It’s been a while since I’ve had the chance to sit behind the screen and write something for all of you to read – but I’m back.
A lot has happened since we last talked. We’ve moved (and moved again) and I got my first full time job out of college. However, this blog post is a back pedal to last year. We’re going to go back to February 4, 2017 to talk about my favorite story from the Antarctic, so buckle up readers….it’s story time.
I’d like to begin with a little informational fact. Now I know many of you are penguin lovers. How many of you asked to be on the penguin mailing list last year? At least 50 of you….
Approximately 17 species of penguin collect pebbles or rocks to present to their mates. One of the species (Magellanic penguins, these are the ones found in South America) are even monogamous. Male penguins work to collect these pebbles to construct a nest in order to woo their female counterparts. Once the female enters the nest she is presented with the pebble(s) as a sort of penguin proposal.
Pretty damn romantic for some penguins right? You guys could learn something from these birds.
I hope you’ve all learned something today about the penguins – the Adelies and Gentoos that I saw when I was in Antarctica last year were pebble penguins, too. But I digress – the real reason I’m writing this post is to talk about my favorite memory of Antarctica. To talk about my awkward little penguin. First we’re going to take a little blast from the past…
A little over five years ago I walked into the Buckshot Saloon in Galveston, Texas with some friends. It had been a real tough week – tests and really bad break up. We were just looking to dance and have some fun. We sat at a table with some mutual friends who had brought along some friends and that was the first time I’d really ever paid attention to him. Across the booth from me sat a jolly, bare faced guy named David. I’d met him before but all I really knew was that he refused to come to game night in our dorm and was from Chicago. He tried to keep talking to me but my face was buried in my phone, uninterested. Finally our friend Andrew suggested that we (David and I) should dance together for the night (for non-Texas folks this was a country and western bar). I agreed…..what could it hurt?
He was a terrible dancer. “What did I get myself into?”, I thought. He asked me questions, what was my major, what did I enjoy doing in my spare time…small talk. All I could think about was how hairy this dude’s knuckles were. Actually all of him was pretty hairy except for his face that had a 5 o’clock shadow. Answering his questions were difficult as I had to keep up with the fact that he was literally hopping across the dance floor as we danced.
As the night went on, friends had fun, and we had both offered to play designated driver. I drove my car and friend to her house, and he drove her car to her house. It occurred to me on the way there that I did not know this man. He could have been an axe murderer for all I knew. After all it was nearly 3 AM and we did live in Galveston. Panic set in as he got into my car after dropping our friend off…he needed a ride back to campus. I had a hunting knife stashed in my side pocket. I figured I might be quick enough to hit an artery if he tried any funny business. It was only about 5 miles back to campus.
The car ride was spent in near uncomfortable silence as I thought of all the ways he might try to murder me. Finally we crossed the two lane drawbridge to Pelican Island (seems pretty murder-y to you, right?) I asked him where on campus he lived….and he replied to me, “The corps dorms – Albatross.”
Never had I ever wanted someone out of my car so bad. If there was one rule I’d learned after starting at Texas A&M – it was that you stay far away from corps boys. And I had planned to do exactly that.
And now dear readers……..I am marrying that very same corps guy in less than a year.
Life has a very funny and mysterious way of working. For weeks this boy followed me around. He held doors for me, carried my books, asked permission to “escort” me to class, and even got me lunch on Wednesdays between my back to back classes. No one had ever been this nice to me. I eventually turned to my mom and explained all the nice things this boy was doing for me and she replied with, “Tell him to go away!”
And so I did. I told him that I refused to date him. His only response, “Well can we at least be friends?” And so we were. He listened to me talk about my classes, my family, my future career plans. He held me on the really hard days following my break up and listened. He also knew that pain. We watched Disney movies together, we went to the beach just to walk and talk about life. Never once did he ask for more than to be my friend.
A month went by and we became part of each other’s routine. Doing homework, getting Taco Cabana, watching movies, friends’ game night. Then came Thanksgiving break – he went to Waco, and I went home to Dayton. It occurred to me while lying in bed, bored out of my mind one night that I actually missed his presence. It became clear to me at that point…..I had caught the feelings.
The more I thought about it, the more I knew. In today’s day and age, it is rare that you find someone who genuinely cares for you (I’ve hijacked my friends’ Tinder accounts before to see what all the fuss is about and NOPE…it is a COLD world out there, ladies). This guy liked me so much that he was willing (and not mad in the least) to be blatantly friend zoned. Not to mention, there was some real potential there for lumberjack beard growth.
A week after Thanksgiving break, I made the decision to take poor David out of the friend zone. Male readers – please take a moment to clap and rejoice for another man exiting the friend zone.
Our favorite thing to do at the time was to walk on the beach (cliché I know but sue me). When we finally got close to my car to leave (I’d gotten over the murderer phobia now, no worries) I made my move. I had to because I’d already friend zoned him so hard that he was probably scared to.
