Monday, April 21, 2008

SHIP LIFE

“Never doubt that a small group of committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead

I’m still writing about China and Japan, but since we’re in a long-stretch of “ship life” I think I’ll catch you up on that first. Bare with me, I have about 2.5 months to cover on this one. I’ll be informal…


DAY IN THE LIFE OF KEVIN AT SEA:

7am- wake up, shower, breakfast
8am-9:10am-Class
9:20am-10:40am- Global Studies
10:40am-1pm- write e-mails/nap
1pm-Lunch
1:30pm-3:30pm- Class on B days/lay outside
4pm- gym or another nap
5:30pm- dinner
7-8pm- homework
8pm- shipboard and student events
10pm- watch movies/hang out
1am- sleep


SEA OLYMPICS: The Sea Olympics were on March 8th right after Mauritius and it was one of the best days on the ship yet. There were over 20 events scheduled from 8am-10pm. People go insane for this competition. My teammates and I didn’t sleep for the days leading up to it; we pulled all-nighters choreographing and practicing. We got 1st place in the Synch Swimming (we did a Disney montage). The LipSynch can make or break your team—it is the last event and all 800 people on the ship watch it. We got 2nd in Lip Synch (me and 4 guy friends stripped down to dresses and danced to the Spice Girls, the Barbie Song and Britney Spears…true story). Our Spice Girls dance was so popular that Dr. Brown (the shipboard doctor) had us do a surprise performance in front of everyone again but with the lyrics changed to health precautions for Vietnam. The Sea Olympics brought me really close with so many new people and I look at it today as kind of a turning point for my social life on the ship.

CLASSES: I continue to be disappointed with my writing class, the professor is just too old to be teaching. It is really disappointing because I was looking forward to the class more than anything. My archaeology class isn’t the most exciting class either, but I really like my professor because she’s nice and cool to talk to. My economics class is a lot of work but is really interesting. We have great conversations about signs of economic development we see in port. She is so enthusiastic about what she teaches and I really enjoy hearing her talk.

SIGNS YOU KNOW YOU’RE NOT AT AN ACTUAL UNIVERSITY: 1) Your professor’s office hours are from 1-2pm everyday… by the pool. 2) Your professor cancels class because she is sea sick. 3) You skipped your professors class in the morning but ate lunch with her that afternoon 3) Your professor tells you that you look good in a dress 4) You’ve had a drink with at least one of your professors in a foreign country 5) Your homework is to go to the bathroom and rate the country’s economic development based on the cleanliness of the toilet 6) Your Internet works depending on your location with outer space 7) there is a library, hospital, a pool, a restaurant and a classroom within 100 yards of your bed

GLOBAL STUDIES: Global Studies went through A LOT of drama this semester. Our Interim-Academic Dean was replaced by the real Academic Dean who joined us in South Africa after recovering from being hit by a car. He is nowhere as kind as our previous one and is actually quite condescending. He came at a time when Global Studies was falling apart; a time when more than half the ship protested against Global Studies by sleeping-in and not going on most days. Many were sick of waking up to hear our hippie teachers bang on tribal drums or irrelevant lectures. The average scores on our tests were in the 60s. They never tested us on important, relevant material. For instance, one question on our exam was “What is beef-jerky called in South Africa?” Our new Dean, although not that popular, actually started to put things back together quite nicely. He seems to have done some major adjustments among the faculty and just recently wrote the 3rd test himself. Most professors have publically admitted that Global Studies is a mess. In fact, everyone knows that it’s all gone wrong. As a favor to us, they will drop our lowest test score. I have only missed 3 classes, but the majority of students have not gone since the end of February, no joke.

TROUBLES IN PARADISE: There have been a few people that have lost or had their passports stolen while in port. This means they’re not allowed on the ship and they have to go to the US Embassy and apply for a new, super-expedited passport and book a flight to our next port. It has happened to a few people I know. For the most part SAS books your flights, hotel and hires a guide to help you around so you’re not doing everything by yourself. There are 4 students that we left behind in Japan. At least two of them are passport related, one of them is because she had to be hospitalized for drinking, and I am not sure who or what the 4th one is all about.

INTERPORT STUDENTS: For every port on our itinerary, SAS welcomes one or two students from that country to join us on the ship as they travel with us for one-leg of the journey back to their homeland. We’ve had students from South Africa, India, Malaysia, Vietnam and Japan live with us on the ship for up to a week before they disembark when they arrive back home. They’re around to answer questions and often present at Cultural Pre-Port.

INTERPORT LECTURERS: We also have adults from other countries join us as guest lecturers. We’ve had professors from Brazil, Mauritius and China all join us to live on our ship and guest-lecture in pre-ports and Global Studies.

DIPLOMATIC BRIEFINGS: Almost every port we have a United States ambassador or a team from the US foreign consulate come onboard and welcome us to their country. They provide us with additional safety tips, cultural differences and other information while immigration officials stamp through all our passports.

CREW APPRECIATION DAY: The crew on the ship continues to be amazing. They work so hard and deserve nothing but praise. I cannot thank my cabin steward Hector enough for cleaning my room every single day and I can’t wait to hand him a well-deserved tip at the end. When we come back on the ship from port, the waiters always say “Good to have you back, we missed you. Can I get you something to drink?” They are always smiling, always so happy to see us. I know a lot of them have been living on the ship for years and years, but they do this so that they can send money back to their families—but in the meantime, I would like to think that we are their family. We have strict rules about fraternizing with them, but it is a lot of fun to run into them in port or at a bar at night just to say HI and see them enjoying themselves. We had Crew Appreciation Day so we made cards and a banner and went out of our way to make sure everything was clean and tidy so that they had an easy day. There are 197 crew members and we probably only see ¼ of them. For instance, we don’t see anyone in the Laundry Dept or the Engine Dept so I made the Engine Dept a card so that they know we appreciate them too!

