Catching Up

So, to catch up a little bit since I took that long break from writing anything on here, I’ll tell a little bit about what’s been going on in my world. 

My last post before the break, I was just leaving for the Seven Pacific. I flew out to Moble, AL to join the ship, everything was still pretty normal. As the days passed by, the panic grew around the coronavirus spreading worldwide. 

Seven Pacific

The TV in the mess hall was continually reporting every death and the resulting fear-induced over reactions. Lockdowns and government tyranny spreading almost everywhere. I remember hearing of Chinese government agents welding shut the doors of their people (tho who knows how much to believe of any news out of China). 

I have always been skeptical of anything coming out of the TV and almost never take the news at face value. The constant terrorism set off alarm bells for me almost from day one. Nothing made sense. If this virus has been floating around the world since October (when it was first reported in China), then it should have already spread around the world by April. 

I had been traveling a lot since October. I was in Chile, traveling by bus, taxi and plane, before and after my cruise to Antarctica (with quite a few Chinese tourists onboard). I had spent a few days wandering around Santiago, mingling with the huge crowds of protestors (notice how all those protests- Chile- Hong Kong- Paris- etc- ALL just suddenly stopped without even a whimper out of all those millions of rightly angry protesters). I had spent a couple of days at the casinos in Lake Charles. I had spent over a month on board two different vessels, each with over 100 crew from all over the world. Yet, neither I, nor anyone on board had any kind of symptoms. 

Many of the crew were listening to the constant listing of deaths around the world and were becoming very concerned about their friends and families at home. Then came the lockdowns and travel restrictions. I was lucky to be able to get off the ship and go home. That was only because I was onboard as an extra hand and didn’t require a relief. I actually had a relief try to meet me on the ship. He flew to the states from Cyprus (which still allowed travel). He spent days flying half way across the world, only to be turned away at the heliport in Houma, LA and had to fly all the way back home! Then, to top it off, he had to go into quarantine when he got back over there!

None of the Filipinos were allowed to travel. Most of them on ships around the world still aren’t allowed to go home or return to work if they’re at home. Most of them have already been working 6 months and now are over by 6 months or more. How in the world can anyone justify keeping seafarers locked up onboard for so long? 

Whatever, right? We all just need to get over it. Amazing, but that’s what so many people keep on telling us. Like it’s no big deal to be kept from seeing your friends and family for many months more than you had agreed to. Or that you must sacrifice everything you’ve worked for your entire life to help other people deal with their fears.

Anyway, I was very lucky to be able to get home, only a little over a week late. I can always use the money and all the things I wanted to do had already been shut down/canceled anyway. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if those poor Filipinos in the crew were still stuck onboard. The company didn’t seem very concerned about making crew change. Why would they be? It had to be saving them a fortune in air fares.

I had a good hitch on that ship. It was a beautiful vessel, with a good crew and an interesting job. We did a lot of underwater installation work that hitch. Laying down pipelines and jumpers. That sort of thing. I was home by the end of March. It was so weird, flying home with only 5 people on the plane- 3 of them from my ship. The airports at both ends were totally deserted. I felt like I was somewhere in the Twilight Zone.

I still feel like that. Or really, more like George Orwell’s 1984.


Cruising the Beagle Channel

We left Punta Arenasa little late due to delays bunkering with the ongoing Chilean protests. After only 3 hours sleep the night before, I wasn’t able to keep my eyes open long enough to observe our departure. I was assured there would still be plenty to see throughout the next day so I hit the sack by 10 pm. 

View from my stateroom

I woke up to beautiful views of the Chilean Fjords passing by my windows. Green hills and sheer rocky mountains capped by deep piles of ice and snow kept my attention all day. The weather was beautiful. Cool, but sunny and calm- it was perfect for hanging out by the pool with a cup of hot chocolate.

View from the pool deck
Nice view from the jacuzzi too

As we made our way South down the Beagle Channel, the captain announced important sights to be sure we knew what we were looking at. We passed a couple of whales that day, but all I could see was their spout. They were too far away for me to see anything else. Not much traffic in the area. I only saw one other cruise ship- and one brave little sailor.

We passed valleys filled with glaciers and mountains covered with snow and ice from top to bottom. Announcements were made for passing Garibaldi Glacier, Pia Glacier, and Glacier Alley. The scenery was just spectacular.

Ushuaia Argentina on our port side

We passed Ushuaia Argentina around 6 pm- dinner time. I was assigned the first seating 1800-2000. Tonight was assigned seating (I have table 6) and a set menu , with appetizer, soup, choice of 3 entrees and choice of desserts.

