Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Going back, post-FNGee

It is August, and I have now less than one month before I leave for Antarctica again. Ahh, white continent, how do I love thee? So many, many ways. I've never felt homesick for a place before in my life, and I only lived there for about a half a year, but I miss that place, and yearn to be back.

This year, I go back as the custodial coordinator, basically in charge of jano world, and the laundry. It means I can't be a happy little responsibility-free FNGee, and I actually have to be a supervisor this time. But it also means more cash, an actual office (and its associated privacy), and a chance again to work in a department I love.

I'm excited, I'm thrilled, I feel like I'm going home. For all its ugliness and craziness, it is the best place I've ever been. I love Antarctica. I love McMurdo. I love the traveling lifestyle it allows me to have. I love the people, and the feeling that I've finally found my "tribe." In a world where I have always felt like I'm the minority in just about every category I could be placed, including race, sex, background, etc., I have finally found a place where I am part of the majority in a very important way -- world view. It's exhilarating.

But, because I write this blog in part to help other people really get a good idea of what the Antarctic experience is like, I have to share another dimension of the lifestyle. They don't warn you about this when you are a FNGee, and though I've read many Antarctican blogs, I haven't really seen it addressed. But it exists, and not just for FNGees, although it's taken many of us by surprise, I think.

It is this sense of displacement, post-Antarctica. The feeling that you have one foot in two worlds, so different from each other that functioning well in one takes a completely different skill set than functioning well in the other. I've been lucky enough to see many Antarctica friends, and touch base with even more over the summer, and I think we all feel this way to some degree. For some, it hits us with deep, inexplicable sadness. Depression. Inertia. We emerge from the ice completely changed as people, and our relationships with the people in the "real world" have changed profoundly -- some in very positive ways, and some in very negative ways. If you are a first-time Antarctican reading this blog to find out what life's all about, be prepared for this. Maybe it will make it easier to not be taken so by surprise. But maybe not -- it's a feeling shared by many of my second and third season friends as well.

I realized today that in the last couple of weeks, I've finally, FINALLY, felt like I am a complete, functioning person in the "real world" again. I leave that world in less than a month. So I think, as acutely as I've missed Antarctica this summer, I will miss my real world loves in the winter (your winter, not mine. I will again experience summer.) I'll miss my family. Miss my friends. Really really miss my dog. I might never see my grandmother alive again, and that goes for any one of you reading this blog.

So anyway, a reality check. I am making it my goal to blog much more frequently this season. I won't have to wait in line for a computer, so that will help immensely, I think. Most of my posts will probably be enthusiastic, and show you all of the fun and excellence that is Antarctica. But this entry, I wrote, so you could know what's going on under the surface for many of us in that wonderful white world.

Let the adventure begin again...


Brody said...

This is a great post, Keri.

Bevans said...


Terri said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Terri said...

Hey Keri,
This is very, very true. I felt something like it after I got back from a year in NZ during college. I suddenly found I didn't fit into my undergrad any more. And I felt it again coming back from the Ice this northern spring.
I don't know if I have any more solutions this time around, but I think I will keep going abroad as much and for as long as I can, despite, or perhaps because of, it.
Because you're right about finally belonging to a community that amazingly shares (most of :) your world view. And I think the more we go, the more we find those scattered souls who do.
And that, I think, is well worth it.