The Ontario

Welcome to The Ontario. It is a privately-owned medium-small spaceship, designed to carry passengers and cargo in relative comfort over the long distances between the various human-occupied planets and moons in the solar system. The Ontario, I've learnt, mostly trucks back and forth between Mars and Earth, occasionally stopping at the Moon on the way. It has twenty-five crew- a fairly large contingent- and at the moment, fifty-five passengers.

The passenger quarters are small, but reasonably pleasant. I've got a tiny little room with porthole to space (!) that joins onto a tiny bathroom that I share with another two people- a man, called Nick and a woman called Henna. This tiny room will be my room for the coming journey. The Package I have put in the room's draw which is keyed to my fingerprint as well as to a password, so it's quite secure.

There's a "mess" (a dining room/kitchen) where meals are served three times a day. There is a gym (although I'm told that the crew run around in the bowels of the ship instead of pacing on a treadmill- I wonder if they would let me do the same). There's a theatre for films, a large lounge complete with a library port, and even a large garden full of vegetables that reminds me a little of Hurricane's greenhouses.

I have to go. Dinner's in a few minutes and I'm starving. I have to figure out where to get food in between meals or I'm going to die of hunger before we get to Earth. There is so much to do and figure out, and explore.

Your Voice from The Ontario ,



The World From Above

Turns out, when you're in space for the first time, and you're looking down on the planet you grew up on, making on a post on your blog doesn't seem that important.

The launch was amazing and terrifying. After I said goodbye to Granny Vida and Dad and Uncle Zoo all us passengers went to wait in the holding room for launch. It was pretty quiet in there. Some people who were old hat at launch and had skipped the tour/introduction joined us, and they were talking normally and showing off how relaxed they were, but the rest of us were tight and silent with nerves.

The astronauts came in, dressed in their flight suits, and introduced themselves briefly, before disappearing. A few minutes later, Yoseph showed up and loaded us all onto a little bus like the one we had used for the tour, except this one was unmarked. The lady across from me was clutching her little regulation-size hang luggage bag to her so tightly that her hands were shaking.

We rode up in the elevators, the veteran passengers still chattering happily, our silence growing deeper. I was doing my best to be nonchalant, but I'm sure the veterans could see right through my nonchalance to my own overtight grip around my own luggage.

Following Yoseph's instructions we adjusted our seats and buckled in. The door was sealed behind us with an audible hiss and click, and suddenly all the outside noises disappeared, and it was stuffily silent except for the two men ahead of me, who were still talking about meeting a friend at some Mars Orbital restaurant. The older man beside me asked me to pass him a vomit bag.

The astronauts turned on the Comm. and welcomed us to the Dragonfly, informed us that the launch would take a total of three minutes, and told us to enjoy the ride. "Get on with it," the man beside me said under his breath. In the background behind the pilot's spiel, we could hear the count down: 20, 19, 18...

Ignition, the nuclear engines switching from 'silent' to 'launch' mode was like a gigantic subway train suddenly going under us, and shook everything. The actual launch was oddly like rounding the top of a steep rollercoaster, only upside-down. There was no sense of falling, but there was that same sense of leaving your body far behind, and the same rattle. Even the veterans in front of me had fallen silent, unable to continue casual conversation as we raced upward.

Lots of people had closed their eyes, but I kept mine wide open, although all there was to see was the passenger cabin- and a guy throwing up. I wanted to see all the people around me, gripping their seats, their bodies pressed back in the fitted chairs.

And then, all of a sudden, it was over. The g-forces disappeared, the rattling ceased, and I saw my hair drift up in front of my eyes. I instinctively reached up to push it away, but it didn't fall, it floated. Everyone's hair was doing the same, as were their arms. People who had had their eyes closed opened them to discover they were weightless. The silence was broken with the delighted exclaimations

"Welcome to space," the astronaut said. "We'll be docking with the Mars Orbital in about twenty minutes." The veterans were already talking again, discussing their dinner plans.

Docking was a simple procedure. Disappointingly the artificial gravity of the the Orbital is applied while were are still seated safely in our chairs, so there was no floating around the passenger cabin. The cabin door was opened, and a woman dressed in the same uniform as Yoseph came through into the cabin, disposed of the vomit bags and welcome us pleasantly to the Mars Orbital.

There are no windows in the passenger cabin of the Titanic XI class launch ship, but as we entered the Mars Orbital, there was a tiny round porthole. The veterans didn't give it a second glance but the rest of us crowded around it, trying to get a look outside.

"There's a bigger window in the launch foyer," a veteran passenger said to me, as I was trying to stand on my toes to see over the taller passengers. I left the window and as a result I was one of the first people to walk through into the foyer and look down.

The windows were directly opposite the doors, set in the wall, curving so you could see a wide and tall expanse of space. There was a great mass of stars, so big and bright, even with the lights on that I could hardly believe it. There was a corner of the Orbital visible, a strut of some kind. And there was Mars.

