Detours and Delays

The dark clouds that brought rain showers had been ominous. This has been quite a challenging cruise. Norwegian Epic left Port Canaveral on the 9th of February with high hopes of seeing Tortola, St. Thomas, and the private island Great Stirrup Cay in the Bahamas. For some reasons, everything went completely wrong.

Second Day

On our second day at sea, our captain made an unexpected announcement. This was a day after a small fire started in one area of the ship. Early on, we could sense that something was not right. We obviously slowed down. There was no storm, but the waves were splashing like crazy tossing our ship mercilessly from side to side. It was scary. The tension heightened when the captain broke the bad news. We cannot make it to the first port. There was a minor problem with the engine and we are cancelling Road Town. Instead of going to Tortola, we are heading for Puerto Rico to have the engine fixed.

Straight lines don't lead to your destiny all the time. (The Hanging Parasols of Puerto Rico)
The hanging parasols of San Juan, Puerto Rico

The many hours of waiting was a complete drag. We reached the port the following day, 7 o’clock at night. And in the terminal when we’re about to stop, the ship crashed into the pier. The incident left two big dents on the ship’s side.

Third Day

My friend and I waited patiently to go out. We rushed to the gangway once we’re told that crew members can now go for shore leave. Just an hour of strolling around, hoping to see something beautiful. We bought fridge magnets which has been a seafarer’s tradition. Collecting small pieces of mementos to remind us of memories made in foreign lands. I wish we stayed longer. I wish I was not IPM the next day. But then I only had that one special hour to spare. Who knows? Maybe next time we’ll come back here again.

We had to stay longer in Puerto Rico because the engine was not fixed yet. Because we started sailing late, the second port was also canceled. Goodbye St. Thomas! Welcome to two crazy days at sea before we arrive at the last and final port. GSC! Wait for us. You’re the only port the guests would see based on the original itinerary.

Fourth Day

Complaints were heard everywhere. Nasty words about the ship and the company were blatantly spoken. We can’t blame them. It’s supposed to be their holiday. Due to unforeseen turn of events, their plans were ruined.

It would have been so nice if we reach the private island in the Bahamas. It would have been some sort of consolation. We would have been given the chance to somehow control the damage, pacify the guests, and leave them with nothing but the best on the last day. Something they can take home with them. Something to coat the bad with the good in the end.

Fifth Day

To our dismay, the captain made another announcement. Although a lot of people already speculated that the last port will also be cancelled, we held on to that tiny piece of hope that we’ll make it. But I guess this cruise is just meant to be “epic.” Unfortunately, in a very frustrating way. To make things worse, we won’t arrive in Port Canaveral on time tomorrow. Instead of reaching the home port in the morning, we’ll arrive at approximately 8 in the evening.

The guests were fuming. And that’s quite understandable. This delay means cancelled flights, changes in schedules, and late returns to home. In an effort to lighten their agony, they were offered free flights to go home and huge discounts in their ship purchases including future cruises. They were given the option to stay for one more night if they wish to fly the next day. A lot of fun stuff were also happening just to keep them busy and entertained. Crew internet was shut down to keep the guests’ signal high and so they can easily go online.

Worse/ Glorious Day???

Two opposing reactions surfaced in this unlikely event. Others willingly accepted their fate and resigned to the idea that maybe this trip is not meant for them.  Instead of casting judgment, they would rather enjoy the moment. Some remained angry and chose to wallow in all the negativity. They look for people to blame. They won’t stop beefing.  

Here I am immersed in this series of unfortunate events that do not seem to end. I also had some plans for this cruise, but obviously they didn’t happen. Even the activities I wish to do the cruise after have to wait as we’re not even sure when we’ll sail again. I guess I won’t be able to go to Cayman Islands and swim with sting rays. Now I regret skipping the tour thinking we’ll go back there a few more times before my contract ends. Surprisingly, I don’t feel hysterical. I delight myself in the anticipation of other good things to come. Thank You I feel a little down, but You gave me the grace to stay calm.

Terrific Takeaways

This past week has taught me important lessons. In life, whether you’re on ships or not, detours and delays abound. Instead of looking at them as walls that prevent us from reaching our destination, they are meant to bridge the gap between where we are right now to where we want to go. And if we look with fresh and positive eyes, they can add colors to our adventures.

I have three terrific takeaways from this cruise. When threatened by delays and overwhelmed by detours consider these lessons.

