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Il Navigatore, by Alejandro Kindsvater

Progress International Trainer
Posted in “El Diario” | Tourism section, ParanĂ¡, Entre Rios, Argentina.
Sunday, 1 April 2012.

Il Navigatore, is the title of a book I saw displayed in a show window while walking in the port city of Savona, Italy. As I stood there on this cold, sunny morning, I could identify with this book as I too, had been to so many places and had so many memories.

I embarked for the first time in January 2002, during a devastating Argentinean crisis. From that moment and through today, I have not stopped. Yes I have learned and worked a variety of positions on board. For more than 8 years, I entertained a lot of people. Since 2010, I have been working ashore training and preparing the department heads and crew to create an experience onboard that is unique and unforgettable for both themselves and their passengers.

How did I start this way of life?
I remember a traditional “framed in yellow” magazine that had these spectacular photos. I would literally keep it in my hands while reviewing with enthusiasm. I remember so well how inspired I was to learn about these unknown places: people with different customs, exoticism, monuments, landscapes, a "multi-culture" society and other issues that fascinated me. It was inviting me to do something; it attracted me, it seemed to draw me in to investigate.

So, it happened and in addition, two other things influenced my life in a short period of time which were unrelated to each other, but definitely pulled at me to create this desired lifestyle I was imagining. One day, my best-friend nonchalantly proposed to me to assist him in becoming an entertainer for children's parties (I had no idea how to do this), and at the same time, I won a trip to Europe for the World Cup in France (a dream come true). These two things, plus earlier stimulation of a traveling aunt and several family travels, predestined me to eventually be recruited by Costa Cruises, the largest European Italian cruise line who have extensive experience and a strong presence worldwide.

“Animator” was my first role onboard: a Psychologist "entertaining adults" without any idea of what to do. I first thought it was like child’s play; sort of like playing a game; however, it was anything but.

Life onboard had numerous challenges waiting for me. Strict rules and rigid control, a hierarchical military-style system, confined spaces, food definitely not from home and the sudden feeling of missing home: missing my language, family, friends, culture and more. Slowly I began to settle, the feeling of being uprooted began to evaporate as I understood I could keep my home in my heart and adapt to where I now worked (not easy to combine).

My thoughts were compensated, no doubt, with enjoying each morning waking up in a different place. I found interaction with people from over 70 nationalities among colleagues and guests; and of course, the vibrant energy of onboard parties, smiles and games all helped my time fly by. As an “animator”, I did exactly what was asked of my role; to have fun and entertain others. The feeling to be the one to make people smile, have fun and enjoy their time became my joy. This was priceless.

“The ship" also permitted me to explore unusual places. I remember another magazine in the waiting room of my dentists’ office (in my birth city of ParanĂ¡, Argentina) there was a main photo inside that showed a giant statue of a Buddha standing on a small island on the shores of a paradise beach in an unpronounceable place in Asia. I could not forget that picture. That image was mysteriously embedded in my mind for years. One day, there I was face-to-face with her on Hainan Island in southern China and I couldn’t figure out how that could happen.

Such experiences (and many others) are impossible to forget. I truly felt I was an awesomely lucky man. I am fortunate to have the want and ability to travel while discovering other worlds different from my own and get the chance to understand them.

I started to really grow onboard; increasing my “animation” awareness until I reached a point that they trusted me in caring for the whole team; a task that I happily did for two years. This task helped me to reflect on the difficulties and diversities that come with working in a team in order to effectively coordinate the basic needs of people at sea. I had to figure out how the synergies pulled together and how the barriers created the challenges.

After I disembarked as crew, I continued my studies at the University of Buenos Aires for a new two year Master Degree, “Organizational Coaching”. I applied the practical expertise I gained from the ships towards my degree; as well as, the degree helped me to understand many of the things I did onboard. Combined, they allowed me to be prepared for the tasks I perform today. Since then, I have been able to add distinction and theoretical understanding to what the job onboard had, indeed, repeatedly shown me.

Today I am still traveling, no longer by ship, although this possibility can occur, but by the various schools and training centers that the company I work for has in different parts of the world. I prepare candidates for teamwork and life-at-sea. I am able to introduce and relate to those I train with my own experiences to guide them, prepare them and excite them in their future careers. This is highly rewarding for me: knowing firsthand what it means to embark on a ship without knowing what awaits beyond the gangway. My other responsibilities are to train candidates for future trainers, Training the Trainers, where we review and practice a methodology that will ensure an effective transfer of positive working skills.

As they say, "a picture says a thousand words", I invite you to take a look of variety of published photos, including the "Buddha", on my Facebook: Alejandro Kindsvater album "all around".

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