A Moment to Breathe

Whew – this past week has been a whirlwind! I’ve been very busy with massages (18 so far and still a day to go) as well as trying to fit my yoga practice in and still have time for the beach. I’m determined not to lose my tan before heading home to VT! Our doctor onboard had also had her hands full with guests coming down with GI (a gastrointestinal epidemic that is highly contagious). Luckily (knock on wood) I have avoided it. People having been washing their hands so much, though, that we’re nearly out of water and need to make an emergency stop at a marina outside of Panama City before we enter the canal. Again. This will be my 14th time going through. Next week will be my 15th and last for this season, then I hop on a plane in San Jose, fly to Miami for the night and then on to VT. These past six months have been great, but I’m definitely ready for some R&R at home.

I was talking to one of the naturalists the other day on the beach, sitting on kayaks, waiting to help guests in and out of the water and he was asking me where I’ll go and what I’ll do on my time off. I told him – go back home to VT and stay with my parents. We both agreed that it’s not very practical to have an apartment when you’re away half the year. But then he suggested buying a house or piece of property, that way my money actually goes toward something useful – owning a place to live in. At first I rejected the idea – too expensive, too much maintenance, not sure I want to settle in Vermont, etc… But after thinking about it for awhile, I realized it’s not that bad of an idea. I could always rent it if I plan to take off for awhile and sell it if I decide to live elsewhere. And I wouldn’t have to live out of a backpack or yellow plastic containers anymore. Hmm… Any thoughts or suggestions?

Massage Etiquette

I thought I was done with coincidences for awhile after discovering that senior deckhand Ian Strachan and I played together as kids in Maine, but today turned up another surprise. We were hiking through the tropical rainforest of Barro Colorado Island in the Panama Canal and I started talking to a couple in my group. They mentioned that they’re from Connecticut, and naturally, since my mom grew up there and my grandparents still live there, I asked where in Connecticut they were from. Stonington, they replied. Since that’s the town over from where my grandparents live (Mystic) my response was, “oh, do you know Dave and Ginny Schimdt?” knowing that it was a shot in the dark. But yes, they know Dave and Ginny Schmidt. Quite well actually, I think they said that they ran into them at the grocery store the other day. It really is a small world.

On a completely different note, I’d like to share a list of massage do’s and don’t’s that I came up with last week. Several of them arose from an awkward (not in a bad way) and rather humorous massage I gave the previous trip. It was an older gentleman who was not in the best of shape, to say the least. To make a long story short he pretty much directed me in what to do, saying “when are you going to get to my feet”, “when are you going to get to my hands” and then halfway though, he fell asleep. When he started snoring and blowing air out from between his lips and scrunching up his face into a ball my first thought was “be careful who you marry.” Several times I had to turn my head to keep from laughing. But from that I came up with a few rules for massage etiquette. Here they are:

1) Wash your feet. Please.
2) Don’t talk (much). It’s hard for the massage therapist to concentrate and it can’t be very relaxing for you.
3) You may think your leg or arm is too heavy to lift, so you try to help by lifting it yourself, but it’s actually much easier for us if you stay limp. Not to mention more relaxing and more beneficial for you.
4) Unless it’s a really horrible massage, don’t try to direct your massage therapist. Asking “when are you going to get to my feet” is kind of rude.
5) If you have a cut or a rash or open sore, please let your massage therapist know. In this case surprises are not fun.
6) Be on time. Even five minutes early if you can. You’ll get a longer massage and we won’t have to rush.

That’s all I came up with, but I’m sure there are many more to add. Let me know if you think of any!

Back At Sea

I can’t believe it’s March 10th already. It seems like we were in January only a few days ago! That’s what happens, though, when you live on a ship. You lose all concept of time. I do know, however, that in almost three weeks I’ll be going home! The first time since October.

But for now I’m content to sail back and forth between Costa Rica and Panama, stopping at beaches and islands along the way. Earlier this trip we had a humpback whale very close to the ship. Everyone was really excited because we don’t see too many whales down, let alone ones that come up right next to us. That same day one of our naturalists lost count of the number os sea turtles he saw after 100. We’ve also had a few visits from dolphins, either bow-riding or playing in our wake.

I have been very busy this week, too. 22 people wanting a massage (many of them half hour massages thankfully) and only two more days to fit the rest of them in. We’ll be in the Canal, though, so much of our time will be spent on board and I won’t have to worry about scheduling people in between activities. This job isn’t as easy as it sounds (sometimes)!

That’s it for now, time to lead my stretch class!

A Day In Todos Santos

For the past few days I could feel myself on the verge of getting sick and yesterday I think my body finally gave in. I woke up with a sore throat, headache, and runny nose. Carol made me waffles for breakfast and after I ate I went back to my room and watched two movies, read my book, and napped. I emerged around 4 to find something eat, then went back to my book, finishing it around 10 pm. Then went to bed. (It was Light on Snow, Mom, since I know you’re wondering).

