Saturday, 30 April 2016

Cruise 3.1 German Waterways, part I. The murky waters.

Sitno >>233<<

I panicked there for a second, because I couldn't remember if I've posted the full page of my shipping memoirs on the blog yesterday, or did I remember to skip the fuck story I wrote for myself?.... (Don't judge - I won't see my husband naked until winter and the only porn I get is listening to the porn music they play in the background of the cruise DVDs ...) But I didn't. Phew. I got the free wifi sitting on a window sill of an Apple store just like any other seaman, but the iPad is so shocked it's finally online, it keeps getting stuck. So it was a bit of an impromptu post. Tried to find out how to tame the white ballance on the Mark, but as far as I can tell, the problem isn't in my white balance being orange balance, it's the studio's pre-set templates that only wish to be adorned with Nikon stuff. It's been recommended that if I plan to linger for a few contracts, investing into a Nikon might be a good idea. Not as a replacement, just as an alternative. Both are great, Nikon is better for the cruises. And a nice good fat reportage lens. Should I decide to linger. Right.
Anyway. Wrote a poem.

There is a dark fire within me
I have a burning darkness within
There is an ocean and a sinking island
Too quick the world won't be where I've been

There is a body with the heart void
There is a beating cavern within
I use it to store my whispers and secrets
And letters and ashes I feed to the wind

There's a red line down my arm
I hide my red hand in a fist
I've buried the glass in the sand of my gardens
And the rest won't be missed.

.. No, it isn't at all about murdering my instructor and stealing his gear, honest. I would never do that :D
On a more important note, I cannot seem to last until thursdays for off days - for some reason the world just wants to feed me goodies on wednesdays. It was a wednesday last night, wasn't it? By a freak coincidence I sampled - not gorged on, trully just sampled: rice pudding with coconut, caramel ice-cream, papaya hemisphere, tiny flan, a small strawberry rollade, and a little bit of brokoli lasagna and cranberry juice.

Sitno >>232<< or >>231<<, not sure, though probably >>232<<... Or it's >>231<<

These are LONG days. I am lucky if I get six hours of sleep, mostly because in the eve/early night I am too awake to force myself to clock out and the mornings start early. And there is always something. Yesterday I had to stay on ship again, because it was an hour's drive to the city and I would have to give my firstborn or a really good head or something to get in on the good tours, whereas the less good ones I am usually supposed to be doing something, like shooting gangway or chasing clients. None of the bookings panned out, financially, and I am yet to shoot a single one, though by now the lesson has gotten so pointless, boring and unimpressive, not even the Seascape expert extraordinare has any will to live left. Alas, he's paid good money for this, so he has to at least pretend. Like with most Slavs, when the weary kicks in, charm and humor are the first to go. I no longer care at all if I shoot anything or not, I just want to put the 'second formal' behind me. I've a shoot at 15:00 and another one at 17:00, maybe, and there are two more at six and seven, and at five thirty the sittings for the second formal evening begin and then the restaurant shots, once, twice, and am not sure about the gallery. I may just keel over when all that's done. The Seascape maestro is leaving us tomorrow. He was a good mentor, me thinks, at least in the beginning. Taught a lot. Also cheered us all up, for a few days at least ... It would have remained depressing until one of us quit or something. At least for as long as he was here, I wasn't treated like a dog.

They trained us, in school for cops, to inspire your employees to be able to take off the badge and become a civilian at the day's end, because for cops and the 'hero' kind of professions it is not possible until it becomes a problem and you start to drink or worse. I don't want to lose myself to all the thank yous and the smiles and the jolly goods and the how are yous, I'm grant!... I still want to be me. But once I put on something, some token or an item - my name tag in this case - I become an actress. My own self is locked safely away. We had diner with the Seascape guy, and by this I mean we had a break at the same time, ran up, ate in a hurry and ran back to work, so I asked him all sorts of personal questions and now know almost all there is to know about a man to know wher he'll end up. That was me asking and he was answering like a person would answer, not someone wearing a name tag. He said I come off like a preacher, someone you confess to, someone you just tell anything. I know he never saw Firefly. I know where a small bullet went through him when his army was bothering Kosovo. I know he believes in God and prayscto God to do the dirty work for him. I know why he is sad. I know that if he doesn't stop fucking around and hiding on ships - because life for you stands still when you're on a ship, like some odd spell - and stops dating women too young to hurt him and start making babies, he will end up alone. I told him as much. I doubt he listened. I was the same after divorce, but I got lucky with the hand dealt next.

Yestereve was old British queen's BD celebration and everyone dressed up in flag colours and sang hymns to Britain eternal, bless their naive little hearts, and they actually posed properly. Unlike the morning gangway, which was a fucking nightmare, NOBODY stopping. Today's majestic photoshoots should be fun, what with fog so dense Odin must be sleeping and the sea a colour of forgotten stuff. 

It's midday now, we have an Await orders Team class - what our duties are and what general duties even for us are, like Code Papa, which is a bomb search or a pirate invasion. (Not the fun kind, the Somali kind.) Beforehand I was in the gallery and tried to shuffle the shoot dates. Nobody cares anymore. 

I learned, though, that the ship can and will fire you if you insult a passanger, but that doesn't mean really insult them, like calling them a bad word to their face or somesuch, but sully their ears by uttering a curse word, even just by yourself (say, dropping a pen and saying Shit!.. Or hitting your toe and crying: Fuck me!...) if someone complains you were unlady like, you're gone. This goes also for applying humor that flies above them: saying something like: oooh, I love your silly little outfit, it's almost tasteful!... (When they're wearing something, like, say, english flag bunny years or something in sequins...) Or someone says something almost funny and you say something almost funny and they say something almost funny and you say something back and the next thing you know, you're packing - because although it was just a pleasant little banter, you somehow gave them reason to make their day by reporting you. You can never know what it's gonna be. I am almost certain that if I am fired from a ship, it will be for saying something wrong, something completely and utterly ridiculous. My favorite are the guests who don't want to buy anything, but want to tell you why that is, example: I would buy it, but that man who's behind me on the photo is funny looking... Or: I would like you to crop this part of the photo, but, oh, no, then the composition and qualities won't be good anymore, will they? That's a shame, I quite like it otherwise?
Mrs, the compositing and the quality of the photo once the size of what you got wouldn't improve if you painted Mona Lisa over it, so let's not get too technical.
I tried to compliment a man on his large wristwatch and said it looks good but only on a large man and he took it as an insult to his weight.
I'll get fired for thinking maroon is the same as brown. Mark my word. 

Any moment now the coffee will kick in and I will be up.
Any moment now the coffee will kick in and I will be able to be up... Gotsta run to the top of the ship where the piano is. Dunno why, doesn't matter. It's only 8 stories. Then the shoot. Then another shoot. Then formal, restaurant, formal, restaurant and then probably editing. It'll be two before I'm done. Seascape character is only here for one more night. That sounded a lot dirtier than I wanted to make it sound - fact it, after he leaves, we'll have to do all the editing for these pointless photos ourselves. Unlike him, who obvioustly confused this ship of 89% returning retired customers (for some it is the twentyseventh fucking cruise) for a perky carribean luxury liner, where people care you just spent the whole night replacing the background of gray shipping containers with an azure ocean as much as they care about last year's snow.

Which is what I will be doing tonight. But I don't know how. I am too slow with a Mac to edit seventy photos. I would have problems editing five. I've not the ambition to edit one. 
Thing is, with these shoots, I feel fake, I feel forced, I feel uninspired. That's okay. I am not paid for my skill, I am not paid at all. I just need to get faster and just learn by heart the settings and the poses - and to wear trousers - because it is what the company desires and, so we've been told, the customers expect. It just really isn't connecting. It has been a long time since I did something completely without the heart involved. And never to do something so without a heart and know I'll be doing this until I return to land..

Eh, my not-so-angel
Gabriel, I've no wish to
Take your glass eye.

Haikus aside, I reckon the fastest way to learn what is expected of me is to just the exact opposite of what my heart tells me. I am constantly reminded that the lack of quality in my work is utterly frustrating to SLSB, but the photos he prints out for the clients I would not show to another human being if my life depended on it. 'Course people eat them up. As they're glossy.

Sitno >>230<<

The dickbags collective forgot me again and so after six hours of service, I spent another better part of an hour just standing behind the counter, feeling stupid. It's not that they're mean, they just don't give a fuck enough to remember I exist. The whole Seascape chapter was a sham, it went so badly neither of us will want to book a single session ever again, and the Seascape character left the ship as fast as his feet would carry him; didn't bother to say goodbye. If we do meet target, it will be a miracle... Or so I'm told, although I think my superior, SLSB just really likes to come off as a tortured soul, slaving and giving life and limb each cruise to meet the required quota...  That way in the end he takes all the credit for suceeding. Unless he fails, in which case it's probably my fault for being an bad at everything, something I hear every day. I am improving too slowly and he is very upset for being forced to work with someone who clearly lied about doing photography before. Every day. 

