In a respect, this is a story of boredom. But it was a welcome boredom. I took this trip not only because I absolutely hate flying, but also because I wanted a bit of time to myself, to catch up on some reading and have some time to reflect on things. And on a ship sailing the Pacific Ocean, free time is something you have in great supply. How do you kill this time? I listed what I did, day by day, here. The first few days go over some of the preparation to embark on the ship.
19th of September, Seattle.
This morning I officially began my journey on the Hanjin Geneva by hauling my two, 60lbs pieces of luggagefrom the King street Amtrak station to the port where my ship awaited. The security guards made it quite clear that I was not to take any pictures at the port, for security reasons. I thought it a little ridiculous, but I went with it. They gave me a bright orange vest so that none of the troubadours would run me over and a bright orange security helmet to wear, in case a container fell on my head. They left a couple hundred feet from the ship, and I had to huff it the rest of the way, a bag in each hand. When I reached the bottom of the gangplank the head foreman came down and asked me if I needed any help. Before I could even agree, he flung my 36” inch duffel bag over his should as if were a mere trifle and haul up the stairs like it was nothing at all.
|This is a shot of the gangplank, taken from Tokyo.
There, it was not as steep as it was in Seattle
The gangplank, for the uninitiated, is what takes you from the ship to the shore. It looks like the sickly child of a ladder and a staircase, and stretches to the height of about three storeys. Climbing it necessitates both hands firmly placed on the guide railing, which is caked in grease and rust. I, however, had to carry up the other luggage, the one that had been falling apart on my since Union Station in DC. So step by step I dragged up, constantly worried that the last strap was going to break on me would tumble down the gangplank and into the sea. Luck had me avoid such a fate, and I soon arrived up the flights, completely winded and with an extremely sore shoulder. I got on the ship and waited in one of the officer’s room still painting heavily to catch my breath, the officers and crew looking at me like I was some kind of weak and pathetic alien encroaching on their space. A glass of water and a five minute rest later, I was mostly back to normal. I met captain Weinkauf (who introduced himself as ‘the master’ but would later revoke this upon sensing that this had a strange connotation in English) and proceeded to butcher his name so badly that it came out closer to Mein Kampf.
I explained my situation regarding my Chinese deadline for arrival to the captain and he made it rather clear that there was no good way around it, and that my best bet was to disembark in Busan as originally scheduled. Asian ports, he told me, are famously strict, and want a list of passengers disembarking well in advanced of arrival. By the time he could guarantee my punctual arrival in Shanghai, it would be too late for me to change my mind and disembark there. Damn. I thanked ‘the master’ and was then taken to my cabin, where I left burdensome bags, locked the door, and made my
way back to the hostel. There was a wonderful view from the window in my cabin. I lay in bed and watched a few episodes of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell till I finished recovering from the climb up the gangplank (my shoulders would hurt for another few days). It wasn’t even noon yet.
 English fact of the day: Luggage is apparently a non-count noun. Go figure.