Carrie's Adventures

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

The 5% Other

When you start your new job, one of the first things you get is the job description. It outlines your roles and responsibilities for the organization. I'm not sure why, but on mine, there always seems to be the small print at the bottom ot the page which reads ~ 5% Other.

Well the most recent component to fall under the 5% rule came when I moved into the cabin. George has a few 'guests' that he has in the cabin. Originally the entourage started as a group of 6. While I was away, it dwindled to 5. I'm sad to say we have lost some more soldier... That's right these are my roomies:

The problem came when I noticed one of the 'compadres' was getting rather comfy swimming in the cup. I didn't really pay much attention, until I realized that he had been in there a long time ~ like 2 days long time. So I decided it was time to investigate further. Low and behold when the cup did move, out floated a somewhat decayed Goldfish. Now having had fish as a child, I learned that to bury them, you simply dropped them in the toilet, said your fond farewell and then 'Flush'. Being on a ship my gut instinct to drop him in the toilet was incorrect ~ attached to the vacuum system, I could only imagine clogging up the 'ship sewers' and then having them trace it all back to me... So after my instict dropped him in the toilet, I then found myself trying to fish out this partly decomposed fish with the measly little net and thinking this really isn't part of the job description.

In recognition that the water may be a bit 'contaminated' from the rotting corpse that was in there, I decided it would be a good idea to give them some fresh water. The task of cleaning the tank is never easy, but hey, you gotta do what you gotta do. So with clean water ~ well as clean as you get without it coming from a bottle ~ I decided to wait a small while until the water was closer to room temperature. Well it seems that perhaps I didn't wait long enough as one fish after being in the tank for 5 minutes started sending his body north and gasping as only fish can do. Seeing the distress, I promptly dumped any bottled water I had ~ 4 of them at $0.85 a bottle ~ into another plastic tub and watched him move into a more upright position. His breathing was still laboured as it seemed that it was the only thing he could do, and the red colour that was spreading to his gills and his fins I'm suspecting came from some internal bleeding I may have caused. Grateful that he was now looking a bit better, I rescued one other who seemed to not be doing so well.

Evening came and went and the morning brought great shock to find the poor bugger not doing very well. He was on his side gasping for something with his wee fin flapping to the side. Feeling immense guilt, I couldn't even look at him and fled the cabin. What have I done? I kept returning to the cabin in anticipation of seeing the bugger floating, hoping that he would pass while I wasn't here, but the day went on and he was still here at the end of it. It seems kinda creepy to think that something is going to die with you in the room and that night when I went to bed, dreading waking up to the 'floater'. Well the next day, I noticed that he was not in fact lying on the bottom of the container as he had the previous day, but was in fact swimming ~ slowly albeit ~ but still swimming around the container. I decided to risk the introduction to the tank and thankfully I am able to report that the count is still at 4.

However it does seem that someone is trying to send me a message.... Could you imagine me with kids?!? YIKES!

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

What have I signed up for?

It was amazing how quickly you get back into old patterns. I made my way to the ship on Thursday and there was George. Even though we had emailed a couple of days earlier, it is always a good feeling when your replacement comes ~ it means you really are going to be able to leave!

I spent 9 days getting back into the groove with George here. It was amazing to realize that some things I felt very comfortable with before I left, I was now second guessing myself. In addition to learing the ropes, I was also staying in a guest cabin. While this does have perks, it was also difficult as I didn't want to unpack for 9 days, only to pack it all back up again and move it down 1 deck to the cabin. That being the case, the first week was definitely unsettling, but I can tell you that there were no tears and the anxiety about being here that I experienced on my last contract was gone... That was until George left.