CREW TALENT SHOW: The crew put together an absolutely amazing show of dancing and singing for us. They are all hilarious and it was so much fun to see them enjoying themselves and making us laugh—it was one of the best events of the semester. The show raised money for the Crew Fund which gives them a little extra cash so that they have opportunities to go out and sightsee in port just like us. It also allows them to purchase new gym equipment etc for their living quarters on Deck 1.

AUCTION NIGHT: Our voyage continuously raises money through several events throughout the voyage, with an end goal of $35,000. We had an auction night where people donated things or services to be auctioned off. The event really proved how wealthy some of my shipmates are. Since I knew I wouldn’t be bidding on anything, I decided to donate to do my part. I auctioned off “a bed time story and tuck-in” by yours truly. The auctioneer made me go up (I think that was Bob’s fault) and auction it off myself in front of everyone, how embarrassing. Oh well, who would of thought I’m worth $110!! (and I thought I was priceless!). Other items were the Captain’s hat ($500), the world map from the lobby ($600), raising the flag as we pull into Miami ($1,000) and a jar of peanut butter ($40) including tons and tons of other items (including a bubble bath in Dean Gaither’s 5th deck suite).

THE BEST DAY EVER: I was sitting on the 6th Deck Aft outside eating dinner. The meal is traditional meatloaf and mashed potatoes—one of my favorites. For dessert there were creampuffs with chocolate dipping sauce—my other favorite. Does it get any better? Yes. A huge rainbow touching end to end is in clear view shooting through the sky over the water—a perfect and magical backdrop to our dinner. And it doesn’t end there. Someone yells out “dolphins!” I turn around, and there are about 3 or 4 dolphins swimming and jumping out of the water in the distance, under the rainbow, as I eat meatloaf and creampuffs. Amazing.

WEATHER: We got our first day below 80 degrees this semester a few weeks ago in China. Japan was the same way, but we’re heading back toward the equator so more sun is coming.

OCEAN: The Pacific hasn’t been too crazy, but we have been getting some descent waves. The other day our drawers were opening and shutting, and one of the glasses in our bathroom broke. Being on the 2nd deck I have it relatively easy. The people who live in the front of the boat and on higher decks have it much much worse. I am one of the ones who enjoys the choppy seas, so I’m still holding out for a storm to throw a little adventure into this trip.

FOOD: I eat too much. Not everyone loves the food, but I love it. People think I eat a lot. I do. They had an outdoor BBQ for us yesterday, and it was so much food including ice cream sundaes.

AMBASSADORS BALL: As you can probably tell from the way I’ve described life on the ship, if they want, the crew can whip this place into a 5-Star resort in a snap. Sometimes randomly at dinner there will be food sculptures of swans made from melons or castles made of chocolate. But for the Ambassador’s Ball after Hawaii they will go all out. The finest food and wine will come out for the Ambassador’s Ball and we get a 5-course meal. We have to dress up very nice, and we will have assigned seating. It’s supposed to be one of the greatest nights on the ship.

NIGHTLIFE: There is so much going on this ship sometimes I forget that there is a bar on the 7th deck! Dances, plays, performances, speakers, movies, you name it. There is always so much going on, it’s awesome.

OVERALL: The MV Explorer is my home. I can always travel and I can always live in a new country but I will never find a community like this again. The experience of living on a ship with 1,000 other people is irreplaceable. If you want to be social, there are 1,000 people to talk to. If you want to be by yourself you can find a quiet place on the ship. If you want to be active, you can. If you want to be tired, you can. Adults? We have them. Kids? We have them. Senior citizens? We have them. I can hang out with my best friends or I can sit down with people I’ve never talked to before in my entire life. I can do my homework in the sun or I can look out my porthole and see endless ocean. I can catch the best sunrise and sunset I will ever see. I will miss SAS, I will miss traveling, but most of all I will miss “ship life.”

THOUGHT ON GOING HOME: I think the overall consensus on the ship is we’re all ready to go home. We’ve been out of touch with the world for 3 months and we’re all excited to reconnect. Some of us haven’t even heard the sound of our parents voices in months. We know we have family and friends that are anxiously awaiting our arrival back home. We know that for many it was an adventure of itself just to follow our blogs and look at our pictures; our families have waited by the phone or the computer waiting for a sign that their son or daughter is alright. We’ve brought our families on this journey with us, and it’s only due time that we get to end it together. It is going to be an overwhelming experience pulling into Miami with hundreds of friends and family holding signs just trying to get a glimpse of their son/daughter whom they haven’t seen since January. We abandoned some of the most basic things like cell phones and Internet. We’ve thrown ourselves out of our comfort zones. Each and every week we’ve embraced a new culture, a new people and a new way of life. We fought language barriers and we made friends around the globe. We’re all worn out and unsure what to make of this entire semester. It’s hard to let it go, but at the same time a journey only becomes amazing when you can reflect on it. Some are nervous for reverse culture-shock and confronting friends and family because they’ve changed and things at home or school have remained constant. I’m not worried about re-entering America, I think the summer will be a good transition back to the real world and I’m excited for what’s ahead of me. If this trip has taught me anything, it’s that nothing can stop me from reaching my dreams. I seem to always have big plans for my life, and that shows no sign of stopping…

2 comments:

GRC said...

Kevin...
life at home is going to be so boring for you!
Love, mom

Michelle said...

Kevin- I have to tell you a year and a half later, I was hanging out with my SASers an was telling them about you and we read your blog... still reminising! We all(especially me!) can't wait for you to get back so we can see the pictures and hear your stories...

oh and don't worry we found a bar in boston that serves TIGER BEER! haha

enjoy the last days of your journey :)
~Michelle