South China Sea - February ?
31.01.2008 - 01.02.2008
As per usual, a million happenings have happened in just the two or three days since I last posted. For one thing, the day after the Captain spoke to me, I went out on the deck just to look at the water for a bit, and he was sitting several feet away. We waved to one another - not vigorously but as an acknowledgement. I have to admit, I was tickled. After several minutes of staring out the ocean, I needed to return to the library, but I decided to walk down the length of the deck, which would require me to pass him. Just as I was nearing him, he pointed towards the empty chair beside him. I was unbelievably thrilled and yet I had nothing to say. Sure we talked - mostly about the environmental degradation of the world's resources, but I don't even remember now how it came up. I think I mentioned the fires in Athens last summer, and it went on from there. He told me he used to be a skeptic when it came to the global climate doomsdayists, but having been to so many parts of the world more than once, he now knows it's true. I asked him if he believes that the damage done can be fixed, and he was very cynical."Of course!," he sputtered, "of course! But will we? All the lawyers and professors like to create paper, stacks and stacks of paper. Paper doesn't solve problems. They can make good answers on paper but paper stacked upon paper just creates more stacks of paper." He seemed livid at that point, but I made him laugh by suggesting that if there are more fires like those that burned last year, there won't be any trees left with which to make paper. He laughed heartily. Then I had to go back to the library. I asked him what kind of hours he keeps, and he sets his own schedule. "I sleep when I want to sleep, I don't sleep when I don't want to sleep, I work when I want to work. Nobody tells me anything." I told him I envy that, but he smiled knowingly - as if knowing that my envy is real but also as in knowing that his "freedom" comes with a price.
Meanwhile back at the library... the big issue as of late has been computer usage. We have two computers that are designated for the students as being for research only. The students are limited to 30 minutes per day, and the minutes are free. It’s not hard to figure out why the library seems to function as a travel agency for the kids, which is not such a good thing. For the past two ports, the students book time to make all their travel arrangements and to do things like check their email. We have a stipulation that students with genuine research needs have priority, but it’s a rule that’s unenforceable and both the computers and copier are definitely being abused. We can prevent them from using Facebook – and every one of them has an account except probably the Chinese students since it’s likely banned there and maybe the students from the poorer countries. They’re not supposed to use them to check their email but if they tell us, for example, that a friend was supposed to send them an article or they are corresponding with someone who has information for a project, what are we supposed to do – read their mail? We have instituted a 10 copy rule on the copy/printer. Again, this is because of limited resources but everyone knows the machine is free – unlike the copy center machines – so they come to the library to print and copy their vacation plans, etc.
Post-Thailand, however, the graduate students have begun their assignments and more than a few have become outraged at the fact that the computer sign ups are completely full by 10 am because when I open at 8 am, there are usually already 15 to 20 students waiting just to sign up.
Yesterday was a tough day at the ol’ library. I had students in an uproar left and right, with their panties in a twist about who should get to use the computers and when. Meanwhile, I watched people print out 40 pages of this and copy 50 pages of that. I spoke to G., about it and she said our hands are tied. It’s up to the Executive Team to make an enforceable policy because the only other recourse we have would involve the IT team, and they won’t cooperate. They could make the copier password protected just like in the copy center – users have to enter a code tied to their onboard account, meaning that they are charged for making copies. They could also block certain sites such as Facebook, but these are not priorities for them. It's a bit of a drag, but I've learned to counteract it all with my visits to the starboard and port decks.