Monthly Archives: February 2009

Down time – Pacific Ocean

Today I woke up with really sore feet. Well it is really no wonder since I have been walking up a storm. I decided to sleep in a bit before finally hauling myself out of bed to find my way to the breakfast buffet. I had a bit of a miscommunication with my sister which really got me down.

I ended up spending the rest of the morning in the chapel, the quietest place I could find on the ship, collecting my thoughts. After a few hours of thinking and meditating, I pulled myself out of my head and took notice of the room I had holed myself up in. the carpet was deep blue and the above the alter there was an artistic collage of a tree of sorts. I glanced around the small square room and realized there was not a cross to be found. Other than a stack of bibles in the corner, there was nothing really religious about this space at all. There was something remarkably solemn and sacred going on in there but I couldn’t quite put my finger on what.

After getting myself into a more positive head space, I opened the book Melanie had given me to read. A Womans Worth by Marianne Williamson. It was inspiring to say the least and I felt a might stronger in spirit than when I walked in that room. With a more forgiving state of mind, I went back to the room hoping to find my family. I learned that they had gone ashore without me so I laid down to have a rest while I waited for their return.

Grateful for sacredness.

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Murder on the Ship – Pacific Ocean

That night at dinner Trina and I tried a Murder Mystery dinner but things didn’t work out quite as planned. Half of our table ended up standing us up so we had to double up on characters. The four of us including Collette and Everett from Toledo decided we were up to the challenge of having double personalities for a few hours.

Trina and I ended up having to play twin sisters and our personas were so similar to our real life, it was uncanny. We often get asked if we are twins and most people cannot guess who is older. As the little one who always wanted to be like her big sister, I have always liked it. For years Trina would cringe and scowl that of course she was older. These days, she just smiles with me and lets them keep guessing.

We all played our multiple personalities so well that by the end of the game, no one actually pined the killer. But of course it was I that murdered Captain Stubing with a solid motive of jealousy and rage. Who could have known?

Grateful for acting the part.

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Mercados y Playas – Puerta Vallarta, Mexico

After a solemn visit to the Cathedral (the only time during the whole trip that I saw my sister, the photographer, use her camera), we wandered down to the beach. The party was just cleaning up and all the vendors were packing up their carts.

There was an incredible dense fog which blocked the sun and covered the ground like a down filled blanket. I hadn’t seen anything like it before and questioned how it could seem so thick even though I could see sun trying her hardest to shine through. I was warm and humid which coupled with the low visibility created a very odd atmosphere. If it weren’t for the families playing on the beach, it would have been downright eerie.

We walked along the boardwalk and found the stairs down to the sandy seaside. The boys began digging in the sand right away and Trina’s face brightened as she dipped her toes in the surf. She remarked that she had a feeling that this would be their favorite memory of the trip. I took this as a cue to make sure to take lots of photos to document it well. At one point they looked like little frogs building up their sand castles quick before the waves would come and wash it away.

Trina and I soaked up the sun and admired each others new shades. As we chatted, the sun decided to overpower the moisture and the fog dissipated. We watched a man practicing martial arts on a rocky peninsula jutting out from the land just under the light house. It was a scene straight out of Karate Kid, no kidding. On the walk back to the ship from the beach, was saw one random lady completely costumed up Mardi Gras style. Either she was really really late or really early for next year…

We got back to the ship and I decided that I should walk some more. Somehow I had gotten into my head that I was going to walk a marathon (26 miles) by the end of the trip. When I realized that I had already logged more than 40 miles in just the first half of my trip, I adjusted my goal. I was going to try and walk a marathon in one day!

Grateful for beaches.

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Meandering – Mazatlan, Mexico

Although I didn’t get enough rest, I woke up to meet my new friend for sunrise. We had made a date to go to the gym together and I was excited to have a gym buddy. Bright-eyed Melanie greeted me with a hug and informed me sadly that her foot was hurt. We ate breakfast together anyway and then I went off to the gym on my own.

I ended up running into my sister and nephews while walking through the buffet area on my way back to the room. I decided second breakfast was in order especially since I had such a good workout.

We walked off the ship onto the dock and then were shuttled a few minutes to the port stores. My nephews were curious about all the army men everywhere. I guess we take our freedom and safety for granted in Canada. I hurried them through the tourist trap along into the streets of the real Mazatlan. We walked up and down street after street stopping occasionally to ask for directions to the cathedral. It was only a month since I had been here last and I wanted to take them to the market I had enjoyed so much.

We noticed confetti and sparkles littering the empty streets and I remembered it was Fat Tuesday. They would have just finished their mardi gras party the night before. That’s where all the people were! Sleeping it off even though it was mid-day.

