God Jul / Frohe Weihnachten / Feliz Navidad

Trip Start Jun 18, 2005
Trip End Jan 01, 2006

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Flag of Antarctica  ,
Sunday, December 25, 2005

God Jul / Frohe Weihnachten / Feliz Navidad / Happy Christmas

I've never had a Christmas Eve like this one. A morning landing in Admiralty Bay, a meeting of the penguins, a talk with Mario, who is stationed at Poland's Arctowski station for the next year. "I learned English from the TV," he told me, apologizing frequently when he couldn't remember a word he wanted to use. He is studying glaciers, sedimentation. "But travel is my passion," he confessed. He told me of all the places he has already been, this slender young man of no more than twenty-five. We talked about our Christmas traditions. "The Americans from Copacabana Station are coming tonight for a Christmas Eve party," he said. "Today, we cannot eat meat, only fish, but tomorrow we will have turkey." We stood on the deck of the tiny wooden hut under the lighthouse, whale bones strowed around, penguins waddling by, icebergs floating near.

It was time for me to go. "Can I hang onto your back?" I asked when I spotted my shipmates passing by. Pamela was having no problem walking, so John offered his arm to help me over the rocks. "Goodby Mario," I said, "Merry Christmas!"

Back on the ship, I slept for hours. I missed the briefing, missed the stop at Aitcho Islands. The Aitchos were named for the British Admiralty Hydrographic Office, or, H. O. In the English Strait between Robert and Greenwich Islands, it's a beautiful spot with sheer cliffs and spires, huge, green moss beds, and nesting gentoo and chinstrap penguins. I was sorry I missed the trip ashore, but glad I was rested for the evening.

Yuletide celebration on Dekk 7 at 7:15, the announcement said. Wearing red and green, I arrived on time. Mulled wine, Christmas carols sung in German, English, Silent Night; then sung all languages together; O Tannenbaum! I knew the makeup of the guests - 51 Germans, 42 Australians, 24 Americans, 11 British, 9 Dutch, 9 Norwegian, 7 Italian, 5 Swedish, 4 French, 3 Austrian, 3 Chilean, 2 each from Belgium, Denmark and Israel, and 1 each from Canada, Portugal, Slovakia, and Switzerland. Did the music bring us closer? I don't know. I know that it was memorable.

From there to the dining room, Dekk 4. At the front of the room, the Captain stood, Bible in hand. "It is tradition," he said, "for the Captain to read the Christmas story in Norwegian. Then it will be read in English, in German, and in Spanish." He began to read, the room stilled, the Christmas tree near my table glittered with candles. I pointed the videocam to catch his reading; kept it running through the English too. Icebergs floated by outside.

Then food! Turkey, roast pork, fish of every kind. Salads, Norwegian smorgasbord. A table arrayed with cakes, candies, a yule log with a mouse on top. So much to eat! Then bells began to ring. The children in the crowd looked up as three Santas burst through the door, dark-skinned Filipino crew with stringy cotton beards, laughing, toting bags. The children ran back and forth, laughing too.

Our Santa stopped with packages for each of us, wrapped in green. The four of us at Table 2 eyed one another, couldn't wait. I opened mine, and so did they. Flashlights! The mini-kind, so perfect for your pocket, or your purse. We shined the lights at one another's faces, just like kids would do.

Tired now, at 10 PM. But light outside, the icebergs morning white. I'm typing now, to you.

Happy Christmas! God Jul! Frohe Weihnachten! Feliz Navidad!
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