Safari!

Ever since I went on my first photography safari with GEP in November 2016, I’ve been saving up and hoping to go on another. I just returned from a fantastic long vacation and my second GEP safari was the catalyst for the entire trip.

If I hadn’t made the decision to go on the safari, I wouldn’t have stopped in Paris on the way over. Or Bangkok on the way home. Or gone to the travel writing workshop in Hoi An, Vietnam.

I tried again to make sure that I was ready for the safari. Awake and alert from the beginning. Last time I did a layover in Istanbul, so I could avoid flying direct to Arusha and getting no sleep for 2 days. This time, I did the layover in Paris. I even flew into Arusha a day early so I could rest up. It helped a lot. I was only up for 24 hours beforehand instead of 48+. I felt much better for the first couple of days of the safari, before the early mornings started to get to me.

We started out from the Lake Duluti Serena lodge, about an hour outside Arusha. It was a beautiful place, with flowers and gardens everywhere. My flight from Paris arrived at 0600 on November 15th. I had been up for over 24 hours, so I spent most of my time there sleeping. If I had more time, I would’ve taken them up on some of their suggestions for things to do like hike around the lake, or have a spa treatment. Instead, I just spent the day chillin’.

I met up with the GEP group over breakfast on the 16th when the safari trip actually started. We even met our first wild little visitors who wanted to join us for coffee and biscuits. 🙂

We had our first official meeting from 0800-1000, for introductions and orientation, then loaded up the jeeps and took off for Tarangire National Park. We sped along the highways, passing small towns and farms. Beautiful Mt Meru (continued on page 2)…

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Happy New Year 2019


Well, it’s over- 2018 is done! Hard to believe isn’t it? To start 2019, I’d like to say thank you for sticking with me- I know I haven’t been very consistent on here lately. Some days I just don’t feel like doing anything. Writers block or just plain laziness? Both, I think. Last year seemed to drag on forever, but now it seems to have gone by so fast.

I have to say, I’m very thankful that 2018 was better than 2017. My computer wasn’t giving me near as much trouble (until just recently- I wonder if the bats have returned). I was able to get a little bit more work. Not enough, not nearly enough to satisfy me and get me to the point of being comfortable, but enough to survive on. I was even able to dig myself slightly out of the hole the last couple of years of basically no work had put me in.

I actually had work every month last year (except Nov-Dec when I decided to take my long planned trip instead of hope for work). It wasn’t all offshore, well paid work. Some months, the only job I had was my role player gig at Maersk Training. But even that little bit kept me from having to use up the last of my savings.

I also sold a couple of articles (with photos) and paintings. That was a real boost to my confidence (tho not so much to my bank account).

I was able to take that 2 month long trip and still come out a couple thousand dollars ahead of where I was on New Years Day 2018. 🙂

So, I’m thankful, very much, that 2018 was better than 2016 and 2017. I was able to get enough work and even to take a couple of trips (not including work). In March I went to Roy Stephenson’s travel writing/marketing class in Seattle. In September I attended GEP’s Travel Writing & Photography Workshop in Austin. I spent November and December traveling around the world, stopping in Paris, Tanzania, Bangkok, Vietnam and Cambodia.

I may be ‘greedy’, but I’m really really really hoping that 2019 turns out to be even better than 2018. I sure as hell don’t want a repeat of 2016-2017 which just sucked! I hate being broke and watching everything I’ve worked so hard for just slowly disappear.

I hope things will pick up offshore so there is more work this year and the agencies actually have more than a single job to fight over! It feels great to get 3 calls in a day from 3 different recruiters, but it really sucks once you talk to them and realize they’re all pitching the exact same job.

I don’t know what to think now. I had a job lined up before Christmas. It was supposed to start on the 3rd. Friday I asked about details and was told the job was cancelled. 😦

I got another call yesterday. It sounded like a good job, but I felt I had to turn it down. I just don’t feel confident that I could handle the particular position on offer. I’m hoping tomorrow will bring some business. There have been some hopeful signs in the news lately.

I haven’t made any New Year’s resolutions this year. I never seem able to follow through on them. They’re always the same: lose weight, clear out the house, write more. I never make any lasting progress.

Instead, I think about the things I would like to do. Top of the list this year: get residency visa for Mexico and make that first move, find a decent room-mate (which will make that move to Mexico SO much easier), take my bicycle in to get it repaired and adjusted so no more excuses not to ride, have at least one garage sale and get rid of unused stuff cluttering up my living room!

If I manage to cross those things off my list, and if I manage to find enough work to strengthen my finances a little more, I’d love to do some more traveling. Next big trip I’d like to take is a cruise to Antarctica. 🙂

How about you? Do you have any New Years resolutions? Any trips planned? Where would you most like to go and why?

Bangkok: Market Day

I’m always amazed any time I visit a foreign market. They’re just so interesting compared to shopping at home. You never know what you’ll come across. The variety of products on offer is incredible. Not to mention the whole experience of all the different sights, smells, and sounds. 

Bright red and gold decorations for luck and prosperity hang from overhead. Colorful orange, purple, red and green fruits with weird spikes, scales or bumps overflow into the passageways wafting their exotic sensuous scents into the air. Frangipani incense competes with the smoke of numerous bar-b-que grills cooking up fresh caught prawns or satay on a stick. Occasional motorbikes putter through the lanes, beeping along to clear the way. Blind karaoke singers toting their tape decks tap their way along, hoping for tips of appreciation from the crowds passing through. 

I always go to check out the nearby markets when I’m traveling. Last time I was in Bangkok, I went to Pratunam (mostly clothes) and Chatuchak (humongous ‘flea market’). Since I was staying in Chinatown this trip, I only had to cross the street to find myself wandering through winding lanes packed with stalls selling everything from teacups to electronics, wedding supplies, shoes, toys, hair and makeup supplies, Christmas decorations, jewelry, coffee, tea and snacks. 

