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Now that I’ve been a New Yorker officially officially for a little over a month, I feel inclined to share some thoughts on life in this insane metropolis. Forgive me that this is list-y. I don’t mean to incline to your Buzzfeed or ThoughtCatalog sensibilities (or likely lack thereof), I just don’t feel there is a way to build a narrative out of it because this is mostly a collection of disparate thoughts I have had on the subway.

1. Speaking of the subway, I feel like I’m already excellent at the Run Down the Stairs Because Your Train is About to Leave and Jump On at the Last Second move. It’s one of the most exhilarating feelings city life can provide, I believe.

2. This turns out to be a bad city to live in given that I have discovered I have an almost crippling fear of revolving doors, but most especially those revolving cage-like apparatuses at some train stations. My abject terror at being trapped in one means that if I can, I always bypass them for the turnstiles or, if I’m feeling daring or annoying, the emergency door.

3. The cold here is different than cold I have experienced. Plus, I essentially skipped winter for the last two years so my body just isn’t ready. I intend to go buy Uniqlo heat-tech undershirts. Regardless of how typically “NYC” it makes, I want a silly Uniqlo down jacket with the fur hood. Judge me how you will, I shall be warm.

4. Seeing celebrities is part of the magic of this city. Anyone who tells you any differently is three times a liar.

5. I live on a 5th floor walk-up. Very soon my thighs will be as if they were hewn from steel.

6. One day I discovered cockroaches in my kitchen and bathroom, then a few hours later saw a rat in the subway, shortly thereafter I saw my first black squirrel. It was a lovely day of all the animal life that New York City has to offer. All I needed was a demented, fat pigeon to not get out of my way on the sidewalk and I could have hosted a David Attenborough special.

7. People tend to take serious ownership over where they live even if this is all one city. Brooklynites have a distaste for people who live “on the island.” Talk to anyone who lives on the UWS and they would likely laugh at the thought of ever living in Brooklyn. People who live in Harlem (myself included) can be fiercely proud and will generally defend the gentrification of their block. “We have a Whole Foods!” That being said, nobody with any pride owns the Bronx. That lyric in Newsies is pretty accurate regarding that unloved borough. People who live in Queens are relatively ambivalent, and mostly complain about the L train.

8. You can tell the difference between a seasoned New Yorker and a noob by how they refer to the trains. Tourists and neophytes talk about trains by color. I live on the 2/3, thanks.

9. It still shocks me that I can live in the same city as someone and it can take over an hour to get to them via public transportation. That being said, it’s amazing that I can get to everyone I want to see via public transportation. Unlimited monthly metro card for the win.

10. I fall in love four times a day on the subway. What a brilliant city full of brilliantly beautiful people. My favorite game is one I’ve dubbed “Search for the Band on the Fourth Finger of the Left Hand.”

Lastly, for now, I will say this: many people who have been living here for awhile can be very cynical about it. They complain about the tourists, especially during the holidays. I am coming to the end of my honeymoon period, so I am not glassily, naively enamored of everything any longer. However, I try to remind my friends who have gotten a little bitter to head midtown or downtown every once in awhile. Take a moment to enjoy the splendor of Lady Liberty, or One WTC, or the Empire State Building. No matter how annoying the trains are at rush hour, how frustrating and rude bums can be, how dirty the streets get after it rains, how cold the winter will be, how Times Square will soon become un-navigable, this is still one of the greatest cities in the world. People come from all over the globe to soak in the splendor of this place. Kids in small towns all over the country dream of one day walking these streets. I am thankful to call this place my home, finally.

As I look back on the last five years of my life, I have realized that each new experience we have or stage we enter brings a new lexicon into our conscious and unconscious minds. College certainly introduces you to an entirely new way of thinking, and not just in the sense that you are opened up to a whole new world (Disney pun) of learning and people, but the literal day-to-day vernacular you use switches. I remember making a joke, and it may even be in an entry on this blog, about how UNC seemed to be the university of acronyms. Everything was referred to by some ridiculous acronym and sometimes they seemed to just get silly and out of hand. When I moved to the Dominican Republic, my lexicon changed rather drastically. It not only incorporated a second language, but a rough shod translation of ideas, a lot of Spanish and even more Dominican slang.

Now, during this chapter of my life where I have found myself at sea (and trust me, this surprises no one more than it does yours truly), my lexicon is morphing again. I don’t just mean that now I know port, starboard, aft and forward and can tell you where they are on a ship. It’s more that those things matter, that they have bearing and weight that they never did before and I never expected they would have. Many people have been asking me to blog more about my experiences here, and there a few reasons I haven’t been as forthcoming as I’m known to be. One is that I work 70 hours a week, friends, and that doesn’t leave one all that much time to write blog entries (especially when one has a silly obsession with attempted eloquence in said blog entries). Another is that there is a lot I am worried about sharing for fear of breaking a rule about confidentiality. This company, as you can probably imagine, is very concerned about confidentiality and so in this entry I will be very careful as I discuss certain things. Just to, you know, cover my ass, as they say these days. A third reason is that I truly feel that most of what I will try to explain to you in this entry about life aboard will make very little sense to you unless you have experienced it. More than anything else I have ever gone through or even really heard about anyone close to me going through, life at sea is a different world. I thought the DR was foreign, but, baby, I hadn’t seen nothing yet.

Let’s start with some basics. There are no days of the week here. I rarely know which calendar day it is. Here we refer to days by places. The ship I am on has two different itineraries, a Western Caribbean and an Eastern. The Western days of the week are as follows: Embark, Sea Day 1, Grand Cayman, Costa Maya (Mexico), Cozumel (Mexico), Sea Day 2, Castaway Cay (Disney’s private island in the Bahamas). The Eastern days are: Embark, Sea Day 1, Sea Day 2, St. Thomas (USVI), San Juan (Puerto Rico), Sea Day 3, Castaway Cay. Sea days are rough because in my department we work 11 hours a day. This is why it has been shocking to me that if I can possibly snag internet sometime on sea day 1, and people are talking about relaxed they are, I feel confused. Then I remember that Sundays are a day of rest for normal poeple.

