Wonders of being a Wallflower
One of the more interesting things about this whole experience is working with a crew that doesn’t speak your first language regularly. I recognize that for non-English speakers this might be something commonly experienced, but for me this is a first. This has led to dramatic alteration of my personality. As you might have been able to tell from this blog, it’s hard to get me to shut up. But on this voyage I have been uncharacteristically taciturn, shy even. I know it’s hard to imagine. Honestly even after 4 weeks, I haven’t yet come out of my shell and haven’t yet figured out how to behave most social situations. I suspect most people here think I am psychotic. You’re there, 15 people are talking at a rapid pace in French, talking about something, you have zero idea what although you did catch one word, your name, and then everyone laughs. They all then look at you. Um. What do I do? What do I do? Do I laugh too? ‘Oh yeah! Ha, ha, ha. Whatever it was that you said was hysterical!’ Do I maintain the somewhat blank-faced half smile I normally carry around, that probably looks like I once had a lobotomy, on my face? Or do I just keep staring at my pancakes and pretend that I wasn’t paying attention and hope everyone stops looking at me? Depending on how tired I am and who is sitting next to me, I pick at these choices randomly.
Now while this has its drawbacks, I have found that this alteration in my personality (aka not being an insufferable know-it-all and blabber mouth) is quite beneficial. First, you get to experience your inner voice in overdrive…hence this blog. I generally find topics to write about while immersed in long self-induced silences when a) its meal time and there are 15 French people speaking about various things simultaneously b) long boat rides while everyone is speaking French and c) on the deck while getting ready to dive when everyone is speaking French. Now I know some of you said that a great way to learn French is direct immersion. I’ve been deeply immersed for the last 4 weeks, and I’d say emphatically this is not true. Whoever said this has never truly been immersed I think. It is really hard to understand a language while its spoken rapidly by many people all about different things and not always with any context. Also this is a language that doesn’t pronounce most of the letters in the word, so even if I might have seen the word in the books I am reading in French, I’d never even know if anyone even said that freaking word. After many weeks immersed I’d say I can get maybe a few words if there some context or if people gesticulate. Otherwise I just get the noise the peanut characters make when talking on the phone “whan wha whan whan wan, Becky, hahahahah.” They’re making fun of me in French again aren’t they?
I’m a spring breaker on the Tara
But other than my internal monologue being tuned to high, being quiet, I found, has been useful for another reason. I am totally not in charge. No responsibilities really. Nada. I am so incompetent language wise, I basically just sit around and wait for people to tell me to do stuff. People who know me…ponder that for a couple minutes. Me…waiting patiently for other people to tell me to do stuff. And even more shocking…then me doing it without offering an alternative opinion or making a wise crack about the plan. I know…. it’s hard to imagine. I too keep marveling at my ability to keep my trap closed. I have to say this has been awesome. I don’t have to make any choices! I don’t tell anyone what to do. I don’t have to make plans. I don’t have to drive the boat or trailer, badly. I don’t have to cook dinner or remind people that is not the way you cut onions. I don’t need to wake people up (cough, Rory) or make sure they (he) gets on the (his) plane. I don’t have to tell anyone to put on sunscreen (cough, Ryan), to stop cheating at cards (cough Stephanie), or to stop eating all our week’s worth of food in one sitting (cough Adrienne). All I need to do is take directions and try not to screw up too often. I am essentially a very well paid undergrad! Best thing ever! I should do this more often. I had planned to seriously learn French over the next year because we’ll be living part time in Moorea and because I want to wow the future crew with my language prowess on the next Tara cruise. But maybe I should say !@#$% it. If I don’t learn French, I will be back in the same place next year with zippo responsibilities. Tough choice.
Two heads aren’t always better than one
But all blessings sometimes are a curse, and sadly there are times when my reticence to speak up ended up biting me in the ass, or in this case, hitting me in the head. I suspect you all know where this is going. Becky gets hurt again. Yep that’s right people. Yesterday, when our new boat driver (name omitted to protect the guilty) decided that the best way to travel, no matter the weather or wave conditions, is at full throttle. On the way out and then again on the way back to Tara my PI brain was screaming inside. “What gives man, slow the hell down.” “Tell him to take it easy, Becky” “Tell him that someone is gonna get hurt and that it’s better to get there slowly than not at all.” But then I look around and eyeball everyone else getting ragged dolled on the boat and they all seem just fine with it. So then I feel like the old lady, tisk tisk tisk. “Slow down, sonny!” But, alas, I should have trusted my instincts and wagged my finger and made a stink. Instead I now have a shiner on my left eye to match the bruise (which now everyone agrees looks like an atoll) on my leg.
To make a long story long, we went over the top of a particularly large wave at the speed of light. We then landed very hard in the next wave’s trough. Monche (our normal mellow and sane boat driver and DSO) and I both got thrown head first into the bow (we both managed to stay mostly upright and holding on to the side lines). With terrible timing and placement our heads found themselves in the same place at the same time. So I guess that ‘someone’ ‘who was gonna get hurt”… that was me…also Monche. Joy. To be honest I was more pist off than hurt. In fact, even though everyone saw it, and the DSO was asking me if I was okay the driver didn’t even stop. I had to tell him to stop to make sure I wasn’t bleeding or had a concussion. Luckily the wet and hot I felt on my face wasn’t blood, just seawater and pure rage. I’d say it was the first time this whole trip I was actually angry at someone. When we got back, we found that the gash on the right side of my left eye I received from Monche’s noggin was quite minor and was only a small impact cut. My sunglass took a majority of the of the force away from my eye socket and cracked. Monche is bald, and like sailor feet, he has sailor head, a sunburnt nugget covered in bruises and cuts from hitting his head on stuff all the time. So the new lump he got was a nice addition to the rest, and we have officially bonded, perhaps too literally. In the end I got a nasty head ache and a small black eye as well as vindication that although most of the time it’s good to keep your mouth closed… in this case I should have said something. Damn you, hindsight!