Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Day 17: Another totally random job for the ol' resume

Things have gone from somewhat stagnant to suddenly quite active. After an enormously stressful few days waiting to figure out what was happening with the ship (where my lab team was, whether I should be moving on the ship, how to disguise how much luggage I actually have) I eventually just went to the dock, found the ship, and thankfully ran into someone I know. I've since met the people I'll be working for and had at least a glimpse at my room. The people seem excellent - I really am very excited to know that they are really nice and plan to teach me everything. The room is perfectly adequate and a quick survey suggests that between the closet and a set of drawers I should be able to put everything somewhere and keep as much out of the roomate's way as possible. The roomate I have not met yet...we shall see how that goes...

So, like I mentioned previously, this will unfortunately be my last post for quite awhile. I will not have internet on the ship, although I will have an email system that will allow me to access a special address. If you need/want to contact me, please email and follow the instructions in the auto-response. Otherwise, I will write once I get to Iceland on October 22th. Unless I find internet in one of the 18 MILLION airports that I will visit between Kugluktuk and Iceland. I can't remember if I already wrote about this, but I have to spend two days and five flights to get from northern Canada to Iceland - which is just to get me to Greenland. Ah well.

Well, I hope you've all enjoyed the blog so far - time to take care of some last minute things and get my luggage downstairs. Thanks for checking in and please try again in a few months. All the best to you all!

Friday, August 11, 2006

Bad news, chickadees.

After doing some investigation into the not-able-to-post-photos problem, it seems that for some reason I cannot upload photos from my new camera. I am not sure why this is happening, but I am in contact with the people and will try to figure something out, since most of my work will be off the new camera. Until it's fixed, I will attempt to entertain with some old photos from a less snazzy camera.

Such as:

Me in Norway (Svalbard) again, handling a little auk chick while doing some measurements for the ecology project I was working with. (This bird really is called a "little auk".)

Day 11: Oh, things are going REAL well

I'm sure most everyone will find this story ridiculous, but keep in mind that I'm from California, so 1) I don't know anything about buses and 2) rain never lasts longer than a few minutes. Here we go.

So today I decide I'm going to try to walk to this outdoors-y store to try to get some pants that won't freeze in the winter (ie, not cotton). The store is about 2 miles away, and considering my severe aversion to public transport I figure this is no problem to walk. Ordinarily, this would be true. I get maybe about a mile out, and suddenly it totally started pouring rain. Now, I will admit, it was cloudy out when I left the house, but I didn't really think anything of it. So I didn't have a jacket or umbrella or anything, and since I was pretty much using my stellar (honestly) sense of direction to get me to the store, I also technically didn't know where I was, or, even if I did, what bus would be going in the right direction to get me home. I stopped under a bus-stop shelter, thinking the rain would probably just stop after a little. Wrong. There are torrents of rain coming down, and even if I wanted to take a bus, I'm on the wrong side of the street. By the time I get on the correct side of the street and decide I'm just going to try to walk back, my pants are soaked from the St. Lawrence River Jr. in the street (I am also wearing sandles) and I've got this ridiculous wet-t-shirt look going on.

Basically I ended up walking home in the rain, getting to my block (which is in a busy shopping area) in time to have the rain stop and look like a bigger fool. Sigh.

Other than THAT, things continue to be ok. I had a blast hanging out with some people that I met last weekend (thanks for the tour, Dakx!) and maybe have a few new readers in Quebec. On the subject of this blog, I have a bit of bad news. While I'm on the ship, I will probably have zero access to the "internet", although I will have access to a medieval sort of email system. This means that from August 18th to October 19th I may not be able to update this website. If you are still interested in hearing what I'm up to during that period, write a note to and I will give you instructions on how to get in contact with me. I am also sorry to say that seems to be having some problems uploading photos, so I apologize for the lack of pictures thus far.

Whoa! Nevermind! Photo problem appears to be fixed.
This is me in Norway last summer.

Well, to all the newcomers, and everyone else, please email me if you have any questions about my project. Right now I gotta find some more pictures to put up while I can...

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Day 6: Things=OK

So I'm coming up on one week out, and things are pretty ok. Most of my time here has been spent walking around the city desperately trying to find cheap summer clothes, because it is incredibly hot and humid here. I was under the BLATANTLY INCORRECT assumption that Canada is pretty much always cold, in varying degrees. Considering my limited luggage, I had brought with me only pants and a few t-shirts, and otherwise all sweaters. Now I have one pair of shorts that I wear almost everyday.

Anna and I are getting along quite well I think. She is always arranging things for us to do or inviting me to come out with her and her friends, which is very nice. I went to a BBQ at her PhD
advisor's house yesterday, where I got to meet a lot of the people who will be on the icebreaker, including a bunch of people who know my advisor at Pomona. Everyone was pretty nice, but unless they were talking directly to me, they mostly spoke in I sort of sat there, most of the time. Excellent food, though.

