Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Hopefully the end of winter

“Hot, still, mosquitoes! Millions of the bastards!”
-From last year’s logbook.
East Greenland and the UK have been pleasantly warm while west Greenland and northeast Canada have been very cold. Here in camp, winter seems to still be in full force. There is more snow forecast for this weekend and it’s snowing right now. My hands have been constantly cold. Some people in camp have developed blisters on the tops of their hands, and from what I gather from my wilderness medicine book, it’s the result of rapidly cooling and heating skin. I’m guessing that submerging our hands in freezing water to take samples and then shoving them in our armpits might be doing this.
We had a good laugh when we read the wilderness medicine book’s section on hypothermia. “Symptoms of the onset of hypothermia include: sensations of cold; shivering; incoordination in hand movements… muscular incoordination, stumbling gait, and maladaptive behavior.” We immediately diagnosed each other with hypothermia citing numerous instances of maladaptive behavior and incoordiation.
Our supervisors have left and the joke is that it’s going to turn into an Arctic version of Lord of the Flies. I think an important first step was taken in this direction when we gave each other nicknames. There is Two Hoods, Sleeps like a Tortoise, Can’t Go Home, Dyes Things Pink, Gas Dancer, Knits Like the Wind, Captain Lyndsey, and Hewhosnicknameisinappropriateforthisblog. Can you guess who anyone is?
End of May in camp.
   On the work side of things, the Gas Chromatograph (GC) continues to give us trouble. Like our hands, we suspect it wasn’t made to operate in freezing conditions. According to Stuart Vinen, possible problems include “bad cold traps, bad nitrogen gas, a possible leak, and the less than ideal operating temperatures.” We’re working on fixing the first three problems and hopefully when it warms, the instrument will stabilize. The GC is a critical piece of equipment for us. When Dave Chandler and Dave Ashmore head to ice camp on the Greenland Ice Sheet they will send a tracer gas down crevasses where it will travel through the innards of the ice sheet and Leverett Glacier. The GC will be used to detect when this gas is discharged from the glacier at the portal. During these tests those of us in camp will be taking samples and testing the tracer gas concentration on our GC. This will be repeated as many times as possible.
This gas tracing through the glacier will help us learn about the glacier’s hydrology, or how meltwater travels from the top of the glacier to its front. By injecting a gas tracer instead of a chemical one, we will not only learn how long it takes the melt water to go from the top of the ice sheet to its front, we’ll also learn something about the nature of the tunnels the meltwater travels through. Imagine the meltwater is traveling through a tunnel and then suddenly enters a large cavern within the glacier. A portion of our injected gas will enter the air in this cavern while the rest of the gas travels quickly through in the water. In time the gas in the cavern’s airspace will slowly dissolve back into the meltwater where it will continue towards the glacier’s portal. When we measure the concentration of gas at the glacier’s portal, we’ll initially see a high concentration peak that will slowly tail off. A slower, longer tail of gas will indicate that the gas was slowed down in caverns within the glacier while a large peak followed by a small concentration tail will indicate fewer caverns within the glacier. All of this information will help us understand the inner workings of the ice sheet and by repeating this through the melt season, we’ll learn how the hydrology of the Greeenland Ice Sheet’s changes through the season.
Unfortunately, getting a helicopter also continues to be a problem. We’ve moved the location of the first ice camp from 10km to 2km up glacier so we can hike all the equipment necessary for gas injections. Dave Chandler, our post-doc in charge, deserves considerable praise for his determination to get all the equipment up the glacier. He’s enlisted a few of us to help carrying loads though he’s done most of the work himself. Because the things we have to carry are awkward, bulky, and heavy, these trips have been some of the toughest hikes I've ever been on.
Me carrying a large load up to the first ice camp.

