Tuesday, January 6, 2009


January 5, 2009

This morning I had hoped to sleep in and begin my quiet day of rest. The daily bulletin announced that passengers must go the main lounge and show their passports to US immigration before departing the ship. As I was not planning to leave the ship that day I assumed I would not have to present myself. But I was rudely awakened at 7:30 AM with a message from the Bridge that ALL passengers MUST present themselves to US authorities. In all other ports, immigration has been routine—immigration personnel viewed all the passports (without seeing each passenger) and then cleared the ship. Since 9/11, US security has been much more rigid, and all 800 of us were required to queue in a never ending line. There went my quiet morning in bed.

But the rest of the day I rested in my room with my legs elevated—only going topside for light meals. I finished reading a book about a young black woman coming of age in Rhodesia, worked on my blog and pictures, wrote some e-mails, and according to instructions drank a lot of water.

It must have worked because by evening the swelling had subsided, my temperature was normal and I was walking with less of an effort. I joined Mark and Marissa for dinner (her mother is still battling the virus) as I wanted to give Marissa a check and have her send me a copy of the book she has written about her experiences as an ADA in Los Angeles. I even felt spry enough to watch the passenger’s costume parade in the main lounge. But I passed on the ten PM chocolate extravaganza in the main dining room. The line wound down two flights of stairs. I stopped by the library to pick up two more books to read during the next two days aboard and retired for the evening.

Monday, January 6, 2009
At 7:30 AM my phone rang shrilly, waking me from a deep sleep. A fellow passenger was on the line offering to purchase my Altos de Chavon Village ticket. I was delighted, as I had decided last night not to go on the trip. On my way to breakfast, after the ship had been cleared for shore, I realized that our exit ramp was on deck two with just a short trip down the ramp to the dock. I checked to see how long a walk it would be to the taxi stands and to my amazement saw six wheelchairs lined up to take passengers from the dock up the hill to the terminal, taxi and bus stands. This was the first port where wheel chairs were readily available, but there had been no announcement during last evening’s briefing and none this morning. The weather was pleasant, not as hot and humid. I was informed that tourist information and transportation was available to various destinations for sight seeing and shopping.

I took a wheel chair to the terminal to find out what would be comfortable for me to handle as I really need to limit my walking. To my surprise there was an air conditioned bus leaving for Altos de Chavon Village every twenty minutes. I really had my heart set on bringing back more ceramic dolls, I knew the challenge would be walking in the village on uneven cobble stoned roads, but at least I would have been off the ship and on a scenic ride through the country side. At $7.00 (US) round trip it was a bargain. I had paid $37.00 for the trip offered by the ship. But since I was familiar with the area I did not need a tour guide.

The twenty minute ride to the Village was more impressive than I had remembered. Friends have confirmed that in La Romana and Santo Domingo squalor is prevalent, but on the well paved road to Casa de Campo, the playground of the wealthy, everything is beautifully manicured. The flowering trees and stately palms are neatly trimmed, there are masses of brilliant floral plantings, and hidden behind the foliage are the magnificent villas and condos of the rich and famous. Here are some of the most famous golf courses in the world as well as polo fields, stables, and exquisite private gardens. It is truly reminiscent of the beautifully maintained stretches along A1A and the ocean drive in Palm Beach.

The stone village itself is a magnificent oddity. Built in 1976 by Dominican artisans and craftsmen, it is modeled after a Mediterranean village of the 16th century. It was commissioned by a wealthy industrialist as a birthday gift to his daughter, and as a cultural center for the arts. More than 200 artists have lived and worked here in the Artist in Residence Program. Potters, ceramic doll makers, weavers, painters, silversmiths who embody the island’s finest traditions of crafts and arts.

I found walking on the uneven cobblestones exhausting and realized that the doll factory was too far within the community for me to reach.

There were three local gift shops close by, with a few dolls on display—but none as well made or as handsome as the ones I had purchased several years ago. One shop had a series of colorful paintings of native scenes. The young man who waited on me was helpful and pleasant. His prices seemed fair, but he adjusted them for me without my having to bargain. I selected one for my granddaughter Amy, who had asked me to bring back a small painting for her, and an even smaller one for myself which had caught my eye. He removed the larger one from the frame so that it would fit neatly in my suitcase, rolled the canvas carefully and then offered to walk me back to the bus with my purchases since he saw that I was tiring rapidly.

