Wednesday, September 3, 2008


Something isn't quite right. I'm having trouble finding peace. Balance is just out of reach. Maybe it's intuition, premonition, or my sixth sense, but it is disturbing me ever so slightly. It has been this way for a few weeks.
Mr. Haydock deserves a massive email. I am alive, Papillo!! And I miss you and the close friendship I have left abandoned. mmmm bad.
Also, I decided to separate myself from Mr. Dubya. The distance was already physical but upon my return from California (dreaming), I sat down one evening with a bottle of wine, Joaquín Sabina, Ramona Córdova (, and proceeded to make a firm decision regarding you. And it has been so ever since.
On another note, Ramona's voice is of a bird-like quality and this small yet beautiful man creates an endearing, haunting music. Three of my favorite songs by him: "In the gypsy bar", "Paper Airplanes", and, the best of all "Hot and Heavy Harmony." Please attend his concerts if he happens to be in your neighborhood; he needs all the support he can get.

Thursday, March 13, 2008


Things I want but don’t need:
-Swiffer (Andi got one!)
-Face lotion (got monies. AND it as SPF 15.)
-Wine (hold a party, others will bring.)
-Vacuum cleaner
-Bedspread (make friends with french salesmen in local stores. Buy cotton one for $10.)
-Ink cartridges
-Hair dryer
-Basic building tools
-Cell phone battery (wait for 2 yr upgrade. Buy one with rebate. Hot)
-Apricots, in all of their variations, products, flavors, fresh and packaged, etc. (Except if they're sugar free.)
-Plane tickets.
-Concert tickets (Scratch insurance. Music is more important...)
-Jeans that fit, boots, shoes
-Table and chairs, couch (go to the local market. Hide ugly couch with couch cover!)

Things I need but don’t want:
-All the fruits and vegetables I’m supposed to have in a day.
-Dead, pointless job.
-Dentist and doctor appointments. (With no insurance... ummm)
-Driver’s license and motorized transportation? (That's what public transit is for.)
-Tax help (Visit the Wuncle. Use his turbo tax. Get beefy tax return.)
-Exercise and fitness (Ride bike with roommate.)

Things I want and need:
-Endless supply of quarters.
-Friends (Slowly but surely.)
-Monthly bus pass (Ticketbooks work just as well.)
-Internet (Hooray pirate-ing the business next door.)

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Week 10

Good heavens, how I have forsaken this poor blog and all its readers! It is truly a terrible thing.

Work life
Last week we only had 16 pax onboard. This meant plenty of boredom. Sixteen people are just not enough stimulation for any crew member. This does not mean our hours were any shorter; it takes the same amount of time to feed them than it takes to feed 32. the difference lies in their eating speed. More than once I could be found in the dishpit with a book in one hand and keeping up with the dishwashing with the other. Incredible.
This week, however, we have 32 pax which makes life a bit crazy and tiresome. I’m back to my “weight training”, lifting racks with 20 entrée plates in it. It’s sweaty work.

It is a good thing that I am not obsessive compulsive. There is no need for me to know how many times I have washed the big, triangular strainer; how many times I’ve washed each metal bowl in one day; how many entrée dishes there are in the drawers.

We only have two cruises left before the season is over. Change is, once again, fast approaching.