My work has actually been going really well. In field science, there is always a day or two of what my master’s degree advisor called, “mandatory floundering” but then usually things smooth out. Fortunately, for me there has only been mild to moderate floundering.
My job is to measure three radioactive isotopes, radon, beryllium, and radium. Isotopes are to elements what different flavors are to ice cream. If you start with vanilla ice cream, and add chocolate chips to some of it, you have two different flavors based on the same ice cream. Similarly, isotopes are like different flavors of elements. Carbon-14, the famous isotope of carbon used to “date” organic matter, has two more neutrons than regular carbon-12. Just like a different ice cream flavor, carbon-14 has different properties, notably it is radioactive and decays away over time. Unlike chocolate chip vanilla ice cream, I don’t want a large carbon-14 milkshake right now.
Anyways, the radon I’m looking for is the same as the radon you may have worried was building up in your basement. Radon enters the base of the glacier the same way it enters a basement, that is through the radioactive decay of the uranium naturally found in rocks. Radon coming out of the glacier’s portal can tell us the proportion of meltwater that has traveled along the glacier’s base. As mentioned in the “About the Expedition” section of this blog, this basal water is important as it may lubricate the base of the glacier and help it move faster. So I’m using radon to trace water moving along the glacier’s base. I’m also looking at radium. Similar to radon, radium should track basal water and is produced through the radioactive decay of uranium found in the rocks under the glacier.
My radon detector at the glacier's portal.

To get at the component of meltwater derived from melting snow on top the ice sheet, I’m analyzing beryllium-7. Beryllium-7 is formed in the upper atmosphere by cosmogenic rays coming from the sun. This isotope of beryllium undergoes radioactive decay and due to its short half-life, we can assume any beryllium measured is derived from last year’s snowmelt. Finally,isotopes of oxygen and hydrogen will be used to quantify the component of meltwater derived from melted ice. So, in short my job is to use isotopes to determine what percentage of the meltwater is derived from snow or ice melt and then how much of it is moving along the base of the ice sheet before it comes out at the portal.
In other news:
-The recent volcano in Iceland has prevented one of our field techs from making it here (sorry you couldn’t make it Amy!).
-The Arctic fox has been dutifully visiting my tent every morning though he is being more considerate about the time he wakes me up. This morning at 7:30 he came right up to my head and yelped. This got me sitting up, heart pounding, and very confused until I saw his little silhouette on the side of my tent. Someone has named him Foxy Prince.
-After a lot of noisy fighting, the three geese on the pond next to our camp are now just two geese. They enjoy honking to each other all night long and going nuts when we fill our water bottles. I keep saying we should eat them now before it’s too late and they reproduce. This mere suggestion is met with the same stalwart resistance as my proposition to eat just one of the arctic hares.
-According to an old man in Kangerlussuaq the mosquitoes are going to be here in ten days.
Caption competition! Who can come up with the best caption for this photo!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Life in Camp

