20 September, 2005

This is what it's all about. Containers of cargo going from one place to another. Everything else is incidental.

20 September, 2005

Day 67. I just realized it's been about a week since I got on the freighter. It was last Wednesday evening and this is still Tuesday but if you take into account the extra day we got from crossing the dateline that comes out to a week. I can't believe how fast the time has gone. I wonder how long I could hold out on this kind of a vessel.

It really does feel like something out of "Star Trek: The Next Generation" though. The constant roar of the ship, the feeling that you're slowly going from one distant spot to another, the hierarchy of the ship. The only things missing are the drama and the aliens. Maybe that's one of the reasons why the time goes by so quickly. The days don't really seem to be differentiated from one another. So you wake up, eat something, do some writing, listen to some music or old radio shows, watch a movie, and then repeat. I've had to check my computer on a number of occasions to find out what day it was. More often than not, I'm surprised by the answer.

It's so bizarre how I now have this little space on the seas which has become my home. It feels and looks like a little apartment. I can receive visitors or walk around to another part of the neighborhood. I see people in the mess hall or wander over to the bridge or hang out in the officers' recreation room. It all seems so normal and the way it should be. But it's not. We're in the middle of the fucking Pacific Ocean and it just goes on forever.

But of course that's not what you think about. You don't remember when you're 43 stories in the air as long as you're at home. You forget that you're flying down the street when it's your car you're driving in. And I guess the same goes for airplane pilots and maybe even the crew of the space station. I remember when relatives of mine moved out of the house they had lived in for decades and into a much smaller apartment. When I saw it for the first time, I was surprised that it still felt just like their house. The atmosphere was somehow precisely the same. It's all defined by the environment you make for yourself on the inside. Nothing else matters. So I may look out the window and see nothing but water forever into the distance. The floor may be perpetually rocking and the sound of creaking containers is etched into my brain. But where I am is home for now and it feels every bit as much like the home I've felt in all of the other places I've been. I don't think I really expected that here.

Speaking of space, I saw in the daily printout that the United States has committed to sending humans to the moon again by 2008. That was in the headline. In the story however it said 2018. Knowing what I know about how sluggish and inept things are back home, I'm afraid I know which one of those was a typo without even checking. If only we had our act together enough to go into space that quickly, to do again what we were able to do nearly 40 years ago on multiple occasions. Imagine how computing power and other technology has improved since then and how much more we could be doing in the name of exploration and development of new technology. Satellite communication is only one of the benefits of our first tentative steps. We've learned so much and developed all kinds of things in that time. What we would be able to do if we really plunged headlong into it would be awe inspiring. I really hope somebody steps forward and does this the right way. Ask yourself if we would have been better off today fighting in Iraq or walking on Mars. If you had just those two choices, which would have been better for all of us?

Enough with the soapbox. I didn't really do all that much today. Let's face it, I'm out here in the middle of the sea so how many things can I really manage to do? I would like to walk all the way around the outer perimeter of the ship at some point and I'm going to check with the captain to see if that's okay to do. I have my second "Off The Hook" on the freighter to do tomorrow, only this time it will be at 2 in the afternoon instead of 8 in the morning. A definite improvement. I've crossed more time zones in the last week than I have still to cross to get back home. That feels pretty good.

Ben and I spent some time in the "gymnasium" which is basically a ping pong table and a dart board. I discovered I'm actually not so bad at ping pong and I don't suck nearly as much as I thought I did at darts. Well, let me qualify. I can now actually hit the board and occasionally hit something interesting. I don't know if I'm really aiming at specific numbers. But it does feel good to not just be hitting the walls or floor like I used to.

It's really hard to strike up conversations with people on the boat. Apart from the language barrier (Ben and I are the only native English speakers aboard), the mood here is very no-nonsense and to the point. So you don't really see anyone having a conversation, laughing, playing around, and the like. I guess it's necessary to keep things shipshape, to coin a phrase. But I hope in the few days ahead that I'm able to do a little better than just say hello to someone passing in the hallway. I'll keep trying as I don't really have anything to lose.