This morning we woke up at 4 a.m. in Schenectady, New York, after an uneventful day of travel there from Kansas. The Air National Guard picked us up at the hotel and took us to the base. Once they had corralled all the scientists into a little room in a warehouse, they showed us the C-130 safety video. It turns out that the “Herc” comes equipped not only with flotation devices, but exposure suits for all passengers, full Arctic survival gear and something called an EPOS.
It’s finally starting to sink in that I am, in fact, leaving for Greenland on Tuesday. TUESDAY. GREENLAND. For the sake of you, the reader, as well as to drill the reality of what we are actually doing into my own head, here’s an introductory post.
A major Midwest snowstorm during the Christmas holiday delayed the 36-hour journey for our intrepid herpetology team, but we eventually made our way from snowy Lawrence to the Kansas City airport. The very long plane trip to Manila included a layover in Minneapolis and a layover in Japan. -Rafe
The last week has been a bit hairier than normal. Joined by another Colombian water beetle student, we flew down to Puerto Ayacucho in southern Venezuela to scope out some new sites. No need for details at this point but things did not go quite as planned. The fact that an American and a Colombian were traveling together along the boarder with Colombia the day after Venezuela shut down all relations with Colombia because of perceived US military aggression (likely) played a role, if you are curious.
I finally moved into my apartment in Manila. It only took four weeks to find and fill with enough furniture to make it livable. It is such a relief to be able to unpack and organize all of my supplies and comic books. The apartment is in Quezon City, which is just north of Metro Manila. To give you some reference, I was staying with my friend and collaborator, Arvin Diesmos, at his house in Las Piñas (just south of Metro Manila). The distance from my apartment to his house without traffic should take about 15–20 minutes.
It is not clear to me what point in time I became incapable of comfortably traveling long distances by bus, boat, and small, motorized jeeps. However, last week I was quickly reminded of just how old my overweight body feels at the ripe age of 28 (I really need to lay off the queso). I traveled with my friend and collaborator Dr. Arvin Diesmos to Aurora Province on Luzon Island. We are setting up our next site for the large KU biodiversity expedition planned for May and June of this year.
Touchdown. I finally made it to the Philippines. Actually, I made it a few days ago after having spent a night in Hawaii. I highly recommend the Best Western at the Honolulu airport as a nice place to stay if you are only in town for 12 hours. They have waffles for breakfast! Once I reached the Manila airport I had to wait for quite a while for my three large duffel bags to arrive at baggage claim. Once the entire 170-pound shipment arrived, I was picked up by our close friend and collaborator, Dr. Arvin Diesmos.
It has been a long but nearly flawless 15 hours of traveling today, beginning with the 3:30 a.m. shuttle pick-up in Lawrence to clearing customs in Maracaibo, Venezuela, at 8:30 p.m. (quick fact: Venezuela has its own time zone, which is 30 minutes ahead of Eastern Standard Time). My colleagues from the Universidad del Zulia, Mauricio Garcia and Jesus Camacho, greeted me at the airport. We retired to Mauricio’s house to unwind and catch up for a couple of hours.