Remember the Door Museum room? It was like that, only... only so much bigger and better and clearer, and exhilarating. It's greener than in the Door Museum, but still with that orange and red hue that marks Mars as different from Earth. You can see the colour of the planet's red earth behind the vegetation and the ice somehow.

Yes, I teared up. I cried. It is the most beautiful, amazing, incredible thing I have ever seen. Standing on Mount Olympus is amazing, but it could not compare to seeing the whole planet like a giant ball, hanging in space.

We had three hours on the Orbital, and I did as much exploring as I could, but everwhere I went there would be a window or a porthole, and I would stop and stare, distracted. I have spent so long going about my ordinary business on that planet below, and now I'm above everything, looking down at Granny Vida, and my parents, and the University of Olympus, and Hurricane's greenhouses and Andrew E. Curring Spaceport, and the Door Museum, and the Tomb of the Unknown Survivor, and even Mount Olympus itself. Incredible.

The Orbital itself is smaller than you would think. It's pretty busy and active and compact, and there are quite a few hundred people living there, but all in all there isn't that much space. There's one open 'marketplace' in the centre, with windows all around, but the rest is white corridors, artfully designed to seem bigger. Although... it never seems crampt. Nowhere with windows to space can seem crampt.

When we reconvened to board the ship that would take us to Earth, among a few others who had already been on board the Orbital and minus a few whose journey ended there, there was a sense of camraderie that hadn't existed before. Something about the harrowing launch, and that foyer window, had created aquiantences where none had existed before.

And we all seem to be part of a bigger club now. The veterans seem more accepting of us, as if we've passed some rite. We have a liscense to be nonchalant. We, you see, have seen the world from above.

More later.

Your Launch Veteran,



The Many Adventures of Andrew E. Curring

Andrew E. Curring wasn't a great hero when he arrived on Mars. In fact, he was never a great hero, which is probably why you never hear about him except when you visit Opportunity Bay. Mr. Curring (according to our Flight Instructor Yoseph) was an early arrival to Mars, shipped out shortly after the Survivor debacle with his wife who was a high-flying geologist, employed to find fuel for the impending influx of immigrants.

There is a photo of Andrew E. Curring on the wall of the Launch Control building's lobby, standing approximately where the Residence is today, looking out and up over the bay. He's wearing tatty, incongruous, unsuitable clothes, with his hair standing out in all directions. Behind him is the half-terraformed expanse of rugged fast-growing hardy brush. This was what had become of Andrew E. Curring in the six years after his arrival on Mars.

We were told to to meet Yoseph in the in the lobby of Launch Control yesterday morning and after all thirty-two of us had gathered, he introduced the day's adventures by beginning to tell Andrew E. Curring's story.

We went on a brief tour of the Launch Control facility, where you can see the people who handle the launches. This bit is on any tourist's trip around Opportunity Bay, but it's a bit different when you know the people behind the glass, surrounded by computers, are the same people who will be handling your own launch, and that the ship you can see through the far window is the one you will be sitting on for the journey out of the atmosphere.

Then he took us right up to the ship itself- something that's not on the tour, and we went in groups up the elevator to look inside. "Isn't she a beauty?" Yoseph said to my group, his hand resting on the skin of the ship, before he opened the hatch.

Inside, everything is very compact, designed for lightness in order to be able to fit as much cargo in the hold as possible. He showed us the cockpit, where the astronauts will sit, and then the tiny passenger cabin, where fourty seats are clustered together. We sat in them as he instructed us on safety measures, what to expect, how it will feel, what's normal (apparantly, vomiting is normal, and someone does on almost every flight- I am hopeful I will not be that someone), and what occurs in an aborted launch (we may end up back here, or we may end up on the other side of the planet.)

Waiting for the other groups, we stood beside the launchpad, very close to the engines, looking up at the ship and the sky. The ship is Titanic XI class, and is called Dragonfly, a name that conjures up something quite different from the behemoth it actually is.

After seeing the ship, we went over to the warehouse and the Curring Museum, which is full of all the unclaimed things that splendiferously wealthy people have sent from Earth but never were picked up. Most of them get sold, but some of them- family heirlooms, luxury earth goods like an ancient luxury car- end up the museum, as a sort of eccentric recent history of Earth according to the very rich.

Also in the museum are things belonging to Andrew E. Curring, including the hilariously out of place clothes he is seen wearing in the Launch Control lobby photograph. Yoseph paused the tour here to continue the story. Apparently, a year or so after his arrival on Mars, Mr. Curring found himself divorced from his wife. Back on Earth, he had been an antiques dealer, but here on Mars his skills were useless (there being no antiques to deal). He lost most of his money in a series of trade deals which fell through, and then found himself destitute. He was finally hired as a delivery agent, doing trips between communities and bases on the planet, carrying food and supplies. A few months later he was hijacked by a rough-living splinter group called Free Mars (unconnected to the later group of the same name) opposing united rule on Mars, and became an unwilling ally, moving goods for them in his truck. This splinter group was based on the other side of Opportunity Bay (which they named).

