We have advanced ship time by one hour on 6 of the last 7 nights. I had imagined that one benefit of traveling to Europe by boat would be avoiding the disruptive “jet lag” that accompanies the sudden change of jumping 6 time zones. I have found, however, that losing an hour of sleep virtually every night for the last week is the Chinese Water Torture equivalent of jet lag. Happily, we are now on Continental Europe time and thus in sync for our first landfall that occurs tomorrow on the island of Madeira.
Over the last week we have made the acquaintance of a number of ship’s staff, performers, and of course passengers. A section of the staterooms on our deck are the assigned responsibility of Augistino and Noni, who are both from Indonesia. They are exceptionally friendly, polite, engaging, and yet professional. They surprised me on the morning of my birthday with a cake, bottle of champagne, and a chocolate Easter Bunny. We have found their dedication to our comfort to be an attribute shared by virtually every staff person aboard. The friendliness is genuine and not cloying. Most are willing to share their personal stories when asked, although I sense that our interest may not be typical among passengers.
One evening we engaged one of the dining servers in conversation at the end of dinner. We were among the last of the patrons to leave, so there was the opportunity for a relaxed conversation. She is from the Philippines, married, and the mother of a 3 year old. She is sailing on the first of 3 intended contacts (a “contract” is a 6 month commitment). Talking of her family we quickly sensed the pain of her separation from them. She explained that she was doing this to fund her daughter’s education and that it was better done now when her daughter would not remember her mother’s absence. Her forethought and sacrifice are remarkable.
One of the performers, a very talented singer from New York, spoke briefly with us the day we boarded. He has recalled our names ever since, and expressed a personal interest in our “story”. Perhaps it is because we came to the ship with backpacks, certainly not typical. We exchanged information and he has done us the honor of reading these “Thoughts”. Conversely, I am fascinated to learn vicariously about the experience of cruising through the eyes of a young entertainer. I hope that there is an opportunity for the 3 of us to talk about life from both sides of the mirror.
Among the passengers we have developed a few friendships that beckon deeper exploration. They are folks we would imagine bonding with at home or on the road. People who have engaged life under similar circumstances, have faced similar challenges, and intuitively understand one another.
This is a vessel populated by folk who are seasoned both by travel and years. We are on the younger side of the spectrum, and compared to most we are cruising “newbies”. Our usual style of travel is likely foreign to most. Conversations often begin with the question about how many cruises has one traveled, how many were Viking, and to what destinations. Where one is from, and what one did/does are much farther down the list. Christine has noted with a relaxed smile that it is not necessary to hold one’s stomach in at poolside!
Last night Christine and I enjoyed drinks and the music of the chamber trio in the Atrium. It was day two of my 66th year. I had posted a picture of my toddler self the day before on Facebook and my “Thoughts”. I mused to Chris the question of whether I would recognize myself if I encountered that child in real life. Would we understand each other… like each other. Would I as that child recognize my 66 year old self?… would I like me, understand me… This was a protracted conversation that brooked the occasional distraction of an eavesdropper that I caught out of the corner of my eye. He sat on the other side of narrowly separated twin pillars. My peripheral vision made him out to be an older white haired gentleman. I tried to ignore him as Christine and I embraced our reflections on life. Finally, the man’s continued intrusion overcame my reluctance and I turned to him face on. We shared an immediate expression of shock as it dawned upon both of us that the slender gap between the pillars was a mirror. The rude passenger who would not quit staring at me, was me. We then smiled at each other and agreed, we like each other. I confess that I don’t always understand him.
Peace Everyone. Pete
PS. The Viking Mead Horn is my birthday present from Christine.