Story Veta (Book 1)

Kathy in FL

TB Fanatic
World Cruise Day 139: Jan 16 – Bora Bora (Vaitape), French Polynesia

Arrived in Bora Bora today at about 8 am. Vaitape to be more exact, on the island of Bora Bora. The landscape is dominated by an extinct volcano in the shape of two peaks, surrounded by an aquamarine lagoon. Unbelievably gorgeous. Seen from above the island looks like something out of a fantasy-genre story. There were fewer postcards to be had today than I expected given the beauty of the location, and each one was expensive, but I suppose when everything is imported that’s just how things are.
Breakfast on the cruise ship was quickly consumed, and then we were on our way. We were picked up from the ship in a glass bottom boat for the first part of our excursion. All four of us were on the same excursion and we enjoyed an up-close view of Bora Bora's underwater world without getting wet. A nice change of pace, even for an active 9-year-old boy. As the island is surrounded by a lagoon and barrier reef, it is the perfect location to view an incredible array of marine life. While on the boat, we enjoyed the magnificent scenery as we glided over colorful coral and the tropical fish that live there. I would have loved to have been one of the divers that got to feed the fish but there were rules and Frankie was too young. Vit and Nicholas did the honors and Nicholas even played the fool a bit to cheer his brother up by clowning for him through the glass. Frankie wasn’t the only one to laugh at his antics.

Our guide was very experienced and gave us tips on how to identify the different species of fish; from parrot, to surgeon and on to butterfly fish. He also shared the history and legends of Bora Bora. The captain of the boat – once the divers were back on board – took us through the lagoon and made sure we got the best views of sights such as the volcanic backdrop of Mount Otemanu.

Once we disembarked onto the pier, we were quickly directed to climb aboard a 4x4 vehicle that had been waiting for us. The driver had the top down and we were off to take the back roads to discover Bora Bora. Our driver, who also acted as our guide, was professional and a local which gave him better insight than a seasonal visiting employee would have. Thanks to him we had the opportunity to circle the entire island of Bora Bora in an open-air vehicle.

The tour gave us access to sights and viewpoints that there is no way we could have seen any other way. We saw World War II cannons and simply unbelievable panoramic views. I’m going to run out of superlatives at this rate. In the 4x4, something they called a “Le Truck,” we climbed the steep incline of one of the island’s mountains and got a close look at the lush hills and abundant flora that color the island green. The view at the top was indescribable (even with a thesaurus the superlatives are insufficient, not even pictures does it justice). Once we reached the top, we soaked up the panoramic ocean vistas, with sparkling shades of blue stretching as far as the eye can see. Bora Bora is quite literally a dot in the middle of the Pacific Ocena and I am amazed that ancient travelers could even find it.

Tropical panoramas weren’t the only thing we saw. There were natural and historic sites and small villages that fit the stereotype of a Pacific Paradise location. There were so many photo stops along the way that no one complained – a rarity in my experience – as we drove to the district of Faanui and scenic Faanui Bay. There we saw the ancient ceremonial site of the Faanui marae, Bora Bora’s biggest Polynesian temple. Like many sites of its kind it had a raised ahu altar.

There was another bit of scenic drive – every drive is scenic if I am being honest – where we made a surprise stop at Bloody Mary’s Bar & Restaurant. I’d never heard of the place but Vit had. That’s when I found out he’d been to the South Pacific before with his former employer, the yacht owner. The location is a longtime favorite of Hollywood eilite and those that want to hobnob with them. From the outside it looks like a stereotypical tiki bar with a thatched roof, open sides, white-sand floor, wooden slab tables and stools made of coconut stumps. Inside was the same view since outside was inside. Yes, it was nice but the prices for what you were getting nearly knocked me out of my sandals. While everyone else ooooh’d and aaaah’d over the place, to me it was a tourist trap for the rich and famous, with prices that matched. I wasn’t disappointed, it was only a photo stop, but it seemed a lame way to end the tour.

We were dropped off at the pier area and rather than spend the time tendering back and forth to get lunch – though it would have been cheaper – we grabbed some deli food from the grocery store and while Vit and the brothers finished their meals (they didn’t feel like shopping) I looked through a nearby craft market. Thank you, ATM machine. It allowed me to use my debit card to extract some of the local currency (the French Pacific Franc). I came out with what I had been looking for but tucked it in my backpack rather than risk having to answer questions.

