Christmas at Santa's Summer Home

Trip Start Dec 18, 2008
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8
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Trip End Feb 17, 2009


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Where I stayed
Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station

Flag of Antarctica  ,
Thursday, December 25, 2008

After sleeping off the effects of travel, I roused myself for a few hours of work in the dish pit--my new home!  I've been around a few kitchens in my life, mostly as a server/etc., but also as a prep chef, and in California running a vegan/vegetarian co-operative kitchen, which was an interesting experience in its own right.  My post here was the low of the low in kitchen hierarchy, the Sub-aquatic Ceramic Technician, or in layman's terms, Dishwasher.  

On Christmas Eve, we had it easy.  After about an hour in the pit, I left to join the party.  The traditional gift to dishers is taking over their work for the night, which in any normal kitchen would be hardly permissible because it is usually alcohol fueled, slightly less than sanitary, and a bit unsafe with ten or so drunk and smiling Polies crammed into a three person work area.  

 It should be noted however, that the South Pole galley is no regular kitchen.  Most of our food has been lying frozen for the last ten years or so, and consists mainly of quick-burning starch and carbs for keeping warm while working outdoors.  Nearly everyone loses at least ten pounds during the course of the season, though cholesterol runs high, and sometimes tacking a winter-over contract onto the end of a summer one can be tough because workers can no longer pass the rigorous physical tests necessary.  

The only downside to Christmas takeover and mealtime disher volunteers is that some seemed to get the idea that I had an easy job, indoors and all.  The truth is disher is the lowest paid job in Antarctica, second only to General Assistant (GA), and each shift is ten long hours, mostly of lifting, scrubbing, and pushing pans at rapid speeds.  We all developed enviable sculpted musculature.  It may sound like I'm complaining, but disher is really an entry job, and probably (along with GAs) the job with the highest instance of advanced degrees.  

My batch boasted (besides myself) a painter, a video sound editor, science writer, two marine biologists, and one scrappy world traveler for good measure.  In fact, I quickly realized I was in the presence of quite a lot of strange and unique people.  Ice people like to say "The odds are good but the goods are odd" when discussing Antarctic romance, but the saying can really apply to personalities in general.  I believe that bit of folk wisdom originally came from Alaska...

Christmas at Pole is a big deal, because Polies need excuses to celebrate and break up the long unending days. (Speaking of big deals, so is Thanksgiving, but I missed it, so blah.)  We feasted on the world's most expensive steak and lobster, when accounting for travel expenses, which as one might guess are amazingly high, and the fresh food that had arrived on my flight.  Freshies might be a bigger deal than Christmas, and people get really worked up when someone takes too much salad.  I really don't want to repeat words I heard describing a certain GA and where he could stick it after he helped himself to a particularly inconsiderate plate of greens.

I learned later (blogging retrospectively is kind of nice...) that little kids in New Zealand (and I assume Australia) believe that Santa lives at the South Pole, not the North Pole.  This does make more sense if you look at one of those Aussiecentric upside-down maps for Santa to hit up all the prime real estate on the southern islands.  For all those wide-eyed Kiwi kids out there, I didn't see Santa, just some guy dressed like him, very red faced and extra jolly, but I could have missed the guy with all the party going on that night. 

If not the best, at least one of my most memorable Christmases. 
 
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