Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Loose Ends

Remember Penteleikha?

Yah! Those were fun to wake up to in Canada, when I noticed my skin coming off! Now, I've gotten blisters on my feet maybe...maybe twice in my life before, and not for lack of trying. I simply do not blister. (Incidentally, I've never gotten poison oak before either, which seems a rather extraordinary stroke of luck that makes me believe I may be immune). So, seeing those puppies was actually sort of terrifying.

Some last views of Cherskii, while I was waiting for the helicopter:

(That says "Cherskii" in Russian.)

(The Arctic Siberian Airport.)


(At least for a bit.)

I get a lot of questions about my living conditions in Russia, which I really found quite comfortable, barring my food situation. So, to satisfy some of those questions, here's a photo of my Russian bedroom:

Now...technically that bed is about an inch of foam covering a sheet of plywood, which is really more comfortable than it sounds. Laying on there diagonally I just about fit.

Speaking of that, I've got an announcement for America: TALL PEOPLE ARE PEOPLE TOO. Walking around foreign countries, I expect to get started at, for whatever reason that might make me look unusual. But my god, people here at home are ruder than I remember. Who runs up to people and says, "You're really tall!" Uh, thanks for the news flash? What sort of training do American's get as kids that slack-jawed stares and idiotic comments are the first response for people of unusual size? My family is perfectly proportional but sometimes it feels like going into town together is like putting on a show, let alone when there's just one or two of us walking around. (I think I've brought this up before, but I'm 6'3", and my family is sized around that, my bro and dad signficantly taller than me and my mom slightly shorter). Oh, and here's a good one! People that walk past you then IMMEDIATELY start going on about "Good christ did you see how tall they were!" We're not deaf!

Somehow I'm oddly reminded of a VERY odd experience I had my first time in London, coming home from Norway two years ago. I had to spend the night in a hotel and took the tubes to get there with my massive amounts of luggage. Exhausted, I ended up on a train seat next to a man who, after staring at my arm for five minutes, said "You have realllllly nice skin."


Well there's my little rough-transition rant. But that business is nothing new. As for otherwise in this coming home transition, things haven't gone all that bad. I'm still having a hard time with how much food there is here - not even in a "American glutenous" way, but just coming to terms with the fact that I don't constantly have to strategize where my next meal is coming from, and I can eat until I'm full.

Other things I've noticed:

I'm no longer afraid of the dark. Disclaimer - I was never particularly afraid of the dark, but I wasn't a huge fan of running around at night. Now it doesn't faze me at all (internal disclaimer - as someone living on a farm, I should never, ever had seen "Signs"). [Additional note: don't watch John Carpenter's "The Thing" if you plan on going to one of the polar regions]

I wake up almost instantly. I know exactly where this comes from - living with the Canadian coast guard and our wicked sampling schedules. That was alarm rings BOOM dressed fully conscious in about 5 minutes, ready to go haul and filter water for the next 6 hours. 2am or 6pm or noon, gotta be ready to go.

I've been horribly spoiled by freedom. My internal tolerance for boredom has become slim. I'm reminded of a small tantrum I threw in the Norwegian hospital, a few hours after my second surgery (no one saw it, I do have some measure of pride): the nurses pushed my bed from the emergency ward out to radiology (I wasn't allowed to get up yet), where I was left for about 30 minutes by myself. Sick of the entire scenario, I began singing "bored bored bored" to myself and used my hands against the wall to push my bed up and down the hallway.

There is a very significant chance that that was the drugs talking at that point in time.


There are a great deal of people that I need to thank for everything thats happened this year.

For the funding (Thomas J Watson Foundation)

For support at home (Mom, Dad, Dane, and extended family)

For my advisor and constant source of contacts (Nina Karnovsky)

For the people that trusted a very random American enough to take her in and give her a job (Christine Michel, the Canadian Coast Guard, and ArcticNet; Peter von Staffeldt, Arne Munk, and the Ittoqqortoormiit School; Jorgen Berge, Piotr Kuklinski, Marek Zajaczkowski, and the University Center in Svalbard; and Sergei and Galina Zimov and the Northeast Science Station)

For the people that gave me a home (CCGS Amundsen and crew; Eric and Therecie Pedersen and family; SITO and UNIS; and the Zimov's and Sergei and Ana Davydov)

For the families and friends of friends that took me in, in times of dire need (Anna Prokopowicz; Marisa and Jon Kjartansson; Lisa Delaney and family; Sarah Terry; Nina Seifert and Philip; Carol Svea and family)

For the hospital care (The Royal Infirmary in Edinburgh (Scotland), Longyearbyen Sykehus (Longyearbyen), Universitetssykehuset Nord-Norge (Tromso), and Sykehuset Buskerud (Drammen))

For friends at home that put up with random and occasionally panicked conversations (you know who you are)

For new friends met along the way (too many to count and I'd never want to leave someone out)

And for everyone who made this impossible year happen.


Touchstone said...

You're 6'3"? Funny, I'd just chalked it up to great posture. Welcome back. Stop by Seeley G. and say hi next time you're in Claremont.

jen said...

Hey there,
About a week ago I went in search for some arctic blogs. Found yours and read through it post after post, like I was reading an online book. Have you ever thought about publishing your experience? Anyways thanks for the great read, I myself have spent the last year in the arctic. I moved to Nunavut a year ago with my husband. I found a lot of similarities with our communities and the one you were staying in Greenland. The only thing we seem to be missing are those crazy toilets and the beautifully coloured houses! I totally understand and sympathize about not being able to simply go for walks out of town without a rifle! I also understand about the snowmobiles. I had a very similar post on my blog about the first time I drove one and how I fell in love.
I am very sad your adventures are over, please keep writing!