Saturday, March 3, 2012

Rolling with the Swell in the Open Sea

4 March 2012  (Day Two on the Oriana bound for Bora Bora)

'Tom Cruise,' said an elderly man on my left, nearly opposite this morning at breakfast. A table for six by the window. I smiled faintly at him, curious and amused and said, 'Your name is Tom Cruise?'
'No, our waiter. They said his name is Tom Cruise.'
We all shared puzzlement, some of us pretending as if this enormous, elegant restaurant on a cruise ship had moved to LA and we were in the presence of a star turned to a different kind of service. But I knew this was not possible and did not want anyone to think me crazy, (they have yet to learn the truth, of course). So I played it low key. 
But sure enough, the waiter who zoomed into place, grinning, looked a lot like Tom Cruise and I said so in a squeak. A much darker version, but the the same height, the same extraordinary smile and a certain look, like when Tom has those kind of army hair cuts a la the 1950s. Most waiting staff appear to be from somewhere they speak French I think, ebony or mid-brown close to that and this contrasts enormously with most passengers who are pale as pale can be, just by the way. 

Staff also wear uniforms of various kinds. Waiting staff are generally in white, with gold name badges. Passengers are most often in knit sportswear beige, mid-blue, darkish green, nothing too obvious very often or floral frocks, (no, none of the men in frocks, so far). One woman in a bright pink dress with a transparent plastic raincoat over the top was seen on the first day but so far, not again. She spoke possibly Italian and my daughter was insisting kindly I should make friends with her, since she looked the most interesting. (That was when people saw me off, thanks so much all of you). But everyone I've spoken with has been a great conversationalist. Perhaps only sociable people go on cruises?

Another world on this boat, this cruise liner, this ship. All the passengers seem to be over 50 perhaps 50 to 80 years old, which is extraordinary because I did ask if it was true that this boat was adults-only when I booked my ticket and was told that wasn't so. I suppose we are easier to control, cater for and understand when all around the same age, but it feels like I've been cut off from a great many other people. I do not generally socialise with those much of a muchness to any degree, except possibly that most are quite open-minded and arty, but that covers and enormous range of humanity. A strange sensation which I did not expect, to be rather compartmentalised in this fashion by birthdate. I find myself wanting to speak with the waiting staff and so on who are all around 24 - 40 or so, for a change. This works to an extent, but of course they are working and cannot spare much time.

The rolling of the boat has a soporific effect on me. I find it relaxing and I'm doing a lot of napping and lazing around. I think I was much more exhausted than I realised after all the work I've done for the last long while.

The Internet is difficult to access. It doesn't work very well in port or did not in Auckland but now has a stronger single signal. I just have to find out how to enter the code they want and what it costs per half-hour, before I post any of this. (I've written it first using my Dictate software, spoken word, to save my OOS reappearing and also then in word processing where I edited it three times, to save on internet charges. Then I had to do one more edit online). A cruise is a delightful experience, truly it is, but there are many things on board to buy like spa treatments, luxury items, alcohol, extra food 24 hours a day (apart from the various meals provided as part of the fare), and so on which seem to me to be hidden costs. It's not always mentioned something will cost you more money, in a clear manner, when it is offered. I go by the rule that if I'm not told something is complimentary then it isn't. No wine or alcohol at all so far for instance, and they have not delivered my duty-free vodka to my room. I'm hoping this absence of plonk will help me lose weight, more kilos must go, there's no room for them in my life any longer. Stealth dieting, I'm secretly removing things from my everyday diet and trying to fool myself they do not matter.

I've written a great deal in my journal and drawn pictures, taken some photos too which will eventually be made into a book called, (working title) The Messy Business of Travelling, (which could be in French so it looks more intriguing), to be handmade in a limited edition upon my return. It could be ready for our next event at Happy Tea House in November 2012. I'm collecting the extraordinary amount of junk mail we get on board, to use in the book as well, drawing and collaging over the top of the pages. It is most helpful that we get a daily newsletter, (not sure why it's in colour, but o well), however I don't know why I got a two-page, double-side printed info., sheet about the next port of call after I disembark, except there does seem to be a tendency to want us to stay on cruising, book your next cruise now and get another cruise and summer could be 12 months a year and....