Then there was the food. 

I have no idea what most of these edible items actually were. The vendors were happy to offer samples, but I wasn’t feeling brave enough to try many of their wares. It seems strange to me that they always have so many more varieties of things to eat than we do. I’ve never seen so many different kinds of fruits or vegetables in a store in the US. 

Maybe I’m being paranoid, a germaphobic American,  but I always wonder how they can sell their meats and seafood out in the open like they do all day. They don’t get sick, or at least I don’t think they have any more digestive issues than we do with all our sterile, plastic packed, refrigerated grocery meat departments. 

I suppose if I ever get around to moving out of the States like I keep trying to find a way to do, I’ll get used to the idea. I’ll probably even work up the nerve to try some of those more unusual things I’ve wrinkled up my nose at. Here’s to hoping that day comes soon! 🙂

Bangkok: Shanghai Mansion

Bangkok Thailand is an exciting city, I think Chinatown is one of the more interesting parts of town. I was looking for some rest and relaxation but also a place where I could just wander around and soak in the atmosphere. The Shanghai Mansion was perfect.

The taxi from the airport ($15 + $1 tip) dropped me at the hotel and the doorman immediately took my bags inside where they offered me a cold eucalyptus scented towel and welcome drink. They explained a few things about the hotel and showed me to my room. Very nice, even a free mini bar- with sodas, chips and beer!

It was a nice size with plenty of storage, lit by large stained glass windows and  paper lanterns. They even put a birdcage in the bathroom (with a fake bird). It got a little dim at night, some would say ‘atmospheric’ but I like a bright light to read by.

I went down for a late lunch and a beer. The menu offered many Chinese treats. Lots of seafood, including shark fin specialties (very popular in the area). I try to avoid seafood unless I have no other choice. After years of having nothing else to eat, I just don’t want any more of it. I had a BBQ pork sandwich with french fries.

They did a good job with the fries, so many places come out with cold, soggy french fries- yuk! These were thick, but still hot all the way through and nice and crispy. The BBQ sauce was good, not too spicy like so much of Thai food. The bun was hot, fresh and just a little bit sweet. Very nice. The beer went down perfectly with the BBQ. 🙂

After the long trip from Tanzania, I was ready for a nice long nap. It was only about 1600, but I was still so tired from the week of getting no more than 5 hours of sleep during the safari. I headed to bed and slept until 0930 the next morning.

They told me when I checked in that they offered 3 ‘complementaries’ for me during my 4 night stay. Free stuff! A 20 minute massage, high tea, and a Chinatown walking tour. I started with the ‘high tea’.

They offered a choice of jasmine or oolong tea, I chose the oolong. It was OK, but not nearly as strong as I expected. They brought a whole pot and I finished it off while working on the 3 layers of little plates they brought out to sample.

I’m not sure if there was supposed to be any sort of protocol, so I just tried everything in random order. The top plate had 3 types of fruit: pineapple, dragonfruit and cantaloupe. The middle one had 2 sticks of very hot spicy beef satay (I tried to pick off the pepper seeds, that did help some) with a little bowl of soy sauce and some green vegetables that tasted a little like celery flavored spinach.

The bottom plate was the most interesting. It held a small bun that looked just like an ordinary corn muffin. When you bit into it you found it filled with a sweet, golden yellow ‘yolk’. Kind-of messy to eat and a big surprise when you bit into it.

There was also a piece of shrimp spring roll (which I didn’t eat), some delicate rice noodles, and another ‘bun’ made of starchy outside and minced meat and veggie spiced stuffing inside. That one was full of interesting tastes and textures. 🙂

I enjoyed the experience of trying all those different foods. I usually live on satay in Thailand since so much of their food is so hot with different types of pepper. Chinatown was a good choice for me in that too.

After ‘tea’, I went walking again. I found a big Chinese temple and Wat Traimit just a couple of blocks down the street. All around the Shanghai Mansion little back streets led to shops, temples, homes and restaurants. People filled the streets selling everything you could imagine: food, drinks, socks, shirts, jewelry, Christmas decorations, good luck charms, lottery tickets, shoes, birds, flowers, and on and on and on.

I am trying to avoid shopping ’til the end of my trip since I don’t want to lug any more ‘stuff’ all over Asia, but it was interesting to look anyway. You could bargain and get a decent price on pretty much anything you wanted. The people weren’t too pushy either. If you just tell them “no”, you’re not interested a couple of times they leave you alone.

I did go on the hotel’s walking tour one morning. I probably should have done that the 1st morning, since I had already walked by myself to the markets and temples it covered. The guide was very friendly and knowledgeable, but it was hard to hear her most of the time and tho she tried hard to explain things I missed a lot of it.

My last night in Bangkok, I took them up on the massage. I probably should have skipped it. I got a Thai massage in Phuket a few years ago. That little girl was rough! This one was only a head and neck massage, but it still left me sore and aching! Those Thai women have some strong hands! I know some people really enjoy a Thai massage, but I think I’ll skip them from now on. 😉

I didn’t even try the highly rated spa or Red Rose Restaurant at the hotel, they both looked beautiful and if I had more time I would be sure to check them out. Just hanging out in the sitting area near my room was really nice, the hotel had some amazing scent going for it- incense with jasmine, ylang-ylang, a tiny bit of cinnamon? I’m not sure what-all they had in it, but it smelled sooooo good!

Yes, I was happy staying at the Shanghai Mansion and almost hated to leave, but my next adventure in Hanoi was calling.