It was a good thing that I completed my transaction when I did because the water taxi that was to take us on our next adventure arrived a few minutes early. A short ride took us to the airport; then, after a safety briefing, we boarded what we were informed was a Cessna 208 Caravan. It was a plane, a small plane, and that’s all I’m saying. Vit and I made sure the brothers had the window seats, but we still got a marvelous view. Bora Bora is known as the “Pearl of the Pacific” for good reason. The colors of the island and surrounding water were magnificent from the air (where I got better views than any postcard). We flew low enough we got to see the famous water villas where some people are crazy enough to pay $15,000.00 and more per night to sleep in what amounts to a tiki hut. Some people not only have too much time on their hands, but money as well. Though in all honesty I know neither one is any of my business.

Then there was Matira Point, framed by verdant green scenery. During WW2, Bora Bora was an American GI base and there are remains of the military presence in several places on the island. We’d seen some up close, but it was just as educational to see them from the air. What we hadn’t seen yet was our flyover of Motu Tapu, a stunning private island in the lagoon owned by Hilton. I wasn’t even sure I wanted to know how expensive the hotel on the little island is. We also flew over the heart-shaped atoll of Tupai, one of the world’s most photographed locations and a popular destination for honeymooning couples. Vit briefly brushed my hand, and while not romantic in a traditional sense, it was more than enough to make me feel … appreciated. I was just hoping my purchase gave him some of that back later in the evening.

The air flight was all too brief, but our day was winding down. However, I found out we had one more adventure to go. Instead of taking a water taxi back to the tender boats we were picked up by another boat and taken on what was called an “aqua safari.” Our boat’s captain took us to a shallow part of the lagoon where we met our guide. We donned diving helmets, and after the required safety schpiel, we followed a certified dive instructor 10 feet below the ocean’s surface.

I stuck close to Frankie who got more excited than I was comfortable with. He’d become an old hand at snorkeling, but diving was a different kettle of fish. Pun intended. But all turned out well. The specialized helmet was connected to the surface by an air hose (rather than to tanks on our backs) and that allowed us to breathe freely under the water. Bonus was that we got to keep our heads completely dry.

Oh … my … goodness. I was nearly as giddy as Frankie. The lagoon was teeming with an amazing variety of gorgeous, rainbow-colored tropical fish. It was like taking a stroll in a park … only this was an underwater park. Instead of shrubbery we saw coral formations. Instead of flowers there was seaweed and algae and the blue, green, and purple of the coral itself. Instead of forest and parkland wildlife we saw an abundance of fish as we explored marine life such as manta rays. The only time I got tense was when a blacktip reef shark was spotted but it took one look at us then scooted in a different direction.

We were sharing the excursion with a group of snorkelers from another ship and it took a while to get everyone back onboard, but from there it was a quick ride back to the ship. We were a bit wet which freaked out the security machinery, but everyone was in such a good mood we laughed it off and then carried on. Sailaway was at 6 pm and afterwards Frankie was content to do room service and then put all his pictures up on Traveling Marchand and post about his adventures before going off to bed for the night.

Frankie had taken a couple of pictures of me making a face at a clown fish who seemed to be staring back as if fascinated and I sent those to the family in my own vlog. Within the hour Angelia and Derrick both had face timed me in absolute stitches, saying they had all needed the laugh.

I didn’t laugh when I found out there was another government shut down, this one more extensive than the others that had come before it. This one wasn’t because either party wanted it but because some social programs that had been inacted had seriously crapped out the economy and caused the national debt to explode to such an extreme that several countries that had loaned money to us in the past said they no longer would until we balanced the budget. Wow. It would be a lot worse if the rest of the major economies of the world, China and Russia included, weren’t having their own problems. Word is that it isn’t that they won’t lend us money, it is that there is no money to lend. I’m not sure which was actually true, probably both.

I was momentarily and selfishly irritated that it looked like my moment to stun Vit was going to be ruined then I said maybe it was the perfect moment to do it. I quickly took my purchase and slid it on and then did my hair and make up and lowered the lights in the cabin.

He told me when he first came in, he thought I’d gone to sleep early. When I stepped out of the shadows he wasn’t certain at first whether he was imagining things … or perhaps the story of sirens that inticed sailors were true after all. All I know is that the cabin newsletter he’d brought in with him fell to the floor and then after slowly walking up to me he fell to his knees. The way he looked at me and touched me. Oooo la la.

My purchase had been a sarong and an artificial flower to put in my hair. Neither one stayed on long. But I didn’t mind as I was more than … satisfied … with their effect. Afterwards he didn’t even require a shower to get to sleep. See me sitting here with a Cheshire grin. And now I need to get to sleep. Tomorrow may be a sea day, but I promised to attend an early meet up of the exercise group on the Sports Deck for an advanced yoga session. We’re all feeling the results of rich food and lazy days.
 