Mr. Curring wasn't particularly interested in splinter groups, but had become increasingly interested in Mars itself, and also increasingly eccentric. He studied its flora and fauna in an unscientific way, made notes about its landscape and weather patterns, and tides. He did all this, Yoseph claims, from a little hut where the residence is now, overlooking Opportunity Bay. It was then that the lobby photograph was taken. Some of the notes are in the museum ("The weather has been better this week. Wind from the west, bringing small clouds. It seems milder here than at Chamelata. The same chameleon visited at breakfast- I think he likes my eggs benedict.")

The splinter group was short lived, and quickly was taken down by the Mars government, who had grown tired of their small-time mischief. They arrested Mr. Curring and confiscated his copious notes, thinking them related to the splinter group but written in code, but eventually decided that Mr. Curring was harmless and that his little patch of bay-side land was perfect for their new launch site.

"In a moment of rare good humour," Yoseph concluded, "they named the spaceport after Andrew."

I love the story, although I'm not convinced its true. I love to think about an eccentric historian wandering around in the brush, making little notes, and eventually giving his name to the most important launch site in Mars History, simply by trying to make a little patch of Mars for himself.

Anyway, I have to go now. Almost literally. The launch is in a few hours, our luggage is loaded, our heads are full of instructions and us Passengers are now allowed to say our goodbyes to our families and friends. So I have to do that.

When I next post, I will be in orbit. I asked Yoseph and he says we have a couple of hours onboard the Mars Orbital and so I'll probably be able to make a post from there. I cannot believe that I just wrote that sentence and it came out so calmly. My brain is doing excited somersaults. Boing boing boing.

Your Astronaut,



Opportunity Bay

And here I am.

I can't believe that just over 12 hours ago I was waving goodbye to most of my family in Hurricane. Now, me and my enigmatic package are here at the Opportunity Bay Residence, along with my father, Granny Vida and Uncle Zoo, who have come along to see the launch in person.

Most of you will have at least seen photographs of the Andrew E. Curring Spaceport, if you haven't visited it as a tourist or perhaps as a passenger, but if you haven't been here in person, you will not really know what it's truly like.

Out here on the flatlands, the sky is huge- at the moment a deep evening blue that the bay is reflecting in a darker shade. The buildings match the sky- they are bigger than normal buildings; giant hangers for cargo ships, great big service buildings, huge warehouses for the storage goods. Beside them the Residence looks puny. At twighlight, when the buildings are silhouettes, the effect is stunning, almost like a precursor to the bigness of space itself.

I've not been over to the launch faculty yet, but we can see buildings in the distance, and then the launch pad. I head over there tomorrow, as my launch is on Wednesday. I've been watching the other people in the Residence curiously, as some of them must be fellow passengers, but I've not spoken with them. I guess I'm more concerned with having last face-to-face conversations with Granny Vida and Dad than making new aquaintences quite yet. I expect they feel the same: they've been watch me and my peculiar package that I have to carry everywhere. Uncle Zoo has already dubbed it "The Package."

To go with "The Package", I have a folder of papers and a pinhead with digital versions of the same which is now safely plugged into my computer where I won't lose it. These contain my pass papers- leaving Mars, arrival on Earth- healthcheck from my doctor verified by PCS' physician, copy of the confidentiality agreement I signed, copy of the contract and finally and most enigmatically, a closed paper corresponding to a closed file in the pinhead, "to be opened upon arrival on Earth." It contains my instructions for delivery.

"How mysterious," said Granny Vida, voicing everyone's thoughts when I showed them the closed file. I find it enigmatic but the reasoning is based in PCS's services: they provide "personal" meaning wholly private and safe, document and package delivery. The recipient of the package is part of the privacy, as is the sender.

Anyway, Dad just popped his head around the door and asked if I wanted to go for a walk towards the bay. I do. It's all dark now, the stars are probably out, and what better way to see Opportunity Bay than in the dark with all of space looming above, instead of being refracted away by the sunlight.

Gotta put on my identity card. My father's wearing his. It says the dates we're staying, "Residence - Company" and then his name. He's in my Company, haha. He's calling again, have to go...

Your "Residence - Passenger",



Camping on Mount Olympus

I've been so head-over-heels busy since I got back from camping, I didn't get a chance to make an entry about camping.

My friends Joset, Henry, Lua and I went camping on Mount Olympus from Monday to Wednesday this week. All four of us had been camping there before- with family, friends, school trips etc.- but we'd not been for years. We rented a vehicle in the east of Olympus, and Lua drove us up to where the road ends and the path begins. Then, carrying our belongings with us, we began to walk around and up Olympus.

You can't climb so high up Olympus, or the air gets too thin, the weather too poor and there are no trees for cover, but we climbed to just above the treeline, and there we pitched our tent. If you get a permit ahead of time, they'll let you pitch your tent anywhere there is space to do so, as long as you carry a marker so they know where you are.

