Monday, December 08, 2008

Happy Mother's Day Mom

This is only the second time in almost 6 years that I get to spend "mother's day" in my country. The day before yesterday, we had a small preview of this important celebration in Panama and some countries in the central americas. The discipleship group my dad leads, prepared a surprised celebration for the mothers of the group and of course my mom was among them. My sister prepared a wonderful meal and me and my brother and her girl attended the meeting. It was lot of fun, after the teaching there were a couple of activities that we all enjoyed, but the one that really kicked off was my dad poetical performance. It was so much fun, and neither my siblings nor myself knew Dad could be that hilarious. I got it all in video so one day his grandkids will laugh as well.
Yesterday in the afternoon, while talking to my sister we decided that we wanted to sing a "serenata" today early in the morning "a common practice in latinamerica countries" and so my brother and my sister started practicing the words while I acompannied them with the guitar. We woke up at 2.30 Am and approached our parent's room very quitely with lit candles and roses and start singing a mexican ranchera out loud and then a second sweet mother's song. Mom was really surprised, I could tell by the look on her face on the dark room lit only by the dancing light of the candles, and she was very happy and touched, I could tell by the quievering tone on her voice. It was a great thing I reckon and am happy to have formed part of it along with my siblings.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Dinner Bon Voyage Celebration

Honestly, I could not have asked any more for a good-bye dinner, which was organized by my co-workers during my last days in the company. They really went out of their way to acknowledge my retirement and I feel very honored to have been part of the team. I knew they were up to something, because some of my friends just can not keep a surprise, lol. So I decided it was a good idea to surprise them rather than play the act of the surprised guy, so I walked in 10 min. before the set up of was ready. They were all "ohhhh"
Anyway, dinner was great, my favorite food was prepared, indian cuisine. I had a full plate of tasty and rich basmati rice with spicy but great shrimp and chicken curry. Dessert was just delicious, for I love tiramisu any day of the week, but this time it came with an orange sauce that just gave it a different touch. I even got a nice present from my collegues, this nice but very complicated watch which I still need to learn how to set it up.
After all this we had a movie night where we watched The Dark Knight, latest movie of Batman.
I guess this series of events will always remain in my mind, because after all, it has been five years of my life where hard and great moments I have experimented, and it all sums up in a great learning and shaping life-experience. And I want to conclude this lines with a phrase I heard from a friend of mine from Jamaica, who said "Wherever God leads you, He provides", so I am looking forward to the changes up ahead and hope to keep walking in God's way.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Final Chapter of a Carnival Experience

These past few days on board Carnival Ecstasy has been both sweet and bitter. Many friends, people who I've met over the years who know I will be leaving soon,makes it difficult for me to accept that it's time to say goodbye to this lifestyle, and at the same time it is bitter to know that I won't be seeing much of several of them in the near future.
Today I went through a wonderful moment when during the Employee Pin Award Ceremony I received my acknowledgment letter and a five-year gold pin from the Captain and Hotel Director's hand in front of a great crowd of fellow co-workers who like me were also being acknowledged for their five, ten, fifteen and twenty consecutive years of service to the company. Like the HD mentioned during his speech, "it is us with our commitment and loyalty to the company that makes this the biggest and most popular cruise line in the world" And I feel proud to be part of it. Now my time is over, or at least it is the idea and it is time to make space for the newcomers. Two weeks ago, the company decided to move the management trainee college program to Ecstasy, and so there are about 10 trainees who will be taking over in the months to come different ships. It's good to be able to teach to some of them some of the knowledge I've acquired over the years.
It is so sweet to know that I have succeeded and achieved much more than I thought I would during my stay in Carnival and it is sweeter to know that I will be going back to my country with full energy and lots of ideas and plans. Start from scratch, experiment life on land. My prayer is that wherever this decision takes me, I'd be able to listen God's voice and follow his lead. I am completely convinced that I've served my time in here, that I was meant to spend this time in Carnival, and that now is time to move forward. I know it wont' be easy, perhaps I can not realize the magnitude of it all, but I am willing to try it out.
I still believe I am not done with traveling, for it is perhaps something that I love so much, so I do hope and pray that there will be more of it in the future.
To all my friends around the world I thank you for the lessons learnt and the time spent.

