What Would Fletcher Christian Do?
The Gothic Funk Movement circumnavigates the earth in 2007 on the Cunard Line's Queen Elizabeth II.
Wednesday, February 28, 2007
Tuesday, February 27, 2007
Monday, February 26, 2007
Port of Call: YORKEY'S KNOB, AUSTRALIA.
Friday, February 23, 2007
Once on the Blue Pacific
Sorry I've been in absentia for a while, folks. I've gotta get onshore and see me some koalas in a little while (who can't wait for the Great Barrier Reef on Monday? MEEEEE!), but I thought I'd check in.
I turned 25 two days after we left Fiji, day before we hit New Zealand. I'd been in kind of a funk in the days before my birthday, not quite able to enjoy Tonga or Fiji as I wanted to, though them flying foxes were pretty nifty. Fortunately, Meridith, Connor and Jess have all seen me in a state like this before, and were able to keep me in decent spirits, with Meridith and Jess dragging me to the necessary rote tourist attractions rather than living me on the ship. Hanging out with Bea and Tali helped a lot too. The night we left Fiji I stayed with the girls so that Noel and Sumara could have a date night (Noel, sadly, has now abandoned ship in his hometown), and I was reminded so much more of how centering and relaxing it is for me to be with kids. Okay, it's not always relaxing, as Sumara understood when she returned to her stateroom and found her compact broken, the aftermath or a raucous refusal to go to bed on Tali's part. (It was an accident, though, and she left her mum about the sweetest apology note ever.) But it always makes me feel more focused, more on top of myself. I probably won't feel that way when I have my own kids, but for the moment it's useful.
Anyway, this lovely crew managed to surprise me on my birthday morning. I'm usually the first one up (even before the children and parents!), but they managed to get up before me and surprised me with breakfast in bed, complete with Bloody Marys (and cranberry juice for the girls). Which was lovely, though of course after that everyone went back to bed. I didn't mind wandering the deck alone, though, writing a little, checking Emails from my family filled with regret that they couldn't send me birthday presents. I'll be so disoriented when we're done with this adventure, though, that I think I'll be glad for presents at home. Garrett and Malcolm insisted on organizing a "pool party" for me, and so we wiled away the afternoon on the pool deck. Connor begged off that event because he wanted to get some writing done, but the party continued into the night at the Crystal Bar and he rejoined us there, though we all turned in fairly early in the hope of being awake and un-hung-over in Auckland.
Which was good, because Julie and I ended up on a long hike through the volcanoes surrounding the city. I'm trying more and more to do escapist onshore activities, purely because I'm ever more frustrated with the tourist traps that surround the ports and, in general, with cities. (Though our adventures in Sydney were enough to turn me back on a bit—I'll get to that in another post). We brought a picnic of the previous day's dinner leftovers and a lot of fruit from our suite's fruit bowl (James rocks), and I came back with a line of mild sunburn across my back.
In Christchurch, Sumara, Noel, Susan, David, the kids and I went to the Southern Encounter Aquarium and Kiwi House (what can I say, I often like to do the kid things). That was a good time; I dressed as a kiwi bird for Halloween when I was seven, and enjoyed seeing the birds in real life.
It's almost all been nature these days. After celebrating Noel's birthday shipboard, we hit Hobart, where I was tremendously disappointed that we had no opportunity to see a Tasmanian devil. Sigh. Next time.
Anyway, I really bloody well better get ashore. We had some astounding adventures in Sydney, but either I'll tell you about them later or everybody else will!
Port of Call: BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA.
Wednesday, February 21, 2007
Port of Call: SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA.