Other than that marker, we were alone. All the way up and while we were staying up there, we were the only people in the world. Well, you could see Olympus a bit- the outskirts glistening during the day and sparkling at night- and you could see other towns and settlements, hazy on the horizon and little dots of light when it got dark, but they were so far away they looked unimportant. Nothing intruded upon our little corner of the world. Mars was spread out below us, fresh and wide, and from up this high when the clouds were high, we could see the curve of the planet.

Being above everything like this gives you such perspective, and we, always the philosophical types, were suddenly full of ideas and reminiscences. I'd told them about my leaving, of course, and we speculated upon the launch, traveling the months between here and Earth, what it must have been like for those first travelers. We didn't really talk about Earth much though (I just realised), I suppose it was because we were so close to Mars at that point, tiny little creatures clinging to the side of a mountain so high it touched the top of the atmosphere.

Mount Olympus gets its name from the Earth mountain, much, much smaller than our Olympus, where the gods of the Ancient Greek Culture were said to live. I wonder what the Greeks would have said, seeing this Mount Olympus. It's true that being on this mountain gives you such a sense of euphoria (perhaps the lightheadedness?) that it's easy to imagine that just a few more kilometres up hill there are gods having a camping trip of their own. What does that make us, I wonder?

We talked, and walked, and took photos, and hid from the rain, and cooked over an open fire; I felt a bit like those Survivors who must have been a bit like we were, only unimaginably more so, being so far away from home and everything they knew.

And when it was time to go back down the slope, we packed up everything so completely that when I turned to look back at the spot where we had stayed, there was no trace of anything left behind, except perhaps slightly flattened grass where the tent had stood. Joset must have seen me looking and said, "almost makes you wonder if we were here at all."

Well, when I was lying in my sleeping bag, my friends fallen asleep but me kept awake but the rain and the thought of leaving the whole planet so soon, I was feeling that flattened grass and the little stones that we didn't clear away in my back. I was pressing myself against them, as if I could meld into them a bit, or as if they could meld into me.

I think perhaps I'm more apprehensive about leaving this planet than I thought. Next time I post I'll be at Opportunity Bay.

Your Little Bit of Mars,



Unexpected Opportunity

You know how people often say that the best opportunities fall from the sky? Well- apparently it's true. Remember how I told you that I had applied to a company called Personal Courier Services? Well, they called me last night and gave me an impromptu video interview. This afternoon they called again, saying they were looking for someone to carry a package to Earth, starting in just over a week and was I interested?

I said I would call them back.

I never told you how my museum interview went. It went well, I thought, but apparently I wasn't snappishly wonderful enough. They haven't called back yet, and as the days drag on, I am getting more and more convinced that silence means 'no'. So until PCS called with this unexpected, amazing, terrifying offer, I was a jobless failure.

I didn't want to um and ah for too long. I knew that if I did I would never call back, or I would say no. It's too wild and crazy. It turns my plans to stay on Mars, to explore Mars before setting out into the vast gulf between here and any other planets, on their head. It makes teh future jumbly.

So, I talked it over with Granny Vida, and my parents- Dad at home, Mother at work- and they expressed some concerns about the company and such, but Granny Vida said what tipped me over. She said, "Teshi, you have a gleam in your eye."

So I called PCS, and told them yes. I would go.

So, assuming I pass my spaceflight physical seven days from now (so soon!) I will go to PCS to pick up an enigmatic package and all the paperwork I need, before driving the four hours to the aptly named Opportunity Bay- the colloquial name for Andrew E. Curring Spaceport- and beginning a day's preparation for launch.

Launch. Nobody in my family- biological or house- has ever left this planet. We were all born here on Mars, even Granny Vida. And here I am, jumbling up my life, turning all my plans upside down, ha. Uncle Zoo always says, if you want to make the universe laugh, you make plans.

I'm giddy, and giddy, and terrified. And I can't even think about this too much because tomorrow I'm going camping with a couple of university friends as a kind of final hurrah- so I won't be posting for a few days as I'll be on the green slopes of Mount Olympus, taking in all this planet of mine has to offer before I blast off into space.

Your Explorer,




I'm home.

My House is in Hurricane, which if you don't know is a medium-sized town about fourty minutes outside of Olympus. It's part farming community and part botany experiment. Half my House are farmers, and the other half are botanists, which makes for very streamlined conversation, at least among the adults. My father is on the botany side of things and my mother is the odd one out- she's an entomologist, as far as I can tell mostly studying the interactions of insects and crops.

There are five biological families in the house and I am towards the younger end of the children. However, I am the eldest of my parents' biological children. I have a younger brother called Asher, who's six (Mars years) and embarking on puberty to my Grandmother Vida's distress.