Even thought I never made it to the doll factory, it was a delightful and unexpected experience. I even managed to get some decent pictures of the grounds and buildings as there were not many tourists there. Ours was the only cruise ship in port and by the time I arrived, most passengers had returned to the ship. When Lionel and I were there last the place was milling with sigh-seers and shoppers, who kept getting in the way of my camera.

Just as I returned to my room I received a call from Florence asking me about my health and telling me that she was mostly recuperated. After lunch Marissa brought her the seventh floor lounge where the two of us spent a quiet time chatting about politics, our children, how we have coped with widowhood. When Marissa arrived to bring her back to the room at five, she was well into the story of how she had met and married her husband, and the traveling they had done over the years with their children.

By the end of the day I was all talked out—in the morning at breakfast I had a long conversation with a male passenger who had traveled with the University at Sea college level program 37 years ago, I met Mark and Marissa in the dining room for lunch—then the afternoon with Florence. When dinner time arrive I went to the buffet dining room, made my selection, went outside to deck and bar and sat all by myself—peacefully and quietly. I really had nothing to say to anyone. This evening I meant to go back to the main lounge for the talent show, but I got so involved in writing the blog I lost track of time.

Tomorrow is a busy day—settling accounts, packing, getting organized to go home. Luggage has to be outside the door by midnight, the breakfast service on January 8 is over by 7:30 am, which means another early rising. Passengers will start going through customs by 9:30 in the morning—and we will probably be asked to leave our rooms by 8 am, with all our carry on personal belongs, if this trip follows the typical last day of a cruise. Since my computer is heavy, I will try to get everything into the suitcases so I will have little to carry through customs. I need to check with the activities desk to find out when I will actually be cleared through customs as I need to notify my driver when to come for me. I hope that once we are in Fort Lauderdale I can use my cell phone. I have a post-it by my computer to remind me to charge my phone—I am sure that after 21 days it is dead.

Tonight we “retard the clock” one hour, which means another hours sleep, and we should be back to Eastern Standard Time.

This evening the captain sent us a log of all the miles we have traveled—a total of 6959
Nautical miles or approximately 8008 linear miles—
This is my last blog entry, Looking forward to seeing many of you soon.

Monday, January 5, 2009


Sunday, January 4, 2009
St. Kitts/Nevis, one of the smallest nations of the world, is sparsely populated. It is inhabited by 35,000 citizens, mostly descendants of African slaves brought in to work the sugar plantations, and 40, 000 small, wild monkeys, imported by the French as pets in the 1700’s. One of the more southern Caribbean Islands of the West Indies it has a reputation as a gathering place for the rich and famous. I am sure they are all here, on their yachts, hidden away in their exclusive retreats or at the five star resorts, but my tour group saw none of that during our excursion—which began as a van drive from the port of Basseterre, along Old Town Road, past the historic Brimstone Hill Fortress to the Lavalle Transfer Station to continue on the Scenic Railway around the rest of the island.

Until 2005 the island was dominated by the sugar cane industry. The narrow gauge railroad, built in 1912 to transport the cane, is now used as a tourist attraction, since cane production was abandoned several years ago by the government as unprofitable. St. Kitts today relies mostly on its tourist trade. In contrast to Trinidad which is a vibrant, immaculate community, St. Kitts is shabby and impoverished. All along the way, not only the homes but commercial buildings, as well, were shabby and unkempt. The small homes, some no bigger than shacks, were badly in need of repair. Roofs were gone, doors askew, windows broken. Most of the corrugated tin roofs and fences were badly rusted and falling apart. Even the churches and schools were sadly in need of repair, with doors and windows boarded up. There was litter everywhere, foliage ragged and straggly, the soil dry and dusty. As we drove through village after village, it was distressing to pass through such squalor.

At the Lavallee Transfer Station we boarded the last narrow gauge passenger train in the West Indies. The well appointed and double decked rail cars, built specifically for touring the island, are handsomely appointed, The lower decks are air conditioned, have wide windows, and comfortable seating—arm chairs and tables. The “Sugar Train” is considered one of the most beautiful train rides in the world. The less agile of us (I was traveling with Marissa, Florence and Mark) remained on the lower deck, but most passengers opted for the open-air observation level for a panoramic view of the surrounding country side.

