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Gilavar Blended with Clouds; Gulf of Mexico: Gilavar 05.2008
FRC Lifted out of Water; Gulf of Mexico: Gilavar 05.2008
Instantly the Gilavar was in sight; the blue, red, and white exterior seemed to sparkle against the sun’s rays as we approached closer.  When we drove alongside the ship a large hook was lowered towards the FRC. One of the gentlemen grabbed this hook and attached it to the latch. The next thing I knew the water was beneath us and we were lifted onto the Gilavar. I was happily greeted by the Filipino abs; they took my bags to my room almost immediately after my arrival.
Gilavar Front View; Gulf of Mexico: Gilavar 05.2008
I introduced myself to the Norwegian Captain Gunther who enthusiastically talked to me about his new found love for Brazil. I also met the bridge officers or mates; both of their names were Khaled – one was a Chief Officer from Tunisia, while the other was a 3rd Officer originally from Syria, but now lived in New Zealand. I never heard of the Captain’s or the mate’s names, but I memorized their names pretty easy since I always had the ability to catch on pretty quickly remembering names. I worked at my grandfather’s’ restaurant as a hostess and bartender for many years; I tend to be really good at recalling the names of the locals and even first time visitors, in fact, they were surprised that I had that good of memory. Which leaves us until now, I was notorious for committing names to memory; if you remember a crew member’s name, it is a form of respect (regardless of his position) – sometimes you meet 10-15 people daily and a lot of names are thrown at you. I have a few helpful techniques on how to remember names better – “Excellent First Impressions; a Guide on How to Give Great, Not Just Good Impressions.” I tend to meet several individuals who express that their highest weakness is not remembering names. It is astonishing how a few tricks can make a difference.