Other days of the week have come to mean different things as well. Sea Day 2 always sucks because it’s cabin inspection, so no matter what time you work you have to get up at 9:30 and leave your room so that it can be judged. It’s nice, though, in a funny way because you inevitably see nearly everyone you’re friends with on those mornings in the mess eating breakfast. St. Thomas is always crew drill day, and I am not a fan of drill so I do not look forward to that. That also means that every Saturday and every other Tuesday (?) you will find half of the crew plugging their ears in preparation for hearing the general alarm and the alarm for abandon ship, which are terribly high-pitched pulses that nearly deafen you. I hate them.

What else? The “main drag” in my life is what is known as, not at all facetiously, the I-95. On our crew deck, down below the guest areas, the place we walk to get everywhere is really called the I-95, there are signs. I’ll post pictures to prove it. This is also referred to as “back stage” and guest areas are called “on stage.” There is a fascinating encyclopedia of rules about what’s allowed back stage and what is allowed on stage. Tangentially, officers and their stripes truly matter. I always kind of thought it was a little silly and very militaristic so I didn’t pay much attention to it, but as soon as I got on board, I realized how very important the hierarchy is. Officers have very different priveleges and their own areas backstage. I came onboard as a petty officer with half a stripe, which means I also have certain priveleges other crew members do not. Our ID cards help identify what kind of access we have, so there is something strange about glancing at someone’s ID card when they are paying in the crew store and knowing what kind of access they have around the ship. These are things I find impossible to explain, so if this is confusing, my apologies.

My ship is also doing splendidly right now ratings-wise, so we are being rewarded quite often. We get special meals in the mess with very good food whenever we are rated over 90% guest satisfacation on the cruise and over 90% crew friendliness. This is considered “captain’s challenge,” so we are celebrated and it’s all very exciting. Food in the mess is very much like food in a college dining hall (pretty shitty), so you get creative and you look forward to getting good food whenever you can. Plus, when my department specifically does well, our managers reward us with deck parties with free food (fried food) and beverage, and that’s also great. This Thursday we have one to recognize the entire entertainment department because two voyages ago we were rated 92% friendliness, which is the highest ever on the ship.

Character integrity remains a daily practice for me. This is what we refer to as “preserving the magic.” Basically, it’s coming up with creative answers and/or ways to avoid questions like, “Who is inside Mickey Mouse?” There is no one inside Mickey Mouse. He is a mouse. I love him. He is the captain of our ship. The worst it’s been was when a kid asked me to rip off Pluto’s head to prove there was a human inside. I was disgusted and sad. Character integrity is a little bit more difficult for me in my job because I might play a character onstage and then come back out 30 minutes later to play with the kids in my regular uniform and they will shout, “YOU WERE THE HEFFALUMP HUNTER!” And I have to deny, deny, deny. It can get old. Luckily, most of my characters are unlike me enough that I rarely have to deal with kids like that. Some of the programs I do host as myself, so it’s really cute when I come out and the kids say, “Hey you were the girl just up on stage!” And I get to say, “Yes, I was!” As I sit in Starbucks in San Juan writing this post, a little girl from the ship saw me and said to her mom, “Ma! That was the girl from Pluto’s pajama party!” And I was. And I get to have another PJ party tonight.

Today is our last San Juan. Next Eastern itinerary we will go to St. Maarten instead. That’s exciting. At the deck party this week (a party we have each week outside on our crew deck at night, very fun) we had a live band. It was the first time I have heard live music since I’ve gotten on board. It was so wonderful. It made me realize how much I like live music and how often I feel like I hear it at home.

Perhaps a new lexicon is the wrong metaphor. It’s more like a new encyclopedia. Or new guidebook. Or just a new brainspace opening up and awakening to use. Whatever it is, it’s exciting and unexpected. I never thought I’d find myself caring about something called “the bump” (meaning when people change locations in the workspace), nor worrying about “Sea Day 2” and surviving the second 11-hour day in a row. I am surprised sometimes that I eat in a place called “the mess” or that I go through “cabin inspection” each week (and pass). As my lexicon develops I mostly just feel grateful to be experiencing such a strange and wonderful chapter of this little life of mine.

Ebb And Flow

Life aboard a cruise ship has a serious ebb and flow to it. Drum clash. Cymbal clang. Crickets sound. Tomatoes thrown. Hear me out before you knock this idea of “ebb and flow” as a bad ocean joke.

Of course, we literally do ebb and flow as we ride. But that’s not what I mean. It just happens to be an excellent synecdoche for the way life goes here. First of all, contracts ebb and flow. I would say I’m at the first “ebb” of my contract. By that I mean I have become comfortable, to a certain degree, with the schedule, the days, the itineraries, the programs, my job, etc. And being comfortable has forced some of the sheen off. I am still happy, of course, but the honeymoon phase is over. Now, in the marriage bed, Disney and I are facing that awkward moment when we can see the forest for the trees, and some of the trees need water. I’m mixing metaphors all over the place, but hopefully you receive my meaning. Everyone describes contracts like a heart rate monitor, those ups and downs with an underlying steadiness. I can see that now, and I’ve just reached my first “dip,” one might say.

What’s more, the people ebb and flow. The nature of the contracted job world is that you never know how long someone you meet is going to be here with you. It often seems that once I have become close with a person, they are off on vacation the next week. The ebb and flow of people does mean that you always have the opportunity to meet new friends, which is nice. However, I do not like goodbyes. I have already had to bid farewell to a friend I really liked, a manager I adored, and this week I will say goodbye to another good friend. It makes Saturdays a strange beast because I love to speak to people from home but I know subconsciously that people I’ve come to care about here are leaving for home as well. In a funny way, I have sought out new hires who come aboard so that I will be the person they care about leaving one day. It’s a bit egotistical, I suppose, but there is a part of me that is glad to know I’ll be the one going home and they will be the one missing me here. Ship life is so strange.

My job also includes a lot of ebb and flow in the “energy” sense. There are sea days when I have six programs practically back-to-back and by the evening I am tuckered out. Then there are port days where I might do three programs and they are spread out and very calm. Some moments we have 150 kids running around the space screaming, crying, peeing their pants and vomiting, and other times I’ll do an intimate program with six children gathered around me listening intently surrounding by relative quiet. Sometimes I prefer the latter, but other programs, for example Pluto’s Pajama Party, are really exciting and fun with a ton of kids.

