Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Baptism by Fire

I feel the captain put it best during our brief conversation in the conservatory the other morning: I’ve been “baptised with fire.”
Adjusting to a new job is understandably overwhelming on occasion; adapting to a whole new set of friends and lifestyle simultaneously creates more reasons for stress; porting in country that just had the fifth strongest earthquake in the world is more than just a little drama.
I wish I could describe to you in better articulation what the chaotic scenario on the ship was, but I’ll give you the general details and you can imagine the tune yourself.
Essentially, we were information-less for quite a long time. Passengers were questioning if there was even going to be a pier for us to port in when arriving in Valparaiso. The day after the earthquake, we learned of the airports 72 hour closure. This is slightly more than inconvenient as we were expected to have a nearly 2600 passenger turn-around in that port. (Questions one might ask are: How are the old passengers supposed to leave the country? How are the new one’s supposed to get into the country? If Santiago is still having aftershocks, can we expect more tsunamis? After the airport reopens, how long will it take for people to get a flight out?)
The situation ended with us porting in Valparaiso for an extended 2 days, leaving over half our previous cruise passengers to fend for themselves in Chile, and taking some of them along with us back to Buenos Aires to catch a flight out of there, and then embarking less than a quarter of our new passengers. Not to make the situation any stickier, but computer glitches and inability to stay along the pier (or even tender into it) for the two days in Valparaiso left us asking for far too much patience from our passengers. This easily equated to a rapid disaster of complaints, cynicism and a thoroughfare of negative energy that even had me swallowing cuss words. Nasty. Just Nasty.
Of course, now in the calm of the storm, we have a half full ship and a ton of sea days to be bored with (we had to cut out ports days to make it to our next turn-around city on time making up for our extended stay in Chile), and I developed a lovely, optimistic hindsight that will carry with me for the next 6 months: “Happiness is suffering backwards.” That’s a quote from a book my friend Mary told me about. The correlation is nothing more than the fact that everything after these first few cruises is going to look like “smooth sailing” (so tacky, I know.)
As a miniature update from last post, I’ve learned passengers and those with shorter contracts will keep me sane. Their ability to see beyond what is going on at sea makes it easier to stay grounded and aware of how easily one can get sucked into the surreal life aboard. My thirst for conversations from those of the outside world grows daily… if internet was faster and less patience tasking I would reunite with my roots from University as a Facebook addict. Alas, no complaints – I still can’t imagine anywhere else in the world I’d rather be right now than on this ship, meeting amazing people from all over the world and expanding my outlook.
I’m so grateful for my life (… and the continuous reminders.)

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Sur"real" Adventures

This world feels nothing close to real. That’s my ultimate conclusion after one full cruise on the ship. Granted, this one was nothing similar to other cruises, but all the same, the ship life is… superficial.
If life were analogized to being a blot of paint spread so thin that it was hard to decipher its original colour, ship life would be that blot of paint before it’s spread. Everything social and personal is more intense and inflated than the “real” world. It’s so easy (for me at least) to pin point all these contrived social habits and societal issues aboard than it is back home. It’s essentially, life, but more dense. The same mass, but in a smaller package.
For example, beyond the fact that it’s such a diverse international culture on the ship that we must mingle with, crew can be whoever they want to be. You can say whatever you want about yourself. Pretend you are whoever you want to be. No one is the wiser. It’s a shame these people don’t realize how blatantly their insecurities are being portrayed through their behaviours.
Add that to that the lack of commitment to the job and relationships, and we are left with simply acquaintances. Very little ties us together except for the lifestyle we’ve chosen, and even that takes many paths.  You spend a lot of time with the people around you for a short period. It’s hard to build trust in those premises sometimes – especially when it’s so … surreal.
While the lack of genuine culture leaves me feeling less than satisfied with one-on-one interactions, it is providing me with a new outlet in learning to take life a lot less seriously. It’s pointless to over think what’s going on around you when it’s obvious it’s all for show – for image. And I have met a few individuals who I’m fortunate enough to bond very well with… too bad their contracts end next week.
My life has become a strange mix of high school, a college frat house, and a reality TV show similar to Big Brother (complete with major natural disasters and weekly safety drills).
The amount of excitement I’ve packed in during the last 14 days would easily suffice the average North American individual for a whole year. Getting caught in earthquakes, tsunamis, and chaotic disembarks with no boarding passengers due to airports turning to rubble, plus the simpler drama of boys and men (more so boys who think they are men), and the added learning curve of a new job in the entertainment industry, leaves one feeling… exhausted.
Time for a good night’s sleep – after I finish prepping my games for the passengers tomorrow.
As Erika pointed out – “how crazy is [my] life?!”