Carrie's Adventures

Thursday, March 29, 2007


So just over 2 years ago, I met Akis here in Aruba. He was had to overnight here on his way back to Greece for vacation. His brother was onboard as the Guest Account Purser, so Akis came to visit. I remember seeing him walk into the office. I was introduced to him by George saying that this might be my new boss when George went on vacation. Akis turned to me, waved, said hello, and then promptly pushed me out of the way so he could use my computer to talk to his buddy's on our instant messenger. Hmmm, I thought.

We had lunch with George and his brother, Greek was flying around the table, but Akis and I spoke about ship life, the need to get off the ship, see things, and at that moment I felt that he understood more of why I was there than what George did. We were in the mess later when he invited me to come to the local bar ~ Carlos and Charlie's ~ for drinks that night before we sailed with the group. Having never been in Aruba before, I got directions and it was my intention to go. It was my first time off the ship by myself. I had been onboard for less than 2 weeks and a lot of this was still new to me ~ so when I wandered off the ship and found Conny, Shannon and the girls, I clung to the safety of being with people I knew and promptly decided I wasn't going to wander the streets of Aruba alone looking for Carlos or Charlie... In the weeks leading up to Akis arrival, I grew more and more anxious about him coming. Things with George were OK, but I just didn't feel like he understood that this job wasn't about the money. This wasn't why I came here ~ I took a pay cut from what I was making in Canada to be here. It was about the travel, seeing places, doing things, not living in the Computer Room. It has only been in the past year when Akis and I recall how we met that I learned that he was looking for me that night ~ despite the fact that we both were with other people. He said that he was disappointed that I didn't show up, and will joke with me that I chose the girls over him.

I do think I believe in 'love at first sight'. Other people may say it is hokey and that you can't possibly know, but there was something about him from the moment I met him. I also remember the feeling of utter disappointment when I first learned that he did have a girlfriend when he joined the ship ~ that sense of 'jeepers, why are all the nice guys taken...'

So as we went out in Aruba yesterday, it was a bit magical to be standing here 2 years later knowing we have future plans. The immediate plans however were to find us a beach.
So Nikos (Akis' boss), Akis and myself headed off to the white sands of the Hyatt. We took in some sun, some sea and dined on food that was not made in the mess. It was a good afternoon out and the boys haven't been off the ship much as there have been projects out the wahzoo.

As we headed back to the ship to drop Nikos off, Akis and I strolled the main street next to the pier and ducked into every jewellery shop there was. Yes, it was fitting that we decided to look for rings here. I'm having a bit of a hard time deciding what it is that I want in the ring. Akis is more of and efficient shopper ~ go in to the store, request what you are looking for and purchase.

So as I was looking at the rings, casting off this one and that one, he had the questioning look for me as if to say ~ what is the difference between these?!? The differences were subtle, but you know, when you are going to be wearing it for decades, you want to make sure you have the right one. We did find a beautiful ring but left it in the store. I think my 'Libra' indecisive ways left me feeling like this is the first day we were looking and I couldn't just go out and buy the first ring we saw... Yes, it will make it difficult as we are not coming back to this port, but as I said to Akis, at least now, I know what it is I am looking for ~ not that I'm picky or anything...

Hello Akis ~ is that you?!?

It has been 7 months since Akis and I have been together. I remember saying to him when I first met him that how could you date someone on another ship where you only saw each other once every 5 or 6 months ~ that you couldn't possibly have a relationship like that. Well ~ I was wrong. With the distance has come a lot of learning and growing I think for both of us. You need to learn to trust the other person, communicate well with them and constantly remind each other of what your goals are. It has been a tough go, many emails, instant messages and phone calls ~ but as our plans currently are, that will be the last of the long separations.

