What’s Really Open in Europe for Americans Now?

So, where in the world are people still living normal lives? I’ve heard Turkey, Serbia, Croatia, and of course the poster child- Sweden.

Sweden sounds like a beautiful country. I was there once when I was in high school. We stopped at Visby for a couple of days. I don’t remember a whole lot except that the weather was gorgeous and it was very green. I’d like to go back for a visit some time and see more of the country.

Croatia looks beautiful from what I’ve seen of it online. I used to work with a couple of guys from there. They both made it sound very nice.

Serbia? I don’t know anything about it except that it had a war going on for a while. I should probably be ashamed for my ignorance. I would love to go there and learn more about it. Any Serbians here, please feel free to inform me. 🙂

I’ve been to Turkey a couple of times. I really loved it. I love history and I enjoyed spending time in the many museums and some of the ruins around the country. The coastline is gorgeous and I bet there must be some good places to SCUBA dive. I could definitely see myself spending some time there.

Is anybody on here familiar with any of these countries? I’m especially curious right now about how different places are dealing with the covid-19 virus. How close to normal (the old normal, not the ‘new normal’) are they?

I think I will spend some time researching how many countries Americans are allowed to travel to and how much time we’re allowed to spend there. I hate to spend so much time, money and effort to go someplace and then get chased out after a short time due to visa issues. I think we were allowed only 3 months in European Schengen zone (before covid) and not allowed at all in a lot of places at this point.

Sad. Really, really sad.

Who Knows

I’m asking everyone her, who knows of a place- anywhere in the world- that has not gone bonkers over the novel coronavirus? Does anybody have any suggestions where a person can go to live like normal? NOT the “new normal”, which is anything BUT normal! I want to go back to actually LIVING my life, not getting used to giving up everything that makes life actually worth living.

I want to be able to talk to people- up close, not from 6 feet away- to see their facial expressions and smiles. I want to be able to give and receive a hug or a handshake without people looking at me like I’m going to somehow murder them. I want to be able to enjoy traveling again, in comfort (or at least what passed for comfort in those tiny airline seats). I want to be able to visit a new place without having to plan every minute in advance since everything is so confounding with all the ridiculous covid rules. I want to see busy city streets full of people living their normal lives and lined with thriving small businesses of all sorts- open to everyone without restriction.

I can’t stand to see what’s going on around the world and especially in America. Once the “home of the brave and land of the free”. Sadly, the insane over reaction to this virus has completely demolished any real freedoms Americans had left.

When “our leaders” can put all of under house arrest. When they can arbitrarily decide who can and can’t go to work, who’s allowed go shopping (and what we can or can’t buy), who’s allowed to keep their business going, …

They have taken it on themselves to decide who can and can’t actually LIVE in this ‘brave new world’ they’ve shoved down our throats. I shouldn’t say it like that, since it seems so very few object to this new medical tyranny.

Most of the people I see when I go out anywhere seem to be completely OK with the ‘mandates’ coming down from above. No matter how stupid, senseless and ridiculous they are!

For example, the mask mandates… there is not one single scientifically rigorous study anywhere that shows that masks help prevent the spread of the flu (or covid). There are a whole lot of them that do show that masks are actually harmful! Yet, our leaders still insist we wear them and most people are happy to comply. WHY?

I want to know WHY we have all thrown out our common sense and submitted to these draconian measures for THIS particular disease? The experts, even the ones at the CDC and the WHO have admitted that masks are NOT the way to go! They have admitted that these mandates (masks, social distancing, lockdowns) are all MUCH MORE HARMFUL than the virus itself.

Why does no one care about all the other reasons people die every year? All the deaths from car accidents, plane crashes, cancer, obesity, tuberculosis, malaria, and all the other diseases have somehow lose all importance and we ONLY care about covid- WHY?

I admit, I am a conspiracy theorist. but when there is no apparent reason for something then I start looking for something that may be hidden a little bit. In this instance, it is blaringly obvious to me that all this is about nothing but CONTROL. PERIOD!

Why this disease and why now? Simple, because it is only now that “they” are able to exert so much control over us all. With the rise of the “surveillance state“, digital currency (or even credit cards), and social capital like in China, they have the technology in place to track, trace and eventually take complete control of EVERY aspect of our lives.

You think not? Read George Orwell’s “1984“, “Animal Farm”, and Huxley’s “Brave New World” think about it a while and then tell me they’re not being used as a road map for ‘our leaders’ to follow.