The most fun part of SLSB, though also the most tragic, is watching him try and get it on with the ladies. Where I am from, the people from his country are the ones you see by the highways, carrying their possessions in plastic bags, looking for seasonal work and hustling cheap watches and hobby equipment. I know it's not his fault he is the size of a foot stool, but since he is cruel to me, I can watch him and enjoy. There are many pretty ladies working on this ship. He tries the 'friendly' approach, tried the 'naughty' approach, tries the flirty playful thing, little pinch here, little tug there, a squeaky laughter on his own joke if else fails ... Oh, how the lovely ladies tolerate him, their smiles kind, suspecting he's never satisfied a woman in bed. Not for his long eyelashes nor for his mouth is he desirable, certainly not for a butt the size of a single coconut. And definitely not for the aloof air of 'I am better than you are all here, without me you are all would fail..' His quickidy step in pointy formal shoes is not the least bit confident or erotic, his dismissive way of speaking to everyone is the least bit appealing. He's been here for far too long and still he is a complete nobody. But what throws him the worst is a presence of an alpha - the moment a bigger, handsomer or a more sucessful man appears beside him, he turns into an eager lap dog. The moment a higher rank closes in, he is the instant obedient servant, chauvinistic in an attempt to bond and resentfull in seeing that when a better man could have the pretty ladies and choses not to for there are better things to do with women than look at them as prize.. How difficult the women are, eh? How difficult the guests, the everyone else... I write this on a back of a void receipt. I would never bother to hide such writing from him, for he is not the kind to ever read a sentence longer than five words if it isn't about making him money. Sad little pigeon in the rain. And I apologise to pigeons.

We sailed well up Seine, though it's raining and it isn't as glamorous as it could be. So far I've seen two cities, two towns and four docks... Okay, so that's not quite so bad for a fortnight... Can't believe it's only been 14 days... It feels soooo much longer.

Biiiiiitch it's cold. The gangway gates were wide open for the day and the nine degrees above freezing just crept in until I had to put my stockings on for the first time. My shoes are now too big. No matter. I mostly just stand, do my Kegels and smile for the costumers. Ate a couple of small sweets today,p. We went out at night and I knew I'll need them to keep warm. Also think I may have gotten some fungi on one of my feet. Great. Just what I needed. More feet problems. 

Sitno >>229<<

Went out today (slept oddly, kept waking up to different songs, having confused, patched dreams of  real memories, only in odd context), first washed me socks, then went out and walked around the town from nine till two. Along the river, where Statue of Liberty was put on a boat and shipped to US; around some massive churckes and chatedrals, crazed as the French are about them; around a medieval looking downtown, preserved in it's pretty colours and forms; by some newer buidlings and a Sunday flea market. (Ye, is Sunday. G's off to lunch with his mum and da. Da had BDay.) It rained twice while I was out. The city reminds me too much of dead little girls - first of all every street is pronounced Rue and that's a killed little girl from Hunger Games and second, they really do feel bad about burning that poor schitzofrenic teenager on a stake, so now you can actually find the tower where she was kept and tortured, there's a Joan d'Arc avenue and there is an odd, very ugly and terrible looking church where she was executed. Made me, cry, looking a statue of her burning, her face mythically turned to God in serenity. Fucking hell. This world needs to stop killing little girls. 

Was thinking, what I really need, besides a coffee and a brownie, is something to meet my camera and my iPad and some very basic photoShop to just edit some cropping shit and then post some of this sightseeing material on the blog alonside the babble. I am fairly certain there has been a connector invented by now. Will look for it the next time we dock somewhere with an iStore.

Today we work until very late. Last day. I wonder if I really will get 30 bucks of the Seascape booking bonus that was mentioned to me or will SLSB just ignore that bit and keep all of the money for himself or, better yet, let the Bosses have it, so it'll seem like we made more in which case he will get credit for being a good boy. 
300 pounds, litmus litmus? 

Sitno >>228<<

Good gods there is so much food on this ship. I know I say this every day, but you don't understand: even with the number 85 drawn on my wrist, even with the line: JUST BECAUSE FREE FOOD, NAKED MEN OR GOOD BOOKS ARE WITHIN REACH, IT DOESN'T MEAN YOU HAVE TO DO ANYTHING ABOUT IT constantly in my brain, I cannot always resist. I had a brownie with ice-cream, a tiny donut, half a blueberry pie and some foamy cream today. Yes, they were really small portions, and I did spend and hour in the gym cycling, jogging and lifting weights, but really. They were pushing trolleys and trolleys and trolleys of these amazing pastry set-ups pass me all day. All fucking day. They have Toblerone in the shop window OPPOSITE of me, as if I was being taunted. FOUR different kinds! That I haven't tried before! Come ON!

I tried to watch more One Piece while working out, but the files were corrupted and the iPad crashed and I didn't know how to restart it, though it's okay now, I think, I hope. I made a couple of clerical errors yesterday, like walking into the mess while there was a meeting underway (did not know that's where they have meetings damnit), I grabbed a bagel and offed away, but did not wash my hands, which is a freaking no-no, and later the Hotel Manager reminded me I am not to wear my keys and tags around the neck, visably. Okay. I'm new. I'm still being forgiven. SLSB and FPP are kind of talking to me, kind of cheerful and I can see they were told that at least in some sense they should be nicer to costumers - they should try to take a page from my book, no less, and actually give a shit about the passangers, or at least attempt to fake it. Problem is, I am not faking it, I honestly do think their outfits are gorgeous, their stories interesting and their faces appealing. They think it's just a pitch, but I got ('twas last day) a hug today, a handshake, a compliment that I am the only of the three ever smiling and two comments that being so talkative and engaging is wonderful. I have the Seascape character to thank for this, because he put it very well for me: these people are old and some are lonely and it is quite possible that nobody cares what they think and feel. Well, I care what they think and feel. Obviously some are dicks, some try to cheat us for one more photo, some whine how costly we are and some demand special treatment and never show up in the end to actually buy anything. But most are lovely. I hope I never grow out of this attitude. Fuck Thompson if everyone on it is going to be like SLSB.

All aboard. Another horde of 800 plus pax and we are about to raise anchor and get the heck out of D. New faces, new challenges. It's amazing how distracted some are; they have no idea what you want from them when you are trying to take their photo. I thought I was the only person like that. They are very different from one another, these elderly. I wonder what handicap or mental feature I will have when my time comes. I wonder if some day, in fifty or so years, it will be the tall bald General and the short fat me posing for a cruise photo ...
Half the day is done. On the minus side, I stood in the cold for five hours and was frozen stiff. I probably got a cold. On the plus side they let me take all the photos today and I can now fit in size 18 clothes. Not related. Am just saying.

The land manager came and went. He assured me I am not getting fired and should I ever need anything, do not hessitate to ask. Two thoughts occured to me. One, that I genuinely do not require a single thing on this whole entire planet. There is not a single thing I'm missing, that could be bought. Second, when I prepared to lie and say I'm feeling happy now, even though I did not have the name tag on - it wasn't a lie. I am actually starting to get happy. I don't need bandaids for blisters anymore, I don't get lost on the ship anymore. I walked out today and did not have the urge to keep on walking. Supposedly the Seascape guy spoke well of me, said I am very sociable with the passangers and that I take better photos than he did when he first got here.. Really? I am told everyone knew instantly how to do photos of people while they're eating or hurrying to a bus...  SLSB sent some of my worst to the Land Manager to prove a point, but Seascape guy sent some of the latest. Manager said I am almost there. So, it was not a lie. Funny, that. I know they keep SLSB around despite his lack of appeal because he makes money and supposedly isn't a bad manager. I am really worried of what IS a bad manager. And what IS bad money? How much do these people think one deserves to get, working without a day off for eleven hours a day?  

Gallery from four thirty to elevenish tonight, I think. Then two sea days. First formal tomorrow. Shitty weather. Am taking a pill as a precaution. I've never been to any of the cities we are going to, so no idea what to expect. Though I regret not being able to visit Monet's crib back in Rouen, French cities began to look all the same. Everyone is looking forward to the mystery cruise. This one will last ten days. 

Sitno >>227<<

If you want to see how slow you can make time go, take two anti sickness pills and stand in a hallway for five hours, smilling at passers-by. 
This weather does NOT agree with me. The ship is dancing in every direction and I've taken so many seasickness pills I feel like I'm still asleep. I dare not eat, only an apple. Not even coffee. Which I direly need. For some reason our toilet is not flushing and more and more water is coming up, splashing around the bathroom... I kept waking up at night, thinking the room is already flooded.. I was cold, even with the thermostat on 25’C, so I put the quilt back. Today is not going to be an easy day. 

I was too sick to function, falling in and out of unhappy sleep until three pm, then barely managing to get myself enough together for the first formal. I thought it went well, but now that we are alone again SLSB never stops putting me down, stressing how dissapointing my lack of quality or progress is, stressing how he questions my credencials entirely ”for this is not what your quality would be if you took photography before.." and constantly hinting it is my fault we are making so little money. Minimum quality is all he asks. He has to do everything himself. I never reach even minimum quality. 

I've written a letter of resignation to the land manager twice by now, telling him that making less than a grand a month, living in a windowless cell like an animal, under constant threat of vominting and diarhea and being told day in and day out how badly you perform, is nowhere near as fun as it sounds. I asked SLSB why he hates me so much and he said it's not personal, he only hates that I've been imposed on him and I know nothing. 

Because, you know, he was born with perfect and extended knowlege of ship photography. Of course he would never actually tell me what I am doing wrong. Just that I am too bad. And too slow. 