Tuesday, February 20, 2007
The Sunny Southern Hemisphere
I have a big hat and sunglasses, and am about to go ashore in Sydney incognito. Last night I closed a pub somewhere in the northern part of the city, and despite not being quite sure how I made it back to the ship, do remember a few young (and some not-so-young) gentlemen from the pub who seemed to be pretty impressed by me. In such cases, disguises come in handy. ;-)
Sydney feels great; I'm a city girl, and am very comfortable when surrounded by city strangers. We'll be here until tomorrow evening, and I intend to make the most of my Sydney experience; there are a bunch of walking tours that I'm going to explore today, both to walk off all the calories I drank last night and to get to know Sydney as best I can. I'm also really excited about the IMAX here; a movie called Haunted Castle is playing later on tonight, and I am SO there.
Port of Call: MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA.
Sunday, February 18, 2007
Connor ketchup. The Pacific Ocean.
I feel like I'm stuck in a bubble.
There was a survey I got about a week ago asking if I'd give up blogging for $25,000. I haven't made it official, but I feel like my posts here are so few and far between that I deserve at least around a grand.
I could blame my negligence on a few singular points. For example, I was looking forward to photoblogging early on, but now my cameras busted, and I lack the capital to put together a new one. The thesis is taking up way more time than I thought. I can't imagine how I would have finished it if I was actually in New York, juggling reading and writing with work and so on. But I think there are deeper reasons, as well. Time here seems so limitless on the one hand: why blog now? Do it later. On the other hand, time seems so valuable: don't waste this time blogging! And there's another thing:
I can't believe the trip is halfway over.
We're now roughly as far, in time and distance, from our final Port of Call in New York City, as we are from our first disembarkment. When we arrive, I imagine we'll go out to celebrate, and maybe I can persuade some people to visit for awhile. Then Sumara and family will fly back to Australia. Gemma and Amber and Meridith will return to Chicago. Clara will take the train to Massachusetts. It will be a bittersweet moment, and one I'm trying not to think about right now.
I suppose that should be easy enough. Right now it's three in the morning in Australia, but it's noon in New York. Here the days are getting a little short, a little cool, the Southern Sea currents are troubled by occasional advancing Antarctic fronts, although I don't know if trees lose their leaves much in any part of the Southern Hemisphere. Back home, there's snow on the ground, and wind chills around zero, but it will also be Spring soon. The days there are getting longer. A world away is not, in this case, a figure of speech.
Time has been easily compartmentalized between the intensity of work and the dreaminess of ship life. I'm starting on my second revision with help from comments from Jeff. I've read two volumes of Crime Novels edited by Robert Polito, and more novels by Toni Morrison, James Cain, and Joyce Carol Oates. It's still really weird to be here writing about evil lumberjacks. So I'm also drawing up a business plan for an organization to coordinate some Gothic Funk activities. That's a plan that I might put into motion in the next year...
Before this trip I might have thought that an ocean is an ocean is an ocean, and especially tropical oceans, but there's nothing similar now to me about the Caribbean and the Pacific. In the Caribbean, even far out at sea, the awareness of and presence of land is almost tangibly felt. The weather fronts are disrupted by land. One could travel for days along Cuba or Hispanola without seeing water. The jungles and mountains seem to vie against, and fairly match, the water. It feels like a very evenly stacked elemental war. But not the Pacific. Here there is so much water, so wide, and so deep, that it seems to swell too high on the horizon and press up against the sky. So when we come to islands, and even Hawaii was like this way, they are like constellations in the sky. The stars are striking because they are bright, because there is so much darkness around them.
Maybe the first thing I should say is that Southern Hemisphereans get a much better star show than we do up North. The Southern Cross beats the Big Dipper in size and brightness and drama and intensity, and you can see the freaking Milky Way!
Papeete was just a little disappointing. It was remeniscent of Grand Cayman; larger, grittier, more exotic, but still had stamps of "tourist mecca" all over. That was a fine day to take it easy.
Moorea was better, but another low-key day. I got a drink in a local bar, and was informed by the bartender that "You vill nay-vair speak French vell. Eet ees hope-layss." I ordered some spice rum, straight up, and didn't tell him that French is about #15 down the list of languages I'm dying to learn. After that Jess and I met up with Clara on the street, quite by coincidence, and we all went snorkeling at the beach and looking for sharks. No sharks, but I had a close call with a nest of sea urchins that didn't look pointy until I was way too close.
