Its been a strange month here at pole. Several weeks ago my friend Mike and I made dinner for the station, a labor-intensive undertaking! We made tandoori chicken, enough for about 75 people, and nearly all of it got eaten--since there aren't any other meals prepared on Sundays, people seem to be extra hungry when a volunteer dinner comes around. We also made dal, a lentil dish, and samosas, which are small pastries stuffed with well spiced potatoes and peas, fried in oil. The samosas were by far the most work, as each is made individually, but they were delicious! The chicken marinates overnight in the tandoori sauce, which was an interesting experiment in scale. We had 96 pieces of chicken, so we scaled up the sauce recipe accordingly. The bulk of it is yogurt--we got out the largest bowl we could find and poured in a couple gallons of yogurt, then added all the spices. In order not to get lost in counting tablespoons of this or that added, we dumped each spice in little piles all over the yogurt--it came out looking more artistic than anything. Our friend Al took some pictures, which I've put up on my website. Its very hard to convince yourself that adding 15 tablespoons of chili powder is correct!
Steve Hudson and I made chocolate cookies last weekend (they have been in short supply, as we need to ration the chips, and all other food on station, to last until vessel resupply in February). At one point we had an entire conversation in grunts, then nearly wet our pants laughing at that! We made about 10 batches (a batch being a normal amount of cookies one might make at home with a "bag" of chocolate chips), so we used the gargantuan mixers that they have here (there are two and for some reason they are both named "Daryl"). Well, when we put the first ingredients in and got it turned on, "Daryl" made an attempt to take out my kneecaps! We hadn't fully secured the mixing "bowl" (bathtub? this thing is really institutionally proportioned) to the stand, so it came loose and moved ominously towards me. Once the mixing was completed I knelt down, removed the bowl from its now-secure mounts, and then realized I couldn't stand back up with the bowl in my arms--too heavy!
June 21 was midwinter--the sun is now circling higher, although it is still below our horizon. We don't expect to see the first glimpse of dawn until August. The 21st fell on a Thursday. Several people spent a mellow evening in the galley, having beers and hanging out. Saturday was a holiday, and Saturday night we had a big meal prepared by volunteers. Mike, Dave Benson, Victoria, and Bob all had been practicing like mad the week before to get their band into shape. No one was brave enough to dance at first, but finally I danced with Kurt, one of the carpenters, and that broke the ice. The band played for a long time (and sounded great!) and people were dancing the whole time.
The energy on station has definitely been lower lately--people are a bit less motivated, crankiness seems to overtake the crew in waves. Most of the people I've spoken with are still very happy to be here. None of us expect to be in a good mood every day, or to sustain 100% motivation the entire winter. Not even Raytheon expects that of us! I think we all have a healthy attitude, we're taking time for ourselves (the public areas have been deserted the last few weeks in the evenings).
The moon is back up and continues to illuminate the station in a way I find beautiful. This month's scare with the moon: I went to look at it, then thought, "Oh, no, don't look directly at it, you'll burn your eyes." Then I remembered that was the precaution about the *sun*. Next, I briefly thought I should run back inside my tat and get my sunglasses! I prefer the cool spectrum from the moon over the one from the sun. Everything is a silvery grey, which I find pleasing on the eye.
My experiments are, for the most part, running themselves quite well. Mostly I encounter bizarre computer problems while doing the daily data transfers. These are more annoyances than anything. Every Sunday evening someone gives a science lecture: I have agreed to give one later this month--a survey of the experiments I tend to in the aurora lab.
We all worked on the 4th, although lunch had a patriotic theme (and consisted of hot dogs, hamburgers and fries, although we have burger day almost every week). As this weekend includes the first Saturday of the month, we have that day off, and there will be a pig roast and barbeque. Every Friday night there is a social event called "slushies". It is normally held at the clean air facility, and the specialty is slushie style drinks made with snow from out back, in the clean region. The Friday before the monthly Saturday off, slushies visits a new venue. This week its at the cargo office, and there will be a "bonfire" to go along with that. The bonfire will be four large barrels filled with scrap wood, set into the hill coming out of the arches.
For midwinter we also had a simulated airdrop--a large box of presents had been left to be opened at midwinter, some special beer, movies, waterguns (which I've made it my mission to destroy--I really don't like being squirted with water before going outside), and other assorted toys.
We still haven't seen -100F. It has gotten within a few degrees a couple of times. It seems to me to be unusually cloudy this winter (not that I'd know from direct experience!)--the stars haven't been as impressive as I'd hoped, and it seems warm, although the average temperature is within the normal range.
copyright 2001 Andrea Grant
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