> > > 8-month mission on "Mars": June 2015

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Back-to-Earth Checklist

Here's a list of some "Back to Earth" luxuries that I've already had the joy of re-experiencing!

Produce: Grocery shopping is so exciting! I have made salads nearly everyday with fresh kale, spinach, herbs, tomato, cucumber, peppers, etc. It's heaven to have all of these fresh foods again! We were very lucky to have Martha's indoor garden, yielding a small salad every month or so. But having salad as an entree feels amazing! Rehydrated veggies just aren't the same, there's no crisp or crunch, just kinda soft or mushy at worst. So I really have been appreciating veggies and fruits that are both crisp and hydrated, biting em releases this juicy freshness that I now fully savor!

Bubbles: After drinking just boring ole still water with the occasional lemonade powder, it's such a luxury to order drinks and carbonated beverages. Just finished a Dr. Pepper with an Ono fish sandwich. Last night I popped some champagne with my birthday cake, yay bubbles! Also had some delicious kiwi (been dreaming about peaches and kiwi while in the dome) with my birthday dessert, but on the topic of drinks, I have yet to have a really great juice.. might need to seek one out soon! Worst case I'll wait til Florida to have some fresh OJ!

Flying: Leaving the Big Island felt so rushed, but still it was freeing to travel again after 8 long months of dome life. I was excited to head off to vacation with my family, just wish there was more time to decompress and enjoy Earthly life with the crew. We had several days of debriefing after the mission, but it would have been great to vacation together for a little while too. We're all spread across the Hawaiian Islands now with our families and friends. Soon I'll be taking a marathon of a flight to Italy. It will be my first time flying solo and for longer than an hour, since so far I've just been island hopping with my parents and one of my brothers Eric. We're having a blast together, already explored Kauai, and just landed in Maui today.

Swimming: The day of re-entry included some pool and hot tub time. We also did a manta ray night snorkel in Kona, and I enjoyed some waves with some amateur body surfing in Kauai. So I guess the swimming boxes are mostly checked off, but I can't get enough! Hope to do some snorkeling soon and more hot tub time definitely needs to happen!

Occasions: Each day feels like playing dress up! In the dome, I basically just wore gym clothes or the occasional outreach attire of jeans and the red HI-SEAS polo which I'm sure you've all seen! So wearing summer dresses, sandals, or really any kind of shoes for more than an hour or two has been a big change from the dome life of slippers all day, except for hiking boots on EVAs and running shoes during workouts.

Alone time: I have yet to spend any significant time alone, but I did have an hour or two in the hotel room on Wednesday morning that involved packing and media phone interviews. I'm not anxious for alone time, but I do have quite a bit of work piling up.. deadlines approaching at the end of the month. Also I haven't had the chance to make full use of my newly restored phone privileges and need to call my friends soon. Even writing this blog post is a bit of a strain, using my iPhone while riding in the back of the rental car! But soon I'll have a long flight to Italy to catch up on all my bidness! Part of me wonders if I'll be afraid to be alone. I will have roommates at my new apartment this year, because I think it will just be too stark of a contrast to go from dome life to an apartment for one.

Meat: During the mission we taught Allen (aka Dad) about the meaning of "foodgasm" and I'm sure he's using the term often these days. Our first Earthly lunch post-mission involved some rotisserie chicken that had us oo-ing and awe-ing. The fats, juices, and bones were all foreign to us and made for taste explosions. Last night for my birthday dinner, my real Dad grilled some steaks to perfection. I couldn't believe how much I had missed the flavors and textures of a juicy steak. We basically never had to use a knife while on sMars because all of our ingredients were ground or diced. Cutting into the NY strip that filled my plate felt like the equivalent of slicing into a 10lb roast. Each tender slice was foodgasmic, my eyes were closing with each bite, and my Mom was sitting across from me thoroughly entertained.

Monday, June 8, 2015

What I will miss: Top 5 list

The end of the countdown is only five days away! It's definitely hard to believe. So much anticipation in the past month or so, and now the end is near. It's time to start packing up. Even though I've been anxiously counting down the days until our "re-entry back to Earth" I know there are many aspects of life on simulated Mars that I will sorely miss. Here's the top five list:

5. Unlimited food stuffs! Yes, our food is a bit strange, but it's virtually unlimited. We have a huge supply of all the staples and even though at different points in the mission we have run out of sugar, carrots, chicken, ground beef, and gluten free flour. Who cares, there's so many other options, no plain sugar, use the brown sugar, powdered sugar, or maple syrup, no carrots oh it's alright Martha's garden is about to birth some, no chicken or beef, ahh well we have ham, turkey, tofu, bacon, sausage, etc., no gluten-free flour then make a new combo with almond flour, buckwheat flour, rice flour, and xanthan gum. We never ran out of ideas for new meals to prepare either. We have eaten cuisines from all over the world from Martha's Ghanaian dishes to Sophie's Tex-Mex to Allen's Russian meals. We have cooked from-scratch so many baked goods and desserts that I never even considered making at home before. 

4. Cooking once per week. I'm spoiled. We have been eating so well for so many days in a row, and each of us on average has only had to cook once per week. It just tastes better when you aren't the one cooking it. All of us have treated each other to elaborate meals that we have slaved over for the entire afternoon. We have desserts several times per week. And our daily workout routine has kept our appetites up for the duration. After Tony kicks our butts in P90X, we are ready to devour some food. I can honestly say that boredom with food was never an issue here, which was a great surprise. Stay on the lookout for the "Fake Food on Fake Mars" cookbook! It's coming together nicely.. here's a brief summary: Martha has mastered croissants and scones and all things curry, I have bagels, pretzels, and pizza dough in my repertoire, Sophie makes some delicious homemade cheese and migas brunch that couldn't be any tastier, Neil somehow has managed to make gluten-free bread reliably work, Allen is the man when it comes to using magical binding agents to form cutlets or meatballs, and Zak is the king of barbeque and homemade mac n cheese and actually he's the master of anything that he cooks! 

3. Inside jokes :) I'm pretty sure that 99% of our jokes will not even be remotely funny to my family and friends. It's all about the context. The only population that has any hope at joining in on some of the dome humor are cult-like fans of P90X fitness program. Tony Horton, our honorary 7th crewmember, has added so many one-liners to our excel spreadsheet for joke tracking. Yes, we have been tracking our use of jokes and memes throughout the mission. Some of our jokes are purely entertainment, some are for diffusing conflict, some are for bonding, and some are motivational. Humor analysis, it's real science on fake mars! 

2. Slippers! I will never be the same. It has been such a beautiful thing to wake up, throw on my slippers and robe, grab some coffee and start working away. After a couple hours, then I commit to the day and actually get dressed in daytime clothing. It's so perfectly efficient. There's no commuting, no meetings or classes to attend across campus, no weather issues. I don't even have to worry about packing my lunch or remembering to bring gym clothes. Life in the dome is an efficiency-minded person's bliss.

1. Sense of belonging. This was an 8-month commitment, one team, one goal. No matter how stubbornly persistent I am, from my all-night workaholic nature to my Lenten promises to TEDx practice sessions, the crew has endured my revolving door of obsessions, and they have blessed me with their quirks too. We have a lovely and productive arrangement. There's a solace in certainty. I guess I got a taste of marriage, albeit a hexagon of relationships rather than a dyad. We have given each other loyalty and commitment, through the good and the bad, we belong to the crew. We give it our best and forget the rest.