Alesund, and the power of friends

20 May

Tonight I will roam the Photo Gallery again. I spend two out of three days in the gallery, whereas most of the other photographers only get that duty about once or twice a week. While the rest of the team has to stand in their studios and lure in passengers, I merely have to wander around, assist costumers, and apprehend thieves. Yes, thieves! The photos that we take in our department are genuinely great, but also expensive, so many guests try to steal the paper prints from the gallery, or at least snap a picture of their picture on a smart phone. Every one who succeeds in his criminal activity costs us revenue, so my job of Gallery Watch really is one of importance.

Photo Gallery aboard the ABC RypMeOff

The Photo Gallery is normally full of passenger portraits, and a few passengers trying to take pictures.

Still, gallery duty is not nearly as exhausting as shooting portraits, so my coworkers start to dislike the fact that I spend considerably more time in the gallery than they do. Already I expend little time socialising my colleagues, mostly limited to the meals and the occasional chat in the hallway, while we are collectively waiting for the daily debriefing with our manager. The only real spare time I have happens in the morning, at a time when they are asleep.

My coworkers finish every work day by smoking cigarettes, and drinking cheep beer in the Crew Disco. There are various reasons why I never join them there; my need for sleep and my inability to breathe in that smoker’s den being the most prominent ones. According to my photographer friend Mateja I am expected to show up there at least once or twice a week, and people have started to spin rumours about potential reasons for my absence. But I am not a disgruntled teenager – I genuinely can’t be bothered to care what my coworkers think of me. Having a smoking parlour in my bathroom is bad enough for my health and attitude. I really don’t need to visit another one; thank you very much. If my colleagues would value my company, they would congregate in a non-smoking part of the ship, or join me in my port visits, as Mateja does. But they only care about their nightly smoking party, a hobby that I do not share, and therefore do not participate in.

My shared non-smoking toilet aboard the cruise ship

My shared bathroom still looks like this, so I still don’t want to increase my time of passive smoking.

Since it appears to be impossible for me to become friends with the majority of my colleagues (not without massively devaluing myself), I have formed social bonds with other crew members. For example, almost every morning I meet the German entertainment couple at breakfast. They play dance music in one of the bars until 1 A.M., so they get to bed around the same time as I do. They both smoke, but barely ever visit the Crew Disco, because getting to bed late means missing day light. And oddly enough they both value the sight of Norway’s scenery higher than a puff among sociopaths.

Until now this cruise adventure has featured short days and drudgingly long work nights. But my job as cruise photographer is markedly gaining value now that we start to visit the postcard section of Norway. And the acquisition of actual friends among the crew makes my work more bearable. After work I regularly visit the late night section of the crew mess. Not because I long for piles of French Fries, but because talking to real people helps me calm down after spending seven hours in the company of problem children.

Anyway, my new German musician friends sent me on a quest for Alesund’s peak. Like many other Norwegian tourist towns Alesund is situated in a fjord, so the view from the ship is already worth the trip. I was advised to hike the stairwell to the greatest cliff on that peninsula, and in retrospect I agree that the view was worth missing lunch at the cruise buffet. For me as a geologist the view adds a particular educational bonus, because I get to reminisce on the processes that formed these mountains, and the abrasive workings of glaciers that grinded them down. But even without that knowledge Alesund looks gorgeous from above. To view my gallery of inspirational Alesund photos click here.

Alesund, one of Norway's card fjord towns

Alesund, one of Norway’s post card fjord towns

I do not share many common interests with my cruise friends. However, we have enough overlap to support each other on stressful days, and point out interesting hiking paths or food opportunities. I guess the point of my ramble is this: if you feel stuck at work, get a friend. It doesn’t have to be someone who shares your office. Just a few encouraging words every day will go a long way to preserve your outer calm, and pave the way for a scenic future.

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