I haven’t written in a while, and it’s not because I’ve been off having wild adventures, but actually the opposite – I’ve become absorbed into what feels like a very normal life. It’s amazing to me to think that after such a short time here it feels completely normal – mundane, even – to work in such a remote place. Time has started to fly. For the first few weeks, the days and weeks went by soooooooo slooooooowly, and then suddenly as soon as one Sunday is over, it seems like it’s already the next Saturday night. (Time here, of course, being measured by how quickly that one coveted day off comes around.)
But I will say that it is easier here to think big. When I do pause to shake off the feeling of just living an average life and working an average job, it’s very clear that there isn’t much between me and great empty spaces. At home there are a lot of layers of familiarity around me – house, street, city block, neighborhood, city, state, and even the whole US is manageable to think about. And because of that it’s harder to think in global terms, because there is so much distracting stuff happening at all of those earlier levels. But here, there is this small town, and then nothing.nothing.nothing for a long time. And so, improbably, because we are isolated from the rest of the world here, it is much easier to be conscious of being part of a global system.
But enough big picture stuff. Because I haven’t had any really grand adventures lately, here is a collection of small observations about life around town:
~Thanksgiving is coming up, and that means a 2 day (!) weekend. It also means that the galley will be cooking 1,300 pounds of turkey, 350 pounds of mashed potatoes, 1,000 pieces of pumpkin cheesecake, 400 each of apple and pumpkin pies, 500 pounds of beef, 9 gallons of whipped cream (made from real cream flown in, not dried milk), and a whole lot more. It also means that part of my job today was punching holes in construction paper on which people had made hand turkeys (you know, where you trace your hand and turn it into a turkey) and stringing them up in the dining hall. Sometimes living here feels like being at summer camp.
~There is a floor to ceiling bookshelf full of wigs that are available for the community to check out, free of cost.
~I went to the post office yesterday without any money, because I am used to everything being free – movies in the store, haircuts, skis, food, gym, yoga classes, basically any office or work supply you could want. It turns out that they still want money to mail things, though.
~I’m in the library, and someone is practicing tuba next door in the laundry. In addition to wigs, there are also a multitude of instruments available for use, including a theremin.
~The spring is coming, and there is mud everywhere. There’s a reason that the “r” is sometimes dropped from the station name. McMud-O really does describe it.
~The only wildlife you really see in town are skuas. Skuas are like seagulls, but much much larger, and brown. They are smart. And vicious. They will dive bomb you if you walk out of a building carrying food. Sometimes one distracts you from the front while another sneaks up behind to grab what you’re holding.
~I take tap dancing lessons once a week.
~Over 60% of the trash here is recycled. Working in the Waste Barn, as it’s called, is fascinating. Trash is sorted into about 10 different categories, and is shipped back to the US every year on the cargo ship that comes in at the end of January with the year’s supplies.
~I now know what it’s like to be a hamster. That’s because last Saturday I worked up at Waste and they used their wood-chipper, which is the size of an 18 wheeler, to make a dent in the huge amount of scrap wood that needs to be shipped back the the US. It’s chipped up and put into huge shipping containers, and the mess that’s left after they’re done is considerable. So I crawled around in the chips and raked and shoveled them so they could be scooped up by a loader and put into the containers. The best part about it was smelling wood – it was lovely to smell something organic and alive.
More pictures soon, I promise!