Thursday, January 1, 2009


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


1 comment:

  1. It really is fascinating to read your daily blog. It is very well written and really captures the experiences you have encountered along the trip as well as the wonderful people you have met. Hopefully the weather will get better so you can get back to seeing more of the sights and doing the tours. Are there any more port calls on the trip or are you basically on the way back to Florida? This sounds like the perfect trip for someone that really wants to visit some exotic places but also has mobility issues. That combined with the many lectures and the opportunity to meet so many people from such diverse backgrounds makes this a really incredible trip.