07.02.2011 - 08.02.2011 18 °C
I will never forget the day I returned from Antarctica. This day started full of such good feelings, fresh back from the big voyage and full to bursting with memories to last a lifetime. Something was about to piss on my bonfire, kick me down, knock the wind from my sails and any other cliché you care to <insert in here> OK I thought that things were going too well and I was due some bad stuff but never imagined THIS?????
So then, straight off the ship after some sad goodbyes to my ship mates and the voyager returned back to Javier’s guesthouse. Diane the alsation practically rugby tackled me when she clocked me walking up the hill with my backpack, at least someone was excited to see me! Why was I so easy to knock over? Because after so much time on that boat in the rough seas I damn well felt like i was still on it! A horrible dizzy, disorientated, room spinning, sicky feeling. I had avoided getting seasick the whole time and here I was suffering from land sickness!! I had also arranged to meet some other travellers at the guest house who i had met in Ushuaia before my trip so was welcomed by a breakfast table full of familiar faces, most with their own tales of that magical place at the bottom of the world.
By far the biggest adventure was had by a Russian guy who was travelling on the MV Polar Star when it hit a rock and they had to abandon ship! Polar Star crash I can only imagine how terrifying it would be to be stranded in such a hostile place but thankfully they were able to transfer the passengers to another expedition ship. Javier seemed to find the whole thing hilarious, he had after all warned us repeatedly of the terror of the Drake's passage!This story made international news apparently so I wondered if anyone back home had been worried about me. Obviously, I had no wifi or phone signal down there so didn’t have a clue what had been happening in the real world. I was about to find out....
I fired up the iPhone and immediately a whole load of messages popped up, one caught my eye. It was an email from a work colleague in the US titled ‘I am so sorry to hear the news’. I was half telling stories of my adventures round the breakfast table and half reading the contents of that message ‘I am so sorry to hear the news of the UK site shutting down’ WTF????? I think I went a bit quiet, the room was still spinning from the land sickness, I discreetly left and read the message properly. I googled ‘Pfizer’ and there it was, all over the international news, over two thousand of my work colleagues, my co-workers, my close friends ALL OF US out of a job, just like that. Pfired Gutted. Feb 1st it happened, the very day that I first set foot on the white continent, the day I came within 1 metre of a minke whale on the zodiac boat, yes that day. Oblivious to what was going on 11,000 miles away. The whole world knew before I did.
I had arranged to meet Ottla from the ship to go and find a launderette. I felt numb. We had quite a bit of time together while at sea and I had told her a bit about my job. She couldn’t believe the news I had come back to. The thing is, back in the corporate world I am a scientist trying to discover new drugs and I genuinely love my job. This travelling ‘thing’ is something I have always dreamt of doing. I was not running away from anything or trying to escape responsibilities. I just had to see the world. I guess I have a curious personality, needing to understand how things work and why things happen the way they do. This natural curiosity motivates me to understand how drugs work on the body in the same way as it motivates me to understand how the world works. It is just part of me. I was looking forward to going back to the world of drug discovery at the end of my year away so this was without a doubt a big pisser. I couldn’t stop thinking about others with family responsibilities, so many people losing their jobs just like that. How devastating this would be for East Kent. I got back to the guest house and the tears came, and they continued coming for most of the afternoon. I just wanted to get on the next plane and go home. I wanted to be around others who were going through the same feelings. I had lost all enthusiasm for travelling throughout the rest of South America. I didn’t want to be in Argentina, I wanted to be in England trying to work through my options and trying all I could to support others. What the hell could i do the other side of the world? Thankfully, my boss talked me out of going straight back. Apparently, there was absolutely no reason to go home as it was an atmosphere of a morgue and as there were so many people affected, UK law stipulates that we have to go through a 90 day consultation before I could be served my individual notice of redundancy. Nothing I could do.
It is funny sometimes the way things work out. I figured, if I had known about losing my job before i had booked to go to Antarctica there is no way that I would have spent that money going. If I had found out after I had paid, there is no way I could have enjoyed the experience like I did. One thing that could not be taken away from me are the memories of that place, my whole adventure come to that. Antarctica was the cherry on top. Even if I were to get on the next plane back to England I felt I would have fulfilled my dream.
So, I went out that night and got bladdered. A meal and drinks with some folks from the guesthouse followed by a cerveza or five with the Antarctica crew in the Irish bar just across the road from where I was staying. The room was spinning again, the floor seemed to be moving. Damn land sickness!!!