Overall, despite feeling I am in a lower dip, I still feel happy here. When I’m having a down moment or a hard day, the biggest, quickest pick-me-up is a visit from a character. It’s impossible to feel sad when Donald Duck gives you a high-five or Pluto gives you a puppy kiss. Plus, many of the programs I do involve visits from our character friends, and that’s just so much fun. That’s the flow, I suppose. They bring their energy, inherent happiness and open-mouthed grin right when you might feel an ebb pulling you away from feeling okay.

Ups and downs are a part of any job, any day, any career, any life. What’s fantastic about right now, for me, is that one the heart rate monitor of my life as a whole, I was in a very low downward curve before I came here. And now I have been riding a high wave, feeling right again. This tiny dip is a blip in the grand scheme of things and there is something glorious about knowing that. Being here has allowed me to expand what I’ve begun to call my “lexicon of happiness.” This is a place that reminds how epic a smile can be, how momentous a hug or a handshake, how precipitous a conversation. We are potentially changing children’s lives nearly every moment, and they are, in turn, changing ours.

I will leave you with the most wonderful moment I’ve had as of yet on board. Some of you may have seen this update on Facebook, but it bears repeating. During a program called Journey To Neverland, in which we are visited by Peter Pan and adventure with him to his home, he asks the children for their happy thoughts to help us fly. They usually say things like “chocolate” and “toys” and “puppies.” But last week, a teensy blonde girl raised her hand and when Peter asked for her happy thought, she said, “Love.”

Aside from the Hokey Pokey, that, my friends, is what it’s all about.

xoxo,
Amelia

Life at sea is a beast. A big, inexplicable, strange beast from another land (sea). More elusive than the Loch Ness monster. More blurred than Bigfoot. More difficult to capture in your mind’s eye than a shooting star. I am not speaking for all ship life. Perhaps people who work for other cruise lines feel differently. But here are my thoughts after three and a half weeks on board.

A day here lasts three days. That’s the first thing you need to know. This is the first place where I have ever truly understood that 24 hours make up one day. So if one day feels like three, I’ve already been here a couple of months. And people who have boarded since I came on have said to me that I don’t seem new at all. I’m not. I’ve been here for months. It is one reason I feel like I miss you all so much, because I feel I have been gone for ages already.

That being said, there is something nice about the weekly flow of life aboard this ship particularly. If the kids are bratty or the parents are tough to deal with, it is lovely knowing that next week is an entirely new crop of people.

On that note, I love my job. I feel truly wonderful knowing that I facilitate happiness as my occupation. People vacation on my home, and it’s my vocation to make their vacation memorable and magical. I don’t know how you can truly be unhappy knowing that that’s what you have to do each day you wake up. When I feel stressed about scheduling or am frustrated with a situation, I stop and remember the nature of my work and I feel much better. We joked the other day at dinner because a good friend of mine was complaining that someone had taken all of the glitter pipe cleaners from her. The whole table commiserated about how unfair and frustrating it was that someone took our friend’s pipe cleaners. I then took the moment to remind the table that GLITTERY PIPE CLEANERS are our stressors at work. Other people make budgets, deal with life and death situations, or work on assembly lines all day, and we freak about crafts. There is something inexplicably fantastic about that to me. It’s a reflection on the fact we all have our crosses to bear, etc, but also that our world is a well oiled machine and we are each a vital cog. Life on this ship is the microcosm of that. I feel so essential here. And I identified last summer how vital it is for me to feel essential. I am so utterly thankful to be in a place where I feel that way.

On the worst days, this is a steel trap where you’re surrounded 24/7 by the exact same people with whom you eat, work and play. On the best days, it’s like I said before, you’re creating happiness and magic for thousands of guests. The show director said it best the other day when he said, “Amelia, you’re going to be some kid’s first Disney memory. For kids who don’t live in Florida or haven’t grown up with the parks as an experience, you’re going to be the first thing they remember.” That’s a beautiful amount of power and honor, in my opinion. It’s hard to be a kid. Especially these days. Some of the parents I’ve experienced here honestly frighten me. So I feel incredibly lucky that I can be a positive force in a child’s history.

I know I am still in my early days. Certainly things can change in a New York minute. (Those are shorter here, too.) But at this moment, I feel only blessed and glad that I am writing from San Juan, Puerto Rico after I’ve had a rehearsal with professionals and friends and before I will go back on board to hang out with Crush from Finding Nemo and end my night having a pajama party with Pluto. Surely there have been tough times, and every day is not perfect, but at the moment, this pirate’s life is the one for me.

Now, bring me that horizon.

(Disclaimer: I updated this entry throughout the last week and a half, discovering only when I got onboard that I couldn’t update my blog on the ship’s wifi. So excuse the tenses and the overall disorganized quality of this entry, please!)

The first few days with Disney, spent on land, have been absolutely fantastic. They have also been incredibly busy, and I’ve been trying to stuff as much fun and time with new friends as possible into them. That being said, this entry will be much more like the highlight reel of the on land training time, rather than a proper entry. I won’t have time to go into too much detail on anything, but, if something particularly strikes your fancy and you want to know more about it, shoot me an email and I will get back to you about it.

A kid in board, as I flew to Orlando saw water out the window and asked his parents, “Is that the Hudson?” It was hilarious to me. Seemed like a good precursor to what my life was about to become.

That first night I met James (US), Sonja (South Africa), Aline (Brazil), and Catie (US). James and I ventured to Downtown Disney. A margarita bar appeared as if fate itself was willing us to have a “bevi” as James calls them, and I have taken to calling them as well. We watched adorable children dance to live music and a group of 40 gathered around. These were the first two of many, many magical moments. We were staying in All Star Sports, which was inundated with preteen and teenage cheerleaders for some kind of competition. It was horrible.

The next morning when we all met, I walked up and said, “Good morning, everyone!” And many people thought I was the person was in charge. It was pretty funny. Then I met Martin, a kindred spirit from Newcastle, England, who was going to be an Entertainment Host on board the Wonder, unfortunately. I also met Vicky, also from the UK, who was going to be a theatre tech on the same ship I am on. We took a tour bus to a short contract signing meeting. We got our first bit of Disney merch, a bag tag! It was rather exciting. Also a pen. 60 is cold in Florida. I was really freezing, no idea why. That morning a town car came to get the three of us who were going to work with kids so we could get fingerprinted. It was all rather cool, the driver (Jose) even had our names on a board, very official. So neat. He kept asking us if we wanted him to stop to get us a coffee. We didn’t.