Friday, October 24, 2008

In Retrospective

I am looking at a bunch of people in the crew dining room, some of them I know from different ships in the past, some others yet to be met, my eyes gets fixed on something, maybe it was the evening news and the financial crisis the world is immersed in, but I am lost in my own thoughts, suddenly I remember events like the first war in Irak, or the American invasion to Panama, back in the 90’s almost twenty years ago and then it all hits me hardly, “dude, so many years, almost two decades have come and gone” My teenager years are long gone, part of my past, good memories and the bad ones, all part of a sometimes blurry past. And then, another thought strikes, “I don’t want to get even older and then have to say like many others I have heard, what did I do with my time, resources, skills, talents” It is bothering me the fact that I need to be honest with myself and admit whether or not I have already wasted or used wisely all these years. It’s not too late though, if I need to end up concluding that I have not used wisely all these years, there is still hope to rectify the rest of my time on earth. It is well known, that the time lost is lost, can not be recovered, it is also true that it is in my hand to change what’s left of my life in this linear series of events called “timelife”

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Past 12 hours

I woke up early in the morning, even though I forgot to set the clock alarm, my mind was set on the last minute arranges so that I could be ready to go to the airport. My parents were getting ready and soon after we were on the car, my dad remembers that this would be the last time at least for a while that we would all be together and decides that we could not go anywhere without first having our last prayer as a family, so my sis and brother half asleep came over and jumped on the car for a short minutes. As dad races to the airport, my mind is racing on its own. This is not the first time, in fact, I have lost the count of how many times we have gone through this, it is almost a ritual. Two months staying at home comes and goes faster than a blink of an chinese eye, and soon we are facing my departure to the far lands of the North and even Europe. Finally I make it to the airport, with plenty time to check in my luggages and have a small conversation with dad and mom. I soon go through custom and inmigration and off to the embarking gate. As the plane takes off, I suddently realize this seems to be the last time I get a goodbye from my parents to Carnival, this is big, I still can't realize the magnitud of it all. After all, I still think I should not be on this plane at all, for if everything goes as we've planned, I should be flying back to Panama in less than two months, for good!!! It sounds so good and terrifying at the same time, I never thought this date would be so close. Many good friends of mine from the ships have already taken the step of leaving the ships and stabilizing their lives. It's not easy, there are lots of questions and doubts, change of lifestyles, but for all I know, it is a must to do.
Right now, I am in Houston, at my friend's Dana place. She is an angel of God, she loves Him and seeks Him with a sincere heart. I could very well be spending the night in a local hotel till tomorrow when I am supposed to join my ship, but she offered me a bed in her house. She even cooked a french dish for dinner and we had an awesome evening chatting about everything and nothing. I am blessed to have such sort of friends. Tomorrow right before taking me to my seems-to-be-my-last-ship, she will take me to Krepes and Cremes, a famoust doughnuts restaurant which I fell in love so many years ago.
So the last chapter in Carnival begins, soon to be over, sooner than expected and I feel excited about it.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

