Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Chris Mariner

I think I have a new name now ^_^. It's around 1400H Shiptime and my third day on the Mariner and I have a respite from work until 1600H. Mariner's Shiptime is the same as Los Angeles (US Pacific) time. Three days and I already have a ton of new experience.

When I left Miami last saturday, I got stuck between two coughing people in my American Airlines flight to LA. No food served thank you very much :-/ and I paid $60 for my two baggages :-(. They don't have free check-in baggage allowance for domestic flights, a real bummer. LAX is a REALLY busy aiport. It's the first US airport where I saw people sitting on the floors and even lying(!) down there waiting for boarding. The La Quinta Inn & Suites where Steiner booked me for one night had a free shuttle from LAX so that wasn't any trouble. I just missed the first one I saw so I had to wait a little for the next one.

I checked-in, used the free wifi and used my new AT&T prepaid phone to call some people here in the US. I arranged for a super shuttle to take me to the Port of Los Angeles-San Pedro the next day and I was able to chat with my mom for a while before my good friend Rob took me to dinner in Westfield mall there in Culver City where the La Quinta Inn was.

The trip to the port wasn't long. The freeway didn't have a lot of cars maybe cause it was a sunday and it was 7am. I was too early they said and the shuttle dropped me off in the guest entrance so I had to walk half a kilometer (maybe) to the other end of the ship where the crew signed on. And of course I did this with one of my luggage's handle being broken (poor me). While waiting forever for signing on to start I made a new friend. Guilherme who's from Brazil. It's his first time to work on a ship too. He's a big fan of traveling and had the chance to go around LA the past few days. He'd arrived earlier than me in LA. The big bummer was that when he asked La Quinta to get him a ride to the port, they got him a LIMO! The stretchy one! They said it would cost him the same as the cab and so he got in and eventually paid for $60+ for it. Pfft. Thanks a lot La Quinta.

We signed in and I discovered this stupid Transnational had made it's biggest booboo yet... they didn't run a Hepatitis C test for me! Urgghh... This is really unacceptable, I paid for everything to be done and now, the ship's medical staff tells me that I have to get this test done (at $40 value) in Mazatlan when we make landfall tomorrow. This is really bummer. I really won't rest until I'm satisfied that I've tortured Transnational Medical enough when I have the chance.

I was shown to my cabin, it's for two people (a bunk bed) but it will house only me. It has a TV, a bathroom, and lights. The accomodation is fine but the bathroom stinks - I have to get to making it better. It's my responsibility but I don't have the time yet. I'm not sure if I'm willing to pay $20 a week for someone to clean my cabin. I don't even have that money to give away yet!

The Mariner is so awesome! Well, I've never been on another cruise ship but this one is really super. There are two canteens for the employees, one is called the crew mess and the other is the Officer/Staff Mess, I can eat on both and the food is OVERFLOWING. I see how my fellow countrymen eat and haha no wonder seamen are all round in the belly, they have like four cups of rice on their plate and two pieces of bacon! XD I'm enjoying all the protein I can. There are times when the dessert is so awesome I can't believe it but just earlier I ate a major fail gelatin sorta-something with blueberries.

I have got to get used with everything about shiplife soon. I always get lost - the ship is THAT big and I'm supposed to be very good with directions and orientation - but I'm slowly figuring it out. My worry is always not to walk into an area I'm not supposed to be into. I forget that as a doctor I can go anywhere but there's no harm in being extra careful is it?

Funny, when I walk around in my white coat people really talk about me hahaha. I can hear them, "Oh it's the doctor!" and I just have got to smile. I correct some of them that I'm not actually the ship doctor but that I work in the spa and is there to help them get more beautiful.

I'm still getting the hang of working in the spa and since everybody's busy and fully booked. I've got to give my questions a little fast or they'd be gone to their next appointment. I hope I get more patients next week when I've got all the kinks in my practice worked out.