Now Tonga. I know a lot of people didn't like Tonga. I liked it a lot, but part of the reason was feeling that its history
Fiji was far and away the largest island we'd visited since Hawaii, and while it has had its own political issues lately, they didn't seem as omnipresent as in Tonga. Jess and I met up with Malcolm and some other friends he met on board (one, Jacques, is a Frenchman from Marseilles who is obsessed with the Provencal Troubadours and talked to me extensively about them; the discussion about the French language continues) we took an excursion to a fishing village. It wasn't bad. Not a highlight of the trip, but not bad.
But of course, everything is incredible.
At sea, my days have fallen into the most informally regimented schedule. I've woken up at eight to ten, depending on the night before. I take breakfast, and then usually go out for a Bloody Mary with James, the butler. [At first he held out that it was "unprofessional" but as it turns out he's originally from Manchester, studied at Carlton in Minnesota, and wrote his dissertation of the intersections of American and British noir writings, so I was able to coax him into friendship on the basis of the indespensability of his opinion.] I'll cave in most often, and have lunch witho our group in the Queens Grill, then take the laptop on a rotation through our Queens stateroom, the Lido bar, and the Sun Deck (for the Sunset), with a break for a short dinner. After about ten hours of reading and writing it's nighttime so I meet up with friends and our group and we'll go to the bars or clubs on board, although we had at least one night where a dozen of us (including Susan and Malcolm and Julie and co.) had a marathon of downloaded Brat Pack flicks.
So maybe that's why I haven't been posting.
Saturday, February 17, 2007
Port of Call: HOBART, TASMANIA, AUSTRALIA.
Friday, February 16, 2007
Happy Birthday Noel!
Noel is 27 today. :) Happy birthday my love.
We've had a lovely day cruising the warm Tasman Sea. It feels odd to be so close to home when we're halfway through a journey round the world! We all had lunch together and Noel had quite a few beers, acting all "birthday-boy"ish. We just finished a nice quiet family dinner where the girls gave Noel some drawings and handmade little trinkety things. Jess and I and maybe a ocuple of the other girls are going to stay hang out in the suite with Tali and Bea, and Connor's taking Noel for a bit of a boys' "night out". Should be interesting!
(Oh and yes, New Zealand was great. It's a beautiful place. I spent a lot of time in Wellington thinking of all the cool films Peter Jackson's made there and in the surrounding areas. Noel and I managed to visit the Weta headquarters which kinda made me squee with fangirly excitement. And I LOVE the kiwi accent, so it was glorious to be surrounded by it for two days. :) I think I wrote down nearly every word every "New Zehlunduh" said to us!)
Wednesday, February 14, 2007
Port of Call: CHRISTCHURCH, NEW ZEALAND.
Tuesday, February 13, 2007
Going ashore in Nuku'alofa was very difficult. We were encouraged to stay near the recovering part of the business district, but of course I ignored that suggestion and marched as close as I could to an area which is still completely wrecked. I could still smell the burnt ash; it reminded me of the time my parent's house was set on fire when I was in the fourth grade. The smell of burning wood is more than just that. It's the smell of devastation.
After spending an hour or so among the remains of the once vibrant thouroughfare, I visited a Chinese shop, purchased a luck charm, then returned to the ship. There was a lot of energy in that city that I was uncomfortable with. The people of Nuku'alofa seemed restless, even though everything was outwardly calm. It felt like something was waiting to happen.
I preferred to wait elsewhere.