My car was Hit

I feel blessed to know that after all, I will be payed for the damaged produced to my car yesterday by another car. For a moment I thought, the person was going to run away and leave me abandoned. Today, I even had to go to her workplace and wait for her, and after a couple of hours of waiting, she never showed up. I was boiling, because I thought how irresponsible and insensitive from her side, not to call me and advice me that she would not be able to attend our meeting, or even worse, she would just fade away forever leaving me the burden of the fixing of my car. After all, she called and she apologized for not been able to meet with me and that she would pay for the damages.
It is ironic, because just yesterday before the incident, I was boasting in my mind that after all these years of driving, I had never hit another car, nor I had been ever hit by a car, feeling myself proud of my "excelent driving abilities", but that bubble was soon blown up few hours later by this incident. My sister says, it doesnt matter how careful you drive and the measurement you take to avoid situations of car accidents, there will always be a good chance to be involved in one. I guess I always agreed to that, but never saw it so real until yesterday. (My sister's car was hit when her car was parked in her universtity parking lot) I learned a couple of good lessons about how to react to this, for after all I sinned of naive behaviour by not waiting for the police to evaluate and make her responsible, just because she begged me that she had not time for that and she would pay for all the damages, and it almost costed me money. See? everyday there is something to be learned, sometimes we learn the easy way, sometimes we learn the hard way, which is normally the painfully and costfull one.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Champion, Victim of Racism

Yesterday in the afternoon while listening to the TV evening news, I heard almost in disbelieve what apparently happened to be a discriminatory abuse towards a person. The issue is not new, in fact has been around for decades, even centuries. However the reason for my indignation was the mere fact that the person who suffered this abuse was our most appreciated and only Olympic Games gold medalist and champion of long jump Irving Saladino. Our champion who recently rented or bought (don't know exactly) a luxurious apartment in the city was degraded by the building administrator who apparently asked the door man in front of him "who the heck was the nigger gangster". Could it be true that this person had no idea who he was talking about? Saladino is an international icon right now, he came up in all the news in Panama and ESPN and all over, how could it be possible that a "highly educated from the high society" has no idea who the "nigger gangster" is....!!! It is unbelieveable. Perhaps he has no TV, not likely to be the case. Whichever the case is, it is way too bad that somebody who puts the whole country of Panama in the front pages of the most important Newspapers and TV documentals has to go through this kind of already unfair treat.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Real Issue behind Human Trafficking.

Isn't it interesting and sad at the same time the fact that the second more profitable illegal business in the world after drug smuggling is human trafficking, aka modern day slavery?
I recently went to the movies and observed on the big screen, in the comodity of a very confortable seat and conditioned air, not for the first time the "modus operandi" of such an abominable practice. In it there was a lot of flying bullets, blood spilling and physical action throughout the film and of course at the end of the movie, the classical hollywood happy ending where the father was able to track her daughter down, kill the whole mafia gang without sweating Rambo-style and finally rescue her precious daugher who by the way happens to be a spoiled child who only puts herself into this situation by not being honest with her father about her intentions during her trip to Europe.
It is so sad to know that every year hundreds if not thousands of girls and boys mostly minors, are being kidnapped and trapped into this dark and pervert world of drug abuse, prostitution and death by an ever increasing bunch of criminals who despite of having children of their own, decide to make an illegal business out of destroying human lives against their will.
Now the question is, "Is it currently, being done enough to avoid and counter-react to this evil scheme worldwide or we are just making a blind eye, hoping by crossing our fingers and knocking on a piece of wood, that it won't ever happen to someone close who we love and care about.
Someone would avidly say that, it is responsability of our goverment and police department to make our society safer and free of brain-sick people like those who commit this crimes, but the truth is, the way I see it, much more need to be done, much more than what the goverment and the police department can ever do or be expected to do. It all starts in the family and the values the we transmit to our children, it all starts with a proper education where kids are constantly made aware of the danger of this planet we call home. Truth is, the kids of the movie I went to see (Taken), weren't well raised by their parents, one of them was only concerned about having fun, partying, concerts, beautiful cloth and houses and travelling and all sort of things that are perishable and it costed her high. My whole point here is, if the parents who are the first guardians of the kids do not "make time" out of their busy schedules to raise their children and teach them proper and high values, rather than leaving this to the school system and internet and the T.V. which we all know has nothing good nor positive to teach, then, don't we all come at the end to complain why our society is so unsafe, why we have kidnapped and kidnappers, or abused and abusers or assassinated and assassins or drug addicts and drug lords, don't we all come at the end of the day trying to put the whole blame on the goverment or our obsolete school system when the first and most important teacher of the kid, namely their parents, won't think it is imperative to personally educate their kids and spend time with them and show them love and lead by example. Then this same kids, once grown up, will continue the zaga of raisinig more un-attended kids and the cycle will be even worse. Only God will be able to pull us out of this vicious and perverse cycle and for sure it will be way to late for many.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

A glance from Veracruz town, Panama.