Take

By this I mean to take things as they are rather than forcing them to change. Practice less if not zero resistance and learn to accept your current circumstance.  No matter how powerful we think we are, there are things we cannot control. it is always best practice to plan ahead of time. But keep in mind that there is still no guarantee it will roll out fine. We have little power on the outside but we can be the master of our insides. We can control our thoughts, our expectations and our reactions.  Acceptance of things and situation as they unfold no matter how bad they are and not as how we want them to be has its own reward. Acceptance gives us peace.

Thank

Now this one is harder than the first. Why give thanks when the waiting and disappointment caused by delays is unbearable? And the detours we come face to face lead to long and winding roads? It’s insane. But upon contemplation, one will realize that it is perhaps the most sensible thing to do. Because despite all the troubles, there are still so many things to be thankful for. If we have the right perspective, the good no matter how little can outweigh the giant bad. Also giving thanks kills the negativity in one’s system. If you’re grateful for things no matter how small they are, you find more and more things to be thankful for. You feel blessed. You become a magnet and attract more blessings. Before you know it, you’re up and happy again. Giving thanks gives us joy.

Think

This one is the most exciting of all. And with this, I encourage you to think not of your own thoughts but of His. For His thoughts are supreme and reigns over all. Thinking of His thoughts will lead us to trust Him more. To trust is not easy. It can be a little scary. It requires surrendering one’s plans and the humility to bow down. Think of all His thoughts and believe that wonderful things will come. Put your trust in the Master Creator who is busy orchestrating events, maneuvering every move, lining up the right people, and preparing the best surprise. Trusting requires “giving in” which may temporarily rob us of peace and joy but leave us with hope for brighter tomorrows.  

His Faultless Timing

I lie on my bed pondering about the things and events of this cruise and the last 12 weeks I spent on this ship. There were plans that didn’t happen and times when I failed. I think about places I’ve never seen, phone that didn’t ring, invitation I should have taken. All those kind words I should have said, questions left unanswered, help I could have offered. I reflect on “what ifs” and “could have beens” which made my “waiting” in certain areas of my life even longer. 

Yet despite all these I choose to stay on top of things by closing my eyes, feeling my heart and saying a short prayer. When anxiety attempts to wedge its way into my thoughts to create fear, the safest place to be is in His will. In God’s loving hands nothing gets wasted.  Even the pain brought by detours, delays, changes or staying in the same place. He knows what He’s doing.

Have you met your “ship” yet? That goes for the real ship you wish to board and the many other things you’ve been waiting and praying for. Don’t lose hope. You’re getting closer and closer.

Follow your dreams.

Jen

Kiriwina

After a 30-minute boat ride, we were finally off the tender that took us to the port. It was a Papua New Guinea cruise. I have very few memories of this country as we didn’t dock there often. The first time we went to PNG, I was sick and couldn’t get off the ship.

Beach in Kiriwina, Papua New Guinea

But there is one special place in Papua New Guinea that’s very close to my heart. I’ve only been here once yet my short stay gave me so many lessons worth remembering. The island was called Kiriwina.  

Girls on a Mission

We were carrying bags of used toys and other school materials. I even managed to squeeze in a box of chocolates, toiletries, and some clothes. They were heavy. My heart was excited, my hands numb. It was very hot with the royal sun shining so bright. We were welcomed by a thin old man wearing a long-sleeved top. He wore his tie that day. His shoes looked worn-out. It seemed like it’s a special occasion for them whenever a ship was docked. The old man was welcoming. He shook our hands and politely greeted us. His eyes told a story of a hard life. The smile on his lips told a grander version. That he fought hard. That he would never give up. I wish I remember his name. I wish I paid more attention to what he said.

It was a busy day. There were many guests all eager to see what beauty this island can offer. The locals were happy to see us. They were all smiling. We continued walking along the pontoon. The old man called a friend much younger than him. The young man helped us with our bags. He also became our guide.

When we finally reached the end of the pontoon and started walking on their land, we saw lines of people selling different kinds of stuffs. Most of them were hand-made souvenir items. They didn’t have tables to put their things on. Everything was displayed on mats lying idly on the ground.

Finding the School

There were fans, key chains, bags and many other pretty things carefully made by magical hands. For in adversity, creativity can thrive. These items were sold for a very cheap price. There were many children selling with their parents. They looked happy without much care about tomorrow or what the future holds.  

