Saturday, November 12, 2005

That's Our House. We live there.

(Jason's note: I wrote this more than a month ago, but Rico's only now posting it because he wants to avoid posting another entry he says he'll post later. So here's this one instead.)

We live on a ship. This is pretty obvious. It's Semester at Sea, after all, not Semester in a Condo or Semester on the Streets. But it bears repeating. We live on a ship. I don't know how many of you have ever been on a cruise ship, but I'm reasonably sure none of you have lived on one longer than ten days.

It's not like living elsewhere. You can't go out. Or you can, but only as far as the seventh deck bar. Which is two minutes from your cabin. Which is two minutes from your work. Which is two minutes from the one and only restaurant on the ship. And so on. The place is small, and it's your whole life. You might have been on a big ship, and thought it was really quite large, but it's a lie.

The MV Explorer. 590 feet long, 84 feet broad; we have access to parts of Deck 2, most of Decks 3 through 7. This is it for us. All of us. For any single person, it's a couple shops, a few classrooms, a few public spaces and one cabin. A cabin that's probably smaller than the bedroom of whoever is reading this, unless you're in a dorm. In which case, get back to your homework.

The ship moves, too. I mean, of course, we're sailing around the world, but that's not it. It rocks. It sways. On occasion, it tips a goodly bit. Shit falls over. People lean as they walk, unusally in tandem. Doors, if not anchored, threaten to crush limbs. It's worse in the front of the ship, where I live (and Rico, too.) It's worse higher up. The Staffulty Lounge, which is that seventh floor bar I just mentioned, is about the worst, but then, it's private, and there's coffee.

Pretty much the entire ship is like that, one big compromise. Our rooms in the Pit, or to be more proper, 3 Forward, are small and lack amenities like windows, chairs and color. But the people there are the best on the ship. There's seasickness in the wings, but then, there's the endless swell of the sea. There's the smell of a thousand of us, hidden by strong cleaning agents, that fills the halls, but outside, there's the freshest air you've ever smelled, air that hasn't been bothered by people and their messes except briefly, as with us, in passing.

And for all the little problems, the lack of space, the minimal privacy, the repeition of sleep/work/home/bar being all the same places every day, for all of that, it's still home. The title of this piece is something I've heard people say, not once, but several times. Maybe we're drinking in a waterfront bar, and we look over to see the blue and white ship. Someone looks at someone else and says it. That's our house. We live there. And we smile, because we're the luckiest people on earth, to have such a home.

When we're in port, they turn on the lights at night. It's nothing much, just a string of bulbs from stem to stern. They're prettily ornamental, hundred watt bulbs strung in a single great line that must be seven hundred feet long. They're the first thing you see of the ship, once the sun is set. When the cab driver doesn't know the way, you spot those lights above the werehouses, and suddenly you can find the ship. They shine out into the night, into the strange, sultry darkness of foreign ports, and they call us home.

That's our house, we whisper, and point, and the cabbie smiles, if it's not too late, if he's not too tired from ferrying students to the port. We live there, we say. He already knows, and so do we, but we all like to say it.


Anonymous said...

Jason, you describe SAS life at sea onboard MV Explorer just great. Thanks, I dont know how many of us would have lived w/out your output for these past months. Enjoy the rest of the voyage. Happy Sailing!! Clara SAS mom

Anonymous said...

I went on SAS Fall'10 and I have to say the piece you just wrote was a perfect summary of our home. Thank you for sharing.
-Elissa Schwartz

Anonymous said...

Thank you--Steven Spradling, S74