Friday, December 10, 2010

Cruising to America

December 10th, Day 13 of the cruise, 2 days and I’ll be home-really home. Can’t really believe it yet. This has been kind of a 5 week time-warp.

So what’s happened in the last few days of cruising to America?

We had a full day in Cartagena-back on the Spain mainland. It was actually a very pretty and historically interesting place to see. There was plenty to do just walking around the town all day, with great sites at sea level and at the castle remains overlooking the port. We had then had a day at sea while we made our way from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic and the Canary Islands. Fortunately they have a lot of things happening on the boat so the day was not an idle one. A champagne art auction. Yes, they serve the champagne to get you bidding. Guess what, it works! I’m the proud owner of a new piece of art. Now I have no argument to the challenge-who the hell buys artwork on a cruise ship? Anyway, there was also a decent art lecture, the ice show (yes, there’s an ice rink on board), started our own personal Project Runway marathon, learned that the ‘sit down’ breakfast and lunch are the way to go, worked out and got the dance floor to ourselves downstairs. Good day.

We’ve also managed to meet up with several other now-RPCVs making their way back to the states after also finishing their service-9 from Ghana, 4 from Tanzania, 2 from Armenia and 2 from Mongolia. Nice coincidence.

Our next stop was in La Palma, Grand Canary. Four of us rented a taxi to take us to the other side of the island to the nicest beach area in Maspalomas. Walking along the beachfront promenade between restaurants, hotels, condos and the shore reminded me so much of Hawaii. That’s when it hit me that the Canary Islands are to Europe as Hawaii is to the States. Who knew? Both are volcanic islands geared to tourists w/year-round balmy weather and great beaches. Go figure. Anyway, it was good to see a bit of the island and do something besides just walking around a port town.

Next was Tenerife-the largest of the Canary Islands-and here 3 of us booked one of the shore excursions. This took us to the World Heritage site of La Laguna-where we had a historic walking tour, visited the cathedral and their market, before heading off to the wine portion of the tour. We stopped at a bodega for wine tasting-6 full bottles of different wines for every 8 people, along with generous snacks to keep us sober. I didn’t personally care for any of the wines, but plenty of others were buying, so I was in a clear minority. We then went to the wine museum-which I figured would be boring, but it was quite interesting and a gorgeous building on a beautiful bluff overlooking the ocean. The structure was a refurbished old farmhouse for growing grapes and making the wine. The building was given to the government of Tenerife several years ago and they’ve done a very nice job of restoring it and telling the story of the Tenerife wine industry. The island is beautiful, mountainous, bright and colorfully painted buildings and homes all over and very well maintained. Anjie and I walked around the center city a bit after coming back from the excursion, figuring we’d have plenty of ‘boat time’ over the next week-and got caught up on high speed internet at a cyber.

And now it’s all about the Atlantic and the boat. That’s all we’ll see for the next 6 days. The motion of the ocean is already affecting several of our group, and they say that it’s been relatively calm so far. Don’t mind the barf bags they tied to the inside stair railings last night. Fortunately none of us needed them. So far.

They also have us on a system of gaining an hour every night so that we’re on the right time zone when we arrive in San Juan. It’s kinda nice to feel like you get to sleep in an extra hour every morning. Not like we’ve got a hectic schedule and can’t sleep in anyway. It’s just nice to get the extra w/o the guilt of “sleeping in”.

Here are a couple additional observations/factoids from the cruise ship: Yes, I am wearing the best of the clothes I have from Morocco. Yes, this includes the fact that for the last 3 days I’ve worn a different top, each having a prominent hole in it. I feel like I should wear a disclaimer stating “Peace Corps” to explain the poor condition of my clothing/shoes/ general appearance. The weather is significantly better than I expected. I thought we’d be in freezing, rainy, dismal weather all the way across the Atlantic. Although we are rocking with the swells, it’s been sunny, windy and in the mid-70’s every day-nice surprise. Emily made the astute observation that the cruise feels like we’ve landed in an upscale“old folks home”, with all the amenities at hand-no further than a few steps from your stateroom. Went to a Q&A with the captain today and learned a few interesting bits: 1200 staff to approx. 3000 guests; 96,000 meals prepared each week; 25,000 lbs of flour, 64,000 lbs of fresh vegetables and 8,000 gallons of ice cream consumed weekly. Gulp.

Oh-I also need to give a thank you to someone-don’t know who-who gave me a “soda cup” for the cruise. It just showed up in our room, designated on my cruise card, and gives me unlimited access to Diet Coke. I didn’t sign up for it, can only figure someone did this for me, but they can’t find a record of who paid for it. So whoever you are, thank you! It’s also contributed to some good mixers for the booze that one of our rooms brought aboard.

Anyway, as I sit sipping on some Diet Coke (post workout-feeling a bit queasy), I’m listening to the guy on the promenade playing “my” music on an acoustic guitar, in full view of the huge Christmas tree they’ve put up, watching guests dressed for their 6pm formal dinner, feeling a bit nostalgic as this 2+ year chapter is coming to a close with the next yet to be written. I don’t think I’ll have many more blog postings as it was always intended to be my personal journal of my Peace Corps experience. Thankfully I’ve been writing it as a continuous Word document (all 270 pages so far) so I’ve got it all accessible. I’ve heard of websites where you can self-publish single editions and I may just do that to have it to go back to in the future.

Well, I thought I’d get this posted several days ago, but the computer terminals they have in the internet lounge don’t have USB access and I’ve had trouble getting my laptop to connect to the wifi. Trying again today to get that connection so I can work straight from my computer.

Despite the fact that I wrote most of this several days ago, there aren’t really any updates. More of the same. The time is going much faster than but I am ready to be home. Fortunately I will be in 2 days. Hamdullah.

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