The strangest thing though when you are apart for that long is when you do get back together. Akis has always jokes with me after we have been apart that when we see each other it will be like a blind date ~ 'hello, I'm Carrie'. While it isn't always like that there is an element of 'newness' when you are back with the person. In order to survive, you have your own schedule, way of doing things and all of a sudden you now have this other person who is part of your life and you need to fit them into your world. I said to him the other day while we were talking, that I might need to close my eyes and pretend we are on the phone as it seemed to weird to be looking at him talking.

So I arrived on Sunday and brought some of my stuff. We are in a smaller cabin and while I have managed to make room for what we now have, I am not sure what we will do when the rest of my stuff arrives. I always knew I was a bit of a pack rat, but I think this just proves it.
Monday I spend time going around the ship, realizing that I CAN sit in the lounge chairs on the top deck, stand in line with everyone else without having to be 'wary' of how many passengers there are there, swim in the pool! So I have started myself out slowly...

There also happened to be some techs onboard that I had met on Constellation, so it was kinda neat to meet up with them again and see them in a slightly different context. We went out on Monday night which resulted in Tuesday morning being a bit rough for me. Now you need to remember that I am used to having my cabin to myself. So in the morning when the headache came and the tummy was a bit upset, poor Akis caught the brunt. I am used to being able to curse and moan to myself about how I will never drink like that, this time, I needed to remember that I was sharing the room with someone else who was TRYING to sleep. Needless to say, we are going to need to work on my recovery skills, either that, or learn to limit the consumption!

Part of Akis' schedule includes some gym time in the evening. When we first met, I was the 'Gym Rat' while he sat in the cabin and said, 'why are you going to the gym?!?'. Now it looks like the tables have been turned. I am hoping that he will motivate me and actually not put up with my excuses for not going to the gym, cause I could use a wee bit of time with that old treadmill.
Being onboard has been a bit strange in that the ship has exactly the same layout as the Constellation, so in that way it feels familiar. What isn't familiar is the faces that I see. There are some folks that I recognize and makes things a bit easier, but for the most part, I am still a stranger in a strange land. Next stop is Aruba...

Catching up...

I arrived home to discover that a few folks have returned to grace the shores of Port Elgin. I was home for 3 weeks and it was great to be able to catch up with friends. The surprising thing being that returning home is some what like seeing an episode of a Soap Opera that you watched years ago ~ the characters are mostly the same, and while there are some minor changes, a few days/hours of observation and you are back in the know. It is like you have never left.

It was really quite cool to be able to catch up with folks I haven't seen in YEARS. And you begin to realize how quickly you can lose touch with people...

Nina and Scott
Nina is one of two who have returned to her roots and purchased a home in Port Elgin. With their daughter Ally in tow, Scott fills his days learning the Locksmithing trade ready to take over when Nina's dad decides he is ready to retire and Nina is now looking to rejoin the workforce. Ally is a doll ~ but doesn't sleep like most babies. Nina has very little down time as a long nap for Ally is under and hour. The poor girl may need to go back to work to get a bit of rest! She told me that life changes when you have a baby ~ and while others had told me that ~ I think hearing it from her made it really sink in.

Susan and Peter
Living in Port Elgin, their family expanded a couple of years ago to a group of 4. While I didn't meet Lucas ~ the newest member ~ I did see Sydney and it is amazing to see how quickly they grow. She has definitely settled into Port Elgin life and has been asking when Akis and I will be returning to raise our family...

Molly and John
Up from Guelph, it has been a number of years since I have seen them. I met their youngest daughter Nelly and remember meeting Meridith when she was just a baby, so I am finding it overwelming to see the passage of time as she is now a bounding youngster. They are also taking care of Molly's brother's girlfriend's dog. This is one of the larger dogs I have seen. He is beautiful, that could be attributed to the 'grooming' that they just had for him ~ the catch ~ it took 2 days to groom this dog ~ he has that much fur!