After a couple of days on the ocean, we came to New Zealand, which is a complete turnaround from Tonga. I've all but forgotten that it's winter at home; New Zealand feels more like late spring! It's sunny and peaceful in this part of the world, making the days perfect for morningtime gin and tonics. Jessica, Gemma and I visited the Auckland Art Gallery a couple of days ago, which was really exotic in its own way. Although I spent most of our visit in the European Art exhibition, seeing works of art which were familiar to me (Dali, Degas, etc.), it was the first museum that I've visited outside of Chicago. Everything seemed so much more vibrant and fresh just because it was outside of the Art Institute; for the first time in years I wasn't bored to tears by a museum. =)
Gemma eventually dragged me away from the European art to expand my mind with works made by people from and in New Zealand, but then I dragged both her and Jessica to Queen Street to expand all of our minds with sightseeing, window shopping, and most importantly, local brews. This is a good country.
Monday, February 12, 2007
Port of Call: WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND.
Sunday, February 11, 2007
Port of Call: AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND. [Yesterday]
Thursday, February 08, 2007
Feeling lucky to be an Australian
The last couple of days in Tonga and Fiji have left me feeling a bit hazy and sad, and reminded me how blessed my cozy life in suburban Australia really is.
Tonga and Fiji are both places with very unstable political and social atmospheres. And they are beautiful, beautiful nations with gorgeous people, so it is hard to accept the reailty that their lives can be at the mercy of not just weather and the economy, but uprisings and riots and rebels.
*sigh* We had a good time in both places, with interesting stuff to see etc, but I just couldn't shake the overriding feeling that we were flaunting our luck and freedom in front of people who don't have much of either.
Noel and the girls and I have started to feel a little "shut in" while on the ship on sea days, so when we arrived at Tonga we were pretty keen to just spend the day outside. We found a nice area of shady trees near the beach and had a relaxing day absorbing the sand and water and trees and colours. Most of the others joined us around about lunchtime and somehow, in the midst of all the distracting gorgeousness of a south pacific beach, we had a really deep discussion about art and expression and social equality and such. A lot of the discussion flowed from a mention of last year's riots here in Tonga and all the issues they brought to the surface.
The discussion continued that night through dinner, though it merged into more of a discussion of various artforms and their ability to change the world... or something like that. I have to say I felt a lot less eloquent and knowledgable than the others, particularly Gemma, Amber and Connor who, my word, have good brains in their heads! It was great to have a good quality arty-farty conversation.
Our day in Suva was very nature-oriented too. We visisted a local market to stock up on food for lunch and then Clara and Amber-the-ultimate-nature-lover joined us for a visit to a Forest Park. It was beautiful of course and such a change of pace from the fakey/touristy/snobby/hectic mood aboard the ship. Quite a few times as we walked around the park I just closed my eyes and stopped to breathe in the forest.
After a picnic lunch we headed back into the city and had a bit of a wander around, checking out a couple of other markets and local ware stores. I loved the marketplaces; bustling and crowded but in a friendly and inclusive way.
I'm off now to get the kids settled and then Gemma, the lovely wonderful fabulous girl that she is, is going to stay with them so that Noel and I can have a nice night together. Mmmmm... dinner, uninterrupted...
Meridith's Convalescence & 25th Birthday
Now that we've been on the cruise for a full month, the novelty has pretty much worn off and the Gothic Funk crew are seasoned travelers. I'm pretty much in my flip flops most of the time now, and I've noticed that several other passengers are taking similar liberties with their attire (as long as the liberties taken are subtle, most folks are willing to look the other way). Spending the last couple of weeks in an exquisite climate in the middle of winter has really just made everyone much more relaxed than when we started out; some passengers are still sick with the norovirus, but for the most part, we've been a pretty happy lot.