Vernadsky Station

After our amazing ice walk experience, we continued on to the Ukranian Vernadsky Research Station located at Marina Point on Galindez Island of Argentine Islands. Until as recently as 1996, it belonged to the UK and was called Faraday Station.

The weather was still gorgeous, with the sun shining bright over the sparkling ice. Huge icebergs lined the mountainous shoreline, slowly floating towards the open sea.The penguins met our zodiacs as we passed through the narrow channel that led through to the bay. We watched with joy as they leaped out of the water next to the foot long icicles along the shoreline and struggled with their funny waddling gait further onto the land.

our zodiacs brought us through this narrow channel to the base
check out those icicles, the penguins have to deal with them every time they want to eat!

It was nice of the scientists to invite us to visit them, we were their first ship of the season. They must’ve been looking forward to the distraction since I didn’t see any science going on. 😉

They sent their biologist out to meet us and give us a tour. She was happy to explain their lifestyle and answer our questions (even tho I was at the back end of our group so couldn’t hear much of what she said).

our guide Oksana

As we made our way up to the station, the snow reached over our heads along the wooden pathways. The buildings stood out in colorful contrast against the stark white of the snow surrounding them.

There were plenty of birds around: penguins, petrels and gulls. Like the Galapagos, they weren’t at all bothered by us. We were told before we had to stay at least a few feet away from them, but the birds didn’t follow the rules and sometimes came quite close. I noticed some of them were already banded (like this sheathbill in the photo).

As we removed our muck boots inside the crowded entry, we got a look at some of the photos of previous visitors: scientists and explorers from all over the world (and lots of photos of their ‘Antarctic league’ soccer teams). This photographic exhibit continued along the passageways. We saw various offices, labs, and storage for their skis, snowshoes and other equipment for the cold.

Old photo lining the passageway showing the Belgian expedition of 1897-99

Eventually we arrived at the galley and recreation room. They were set up for us to buy stamps, envelopes and post cards. Lots of business going on there. I bought a couple of cards to send home (I still haven’t received that one yet, tho I did get back the one from Stanley last week).

Further on, they had a bar where you could have a drink, play pool or darts and relax. They even had a souvenir shop where they sold t-shirts, patches, shot glasses, tiny little penguins and assorted other tchotchkes. 🙂

They also sold their own home made vodka which was actually pretty good. I bet even better after a long winters ‘day’ (when the sun never comes up).

After sending off my post cards and a warming shot of vodka, it was time to start heading back to the ship. I wondered how hard it would be to get a job like that. You might think it would be easy, I mean how many people really want to spend months or years away from friends and family to work in all that ice cold and darkness. But apparently, it’s pretty hard to get. Our guide told us she was one of the first women allowed, they only started allowing women a couple of years ago.

Seems to me, it would be similar to shipboard life. The isolation, the weather, the long periods away from home. I have actually tried to get a job on some of the supply ships that go to Antarctica. To this day, I’ve never heard back. Now, there are new requirements for “polar experience” so looks like another catch-22 as far as getting work goes. Can’t be considered because you don’t have the experience, but can’t get the experience without being hired first. 😦

Orne Harbor

From Half Moon Island, we sailed on to Orne Harbor for promised spectacular views from atop the ridge. 

The expedition crew set out on arrival and surveyed a safe pathway that zig-zagged its way up the steep slope for us to follow. The kayaks were brought out for those who had opted for that activity.

The weather was very changeable. In the morning, it was overcast and gloomy, with a thick layer of fog. By the time my group- the giant petrels- got to go ashore after lunch the sun was shining and the winds were calm.

I made it only to the first stage. Sadly, I did not get all the way up to the top of the mountain. I was really struggling, slipping and sliding around in the snow. Due to my ongoing work situation (not having any), I have to be super-careful not to do anything where I might hurt myself. I could just see myself tumbling down the mountain, rolling like a tumbleweed all the way down to the sea and then having a heart attack in the freezing cold water. 😦

After making that decision, I made my way back to the landing site and watched the zodiacs come and go. The scenery was so beautiful. I didn’t need to go anywhere else to see even more of it.

I sat in the snow and watched the penguins and the people come and go. Absorbing the sunlight and the immensity of the atmosphere, I was so grateful of the fact that I was able to even just sit there- in Antarctica!

penguins
more penguins

I even managed to get a decent shot of a couple of penguins in the water. They’re so fast when they’re swimming!