So George left on Saturday. His original flight had 2 connections and one was apparently very tight ~ but the good thing for me was that he was going to be leaving at 3pm. Enough time for me to get Embarkation underway and settled before he left ~ the safety blanket being that he was there if things went horribly wrong. Well, he did manage to change his flight so he had only one connection but that also meant that he had to leave by 10:45am ~ before Embarkation started. And as Murphy's Law would have it, some things did go horribly wrong. Details are a bit gorry, but the jist of it being we had no network so the laptops could not communicate with the ship. I had 3 vendors coming on board to fix things. Remote files had not been loaded on the 24 laptops, the card printer and correlator had not been set up and I had 45 minutes before we were to start. That was rock bottom... and I did have a melt down at 10 when George needed to givbe me a bit of a kick in the pants and say everything would be OK and that I could do this... I am sure that he was a bit freaked knowing that he was leaving his ship with me and I was mid-meltdown. He did check in once he arrived in New York to see how things were and things had started to improve. Network was back, so we did the embarkation on line, the one thing I screwed up I managed to fix with someone's help, Vendors were fixing things and close to being done. So at the end of a very long 17hr day, I moved my suitcases into the cabin and fell into bed.

It has been strange to be back in the cabin. The other time I was here was when Akis was on board and I keep expecting to see him come through the door with the bounce in his step asking 'ti kanis baby mou?'. But after 4 days, this hope/expectation is starting to pass and I realize that it is me who is in this cabin ~ me and my 2 suitcases and 1 box full of stuff.

I'm sure the next few days will be challenging as I learn the politics of the position, but everyone seems to be happy that I am here. Even the Captain congratulated me on the 'promotion' today. Here's hoping I can live up to the expectations!!

The Big Apple!!

One city I had yet to visit was New York. So after my arrival in Vancouver, I was giving my personal travel escort my flight details when I realized that I was going to be flying into New York a day early ~ I get there Wednesday, the ship gets there Thursday. Oops! Well instead of changing the ticket with only 5 days to go, I decided to get a hotel and spend the day in New York.

I had received an email from my friend Karen a few weeks earlier describing her travels to see Letterman and all of her adventures. I was quite exited to finally get there! Reading of her adventures, I wanted to do it all ~ but she had 4 days and I only had 1. So after arriving at the hotel after my red-eye flight, I headed by train from Newark into the city. I was going to take one of those hop on/hop off tour buses, but after getting out of the train station I didn't know where to find them. So I started to walk towards Times Square. Feeling a bit nervous about being in the city alone, I figured if I was walking in the crowded streets, I couldn't go too far wrong. As I became more relaxed, I decided at that point that I would take in as many 'highlights' as I could walking through the streets. What I couldn't get over was all the horns, the traffic... It is definitely a city with it's own personality and to be honest, the folks I did run into seemed to be quite nice and helpful. The guy at the train station showed me how to work the monstrocity of a machine that issues the train ticket, someone offered to take my photo in Grand Central station after she saw me doing the 'hold the camera out at arms length and smile while you snap the photo'... So I must say, the city was not as cold as I expected it to be.

The tour was going to include:
Times Square,
Rockfeller Centre,

Central Park,

Grand Central Station
and the Empire State Building.

I managed in my tour to stumble onto some unexpected stops as well ~

Radio City Music Hall,
Trump Towers
and who knew that the Gardens were above the train station.

Recognizing that I was at the end of my vacation, I was conserving pennies, so dinner was pizza from a pizza joint, although I should have had a Smokie like the guys always do on Law and Order!!

I can say it is a city I would like to go back to ~ and do it right.

Beth's birthday...

Beth has just celebrated her 28th birthday. As birthdays go, it was pretty low key on the actual day as I understand, but we made up for it after the fact.

Sunday found us at the Spa Utopia. Now I can not possibly think of a better name for this place as I LOVE the pedicures you get here. Beth and I have been on other occassions with other friends and after having a pedicure on the ship which is suppose to be 5-star I swear, this may well be my favourite place forever for pedicures. The pedicure was an hour long and afterwards we hung out in our robes, in cushy chairs and chatted about life, experiences and whatever else came to mind. I am pleased to say that the toes are still in fine shape after more than 2 weeks ~ and they looked fabulous in the sand. Beth chose 'I'm not a Waitress' red, and I really wonder who gets the job of making up the names? Cause I think Beth and I could do a good job!

The second part of my celebration with Beth was a group event organized by her partner Marc. He gathered 5 of her closest friend for a surprise dinner ~ however the guest of honour arrived early before the others. Despite trying to keep it secret ~ it would seem that Beth was onto us. It was a good night. The gathering also gave me a chance to catch up with Darci as she was in from Peachland and was pleased to hear the business is going well.

Happy Birthday Beth!