As I watched the scenery scroll by through the large windows surrounding the dining room I had a delicious dinner of vegetarian options (since I didn’t like the other choices of fish or lamb). Tonights appetizer was a chorizo and pork terrine, main of red beets bourguignon and dessert of pineapple mousse. Yum.

After attending the preview of the next days events in the auditorium and the Captains welcome in the Explorer Lounge where he introduced the crew, I headed to bed. Strange to go to bed when it’s still bright daylight outside but it’s not getting dark until almost 11 pm.

Expedition team leader Stefan introduces his team

The ship continued on to Puerto Williams where we had to stop for customs and immigration. All of that was taken care of by the ships crew. Next stop would be Cape Horn. Then continuing on across ‘Drake Lake’ to Antarctica.

Punta Arenas

My bucket list trip to Antarctica with Hurtigruten started early Monday morning, with a quick breakfast at 0500. We loaded up the buses for the short trip to the airport by 0630. Keeping our shades drawn so as not to incite any protesters we might encounter, we arrived in plenty of time for our 0900 flight to Punta Arenas. 

Upon arrival we were loaded into buses again. We were taken on a tour of the highlights of Punta Arenas before joining our ship.

Since Punta Arenas was also having some problems with protestors, our guide tried to route us around to places they were not expected to be.

First we stopped at a viewpoint high on a hill. We could see our ship from there. It looked tiny.

There were some locals selling trinkets and beautiful soft woven and knitted items. Hats, scarves, sweaters came in all colors and sizes. They did alright with our group.

Next stop was the municipal cemetery- or Sara Braun cemetery. Our guide told us it is famous for the beautiful columns of trees that line the avenues of family monuments. I liked seeing all the colorful flowers blooming on the family plots and the details of the decorations on the monuments. I was thinking about how different our graveyards look in the US. Ours are not usually nearly as interesting.

Next we were treated to the museum. For a fairly small place, it had a lot of interesting exhibits. Everything from the local flora and fauna to the history of the native peoples up to and after the arrival of the Europeans.

There was quite a bit of information on Antarctica and the explorers who spent time there and in Chile. Darwin, Scott, Amundsen, Magellan, and others. I would’ve liked to have spent more time there, but we still had to get through the port security to join our ship.

The ‘Roald Admunsen’ (named for the Norwegian explorer) looked bright and shiny. She should, since she’s almost brand new, this is only her second cruise. She was only just christened last week (Nov 7), the first ship to be named in Antarctica.

After a little confusion getting checked in onboard, I found my cabin and settled in. This is my first real cruise- tho maybe not- they refer to this as an ‘expedition’ not a cruise. My cabin is very spacious and comfortable.

There’s plenty of space, I even have a separate sitting area with a full size couch and a coffee table in front of a large flat screen TV (where I can see the daily schedule and watch the lectures in comfort). The bed is very comfortable, with thick padding on the mattress and fluffy comforters and wool blankets on top if you want to use them. The temperature is adjustable and you can even control the heated floor in the bathroom. There’s a small fridge and I can make hot tea in the mornings before breakfast.

my cabin has a large window where I can watch the scenery outside

We had a buffet dinner soon after our mandatory safety briefing. This was my first time I’ve seen it done like this- on a movie screen with a crew member demonstrating. Usually we all have to put on the lifejackets and gumby suits (the suits here are much lighter than the ones I’m used to). I guess this is more practical for a cruise ship with so many people. I did appreciate the way it was done here.

I was very impressed with the food and the service at dinner. There was soup and a selection of breads, a salad bar, a seafood section, a variety of meats and cheeses, 3-4 choices of entrees (plus a vegetarian), pasta to order and roast beef carved by the chef. He likes to wander around and see how we’re enjoying his food. The wait staff (mostly Filipino) was very friendly and helpful, they’re really on the ball.

Then, dessert of course. Three to choose from there too: vanilla creme brûlée, chocolate brownies and mixed berry compote. I sampled all three. 🙂

After a last look at Punta Arenas, I headed to bed. Sorry to see the flames scattered around the city, the protesters were still at it. At least we were able to get our bunkers loaded finally when the port workers finished their protest for the day.

An Interesting Day In Santiago

I’ve been taking a break from blogging. I didn’t really intend to, but I’ve been so preoccupied with other things I just didn’t feel up to it. Now, I’m finally getting back some motivation and should have something interesting to post about as well. 🙂

I somehow managed to find a super good deal on a cruise to Antarctica. I’ve been wanting to do this for decades. I remember thinking when they stopped the big cruise ships from doing anything there that it would soon be impossible for regular people like me to go.

Yep, the prices shot up sky high. You’d spend a fortune for a week long cruise- not counting flights to get to/from the ship. And as a single person? Forget it.