As we hugged the northeastern coastline, we passed through the now abandoned sugarcane fields which stretch from the shoreline to the mountains. To our left was the wild shore line and its magnificent black sand beaches, to our right were the high volcanic peaks, rising nearly 4000 feet above sea level, the sparse vegetation of the downtown areas had given way to lush green rain forests. The train rolled across tall steel bridges over “ghuts”(canyons), past abandoned sugar plantations, and small villages and farms with small herds of cattle, goats and some hogs. It was not a school day and children playing along the track waved joyously to us as we passed through their village.

It was a long and enervating trip four hour trip, and by the time I returned to the ship I was worn out. Although we were docked at the port we could not exit the ship from the lower deck, so we were all faced with those exhausting 47 gangplank steps down and back. It was also a long walk from the ship to the terminal to pick up the bus—and I found walking difficult in the heat and humidity. I spent the rest of the day in my room—dozing on and off during the afternoon and early evening. My feet and legs were quite swollen, I felt feverish and concerned about my blood pressure. I was sure that it was not the noro virus (which seems to have attacked everyone at one time or another), but to be on the safe side I checked in at the infirmary. My blood pressure was elevated and I was running a slight fever, but the doctor seemed to feel that the leg swelling, high blood pressure and fever were caused by the heat, saltier food than I was used to, and exertion. He advised that I rest with my feet elevated and drink plenty of water and not go off the ship tomorrow. I did not have any trip planned for St. Croix—and if I do not feel any better, I will cancel my trip to the Dominican Republic.

I took very few pictures yesterday, none on the trip—but we were presented with a DVD of the train ride and I will add some of those pictures to the blog.

I will use the free time to read and slowly pack my suitcases. I was sure that I had brought more clothes with me than I would need—most are still unworn and folded neatly on the closet shelves. When the trip description said clothing casual, it has been really casual. Except for a few passengers, who dress for dinner, even in the formal dining room, passengers come in their shorts and “t’s”.

Saturday, January 3, 2009


January 3 Saturday
Roseau, Dominica
This ship seems to be governed by Murphy’s Law. The unexpected keeps cropping up, ship detours, an air evacuation, landslides-and this morning tender delays. Since we were dropping anchor early in the morning,7 AM, tender service for the first tours was to begin at 7:40 am, and my whale-dolphin watching trip to leave at 8:20. I am not a morning person anymore—it really does take me a while to get all the kinks out and get going. It was a struggle, but I finished breakfast early and headed out before eight to get a seat in the main lounge before it became overcrowded with tour groups and passengers waiting for tender service.

On board, schedules are highly regimented by ship time—everything takes place as posted. However, plans involving foreign governments, particularly in this area, are subject to Caribbean time. The government agent, who was supposed to board the ship to arrange for clearance, was expected at 7 AM. He finally arrived, after much phoning back and forth, just before nine. So there we all sat, some less patient than others, waiting to get to our destinations. Most groups were tendered to the dock to pick up their tour transportation, but our whaling ship came right up to the side of the ship and, with assistance, we made the transfer with not to much difficulty. However, our re-boarding was quite dangerous. By the time we returned to the ship there were heavy swells and the tour boat bobbed down several feet, then up a foot or two beyond the gangplank. Most of us literally had to be lifted by the crew from one boat to the other.

As I have noted before, this is largely an older crowd and there are many with canes, walkers, and wheel chairs. It is amazing that there haven’t been more accidents. Our evening departure was delayed because the last two tenders from shore were turned back to port until boarding became less dangerous. Most of the day, even though the ship was anchored, it swayed back and forth because of the swells and we all had trouble keeping our balance as we walked to and fro.

On the whale watch, three whales and a school of dolphins were sighted. Unfortunately, I could not get close to the side of the boat to get a good view over the heads of those who were taller than I. Also, the ship was rocking and I did not feel the footing was secure. I was seated in a nicely cushioned chair on the first deck (I couldn’t climb the very steep ladder to the second deck where the view was much better)—so I basked in the sun, took pictures and enjoyed the scenic ride past the cloud covered volcanic hills. As I said a few days ago, I have learned to pick my battles carefully. I am recovering nicely from my back injury, and I want to come home well and healthy.