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Panama city is expanding rapidly outwardly its traditional centers, looking for fresher and more exotic views to be available. Everything now is about capting foreign investor mostly for the real state business and more and more luxury buildings are being built everywhere around. Still you can find spots like this one right in the heart of Panama city which can provide a bit of the rushing way of life and the yet untouched-by-men nature represented by a large green forest and exotic fauna around the pacific entrance to the Panama Canal.
While I was driving, very early in the morning ,on my way to the medical center deep in the city of Veracruz, I realized how beautiful places are yet to be discovered by the lover of nature and travelling. Unfortunately for the adventurer, this place is still not so safe to go around alone and even with companions. Hopefully with all these changes in the economy, some serious security changes will be applied so that all can enjoy views and places like Veracruz. Our people have high hopes that the goverment will start getting smart people to run programs that will benefit the comunity overall.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Watching the Sunrise

It was such an amazing morning where I had the opportunity to watch the sun rise very slowly from the distant horizon above the sea. Giving light and diferent tones of colors to everything around every second.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Mission Accomplished

So as planned, I spent a bit over two months in Splendor on the shipyard and it turned out to be one of the most incredible travelling experiences I ever had. I had the opportunity to taste what is to live on land while having a job. Workwise, it was a great school for me, I learned different stuffs about setting up the food and beverage areas and met a lot of important persons. I even got lot closer to God during this time, partly I believe because I did realize how much I'd need of Him to go through this particular time. I tried to live to its maximun every minute I spent, cuz like C.S. Lewis says, our present is that tiny fraction of time that disappear right before we can imagine and then becomes part of our past and remains in our memory until it fades away with the years.
I am now deciding what I want to do with my near future, 6 months ago I was pretty much convinced that this would be my last one. I still believe I need to find new horizons, but since I want to buy a home, if I don't get something else I would still need to stay here. I feel I am in a situation where a radical decision must be taken and so I keep on praying for God's guidance.
I am now back in M/S Freedom, I traveled from Genova to Venice via Rome, the airline lost my luggages and I almost missed the ship because I was waiting on a long line to file a lost claim, but thanks God I made it safely to the ship. My luggages are still lost but I have confidence that they will be found. In the meantime, I will spend a couple of days re-adjusting to this ship once again and will try to enjoy the european ports before going back to Panama next month.

Saturday, May 31, 2008


These last two weeks have been hectic around the shipyard and part of it because we have to run after the contractors who are in charge of modifying our catering areas in the hotel. Two of those guys I have been working with I met few days back and ever since I have been walking up and down the boat until today in the morning when I got a chance to witness them. Angelo doesnt speak english at all and Claudio speaks and understand some english. Right before lunch break I gave to them christian tracts in italian and one of them start complaining about it, but I wouldnt accept a no as an answer from him, lol. So God who knows how to do things and create the spaces for peoples salvation, allowed us more than an hour where I sat down with them and in between english, spanish and spanitalian I went thru all God put in my heart to tell them. The language barrier could not stop the interest these two guys had to know more about my faith and believe, time constrain could not stop what these guys had to listen today. I feel greatly blessed today because I had been asking God to use me and He did. After that hour of discussion and dialogue, I am firmly convinced that they understand better what a relationship with Jesus is all about , and I pray that the day will come when someone else grows the seed within them and sooner the better someone else harverst in them the fruit. I cant help but to wonder that the same way, I was moved from my previous ship assignment to this newbuild ship (a privilege I would say) because somebody considered I am able to carry this enterprise, same way perhaps God decided that the reason for me to be here was to witness these two italians, irregardless of all the obstacles in the way. I praise God for the blessing of being used and my prayer is that I be approved by Him the same way I strive to get my earthly superiors approval.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Chilling Out