This morning, though, I woke up feeling much better – probably because I spent yesterday horizontal. After breakfast I decided to catch a bus to the small town of Todos Santon south and west of La Paz. I’d never been there, but heard it was a cute little artsy town. The ride was about an hour and a half in a nice coach with James Bond Casino Royale blasting (both visually and audibly) on the TV.

After I got dropped off I went in search of a map. Procuring one, I then tried to get lost. One of my favorite things to do in a new town or city is to try to get lost, then figure my way back to familiar ground (if I have a map – it’s not too much fun getting really lost). I passed a nice looking hotel in the historic area and glanced at it’s name. Guaycura Hotel and Spa. Perfect. I’ve been wanting a massage since I got off the boat, so I made a sharp turn and entered the lobby. Asking if I could make a massage appointment, the receptionist made a few calls told me it would be half an hour, but I could wait up on the sky deck. I climbed two flights of stairs and emerged at the sky deck, an outside sitting area with an L-shaped pool, a bar, and long benches padded with cushions and pillows. Not a bad place to wait. It was about 45 minutes before the therapist was ready and I could enter the ‘spa’. The spa was actually a large room with two massage tables made up nicely, a steam room, a bathroom, and a two-person jacuzzi. I had my massage (which felt wonderful), then my therapist asked if I wanted to use the hot tub. I said yes, of course, and spent another 20 minutes soaking in the hot water with the jets tickling my toes and colored lights turning the water green, red, and blue.

Back on the street I moseyed from one artesian shop to another. There are some great artists here, selling pottery, jewelry, paintings, clothes, you name it. I ended up buying a necklace from a hippy girl selling her work on the sidewalk. It was more expensive than I wanted to pay, but we chatted for awhile and I felt like I had to buy it. It’s neat, with beads from the Amazon and a small shark tooth woven in above a brown and white shell.

After I walked around for awhile (I determined it was way too small of a town to get lost in) I consulted my map and headed to a place called Pura Vida, located a little farther off the main drag. The ad on my map said “Organic Health Food Store and Deli” (as well as a hotel) and not having eaten since breakfast that’s all I needed to know. I found it with no trouble and after perusing the shelves of bagged spices, raw honey, coconut oil, natural peanut butter, etc… I felt a tug towards home. The last time I saw good, healthy food like that was in October! I ordered a veggie panini with pesto and when it came it was piled high with shredded beets, carrots, and organic greens. Yummy!

And thats where I still am. My bus back to La Paz doesn’t leave until 6, so I have some time to relax and enjoy the last bit of sun!

Pampered Like Queens

Oh, wow. Now I remember why I chose massage as a profession. Karen and I just received 80 minutes of relaxation heaven and after I felt like I was floating on clouds.

We woke up this morning to a very chilly and extremely windy day. One look (and one toe out the front door) and we decided to spend the day inside. After breakfast we made a quick run to a department store to get a duffel bag so I could send a few things home with Karen and then we lazed around until 3:00 when we headed over to the spa. I can’t describe how beautiful and well-done the spa is here at Pueblo Bonito. You walk in and to the left is the gym filled with weight machines and treadmills. To the right is a wooden walkway bordered on each side with flowing water that leads into the spa reception area. We got there an hour before our treatments (we each chose an 80-minute body scrub and wrap) so we could relax in the hot tubs. The “hot tubs” were located in a big tiled room that consisted of a large hot water pool, a jacuzzi, a steam room (which, unfortunately didn’t work), a rainforest shower that ran from hot water to cold to back again, a mist shower, a shower that sprayed water on you from all directions, a cold water plunge, and a hydro-reflexology path, which was a short walkway of small pebbles and misters. The pools were lit with green lights and there were lounge chairs, towels, and a refreshing iced lemon tea for our enjoyment. After soaking for awhile, we were shown to a waiting room with big comfy couches, cucumber water, dried fruit, and a large screen tv playing a video of beautiful places around the world to a soundtrack of serene music. After about ten minutes our massage therapists met us and showed us to the treatment rooms. First we were scrubbed down with a salt scrub and wiped off with warm towels. Then we were lathered with a body mask cream and wrapped up in plastic for 20 minutes to let the cream work its magic while our therapists did a facial massage. After being unwrapped we were sprayed down, on the table, by a hot Vichy shower – a shower that pours warm water over you while lying on the massage table. The water drains through holes in the table and onto the floor. Then we were warmed up again by a heated blanket and the final step was a body lotion massage and head rub. It was bliss.

To finish off the day we ate dinner – I made a delicious concoction of eggplant, chickpeas, olives, and roasted red peppers – and played a game of scrabble to the melodious voice of Rafael Rodriguez Tovador. He was so good Karen ended up buying three CDs.