Gentoo penguins in the water

I’m glad I made it as far as I did. Turns out, this would be our only landing on Antarctica. All the rest of our stops were on nearby islands. I was a little disappointed to learn that, but I have to admit the places we did go were pretty much just as wonderful. What difference does a name make? I’m not sure, but I am still glad I get to say I got to go to Antarctica and not just close to it.

Spigot Peak as viewed from MS Roald Amundsen

Drake Shake or Drake Lake for the MS Roald Amundsen?

Anticipation was high, people were concerned. We were crossing the Drake Passage- the area where the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans meet- between Cape Horn and the South Shetland Islands. It’s notorious for bad weather. 

Winds and currents circle the entire globe, swells have thousands of miles of open ocean to build so they can grow to enormous heights. The Roaring Forties, Furious Fifties, and Screaming Sixties refer to these latitudes. Dozens of ships have been lost in the area. How would we fare onboard the MS Roald Amundsen?

Turns out we had nothing to worry about. We enjoyed crossing the Drake Lake. The winds were only about 20-25 knots and the seas 2-3 meters. It was lovely for this area and the season. I was actually hoping to see something of the famous nasty weather, but a few people were complaining of mal de mer so I guess we were lucky. I wouldn’t want to spend a couple of days with a shipload of seasick passengers.

view from my cabin

The ship’s crew had plenty of things prepared to keep us occupied for the time we would be at sea with no landings to look forward to. They always had interesting lectures and workshops for us to choose from. There was a nice stock of games and puzzles to play with. Or you could always choose to visit the sauna, the spa, the pool and jacuzzi, or chill out in a comfortable chair with a drink while watching the scenery pass by.

Some of the members of the expedition team were also scientists and encouraged us to participate in their studies. There was one that collected information about the clouds and weather, to compare with what was picked up by the satellites (observer.globe.gov). Another was gathering data on the birds we saw (www.ebird.org). 

They had presentations in the ships science center where we could look through the microscopes (one was projected onto a large screen) to see the details of different kinds of ice, plants, krill, feathers, etc.

Krill

I enjoyed a couple of arts & crafts workshops. Watercolor painting one day and clay modeling another time.

My emperor penguin model

I joined a rotating group of ladies working on jigsaw puzzles in the Explorer lounge on the 10th deck where we always had a wonderful view out the starboard side. We had snacks and piano music there in the afternoons.

Our crossing was altogether uneventful. We had a couple of relaxing days to look forward to arriving in Antarctica and our first landing at Half Moon Island. 

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.

glacier
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.

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. 

Cabo’s Marina

I’m sorry about neglecting this blog lately. It’s a combination of being busy doing the tourist thing- checking out all the new things to do/see/eat/drink- and just plain laziness. I’ve been meaning to get back on here for at least a week now. So many cool things to talk about…

First, I should explain what I meant in my last post re: wandering around the marina in Cabo San Lucas. 

really wanted to catch a marlin, especially since Cabo San Lucas is known for catching marlin. Those big game, fantastic fighting fish. In all my years of fishing, I’ve never caught one. Never even come close to catching one. I would’ve also liked to go out whale watching or swimming with the whale sharks, but it definitely was not the right season for that, so I ‘settled’ for going out for the marlins. 

I’d been walking around the marina, checking out the boats, trying to see if any of the docks were open so I could talk to the crews (sadly, they were all locked up tight, with guards even). Walking around the marina you run a gauntlet of people trying to sell you everything you can imagine: fishing trips, tours, swim with the dolphins, jet skis, parachute behind the speedboats, souvenirs, restaurants, shops, weed, tequila and of course time shares.

Time shares. The dreaded 90 minutes of hard core pressure. If you want to go and waste that 90 minutes of your hard earned vacation in exchange for a ‘free’ breakfast, or a fishing trip for only $20, then you better have an iron clad wallet (and no credit cards). 

I already have a time share. I’m using my weeks for my accommodations for this trip. I have NO desire to go and waste 90 minutes of my vacation time to hear about any more of them. When anyone mentioned ‘timeshare’, I told them that.

But still, somehow I wound up going fishing through the efforts of ‘Oswaldo’- one of the guys who’d been trying to get me to go look at a timeshare (which he insisted was not one). I should have known better.

