Vagabumming in Asia perchance?
Yes. I’m in absolute awe at the possibilities that life has presented me. I mean, I’ve had it pretty good for a long time, but I’ve really found myself appreciating that fact for the past year and a half or so. I’m so completely blissed out for such long periods of time that sometimes I begin to worry that I’m manic. But no, no mania here, I’ve just been blessed with a wonderful life.
So, this fact that life is wonderful, I’ve found, can’t be taken as a small piece. It can’t be isolated from the rest of my life. That’s to say that decisions that I’ve made and actions that I’ve taken all came together to put me exactly where I am right now at this very moment. While there have certainly been rough patches in the past; and I often think that if I would have known then what I know now that I would have done things differently, well, I think I’ve abandoned that line of thinking too. All of those events that I may have resented before have contributed to my current state and I am unwilling to give this up, regardless of what any alternate past may have produced.
Right about now, you’re wondering, “what the hell, Will, what are these possibilities you speak of and why all the introspection?” Well, wow, where to start? As you likely know, I’ve been doing contract work in Antarctica for the past six years or so. I’ve done some amazing things, including spending a winter at The South Pole, a winter at Palmer Station and several seasons at McMurdo Station as well as visiting quite a selection of field camps and research sites on the continent of Antarctica. I can remember, very clearly, how completely overjoyed I was when I the possibility of working in Antarctica was first presented to me. Something that I hadn’t ever even considered before, something that was far beyond my wildest dreams ended up becoming a reality and is now a huge part of who I am. I remember last winter at Palmer Station when, for just a moment, my mind was able to really grasp how utterly privileged I was to be doing what I was doing and getting paid for it. Sailing INSIDE a volcanic caldera who gets to do that at their job? I never thought I would, that’s for sure.
Now, if the job itself isn’t special enough, what about the time off and travel? During my long periods of time off I have been privileged to surf in Mexico, ski in Canada, Wyoming, Colorado, France, Norway and even Kashmir. I’ve seen what is surely one of the most macabre churches in the world, traveled all over central Europe by rail, visited the lochs of Scotland, gazed upon Big Ben, communed with nature at Machu Picchu, been amazed at the passion exhibited by Tango dancers in Buenos Aires, stood in awe at the power of nature at Iguazu Falls, been fascinated by the remnants of an ancient society at Easter Island, surfed in Ecuador and found a home (of sorts) in Hawaii.
I was all set to try and get myself hired to go on an overland traverse on Antarctica for this upcoming season. Yes, 80 days of staring through a windshield at barren, flat white, eating T.V. dinners and pooping in a bucket sounded very appealing to me, like a grand adventure even. But alas, the universe has thrown something even more exciting in my direction. So, it looks like I’m taking at least a one-year hiatus from The Ice.
What’s Next Then?
Well, I pursued and have been offered a position in Taiwan. I’m not entirely comfortable posting much detail here, but the position is at least related to the same type of work I’ve been doing and is almost exactly what I was doing in Korea (if you knew me in those days think BIG TRUCK!!).
So, there you have it. Brand new adventure coming up and I expect to post more details about my upcoming move as they become available to me. For now, if you’re interested in the exact location you can see it on a map here: Kaohsiung (pronounced “COW-shung”). If you haven’t already, might I suggest you subscribe via RSS or you can even get email updates. Both of these services are free, don’t include any advertising and are a great way to keep up to date with what I have posted.
I am SO looking forward to taking a surfboard with me to my next job!
Life at Palmer Station has been exceptionally hectic for me these past few weeks. I know I never had time to fully recover from the previous port call before I had to start getting ready for the one that is coming up. As a result of my own upcoming departure and subsequent seasonal retirement (thanks Kimber!) I’ve got a lot going through my mind but haven’t had the time to elaborate on it much through writing. Rather than write about how I’m feeling about the upcoming transition from rigid structure to the chaos of the world, I figure I’ll let Neal do my work for me in this post. I think he sums it up quite well!
A few weeks back, I received a synopsis of the cruise which I will be departing on. The cruise is (was) putting in some Antarctic field camps on the way to Palmer Station there is a day or two built into the schedule to allow for weather delays which are common (ya think?). With the field camps put in the last major objective of the cruise is to exchange some passengers. The ship arrived this afternoon, but high winds with gusts near gale force prevented the ship from tying up to the pier. If it is able to tie up tomorrow, things will still look good for a departure on the 22nd. There is, however, a fairly good chance that we’ll have to make a detour to a godawful hunk of rock about 40 miles from here. There is some sort of whiz-bang sciencey type GPS instrument parked on that rock that hasn’t been working right and an attempt will likely be made to get it back to working order.