I made him turn his back to me, and I took a minute to write “Be more than friends?” in the sand. He looked so happy that he might cry when he turned around.
-Nicholas Sparks style interlude where narrator is focused back into the main frame, telling a story to his grandchildren who excitedly ask, what happened next-
Well readers, this story is far from over, in fact…it has just begun, but I’m going to skip forward to February 4, 2017. It’s an important date. Don’t forget that.
So for those of you who have somewhat kept up with my posts, or my life for that matter know that I had the chance to sail to Antarctica on a research vessel to participate in scientific research for a little over 2 months last year. It just so happened that the boat I was on was the same one that David had been an engineer on for a couple years, and we ended up on the same cruise rotation with each other. I’d suggest reading some of my other blog posts if you get the chance to get an idea of exactly what we were doing down there but I digress…
On February 4, 2017 I was extremely pissed off. I was fed up with life, homesick, facing writer’s block, and most of all mad as hell at David. We’d been together for 5 years, lived together, I’d even had to pretend to be his wife to pay his bills over the phone while he was gone offshore all the time. We’d been through the roughest and the happiest times together in life and gave the #couplegoals people a run for their money. AND STILL NO RING. Can I get a holla from my sisters in the back who feel that pain?
I figured if he was going to do it, it would have been the day before when we had the chance to both go on a zodiac (the little rubber boats) ride to do some up close and personal whale watching.
But alas, it did not happen. I had lost all hope at that point for any sort of romantic, grand proposal. So there I sat in the bridge, pissed off, and alone. None of my friends in the lab would even speak to me that day. I was convinced that I was the biggest garbage human on the planet.
Eventually I came downstairs from my corner for dinner. I was forced to sit across the table from my traitorous boyfriend. I was less than amused with any of his conversation that day.
Eventually the marine projects coordinator, Lindsey, sat down with us. She told David that there was a weather station on land nearby that needed fixing. Since he was the engineer on duty she wanted to know if he could hop on a zodiac and go with them to make the repair. We were sitting in Andvord Bay, at the time while our whaling crew completed some sampling and photography work with the local inhabitants.
Me, being me, and taking any chance to get off the main ship for a zodiac ride spoke up, “So I think David might require an assistant to hold his tools or something like that…is there enough room for me on the zodiac?”
To which she responded, “I don’t know…if you go it needs to be a secret from the rest of the boat, and you need to get permission from Debbie first.” Debbie was the P.I., AKA boss lady for our little lab group. I was instructed to hurry and get ready to go and to find Debbie. I looked everywhere for her but couldn’t find her. I figured it was the end of the cruise and if I disobeyed her, that I’d be back home in Texas next week anyways. Little did I know – she was actually hiding because she was so giddy that she couldn’t keep the secret.
I raced to my room to layer up for a zodiac ride. Nike pros, yoga pants on top, two pairs of thick wool socks, undershirt, overshirt, buff, hat, gloves, glasses, steel toes, waterproof pants, float coat….y’all get it right?
My roommate at the time asked me where I was going…I just responded, “Perks of being a ship girlfriend I guess?” and with that I grabbed my camera for all the cute penguin pictures I’d snap and left to hop on the zodiac. Not a stitch of make up on, no fancy nails, no hair did, ready for adventure.
We pulled away from the ship, David tool bag in hand. I was bouncing with excitement because we’d be the only people our entire cruise to step foot on Antarctic continent (everything up until that point had been an island). We were headed to Duthier’s Point to fix a weather station. Our little crew consisted of us, an electronic tech named Julian, Matt the marine tech, and Lindsey, our marine projects coordinator.
The sun was “setting” about as much as it could in the summer time at the bottom of the world (it never really gets dark once you hit a certain degree down there). Penguins, seals, and even some very rare whales passed us on our journey to the point. Of course we were greeted by some beautiful scenery that I’ll share:
Finally we arrived at the point where tied up our zodiac and got off to repair the weather station.
Now I’m not going to sugar coat this next part and tell you it was the thing of dreams. The entire point smelled like sun baked penguin poo. All of those white things you see on the rocks above? Crispy, dried penguin poo. The wet, brown/red, gleamy looking stuff? Fresh, slippery penguin poo. And now some informative memes about penguin poop:
We scaled the slippery rocks carefully keeping our distance from the Gentoo penguin colony and their babies that inhabited the land. David made his way up to the weather station with Julian while I lagged behind appreciating my time with all of the penguins. He’d seen plenty of penguins in his day so he and Julian left me be while they went to make a satellite phone call to figure out the logistics of the repair.
Julian encouraged me to follow after David to the large rock below the antenna because it had a really nice view of the mountains and the ship that would make for good pictures while David was working on the weather station.