We made arrangements that I would meet him at the dock at 0800 Tuesday morning. I made it 100% clear that I was ONLY interested in fishing for marlin. He assured me that his little pangas (small fishing boats) would go out far enough to catch them.

Right. First off, he was 45 minutes late getting to the dock. There went 45 minutes of my fishing time. Then, he insisted that he needed $50 so he could get my fishing license and bait for the trip. I was more than a little upset by this point, but since Ireally wanted to catch a marlin, I gave in and let him “borrow” the money. He promised he’d return it by the time we got back to the dock (with the marlin).

He even gave me his ‘drivers license’ that he ‘needed to do anything’, just as collateral so I’d be sure he’d pay me back.

Of course, he was nowhere to be found when we returned to the dock.

Of course, we did not even attempt to go out far enough to look for a marlin.

I had the entire boat to myself. I would’ve preferred to go with a group, but when I asked around I was told that was very hard to arrange. For $150, I was supposed to go out from 0800-1300, to catch marlin, in a panga.

I have to say, the captain was OK, he was very helpful, even if he wasn’t really into the marlin fishing. We caught dolphins (mahi-mahi) instead. I let him keep them all since I don’t eat seafood anymore. Too many years of nothing else to eat has cured me of any desire to taste fish ever again (weird, but I will eat canned tuna fish if there’s enough other stuff mixed up with it so it doesn’t taste like fish). 😉

It’s always a blast when you’re catching fish. I had a good time on the boat. I always enjoy being out on the water. I know there’s never any guarantee to catch anything so it’s nice that I did catch something (and dolphins are much better eating than marlin anyway).

The big issue came after we got back to the dock. Oswaldo, the guy who set all this up, was nowhere to be found. OK, I was a little pissed, but I figured I’d give him the benefit of the doubt and come back later. I did. I came back later that night and talked to him. He didn’t have my money but promised he’d have it by morning.

Turns out his ‘drivers license’ was nothing but a voter ID. I don’t know what they do with that in Mexico, but it sure as hell isn’t the same as a drivers license and so now I knew for sure he was lying to me.

I came back in the morning (Wednesday). He didn’t have my money, but promised he’d have it that afternoon. I came back that afternoon. After arguing with him over going to the police about my $50, one of his friends gave me $25. Oswaldo still didn’t have any of my money, but swore he’d have it that evening and would bring it to my hotel. He did not.

I returned to the marina the next day (Thursday). He promised he’d have the money by noon. He did not. He promised he’d have the money by 1600 (said he got paid at 1500). He did not have it at 1630. After more arguments, I told him I was going to the Tourist Police station (right next door to the little stand where he was working/hanging out).

Of course, he knew they would already be closed by that time. By now, I was really pissed off. I was making a scene, people were looking at me like I was crazy, but I didn’t care. I was wasting my entire vacation going back and forth to the marina looking for this asshole! I’d already wasted half of Tuesday, all day Wednesday and all day Thursday and I was leaving Cabo Friday afternoon.

I stalked off to find a real policeman. I found a sympathetic guard and told him my story. He called for the police for me. They showed up in force. A half dozen of them interviewed me while another bunch went after Oswaldo. Apparently, they all already knew Oswaldo (and not in a good way).

They asked me if I wanted to ‘press charges’ (that was all in Spanish, so I’m not exactlysure what they said). They had him in their police car and I was told he was going to jail. He was threatening me with all kinds of shit from the cage. So what! When I get pissed, I won’t back off. 

Of course I wouldn’t get any money back from him, but at least he’d be off the streets for a couple of days and not able to screw over any more gullible tourists.

There was a big misunderstanding with the police who thought at first that some men who ran a business where I had met Oswaldo had cheated me out of the fishing trip I’d paid for. I finally got it straightened out, explaining that no- I got the fishing trip and those guys actually had nothing to do with anything. They didn’t do anything wrong and actually tried to help me.

One kind man even paid me back $20 out of his own pocket. So after all the aggravation of the whole thing, I was only out about $5. Lesson learned?

Should I just be a cold hearted bitch and not talk to anybody? Or try to be nice, treat everybody with respect and understand that every once in a while I’ll get taken for a ride, but most people are decent and worth getting to know?

I do have to give a big thumbs up to the Tourist Police. They take their jobs seriously and really want to help keep their city safe for their visitors. Thanks to them, I got all but $5 back and some peace of mind for the rest of my time in Cabo San Lucas. 