Then I had the most insane costume fitting I have ever been to. Tons of different looks. Martin also went, and he had a bunch of looks as well. It was rather cool because all my costumes were going to be fit exactly to my body, very cool. It was at the Disney vault, which is probably the most awesome thing ever. Everyone was nice and helpful. Martin and I were taken there and back in a van, so by the end of 2 days with Disney I had basically taken all manner of Disney transportation possible besides the ship, which would come later. After the costume fitting Martin and I spent the day together at the park. We meant to Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios (which used to be MGM, I didn’t know it had changed). I loved Merchant of Venus in Tomorrowland for its cleverness. I loved the Mickey ears you can get in various styles, the best being Tinkerbell and Pirate. I went alone (because Martin is boring ;D) on the Aerosmith roller coaster, which starts by going 0-60 in about 3.4 seconds. It was SO SO CRAZY. We went on the movie ride, and the animatronics were much cooler when I was a kid. Then we did Star Tours, which was SO SO COOL. I know my Star Wars friends would absolutely love it. Martin and I fell in love with the fake NYC they built in Hollywood Studios using essentially an optical illusion. We took awesome silhouette photos there.

The next day was a session called Traditions. It is a class they give on Walt himself, the origins of the company, and a lot more. They gave us little Disney figurines as prizes for participation. I got Sailor Goofy, Sailor Donald and a mini Disney Fantasy, very neat. They took us backstage in the Magic Kingdom! We all realized that the day before we had experienced the magic, and then we became the magicians. It was an awesome transition to experience. Then Mickey came to visit, dream come true. What a mouse. We were presented our official Disney name tags which was incredibly exciting and there were congratulations all around.

Saying goodbye to Martin was quick and dirty, people going to the other ship were ushered away very quickly, so we were forced to rip apart bandaid-quick. Sad times. Afterwards Catie, Vicky, James, Ramon (from the DR!) and I went to Magic Kingdom again. We rode the Pirates of the Caribbean ride (praise) and Big Thunder Mountain. It was a wild time. We also caught the beginning of the show they do at the castle and let me just say that laser technology is amazing these days.

The first day on board was insanity, and one of the longest days of my life. We were up at 4am, our luggage was sniffed by dogs, and we saw the boat all lit up while it was still dark outside. We had a tour and safety classes immediately. I have to say that the ship is just enormous. There are about 1500 crew members, 4000 guests, 14 decks, the ship is longer than the Eiffel Tower is tall. When we are first on board as new hires, we are giving little red ribbons to hang from our name tags that say “Earning My Ears.” They are simultaneously a blessing and a curse. A blessing because everyone is so nice onboard and sees it and says, “Welcome aboard!” and offers help if you are lost. But they do make us stand out and in the mess we are sort of set aside as the ‘newbies.’ (This feeling went away as the week went on.) During our tour Donald came to get a picture with us, which was so fun and especially cool because then that photo went up on plasma screens all over our crew areas with the words, “Welcome New Hires!” We were drug tested by very interesting pregnancy-testing like technology after that. The cabin is small but I have a nice roommate from Massachusetts. I went to bed by 8:30pm, I was so so exhausted.

The next day we were at sea. We had a ton of training and safety. We learned a lot of really cool stuff, the most intersecting to me being info that can be found at http://www.100people.org. It was a lot of about diversity and cultural sensitivity. Disney hires from all over the globe which is awesome. My new hire class is a fascinating example: there are 14 of us from 9 different countries. We represent India, Indonesia, Jamaica, Honduras, Dominican Republic, Brazil, South Africa, the UK and the US. That day I also began training in the Youth Activities where I will be primarily working, so amazing. It is really a paradise for kids of all ages, and then the adult-only spaces onboard are SWANK. At dinner there was risotto with asparagus and I was insanely happy. They threw a Super Bowl party for the crew but I missed it because I was working. I also just did not care. 🙂

The next day we were in Grand Cayman. It was James’ birthday so we sang and then another guy from Jamaica got up to sing a song, too. He had us all beat box behind it, it was pretty cool, I have it admit. Then we finally got to get out on the floor and play with kids for a little while. Catie and Sonja, two other new hires, are also working in Youth Activities so it’s been really fantastic to go through training with them. I got the first view of some of the programs I will be doing, and played with some adorable little kids. A tiny little 3 year old came up to me after Mickey had just visited the space and poked me and said, “I SAW MICKEY!” It was great. They had a special crew showing of the live show Aladdin which was just absolutely fantastic. The fx Disney has are unparalleled, in some cases better than Broadway. The after party was great and it was the first time I felt like a real person on board. Up till then I had just felt like a floating specter with new hire written all over my body, but at the party I was finally able to not wear a name tag and just talk to people. It was great.

The next day was Costa Maya and I had enough time to get off the boat between training! It was gorgeous weather. We had lunch at some overly priced restaurant at the port there and learned a good lesson from it. Then I had my first meeting with the other Entertainment Hosts and met my “new family” as my new mama put it. Catie, Sonja and I got to see ‘Wishes,’ another live stage show which features various familiar Disney faces. It was a GREAT show as well. I loved the Mulan number as well as the Kiss the Girl. We got to play with kids some after that and that was fun. There was pizza in the mess for the late night snack that night, so yay for that. Catie, Sonja and I dubbed ourselves the 3 Musketeers and have had so many great laughs.

The next day was Cozumel. The 3 Musketeers got to do a really amazing interactive program they have on board called Midship Detective, which takes you all over the ship interacting with video portraits. It was so funny and we figured out the mystery of who stole the Muppets props. We got to have lunch in a guest area with our HR trainer, Carolina from Chile, so that rocked. Then we went into Cozumel to an awesome place called No Name Bar, run by a woman named Odessa who I became best friends with. We got wifi and milkshakes. I got to face time my brother in Utah, so that was awesome. In a store called Mega, which is basically Mexico’s Wal-Mart, I bought laundry detergent for $2 USD. A steal. Back on board we served dinner to the kids who ate in the Youth spaces, learned more programs and made friends. The best moment was a 5 year old boy who taught me how to play a Stitch computer game and in doing so very lightly grabbed both sides of my face and said, “You’re doing it wrong, let me help you.” It was the best moment of my short life on this planet.

