What does one do with relatively little work, severely limited space, and a whole lot of sunshine for 10-12 days? Excellent question, you.
First of all, allow me to blow your mind about time. We are working backwards in time, sailing back in time zones, and essentially floating between 24- and 25-hour days. The all-powerful captain, I’ve been told, decides what time it is on the ship, since it really doesn’t matter seeing as we exist in our own bubble of Being. Time zones mean next to nothing, except that it needs to be the same time for you whenever you get where you’re going. The only exception to this is the International Dateline, meaning that this year, January 16 did not exist (in this bubble world, at least).
The clock struck 11:59:59pm on January 15, and we Time-Turner-ed/TARDIS-ed/H. G. Wells-ed our way to 12:00:00am on January 17.
Given this wee phenomenon and our 25-hour days, it’s challenging to say exactly how long you’re on the ship from embarking late on January 12 (Hawai’i time, GMT -10:00) and disembarking in Japan on January 24 (Japan time, GMT +9:00). So, one of the things you do in the above scenario is contemplate time and consequently your increasingly insignificant existence as you float along a seemingly endless expanse of ocean with no land, no other people, and no nothing, across the vast, relentless Pacific Ocean (I think the record was around 20,000 ft? Scary.). If I weren’t so intimidated by it all, I may have had the time and patience to become a great philosopher in that amount of time, but alas I was in fact a bit terrified at the prospect of how tiny I, in fact, am.
Since you’re getting a gift in the form of an extra hour every few days, you may vacillate between sleeping extra and drinking extra, which are both excellent options. Sleeping extra means that you get to wake up in time to catch the sunrise pretty often, and sometimes it’s really clear and beautiful but sometimes it’s cloudy, which is also fine, since you know another one is coming the next day. And the next day. And the next day. And then you stop thinking about that, because it’s too daunting of a prospect and when will you ever hit solid land?!
Whew. When you’re not having an existential life crisis, and you’re not seasick from the bobbing and weaving of the tiny ship through big swells (sometimes up to 12 ft. waves, which I don’t know how to put in perspective – we have 9 decks on the ship, and sometimes the waves crashed into deck 5, if that helps? The “Pacific” is one of the greatest misnomers I’ve ever encountered.), you might also catch some stunning sunsets on the way to or from dinner. Students also like to catch these, so there may also be a techno-y dance party at the bow of the ship, which you could jump right into even though you’re staculty and not a student, or you might choose to hang more awkwardly at the back and take photos over the tops of students’ heads since they’re crowding the railing. You don’t mind, because it’s so breath-taking that nothing can bother you or make you any less blissfully happy to be alive.
If you’re not sleeping extra, you may be drinking extra in the staculty-only bar. If you’re outside on the roped-off deck area, poor little students will walk by and stare at you open-mouthed because BEER and you smile to yourself and enjoy the cold, refreshing taste that much more because it is delicious. Sometimes, there are parties in the staculty-only bar with “fancy snacks,” as they’re affectionately called. This involves a tasty preview of the food you’re about to come upon (no photos available again because Big Hongries over here scarf down the food too fast). Staculty has also hosted one chocolate tasting and wine pairing party following their class field trip to a chocolate farm in Hawai’i. Sometimes, it’s Margarita Monday, and you remember that days of the week exist, which is a cute remnant from an on-land life from long ago.
This approach, however, leads to less sleep, which means that you might miss the next sunrise or morning workout. You reason with yourself that this will also be okay, because there will be another one, and another one, and another one, and then you stop that train of thought before it gets scary, too.
To fill the day-time, you read a lot. Sometimes it’s for class and you make yourself an office on the deck and email your parents single-photo attachment selfies since the internet is next to non-existant. Sometimes you take your fun book on-deck, but you forget sunscreen and it’s windy so you don’t feel hot so you still get burned and then you don’t do that again because your skin’s on fire and lotion makes you stick to your clothes so you just retreat inside.
Often, you grab a guidebook for the next place you’re going and take copious notes in your bullet journal, copying down websites to visit when you have Wi-Fi again. You may settle in for the film loop, where faculty can schedule movies/documentaries to run for 24-hours on repeat. Sometimes it’s the same thing, or a disk of episodes that can’t be repeated, but it’s always educational, sometimes different, and usually entertaining. If there’s an open space Will, our handy-dandy librarian, will choose a kid-friendly fun movie to put on, and there’s good nostalgia in that too.
To fill the evenings, you attend different lectures from the talented and all-knowing faculty on their areas of expertise, like Japanese art, theatre around the world, instruments and music styles of Indonesia, or the political climate in North Korea and Ukraine. You may join common-interest groups, like the Black Student Union, or the Writing Group, or Atheists and Agnostics (which was a little by accident but includes riveting and challenging discussions).
Mostly, you run into the same people and smile, or you happen upon people you swear you’ve never seen before but you must have since no one can come or go (or can they?!). You wonder if you’ve lost it or if it’s all a dream, but devise that it must be reality because I remember waking up, which you never know in dreams (usually, unless they’re lucid…sorry, Inception was on the loop so we watched it more than once recently).
Really, you just enjoy the relative ease and calm of a less-than-60-hour work-week, something I haven’t done in years. It’s a nice, leisurely life, but you do start to really, really look forward to that next port. This was our longest stretch of on-ship time, and once we hit port we don’t have more than a few days on ship between ports where we’ll dock for several days, almost a week, at a time.
Ports will be go-go-go, so I imagine we’ll really be looking forward to longer stretches of on-ship time to relax and calm back down.
Until then, here’s to the ship life! Catch you next time from Japan.