I decided not to stay in the downtown area. From what I could see it was a typically Caribbean tourist shopping area with no historic or local points of interest. The site seeing trips offered involved visiting rainforests, waterfalls, hot baths, kayaking, botanical gardens, etc.

I had hoped to sit and read at the pool deck—but even there it was uncomfortably hot. Mid afternoon I watched a movie in the main lounge “Girl with the Pearl Earring” and worked on my pictures. I think I have finally figured out how to enter them in the blog—not that any of them are that great. I have been taking them from great distances, the ship and moving boats.

Tomorrow, unless Murphy’s Law raises its ugly head again, we will dock (not tender) at St Kitts and I have scheduled a mid morning coastal train ride around the small island. There is not much more left to the trip. St. Croix, Dominican Republic, a day at sea and then Ft. Lauderdale. I am beginning to feel talked out—I have had so many interesting conversations—but I am looking forward to some quiet time.

Friday, January 2, 2009

LAND AT LAST January 2, 2009

Friday January 2, 2009
The rain has stopped, the sun was shining brightly through my window, but the prospects of getting off the ship today seemed bleak. The Japanese couple I had hoped to go with decided to sign up for a tour, there was only room in a taxi for Marissa, Mark and Florence, because a space was needed for the wheel chair, and the one other person I had made plans with couldn’t be reached because his room phone was out of order. Florence did suggest that I check at the terminal to see if there were passengers who would want to share a cab for a city tour.

On the way to the terminal I met up with a woman whose tour had also been canceled and she was willing to look for fellow passengers to join us. As there were no other cruise ships in dock today, there were ample cabs available and all the drivers were looking for business. According to our driver not many cruise ships stop in Trinidad, as it is much further south than all the other Carribean Islands. In the waiting room, a driver told us to wait and he would find two other passengers to join us. The flat fee for the cab is $60 for two hours—or $15 each for four passengers. It was a very comfortable air conditioned mid-size car. I was lucky enough to get in the front seat with the driver so I had an unimpeded view.

Port of Spain, capitol of the two adjacent islands, Trinidad and Tobago, is a major shipping terminal—and there is a lot of dock activity. It is also an important financial center. Unlike Manaus and Santorem which are unkempt and seedy, Port of Spain is handsome, with many architecturally beautiful, modern, high rise buildings. Circling the city are the steep volcanic mountains. Everything is green and lush, many of the trees are in bloom, and all the streets, wherever we drove, were spotlessly clean. This can only come from a population which takes great pride in its environment. There were numerous, beautifully landscaped public parks and gardens. Even the most modest homes were painted and well kept, with private yards neatly maintained.

On the outskirts of the downtown area we passed an unusual building under construction. When completed it will be the center for Carnival, theater and the arts. On the construction site was a large billboard with a rendering of the final design. The lines flow and curve like no other building I have ever seen. It will be a stunning edifice when completed in a year or two. Many of the older building and private homes are also architecturally beautiful—drawing on the influence of English, French and Indian designs of the late 1800’s early 1900’s.

We were surprised to learn that Trinidad has a very large East Indian population. Our driver is of Indian descent and a practicing Hindu. At one point, early in Trinidad’s history, East Indian slaves were imported to farm the plantations.

Our driver offered to stop if we wanted to take pictures—but three of us were impaired and using canes and the fourth lady did not have her camera with her—so we only stopped once high in the mountains for an overlook of the harbor and city.

We returned to the ship at lunchtime and I walked the top deck taking pictures of the docks and downtown area before the rains started again. I had lunch pool side—but remained under cover as it rained intermittently for the remained of the afternoon.

We sailed at four and had a briefing on tomorrow’s tours once we were underway. I had signed up for an afternoon whale watching tour, but discovered that my ticket assignment is for the 8:20 am tour. It seems that there were so many requests for this tour that a second trip was added and I neglected to check my ticket time until early evening. I’ll just have to push myself to get up, have a light breakfast and be ready. I really am not a morning person anymore.

There will be land tours daily for the next several days, and I have signed up for one in each port. I do hope there will be no more heavy rains and landslides to keep me from these activities. Of course, I also have to be concerned about the noro virus which has spread through the ship. Almost everyone I have spoken to has been affected by it. So far it has passed me by—but there is still seven more days to travel.