The market was packed with locals and tourists alike. My Spanish proved to be a real asset when bargaining for tee-shirts, sunglasses, and my first cowgirl hat. Khaalid finally did get his puppet for a third of the price. I was excited to show them the tiny pet bird at the bakery I had discovered last time. Khaalid was tickled pink when the chirpy little creature perched on his finger then posed on his shoulder for a photo.

Grateful for knowing the way.

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The Grumpy Bunch – Cabo San Lucas, Mexico

We had to take a tender into Cabo San Lucas which meant waiting in lines to board a little boat. The boat sped through the waves and let us off on the pier. My sister and nephews didn’t seem too excited about the ride but I happily snapped photos anyway. One day they would be grateful to have memories to look back on.

We walked for what seemed like forever on the search for a few select items. Nubian was obsessed with finding the next book in the series he was reading. It was frustrating that they had every one in the collection except the one he was looking for. I checked with a book exchange at a hotel I knew of but came up only with Star Wars. He thanked me for trying but I could see the disappointment on his face.

We padded along the hot cement marina taking a time out in the air conditioned mall. We found a few of the necessities we were after but still, no book. Khaalid found a marionette puppet that he absolutely had to have. I tried to convince him it would be much cheaper at the next port and probably better quality. Aunties travel experience did not impress him. He wanted the toy now and put on his best sulk possible.

By the end of the day, we were quite a grumpy bunch, hot and thirsty. We had done a lot of walking, in fact, I logged a good 10 km on my pedometer. We paused for a moment near the tender pier to watch a remarkable boy of about six drumming his heart out. It looked like a family band but this little man was clearly the star of the show. I gently pointed out to my nephews that in this country, children begin working very, very young. Their eyes softened a bit while they watched in appreciation and awe.

Later on after dinner, we tried to turn in early but the air conditioning in our room seemed to be broken. It kept spitting out cold air no matter how much we tried to adjust it. In the end, we had to leave the room while the electrical engineer came to fix it. I was grateful to have quiet time in the library in peace and silence. At one point, I looked up to see my precious family, heads in their books, lost in their stories. I smiled out loud but I don’t think any of them heard me.

Grateful for books.

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The Early Bird gets the Warm

This morning I decided to wake before the others to take in the sunrise. I had heard the captain announce yesterday that we may see whales and dolphins at daybreak near Cabo. I sure didn’t want to miss this! I tiptoed around the room getting my gym stuff so that I could head to the gym before breakfast. Just as I was slipping out the door, I remembered my camera so I could capture any sightings for my sleepy bunkmates.

I supposed I had been a little too eager when I realized that I was one of the only people wandering the decks. I think I had about an hour before the sun actually came up so I made my way to a coffee station and grabbed a muffin too.

After strolling around the deck a few times, I met up with a few other early birds. Jim was an older man who was taking video and Melanie was a petite redhead who I instantly hit it off with. We got to talking and I was impressed with her sweet independent nature. After finding we had a lot in common, we decided to make a date for the next morning.

Grateful for early birds.

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Ill-laxing

We dined in the Versailles dining room which has a French theme throughout. The food was well prepared and even better presented. They really take pride in making sure the food looks good which considering the amount of plates they serve, is quite impressive. The first night we all got to bed reasonably early, or at least I thought. I forgot that kids usually hit the sack much earlier.

Nubian was developing a nasty cough and has been battling an ear infection for the past while. Khaalid must have picked up some of the germs because he started coughing too. I wondered how long it would take for Trina and I to follow suit. In such small quarters, I could only imagine how quickly the bugs could multiply. I had a stern talk with my immune system and let it know in no uncertain terms that we would NOT be participating in this sickfest.

Sunday was our first sea day and we were glad that by mid-afternoon, the overcast sky had turned. We went up to the main deck to take some sun but it was soon clear we were not the only ones with that idea. While my nephew went for a dip in the salt water pool, my sis and I scanned the crowd for two empty chairs. It was like finding a needle in a haystack but finally we located a couple of the long lounge chairs side by side.

After a few minutes, my sister revealed that she wasn’t a sun person after all. No problem. We found a nice little table that was partly shaded where Trina contentedly sipped a cantalope smoothie. I tried to get into my book but I was distracted by the people watching.

There were some gently bopping their heads to the steel drum band from the Dominican. Others were partaking in the beverage service with vigor while they stewed their legs in the Jacuzzi. A few played cards while lots read. Others still were pretty much flat out lifeless on their deck chairs working up a nice little sunburn. As for me, I just sat there with a silly grin on my face knowing that we were sailing into the southern sun.