On Top of the World; Alaska: Gilavar 07.2007
My best moment that morning was when I pulled out my Norwegian skills that I was taught – “Embracing Norwegian Culture; Hyggelig å møte deg.” I had a full fledge 20 minute conversation with the Captain and was quite pleased with myself, as he was too. While onboard the Geco Snapper I had made it a priority to keep teaching myself more Norwegian phrases and words.  Though I only had 2 weeks onboard the Gilavar I had an amazing time during my short time there.
Captain Gunther; Gulf of Mexico: Gilavar 05.2008
6 Humbling Highlights on Gilavar
1.  Being part of the crew:
I engaged in daily morning Norwegian conversations with the Captain. He educated me in the pronunciations of the harder words in the Norwegian language. He also taught me the basics for the marine life that we viewed in the early mornings. While we were conversing in Norwegian outside the Chief Officer Khaled was inside navigating the ship. After the Captain left to work on paperwork in the late morning, I would talk to Khaled a few times before lunch. Khaled discussed his previous international projects and the countries that he had recently visited, which forced the travel bug to bit me; this time it was excruciating. It so intense that it encouraged me to start making travel arrangements with Jess from the Viking Vision“5 Most Fabulous Recollections of Viking Vision; those would be the Best Memories.” Alas, my third out of the country experience was born (more on this in future post). I enjoyed talking to 3rd Officer Khaled in the afternoons and listening to his stories that he excitedly emphasized. One of the great things about Khaled was that he stayed positive even though he was going through some difficult personal issues at home. It was nice to have the mates to talk to each day – both of their lives were equally interesting.
Chief Officer Khaled – One of My Favorite Pictures; Gulf of Mexico: Gilavar 07.2007
The coolest girl that I met on the ship was Marilu. This beautiful Venezuelan worked in the seismic department and was so full of life; I remember many fabulous “girl talks” with her. After the Geco Snapper I craved this! Overall she was really fun, outgoing, and had a charismatic personality. Between the bridge officers (including the Captain) and Marilu I felt really comfortable onboard. My two weeks on the new ship were excellent. I remember thinking, “I hope that the project will extend so that I could have a few more weeks onboard.” Even though I was secretly missing Adrian, I would have loved to stay if it meant that I could spend just another day with this crew. It is funny how close you can become with a few colleagues after only knowing them for a few days – “Excellent First Impressions; a Guide on How to Give Great, Not Just Good Impressions.” My time onboard was great, even if that meant that I had to leave the Geco Snapper crew. I realized that in order to make new friends and have incredible experiences, it took spontaneity to push me in that direction.
Marliu and the Posse of Boys; Gulf of Mexico: Gilavar 05.2008
2.  Listening to a friend:
One of the mates that I became super close with was Khaled. He was your typical “Syrian” gentleman; he was good-looking, charming, goal-driven, and in general a nice guy. When we had first met he instantly keep smiling, of course smiles are contagious! I recall thinking how genuinely kind-hearted he was. Once Khaled and I started daily chatting, he had begun to quickly trust me and tell me things that he said he normally did not tell anyone. On the second day onboard I discovered that had just got married before he came onboard and now he resided in New Zealand with his wife. Unfortunately, his circumstances were a little different from mine and yours – he had an arranged marriage forced by his parents.
Gilavar Crew Working Hard with Black n White Effect; Gulf of Mexico: Gilavar 05.2008
A few days after conversing with Khaled several times a day, he pulled me aside and told me that he was not having a really good day. My friends will tell you that I have a very caring personality and sometimes place friend’s needs in front of own. In this particular situation, Khaled desired someone to talk – I happened to be chosen as that candidate. I have read about arranged marriages, but I never knew anyone personally going through this or being forced into this way of life. I could not seem to grasp the idea that he did not marry for love, which made me realize how lucky I was to have the ability to “choose” who I wanted to marry. In various cultures this is not a considerable option, and unfortunately Khaled was faced with this decision to remain married to a woman who he had only met once before his marriage was arranged.
Golden Sunset; Gulf of Mexico: Gilavar 05.2008
I was really interested in what arranged marriages were so I had gathered some information on this particular ritual. The concept of arranged marriage may sound impractical to the Western world, but in India, it is a usual norm. No matter how westernized India may have become, arranged marriages are still viewed as the most preferred choice in the Indian families. I have recently watched a movie, “Eat, Pray, Love” and I honestly can say that the movie was phenomenal. I absolutely loved the story line – yes, I cried and laughed throughout the entire film. I noticed in this movie starring Julia Roberts and Billy Crudup that they portrayed a young Indian girl having her marriage arranged by the hands of her parents. In reality, the little girl wanted nothing more than to marry for love, but she abided by her parent’s wishes and went through with her destiny. Regarding the research that I discovered while talking to Khaled, I discovered that this specific marriage has its roots laid to the time, when the ritual of child marriage prevailed in the country. Child marriage was essentially performed, so as to restrict the children from marrying outside their community and social status. The practice was essentially a way of uniting and maintaining the difference between the rich upper class society and the poor lower class society. This practice of caste system gave rise to the concept of arranged marriages.
Now since we have an idea where arranged marriages evolved from let us dive into the positive and negative aspects of this tradition. One of the positive aspects about arranged marriages is that it gives the parents utmost control over family matters and members. Since they are the ones who would decide on the prospective bride and groom, they would get someone, who is the best for their beloved son/daughter. On the other side, arranged marriages are seen as a medium to promote racism and class system. Also, they have proved to be the best medium to take dowry. Over the years, arranged marriages have posed to be more like a trade than a social custom. People find it an easy medium to make money.
While the above negative aspects can still be dealt with, one of the most crucial drawbacks of arranged marriage is that the boy and the girl do not know each other. Two unknown people get married without knowing and understanding each other, as according to the concept, it is not important to know your partner before marriage. As such, chances of not gelling well with the partner are very high. If either of them thinks absolutely contradictorily to what the other believes in, there would hardly be a mutual level of understanding between the two and life would be merely a compromise for the two. The only way an arranged marriage can succeed is through acceptance. One has to accept the other the way he/she is and look for striking a mutual level of understanding.
Idamina Always Grinning; Gulf of Mexico: Gilavar 05.2008