Tanzania to Thailand

Every day during my Tanzanian African safari I meant to catch up and write, but each day was just so packed with cool things to see and do. I didn’t want to miss anything at all. Some of the people I was with were smarter than me. They took advantage of the amazing camps/lodges we stayed at and took much needed breaks from our daily adventures.

I, on the other hand, pushed myself until I was pretty much totally exhausted. Four of the 8 days of the trip were “early” days. We had to be up, dressed, packed and in the jeeps by 0545. The other days we got a break and had until 0700 until things got started. I haven’t got many photos online yet, so I’ll write all that up later.

We all flew out of the Serenera airstrip at around 1000 on the 23rd. Flew into Arusha and had a last lunch together before we all went our separate ways. We had a really nice lunch at “George’s”. A nice Greek restaurant none of us expected to find in the middle of a fairly small city in Africa. I had a huge pork gyro with properly cooked french fries. Others had the calamari and loved it. The stuffed avocados were bigger than grapefruit.

A few of us had the early flight out of Arusha, so we left the rest of the group having lunch and took off for the airport. My flight left at 1710. After a layover in Doha, Qatar I arrived in Bangkok at 1200 on the 24th.

I was so tired, I didn’t really want to deal with anything but a big air-conditioned bed. I took a cab from the airport to my hotel in Chinatown (500 baht ~ $15 with tip), had a little lunch in their bar/restaurant and passed out by 1600. I slept in til around 0930 the next day and felt SO much better!

I’ve been to Bangkok a few times before, so didn’t feel obligated to make the rounds of the usual tourist sites- the Grand Palace, Emerald Buddha, Wat Po, Chatuchak market, etc). Instead, I decided to just wander around. I’m staying pretty near the river which is a major traffic artery here so I decided to try to follow it along.

It’s not as easy as it sounds. The streets are not all marked, they’re not formed in a grid, they wind around in different directions and the names change. I was in no hurry tho, so I just kept on walking and taking it all in.

The smells- of roasting chestnuts, seafood sizzling over charcoal fires, kim-chi, coriander, cinnamon and pepper – the sounds,- of ringing bicycle bells, trucks and tuk-tuks passing by, vendors calling out to passers-by- the sights-golden Buddhas, complicated carvings covering Chinese temples, bright red party favors, intricate tile work covering important Thai buildings, miniature spirit houses filled with daily offerings, neon lighting up the streets at night as the traffic streamed by, overflowing stalls offering intriguing fruits nuts and spices, smiling people everywhere.

I walked through the back alleys and watched people cooking and having their meals sitting at tiny plastic stools on the street. They all smiled at me tho I’m sure they were wondering what was the crazy white girl doing passing by their back doors.

At the Rachawong ferry pier, I watched the swarms of catfish along the seawall and the long-tailed boats zip by as I enjoyed the breeze off the river and took a little break. My map showed a flower market not too far away so I kept on heading towards it.

I started passing trucks unloading bunches of flowers along the street. Plastic bags of golden marigolds and dozens of roses wrapped in newspaper were stacked waist high while men with hand trucks struggled to get them to their final destination inside the market.

The market was immense. Open areas covering blocks with 30′ high ceilings, filled with rows upon rows of fresh, beautiful, sweet-smelling flowers.  Roses, marigolds, chrysanthemums, tuberoses, orchids, and so many more. I certainly can’t name them all. People were buying everything from huge bags of marigolds to individual little arrangements of orchids or bamboo.

I took a while wandering around, it turns out there was more than one market. Theres one on the river side of the road and another on the opposite side. There’re also a couple of fruit and vegetable markets. I doubt if I could identify even 1/4 of the items they had on offer. I always enjoy seeing what other people like to shop for and these Bangkok markets were really pretty interesting.

After spending most of the afternoon at the markets, I headed back towards my hotel and took a little detour through the back streets of Chinatown. My hotel is on one of the main roads (Yaowarat Road), there are all kinds of winding little back lanes all around. It’s a great place to just wander around and see what there is to see.

There is another huge market almost right across the street. People are selling everything you can imagine: clothes, food, fabric, hair ties, shoes, hardware, clocks, ribbons, Christmas decorations, handbags, tea sets, and on and on. The tiny little lanes are crowded with all kinds of people, including traveling ice-cream hawkers, blind karaoke singers, and every couple of minutes a motorcycle rider comes through.

After a while, the crowds started getting to me. It got to be downright stifling after the sun went down. Some places got so crowded it was hard to walk and I’m just not up for that. I picked up a few sticks of satay from a street vendor- one of the ones with a place to sit along the sidewalk- and had a beer to go with it for dinner.

I still wasn’t really back to normal after being so tired for so long, so I headed back to the hotel for a fairly early bedtime. I was sound asleep by midnight. 🙂

This post is running pretty long, so I’ll have to finish up on the next 2 days tomorrow. I’ll be heading to Hanoi, Vietnam tomorrow evening, so have to leave the hotel here by 1300 latest.

Goodbye to Paris

I’m heading out early tomorrow morning for the airport. I’ll be traveling all day and night. Flying out of Paris at 1245 to Istanbul. Changing planes after a layover there. Nine hour flight to Arusha in Tanzania. I’ll arrive there at around 0500 Thursday morning.

Hopefully I’ll have a chance to catch up a bit on here while I’m waiting at the airport (if I have time and they have internet). I don’t expect to have good internet once I get going on the safari. If I do, I’ll post. 🙂

Here’s to Paris. 🙂

Versailles

The weather cleared up so I took a ride out to Versailles. It was about 40 minutes on the train/metro from my hotel (Les Halles/Chatelet). Exiting the station, the palace was only about a 5 minute walk. Once you got there, the line took about an hour to get inside (there’s no advantage to the museum pass since the line is for security- they have security everywhere).

