The Voyage Begins (from Hoi An, Vietnam)
I woke up feeling like I had a stroke. After two days of non-stop packing and tying everything up, I think it finally hit me.
At noon exactly we cruised out of the Yokohama port en route to Kobe. Unfortunately the rain forced the cancellation of the opening ceremony. There were no ribbons or champagne served. I spent the day welcoming passengers on the ship and helping them with their luggage. A woman dropped her suitcase on my foot and I can barely walk. My health on the first day of this voyage is not looking well!
What a busy 24 hours. It feels like we’ve been on this ship for months. We pulled into Kobe at 1:00pm and once again helped the new passengers getting on for the voyage. I felt much better. Everyone is so exhausted. I guess it will take us a while to adjust to this schedule that is really on-call 24 hours. Meeting after meeting, orientation after orientation… it never seems to end. There is no time. Kobe departure ceremony was beautiful. We left the port in sunshine, cracked open the champagne and shouted “itte kimasu” as the people on the port replied “itarashai”… it was a great beginning to things. Although boarding was late, we still pulled out of Kobe port on time at 5:00pm. At night we had the most fabulous party on the deck. About 400 people came to watch the welcome video and then a DJ turned the deck into an amazing dance floor. We danced for a few hours over the sea. Suddenly the rain came pouring down but the dancing didn’t stop for a few minutes… it was the most beautiful feeling to dance in the rain on the stage over the sea. I almost forgot I was in a ship except for the faint rocking up and down as we listened to the beat. I definitely feel healthy and alive again. I seem to be one of the few that doesn’t suffer from sea-sickness.
At sea en route to Da Nang, Vietnam
Today I was awoken by an announcement regarding an emergency meeting. I was happy to be woken up because I felt tense after a horrible dream I had. The nightmare was about my friend, Jenny Oh. In this bizarre dream I saw her in the forest from about 500 metres away. I could see bears in the background and was trying to warn her. A bear attacked her and dragged her up a hill. As she tried to escape, I saw the bear continue at her as she kept trying to get out of its grip. I watched her get finished off as I was helpless to do anything. It was very disturbing. Do I feel helpless on a boat at sea as Jenny stays in Seoul with her daily life?
Anyway, the emergency meeting was to inform passengers that a typhoon is on its way from the Philippines which will directly cross our path. The captain decided to change our route so we will be heading further east about 600km off route. We will possibly be delayed in our arrival in Da Nang. According to some repeaters of this cruise, Vietnam had to be cancelled due to a typhoon. I would be so sad to miss out on Vietnam… My wardrobe for the next three months also depends on that Vietnam arrival.
At night we had a staff dinner in the crew masse. It was really great to drink and eat with the others including the Communication Co-ordinators (CCs). I really love them. After we went for a boogie in the sports bar. A few of us left and went to the top deck. The stars were incredible. We sang songs and laid out there for almost two hours.
A very busy morning. Today we did our GET presentation to the ship and introduced our open classes. We sang the Beatles “Help” song with our own version. Then broke out in demonstration open classes. Everyone was so sick, throwing up everywhere. It was amazing that nobody threw up on the stage. Fortunately unlike the vast majority, I have suffered no sea-sickness at all. The typhoon has made the waters very rough and the boat is rocking quite hard.
After the GET introduction we had the afternoon off. I went up to the deck and took some sun in with Jenn, Mabel and Adriana. It was so nice to sit up there.
We went to a lecture by a 14 year-old boy named Steven. He produced a film in the USA on the bombing of Hiroshimi and Nagasaki and was asked to speak at the UN. It has been amazing to listen to him. He is such a young boy in many ways but a wise man in heart. He says things in such a simple but intelligent way. If there were more Stevens in the world we may just have world peace.
Today was a hectic morning. We interviewed students to begin the placements. I interviews beginners. I watched them crack under the pressure. Some of them were so seasick they were sweating and almost throwing up in bags. Always drama on the ship.
We started to do yoga. Jenn and I were hardcore. The boat was so rocky that we did more fallen than balance. I think this type of yoga will do wonders because if we can balance somewhat on a rocky ship, imagine our balance once we reach land. I can already imagine rocky yoga…
A typhoon meeting was scheduled to replace the port orientation. Since we are so off course now cruising by Luzon in the Philippines, Da Nang Vietnam ETA has been changed. To our major disappointment, we will only be able to stay in Da Nang for one day.
Adriana and I had a couple bottles of wine and then headed down for a night at the Sports Bar. There was sudden calmness as we danced.
I woke up with a hang-over in a rocky ship. I just decided to suck it up and get out of bed. We had a yoga class in the cinema. It was strange to teach yoga since I am not that experienced but definitely a good way for me to see what I have learnt and able to convey.
We ate lunch in the Topaz as group. I sat with Leah, Mabel, Jenn and Ayse. It was such a great conversation. I have had so many powerful and intense conversations in less than a week. I can’t believe I haven’t even been on the ship for a week. The relationships that have been built in this time feel like they’ve been forming for months. At night I was at the Yacht Club on the deck and ended up talking to Carla and Nikki for 6 hours… the time flew by and the sound of the water and rocking of the boat was just like a background that is beginning to feel like home.
The last of the interviews were completed today. Tony and I finished all of the students without having any of them pull a major break-down. We broke into groups and divided the students and placed them in classes. I now have a group of 11 students that I’ll be teaching for the rest of the cruise. About half old people and half young. Seems like a nice mix. I will meet them in a couple days at our open house. I also have a classroom that I am sitting in right now. I am so delighted to have a nice class with two windows facing the sea and sharing it with the lovely Ayse. It’s so nice to have my own space. I feel so relaxed.
Tonight C廥ar, Adriana, Jenn and I decided to have a double date at the Topaz. It was cute and fun. After we went to GET Street (the corridor of our classrooms) to watch the film Heaven and Earth. It was a good film to see before visiting Da Nang, Vietnam. Although it was overly American, the images of torture and the conflict during the VIetnam war were powerful. Watching the process of a conquered and colonised country is one of the saddest things on earth. To imagine that we, as human beings, are capable of such horrific actions is astonishing.
In a few hours we will be in Da Nang, Vietnam. Being our first port, despite the unfortunate fact that it has been cut to only one day, I think everyone is so excited. We’ve been on a ship together for an emotional week and finally we have a chance to get out and see something new. It has been an intense week. Friendships forming so quickly, testing diplomacy and starting to realise the reality of our mission have begun rolling out. I can see land outside the window and lights in the darkness. It’s very exciting, the first time I’ve seen anything but endless water for a week!