In the morning our meeting was canceled—tomorrow’s as well—for the holiday. Hooray! So I slept in, called Tim, did my laundry (we’re allowed one load of laundry a week in cold water) sat in the greenhouse reading a book (they finally planted some vegetables in there so it smelled incredible—smells don’t really exist down here, so the greenhouse was really a treat) went to the birthday Sauna with Claire (NOT in our birthday suits) and got a shower—ah blessed shower! After the shower was the birthday party, hors d’oeuvres, Christmas dinner (the best part of which was the salad—we haven’t had fresh greens since I arrived—everything else was great too, of course: beef Wellington, lobster, asparagus, mashed potatoes and gravy, desserts…it was no Swedish meatballs, but it was good), more food, carol singing over the radio to people in remote locations, dancing, and generally an entire night of festivities. We even had a Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus! Pretty fun over all—but not at all like Christmas Eve at home, which made me somewhat homesick…I’ve never missed a Christmas. Hopefully I won’t miss one again.
Christmas morning arrived right on the heels of Christmas Eve, as it should—though somehow it seemed to arrive a tad more quickly than usual (probably due to the fact that I was awake until 5). At 9 AM on Christmas Day is the race around the world—it’s 2.3 miles completed in three laps, and the mode of transportation is not specified. We had runners, skiers, walkers (like me), bikers, float-riders, forklift drivers, couches pulled along on sleds behind treaded conversion vans, a sleigh pulled by “reindeer” (i.e. people)—which got ditched after the first lap—and last but not least, snow mobiles: overall, a motley but well-costumed crew. The only ones that count, though, are the runners. The one man and one woman who win the race by running get to go to McMurdo to compete in a further race (which apparently the Polies always win because we have the altitude and temperature advantage).
After the race, we collected our race around the world t-shirts and went to the IceCube All Hands meeting—it was really a gift-giving meeting, which was completely unexpected to me. I received a very nice leatherman, an IceCube t-shirt, and an IceCube keychain. They have varied gifts depending on how long you’ve been coming down (like a fleece, or a Carhart jacket, or an IceCube duffle bag—all quite nice gifts), but apparently this is the first year that non-drillers received gifts so I’m pretty lucky!
After the meeting, I went back up to second brunch to get an omelet and then I gave up: I couldn’t stay awake any longer, so I just went back to bed and slept until 4. This is the first time I’ve taken a serious nap down here, and I have to say it was really disconcerting—when I woke up I thought it was morning because it’s impossible to tell what time it is. At 4 the night shift is starting so there are people in the bathroom getting ready for the day. Add to that the fact that the sun is always out and there are always things going on, and you end up with a very strange afternoon awakening! I finally managed to drag myself to dinner which was leftovers from last night’s Christmas meal—of all the tasty choices, I picked only a huge salad—it was fantastic!
After dinner I played Scrabble with Freija (pronounced Fray-ah)—a friend and fellow IceCube grad student from Belgium. She nearly beat me! How humiliating would that have been, to lose in Scrabble by someone who isn’t even a native English speaker? I’d better start practicing!
But now it’s bedtime because I have to get up really early to call my family to wish them a Merry Christmas—I get three days of “Merry Christmas” instead of two this year—how cool is that? (Only -5 F with a windchill of -18 F! Everyone agrees that this weather is uncommonly mild at this time of year…but since the satellite isn’t up, we can’t check the records.)
Merry Christmas! Merry Christmas! Merry Christmas!