So there I was. Barefoot on a rock in only my running shorts, a bottle of shampoo in my hand. There’s a gentle breeze and a few flakes of snow are falling from the cloudy sky. I’m on a mission to win our camp’s Polar Bear Challenge.
The waterfall comes out from directly under the river ice and half of it is still frozen. Our temperature probe says the water is exactly 31.7F. I guess when water is moving it can get a little below its freezing point.
I step off the rock onto sharp icy snow and walk to a large pool of ankle deep water. It’s about 100 feet to the waterfall and I start to jog over the ice and water. My feet start to burn and then burn more. I slow to a halt and almost chicken out. Then, regaining composure I tip toe forward wincing every time my feet go in the water. I stop just before the falls and then edge closer. When the water hits me, I have an out of body of experience and see myself hyperventilating while frantically washing my hair. Thirty seconds later, I run back to my towel. 
Our swimming hole.
In the end I’m the only one who comes out with clean hair netting me 70 Greenland Points (GP) which has given me a solid lead over the rest of the team. Other ways to rack up points include cleaning the toilet (50 GP); one full week in camp (10 GP); one full week camping on the ice sheet (20 GP); going to town and not taking a shower (10 GP). Finally, you lose 10 GP for every shower taken in town.
It’s been a cold few weeks here in Greenland. I thought for sure by May 21st our river would be melted and raging but instead the ice has been getting thicker. This has been a bit of a concern as we have scientific probes stuck under the ice between the river rocks on the shore and the river ice. Every other day this week it has snowed. The snow on top of Leverett Glacier is still there, and it seems that after a month of waiting, we’re still at the very beginning of the melt season. Even as I write this, several more inches of snow are piling up on my tent.
In camp we’ve been taking daily samples of the river, fixing and testing equipment, hiking heavy packs around, and drinking lots of tea. We’ve been eating a lot. Living outside in the cold and hiking all the time makes everyone very hungry. There have been a number of people sent to town to buy parts for equipment and so we’ve had delicacies like apples and tiny slices of cheese that are eaten as slowly as possible.
Looking out of the Portal of Leverett Glacier.
There are some advantages to the cold weather. As mentioned in the previous post, we’ve had better access to the glacier’s mouth, the portal. We can just walk up the river instead of an hour hike up and over a large hill and then with crampons and ice axes, down the steep slope of the glacier while hunting for crevasses hidden by snow. This afternoon, Lyndsey Mackay, Tom Cowton and myself hiked to the portal to collect samples. This was the first time I’ve been there and not seen any melt water. Last week while sampling, streams of water were cascading off the glacier’s edge accompanied by small rocks. When a rock twice the size of my head slammed down a few feet from me, we stopped sampling and immediately left. Today’s visit was much more subdued. We took a lot of pictures, explored the portal, and then hiked back over the river.
Our science tents.
Everyone has been in good spirits and we’ve been keeping each other happy. After dinner we sit around reading while Lyndsey or myself play guitar until it gets too cold. Dave, Lyndsey and I have written a few songs about Greenland, mostly the kind that would make any twelve-year-old laugh. We’ve also spent a few evenings watching musk ox graze nearby while the sun gets low and the colors change.
This morning at an unspeakably early hour, an Arctic Fox decided it really needed to get into my tent. I’ve been leaving my tent door open all the time because I want to save my zippers from the dust and sand which will destroy them long before the mosquitoes come. Also my sleeping bag is ridiculously warm. Anyways, I woke to the sound of little feet padding around my head. When I opened my eyes I jumped and made that kind of feeble yelping sound that happens when you're really startled, which is always embarrassing. An adorable little arctic fox was inches from my face sniffing and staring at me without any sign of fear. When I jumped he ran out of my tent’s vestibule only to sit down right outside and watch me. I didn’t have my camera and as I mentioned, it was unspeakably early so I tried to shoo him away. I’d pretend to throw something at him and yell which made him back up a few feet but then he'd come right back. After about 15 minutes of this, I got out of my tent to chase him away. He ran away, I went back to bed and 10 minutes later he woke me up trying to squeeze under my now zipped vestibule. He dutifully spent the next few hours making sure I didn’t sleep. Finally, he left me alone when he discovered the geese on our pond but by then it was time to get up. He was only about half their size but seemed to have fun chasing them around the pond ice.
I guess foxes love the smell of Peanut Butter Cups as much as I do.
Me forgetting my crampons and everyone else crossing the glacier.

Monday, May 16, 2011

The Water Chemist

Leverett Glacier comes off of the Greenland Ice Sheet from the east. The main portal, which funnels meltwater from most of the glacier’s catchment area, discharges a river on the north side of the glacier. Our camp is just north of this river sitting on top of a saddle between two small peaks. Before yesterday, only a few people from our camp had ever ventured to the south side of the river or explored the rest of the glacier’s terminus. In the early season, we’ve assumed the river ice was too dangerous to cross and in the summer high flows make crossing impossible. However, this year has been unseasonably cold and in places, the river ice is still almost two feet thick. Yesterday, Jemma Wadham, Matt Charette and I walked across the frozen river to search for new field sites. We carried packs full of equipment to assist in our assessments and interpretations.
Home away from home.

Huge piles of rocks and dirt sit in front of Leverett Glacier as if a massive bulldozer had pushed them there and then left. In front of these piles, the landscape might as well be the Moon’s surface. No trees, grasses or even weeds take root here, and so there is nothing but mud, sand, rocks and ice. The only sign of life we saw was the occasional fox and geese tracks. As we hiked, we discovered several small ponds and a stream feeding back to the main river. There were also several springs of groundwater coming up through the rocks. One was obviously different. It was trickling out of the top of a 30-foot mound of ice and was blood red. To figure out what it was, we deployed our arsenal of water chemistry tools.

The first thing we checked was the electrical conductivity of the water. We do this to measure the amount of ions in the water. Ions are dissolved free elements or small combinations of elements floating freely through the water. Ions are either negatively or positively charged. For example, if you add table salt to a glass of water, you are adding sodium chloride salt (NaCl) that dissolves to Na+ and Cl-. Sodium has a +1 charge while chloride has a -1 charge and so no matter how much table salt you add to water, the total charge remains neutral but the conductivity of the water will increase. In fact, one of the most important laws of water chemistry is that all waters have an equal amount of negative and positive ions. Basically, our electrical conductivity meter measures the amount of salt dissolved in the water. For our purposes, a low conductivity measurement likely indicates recent snowmelt, whereas a high reading means the water is likely older and has traveled a long distance. Older water has spent more time weathering rocks and so contains more dissolved ions. We are most interested in water that has spent time under the glacier as it might tell us about the glacier itself. We assume that this "basal water" (water from the glacier's base)  will have a significantly higher conductivity than recent snowmelt. The blood red ice spring had exceptionally high conductivity so we knew its water source was distant.