I picked up a free audio guide which was very helpful since there were very few labels in English and I didn’t hire a guide or take a tour. It was very crowded, I hate to imagine what it would be like during the season, or even on a really nice day. Even so, the palace was very much worth it. It was humongous! Full of huge rooms full of enormous paintings, long halls full of statues, and outside were beautiful formal gardens and acres on acres of lakes, ponds and forests.

I’m sure I didn’t see everything there, I don’t like crowds and they were getting to me so I hurried through some of the rooms and skipped listening to the audio guide in those. After a while it got to be pretty repetitive anyway. I mean how many big rooms full of old paintings can you look at before you get bored with it all? No matter how gorgeous and impressive they are at first?

Of course, I did see the famous “Hall of Mirrors”.

I escaped to the gardens. It was nice and cool. The sun was out for a while but it turned overcast again later in the afternoon. The terrace was still pretty crowded with tourists from all over the world taking selfies. I took a walk down the steps towards the lake and a snack.

The map showed a snack bar in each of the small forests near the terrace, but the first one I tried was closed. I headed back out to the one on the other side. They had nothing left but hot dogs and baguettes with cheese and tomato (I hate tomatoes). I had the baguette and picked off the tomatoes. There was hardly any cheese on it but the bread was good. Maybe I should’ve got the hot dog, they seem to be really popular here. I’m just trying to try more French food in France and hot dogs are American to me. Maybe they’re different here?

Wandering around the gardens was a nice change from the Paris cityscape, especially once I got further away from the main palace and the crowds there. I walked over to the smaller Trianon area. It was a pretty walk through the forests with the trees all changing to their fall colors.

The smaller house/palace had a few rooms full of furniture to look at. One of which was “Napoleon’s favorite study”. There was a restaurant next to the old guardhouse and you could go through to more gardens. I’m sure they must be more showy in the Spring when the flowers are blooming, but they were still beautiful and serene with the leaves changing on the trees and the streams and lakes with ducks and swans to watch.

And here, finally, I saw the rats. My god, they were huge!

This shot was taken from about 1000 ft away, they must be at least a foot long (not counting tails), maybe even 2 ft? I didn’t want to get any closer, but one guy was over there trying to sneak up on them to get photos. I love taking photos of pretty much anything and everything, but I’ll skip these guys. No thanks!

 

Paris: 3 Great Museums

I spent Wednesday museum hopping. I bought a 4 day museum pass on arrival and wanted to get good use out of it, so I decided to go to 3 of the most popular museums my first full day in Paris.

I took the metro to the Concord station and walked through the Tuileries gardens to the  Orangeries. This museum is really all about Monet, although there are other artists represented there (Matisse, Picasso, Renoir, and more). The main focus is on 2 large oval rooms where Monet’s huge water lily paintings are displayed. Even with the crowds, you could still enjoy being surrounded by those beautiful paintings.

From there, I walked across the bridge to the Musee d’Orsay. It used to be a train station and you can tell if you think about it. It’s huge, filled with paintings, sculpture, and other art objects dating from mid 1800’s to early 1900’s. It has the largest collection of impressionist and post impressionist art in the world. It’s right on the river and easy to find. I spent almost 4 hours there and could probably have stayed longer but they were closing (at 1800).

I really loved the art deco. They had entire rooms full of art deco style furniture. One even had its wall paneling done in that style. The huge open space was really nice for showing off the dozens of large sculptures, even including Rodin’s famous Gates of Hell.

The space itself was impressive. It has 6 floors, but there’s nothing on the 6th floor but toilets. The 5th floor has a restaurant where you can eat lunch while looking out through the clock facing the river (there’s another restaurant on the 2nd floor). Most of the art is on the first and second floor.

When they chased me out of there, I headed down the river to the Louvre. It’s open til 2200 on Wednesday’s so I still had a few hours left to check it out. It’s huge! It’s the largest art museum in the world. I figure there’s no way I could see everything there even if I spent days, so I’d just hit the highlights and call it good. It’s filled with all kinds of art dating back from the earliest times to the 21st century (tho I didn’t see any modern art).

I wandered around, enjoying the fantastic collection of art, taking a closer look at anything that caught my eye. It was pretty crowded in the more popular sections, around the ‘must see” pieces of art: the Mona Lisa, the Nike of Samothrace (Winged Victory), the Apollo Gallery where the ceiling is covered with paintings and carvings.

Of course I did not have time to see everything. I only saw a few of the galleries in the Denon Wing: Roman, Greek, Etruscan and Egyptian antiquities and paintings from France, Spain and Italy. The Sully Wing: Greek, Roman, Egyptian and Near Eastern antiquities and European decorative arts.

They also had an exhibit on how the museum came to be. It was created out of the former  Louvre Palace, originally built under Phillip II as the Louvre Castle in the late 12th-13th century. You could go downstairs and walk around the original tower of the castle and see some of the foundation walls still standing.

I would like to go back someday and explore some more, but I think 3 museums in one day is enough for me!

 

Paris!

I made it to Paris! I’ve never been here before. It’s been on my bucket list for a while and I’m so excited that I finally got a chance to come and explore. 🙂

I left home Monday morning at 0800 and after a 4 hour layover in Toronto, arrived in Paris around 1000 on Tuesday (local time).

It took me a little bit of time to do a couple of things at the airport. I found the tourist information booth and bought a museum pass (4 days) and I bought a “Navigo” Pass from the transport desk downstairs (its good for unlimited travel within Paris for a week Sun-Sun). After that I was ready to take the train into town and find my hotel.

It was super easy. It only took about 40 minutes, I didn’t even have to change trains. The train was pretty empty, it was clean and there was even a guy playing dixieland jazz on his clarinet for most of the way. There wasn’t much to see going this way tho.