I had a bit of a scare with someone giving me the impression that I needed a Canadian work visa, but I recently met the ship-coordinator who assured me that all my paperwork is correct. I seem to live on the verge of a series of catastrophes - its been a little hard for me to relax. I continue to stress over my luggage and whether I will be able to fit it all in my room on the ship.

An interesting thing - NO ONE can tell I am American, which is kinda cool. Most people talk to me in French, and then when I have to tell them I only speak English, they think I'm from the UK. When I went to the BBQ, all of Anna's friends told her that I speak English very well and that I have a nice accent (they thought I was Polish like Anna). I guess this is good, that I speak my native language decently well? Or does this mean my English is questionable enough that I sound foreign? Hm.

Finally: Laurel and her luggage!

Also! My wee brother turns 18 today. Happy Birthday, Dane!

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Day 1: Oh God

It has officially begun! A Year In The North has now commenced.

And what a start it was. After goodbyes before security at LAX, I went up to my wait for my flight for 2 hours, because the flight went from being delayed 10 minutes, to a half an hour, to an hour, to two hours. Additionally, in this waiting period - which I was expecting to spend on the phone talking to people I hadn't (or had) seen recently - my phone went insane and told me I was using a headset, which I wasn't. So I couldn't make or receive calls, because the normal earpiece and voice-receiver thingy wouldn't work - and I didn't have my actual headset with me. Luckily I was still able to at least send text messages, but the whole episode was very frustrating.

So flight's delayed 2 hours, and I finally get on the plane at 11:30pm. The flight was very turbulent-y, so I didn't sleep much. We get into Newark, NJ five minutes before my connecting flight is supposed to take off. Having missed that flight, I spend an hour in line at the Continental service center - luckily they were able to put me on the next flight to Quebec which only left 2.5 hours later.

I get to Quebec without a hitch, quite a nice flight. HOWEVER, when I try to go through customs, I'm told I need to go talk to immigration, for no apparent reason. I am then detained by the Canadian immigration forces for an hour, as I am questioned about my purpose in Canada, what I will be doing, what I'm carrying...and once I answer all of these things carefully and honestly, "why do you want to do these things? What is your incentive?" Um...because I can? Do you want me to write you an essay?

They eventually asked to see all of my paperwork, including proof of the Watson and my connections to the icebreaker. They call the ship coordinator and the Watson office - as I am put in a waiting room - and eventually determine that I am allowed to be there, but must be issued a "visiter's permit" that says I am not allowed to enroll in a Canadian university. Thanks?

When I asked if there was a problem - really having no idea what set them off, they didn't stop anyone else that was on my plane - they said "we need to decide what kind of permit to give you." Now, maybe I missed something, but I've never heard of needing any kind of permit to visit Canada, unless you're planning on moving there or something. They didn't even look through my luggage, so I don't think I looked like a major security threat. My "interviewer" didn't speak English perfectly, so I don't think she really understood what I was telling her (that's one thing about this Watson business, and my project in particular - it's almost impossible to explain across language barriers).

Once I get over that episode, and it becomes clear that I won't be deported, I make it outside with my 120 lbs of luggage and find that the currency exchange is closed and I'm on the opposite side of the airport than the taxi stand. Finally I find a taxi, driven by an old lady who doesn't speak English - luckily I had the address written down. For such a rough introduction to Canada, I will say this - Quebec is BEAUTIFUL. The weather here is totally perfect right now - maybe a smidge too warm, especially considering I only have pants and sweaters with me, but it is very pretty.

After about a 30 minute drive we get to the heart of downtown Quebec - full of cute old shops, narrow streets, old buildings and a few blocks away from a ton of historic landmarks. A tiny little door at the side of a shop is where I ring for Anna, the woman who I am supposed to be staying with. She and her roomate come down, and after a bit of an awkward introduction (we've never met) we haul my massive luggage up a steep flight of stairs to her apartment, which she shares with 2 other girls. Anna is super wonderful, very friendly and welcoming. She makes me pancakes as I take a shower, which we eat on her balcony - her building is amazing, all wood with old furniture - the place is about 100 years old. After a nap, we walk around old Quebec - I get to see the St. Lawrence river by night, and the parliament, and a ton of other things. The city is very easy to walk around - she usually uses the bus system to travel further, but I will probably walk most places.

I am staying in the room of one of Anna's roomates who just left for vacation. The room is small but just right for me, plus they have beautiful fast internet, a lovely view into the street from the front and a green backlot, and once I get settled I will pretty much be free to do as I please. I have a spot in the kitchen to keep groceries, and will try to get a calling card today.

One other problem - there is much more French here than I expected, and a bit hard to communicate. I wonder if I look like a big stupid American (I certainly look big - I seem to be taller than absolutely everyone I've seen in Quebec so far) and I feel a bit foolish trying to stumble around the French. It is interesting - while I can often understand a decent amount, I absolutely cannot speak it, unless I try to sound out something that's written down, say, on a menu, or mimic something someone's just said. As most of you know, I have problems pronoucing English words, so that doesn't really go very well.

Tasks for today: figure out Canadian money! Buy food! Find calling card! Take photos!