SEA Currents: Robert C. Seamans
September 25, 2019
Transporting Our Sense of Place
Pago Pago, American Samoa
Ship’s Heading & Speed
The weather has been shifting away from calm skies and water, moving towards windy and rainy conditions (welcome foul weather gear)!
We have officially spent a few days living aboard the Robert C. Seamans and it seems that we’re beginning to feel more comfortable calling it our home. On shore, during classes with Emily, we talked a great deal about sense of place. Our class determined that place was space with a purpose. Over the four weeks that we spent at Woods Hole, we managed to create our own places everywhere from the classrooms, to our houses, to the map room. We grew to know each other quickly, forming a family faster that I think we could’ve ever imagined. Unintentially, we created routines, inside jokes, and norms - marking Woods Hole as our place through learning, experiencing, and creating. Traveling all the way to American Samoa and being presented with a space that previously existed so separately from our reality, I wondered how long it would take for our senese of place to infiltrate this space. As it turns out, not long.
Our bunks, of varying small sizes, are slowly feeling more familiar (although this is no doubt helped along by a strong desire for sleep following our long days here at port). Adjusting to the routines on board has been a constant process. It feels as if within these first few days we’ve already learned a journey’s worth of things. So far, I’ve learned that the showers are much easier to work than most, and now I’m stuck wondering why every shower isn’t as straightforward as the two on the Seamans. During training stations, we learned the proper way to coil a rope. My first night on watch, we learned how to kindly wake up a shipmate – although some of us are still working on talking to peoples faces through their bunk curtains instead of their feet. I have been taught more names of things than my brain can keep track of. Through boat checks, I’ve learned how to squat and walk while collecting number measurements in the engine room and simultaneously wiping sweat from my forehead. On shore with Reggie, the gracious host of our Umu, we learned numerous ways to tie our ‘ie lavalavas. Although the process makes sense, I’m still struggling to secure it well enough so that it stays up for longer than 15 minutes. The many things that we’ve already learned, and believe me I haven’t even touched upon a fraction of it, have allowed us to become familiar with our new space. And the amazing group of people living and working on the Seamans outside of us students have done so much to help us relocate our created sense of place.
Amidst the continuous stream of learning, we’ve already had a sea of additional experiences (pun intended). Driving on a local bus – wonderfuly painted I must add – to our destinations here in American Samoa, the open windows gave us the ability to focus on our surroundings. The land here is absolutely stunning. The low shoreline beautifully contrasts the sharp incline of thickly tree-covered mountains. Unfamiliar to me, I am constantly baffled by the brightness and quantity of flowers and fruit here. During the Umu hosted by Reggie, we were lucky enough to be shown some of the amazing cultural traditions here in American Samoa. Our hosts made us feel incredibly welcomed as we learned how to help prepare the meal – shucking coconuts, weaving traditional plates from leaves, etc. On the boat, we are experiencing new things every second. From becoming accustomed to the slight rock of the boat at port, to watching a sea turtle swim up to the surface along the port side of the ship, we are adding new experiences to our pre-existing sense of place. Of course, I can’t forget that we’ve also now experienced the importance of foul weather gear! And from that same experience I learned something very important: don’t forget to put on waterproof shoes along with your foul weather gear. I’m currently waiting to see how long it will take for my sneakers to dry in the hot and humid conditions of my bunk!
In the very short period of time that we have been on the Robert C. Seamans, it already seems like we have accomplished transporting our sense of place to this new space. Getting accustomed to routines, learning, and experiencing, we are growing our community everyday. I am beyond excited to see how our place continues to expand during this journey.