Natural world
Summer’s end is becoming more and more evident with each passing day. I wake up and it’s gray outside, no longer bright and sunshiny. Rainy days are more common than sunny ones. The sea is tumultuous with the uncomfortable changing of seasons. We now wear jackets and hoodies when we get into town.
A few days ago we passed through a significant storm. We served the weekly seafood extravaganza dinner and while crew ate the remaining crab, our little boat began gently rocking. Nothing out of the ordinary. “Do you get seasick?” Rich, chief engineer, asked me. “Umm, I don’t know.” “That’s a yes unless proven otherwise. I’m not standing downwind from you.” Great.
By the time we were supposed to be cleaning up the galley, the rocking was such that there was no way I could mop without my rolling bucket going everywhere. Becca and I spent the next 10 minutes securing everything, turning off appliances, taking down hanging baskets, putting all the cooking ware by the sinks so they wouldn’t fall off. the movement was strong enough to make it unsafe for anyone to be out on the back decks. I peeked a look at the water nevertheless. All the storage in the pontoons was rattling. We compared it to a rollercoaster.
The swells didn’t go over 10 ft but on this little boat that was enough. Everything rattled, squeaked, crashed, moved, or fell. I was reminded of the awful sensation in one’s stomach when an airplane passes turbulence and dips a few feet down. We all went to bed, hoping to sleep through the worst of it. That was wishful thinking.
Becca and I were awake in bed looking at magazines and pictures for an hour. We turned the lights off but the TV was banging on the wall. The movement was like a giant rocking chair but the least thing it did was rock you to sleep. Apparently Hattie, Katie, and Elaine talked to each other through the walls for hours because they couldn’t sleep. The next day, pax showed up to breakfast almost 15 min before the galley closes, the entire crew, captain especially, looked bleary eyed, and the espresso machine got a good workout brewing coffee. The entire time I kept thinking of my father passing through the Drake Passage south of Chile with 30 ft waves attacking the boat.

As of late, I’ve pondered the properties of water. This element is vital yet ever changing. It reaches everything and affects it; it’s completely malleable and can take whatever form it is placed in. It has the capacity of soothing gentleness or life threatening danger. It is also affected by everything around it, producing a cause and effect environment with all things it comes into contact with. I believe the element my person is connected to has ceased to be fire. It is now water. Coming and going and changing to fit the context and its people. It is only genetics that governed my eyes to be brown like wood instead of blue like water. Maybe my father gave them to me as a guarantee for some solidness and stability in life.
I have finally finished May Sarton’s Journal of a Solitude. What began as an iffy book has ended up being a most marvelous example of the daily nuances in a poet’s life mixed with her intrinsic thought processes and personal and artistic journeys. This is one book I hope to read again and again, experiencing the different resonances as I grow older. I must attach some quotes for they ring true during this present time:

It occurs to me that boredom and panic are the two devils the solitary must
combat… I am bored with my life here at present. There is not enough nourishment
in it. There are times when the lack of any good conversation, theatre,
concerts, art museums around here—cultured life—creates a vacuum of boredom.

Ah, life on a boat seems equally boring, not for lack of things to do but for the subtraction in mental stimulation.

And it occurs to me that there is a proper balance between not asking enough of
oneself and asking or expecting too much. It may be that I set my sights too
high and so repeatedly end a day in depression. Not easy to find the balance,
for if one does not have wild dreams of achievement, there is no spur even to
get the dishes washed. One must think like a hero to behave like a merely decent
human being.

Ah, the pressures of pursuing art where my laziness finds it impossible! Oh the impossible dreams I have! But, like my mother says, “it’s better to have far too many dreams and ideas than none at all. With too many, at least you’ll do a few. With none, your life might as well be nil.”

But what is becoming tiresome now in the American ethos is the emphasis on sex,
and especially on orgasm as an end in itself. Let us think more about what
enriches life; to put it in metaphorical form, let us think about flowers and
animals in a new way. A sensitized person who feels himself at peace with nature
and with the natural man in him is not going to be troubled about sex. It will
have its day and its hour and the orgasm, should it occur, will come not as a
little trick cleverly performed, but as a wave of union with the whole universe.
The emphasis on orgasm per se is just another example of the devaluation of all
that is human.

Ah, the plot line in most movies, main conversation topic here on the boat, comparisons between those who have or have not, the tedious and banal discussions on all things sexual while eliminating the human factor of it all! I observe living pleasure machines who yearn for a human intimacy beyond their realm of experience and knowledge.

These other quotes from an artistic viewpoint;

… I have been thinking that painters are enriching friends for a poet, and vice
versa. Because the medium is different there is not the slightest shadow of
competition, which I fear is always there between writers. The criticism we give
each other, the way we look at each other’s work, is pure and full of joy, a
spontaneous response. I envy painters because they can set their work up and
look at it whole in a way that a writer cannot, even with a single page of prose
or a poem. But how hard it must be to give up a painting! When a book appears it
goes out into the world, but the writer still keeps it and can go one giving it
to friends over and over again. The painting is gone

…I suppose I envy painters because they can meditate on form and structure, on
color and light, and not concern themselves with human torment and chaos. It is
restful even to imagine expression without words.

