I am still here. Still on the ship, working and living a life that in so many ways has become "normal," and thus so much more difficult to describe. Perhaps if I go through some pros and cons it will lay out my existence in an easier to explain way:
Con: I share a cabin (room) with two people. This can make it a little more difficult to have privacy or alone time.
Pro: I only have to share with two people, which makes me one of the lucky ones, because a majority of the nurses onboard share with 3-5 people. I am fortunate to be able to close a curtain to my "itty bitty living space"(approximately 6ft x 6ft, half of which is my bed) and have alone time, or as much as you can get when a curtain is closed. Also, I don't have a bunk bed above my head, which means I can sit up straight, unlike my first 1.5years on the ship when I was in either top or bottom of a set of bunkbeds. Those bunks are in the same 6x6 space, just shared by two people.
Con: 2 minute ship showers.
Pro: I can spread out those two minutes by turning off the water, which is always nice and hot. So you rinse, turn off the water and soap up, then rinse. (extra on and off for shampoo/conditioner parts of the routine) It's not as bad as I initially thought it would be.
Pro: My meals are made for me and dishes are washed for me. All I have to do is show up to the dining room, fill a plate and a cup and sit down to eat. It's generally freshly cooked, and they even have a menu posted so I know what to expect (most of the time).
Con: I don't have much choice in what I eat. Breakfast is Oatmeal and boiled eggs and bread, a few veggies/sandwich meat and dry cereal (very basic cereal options). Lunch is leftovers from other meals or soup/salad. Supper is one main dish, occasionally with sides, bread and salad. Menus are on a rotation and sometimes it gets repetitive. If you don't like the meal, that's your problem. Meals are also on a strict schedule, and if you don't show up, you don't eat. Weekends you pick up your cold lunch at breakfast, so sleeping in can be challenging.
Pro: Laundry is free. I just have to pay for the soap.
Con: You have to sign up for laundry slots. And some people don't understand the system. Everyone has to use the same laundry room. This is the most likely place to have an argument with someone. It turns out laundry is a easy way to offend/annoy or tick off someone. People take someone's laundry out before the time is up, steal machines, program too long and don't leave the other person time to do theirs... the list goes on.
Pro: The ship is air-conditioned. Most of the time.
Con: The air-conditioning level varies. I've had it as high as 25C and low as 15C with the air-conditioning going. When it's off it can go as high as 33C in my cabin (some parts of the ship are worse, some better. The record high was in dry dock when the air-conditioning is deliberately turned off)
Pro: There are some great restaurants in town. If you are fortunate enough to have a ship vehicle license, you can drive to most restaurants in ten minutes or less. It's great.
Con: Getting there if you don't have a vehicle. We aren't allowed to walk through the port, so you have to wait for the shuttle bus, which depending on your timing could throw off your schedule significantly. Then you can walk or take a taxi. But taxis aren't plentiful here, so you need to have a phone number and book one. OR, you can take a zimijohn(local motorcycle taxi), but that's frowned on by the ship, and by insurance companies. Also, meal prices are pretty much western prices. Plan to spend 12-25$US on the average meal with drinks such as soda or bottled water.
Pro: My commute to work takes about a minute. Two flights of stairs, including the gangway, and a walk down the dock before I unlock the tent I work in. It's really easy to run back inside for whatever I need. There's no need to leave more than a couple of minutes before I need to be somewhere.
Cons: There is no commute. I know that sounds silly, but I have realized that there is something relaxing about a commute, where you get time alone to think, a time with no expectations, no one and nothing more than traffic that needs your attention. As long as it's not an excessively long commute, it is actually really nice to have dedicated time like that where you can gather your thoughts.
Con: There are people everywhere on the ship. Other than your own bed, there is no space that you can go to and have a reasonable expectation to be alone. Sometimes you can't even walk from the dining room back to your room without seeing someone who wants to talk or ask a question.
Pro: There are people everywhere. If you want to play a game, do a puzzle, go to town, just sit and chat over a coffee, you can find someone. There is no NEED to sit alone in the dining room if you don't want to (this of course means you must be brave enough to join strangers at their table if you don't see any friends around). There is always someone around to ask if you need help finding something or understanding how something works etc. In fact, if you are looking for friends and willing to spend the time looking for them, this is a GREAT place.
Con: The ship moves a bit. The current port doesn't have a breakwater, and so we dance up and down, especially when the big container ships come sailing past. If you are prone to seasickness, it might take you a few days/weeks to get used to it. I sometimes even find myself noticing the movement at random moments.
Pro: Is being rocked to sleep ever not a good thing? (secret answer: yes. When it rocks so hard it might throw you out of bed. That only happens during a sail, thankfully)
Pro: I have friends from all over the world. I could visit many countries, especially parts of Australia, New Zealand, various European countries, the US and Canada, and not have to go to a single hotel. I could couch-hop around the world. You learn so many new perspectives and understand a lot more about what is happening in this great big world as you make friends from different countries.
Con: My friends leave (or I do), and I don't know if I'll ever be able to afford to visit them. This world is just too big and my friends are so scattered. It sucks.
Pro: There are constantly new people arriving to fill positions. Sometimes it is old friends returning, which is cause for celebration, sometimes it is new people that you get a chance to meet.
Con: New people can be stressful (to an introvert). The only way new people can come is if some people leave. Leaving sucks. At times it feels like the goodbyes are endless.
Pro: We get to visit a new country (almost) every year. New adventures await, new places to explore, new languages to learn, new people to help, new day crew to invest in. New kinds of food and fruit, new expressions and ways of saying things, new gestures and new street signs. It is fascinating learning all about new cultures and ways of life and ways to understand the world we are in.
Con: Every year you start from scratch trying to find your way around, figuring out where the good markets are, who you can trust, where it is safe to go, what is offensive and what's normal. Every year you start fresh training new staff and setting up to make things work for this place and environment.
Pro: The patients. We have the privilege of meeting and helping so many amazing people. From the tiniest baby struggling to get enough food past it's cleft palate, to the elderly grandmother with a goitre that is threatening to cut off her airway. From the goofy ten year old with burn scar contractures that runs at everyone with the biggest hugs and proclaims them his best friend, to the sullen 20-something that hides her whole head behind a scarf just waiting to find out if we can remove her facial tumour.
Con: There isn't one. They are the reason we are all here. From the plumber to the teacher, from the engineer to the admin assistant, from the anesthetist to the preschool children; we are here to help these patients. There really isn't a con here. Okay, maybe saying goodbye to them is the con. Except when it means they are going home with freshly healed bodies and hearts.