I am grateful for immunity.

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Good and Mustered

I was really happy that Trina felt that the kids were in good hands because that meant she could relax. And I don’t get to see that very often. In fact, my sister worries more than I think is healthy. I guess that’s not hard considering I don’t think worry is a very useful emotion in general.

I guess running your own business and having two T’ween boys is enough to stress out even the most patient of saints. As I am seeing. I think I have taken for granted in the past just how hard my sister works. She is a perfectionist with her photography and her people pleasing nature keeps her in a constant state of apology to her anxious brides when they begin their “polite“ whining to see their photos. I remember working in the wedding industry and the Bridezillas I met were not sensible or patient. How she deals with these demanding women, I will never know but she has earned my respect with her tolerance.

We got the kids unlimited drink wristbands which ensure they keep themselves hydrated. Next it was time for the mandatory muster drill and coincidentally, my feet began to ache unbearably. I laid on my bed with elevating my throbbing tootsies while the kids pulled out and curiously inspected their lifejackets. After the piercing alarm and the annoying announcement, Trina gently steered the boys out to the hallway. I pretended not to hear her assuring them Auntie would meet us there just as the door shut behind them.

After toying with the idea of skipping the monotonous exercise, I reminded myself that the little guys are depending on me. I groaned before hauling myself up to our muster station which happened to be in a dining room. We went through all the motions even belting on the bulky orange lifejackets before being released back to our cabins. It wasn’t as tedious as I remembered it to be and I ended up being glad I went, if only to appease the kids.

Grateful for safety.

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Motherly Love

We signed the boys up for the Kids Club which is a program designed to entertain and occupy the children of the ship. We discovered that several of the staff allocated to this area were from Canada. One guy was, in fact, from Red Deer which makes us practically neighbors. Trina’s face softened as she overheard him bantering with her youngest about new kinds of ways to play dodgeball. She murmured to no one in particular that “he’s good with kids” as she scanned the T’ween’s Activity schedule.

Although the whole interaction which took no more than about 5 minutes, I began realize how integral it was to the rest of our week. Watching my sister fully embrace the essence of motherhood, I was in awe. I could almost see her sensors doing their investigative and protective thing. It was certainly an energetic experience to see my sister demonstrating her maternal intuitions. I am sure it’s so second nature to her that she doesn’t even notice but I was deeply touched.

Once I happened upon a bird tending to her young hatchlings in a nest in the woods. It was a curious and magical thing to watch maternal instincts in action. I got the same feeling standing there while my sister sussed out the childcare situation.

I am starting to understand why they say that there is no love more powerful than a mothers love for her child. I admire Trina and her ability to love so completely. I haven’t decided if I will ever have kids, but if I do, she is certainly one of my main inspirations.

I am grateful for mothers.

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All Aboard

I was excited to see what our room would look like as I had never had an ocean view before. I have been on many, many cruises but usually just go for the very basic room. I usually reason that we are not going to spend much time in the room anyway, what with so many other things to do onboard a cruise ship. But it happened that we were able to get a very good deal on a room with a view and it seemed like the right thing to do.

It was apparent as soon as we opened the door and we were welcomed by our big picture window. I realized I would probably never be able to go back to the dark inside stateroom again. I love the sea and there is something so fantastic about being able to stare at the waves lapping below you. As I type this, I am perched beside the window calmed by the rhythm of the cool blue not more than ten meters below me. I fit perfectly on the sill, legs stretched out, netbook on my lap.

After we dropped off our stuff, we set off to explore the ship and all it had to offer. The we meandered through the buffet restaurant just before they were about to close. We snacked on some sushi which though it wasn’t the best, it certainly beat the grocery store quality ones back home. Trina was thrilled with the pineapple ice cream which boasted real chunks of the sweet tangy fruit.

I was a little disturbed to witness the couple who wanted soft serve so badly they went behind the counter to help themselves even though it was clearly marked “closed”. As I steeped my tea, I watched them from a distance but there was nothing discreet about their little secret operation. They cackled mischievously as if they were too clever for the system. The ice cream machine was not participating in their little ploy and they stood there like idiots holding their empty cones. When they smashed their cones on the counter and stomped away angrily, I felt sad.

I remembered that gluttony was one of the seven deadly sins I would be able to study here onboard this week. I have struggled with this demon myself so seeing it so pronounced will be useful. I am working on moderating my own eating habits with aim to make nutritious choices and portion awareness. But with the vast array of choices and 24 hour availability, here it will be a struggle. I will be working out every day in the gym to offset the extra calories I know will creep into my belly. But a better strategy would be to exercise my self discipline.

I am grateful for moderation.

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