Kristen and Mike
I haven't seen Kristen in at least 4 or 5 years. Kristen, now married, is now teaching down in the city and is expecting their first baby. She is due in May which makes her just over 6 months pregnant and she looks fantastic. I say she doesn't look that big ~ Kristen disagrees saying that there is little room left for the baby. It will be interesting to see how much bigger she gets going into the 'home stretch'

I think the last time I saw Cindy, I was living in Toronto, which gives you an idea on how long ago that was! Currently teaching down in Stratford sharing a house with her brother, her life has been on a bit of a whirlwind as she has met the man of her dreams, bought a house back in Port Elgin and is planning her wedding for later this year. she seems to be embracing all of the 'stressful' life events in stride taking. Who knows, perhaps there will be babies in the future as well!

Liz and Athan
Having just moved to Canada to be with Liz, the pair have bought themselves a home in Bayfield. They are moving at the end of March, and similar to the last time I saw Liz in Luxembourg 3 years ago, they were midst move. Athan is currently working on the house, and had to strip out the bathroom due to an unfortunate bursting of a pipe. They are also midst wedding plans. With the ceremony taking place in early May, I am hoping to be able to extend my vacation by a week so I can be there. In true 'Carrie and Liz' form, we managed to have our regular Trivial Pursuit game and damn it if Athan didn't come out on top.

The cool part about catching up with Liz is that no matter how long it has been since I have seen her, it is as though I saw her last week. As I left, I did promise that won't be 3 years until I see her next.
Athan and Liz during our great Chicken Wing Crawl in Bayfield... =)

Karen and Lesley
On my way to see Krista and Craig, I stopped in Toronto to have dinner with the girls. It has been at least 18 months since I last saw them and it was a good giggle to meet up with them again. Karen is looking to have her man move in with her and her family ~ a pretty big step for her and it is amazing to learn that she and John have been together for 4 years. Lesley was excited to hear about the plans and I hope she takes me up on the offer to come and cruise with us. I think it would be a riot to see her and St. John onboard.

Overall, I did have a lot of time to chill out and relax in addition to the catch up. I realize that being away on the ship for months at a time means that I need to make a more concerted effort to keep in touch. Maybe I should just start with making more regular blog updates!! =)

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Blog Clarifications....

I was out for dinner with Karen and Lesley. After my arrival I was peppered with questions of 'Where are you going, what are you doing ~ we read your blog but are confused...'

That said, I figured I would update with the very latest so you are in the know, and not working off yesterday's plan that didn't quite come to fruition.

What am I doing?

I am still on vacation and will be until at least May 1st.

Where am I?

I am on GTS Infinity. I arrived Sunday in Fort Lauderdale and will be cruising with Akis as a guest. YES ~ that means I get to be the one in casual clothes in the coffee shop, fight with other cruisers for the lounge chair around the pool, and swim in the pool... hehe

How long am I going to be here?

I am 'booked' on the ship until April 22nd

Where am I going?

We started at Fort Lauderdale and will be heading down through the Panama Canal and up the Mexican coast to San Diego. From there I will stay onboard and cruise to Hawaii with the ship. My plan was to leave the ship in Hawaii before coming back to San Diego and avoid the last 4 Sea Days back to the main land, but due to US regulations, it looks like I need to stay with the ship and debark in San Diego ~ damn Jones Act!!!

So what happens after I cruise?

I will be looking to head back to Vancouver for a wee bit to catch up with some folks that I didn't see when I was first home. Get that darn Seaman's medical done ~ $450 bucks so I can be deemed 'fit to work'. I am also looking to extend my vacation by about a week to take in Liz's wedding to the Aussie. This is still 'pending office approval' so we'll have to see how it goes.

When are you going back to the ship to work?

I will be going back around the 1st of May to Infinity ~ yeah, Akis and I finally are going to be back working on a ship together. He will be on the ship for 2 months and then have vacation over July and August. He should be coming back here in September, but the schedule is always open to changes, so we have learned that sometimes you just need to sit tight.

Where is the ring?