Tomorrow Domenica.

Thursday, January 1, 2009


January 1, 2009
I awoke early on New Year’s Day to the realization that the ship, though still traveling rapidly, was traveling forward only, and not side to side. It seemed safe to take a much needed shower. While in the Amazon we were asked to conserve water usage and to shower briefly, and only as needed. Good environmentalist that I am, I complied; knowing that once we were out into open waters the supply would be plentiful. The ship makes its own water, but was unable to do so while in the river. What I did not realize was that for the next two days the ship motion would make it unsafe for me to use the shower. Gratefully I was able to start New Year’s Day smelling sweet again.

With no lectures scheduled, after an early breakfast, I spent the morning bringing my blog up to date. The day was dismal and we were still racing along, so most of the outer decks remained closed because of the high winds. During lunch I met up again with Marissa and her group—since her lectures she has become well known and everyone stops to chat with her. We had planned to travel together to the Caroni Bird Sanctuary, but the closer we got to port the worse the weather became. They decided that the logistics of traveling with Florence in a wheel chair to the bus then boarding a small river boat was not practical. As I thought about it, I realized that maybe I should also forgo the trip.

We are now in port and it is still raining heavily. It is almost four o’clock and we have just cleared customs. The roads are wet, the decks are slippery, and my nylon parka is not designed for heavy showers. A code blue has just been called for deck five—which means there is a medical emergency and a doctor is needed STAT for a passenger in trouble. I was on the outer deck on five while the ship was entering the harbor, and it was dangerously slippery.

As I look out my window now, the roadbed is heavily puddled, the rain is still coming down and it looks like it will not stop soon. I have been to many bird sanctuaries in Florida, Louisiana, Costa Rica and in zoos which feature tropical birds—so I am sure that while the scenery will be beautiful it will be more of the same old. In fact, while I was on the Amazon River I was surprised to see how many birds we saw which were the same species as those that inhabited our own Wakadahotchie and Green Cay.

We do not leave port until late tomorrow and I have signed up for a scenic drive around the Island, so I will get to see some of Trinidad before I leave. Guess there is nothing more to do now than find a quite spot and start another book. I will be well read by the end of this trip.

I took my book up to observation lounge, forward on the seventh and top deck, hoping the rain would stop. The visibility was poor—low clouds and fog hung over the city, hiding the mountains beyond. Suddenly everything cleared, and in the bright sunlight a major city of colorful high rise buildings came into view. From one end of the dock to the other was a magnificent double rainbow. All of us with cameras went out on the wet deck slippery deck in the drizzle (the sun has gone in as suddenly as it had appeared) to capture the rainbow before it faded. The shot I got was not great, but half the rainbow is in the photo.

When I returned to my cabin to change my clothes for dinner, there was a note on my door notifying me that the trip I had signed up for tomorrow had been canceled because of a landslide, caused by the rain. Fortunately I met several people in the dining room who had also been canceled and were interested in highering a van to see the sites. Two of the couples will try to make arrangements and get back to me by nine am. I really have not minded staying on the ship so many days in a row, but how can I sit outside the major port of Trinidad and say that I only saw the island from the dock.

Not a great beginning for the New Year—but I am still enjoying myself.
Happy New Year to all--.


December 30
Another quiet day at sea. We have reached the end of the Amazon River basin and are headed towards the Caribbean Sea. The waters, thank goodness, are still calm. Tonight there will be another time change. A quaint message is posted on the in house TV channel—“Please retard your clocks one hour.” So what time is it now?

The morning and early afternoon were spent listening to lectures—the art of Picasso and Dali, hurricanes, typhoons, cyclones, and oil in the Carribean, plus a data filled talk on the change in values from generation to generation. While some presenters were better than others, there was something to learn from each.

Mid afternoon I took my lap top to the computer lab, where there are available electrical outlets for personal computers, caught up on my e-mail and worked on adding pictures to the blog. With the aid of one of the computer assistants on duty I finally added three pictures to the first blog days—but it is time consuming and tricky—so unless I have a really great picture to send along, I will wait until I return and make a CD and slide show of all the photos.

