Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Falklands Plague: June 22 - 28

After two days in bed I was damned if I was going to miss a single weekend in Stanley even if I had missed a few interviews. My fever had broken and I decided to spent Friday in bed again to recharge. It was a good thing, too, as Debs decided to have a dinner party. I sounded like a frog and I was still coughing, but I actually felt pretty good. On the advice of several locals I attempted to medicate myself with vitamin C and alcohol in the form of Vodka Fresh (i.e. screwdrivers).  That didn't really work very well, but I persevered. I do admit that it was rather annoying at Deano's to have to interrupt my dancing every few minutes to cough. But it didn't stop me from going to Vanessa's after the pubs closed. Sebastian was leaving the next day and I didn't want to miss the chance to say goodbye. No jägermeister this time, though (thank goodness). Another consequence of the plague's bad timing came on Saturday. I had planned for weeks to participate in the Midwinter Swim, but decided that jumping in the South Atlantic with a virus would be rather suicidal and stupid of me. Knowing my inclination to do crazy shit, this meant I couldn't even go to the beach to cheer on my friends who were well enough to participate. The last time I went somewhere determined not to swim, I ended up in the Gulf of Finland in my underwear.
Since I didn't get in the South Atlantic, here's a picture from our 2008
picnic that ended up with all of us in the Gulf of Finland. One major
difference? It was summer then.
However, even if I couldn't go the swim there was still a party to attend. Mike's birthday (oh, and it was Miguel's birthday, too) started with a football match, delicious lunch, and finally mulled wine prepared by Andy P. Unfortunately my condition went from bad to worse. Somehow, over the course of the afternoon sitting on Mike's couch I managed to get conjunctivitis. WTF? So, I felt fine, but my eye was red and swollen, I was still coughing, and my voice was very croaky. I still made it out to the Vic and Deano's, but people kept asking me how I felt. I also met my first American in the Falklands - an American staying at the Waterfront and pursuing a PhD in Spanish. That is one of the advantages of staying at the Waterfront; Alex might take you to a birthday party on your first night in town. The party ended up back at Mike's, where Andy P progressed from mulled wine to hot rum. However, as people kept streaming in the door I realized that I simply did not have the energy for that much party. As it turned out, I missed some good music and the last party at Mike's as the festivities prompted a letter from his landlord. Still, my decision was probably for the best as my eye was completely swollen shut and crusted over when I woke up on Sunday morning. I stayed in and watched Italy eliminate England from the EuroCup in a penalty shootout. That was pretty intense.

I checked in with the museum on Monday, but Leona was out so I was on my own with transcription again. I did, however, get to test the National Health Service with a trip to the King Edward VII Memorial Hospital. My first surprise was finding Vanessa working the front desk. The swelling had gone down in my eye, but I knew from experience that the infection had spread to my other eye and I would need eye drops if it turned out to be bacterial in origin. I got to see the casualty nurse within about 15 minutes. She took a look at my eyes and entered me into the system, but unfortunately she couldn't prescribe the eye drops for me. She could, however, get me in to see a doctor in about an hour, but I would have to pay out of pocket for the appointment. Apparently overseas insurance companies have spent the past decade trying not to pay their bills in the Falklands, leading to the hospital's current policy of not accepting foreign medical insurance. During my 5 minute consultation with the doctor, he confirmed my diagnosis, prescribed the eye drops, revealed that he was a member of the Legislative Assembly, learned that I was an unpaid intern who had begged to come to the museum, and then he ripped up my paperwork. I'm not making this up. Apparently he decided that I shouldn't have to pay 90 pounds for a 5 minute appointment in which he told me something I already knew. How was I supposed to argue with that? I picked up my eye drops at the pharmacy, but I knew I couldn't leave without saying goodbye to Vanessa. Since she was supposed to process my payment information, she was just as confused by the doctor's actions.

While I did not spend all week in bed, I was still quite under the weather, what with the cold/flu bug and the conjunctivitis. I did get some transcription done, but I didn't have any interviews until Wednesday. Not my best work. The first one suffered from almost everything that can go wrong with oral history. I had almost no information on my subject and I was supposed to interview him while he was at work in the security hut at FIPASS.

