Finally the Antarctica Blog is back in action from a four-month vacation. So much has happened in these four months since we got back to Italy. This year’s Italian chapter started with a lot of employment drama followed by sporting drama and has ended with an exclamation point of family drama (!). Italians do drama like no other. By the end of this week we’ll be back in Maine for Luci’s first August in the US and my first in eight years and first ever (it seems) unemployed.
Upon arrival in Italy, Luci and I were eager to sort out our next Antarctic adventure. We had been in brief contact with our employer about a forthcoming contract and were expecting to have one at any moment. In the meantime we took what is turning out to be our annual motorcycle trip to Sardinia to see the World Rally Competition. We rode down through Tuscany and fit in a trip to the Island of Elba before arriving on the Island of Sardinia. This year we convinced Luci’s parents to meet us there for the race and to spend a couple of days on the beach. Here are some highlights:
The employment drama began as soon as we got back. As I think I may have mentioned in earlier posts, we are not managing Rifugio Boccalatte this summer. An opportunity arose for us to get a break from the hut with the idea of picking it up again next summer. But, in the end, after a lot of thought we have decided not to return to our home on the Grandes Jorasses again next year. It was the bureaucracy that finally drove us over the edge. Every year the regional government comes up with some new regulation that must be adhered to. This year they decided that all hut keepers in the region must take a course to learn how to do the job they have been doing, in some cases, for decades. And, of course, they are offering the 48-hour course over six weeks starting in November…no exceptions. It seemed like a sign.
But, that didn’t stop us from opening the hut and training our replacements which we did in the middle of June. We are very interested in some sort of continuity since we have dedicated the last 6 summers of our life to the place. At the same time we were opening the hut we were still eagerly awaiting news about Antarctic contracts. They left us hanging for a long time only to let us down with a thump when we were told there would be no place for us in the program this season. It was an emotional time. No sooner had we effectively quit our summer job did we lose our winter one.
Since we had no desire to start trawling the bottom of the HR barrel for contracts Luci and I resigned ourselves (for a second season in a row) to the fact that we would be spending a winter in New England. Which is not an altogether bad scenario. In fact, we were quite looking forward to a long overdue winter on the slopes. But we figured it couldn’t hurt to make one more try for an Antarctic contract. We had heard that the International Trans-Antarctic Scientific Expedition based out of the University of Maine was looking to hire their own support staff for the upcoming season. We did a little research to find some contact information and shot them our resumes. In a weeks time we were on our way back to the Ice; I as a light mechanic and Luci as cook on their 1200km heavy traverse to the south pole.
Over the next couple of weeks we did our dental and medical exams to get physically qualified for deployment and prepared for our return, first to the States and later to the great southern continent. We had our last appointment the day my parents arrived for their second visit to Italy. This time they were here a bit longer than the last and were here in July instead of April. We did some hiking in Valle d’Aosta and visited the “Art Cities” of Tuscany as well as just relaxing on the terrace here in Milan. Here are some highlights:
After my parents left, Luci went to Greece with her parents on vacation. I had been working on and off in a friend’s motorcycle shop since we got back in April and decided to stay behind to work. It is a custom Harley Davidson shop (a rarity in Italy) and to have a real, live American hanging around the shop is a boon to business. I am definitely more of an enduro-sport rider myself but I really enjoyed helping out translating manuals and placing parts orders to the states as well as learning everything there is to know about HDs. My friend is really a motorcycle genius and it shows in his work. They have placed well in pan-European contests and won first place at the biggest biker festival in Italy for their newest bike. Here are a couple of the bikes that they have built this year:
Both our arrival and departure was punctuated by family strife. The day after our arrival Luci’s grandmother broke her femur. It is the second femur she has broken in the past year. The day Luci and her parents got back from Greece (last Monday) she broke her wrist. The day after, when Luci’s parents were up checking on her grandmother, her grandfather had a stroke which put him in the hospital. He died yesterday. He would have been 96in September. The funeral is tomorrow and Thursday we’ll be back in the States. The end of a very eventful summer season in Italy.