But this super deal showed up in my email and I just couldn’t pass it up. No matter that I really should be trying to be working (not that there was any work to be had). Yes, I’m still in the same situation there. Oil prices still have not reached even $60/bbl. My last job was in July and no signs of anything since than.

interesting mixture of old and new architecture in central Santiago- also, notice the spy camera on the light post 😦

So. I flew into Santiago Chile early Sunday morning. I suppose I should’ve done some research beforehand, but I was too busy and exhausted at night. Turns out, the Chilean people have had about enough from their government and have been protesting since mid-October.

They’ve been marching all over Santiago and some other cites. There have been some riots and fires. There have been some gassings by police.

I didn’t know any of this, so I checked into my hotel (in the old part of the city- beautiful central neighborhood) and went for a walk. It was Sunday morning so I didn’t wonder too much about why everything was closed, but the churches? I didn’t see a way to get inside until Monday morning.

my hotel, I was very comfortable there
outside my hotel in the historical section of town

There were people around, nothing seemed dangerous, but the lady who checked me in at the hotel warned me not to wear my favorite necklace outside in the streets. As I walked around I tried to decipher the graffiti splashed across the walls of the buildings.

My Spanish was not good enough to understand much of it, but I did get the general idea that they were against the police, military and president (assassins, murderers, etc). Knowing a little (a very little) of their history I actually thought all of that was a long time ago. I haven’t had the chance to look into it, but at this point I assume I’m wrong.

My Spanish is not that good, but I think this says something like ‘you can’t wash the blood from your hands’. Any Spanish speakers, please correct me, I would appreciate it.

After I found something to eat I was done for the night. Those long night flights where I can’t sleep do me in.

In the morning I headed out again to explore. I needed to find a travel adapter (since I forgot to pack mine). I stopped in a phone store and tried to buy one with dollars since I hadn’t been able to change any money yet. The manager insisted on giving me two of them! So nice of him, really shows how good people can be, even when things around them are so bad.

interior of the Cathedral on Plaza de Armas

I was wandering around, wondering why the street was so quiet on a Monday morning (it was barricaded off), when I started noticing groups of protesters passing by. Some of them just had flags and placards. Some of them had drums, whistles and horns. More and more of them were passing by.

Soon I saw groups of police (in body armor) forming up, their military style vehicles called “guanacos” (because their water cannons spit like the animals) splattered with paint parked along the street. As I kept walking along (I was looking for a bank that had an international ATM), I started paying more attention to the crowds that were forming on the other side of the street.

A police “guanaco”

They kept coming, and coming, and soon there were hundreds then thousands, then hundreds of thousands. All chanting, drumming, clanging on pots and pans, blowing whistles and air horns. All kinds of ordinary people. Some of the younger ones were jumping up and down. The police stood by calmly (thank god) and it all seemed pretty peaceful. I did not see any gassing, beating, arrests or anything like that.

Santiago, Chile- police line up to monitor parading protesters along a main street

There were more protesters outside the justice building, the parliament building and I assume a lot more places around the city. Later I heard the protesters had been rioting, smashing windows, lighting fires, trashing the streets, etc. and the police had been gassing and arresting them.

Santiago protests in front of government buildings

I felt very proud of the people for at least TRYING to do something to fix the situation. For trying to tell their government “ENOUGH IS ENOUGH”! It was inspiring. At least they care enough to try. I wish we Americans would turn off the boob tube and do the same.

Too bad they’re doing the same thing we always do the few times we do manage to get together to stand up. They trash their own instead of going after their real enemies. There’s no point in smashing windows, trashing the streets and stealing TVs. What’s the point of that?

The people behind the things they’re protesting about don’t really care about any of that- it doesn’t affect them. Go after the banks, the stock markets, the big corporations, the government institutions- those are the things those people in power care about.

It’s ALWAYS the people against the state (the deep state). Conspiracy theory? No, just the truth. Easy enough to see if you just do a little bit of research, read a little bit of history, pay attention to who gets what

Too bad the protesting has stopped a meeting of the Apec trade summit and the COP25 UN climate change conference as well as some big football (soccer) games. Those events would have brought in a lot of people and business to Chile and that would have benefited a lot of the people who are protesting.

Now, a lot of the poor and middle class are suffering even more, with the loss of business. Stores shut, businesses closed, etc and no way to get to work even if there was still a job to go to since the public transportation system has been just about completely shut down. How is this helping the poor and middle class (the protesters)?

Hey, I think they’re right to protest. I agree 100% with them on a lot of their issues (fairness, justice, accountability). I just wish they would figure out a more effective way to go about things, and especially figure out how not to hurt the people they’re trying to help.