AT SEA FROM MANAUS TO SANTOREM (More December 28)
I am not sure what day it is, but I really don’t know what time it is. Years ago there was a movie entitled, as I remember it, “If It is Tuesday this must be Belgium.” For the past few days I have been saying if it is Manaus, it must be two o’clock (even though my computer says it is closer to one o’clock.) Almost every other day we have received a notice from the bridge to advance or turn back our clocks one hour. As we were traveling east towards St. Bart and Barbados we moved up and hour—then after Barbados, still traveling east, we changed the clocks forward another hour, but once we entered the mouth of the Amazon and began traveling west, we turned the clocks back an hour at Manaus. Half way between Manaus and Santorem the clocks went forward. We have been in three time zones in seven days—so you tell me—what time is it ?—your time 1 PM, Santorem time 3 PM, or my watch time which can’t keep up and loses time on its own. I have three watches with me, but this is the only one without a tight waterproof crown which can easily be set—unfortunately it is most uncooperative and stops and starts.
So, enough about time. As we cruised the Amazon River yesterday, I read, blogged, did some photo work, and spoke to my fellow passengers. I have now finished the two books I bought with me, “Atonement”, “Snowflower and the Secret Fan”, and a third “Three Cups of Tea,” which was recommended to me by the resident librarian. I highly recommend reading this book. Despite its title it is not a ladies book. It is the fascinating story of a mountain climber, who after failing an ascent to K2, returned to Pakistan to build schools for young girls. It speaks to the very complicated relationships between Pakistan, India, and Afghanistan and offers a great deal of insight into the Taliban terrorists and more peaceful Muslims.
I am now working on “Hiroshima—Fifty Years Later” a diary recorded by a Japanese doctor who survived the blast and recorded the aftermath in the two weeks following. It details how he kept his hospital running against all odds. The dropping of the first bomb, on August 6 has always been of great significance to me, as Lionel and I were married on August 9, the day the second bomb hit Nagasaki. It was not until many years later than any of us came to realize the horrors and residual effects that resulted from the nuclear bombing of Japan.
Last evening I was invited to join one of the lecturers (David, the librarian’s husband) for dinner, when we met in the buffet line with out trays. I had spent some time talking to him and his wife several days ago. He is a full professor at the University of Virginia—and in 2007 was the Director for the University a Sea Program which is under the auspices of UV. This program, which is now close to fifty years old, has been designed and managed by several universities—Pittsburg ran the program for almost 40 years before turning it over to UV in 2007.
David is a linguist, his specialty at UV is Spanish literature, and he also holds classes in Spanish film. He is fascinating to listen to. Tomorrow he will give a lecture on Picasso and Dali. Articulate, he has an enormous command of the English language and he is an omnivorous reader. He asked me what was the singly most interesting book I had read this year and when I answered “A Team of Rivals” he was off and running on a fantastic discussion of Lincoln and Obama. He then segued into a discussion of how so many of us (using our fellow passengers for an example) had common interest and ties, if we went one step further beyond trivial conversations, to find our shared similarities—somewhat along the line of “Six Degrees of Separation”. I told him about the amateur gem stone cutter (lapidary) I had met on board ship and he related the story of his father in law who attended a conference and was assigned a room mate who turned out to be the father of the woman his daughter (the librarian) had roomed with 50 years ago. His premise is that if we all go to the next level of conversation we find a common bond.
Those of us who are involved in genealogy know how true this is when we discover our next door neighbor is a long lost cousin. Sitting at the table with us was a young woman who taught the morning Yoga classes. He noted that she and I were both originally from the Boston area and if we compared notes we would certainly find that common bond. We left to go listen to a piano player in the concert hall so there was no time to explore. But I did learn that her parents still lived in Melrose, a city right next to my home town of Malden.
On a more personal note, he asked me some questions on how successful I was in handling the death of my husband, as he had gone through a similar experience when he lost his first wife at the early age of 42. He noted the difficult times he went through and wanted to know if I had gone through a similar experience learning how to cope.
That afternoon, while I was out on deck reading, a young couple joined me at lunch. They are from Oregon. He is an IT specialist for a marketing company (probably real estate) and she is a health counselor at a private school for young girls at risk—I am not sure exactly what that encompasses—but it sounded to me like a very expensive rehab center for children of the wealthy-since the fee was over $5000 per month and the average stay was six to eight weeks
The young woman was absolutely fascinated with the fact that she and I were wearing the same Jackie O sunglasses, which of course I have worn for years. I only recently learned that they were now again in high fashion. She insisted that we be photographed together with the both of us wearing our glasses.
They had just returned from a shopping trip in town and had purchased a topaz ring at one of the better jewelry stores. When they learned of my gemology background, they were more interested in learning more about gemstones from me than talking about themselves.
This trip has been an intellectual and invigorating experience. While I have learned much from the lectures and the tours, I am learning far more from my fellow passengers. Any fears I may have had of traveling alone have long since been dispelled.