Leaving Shanghai

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photo of Allison Swaim leaving Singapore
We maneuver from port in Singapore, May 6, bound for Shanghai.

In the last four months I’ve moved another 1/4 of the way around the globe. I went from Egypt to Singapore aboard CMA CGM Maupassant. I spent a month in Singapore, then boarded M/V Kota Layar bound for Shanghai, by way of Hong Kong. Eleven months ago I set out for China and it took me almost the whole year to finally get here.

Soon I will board my final ship. Here, in Shanghai’s Yangshan Deepwater Port, I’ll join Maersk Malacca, bound for the US East Coast. It will take us one month to cross the Pacific, transit the Panama Canal, and head up the Atlantic seaboard. We’ll stop in Miami and Savannah, GA before my final port: Charleston, SC. My parents are going to drive down from my NC hometown to pick me up–it’s only four hours by car.

I’ve traveled almost a whole year, and I’ve only made it half-way round the world so far. I still have 12 more time zones to go. We will pass them one by one. Going across the Pacific, we’ll move an hour ahead almost every day. Then, somewhere in the middle, we’ll get an extra day. It will be Wednesday. Then, the next day we’ll wake up and have Wednesday all over again.

Maybe you’ve crossed the International Date Line before, in a plane. How does that work? Do you get an extra day of jet lag? On a ship, our “jet lag” is more gradual… spread out, like ending Daylight Savings time every day for a couple weeks. Somewhere in the middle, there’s a day. Does time stop? What if this line didn’t exist… and I got back in Charleston, and for me it was Tuesday and for everyone else it was Monday. Living the rest of my life one day ahead of everybody else…

This last leg will be a chance to reflect on the year, catch up on logging tape, and especially, to think about time. I hope to find some interesting ways to mark time and document the crossing of time zones.

To be quite honest, a big ship is a small, old, familiar world for me at this point. I’m afraid now I might not ask as many good questions, because I feel more like an insider than an outsider to this story. I’m curious to know what questions you may have. What do you imagine on a cargo ship? What are you curious about? What would you like to hear, see, or know about? What can I collect to bring back to you? I’m hungry for as many random ideas for how to mark time, document, and improvise as you can think up!  Send me questions. Send me writing or drawing prompts. Send me sound scores. Send me anything. I won’t have email access, but if you post it as a comment here, I’ll get someone to send it to the ship’s satellite mail account.

Thanks for following my journey. Stay tuned for a whole lot more stories when I’m back on land and have time to sift through what I’ve gathered.

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