I tried to write about the second sea day more than 10 hours after it ended and found it impossible to remember anything that happened. We got to see the third live shoe they do on board called Believe. It was again a smorgasbord of familiar Disney faces, and there were some unbelievable numbers. I think my favorite was probably the Mary Poppins number. They we went out and it was another fantastic night of feeling like a real person and this time people knew our names and were even more willing to sort of get to know us and talk to us. Score. I was also given an almost silly large binder of scripts to learn for my programs. It is nearly 40 different parts. Wooooooooooow. I took it to the gym and tried to start memorizing while riding the stationary bike. I’m sure I looked ridiculous.

The final day of the itinerary (we do two different ones, switching off each week) is Castaway Cay, Disney’s private island in the Bahamas. It is a crazy cool place. Onboard I had my first rehearsal for a few programs so that was really great. Then we went to the island. We toured it, and then said our final goodbye to Carolina because our collective HR training is over. The 3 Musketeers joined up with the YA person who had been training us all week, Lauren from Texas, who is freaking fantastic. She took us around the island as well and we saw the youth spaces on it. I had dinner with my new mama, a fiery Argentine Italian named Vicky, who is amazing. I am only calling her my new mama because “Mama” is actually how she is known to nearly everyone on the ship. She takes care of us, for real. (Don’t worry, Leslie, you’re still my best and number 1 mama.) I had enough time this afternoon to lie on the crew fun deck and soak up some rays. It was fantastically relaxing. Getting that tan in February, y’all!

All in all I have one question: how could I have only been here a week? It truly feels like a thousand years. Time seems to change on board. I am, that being said, really really liking it. I am happy, I am excited, I am so looking forward to really getting started. I love learning all about the ship and all its lingo, I love the Disney way and the general attitude among crew. This is a great place for me and I am insanely thankful. I know this entry is a ridiculous jumbo jumbo of stuff. If you have any questions or just want to communicate with me (WHICH I WOULD LOVE) please email me! amelia.sciandra@gmail.com

Missing you all very much and wish you could experience this magic with me!

Endearingly,
Amelia

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Spring At Sea

The rebirth of this blog (that I always wish I wrote more in) comes as I set off on my next adventure: living on a Disney cruise ship!

Here’s the skinny: On Wednesday (yes, in 2 days) I will fly down to Orlando for training/orientation. On Saturday, February 2, I will embark on a fourth month contract as a Youth Entertainment Host on Disney’s ship named Fantasy. I will host various programs for kids both as myself and in various characters.

Things you should know off the bat:

  1. No, I will not be a princess.
  2. No, I will not be Cruella De Ville.
  3. No, I don’t get seasick (as far as I know).
  4. The boat visits St. Thomas, St. John, San Juan, Costa Maya, Cozumel, Grand Cayman, Disney’s private island (Castaway Cay), and embarks/disembarks at Port Canaveral.
  5. Yes, I will live in a small cabin with another person. (Flashback to freshman year of college.)
  6. Yes, I will have internet.**
  7. No, I will not fold towel animals. (I’m looking at you, John Davis.)

**With regards to my internet capabilities, I’m still a little unsure about how it will all work out. It looks like I’ll be buying a usage card/stealing wifi wherever I can. Email will definitely be the best way to stay in contact. I can also receive mail on the ship. If you want my mailing address, let me know and I will be more than happy to give it to you. Should you desire a postcard, send me your mailing address and I will be more than happy to send you one!

I will be updating the blog as often as I can. Since I know I’m going to be working a lot (70 hours a week), I have decided that each night I’m going to try to write a little two-sentence wrap-up of each day, that way whenever I update the blog it’ll be a little collage of my last week or last few days or what have you. I know I will be able to use my phone on Saturdays, because I will be in port, so if you have FaceTime, we should do it then.

I’ll try to remember/write down as many ridiculous things the kids say as possible.

All in all I am incredibly thankful that this adventure is finally starting and I look forward to sharing it with you.

Also, though it is much to my chagrin, here I am including the link to my audition video that I made to get this job. The characters I’m playing here may give you a little bit of an idea of what I’ll be doing on a day-to-day basis. Enjoy.

“When you believe a thing, believe it all the way, implicitly and unquestionably.”
-Walt Disney

 xoxo,
Amelia

Image

“Art is the great democrat, calling forth creative genius from every sector of society, disregarding race or religion or wealth or color.”
-John F. Kennedy

It isn’t all that surprising that my endeavor back into the blogging world (so sorry for the hiatus) has been spawned by a quote. And one about art, at that. What is so perfect about this quote is that it serves as a clever jumping off point for trying to explain the last few months of my life. So it will all come back around. I hope. This may get heavy, and is certainly personal, but hopefully someone who reads it might be moved by my experience to make the changes that I did.

In short, over the last few months, I lost my way. If ever there were a path for me, if you believe in that sort of thing, or if ever there were a song I was supposed to sing (see this entry), I veered off that path and I flopped. I didn’t just sing in the wrong key. I didn’t even sing the right song. I was genres away. I had lost my voice. God, I love metaphors. Anyway, the point is that I had no idea what I was doing.

Naturally, I wanted someone to blame. When things go wrong, when you’ve made a wrong turn, you want to scream at the map, or curse the navigator for telling you take a right when she meant left. I think that is human nature. I, however, could really only blame myself. Many times in my life, and those who know me best can attest to this, I have thought myself into a situation. Using my tireless logic I maneuvered myself into thinking a certain way. I do this often. I think too much. “I could think myself into infinity,” I used to say. Then I would start to think about why that statement made no sense. You see what I’m getting at?

So there I was. Living in a familiar city, but feeling like a complete stranger to my surroundings and circumstances. Lost, lonely and very sad, with no one to blame for any of it but myself and my own convictions. That, my friends, is a dark place. The darkest, in fact, that I have ever been to. I wish it upon no one. It took an incredibly frightening Sunday night that I will never forget to realize that I didn’t want to live that way anymore. It is not enough to tell ourselves that we should do something for money, or because it makes someone else happy, or because society will look positively upon us for it. It is not okay to hate yourself for becoming the antithesis of what you always wanted to be.

