Stories from the ship
Where to begin??? Well, the ship is definitely becoming quite cozy. It's an older ship (about 45 years old) and not too big that you feel lost. Next to the enormous new cruise ships, we look like a small fishing boat!
Observation Deck - #110 Our cabin…Brian and I first walked in our new home for the following 100+ days on Wednesday, August 28th as we checked onto the ship. Observation deck is awesome…it is the top deck of the ship, five decks above the main level. We were expecting small, so we knew we wouldn't be surprised at anything. Well, we were…pleasantly surprised, that is. Don't get me wrong, the cabin is definitely small, but very well laid out. The useable space is about 9 feet by 12 feet, with a small hallway. However, the closets are big enough to hold the clothes we brought, there is just enough dresser space (we each have a three drawer dresser) and the bathroom is great! The shower size even accommodates Brian! And the best yet…I really good size window…not just a porthole! We were just praying for some sunlight…but instead we have a big window we can view the ocean from! Oh yeah…and we are "stumbling" distance from the faculty/staff lounge…huge plus! ha ha We did have to laugh though, when we entered the room. There were two single beds separated by a small dresser (but hey, at least we didn't get stuck with bunks!)! The first night we were so exhausted that we didn't even attempt to move them. The second day, though, we moved them next to each other. Our cabin steward, Ben (who makes our bed, cleans our room and bathroom and even transforms the floor mat towel into a ship to place on top of the toilet), is so awesome. He's from Panama as most of the crew. First he started folding the bedding so the bed looked like a double and then a few days later started making the bed with double sheets/comforter. Now, of course, there is still the crack where the two single beds meet, but that has been the least of our worries!! We are certainly taken good are of…probably too good!! Laundry…we've laundered our clothes once already and they did a nice job...no stains or problems yet. You just don't get much in the bag they provide. You definitely learn to reuse pants and shirts!
I believe Brian and I are finally to the point where we have our "sea legs"! This is the term people use for getting use to the motion of the ship. It was funny, even before we left, just walking around the ship made you feel like you were moving. The ship set sail on Saturday, August 31st and all was good for a few days. We really didn't feel sick at all. Then comes Monday, September 2nd… Labor Day for all of you in the States, that is!
The seas were extremely rough that day (although not nearly as bad as I hear they can get!). The morning started off ok, although by mid-morning Brian and I were really starting to feel aweful. I know my head felt like it was going to explode…the pressure alone made it hard to focus on anything (of course, we were both so busy with work, that we had to focus!). Our stomach's starting feeling very uneasy. I believe by this point, Brian had already lost his breakfast twice! I was still hanging in there. Brian decided to try and get some fresh air and eat something. I walked outside briefly for some air and tried to eat something, but then decided a short nap would be better for me. Unfortunately, both of the places Brian and I work on the ship is in the front (the "bow")…my office is on Main Deck, which is pretty close to the water level (although, luckily, I still get a port hole). The computer lab where Brian works is on Promenade Deck, two decks above Main (and still three decks below where our cabin is on Observation). The entire ship now knows that these places are by far the worst locations on a rough sea day!! The best way I can explain it is like being on the Rainbow at Eliche Gardens/Six Flags in Denver and not being able to get off!! Anyway, by mid-afternoon, Brian had lost it two more times! I held on strong, but lost it probably around 3pm trying to pay out a travel reimbursement…thank God I have a bathroom in my office (basically a converted room)!
Go ahead and laugh…it was quite amusing…of course, many days later! Both of our mom's have seemed very amused by this, so I'm sure the rest of you will too! Despite the fact Brian and I were convinced we wouldn't get sea sick, we did! The captain actually told us that people who don't get sick in small boats (like fishing boats) usually get sick on the big ships and vice versa. We are very thankful that the seas have calmed back down since this miserable day, the second of September! No sea sickness since then.
Another thing I find quite amusing is walking around the ship sometimes. Depending on how much the ship is rocking, you can tend to feel like you are walking drunk. You will try walking in a straight line and the motion of the ship will stray your course! It is actually quite funny. Or you will be walking and all of a sudden start walking very very quickly or start walking backwards due to the motion of the ship again. They just started aerobics classes today, which was amusing…try jumping and dancing around while the ship is moving. It actually was quite calm this morning, but I can only imagine how funny it could get when the ship is swaying!
Activities on the Ship
Speaking of aerobics, I was so excited to finally have a good opportunity to work out. As I mentioned, several aerobic, strengthening and weight lifting classes started this week. They've been inside so far since the weather is just starting to warm up, but I can't wait to be outside looking over the ocean! The so called "track" around the ship is not the greatest…lots of obstacles to run around, plus it only circles half of the ship. And the workout room is small. It has several bikes (fairly outdated), some weights and other equipment, but unfortunately no treadmills. The basketball/volleyball court is pretty cool though and should become very popular once the weather starts warming up!!! There is already a tournament scheduled for October 2nd, I believe.
The RD's on ship had an Activities Fair last week…there was quite an impressive turnout of interested students! There are really a ton of clubs/organizations that students are getting involved in (even some very "interesting" ones like "Gay Lesbian Bisexual Transgender Ally Meeting"…boy haven't times changed!!). Some of the clubs/organizations are as follows: Ambassadors Club (having several functions such as working with the inter-port lecturers and students, organizing the cultural receptions in port, etc), website committee, yearbook committee, choir, Students of Color Coalition, vicarious voyage (sending things back to elementary schools who are tracking our voyage), etc. There really is a ton of opportunity for students to get involved.