Off to Mexico!


Hola amigos. 😉

I’ve been in Mexico since last Saturday night. The plane was only a few hours late arriving. First we had an engine problem, but they managed to fix that and put us back on the same plane in only a couple of hours. No worries. 😉

Next, as we were heading down the runway, they announced some kind of medical emergency onboard. We waited to see if we would need to go back to the gate again, but after conferring with the doctors over the phone it was decided the person could fly after all.

Two and a half hours after we finally took off, we landed in Cabo (Cabo San Lucas and Cabo San Jose).

After running the gauntlet of time share sellers outside the baggage claim area, I took the shuttle in to town. I’ve been staying at Cabo San Lucas. I wanted to be near the marina, shopping, bars and restaurants, etc.

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I got settled in to my hotel- the Siesta Suites-where I have a nice big room. It has a big comfortable bed in a separate bedroom and plenty of storage. I hang out on the couch in the living room/kitchen. It has a full size refrigerator which is great for leftovers, but no stove for cooking. I have been heating up water for my morning cup of tea and leftovers in the microwave.

There’s a fantastic Italian restaurant that’s almost part of the hotel, a Mexican BBQ pit across the street along with the Fenway bar- Boston centric (“Yankees Suck”)-next to a small crepe place. Next door is a small shop selling souvenirs and also basic groceries. I was able to get one stick of (real) butter and good strawberry jam for my toasted bagels in the morning.

I’ve spent most of my time here just wandering around the marina. I’ll say more about why later. I did go fishing one day, it was OK, but not really what I was looking for. I really wanted to catch a marlin. This is supposed to be the marlin capital of the world. I did see that people were catching them.

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My neighbors here at the hotel caught one each! I may try again when I get to Puerto Vallarta. I’m heading that way this afternoon, but since no direct flights from here to there, I will stay tonight in Guadalajara. I will get to explore just a little bit of that city, but hoping it will give me at least some idea of the atmosphere there.

More later…

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Lesson learned: don’t go to the local beach on the weekend! The rest of the week, there is no one there. 🙂

Friendly Friday: Meeting the Sunrise in the Sky

I meant to get this done earlier, but a lot’s been going on the last couple of days. I found this “Friendly Friday” blog challenge last week on the Manja Mexi Moving blog and made a post for it. This week there’s a different host- the Something to Ponder About blog- and a different subject. 

It’s already Thursday so they’ll probably come out with something new tomorrow. Check out everybody’s posts for sunrise this week. Here’s mine…

I was able to fulfill another bucket list fantasy- ballooning over the incredible landscape of Cappadocia. We floated silently around rock spires and canyons, with only the occasional burst of the burner to give us more height and the clicks of the dozens of cameras. 

We headed out before dawn so we’d be in the air to see the sun rise. it was spectacular. My photos don’t do it justice at all. We slowly drifted down where the ground team met us in a dry field to pack up the balloon while we had a champagne toast to celebrate our morning. 

Morning in Vegueta

I’ve been working here in Las Palmas, Canary Islands for about 3 weeks now. This hitch I’ve been working nights on the DS-11 (drillship-11). I like it. It’s been pretty quiet so far, so I have some time to catch up on writing and photos. I can even go ashore once in a while in the daytime when things are open. 

It’s not often we get the chance to go ashore any more as mariners. At least not when we’re working for any of the oilfield companies. It makes such a huge difference in crew morale. I don’t even know how they get away with it. In the Deep Sea fleet, companies must pay overtime if they restrict us to the ship. No such thing in the oilfield. 😦

I do very much prefer sailing deep sea. Of course I would be doing that if I could. I have been looking for the opportunity to get back out there since I was laid off my last ‘regular’ job- late 2015. There still is nothing out there. 

In the meantime, I’m happy to get any work anywhere. It’s been so long between jobs! This gig is one of the best I’ve had lately. I love working overseas (outside the USA). The traveling was one of the main reasons I chose to sail as a career. The other was that the job depended on your skills and knowledge- not what you looked like or how you dressed or talked (too bad that’s changed so much).

I’ve been able to go ashore a couple of times this hitch. It’s just so nice to be able to get off, walk around, see something different.