Chemistry with a view.
Next, we checked the pH. pH is the “master” variable for water chemistry and is the most important parameter for most chemical studies. Using only a simple hand held pH probe, a decent chemist can map out the extent of an oil spill, determine the source of groundwater, or even make guesses as to what rocks the water has been in contact with. Are plants photosynthesizing in the water? Check the pH. Can your drinking water carry dissolved uranium? Check the pH. In our case, we use pH for the same reason we use conductivity. That is to try to differentiate between recent snowmelt and water from the bottom of the glacier. Snowfall should be in equilibrium with carbon dioxide, an acid, and so should have a lower pH than water coming from under the glacier. Our blood red springs has a pH of 8, meaning the water is more alkaline and is certainly not recent snowmelt.

After taking a pH reading, we collected water to analyze back at our university labs. We fill multiple bottles of various sizes, each for a specific purpose. Some of these samples are filtered before they are collected while others are taken raw. How each bottle is filled is also important. For dissolved gas samples we fill and cap the bottle underwater to ensure there are no bubbles to lose gas through. In contrast, a head space is left at the top of each dissolved metal bottle as those bottles will be frozen and we don’t want them to burst. The things we can’t measure in the field include oxygen and deuterium isotopes, dissolved organic carbon, fatty lipids, anions, cations, metals, and alkalinity. Each of these parameters requires special equipment, trained technicians, and each analysis needs to be completed within a specified amount of time. The data will be used to build models, fuel interpretations, give talks, and publish papers.

At each site, I take as many notes as time allows. Each entry is dated and the time is recorded, and each stop is given a unique name (something like GRE-11-009). I also use a hand held global positioning unit (GPS) to record each location. In addition to recording all the parameters measured on site, I make sketches of the glacier and possible water flow paths. I also write down any interpretations made at each site. Phil Bennet, my master’s degree advisor would always tell me, “Interpret as you go!” and so I do. In the old days scientists would spend a great deal of time crafting their field notes, making detailed drawings and writing extensive interpretations. Today, I think some of this art is lost though most college level field courses grade heavily on a student’s field notes.

Finally, we take pictures of each field site and use notebooks, pencils and each other for scale. These pictures will wind up being projected on large screens at meetings when we present our findings and ideally, the pictures won’t show us with dumb looks on our faces.

Red water. Why? Photo by Matt Charette
Last year, some German geologists stopped by camp and described the blood red spring to the team. To explain the color, they invoked a plane crash to account for the amount of iron that was obviously staining everything. In science, this is what is know as “arm waving,” which is basically coming up with far fetched ideas to explain something while likely waving your arms for emphasis. When I first saw the springs, I noticed the deep black clay we were walking through near the spring and the dark black metamorphic rocks surrounding it. Without really knowing what I was talking about, I suggested an iron ore body below us. Again, more arm waving. Matt and Jemma came to a more logical conclusion.

Long ago, before Leverett Glacier existed, this area of Greenland was covered in trees and grasses. Then, over a long period of time, Leverett Glacier formed off of the Greenland Ice Sheet and bulldozed over all the vegetation covering it under layers and layers of ice. This ancient forest is still here except that now it is in the form of simple dissolved organic carbon. Today this carbon is food for an array of bacteria that have been slowly munching away on it ever since it was buried by the glacier. When these bugs eat carbon they need to dispose of the carbon’s electrons and so they give the electrons to oxygen. This is exactly what we do every time we take a breath. Under the glacier with no new source of oxygen, these oxygen-breathing bugs quickly used all the oxygen and died out. This made way for a new breed of bugs. These new bugs were breathing iron, pulling it out of the rocks to dispose of the electrons taken from carbon. When bacteria do this, the iron no longer wants to form minerals and becomes dissolved in the water. Today, the water flowing under Leverett Glacier is full of the used iron bugs have breathed, and when this iron reaches the surface at our blood red springs, it meets again with oxygen and forms a microcrystalline red mineral, rust, over everything the water touches. If there is one truth about life on Earth it is that if life can exist, it will. Even if it is under a glacier without any oxygen.