Beth and Suzanne


Carrie, Darci and Marc

...and I am missing the picture of Janet!! (but she took the picture above...)

The personal escort...

Now my friend Marc has been on this mission to collect a million AeroPlan miles... To do so he has been flying all over the country and generously offered to meet me in Toronto for my return flight to Vancouver. Now being a very frequent flyer (Super Elite Status) I was privy to the lounge ~ and it had been a long time since I had been there. I think it was my pre-Australia Class days when I flew enough to have status for the lounge!!

Much to Marc's disappointment, I didn't however purchase the correct fare category that would allow him to upgrade me to Business Class ~ he kept reminding me it was only $30.00 and probably thought I was the cheapest person on the planet! So yes, that meant he had to schlep it with the rest of us in Cattle Class.

He also had to purchase his snack ~ hmmm yummy pizza!! I can honestly say that what they presented us was the furthest thing from pizza I think you could get, but hey, I'm open to other opinions...

Where have all the updates been?!?

Well I must say that is a really good question. It is amazing how quickly time passes and things change... but first before we start, I need to show the pictures of the girls and our outing in Toronto!

As I mentioned, I love getting together with these ladies. It's unfortunate that we aren't able to get together more often!!

Lesley ~ Love the nails!!

Hey! How did he get in here?!?

Now, what have I been up to ~ here's the high level.
* Returned to Vancouver with a personal escort from Mr. Tacchi himself.
* Final arrangements in Vancouver to house the Miata, see friends before I left.
* Birthday celebration for my friend Beth ~ celebration included a dinner out with her close friends, and she and I spent an afternoon getting our toes buffed and painted red.
* A day to spend in New York City.
* Return to the Constellation and 9 days with George before his holidays.
* First embarkation day alone
* First day on the Beach

Sunday, November 06, 2005

The final days before heading back

So while I was in Ontario I was given access to the schedule. This allows us to see what ship you are posted to, when you are to sign on/sign off, and if you are the Manager or the Assistant. Well there had been discussion about my replacing George while he went on his vacation. In reviewing the schedule, I see that this is in fact what they are looking to do ~ and it looks like it may be on both the Constellation and then I will move to the Mercury and do the same thing... I must say my feelings about this are mixed.

I have a better cabin ~ it will be bigger and will be good for hosting visitors when they come
I don't have to do the 6:30am night audit ~ this is something the assistant will do
I will get more money ~ albeit, not that much more
I have control over my schedule more than I would if I was the assistant ~ meaning if I want to have a beach day, I can!
My contract is currently 4 1/2 months instead of 6 ~ by month 5 I was burnt out, so leaving before that happens is a good thing.

I will be the one that gets yelled at when things don't work
My contract is currently 4 1/2 months instead of 6 ~ less money in the old pocket as I will finish up 6 weeks earlier.

While I know that the Pros appear to be outweighing the Cons, I think I will reserve judgement until I have been back for a while.

Other item of note:
The folks seem to be unaware of when I should fly to get there. Marc, who is on his quest for a million points, is planning on flying with me to Newark. When booking his flight we assumed that because I was joining the ship on Thursday, that I would be flying Wednesday. Well in fact it turns out that I fly on Tuesday ~ and have a day in New York. When asking George about this, he said it would be unlikely that they would change my ticket at this late date so it appears that I have a day to spend in the Big Apple! I'm very excited about that as I have yet to be to New York and a friend just went for 4 days on a spree to see Letterman and loved it. You know where the next group of photos will be coming from now don't you!!

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Akis and Carrie's travels to Ontario

We arrived in Toronto and were promptly picked up by Jim and Jane and were wisked away to Southampton ~ a small, yet charming town on the coast of Lake Huron. The town itself has under 3000 people, and I think Akis was amazed at the fact that there was only one stop light.

The days here were pretty low key. We didn't do much other than sit, drink coffee, go for for walks, watch Akis check out the squirrels in awe and have family over for dinner. I must say that it was a bit of a switch for him as he was required to spend all of his time communicating in English, and smoking required that he went outdoors. From the sounds of things, there is a lot more space here than there is in Athens and he seemed to marvel at the size of the houses and the lawns that accompanied them.