Plaza de las Ranas

Tuesday morning I met my friend Josito who lives in town. He works here too, but he’s on his off time. I took a cab from the ship in to town and we met at the Plaza de las Ranas (frogs). I get off watch at 7 am and need to get some sleep before watch, so I wanted to get to town as early as possible. But the people here like to stay up late and they don’t get started early in the morning.

Nothing was open, the streets were empty at 0800 when I met Josito. We decided to go to the market in Vegueta- the old town. The market was old too, it opened in 1863. It was full of individual little shops selling fruits and vegetables, meat, fish, cheese, breads- and pastries that made my mouth water (I skipped breakfast). Josito explained that lots of the shops were closed because so many locals go on vacation this time of year.

I wasn’t really shopping for food anyway. I just like to see how other people do. I always like to go look around the grocery stores whenever I travel. Just to see what’s the same and what’s different.

Here, we met a very friendly storekeeper who answered all my questions about his exotic wares. He had so many things on display: guavas, mangos, papayas, passion fruit, huge (6″) tomatoes, raspberries, dragonfruit, lychees, kumquats, loquats, 4-5 different kinds of bananas, all kinds of spices fresh or dried and packaged.

Jose and Josito
me and Jose at his fruit and vegetable stand

He had things I’d never seen before like guanoabana (not sure of spelling). It’s the big green fruit in the photo, above the tomatoes. It was white and fibrous inside, full of juice, and tasted very tart. Jose let us taste anything we wanted. I have to admit, I was not thrilled with a lot of the tropical fruits. We bought a big bunch of Canary Island bananas to bring back to the ship.

Vegueta is compact, it’s easy to wander around the old cobblestone streets and find all the major attractions: the Cathedral, casa Colon, the market and lots of little shops, bars and restaurants. We stopped for a snack as we wandered the neighborhood.

The Cathedral de Canaries (or Cathedral of Santa Ana) is one of the most important historic sites in Las Palmas. They started building it around 1500, they built and rebuilt it over 500 years (that’s why the different architectural styles- gothic, renaissance and neoclassical). It’s dedicated to St Ann.

The people here haul a float through the town with her statue and a huge silver ‘crown’ that surrounds the entire statue. They keep the float in a barred off section of the cathedral. There’s Semana Santa (Easter Week) and Corpus Christi in June, and the feast on the anniversary of the dedication of the cathedral on November 26. I imagine these processions must be a real sight to see.

You’re allowed to go up the towers of the cathedral. The view should be fantastic, since these towers are the highest point for miles around. There’s an elevator, it costs 1.5 euros, but there was no one in attendance so we had to pass on going up.

The walls of the cathedral are hung with beautiful old paintings of Jesus, Mary and the saints. A gorgeous pipe organ stands close to the entrance on the left. They were having a small funeral in one of the chapels while we were there. I felt like an intruder so didn’t get too close to that side of the church.

I took a close look at the pulpit, with its excellent carvings of angels and saints. I’m not really religious, so can’t say much more about the place except that it was cool, quiet and peaceful. A nice place to relax and rest and meditate or pray if you want.

Next to the famous Viva Vegueta sign, we found the Iglesia de San Agustin, another beautifully decorated church. It’s not as grand as the Cathedral, but had some very interesting artwork inside. It’s also mentioned as the Sanctuary ofSt Rita, patron saint of “impossible causes” (also of abused women). I had an aunt named after her. Mary Rita- quite a saint herself. 

There were quite a few more churches to explore around Vegueta, including the Ermita de San Antonio Abad, which was where Columbus prayed while he was here. I would’ve liked to check it out, but it wasn’t open while I was there.

I never have enough time to explore when I’m working, but at least I got the chance to see a few of the more interesting things around Las Palmas. The old area of Vegueta was a perfect choice to spend the morning. I did get to see the Casa Colon too, but it would be too long a post to write it up here. Check back later. 😉 

Friendly Friday: Istanbul

I was looking at everybody’s posts for this week’s Friendly Friday challenge, and I just had to post one more time. 🙂 

When I made my post the other day, I totally forgot about all the other places in Istanbul where they had such beautiful tile work. Different than the gorgeous stuff some people were posting from Portugal, but beautiful in another way altogether. Combined with the architecture, the artistry with the tile work makes so many of their buildings really special.

Here are a few photos I took in the mosques. I was really affected by how much time and effort went into building these places. The total devotion it must take to spend years, decades, centuries even- to build something so impressive.