Grandmother Vida is pretty much my second mother, if not almost my first. When my mother went back to work when I had turned one, Grandmother Vida was not the only adult at home (Uncle Zoo and Aunt Hova, who's Atrina's mother, were also at home), but for whatever reason- perhaps experience with babies- Granny was the person I grew most attached to after my own parents. She's not my biological grandmother, she's actually the eldest of the adults in the House, and had already sent her eldest children off to lives and careers of their own when I was born, but it never mattered, just as it never mattered that Atrina was my House sister. Not everyone lives in a House any more, but I highly recommend it. People say it's de-personalizing, but it never was for me. There were always people around, and yet we could afford enough space for everyone to get some peace and quiet when they wanted it. And Uncle Zoo can cook far better than my biological parents.

I'm back in that "peace and quiet" now. It's not quiet and peaceful as I remember. There are five children left at home, the youngest is now five and distraught that Asher won't play with her so much anymore. Even so, it's not ever as peaceful as it was at University, especially when everyone's at home. I suppose I will have to begin to decide whether I want to live in a House in the future, or at least to think about it.

I went for a walk around the town a couple of days ago. It seems very sleepy and wholesome. The greenhouses are already filling up with green. It was a rite of passage in my town to go on the greenhouse school trip (or two or three times) and walk between the wet green plants that grew so well in the environment they pressed against the glass ceiling as if trying to escape. It's not quite like that now: only the heated greenhouses are flourishing, growing fresh vegetables for the winter. In a week or so, the town will begin to wake up, planting and ploughing, and soon the bare fields will go green producing enough grain for half of Olympus. (Yes, if you eat bread in Olympus, chances are good that it grew around Hurricane.) This has always been my favourite time of year in Olympus, and I've not seen the spring here since I left for University. It's hard to believe it's only my 11th Spring.

Anyway, Uncle Jason is calling for cooking help, since we're eating together tonight, and that means cooking for ten, assuming everyone makes it home (my mother is often at work late). I have to go an help or someone will send Asher looking for me and I don't like the way he barges into my room. More tomorrow- I still haven't updated you on my work situation.

Your Guide to Hurricane,


After the Ball is Over

Has it really been two weeks since I last posted? I've been so busy. For your reading pleasure I've divided the last two weeks into two posts. This, and the one that will come after it.

So, it's all over. My exams went off without a hitch, my room was packed into boxes and I took my last look at the familiar University of Olympus campus. I've read that your undergraduate campus never really becomes home because you know deep in your heart it's eventually going to come to an end; and so it does.

I think there is truth in that statement. The buildings and gardens of the University don't really feel like Home in the normal sense, not the "I return here" feeling of Home, the supremely comfortable feeling of Home, even if home is not comfortable. But I am attached to the University of Olympus and all it's nooks and crannies and uncomfortableness. I couldn't walk around it lightly, I can't leave it lightly without feeling a reflective sadness, a loss for not being in that place anymore.

The morning of my last day was red-ly sunny, like the best days in Olympus. To me, the red light makes the colours all the more brighter: the greens are greener, the blues are richer, the yellows are warmer. Everything is bathed in this light. I wandered around the campus, taking it all in, not just reliving it all but also creating for myself a last memory of the place.

Am I being overdramatic? Definitely. My family's house (my home?) is only an hour's journey away by car. While I'm in Olympus I can visit any time I like. It's not the geographical space that I am leaving... it's the leaving the University of Olympus behind in time; that's the loss. I may return to the campus many times in my life, but it will never be under the same temporal conditions.

Ha. Here I am trying to de-dramaticize my comments and I'm ending up far more dramatic than before.

I made sure I said goodbye to the university before one of my uncles from the House showed up to pack up my remaining stuff (much of it had already gone). Goodbyes to places are private things. They cannot occur in the rush of packing and conversation and checking to see if you've got everything that always accompanies a move out.

Left alone in my room for the last time, I wrote 'Teshi Was Here' on the wall in the closet, in tiny letters. Uninventive, I know, but I was in a rush and I couldn't think of anything else to write.

So I left my university and my education and my campus behind and went home. The Ball- a very old term for a public formal dance- is over; the dancing, as it were, is done.

Your Real Grown Up,



On the Brink

So here I am, in the final days of my degree. I have seven days before I finish my last exam. I’m sorry to have been away for so long, but school occupied me completely. It’s difficult being this close to the end of something that has filled my life for so long- not only university itself, but school as a whole. I’ve attended school of some kind for almost all of my life, and soon I will be done. I can’t really get my head around not starting a new set of classes come the new year.

Education really is the keystone of our society. It’s a rite of passage to attend that first day of school, regardless of if it’s a group of scientists’ children out on some remote ice-cap base or at some gigantic city school, serving thousands of eager youngsters. Whatever our parents teach us, and whatever school fails to teach us, our education is common ground for many people. Coming to a university or a college or some other higher level institution, we are united by our memories of the schools we attended. A school is a school, a teacher is a teacher, an assignment is an assignment.

And now, to have that be all over, it really is the end of an era. I suppose I could extend it, and head off into academia, but I feel that using graduate level education as a way to avoid ‘real life’ is a poor reason to pursue it.