The spa staff are all wonderful and beautiful beautiful people. Lorna, who's the Spa manager is from Scotland. She's real nice, tall and beautiful. There are four pinays in the spa and it's nice to have some of my countrymen in my team. The safety officer of the Mariner is named Kate and she's a beautiful lady. AND she's so energetic! When you encounter her you'd think she's just had a quadruple espresso. LOL. Yeah. Awesome, she took us to the bridge on a tour. WOW. I enjoyed hearing Phil's, the environmental safety officer, lecture on the companies policies and programs and the technology of the Mariner in dealing with pollution. I'll talk about this techy thing on my next post as it's an entirely different and long story. Mariner is like a floating country.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Amazing Race Reloaded

I was pretty confident no there would be no glitch with our travel to Miami until we checked-in in PAL Centennial Terminal and we were informed our flight wasn't booked and we had not paid for our tickets. We were stunned. How could that happened when we paid weeks ahead to our travel agency and reconfirmed every few days with every conversation we had with the staff. I really didn't know what to think.

When we went outside of the terminal to go to the PAL office, we were approached by people apparently from the agency and they told us they were trying to contact us because of the situation. Duh... no one's been calling any of us for the whole day. And if they really wanted to reach us, they just had to call my mom, and she was the one who they were really dealing with before. Anyway.

They finally got us on the same flight after a lot of running back and forth. It was really tiring.

Our flight to San Francisco International (SFO) was nonstop. Food on PAL was just ok. Entertainment on-board was pretty much inexistent. The captain had to apologize after realizing staff loaded the plane with Japanese movies thinking it was a flight to Japan. Stupid.

San Francisco International is a very nice and HUGE airport. I did a boo-boo leaving my co-trainee Dr. Joanna's book behind on the plane. :-( We were supposed to meet her cousin (?) for dinner in San Francisco but the long lines in immigration and trying to find the PAL office ate up our 3 hours layover time.

Our connecting flight to Miami was on American Airlines. They had aged planes and there wasn't any free food. Miami International (MIA) was also HUGE. Oh my. I think we walked half or three fourths of a mile to get to the baggage area.

We rented a card and got lost trying to find our hotel/condo/apartment. It was a nice experience going around though. Shamrock Corporate Housing is just awesome. We had a living room, dining room, laundry with washer and dryer, kitchen, 2 bedrooms, 2 baths, and a balcony. It was more than worth the price.

Toto, We're Not in Kansas Anymore

Coming from a place with terrible hot weather, traffic, annoying people WITH annoying customs, everything me and my fellow doctors were seeing and experiencing was a welcome break. Driving here isn't very easy if you don't have a GPS. We're cheap enough to brave it though Ha! Pinoy "Kuripotism." We were constantly late for our training session because we always get lost. Translating google maps into actual roads is difficult. You cannot judge the distance relative to the real one because the blocks are just so big! Well, we always end up where we want to go eventually.

On our first day we got to see Olivia and Miss Jeanette who interviewed us and who were in charge of us at Steiner. Wow! Skype is not flattering at all! Olivia and Miss Jeanette are so gorgeous! Miss Jeanette is like a model. She was so thin and tall.

They fed us free lunch during the first day of training and I loved the turkey and bacon sandwich. I think I made a right comment when I said the sanwiches here are too generous that I think the bread is just there so you can have something to hold onto and not get your hands dirty with the real treasure inside.

I coooked sinigang using spinach in place of kangkong on our second night. It turned out ok, lucky me. XD

The thing we did I enjoyed the most was that We always went around the malls and stores after our training sessions trying to scour for stuff we inevitably forgot to bring. Chargers, camera cables, toiletries, a lotta stuff. Going around Best Buy is mouth watering and tempting. Theres so much gadgets inside! I'm filling my head of what I'm going to save for haha! I'll get to that soon hahaha ^_^

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Se7en Years!

I just noticed I've been writing here since May 2004. wow... seven years... I've never committed to anything this long... ^_^

Happy Anniversary Blog. Happy Anniversary Reader (which just might be me ha!)!