Once I was able to comprehend the idea of an arranged marriage, I felt that I was able to understand his views more. Khaled had many restless nights onboard and he was pretty upset about the circumstances that he faced at home. This was his first taste of an arranged marriage and he would tell you that he was not fully happy by any means. I recall a few nights that he would want to talk – not necessarily about anything special, but just to have someone listen to him. I became the perfect candidate for the job. Khaled was able to sort his thoughts out by stating them out loud, while I had developed how to have better effective listening skills. Mainly the most important to the conversations that we were having was that I showed my support and that I truthfully cared about his current situation. In the end, we had become really good friends and a minor high-school crush on his end was formed. Looking back if I could have said one thing to his new wife that would have been, “Even if you do not know each other well, always make sure that both of you listen to one another.” Like communication, I felt that listening was one of the best attributes that you can have in any relationship.
Cool Shot of a Crew Member Working; Gulf of Mexico: Gilavar 05.2008
3.  Refreshing Norwegian:
I have to admit after working with an American crew it was nice to have had the opportunity to refresh my Norwegian that I had learned. As my love for the Norwegian language grew I was able to understand the culture a little better as well. The Captain would tell me stories about where he grew up, the difficulties that he faced, and his undying love for Norway. Again, his endless conversations about Norway had developed this passionate craving inside of me to travel. As he spoke longer phrases in Norwegian, I had asked him to teach me a motivational phrase before my departure. I had practiced this phrase regularly – I thought that if I said it enough times in a different language besides English, then it would eventually come true! The phrase was continually stuck in my head and still is to this day: “Mitt ultimate mål er å bli anerkjent som en vellykket og respektabel marinbiolog.” Simple translation, “My ultimate goal is to be recognized as a successful and respectable Marine Biologist.” Whether you want to learn Norwegian or another language, I would encourage you to do so – the reward is far greater than you expected.
Captain Sunbathing while Teaching More Norwegian Phrases; Gulf of Mexico: Gilavar 05.2008
4.  Experimenting with new foods:
Learning a new language comes with experimenting new foods. Precisely in this case, on the Gilavar we had a Norwegian mixed with Polish galley crew and they loved to fix oxtail. What is oxtail you may ask? An oxtail is exactly what it sounds like: the tail of an ox. Oxtails are officially classified as offal, along with an assortment of organ meats, and like other offal, the oxtail has a long and illustrious culinary history. You can find oxtails at boutique butchers and sometimes at a butcher’s counter in a large market, depending on the regional taste for oxtail. Once purchased, it may be used immediately or frozen for future use. Oxtail was served once a week while I was onboard – everyone seemed to have a unique craving for it. 
I on the other hand, had never seen it let alone tried it! I was feeling extremely adventurous one fine sunny afternoon. Since it was suggested an excessive amount of times to try this “delicious” source of iron-rich bone marrow, I finally took that plunge! It was not your typical taste like “chicken” – did you ever notice that new foods we sample, we tend to say “it tastes like chicken?” Once I heard a good friend tell me that trying snake tasted like chicken – very interesting indeed! This was exceptionally different from anything I had ever savored. As I took another bite of oxtail, I had a few of the crew, including the Captain explain to me what exactly I was eating. I realized that the terminology surrounding the oxtail was a bit complex. It was explained to me that, “Traditionally, oxtail came from oxen, neutered adult cattle used as dray animals. Over time, however, oxtails had been harvested from any sort of cattle, including steers and veal cows. Some people felt that traditional oxtail had the most flavors, because the longer a cow lives, the more muscle developed in the oxtail, and as a result the flavor in a true oxtail tended to be stronger and more complex.” A braised beef rib with twice the original flavor is my best description of what oxtail tasted like. 
After I finished eating the last few bites of oxtail I had spoke with the galley about this delicacy they had just served. I was intrigued to learn that in order to prepare oxtails, butchers removed the tail of a cow while it was butchered and skinned. The oxtail was typically cut into segments, making it easier to handle – this was how the oxtails came in the provisions that were sent onboard. Within the selection of meats, oxtail was included as part of the meats that were originally ordered. The galley crew emphasized that the oxtail was extremely bony and also was very muscular. One of the girls zealously described to me that the best way to use oxtail was as the base for a stew, soup, or beef stock, because it benefited from long gentle braising. I later learned that oxtail also made a great soup, which tasted a bit gelatinous, as it released a great deal of collagen during the cooking process.
Chief Officer Khaled and Marilu on Christmas Day; Gulf of Mexico: Gilavar 12.2007
That night while I was reviewing my Norwegian lessons, I made the decision to look up more information on the culture of eating oxtail. I was fascinated to uncover that as with other offal, the taste for oxtail probably arose from necessity. Many cultures have had a long tradition of trying to use every part of every animal butchered, with the offal typically ending up in the pots of the lower classes, since they could not afford the more prized cuts of meat from the animal. Innovative cooks developed all sorts of interesting ways to use offal, and while it was once a lower class food, offal was now included on the recipes of many gourmet restaurants, especially those which offer traditional European cuisine. Who said trying new foods could not be fun? Not only did I introduce a new regional food to my taste buds, but I also educated myself on the culture behind this well-liked dish.
According to Life 123, the best recipe for oxtail stew is demonstrated in “Tender Oxtail Stew Recipes.”
5.  Barbecuing on weekends: 
If you were a vegetarian you would miss out one of the greatest events onboard – a traditional BBQ. There were few vegetables to choose from, but the main portions consisted of an assortment of meats – filet mignons, porterhouses, ribs, hamburgers, chicken, and even your “American” hot dogs.  On the Gilavar, barbecues were a time when most of the crew would mingle, have a non-alcoholic (sometimes 5% alcohol) beverage, relax, take in some sun’s rays, and enjoy a smorgasbord of grilled foods, complete with cold dishes. My preferred cold dishes were macaroni salad, red-skinned potato salad, and coleslaw. This makes my mouth-water just thinking about the foods that we indulged in! Honestly, I was given the opportunity during this mealtime to really get to know the other crew that I did not get to see on a daily basis. Since everyone had a different shift onboard, it was rare for me to see everyone during the day when I worked. For instance, a few of my friends/colleagues would work 18:00 (6pm) to 6:00 (6am) – rarely did I see them twice a week!
Fire Fighter to the Rescue; Gulf of Mexico: Gilavar 05.2008
Gilavar’s barbecues were definitely the topic on the boat and all of us could not wait till this fabulous weekend event! Even though I was not able to be at home with Adrian and friends in Cape Canaveral during the weekend, I still had 2 incredible weekends onboard. Truthfully, barbecuing was the highlight of my week, along with everyone else’s! I cannot wait for the next barbecue offshore!
Gilavar Combined with Clouds; Gulf of Mexico: Gilavar 05.2008

