Saturday, March 15, 2008
For now, the ship is where it is going to be for the remainder of the cruise, other than when it heads into port. The pilots fly over to a nearby island about once a week for supplies, including food and mail. When the helo is down (i.e., not working), they have to take a small boat over to get the supplies. Recently, this happened, and Branden was invited to go along. You can see his big ship behind him in the photo.
To try and relax each week, the ship has a "steel beach" picnic most Sundays. They all cook out and try to enjoy some down time. Sadly, there are no Coronas to go along with the BBQ; this cruise is totally alcohol-free. It's not like the Royal Caribbean cruise you took last year; there's no Lido deck on this ship. Even still, BBQ is better than the cafeteria food they get the rest of the week, so it's a welcome change of pace. In case you're wondering, yes, that is Branden playing chef in the photo, and yes, his hairline continues to recede!
Once in a while, every few weeks or so, the ship pulls into port, either for supplies or just a few days of liberty for the sailors. So far, their port calls have included Hawaii, Guam, and Malaysia. The port calls are nice because they usually mean a day or two away from the ship, with time to explore the city, eat out, and have a few beers. They have another port scheduled in about a month, and this is the one I am meeting him at! I can't wait to see him and I'll be sure to blog all about it (okay, maybe not all about it, wink, wink).
Thursday, March 13, 2008
I hope this finds everyone doing well back home. I am writing everyone a mass email because of a great experience I had the other day. It is going to be tough to explain about where it took place and when because all of that information is still very sensitive even after the fact. Steph and I have an idea of where I have been because we share an atlas and I give her the area of my location. So I hope that she will help me explain to you where I am talking about. I think that it might be pretty obvious what country I am in and I guarantee you haven’t heard of this city. Now that I have thoroughly confused everyone I will continue on.
About a week ago we found out we were going to be pulling into this place for a day. The local Navy and college asked us to set up a basketball team to play their teams. Of course me being me (I love basketball), I jumped at that opportunity. We had about 20 people interested and we needed 2 teams. It was decided that 10 would play against the Navy team and 10 would play against the college team. It ended up being a smart decision as I will get to later.
So yesterday was the big day of games. We woke up early and prepared to take off to the game. Now just because we pulled didn’t mean that everyone was allowed liberty. The only people allowed off the ship were those playing in the games. The threat level in this area was very high, so it included a lot of security. We climbed on the bus, but it was no ordinary ride to the game. We had two police vehicles in front of us and two behind. We also had a trunk of armed troops in front of us and behind us. The stopped all traffic to and from. I don’t really know what the locals thought as we came through, but everyone stopped and waved. The bus ride was only about 15 minutes, but a very interesting time. We pulled up to the school that looked more like a base. The gym was in the middle with dorms and classrooms that formed a square around it. It was also no ordinary gym as you will see. It was covered, but open on all sides. The floor was cement and the court was painted on. We arrived it was still somewhat early, but as the day went on the humidity and heat built up.
The Navy team played the first game and the other team watch. The school stopped classes for the morning so all the students could attend, so the stands were pretty full. Our first team won pretty easily. We all knew the second game was going to be the test. Most of the guys were young enlisted right out of high school, so 18 or 19 years old. Then there were the 3 officers. Myself, Josh and Ted who are a little older than that, but we added the height. Josh is the supply officer on the ship and he played basketball at the naval academy. I have a picture of the 3 of us and he is the tallest one (I think 6’ 9”). The college guys of course were young as well and ready to run us all over the court. They of course had no one over 6 feet tall, so they came out a little intimidated. We started the game on a 15-0 run before we ran out of gas and needed a time out. Now throughout the game we had armed guards around us the entire time. It felt a little like being in a European soccer match. Something that was very hard to get used to as you are playing a sporting event. Along with that the floor we were playing on was painted cement. Dust and dirt was all over it, so we were slipping and sliding around. They were definitely used to playing like that, but we were not. As you will see in a picture I ended up on my butt a few times.
We played a really good first half and we were up 15 points. They had some halftime entertainment. A young lady that sang a Whitney Houston song (I can’t remember, which one because I was concentrating on breathing), but if you weren’t watching her you would have thought Whitney was in the building. She was very impressive. During the second half was when the college team started making a run. We didn’t have much steam left in the tank. We ended the 3rd quarter only up 7 points. At that point we could only hope to keep the lead until the end. The 4th quarter proved to be very back and forth. With one minute left we were winning by two points. Coming out of a time out they full court pressed and we turned the ball over. They set up their offense and ended up getting an easy lay up. The score was now tied and we had the ball with 20 seconds. We set up a nice play, but ended up missing the shot and on the rebound we fouled one of their players with 5 seconds left. He went to the free throw line for two shots. If he made one the game would be over. He missed the first badly. The second shot rimmed out and I got the rebound as time expired. We were thinking overtime, but it was decided the game would end in a tie.
After the game the students of the culinary class cooked us some interesting food. I have no idea what any of it was called, but it was all very good. They were all some variation of rice patties. We shared them with the players on the other team and some teachers at the school. I got some pictures with the other team while we enjoyed the food. After about a half an hour it was time to depart back to the ship via the motorcade.
It was a great experience overall just to get off the ship, but also to interact with the native people. I hoped you enjoyed my little story. I am going to send pictures and I believe that they are pretty large, so it will be multiple emails. I’ll try to send them in the order of the day’s activities. If you have any questions feel free to ask. I just thought it would be nice to share the experience and let you know that we are having a little fun and doing some interesting things not related to our jobs.