28 June 2005

Yesterday I said that so far the "I can't believe I get paid to do this" feeling was winning out. And it is. But the coolness factor of working in arctic Scandinavia is trumped a thousdand times over by missing yet another summer with Mac. Missing out on baseball games and summer concerts and Seinfeld reruns.

I haven't announced the news yet in blogland, but we are engaged to be married sometime early next summer before starting our Peace Corps assignement. We couldn't be more excited. It's a wonderful place to be in our relationship, but it has made being here hard. I'm not as fully engaged with the people here as I might otherwise be. Which is fine, but it is strange to be going through the motions of living life here while spending all my time imagining life elsewhere, with Mac.

Two years ago in Toolik, Alaska I remember talking to a young woman who was spending a month at the field camp. She had recently been married and I asked her if it wasn't hard to spend so much time apart from her husband. I was really struck by her answer. She said yes, of course it was hard, but she thought of it more as an opportunity to bring something new to their relationship, and as a way to keep things fresh for both of them by continuing to experience new things.

I thought she had a great perspective, and that's what I've been trying to remind myself of this summer. But I think when it comes down to it I'd rather do my experiencing with Mac by my side. My days of seeking out field jobs in the most exotic and remote locations possible have come to an end.

The project goes to Greenland next year, and if given the opportunity to go, I'd have to say, "no." My regret at saying so would come with no more regret than that of an adult who has come to realize, if somewhat sadly, that sleeping late Saturday morning is more rewarding than the 6:00 AM showing of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

27 June 2005

I was realizing the other day as we were walking up the mountain in the rain that most of my working life has been spent as little more than a mule. Haul a LICOR suitcase up a mountain, move soil cores from the field to the lab, move rebar and PVC pipe and car batteries around in the desert, haul water and hay to the horses, move frozen burgers from the FSA truck to the restaurant freezer, dirty dishes to the washer, plates full of food to the customers, and sticky garbage bags out to the dump. I just graduated from Cornell University, and the most I can say is that I've graduated from my pre-Cornell days as a waitress hauling garbage, to a research assistant with a slightly more expensive load to move from one place to another.

I go back and forth between thinking, "I can't believe someone is PAYING me to have this much fun," to thinking "How the hell did I get suckered into doing this for only $13.50 an hour." I guess that's the eternal debate with any job, and as long as the first one wins out your doing OK. So far it is.

The other debate I love bringing up with people is the classic mosquitos vs. cold debate. Would you rather spend a day in the field shivering, or relentlessly swatting at mosquitos? Of course, the ideal would be a warm breeze, just strong enough to keep the mosquitos down, but that's a rare find in the arctic, where wind means plummeting temperatures. And the worst is buggy and wet, since they can fly in all but the most torrential of rains.

The only definitive conclusion we've come to is that when it's warm and buggy, cold is better, and when it's cold, buggy is better.

13 June 2005

Our field site is a 2 hour hike up the mountain. Getting faster and easier as the days pass and our muscles harden.

Check out this site which shows the station where we live. Our field site is in the distant mountains, in the center of the picture.

Our team is 4 this year. B., from the Netherlands, C. from France, L. the Brit and me, the American. Our international nature leads to intersting discussions of words, languages and meanings. For example, we had a lengthy discussion of what trash is called each of our native languages, British English being separated from American English. We also attempted to clarify the differences between the English words puffy and fluffy. We weren't very succesful.

And thus pass our days. Trying to get as much work done, with equipment and experiments that are sensitive to light level, moisture, wind, and temperature, and these conditions varying by the hour on the mountain.

Meals are fun too. We do our own cooking, and our own shopping in a little grocery store, just a kilometer down the road from the station. We've come home with some interesting Swedish products, not ever exactly sure of what we're buying. (A fruit goop we thought was juice, but is meant to be mixed with milk as an after school snack for children.) The trip to the grocery store is eventful too, on discarded Swedish Army bicycles, built no later than 1960, brightly painted, weighing at least 25 pounds a piece, and little or no breaking mechanisms to boot.

Shaping up to be a fun summer. No mosquitos yet!

08 June 2005

Abisko Research Station, Sweden.

Just above freezing, rain here, snow in the mountains. Spring is still in its infancy.

8 hours jet lagged. More later.