My name's Joshua. At home in Sydney I'm the Armchair Traveller. But now I'm sailing around the world with Semester at Sea. Ahoy, sailor.
September 17, 2011
Last I checked in, we were a brand-new community of 630 students, faculty, staff and life-long learners (AKA non-student passengers - generally retirees who love the idea of hanging out with college kids on a RTW cruise for four months). And since then we’ve departed Montreal, crossed the Atlantic, spent four days in Casablanca, sailed to Tema (next-door neighbour of Accra), spent four days in Ghana, and cruised across the equator (and are now a cohesive community of 627, after losing two in Morocco and one in Ghana). I’m currently looking out my office window at the island of Annobon, off the coast of Gabon, as the sun sets. And as I sit back to reflect on the last three weeks and put to words what’s been happening, all I can come up with is THIS JOB IS FUCKING CRAZY. Not my best work as a writer, but very accurate. I serve as emcee (presenting detailed information and improvising with enthusiasm to all 630/627 passengers onboard at a moment’s notice), diplomat (mine is the BlackBerry that rings when passports are lost, visas denied, transfers cancelled and US State Department international relations updates issued), dogsbody (having pulled three all-nighters thus far), mentor to students and manager of my brilliant team, comic relief (I find people pay more attention to my presentations when I mention anal sex), general problem-solver (if ___ is broken/delayed/no longer available/now illegal/accidentally in another country, I’ll tell you what to do) and now barber (honouring the seamen’s tradition of ‘Neptune Day’ today, I shaved the heads of almost 100 people as part of a first-time-crossing-the-equator-on-a-ship hazing - and was A) impressed by the number of newly-shorn ladies and B) alarmed by the disproportianate number of people with scalpy dandruff vs those without). I’ve learned that I can do just about anything (including bribe police, customer-service my fucking ass off to turn a hater into an ambassador and advocate, and make difficult decisions in a snap), that adventures aside it is who you are with that informs the place you find yourself, and that more people should use Head & Shoulders.
August 27, 2011
Life boat drill with my two favorite passengers. No, we’re not excited at all about setting sail in half an hour. Not at all.
The good-looking one in the middle is the amazing Kristin’s husband Scotty, who is the smartest one of all of us. Cuz he’s onboard as a “plus one” - the sweetest gig in travel writing history. Scott, well done, mate!
August 26, 2011
Meet the lovely Kristin (L), a freelancer who has just moved from San Francisco back to her native Nashville, and Paula (R), who will move to TBA after teaching in Korea while doing a complete load at grad school. These wonderwomen and myself make up the Field Office for Fall 2011. Bring it!
“Which is that place, you know, where they have boats ‘n stuff?” - student
“Halong Bay. Its in Vietnam.” - Paula, Field Office Assistant
“Yup, that’s the one.” - student
How amazing is my team?
- "The students are coming! The students are coming!!” - Dean Jill Scott"
And … we’re off! After a bumpy boarding in Boston (food poisoning for the first time in years - I guess it wasn’t such a great idea to eat that three-day-old sandwich I found in my carry-on bag), a bit of frantic tip-tapping and a mad dash to Target (which was a cultural experience in and of itself), I set sail. Meeting my new colleagues, getting oriented to the ship - all of it was overwhelming, and awesome. And getting lost as often as I do on-board has led to me having a better looking ass than I’ve ever had.
August 21, 2011
I’m nervous. Like, as in totally scared shipless (sic, but it stays). I nearly burst into tears on the 42nd Street platform due to frazzled, heightened sleep-deprived emotion. I can’t focus on the amazing opportunities and unique challenges ahead on this voyage of discovery; instead I’m overwhelmed and desperate for the people I love the most. Who are all very, very far away, as I actively put ever-increasing distance between us. So if you’re a member of the shipboard community and give me a great big bear hug, and I lose it, I apologise in advance. Please can I request a caring cuddle, and a reminder of my mantra for the next few months? Growing fonder. Thanks in advance; I promise to be super stoked after just one batch of tears.
"Ladies and gentlemen, we’re pulling into the best city in the whole world. Its so nice you gotta say it twice – New York, New York. Be good to each other now because it doesn’t get any better than this – no, it don’t."
- Amtrak conductor on arrival at Penn Station
August 18, 2011
I feel like I’m in a unique position to comment on Americans. I am one; I get the cultural references and have travelled the country extensively. But I’m also an ‘other’ – I left nearly ten years ago and have only been back for brief visits once or twice every year or two since then. As such, I find myself both delighted perplexed whenever I’m here. Perplexed when I choose my words (I consistently forget if it’s a bottle shop, an off-license or a liquor store and also which states sell beer at the supermarket), and delighted when I’m reminded of the things that make the USA a totally awesome place. I’m confident in the assertion that Americans are just plain nice. Seriously – they’re the friendliest folks in the world. They don’t just do ‘simple courtesy’ – ask a clerk how she’s doing today and a Colgate smile will almost sing that she’s SUPER, THANKS FOR ASKING!!! Hold the door for a family entering a shop and they’ll practically insist on adding you to their Christmas card list. And they all have Christmas card lists. And though some things in America make absolutely no sense (like writing cheques and Michele Bachmann) I’m proud to be a part of it.