Saturday, 15 March 2014

Speaking a Different Language

There are huge groups of people travelling together – like the French Canadians on board who have come under the auspices of the CAA.  That is a wonderful way to travel – The Canadian Automobile Association makes the arrangements and the only like-minded qualifications is that a person wants to go around South America.  There is also a big group of German-speaking people on board, some Swiss.  Well, the bottom line is people from 47 different countries.  Now here is one of the tricks of the voyages.  The head waiter has to find a way to get all of these people at dining tables where everyone speaks the same language.  And the menu has to go to them in their language of choice.  And something can go wrong even when all of the above gets done correctly.  For instance, I wanted the Rasperberry Meringue, but the waiter snatched the menu from my hands and said, “Somehow by mistake you got tomorrow’s menu.” I had to begin to deliberate on today’s choices but it put me behind.

I make the mistake of speaking to people – in halls, on elevators, while climbing stairs.  I forget how multi-national the passenger list is.  And English just doesn’t work for everyone.  I really notice in the market how difficult it is when there is a language barrier.  It just doesn’t help much to say the same word slower, or louder, or over and over again.  We were shopping last night in the loveliest market.  After the organized tour, the bus guide told us that if we would come back to the main street, turn left and walk 200 metres, we would find a 3-block long market. Greg is the perfect companion for this kind of event.  He walks along beside us, waits at the stalls as we go right to the back of them. Sometimes Greg is right out on the streets, for small cones have been put out there blocking off the parking lane, to let busy shoppers pass each other stepping off the curb for a while and then back onto the streets.  Their cone-shaped devices must be their way of trying to preserve the lives of the tourists making their way up and down the streets.. 

The guide had told us during our excursion that people in Chile are allowed to have as many dogs as they wish.  Some people have 3 or 4.  They roam the streets freely. I think he was explaining to us why there were so many dogs – I saw them all over – for example, three just sleeping side by side in the crevice between the road and the curb outside of a busy shop, people stepping over and around the dogs, back out into the road, around them, back to the side-walk.  Wyona buys a cape.  I buy a colourful knitted sweater.  Greg quietly comes by each of us, takes the bags we are carrying.  We are empty handed again – able to admire the beauty of the alpaca scarves or check out tooled leather purses that have Chile written on a pocket, or embroidered into the flap of a finely woven bag.

Greg is quiet.  He pulls more money out of his wallet as we run out. He did buy himself a sandwich one day.  A sad day. Wyona’s last shopping moment in Argentina was when she wanted to buy a pitcher for her grand daughters to pour water out of this summer.  She was short of money – just the amount he had spent on the sandwich.

My highlight of the market was Wyona buying a poncho for $20.00.

“No forty,” said the vendor.
“Why?,” said Wyona, wrinkling her brow.

“Chile.  Chile.”  Then she pointed to other products in stall saying dismissively as she touched them, “Synthetic.  Uruguay. Peru.”  Then smiling and touching the shawl Wyona wanted, saying “Chile.  Chile.  $40.”

That the moment was well worth $40. 

When we got home at night, Greg asked if we could stop in Miami and go to the post office.

“What do you want to buy there?”

“I was thinking that we could stop and ship some of the items you have been buying to Calgary.”

Saturday, 8 March 2014

You Can't Make Me Paint

The day is March 8, 2014.  It is possible for cruisers not to know what day it is, even the the Daily Schedule announces the day, the temperature and lists possible things to do.  To read the list was overwhelming.  I began to cross of choices I would not take.  One was Painting with Watercolours. 

“You can’t make me paint,” I said to Wyona.  “I tried that on two cruises.  I was so happy the choice wasn’t here on this trip.  And now they have it in the bulletin.  A big no from me.”

I was right about making a choice that was in my best interess and this morning I knew that choice was to get out and walk the deck, to catch up on that good feeling that only a brisk walk can bring.  I tried to sneak out the door, putting my exercise clothing on in the bathroom so as not to wake Wyona and Greg.
I was successful getting my first leg in the pants I was wearing.  The second I tried while leaning against the vanity.  The four foot waves outside gave the boat a lurch and I slid toward the shower.  No problem, I would just slide down the wall of the shower door.  No door there, unfortunately.  Only a shower curtain that gave way.  I made the fall as quietly as possible, no sound passing my lips but thinking, wow, that was a lot of weight to hit the ground just now.