On the way back to my room I met up again with Marissa Batt, who, invited me to join her and her family for dinner. Marissa, her husband Mark and mother Florence were with me on the city tour of Manaus. Florence is wheel chaired, so I tagged along with them at the opera house to find ramps and avoid steps. When we returned, I made a CD for them of the information on all the ports of call which I had downloaded from Wikepedia. Several days later, I elected to attend a community lecture “True Crime: The Celebrity-Studded LA Variety”—and there, to my surprise, at the podium, was petite, lilac eyed Marissa, offering a blunt and opinionated discussion on the mishandling of several celebrity criminal prosecutions by the LA District Attorneys office. Passionate about truth and justice, she minced no words in criticizing some of the practices of the LA DA’s office. She is a recently retired prosecutor with that office, and is the author of the book “Ready for the People, My Most Chilling Cases as a Prosecutor.” I am going to order an autographed copy from her. If she writes as well as she talks—and she is remarkably articulate—it should be a great read.

Also with us were two travelers I had met before—Steve, who is also in a wheel chair, and his long time companion, Ken. They were the ones who had shown me the mask they had purchased the day before I found several of them at the gift shop at the Meeting of the Waters tour. The dining room that evening was particularly noisy and it was difficult for Steve and me to carry on a conversation with anyone, as both of us wore hearing aids and were extremely noise sensitive. But later that evening, after the evening program, featuring the music of Edith Piaf, Marissa, her mother and I sat in the lobby and I had a chance to have an in depth discussion with Marissa about media coverage of celebrities, and the inequality of justice in some courtrooms. I also learned that despite her dynamic personality and seemingly indefatigable spirit she suffered from fibro-myalgia, a debilitating, incurable and painful disease. I also learned that although she was born Jewish, for many years has been, along with her husband a devout, practicing Buddhist. She has offered to hold informal discussions with anyone interested in knowing more about her spiritual beliefs. Marissa’s mother, Florence, is as quiet and unassuming as Marisa is dynamic, but she has lead an interesting life She was graduated from the University of Chicago in 1939 and before marrying spent time in Hawaii. She offered to meet with me tomorrow to tell me of her experiences as a civilian librarian attached to an Army base in Hawaii.

December 31
I slept poorly-and woke early, plagued by leg cramps. I must remember to drink more water to alleviate this condition. The boat was traveling rapidly through heavy seas, and I needed my cane for support to navigate in my room and along the corridors. All the outside decks are closed off and the swimming pool is still empty. It is a gloomy overcast day—with only occasional breakthroughs of sunshine.

A mid morning announcement by the captain, over the loud speaker system, addressed a crisis being faced. A passenger became gravely ill in the early hours of morning and needed immediate medical attention unavailable on ship board. We had altered course and were traveling at maximum speed to the closest South America land mass (I believe he said off the coast of Guatamala) to prepare for a helicopter evacuation of the patient and his wife to a land based hospital. While we waited, anchored off shore, the delicate and dangerous evacuation maneuver began. Later that day, during the lecture in preparation for touring Trinidad, the doctor described in detail the complicated arrangements rapidly carried on between the captain, a foreign government, and an on- shore medical team to get the man off the ship as safely as possible.

This was not the first health incident on board—but all others have been handled well by the ship’s medical staff. This is mostly a senior age group, the age range is two to ninety two—there are some children and young people on board—but most of us are well into retirement age and there are many using wheel chairs, walkers and canes. Several have fallen, some have broken bones or received bruises bumping into things. One woman who collapsed from fatigue and the heat on the very top step (number 48) while returning from a land tour on Santorem. She broke her hip. The doctor, who is a surgeon, set her hip and then she was transported to a local hospital for additional treatment before being returned home. I truly made a wise decision not to tackle those steps a second time.

I remained in my cabin most of the day for safety’s sake--the motion of the ship made me so drowsy I could not stay awake during the morning lectures and kept dozing off during all of them.

I usually prefer to eat breakfast and lunch in the buffet service dining room, but walking with a cane for support made it difficult to maneuver with a tray, so I went to the fifth floor full service dining area for lunch. As I was finishing, Marissa, Mark and Florence joined me. Marissa, who loves to talk to anyone about her Buddhist religion, welcomed all my probing questions and between she and her husband, gave me a quick crash course on how and why they had embraced Buddhism.