After missing out on Honolulu, I was determined to go ashore in Lahaina. We all pretty much broke off into our own groups (Gemma really is spending a lot of time with that Julie * ;-) *), and I stumbled upon a small fish market. It was only the second such market that I've ever seen (the first was Seattle's Pike Place), and was simply amazing. I wasn't sure what the place was at first, and then when I saw all of the fish, I wondered why it didn't smell, well...fishy. A young man who was handling a load of Ahi tuna smiled at me, and so I took the opportunity to be friendly and learn about what was going on (it's much easier for me to make friends when I'm sure that I'll only know them for less than a day; something that resulted in some more adventures later on in the day). First, I learned about Ahi tuna. Then, I learned that fish markets only smell fishy when the catch gets old; basically, Lahaina's fish market didn't smell because everything was too damn fresh. Also, because Fish Market Man didn't often enjoy the attentions of young female tourists, he was very willing to tell me all about the market and offered me a tour. I think I'll remember the rows of beautiful fish, octopi, and squid for a good long time to come.
When the evening drew near, I wandered back towards the direction of the ship, and ran across Malcolm & Garrett on the way. They were looking for a place to have a couple of drinks and invited me to tag along. Soon enough, we found a small bar that was filled with dancing. I was the odd one out, but a couple of drinks and the knowledge that I would never meet any of these people again proved the cure for my usual asocial tendencies. Sadly, none of my dance partners were keepers. I did form a crush that night, though, but it was on a song, not a person. While I was dancing with a youngish tourist, a familiar beat started playing and immediately burrowed into my brain, for good or ill. Later, on the way back to the Queen, I asked M & G if they knew the song. I don't remember what they said to me, but the next morning Malcolm dropped off a CD with that very same song on it on his way to breakfast. Since then, I've been playing it at every opportunity. I should probably put a cap on it if I don't want to drive my cabin mates batty, but for me, at least, it has become part of the soundtrack of this trip. Lucky for everyone reading this blog, I found a way to post the song here:
I took it easy for a while after we left Maui, and spent the next three days sitting on deck with a couple of novels. Gemma joined me for part of that time, and we shared the companionable silence of reading in the sun (she chose a volume by Margaret Atwood, while I spent most of my time reading The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger). I spent the last few hours of reading that novel crying off and on; I'm sure that I looked pretty strange to passersby, but I couldn't help it. Gemma is more prepared for novel reading, apparently, because she had some tissues on hand that I made use of.
I did recover in enough time, however, to fully enjoy my birthday in Tahiti. I love the look of those words:
I spent my birthday in Tahiti.
Turning 25 was GREAT. Connor, Jessica, and Gemma really went out of their way to make the day special, and that, coupled with the gifts they brought to me from Honolulu (btw, I love the Hawaiian music, guys!) really eased the transition from my early twenties to my mid-twenties. They even rounded up some Tahitian sweet bread and stuck a few matches in it to serve as a cake! My wish, which was to smell sulfur, was granted, and so we broke the bread in celebration. ;-)
The next day, in Moorea, I continued the birthday celebration with Sumara, which continued on into the evening complete with the Hawaiian drink ingredients brought aboard by our companions from Honolulu. We shared lots of stories, as girls with drinks often do, and gave up only when the sky started to show signs of sunlight. I slept like the dead that night, which was a welcome relief from my usual habit of waking up two or three times in a night for no reason. It seems to have kept, too; I've slept the night through ever since. Thank you, Sumara! I definitely owe you.
A few more days on the ocean stood between Moorea and Nuku'alofa, which, to my peace of mind, was more like the calm before the storm. I need to write about that later, though; dinner is drawing near and I need to shower and dress (see how I buy time to collect my thoughts with a clever diversion?). Per Connor's suggestion (but a little delayed on my part), I'm going to have some Mahi Mahi this evening; a little bird told me that the chef picked up a load of fresh fish today and is adding Kokoda to the menu tonight!
Port of Call: SUVA, FIJI.
Port of Call: NUKU'ALOFA, TONGA. [Yesterday]
Sunday, February 04, 2007
Okay I'm so completely baffled by what day it might be today that I'm just going to ignore that topic altogether. Where does a lost day go, anyway? huh? Lots of people on the ship have been trying to explain it to us, including Noel who reckons it's completely simple and what on earth are Gemma and I so confused about? *sigh*
So, well, Noel got pretty sick but luckily he just prefers to be left alone to sleep when he's sick so I didn't have to fret too much over him. The girls didn't get all that sick, just enough to not sleep very well and be a bit grumpy for a few days. That is, just enough to make me a bit grumpy too!
