Parting is such sweet sorrow…
Unfortunately our time together only lasted 2 months as Dane had to return home after a problem with his eyes developed, caused by overly long hours, lack of sleep, stress and poor diet (crew food is not the same as the guests!).
Our courtship had consisted of stolen moments between shifts, meeting for coffee before shifts, riding the elevator together when we were headed in the same direction, and the very rare hour or 2 on shore. If you added all these minutes together we might have consistently seen each other for about 7-10hrs in 2 months, and that’s being generous. Yet, it felt like we had always been together, I couldn’t imagine life without him and at the same time I couldn’t imagine life with him, they seemed one and the same.
The day he left there were tears and then I focused on cleaning and at least my sorrow resulted in a very clean cabin.
I have something for you…
We both came down with something, he ended up having a severe sinus infection and I assume I had strep throat so we did not chat for a few days after he left. However, once we were both healed he was there waiting for me online EVERY SINGLE EVENING!! He would tell his friends he had to leave drinking to come talk to me, he would decline bar trips so he could be there when I finished my shift. I had never had anyone do this. And in the 2.5mths we were apart there was only 1 night he decided to go to the bar, but he let me know and then was online at 3am just in case I was awake.
Usually we would chat on Skype video but would also exchange facebook chats throughout the day, on one particular chat the conversation went something like this:
Dane: I have something for you
Kathy: ummmmm, if this is a proposal then YES!
Dane: Great! But it’s not gold, and it’s not a diamond, I hope that’s ok….
Kathy: It’s beautiful and I love it even more!
Dane: So when can you leave the ship….
And that started one of the most complicated process I have ever had to deal with on the ships… signing off!
In a Car???
It turned out our ship would dock in the port of Thessaloniki, Greece, twice during the month of October. This port was only an hour and a half from where Dane lived so we decided I would try and end my contract on one of those dates and if that was not possible do a sign off. A sign off is when you voluntarily end your contract, you must provide your own transport home and often risk never being given another contract. This seemed like a good enough reason…
At first I asked the head of my department if I could simply end my contract a month early (I would have worked 6mths, a usual minimum) and it turned out my replacement was already there (she was replacing the French host and would have taken on the English speaker duties once I left. For some incomprehensible reason they said NO! So I did the next best thing and went to see the Crew Purser to sign off, a bemusing conversation that went like this:
Me: I wish to sign off in the port of Thessaloniki
Crew Purser (CP): Ummmm do you have a flight home?
Me: No, my fiance will come and pick me up from Macedonia
CP: Macedonia…. is that a country or a city?
Me: It’s a country just North of Greece
CP: So does he have a flight ticket?
Me: no he is driving to pick me up
CP: In a car???
Me: ahhhh yes driving in a car….
It was very hard to keep the sarcasm in check… but eventually I was given the correct paperwork, ostracized by my superiors for deigning to leave the ship to be married and in general actually feeling pretty good (I think the truth of the matter hadn’t truly sunk in, it just felt right).
They Won’t Let the Ship Leave, and Might Call Interpol!
All too soon the day came. The crew purser took me to see the Greek Immigration and then released me to finish sorting and packing. Later I went to pick up my passport and asked if there was anything else I had to do, he assured me everything was good and I was free to leave.
I headed down the gangway, for what would turn out to be the last time, and into my new life.
Dane arrived, wearing a suit, to pick me up… I think I was a little in shock as the truth of what was happening began slipping in… I was meeting a man I had known for 5mths and agreeing to marriage, but what the hell, I was 39 and he seemed nice enough (literally this went through my head).
A few hours later we were enjoying lunch when a collegue came up and said “OMG Kathy, they are looking for you everywhere, they won’t let the ship leave (which was only due to leave in 4hrs), you need to go back now!!!” I couldn’t believe it, I thought it was a joke. I hadn’t had my phone on and when I connected to the internet I saw messages from everyone, including my folks (they had called to see if I was home in the US…. seriously??). I ran back and the port agent look like he had aged 10yrs, he sighed with relief and said immigration was on the verge of calling interpol since I had jumped ship… WTF!
Turns out when the crew purser told me I was free to leave, there was nothing I had to do, no one I had to see, what he actually meant was “before you leave the ship you must report back to the Greek immigration upstairs for a stamp in your passport”, gee I wonder how I missed that one…
Luckily the very annoyed looking agents gave me a stamp after sufficiently making me feel like some kind of a criminal and I was free to leave the port, but would have to report to the chief at the border station for approval… I think I lost about 6 lives that day…
Why Are You Disturbing Me???
Well we got to the Greek/Macedonia border and I nervously was taken to see the big guy in charge. It turns out I never needed any stamp as I was
1 – immediately leaving the country
2 – a US citizen who would very unlikely prefer to jump ship and live as an illegal in Greece….
If anything the big guy was more annoyed at having his afternoon coffee disturbed by his subordinate….
So, that is where my ship life ends and my new life starts, engaged and ultimately married to an amazing man and living part time in Macedonia (birthplace of Mother Theresa and Alexander the Great) and part time in the US. Adventure is out there… let life begin!