Kathy in FL

TB Fanatic
World Cruise Day 140: Jan 17 – Cruise the South Pacific Ocean

I should be asleep, but I can’t. Waiting for the sleeping pill to work. I haven’t had to take one in forever. But I’m too wound up. I hope the stupid thing takes effect soon. I was too worried about taking a whole one so I only took half of one. Not sure if it is going to help but I can’t take the chance, there is a port day tomorrow and I still need to take Frankie around. To do what escapes me at the moment. Note to self, have to give up exercise time to review planned activities for the day. But it isn’t tomorrow that has me feeling like a spazz. It is what has been going on today.

All anyone seems to be able to talk about is the economy. I take that back, it always starts and ends with the economy, but conversations have been going in crazy circles adding crazy possibilities. It doesn’t matter what nationality you are, you seem to have a special touch you need to add to what is already going to be a hard way to go. Charlie – even as super-freak as he can get on occasion – would tell these people they need to loosen the tinfoil.

I kept Frankie with me here in the cabin as much as I could. I told him it would be easier to capture the sea birds (by picture and drawing) fom the veranda than up on the crowded upper decks with all the oddly acting adults. It wasn’t a lie, but it was not all the truth either. The more and more people talked about the economy, the more their conversations seemed to devolve into all the bad things that could happen as a result. They were feeding off each others’ fears. I didn’t feel like stepping up to the trough, so I hid out. If that makes me a coward, I’ll gladly wear the label.

A fight even broke out in one of the bars between two 70-something year old men. When I heard that I knew that things were serious. That was the worst and the Entertainment Director and staff here on the ship have absolutely gone above and beyond. Madam asked Vit and I especially to come to her cabin.

“You’ve heard?” she asked archly.

I let Vit answer. “If you are speaking of the economic upheaval, then yes. You do not need to think we will abandon you.”

She snorted. “That’s about the only thing I’m not considering right now. You two … never mind. Your loyalty has been on display since the beginning. What I really wanted to address was any concern you might have. Your pay, and the wherewithal to take care of the boys was banked before this trip started. In fact, I put a lot of things in stasis since I knew I would not be on hand to directly take command should something occur. The Marchands have weathered economic storms since before my father was born. What I do wish you to do is what you have been doing all along. Use the assets at your disposal wisely. I suspect not all passengers have chosen as wisely. Watch for people … becoming inappropriately interested in our financial situation. Vit, please impress on Nicholas not to give away private family information. I’ve seen you correct him a few times when a couple of the men who try and pump him for information. Thank you. Double down on that. Veta, I know there isn’t the same worry with Francis but nevertheless please beware some of the women may approach you to do the same.”

“Madam, I never would as it is no one else’s business; however, in all honesty I don’t know anything to share. However I will be on guard.”

“Very good. We’ve come close before to political disaster in our world, same as has happened in the past. It will happen eventually but we don’t know if it will happen this time. I’m more concerned with how people are reacting. Please continue to keep my grandsons safe. I have no desire to put them in a gilded cage, especially as we do not know for sure what is coming, but …”

Vit stood tall and started to say, “Madam …”

She waived her hand. “I know. The two of you have proven yourselves many times already. Just … take care of my grandsons.”

We were dismissed and Vit and I had a long discussion on how unnerving it was to see Madam showing obvious concern. It wasn’t financial concern, but concern on how people would act. Vit agrees and we will step up our training and I will go back to teaching Frankie some self-defense moves appropriate to a child. I just have to do it without scaring him to pieces.

I needed to hear voices from home, but the connection has been impossible. Too many people are stretching the satellite connection to the breaking point. I’m stretching to the bringing point right now. I need to sleep. Hopefully this adjustment reaction people are having will be short-lived.

Vit is calling me to come to bed. Perhaps I am not the only one that needs comfort right now.
 

Kathy in FL

TB Fanatic
World Cruise Day 141: Jan 18 – Rarotonga (Avatui), Cook Islands

Feeling better today, in no small part due to the fact that we spent the day in the Cook Islands. Rarotonga to be more exact. As a distraction it couldn’t be beat. Seriously. I’m getting places and things checked off my bucket list that hadn’t even had a chance to make it there yet.