So I took control. I made a decision that for some people is easy but for me seemed like a terrible thing. I quit my job. I turned down a good salary, impending benefits and seeming opportunity. Why? Because it wasn’t me. I had spent twenty-three years and innumerable experiences, heartbreaks, tears, struggles, and successes to build a version of myself I knew, was comfortable with and was ready to face the world inside of. I had found my voice. Then I found myself in a place where all the parts of Amelia I knew so intimately felt stifled. A place where my voice was muted and affected. It is important for me to point out that this isn’t the fault of the place, but it is more that that place and I did not sing the same song. We weren’t on the same album. Or Pandora station. We really weren’t even in the same record collection. Histrionically I wrote once that I felt like “una mariposa entre maquinas,” a butterfly among machines. Again, I was the one to blame. I stuffed myself into a box I very quickly realized could never hold all the myriad parts of me.

Last week I had a conversation with my incredible friend Chelsea during which we discussed, among various topics, why we make theatre. Why we perform. What we think it does for society, for people we love, for ourselves, for the world. It felt so right to sit on her bed waxing philosophical with a like-minded friend. We make art because it is the thing we know how to do best. We perform because if we have made one person FEEL something in this world so often cold and unfeeling then we have been successful. We make theatre because it is our version of love. It is how we see god. It is what we believe we were meant to do on this rock stuck in space. Since the dawn of human life we have been making art. It allows us to say things to each other we could never find the words for ourselves. It enriches our lives in ways we never thought possible. Art brings people together not only physically: we go to the theatre and breathe with other audience members, we sit in a dark movie house and breathe with strangers, we stand in front of an art piece in a museum and surreptitiously glance sidelong to see our fellow patron admiring it too and breathe with him, but also emotionally. When someone knows a Shakespeare reference I make I feel a small part of my soul take flight. Water coolers around the nation are suns to the solar system of talk of television shows and movies. I stood in the Met in April and cried in front of the Van Gogh’s only to see a woman a few feet back doing the same. There is something so universal about art that it supersedes barriers we build in front of each other. JFK said it. Art is the great democrat. It is also the great inspirer, the mover, the shaker, the savior.

Art saved me. I looked inside myself when I felt practically filled to the brim with darkness, and found a light. I was cast in a show and suddenly everything made sense again. Thank god for all those incredible people who were put here to work on computers, to cut people open, to design and build buildings, to insure us, to fight fires, to fight enemies. Thank you for existing. Because I am not one of you. I am an artist. I am a performer. I bring you laughter, contemplation, entertainment, diversion. And what we provide for each other is the linchpin that holds society together. What we each bring to the table is vitally important to the continuation of human existence. We all make the world better in our own ways. I am unendingly grateful that people go to school to study medicine, engineering, computer science, law. I went to school and studied Dramatic Art. I remember once this jackass and a half asked me my major and when I told him, he said, “Oh, and what are you going to do with that?”

What am I doing? First, a play called She Stoops to Conquer, that if you come to see, you will (god forbid) learn something, and (hopefully) laugh. What am I doing? Visiting schools in the Triangle to perform some of Shakespeare’s greatest hits so that the children of tomorrow will have the chance to be some of the most educated and eloquent in the world. What am I doing? Moving on to a Disney cruise ship to give children from all over the world the opportunity to laugh, create, and build memories that may last their lifetimes.

What am I doing? I am making art. Art that crosses borders, tears down walls, and brings together people “from every sector of society, disregarding race or religion or wealth or color.”

Thanks for asking.

(To explain the title of this entry further: Someone asked me once, “What percentage of time do you think you speak in your voice?” I told him quite honestly, “Probably 10%.” Always performing.)

Recently my wonderful best friend shared a Pablo Neruda poem with that I missed somehow in my studies of Spanish literature in high school and college. My chagrin aside, this poem spoke to me in the most profound of ways. It has that almost unidentifiable quality that makes me love it instantly, upon first read, despite potentially not understanding every word or nuanced image. It’s the same way I felt the first time I read one of my other favorite poems, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock by T.S. Eliot. That’s a poem I could read every day until the end of my days and still mine new meaning out of. But I digress. Pause for a moment, dear reader, and click here. That page is great because it provides a translation. If you’re not a Spanish speaker, I suggest directing your eyes toward the right side of the screen.

I find the translation pretty well done. I perhaps might have changed a few things around, but that’s neither here nor there. I want to talk about one phrase that the translator brilliantly upheld in his work: dulzura implacable. He translated this to “implacable sweetness.” I was really pleased he left the word “implacable” as is. Admittedly, I looked up this word to be sure it meant what I thought it did. Finding I was right, I stewed for a few minutes on why I liked the image of “implacable sweetness” so much. It probably has something to do with the hard ‘c’ that’s fun to enunciate properly (theatre-nerd) but it’s also the inherent irony in this brilliant juxtaposition. Implacable (adj): not to be appeased, mollified, or pacified; inexorable: an implacable enemy. The example, to me, demonstrates the negative connotation of this word. That you cannot be pacified, according at least to old men who write dictionaries, is a bad thing. But Neruda, sticking it to the proverbial dictionary man, places that word next to dulzura, sweetness, while describing how his love might feel for him, and the idea of being “implacable” suddenly ain’t so bad.

When I was in New York City in April, I ran into a girl I went to college with; for the purposes of the story, we’ll call her Mary. It had probably been at least three years since I’d seen her. The encounter was pleasant enough. Later that week I was having lunch with a mutual friend also from college, and described seeing Mary. I said to him, “It’s incredible. I haven’t seen her in years and she’s still so steadfastly…Mary. She seems to have not changed one bit.” Honestly, I think I was judging Mary for this. I was surprised and almost, in a strange way, disappointed by finding her so unchanged. But my friend, ever sage, responded, “And? What’s wrong with that?” I was stymied. He was completely right. What’s wrong with being steadfast? If what Mary does is working for her, it seems only natural for her to continue along that path.

One of my closest friends from childhood, in fact a girl I’ve known for longer than almost any of my other friends, had as her status on gchat, “By the way, I hate change.” The first time I read it, I sort of chuckled to myself and was unsurprised. It seemed exactly like something she would say, and I could even hear her voice in my head slightly sardonically repeating these words. She’s been a person who, having to deal with great change at a young age, doesn’t like it. She would rather, I’ve heard her say, things stay the same because that makes them easier. Ironically, I’ve watched this woman, since we were 8 –years-old, change in ways that shocked me, made me proud, sometimes worried me, but always made me internally reflect. She hates change, has changed, and yet her gchat status was so supremely her:  meaning it was steadfastly in her wheelhouse to say something like that. What a strange irony.