I would have to disagree with the idea that painters can separate themselves from sufferings of human life. That is one of the most important sources of inspiration!

And on human relationships:

I have been helped by Jung’s insights into the necessity for suffering.
Sometimes I wonder whether what is often wrong with intimate human relations is
not recognizing this. We fear disturbance, change, fear to bring to light and to
talk about what is painful. Suffering often feels like failure, but it is
actually the door into growth. And growth does not cease to be painful at any
…I have allowed myself to be persuaded into a frustrated pseudopeace to spare the other. But if there is deep love involved, there is deep responsibility toward it. We cannot afford not to fight for growth and understanding, even when it is painful, as it is bound to be. The fear of pain and of causing pain is, no doubt, a

How unnatural the imposed view, imposed by a puritanical ethos, that passionate
love belongs only to the young, that people are dead from the neck down by the
time they are forty, and that any deep feeling, any passion after that age, is
either ludicrous or revolting! The French have always known that our capacity
for loving mellows and ripens, and love if it is any good at all gets better
with age. Perhaps it is just the opposite; the revolt against Puritanism has
opened up a new ethos where sex is the god, and thus the sexual athlete is the
true hero. Here the middle-aged or old are at a disadvantage. Where we have the
advantage is in loving itself—we know so much more; we are so much better able
to handle anxiety, frustration, or even our own romanticism; and deep down we
have such a store of tenderness. These should be the Mozartian years.

This explains the wonderful juxtaposition of all the dumb Cosmo magazines that trickle in giving terrible love advice (read by the young people on the boat), and the intimate products the housekeepers find while cleaning and late night noises we hear from couples celebrating anniversaries!! Albeit the evidence is met with our communal “ewww’s”, how we all long for that capacity to love and the opportunity/commitment to share a life with someone else! Clearly our youth has yet to understand the advantages of our elders.

It’s a wonderful world!
Two days ago Andi and I got to hang out for over an hour. We happened to be in Petersburg and called each other and she had extra hours off. oh the wonderfulness of Cousin’s presence! Oh the goodness of catching up on news, life, activities, and loved ones! Oh the happiness of knowing about her travel plans to Uganda and my potential travels to Greece! Oh how I do love my Cousin!

We’ll be done with the Contessa in nine days. Nine days.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Week 8

This has immediately begun on a much better foot than last week. thank goodness. Turnday (Sunday) was rigorous as always, but lugging stores around and putting them away actually felt good on my body, as opposed to strenuously exhausting. Hattie and I still managed to work out too.
I also found out why last week was so hard internally: my days were a routine of hard work but no play, physical exercise but no mental challenge. Even writing this blog provides a wonderful opportunity to practice correct grammar, exercise my vocabulary, and remember how to write in an interesting manner. So I have picked up my next book: Journal of Solitude by May Sarton. It was lent to me by Mario when he was still here and he left it behind. It is written as journal entries with dates. Each entry is a reflection on the author's daily life linked to deeper connections of a questioning philosophical nature.

The days are getting a bit shorter. No longer can I enjoy the sunset after work. By then it is almost pitch dark at an early 8:30 pm. I wonder what it will be like later in the year. How will my general discomfort with winter fare in one of the coldest and darkest places of all?

Work life
The Contessa's season ends September 30th, on Papi's birthday. Hopefully I will get a break at that point before transferring to the Empress of the North. I shall join the Cousin! We shall ask for the same rotation! We shall work our little a-star-stars off and make buttloads of money! We shall save it all and then spend a juicy quantity traveling!