The decision to purchase the ring has been made, but unfortunately the hunt for the ring in South America was not successful. As a result, we are going to be spending the next couple of weeks looking while I am here. Stay tuned, it should be coming shortly.

Vancouver? Toronto? What was the decision?

We have discussed the pros and cons of both locations. The primary concern was that Akis adapt to life in Canada and where we have the best chance of success. While Toronto has a larger Greek community, there is a Greek community in Vancouver ~ and the other benefits such as life style, job opportunities for IT along with the Natural surroundings of the Rockies, we have pretty much decided on Vancouver. Although, as with anything this could change, we are now looking to check out the Real Estate market in Vancouver. At first glance, the cost seems unfathomable, but when I look at what rent would cost, I know that we would be better off putting our money into a home rather than continuing to rent. So while we are in Vancouver weekly during the summer, I will be trying to keep my eyes peeled on the market to see what comes up.

So what about Akis' papers?

Well that is one of those daunting processes that we are just starting to look at. We have reviewed the requirements listed by Immigration Canada and spoken with others who have gone through the process. Akis and I are working to map out our plan so that we minimize the time Akis needs to sit without being employed while waiting for papers. All in all, it is one of those things that you need to do ~ and it is best to just get at 'er.

So that is about it from here. I am sure I will have stories of my life as a passenger. I am looking very forward to it ~ it may just be too much for me to decide that I want to be a permanent passenger!

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Map anyone?

You know that a sign of an experienced traveller is knowing when they need to stop the locals and ask the question. Doesn't matter how silly it makes you look, the time you save by asking someone who knows about the area is invaluable.

I called my friend Nina to suggest a visit as she has recently moved back to Port Elgin with her husband Scott and their daughter Ally. Port Elgin isn't that large ~ population 7,000 at best ~ and I spent years cruising the streets while in my High School years. With friends from Port, you feel like you know town like the back of your hand. You use landmarks from your younger years and are able to navigate sufficiently.

I had heard about Nina's home and was told it was down the street from another High School friend ~ it's down the street from Spendiff's old place. Great I thought, I'll get the address from Nina and I'm good to go. I know roughly where that is and with the street address, I can find it. Didn't occur to me that I should get her phone number...

As I headed out on the Saturday, I realized the error of not getting the number. With a baby in the house and power somewhat unreliable ~ yes, it had gone out for the 3rd time in 2 days ~ I was questioning whether or not guests were a welcome vision. It can be pretty hard to cook without power. I figured the gracious visitor would actually call to see if Nina still wanted visitors, but Nina is a trouper and I could invision her scrounging through the fridge for things that don't require heat ~ cheese and crackers, tomato sandwiches with mayo, carrot sticks... she'd make it work.
So I headed to Port Elgin I drove into Spendiff's old area. I cruised the streets ~ Maple, Maple, No Maple... Jeepers, where could it have gone. So I drove down to the sub shop which was one of the few establishments open and asked if they knew where Maple street was. A resounding 'NO'. Alright, I continued my search, drove up by the school, no... As I drove along the main street I chuckled to myself, it has been 30 minutes and I don't know where the *^%) Maple street is ~ how sad is that? I stopped at the gas station ~ they MUST know where Maple street is ~ again, in my ill prepared winterware, the locals looked at me like I had 2 heads but one of them offered me a MAP of Port Elgin ~ yes a MAP. I checked out the area where Cindy's old house was ~ no Maple, but Maplewood. Perhaps I didn't listen carefully and so I was off. I get to Maplewood and the numbers start at 700, not 200 which would support my 'I didn't listen well' theory.
My next flash of brillance was to go to her parents ~ Donna and Paul would be able to answer my question. Yes, I would look like a bit of an idiot for not knowing where I was going, but at least I would be put out of my misery and I could get on with dinner and wine. Well, I drive up past the Peever's residence and notice the paper is still sitting on the doorstep. THEY AREN'T HOME! Paul and Donna are ALWAYS home. Well so much for that one.

