Winding down and gearing up

Posted on June 22, 2018


The last three weeks have taken some adjusting. A different pace, environment, social circle and living conditions.

So far I’ve enjoyed working with the teenagers during my Early Alpha programme. Some individuals needed more time and attention than others but on the whole they were well behaved and did listen. Maybe it’s because I’m 20 years older than the other staff members and they took what I said a bit more seriously. I am mindful not to nag, but at the same time they do need guidance and some discipline if they’re going to get through diving certs and juggle cleaning, sailing and cooking with a smile. That means bedtime at 21.30 and lights out at 2200. Tired kids don’t function well at anything other than moaning.

I have tried to take time to talk to all the kids from different boats to find out who they are, where they’re from and I try to encourage them where necessary and listen when they have concerns. I’m not here to be their best friend, I’ll leave that role to the younger staff.

My kids told me they saw me as the “Mom”of our boat. That made me smile. Tera Firma curled into my chest for a cuddle and a cry one night on deck. I let her read my profile piece on her before I published. It was an emotional read for her. It was also a tough write for me, especially with my diagnosis.

My kids all wrote letters to me when they left and left them on my bed. I’ve been sincerely touched by how affectionate and thoughtful their words are. I really hope my next bunch are just as nice.

Yesterday was airport duty and a crazy busy day of organising. I awoke at 0600 as usual to practise yoga for an hour and prepare mentally for the day ahead.

Thirty three kids to take on the ferry across to St Thomas on United States Virgin Islands (USVI) soil, then a taxi to the airport, check-in and send them off. Among them, eleven unaccompanied minors. That meant paperwork at check-in to release them over to airport staff. This had to be done for four different flights and four different airlines. Two leaving within 15 mins of each other and the other flights an hour later. It was not a straight forward process, even with two staff members supervising the other older kids.

American Airlines closes its desk 90minutes before the flight. I had to argue diplomatically and then thank continuously to get my kids through. I left this bunch to last as they had the latest flights and staff were unnecessarily prickly. Not to mention slow – island time. Another kid had to be routed onto another flight because Delta refused to let her board. If the connecting flight is the last one of the day they say she is at risk of being stranded overnight if there are delays or problems. Fair point, but why not say so when a customer is booking the flight! I had to call her mother in Charlotte and had her on one phone talking into my left ear while I was negotiating with the supervisor of the check-in desk. Thank god for my last job of talking while listening to a stream of consciousness from someone else in my ear.

It took almost 40minutes to solve. Thankfully she was rebooked to fly via Atlanta and would leave that afternoon. All the kids boarded their flights successfully and flew home without any further hiccups. Amen!

I then took the ferry back and arrived back to the marina in BVI a little weary. All the other staff had a full day off so they’d taken one of the yachts to sail out to an island for the night. I was grateful for some downtime alone and peace and quiet.

After a fresh water shower I went out with the land staff, ate shrimp and sausage gumbo (spicy rice), sank club sodas at a cool restaurant by the beach called Tamarind and collapsed into bed at 11.

Today is my official day off. I woke up at 0545 called my parents to wish them a belated happy anniversary. A whopping 49 years! Practised yoga for an hour. Prepared for a fun dive, which got cancelled. Disappointed I still took the dive boat to Cooper Island Beach Club (CIBC). On board I met a lovely family. A local white BVI islander and her British boyfriend. She’s an instructor and he’s a Divemaster. We decided to dive regardless and just paid for the tanks. We kayaked out 2km, tied them on a dingy line and dived down. The pinnacle had a ripping current and at one point I thought I’d be pushed all the way to Puerto Rica! We saw two nurse sharks, a prehistoric-sized lobster. He was so big my reg almost fell out of my mouth in astonishment. Beautiful coral and healthy shoals of snapper and lots of damsel fish. Great dive site!

I’ve scoffed fresh fruit salad, ceviche, coleslaw, salad and fries. Later I’ll treat myself to a soya cappuccino. Bliss!

I’m sat looking at the ocean, listening to calypso music. The rest of the staff have probably returned to the marina by now. I’d like to have another free evening to visit a local bar and see live music. There’s a staff bbq this evening, which is not mandatory, but I think it’s expected that you’ll go to mingle with the new staff that’s just been trained. We will be mixed up with them on the next programme.

I am hoping to slip away quietly, personal space is much more appealing these days especially as that is now a precious commodity. Tomorrow we’ll be assigned our new mates, captains and boats. The next batch of kids arrive tomorrow afternoon.