After passing through their mini-market, we finally reached the school, the reason why my friend and I went out. We saw more children inside. There were many of them because it was their break time. They were playing games outside their classrooms. The noise they made was more amusing than annoying.

Then we went to see the school principal. We were led to a tiny room that served as her office. Her name was Teacher Fiona. She was thankful for the gifts we brought. They’re not too much. Most of them were old toys from the Kids Club where my friend and I both worked. Teacher Fiona was very glad to see us. She was one of the locals. She had to leave some years before and go to the city to study. When she finished school and finally got a degree, she decided to come back to teach. To generously shared what she learned.

Teacher Fiona in Her Classroom

Teacher Fiona showed us the other rooms. They were similar to what we have in public schools in the Philippines. There was the green board that one can write on with chalks. There were charts on the walls for the children to remember the lessons. There were other decors scattered to brighten up the room and I guess lift up the students’ moods. And there were those desks. Those long ones where my classmates and I used to sit on. It’s usually just for two people. Although three can fit if the place was crowded. I remember cleaning them with a special leaf called “pakiling.” We scrubbed those old and dirty desks so hard to give them a new look. After a few minutes of cleaning, those desks transformed.

Classroom in Kiriwina, PNG
The Classroom

We said goodbye to Teacher Fiona and the other kids we met. Before we left they gave us colorful fans to show appreciation for the gifts we gave. My friend promised to go back and see them again. As for me, there was no more chance left because I was about to go home.

Native fan in front of a cruise ship in Kiriwina
The Gift

Dreamy Distraction

Since we still had some time to spare, we decided to go for a walk and see the beach. We had no plans of swimming that day, so we didn’t bring our swimmers. And then something happened. We saw the water. And we didn’t expect to see something really amazing. We stood from afar, but we can see how lovely it was. Then we sat in a small cottage and debated whether to just look or go for a quick swim.  A mom who happened to be a guest saw us and offered her sun screen. Without thinking twice we took and thanked her. It was really hot that day and the beach was calling. Oh it was calling so hard we couldn’t afford to ignore its screams.

And so we made a silly choice. We took off our clothes and left only our undies. We ran straight to the beach and went skinny dipping. It felt so good. The water was a good mix of cold and warm. It was very clear and you can see what’s down under. It soothed our skin, refreshed our spirits and slowly took our worries away.

The Boy and His Boat

Then we met a young boy. He was riding his boat and his hands were tightly holding a big paddle. His name was Amos. He offered us a ride in exchange for 10 dollars. My friend and I both agreed. Soon enough we were out there farther into the open sea, entrusting our lives into the hands of a captain we just met and who happened to be just twelve. We took pictures while the young boy told us stories. Simple stories of a teen-aged boy who had to work at an early age to help his family.

A young boy in a boat from Kiriwina
Amos’s Boat

We went farther and farther. The water got deeper and deeper. My friend and I took turns in paddling to help Amos move the boat. The paddle can no longer reach the bottom. We were away from everybody, with just water surrounding us completely. I felt fear gradually creeping into my body. But the clarity of the water distracted me. When I looked down, I saw my reflection in the sea. I knew I was happy. Happier than scared. Less worried and more excited. Thankful for the gift to be in that place I never even knew existed. Grateful to be with friends. Awakened by the heat. Calmed by the gentle touch of the wind. Inspired by the waves and everything around me that quietly spoke of peace.

When our time there was up, we slowly started paddling back. We went around a big rock to see what’s on its other side. We went to the shallow part of the beach and got off the boat. We stood in the water that was high above our waists. We can clearly see our legs and feet as they played and made fancy movements. Amos left to buy us some coconuts to eat. My friend and I transformed into fish. We danced with the water and chased the small waves.

Feet under the clear water of Kiriwina's beach
Happy Feet

Amos came back with some coconuts. We drank the sweet juice and ate its flesh for lunch. We almost forgot we were hungry. We were overwhelmed by Kiriwina’s unexplored beauty.    

Coconuts from Kiriwina
Coconuts for Lunch

Press On

It felt so long ago. But whenever I would see our pictures it seems as if time doesn’t really matter and it just happened yesterday. In my head everything still looks real. And I can still feel the love we gave and the love we received that day. We went there to give gifts. But in the end, we were the ones greatly rewarded. Not with material things. But with a humbling experience brought by witnessing how others live the simplest lives and work so hard to make both ends meet.

