Tuesday, September 21, 2010
I AM NOT SPEAKING OF YOUR LANGUAGE
In a day that did not include a Zodiac landing on Beechey Island to see the graves of the first members of the Franklin Expedition to die, and the only ones to have graves, and then sighting one’s first live polar bear (not counting the Central Park Zoo), the Lyobov Orlova’s lifeboat drill would have been the highlight.
First we gathered in the lounge (the forward lounge where the curtains are always pulled closed and the movement of the ship is magnified and very sick-making and all forms of stomach distress are exacerbated) and heard from the Russian Security Officer. (Have I mentioned that the entire crew of 52 is Russian? The young women are blonde and wear toothpaste-tight jeans. The young men are swarthy, but mostly unseen by us. They all smoke healthy Russian cigarettes somewhere in the bowels of the ship.)
“Good evening ladies gentlemen. I am safety officer on this ship. Unfortunately I am not speaking of your language. I speak only Russian.” Then he launched into his speech – in Russian - that presumably referenced life vests and muster stations and life boats, but could just as well have been his favorite poem by Pushkin, or a dithyramb to his wife's sexual allure.
Then Jason, our Inuit expedition leader, translated. Or we assumed he did.
Five minutes later the bell blasted throughout the ship, and as instructed, we put on our warmest clothes and rubber boats and gathered any life-saving medications we might need on the open seas, and carried our life vests up to our muster station at the stern.
There, Dmitri, Russian Safety Officer, gave another speech in Russian. Jason translated. The sun was shining and icebergs benignly floated and sparkled in the surrounding sea.
Later, my sister, showing off her linguistic talents, said, "Kamillarlutit."
Trying to one-up her, I replied, "Itsavautaup ataaniippallaijuq." Which means, "It's probably under the chair.