Saturday, December 30, 2006

Day 153: Wicked Fate

So I'm in Scotland! I have a very weird accent now...sort of a bizarre combination of the Canadian "eh", the Greenlandic "oye!" and "aie!", the Australian "mate" and a bit of Scottish twang. So people never guess where I'm from, but, amusingly, I have been asked if I'm Native American like, half a dozen times. This is funny because they're actually mum's side of the family is Native American, the dad's Scottish. But never in my life have people guessed I'm Native American, what with the red hair/green eyes/freckles. Interesting. some bad news. The rumors are true.

I broke my foot.

Now, this might seem like a disaster to most people. But after pursuing the x-rays, and having some deep thoughts about my pain tolerance, I decided that the only thing for it is to walk it off. I'm moving to Norway in a week, which for a number of reasons would be extremely difficult to postpone.

I wish I could tell you that I was...I dunno, dragging home a walrus, or something, but what actually happened is this. I flew into Scotland on Thursday, no big deal, met my friend Sarah (who I haven't seen in nearly two years). We go out to dinner and then we're walking around town - she lives across the street from the Edinburgh castle, like the most amazing place ever. Anyhow, I'm going down some stairs and land wrong and roll my foot.

At first I thought it was no big deal - I had minor stress fractures in both feet last year, and they hurt sometimes. So I assumed I just tweaked it again. But after some intense pain and realizing I couldn't walk, we had to ask some fellows to call me an ambulence and I spent the night in a Scottish hospital. Hellooo Scotland.

I was scared they would give me a cast, which would mean my trip is over (I can't handle a plaster cast in snow). But the wonderful doctor said he could give me a removable walking cast, and he expects it to be better in about 6 weeks. Since its a clean break, I can pretty much do whatever I want as soon as I feel ready. (Probably not the wisest thing to tell me, since now I'm going to walk on it ASAP).

My wooden crutches, circa 1800's Tiny Tim:

The first 24 hours hurt too bad to put my foot on the ground. By today I was able to use just one crutch and use the foot just a bit. Tomorrow?


In other news, here's Sarah with her Christmas present from me. It's set in Scotland. It was perfect.

Alright, foot. We've got one week. Let's go.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Day 150: Up Up and Away

Well, its been at least a few weeks so I guess that means its time to change countries again. Funny thing - I had to schedule my flights to Scotland in such a way that I have a 9 hour layover in London. 9 hours? NOTHING. Heathrow and I are like this [crosses fingers].

Anyway...pretty bizarre sensation right now, after being in such a "normal" place, somewhere very similar to home, and now about to go off in my new-normal jet-setting life. Its just like, oh yah...this is what I do. How is it normal for me to be all "oh yah, flying to London big deal."

So spending New Years in Edinburgh, which should be a blast, then hitting Norway. I've got some Christmas photos, but they're going to have to come later.

Bye bye, North America.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Day 146: All I Want for Christmas is a .30-06

Currently hanging out in Moncton, New Brunswick with Lisa's family. While here my biggest worry is the icy rain, I'll soon be wrestling polar bears on Svalbard. (A .30-06 is high-caliber hunting rifle, for you people who don't have large game in your front yard).

On Svalbard, its required by law to carry a rifle with you when you got out of town because of the bears. However, they strongly discourage actually killing any bears - so if you meet one, you better be real sure he's attacking you before actually shooting it (you shoot to the side of a bear to scare it off). I heard of a scientist who got banned from Svalbard for killing a bear that was hanging around his cabin - the local forces did an autopsy and determined that the bear's stomach was full and thus had no reason to attack the scientist, so he got in all kinds of trouble. I also heard about a student who got eaten outside of Longyearbyen a few years ago (who didn't have a gun with her) so, you know, pros and cons.

Anyhow, happy holidays!

That's my family's Christmas card, including my 18 yr old brother, the parents, our dog Hammish, and myself.

Enjoy whatever it is you do.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Day 142: Halifax.

Heyyy so I did indeed finally land myself safely in Halifax. My friend Lisa came to pick me up with her fantastic black lab (sorry, no photos yet) and then I got to go to her place and sleep all afternoon. She lives in an amazingly nice townhouse with three roommates and I sleep on a futon in their den. The dog gets on the bed and sleeps with me whenever I'm too tired to protest. But she's very clean so I guess its all good, except for the black dog hair that has permeated everything that I own.

The last few days have been spent recovering, doing some shopping, and running errands with Lisa. I also launched an attack on the local post office with about 50 tons of stuff to mail, which apparently has no earthly way of getting to anyone on time for Christmas. And then today I went out and bought a bunch more stuff that will have to be the post-late-Christmas gifts. Soon we'll be driving to Lisa's parents to spend about a week living out Christmas with them.

So: no more Greenland. Now that I'm back in a world a little closer to my own, Greenland seems very far away. For how much I needed to leave, actually leaving turned out to be a lot harder than I expected. There is a barren beauty to the land that you can't get anywhere else, and even through you get used to it after a few weeks or so, when you start to leave you realize what a hold it has on you. It's really why I decided to come to the Arctic in the first place.