Jemma Wadham, the principle investigator of our team, is a professor of physical geography in the Bristol Glaciology Center at the University of Bristol, and Matt Charette, my advisor, is a scientist in the Department of Marine Chemistry and Geochemistry at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The mouth of Leverett Glacier

several posts in one!

One week after this picture was taken, all the snow and ice was melted.
Taking a load to camp

Going to Camp
The sun is shinning and it’s warming my tent. Through the window, I can see the frozen river coming out of Leverett Glacier and up the river, Leverett Glacier itself. Last night’s snowfall covers the peaks and valley in front of me. I have a full pot of tea made from melted snow, my slippers are on and it’s too warm for a coat. My computer is sitting on a little table and is connected to a car battery. A second one is outside charging on a solar panel. Finally, I’m in my Science Tent.
There was no helicopter. We trucked several tons of equipment to the very end of the road, made a huge pile, and over the past few days have been hauling gear in on our backs. The first time I did the hike I swore it was six miles but to my dismay it’s actually only around two and a half. The hike is through snowdrifts, over sand dunes and then up a large hill. I suppose when the snow is gone and I’m in better shape, it won’t be that bad. I generally like to pass the time on this hike by cursing every hour I was not on a long distance training run before coming here.
We hiked in late one afternoon when the sun was low in the sky. Not long into the hike I saw my first musk ox. It was a mummified head looking up serenely at the sky, its horns were sawed off and its body gone. Then Greg said, “Look they are watching us.” A group of figures were silhouetted on the ridgeline above us. Like sentinels from another world and time, a herd of musk ox stood watching us move up the valley. I kept turning to stare at them as we hiked. There were little newborns being guided by their parents as they slowly moved down the slope.
I set my sleeping tent on top of a large hill overlooking camp. The view was magnificent and I wondered why I was the only one to pick such a beautiful spot. That night I learned why. The wind picked up, and I spent the night listening to and feeling my four-season-hurricane-proof tent violently flap and bend in obscene directions. The next day I moved my tent behind some sand dunes and boulders close to the rest of the team.
Spring is late this year to Greenland but it is surly coming. There were no birds the first day but now hardly a minute goes by without hearing geese and now even the songbirds are back. The temperature has been hovering around freezing, and the snow is slowly disappearing.

The River Crossing
There is a river to cross to get to our camp. As mentioned in a recent post, we’ve been working for a few days to set up a rope and pulley system to haul a boat back and forth once the river melts. Till now, I never thought much of walking across the frozen river. It looks like a shallow braided stream that I assumed grew substantially when melt started. Then yesterday, while working on our pulley system, we did what everyone does while hanging out next to a body of water. We threw rocks. This is especially satisfying if the surface is partially frozen and of course big rocks are more fun than small rocks so I was throwing the biggest rocks I could muster. The small rocks went through a thin layer of ice and then stopped when they hit the bottom several inches below. Then I picked up the biggest rock I could possibly lift and dropped it off a ledge about 15 feet above the surface. The rock blew through the ice and vanished out of sight leaving a dark black hole. It took me a while to understand what had happened.
What I had assumed were sand banks in the middle of the river were actually thick windblown sand and silt deposits on top of the river ice. This made the river look deceptively like a small braided snow covered stream. The reality was the river was likely deep and clearly there was moving water below the ice. After seeing the rock plunge through the ice, we were now faced with a decision. We either had to cross the river, now fully loaded, or go into town to find our boat (probably in some hanger). After some discussion and several failed phone calls to anyone who might know exactly where our boat might be, we decided to cross. So we slung our packs on, some weighing near 100 lbs and walked to the bank. We paused at the bank and I undid my pack’s waist belt. I saw Dave and Greg do the same. During the day when the river’s surface ice had melted, pools had formed which were now frozen on their tops to form the first layer of ice. As we carefully walked across this ice, it would sometimes break causing our feet to stomp down on the ice below. I stopped when I got to the middle and listened. I could hear water rushing below me.
Looking back I suppose we could’ve left our packs on one side or spent the night in town crossing early morning after the night’s freeze. But we had crossed earlier in the same day and every day prior, and though it had been warm, we didn’t think that much could’ve changed in a few hours. The only thing that had changed was our appreciation for the danger. Anyways, we’re crossing at a much safer spot now. The British have a way of downplaying everything. I believe Dave Chandler, said of our crossing, “A bit spooky aye?”