Istanbul’s Blue Mosque with thousands of blue tiles decorating the interior

Those were from the Blue Mosque in Istanbul. The photos below, I’m not positive, but I’m pretty sure they were in the Hagia Sophia. It was a Christian cathedral before it became a mosque and it’s now a museum. The shimmering gold tiles of these mosaics really shine when the sun hits them. 

Imagine the skill and patience it must’ve taken to make these things. How to make sure all those little pieces go together just right. Like a giant jigsaw puzzle! And all such a long time ago too. Of course, they didn’t have the internet to distract them back then. 😉

One more note re: tile. Have you heard of Dixie Friend Gay? She’s a modern day mosaic artist with some absolutely stunning projects. Here’s a photo I took to pique your interest. Check out this earlier post...

View From the Harbor

I’ve been here in Las Palmas (Canary Islands) since July 10. I’ve been working nights, from 7 pm to 7 am every day. I’ll be doing that until I go home. I’m scheduled to leave August 8th (early). 

It’s interesting watching what’s going on around the harbor. Yes, it’s really sad to see so many drill ships stacked up over here, but at least I can see they’re working on 3 of them. That’s a good sign. They must have work coming up or they wouldn’t be spending any money. It would be great to see them all leave soon.

My old ship the Discoverer India was docked right in front of us for a couple of weeks. I watched their dive boat working on their stern and the bunker operations over the last couple of days. They just left last night. 

Discoverer India

I never realized how busy this port was. Other than all the drill ships, I see quite a few LNG ships coming and going. There are a few ferries every day- they go to Tenerife and around the islands. You can even take a ferry all the way to Spain (in about 40 hours).

There’s a container terminal right across from me. I see the container ships working there almost every night. There’s a yacht harbor a little further across. There are hundreds of boats over there. The sailboats are fun to watch, especially when they want to get so close to the big ships passing by.

LNG ship in the harbor, Las Palmas, Canary Islands

Yes, sailboats do have the right of way over power driven vessels- but- common sense should prevail, best get out of the way of someone 100 times bigger than you are that takes a half mile to stop.

The weather has been overcast since I’ve been here. I’ve been told this is normal for this time of year. Not to expect much sunshine. It doesn’t rain. We’ve only had one night with just a drizzle, not even enough to really wet the decks, but it looks like it’s going to rain every day.

I can see the lights of the city climbing up the hills across the water. It makes me want to take a ride over and explore. I did get to go over one day last week. My cab driver told me that one guy actually did try to swim over once…

A “Scottish guy, off one of the drill ships” took a swim for the city, they had police boats and helicopters tracking him down. The company sent him home, no doubt the Spanish officials were in complete agreement on that. I bet whichever company that was does not allow shore leave any more. Sadly, most don’t no matter what. 😦

Harbor scene at night

Songs of the Sea: Smooth Sailing

Since it looks like I won’t be going to work any time soon, I’ve been looking at the travel posts in my email more closely. I get dozens of them every day. I usually just delete them because I’ve been on call for work for so long. I can’t make any kind of plans for more than a week or two in advance. 

Since I got back from my last (only one week long) job, I’ve been calling everyone for the last 3 weeks. No one has anything in the works. So, I thought I shouldn’t waste my time here at home, doing nothing, with no prospects of work. I could go to Mexico and get my paperwork started. I’ve been trying to move out of the US for years and finally got a temporary residency visa for Mexico. 🙂

I’ve been considering moving to Mazatlan, but it seems no one has direct flights anymore. That means I will have to change my plans. Mazatlan will have to wait. As long as I am still even trying to work, I will need to be close to an airport with direct flights to Houston.

I am still trying to move to Mexico, now I just need to figure out where. Puerto Vallarta? Cabo San Lucas? Guadalajara? or San Miguel de Allende? Anybody have any other suggestions?

In the meantime, those travel ads are making me even more anxious to get out of here! This song by Dennis “Menace” Roberts reminds me of the good times down in the islands. I love the music and the video is fun. Nice that they’re using real people in it instead of models too. 🙂 

I wish I could get back down there. Now, or some time soon I hope! 🙂 

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! 🙂

Arrival in Istanbul

Yes!!!

I’m finally out of the house and off on another adventure! I’ve spent the last couple of days on the road and have now settled in a bit in Istanbul (Turkey).

