The CEO of Life At Sea Cruises (LASC) by Miray just posted a heart-warming note that is long on empathy and short on “reassuring” facts. That doesn’t upset me, or a number of people I know. On the contrary, the honesty and personal touches, like “Quite frankly, I am pissed…” is not only understandable, but I’m very relieved to hear her actually say it. This way of communicating with the residents gives me even more confidence that I’m choosing the right people to work with on this adventure we call life. “The Team” at LASC, under the leadership of Kendra as the CEO, is undoubtedly also frustrated. And they have changed their lives, accepted jobs, worked to set up very intricate plans, and made promises to people only to now discover that it’s just not possible to fulfill all of their obligations. Because of what they are told is “a financial transfer delay,” all of the detailed planning from skilled professionals is resulting in delays and uncertainty. That affects the LASC team in addition to the passengers who have hoped and planned for this trip.
I’m lucky in so many ways in this situation. It may sound odd, but having to (actually being fortunate enough to be able to) spend almost a year in Wichita, KS, instead of planning for departure from Istanbul on 1 Nov has separated me from the disruptions that many/most of my passenger-mates on LASC are going through. My own situation was having to leave my hometown, pack my belongings and lease my house, one month earlier than I planned. When I had tickets to arrive in Istanbul on 28 Oct. I was going to leave Namibia on 25 Oct. When I left Namibia, on 25 Sep., I packed for 3-4 years and will be living out of my suitcases (most likely) for at least that long. So yes, I was impacted by having to close down one phase of my life and start a new phase one month sooner than I planned. And it was chaotic. But now I’m in Wichita going through the medical treatments that will (hopefully) extend the remainder of my life substantially. It also means I don’t have to deal with plans changing, no information, less than helpful childish comments (that’s you, “J”), and other inconveniences of the LASC journey as others on the trip must deal with them. While I would still prefer not to have the medical treatments, I totally appreciate that it has meant I also skipped the traumas of the constantly changing plans for the trip. Like I said, I’m lucky in that regard.
The second point that makes me feel lucky is the changing of expectations that come from living in Africa for over eight years. I was fortunate with the opportunities that were available to me having a privileged middle-class upbringing in the U.S. But, particularly in the past 10 years, I’ve become acutely aware of the limitations in world view held by so many people in my home country, and in the West, generally. That may sound offensive to some perfectly wonderful people who have lived in the mid-west U.S.A., or other areas, their entire lives. I know it sounds very judgmental, particularly to the many people who feel the U.S.A. is the only country to do things “the way they should be done.” I’ve told many people over the years that while I know it will never happen, I think young people, college-age and no later than just after college, should be required to spend two years living in a non-western country. Only then will some people begin to understand that the way things are done “at home” isn’t the only way. And there are rich, vibrant, and varied histories about which many people from other areas simply have never heard of. I also think people from ALL countries (such as Namibia) should have the same requirement to spend time abroad. So many people in Namibia are literally unable to recognize that there may be a “better” way to do things than what they are used to. They admire, envy, and in many cases covet what people in the Western “First World” countries have, but they are unable to give up the “old ways” that they are used to. Understandable, but there is a cost to everything.
All of us, every single one of us, would benefit from encouragement to broaden our perspectives. We need to challenge what we think we know; always, every day until the day we die. And so many people aren’t willing to do that. Sometimes it seems to me that the world is largely populated by “dead men walking.” Not everyone, thankfully, but too many.
So, belatedly bringing this rant back to LASC, many of the residents looking forward to the trip and making major changes in their lives to make it possible are doing just fine. They don’t like the delays, and don’t like having to deal with the disruptions, but they are OK. This was, from the beginning, a three-year trip that had never been done before, at least not like this. We simply don’t know what will come up, but over three years we can rest assured that at least something will happen that will be majorly disrupting and require a community of people to pull together to overcome the unknown. Only if you are committed to the mistaken idea that people are, or should be, infallible would it all go according to plan.
I readily acknowledge that LASC hasn’t been as communicative as they should have been. But the realities of Africa now lead me to accept that people are flawed—always. Kendra, Ethem, Robert and Natalka, and the rest of the staff at LASC, have been putting up with the impacts on their own lives, including from some of the mistakes I’m sure they have made. Personally, I won’t bother to try and point out the transgressions since I have some sense of all the stuff they HAVE done right that isn’t even visible to me, and how little control they have on the major issue. They have tried to do their best to make this trip work out for all of us because they genuinely care. That is so much more important to me than whatever business decisions are involved, although those business issues are important. The business world is the one Vedat has chosen.
I’m not so sure about Vedat, very candidly, but we’ll see. He is the guy who owns the ship-to-be. He is the guy holding the purse strings that are subject to “a financial transfer delay.” Why do we have to speculate about what that might mean? Or if it’s real? He may be, hopefully is, a terrific guy. But he is messing up. Perhaps the business considerations are monumental, but we are more than passengers temporarily renting a room on a vacation trip, we are a community of people who are planning to live together and who care about the relationships—including Kendra and her team who are suffering the most. I think it would help Vedat if he would join the community, not just once in a while with an occasional distant but carefully phrased message, but with being there, and being part of this journey. After all, he voluntarily took on the responsibility to have a major impact on the lives of the executives, the staff, and the residents. Now he needs to live up to all of the responsibilities of a job he sought.
I joined this trip not to have it go well, but to have a community experience and an adventure in what seems like a very comfortable, even luxurious, way. But to expect that careless acceptance of “life should be handed to us on a silver platter” is unrealistic. I believe in this trip, I believe in the staff of Miray (again, not so sure about Vedat), and I believe and have seen evidence that the passengers will (mostly) adjust and move forward to produce an incredible opportunity for us all. Let’s hope that is what happens. There are no guarantees. Sometimes you just have to have faith.