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Everybody Has A Story

I feel like we’ve been gone a week to summer camp.  Only add fine dining and an extravagant boat.  And skip the sleeping bag.

And it feels that way because of the people we met.  People whose names we scribbled on a corner of a menu.  Or on something crumpled from our backpack.  People from places we’ve never been.  Whose lives intersected ours for minutes or hours, and in such a way that they became an unforgettable part of our experience

If we were in seventh grade, we’d have promised to write.

Instead we enjoyed the moment.  And when it was over, we waved goodbye.

This is Sandri, our cabin steward.  A guy who was greeting us by name two days before we stopped to find out his. At which time he said, “you can just call me Sandy.” He’s on a ten month contract with Holland America.  Which means that when he left his family in Indonesia at the end of April, he won’t see them again until the end of February.  At which time he’ll rest.  And take a breather from making up twenty-five beds twice a day and picking wet towels up off the floor.

His subtle presence in our room was the leading reason we didn’t leave our clothes just anywhere.  The guy stacked and neatified everything. I’d have fainted if I found my underwear tucked together in a small square on the edge of the bed.

Sandri also left us creatures like this in the morning.

And treats like this at night.

The day we tossed our cookies, he knocked at the door to turn the bed down for the night.  “No thanks, we croaked.  “Don’t worry about it.”  But then we panicked. “Uh, Sandri…could you please still leave the chocolates?”

Michael here is from the Philippines.  He works on the Lido deck–deck 9 serving drinks.  Seven days a week.  Eleven and a half hours a day. From May to March.  He’s got a 3 year old daughter back home.  He’ll see her next year for a few weeks, and then he’ll sign another contract for another ten months away.  It’s how things work.

Any guesses what he makes?


$50/month.  Five-zero.

Which is why that little tray he’s holding is so important.  He works mostly on commission.  Each drink he brings a guest, he earns 10% of the cost of the drink.  He wasn’t earning much while we were talking.

But fifty cents here and fifty cents there eventually adds up to $300/week.  And the way he has things set up, $200 is automatically deducted and sent home to his family.

It’s a better job, he says, than what he could find in his country.

This is Stephanos, our dining steward.  He knows his way around a table.

Al, too.

Only Al knew his menu.  He might look fourteen…or ten, but if the guy said, the Banoffee was the best dessert of the night, there was no sense ordering vanilla gelato.

This is Kristine and Daniel. Our dinner-mates from Hawaii.  And proof that not everyone on a cruise has silver hair.  We must have asked these guys six hundred questions. And they might have reciprocated with two of their own.  But by night four, we were sampling off each other’s plates.

They told us about Spam. The stuff we had no idea people still ate voluntarily.  Only they assured us Hawaiians did.  “We love our Spam,” they said.

“In everything.”

We even hugged the people who sold us jewelry.  This is Armando from Mexico.  He confirmed that the sun hasn’t shined for two months in Juneau.  But it was shining that day.

Truly we didn’t need a thing when we walked in.


But between his accent and Anna’s, we left with a little something-something.

This is Peggy.  She’s been in Juneau thirty-two years.  We met her while we were spinning circles outside the state capitol building. “You guys up for a hike?” she asked.

At which time despite wearing four layers on top, jeans on the bottom that were significantly too tight and hefting our computer in our backpack, we decided we were.  Up for a hike, that is.

And so we followed Peggy at a clip reserved for horses to the Perseverance Trailhead and started shedding the clothing.

That’s bear scat.  And it’s on the trail.


But Peggy was right.  The hike was worth every step we took.  We’re not even to the real waterfalls part yet, but we turned around here.

Finding no water in the backpack will do that.

Here’s just an everyday Alaskan waterfall.

I could stay here.

This is Carol.  She’s been in Juneau thirty years, too.  We met her clopping through the same parking lot headed to the same grocery store.  “Follow me,” she said.  “I know a shortcut.”

And we did.

At which time she said, “My brother lives in Parkland, WA.  Is that close to you guys?”

If four miles is close, I’d say then that it is.

Then Matt here, who sold us water said, “Puyallup?  Yeah, I’ve been there.  I’ve even driven through Graham.”

At which time the world felt teensy tiny.

And I suppose it is.

Because even for a moment a phone call shrinks the distance when the little voice on the other end says, “hi dad…I love you too!”


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