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1 November, 2004

Back home

I've been through so many time zones in the past few days that I'm not sure how long I've been traveling. I arrived at midnight on Halloween in Providence after another smooth five-hour C-17 flight from McMurdo to Christchurch, an overnight stay in Christchurch, a 12-hour-flight to Los Angeles, and a 12-hour trip - including layovers - through Pittsburgh to Providence. I crossed the International Date Line after leaving New Zealand, so that meant I lived through two October 31sts! Imagine that - two Halloweens in one year. Unfortunately, there were really no costumes, trick-or-treating, or festivities anywhere in my travels, except for all the Patriots fans on the flight from Pittsburgh. They had been at the Steelers game, and even though the Pats lost, they were pretty festive.

I had a few hours to spend in Christchurch before I had to go to the airport, so I made the most of it by walking around town and going to the botanical garden. I had been to the botanical garden before, in July 2003. Of course, that is the middle of the winter in New Zealand, so most of the flowers were not blooming. Mostly, we had enjoyed the big trees then and, since it's not as cold there as it is in New England in the winter, there had been a few flowers in bloom. But this time, the weather was beautifully warm. I was comfortable in a T-shirt and walked barefoot across the grass for a while. It's spring there, so there were lilacs and all kinds of rhododendrons in many bright colors. Some of them were actually tall trees. Ducks with little ducklings swam in a pond.

It was hard to believe that over the course of a few days, I would go from a climate that resembled winter in northern New England, to spring flowers and summer temperatures, to fall in Rhode Island. I was determined to make the most of the few hours of spring/summer that I had and I soaked up as much sunshine as I could. Of course, I also had to make a trip to get some of my favorite cookies ever, Tim Tams, and some honey made by bees that visit native New Zealand flowers - kamahi and manuka (tea tree).

My travel after I left New Zealand was quite uneventful. I missed my flight from Los Angeles to Providence, but was put on another one and was only delayed by a few hours.

As I flew and waited in airports, I reflected a lot on what an incredible thing I had just experienced, and how very lucky I was to be able to do it. I have a LOT of people to thank. The people at the ARMADA Project at the University of Rhode Island Graduate School of Oceanography's Office of Marine Programs - Sara Hickox, Gail Scowcroft, Andrea Kecskes, Jill Johnen, and Penny Geuss got me connected to the folks in Antarctica and worked with Guy Guthridge at the National Science Foundation (NSF) Office of Polar Programs, which along with ARMADA, sponsored my trip. The Newport School Committee, Superintendent Dr. Mary Canole, and Thompson Middle School principal Mrs. Jane Regan were very supportive in allowing me the time to pursue this science teacher's dream.

The awesome folks from Moss Landing Marine Labs (and the Canadian Museum of Nature) made me feel welcome right away, included me in everything, taught me tons and were lots of fun - Stacy Kim, Bob Zook, Jennifer Fisher, Mike Donnellan, Andrew Thurber, and Kathy Conlan. Stacy and Bob deserve extra thanks for getting up before 5 a.m. to join me in the audio conference back to Newport. Dave Bresnahan, John Deaton, and Jean Pennycook also went above and beyond by getting up at 3:00 a.m. for the second conference! Back at school, Ms. Thyne did a great job with my students, filling in for me while I was gone, and I'm grateful to my fellow cluster teachers - Mr. Browner, Mr. Caster, Mr. Hanos, Mrs. Rodrigues, and Ms. Whitworth - for all their patience and help. Mrs. Kane in the library and Jerry Downing made the conferences possible on the Thompson end. Arlyn Bruccoli from TEA did a great job making the conferences happens and making sure my web page worked.

Dr. Paul Ponganis was also very kind to allow me to travel out to his Penguin Ranch to meet the emperor penguins. There were tons of people at McMurdo Station who were just kind and friendly and helpful in all kinds of ways.

And of course, last but not least, I thank all the students of 7C1, who are the best!!!

Do I sound as though I think I won an Academy Award? Well, there are just a lot of very cool people to thank, that's all. I'm sure I've forgotten someone and will be filled with guilt when I realize. I will do at least one more entry in this journal, so stay tuned!

1. The return flight from McMurdo was once again on a comfy C-17. I really lucked out! An airplane engine rode with us as cargo.

2. On the way home. The propellor that goes with the engine (possible from an LC-130 Hercules?) is strapped down behind me.

3. A monument to Robert Falcon Scott in Christchurch. British naval officer and explorer Scott wanted to be the first to reach the South Pole, but the team of Norwegian Roald Amundsen got there a month before Scott. Scott died of starvation on the way back from the pole.

4. A giant chess game in Cathedral Square in Christchurch is a spectator sport.

5. A rose in bloom in front of my hotel.

6. A rhododendron tree borders the duck pond at the botanical gardens.

7. Spring in bloom at the botanical gardens.

8. At home in Jamestown. Zoea, one of my cats, was very happy to see me. (Yes, she is named after a crab larva.) Meanwhile, her brother Vinegar waits at the door, hoping that UPS will bring a giant delivery of cat food.

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