Up a little early this morning. Ian (next partition over in in J7-13) usually gets up a bit before I do, but he hit his “snooze” a couple of times, and I kept mistaking it for my own alarm. It’s funny – despite the strange environment (light 24 hours a day), I’ve been sleeping well, and with rare exception, always waking up just a few minutes before my own alarm.

But I’d gotten to sleep late last night, and was anxious about oversleeping. Remember how I’d said last week that I was casting around for non-work things to do? Well yes, you know me too well – I’m already overcommitted. Had to bail on music Monday night because I’d promised Daniel and Kiell that I’d attend their folk dancing class, and was up late last night working in the greenhouse. Joselyn needed extra help for the “Death and Destruction” party to clear out the old growth in preparation for Spring planting.

One of my favorite smells in the world is what your hands smell like after you’ve been working with tomatoes in the garden. I guess it’s something that tomatoes secrete to keep the bugs away, but after you’ve spent a few minutes poking your hands through the tangle of vines, they’re covered with something that smells like, oh, I don’t know, Late Summer sunshine. So, here at the South Pole, with another storm moving in, how could I miss this?

About 8-10 people showed up to help Joselyn – Jens and Freya the physicists, Kevin the network guy, Ken from Ice Cube, Aaron the chef and Rachael the GA. Reaching, snipping, pulling and stuffing the earthly remains of lettuce, kale, cukes, tomatoes and whatnot into bags. Peeling, washing and stacking the hydroponic trays. And nibbling, sipping and chatting about where we came from and how we ended up here, together at the bottom of the world.

Freya, Dave and Rachael –
we’re all wearing cucumber
flowers in our ears

There were, of course, no ordinary stories. I’d met Rachael early on – I think everyone did. She was always there in the hallway, this kid, sweeping or mopping with the serene smile of a Zen monk. She was here as a GA, a general assistant, which meant she was even lower on the organizational totem pole than I was. Her job description was pretty much “do whatever people tell you to do.” Which meant perpetually sweeping and mopping the main hallways of the station (a Sisyphusian task if ever there was one), cleaning up leftover dishes and wiping tables in the galley, and whatever else there was that no one really wanted to do. And yet there she was every day with that serene smile, greeting everyone who’d stop to chat with a cheerful “hello” and sincere inquiry on how your day was going.

Rachael’s story? She was just happy to be here. She must be older than she looks, because this “kid” has been working for the UN doing analysis on the conflict in Sudan. She holds a Bachelors degree from McGill and a Masters from University of Cape Town in South Africa. Her dissertation examines the enduring role of under-informed 19th-century “orientalists” in imposing western assumptions that precipitated much of the religious conflict in North Africa. Hoping to land a position with Human Rights Watch once she comes off the ice. And she’s here because? Because she was willing to sweep floors and wipe tables for the chance to come work at the bottom of the world.

Again – so many stories here.

Rounding out the death and destruction with wine and cheese

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