The malfunctioning instrument is a fairly big deal and lots of people are interested in having it fixed, but the rock that it is on is woefully inaccessible in all but the calmest of seas and winds. Add a generous helping of sea ice to the mix and this part of the cruise becomes a huge wild card. Nonetheless, I have gambled a bit and gone ahead and booked some plane tickets. I am now free to obsess over things that are even further in my future and represent greater unknowns. You can track the ship here or, sometimes that one doesn’t work and here is another or…if you’re reading this article on my site, as opposed to some rss feed/facebook/twitter thing…there is a “Where’s Will” link on that slick new drop down menu immediately under the header on this page. Through the magic of my superior php coding skills, the link should automatically change based on the dates when I THINK I’ll be on the boat and will then revert back to my old iPhone tracking thingamajiggy at the end of the cruise so that you can follow my movement through South America
With mere weeks to go on my current contract position in Antarctica, my future plans are still pretty much in limbo. I’m really ready for some time off and travel. The thought of coming back to the states doesn’t hold too much appeal. The political kvetching, the dismal economy – I can stomach these things but knowing that I’ll have to eventually face the hideous reality of things that just don’t work and end up sucking huge chunks of time – that’s what I dread the most.
As I was trying to get more in touch with why I feel this way, I was reminded of the story of the Red Box. If you’re in the U.S. you’ve likely seen, or even used one of these at the supermarket or fast food establishment. It’s called “Red Box” and it’s a little automated video rental kiosk. The concept is really pretty neat – you swipe a credit card, rent a new release movie for…I dunno, I think $1/day. You can return the DVD to any Red Box anywhere! Yep, seems pretty neat. And cheap! So, the last time I was back in the U.S. I rented a movie from one of these things. All went well with the rental but when I tried to return it, the machine was on the fritz….stuck in some sort of infinite computer loop or something. I was actually standing in line behind another person for quite some time. I just figured the guy was a luddite and couldn’t figure out the overly complex task of inserting an object in a slot, but alas, it wasn’t him, it was the stupid machine – just sitting there, not doing anything. He finally gave up and when I stepped up to the machine it was displaying some sort of error message. I found the manager of the fast food establishment and asked for help. My rudimentary Espanol skills tell me that he was trying to inform me that it wasn’t his problem – the machine didn’t belong to the restaurant and that in order for my problem to be resolved I would be required to speak to some cretin in Bangladesh or Tallahassee. I called, I was put through a series of voice prompts that resulted in yet another infinite loop. No matter what I said I was always met with a response of “oh, so you’d like to become a member” or “did you say you’d like to make a payment?”. Yes, seriously. This went on for what seemed like forever. Finally, through some sort of incomprehensible electronic sorcery, my call was routed to a never-ending queue to speak with a real live human being. The music that was looped in between assurances that my call “is very important” caused my ears such pain that I prayed that Lawrence Welk’s orchestra would appear and those goofy tap dancers from his show would ram the heels of their stupid little tap shoes so deep into my ears that I would be relieved of hearing such atrocities for eternity. No such luck, only more nerve-racking music that Satan himself must have orchestrated in a bid to drive normal people into homicidal rages.
After being on hold for something like 6,546 days, I was finally connected to a real human who, surprisingly, happened to be extraordinarily congenial and was able to tell me that their systems had crashed or something and that I would have to wait to return my DVD and that the system would automagically know that I wasn’t able to return it on time and, furthermore, I wouldn’t be charged for the “extra” day. I was quite relieved by this news but at the same time my level of annoyance had gotten really out of hand. Even if I figured that my time was worth minimum wage, I could have just purchased the DVD and been better off economically than to have spent the time I spent trying to turn the stupid thing back in…and that’s only counting the time at the kiosk and on the phone and no time driving back and forth from the stupid thing.
Now, to most people dealing with this type of thing on a daily basis an experience like this surely seems quotidian but to me who has become accustomed to problem resolution being done in a very personal manner and quite timely…well, this experience became another huge frustration and an unbearable vexation and representative of everything I seem to come to Antarctica to avoid. Seriously, my biggest frustration here is when the coffee runs out and as amped up as I get about things like that, the resolution is so completely simple and easily managed that I feel fortunate to not have to deal with impersonal solutions to problems.
Enjoy your Red Box DVD kiosk, your ATMs, your self-checkout, drive-through banking and dining where something ALWAYS goes amiss. Bask in the glory of 64 channels of shit – several of which seem to have some screaming jack ass purporting to be reporting the news. Enjoy all of those modern “conveniences”. I think I’m going to go to some unknown beach that barely has electricity and where “agua caliente” as an amenity isn’t something you can take for granted and is a selling point at some (but not all) lodging. I’m going to the beach to live the “sandal life”.
That’s what this whole stupid Antarctica polar plunge thing is about…bonding with the people you’re spending time here with. That and saying goodbye to friends. Sometimes I think it would be less painful to just start hating them right away than to go through this most stupid-of-all ritual. Alas, I jumped anyhow. Hopefully this is the last time. Next time, these people will be jumping for me! Three weeks and counting.
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