6.  Fixating over Heroes:


During my downtime as we made our way into Mobile, Alabama to crew change off the boat, a “Heroes marathon” was introduced into my routine onboard. We were not conducting watches or researching cetaceans because our transit was mostly in darkness in the late night. Therefore, we had exactly 1.5 days to do whatever we pleased in the last few hours onboard. Since Khaled and I had become really close, we determined that we would start a Heroes marathon. I had never heard of “Heroes” and certainly had never seen an episode. I recall watching the very first episode and like “Dexter” – “5 Most Fabulous Recollections of Viking Vision; those would be the Best Memories,” I was hooked! What is Heroes you may ask?  “Heroes” is similar to Marvel’s “X-Men,” in that its characters discover they have latent extraordinary powers. But where “X-Men” is driven more by action and plot, “Heroes” is more character-driven. Khaled was infatuated with “X-Men” and other action movies; I think this is why he had become fond of this TV show. 



Speaking of the TV show, it focused on an ensemble of eight characters, each of whom had a different power. Claire Bennett was a high school cheerleader with the power of spontaneous regeneration, DL Hawkins had the power to phase through matter, Isaac Mendez was a brilliant artist who can paint the future, Hiro Nakamura was the office worker who can bend and travel through space-time, LAPD Officer Matt Parkman had the power of telepathy, Nathan Petrelli was the ambitious politician who could fly, his brother Peter was an in-home nurse with the ability to absorb others’ powers when he was near them, and Niki Sanders had super strength. Quite the collection of super powers to have! If I had a super power it would be to instantly “fix” a bad situation. Whether that would be used in the cleaning up of an oil spill while magically flying over the affected area, undo a horrible car accident by seeing the future and preventing the incident, or wiping away bruises from a domestic violence battered woman by a simple touch, etc – all of these would be a selfless act in helping others in a very positive way.  




Oddly enough “Heroes” with its unique flaws in each character still managed to be one of the greatest shows that I watched – you really start to feel a connection to each character, while looking into their remarkable abilities to live in this world with “average” humans. My favorite character was Claire, because she could never physically get hurt – she reminded me of a younger version of myself with her quirky attitude, “Nothing can get in my way!” I felt this way growing up in a small-town, with my goal-driven outlook on becoming a Marine Biologist.


The Incredible Claire Bennett


What was the objective in the show you may ask? Well as ordinary people had begun discovering their extraordinary superhuman powers and abilities they were drawn together to save the world from destruction. This comic book-style adventure with plotting and characters as rich and layered any graphic novel or drama series. Why I really liked the show? Add to this mix a terrific handsome villain – Zachary Quinto’s Sylar, who hunts and kills people with extraordinary powers like our heroes – and viewers have a riveting series that exhibits an almost-perfect balance of cliffhanger thrills (the action and special effects are truly impressive for a network program) and genuine drama that sets the show apart from most speculative fiction.

You never know what types of people you will meet or the life circumstances that they face. Everyone has a unique story to tell – no two people are the same. When embracing other cultures, you tend to come across people that help shape your lives. I never dreamt that I would have been subjected to listen and understand about arranged marriages. I never expected to make really “good” friends with a cool Syrian, Tunisian gentleman, and a sweet Venezuelan girl. I certainly never thought that I would have had the opportunity to try oxtail for the first time. In reality, I did all of these things and because of these experiences I have projected a deeper appreciation for not only cultures, but for the people that live within this society. 
I have always told my friends in high school and even expressed this during my high school graduation speech: “Whether we notice this or not the people that we meet throughout our lives, either negatively or positively affects us; sometimes both. It is those positive influences that we need in our daily lives and should look for in our friendships. These are the individuals who will help mold us into the person that we want to become.” Having the ability to interact with various cultures has given me the gift to see the world in a different light, welcome an assortment of nationalities as my friends, and have the desire to create additional goals for myself. One of the newest goals added to my plans are to travel the world, while visiting each of my friends, and embracing a society different from my own.
A Really Sweet Shot of the Gilavar at Shipyard during Night; 07.2007

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