So here I stand, at the brink of ‘real life’, with the structure that has guided my life until now rapidly evaporating. An exhilarating but terrifying place to stand.

Speaking of which, news on employment is mostly that of rejection. The MNS got back to me immediately, saying thank you for my application, but many qualified people submitted their resumes and… well, it was a long shot. Redbird Travel and Personal Courier Services I haven’t heard from at all- not a good sign considering how long ago I applied. The Museum, however, is the spark of good news- they’ve asked me in for an interview next week. It’s not my ideal job, but at least I have a chance at being employed. (Maybe if they don’t hire me I can apply at the door museum, heh).

I’ve really got little more to say at this time. Once I recover my brain from its indentured servitude to the university, I will be philosophical for you. Until then, you will have to be content with factual information.

Your student,



The Door Museum

When I was a child growing up just outside Olympus, one of my favourite places to go was The Door Museum. For those of you who don't know, it's a quirky museum that contains only doors. But the best thing about it for us kids was that you didn't just look at the doors, you could go through them. You would move from room to room, reading the plaques or listening to a guided tour, choosing each door you would go through.

Today I decided, on a whim, to go back.

It's always a bit worrisome, visiting somewhere that you were enchanted by as a child. You wonder if it will be really as good as you remember, or whether it will be kitsch or childish, or you'll see through the illusion and the golden memory will be gone forever. Because of this, I went alone. I didn't really want anyone tagging along into my childhood memories.

The Door Museum isn't much to look at outside. It's inside an old factory that stands only just inside a respectable part of the city. One block east of the museum and things start getting shady. After lunch, I took the train there and walked from the station with a few families. When I saw the building, and I'm not exaggerating, I actually teared up. I hadn't remembered the entrance doors until I got there but the memory the sight triggered was very strong. There are five doors, all of a different kind: a rotating door, a motion-sensor door, a door from an old house on Earth, a round door with a knob right in the middle, and right in the middle a medieval portcullis that I remember was open on special occasions.

I froze before the doors with all the children, completely transported back to being three or four years old (that's six-eight in Earth years, roughly), spoilt for choice by these doors. I distinctly remember running in and out them all, my hands making smudges off the glass of the rotating door. There were children doing that today. For old time's sake, I went through all four doors, leaving the rotating door for last.

I bought my ticket and went through the huge beautifully carved stone door from Ancient Egypt (replica, naturally) into the hall of doors.

It really is how I remember. Real doors, replicas, fictional doors from stories modern and ancient, some more passages or arches than doors, sliding doors, trapdoors, vehicle doors, airlocks, and some that are not really ordinary doors at all- there's a backless wardrobe from some old tale. Each room is somewhat themed to the two, three, four or five doors that open onto it. One like a forest, another a space vessel, another from early Mars complete with peach sky above.

There's one room, buried deep in the middle, with only one door. The door itself is small and unassuming (I'm not going to tell you where; you will have to find it for yourself). I remembered it but it took me a while to find. You pull up the hatch and push the door and it opens with a hiss. You crawl through it and on the other side there is darkness. It's a huge spherical room, dotted with constellations and planets and the sun. You're standing on a glass grate above Mars, looking down at the turning planet as it is today, blue and orange and red.

I'm not sure if I am particularly tired today, or perhaps its the impending completion of my degree and thus two years of my life combined with the flood of childhood memories of that room, but standing in the darkness looking down at my planet with the globe of universe around me, it was pretty hard to swallow the lump in my throat. Perhaps I am simply over sentimental, heh.

Anyway, the Door Museum is an incredible place, and meant much more to me today as a grown-up. I wasn't the only adult exploring it- because that's what you do; explore it. In some ways, it's like a miniaturisation of the world. All the possible doors, all the possible options- and there are some doors that are difficult to find, or easy to pass by because they look so mundane. The only way not to enjoy it is to sit in the first room and not go anywhere.

Anyway, so I just (well, plus the time it took me to write this) got back. And it was as I remembered. And it was fabulous.

Your explorer,



Employment Opportunities

Friday, thank goodness. I hope you're as glad as I am. Another week gone... but another week closer to the end of my degree and the impending need for me to find some form of employment.

The trouble is, just having a history degree isn't the smartest thing I ever did. Atrina, my elder sister (house not bio), did history and vehicle repair and she's presently repairing antique vehicles in Midlothian in the perfect union of usefulness and intellectual knowledge. Some people have all the foresight.

I, on the other hand, opted for the purely intellectual, which usually means I plan to be a scholar or a teacher or a professor, none of which really appeal to me. As I've mentioned before, I would really like to do something. Having no skills except a passing knowledge of the history of the human race isn't terribly conducive to that.

I would also like to travel. This doesn't necessarily mean Earth immediately, which is I think what most people mean by 'travel'. Mars is a big place and there's a lot of it I've not seen. Ideally, I think I would get a short term job here that enables me to get to know this planet before I attempt to make any more drastically expensive trips- which I certainly want to. Nobody in my immediate family has made it off-world yet. I want to be the first!