FIPASS - the Floating Interim Port and Storage System built in 1982.
So, I was coughing and struggling to come up with questions while this guy concentrated on checking the permits on all the cars that came on and off the dock. Not really the best circumstances in which to have a candid conversation with someone. Oh, and I didn't hit record until 15 minutes into the interview. Whoops. It was bound to happen sooner or later, so I guess I was just happy that it happened during what I think was my worst interview overall. My second interviewee came to my house and that went somewhat better, but still wasn't my best work. This woman had amazing stories about growing up in Camp, but she needed a fair amount of prompting and questions to jog her memory and I just didn't know enough about her to keep her going. She would go off on a memory for a few minutes, then ask if I had anymore questions for her. I managed to keep her going for an hour, but I really think she would give an amazing interview to someone with better preparation. Unfortunately, I got a call from Vanessa on my way to the second interview. The hospital was onto me and I needed to come back to pay my bill.

I felt pretty sheepish slinking back into the hospital on Thursday morning, when I found that the woman who takes care of billing had recovered my torn-up paperwork and pieced it back together. She was very nice about the whole situation, explained that she had scolded the doctor, and even thanked me for coming back in. I now have a bill and a letter I get to file with the insurance company when I get back. Oh, joy. Lunch on Thursday was a treat. Every time someone has a birthday at the museum, everyone gets together and goes to the Malvina for lunch. The Malvina is the only place in town that could really be called a restaurant and I knew I had to try it at least once before I left. I had also been told that I needed to eat the squid rings as the local squid was the best in the world. Wow. I'm not really a seafood person, but the squid rings with sweet chili sauce were delicious. And then I had the pumpkin, spinach, and mozzarella cannelloni. Now that was a good lunch. Fortunately someone had thought ahead and scheduled my interview for the day a bit later than usual. I think this one made up for Wednesday's mistakes. We talked for two hours, covering topics of education, history, the Falkland Islands Government, and even dance. I think this was one of my most successful interviews of the whole trip.

Monday, July 30, 2012

The Work Begins: June 15 - 21

Like most of my Friday nights this one was spent at the Vic, followed by an after-party at someone's apartment. As usual, there was drinking, dancing, and good conversation. Funnily enough everyone crowded into the kitchen rather than expanding into the living room. However, I spent most of the night trying to protect one of my guy friends from unwanted advances. That was awkward. Saturday night I was supposed to meet Alex and Sebastian at the Vic to then got to the Trough to hear Vanessa sing, but they had to work so we didn't manage to link up. Instead I had a couple of drinks with the CHC guys and resigned myself to a quiet night at home. Therefore, I was in a bit of a mood on my way home and as I walked past Deano's something happened which almost resulted in me starting a girl-fight. I was just minding my own business when a girl started yelling at a guy walking near me to come back to the pub. She changed her tactic, asking "if he was shagging young girls then, or old girls if that's her." I was the only female in sight to whom she could have been referring and I was not pleased to be called old. Fortunately, the night took a turn for the better after I got home. Via text message, Debs persuaded me to catch a cab to the Trough. The cab took about 30 minutes to come, but I manged to catch Vanessa's second set and had a great time dancing. After the Trough closed, we kept dancing at Paula's, where Sebastian may have called me the first North American he's met who could dance. I think this means I am no longer the whitest girl you will ever meet. The night went so long that I ended up crashing on the couch at Alex/Sebastian/Vanessa's house around 5am. However, this meant I got a delicious breakfast the next day of toast with avocado, scrambled eggs, and ham, accompanied by strawberry milk and tea. We had a lazy afternoon watching The Romantics, which Vanessa called a "rubbish movie," but I enjoyed it. The Russian House Exiles are just incestuous enough that I could imagine really going to a wedding as messed up as the one depicted in the film.

With the new exhibition opened and Liberation Day over with, I expected to walk into Leona's office Monday morning, find that she had scheduled some interviews for me later in the week, then walk over to Customs & Immigration to renew my visitor's permit. Yeah...not so much. At first, it was especially terrifying as Joleen handed me two post-it notes with interviews scheduled for this afternoon. Thank goodness Leona returned to her office a few minutes later to fill me in. She managed to schedule two interviews for me this afternoon with residents of Stanley who live just down the street from the museum. We agreed to focus on Stanley this week, then see if we can get me out into the Camp. With less than two hours notice, I rushed back to my house to grab my recorder and make sure it was ready to go. The batteries were fully charged, but the 1 GB SD card only had enough room left for one interview. I reformatted it and switched it out for my own 4 GB card, allowing much more time to talk. I've borrowed a Zoom H2 Handy Recorder (complete with accessories) from NMSU for the summer and while I have played with it a bit, today was my first time using it in earnest. It behaved very well during both 80 minute interviews, though I may want to increase the mic volume a little bit. I think the interviews themselves went very well. I got some great stories, didn't interrupt, kept my audible responses to a minimum, and got both release forms signed. However, I do need to squirm a bit less. You can hear the couch squeaking in the first recording and I think I kicked the table with the recorder a couple of times. The second interview may include the clink of my tea mug on its coaster and I had to interrupt it near the end to take a bathroom break. In general, I'm satisfied with the results (especially since I had no idea I'd be doing interviews when I woke up this morning) and I can't wait to do more! However, it was a bit hard to keep myself out of the conversation as I had several moments where I wanted to relate my own experiences to those I was recording.

