The start of the journey….after clearing up and packing at home in Durban, South Africa, now comes the start of the Odyssey. Pre-contract as a seaman is always a time of mixed emotions as you clear up, put the car away in the garage, lock up the house and make the arrangements for another three month sojourn out into the blue. It’s the saying goodbye that always gets me. Working at sea you never get used to it – your life is an endless series of hello’s and goodbye’s.
I always say it’s a thousand mini-lives in a life. Each contract is like a new life – new people to work with, new surroundings, new experiences…it’s a crazy way to live – it’s like existing with multiple personalities. With family and friends living in Johannesburg, this is always my final leg in the pre-contract stage…do the goodbye thing, the farewell drinks and dinners and then; fly out of Oliver Tambo International to start the new life (Chapter 604).
Johannesburg is a bustling city – the financial hub of South Africa – fast and crazy with a pace all of its own. As an original Jo’burg boy I relate but even with that lifetime of conditioning, I still find after Durban – a smaller, more laid-back coastal city, it’s a bit of a culture shock coming here.
So, off to Sweden tomorrow, via London. The flight is never fun – flying coach (company policy) as a 6ft4 male is never fun! Actually, it’s a 16 hour living hell most times – all depends on whether I have to be fighting for the armrest or jerking out of the paradise of brief oblivion before someone (usually a kid) kicks me back into sleep deprivation and another movie….uuugh. Then there’s always the guy who has to have a loud conversation with anyone all night or the woman who has to crawl over you every 20 minutes to go to the toilet. Of course my knees are usually parallel to my chin as the hefty passenger in the seat in front decides to recline to the max…and then some! Yes, no wonder I arrive at my destination looking like a whole heap of donkey dung and in a mood that stinks. Fortunately, I do get a layover of one night in a reasonable hotel to rest my weary head and awaken with a far more sociably acceptable demeanour which is probably a good thing – my work requires it – 24/7 from the moment I get on the vessel….for 3 months…which would be that very day I wake after the layover.
So much for the glamour, hey? But all said, I still love it. I’m not sure what the hook is – think it’s about the people and the fantasy world of no responsibilites other than the job at hand. And the constant changes – no such thing as groundhog day working on a ship…weather, circumstances, guests, staff…it all is variable and that makes for the challenge, I guess. Another day in Paradise…well, always another day but definitely not always paradise…..
Until next entry, happy sailing…