9/11 is here tomorrow. I cannot even imagine what the students went through last year at this time, being on the ship and not being able to get minute-by-minute coverage of the terrorist attacks in America. The ship runs printed news on a few TV's in the Union, but it is hard to find time sometimes to sit and read the news. I find it focuses on sports news a lot too. Nonetheless, the shipboard community will be recognizing the tragedy of 9/11 on this devastating day in history. We will have a few minutes of silence after our "Core" class in the morning after the sound of the ships horn as well as a remembrance later that night with some presentations and open mike. I pray America is safe tomorrow.
Our Location, the Weather and the Time Warp
Obviously, we are sailing through the Pacific right now. On Thursday, September 5, for the first time since we set sail, we saw land! From a distance, we actually saw the Aleutian Islands off of the Alaska Peninsula! It turns out that because of the earth's circumference, it is shorter to sail north to Alaska and then cut hard south towards Japan. We actually reached almost 60 degrees latitude several days ago. (For more details on our coordinates, click on the link entitled "click here to track the ship".) We are getting very close to our first destination though…Japan! In fact, they told us today that we should see land on Thursday morning, September 12th.
The weather has been pretty chilly since we left Vancouver. In fact, with the wind chill, it tends to be hard to enjoy being outside. We even had tons of fog yesterday…it was pretty erie! I know this has worn on everyone…not only are you stuck on the ship, but we have really been stuck inside since we left. I feel I haven't enjoyed the sun or fresh air in days! The weather has been creeping up to mid to late 50's this week. Today, although, it reached 60 degrees outside and was absolutely gorgeous!!! We finally even saw the sunset tonight (9/10/02)! It was absolutely beautiful, setting over the dark blue ocean. And, in the distance, I even finally saw dolphins!!! It was sooo exciting! Brian and I were grabbing dinner and I happen to turn to see everyone on the back deck run from one side of the deck to the other. At first, I thought they were doing some sort of activity out back…then I realized there was sea life! Anytime there is sea life, everyone jumps!! They were far away, but you could still see them jumping the waves! This is the first I've seen. Several people have seen dolphins, birds and other sea life…even whales! They tend to be more active in the early evening when I tend to still be in my office. Brian was l ucky to see the tail of a whale the other day, but that's it. I'm not too worried though…we still have plenty of time out here on the high seas!!
The time warp…let me explain! Have you ever completely skipped a day of your life?! Probably not...well, we now have!! We officially crossed the International Time Zone a few days ago and went from Saturday the 7th, straight to Monday the 9th!!! Very weird! We are now many many hours ahead of the States, where we were several hours behind you. The awesome thing is though that we "retard" (as they call it) or rewind our clocks back an hour almost every night!!! We have rewound our clock back at least 80% of the time since we've been sailing...it is soooo great! This is a dream come true…ha ha! This is because we are sailing west. We will continue to lose hours each week as we gradually come back to the US time zone in December. Weird huh?!! The students put on an 80's dance party a few nights ago (technically, Saturday night) and called it "Dance Until Monday"! ha ha As we were skipping Sunday! ;) It was fun though and even I got out there and showed up the students...ok, maybe not, but you know me and dancing...I sure tried!!! ha ha It was fun though...I think we all needed it though..it had been getting quite tiresome with seeing no land, being in tight quarters on a ship and having every day full of classes and work! I know we are all ready to see land when we reach Japan on Friday!
Life Boat Drills
As you can see from the picture, I think I look pretty darn cool in my life jacket, don't you think?!! ha The first drill we had, soon after we set sail, went ok. Since we left about a 1/2 hour late on the 31st, we didn't have much time for the drill because it was really cutting into dinner...so it was a little "loose"...but they did another drill a few days ago which was better. It can get pretty cold out there waiting for the drill to finish. The jackets are pretty uncomfortable (as you can probably see) and you have to stand quietly while they do roll call...nearly 80 some names just in our life boat! Of course, women and children get to stand up front and would be first to board…ha! The jackets are stored in our room. We've stashed them underneath the bed. We (staff/faculty) are told when a lifeboat drill is coming, but no one else knows. So, when the horns sound, you have to get to your room, get long pants, long sleeve shirt and closed-toe shoes on, plus put your life jacket on and get your butt to your boat station. They take it very seriously, which they should!
Work and Core
Our schedule is pretty much up by 7am, quick breakfast and staff meeting at 8:15 am to about 9:00 am (just me that is). Core class at 9:20 until 10:35 which has been very interesting! We have learned sooo much already! They also have interesting classes at night for "community college" ...basically anyone who is interested. Had a great presentation on Tienneman Square (sp?) a few nights ago which we will see when we get to China. Anyway...office hours from 10:45 to noon. Noon to 2:00 pm is usually free for lunch, a quick nap (sometimes), emails...but then sometimes I'm stuck in my office finishing up something. 2pm to 5pm is office hours again. I have a work-study student who puts in about three hours with me lately (not as much lately though)...his name is Roy and he is so awesome!! Anyway...he is in and out throughout the day as well. Sometimes I'm out at 5pm, but usually it has been sometimes around 6 to 7pm. Then off to dinner and then whatever at night. Sometimes email, hanging out with people, presentations, drinks, whatever. The day goes by pretty quickly! Brian's days have still been busy, but have slowed down a little. He is still frustrated sometimes, but you know him...he is always there to help! He still thinks it is going to continue to get a little better and less hours...but I still wonder! Somedays he works a lot later than I do! So much for cabana boy...but then again, too cold outside to be cabana boy! ha The guy he works for never knew he was part-time and is still very surprised at that. He has sent off an email to try and get Brian paid, but I doubt it will go through. Brian isn't too worried about it though and would just honestly rather have his hours drop eventually. Anyway...we'll see.