May 9, 2011
It’s gone from winter to spring in about a week. The snow is rapidly melting and soon the river I’ll be sampling all summer will be flowing. The temperature must have hit around 40F though I’ve no idea because I’m horrible at Centigrade and there are no Americans in camp to compare temperature guesses with. Tom Cowton said it was around 7 though. Whatever that means.
Two days ago we finally got a helicopter to carry the remaining gear into camp. I got a great picture of the helicopter slinging a load but my camera’s card reader seems to have bitten the dust. Speaking of dust, the dust here is unbelievable and deserves an entire post in itself.
After that first windy night I found my shoes and everything else in my tent’s vestibule half buried in sand. As in the sand was almost to the top of my running shoes. After about a day in camp, enough sand had built up on my scalp to give it sort of a bumpy feeling. After the first week, I have to carefully wash my face with a wet wipe to avoid getting any of the sand glued there into my eyes. I’m told tent zippers last only a couple weeks before little bits of sand destroy them and our dishes are also hopelessly coated. Greg Lis of the University of Bristol keeps handing me sticky sandy dishes saying, “See sparkling clean!”
The veterans of Greenland fieldwork take a sort of Zen-like acceptance to the sand and its effects. I’m working on mine but for now, the shower I had tonight at K.I.S.S. was marvelous.

What’s to come-
-Science! What are we doing here anyways?
-Hiking to the Portal! (Trekking over land and ice to sample at the glacier’s mouth)
-Translating English to American!

The helicopter delivering supplies to camp and our dubious river crossing.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

First Week Waiting

Mining companies have commandeered all the helicopters in Greenland. I guess it’s like this every year. Scientists come to town with important schedules all drawn up with detailed plans, and every year weather and mining companies take priority for the helicopter companies. I guess we don’t quite have the same budget or significance. After verifying that my shipment made it here and making some last minute purchases, we’ve mostly had slow days coming up with things to do.
We are staying at the Kangerlussuaq International Science Support (KISS), which despite its acronym is not a quaint romantic getaway or a rock band training camp. It’s actually full of scientists from all over the world, and everyone is on their own Greenlandic adventure. Men and women (OK mostly men) standing around trying to brag about “heading up to the ice sheet,” or “we just need deliver a Ski Doo to our team at South Station.” If these guys are like me, they’ve just spent months trying to brag about going to Greenland to do important climate change research, and it’s hard to realize that there are other bearded outdoorsy science dudes living the same dream. Fortunately for me, we have a probable helicopter tomorrow and so this is likely my last night here.
A few days ago, we hiked to our field site. It’s a not too far from town, about an hours drive and then 6 miles of hiking. The weather has been around freezing so the hiking was very nice and the dry air makes it feel like a spring day skiing in Colorado. The reason for the trip was to check on equipment that had spent the winter under a tarp at Base Camp after being abandoned by the group from the University of Bristol. The equipment was fine though the tarps were badly frayed from the wind. Attached are some pictures from the hike.
Our team consists of three British people, one Polish guy who works in England and me. Wait, I’m sorry- our team consists of two Brits, a Scott, a Polish guy and a Minnesotan. The team is awesome. These guys (and girl) are seriously outdoorsy. Without exception, all are rock climbers and two are ice climbers. I genuinely had to jog to keep up with everyone when we hiked to our field site. I thought I was a decent hiker but these people can hike very fast even through the snow. Today we set up our river crossing, which consists of several climbing ropes, some pulleys and a little boat. As an Eagle Scout I feel like I’m pretty good at knots but these people put me to shame and sadly made me feel like I never was a climber.
It’s been hilarious trying to understand the different accents. Currently, I’m at 75% comprehension with an error of 25% depending on whose talking. More than a few jokes have been said at my expense and have gone completely over my head. I’m missing complete conversations because I don’t get the euphemisms or am slow to put together the different metaphors used. I feel like I’m a trying to understand a foreign language I’m bad at. These are my people though. When the big royal wedding happened last week, they could not have cared less and asking questions regarding it seemed to embarrass them.
Tomorrow we are hopefully heading to the field and updates to this blog will likely be a weekly event. I apologize for the sort of scattered update. The past few days have been quite full with little time to write!