How could I have forgotten! Last week two incredible phenomena occurred on the same night. Tyler, the deckhand, woke me up at 1:45 am to inform me that the northern lights were visible from the stern. Thankfully my brain caught on quickly o the information he was giving. Sure enough, right outside the lounge windows were long waves of dancing green light, jumping up and sailing down in a seemingly random patter. Two strands barely touched yellow and red tones. On and on they played with each other, while the few of us who managed to get up quickly rubbed the sleep out of our eyes and marveled at the spectacle. On port side we could see the moon, which was undergoing a complete eclipse. We would hop around from one side to the other, trying to decide which one as cooler. The aurora Borealis faded into the horizon' glimmer at 2 am and only the moon's hide-and-seek game remained. I put myself to bed and left the curtain up so I could watch her disappear. The warmth of the soft blankets and the sight of a friendly light are much more comforting than imagined. I was asleep by th time she hid her face. Apparently the embarrassment caused it to be red.

Songs of the moment: Fortress by Pinback, Lay Lady LAdy by Magnet, Atom Song and Cherry Trapstick byThe Popular Butchers.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Week 7

Week 7 begins with the conclusion of a most relaxing week off. Flying to Spokane provided a great opportunity to visit with dear, dear friends, loved family, and run into some casual acquaintances. Oh to hang out with Jenn again! Oh the girls’ night out with all the lovely ladies whose friendship has lasted all four years of college! Oh the Auntie/Wuncle and Niecey hang out time! Oh the hours of running around doing errands to make up for the past six weeks of working! Oh the lot of new material goods I acquired while “resting!”
One unimportant piece of information I now posses: the right kind of skinny jeans aren’t as nightmarish as I had previously thought on my curvy derriere.
One important piece of information I now know: if one is supposedly over an ex-boyfriend, then gossip about him should not bother or intrigue one’s person.

I was indirectly scolded on the flight from Spokane to Seattle: while boarding, I was wearing sunglasses, tired, a bit under the weather by choice, and not fully awake. This meant I hit my head on the low ceiling above the seats. “#@$%” was uttered under my breath. On our way off, the steward told us the local time, temperature, and reminded us to watch our heads while getting off. “If you can’t watch your head then at least watch your tongue.” Great.
The flight from Seattle to Sitka had one very interesting element: all the flight attendants were male. And not just male, Alpha male. When does that ever happen?

I was happy to see everybody again, actually. Our tradition of calling each other “mama” is a cute one and it doesn’t work on anybody else. The first few days back were rewarded with a deluge of appreciation and thanks for doing such a thankless job in a cheery and friendly manner. “What?,” I said surprised, “what makes you think I’m cheery and friendly?” Apparently the guy who replaced me while gone didn’t handle it too well. He’s a PhD candidate. Funny how two of the most educated crew members are the ones performing the lowliest job. He felt humiliated. I feel humbled.
Hattie and I got serious about our physical health. I’m doing my best to follow an eating program based on the French diet. She is controlling her portions and counting calories to fulfill 2,000 daily. We work out together almost every day. We should be able to fulfill our goals of physical wellbeing by the end of the year. w00t.

After a week off, one would assume that I would return to work with fresh energy, closer to fulfilling my goals than before and therefore cheerful while washing a bagillion dishes. Think again. This is becoming tedious, monotonous, brain deadening, and just plain boring. There is little variation to the days; every week offers the same diversions with the exception of a change of faces with passengers I rarely interact with. I dislike always having my hair up and of course one strand will not fit into the 4,000 bobby pins and manages to tickle my face until I shove it under another pin in annoyance with a wet, gloved hand. I tire of the memorized dishwashing routine: dining ware, glasses, silverware, cooking ware.
The mamas are good to me though. If there’s cut up fruit leftover from the pax’s breakfast, they’ll give it to me for my bucket o’ breakfast. They’ll thank me, scratch my back, ask me if I want or need anything to drink, offer to help. There’s really nothing to complain about, other than my own boredom.

I got to see Cousin on Friday. Albeit short (again), we had enough time to do tours of each other’s boats. She couldn’t believe how small the Contessa is, the almost inexistent security measures, and how nice our rooms are. I couldn’t believe how enormous the galley is on the Empress (they have 6 dishwashers), the strict security, and the number of staff/crew. It was wonderful to see her though. We talked, hugged, tripped over each other’s sentences, and in a month we should be working together. Finally.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Week 5

Random Observations
After each day of cooking and washing dishes, the floor is mopped and the stainless steel wiped with Simple Green. The scent never fails to transport me back to Scott Kolbo’s printmaking class. Then I see etchings in eyes’ memory and think of the lines that characterize Jenn’s prints. It’s a refreshing memory at the end of a long and tiring day.
I’m finally able to listen to the Gotan Project without getting teary eyed, without a flood of memories attacking my brain, and with a sense of peace.

