Friday, November 11, 2005


There are two worlds on the ship, one in which passengers know very little about. There are about 200 crew members aboard the MV Explorer, and due to strict ship regulations, they are not allowed to fraternize much with the passengers beyond some small talk when they are doing the job. There are some awesome people on this ship's crew.

Which is why I’m very, very lucky to have a crew member assigned to be my counterpart on this trip. Mr. Allan Pesado, "Sparky", who is leaving the ship in Hong Kong to wife and kids in the Phillipines for three months. He’s been aboard the ship for 11 months, and has been living this life as a Radio or AV for 13 years.

Crew life is tough. I’ve learned all about the shipping industry in our hours and hours and hours and hours of conversation about the ship. He’s been through everything - he’s been through fire, collision, embankment, deaths, and was the radio operator calling “MAYDAY” during the infamous 50 foot wave damaged the ship earlier this year.

(That story, by the way, is one of the best stories I’ve ever heard. If I don’t find a site that fully documents this stories, I’ll have to create one myself).

Allan is a short, bald, with the body of Homer Simpson and a thick Phillipino accent. He’s also on the jolliest, funniest, hardest-working people I have ever met – he’s often working from 7:15am until well after midnight. And we get along extremely well. I can’t tell you the number of times during Global Studies we busted out in the AV booth into a quiet rendition of “The Boxer” by Simon and Garfunkel, with me singing the melody and him singing the harmony. We assume no one can hear us, but we often hear from students later telling us, “We heard you singing in Global Studies today…” Whoops.

But he’s a great musician, though most people would never know it until the crew talent show, where he played guitar or piano or sang in just about every skit they did. As we were setting up the instruments for the show in the empty union, he picked up the guitar, started strumming “The Boxer”, and next thing you know I’m on the keyboard and we’re singing our brains out. I’m sure people heard us as they walked to the library. I hope they did. How often do you get to karaoke at work?

Then when sang his original composition “MV Explorer”, with lyrics like…

The MV Explorer
It means a lot to me
Going lots of places
With Semester at Sea

…where the word “Semester” is pronounced “SEA-mester” due to his thick Philipino accent, we’ll let’s just say someone must have been chopping onions in the union that day.

The crew members don’t get paid a lot, though it is good money relative to the countries they come from. The work is rewarding but tough – they work extremely long hours, often living in small cabins with three other individuals (as an 2nd officer, Allan gets his own cabin). They work long hours every day, are required to be on the ship at least nine months at a time (though they have to stay longer or cut their vacation short if the ship management company, V-Ships, asks them to do so). Allan deserves to go home and see his family. But he’ll be missed on the ship.

This is him and his replacement Sam (who I like already)

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