The noise must have bolted sleeping Wyona right out of bed. Greg was also upright when I came out of the bathroom to tell them, no, I was still conscious, just embarrassed to have wakened them. I slipped right out the door. 

This is a different cruise.  Different people in the dining room, ones I have not noticed before in the lectures and now on deck at 8 am.   It is not the professional joggers on deck.  Only people like me.  Walking for good health. Someone doing tai chi stretches in one of the corners. All of us walking gingerly over the wet parts of the deck where the ship maintenance workers are keeping the windows and walks clean with their hoses and squeegies.  I try not to look at my watch, but to keep walking, stretching tall and tightening muscles in the back and front of my body – holding them, then giving them a soft relax as I walked.  The soft relax feels better than the real exercise.

An hours walk was up and I headed for the cabin, but saw some people already going to the Constellation Lounge.  Even though dressed in my exercise wear and with wind-blown hair, still I wanted to know what would be going on so early in the morning.  Which is the reason why I walked into the Painting with Watercolours class.  The teacher was starting in a class really for beginners.  I stopped to watch her pedagogue which was so artful.  The second time she said, “Now does anyone else need a kit?”, I raised my hand. 

Now I have a picture of a glacier.  Done by me.  Not a glacier that Greg could recognize, but Wyona got it on her first try.  I am prouder than punch.  Third time with water colours, the charm.

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Puenta del Esta, Uruguay

I thought Greg was making a mistake, taking his rain jacket on his add-on trip when we were in Puenta del Esta.  We had enjoyed a 3 hour day trip on a coach – seen the Atlantic and the Rivera de la Plata on the side of the peninsula, driven to the Ralli Museum, gawked at the upscale neighbourhoods of the city, heard explanations about the poor neighbourhoods we had driven through and then gone over the iconic bridge of Puenta del Esta – its shape is like the curves of a woman’s body.  Imagine a group of 40 retiree’s being asked if they want to do the bridge again, this second time at high speed.  All had to agree which put a lot of pressure on the timid and those with pace makers. There was so much happiness among the old as the driver began to pick up speed. I suspected he would come to a full stop, but no – he hit the highway at full speed, the bus load of oldies screaming as though some could remember a time when they did this at the fair on holidays.

Greg walked around the island without us.  He was right to take his jacket.  The thunder clouds rolled in and poured rain.  The tender boat loaded up for the last trip back to the boat.  As Greg tells the story, the crew took in the last of the poles, the huge canisters of water and cool towels that they greet us with on the shore when we are returning to the boat. But as the fully loaded tender took off, a crew member slipped into the water, the boat moving up against him and crushing his leg against a tire.  The captain rushed to the back.  They took the crew member on top of the tender to look at the wound at which time he fainted.  So off the tender came all 160 passengers and the equipment and the tender went high speed to the hospital, the passengers waiting for the next boat.

That day, our tour guide had apologized for talking so much – she said that people only remember 10% of what they hear on tours.  That will be difficult to prove by Greg, Wyona and me.  We talked for a long while about the depth of the information we learned about Uruguay’s economy, politics, and government.  Did you know that there are 3.2 million people in Uruguay and 12 million cows.  Fewer sheep.  Only 3 per person.  Wyona and I were ready to buy leather, but it is exported for car seats and beautiful leather coats sold elsewhere.  “You are more likely to buy Uruguayan leather in another country than in ours,” she told us.

The Ralli Museum had many pieces by Salvador Dali.  Janet and Wyona spent a day in London looking at a Dali exhibit and Wyona could still  remember what to look for in a Dali painting.  I spent a day in Catalonia doing the same thing at the Dali Museum.  Now was a chance to see some of his travelling work.  Wyona took on my job –keeping the group (of two) moving.  I was in a linger longer space.  She knew that the bus was pulling out of the museum parking lot in 40 minutes and we had a lot of pieces to see.

A day to always remember.  Even though I have already forgotten to tell you about the Pablo Atchugarry work we saw.

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Finally, on Board

The taxi driver told us that 9 pieces of luggage and 3 passengers were too much for his cab.  I could understand that much from his body language.  I didn’t have to speak Spanish.  Somehow Wyona fit all of us in, and Greg offered a generous tip, so the driver left the port happy. 

We proceeded to get on board.  For us – entering the day of final miracles – no need to unpack again until we leave for home.