We may always complain about life’s smallest nuances, yet in the end we are still blessed in so many ways. May I always remember this day, this place and all the kind people we met. When troubled by many and trials don’t end, may I look back at this experience and not forget.  To feel greatly blessed. To not get discouraged. To always give thanks.

If you find yourself losing battles take a step back, breathe and take time to think. Do not be tempted to whine or feel sorry for yourself. You are not alone in your struggles. On another side of the world, people are fighting their own battles, too. Their problems can be bigger than yours. But they don’t lose hope. They press on even when winning is uncertain. They just keep trying and believing. We should do the same.

Follow your dreams.

Jen

Fiordlands

Isaiah 60:22 in Fiordlands

New Zealand is one of my favorite countries in the world. All because of one enchanting place it boasts. Never mind the three rocky sea days when we leave from Brisbane. And of course, the three-hour time difference. Sadly, I’ve only been here twice. And although it was 6 years ago when I first witnessed its beauty, instantly I fell in love. The strange thing is we never even docked here. It was only scenic cruising. We only looked but never stopped. But time seemed to stand still as I gazed around me in wonder.

Fiordlands is one of the most dramatic and breathtaking parts of New Zealand. It has achieved a World Heritage Status for its stunning natural features. Fiordlands is the country’s largest national park and is home to the beautiful Milford, Dusky, and Doubtful Sounds. I first came here in 2012 while I was aboard Pacific Dawn. I was still with P&O cruises.

Whenever the ship would pass through this magical place, everyone on board (passengers and crew members including the night workers) will wake up really early and rush to the top deck. We are all eager to find a good spot. I would wear my gloves and put on my jacket and bonnet to protect me from cold. Yes!!! It’s extremely cold for someone like me who is used to the scorching heat of the sun of the tropics. And despite the many layers of clothing I would wear, I’d still feel vulnerable with the chilly air piercing my bones.

But then I wouldn’t mind freezing for a few minutes even for hours in exchange for a magnificent view that never fails to leave me in awe. Like an excited child, I would marvel at the snow-capped mountains that seem to cast a spell. I would see gigantic waterfalls that seem to glitter from where I stand. I would watch some really lucky people kayaking the luminescent and calm waters with dolphins that seem to jump with joy. Truly, it’s a sight to behold. And everyone around me is overwhelmed with joy, happily soaking in the beauty and basking in the glory of Your wonderful creations.

Thank You Lord Jesus for the special gift to travel places I never thought I would see. I will forever be thankful for everything You’ve shown me.    

If you are reading this, I pray that your eyes too will see all the wonderful things I’ve seen. Hopefully even more.

Follow your dreams.

Jen

Endings and Beginnings

A few days ago the whole world rejoiced as we celebrated New Year. We said goodbye to 2018 and welcomed 2019.

Remembering Home

Back in the Philippines, my family was very busy cooking and preparing food for Media Noche.  As a tradition, they bought round fruits from the market. Yes!!! They have to be round because they symbolize money. 12 different kinds mean overflowing abundance and blessings for the 12 months of the year.

They also bought fireworks. Fireworks and firecrackers that certainly brought those deafening sounds. Loud noise to drive away the bad spirits and the unpleasant memories of last year. And they leave stains on the sky, too. But these stains are the most beautiful of all. For in the darkness of the night, one is often reminded of the joy and hope that a new year brings. Another chance to start again.

Me on the Ship

On the ship I prepared myself for a night of solitude. I was scheduled to work until 1 in the morning, an hour past midnight.  It’s the first time that I missed the New Year’s Eve Party on the cruise. Whenever I’m on the ship I look forward to joining the big crowd for that New Year countdown. It always helps me get by. It makes me feel I’m a part of a family. A surrogate family to spend new year with while I’m away from the people whom I truly love.

My co-worker friend stayed with me until I finished my shift. She thought I needed help. Surprisingly, it got busy as the teens kept coming to our party. Usually they would go out and join the parties outside. 

As expected, the ship rocked and shone bright at sea while we sail for Tortola. The next day, I marked my new calendar. We stopped in a port. We were in British Virgin Islands.

New Year celebration is a grand event on ships. There are parties everywhere – inside the clubs, theaters, atrium and even on the open decks. Everyone is busy and in high spirits. That goes both for the crew and the guests. As I’m surrounded by friends and strangers, I feel less home sick. Maybe because I am highly distracted. Good distraction I must say because I think less of being far from home. I’m less burdened by sad thoughts. I don’t feel alone.

