Money ain't a thang!
First thing after walking into the Raytheon Office, I was given a wad of $210 for travel money. Then I sat in safety orientations for the rest of the day. Very uneventful. The afternoon before was spent hanging out in my hotel room. I met my first ice person on my shuttle from the airport to the Red Lion, and he was not friendly. "You're a first year," he stated; it was not a question.
I also had an adventurous walk to the nearest food opportunity, a grocery store. I had the most delicious picnic dinner on my hotel bed, watching trashy television.
During the full day of training, I had the opportunity to go outside and read a few times. At the end of the day, we turned in our security badges and then ended up having to wait outside for our shuttles for an hour... in the sunshine.
Hello, South Island!
The next 36 hours were crazy. The day began with hours of safety training (i.e. watching power points), then a drive to the airport, then a four hour wait in the airport, then a three hour flight to LA, then a six hour layover there, then a fourteen hour flight to Auckland, then a four hour layover there, then a two hour flight to Christchurch. Then a shuttle ride to the charming little bed and breakfast I'm staying at.
Despite hating window seats, and requesting aisles for my trip down, I ended up in the window from Auckland to Christchurch, and I was glad I did. I got to see the islands start appearing in the ocean, and then the glorious Southern Alps peaking out of the clouds.
This is Sharon who was a dining attendant last year and will be a janitor with me this year. We stopped into a NZ equivalent to a dollar store which was filled with hilarious Asian products. This is a CD case with puppies wearing tshirts and it says "HAPPY TIME i am fascinated with your love." It's pretty bizarre traveling down in a group of 50 people that you just met. A lot of them know each other from working the previous year on the ice. Everywhere you go, every corner of the airport has an ice person. They're everywhere you look on the plane. There's a certain camaraderie that forms amid the group, but I also can't help but feel a little claustrophobic. I'm not exactly sure of the number of people in my group. I've heard rumors though: 51, 48, 67… Everybody has a different, specific number that they reference. That's the thing I've learned the quickest: rumors are like a currency amid this population. There are speculations about everything - what our terminal will be, will we be postponed in Christchurch (or ChCh, pronounced "cheech" as ice people refer to it), who is returning and who is sleeping with whom. I'm one of about 10 or 11 women in this group. Most of the people are older - 50s, 60s. There's also a fair amount of 30s, and then 5 or 6 of us are in the early 20 range. There aren't any people I feel a connection with out of this sampling of the McMurdo population, but people are kind and quick to laugh. I am in kind of a strange middle ground, having never been down there before but hearing two seasons' worth of stories and information from my Mom… I know what people are talking about, but feel strange contributing to the conversation. Plus, despite having a good grasp on the situation, I've made a couple mistakes. A large amount of people work the night shift and their lunch is called "midrats," short for midnight rations. I referred to it as, "moonrats," and then thinking that I was correcting myself, said "skidrats." Neither being correct, of course. Also, Chch ("cheech")… I referred to as "chach." Definitely not right. Oh well. I'm taking comfort in the fact that I felt fairly comfortable the whole way down… maneuvering all of the social, travel, and training situations just fine. I have a steady mantra going, "You're doing great, you're doing great, you're so capable." And so far, so good.
I apologize for this post being all over the place... I haven't even rested since the 36 hours of travel, and am trying to stay up to a decent hour to get into the new time zone. It's only 7pm right now and I could pass out instantly if I wanted. After checking into the Windsor B&B, I took the most gratifying shower I've had in a long time. The entire group had started to smell pretty funky so it was a relief to have a hot shower and put on something other than sweats. Sharon and I went and had absolutely delicious souvlaki with falafel. Then we walked all over Chch. We ran into ice people of course and visited the dollar store and stopped at an interactive display about dyslexia and peeked in on three ministers getting ordained at the cathedral and checked out some of the winter sales going on. There were bells ringing at the cathedral and twinkling lights everywhere and there are no leaves on the trees and you could see your breath... it felt like Christmas was approaching. Now I'm off to go see Scott Pilgrim vs The World which I am excited about, even though I would much rather just go to sleep, but I've been warned that it's trouble going to sleep so early the first night... gotta get into the new time zone. My plan for tomorrow is to escape the group and wander around town with my camera, so hopefully I will post tomorrow or the next day with some decent pics.