My hotel was right around the corner from the train/metro station. I found it after only a few minutes of going the wrong way around the block. They weren’t ready to check me in yet, told me to come back in an hour, so I left my luggage there and went for a walk.

My hotel is in Les Halles and it’s only a few minutes walk from Notre Dame. I was still pretty tired from the long flight and wasn’t ready to deal with the crowds there so I left it for another day and kept walking. The area on the Left Bank around Blvd Saint Michael is called the Latin Quarter. It’s full of winding, stone paved, medieval looking lanes with interesting little shops and delicious smelling restaurants and bakeries.

 

I found another interesting old church just over the bridge, just around the corner from the Shakespeare & Company bookstore. Saint Severin Catholic Church is one of the oldest churches still standing in Paris and amazing inside. It has gorgeous stained glass windows all around, tall gothic arches hold up the roof over the central isle. The outside aisles are filled with alcoves that each have stained glass windows. Some have statues, carvings, religious paintings, etc.

 

There’s a nice little garden/park behind it, with great views of Notre Dame across the Seine. There are signs on the gates, something about rats (wish I could read French). I didn’t see any, but it was about noon when I was wandering through. Maybe they only come out at night?

I crossed back over the bridge onto Rue Sebastopol and took a look at the Tour St Jacques. Interesting history there. It used to have a church, but they tore it down and only left the bell tower. There were more signs about rats on the gates (I didn’t see any).

On the way back to my hotel (the Hotel Agora), I stopped in and looked at a couple more beautiful old churches. There are so many around and they’re all just gorgeous!

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I was starting to fall asleep on my feet, so headed back to the hotel to get checked in and get some rest. I fell asleep by around 2000. In the morning I felt so much better and ready for a long day of museum hopping. 🙂

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Which Way Challenge: Ferry

Here’s a challenge from sonofabeach96. He’s taken over the Which Way Challenge and has been doing great so far. It’s always cool to see what everyone comes up with on these challenges. So here’s my entry…

I took these photos of the ferry boat on a trip up to Washington State (they have a great statewide system of ferries that really helps you get around). I had gone up there for a writing workshop with Roy Stevenson. After the workshop, I decided to do a little traveling around Washington.

I drove up from Seattle to La Conner for the tulips, stopped to take a quick look at my old stomping grounds in Anacortes, drove over Deception Pass and then took this ferry over to Port Townsend on the Olympic Peninsula.

 

It was a gorgeous ride on the ferry and then driving on through the forests and around the mountains on the  Olympic Peninsula. I was only a little disappointed that the snow was still so deep up at Hurricane Ridge and I couldn’t go hiking up there.

The beaches along the Pacific Coast were stunning. I wish I had more time to spend exploring. I love hiking around the forests, mountains, and beaches- especially when the weather is as temperate as it is up there. I really enjoyed finding so many beautiful places to walk around and then cool little towns with mom and pop shops. I found some fantastic restaurants with food I normally wouldn’t eat (absolutely delicious fried Brussel sprouts at Seeds). I loved seeing all the interesting art. I even bought some to bring home.

 

 

Which Way Challenge

Thanks to Son of a Beach for continuing to run the Which Way Photo Challenge when Cee  let it go. These things are always interesting to see what everyone comes up with and fun to join in.

So here’s my entry to this week’s challenge…

Night shot of a bridge crossing the Bosphorus Strait in Istanbul, Turkey. I was on a dinner cruise, was hoping to go under that bridge but we turned around to go back to the dock a couple of miles from it.

This one is of the Galeta Bridge in Istanbul. I walked across it one day. Went to Asia on the bottom level, where all the restaurants are. Walked back over to Europe on the top level with all the fishermen.

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Recap

I thought I might catch up with what’s been happening and why I was gone for so long.

I got off the Epic Explorer in late January and recently realized I hadn’t posted since then. Sorry! I got busy and caught up in other things and just got distracted.

I started teaching again only a few days after I got home. First Lamar State College in Orange, then San Jacinto sent me up to teach a class for Hornbeck Offshore (where I’ve been applying to work for a couple years now). I drove all the way to Port Fourchon and stayed aboard their vessel for a week to teach the crews of 2 of their vessels a Tankerman PIC course. After that I was back teaching at San Jacinto a course in Leadership & Management. I went to a pre-hire class in Houston for Spencer-Ogden and then taught a Search & Rescue course for San Jacinto again.

That all kept me super busy through the whole month of February and into March. Luckily, I got a call to go to work the next week. Spencer-Ogden finally came through with a ship for me! I say finally because they told me they had a job for me back in February of 2016. I came back from Mexico in order to take a UKOG physical expecting to recoup the money with a job, but it fell through. They didn’t have another opening until this one- almost 2 years later.

So, I got lucky and had a job for a month. It actually worked out to be a little longer. I went out as DPO on the drillship Discoverer India. the first week of March and didn’t get home til  mid- April. We were all busy as hell. The ship had been stacked for quite a while. It was a real job getting her ready to go back to work again. There were all kinds of checks and tests that had to be done and signed off on for the clients approval.

We finally got most of what we had to do finished and were able to depart. Figuring we could finish up what we had to on the way. We left the anchorage just South of the LOOP on April 3, and arrived at Port of Spain, Trinidad on the 14th.

It was a pretty uneventful voyage. We had decent weather all the way. The Loop Current slowed us down a little, but we made good time otherwise. I was a little disappointed in how little sea life I saw this trip.

We saw a few birds- gulls and gannets, a couple of egrets and pelicans. But for the entire voyage, I did not see even one fish, dolphin, whale, turtle, jellyfish, ray, or anything else that lived in the ocean. Usually, we’d see schools of fish every day, pods of dolphins riding our bow wake, maybe even a whale over the course of a week. I saw nothing for over a week, I really felt the loss. It made me wonder why, did something happen? It made me sad.