This has been a bad week for animal watching. We’ve only seen two pods of whales and both times they were feeding. Of course I was inside dealing with pots and pans and missed both times. Argh.
However, while in Katlian Bay, Elaine and I were able to get off the boat with the passengers and go on a hike with a guide through a forest with at least 5 ecosystems in it. We walked through rain forest, where the trees’ trunks began at least a foot above the ground, exposing all their roots. So much water can go through there that the ground basically raises. During the dryer months, the roots can be seen. We then passed a swamp area and all the tall dense trees disappeared and made way for scraggly pines and low growing grasses. The pH of the soil is too high for tall trees and the swamp is kind of frightening. One can be walking on what is seemingly wet mud and all of a sudden be completely submerged in it. Our six foot, four inches guide was once in the stuff above his head. Thank God for our trusty wooden boardwalk.
We came to a birdwatching house that facilitated observation of a large expanse of land. One could see the sea meeting the coastal lowland and the river in it, part of the rainforest, the pine forest, and the swamp. On our way back to the boat we passed the river’s entrance into the ocean. The normally green waters were almost black with what seemed huge bundles of seaweed. Looking closer the seaweed was moving rather strangely and salmon were jumping out of the water constantly. It turned out to be a huge conglomeration of salmon, adapting their bodies from the salt to the sweet water of the stream.

Finally got to see Cousin!! The Empress of the North docked in Petersburg the same day as the Contessa. By the time my boat got there though, Andi’s break was more than half over. I haven’t run so fast anywhere in a long time. Dodging slippery metal, puddles, and smiling tourists I ran up their gangway and managed to get a hold of her.
“COUSIN!!” we both said at the same time. Hugs. More hugs. It was the best half hour I have had in a long time. We talked about everything we possibly could in that
time; creating fast summaries and short versions of all the stories we just HAD to talk about. It was so refreshing.

Next week is my week off! I’ll be back in Spokompton/The ‘Kan/Spokentucky with everybody I know who is still there. Haircut and bubble tea are in order.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Week 4

Superb week for fauna! Wednesday we got to see about 10 humpback whales feeding. All of them swam around a school of krill, herding them into a giant group (or so our naturalist guide told all the passengers). About half stayed near the surface, breathing constantly and exhaling to create a ring of bubbles around the school. Then all of them dove down, one by one, giving us a glimpse of their beautifully graceful tails as they submerged into deeper water. We all waited around for about 5 minutes when all of a sudden, all of them shot through the water at the same time, mouths open and krill falling out of their huge mouths. It was incredible! Usually all we get to see are their tails and fins, their heads are so different from the rest of their bodies.
Today Friday we were in Glacier Bay all day and constantly stopping to look at wildlife. We saw two wolves on one beach. They are darker than any of us thought they would be, almost black. They were following a trail and disappeared into the woods. Later on we came across a grizzly bear with her three cubs in a stream. The cubs were learning how to fish, played in the water, batted and bit each other, while mama kept a lazy eye on them and meandered around the stream. The excitement came when we saw two wolves less than a kilometer away from the bear family, walking toward the stream. Mama bears are very protective of their young and we wondered at what would happen if the wolves had the guts to get that close. “fight, fight!”, some of us were cheering. God, we can be obnoxious. When the wolves were less than 500 mts away, they disappeared into the brush. So we watched the cubs play for almost a half hour.
Bald eagles are everywhere. Now I understand why they are the national bird of the USA. They are beautiful creatures! So majestic and proud. The colors of their feathers work well and you can pick them out anywhere by the white dot of their heads. I want to see one catch a fish right out of the water. I saw two of them fighting but I had no binoculars at the moment to catch the action.