For weeks now, while I've been fixing paperwork to work on my cruise ship, I'm being taken care of my manning agency, Dolphin Shipmanagement Inc. I just have to say, the people working for this (well, those who I interact with anyway) gotta be either very well compensated or just plain dedicated. More than once did they have to stay (with us) until late into the night to finish paperwork. Just last night we went home at 11 pm and we still left a lot of them pushing paperwork at that time. Considering they are working on another time zone to meet demands from the foreign principals, I still see them 8-9 AM in the morning! Ha! And they have to deal with Seafarers who feel they really are "heroes" and feel all self-important and demanding. Talk about dedication...

So I thank you Ma'am Riza and Ma'am Jane :-) especially for putting up with the nosiest group of doctors you've ever helped out. LOL...

Friday, May 07, 2010


Let me prove how disgustingly incompetent or stupid our government is. My POEA overseas employment certificate was filed around a week and a half ago and my name was mispelled as "christhoper" instead of christopher.

Isn't my name common enough? Does it have any weird spelling contrived by my parents?

Here's the clincher, my manning agency refiled it to correct my name.... when my OEC was returned my name was... STILL CHRISTHOPER... oh c'mmon!!!!! how stupid can they get?! Are they all jejemons working there?!

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Mexican Riviera - Here I Come!

I confirmed news of my ship assignment a few minutes ago. I will be sailing with RCCL (Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines) Mariner of the Seas. ( Wikipedia Link ) Currently and during my entire 6 months onboard, it will sail from Los Angeles, CA - Cabo San Lucas, Mexico - Mazatlan, Mexico - Porto Vallarta, Mexico then back to LA. This cruise is more often referred to as the "Mexican Riviera Cruise." I'm already excited!

Cabo San Lucas

-a small tourist town

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Fitting One's Life in a Suitcase

When I saw 'Up in the Air' I wondered how George Clooney's character fit his life in a suitcase. A small one at that. Little did I know I'd have to solve that problem myself.

I haven't talked about it yet before I didn't want to "count the chicks before they hatched" y'know. But well, it's been hatched and now they're chickens I guess. I applied for a job I saw an Ad in Facebook. Ok. I officially love Facebook now. The Ad said: "Work as a Cruise Ship MD." I told myself: "What could I lose?" I was a new doctor, they'd never accept me. It turned out they were looking for people to work in a new program. A big spa company currently with branches in 16 cruise lines will be starting to offer medispa services onboard. Botox and dermal fillers. I submitted my resume and in a total surprise that had me running our upstairs hall waving up my arms, they accepted me. God loves me.

I was asked to undergo an interview with their manager and the medical director. It seems they liked me. They accepted me right? I got to prove they were totally right accepting me. This is a super opportunity for me. The thing I love about this job the most is that I will get to travel and see countries! How is that not divine intervention?! God really knows how to surprise me and tell me (with a personal touch) that He loves me.

The Amazing Race Chris Alipio Edition then began. Lucky me I had just renewed my passport. Passport renewal by then was a burden with a scheduling waiting time of one month. One more evidence of divine intervention. Lucky me again UST is efficient in paperwork. I got my CAV (a document authenticating my diploma and transcript) in the exact 7 days they said it would get done. Feedback from other universities was 1 month processing time! I breezed through the NBI. The big trouble for me... I had no previous employment. And I needed that for the POEA and the US Embassy. And then yet again by divine intervention, I had just worked with Makati Red Cross by then so that clinched it! The only requirement that took a lot of time was undergoing the Basic Safety Training required for all seafarers regardless of their job onboard.

I enrolled and attended the BST (I've posted photos from it from a previous entry) meeting two more of the doctors that will be leaving with me. It was mostly boring. The teachers were incompetent. They wasted hours and hours teaching nothing but bullshit really. The only fun part was the practical exam where we had to jump from a 15 feet height into a 14 feet deep pool (with a lifejacket), swim to a liferaft, climb without assistance, then fallback from the liferaft into the water. We then had to swim one lap of the pool without a lifejacket. I almost drowned when I bumped into one of my classmates and both of us were disoriented. Hahaha. I think I'll just voluntarily drown myself at sea if that happens. Why waste effort fighting. Hahaha.