Hawaii was really great. I was so glad we decided to go out to the island rather than stay in the more cityish areas because they looked, to be honest, pretty dull. The blowhole thingy was awesome. Tali's seen a blowhole before, in Kiama in NSW, but Bea hasn't and she was pretty scared! She jumped out of her skin. But when she saw that everyone else was laughing and that Tali was having fun she decided it was alright. I really loved seeing the crater; there's something about craters that really excites me - they're like signs or messages or evidence of, I don't know what, something! I just like them. The rest of Hawaii was lots of beautiful stuff and some pretty good food.
Tahiti was a bit of a let down actually. Maybe it was because the girls and I were tired and grumpy, but I was a bit disappointed with Papeete. I kind of expected for there to be more to do in such a major tourist place; but I guess people don't really go there to do anything, they go there to sit in the sun and relax.
Moorea was a bit better yesterday. The girls and I spent the morning with Susan and her kiddos while Noel and David went on some kind of little jetboat thing. Susan's kids were snorkelling so I tried to teach Tali but she got so freaked out by the concept of trying to breathe while her head was underwater that she just couldn't do it. But Susan and I took turns having a bit of a snorkel round the shallow reef while the kids played and paddled. Bea's really starting to love the ocean and she's taken to just copying pretty much everything Tali does - even when it means getting tripped up in a foot of water! The boys came back with armfuls of yummy local food for lunch and we all just relaxed for the afternoon.
I tried some very interesting tropical cocktails with Meridith, and the girls had some very red-looking juice concoctions so we were all pretty tired and giggly when we reboarded the ship. Thankfully the girls crashed out pretty quickly so Noel took them to bed and Meridith and I continued the tropical-cocktail-giggly-goodness up in the Funnell Bar until the wee hours of this morning.
And then of course the girls woke me up nice n early today! Why does Meridith look so much more awake than me today? I'm ususally the one with no hangover.
No wonder I'm so confused about the time zones...
And It's Time, Time, Time
In a very weird way—sometime in the next day and a half (I'm not really clear how this happens) we're going to cross the International Date Line!
I've never understood the International Date Line. Time zones are whacked out enough—I barely have any idea what time it is at home right now—but why do we need the International Date Line in addition? What does it do?
Either way. As far as we're concerned, Monday, February 5 is not going to exist. Curiouser and curiouser. I'll turn 25 a whole day faster than I thought.
Papeete surprised me in its utter cosmopolitanism, though I know I shouldn't be surprised at that at all. I've lived and spent time in enough cities that I can deduce more subtle cultural differences, but nevertheless I feel more and more that all cities are alike. It's a teeming metropolis—okay, not *teeming*, there are about 130,000 residents and then tons of tourists, but still'n'all, it's always moving, always active, like any city I've ever been in. Simply the look of the South Pacific is enough to keep me happy forever, though. We visited Le Marche, Papeete's daily market, which had a stunning array of fruits and vegetables, among other exciting things. I loaded up on vanilla beans (they're so much cheaper here!) to take home with me. One thing I'm really missing on this cruise is baking. I know it's weird, but I am. When I get home, I'll be delighted to see my oven.
About the most exciting thing that's happened to me all week was when Tali, Sumara and I were on the deck as we sailed into Mo'orea (our body clocks are so ridiculously awry that we've all been running into one another at odd hours) and found that a school of dolphins was only feet away from the boat. We watched them silently for about twenty minutes, and then started trying to give names to individual dolphins based on their behavior. (The leading dolphin was Queen Elizabeth.) Mo'orea is also itself too beautiful for words. I mean, Hawai'i was lovely enough, but this . . . You hear what they say about volcanic islands, and now I'll tell you: IT'S TRUE. It's an incredibly lush natural place, but the formation of its mountains and craters feels a bit outrageous at the same time. I know mountains are formed as a result of volcanic activity or glaciers, but still. For a New Yorker and Midwesterner, it boggles the mind.
