It’s hard to believe it’s only been a week of mainbody so far. Even though the influx of new people comes in waves, seeing the first shiny bright faces feels like a jolt. It’s akin to an invasion, as if a plane just dropped off 200 intruders who are going to take part in eating the freshies we’ve pined six weeks for. But among those new faces are some wonderful old ones, people who we’ve been missing and looking forward to seeing. My mother and stepdad have arrived and while last year it was weird to run into my parents in Antarctica, this year it feels normal; it feels like running into them at home. Mealtimes are a little different of course – my mom has to slide her blue tray in sideways among those of my friends as she squeezes next to me at a round table in the galley. The galley, which I might add, that is bustling these days. I grumpily dart through lines of newbies standing confused at the dish pit, not knowing which plastic bin to put their silverware in. I can’t help but give little frustrated huffs as people try to go the wrong way in a line for salad, or when FNGs (pronounced finjees, stands for fuckin’ new guys) take three bananas.
But as more people arrive and the night sky steadily fades away, the weather becomes a bit friendlier. Running between buildings with a coat unzipped or darting outside to throw away some trash in just a t-shirt feels invigoratingly cold, rather than painful. Hikes don’t seem as daunting and going to the bar in a dress and tights without wearing windpants over them is possible, while still certainly chilling.
For me, acceptance of the start of mainbody has come in the form of looking ahead. The two day weekends that accompany the holidays are now about a month and a half off. Kevin and I splurged on some new travel gear using the pro-deals we get, which has helped make the daydreams of traveling in the off season a little more concrete. Now I can visualize some of the outfits I’ll be wearing as I walk through a market in India or trek along mountaintops in Nepal. And letters arriving from loved ones remind me of how wonderful it is to have a home here, but also a home there.
Winfly sailed by. Last year the same amount of time felt like an entire year. This time around, it was barely the blink of an eye. We had five solid weeks to settle into routines, to get to know the faces around us, to grow accustomed to quiet dinners and sparsely used facilities. Now, all of that is over. The first flight, although delayed a day, brought upwards of 140 people. Three or four flights have come in since, each bringing more in. Now, we have gone up from 400-some to over 800. There are still several hundred more to go. Suddenly crowds are everywhere. Shuffling and silent crowds spooning heaps of something-or-other onto their plates in the galley, oblivious meatheads yapping away (“Yeah bro, they even have a bar!”) into their headsets under signs that read “No Skype” in the computer kiosks, an overwhelmed man in sweatpants staring idly at the 15 trash bins in front of him holding a crumpled piece of paper in his befuddled hand, his mouth slightly ajar. Mainbody is upon us.
There are certainly perks to the busy season, though. The first lunch of the season brought a salad bar – shades of green we had not seen for 6 weeks. The following Sunday brunch came equipped with pineapple, watermelon, cantaloupe, and even grapes. Garlic, basil, spinach and arugula have begun appearing in our meals. Packaged mail has begun arriving, showering us in gifts of Stumptown coffee beans and new down jackets. Updated summer hiking rules have taken effect, opening up easier methods of getting onto more trails. But best of all, we are reunited with more old friends. Every flight brings with it at least of few warm faces to brighten our winfly-weathered hearts. Liz has her mom and her stepdad here now, a fact that has also brought a relieved and contented smile to her face (it didn’t hurt that they showed up bearing gifts of fresh fruits and veggies, chocolate, and a new camera!). Although very happy, I would be lying if I said that this reunion didn’t make me miss my own mom, half a world a way in Colorado.
Every night the sun stays brighter longer. Temperatures are getting slowly warmer, and snow is starting to show the first signs of melt. More structures are appearing on the ice in front of station. More vehicles lumber across the volcanic dirt as they make their way across town. The gears have taken hold and the season is beginning in full force.