Never thought I would see the day of being at work and being tired, but not as a product of long hours of mental stress and to some extent physical work, but out of doing nothing but hanging out a few hours in the Ship Yard and then leaving to do my own things. I know it is just a matter of time before it all comes back as it always is, but I just can’t get used to the idea of being “working” but being tired and lazy....and I am loving it.
It’s good though, I can’t complain, this has given me and some of my friends time to go around in a relaxed mood and get familiar with the city, the people the culture and the overall “land life”.In regards with the food, well I was well advised that I would get sick of having pasta during the lunch and during the dinner, like every single day of God without a break. But in order to be fair to the italian cusine, I have to admit that it is quite good if you know where to find it, but I shall say that the greatest of the problems of having it daily is not getting bored of having pasta every day, but the fact that after a week of degustating it, you get a stubborn fluffy belly which ultimately is a challenge to get rid of. So I succeed on stopping eating pasta for almost 7 days until today, when I was given no other option and given the circumstances I had to yield.
Last Saturday, I went along with two other co-workers which happen to be brothers in Christ, to a night session of prayers at a christian family’s house here in Genova, and we met some missionaries from Milan that has been ministering week after week in this city for the past four years. These brothers and sisters in Christ decided to have this meeting and we were invited. So after we finished we were invited to visit their church and Ministry in Milan and so we did yesterday. We took the late afternoon train and travelled 200 kilometers up to the North of Italy almost to the borders. Juan, Jose and myself were recieved in the famous city of Milan by our brother Jorge from the country El Salvador and he took great care of us. His family’s hospitality just blew us all, we spent the night in his house with his family and had a wonderful conversation about the things God is doing in Italy through this Latin Ministry. At the present, they are a growing church full of the Spirit of the living God, mostly composed by latin inmigrants (Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, Peru, Ecuador, Chile) who upon reaching here faced hardships but found refuge in this christian fellowship and to God’s name glory this church has risen up powerfully and they now have ministries in Genova, Rome, and two more cities across the country with lots of new projects. I enjoyed so much being among these holy people, receiving Word and praising the Lord in a fellowship. What I observed here just made me meditate about our call to make disciples and spread the message everywere we go, and being among them re-affirmed this in me. My co-workers and I came back today, full of joy, spiritual energy, pictures and great memories, looking forward to next weekend and thankful to God that no matter how far away from our own churches, God has always provided this our God-given need of christian fellowship by putting in our ways other churches along the countries and cities we get to visit.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Travelling Around

After a long series of events that proved to be hard to overcome and leave in the past, finally I got a break. One of my favorite things in life is to travel and see new places, meet new people, experiment different cultures and everything else that comes with it. Last week was a bit of a hectic one where I had to get ready on a short term notice where I was informed about a vessel transfer. Despite the regular job that had to be done and the challenges of the new changes in the operation, my mind was already set on the ever exciting trip to the city of Genova. Like usual I waited till the last few days prior to departing to say good by to my new friends and long time friends as well since I never liked the sad moments of departures.