I cheered up once we got closer to Trinidad. It was cool passing by the Caribbean Islands. One evening passing by the Caymans, I had an entertaining radio conversation with one of the watch keepers from Cayman Traffic. I would have loved to take up his invitation to come closer so the islanders could wave at us, but that kind of thing is not really a good idea. Remember Captain Schettino and the Costa ConcordiaContinue reading

A Photo A Week Challenge: Crowd

I found a new photography challenge tonight (thanks to Cee for leading me to it). Nancy Merrill’s Photography blog is running the Photo a Week challenge. This week the challenge is to come up with a post using ‘crowd‘.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Each week, I’ll come up with a theme and post a photo that I think fits. You take photographs based on your interpretation of the theme, and post them on your blog (a new post!) anytime before the following Thursday, when the next photo theme will be announced.
  2. To make it easy for others to check out your photos, title your blog post “A Photo a Week Challenge: (theme of the week)” and be sure to use the “postaday″ tag.
  3. Come back here and post a link to your image in the comments for this challenge.
  4. Follow nancy merrill photography so that you don’t miss out on weekly challenge announcements.

OK. So here goes…

A ‘dazzle’ of zebras. I was very lucky to travel to Tanzania on a photography safari last year. The scenery, the amazing animals and the beautiful people we met made the trip unforgettable.

I wish I could go back. I’m doing what I can to save up for another trip to Africa. I don’t know when I’ll be able to go, but hoping by the end of the year.

Have you ever been to Africa? On a safari?

Travel Day

I made it home. Finally!

I was surprised Tuesday morning when my relief showed up. I was waiting in the cargo control room to get my work assignment from the Bosun at 0800 when he popped in. I was so happy to see him.

I really wasn’t ready to go yet. I didn’t expect a relief to show up til late afternoon. I still had to finish packing and cleaning my room. That didn’t take too long. By the time the captain was ready to sign me off, I was ready to go.

I left the ship at about 1030, my flight was due to leave Norfolk at 1214, so I was a little nervous about getting to the airport on time. No need to have worried. I checked my luggage outside (and had to pay a $25 fee- thanks Delta!) and then went inside to check in.

I had to go to a live person, the machines wouldn’t check me in. Turns out my flight was delayed for over 2 hours and so I would miss my connection in Atlanta too. I was scheduled to arrive in Houston by 1800. Turns out, I didn’t get there til almost 2400!

Six hours late, due to Delta’s screw ups and they would do absolutely nothing about it. No offers of food, drinks, vouchers, lounge use,…, no NOTHING to help defray the stress and aggravation of a more than 6 hour delay.

I did finally manage to get a $15 food voucher out of them. Barely enough to cover one meal, while missing 2- 3 due to their delays. At least it was something, tho they told me they don’t normally do that. Some customer service, wow! 😦

No wonder I don’t fly Delta anymore!

I got home about 0300 the next morning. So tired I could hardly keep my eyes open on the road. People worry about drunks on the highways, but I guarantee you- tired people cause much more damage! And yet, drunks get all the punishment, wether or not they’re actually any trouble.

No, I’m NOT saying that tired people need to go to jail and have their lives destroyed the same as they treat the drinkers! Most of them who have not hurt anything or anybody! So they’ve all been punished for some future possibility!

What they need to do is to change the rules so that they’re actually keeping people safe on the roads and not just collecting fines and ruining peoples lives over the ‘chance’ that they ‘might’ at some point in the future harm something or somebody.

Stop harassing and arresting people for some possibility of something they ‘might’ or might not do and start checking to see if they are actually competent! Same goes for the stupid drug tests at work and the idiotic TSA ‘terrorist’ searches at the airports!

I’m so sick and tired of everybody telling me all this crap is for our ‘safety’ and ‘security’. NO, it is NOT! It has NOTHING to do with either one of those things! It has nothing to do with anything other than CONTROL and the destruction of our most basic human rights!

The TSA agents in the airports actually have the nerve to tell us ‘have a nice day’ after they  intentionally (even if ignorantly) strip us of our rights and our dignity. How can anyone have a nice day after being treated like that?

Yes, I know, most people sincerely believe all this crap is necessary and is really for their safety. All I can say to them is: WAKE UP! You’re being LIED TO and your complacency is making it ever easier for the goons to move all of us even further down the road to tyranny.

Happy New Year!

Shipping Out

Well, I’m off! I’m leaving soon to join a ship. I’ll meet her at Barbours Cut on the Houston Ship Channel. It’s a container ship, so probably won’t be in port for very long

I don’t know much yet about what I’ll be doing or for how long. All I know is, we’ll be going to Northern Europe and I should be gone anywhere from 35 days to around 70 days since they don’t crew change overseas. I’ll probably get off in the same place I got on after we make a couple of round trips.

Here’s a picture of the ship I found on google.

I hope I can get some better photos while I’m out there. 🙂

I’m not exactly looking forward to crossing the North Atlantic in the middle of winter, but I’ve been hunting up all my old winter clothes from when I used to work in Alaska. Hopefully the weather won’t be too bad.

If you want to keep track of where we’re going, here’s a link that’ll show you where the ship is located.

I’m told the ship doesn’t have internet access (for the unlicensed crew- I’m pretty sure they have it for the ship itself). I’m told it does have email. Because of that, I finally broke down and bought a smart phone. I’m hoping I can get my computer to work through its hotspot so I can keep in touch here.

It may work. It may not. I won’t know til I get onboard and have enough free time to mess around with it. I’ll probably try to go ashore every chance I get anyway, just no idea of how that will go yet either. I’m going out as AB Maintenance. That means I’m not a watch stander and will be working days.

