Be Flexible

It’s a job requirement

A lot of people online ask me for tips and guides for this job, and one point I am going to stress is being flexible. You’re dealing with people in 3 or 4 countries, and just as many time zones, for one piece of information at most times. While the rest of the compound was passed out and nursing hangovers hiding from the sunlight I spent my last morning in Honiara watching the sunrise over the split hulks of former fishing vessels that line the shore.

Not sure anything would be open, I still wanted a real breakfast that wasn’t hangar rice so I fished the keys out of my pocket and took the truck into town to the Pacific Coast Casino (or something like that) where I had eaten two days ago for lunch. I knew they had western style omelets on their menu and I wanted a real breakfast. I had them add hot chilies to a meat omelet and ordered two tall glasses of orange and mango juice. I hungrily scarfed down the four slices of toast with jam that came with the eggs. It was the best breakfast I’d had in two months.

One thing I’ll say is that when you are on this side of the world the Aussie influence in egg cooking is felt everywhere. They like their eggs soft and runny and oozing. The pacific islands emulate that no matter which one you land on – you’ve got to tell them well done on the eggs, and when they come out undercooked, send them back telling them to cook them well done, cook more, and they will get it right. Just accept that you are sending them back to the kitchen once.

When I got back more people were up and moving around, reflecting on the night, the triumph of Don Nick over the women of the island will be a ballad sung in taverns the globe over one day I hope, and I loaded my bags into the truck. After a round of goodbyes, I went to the airport.

Henderson International Airport, as it is named, is the most awesome airport ever. Only because of the name. There is no AC in the airport, it’s a literal hotbox. I got checked in and then paid for an internet card to use in the terminal while I waited. I managed to convince the girl working the counter at the airport services booth to go into the arrivals hall with my money and buy a few bottles of ice water (since the departure terminal shop was closed) for me and then made my way outside.

A strong breeze was blowing which made outside, in the sun, more comfortable than inside the airport. I made fast friends with an Aussie family because they had an extra plastic seat that one daughter was using as a foot rest, I gave them one of my bottles of water (which they were extremely grateful for) and took the footrest away. When I boarded the Virgin Australia plane I was thrust into the future.

I had forgot how much I loved modern technology and accouterments and this was a brand new Boeing 737-800 fresh out of the shop. It had touchscreens and ambient lighting, and air conditioning on blast. I’m a child of the future, and in the last two months the most advanced technology I’ve seen has been what I brought with me. My former ship was older than me by 4 years, the helicopter even older than the ship. I was in heaven surrounded by the hum and whir, and sterile clean, sleek surfaces, of a modern jet airliner.

Brisbane was more of the same, the hotel I was in for the night was in a town called Ascot, a suburb of Brisbane only a stones throw from the airport (where my childhood friend from Indonesia, Kim, went to school). I had internet that worked and was finally able to upload the hundreds of photos I had been unable to upload using the internet on the islands. I uploaded a movie to youtube (search for Sky Pirate of the Caribe) and got caught up on emails and updates. It was excellent.

The best part was the 1st world, western, food. I walked 10 minutes to racecourse road (or something to that end) where I found an Australian chain resto called Grilld where I had an awesome chicken sandwich, the “Hot Chica”, a cold beer and some sweet potato fries. The first thing I did at the airport was to get an Australian sim card and data, the 4G was lightning fast, like being in the states again.

One of my favorite things about being over here is that I’m the exotic foreigner. I think they expect a normal voice when they talk to me and when my American accent comes out they have all sorts of questions, and by all sorts I mean – the same three. “Where are you from, your accent is very distinctive you know, and I bet you think we all sound very funny don’t you.”

But I love it, because me accent is so distinct it serves as a conversation starter. I bought a few bottles of water and then headed to my hotel. The next day would start even earlier. I was on a flight to Nadi, Fiji and still waiting to find out where after that. There were two really good options in front of me. I was either going to continue on to Suva (again) and meet the Shilla Harvester which had an MD 500D on it (EEP!) or I was going to spend two days in the tropical resort getaway of Nadi before flying to Tarawa to meet another ship there. This is where flexibility is key.

I didn’t find out until that night that I was going on to Suva. I loved my time in Australia, I think when my contract ends in November I’m going to spend a month or two here, learning to surf and romancing Australian girls. With their sunkissed skin and blond hair – they’re impossible to resist.

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