At this point I scanned the map again and I just couldn't find it ~ perhaps an index would have been a good idea, but for god's sake the town has 7,000 people. It shouldn't be this hard. I'm 45 minutes into my search, having driven down by the beach, by the high school I am ready to head home cursing myself for not getting Nina's number and realizing that I complain about Muppets and here I am being a Muppet myself ~ I felt bad about standing them up but what other option do I have. As the power flickered in other parts of the town, the announcers on the radio mentioned that the power had just come on Goderich Street but not Maple. YES ~ Maple, it is here. I pulled over and scanned the map and found it hovering in a lowly corner by itself. For those who are local, it is beside Pierson field.
As you can see Port Elgin is rather small, and yes, I know the big 'Red Star' on MapQuest makes it quite easy to locate... something to remember for next time!

So as I drove up I see Nina standing in the window. As we chuckled over my disasterous experience trying to navigate Port Elgin, she looks at me and says 'Only you would be able to travel around the globe and then proceed to get lost in your home town...'

She does have a point.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

A Bruce County Winter...

Well it would seem that I arrived just in time to experience the tail end of the winter season. So much so, that the storm which rolled in the first weekend of March took down power lines, closed hiways, and generally was a pain in the ass.

As Dad came by my room before leaving on Friday morning suggesting that I get some sweatshirts, I woke out of my dreamy state to grunt 'What?!?'. He then informed me that we had been out of power since 1am the previous night and as it all started to fit into place ~ NO POWER = NO HEAT. As I curled up and tried to pretend that it was part of my bad dream, I snuggled deeper into the covers and prayed that my neighbour (who works for the Public Utilities) would work faster... Come on John!

My prayers were answered at 10am when I heard the HotTub kick back to life and it was one of the best sounds that week. I knew another 30 minutes in bed and the house would return to it's post blackout temperature and things would be good.

What wasn't so good was the temperature. With all of my warm belongings being in storage in Vancouver, I am limited to what I could piece together ~ 2 pairs of pant, 2 long sleeve shirts, a polo fleece, a zip up sweater and a Gortex jacket. I had to pillage the mitten cupboard and was pleased to see my mitts with Dummy strings were still there ~ god love Grandma for making them for her then 25yr old Granddaughter ~ and was able to find an ear warmer. What strikes me is most people head south for their vacation... I have given up the warm beaches of the Caribbean for the Snow of Bruce County... So much for being like everyone else...

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Heading East...

Part of the vacation always involves going home and visiting with the friends and family. Dad is very good at being the taxi service to and from the airport ~ I call, make the request and Jim's taxi is waiting for me when I arrive at Pearson Airport. I must say I was a bit shocked to see how quickly the services were booked up this year. The call went something like this:

Carrie: Dad, well I am here in Vancouver and will be coming home next week
Dad: Oh, next week. When were you planning on coming?

Up to this point the conversation is as per usual...

Carrie: Oh, I don't know, maybe Monday or Tuesday. I have a couple of things here I need to do and then I thought I would come after the weekend.
Dad: Ah, ok. Well, the only time which is good next week is Wednesday.
Carrie: What? Really?
Dad: Yes, Making Ice Sunday through Tuesday. Tim Horton Tournament Thursday to Sunday. So if you are coming next week, it has to be Wednesday.

So off I went and made my plans to arrive on Wednesday ~ the 7am flight so I would arrive in Toronto at a decent afternoon hour instead of late evening. For the first time, I flew WestJet home. I must say ~ they have to be one of the only airlines that I have flown where people look like they are genuinely happy to be working. Now, the lack of breakfast on the plane was a bit of an issue, but that's because I didn't pay attention to what Gate I was flying from and discovered that there is no Tim Hortons in the WestJet end of the airport in Vancouver. It is only next to the Air Canada gate after you pass security ~ however had I been smart, I might have made a run for it, but that would have entailed actually moving at a faster pace, and that just wasn't an option that early in the morning. It was then when I was standing there at the gate, I realized that despite my irregular travel now, my previous travel days have provided me with this wealth of knowledge that is rarely used anymore. Pity that.