For some reason, no one else was up for an inland hiking tour, so I spent most of the day without the group. Though my favorite mountain in the world is still Table Mountain in Cape Town, several of the mountains in Mo'orea give it a run for its money. There were other people on the hiking tour, a few of whom I knew by face from the boat, but Garrett and Malcolm were out on their own, and I think Susan and her husband and kids were with Sumara and family, and Julie was desperate to scuba-dive (she's licensed), so none of my more serious acquaintances were even around. I liked the privacy of it, experiencing this new place without anyone truly familiar. My legs are killing me, but it was so many miles of worth it. By the time I met up with the crew for a quick drink and snack at Le Plantation de Mo'orea (the utter weirdness of colonialism is another discussion for another day—the place was truly delicious and a puzzling combination of Western and non), I was pretty much dead on my feet. Just the exposure to the sun tired me tremendously. I fell asleep the instant we got back on the boat and I'm up now, consuming more water than I thought possible. I think the others are asleep, but what do I know.
All right. It's been an incredibly long day and I'm tired. I have somewhere between two and three days to chill before we arrive in Tonga.
Saturday, February 03, 2007
Happy Birthday Meridith! [Yesterday].
Have some rum and mahi mahi with broiled pineapple and papaya salsa!
Connor's Ketchup - Honolulu and Lahaina
It was between San Francisco and Hawaii that people started getting sick en masse. Gemma got sick, and then Meridith, and while the Sumarians seemed somewhat affected by the thing Tali and Bea got along fine. Clara seemed to weather the thing pretty well, and Jessica and I were, if anything, more wakeful and cheerful then ever. It must have 1) something to do with living quarters and, 2) something to do with the copious sleep I've gotten since San Francisco.
I didn't think it would ever happen, but I finally finished my first revision just as the sun went down on the last day before Hawaii. Which not only meant that I got to enjoy the beautiful island, but that I wasn't taking lumberjacks around in the back of my head while I was doing so.
Gemma was also feeling a lot better by the time we got to Honolulu, so we went out as a group to check out some of the sights Caitlin had recommended.
Hawaii is now on the list of places I wouldn't mind living. Actually, the only stops that haven't made that list so far is Grand Cayman (beautiful, but too small and stifling, while managing to be overrun by tourists) and Acupulco (a stereotype, though the cliffs were cool). And I'm not counting NYC since I techniclly live there now. No, I wouldn't mind living in Miami, Cartagena, Panama, LA, San Francisco, or Hawaii. That's 6-2. Not bad.
Honolulu was a long at-port (thirteen hours) so we had plenty of time to check out several of the suggestions Caitlin had made. Gemma was feeling a lot better, and able to come along, although it was a pretty miserable day for Meridith. We promised to bring her back an early birthday surprise.
Since everything seemed to assure us that Honolulu would be a beautiful but touristy town along the lines of Acupulco, we took a shuttle from the port out to the edge of the city and out onto the island. We managed to catch a lot that day: the Diamond Head Crater, the Halona Blowhole where jets of water came shooting up every minute or so (I think it really startled Bea the first time it happened). Jessica loved the Hanauma Bay... just a little later, when we were walking along the ocean saw a sandbar shark (yes!), although it was swimming away from us at the time.
"Has this trip officially been a success," I asked.
"Yes!" she said.
I really enjoyed the Ulupo Heiau, although at that point things felt a little rushed.