I did two more interviews on Tuesday afternoon, though I had only expected to do one. Afterwards I stopped by the pubs since I knew England was playing a match in the EuroCup that afternoon. I found a bunch of my friends at Deano's watching England beat Ukraine. Hurray! It may have been a Tuesday, but this was still cause for celebration. We decamped to Andy P's house, where the boys cooked us delicious food since most of us had chosen football over dinner. This was the first time I got to meet Andy P as he had been in the US as part of the Falklands delegation visiting the UN in June.

I had noticed a tickle at the back of my throat during my interviews on Tuesday and unfortunately by Wednesday it had turned into a full-blown cold. I spent the next two days in bed coughing up a lung and had to cancel the rest of the week's interviews. Very bad timing. Throughout my time in the Falklands this cold/flu bug ravaged Stanley, hitting pretty much everyone. I was reminded of the stories last December about the Falklands turning away a cruise ship because of norovirus. International health professionals claimed that the outbreak on the ship was not large enough to be a danger, leading to comments that refusing the cruise ship had  been a political action. People, take this from someone who has experienced: any bug that gets into Stanley spreads like wildfire and the hospital simply cannot cope with an epidemic, nor could the Islands afford to have so many people out sick during the tourist season.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Liberation: June 8 - 14

And now for the second installment of Annie-tries-to-remember-everything-she's-done- in-the -Falklands-for-the-past-two-months. Being stuck at the airport in Santiago provides an excellent opportunity for this recap.

Friday, June 8 - Thursday, June 14

I'm not entirely sure what happened this weekend, but I think it involved Jägerbombs. Lots of Jägerbombs. Also probably dancing. But that's most weekends in the Falklands. The Jägerbombs, however, were unusual. I do remember that my back was killing me when I woke up on Sunday. It was so bad that I emailed my absent hosts to see if they would mind my moving bedrooms. The house has two spare rooms, one upstairs and one downstairs. I spent the first few weeks in the upstairs bedroom, which is much larger and has a closet, but also has a rather uncomfortable mattress. With approval via email, I moved my stuff down the stairs to the tiny bedroom, which has a much better bed and a couple of other benefits. First, I don't have to run up and down the stairs to use the bathroom or visit the kitchen in the middle of the night. Second, the room is tiny enough that it contains heat very well. I just shut the door during the day and it's toasty warm even when I've turned the thermostat down at night.

After lollygagging for the past few weeks I tried to establish a routine this week. You know, getting up at a reasonable hour, working a full day, transcribing interviews, and reading library books. It didn't work that well. After a day of this, I was feeling restless so I went over to Christine's for a glass of wine. She convinced me that coming to play water polo on Tuesday night was a good idea. It was fun, but another reminder of just how out of shape I am. It's been a while since I've been swimming so the constant treading water really wore me out. What better way to recover than with a drink at the Vic and a few games of pool with friends?

I went into the museum on Wednesday since with the new exhibition opened, Leona now had time to address my project. I briefed her on my impressions of the existing set of interviews and she promised to start contacting people to set something up for the next week. After out meeting I got my hair fixed by a professional. I walked into the one salon in Stanley in Monday, hoping that seeing my hair in person would inspire them to pity me. It worked and they squeezed me into the schedule for Wednesday afternoon. My hair went from short to REALLY short over the course of 30 minutes. I also got some good news via text message that morning. Christine managed to get me a ticket to the Liberation Ball happening that night in Town Hall. Unfortunately, I had not anticipated attending a ball when I packed my single suitcase to come here. Something to remember for future travels - always come prepared for a ball. I did have a simple cotton dress which served once I did some emergency accessorizing. Not great, but better than nothing. However, with my new haircut and wearing Chucks with my dress, I totally looked like a hipster. Dinner with friends beforehand was delicious, but the ball itself was a bit disappointing. Since Under 18s were in attendance, the bar had to be set up separately from the dance floor and drinks could not leave that room. Therefore, most of the adults crammed into the bar while the teenagers had the run of the dance floor. I danced a bit, but otherwise called it an early night as Thursday promised to be a long day.

