines, and tried to convince every person I talked to that if they ran through the people who were actually qualified for their jobs, I should be at the TOP of the list of people NOT qualified for the job. Through this method, I got three job offers, which I hear is fairly rare, and am actually loving doing the janitor thing down here. If you actually have skills, you might find the path easier. And you will get paid a lot more. I am a liberal arts major, and am fairly useless.
I handed out a dozen resumes, and then re-sent them on-line with a cover letter, both targeted to the specific job and specific person I had met at the job fair. It was pretty intense for me, because I wanted a job here so badly, that I must have gone into super-marketing-me mode.
Anyway, that's it for questions for tonight. Keep them coming! Coming soon to a blog near you -- why Antarctica has scary places if you've played Silent Hill or Resident Evil!