A Different New Year

The coming of 2019 was quite different. It has been the quietest New Year’s Eve I’ve ever spent on ships. And it went quick, too. As soon as our teen party started at 11 at night, everything went fast. I lost track of time. It was only this one teen-aged girl we had (who was doing her own countdown while filming herself most likely for Snapchat ) who reminded me the new year has officially come.

I felt peace. In the quietness of my heart a short prayer was uttered. A sweet and sincere prayer of thanks. As I look back, I know how blessed and loved I am. Exactly one year ago, I was confused and didn’t know what to do. Primarily because Mama got sick. But many things happened along the way and it’s been quite a journey since then. It’s not necessarily easy but I found gems in all the struggles I met in the last 365 golden days. I learned lessons I would not have learned if I didn’t go through all those tests. There were many unpleasant memories but there were also beautiful surprises that far outweigh the hurt and the confusion I felt.

Goodbye 2018!!! You’ve been so good to me. Thank you for missed opportunities that lead to unexpected bliss. Thank you for all lessons learned amidst the struggles. Thank you for families and friends, those who left and those who stayed. Thank you for all the blessings, the love I gave and received.

Welcome 2019

2019 is already here and I promise to change even more for the better. Resolutions are boring and frustrating. They are meant to be broken. That’s what others think. One is off to a good start and at some point, one goes downhill from there. But I will keep trying until I succeed. I will stay committed, feed my focus and ignore things that matter less. Hopefully when December ends, I will look back with a sweet smile on my face having achieved everything I wanted.

So for the next 365 days I promise to always be true to myself. I will enjoy being weird and be proud to be different. I will watch what I eat and look after my health. I will be more loving and less judging. I will always be ready to help. I will make more friends. I will smile to people I know and people I don’t. I will listen to others talk but also use my own voice. I will do more and complain less. I will give cheerfully and ask boldly. I’ll make more time for family. I won’t be afraid to make mistakes. I will forgive others and I will forgive myself. I’ll dream more dreams and make them real. I’ll write those books and give those talks. I will earn big, so I can share. Even when it’s hard, I won’t stop loving. I will always be inspired by Your love. Because Your love is far and wide.  I will feel it and bask under it for the next 365 days and beyond.

I welcome another year and can’t wait for all the goodness it will bring. Cheers to a happy ending and a new beginning.

Follow your dreams.

Jen

Christmas at Sea

It’s Christmas day today. We’re in Falmouth, Jamaica. In the Philippines and other parts of the world Christmas is finished. Still festive spirit is in the air. It’s the most wonderful time of the year. On ships, it’s the merriest and the busiest day of all.  

7 years ago, in this same month I started my career at sea. I joined Pacific Dawn, my very first ship. I remember the scene at the airport just before I left. I was excited to venture into a whole new experience. At the same time, I was nervous having to leave my family behind. But I was determined to do it despite the uncertainty of things to come. I just know that I owe myself to try.

And so I took that flight that brought me to the beautiful land down under. “Australia, here I come!” 

Christmas Down Under

I remember the cold that welcomed me the moment I was out of the airport. It gave me chill that reached the insides of my bones. I felt uneasy. But the moment I saw a glimpse of my ship, I felt safe.

I took my bag out of the shuttle and started pushing it. It was heavy. The people who were travelling with me helped me lift it. The bag was full of clothes, shoes, books, toiletries, electronics and some other important and not so important things. That’s my life in 6 months. My llife in a bag carefully and lovingly packed.

That month of December was probably the hardest month of my ship life. It was the first and I had to learn a lot. It’s not just the job that I had to study but the whole ship itself. I had to learn to properly deal with cruising children and their families. I had to learn to work and live harmoniously with the other workers on the ship who came from different places and countries.

I remember that first Christmas on board when despite the celebration I had to work. I cried quietly as I remember my family and the things we do on Christmas eve. I thought of the merry-making, Pinoy food and giving of gifts. Truly, nothing beats Christmas at home.

I had 5 more Christmases on ships. As the years went by, I found myself gaining more control of what I feel. I cried a little less. I smiled at strangers and laughed more with new found friends. Sometimes I ask myself, “Did I just get used to this?” Well partly maybe. But as a whole I think it’s also me growing up.

Christmas Last Year

Christmas last year was different and so was the New Year a week after. After many years of working on holidays at sea I was home with friends and family.