Of course, I wish I could’ve found work as an officer, but after more than 2 years of trying I really can’t wait for one of those jobs to open up. I have to take anything that I can get and thank goodness the SIU at least has some AB work for me. None of the officers unions did. It will be a real different hitch for me.

Hope you’ll stick around for the adventure. 😉

 

Five Days in New Orleans

I decided to make one last big effort to find a decent job. I flew up to New Orleans to attend the Workboat Show and search for work. I picked up my rental car and made my way down the bayou. First stop was at GOL in Raceland.

I was able to talk to the hiring manager there (he was an old friend), but they had no work since most of their boats were still laid up, so I said my goodbyes and continued on down Bayou Lafourche.

I stopped in at every boat company I could find: Alliance, Cheramie, C&G, GIS, L&M Botruc, Odyssea, Jambon, Chouest, Candies, and more. They all told me pretty much the same thing (except for one old boy who still insisted they ‘don’t have facilities for women’). They had so many of their boats stacked up and good people laid off. They had long lists of people they were hoping to get back when things picked up.

I picked up more applications and moved on.

By the time I got back to New Orleans and turned in my car, it was already dark and I was ready to check into my apartment. Yes, I rented an apartment (through hotels.com). It was really nice. It had a separate bedroom, bathroom, and kitchen/living room. It even had a washer/dryer in a closet!

I had a full kitchen with a full sized stove, oven and refrigerator, all the glasses, dishes, etc. Coffee maker and coffee, a blender, spices, etc. All I needed to cook a nice meal. Too bad I couldn’t find a decent grocery near by.

I spent the rest of the evening working on applications, emails and enjoying the view from the rooftop over the skyline. It was cool to watch the fog roll over the lights from the skyscrapers.

In the morning, I headed over to the Convention Center for the Workboat Show. I picked up my badge and a list of the vendors and sorted out my priorities. I tend to concentrate on electronics (DP systems, radios, ECDIS, charts, etc), crewing/employment agencies, and training/education providers.

I always make a point to go by and visit people I know who are there with booths too. This year, a lot of them were missing. The show seemed smaller to me this year. I suppose because of the long lasting downturn in the industry. It’s already been more than 3 years now. 😦

I did get to meet Captain Edgar Hansen from the TV show the Deadliest Catch, and I attended an interesting “Dock Talk” about women in the maritime industry: why aren’t there more women out here, what can we do about it, and why should we? Wish it was better attended, but at least someone is thinking about it.

I met up with an old friend for a couple of hours and we caught up on things as we wandered around the isles. We had a quick lunch at the food court (I do not recommend the BBQ! $3.50 for a bottle of water was a huge rip-off IMHO). I continued on visiting the vendors after my friend had to get on the road and head back home.

During the day, I was invited to a couple of parties. That’s where the best networking goes on. I’m not into partying nearly as much as I used to be, but I still hate to pass one up. I went to the LOC party at the World of Beer. It was pretty nice. Not too crowded. They had drinks and snacks we could order. Their tacos were pretty good. Plenty of beer. 🙂

I ran into a few friends there and met some new ones. It was nice to hear what everyone has been up to. The party ended fairly early, so I wound up going with a friend to the Texas A&M party at the Fulton Alley. That’s a cool place. It’s a bowling alley, with a bar. Drinks, snacks, music, etc.

Funny, but I ran into another old friend. Another captain I used to work with was there with his wife. They were in New Orleans for business and happened to be at the party. They live in the next town from me here in Texas. 🙂

I didn’t stay late, but I did meet a couple of guys who were telling me about a ‘sure thing’ job. I had already applied there, but considering what everyone was telling me; ‘go in person and you’ll get hired’, I started re-thinking my plans for the next couple of days.

Thursday I slept in a little bit later and then had breakfast across the street at the Ruby Slipper. It was really good and I was stuffed by the time I finished. I walked down to the Convention Center and then spent the rest of the day wandering around and talking to all kinds of people there. I ran into some more old friends, met some guys from Oceaneering (where I used to work) who hollered at me about my shirt, spent some time talking to the crew at Oceanwide (where I still work when they have any).

By 1700 my feet were getting sore and I was getting tired. There were more parties to go to, but I really wasn’t feeling up to it. I took a detour through the Riverwalk next door and wound up eating Chinese food from the food court while watching all the traffic on the river pass by.

I walked down the river to the Hilton and then cut across to Harrah’s casino. I figured I’d play a few games of video poker and head home. I didn’t win, but I didn’t lose much and was home by 2200 and to bed not long after.

Friday morning, I picked up another rental car and headed over to Covington to see if they were right about going in person. I was lucky to get to talk to someone in person and we had a nice talk. Of course, they had a lot of their boats tied up too, but they do have at least some work and I’m still hoping they’ll be able to find something for me there.

It was a gorgeous day and I decided to stop for a picnic before heading back over the bridge into New Orleans. I picked up supplies and headed over to Fontainebleau State Park. It was such a nice day, sunny and cool, light breeze. I had the whole place practically to myself. The lake was calm and sparkling in the sun. The beach was inviting, but I wasn’t dressed for playing in the water. 😦

I walked around the pond, looking for alligators (didn’t see any), and then drove over to check out the old sugar mill. Interesting history to read about. It got me interested to visit the nearby town of Mandeville, but it was getting late and I decided that would have to wait for another time.

I made it back to New Orleans in time to meet another friend for dinner. We had a nice time catching up over dinner by the river and then hit the casino for a couple of games. He had to get back home and I was ready to quit, so I headed home for the night.

