Friday, February 20, 2009

Cruise Diary II: on the ship (don’t say “boat”!)

(First days of 2007)

About the ship, I don’t have as much to say, except that it was just great. Really, really nice. Everything was easy and accommodating. We were treated like royalty. We lived in luxury. We have many food options available 24hrs a day. It was so perfect I have little to report. One nice thing was that the crew was incredibly international. From just about every country you could name. They were young and seemed ambitious. They worked hard, but it seemed that they could really use this job as a stepping stone to see the world, meet others from all over the world, and get paid a decent wage. It felt like a giant melting pot with all these 20-somethings from so many countries. It felt like it really could contribute to more international harmony in it’s own small, grass-roots way.

One day, while eating at a window by myself in one of the dining rooms I hear the person next to me say:

“The ocean has a very unique beauty. Very, very beautiful.”

Is he talking to me?

“You could really loose yourself out here.”

He is talking to me. It seems so poetic and clichéd. Is this a pick up line? Just to be social, I nod, or acknowledge agreement in some way. He continues:

“There are no skyscrapers or landmarks. So it is hard to get oriented.”

Okay, so we’re being very literal. I point out some flying fish, my contribution to the beauty of the scene.

"I bet they taste good," he says.

Okay, so very, very literal.

This guy is in his twenties, and I’m beginning to understand that he is developmentally delayed. The cruise is a perfect place for a vacation for someone with disabilities. It is easy and safe with lots to see and do, all nearby. It can easily accommodate our large group with diverse ages (ranging from 2 to 84), interests, and abilities. The kids are happy, the teenagers are happy, the senior citizens are happy, the baby is happy, I am happy.

So I ask this guy next to me how many cruises he had been on. Six or so, it seems. Perfect for him and his family. Then he tells me that the big event that he is looking forward to is the upcoming release of the Transformers movie. He asks if I like the Transformers. It’s not that I don’t like the Transformers, but to be honest, I tell him that I have difficulty making sense of them, that I haven’t really paid attention. Well, he is going to help me with that. So he explains the backstory to his long-held interest. There are the Autobots who are good and the Deceptron who are bad. The Deceptron are trying to get the Autobots’ resources, their oil and energy sources. There is something about worlds colliding and getting caught in suspended animation for 1000 years. It’s definitely an insight into a new world for me!

Another night, we stay up to see some of the onboard entertainment. It is a sort of Broadway Musical smorgasbord/medley of songs. It was so serious and so intently done, that it was almost comedic. Felicity asked if one of the songs was from Spinal Tap. If only! But no, I'm afraid "sex bomb" was deadly serious.

Did help me to appreciate Queen more, though.

Small island, very Caribbean looking. Brightly colored side gallery houses. Poor too. Almost desperate seeming. Ursula got us two cabs to airport for our rented car. Aeropuerto is closed. No rental cars available anywhere. Avis is quiet. Not a soul. Ursula bargains and bargains with taxi drivers arranges for them to take us to beach and back for $40 per car. We do this.

Take a drive around the island. See lots of desperate poverty. Cabinetmakers too. The people were not starving, but their dogs were. A small island, very rocky and hilly, with little room for cultivation. What do you do? Where do things come from? Where do they go? That is probably why they invested in the huge Cruise Ship dock. An influx of money from outside. Corruption? Desperation. Beautiful beaches. Pollution. How do they survive?

Nice black and white pottery from Honduras. Looks very fragile. Take only pictures.

Costa Maya
I like the newspapers they used to wrap up the stuff. I like the bent wire frames covered with colorful plastic tubing that they used to display their T-shirts and dresses, I like the colorful and striped plastic bags they put purchases in. All the stuff, the mall feeling, I am less into.

Belize City
Belize City is actually a city and I am reminded that in this part of the world that means crowded living conditions and, in former British colonies, open sewers. My big find is the hardware store Simon Quan and Co., "You name it, we have it!" and a good selection of tablecloth material. Buy that and dustpan and rags. Cool. But know I am a wimp and that that is about all the cultural immersion I can handle. Return to tourist area tout suite.

People friendly, no hostility here.

Much more development here, but still a lot of shabby (i.e. real) underside. The bluest water ever. So beautiful. Visit a church, a supermarket, a bookstore, and Los Cinco Soles.

All these places are great to visit, but they also make me so happy to live where I do. Great for the kids to see other places, though, even in this highly artificial way.

My skin is doing its tropics thing. Yuk.

Sad there are only two more days on the ship…

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