I've been here for a week now. It's my turn to fully take over as assistant, after having had Karl show me the ropes. Everything is getting less and less confusing, and even though I think I will never understand all the technical details I think I can handle it. Hopefully without panicking as soon as a computer screen or something freezes.
It's been an interesting, tiring and fun week. We had two days off, and Karl introduced me to some nice astronomers and showed me around the island. We went hiking into the Caldera, which was beautiful and lots of fun. Hiking around at interesting and beautiful places is one of my very favourite pastimes, so I think I will have lots of fun here at La Palma. The scenery was somewhat surreal to me. Imagine a pineforest (albeit with a strange species of pine) with ferns, sure, that's normal. Add in some cacti, lots of little lizards scurrying around everywhere, dizzyingly steep mountainsides, volcanic rocks and dried-out waterbeds and the landscape turns way more exotic. And so interesting! If I had known some Spanish I might have learned the name of some plants and animals. (But I would probably just have forgotten it the day after anyway, biology and its remembering of names have never been my forte.)
The day after we headed into a subtropical forest. It had a waterfall and nice views! And it was wet and the air was fresh and all was quiet. Only the occasional calling of a bird or the scurrying of lizards in the undergrowth. We went to the beach, and I got to try out snorkeling for the first time in my life. Difficult and scary, but also fascinating. The sea is intimidating for sure, but looking at fishes can be kind of fun. Perhaps I will try to do it again. I'm constantly battling my fear of heights, so why not my fear of the sea as well while I'm at it?
I also got to drive quite a bit. Not on the very scariest roads, but up and down the mountain and through uncountable curves. That's also scary and difficult, but I suppose I'll get used to it. There are some other things on the list of things to get used to when living at this mountain-top. The thin air. I suppose I'll stop feeling drowsy before long. The dry air. It's messing up my eyes and my nose, and together with the sands from the desert wind it's giving me frequent nosebleeds. It's called the Calima, the warm wind from Sahara, and it's messing up the seeing as well. The weather has actually been rather lousy ever since I got here. It even rained a couple of days ago, which means not even a chance of observations. I hope I didn't bring it.
I'm not complaining, mind you. When all comes around I really love this place. The temperature is nice, unlike the stifling heat at sea-level it rarely reaches above twenty degrees here, and even cooler at nighttime. The physical circumstances I'm sure I will adapt to, and hopefully the mental aspect of living pretty much alone up here and looking at the Sun through an advanced-beyond-belief telescope all day will not drive me crazy either. But if so I'm sure it at least will result in interesting blog posts. The one who lives will see, as we say in Sweden.
Love and Calima,