On Free Time… and Even More Free Time

It’s hard to believe it’s been more than a week since my last post, the days really start to blend together while in isolation. Unfortunately, due to a positive test for one member of our cohort, we had to continue to stay in our rooms until contact tracing could be completed. The staff was nice enough to bring us all trash bags and zip ties to keep our trash from getting too out of hand, but we were all very glad on Thursday (don’t forget I bring news from the future being across the International Date Line and what not) when contact tracing was done and we were allowed to take our trash out. Well, those of us who were fortunate enough to not have been in close proximity to the member who tested positive. Anyone who they determined was close to them got a yellow band instead of a blue band, that means staff will come around and pick up their trash and there are specific times they are allowed to go out and get fresh air. Just being allowed to go out was a welcome reprieve though, it’s crazy just how much a difference having the option to step outside makes.

I like to think I’ve been spending my time in isolation well, so far I’ve made it through the first five seasons of The Office (it, along with Friends and How I Met Your Mother, are still on Netflix over here), played some video games, done a couple of work trainings, and take a lot of pictures. I also ordered some things from the local grocery store. Got some Passionfruit Frenzy Mountain Dew (which was delicious), some Kit-Kats including ones with honeycomb in them (also delicious, it helps they use 100% real chocolate instead of the cheap stuff we get in the states), and some aged cheddar cheese (which I accidentally ordered 1 kg of which is quite a lot, but also very delicious). We also received our ECW (Extreme Cold Weather) gear, it took a couple of tries but I was able to get replacements for the items that didn’t fit. I may post a picture of my foot next to the first pair of boots they sent, they were comically large. The staff at the CDC (Clothing Distribution Center) were super helpful and made sure I got what I needed and called back to make sure everything fit properly.

I’ve gotten a chance to further get to know some of the other people heading down to Pole with me (those of us who go there are known as Polies), we’ve played some games online with each other and one night we ordered Indian food as a group and ate it “together” over a Zoom call. I’m looking forward to getting on Ice and actually being able to hang out with them. We’ve started a spreadsheet of who has what amount of extra weight so that we know who can bring down bottles of wine and things that have been requested by people currently at Pole. Today I spent time repacking my bags and seeing how much they all weigh so I know how much I can schlep. I also got my boomerang bag packed. Each flight down there has the possibility of boomeranging, or having to turn around and return to its point of origin, so everyone packs a bag of clothes and stuff to get them by for a few days in case that happens. Luggage is all loaded up on pallets and onto the planes as cargo so you don’t get your checked bags back right away because you may fly the next day.

At this point, I don’t have much else to do other than continue to hang out and wait to find out if I’ll actually get to fly on Monday or if I’ll be transferred back to USAP managed isolation. The bright side, if I don’t fly then, is that USAP isolation will be a bit more relaxed. We’ll still have to wear masks and socially distance from each other, but we won’t have to take meals in our rooms and we’ll be able to hang out in person so that’ll be nice. Hopefully I get to McMurdo sooner than later as I’ll have to spend a week there before flying the rest of the way down to Pole. Fingers crossed my next update will becoming from Antarctica! I’ll be keeping people posted either way though

— Matt “what day is it again” Butcher

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