Two weeks to go!

It’s been seven weeks since I returned to the Sea Lion as Wellness Specialist, and I have only two more to go! (Acutally one and a half) It has gone by really fast, but I’m definitely ready for a break. We had a staff switch-out this past turn-day, so the people I’ve been working with for the last five weeks left, and now there are four new staff members (all male… again). It was really sad to see them go – we had so much fun together! Tom (who is a Lindblad legend) taught me a few limericks, most of which aren’t appropriate to post here. Here’s a (relatively) clean one though –

There once was a girl from Madras

Who had the most wonderful ass

It wasn’t as you think, all round and pink

It was grey, had long ears, and ate grass!

Tom had us in stitches, telling us some of the more dirty ones. He’s also written a book, which I bought, called Dragons, Cannibals, and Erupting Volcanoes – or The Unofficial History of Lindblad. It has hundreds of stories about Tom’s adventures and mishaps while working for the company. It’s hilarious!

Not much else to report… It’s been pretty rainy and cold, so I haven’t gotten out much. We have had some good humpback sightings and we’ve seen a few bears. Last week in Glacier Bay there was a black bear foraging along the coast, turning over rocks and scratching himself amid the seaweed. The bear itself was cool, but in the setting of Glacier Bay, it was beautiful – tall mountains, u-shaped valleys, and mist shrouded trees.

Massage has been going pretty well – I think I had 14 people last weeks, which is quite a few when I have to schedule them around hiking, kayaking, zodiac cruises, wildlife, and of course, my yoga practice. I’m getting really excited for my yoga teacher training. It starts in November, but I’ve been receiving pre-course assignments – like readings, journal entries, etc… – The latest is to take three different types of yoga classes – Mysore (ashtanga), Iyengar, and Sivananda. Obviously I can’t take classes while on the ship, so I’ll have to find those classes when I get home. That’s it for now, hopefully I’ll see something worthwhile to write about this week. Maybe for orcas or bubble-net feeding!

The New York Yacht Club

This week is slightly different from our other trips aboard the Sea Lion. It’s a charter, which means that the ship and the itinerary are essentially in the hands of our guests, the New York Yacht Club. They have ‘rented’ out the ship for a week in Alaska and so far it has been pretty good. They’re all really nice, if somewhat high maintenance (they love their cocktail hour and they had the hardest time accepting the fact that they need to hike in their mud boots). I’ve also been looking at the wedding rings on the women and some of them are ridiculous…

On the first day we saw a bear and a pod humpback whales, which surrounded the ship, so everywhere we looked we saw whales. It was amazing and everyone was really excited. We went to Elfin Cove, a tiny fishing village that has only 11 year round residents. There are a few lodges for visitors to stay at while they fish in the summer and a nice gift shop, but the whole “town” can be seen in about 10 minutes. The houses and buildings are connected by boardwalks and everything is green and mossy with snow-capped mountains in the distance, giving Elfin Cove an elfish feel.

I haven’t been doing much off the ship because of massages (although I did go on a nice hike at Lake Eva the other day with a few crew and one of the younger guests). But it’s nice to just stay on board and watch the mountains pass by. Most of them still have snow on the tops, which make them even more majestic. Today we were in Glacier Bay National Park and the morning started out rainy and cold, then by mid-day it was just cloudy and now (at 9:30 pm), the sun is shining and there’s a blue sky. I gave five massages, so I didn’t have much time to enjoy the park, but I did see a mama brown bear with her two cubs moseying along the shore. We watched them for about 20 minutes, then a big old male came out of the the forest and the mom fled with her babies. The natualists onboard said that the mom could have taken on the male and she probably would have won because she’s protecting her cubs, but it wasn’t worth the risk since the male wasn’t threatening her. Apparently, like lions, male grizzlies will kill young cubs because they want their genes to succeed.

I had a really good dinner with two couples, one from New York and the other from San Francisco. One of the women, Susan, is/has been recovering from mercury poisoning from eating so much fish. Her metal levels were up to 87 (I’m not sure what that really means, but it’s bad), and now they’re down around 10, due to a very detoxifying diet and health regime. Because her immune system was so shot from the mercury poisoning, she also got Lyme disease and she said that if she and her husband hadn’t had the money they do to spend on treatment, she would be dead right now. So now she and her husband make short documentaries about these kinds of issues and try to spread the knowledge about how harmful toxins are and what people are aren’t being informed about. The movie “The Cove”, which I haven’t seen yet, is about the illegal dolphin killing in Japan, and tests have shown that the dolphin meat, which is being sold to schools and markets, is obscenely high in mercury levels. Susan and her husband filmed the 20 minute post-video documentary about mercury and how harmful it is. She also gave me a list of other films to watch, some about foods and another about Lyme disease and how prevalent (and widely unnoticed) it really is. I can’t wait to watch them!