Monday, November 12, 2012

We're Living on a Freaking Ship

--> One of the fun things about FEMA Corps is the wide variety of housing you get, which swings between moderately normal (hotels, church basements) and the Al Michaels-style You did WHAT? category. My current housing is definitely in the latter. After bouncing through three dorm rooms, an extended-stay motel and the floor of a Connecticut armory, we’ve hit the apex of cool. Welcome to the Corps’s new home by the sea.

Yep. We’re living on a legitimate ship.

Backstory: The ship is a training vessel that we've appropriated as our new home. Able to house 600 people in its four main decks, it’s big enough to be mistaken for a funny-shaped building that decided to go for a swim. The ship is typically used for 45- or 90-day training cruises, but now houses the entirety of Vicksburg’s FEMA Corps contingent.

How the hell did we get here? Because housing was scarce (to put it lightly) in New York City after Sandy hit, FEMA initially put the Corps in a military base in New Jersey, Fort Dix (which, coincidentally enough, is where my Opa (grandfather) got his training when he was drafted into the Army) LINK. The trouble with that was that a) it was a 2-3 hour commute one way, in a b) gas shortage-plagued city, which also happened to be c) blacked out in certain areas due to Sandy, so that my team d) got hopelessly lost in downtown somewhere on the first trip to Jersey and turned it into an e) 5 1/2 hour nightmare drive.

To employ some Gallic understatement, this was not ideal. Apparently the higher-ups realized this, because just a day into our stay at Fort Dix the Corps was yanked into the ship and informed that this was our new semi-permanent domicile. It’s still about an hour’s commute from Summit 5’s work, but the food is nice, the scenery is great and we live on a goddamn SHIP. It’s AWESOME. There are ample toilets and showers, a laundry facility and just-opened game and weight rooms. I have a locker and rack (sailor for ‘bed’) of my very own, the latter of which is racked below two others belonging to teammates. The rack measures about six feet long, two wide and two tall. (If I forget to set my alarm in the morning, the sound of my bunkmate John whacking his head on the ceiling has proven a fairly reliable wakeup call.)

Speaking of slang, it turns out that Battlestar Galactica was pretty much spot-on when it comes to shipboard slang. Yelling “Make a hole!” in a blocked hallway, calling walls “bulkheads” or stairways “ladderwells” are all pretty commonplace here. Left and right are of course “port” and “starboard” (what’s more, the ‘port’ is actually to the ship’s left), we eat on the “mess deck” and descend a modern version of a “gangplank”. The pointy end is the “bow” and the serious part is the “stern”, of course.

So we’re well-provided for, in the food, shelter and travel areas as well as the linguistic one. Phone service is unfortunately impossible belowdecks, since the ship is essentially a huge steel box, and since our team leaders usually communicate with us through Blackberry messages, this is kind of a problem. Traditional NCCC activities—physical training three times a week, Service Learning moments at least once per week, frequent team meetings—have been curtailed both by the ship’s layout and by an unrelenting disaster schedule. I’m writing this on my day off, our first since Maryland and one that only happened due to a winter storm hitting New York City. Incidentally, that’s why my blogs haven’t been posting as often as I’d like, since I need to first have time to write the thing and then beg Internet from a friend with a wireless hot-spot (the ship lacks that as well). All of these are trivial issues, though, because did I mention we’re living on a ship?? We’ll work through ‘em; FEMA Corps always does.

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