The cliffs here were pretty rocky and covered in poo so for a Texas girl used to flat land (with an expensive as hell camera in hand), David stuck around to help me up to the rock. We snapped a couple of pictures along the way to document our first time stepping foot on actual continent. Check out these nerds in their float coats who think they’re cool:
Finally we got up to the rock, which did in fact have an amazing view.
Then I thought to myself, wait a second, where is this asshole’s tool bag? As I was caught up in my moment of thought, Julian caught this great picture of David who looked back to make sure we were lined up in the shot that would capture the moment.
Let me just preface this with the fact that I HATE surprises. I spoil everything. You must work diligently to hide any sort of surprise from me. After 5 years with me David realized that nothing was safe and that I was clever enough to figure out even his most elaborate plans. But this time he’d duped me.
If you wanted a fairy tale story where people cry and scream yes and then kiss in the sunset then you walked into the wrong story time, my friends. So this is your fair warning.
He got down on one knee, and I remarked “You shit head, we’re not fixing anything are we!?” I was genuinely upset as a handy girl who likes to fix stuff. To which he replied, “Well actually I’m fixing something right now.”
Katie, did you cry?? How romantic! No dear readers, I did not cry. My brain was still making calculations and overheating from shock factor that someone had finally surprised me. Had fooled me. I had walked right into this trap!
Okay back to the mushy love part before I start losing readers who came here for the juicy details.
-Cue romantic music crescendo-ing in the background like some legit Nicholas Sparks shit-
“We’ve been together for far too long for me to not fix this, I’ve been waiting for years for this moment. I love you so much, Katie Michelle, will you marry me?”
To which I responded, “Yes, you asshole.”
Then we kees.
And this is the story that we’ll someday tell our children, and their children, and so on. This is the story of my awkward penguin and how I finally got my pebble. A very shiny pebble that apparently my penguin had been sitting on for over two years waiting for the perfect moment to give it to me.
Guys – apparently hiding a ring box in plain sight of the office, laundry room, etc. works for hiding it from your girl.
So back to the story. These guys got me GOOD. Oh man did they get me. This proposal had been in the works for nearly 3 months, it was in the works before I had even gotten on the boat. Nearly the entire boat had kept it a secret from me. They all worked to help David and to plan the perfect moment for both of us.
We weren’t fixing anything. We had come out to Duthier’s Point for us. The zodiac trip? That was the hardest part for them. How were they going to get me on that boat as a skeptical girl who would know something was up? They didn’t have to. As fate would have it, I walked right into it. The satellite phone they dragged along on the zodiac to call about fixing the weather station? It was to call home to tell my mom that I was engaged. All the cameras? Weren’t for penguin pictures. They were to capture our moment. These guys should be certified professional proposal planners. They thought of EVERYTHING. I had never felt so special in my whole life as I did that moment. I was dumbfounded and shocked, at a loss for words.
We finally headed back to the ship, where I learned that the entire ship was in on this plot. They greeted us with signs that spelled out “Congratulations!” How much more perfect could this day have gotten? This part may have made my eyes prickle a little bit.
WordPress wants to make me pay to upload videos so you’ll just have to listen to an accurate description of the video our friend Naomi made as we approached the ship:
Debbie (in drill sergeant voice) – “GET YOUR SIGNS UP HIGHER, KEEP THEM UP!!”
-woooo and yelling noises ensue-
Me (holding up hand) – “Can you see it from down here??”
Naomi (to self) – Holy crap you can see it from down there.
Naomi (to me) – “It looks awwwwwwweeeful!” (An inside joke on the ship.)
And thus concludes the story of how we got engaged in Antarctica. It may not be your ideal fairy tale but it was mine. I even stuck my brand new engagement ring in penguin poop and dinged it climbing down the rocks (the engagement ring store couldn’t even buff that one out….). To the crew (ship and scientists) who helped David plan this and to all my friends on LTER – I will never forget y’all and will always be thankful for the time we spent together and I am so glad you were there for our moment. Y’all are some of the coolest and kindest people I’ve ever met in life.
I want to say that this has been a really crazy year of my life: travelling overseas for the first time, going off the grid, getting engaged, writing a thesis, graduating, moving, getting my first job post-graduation, hating that job, Hurricane Harvey, depression from being denied for nearly every job I applied for, accepting my dream job, moving again, planning a wedding. You get the point. All of this has been so much sweeter with David by my side. He’s always come to my rescue when I’ve needed him and always lends an ear when I need to vent. He works hard to provide for us and to make sure we have a happy and comfortable life. I couldn’t have picked a better partner for this crazy journey.
He is my penguin in life. And I finally got my pebble. I took a chance on the guy I said I’d never date and it was one of the best decisions I ever made.
I hope you guys finally enjoyed the full story and I am so happy to finally be back in the blog writing game after a long hiatus of trying to work out all the kinks in life.
Who’s ready to talk about wedding dress shopping next?
–Katie AKA The Girl With the Big Bass (and the pebble)