Sunday, August 28, 2005

My Sierra Camp

So the staff is officially awesome. More on that in a minute.

There’s really no way to describe how massive and logistically mind-boggling it is to get this operation underway. I’ve been hearing about Semester at Sea since Bobby first traveled in 1999, and have immersed myself in the process since first applying for the job in 2001, but I really didn’t understand how big this beautiful ship was until I entered it for the first time yesterday afternoon. Relatively speaking, the ship isn’t even that big – massive cruise ships, easily a couple times bigger than the Explorer, have been coming in and out of the port all these last few days. But I'm sure I'll be picking the brains of the crew members and administrative staff trying to understand what it takes to get 700 people around the world in a ship like ours.

Due to an overflow of students, several of us staff members have been housed in the restricted area of the ship alongside the crew. There is a very distinct separation of powers on the ship, and the crew areas are strictly off limits to any non-crew members (staff, faculty, and students). That is, with the exception of The Pit, where we can allow other staff members in here. But that’s it.

Sounds bad, but it is kind of cool, actually. Our rooms certainly aren’t as nice as anything on the academic side of the ship, but we’re starting to develop a very fun reputation around the ship, and making sure that once students are on board, this (and the faculty lounge) will be the place where the staff gets to party. Hard. My cabin is surrounded by people such as Sony, a former videographer for CBS who is shooting the video for this trip (it isn’t part of my job, but I’ll definitely be helping her out as much as I can), Chris, an amazing photographer who absolutely captured the essence of Nassau in the pictures he took today, and Jason, the campus store manager who would feel completely at home living in the Ranch. We hang out a lot. Yup, things are fun.

There are more, and I can’t say enough about the rest of the staff and faculty. One of my favorite things about Stanford was the fact that almost everybody was passionate about something, and these are the people that facinate me the most. The same thing is happening here all over again. It takes a certain kind of personality to apply work for Semester at Sea, and these are fascinating people who also happen to know a good time. And we’re meeting a ton of these people

I’m working closely with Allen, a crew member who became an AV technician after spending years as the ships radio engineer. The guy is awesome and will be a pleasure to work with (alongside my four work-study students).

My schedule during orientation has been somewhat light, especially since it didn’t take long to figure out the ship’s equipment (thank you, Transvideo!). So I took a several hours to explore Nassau on my own, on foot. Nassau oozes remnants of British colonialism, and becomes very apparent as you walk past all sorts of architecture and remnants and memorials and to old white British people in this predominantly black city.

By seeking the highest spot on the island (wasn’t very high), I found the old fort, which was adjacent to the Queen Staircase. All I know from the Queen Staircase comes from a tour guide that greets you at the top of the stairs as you try to go down. I was the only tourist in the area doing this when he stopped me and started giving me his well-prepared spiel on the steps. Halfway through it, in mid-sentence, he falls asleep. Thirty seconds later, he wakes up, and without missing another beat, continues the story as if nothing had happened.

I had the narcoleptict tour guide. After the third time falling asleep talking directly to me, I had enough time to pull my camera out and snap a picture of him snoozing. His last sentence, after waking up for the third time, was that “any gratuity is appreciated for his services.” Needless to say, I tipped him.

I had my snorkeling gear with me, so I walked alongside a beach for another hour looking for a place to get in and came to a dock where a lot of little Bahamian kids were running off and jumping into the water and having the happiest time of their lives. I just parked my stuff, sat down, and just watched them do this for another hour.

I could have watched them all day.

I did manage to go snorkeling (and scuba-diving yesterday), but the pier was pretty awesome. Life is good. My two biggest wish-lists at Stanford that I never got to do were 1) Go overseas for a while, and 2) work at Sierra Camp. I’m getting the impression that I’m killing two birds with one stone on this trip.


Bob said...

Man, I gotta see that tour guide-can you post a pic? Sounds amazing, thanks Rico!

Anne said...

Rico, I totally remember the first few days and meeting everyone. Some of these people will be your new best friends (literally) and others will drive you crazy by the end. Pick wisely! ;-) Give Melissa a big hug for me. I'll just be here sitting at my desk for the next 100 days reading about your adventures. Oh by the way, the staff that were housed in crew quarters during my voyage had the best time by far. Knowing the crew certainly has its privileges.