It was a long flight to the city of Paris where I struggled big time with the language and I am thankful that I did not miss the conection flight to Genova nor did my luggages got lost, until finally I arrived safely to Novotel Hotel near downtown Genova. I am still in shock to see how less my dollars are compared to the euro currency and afraid to run out of money if I spend on basic stuffs like transportation, laundry and food. Nevertheless my company supplies for almost all of it, I still can’t help but to seriously wonder as to how, low income families manage to survive through the months. I just came from a supermarket and saw how expensive food can be even in a cheap market like Coop. A kilo of the cheapest beef, 7 euros(11.55 US dollars)? Cheese is really expensive and so is bread. Perhaps the cheapest article they sell in abundance would be wine? And that’s only because Italy is a mass producer of it, just like gas prices in Iran and Venezuela are cheap just because they own it.
Another interesting fact I’ve observed is the amount of inmigrant living in this city and probably in the rest of the country, specially from Bangladesh, and to my surprise from Ecuador. Like it would be expected they own very small business all around the corners in the poorest and dangerous streets of downtown, living in tiny rooms packed to its maximun and on very deplorable situations where criminality, drugs and sex abuse is no the exepction of the important cities’s problems like Genova.

Transportation is somehow expensive and so is clothing and communication, gas prices are on the moon and it almost inmediately made me appreciate the fact that I have a job and my country is not that expensive yet. It makes me think about the US economy, my countrie’s economy and in general the world’s economy. It seems like things are rushing down hill at a amazing speed and nothing can stop it. Maybe my perception of the world is wrong, only God can tell, but these days we are living in are bad. I can’t see other way out but God’s intervention in all of it.

Not everything makes me sad or angry though, (like the fact that the food and dining service at my hotel sucks, lol) on the good side, yesterday I went with three co-workers to a couple of turistic cities outside of Genova, 2 hours away on train. It was such a great trip and we enjoyed every minute of it. Even the train trip was fabulous, great sightseeing of the coast on one side and the middle size mountains on the other. The coast on this side of the country is rocky and the cities are built on the steep sides of the mountains, and there are five old historic cities all interconnected by walking distance on foot trails and passage ways sometimes on the very edge of the mountains. We had a gorgeous day, sunny and cool temperature, so although we had to walk a lot we were not fatigued by the tipical heat we find in the caribbean. We even hiked all the way to the top of one of the hundreds of medium size mountains, and we were in contact with the thousands of acres of vineyards and tiny buildings built on the steep ladle of the mountain. Such a great experience, one for the memory.

There is lot of work, perhaps much more than I can imagine, that has to be done over the period of a month and I only pray to God that He gives me the strenght and determination to go through it till the end, not only to hang in there but to be able to do my very best. At the end of this two months I will probably be going back to the previous ship were I was last week which is sailing in the Mediterrean.

I feel this is all a new experience in my life. What I mean is living on land, waking up every day, to take a public transportation to go to work, having my meals in a totally different environment than my working place (ship), coming back from work to my hotel room, hanging out with friends afterwards and having week ends free to do whatever I wish to. This is something which we all ship’s crew members dream about.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

What's New

This tiny section of the whole of my life is happening in Carnival Freedom, where I have been for the last 3 months or so. Looking intro retrospective I recall requesting to come to the newest ship in the fleet because of the european ports of call and the glamour of the boat an all that vanity. Today I deeply regret. But irregardless of my decisions, God has been able to bring forth the best of Him through me. I have been reminded every day for the past several months about my total vulnerability and need of my Lord.
For the past 3 or 4 weeks the crew have been under a lot of stress caused by different events and the morale is a quite low. It is something kind of contagious which is hard to overcome and avoid getting into. There have been some serious changes in the way the company runs its operation that has affected seriously the enjoyability of the job if there was any. Longest hours of work, several and repetitively reduction of personnel in the hectiest departments, and some other things have taken its toll on quite many of the crew who have decided to quit. I myself have been caught so many times playing with the idea in my mind and would have done so if it wasn't for the fact that I am counting with the money I'd save this contract. There have been times during these months were hadn't it been for God's support I would've dismay. However, I'm reminded over and over in His Word that He is working through the difficulties to shape my character and make me more like Him. I find hope as well in His promises that He gives strenght to the tired. Once I see Him working through all the circumstances I do realize He is in control.
I am still considering leaving the company probably after the end of this contract though. I think God has something else for the next period of my life.
For the time being, I will be joining Splendor at the old continent where I'll be flying on the 26th.