I decided to write this entry about my first time because I am sure a lot of people can relate to my experience. For starters, I haven’t ridden a plane yet even via domestic so I am really excited. I only tried riding a ferry and actually this was a test for me…I figured that if I don’t get sea sick, then I will survive.
After I completed my Pre-Departure Orientation Seminar, which is a must for all seafarers before they leave, I started packing my stuff.
Of course I had to ask around what and what not to bring. An advise for first timers in general is not to bring too much stuff because by the time you come back, the stuff you will bring home will be doubled if not tripled thus you will have to pay excess baggage fee, thus weigh your baggage and just ask around from former seafarers the quantity of the allowed weight.
For a first timer like me during that time, the hardest part is when you bid farewell to your family. I would like to think that I am lucky because I am single, for I think it would have been difficult if I had my own. Although the contract would only be a year, the thought of not being able to see each other for that long is unimaginable.
But for my case, deep inside I am excited for I wanted to know how it feels to be independent literally.
So when I arrived at the international airport, I had to show all my documents ( make sure you bring all the things your agent told you to bring and present upon embarkation and in the immigration—it is advisable that you have 3 copies each and put 1 set in a different envelope): passport, seaman’s book, ticket, guarantee letter and contract.
I had to make sure that I had a little pocket money in dollars coz one will never know what can happen….O, well if the flight is 6am, one must be there 3am for the check in process is very tedious especially for international flights.
You may take a nap, which is advisable for Philippines to the United States is about a 12 hour flight.
Before lift off, the flight attendant will ask you to turn off cellular phones and all electronic devices for this might affect the computer of the plane. But once you have reached the right altitude, you can turn it back on except the phone.
If you cannot sleep yet, there is usually an entertainment system in front of your seat and you can choose between watching a movie, listening to music or playing games. There will also be a time that breakfast, lunch and dinner would be served so do not despair, you paid for it anyway. If you really can’t sleep, sometimes alcoholic beverages are bottomless so have a couple of glasses but do not over indulge.
There are some schedules which are very tight that you have to run to get to the next terminal or airline. The main challenge here is the immigration.
So usually when you arrived in your point of embarkation there are two scenarios, you either arrive the day before or on the day itself. If you arrive the day before, lucky you…now you can check the place out. By the way, another thing you have to bring is a camera (self explanatory).
Make sure you have a duplicate of this. Once this is done, you will report to the purser who will ask for your documents and give you a checklist of what to do. Usually, a supervisor from your department will assist and tour you around the ship to be familiar.
In my case, it took me around three months literally to be familiar with the ship as well as the system in my department. You will then be escorted to your room where in you will share your room with 1 person or more. Usually, when you embark, you stay on the upper bunk and wait for the lower bunk to end his/her contract so you can step down.
I have been lucky that I got along pretty well with my room mate. He gave me some pointers and let me learn the ropes of the job.
These are the challenges that you have to meet in order for you to survive your contract:
- your room mate – I was in luck since both of us didn’t have any vices and we clicked right away
- your co worker in the same department – although we all talk the same language we come from different walks of life and upbringing….on the ship I learned 2 things…survival of the fittest…you worked there to earn money…and you have to watch your back all the time…you never know what may happen…you can enjoy but do not enjoy too much
- your co worker from a different nationality and department – unity in diversity…although we are different, we all are obliged to speak English yet sometimes cultures are pretty interesting….the trick here is like in my case you have to go with the flow for the first few months…know your way around….just do your job the way it should be done..but if you feel that you are being pushed around already….then you have to choose your battle…if you think that you are in the right side of things then go ahead…
- the work itself – I observed how they work, then I try to ask questions if I am in doubt. After which I execute. When I was on board I had to adjust to the following: the lay out of the workstation, my station, the micros, the products we serve, the promos and the work schedule, I was lucky that I didn’t have any problem when it comes to cocktails and some of the liquors we carried but I had to adjust with the standard of how they are made as well as what garnish and which glass to put it in
- your training – whether it be safety training or other training, one should not take this for granted…you should check the schedule of drills so you wouldn’t miss it…people can be sent home because of missing training. Your solas training would come in handy so treat it seriously
- yourself – you have to ask yourself why you worked in the first place and let that serve as your motivation…learn in all aspects, challenge yourself to be better everyday…and learn to save money….do not get too excited buying stuff that you do not need and do not do vices….a lot of seafarers end up with nothing when going home because of unimportant spending.
If you conquer all these challenges then you are good to go for your next contract. I know I had … can you?