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Hey Kez,

Thank you so much for the greetings. It means a lot, especially when one is so isolated.

I had a great birthday! It was really funny though as I was sitting here moaning to a friend (in person even) about how most everyone had forgotten it, then she and I walked to the library where we were going to watch a movie with friends (I thought) and half the Station was assembled for a surprise party!

Now, perhaps like you, I have always hated surprises, but I found myself sort of rising to the occasion for this one. They had put so much work in finding decorations, accumulating bottles of this and that, bringing a computer in for music and getting party food from somewhere and even wrapping presents (difficult as we have no wrapping paper so creativity is required).

Then there were the presents. The flags that fly at the Pole are changed twice a year as the weather erodes them very quickly. They raffle them off to the winterovers by pulling a name out of a hat at every town meeting. I had been dreaming of getting one of course, then someone got an Aussie flag and TRADED it for a rugby shirt!! To cut a long story short, my close friend Randi spent two weeks wheeling and dealing and everyone participated in the trading of flags until they had the Ausies flag back. They gave it to me last night. Fancy owning a flag that flew at the South Pole!

The next amazing present was from Richard the chef who had been at McMurdo in summer working. He knew some scientists who had climbed Erebus and brought back a few "Erebus crystals". As I understand it, these are produced when lava spurts out of the mountain and freezes instantly in an unusual way. Such formations only occur at Erebus and Mt Kenya. There it is cold enough at the summits. Richard gave me one of his prized crystals.

Then Randi and Angela gave me a large box, wrapped in old seismic recording paper (looked really artistic) and after I had worked my way through the packing, there were two glasses that they had made with Jenny's name on one and mine on the other, Antarctica and "South Pole 2004" sandblasted into them. We do this down here...hunt for appropriate bottles courtesy of the bar, cut them down and engrave them. Tey actually found two Finlandia vodka bottles (almost impossible at this stage of the year) and spent untold hours doing the (expert) masking and blasting!

Several people brought wine of course (Rosemount would you believe). It is the only wine we have left, but I have always enjoyed it. I got a South Pole hooded swaetshirt and other lovely things.

I feel so special. How wonderful. And Dehlia had cooked two fabulous flour-free chocolate cakes (read full of Kahlua and chocolate). We made some cardboard candles but did not allow them to burn for long in case we set off the fire alarms (fire is our main fear here)

Tonight we have slushies, which has not run all winter. The idea is to use the wind-blowd ice, which is the cleanest in the world, to make cocktails. I should go, as I brought a blow-up kangaroo from Australia for the Slushies Bar and have not seen it yet.

And you are right, the sun IS on the point of rising. The pics should be on the UTS website within a week or two.

Digressing to your winter comments, I remember those horrendous electricity bills! I also kinda remember birds singing and spring flowers... I have mixed feelings about leaving as I probably won't get the chance to come back again, but I have a partner off the ice and animals. I can't wait to see them all. On the other hand, I certainly could wait for ever and a day to see my Sydney job again!
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