The arrival was good and the day was probably the best day to arrive, for little did I know, I was in for some quality Bruce County weather...

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Vacation ~ here I come! The Vancouver Leg

I made it!

Who would have thought, but the day finally came, and I am Free! (well at least until I return in May for the next contract...)

The final week on the ship was ~ how can I describe it ~ like fingernails on a chalkboard. The project that was scheduled to run, while technically it did complete, there were many things that were lacking ~ including staff! I think those at the office realized I might be at my breaking point when they decided to send in reinforcements for me. So one week before I was to sign off, Ioannis returned to ensure that the IT side of things was well represented during this project. The most amazing part of all of this is that I get to see this project in action again when I board the Infinity in May ~ here's hoping that some of the communication has gotten better.

I signed off the Constellation on the 19th and have managed to keep myself rather busy in a non-busy sort of way for the past few weeks. I was able to stay with my gracious friends Al and Brent while I spent my first week and a bit in Vancouver. Arriving LATE Monday night I was treated to what must be the best blow up mattress. It even has a pump and takes less than 2 minutes to fill. Supported off the ground, this thing was amazing ~ almost as amazing as the hosties. They treated me very well durning the week while I was in the midst of quitting the bank, finding a new bank, getting my car, looking for a new apartment for Akis and I ~ we even managed to take in a few of the Vancouver 'must do's.

First stop was to Squamish. The weather was the pits most of the week with rain. The weekend was no exception and we headed up to Squamish for the afternoon for something to do. Finding a good pub, we managed to take in some snow and I was beginning to wonder what I had traded in my shorts and sandals for. After a feast of Chicken Wings, Burgers and local beer we headed back to town. It is amazing the type of food you miss while you are away. (Sorry Al, your eyes were closed in all the photos!!)

The Gracious Hosties...

While I was away there was some incredible weather that occurred in Vancouver resulting in significant damage to one of the city's best features ~ Stanley Park. It was incredible to see the damage as words can't describe the state of the park after the winds had blown through and toppled many trees resulting in significant bare areas. Who would have thought you would be able to see West Van from the Park road!?!

Sunday afternoon we met up with a couple of Ali and Brent's friend to take in a Giants game. Having been away from the Hockey scene, this was the cheaper alternative to viewing the Canucks ~ and to be honest, sometimes more entertaining...

I did notice that the 'anti-violent' commercials that were run by the NHL last year didn't seem to have much effect as the crowd cheered on the bruts when the occassions arose. Somethings don't change and that is what makes it comforting to come home to...

There are 3 things that I really don't like doing ~ Job Hunting, Car shopping and Apartment Hunting. Somehow these 3 tasks always fall to the bottom of my 'to do' list despite the pressing need to complete the tasks. While out looking for a place for Akis and I to call home, I realized that the property values in Vancouver have gotten to be a bit redonculous as a friend of mine would say... The fact that I was unable to find much to rent for under $1000 in the Kits area and then those that I did find around the $800 mark outside of Vancouver I would be scared to leave my posessions alone, it just solidified the notion that sooner rather than later Akis and I will need to look to buy something here. That said, I have been poking my head into Real Estate links and that too seems to be outrageously priced. I guess this is the price you pay for wanting to live in a great city.

Managed to catch up with a few folks, while others were out of town on business or nursing themselves back to health. My dinner with my friend Karene is always a highlight on my trips home as I get to hear how things have been going at my former place of employment, how mutual friends are doing and generally just catch up.

And with that the 9 days in Vancouver quickly came to a close and I headed out to Ontario. I called Dad to let him know that I would be on my way, only to discover that his time has been Booked solid. Only day that would work for him was the 28th. Who knew I needed to 'reserve' Jim 2 weeks in advance!!