I am not quite sure I could really get a full feeling for the nature and concepts of the religion, which they classify not as a mystic religion but as a philosophical/spiritual belief. I am sure if I catch up with them again they will be willing to elaborate further. I asked why they had become followers of Buddha, and mentioned that many people return to their own religion or embrace a new religion during a time of crisis. This is what happened when Lionel had colon cancer surgery. A lapsed Jew, he claimed he had a vision of God while recovering and made a bargain with him. He promised that if the cancer was cured he would practice and honor his religion, as he had as a young man. Marissa confirmed that in the despondency and pain of her health problems she prayed to Buddha for relief from the pain and a happier life. She found her answer in practicing Buddhism, and Mark added that her serious illness led him to become a follower as well. They both seem to have found an inner peace and have learned to adhere to spiritual and mystic beliefs, yet stay fully grounded in the activities of the materialistic world we live in. They both practice law—he has a private practice in civil law, and she, until retirement, was in criminal law.

That afternoon Florence and I met for a visit in the seventh floor forward lounge while Mark and Marissa were off doing there own thing. Florence is several years older than I. I did not ask her age—but she mentioned that she graduated from the University of Chicago in 1939 and did not marry until her 30’s in 1948 (I was 18 when I married in 1945 and graduated from college in 1947) – so several years separate us. She is quite petite, her body deformed by some form of arthritis, and she has a mild form of Parkinson’s. Unlike her daughter, she is quiet and soft spoken and somewhat retiring—but she communicates well (she was a lit major and also had a degree in library science) so we had a great deal in common. She was very proud of the years she spent working in Hawaii and spoke to me at length about her experiences. She mentioned that she and her husband were Jewish and as far as I can determine she does not practice Buddhism. After marriage she became a stay at home mother, but late in her husband’s teaching career helped him with his reports and wrote resumes and letters of recommendations for his students applying for jobs. They were married for 50 years—and now that she is alone Marissa and Mark urge her to join them in their travels. While she lives alone, and manages well considering her disabilities, her daughter lives close by and seems to keep a watchful eye on her. She once said to me that sometimes she would really prefer staying at home, but it is difficult to say no to her quite forceful and determined daughter. I sympathize with her position. As much as I love my children, sometimes I find that what they think is best for me is at odds at what I want for myself. This role reversal frequently plays out as we get older. The child takes on the role of parent and the parent becomes the child.

As the day wore on I felt less inclined to get dressed for tonight’s formal holiday dinner. This evening was one of the few with an assigned table seating. The two sisters at my table (the fourth guest did not make the first two meals) are pleasant—but I was not looking forward to an evening of light chit chat in an extremely noisy and partying atmosphere on an extremely rock boat. The captain had announced that in order to make up the time lost for the evacuation, the ship would be traveling at a high rate of speed. Also, this was a holiday I did not want to spend with strangers. We were never big New Year’s Eve celebrators. Since our retirement, many times, when the children were visiting, we would baby sit while they went out on the town. Sometimes we would go to a show—or an early dinner and movie. Often times we would just stay at home by ourselves as we would often have open house on New Year’s day for friends and family—entertaining as many as thirty to forty to guests during the afternoon and evening, with lots of food and drinks to be prepared in advance.

Whatever the reason, mild depression from being away from friends and family, fear of falling, boredom, I remained in my cabin—caught up on my blog, ordered room service, finished the book, “Hiroshima-Fifty Years Later” and retired before midnight.

I hope I am not boring you will my lengthy discussions and meanderings, but somehow, I feel closer to all of you, my friends and family, as I post this journal of an incredible (Amy’s favorite word!) journey.

Tomorrow is a new year


Tuesday, December 30, 2008


I slept late this morning and soundly. I did not hear the bridge announcement that we were docked and the tours were departing. When I went on deck, just making the buffet line as the food stations were being closed, I had never seen the ship with so few passengers in the public rooms. I am sure that there were many, like me, who did not go ashore, but were sick abed in their cabins. At the concert last night the ship’s doctor announced that a mild stomach virus was going around but he felt that all was needed was a day of bed rest and lots of fluids. So far it has not caught up with me, but I expect it will eventually.