The same delicious Sunday market was in full swing and Wyona and I had pesos to spend at the market. Knowing that this would be that last of the really big markets for us we proceeded to the best market of all.

Greg found coins that had been carved so as to leave the interesting figures still in the circle of the coin and the rest cut away.  If only he were a jewellery wearer.  But he couldn’t bring himself to buy one of those, nor lls one of the purses that other men carry.  But to give him his due, he happily carries any of Wyona’s bags, often two or more at a time.

At the end of the day the church bells were ringing at the San Telmo Catholic Church.  We stopped in to watch a priest dressed in jean light the candles getting ready for the service.  Then we headed for the bus, only to be stopped by Spanish music coming from a derelict hacienda.  The front courtyard was full of musicians.  A sign said, come in, stay, free, the musicians are not being paid so give what you can.  At first we watched through the spaces in the high wrought iron fence.
from a website for One Day Cafe in San Telmo

Then we could smell the grill where chorizo sausages were grilled, split, and place on buns that were only vehicles to get meat into the mouth.

I would have stayed forever.  Greg and Wyona forever and a day.  The end of a dream day.

Saturday, 1 March 2014

Five Days in One

A grand day.

1. We saw a military band and procession on horseback.

Just beautiful.

"I think this is a usual military show -- the band are on horses.  Something one might see in London," said Greg. 

... drummers for the social protest ...
2. Following the horses we found ourselves in the middle of well organized protest about the political regime in Argentina.

Thousands of marchers.

We took pictures.

We tried to get people to tell us what was going on.

Our Spanish is non-existent.

Their English is the same.

 One man did a gesture for us.

He touched his tongue and then hit the bottom of his foot as though it were sizzling.

... looking at the bus schedule ...
no buses come because protestors are on the road
3. We caught a bus – our first local bus with our new cards.

We put $10 each on our cards.

I think the rides cost us $1 a piece.

We have a lot of rides to take yet.

... the blue group walks by ...
4. We got off at the MNBA Museum.

We couldn’t find it.

Greg walked right around a beautiful Greek looking building with fantastic pillars.

 He could find no entry.

We gave up and crossed the street and tried to get in another entry.

... the yellows come next ...
No luck.

But the people ahead of us trying to do the same thing were shooed around to the other side of the building.


We entered on that street.

A marvellous building full of treasures: Manet, Monet, Rodin, Goya, Rembrandt and the early 20th Century Painters.

We had a 2 pm tour in English.

 Greg hates tours but loved this one.

 Free admission to the building.

Not even a donation box anywhere.

... now the greens ...
5. We left to go home but passed by an artisan market that was not to be missed.

 I will always regret not buying the beautiful large leather bag I saw at the start of the market.

Wyona says this.

Catherine Jarvis says this.

I know it myself.
"How lucky are we to see this," Greg says.
If you find something you love, just buy it right then, for you may never find it again.

And you will remember forever that you left it behind if you don't buy it.

Ah well.

Some other shopper will buy it but knowing that, doesn’t make me much happier.

I wanted that bag to go with my other 10 bags I don't use.

6. We ate – we needed food by now, but we also needed to sit down.

The serve was s-l-o-w but we didn’t care. We needed to rest.

... a protestor asks Wyona to take his picture ...
7. We went to see Evita’s gravestone.

Just as we were to enter the gates, they closed them.

Six pm on a Saturday.

Too late for us.

8. We took another bus ride home. We don’t know where to touch our loaded transit cards. 
... a soft drink at a 25 hour store ...
I was hitting it everywhere on the unit from which you can buy the cash tickets.

Other passengers on the bus are very helpful.

They can see us doing it all wrong and one will get out of their seat and pantomime the right move, for which I am very grateful.

... drinks spilled ...
filet for Wyona, empenadas for Greg and Arta
9. We get off the bus and walk through the Place de Mayo to our favorite gelato shop.

Wyona noticed that the price has gone up on the half litre of gelato.

She tells the owner that we want the old price -- $60, not $70.

He thinks we want to upgrade to a larger container.


We have shopped all over Buenos Aires for the lowest price, and now, tonight, the price has gone up here. 
... Wyona focuses for another shot for the protestor ...
Still, we are happy, have had a day never to forget and know that we are moving out of our spacious digs to a small room on a ship where we will be stepping all over each other for 28 days.

I hope we are still friends on March 30.