Monday, December 15, 2008

In the Eye...

Last night I organized all my things and said goodbye to my room. I had enjoyed my little space, so I took a few photos to commemorate the moment. You can see them below.

However, it seems it was not good bye after all. I awoke this morning at 5. Our shuttle was coming shortly after 6 to collect us for the flight to McMurdo. So I showered, got dressed and ready, reorganized everything in my bags, and checked my e-mail one last time. I was just putting on my shoes to walk out of the room with my carry on bags, when I received a knock at the door. I thought (in my tiredness) that perhaps they were knocking just to be sure everyone was awake. They are very hospitable here, so it was not a crazy idea. But no, "Go back to bed!" said the shortish man in a blue bath robe. I gave him a stare of utter incomprehension. "Your flight's delayed 24 hours. Go back to bed." I still didn't understand. So he showed me the note he'd written, which said "Flight delayed 24 hours." Somehow the writing made a difference and I realized what had happened: weather. So I thanked the man, changed my clothes, and thought about sleeping. But I was too geared up--I knew that sleep wouldn't come right away, so I wrote some e-mails instead. And then I tried to sleep for an hour or so before breakfast. But I'd had an early dinner last night and my stomach was complaining about its lack of sustenance, completely preventing me from sleeping. So at 7:15 I went down to breakfast early, hoping they'd have some food to eat so I could go to sleep.

Breakfast was strange--not the food, but the company. I ended up sitting with three IceCube people I'd never met. I'm a 6th year graduate student. One would think I'd have met everybody by now, but for a variety of reasons that is clearly not the case. So it was a tiny bit awkward. But they were all so friendly, and I was so famished that I ended up sitting and eating and talking for almost 2 hours!

Then, I thought, surely I would be able to sleep. But I went up to my room, and it was cold (it was cold and rainy outside, and all my clothes for cold and rainy are at the CDC, so there was no way I was going out in that weather!) So I turned up the heat and thought I'd just read a while until the room was warmed up. About 5 hours later, I finished my book, and felt refreshed. The sun was out, the air was clean and fresh, and I'd laid in my pajamas in bed for most of the day. How wonderful!

Then, since the weather was nice, I went out for a walk. I roamed around a bit, revelling in my favorite scent of spring--lilacs just starting to bloom! I breathed the freshness of the air like it was some forbidden fruit, and realized that this is the eye of the storm, a bit of springtime in the bleak midwinter, and I'd better appreciate this day--this unexpected day of peace. So I rambled through town drinking in the sweetness of the moment until I came upon the botanic gardens. I walked in and through them all, discovering New Zealand through it's foliage on the way. It has been mentioned that New Zealand is something like California. I think this might be true. All through town are these neo-gothic buildings (which you've seen in my photos from two days ago) next to modern buildings. These neo-gothic buildings were built by Anglican priests, come to convert the natives and sustain their flock of Englishmen. So in that sense, they might be compared to the Spanish mission buildings in California. Another similarity is in the foliage. It is strange to me to see yucca plants next to palm trees mixed with pine trees surrounded by oak trees. These types of plants clash for me, but I think they all exist in California, as well. But for my part, I find the combination charmingly different.

After roaming and rambling for a good few hours, I found myself a place to eat dinner, outside, in the midst of one of these neo-gothic structures. The food was immensely good (and included lamb, of course) and though I meant to read while I ate, I found my eyes drawn up to the sky instead.

Now, I've mentioned already (in the photo captions from a few days back) about the sun being to my back as I walked south--which is strange enough. But today as I watched the sky, a group of fluffy white clouds came marching across the land from west to east, high in the atmosphere traveling quickly. But next thing I knew, there was a second set of clouds, traveling in the opposite direction, a bit lower in the atmosphere, and moving even more quickly. This was disturbing to me--the clouds were incredibly dark and I couldn't see how these two sets could pass each other by without incident. But no one else seemed concerned, so I just kept one eye on my food and the other on the sky, watching, waiting for some sort of huge storm right above where I sat, at the confluence of the two currents. But alas, nasty as they looked, the two banks of clouds must really have been on two separate layers and in the end they peacefully passed each other by. But boy howdy! I tell you I have never seen clouds like that without a tornado or wind storm or something awful right on it's heels. I guess the weather just arrives faster here. And so my lovely day was brought to a close, and I'm almost hoping for the same tomorrow! It's been too long since I took that much time for myself, with no agenda, no important things to be done hanging over my head. It was very relaxing.

Well,I mustn't tarry--I never got that nap I needed, and I'll arise at 5 once more tomorrow. I'm not sure if you should hope for the flight, or hope there's no flight, but I guess good luck will serve me nicely either way, so maybe you should hope for that.


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