I was pleased with my decision to turn in my City Tour Ticket for today. It was oppressively hot, with not a breath of air, and the buses were not air conditioned. I also was sure that my upper thigh muscles were not up to climbing those fifty steep stairs down from deck five or back up. It took me almost two days to recover from the Manaus excursion.

I brought along my book to read in the only shady and relatively cool spot I could find on the pool deck (the pool was still empty because of the mosquito problem) and planned to settle in for a quiet morning. Suddenly, John, the lapidary man, showed up with “There’s Jackie.” When he left me the last time he said he would be on the lookout for me, as he was interested in getting the address of a WEB site I had recommended to him on gemology. As we chatted I learned more about his future plans. He had retired from his position as a traveling salesman for a photography studio and was currently enrolled in a geology course at a University in New Jersey. After completing two year of study he planned to go into thermal geology or open his own mining company. I knew little about thermal geology or its purpose, and was surprised to learn that it was a way of finding and capturing thermal heat as an alternative energy source. As he described it, it was like creating a nuclear power plant without the use of uranium. Greenland is one of the best areas for this type of exploration, but there were many other areas around the world as well.

Before he left we got into a lengthy discussion about the Cargill Corp. which had come into the Santarem area and cut down the forest to establish large soy bean farms. Right off the bow of our ship, adjacent to the dock was a huge Cargill soybean processing and shipping plant. Until two days ago I had never heard of Cargill and the controversial harvesting and exporting of soybean. During a recent lecture on Santorem, an ecologist described how Greenpeace has been actively protesting and campaigning against Cargill for destroying the rainforest. Greenpeace is devoted to saving the environment, the ecologist was unhappy with the project for additional reasons—Cargill had promised to improve the economy by developing job opportunities, but this did not turn out to be the case, as so much of the harvesting and processing was automated. What is had done is displaced the native population, destroying their homes and way of life by destroying the food supply in their forests.

Cargill is taking a lot of money out of \Brazil, but like the robber barons of the past, may not be contributing enough to the economic welfare of the country. This is a serious problem and I would like to learn more about what is happening in Brazil because of deforestation. I am sure in the next several days there will be more lectures on this topic.

After he left, I headed inside to find a cooler reading area, and stopped to say hello to Ann, my fellow airline passenger, who was talking with the husband of the Utah genealogist I had met the other evening. The man, a Southern Baptist, who joined the Mormon church when he married, was an encyclopedia on the Mormon Missionary project in Brazil. He had gone through a Missionary training program on the history and culture of Central America (he knew all the dates and events in Mexican Indian history to almost prehistoric times and offered a brief course in the Aztec religion as viewed by the Mormon Church.) I am fairly knowledgeable about the history and culture of Mexico’s indigenous people—and I could see that his facts were accurate, but the conclusions he drew from them of course were colored by the thinking of the church and somewhat different than what I had been taught—but I listened to him patiently and offered no comment. He also talked a great deal about the Mormon proselytizing in the rainforests of the Amazon and his opinion regarding the future of the native population and the treatment it was receiving from the Brazilian government. Ann, who is from Minnesota added her comments on the history of our Indian tribes in local reservations, how poorly they had been treated in the past, and their return to prosperity because of their gambling casinos in Minnesota.

This was truly a day of exploring the thoughts of fellow travelers. This evening, at dinner, I was seated with a husband and wife who were both ophthalmologists. He came from Toronto, she from Mexico, and living in the Washington, DC area. He has three grow children, also in the profession. This was his second marriage and he had met his wife when she was a student in one of his classes in a University in Washington where he still teaches. They both share a private practice. This evening I not only learned a lot about ophthalmology, I found out more about the Canadian medical system, which is not working well, and what could be done to salvage our own failing system. I had planned to eat early to make the 7PM national geographic movie “Amazon. The land of the flooded forest” , but he was such a delightful conversational that we did not leave the dinner table until long after the movie had started.

This has been entirely like no other cruise I have been on. In the past I made sure to select trips which offered landfall almost daily. The thought of spending long, uninteresting days with nothing to see but the vast ocean and nothing to hold my interest (ice carving exhibits, art auctions, napkin folding, food decoration, an occasional movie, the casino, the Vegas style entertainment) bothered me. These days I look forward to our days at sea because they have been so stimulating. Tomorrow is another full day of lectures and good conversation.