We put out a big indoor fire and learned how to use fire extinguishers to put out smaller fires. I learned a big lesson. When you see a fire... don't just grab ANY fire extinguisher to put it out. You MUST know how to use one and WHAT KIND to use in each kind of fire. Each class of fire has a specific fire extinguisher that will work for it. You could end up making the fire bigger if you mistakenly used the wrong one. That was a big bummer. Highschools should require firefighting lessons for all its students.

This exercise of processing all my paperwork to work overseas educated me in one important lesson. Adult life isn't for the fainthearted. It certainly ain't for ignorant people. You'll get eaten alive by sharks out there. You have to fight for your rights at every line, every government agency, every office you go. If you are not assertive or if you are too soft, you'll get stepped on, cut through, or ignored. One more important lesson: most of the people left in this country especially those working in the government are either super-inefficient or incompetent. Couldn't we give our heart to our work no matter how small it is? This is exactly why I think Gordon will do good for our country. We could use a little push on our work ethic. And he is a very good example of good work ethic which most people mistake for abrasiveness.

And so now I leave after I vote (I had to vote. It is my responsibility.) and I still can't figure out how to pack my whole life in 1 suitcase, 1 gym bag, and 1 backpack...

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Movies Movies

I love movies. I often forget to write something about movies I see here but you should know I download movies nonstop and often watch alone in the cinema too. I follow up on movies I have missed and especially make it a point to watch all the nominees for the academy award best picture and those that generate buzz in film festivals. I saw three movies in quick succession in the past days.

Iron Man 2 - Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Ron Cheadle, Mickey Rourke - The entertainment value of this movie is stratospheric. There was only one moment in the movie that my attention was lost. Mickey Rourke is crazy - a compliment - he's so believable as the villain. The action was great and the comedic timing of Downey as always hits the homerun. I'm just disappointed Terrence Howard decided to leave the franchise. It would have been better if there was a continuity in the actors. Even Oscar winner Gwyneth decided in the end to stay, why not him? The snippet after the credits hint at the new 'thor' movie... the one with Chris Hemsworth (brother of Miley's boytoy Liam Hemsworth) starring due 2011. The story also prepares the movie for the upcoming Captain America (Chris Evans) and the Avengers movie.

Young Victoria - Emily Blunt, Rupert Friend and Paul Bettany - I love this movie. Even if it's not very historically correct. I love the treatment and both Emily Blunt and Rupert Friend showed fantastic acting.

Three Kingdoms - Andy Lau and Sammo Hung - I'm a sucker for Kung Fu movies. I'll watch any kung fu movies with good fight scenes. This movie I thought had potential but it was dragging and there was a scarcity of good fight scenes. In the end, it was a mess. No wonder it didn't succeed in the west like most Jet Li movies which often had good story lines.

Saturday, May 01, 2010


I can't believe it. I always thought that when Hollywood stars say "Oh.. It's such an honor to be nominated" ... yeah right... bullshit. But I think I just felt exactly that way LOL. I got an email from COSMO Magazine Philippines asking permission to use some photos I took in the Church of the Holy Sacrifice (UP Chapel) for their June issue. Actually I wasn't going to talk about it until it pushed through but then again I think it didn't just happen on the other end. They didn't contact me again after a few correspondence. Maybe they decided to can the article that my photos would appear in. ANYWAY... It's a great feeling... this... to be just asked. wHOOoooAAhhh LOL They didn't even have to pay me hahaha

I looked back on my posts during Ondoy time. I think I didn't mention, A Canadian News Agency asked permission to use my photos on their site for their Ondoy news and (whoa) Kristina Ponce-Enrile's office asked permission to use some of my Ondoy photos for a video for a US based Ondoy Benefit Concert. Life is suuuweeeet! ^_^ It's so heartwarming when people recognize the work you actually love doing.