The world changes frighteningly quickly. Within what’s becoming an only more mobile global society, we are updated each millisecond, it seems, with news. With change. With development. With tragedy, celebration, death, new life, discovery, disappointment. How on earth (ba dum che) could we think we even have the ability to remain steadfast when everything around us zooms by? I’m baffled by this dichotomy. The political realm—I get itchy even typing those words—is a prime example, I believe, of the potential dangers. How does one remain rooted in his or her beliefs but open to changing his or her mind?

My own parents have been delightfully and honestly unexpectedly developing new opinions based on the information around them and, for me, it is lovely to see. They were raised and grew up in a world tremendously different than the one we inhabit. This is not to say they are old (you really aren’t, Mom and Dad, I swear); I’m simply pointing out that in 1978, for example, when my parents were married, society, life, the size of the planet, it was all worlds away (another terrible pun) from where we stand in 2012. I believe steadfast is a word I’d use to describe my father—see this entry for many more—and yet I feel lucky to be privy to his mind opening, protracting, his definitions of many things changing as he takes in the ever-expanding world around him.

So where is that elusive balance? How do we reach that enigmatic point where we can stay passionate and bound to what we believe, but don’t end up tying ourselves to a sinking ship? Less figuratively: how can we (I) remain prepared for the next life-changing event that may come at any moment, but also live entirely presently? If we promise to steadfastly push on, do we become blind to everything else? There has to be a way to live that doesn’t have us (me) shouting, “Stop the world! I want to get on!”

I, obviously, don’t have the answer. I find myself burrowing into a safe “Amelia” hole while things change so much around me that I emerge feeling like I’ve visited an alien planet. I end up screaming that classic line with the memory of the merry-go-round at recess: I was always too afraid of the potential pain I might endure when I reached out and tried to grab hold so I could jump on and spin with everyone else. Change is frightening. Humans like to feel they have some ability to dig down in the trenches and retain at least some qualities of the best versions of themselves. Perhaps steadfastness is a blessing and a curse. It’s double-edged.

I would like to think, therefore, that inherently we all have una dulzura implacable. There is something in us that doesn’t want to change, that inexorably pushes on. But hopefully, it is the part of us that  (oxymoronically) is open to developing.

Or maybe it’s just easier to not think about it. Like Lizzy Maguire told her classmates in their yearbooks, “You rock, don’t ever change.”

In an email conversation I recently had with my father he said, “Mom forwarded your blog and I read it yesterday and found it very interesting (as I do all your blogging). I did notice that Mother got a lot of solid PR and I was relegated to a comment in parenthesis. But I’m not offended. BLOG ON!”

For those of you who have the unique pleasure of knowing my dad, this is not at all a surprising comment. The man is quite funny, has quite a few opinions, and isn’t afraid to share them with you. He’s also incredibly kind-hearted, a tried and true caretaker, and secretly rather weird. My dad is nearly always perfectly coiffed, is a fantastic shopper and is also an athlete, a gardener, and a chef. He is a thousand more men than I could ever enumerate here. For Father’s Day, in this time of budgeting and constant online bank account balance checking (and because he’s really hard to buy gifts for) I am giving my Pop a blog post as a gift. I will regale you all with a few choice anecdotes that to me speak volumes about the man I’m lucky enough to call my dad.

The Fashionista: Dad is guy who likes to look good. Were I so bold, I might use that shocking word “metrosexual” to describe his style. He wears nice suits, usually goes the ever-so-new-wave “no tie, with top button undone” look, and has an excellent collection of shoes. Two of his three children inherited this trait. Mom’s also obsessed with shoes. We’re shoe people. He has great hair, always well styled, and he drives a flashy little sports car. The story that most comes to mind in relation to the fact that my dad is pretty fly follows below.

When my father was around my age, he had hair down to his shoulders. This is especially funny to me now that I am wearing my hair so short. He became a teacher and they wanted him to cut his hair. It was the 70s, and dad kind of looked like a hippy with those luscious long locks so the school told him he needed to hit the barbershop. My dad, ever the rebel, decided that instead of cutting his hair, he’d wear a shorthaired wig. So he hid his luscious long locks underneath A WIG during the day and got to have his long hair for nights and weekends. I have this wonderful mental image of the 3pm bell ringing and dad walking out to his motorcycle (yes, he had a few of those too), whipping off his wig, shaking out his hair, and driving home with the wind splaying his dark brown mane behind him.  I apologize sincerely, father, if this is humiliating. But I find it hilarious.

The Underwear Salesman: My dad works for Hanesbrands and has done so for more than 30 years. Honestly, what exactly he does on a daily basis is a mystery to me, and I have always joked with him that he is, in fact, an underwear salesman. In very the very basic definition of that phrase, he is. The best part about this is that he’s a grown-ass man who has to discuss women’s intimates regularly.

Once we were on a trip to Philadelphia to see our family there, and I believe it must have been a day he had “taken as vacation” because he wasn’t at the office, but was still supposed to be available by phone should there be a hosiery emergency. He ended up having to be a part of a conference call. In the car. For nearly two hours, my mother drove, I sat in the backseat, and my dad, in the captain’s chair, spoke on the phone about bras and panties and their color designs. The call wasn’t supposed to be two hours, the meeting had various hiccups, and some d-bag in the office continually threw wrenches in the plans, so dad had to stay on the phone. I ended up taking a tally, because I could barely believe it: my dad said the words “bra” and “panties” over 50 times on the call. I HATE the word panties. I never say it, if I can avoid it. This man, in order to bring home the bacon, is perfectly willing to stay on a phone call for two hours during his vacation to discuss zebra-print panties. Give this guy a medal.

The Truth: (Hold your hats, I’m going to get sappy.) As time goes and everyone ages, my dad seems to only be getting sillier. Skyping with my parents is always a joy. During my time in the DR, he would draw a smiley face on his pointer finger, put it in front of the camera and refer to him as “Señor Dedo.” You can’t make this stuff up. His sense of humor is astounding. He also, for some strange reason, loves to watch documentaries about what I can only call the saddest topics ever. We’ve begun to refer to them as “DDDs,” Dad’s Depressing Documentaries, and my poor mom is forced to sit with him as Sarah McLachlan narrates the next über-awful subject. He loves to watch soccer, excuse me, football, on TV and shout and tear his hair along with the fans in the stands. He is such a brilliant mix of qualities that I fear I’m not even close to doing him justice.