We ate dinner at a nice but somewhat ordinary restaurant that night. We all joked that it was such a typical "nice restaurant" that it could have easily existed in Chicago, Michigan, New York City, Cambridge, or Australia. So really, we had the basis covered. We brought Meridith a flower lei and a CD of some Hawaiian music, and supplies for the "appropriate drinks," so that in a couple days when she was feeling better, she could pretend she was in Hawaii. Of course, she was sleeping when we got back, but that's probably a god thing, because she seemed to feel a lot better on Lahaina the next day.
We were all so exhausted from our busy day on Oahu that we dealt with Lahaina in a confusion, and I still don't know exactly what the others were up to that day. It was Jessica's turn to feel a little under the weather, but it didn't seem to affect her too badly. I went onshore by myself and went to the Kahakuloa valley. I bought a wood carving for myself and one for Jessica. I'd write more about it, but we're about to disembark at Moorea and I don't want to miss out!
Port of Call: MOOREA, FRENCH POLYNESIA.
Friday, February 02, 2007
Connor's Ketchup - L.A. and San Francisco.
The others gave a partial accounting of my adventures.
In L.A. Jess and I spent a couple of hours on the beach before we took a cab into town. The beach was fine, and I was impressed (as always) by the sandy bluffs that overlook #1. The last time I saw them, Hallie told me that erosion is a huge problem, and it's very difficult to keep the mud from spilling onto the road.
If we were in town for even another day, but the QE2 stays on a pretty stiff schedule, so after a nice lunch with Gemma and Talia, we continued onto Hollywood. I'd told Jess that I had liked Hollywood; that its obvious touritiness doesn't wash away the fact that its major employers have all moved into the valley. It has a gritty, slightly neglected people, which is warm and welcome since there are people all over the place. We followed the star walk around and had a leisurely afternoon before making it back to the ship.
That night I didn't any sleep. We partied late into the night.
If L.A. was slightly relaxed despite all of the running around, the trip in San Francisco was a chaos that didn't let up from the moment we arrived until the moment we left. My friend Paul had borrowed a car and picked us up from the boat, and from their we blasted out to the Muir Woods national monument, which Paul has been dying to show me for years. We walked around, drank some coffee, and generally gawked at the size of things. Or at least I gawked, though I suspect even after living out there for two years Paul is still pretty impressed. There are parts of Michigan with absolutely magnificent tall trees, but the redwoods were unlike anything I'd ever seen. The Michigan trees are White Pines, but the Redwoods are so huge that you can't get your arms even a sixth of the way around them.
But this was the most leisurely part of the day. On the way back to meet the others, we got stuck in the bay areas nasty traffic, which I guess is supposed to be an issue. We drove through Oakland, though, and while I don't know a thing about the layour or geography or even the history of the place, I know that there are more than two handfuls of amazing rappers, including the Digital Underground and Timbaland, two of my favorites. So it inspired awe, even if it was a hazy, unattributable awe.
We had a very pleasant lunch with Caitlin, and one of the nice things was that the conversation was fast and engaging. Even though Caitlin and Paul had never met they were trading impressions of California, which was interesting since the one has lived in Hawaii and Illinois, and the other has spent the last several years before in the remoteness of Michigan's UP. One thing I worry about is that while our group is not cliquish exactly (everyone really likes each other), we have gotten in the habit of pairing off by stateroom. Jess and I tend to stick together, Amber and Clara are pretty tight, and Sumara is tight with her family. Gemma and Meridith are probably the most pan social with us (and with the rest of the boat, for that matter). It all makes sense, in a way, because we're still working on our individual projects, but I do hope we can spend some more time together as a group. I don't get to see these people very often, and I don't know if we'll ever all be together at the same time again.
The rest of the day we took a walk through the Ghiradelli Square, Golden Gate (the whole Bay area is a freaking postcard), and ACT. I decided to really push it and went on a final whirlwind tour of Chinatown with Paul before he had to go and I had to get back to the ship. I really miss him and hope we get to see each other again soon.
And then we were back on the boat for more partying (and the subsequent general getting sick).
Papeete calls! (We just docked.) More ketchup to be contiued...