So looking at various options, and keeping in mind the above things, I've narrowed it down to a couple of options that I'm going to apply for:

1. MNS - I'm not super interested in journalism (shhh), but the MNS does have jobs for students and new graduates that basically involve filling in the gaps where they need people. They have stations all over Mars and some even involve actual travelling. It's kind of a long shot because I've got no journalism experience, but I can write so perhaps they'll consider me. I may even discover I like it.

2. Redbird Travel - I know, being a tour guide doesn't need a degree, but it's actually the only job I've ever had before (I was a tour guide at the afore mentioned museum), so I've got a shot. It doesn't pay very well and the hours are scary, but expenses are paid and you get to travel all over.

3. Personal Courier Services - This is a little company listed by the University's Career's Center. What they are is a company that basically pays you to transport something important that you can't send through the regular mail. It sounds intriguing, but in reality it pays fairly badly and you don't really get to see much of the destination since you go, deliver the package and then return. You might get to sleep over a night if you're traveling a long way. Still, could be exciting.

4. Olympus Museum of Natural History - I actually took a course in natural history and have worked here, so I have a shot. What this job includes is basically entry-level type stuff. Cataloging, copy-writing etc. it also involves more complicated stuff like research assistant. It involve traveling immediately, but at least I could live with my family (until they kick me out) and build up some capital to travel on my own terms.

Anyway. Those are the options. Wish me luck and hopefully I'll have a job when I graduate!

Your soon employed



I Know Nothing

There's an old quote (from a play I think) in which one character asks another if he knows everything or nothing. He replies that he knows nothing. Something came up in class last week that made me think of that. We were talking about those times in human history when humans were convinced that they were doomed by war or environmental damage, or some natural disaster like an asteroid impact.

Back in darkest periods of human life on Earth, humans seriously considered the end of the human race: they had created great vaults of seeds for plants of all kinds, and then later the embryos of as many animals as they could fit in, like giant bomb-resistant technologically advanced static arks. And finally the time came to consider building a Vault of Humanity, containing not only humans themselves but also the knowledge of humans.

So humans began to ask themselves the questions, What do humans know? What do humans know that is important? What should we put into this great vault of knowledge?

These questions made me think about what I know, and what I, without the aid of research of any kind, would be able to include in such a vault if I was somehow the only person available to do it. I am supposedly somewhat educated. I know a little about a lot of things, and when you think it is surprising what you know that only one thousand years ago people were still guessing about- I could instruct people to eat well, to cure some disease, to understand the world around them, inform them of their past (it would be strange to wake up on a planet where no evidence of your own evolution exists). But compared to the vast amount of information that was tabulated for the Vault of Humanity, I know nothing. My knowledge, although relatively vast, is basic and shallow. I would have to answer the question in the above quote with "I know nothing".

But (going off into the land of ridiculous, thoughtless philosophy) what about the human race? The Vault of Humanity was never completed, due in part to the sheer complexity of tabulating and storing efficiently all of human knowledge. We were defeated by the weight of what we know. Nowadays, much of our information is stored with massive amounts of redundancies in billions of servers and computers and storage facilities across the occupied world.

Despite this, our scientists still search for cures, our explorers still step in places unexplored, biologists uncover new secrets about plants and animals, historians still delve into the history of the world, philosophers still mull over its truths, and composers still find new ways of turning music into song. Could the human race, with so much understanding, given the choice of black and white only have the (totally absurd) option of saying "I know nothing"?

Eventually, the danger passed and advances in space travel and eventually the terraforming of Mars made the panic to preserve less pressing. The vaults still exist- you've probably heard the term "Vault" applied to something like this, even on Mars. They are now partially museums of a precarious era, but still also perform their old function, giant libraries of their specific area. However, no Vault of Humanity exists. If it was implausible to imagine such a thing back four hundred years, it is all but impossible now. We could try but in the end we might end up just wanting to put everything in: I suppose that in a way we are our own Vault of Humanity.

It's the only way to know everything.

Your Absurd Philosopher-Historian,



Mons Snowfall

First- I realised after I posted last night that I should make clear that regardless of how mistaken the outcome of Survivor: Mars had been, it does not undermine for me their bravery. I think that our finest moments are often our most unplanned moments of bravery, and the Survivors certainly rose to the challenge.

For those of you who do not live in Olympus, you have to understand something about our weather. In the meterological shadow of a mountain the size of Olympus Mons, our weather can be unpredictable; depending on the winds, our weather is very dry interspersed with very heavy showers from our heavy atmosphere. In the winter (which it is here) this means sudden dumps of snow.

We woke up this morning to the snow already falling and it's been falling all day, covering our grey winter city with a coat of white. Snow has that way of softening the hard edges of an urban environment. I love it for that. I went for a walk along the river, which was all frozen around the rocks with faintly pink ice. The path along the river is one my favourite places in Olympus, even in the winter. It was quite windy and so there were very few people out.