And the best moment of this miserable day (I have to stop myself from writing to G, because just thinking about him makes me cry silent crocodile tears. I miss him so fucking much. And for what?) was me, taking a cracker I wasn't supposed to take. OH NO!! The photographer took a cracker from the guests's buffet table! With her HAND! Stop her! Kill her! Stop the ship and throw her off!! oh, no!...
Five people jumped on me and told me off and then went and told SLSB, who told me off and then I was threatened with being told off by the Hotel manager and fired. Am I not allowed enough time to eat my meals? Well, of course, master, only I haven't yet had a meal today what on account of being sick as fuck and I needed to put something in my stomach to settle down the acid. I did not think half the restaurant will suffer a stroke from witnessing someone putting a cracker in their beak. When I asked the waiter for a glass of water to take down the pill, they took me in the back, gave me a dirty old glass and made me take water from a sink. So compassionate they are, so kind.

I'm gonna sleep with the light on, because I am having nightmares again. But I want to think about the good stuff while I doze off and today's good stuff were the outfits. Some people are naturally elegant and glamorous and most of these formal sitters have such good taste. They match posh gowns with minimal jewelry, or minimal gowns of velvet or lace, with extravagant, unique and handmade pieces. I cannot get enough of them - I want to just photograph them head to toe. They are so handsome. Timeless, really. A lady with a touch of Melissa Leo wore a deep, dark violet plush gown, had violet tinted hair and an ametist pendant. Truly splendid lady. 

If only I was not too retarded to take her picture.

Sitno >>226<<

Yup. Hermes and Triton ARE looking out for me. You know those nightmares about my bathroom flooding and the room drowning and in real life the toilet overflowing in the middle of the night? Two days ago I put all my things off the floor and into a suitcase and the suitcase up on the chest because of those dreams and leakages... And today so much water came out of the drain on the bottom of our bathroom it flooded the entire area - the hallways and the rooms, all five inches deep in an indoor pool, originating from our room. They are still vacuuming up the water now and cleaning up sewer sand.

Wednesday, off day, because food. We've already established that I cannot seem to last till thursday, because food always finds me on wednesdays and today was Asian lunch, meaning (and I also didn't notice there were two buffets, so ...) I sampled a little bit of any food I saw, mainly noodles and rice. I used to be the only person around that finished her plate clean every time, because I always know exactly how much and of what I wish to ingest. Now I just load my plate with everything, take a bite of each and eat only what's good. It's shameful, but nobody notices my shame. So, for deserts, I tried an asian version of flan, a rice jelly with sweet corn and cream, rice pudding with cardamom, cinnamon and raisins and Chinese ginger cheesecake, which was the best of all. I also began what I planned to do all along: each week sample three of the offered chocolates in the cafe near the library. (I am not reading enough, godsdamnit.) 

An odd wave of homesickness came in and lingered for about half a day. I can always feel it coming, because I get very sensitive. For example, even though our company pays for us to be allowed to eat at a particular restaurant, the waitors there treat me like I'm stealing the food. They just tell me: we are budy now, come back in two hours. Well, I don't have my lunch break in two hours. And I am not asking for charity. To rebel, I take stuff, like biscuits or dry pastry, and take it to my friends, who are not allowed to go in. I am sure everyone sees. Let them.

We passed under a big Danish bridge just after sunset and I remember going over it for our honeymoon. I began to miss G too much. Much too much. Enough to think I've had it with this meager earning, sickness every third day at sea and standing for eleven hours, smiling at people who, no matter how much they buy, is never enough. A ship officer who likes to hang around young ladies came by and wanted to talk naughty things, but we, the girls, just talked about bingo and types of shops and ships and caraoke nights. Did I mention my room got flooded? My room got fucking flooded. He told me a funny dirty joke :D I told it to the General and he said it's a dangerous joke, because sooner or later it will be told in this form: "Do you know what sound your girlfriend makes when she sees a really big one? I do." Like I said, dirty jokes.
I should probably go to the gym, but I don't want to. I want to read. In bed. And sleeeeep. 
Here's the sad short poem for today:

So, these tears of giants,
This too big, restless sea,
Are there any animals in it
Or just the monsters be?

Sitno >>225<<

HAHAHA. Scolding session of today (11pm, after six and a half hours of working in the galle(r)y and being told I am not attentive enough): there have been online complains about a lady photographer being too aggressive in her approach to costumers................
.............HAHAHA. Are you telling me that after two weeks of being trained how to be pushy, insistent, tricky, sneaky, manipulative and  - I clown you not - aggressive in taking people's photos, and then countless times crying myself to sleep in the cabin from shame of having to interrupt people while they eat or to swindle and sell one more, one more, one more photo to old ladies, being called ”This is the lady that takes pictures nobody wants.", I have somehow misunderstood all those instructions? "Don't be so hysterically friendly!" Oh, you mean, be more like you? Who spits a dirty word in a language they can't understand after every pax that says No, thank you...? Do you seriously think they don't know what you're calling them? The Seascape guy said never to take no for an answer and always take a photo even if they say no, convincing them they really want it. Take more! Take everything! You are paid for the ones you take, the ones you sell! Learn how to get the people to want them! .. He told me lines to speak, such as: 'somebody requested the photos be taken and as I do not know who I have to take everybody's' ... After standing in the lobby outside the dining room, preying on people on their way to dine, with an only task of getting people to pose for a formal studio, I somehow misunderstood my task for those evenings? I should get the most people to pose by NOT TALKING to them? Or what? Do everything you can to meet target and more, but by HOPING they would like a neece foddo? (Oh, yeah, you are likelier to get them to pose if you have an eastern european accent. My English is too good.) Because you can bet your freaking ass that when my sweet boss is ”justifying" this complaint to the management (and strawman all the other complaints along under it), he will repeat one phrase over and over and over again, until it sticks: she is new and not very good. She is new. The new girl. It is the new girl. She is trying too hard. She doesn't know ahything. It's the new girl. IT WAS THE NEW GIRL.

I did my best to look concerned when SLSB repeated fifteen times that if they ever mention you by name, complaint-wise, you are in serious trouble. No, honey. YOU are in serious trouble, because I can justify my actions five times better than you and not even lie ONCE. Unlike you. And unlike you, if I am to be punished for doing EXACTLY what you told me, possibly by being fired, which would be the nicest present to you EVER I imagine and it will be the first time you smile at me, it simply means that I will be - FREE. Free from your constant urge to belittle me. I will get my dignity back. I will get my honesty back. I will get my temper back. I will get my gentle skin and soft hair back. I will get my peace of mind back. I will get my home back. Unlike you, there IS a home for me, with a lover and a dog and friends. I will get my quiet anonimity back. I will get strangers to stop touching my camera back. I will get sleeping in a room that hasn't flooded twice in two weeks back. I will be free of old men and their innuendo. I will get this big ugly stinking rock off my chest of doing everything and all the time wrong and wrong and wrong. There was a complaint over the lady photographer being too aggressive in taking the photos??!
... When I was coming here, they told me that SLSB was a nice guy, a good manager... I am genuinely curious what kind of people work for this agency, if this is their creme of the crops... 

You know, watching the ramp being assembled once the ship docks is a very dangerous thing. It means the land is nigh. It means a bridge is being built. It means that the doors are going to be opened. That is not an easy thing to watch. It makes you want to eat the land or let yourself be eaten by it. Dark thoughts.

Sitno >>224<<

Here's another bad, sad poem: 
(Though je suis sick of this depressing shit and need to cheer up soon.)

*this applies to magic, love, humanity or any other fickle human candor, but I'm choosing grace.

Grace, ladies and gentlemen,
Grace will give up.
Put your hands together for grace,
Grace, ladies and gentlemen, has left the stage.
Grace has lost a bet to a deep, dark, dirty sadness.
And was asked, politely, to leave town.
There was no method to it's madness.
Garce has returned to it's cage.

Alright? Enough now?
I am the traveling auntie Max for fuck's sakes. Enough of this depression shit, seriously.
There were plenty cool things happening last night. Was too stunned by irony to talk about Bingo and Flensburg and Denmark and how I tried to send the General my pay via Western Union - still not sure I suceeded, am awaiting confirmation... (Alright, ye, I suceeded. Yay.) But the reconoissance of Flensburg, a German city heavily influenced by Flandria, that was nice. Some hail fell. Supposedly there's actual snow back home. There was a fire in a city, albeit I only was black smoke. Havoc wherever I go, eh? But mostly there were nice heavy churches, gothic and German as can be, some quaint little buildings and pretty sailboats with ducks on 'em. 

So, in short :D
Denmark is very flat. Really flat. Their tallest bump is 150 or so meters and they have a very tall, very long bridge. This also mean cellphone reception is amazing even in the middle of the sea. The weather's cleared, so it was just deep ocean, brilliant green line of land with (modern) windmills on it and bays full of reed-like sail bunches, and puffy white clouds above it. 

Flensburg was three hours of feeling good, hail and sun, a beautiful long street, tiny picturesque yards and passages, old buildings made of red brick in the heavyset, very big but very functional, hardly decorated German fashion. I found some basic postcards and then some pretty ones, but had no money left.. . As it turns out, when you're sending via WU, you pay extra AFTER you send, say, if you're sending 500 eur, you pay 5% plus. I first though they just deduce, but no, you have to pay extra 25 eur. I was gonna keep those 25, alas. Keep trying to find wi-fi. I also keep trying to get to museums or galleries, but it isn't happening. My tasks are always very neatly organized to be smack in the middle. Wanna bet I will miss Guggenheim? Mm? Wanna bet?

... No wifi in Trevemunde either. And of course no visit to Lubeck; just a quick look aroun the town and back to boat. In love with the church there. Though I always feel sorry for that guy hanging on a cross. That's just so sad. Will have a better chance at Hamburg, I hope, at least regarding WiFi... Scary, seeing DMs, though. Drogerie Markets. All DMs are arranged the same and I would get that frightful dejanvu moment again, when I close my eyes and try to teleport to my hometown's one... I cried on the phone with G today, and he was trying really hard to not to say 'just come home', I could tell. 

My friends on shop try to cheer me up, saying no matter how hard you try, with a bad boss, you are always gonna be told you are bad, so just fuck it, just try to enjoy it and when he yells, just think of something fun. I am used to being told to improve by the General, whose words are sacred to me. Switch that off.

I wonder if this ship is a magnet for assholes or is just how the real world is like and I've forgotten? I gestured at a shopkeeper today, that she has a customer, as there are more shops and one was being left unattended and a customer was asking me about it. The shopkeeper came to me, upset, and said: Please never call for me like that again, I am not a puppy, and you will get a very negative reaction from me...
What the...

I remember I spent about an hour afterwards thinking what kind of a human being talks like that to another human being? For trying to HELP. I must try it sometimes, but who would I ever want to talk down to like that? It would have to be a pope or some tzar or something. Never in a million years would I say something like that to somebody... Maybe I should tell her to get the fuck off her high horse and never speak to me AGAIN? Oh, but it is too easy to make enemies. A happy thought is that these people, the dicks, will never be in my life and after I am done here, will never have to see them again.
Thing is, a ship like this, even though in my old age I am more comfortable eating in the officers' lounge than the crew mess, more comfortable using a knife and fork than a spoon, more comfortable with a salad bar than a rice-and-fishheads stew, you don't see rank or dept. or function or colour of skin, you just see kind people or dicks. And among the higher ranking, you see either nice or usefull. A captain, say, can be all nice and more, but if you ever need him, is he usefull? Will he stall the ship when you are late and running after it? Or will he forget you in a blink? Some people are like that. Others just leave me stunned.

SLSB update - he has a new leg to hump... Our Hotel Manager. Let's call him Hots - as if Hotel, not because he would ever be called hot otherwise... SLSB is trying to be Hots's BFF. He will ask Hotes if I can wear trousers, because, you know, my tattoo. Ye. Today my tattoos are a problem. (I have a Brian Froud pixie tattooed on the low down of my calf.)
I know. It's just ...
Also, I am not clocking in properly, SLSB does not know how he will explain that to Hots. Dude, same as always: say I'm new and dumb as shit. 

Whatever. Gym, shower, sleep. We're sliding down the Kiel Kanal, which is pitch black, so...
And a good thing, too, because this is TOO familiar, long rivers, TOO tempting... Roads too loudly beckoning me, fields too wide to be ignored... Land is too tempting. Must look away. 

But fuck, Hamburg is one big steaming pile of brick, glass and shipyards!


Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Second round - west French rivers

Sitno >>238<<

Holy mother of Moses I got seasick. And I mean siiiiiiick. Am the only newbie, so not many others did and it's official: CLSB and FPP, my manager and my roomie, don't really care much about me at all. Never a kind word, never 'how are you feeling?'... Not many to the customers yet alone to me. It's just them and their money and they did't like the fact that I got in the way of their revenue, barfing when I should have been trying to squeeze the last dimes out of disembarking guests. As if I just decided uii, now would be an excellent time to find out what bulimics are thinking. It's payday today, so we'll see how that turns out. Litmus litmus. Will have a long walk along the bay of Dover to stop my tummy from spinning. I am still sick a bit even if I am on land. The mind knows it's the ship that's swaying, but the body doesn't. There was so much projectile vomiting and later just foamy acid vomiting done on my part, the nurse had to come down to my cabin and stick a needle in my bum. I mostly just passed out afterwards. They worry about that sort of thing, because if there's more to it than just wobbly ship, it means it's a gastro virus and then all shitstorm can break lose, and you don't want to know how literal I'm being. But it wasn't, it was just me being a newbie. I took the sickness pill too late and then wasted four more, trying to keep them down, which didn't work. And let me tell you. When you wipe your nose afterwards and it's full of rice from dinner, you know you've hit pro level at seasickness. 

Sitno >>237<<

Litmus passed, we did well enough, even a coin or two better than expected, but well, well, things just keep getting better and better. I hope this mess hits the lid soon and it either stays there or something gives, but my gut was right all along and CLSB, which I've re-christened into SLSB, my manager here on the ship, not only doesn't allow me to do anything, he wrote to our land mAnager that he requests me replaced for I am entirely unskilled. So the dude that they sent to teach us the fancy Seascape program, some hot Serbian number, also came to check in on what the fuck is going on. Now it all stands on a tip of a knife - will I prove to be a useless weeping idiot or will I be calm and prove to be unusually good for a beginner? As per usual, the photos are not a problem. My acting like an ignorant bitch is. Their words, not mine.

Evening. AvirginPinaColada later. 
Am sure now that Hermes and Triton are looking out for me at least a little bit. The Seascape guy could be a total dick and he's not, not totally. Like the General, he's clever enough to know that when I begin to step out of line, you have to attack me. It's interesting that I respond a lot better to being commanded as I do to being babied, when there's drama. Perhaps because I get turned on by aggresive authority and when I'm horny I'm happy? No wonder I married the General, then. Anyhoo. My time here could be over before it even began, but it isn't today. He likes to talk. He wants results and he dislikes it the least when people have potencial but refuse to cash it in. He said that I can play with my artsy quality back home in my own time, but now the only things I am here to do is to make money. I'm sure he gives this speech to everyone. There is a fleet where good photies go to heaven if they prove they deserve it, but to get there I will have to do the one thing I disdain the most - really sell. He gave us a task - to woe as many customers as we can to pose for a full package of private portraiture and I got a dozen to book right away, then just stopped asking, because I wasn't sure if I can fit them any more. It's real easy, as he taught us a great pick-up pitch. In fact everything he had to say about how to do photos properly, he was spot on. I mean about sea photography, other stuff is not that impressive. He added that a woman from the Balcans should not cry every time she gets upset. Well, I cry because I can't get angry. If I could get angry, trust me, as a Balcan woman it wouldn't be crying what I would do. It would be more of a smoething like Code Oscar. (Man overboard.)

We talked for hours, writing down exactly what setting for what sitting and how to change things as quickly as possible when situations tilt. How to learn in advance to adapt to tricky light. He gave me all the numbers and the guildelines regarding restaurant and some for the studio. He tried to show me some Seascape stuff, but when he opened his laptop the porn he was watching in his room was still on, it had drained the battery and he was at least embarassed enough to go get the cables so he could charge there in the sitting room of the library. Ahhh, people played with puzzles behind us! It was so hard to concentrate on being scolded when people were doing puzzles!! ... And chess! Uu, a gentleman opened with a fully flanked advance of the knight and bishop!...Good strategy. Anyhoo, ADD begone, Seascape is almost exactly the same as the shoots I used to do back home, only it involves a ship, soft gleamy shots that make everyone look like they're posing for a box of chocolates or a cover of a steamy romance novel, and rich people. I know they want us to compete for the spot on The Photographer'sPromisedLand fleet. I wonder if I care enough about proving myself to bother. Or if I care about the money enough. I do, but I also hate almost everything there is about it. Every person I meet tells a different story about where is fun and where the cash is good. The last thing I want to do is be the one in the team that's best at booking the sessions. I am the fucking ship photographer, I want to be the one PHOTOGRAPHING the damn things! If I wanted to be a booker, I'd work in the cand shop or tours provider. I want to be the one pressing the big button!

Granted, me also want to see the world working on ships and meet intersting people. The money bit is just a bandaid on the wound that is left behind by missing the General too much. He would help. He would help me get stronger just by hugging his tummy and smelling his skin. He would tell me something and I would believe him. He would achieve the serenity in me. ... Or he would try. And then make me. 

Though I am curious. Can I act as a professional and not lash out? Even when faced with malcontent treatment and cockblocks? I really wish I could. SLSB complains about me all the time,  be it loudly at my face or quietly to my superiors. This is not an easy trial. I think I may want to try it on for size, but ... No promises.. I am only human and not the DalaiLama type either.

Sitno >>236<<

Fuck me but my feet hurt. There are times when I cannot think of anything else. I got my first pay, so the spending has begun: I bought a greeting card for mum's birthday, I need stamps and I bought myself another virgin PinaColada, which I am very partial to. Discovered a SlopChest deal, a sort of official black market in the steerage, where you can buy drinks and snacks and the like. As I write this, and it's one in the morning after the cruises' busiest days regarding photies, the "1st formal” - there is still a Karaoke party going on just across the hall from me. Many Phillipinos singing quite badly and having a jolly good time. Not tempted to join them, am too tired and not sure what will happen tomorow. Coffee is my friend, oi, coffee is a friend ... 

The days are starting to fly by, I noticed. This was the second 'first formal', some of the people here are not as sweet as those from the first - though some are. There is a lot of war themed particulars to this ship - most library books have somthing to do with gals nursing back wounded resistance members and somesuch. 

This shit is getting hillarious. Seriously, it's not even enraging anymore, it's just a joke. I offed early in the morning to see what we did last night - I was super happy with the photos I took, even though I am slow I thought I made some visible progress and you could hardly tell apart theirs from mine ... To find that mine are all overexposed and yellow! Freaking yellow! Anyone would shit a brick seeing that, they looked bloody awful. I checked the photos still on the card in the camera - perfectly fine. Then I remembered what SLSB said the first time we couldn't synchronize the white balance between my camera and theirs: "..this is why I never use Canon!"... so he's not really trying to sabotage me, he's declared war on the entire industry of Canon. I told the Seascape overseer guy that he needs to let me do my own retouching, because if THIS is color correction (Canons shoot towards the orange red spectrum and people quickly look very sunburnt, so I understand some correction was neccesary, but) then fuck this. I will spend all night up and do what I know will make photos look way better. Alas, I am not allowed to edit my own work. That's not really shocking, since I am not allowed to really photograph much either, being an ignorant bitch and all. Been here nine days and I've never done anything but some 'restaurant' and some 'studio' that we set up before the restaurant. Am hardly allowed to tend to the gallery shop, as if I will end up selling elephants instead of photos or something. Costumers love me and he is the one who nearly got into a fist fight with a client the other day (more like got bitchslapped) for being rude to a woman who came to look at her photos. SLSB complains how incredibly overworked he is, but me he orders to stand by and smile to guests. Or sometimes he just forgets about me and I remain undismissed and have no idea that everyone's already stopped working for the day. I've booked a dozen Seascapes and haven't been allowed to shoot a single one, yet alone edit, yet alone represent. Was allowed to hold the light in one. Aren't they merciful?

We are in La Rochelle today, but the dock is just a very large concrete block sorrounded by ugly old tankers and some silo structures, wheres across a very long, very lean, very elegant bridge a good few stonethrows wide is a magical-looking river island with a sandy shore and a forest and a bay village of white houses and ships. It looks like something out of Disney. Couldn't get to it, because it's too far and I don't really do shuttle buses. Buses are tricky. I'd have to hitchhike like nuts to get to the next port if I missed the ship because a rogue shuttle bus. If anything, I want to walk and take pickies and time how much I'll need to get back. 

This has given me a couple of hours on an almost empty ship, to think. If the hot Seascape guru is right and if there is more to working on a ship as a photographer than running around, hoping to catch someone looking into the camera, then okay. I can try to book and then shoot what I choose to shot off the Seascape list, meanwhile working in the gallery, which is where I am oddly happy, bar horribly aching feet, talking to the guests and discussing their sea experience and how many photos they have in their memoirs boxes. Ladies love their shots with the captains, especially if he's good looking and they usually are. 

Decided to give the Seascape guy's order a go (stop fighting!) bought some chocolates and took them to SLSB as a reconsiliation offer. So we wouldn't fight so much. Not just because the Serb demands it, but also because the General said, on the long phonecall we finally had today (I was off line so long I got nine texts from G! :D :) <3 ) that if I quit and come home before making enough money we can renovate the kitchen, he will kill me. :D

Sitno >>235<<

"You are strange, but you've got potencial."

This was perhaps the best compliment I got from a stranger lately. Not the potencial bit, I couldn't give less of a flying fuck about that, but the strange part. I like that. In case Smashing Pumpkins come asking: Yes. It does make happy I am so strange. Strange is good. Strange makes for the best stories.

Course the General instantly shot me down: No, nobody wants to see your strange twice.
Fine, fine. My dad, because he's met me, told him that he worries my nature will surface eventually. No worries, dad. My nature usually surfaces on the second day. That ship has sailed. I prefer this. True colors. So everybody knows whom we're dealing with from the get-go. Because people can get used to 'strange (and full of potencial)’, but a betrayal is there to linger in the memory. 

I booked another almost dozen (if they all show up) today, even made a few pounds commission off one of the sales. Yay. Ten more pounds. Go me. Then I discovered the gym and raced a 'bike' almost 30 miles per hour for half an hour :D (I'm joking. It wasn't really half an hour.) Am ovulating and horny, so kept my eyes closed for all the hot sweaty species in the gym, just in case my nature takes over and I ravage somebody.


Spent a good day exploring Bordeaux with a shipmate, until the picturesque nightfall... The Bordeauxians really know how to illuminate their scapes.

Sitno >>234<<

Woke up from a good dream with a scenario for a crime novel, but las per usual, once I began to write it down, it wasn't so incredibly clever anymore, it was just a patchwork of unoriginal ideas, which is what dreams are. I find it difficult to write things, phisically, because there really isn't many tall tables around here, just club tables and my room is full of printing paper, so my desk isn't really available. Plus it's full of FPP's makeup. Though she doesn't sleep here, the room is very much hers and I'm just imposing.

Bordeaux - still not sure how it's spelled and I checked a thousand times - is a massive city not too far from Paris (not even an hour and 40€ train ride), with a vine quarter, a rich old quarter and a melting pot of everyone else. My shipmate and I walked around from 3pm to near midnight, checking out the show-off gothic churches/cathedrals, victory archers, city gates and the promenade at night, all of which the city has in abundance. The main street is packed with people, cheap shops (H&M, C&A, Zara... and the like) and young bums with lots of dogs. I would have come out earlier and check out more things on the map, but I had another Seascape lesson at two and it took a little longer. These are such nice people, our customers, but some are so shy, so psyched out anout being unattractive on photographs, and it's just a mess. No matter how much you tell them it's not about how you look, it's about how you feel, it maters none. But to me it's just a lesson in posing and adjusting the numbers. And trying to uplift the confidence of people who somewhere along the way began to think of themselves as less that who they are.

Once the gray day was replaced with neatly decorated night, I took oodles of shots of the super fancy bridges or promenades or palaces or trees or statues or kids playing and dancing or my shipmate or just pretty stuff. Didn't get one of a brilliantly lit morning skyline, because I kept postponing it to a more convinient occasion - and today we have the rain. Predictably :D

Did manage to finally send the Amsterdam postcards, though, and three letters. I didn't seal the letters, but I'll get to that once I learn a little bit more about the ropes and how to plan. We have another drill and I just learned that you can sign up to be an excursion assistant and just sort of work for the ship while also going on an excursion. Did not know that. People sometimes mention things as if I am familiar with them and I don't quite catch what they are talking about. But, you know, ten days in I am ten times the wiser. 

Yesterday was also the first time I forgot to call back G as soon as I got off the ship. He slipped my mind and he is a big boulder to slip. I suppose that's good news. I no longer miss him dissarmingly and soon I will just be able to miss him as a lover and a friend, not as a lifeline. 

You know how sometimes, when they first meet you, people don't even look at you, they just talk to more important or better looking people than you, just ignore you? But after a few days, when they are ready leaving, you catch the, staring at you, watching you, or just sort of chance meeting you more than it's actually a coincidence, standing a little closer,mtaking every opportunity to touch you or mention you or call you by your name? Ye, that never happens to me :D 
I think that my favorite expression that people have after a couple of days of knowing me, secretly watching me, is: what the fuck IS that?? What freakish force of nature? What have we gotten ourserves into?

Well, yes. Don't know know? I am the strange one with potencial. How do you do?

Monday, 11 April 2016

First round (From 244 - 239)

Sitno >> 244<<

I am seasick at the moment, so this doesn't seem like it was a too good idea, but earlier, when I was walking pass a window and saw an ocean foaming and forgot where I was, I felt awesome. I've taken a pill and ate a salad, so we'll see if my sea legs kick me in my spoiled rear anytime soon. When you're tired and still have a lot of work, you miss everything and everybody. I miss everything and everybody. But I weight 40 pounds too much and I haven't been abroad in an eon. That much about that.

Sitno >>243 <<

I'd say I wash my eyes every night and every morning (by this I mean I cry like a little bitch), but in truth I'm too tired and in the mornings too happy to bother. Also, it's only been one day. I try not to think about G too much, that gets me upset and I want to say fuck this shit, return the oversized uniform and swim home, so I look at the 85 pencilled on my wrist or I look outside and see the smoggy sun rising above the port of Amsterdam and I think rather: this isn't half bad. This is in fact kind of whoa!. The ship purrs like a fat old cat, vibrating and humming and it's soothing. I got blistery and weary yesterday, though the sea was as calm as glass, but the pill made me sleepy and I thought I'll keel over by the time we closed at ten. (It was eleven by my watch.) Am not used to such working conditions, so until I get some stamina and stop wasting half of my day getting lost in mazy coridors, I won't try to make any rash decisions :D

Realised everyone's gone off ship to visit Amsterdam and that I have a day off for Amsterdam as well... Okay. That surprised me a little. I will need to learn ahead of places we're visiting, so that I don't repeat this mistake. This blinking village idiot persona suits me, but it's getting in my way of adventure.

So far, as I've found a wifi in a McD, I can confirm that there are a lot of bicycles, tulips, pot, waffles and tourists in Amsterdam. I need to find out if tomorrow I'm free as well, at least in the morning, and go visit a proper museum or gallery... Or a zoo. Or a garden. 

I'll need to get a grip on how to do these things like a pro. Getting off a ship that's gotten me this far and not knowing where to go is a bit noob. Bad Paper.

Okay! So. One of them harsh photography lessons learned: never, and I mean ever, leave the house without your prime. Flash, maybe, but never the 50mil. On my way back to the ship, I ran into a tour manager and asked if he has any tours ongoing, that I have nothing to do. He said he can get me into one and it seemed people were actually okay with me being there, some even posed. It was a channel boat ride, with nice cheese (which give tummy ache if eaten too generously), three bottles of wine per table (and a bottle of water for me, thank you) and nibble food, most of which I pretended to nibble, but was actually ravenous. Yes, I know everyone says be weary of what you consume in the late hours, you'll get fat, but I'm still awake three hours later, so be it. The sightseeing trip took us around the cannels and if I had a difficult time deciding which museum to see tomorrow, time permitting, I am now completely bummed for knowing. Both big ones cost 17 bucks, which is A LOT, but there are also several smaller ones, equally appealing as seeing Van Gogh live, so to say. There's the science museum and the photography and film and the city library, which looks awesome, and the ones I don't know what they are, because my map is in Dutch..

While we rode around the channels, we passed several city curiosities - the leaning houses with corrupt foundation, poor Anne's museum, countless ancient bridges, posh houses where important people live, houses which are wide about ten feet in the front, but more in the back, a massive elongated place which used to be the first retirement home, originally for the widows of seamen and maritime employees - as they were so many... Amsterdam was a rich, aloof port and they were always on a lookout for a new business venture. Money-savvy, too. The guide pointed out the channel edges and explained that nefore the railing was installed into the channel streets, ten cars per month would have to be pulled out of the water, so insurance decided it's cheaper to invest in the rail. He also told us about the ugly Opera and the handsome church towers which can be seen particularly nicely from various vantage points on chanel crossings. He told us how deep the water was, but I didn't hear him right, and how then there is a thick layer of bicycles and then the swampy sediment. We saw a copy of an old ship, countless ship homes and any number of little curiosities, which I've already forgotten. I will go to sleep now, one of the rarest people who will choose to do so, and contemplate on my predicament. Most of the crew who didn't go out to party is in the port, using the free wifi all night. I have no idea what my schedule is tomorrow and if I have work, then my predicament will be checked off. I took some nice city photos, but the ones of the people on the tour, with a f4.0 zoomer lens? I doubt it. We'll see. Certainly couldn't do any nice night shots until I exited the port building with a tripod, but even then I only took some pictures of the building and the ship and the city skyline. Was too tired to return to town. Okay. Will sleep now. Lesson learned. 

Sitno >>242<<

Yup, the predicament whether I will run to Rijskmuseum or Van Gogh and back has been decided for me - I have crewmen training at 10:30 and that is not enough time for me to really see anything. Unless they postpone it again last minute, like they did yesterday, in which case I will bite somebody. Nobody gets between me and my Van Gogh.

Had to run out a bit, to try and get some video footage; then back to try and Skype the General, which didn't work, but we talked, so not all electronics conspire against me :p Of course not matter how much we talk, I feel like I've been away for months and I still miss him too much to dare and put his picture above my bunk. Still get lumpy in the throat. Back home everything felt so very urgent, so that when here a day passes without communication, I feel like maybe the world has ended.

But let me talk about the things that I really like about this ship. (Always helps to concentrate on the positive.) I love, for example, the large doors that say 'crew only', because once you step through those, bye bye cushy floors and padded stairs, glass railings, heavy embroided curtains and gentle elevator music, still-standing gentle hosts and hostesses and soft spoken waiters, practically bowing... No, once you go through the big doors, that's where it gets down to business. You enter a world of narrown iron passages, steep iron stairs, dozens of loud workers rushing about in any endless narrow corridor, speaking in languages I cannot understand (yet), machines going off, alarms going off, cleaning crew fighting to be let through, officers managing the lot and always something being done or carried or repaired or welted. There is thumping, there is vibrating, there is heavy and fast sound of people hurring on iron floors... Any which way you get lost you will find something backstage-y: the tiny tailor's room or the giant veggies storages or someone zapping something back... Walking out again, suddenly there is nobody, just the calm and quiet and elegant luxury with a touch of extra security measures...

For some reason I get to eat in the officer's small mess, not with the cleaners and seamen; dunno why :/ But our food is excellent and this isn't even the only buffet we can use. The captain sits with us, no big deal. I didn't even know who the important people are until later. The handsomest largest men are oviously Slavs. Not that it makes any difference. I met an English knight among the guests yesterday and genuinely struggled to appear impressed. However! We had three different cakes for lunch today - three! I could exist off eating cake alone!! But I only ever eat lettuce and a little bit of cooked ham or chicken. Only drink water. Never touch a carb or sweet. This isn't just because I'm morbidly obese, (I'm not, I'm just regular fat) but also because putting heavy food in my tank will make me sick again. I make an effort to drink enough orange juice for breakfast, or coffee, to go to the potty. My digestion's been awesome lately. Don't wanna fuss it up. What's the rule? Seven times to pee and one for the big business? Thereabouts. 
When I am awfully hungry, I continue to nibble on drobTinka's granola, which she packed for me before I left - banana and apple. Good Gods that shit's tasty :D Even with all the excellent food here, it's still supreme in taste. The world has nothing on My old home's cuisine. 

I was thinking, first about my uniform, which is oversized now and will only get bigger once I wear it out... If you are skinny, they have ten different sizes for you, but if you are fat, they just give you something huge and it looks awful on you anyway... And about pretty girls and ugly girls. If one is a pretty girl, young and skinny, people are nervous talking to them. There's always an element of attraction, regardless how unwanted. But if you're an ugly girl, old and fat, then people will talk to you easily. About anything. Nothing is flirtation, you can ask any question you like. And that's cool, because I like to learn new things and I like talking to people. I would love to drive this ship, too, just the once, so we'll see if I can talk my way into it... :D

Sitno >>241<<

Yesterday afternoon the stars aligned in all the bad moments and I cried for the better part of the afternoon. Was gonna cry hysterically as soon as I found a quiet place, but by the time we stopped working, I was so tired and my feet hurt so much, I just passed out. I do wake up sometimes with dried tears around my eyes. I'll just blame the windy weather for giving me a cold. 
I know I shouldn't react to these things, which are so different from home. Yes, I know that when someone insults my camera it's not the end of the world. Yes, I know that when some condescending person who's never even met me a day before treats me like I was a retard, he's just got a lot on his mind. I know I shouldn't take everything so personally. Yes, I know that when they pretend their way of doing things is THE ONLY legitimate way and nothing I've ever done counts as photography, we're just in a hurry. Yes, I know I've spent too much of my past in a perfect safe bubble where the General trained me to never ever tolerate being fucked with. But he fought my battles. And yes, I may be getting my period and yesterday was a hard working day. Too many blisters on my feet. Still. It hurt, how I was talked to. It's hard, this work, hard on dignity - you have to impose on guests WHILE they eat so as to take their photographs and some can be pretty shitty to you, you feel like a beggar who gains nothing by begging but insults. I also know that even though they say No, thank you, they always come to check out the gallery wall in the morning, just in case.

And of course the kicker of the entire awful day was talking to a lady, who wouldn't have her photo taken, because she's just lost her husband and this would be her first cruise without him and to not have him in a picture would just break her heart. I thought I was gonna lose it right then and there. I know these people are fairly old and I am yet to have the lives as nice as busy as they have, but the thought of losing G is a deep wide ocean of heartbreak too bad for me to bear. 

We'll see what today brings.

... (4pm)
Fine, fine, so I had half a waffle. Would you like to see a list of things that I HAVEN'T eaten? Mm?It was only because I found myself in the middle of Antwerp with three hours to kill and in pleasant company, and it hit me: I'm in freaking Belgium! That is so cool - I can phone the General and chirp: Guess where I am! Belgium! ..The weather was gray and my emotions are still struggling to put more on the happy pile than there is on the miserable, and I bought some chocolates for my shipmates. Nothing about the chocolate or the waffle that would make me want to abandon my allegiance to Lucifer's or fucking Dobnik's, though the lot of it did cheer me up. Having only three hours to burn is a bit of a torture - you can only see so much and have one chillaxing drink. I also only just now realized that I should probably buy stamps when I buy the postcards, because we're in a different country every day and it feels a bit rude to post Belgish... Belgiumish ... Belgian stamps on Dutch cards. 

I miss G. I keep having this awful feeling that he's just about to round the corner and I'll be in his arms in a moment and he'll push me away (no public immodesty!) and I'll bite him in the tummy... I keep looking down the streets to see him, or around the ship to ask if anyone knows where he is. It's the damndest feeling. Though waffles would help. It's his birthday tomorrow. So far I have as many reasons to go as I have to stay: I am miserable, I miss G too much and I hate what we're doing VS I love to be on a ship, I love to visit the towns (albeit far too briefly) and I love the adventure. Everything weights on the triviality of money I'll make. I've marked it at 250. Give or take 30. That'll be my litmus test. 

Today was okay, it ended a lot better than it started... I truly enjoy spending time with some of the people here. At the very end I had a virgin Pina Colada with a pair of friendly ladies, which dragged into a minute after midnight, so technically this is already a good start of
Sitno >> 240 <<

Am declaring thursdays officially 'days off' my super strict diet, because thursdays are my favorite days and today is G's birthday. And he's practically St.George's Thor. (St.George being his home town, known for tough folk, and Thursday being Thor's day an'all..) The chef was also feeling generous and put out a waffle buffet witch ice cream and all kinds of toppings. I had to try it, even though it wasn't as good as the half I had in Antwerp. It was an easy day in the gallery. Tomorrow is the end of this cruise and a pity, too, as I have only just now got to recognize the people and now they will leave for good. They were almost all really nice people. We're giving them one more semi formal and dining room shoot today... I'm secretly wearing Dr.Martin's, so it should be easier :P

As it is an off day of food, I also had a schmensy salad in one of the guests' restaurants, finishing it with a minute chocolate and passion fruit cakes and a small piece of blueberry pie. In one week's time, when the time comes again, I have pre-selected the chocolates from the chocolate bar which I will treat myself to. Other than that my clothes don't seem to be any less tight. Eh, well.

We did some last photos, which were better than the first by far, I think, and of the lot that probably won't be sold, I will go after one of an elderly gentelman, a Normandy D-day veteran. It is the closest I've ever gotten to our old little Vinnie Rommel. Cool, in fact, to be speaking with someone who helped bring down the infamous marschal's career. The tiny Nazi might have carried around a posh stick, but this little old fella is still here, on a big white cruise ship and a medal of courage chatting with a nice girl with a big camera.

In the end they may all blend together, I suppose, after 20 or so cruises, but I think I will remember several of them for good. The lady that starts to sing Niiiinaaa from Argentiiiinaaaa every time she sees me, and the pair of another veterans - him a firefighter brigade and she a parametic... And a family of plump people, with plump and happiest children you'll ever see. The boy was a little bit of getting used to, but once I got there, I can't get enough of him. So much positive energy in such a lovely family. Wish I fucking knew them on Facebook.
Kudos to me for having abandoned Facebook.
Was gonna write a long letter to G again, but got sidetracked by a puzzles box and tried fitting the pieces until I couldn't see properly anymore. There was upposed to be some posh food bar at midnight, which I oddly don't care for anymore... It would have been great to go on a trip tomorrow, alas, we have a drill smack in the middle of my free time. Supposedly we've hit target earnings, whatever that means. We'll see. We are said to be having two more lean cruises and then one that's supposed to be good. We'll make the decision what the fuck have I gotten myself into the, four cruises in. Litmus test will tell. We had a sale, a last day thing it seems, on the ship today... Many nice, cheap things. Tooooooo tempty. Do I reaaaaaaally need a wrist watch? i do need it, but do I reeeeeaaaaaally really need it? Though the thing I need the most is an external disk. Not dick. Disk. To put things in slots.. Not sluts. Ah, fuck it. 

Sitno >>239<<

Another flawless morning, perfect weather, a nice long chat with G. Had a long shower, played some PvZ, looking down from the ship onto a magical medieval town of Honfleur. We have a fire drill now; will hike to it a wee later. Once I get my first pay, I'll buy some stamps. I even managed to squeeze myself into a size 16 shirt, which cheered me up. May drop a size every month, if I stick to my strict regime and if Thursdays are far apart enough :D I saw the photos from last night, you can hardly still tell whose are which. Am fantasizing about having a small bike or a skiro. For now I'll just write a little bit. I may have the first line for 'Dread' - "Alright, let me try to explain how this isn't entirely my fault."

The drill was announced as a drill several times, which was good, because if you didn't know this was a drill, it would be kind of scary. Then we had an Infestation-prevention and Managment class and then lunch. Not the best order. Is there a limit on how many times you are allowed to wash your hands?  Now I'll run into Honfleur and see if I can find a WiFi.

Found WiFi. Worst coffee ever, costing 4 euro, but I found it. Normandy is never a simple uptake. :p

Sunday, 10 April 2016

It is, it is a perfect morning. The weather is perfect. No clouds. Beautiful dawn. Got up at five on their time, as six is already a bit late by my time. Showered, which was an adrenaline sport, as the floor of the pretty kiost is murderously slippery once the shampoo runs down; had to stand on a towel. I made myself more tea and ate a few of Tinka's bounties. Oddly enough, my appetite is somewhat shy. That's rare. Tried to do makeup on myself, but because the water made my face all spotty and reddish, the end result was that of an old transvestite after a blowjob. My curler was of no use, since I haven't the proper socket. Ah, well. Guess I'm still good old me. 

G and I finally learned to Skype and talked for an hour while he was still yawning on the bed - just seeing his beautiful face and his fat puppy tongue made me want to cry again. But I am too happy. Today is going to be an interesting day. And I like interesting days. 

Saturday, 9 April 2016

In limbo

On the go
I've not boarded a plane in too long - I had no idea what to do and behaved like a fiddling idiot. Fortunately by the time we parted with G, I was already crying so hard most everyone was taking pity on me and they didn't weight my carry-on. Except the body check lady - she was unfazed by my sentimentality. Sometimes I think all these lenghly procedures are there to distract you from personal sadness - or sadness distracts you from the boring boarding procedures. I wish I was taller and thinner and then I could be a stewardess.

I loaded about 300 episodes of One Piece on the iPad and as I type this, it mostly feels like I'm on a crowded train. In case there is no meal served, Tinka packed me these adorable little pockets of nuts and granola mixes, which smell like vagina, but they're a life saver. She knows I freaking adore cashews, since I always eat them first out of every mix.. :D It's hot and the seats are a bit worn out, though other than that this is such a simple jump. (If costly. I failed to print some coupons that I didn't notice and had to pay 30 bucks to get my flight pass. Crappy, really. George Clooney in 'Up in the air' I am not..)

Am making myself a new safescape, a new mental happy place to reatreat to - one that will last longer than the previous one, because the other time at the dentist's I only had about two minutes of material. Now I'm making myself a summer forest path, paved with last year's golden ginko leaves, fresh new sappling greens and deep darker green in the distance. Almost any way I turn I can see the General's shoulder in my peripheral and Lyra runs between our feet once in a while. This path is long and beautiful, better than perfect even - it's idyllic. Up and down and on and on. As a Hobbit would say: over hill and under tree..

Touchdown. Crowd goes wild.
If someone was watching me through the hotel window and they've never seen anyone clear their photo gear before, it might look to them like I was a sniper assassin :D
Because I am not used to this, everything about the airport was overwhelming - the flight was good, not a single bump, even though we had to fly through two layers of clouds - up first and then down again (no, really?). Although Luton is not too big, it was packed with thousands of people. Most of them didn't have EU ePassports and had to wait in line even longer, but as it turns out, I do have an ePassport and could just show it to a machine, which greenlit my entry into UK. Then I had to wait for the conveyer belt (is it spelled like that? No idea.) to bring me my big red case. As it turns out, dragging a 40 pound suitcase is nowhere near easier than carrying a 40 pound backpack. There goes my tiny bike-trailer theory. I got the suitcase, easy enough, even though I always dread they'll misplace it, my precious little cargo (love-letter paper and my inks and toothbrush and the like, things I cannot be happy without..) and then dragged it outside, following a photo on my phone, of where the hotel was supposed to be. Didn't need it, really; an airport worker directed me just around the corner. I'm here now. I'm actually too tired to go outside or even leave the room, even though I suppose I could go explore and look at the airplanes take off across the parking lot. But for now, I'm just sitting at the desk wearing nothing but The General's oversized T-shirt, cleaning the camera.
I had a tremendous headache before I arrived, not having drank enough, or at all. The water here tastes really weird and I'm suspecting I will have to start using hair conditioner, because I washed my hands three times now and my skin has gone as dry as sand. I washed my blusher brush and the eyeglass little hankies to use them to clean the lenses and the corners of the gear. The General bought me a duche-cleaning-looking little air blowing rubber thingie, which I don't know why I haven't gotten before. Cleaned the sensor, cleaned the bag, cleaned the caps of the lenses, the whole catalogue. Of course realised too late the Brits truly are a fucking island and their power outlets don't agree with my chargers... But at least I can send texts home and hope the phone bill won't kill the General come end of month.
This room is very nice and the booming sound of air buses taking off every two minutes actually soothes me. Makes me want to have a private jet. They're tiny and prissy. The back wall of my view is deep blue sky with big pillowy white and gray clouds, so it makes for an even better screen saver :)) After I almost passed out and slept for two hours on unfamiliar pillows, G informed me he's told all my family members I've arrived safely and grandma's called me twice. G calls it divine providence that for some reason I can't call anyone back but him, Chatty Cathy. Oh, did I mention,  while I was on the plane, there were dozens of primary school kids on their finishing school trip, and also the entire female Ice Hockey representative, one of which they called Shannon the Cannon :D Adorable :D
There is a small tray of complimentary coffees and tees and a water heater on the table. I am usually too afraid to use any of this stuff, so that they wouldn't charge me for it (I never know what is complimentary and what is not), though since there aren't any single serving shampoos and soaps, I just might pack everything. I mean, not the water heater. I'm not a barbarian. 

I should go down and see if they at least have a library, but I think for now I'll just watch One Piece, read Thug Notes and engineer my repacking. (Now that the customs no longer care how I carry what where.) I've promised myself to stay off FB for this trip and so far I have. Odd, how far away everything seems. I do go into uncontrollable sobbing every time I think of not seeing the General tonight - I wept like a crocodile when I walked out of the airport and people were waiting for people and he wasn't there (of course he wasn't, he's a continent away.) We'll see if the distance makes us love one another less or more, but the fact is, I feel the same when we're not in the same room, whether it's one door away or a thousand. 

Friday, 8 April 2016

Bye bye, bitches :D

T - minus half a day

38 days BE (before embarking). Like that word. Am deputizing it. 
Going slightly incoherent from hating job interviews (though the 8-hour pastry chef audition was delicious!), I jokingly snarled: I will only send out thirty more of these (application, scattered randomly into the winds, for any number of jobs imaginable, because I really aren't picky about menial labor and need a change) and the last one will be for a photographer aboard an ocean liner.
The General asked: and you would do that? Board a ship and stay there for a long time and - you know those things sail on water, right?
I replied: I was planning on doing that since before I met you. 
G: Then don't send any. Send just this one.

37 days BE
I carefully asked G if he was being serious about letting me on a boat. We've been together for nine years, with maximum of five days apart and never more than three hours out of text message distance.
We had The Talk. If he promises not to miss me too much, at least not in a bad way, and if he promises to be here when I come back, I promise to see the world, make some money, spend some time slaving away at a galley and getting new stories.

36 days BE
I mentioned my idea to Drej, one of my besties, and she told me of a girl she knew who did that exactly - took off to photograph on a boat. So, I began making contact with people who tried this out for size before me.

35 days BE
Applied randomly to anything having remotely to do with being a photie on a ship. I talked to the professor who made me an astrological card and she said that ye, in mid-April I will have a big shift in life. And that it’s about time, too.

33 days BE
Read a very instructive blog by a girl who worked aboard in a souvenir shop. Not too instructive about what to expect as a photie, but super instructive about how to avoid being robbed by fake agencies.

32 days BE
The first to answer my application was Ocean Images - they scheduled a Skype interview. Didn't have a Webcam or any means of getting it, so General bought me one. Our first expense. Since we had absolutely no money and even less to spare, every expense of the doe we borrowed was making things more serious.

30 days BE
Got two more replies from two more shipping companies, but the Ocean Images interview with a very nice woman sold it for me. They want someone to actually take pictures, not just push the big button. I began to question my age and abilities, because she was either genuinely impressed or just incredibly polite. She asked what does my husband say about this - I said if I didn't have his blessing, we wouldn't be having this conversation. She asked how I will function under superiors half my age. I replied a brief is a brief, doesn't matter if the client is 12 or a 100. She asked how I feel about the tiny bunk and crowded, functional hierarchy. I said: Lady, it'll feel like coming home. 

29 days BE
Got a call from a fella from Ocean Images, saying he doesn't have an ocean liner for me, but there is a small coastal cruiser sailing in a month, if I'm interested. It's so small I would be the only photographer. The only money would be what I managed to sell. 
Exactly the opposite of what I was expecting or was getting prepared for, but, somehow, that sounded made for me. Either they were unable to find a sucker for the worst job available or I impressed them so much they threw me right onto the dance floor. There goes that questioning myself again. I'll add in retrospect which one was it :D

It's March the 11th. Everything major that's ever happened to me, happened on March the 11th. I got into the army on that date. I got into the postal service and met The General on that date. Dad survived a heart attack. I opened my own publications agency on that date. Lots of stuff like that. And now Braemar, which will bring whatever it decides to bring. 

28 days BE
Am calling the road to Braemar - my ship - a Five Bumps Road. 
Bump one: I need to get the medical exam
Bump two: Need to get an English non-criminal-history certificate
Bump three: Got to get Yellow Fever vaccination
Bump four: got to get the Seaman's book
Bump five: need shoes and clothes.

27 days BE
Bumps one and four bumped into each other and I was starting to freak out. The medic agreed with the agency in Zagreb, Croatia, costs half as much as the one in Slovenia, but cannot provide me with results fit for Seaman's book application - even though it is the exact same exam. And the one in Slovenia aren't approved for by the agency. No way I can do both, they are too freaking costly. They are called bumps for a reason - I need to learn not to psych myself into hysteria every time I run into one.

As a result of my hysterics, four of my teeth - two adjacent pairs, began to ache like little bitches that they are. We tried finding a dentist, but none would take us. They all want money to see me on such a short notice. The General said to stop talking about it and let him deal with it. Fortunately that meant he'll find a dentist, not that he will PLAY the dentist for the occasion. I have fucking psychosomatic teeth, man. 

26 days BE
The agency agreed to postpone the Seaman's book requirement, costing me a visit to St. Petersburg, until I have more money. They also agreed to postpone the required safety training - either because they don't think it's that important or they expect me to photograph stuff when the ship sinks. 

25 days BE
Falling in love with Braemar's itinerary. I take it back when I said I want to sail the world. No, I want to get my sea legs close to the General and going to Scotland, UNESCO heritage sites and the freaking fjords! My route would be from April to December, 8 months. We will have to lie to grandma. At least a little. The agency said that if I prove myself, they'll send me to a pro portrait training in the US. 
    Do you realize I've never been to US and for a little while the world seemed too big for me to ever actually get there? Suddenly the world seems the size of a blue volleyball. 

24 days BE
Offed to get a Yellow fever vac. It would cost 40€, but when I got there, the really nice lady explained not only is my previous vaccination still legit, but also WHO is planning on announcing the one intake is viable for the entirety of one's life. So, that was an oddly pleasant surprise. 

23 days BE
Off to Zagreb, to get the medical exam. Felt really weird to have other people touch me, touch my boobs. Had to give blood, X ray my chest, check my blood pressure, sight, stuff like that. The end result was flawless health and total lack of drugs, booze, STDs, pregnancy or anomalies in my system. I half expected the doctor to tell me to live a little :D
Treated myself to a city archeology museum. Zagreb also has trams. Trams are cool.

22 days BE
Gran warned me I will have to clean rooms and make beds and wash dishes, because that's what work on a boat is like. And I should eat a lot of onions, so as to not get scurvy. And a war may start. And our government is corrupt. And the General will probably find a younger woman. And also there is water and I hate water.

21 days BE
When grief and homesickness kick in in advance, I make small, secret cards for G to open on various, specific dates, like end of May or on his birthday or on my birthday or when it's time to feed the dog... 

19 days BE
The admin over in the UK confirmed all my paperwork is now in order and my gear is splendid (yes, thank you, I love my gear, too, it makes me feel almost invincible), so I’ll be getting travel details in a few days – he said.

17 days BE
Some assholes blew up Brussels airport, killing over 30. My grandma isn’t talking to me anymore, upset with me. She was upset before, threatening me with describing all the duties of a house keeper’s position. I tried to explain that the photographer doesn’t do housekeeping, but she said – just you want and see! Everyone has to do everything on a boat!... I did not have the heart to tell her I don’t mind housekeeping. If the pay wasn’t so ghastly, I’d sign up for that if photies weren’t being sought after. Though my second dream job would probably be - an auctioneer.

10 days BE
Haven’t received travel plans yet, but I did receive the contract. Also went to the dentist and spent most of the time hiding under a chair weeping while he talked to me like I was a small child. He may have over-done the pain-blocking injection – five hours later I still can’t feel my face and he only used it so that he could examine me. I thought my teeth were in a much worse condition. They’re not. I’m starting to suspect they all ache because they’re crammed into such a small mouth. Once we decided it would be possible to come back after my tour, I fled.

 9 days BE
Travel details in. They asked to fly me in a day early and they pretty much had me at ‘may we fly you in?’… Made me feel like Cristina Ricci’s character at the beginning of Pan Am, when they fly her in via helicopter so as not to lack a purser on an important flight.

4 days BE
Packed almost entirely. Only missing some food and bandages for blisters… And which friggin’ paper book to take :/ Impossible decision L Kraut and Tea has 2700 subscribers. Also listening to Sargon of Akkad, The Amazing Atheist, Impression Blend, Jeremy Jahns and Bearing.

3 days BE
They called me from a Croatian shipping agency to attend an interview for a gift shop. Not sure why a photie would be called for a gift shop job, but I am neither young, thin or pretty enough to belong behind a gift shop counter and would never be happy there. I need to move, I need the air, I need the sights.

2 days BE
Made a good goodbye memory with mum and dad – lunch and helping mum spray the vineyard and then we hugged and cried a little and I said the Baltics will never be the same. I considered going up once more time the next day, but this memory was too perfect.

1 day BE
Saw gran and several of my friends and now I’m all ready to go. Will make sure I don’t re-pack until midnight, so as to mess up as much as possible. The plane is a bottleneck of packing. Will re-arange everything once I'm atb the hotel. Still no idea what book to take, but since it’s raining, I’m almost sure I’ll be taking the boots.