There has never been anyone in the world as well taken care of as I am. My dad has been there for me in too many ways to count. When I step back to think of how I could possibly thank him, I’m overwhelmed because I know it will never be enough. I’m so much of the woman I am today because this man raised me and I am still lucky enough to have him as a guiding force in my life. This blog post isn’t nearly adequate, but I hope it’s given you all a small look into my number one hero. Dad hasn’t cured cancer, or rescued anyone from a burning building, but he’s saved me, many times. Heroes come in all shapes and sizes, men live extraordinary or extraordinarily small lives, but what my dad has managed to do thus far is all that and more. Thank you, Daddy, for all you’ve given me and all you’ll continue to give me. I love you, endlessly.

I can’t sing. Yes, I can carry a tune. Sure, there are those few notes in my sweet spot that I feel like I can belt with the best of them. But when an audition form has that question, “Do you sing?” I always stare at the “Yes” and “No” and wonder which to circle. Do I sing? Hell yes, I sing. In my car, I’m a Broadway star with her Tony acceptance speech in her back pocket. I hold tiny, steamy rock concerts in my shower. But I don’t really think that’s what they are asking. When I start to get down about this fact of my life, I usually open YouTube, find a video of one of my Broadway favorites, watch it, probably cry a little, and then feel better. You might think it would have the opposite effect: rather than therapeutic this behavior might seem self-destructive. After watching the video you might think I’d sit and continue to cry, cursing my fate and shaking my fist melodramatically at the heavens for leaving me musically challenged. I don’t, though. I relish in the talent that’s out there. I bathe in Linda Eder’s emotional belts and Brian Justin Crum’s stupidly gorgeous high notes. I celebrate their raw, inexplicable ability to make something so powerful.

My wonderful friend Caroline shared this quote from David Orr recently, and I haven’t been able to get it off my mind: “The plain fact is that the world does not need more successful people, but it does desperately need more peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers, and lovers of every kind. It needs people who live well in their places. It needs people of moral courage willing to join the fight to make the world habitable and humane. And these qualities have little to do with success as our culture has defined it.” While I, of course, agree with David Orr, I would be so bold as to amend his gorgeously articulated words to say that perhaps the way we define success is the problem.

On NPR the other day I heard a story about an Olympic rower called Roz Savage. She has already rowed solo across both the Atlantic and the Pacific. She had been planning on doing it again: she wanted to row from the United States to London for this summer’s games. Unfortunately a situation with the weather precluded her ability to take the longer, slightly less sane route across the pond. She’ll have to fly, with all the plebeians, instead. In her beautiful British accent, Ms. Savage enumerated her disappointment and sadness in response to the news that she couldn’t, in fact, row to London. She said about rowing something to the effect of, “This is what I was born to do.”

In our modern conventional definition of ‘success,’ where does Roz Savage fit? She is certainly one of the worlds best at what she does, she probably makes a good deal of money at it, and she definitely seems very happy. I don’t really care about rowing, to be honest. Neither does most of the world outside the time of the summer Olympics and in highly bourgeois places like New England and regular England. Though I do like that machine at the gym. I don’t really care if Roz Savage is a millionaire: unless she’s giving all of that money to charities, how many people is it really benefiting? I’m glad that she’s so happy, genuinely. I hope to join her ranks of happiness one day soon in my own life. So why did Miss I’m-completely-insane-about-an-obscure-sport stick with me? Because she is inspiring. She has found the thing that she believes she was put on planet earth to do and she does it. Her story gave me a keen sense of possibility that may lurk in my subconscious always, but rarely (at least lately) comes to the surface of my awake mind.  She was given a gift, and intends to use it to its fullest extent.

I once had a conversation with my mother that I will never forget. For those of you who do not know her, she is a powerhouse of a woman. I’m incredibly lucky my genes come from this lady. This exchange took place sometime around my graduation from college. She told me, “Amelia, I have worked many jobs. I have done all sorts of things in my life and I’m basically in a third career. But the thing I was best at, the job I realized I was always meant to have, was motherhood.” Without tooting my own family’s horn too much, my mother (and my father, of course) raised three pretty cool kids. All three of her children graduated from college. My oldest brother has a graduate degree from Georgetown and a wife and a child of his own. My other brother lives quite well independently in Salt Lake City. We’ve none of us ever been arrested, none of us are addicted to drugs or other substances, and in general we’re pretty good people. My mom was right, and she knew it. She was a bartender, a paralegal, she worked retail, she worked in a soulless cubicle, she’s a teacher: but all those seeming walks of life were actually just stops along the greater path of her real career. My mom’s gift is an uncanny ability to raise children into fully functioning, able-bodied adult human beings. She believed she was given a story to tell, and she’s been telling it. In my humble opinion, she hasn’t just been telling it, she’s been kicking ass at it.

I had the interesting experience of discovering what it is I believe I was born to do while in college. I found my song, and sang it. I got lucky, came downstairs early on Christmas morning and got to open the gift waiting under the tree. Unfortunately, since college I feel as if I’ve had to put that gift aside. I’ve had to sacrifice it for the more accepted definitions of success. I’m working towards finding a way to share my gift, rather than shirk it. It’s not easy. If only David Orr could help me make my life telling my story and loving, then perhaps I’d be as happy as Roz Savage seems. I believe it will come. This time in my life seems to be nature’s way of saying, “Don’t hide your light under a bushel.” I’m learning that perhaps society’s strictures are just that: strict. And that I am not a freckle on the nose of life’s complexion. Hey, Mr. Arnstein? Here I am.

Many of my friends are absolutely beautiful singers. Part of me gets frustrated as they, almost living out a cliché, abandon musical theatre for law school and medical school (I honestly know two such people). Another part of me, however, realizes that they just happen to be sitting in front of their tree, opening new gifts. And these gifts, they feel, will be more powerful as they join the fight to make the world habitable and humane. All I can say is this: please keep singing. Your beautiful voices inspired me. The stories you tell when you sing are equally as important to making our earth better as the people you’ll cure in hospitals and the justice you’ll fight for in court rooms.  Find your song, and sing it, but don’t forget that literally doing so will serve as the figurative harmony of the tune of your life. Plus, you must keep doing so, so that amateurs like I am simply lip-sync rather than join in.

Don’t make me sing.

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