I walked up the path, following the course of the river up the hill, until I could turn around and look at the city. Because of the way the mountain is formed where the city sits on a kind of plateau towards the bottom of the mountain, even from a few minutes walk up, you can look over the city. The falling snow was so thick at first that I couldn't even see the Zebra Building, but it thinned out a bit when I got a little higher and I could see a long way across the city.

It's hard, seeing a scene like that, not to love Olympus :).

When I leave it (which I guarantee you I will; I am determined that I shall see more of this world), I know I will be sorry to miss the seasons here. Sigh. So torn.

Your tour guide,



A Visit To The Tomb of The Unknown Survivor

I lost this whole post. This is attempt number two. Computers conspire against us all.

First, an introduction. This reporter, soon to graduate from the renowned institution University of Olympus is, in a desperate attempt to bring meaning into her life, is beginning this blog. This blog will probably contain the toothing troubles of my expulsion from Eden into the so-called 'real world'.

I was inspired to bring this blog into life by a visit to The Tomb of The Unknown Survivor, which I had never been to before, but as many of you will know is just outside of Olympus, and attracts a huge number of gawping tourists.

Most of you know the mythological version of the story behind this tomb, and the foundation of this Fair City. It's amazing and fascinating that even the most well-documented of historical events can acquire a mythological background in so little as two-hundred years but it is one of the human races most amazing skills. Even the information boards around the Tomb were hazy on the details.

As a person who has completed approximately 5/8ths of a class on this very subject (HIS487) I count myself practically an expert on this topic and I feel it is my duty to enlighten this world and others to the reality of the situation. Let me tell you the story:

Once upon a time there was a really popular television show called Survivor. It was a so-called reality show in which contestants were marooned in some difficult situation and voted each other off until only one remained: the winner. A classic example of the human fascination with competition and the lengths people will go to win. It started in I think the 21st century but went on long enough, on and off, to get the point where humans were beginning to push beyond the limits of their Homeworld (haha). I refer to, of course, the terraforming of Mars.

So in 2451, producers launched (enjoying the pun I hope) the ultimate Survivor, the most expensive Survivor ever, the most daring and, yes, the most deadly. Survivor: Mars. We are somewhat familiar with the next bit of the story. From an eager Earth, sixteen were picked to make up this elite, exciting, daring team whose months on Mars would be captured by the camera crew and change the future of the planet forever.

This is only the very edge of the story. The contestants picked were picked not for their survival or scientific skills but for their strong personalities and- most shockingly- the absence of connections to Earth. You see, this Survivor was going to have a twist; due to budget constraints, only the winner and the runner-up would get the ultimate prize, the ticket home. The Survivors were poor and desperate, convinced to sign on because it was a shot at wealth and fame.

Seems inhumane? Perhaps we could blame it on the nature of the era, but we should remember the violence that broke out in the Olympus suburbs only two years ago. Humans don't change, they only have different circumstances. The Earth was at this time overcrowded, urban, cynical, and desperate for entertainment. And Survivor: Mars offered them more than that, it gave them hope. People were willing to overlook the nitty gritty details of the show to see the windswept grasslands of another world.

Because remember the planet was only half-formed. It was cold and swept by frequent and violent storms, with little flora and even less fauna. It was a harsh environment that was more difficult than anyone really understood. Even the existing civilian colonists (who are also often admitted from this myth) lived in the shelter of the mountains.

I don't really need to tell you many details about the actual show. Only that by the time the show started to be shown to the Earth, the winner and the runner up were already on their way back home and five of the losing contestants were dead from exposure or accidents. All for the sake of entertainment.

I do not wish to undermine the very real heroes the "losing" Survivors were for Mars. We all know that upon the very first episode's release, the ISA received more applications for colonization than it had in its entire history. We know that the crystal clear, artistic images of the Martian skies and the people beneath them "sold" Mars in a way scientific images never had.

But it was a game, a cruel game, and one with a sad ending. How many of the Survivors believed they would be the ones left behind on Mars? How many of them knew they would end up dead? It's not a glorious tale, with valiant hardships.

This is why, when I stood before the Tomb of the Unknown Survivor today, revelation in its paradoxical name, I felt separate from the swarms of jubilant tourists fresh off the buses from Olympus. I felt sad. I felt removed from the bright flags and screens and the merchandising and the overpriced coffee. Is it possible that we have forgotten that the Tomb is in fact a Tomb?

At the same time, I realised something. As much as the reality of the situation of the Survivors wasn't something I want to emulate with my life, I can imagine what it must have been like for them. Stepping for the first time onto a new planet, seeing their first somewhat-familiar Martian animal: doing something.

I realised that I fiercely want to do something of worth, too. I want to... experience things, and do things. I know this is all very common for someone on the brink of graduation. But seeing the Tomb like that brought it all home to me.

Anyway, apologies for waxing poetical. Thanks, hypothetical reader, for listening. Until next hypothetical time.

Your host,