We had so many plans then but they didn’t happen. Sometimes life just surprises us in times when we least expect it. Sometimes we don’t want the surprise it carries. We found out Mama was sick. We wanted her to rest. Plus we had to budget our money because her medical bills were expensive.

And so my very first Christmas at home after being away for a long time didn’t turn out as how we originally planned. No extravagant gifts. No out of town vacation. We celebrated simply. There were sad thoughts in my head but there was joy in my heart. We had the same wish. We prayed for the same thing. And that’s for Mama to get healed.

Christmas in 2018

Now another Christmas is here and guess what??? I’m back on the ship again. Away from friends and family, people who are dear to me. Normally I would feel sad and quietly I would cry. But today my heart overflows with joy. I’ve learned to be more grateful. For all the blessings I receive every single day. For all the help generously offered and given. For this job I have which I’ve learned to love. For Mama getting better.For many wishes granted and many more to make. For old dreams coming to pass and exciting new ones to chase.

Thank You Lord Jesus for the gift of Christmas. Thank You for giving us Yourself which is the greatest gift we’ll ever receive. Thank You also for the many Christmases at sea where You never failed to make me feel how much You love me. I’ve learned a lot since that one fateful day of December when I left with a broken heart. As promised, You’ve healed my wounds when Papa left for good. Now that Mama is sick, we worry less. We know you’re in charge of everything. We trust that in the end everything will be okay.

Thank You also for taking me to ships. Here, You’ve changed me and You’ve pruned me. Now I’m better, wiser, and stronger. Wandering around the world but never lost. For I know where home is. Home is You and You alone.

Follow your dreams.

Jen

Before November Ends

7 months ago, we were in the same place. Saying our prayers. Remembering the dead.

It has become a sacred ritual since I started working on ships. It’s a special family affair. Before I leave, we visit to say goodbye. And when I go home, we go back to tell him of my adventures.

I heard from somebody before that dreams also take time to grow. They have what they call a “gestation period.” They don’t happen in an instant. They have to be nurtured. Today I remembered a dream I once dreamt as a child. A dream that 6 months ago came to life.

As a young girl I always dreamed of going to the US. And although it’s common for many young girls to wish for chocolates and Disneyland, my heart ached for something else. I just wanted to see my dad. Papa left when my sister and I were little. And we miss him terribly. We both wanted to see him again.

When he passed away in 2009, my dream also died. I never wanted to go the States anymore. I thought it was pointless when the only reason I wanted to go there was gone. The pain was unbearable. I wanted to run away from it. I wanted to run away to heal and forget. I wanted to go anywhere but the US.

And so I was brought to the land down under. It was December of 2011 when I first landed in Sydney. I was in time for the Christmas season, the busiest month of all.  In Australia I met my very first ship, the Pacific Dawn. Next to the Philippines, Australia has been a home for almost 6 years. I loved it and it loved me back. But after too many contracts and with Mama being sick, I decided to leave.

I thought ship life was over. That’s it for me. But after some months of thinking I realized I still need to do it. I must admit I began to miss it too. The sea was calling and it’s screaming so hard and wanting so badly to be heard.

I headed for the US April 7 of 2018. Then 2 days after, I board my new ship, the Norwegian Escape. I was reminded of Papa and our dreams together.

I remember phone calls I wished never ended. I remember sending hand-written letters my sister and I carefully constructed knowing they will be meticulously checked, and snail mailed back with red marks and circles of a teacher patiently correcting our mistakes. I remember receiving big boxes full of goodies, mostly chocolates and CDs that back then made two teen-aged girls hearts’ leap. I remember stories about beautiful parks and winter. I remember a long-distance love of a father.

They say that families are like branches on a tree. We grow in different directions, yet our roots remain as one. And to this I will add, it doesn’t matter whether you’re at sea or on land.

If you plan to work on ships, take the journey with your family. Don’t just leave them behind. Take their love with you because it makes you strong wherever you go. In a crazy ship world that’s full of noises, make sure their loving words is what you’ll hear the loudest.

Thanks Papa!!! Life has been amazing in a strange, funny, scary and glorious way. Smile up there for nothing loved is lost and forgotten.

Follow your dreams.

Jen

From the Stars

Dream big

The Final Test

I was lying on the water. I was trying to focus so hard. Very clearly, I can hear my breathing. I can feel some tears rolling down my face.

“Hinga, pigil, labas sa bibig. Hinga, pigil, labas sa bibig.” I said it repeatedly to myself. It sounded like a prayer.