Thursday was Liberation Day, celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Argentine surrender in 1982. The day began with services at Christ Church Cathedral, but I joined in time for the parade and ceremony at the Liberation Memorial located in front of the Secretariat. The weather was absolutely miserable; windy and cold with very wet snow falling. Even as bundled up as I was, I spent most of morning shivering. However, it was truly impressive how many people braved the weather to honor the occasion. One of the things I have noticed about the Falklands is just how much these people treasure their liberty and respect the armed forces, especially veterans of the Falklands War.

The FIDF looking sharp.
Part of the freezing crowd around the Liberation Memorial.
It was a long day, but I fueled up after the parade with a delicious brunch with Ruth, Christine, and a couple of the CHC crewmen. Normally I hate things like eggs, but this was seriously delicious. Also, we watched football. Somehow I keep ending up abroad during the EuroCup and that seems to be the only time I actually care about football. It is, however, rather convenient that my St. George tattoo can represent England as well as Russia. Well fed and well rested we headed over to the FIDF hall around 3pm. Somehow we made it through the packed space to the bar for a couple of drinks. The section of the hall that didn’t contain the bar did have an interesting display about current development projects and industry in the Falklands. It really reminded me of FIBAB in the Mesilla Valley around the turn of the twentieth century as that organization was also dedicated to promoting the economic opportunities of a remote community. At the FIDF hall I met up with Debs, Paula, Paul, Mike, Vanessa, Alex, and Sebastian, with whom I headed to Shorty's for a late lunch/early dinner.

This is the only time I made it to Shorty's so I'm glad I went with them as it is a bit of an institution in Stanley. It's pretty much your basic diner, but I think the entire staff is from the Philippines. In any case, I had my first burger in a month and it was tasty. From Shorty's we embarked on a pretty epic pub crawl. We started at the Rose as Paul had been requested there for a sing-song (he plays guitar and does sing quite well). Wow - and I thought the Vic was a local pub. The Rose is so local it doesn't even have a sign and it was completely packed. 

The Rose: hiding from tourists in plain sight.
We had quite a struggle to get our drink orders in, but pleasantly surprised to find that drinks were on the house…until it was mine turn to buy a round. Bad timing, that. In any case, we felt a bit out of place and ended up sitting at a table in the corner away from the crowd. It was time to move on. Deano's Bar is east of the Rose on John Street and is a weekend destination for dancing. Though normally the music is more discoteque than hoedown. Apparently on Liberation Day even the clubs are expected to Benny Bop. We spent several hours at Deano's playing dice, which I somehow managed to lose four times. Using five poker dice, we went around the table counting the cumulative number of aces rolled. Whoever rolled the 7th ace had to name a drink, the 14th ace would buy the drink, and the 21st had to drink said drink. Because people think it's hilarious to make you drink awful things I had straight gin, port, bailey's and lime, as well as Kahlua and OJ. Big surprise: Kahlua and orange juice tastes exactly like a Jaffa Cake. That one was pretty yummy. Oh, and between rounds Paul taught me how to do what I refer to as the Falklands Two-step, which is generally done to country music(?). After Deano's we had to stop at the Vic for a game or two of pool, but we ended the night dancing at the Globe Tavern as they had a special license to stay open late that night. Since the day started so early there was no real need to go to anyone's place after that.

I felt the first bit of panic set in as I realized that I only had six weeks left in the Falklands, had yet to do an interview, and had no definite plan for the rest of my time here. Further worry-making was the fact that almost as soon as I get back to the US I'll be moving to New Mexico.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Rule Britannia: June 1-7

Wow. I think this little experiment proves once more that I suck at blogging. Somehow I cannot manage to write up my experiences on any kind of regular basis…unless I have nothing to write about. I only wrote a couple of posts from St. Petersburg in 2008, but when I was sitting on my arse* and unemployed I managed to post regularly. I guess there's a lot to catch up on now since I haven't really posted since May. Shall we try this in weekly chunks?

Friday, June 1 - Thursday, June 7

I didn't really have any plans Friday night, so I just went to the Vic. Wasn't too bad a plan as I did actually meet up with people I know. Ended up eating pizza at a Chilean dance party, where only a handful of us didn't speak Spanish. However, I keep winding up at people's houses at the end of the night with no idea where I really am and have to rely on friends to get me back to familiar territory. It's pretty difficult to get lost in Stanley, what with the hill on one side and the water on the other, but I'm sure I could manage it if anyone could.