The other low key days were spent at my sister's house ~ recently purchased some of us were put to the task of helping to tear down the shed and the satelite dish, while others of us skipped out of the tasks at hand.

We did take 2 road trips while we were there ~ Niagara Falls and the Danforth.

True to form, the days at the Falls were wet and ultimately I broke down and bought an umbrella. I think this had more to do with the fact that Akis was not pleased when he was soaked head to toe while we were caught in the rain, than my actual belief that we needed one. The days were cool, ok rather cold but the night was even colder. We had to duck in and out of the car to capture the photos of the falls in the evening to prevent ourselves from having our extremities numbed by the cold. I did manage to go up the Skylon tower ~ a first for me and I must say it was quite the sight up there. You have a clear view of everything around you. The other bonus of going this time of year was the lack of people. We managed to score with the parking ~ free at the Casino and free at the park at night, the hotel was dirt cheap ~ a bit suspect but for $44 you can't complain. What was shocking was that the max rate for the room was posted at $299. Now that is hiway robbery! The restaurants still managed to charge a significant sum ~ $3.00 for my Diet Coke which had less than what you would get in a can!

It had been a number of years since I had gone, so it was go again. Amazing how you can sometimes forget the great wonders that are in your back yard!

The Danforth:
So one of Akis' friends lives in Toronto and happened to be there on vacation while we were in Ontario. To celebrate 'Oxi' Day (pronounced 'oh-he' - the Day the Greeks said 'NO' to the Germans and the Italians I believe) they closed off the Danforth and had a parade. This is a pretty big celebration for them so off we trucked to Toronto to see some of the action. Given Akis had spoken very little Greek since coming to visit, it was cute to watch him as we drove into the area and he realized that the signs were in Greek ~ reading all of a sudden became so much easier. We met up with Dimitri and proceeded to a cafe for coffee, Greek style. This means that it will take you forever to drink your coffee and everyone around you will be smoking. As North Americans do, I got my coffee, had it consumed in 15 minutes and bid adieu to the boys and headed downtown to spend some time with some of the gals I haven't seen in about a year.

We had decided to hit the spa and then take a bit of a pub crawl. The crawl didn't really start off well as we stopped at the first location as it had an outdoor seating area. After Ms. Ann just about froze to death we decided to carry on towards a patio with heaters and sun. Well just before reaching the destination, we realized that it would be more of a hop than a crawl so we decided that a few more stops were in order. It was a great day and I enjoyed the company, along with the plans we started to put into motion for getting together in January in a sunny location. That's right, Carrie will have visitors. =)

As all things do, the vacation time did come to an end and Akis and I made our way to the airport. We both flew that night in opposite directions leaving us almost a world away ~ and while I was sad to see him leave and I know I will miss him, I am excited about my next opportunity to see him which will have me visiting in Greece after my next contract. Here's hoping that I make it a bit further than lesson 7 of my 'Learn Modern Greek' CDs!

Akis' Canadian Adventure - BC edition

Akis has been to Vancouver several times, however the extent of seeing the city was limited to the pier at Canada Place. Embarkation for the Infinity was done here which is always the busiest time for the IT folks. So despite having been in the city over the past couple of years, this was the first time he was able to 'experience' the west coast ~ well actually what he experienced most was the rain.

So the decision was made that he would come and visit. He had a ticket from the company back to Greece, but we were pretty sure that we would be able to change that. Well that was the first assumption that proved to be incorrect. After consultation with Marc and his Travel Agent friends, conversations with the airline, it was revealed that there was no possible way to change the ticket unless the company did it. Unfortunately the corporate policy doesn't allow for variation of your ticket, which meant he had to purchase another one.

I headed down on the 13th of October to pick him up from Seattle. It was a bit of a stressful ride as we weren't sure what challenges the border may present. As it turned out, we provided the return ticket and declaration of goods that would be remaining in the country and we were off. The day was generally nice and had I known that we were in for rainy weather I would have insisted that we stay out longer and enjoy the sunshine. As it was we did manage to cruise around Kits, check out the beach and some of the houses out on Kits point. What I would buy if I had a million dollars!