And indeed, it was. In fact, it was one of the simplest yet sweetest and most sincere prayer my lips have ever uttered. Because that prayer came from a hungry heart. A heart that’s so eager to win.

As I said the words I became less and less doubtful. The fear I had slowly turned into hope. Inside my head I began to draw beautiful pictures. Of me giving my family a better life. Of me seeing what the other side of the world looks like. And lastly, of me healing the wounds that Papa left when he died.

Then something magical happened. I felt myself getting light. So light that I didn’t sink. I finally floated.

This was me in 2011 when I took my basic training in Tanza, Cavite. I needed to pass it to get a seaman’s book. That’s my ticket to a dream. A dream to work at sea.

Now you might be thinking, there’s nothing special about this story. Well I must tell you that I’ve always been afraid of the water. Up to now despite all the amazing beaches I have visited, I still don’t how to swim.

So  how did that happen? Inside me was a burning desire to sail away.

Desidere

De sidere is a Latin word meaning “from the stars.” This is where the word desire was taken from. Desire is not just a want. It’s something bigger and more powerful than that.

It’s a yearning or a craving. It’s an emotion directed toward a possession of an object or an attainment of a dream. A dream which comes from the stars. Or to others, which is also what I believe, a dream that comes from God.

Now I’ll ask you. Why do you want to work on ships? I think to know the answer to this is far more important than knowing how you can work on ships. Your answer to this will determine the course of your journey. A journey that’s not so easy to take.

People think that cruise ship workers live a charmed life. Thanks to all the amazing travel photos. Also the dollars we bring when we go home. But that is just one part of a much bigger picture. They’re only seeing the happy, exciting and colorful part.

Your ship journey will start not when you join the ship. It starts way before. The minute you decide you want to do this. The moment you awaken your dream.

It starts when you make your resume and wake up really early to go to an agency. Never mind if you have to brave through the heavy traffic and get squished like sardines inside MRT.

It’s walking under the scorching heat of the sun. And waiting on very long lines.

It’s when you hear a no from the recruitment staff or got turned away by the guard. Rejections abound here and there but you try again and again.

It’s when you’re tired from work but you choose to stay. You need further experience and expertise. You need money to pay for your family’s needs.

It’s when you run low on budget, so you grab every opportunity to earn and save. It’s for photocopies, pictures, travel fares, training, and certificates.

It’s when you go for an interview and you fail. Or when you go for your medical and you find out something’s wrong, so you have to do it again.

It’s when others say you don’t have what it takes but you refuse to listen. You find ways to better yourself. You keep chasing your dream. You keep believing.

It’s waiting for days, weeks, months, sometimes even years.

And yes it’s learning to float even when you don’t know how to swim.

These are just a few of the many sacrifices you have to make. And believe me  there are many more to come once you’re on the ship.  So it’s important to know why you are doing this in the first place.  If you’re unsure you will just throw the dream away.

What’s Your Why?

I want to travel the world and see beautiful places while earning more money to shape a better future for my family.” That was my answer to the fleet manager who after looking at my credentials seemed puzzled to see me in his office.

He asked again. I had to sound more convincing. I added that the thought of travelling to different countries is really exciting and as a teacher I don’t get paid enough.

These were the last minutes of my final interview. I was feeling nervous, but I made myself believe that I would get the job. True enough I was hired.

I told my interviewer I want to travel, see beautiful places and earn money. Well partly true. I didn’t tell all.

I didn’t tell him Papa died and I was really hurting inside. I didn’t tell him I was lost and couldn’t understand. I didn’t tell him I was looking for a place so I can heal and forget. I didn’t tell him I was trying to help myself.

And these reasons, I believe, have given me the job.

Now it’s your turn. Pretend that you’re up for an interview. I’ll ask you the same question I was asked before. Why do you want to work at sea?

Make it powerful and emotional. They say we make our decision based on emotion not logic. We decide and then we justify it.

What is your hunger? Don’t make it shallow. Make it deep and wide. Something that you will think about every day and every night. Something that will make you carry on when the others have given up.

So what’s your reason? What’s your big, powerful, emotional why? Tell it to yourself (not to me or to your interviewer) and be honest. It’s your answer that will get you through the tides.

As the good book says, “You have to be clear with what you want. It is only with clarity of purpose that you’ll have the courage to ask, to seek, and to knock (Matthew 7:7).”

Follow your dreams.

Jen