Saturday was Steve's birthday, to which I was lucky enough to be invited because I needed a place to sit on my first Steak Night at the Vic. Festivities began with cocktails and nibblies at the Waterfront, one of the nicest places to stay in Stanley. It was really fun and the food was fantastic. Seriously. Such good food. Of course, from there we went to the Vic for a round, Deano's for dancing, and then back to someone's apartment. This seems to be the pattern for Stanley.
Photo borrowed from my friend Fernanda. I ganked it from Facebook because I think my face perfectly captures just how excited I was about the food at Steve's birthday.
On Monday, Falkland Islanders celebrated Her Majesty's Diamond Jubilee with a massive bonfire on the beach. The bonfire was one of many beacons lit around the world, but I'm not sure how many others had snow. Someone had a smart idea and ran a shuttle from the jetty out to Surf Bay, so a group of us bundled up and boarded the first one to leave. However, whoever set up the bonfire was not quite as thoughtful as they had failed to take the tide into account. When we arrived at the beach, the bar tent was flooding. Of course, this did not discourage anyone from buying drinks. This all just felt completely insane when I realized that I was at a bonfire on the beach in June and it was snowing. With no Health and Safety to interfere, people quickly began to ignore the flimsy tape barrier delineating the "safe" distance from the bonfire. Hey, it was cold and the fire was warm. This was also the first time I got to see the mysterious garment known as the "boiler suit." It's not really mysterious, I just hadn't heard the phrase before. It's essentially a snowsuit available for an array of different temperatures and many people wear them for work here. I haven't tried one on, but  they do look quite cozy. By the time we left, the bonfire had shrunk from a tower of pallets to a glowing pile of splinters. But, of course, the night can't end there! A bunch of us went back to Debs' house for more drinks and some very tasty leftovers.
Congratulations, Your Majesty! Now you just have to hold on until September 10, 2015 and you'll beat Victoria's record.
I spent Wednesday actually doing some work for the museum as that night we opened a new exhibition in the center of town for the 30th anniversary of the Falklands War. I spent most of the day at the hall, hanging up text, images, and artifacts. It was all hands on deck and we finished the exhibition with barely enough time for everyone to go home and make ourselves presentable. A bunch of people braved the falling snow to see the exhibit and enjoy free drinks, including the governor. Apparently there was some problem with the post as not everyone got their invitations, requiring the museum to smooth a few hurt egos. I followed up the exhibit opening with that wonderful weekly tradition - Steak Night! However, Christine declared that it was also Bailey's night and that it could not end at the Vic. Therefore, I visited the Globe Tavern for the first time. Now, I had actually heard of the Globe before I ever came to the Falklands. Professor Milliorn gave me a copy of a really really terrible documentary film about an Argentine who visited Stanley with the intent of retaking the Islands by impregnating as many women as possible, eventually transforming the population from British to Argentine. Yeah, it was so bad that I couldn't get through the whole thing, but I'll probably try again when I get home just to see familiar places. The film is rather aptly titled "F*ckland" and the Globe is one of the places the Argentine frequents looking for women. In any case, we were still out after the Globe closed at which point I joined Christine for a glass of Hazelnut Bailey's. Yummy!

The first section of the Falklands 30 exhibition at St. Mary's Hall.
It's probably best that the museum didn’t have much time for me this week as I doubt I woke up at a reasonable hour the next day. The biggest occurance was probably when I cut all my hair off with a pair of scissors I found in the kitchen. Whoops. It started with me just wanting to have bangs again, but once I finished that I took a look in the mirror and thought "F*ck it, it's all going." Fortunately, I already had plans to see people that night. Christine braved an honest-to-god blizzard to pick me up for curry night at Ruth's. We couldn't see a damn thing. I tried to walk back after dinner, but the storm was still too bad for me to walk the couple of blocks back to my house. I got another ride from Christine, who was also kind enough to clean up my rather rough haircut. Oh, and don't worry, none of us died going out in the storm. Just another crazy night in the Falklands.
New hair! After Christine cleaned it up for me.
*yeah, my vocabulary is a bit British at the moment.Some of it's intentional just to make myself understood (ordering fillet instead of filet) and sometimes it just happens. This time, I honestly typed arse instead of ass without realizing. It probably also doesn't help that I have Microsoft Word currently set to "English (United Kingdom)" for transcription purposes.