A last look at my room in Greenland:

And leaving my host family was especially hard, particularly the boys. I gave everyone their Christmas presents the night before, which they all seemed to liked very much, but I think also made the boys in particular wish that I wasn't leaving. It was just another occasion of me waving goodbye to everyone I know to spend some time alone again.

The boys playing with their Christmas presents:

If you give a child silly putty, this will happen eventually:

But it was funny - when you have a town of 500 people, there's not a whole lot of air traffic in the middle of winter. Aviaja's boyfriend works the air tower at the airport, so she said I should go meet him. So at this ice-locked airfield I just started wandering through this "PERSONNEL ONLY" building until I found some stairs and starting shouting "ESPEN?" That's Arctic security for you. Then when I got on the plane, I knew literally every one of the seven passengers (including a fellow teacher and one of my 8th grade students).

In the host family's living room, they have this family tree of all their kids - 13 all told:

Well. Canada is a different place. A lot warmer, if nothing else.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Day 139: aaaaaaaaaaaaaa

Sooo...I got out of Greenland, on time and as planned. More on that later. Spent the night with the cousin in Iceland, etc etc etc. After going from Iceland to Boston, I was supposed to catch a flight to get me into Halifax. Well. My flight from Iceland was delayed, making me blatantly miss my flight in Boston. After hauling my luggage about a mile around the Boston airport, I found a ticket agent who told me that Icelandair (who manned the late flight) wasn't responsible for my connection, which is through a different airline. What I don't get: they told me "you should have booked your connection through Icelandair" and I was like "Uhh...Icelandair doesn't go to Halifax." "Doesn't matter." What?

Anyhoo, so, tired and broken I went to Air Canada and seriously lost the ability to speak English.


They very kindly decided not to charge me for an entirely new ticket. However, the next flight isn't until tomorrow morning,, 14 hours from now. Close to tears (I'm turning into a big baby), they then told me that the flight was overbooked. I must have looked seriously destroyed because apparently they pulled some "well you were supposed to be going earlier so you have right of way" business and I got a ticket.

Sooo...I'm sitting in the Boston airport right now, at...midnight? I've been here since 7pm. Will continue to be here, a sketchy squatter in the abandoned children's playroom (the best-lit area in this accursed airport) until 8am tomorrow. My funders (the Watson) will take away everything I own if I enter the USA, with the exception of being allowed to pass through airports if they make a necessary and logical connection to another country. So I can't leave the airport, like a normal person, to find a hotel.

One of the particular adventures of traveling alone is manhandling a massive amount of luggage solo...which at the moment, since I cannot check in my luggage until 3 hours before the flight, means that I have to carry absolutely everything with me everywhere I go...eating, bathroom... for these many hours.

I had to call my Canadian friend on a payphone and spent about 10 minutes trying to remember which one was the quarter. In my purse I currently have American, Canadian, English, Danish, Icelandic, Norwegian, and Chinese currency. I forget what country I'm in every five minutes.

I...really need to sleep.

Less whining, more stories, and final Greenlandic photos to be coming from Canada.

This makes me feel better:

Monday, December 11, 2006

Day 134: Greenland, we need to talk

It's time for me to move on. I'm leaving you for Norway.


Yes, it's true. In a few days I'll be leaving this icy land for a...more icy land. But not before a little holiday vacation. I leave Greenland on Thursday (weather permitting, which it sure better), flying to Iceland (spending a night with my cousin) then flying to Boston to FINALLY bounce to Halifax, Canada. Halifax holds a lovely friend from the Amundsen, spending time over there will be unspeakably excellent. And then a bit of a stop in ye ol' Edinburgh before heading to my most northern destination: LONGYEARBYEN, homed at that frigid latitude of 78 degrees north.

These last few days have been different. I must say I am glad to be leaving, but there are things here that I care for (namely my host family) and it is strange to be going. It also marks the end of another leg of my trip, which is getting dangerously close to the half-way mark, which gives me pause to consider what I'm doing, what in the world my project is actually about, and a growing fear of Life After the Arctic. Which, admittedly, could turn into Life In the Arctic Once Again. But I don't know.

So that every-other day thing, yah, I realize I missed my cue yesterday. Those promising events didn't pan out the way I expected them to. On Friday evening we had a teacher's Christmas dinner party at the school, which my sister Aviaja came with me to. It was predictably awkward, but pleasant enough, and in our secret santa exchange I recieved a pair of socks and some soap. Way to say "I have no clue what to get the foriegn girl". Which was actually perfect, because it was probably the only thing they could have got me that I'll actually use, instead of like, candles, or something. At the end of the dinner, I also managed to walk off with someone's tie (JUST SO YOU KNOW, it had been a secret santa gift, I didn't take someone's tie off) so hey...that's pretty awesome too.

Yesterday I was supposed to go out to Kap Tobin (yes, destination of that infamous hike) with another teacher to see the hot springs, but there was too much snow for his ATV. So I got to have a chance to drive the ATV around town, which was insanely fun.