I wanted to hit the Ruby Slipper again for breakfast Saturday, but the lines were halfway down the block on both sides! Instead, I went for beignets at the Cafe du Monde at the Riverwalk (much closer and much less crowded than the main one at Jackson Square). After my beignets and cafe au lait, I walked over to the Roosevelt Hotel to check out their famous Christmas decorations.

I had thought about having a drink at the bar, but the place was packed so I didn’t stick around. I took a walk over to Bourbon Street since I hadn’t even seen it yet this whole trip.

Glad I hadn’t tried! They’re doing construction all the way down Bourbon Street. The entire street is blocked off and you have to stay on the fenced in sidewalks. I can only imagine how that would be, packed full of rowdy loud drunks with nowhere to puke! Yuk! I’ll skip Bourbon Street til they finish up the construction!

I did finally get to try out my membership in the Bourbon of the Month Club. I sat at the bar at Dickie Brennan’s Bourbon House and watched the oyster shuckers at work. I don’t like oysters, but it was pretty entertaining to watch anyway.

 

After I finished my taste, I got to see the fresh shrimp being delivered, straight from the boats to the cooks. Nice, big, fresh shrimp. I really ought to try getting into seafood again. Seeing all that in New Orleans makes me think I’m really missing out.

By now, it was just about time for the Christmas Parade. I always try to see that when I’m in town. The Krewe of Jingle really puts on a great parade. They have some really cute costumes and dance troupes. The marching bands and miscellaneous characters all add up to make a fantastic show.

I always enjoy my time in New Orleans. There’s always something going on that’s fun and interesting. But I always wind up coming home to chill out for a while too. That’s what I’ve been doing since I got home Saturday night. 🙂

 

CB&W: Fences

I have a few good shots for Cee’s Black & White Challenge this week. I’m a little late cause I’ve been traveling (to New Orleans) and haven’t gotten around to working on my photos (or blogging) yet.

The challenge this week is to come up with a post about ‘fences and gates’ (in black and white). I just did one on gates, so this one’s on fences. 🙂

I was in New Orleans for the Workboat Show. I skipped out on Friday due to a ‘hot tip’ on a possible job at HOS. I took a chance, rented a car and drove over to Covington. I got lucky and was able to talk to someone. After the interview was over, I decided to have a picnic lunch on the lake. Fontainebleau State Park has a nice beach and this pier right on Lake Pontchartrain. It was a gorgeous day and perfect for a picnic!

Does this count as a fence? Or is it a railing? I’m gonna say it’ll count as both. 😉

After lunch, I wandered around a little and checked out some of the other sites of interest. They had some nature trails, a boardwalk, a playground for the kids, camp sites, and a pond with alligators (I didn’t see any). Here are a couple of shots of the old sugar mill. The whole place used to be a sugar plantation- 2800 acres!

It was getting late, so I headed back to New Orleans in order to miss the traffic. I’m sorry not to have made the short detour into Mandeville (founded by the same guy who built the sugar mill). I really would’ve liked to see their Maritime Museum. Next time!

CB&W: Gates

I have a few good shots for Cee’s Black & White Challenge this week. I’m a little late cause I’ve been traveling (to New Orleans) and haven’t gotten around to working on my photos (or blogging) yet.

The challenge this week is to come up with a post about ‘fences and gates’ (in black and white). I’m going to do this post on gates and another on fences. 🙂

Here goes…

Gate of Salutation, Topkapi Palace, Istanbul

Gate of Felicity, Topkapi Palace, Istanbul

I took these photos last November. My last major trip, when I traveled around Turkey and then went on safari in Tanzania. I really loved both countries. So much to see and do in both places, but totally different. 🙂

Topkapi Palace was beautiful. It was a large compound and the interesting exhibits were spread out. The black and white photos don’t really do it justice. The amazing tile work was so colorful and full of intricate designs. The view over the Bosphorus was incredible. I could’ve sat there all day watching the ships pass by below. 🙂

Gate at the entrance to the Grand Bazaar, Istanbul

The Grand Bazaar was another incredibly colorful and unforgettable place to experience. A person could easily get lost in the acres of passageways full of shops. You’re assaulted with all kinds of exotic sights, smells and sounds. The shopkeepers are friendly and helpful and will happily tell you all about their wares. It’s too easy to spend all your time (and money) wandering around in there!

 

DP-Sparkle

Here’s one for the Daily Prompt- Sparkle.

I went for a picnic at Louisianas’ Fontainebleau State Park yesterday. I had to stop and take a few pictures of the sun making sparkles over Lake Pontchartrain. 🙂

 

Ruby Slipper

I had a delicious filling breakfast at the Ruby Slipper yesterday. Not because it was voted “Best Breakfast/Brunch Spot” 3 years in a row, but because it’s located right across the street from where I’m staying. 😉

I had the ‘Eggs Blackstone’, consisting of “applewood-smoked bacon, grilled tomato served over a buttermilk biscuit, topped with 2 poached eggs, finished with hollandaise”. I asked them to skip the tomato (which they did- lots of places still leave it and the juices ruin my meal- I love catsup but can’t stand tomatoes!).

It was hard to make up my mind. Their menu offered lots of choices that all sounded delicious. I was headed to the Workboat Show so skipped the ‘award winning bloody mary’s’ too (tho I don’t like tomato juice either, the mimosas looked just as good).

 I sat at the bar, since even tho it was pouring rain, the outside tables were all taken. The place was packed. I still got served quickly tho. My breakfast was nice and hot, coffee too. They skimped a little on the hollandaise sauce, but the biscuits were very large (and fresh home made).

I’m running late this morning, I’ve got to pick up a car and head over to HOS. I’m hoping to get a job interview. So will probably skip breakfast today, but I think I will stop in again tomorrow for another specialty and try a mimosa. 🙂

PS- these photos are all from my iPod, it’s so bad compared to my regular cameras. 😦