City/Town life
Juneau and Petersburg are quickly becoming my favorite stops. Juneau is an actual city with plenty to do and see when we stop there. Of course time is a huge limiting factor which means we never have enough time to get what we need to get done AND sightsee. Either I use internet for a couple of hours and try to keep a feeble communication with people all over the world or I explore the city. Internet keeps winning.
Petersburg is just quaint. It is a fisher’s town and pretty much everybody is wearing the fisherman’s staple: brown rubber boots that reach your knee. I’m thinking of getting a pair and transforming them into a fashion item. Ha.
The town also has the best huckleberry ice cream in the world, made by an Alaskan family right there and then; a bookstore with a surprising selection; and it has the feeling of being comfortable.

Most common bumper sticker I’ve seen: Friends don’t let friends eat FARMED fish. Well then.

While Elaine was gone I became a bit closer to Hattie. She is the girl who is closest to my age and is very vivacious, practical minded, knows a lot about very different things (how to fix a dishwasher, how to make cornrows, all about fitness and nutrition…), and is fun to be around with. She’s become my dictionary for information about becoming fit and eating healthier. It’s great. I’ve managed to work out almost everyday for almost a week now.
Although I’ve said mostly good things about Mario on this blog, there is a lot more to him than I care to tell. Basically he can be an obnoxious asshole. He was dumb this week, did some dumb things, and was fired. Off the boat he went and I watched him walk up the gangway in Juneau. I felt relieved. The environment on the boat, especially in the galley during meal times has improved dramatically. And I’m comfortable in my own work area again.
We have a new sous chef. He’s from New Orleans, looks like a giant teddy bear, and cooks all this great southern food. The galley is such a better place to be in!

The boat has a tiny library where I’ve been perusing books. I’m almost done reading Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood by Rebecca Wells. I saw snippets of the movie and was told it was a good movie. It’s a great novel! Deals with the relationship between a mother and a daughter, the cause and effects of behavior and attitudes between the 3 generations, friendship between women and the tight bonds it creates…
Jenn was put in the paper because of her art! I am so proud of her, and so happy for the quick steps she has taken to advance her art after college. Her work was recently in a show in the Kress Gallery in Riverfront Square. Check out the article in Spokane 7:

R. has communicated. We shall see what happens because of it.

August 11th, 2007 - Saturday
I talked to my Momi! I talked to my Darris! It was wonderful. It was great. So much news to hear about, to discuss. I was in need of some news not only from Costa Rica but from the entire social circle. So much disconnection left me craving information and updates. And that is exactly what I got from conversing with my progenitors. I planted the idea of a trip to Chile some time for the end of this year or the beginning of the next.
Not all news is good new though. I was informed of an increased level of crime and theft in my city of San José. The neighbors are finally getting to know each other in an organized fashion to combat it in our neighborhood (about time they talked to each other on a more than just a wave-hello basis). I do not like hearing about the lack of safety in the day to day life and the apparent need to steal others property and hurt them in the process.
My sister Amy is still without a job. This is not good either.

August 12th, 2007 – Sunday
Turnday. T.I.R.E.D. we got so many groceries there was nowhere to put some of them. Lugging frozen, dead animals up three decks and finding room in a full freezer to store them in. Whoever said working in a galley was not physically challenging was an idiot. My arms are stronger, hands are tougher, shoulders can carry more weight. My body has finally stopped being constantly sore (although opening a water bottle has never been so painful when every ligament in your fingers hurts).
We got a new server for 2 weeks. He’ll be taking over while I’m on my break. His name is Joshua and is a dissertation away from becoming a doctor in theology. I can finally have intellectual conversations like the one I had in college! He couldn’t believe I knew who Teresa of Avila was or what a mystic was for that matter. We’ve been discussing and questioning the Christian faith and all its nuances. He considers himself an “Iconoclast Gnostic.” Within a day I could tell what his biggest flaw was: pride. Pride for being so educated, pride at what he had achieved even though his background made it almost impossible. Pride for pursuing higher ideas instead of worldly things. But he is knowledgeable and I’m glad a liberal arts education has facilitated me with the capacity to talk to him about these subjects.
“Is washing dishes as bad as I think it is?” asked Josh. “No,” I said, “it is hard work, it exerts the body in ways studying never can, and it teaches humility.”