Too much snow, pushing the ATV home:

Ehh...this one didn't make it through the storm/past the town dog-shooter:


So I've been buying up some Christmas gifts...trying to ignore how stressful it will be to haul my luggage accross continents again...sliding down hills on a garbage bag full of snow...

...and plotting entry into Russia. Now, I don't want to get into it too much yet, because things are only in the beginning negotiations, but I have a potential position in north-east Siberia, in an extraordinary location, and with some extremely interesting research. If this pans out, it will be a huge stress off my mind, and a really great opportunity. Here's a little taste: I'd be doing something related to global warming in a research station located near one of Stalin's most infamous gulags in what is now a reindeer herding community. Uh...yeah. Wow.

Is that it? I think that's it...and it may be it for awhile. If you don't see anything here for a few days, think of me grinding my teeth in an airport, about to hit anyone who comes within ten feet of me with a terrifying black padlocked breifcase that weighes about two tons. That would be my camera gear/stranger-discourager. And then greeting my Canadian friend all dirty and wild-eyed, then probably starting to cry when I see fruit.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Day 131: The News

I am a creature of habit, and typically abide by random self-imposed rules, such as "I began making posts every other day, now I MUST post every other day." Because of this, on this day I may require your forgiveness for submitting less than sterling material.

However, this evening and tomorrow promise to be full of interesting things. So look forward to that.

Today was my last day teaching. Someone told me today that I looked happy. This is true.

I will miss some of them, a bit.

This is a remarkably accurate photo of the 8th grade class:

Sebastian looking far more reserved than usual, possibly because I took a photo of him that looks like a mug shot:

This was as close as we got to a decent photo. L-R - Karl, Mikkel, Sebastian, Duma, Rikke, and Nivi:

Nivi gets extra credit for her sweatshirt.

Today we had a school-wide assembly about brushing your teeth. Chaos, as usual, reigned.

Danish tooth-instructor lady with Greenlandic translator:

Principal Peter demonstrates:

Holy moly. I just stood in the back, things were out of my hands, I was technically on break:

Annnd then we sang a Greenlandic Christmas song together:


Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Day 129: Ho-kay.

So I've been trying to figure out a plan for Russia. (Current results: there are none.) While I was looking around the internet and hitting upon various touring companies, I started to think: Hey. Why don't I go to the north pole? Might as well while I'm up here, why not.

I'll tell you why not. I found about $20,000 worth of why not. That's right, the cheapest way I could find to get to the north pole ran about $20,000. I'm sure that would go over really well with the Watson folks. "Oh hey, I just spent 80% of my year's budget on a 10-day cruise to the north pole."

Admittedly, there are slightly (only slightly) cheaper ways to get up there on skiing expeditions. But considering I've only skied once before in my life - a cross-country event that resulted in what everyone assured me was impossible (I actually broke my skies) - that really doesn't seem wise at this time.

You can also fly up there, which is once again only marginally cheaper.

After a number of days of snow, we suddenly have clear skies and sweet jesus did it get cold. Only yesterday it was about -3 C (13 F) and today its -20 C (-5 F). I came downstairs this morning and there was ice on the INSIDE of the windows. Normally I'm pretty comfortable and just sort of generically think its cold outside, but let me tell you, you can really feel the difference. The booger-freezing difference.

I'm kind of looking forward to hitting the -40's in Norway. It'll be simply ridiculous.

Ah yes, the two first photos are of a very strange fog coming in - very unusual for this area for this time of year. In other random weather, the winds are changing here as well. From what the locals tell me, the snow drifts are in entirely new places this year, where they've never been before. The wind is coming from slightly north-west when it used to (in previous years) come straight from the north.

You've got a long ways to go, son:

Konrad playing on the snow piles made by the road-clearing (which is done via bulldozer):

Konrad again:


The talented tumbler:

It's snowmobile season:

Try not to freak out too hard:

Very odd mirage:

Another photo:

Janu jumping off a roof:

Some houses:

Monday, December 04, 2006

Day 127: Dear Nikon

My camera has been taking bullets for me recently and running like a champ. I've probably broken every "never do this to an expensive electrical appliance" rule barring sticking a fork in it. That's not really true...I take excellent care of my gear, except for freezing it every other day and getting it covered with snow. Which turns into melted snow. But we have yet to hit anything truly extreme, so these beginning runs are promising.

I've gotten to the point where anything above -10 C (about 14 F) feels like its pretty warm out. It's been snowing a lot with some heavy cloud cover, so it's been as warm as -2 C (close to 30 F) recently.

I miss sandals.

Not a lot to say today, actually. Here's some photos.

Ah yes, I remember walking home from school through snowdrifts taller than me. NOT:

I've been trying a lot of new things with lighting recently, as you might have noticed. The lighting here is ridiculous. Like ridiculous-difficult. But with some weird combos of super-high ISO's and a little flash, you get some pretty neat results. I think.

Hey, blue-eyed pup:

Wicked icicles:

The storage barn for the store:

Just walking home:

You can't tell, but that's Benjamin on the far left: