Wednesday, January 20, 2010

sunshine and pollock!

And we’re off! The pollock season began at noon Alaska time today and almost 6 hours later we hauled back a nice looking bag. I am stunned at the difference in my experience thus far compared to the previous season.

Observation 1: Haven't blogged since we left Seattle because, to be honest, I've been depressed, listless, and simply unmotivated to do anything. Other people have said it too, but I feel this has been an amazingly boring steam. The 10 days since we left have made me feel the most unproductive I have every felt. Though, thanks to the powers-that-be for smoother sailing and all that jazz, we really only hit rough seas upon leaving Dutch a few days ago.

Observation 2: I remember feeling uber-aware the whole time last year, ready to pounce on any opportunity for activity that came up. Round two I have been much calmer and almost complacent. It's not my battle to fight for women's rights up here. Bring on that tape gun! Sure, I'll still give the guys a hard time but will not and have not taken it nearly as personal. Everyone has a job to do and though I plan on being vocal about what I would like as a crew member, I'm just here to do my part.

Observation 3: Doing my part. Perplexing, what my part should be. As I said, not really my place to be a crusader for the ladies. This is due mostly to the fact that I don't intend to invest the rest of my working life up here… but I also didn't think I'd be back for a second season. Once again, this adventure I've gone on has stopped being just that and somehow merged into my routine lifestyle. Not that I'm looking to be the next Dr. Jones but I do think it's important to realize this is not my calling and make efforts to move on. Though one more season wouldn't do me in, right?

Observation 4: Sheer jubilation at our first haul back rather than disgust. The smell flooded my sinus-clogged nostrils, the sounds of the wenches straining to pull the bag-o-fish aboard filled my ears, catching glimpses of the deck hands efficiently act as a well-oiled team to dump and reset, I joined in with everyone hanging in the doorway holding our collective breath for the first sight of fins and jellyfish. An abomination and exploitation of the sea? Maybe ,but more directly, a job; feeding people and trying to be as efficient at it as possible. No one likes the by-catch factor, though usually it's just because this means a smaller product yield...

To conclude, I have been surprised at my comfort level coming back. The crew is still great, I still get seasick, and the ridiculous quantity of delicious food is still served without fail, even if I stick to salads and cereal. Coming from Peace Corps and travels last year, Frosted Flakes and filter coffee were high on my priority list. Sad how quickly re-adjustment sets in.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Steam on!

In an effort to avoid that annoying mass email option, I’ll be attempting to blog over the next few months to keep everyone updated with what’s going down on the high seas. But let’s not get too crazy and expect pictures, with this connection we’ll just have to wait.

Seattle was great though time was cut short by a delayed flight as I mentioned earlier. Cousin Todd came out to pick up the nomad and family catch-up time is always great. Slept on the boat only after running the gauntlet of conversation with Frank, our security guard. Bless that man as he is DEEPLY involved in the security of our ship and the crew’s well being. Saturday night was excellent as well; Peace Corps friends are everywhere! Just as in Denver I had the chance to reconnect with some old friends who are doing fabulous things. Cheers to Steve, Jaren, and Matt; not least for shoving me into a taxi first at the end of the night. I just knew the lock down was about to begin and wanted to make absolutely sure we were done for the evening. I’m certain April will bring some great times as well.

We steamed out of the harbor at 11:30 or so Sunday morning and it’s been a bit rough. Nothing like it will get once we start fishing but that familiar rocking got a little intense last night as everything I had stashed on my bunk shelf came crashing down on me. I’ve forgotten a few of the quirks about living aboard.
1. As much as I’ve said it, it still holds true: seasickness really does suck. There just aren’t two ways about it, sick is sick and I feel like I’ve been hung-over for days. That hot, sweaty feeling that would go away if only I could get to the door, though it’s just to be greeted by the churning ocean – far too reminiscent of my stomach’s current state.
2. The side to side rocking not only affects walking down the halls, hoisting myself in and out of bed, closing my eyes in the shower, but also getting on and off the toilet. Enough said, and you’re welcome for the mental picture.
3. Once the niceties of “Happy New Year” and “How’s your family” are out of the way, people are perfectly content to not hold a conversation. That said, I have been pleasantly surprised at the number of people who remember my name and the fact that I was guiding this past summer.
It’s actually been fun to play catch up and I am genuinely happy to be back. There may be some merit in the fact that this is my second time around. I know the ropes and people know I can pull my own weight.

Am currently keeping my salad down and about to watch a movie. Life will be this tough for the next 6 days until we hit Dutch.

Friday, January 8, 2010

reflections...and vegas

Time based at home - 4 months.
Road trips taken - 3
Visitors to the Miller homestead - 2 out-of-state and the usual motley crew.
Beers consumed - significantly less than previous trips home!

And so it begins again. Everyone says at the end of Peace Corps do spend some decompression time at home. I finally did it. I am so decompressed my head just might float off my body. It's been great to do the holiday thing with my family but nothing like a solid dose of good ole American consumerism to chase me back on the road...or sea rather.
It's true, I am off for round two of fishing... and don't feel bad about it either. The more experience I can get out there, the more I will learn about the issues facing our oceans. And, let's call it like it is, this job also allows me to avoid that panicky feeling I get when I pay my bills. But isn't that the point of having a job in the first place, to pay the bills? I'm finding that to be true and yet it never fails to incite a rebellion in me. Employment is not a purgatory! Looking forward to another season of physical labor, biting cold, and the genuine camaraderie found only among those kept in tight quarters for a long period of time. And then there's that whole fish smell thing...
Currently sitting in the Las Vegas airport on a 4-hour layover. Won $20 in the slots and never need to do it again. Though it did pay for my exorbitantly priced bagel sandwich. I looked like a monkey pressing the buttons until I got something to work. Nothing like giving the token booth woman her daily chuckle. Was supposed to fly to Seattle yesterday but Mother Nature just was not having it. Mom and I braved the highway today in our little black Nissan that drove like a roller skate the whole way there. This is by far the most luggage I've ever taken as I don't know when I'll be back and Heaven forbid I require my "foxy grandma" t-shirt and not have it! I will say I am impressed with SouthWest Airlines! No baggage fees and I got plenty of updates right to my cell phone alerting me to the current travel conditions. Not to mention the WILDLY cheery and slightly silly flight attendants... though did get a little creeped out when Pam the southern bell whispered over the intercom that we were all "getting very sleepy and didn't want those peanuts that give us gas anyhow"...
On to Seattle where I plan on tackling the public transport again until I get close enough to the docks for an affordable taxi ride. Occupiers of the handicap/elderly/pregnant bus seats beware!