It may seem to someone reading this that I'm disgruntled or annoyed, but I'm really enjoying this occasion, the first leg of my Poetic Journey to America and promoting Trees for Travel which still seems like a dream. I miss my family and friends however and the great Pacific Ocean which was blue this morning and stretched on in all directions is now grey, on forever relentlessly again in all directions without a sign of other life so far. I somehow thought I would see fish leaping, at least one whale by now, perhaps a dolphin or a seal. It looks like lightning is playing out there too, a kind of 'other life' I suppose and I see one bird wheeling, (someone later said it was an albatross, which is a very good sign if anyone's into age-old sailing superstitions). Two port-holes in my room, close to the water and in this chop some of the briny splashes up on to the heavy glass now and then.

My cabin is comfortable, the whole ship beautifully refurbished in retro-style with modern materials, along with wood and stainless steel, natural fabrics or beautifully created blends and so on, it smells nice, no overpowering chemical odours or plasticky tinges, the staff are beautifully mannered, in-service exquisitely well, and in my room when I arrived there were three balloons, blue, purple and white along with a birthday card from the captain. 

This is like a floating palace in many ways, just as I was told it would be.

And I love to imagine how much land we could cover with trees, or how many high-rise city forests we could create, (the latest thing) if the approximately 1700 people on board all planted only three trees each, when they disembark at Bora Bora, or phoned an agent and had some planted in South Australia, or elsewhere trees are really needed. I had a great discussion with one of the assistant waiters about how trees need to be suitable for wherever they are planted. He spoke of the Neem tree which comes from where he lives, good for so many things he said, '...toothbrushes, some oils from it are good for your skin...' he went on and on for some time, with great enthusiasm. 

Then yes, I had to admit I'd heard of Neem. This ingredient is mentioned on the can of sunscreen and insect repellent that I have to protect me in the tropics where we're going from the daytime-biting mosquito which carries Dingy Fever, (pronounced like the small rowboat, a ding-y I guess but cannot google it since I have to pay for that and internet is too slow).

Now, lunch-time has rolled around so I'm off to walk to the fine restaurant and see what's on offer. The library this morning was a great place to draw, (I did a quick sketch of their fine walnut-panelled bookshelves). Lovely desks and chairs in a room the colour of some kind of wooded glade in an English early autumn. Meanwhile the boat rolls and rocks, a few ticks and rumbles occasionally, or a bell in the distance calling some staff member to service and the mighty Pacific Ocean tosses and swells outside.

'I want to see a whale,' I said at lunch half-way through a fascinating conversation with two Australians, when we stalled a bit on something a bit too much for us all to take in easily. We agreed it would be stupendous to spy a leviathan, but it may not be whale season hereabouts. Then they got on to crocodiles and well, six of us grew intrigued. Apparently a mate of the Oz man's had a few beers and was sleeping by the river, when he smelt something unbelievably awful, he sat up and just as he did the croc sneaking up on him grabbed his pillow. The awful smell had been the animal's fetid breath. He never slept by the river again. This told by a fine craggy gentleman with the glint in his eye of someone who'd had to stay keenly aware most of his life, to be now enjoying a gourmet meal on board the Oriana with us, and sharing his yarns. Once someone gets talking at the table, it's such a feast of words quite often so far, everyone seated together as much as is practical for ease of service but also, the conviviality, o yes. 

I've been taking recommendations to go see things too, and later today shall go to a talk about Sir Francis Drake and Captain Cook, which the man's wife recommended. I'll no doubt see one or the other of them then. It's quite easy to make acquaintances here, a pleasant circumstance and the ship rolls and creaks and glides on and on, four days to Bora Bora they say.

The internet is so expensive and slow on-board as I've been saying, so I cannot readily post movies online yet, but shall get some going in preparation for later. These blogs will have to suffice as far as info., goes. Now, from somewhere on the Pacific Ocean this is Raewyn, love to everyone, I miss you, over and out.

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