Day 1 - Shopping on Robson.
We managed to visit the dualing Starbucks and take a tour of the main shopping district. Akis was concerned that he was going to freeze in Canada so his focus was on finding himself a warm winter jacket. His justification for wanting to purchase the jacket was that he would use it in Greece and that the temperature does get cold there in the winter. I'm not quite sure I buy that... Anyways, after a day of wandering we headed to Anton's for pasta and the culinary carb experience. Needless to say neither of us got the pen for finishing the entire plate.

Day 2 - Whistler here we come.
So we awoke to find that there was no rain, and the clouds were starting to break. In attempts to see what BC has to offer, we made a break for the mountains. Stopping for the required Starbucks before leaving, the drive up was good ~ although it is a different drive with the top up.

We stopped at Shannon Falls and I knew he would be in awe after hearing his comments about the small trickles of water that were coming off the rock cliffs on the side of the road. We spent some time taking photos and generally being impressed with the scenery. Available storage on the memory card prior to arriving at the Falls - 138. Available storage when leaving the Falls - around 90.

The drive continued up to Whistler and I can honestly say that it was the quietest I have ever seen the village. We were clouded in so we weren't able to see the tops of the mountains, but Akis saw his first Gondola and as I described what the base of the Gondolas look like at the end of the ski day, he seemed to be surprised that there would be so many people and that everywhere would be white with snow. We walked the village, purchased a few things and then headed for Lost Lake. Again it was a photo bonanza as we took photos of just about everything. After admitting that perhaps we could have driven to the lake instead of the 2km hike, we headed back home and ordered Pizza for dinner.

Day 3 - the Aquarium:
Now I'm not sure about other folks but I was definitely surprised to see that the cost of admission at the Aquarium was over $15 per adult. I was grateful at that moment that I had actually remembered the coupon from the Entertainment book. It was another dreary day and with the BC Teachers being on strike, it looked like parents were seeking anywhere to take their kids in hopes of entertaining them. The exhibits never cease to amaze me ~ in particular the whales and their ability to move their noggins. We stood outside under what cover we could as it was once again raining and watch these animals in action. We then moved on to see the dolphins and after a good hour out in the rain, Akis had enough ~ apparently they don't get rain like this in Athens ~ and it was time to go. We wandered then through GasTown and then went for a bite at Moderne Burger which is like stepping back in time. It has the laminate counters with the stools and old 60's diner bench seats. It has to be one of the only places I know if that is Cash only, but god, the food was good.

Note there are no photos from the Aquarium due to us taking the 'cheaper' camera. Yes Akis, the new Camera is better...

Day 4 - Hanging out:
Met up with my friend Al for a morning coffee. She has switched to an afternoon shift so this was the one time that we were able to connect and get together. Akis and I then went about being Mall rats as we ventured into MetroTown to see what was there. Malls apparently aren't a big thing in Greece so to see 400 stores in one location was a lot to take in. After spending some time debating the merits of purchasing a $300 jacket to keep Akis warm in Canada, we decided to pass on the jacket and head back to the fabulous burger joint. Well it turned out that it was closed and we needed to go to Plan B. Plan B ended up being Sophie's which I love and had Akis in a bit of a panic when he saw the 5 page menu. What I didn't expect was Akis to declare that he heard someone speaking Greek. I thought he was full of it, but when the waitress came to the table, he asked her something in Greek and then proceeded to order when she obviously knew what he was saying. Can honestly say I never took notice of the Greek flag hanging quietly in the corner or the statue of Venus, but it seems that he was correct in his assumption that the owner must be Greek despite my insistance that it was Sophie who owned the restaurant. Jeepers, they seem to be everywhere!

Day 5 - We head east:
The day was relatively uneventful as I took my car to Beth's and caught a cab back to pick up Akis and then head to the airport. Although I was grateful that I didn't take my 'just in time' approach as catching a cab in Burnaby was more effort than I thought. After waiting for 50 minutes to catch the cab, I started to panic thinking we may miss our flight. If it was just me I wouldn't be so concerned but Akis is not the best in airports, so I needed this to be as painless as possible. Re-ticketing and potentially being stand-by was not going to do that! Dad met us in Toronto and we began the 3 hr drive up to our place. It was a long day, but it always is heading home ~ but there is something about sleeping in your old bed that is just so comforting. And go figure ~ the day we left was the day the weather broke in Vancouver, clear skies all the way to Toronto.