After a long flight (almost 13 hours) , and a loooong line at immigration, my driver was waiting outside the baggage claim to take me to the hotel. I chose the Osmanhan Hotel. It looked comfortable and convenient from the website. Also, not a chain, which is nice.

After 2 days with no sleep, I was too tired to do anything but hit the sack. The bed was very comfortable (pillow top mattress and down comforter). Sweet. 🙂

More later…

Met the Buzcador in Berwick

Sorry to have been out of touch for so long. I got a last minute job offer, and tho it was not what I was hoping for I was happy to get it.

I didn’t have much time to get ready, so I left the house with a lot of stuff unfinished. I meant to leave the house about 6 am, but with all the last minute stuff, and then phone calls all morning, I didn’t get on the road til around 10.

It was probably for the best. That allowed me to miss all the traffic in Houston and all along the way. It took me about 6 hours to drive from my house in Lake Jackson to where the boat was, in Berwick LA.

I had to meet a lady when I got close, to get passport photos taken for my Panama seaman’s book application. That took about an hour. I got to the boat about 5, already pretty tired.

The Buzcador was tied up next to a deck barge at Basin Fleeting, along the Atchafalaya River in Berwick. She was an old ex-Tidewater AHTS (anchor handling tug supply) and looked in pretty rough shape.

I drug my gear up the gangway and one of the crew showed me my room. I was pretty happy with it. It had just one bunk, a couch, 2 portholes where I could check the weather, a desk, plenty of storage space and my own head (bathroom). It also had a TV and DVD player, but I never bothered to turn them on so I don’t know if they worked or not.

I met the Captain, who I had worked with before on another boat. He was the one who pretty much got me this position. He had worked with this company before (I had never heard of them), and had made the winning bid to deliver the Buzcador to Colombia.

I hired on as AB. Of course I was hoping to get a mates position, but since I’ve been out of work for so long I was so happy just to get the AB job! At least it would get me out of the house and onto a boat. We were going on a voyage. Out of the Gulf of Mexico! I’m always excited about the chance to go somewhere new and interesting!

I met the other deckhands and QMED that night. I met the rest of the crew the next day. All together, there would be 8 of us making the trip. Captain Todd, Mate Noel, AB Sid, OS Marvin, QMED Wilson, Chief Engineer Carlos, and client rep Yesid.

We spent the next couple of days at the dock, working furiously to get the boat ready for the voyage. She had been cold stacked (tied to the dock with no crew) for years. Any boat will deteriorate if she’s not run regularly. The rust on deck is the last thing to worry about, it’s the machinery that is always the most concern. We had plenty to deal with in all departments.

While we were still at the dock, we had drills. Good thing, since it took a good, long while to get the fire pumps to work correctly. Electricians were still working on the alarm systems. We had outside mechanics to help too. Deck department was busy with cleaning, securing the ship for sea, preparing paperwork and voyage planning. Engineers definitely had the short end of the stick on this trip!

I’ll post more later, hopefully with more pictures. Like I said yesterday, I’m STILL having problems with my computers/internet!

I’m Back. Sorta

Hey! I made it!! The trip only took about 3 times longer than expected. I didn’t think I’d be out of touch for nearly so long. I’m so glad to see so many of you stuck around and didn’t jump ship on me.

We brought the ship into Cartagena (Columbia) this morning. It took us a couple of hours to get cleared by customs & immigration and to turn the ship over to it’s new owners.

Then it was off to find a hotel for the night (thanks to the personal generosity of the captain). Since we had no internet onboard, we had no way to look for anything beforehand. We had a recommendation for one from our Columbian client and we went there.

We wound up going to another place. It’s actually an apartment and close to the beach. We were all just happy to be off the ship. First order of duty was dinner and drinks! Cervezas! Margaritias!! The captain treated us to a nice dinner at the place across the street. Everybody came back to the apt and crashed afterward. I went for a walk.

I’ll tell you more of the story over the next few days. It’s after midnight and I’ll be up at 0630 in the morning. We leave here at 0730 for the airport. My flight leaves around 1030 (I still don’t know the exact details).

I heard my flight(s) will arrive into New Orleans around 2300. Then I still have to get back to the dock where I left my truck. It’s about a 6 hour drive from there to get home. I’m not sure I’ll be able to make that drive after being up all day. I’m not so good at staying up past 24 hours anymore.

So I won’t actually be home for another day or two. Look for me to catch up after that. 🙂