For my fifteenth birthday Momma gave me a book called 1001 Places to See Before You Die. A few in the family thought it more than a little strange but Momma always was torn between me living a conservative and traditional role, and wanting me to get the chance to travel and do things that she never had the chance to because she had made other priorities. She explained that she didn’t regret her chosen path, just the opposite, but times had changed, and I was a different person from her, and she just wanted me to consider my options before writing anything in stone for my future. I miss Momma. I think she would really like Vit. And she’d know how to calm me down and raise me up and … just all the things that Momma did that I took for granted for too long. I think she really would be enjoying this cruise … but not at the breakneck speed that we’ve been traveling. Although, today was a little slower. The morning was a bit crowded but then the rest of the day was just relaxing on the beach.

We hurriedly tendered over to the pier as soon as we were given the clearance at 8 am sharp. Our first adventure was another 4x4 trek into the rainforest. The tour started as soon as we buckled ourselves in as the guide was very knowledgeable about his island’s history, both ancient and modern. I was a bit surprised by the first leg of our journey which was to visit the green valleys of Avatiu, because we traveled along a paved road that took us close to the center of the island. We also drove along the ancient road, the Are Metua, built and paved with volcanic slabs by the island's ancestors Toi and Atonga. Then there were the taro plantations. The taro plant is an important food crop throughout the Pacific. We learned of its history and how it came to the Cook Islands, as well as about traditional land laws that govern the use of land and how it is passed on from generation to generation.

There were plenty of photos stops at places like the lagoon, valleys, and inland villages from higher ground, and then we plunged into the depths of the rainforest below for more photographic opportunities.

Back at the pier we picked up the next tour. We traveled to Muri Beach Village, where we experienced the local market stalls selling handicrafts, food vendors, and musicians and performers that reflected Maori culture. We interacted with the residents, who always seemed willing to have a friendly chat, share a story or answer a question. They were especially good with Frankie when they found he was perceptive and not just asking questions to stand out and be heard.

We walked to the heart of the village to the striking Te Ara Museum—its white exterior is covered in colorful frangipanis. Inside, the museum features the story of the Cook Islands from ancient, pre-colonial times through to the present day. There were extensive exhibits on the Vaka Moana migrations and the islands’ ariki (chiefs). Frankie was fascinated by the huge aquariums whose purpose was to highlight the need to protect the islands’ lagoons.

After the museum we all were guided to Muri Lagoon for an optional swim or snorkel in its clear, blue waters. Frankie did a little snorkeling but really wanted to get to the beach so that is what we did next. I stopped only long enough to grab a local to-go lunch of “Sapu Soi,” the Cook Island version of chop suy, and a couple of drinks. The beach itself was a little crowded, but after we finished eating, we managed to find a small area and both of us enjoyed the water for a bit.

At 4 pm the beach started clearing out and I reluctantly told Frankie we needed to start walking to the pier so we could catch a tender craft back to the ship. It wasn’t a long walk but, we were both winded by the time we reached the cruise terminal marketplace. Walking in the crowds was a bit like swimming with salmon … at least it wasn’t against the flow but with it. After getting my feet stepped on once again I asked Frankie to pull over and let me put my other shoes back on.

“Veta?”

Startled I looked up and smiled in relief when I saw it was Vit and Nicholas. “Changing shoes,” I said as an explanation.

“Why do we not look in the shops and give the crowds time to thin out.”

“There is only an hour before we have to be back on the ship and the line for the tender boats is really long.”

With greater experience he said, “We will make it back in time. Why don’t I get us some drinks and we will wait for you in the shade of that umbrella?”

It was tempting and when Vit said, “You know you want to” I shrugged and gave in without any argument. I really do need to sit down and try and rework my budget. The “bonus” that Madam gave me at Christmas is what I have set as my limit with my paycheck going into the account that Charlie manages and that he is supposed to be purchasing things on my behalf for Pembroke. He said he will send me an accounting the end of this month and I’m almost afraid to get it. I trust Charlie, but I get the feeling that things are much more expensive than I originally planned on them being.

But since I did have money, I got to spending it … well, not a ridiculous amount and only on one thing, though it was a want and not a necessity. I bought perfurmes made the old-fashioned way … out of local tropical flowers. The two scents I chose were gardenia and jasmine. I love both scents and Momma grew them. The gardenia bush outside of the front door at our house in Jacksonville perfumed the entire house when the door was opened. The jasmine I am most familiar with are the vines of the Confederate Jasmine. This isn’t the same kind of vine, but it still has a similar smell.

I came back to find that Vit had just finished his drink and the brothers were on the last slurps of their own. “You could have taken more time Veta,” Vit said quietly as the boys were getting their stuff together.

“I got what I’m happy with,” I told him with an appreciate thank you in my eyes. “Besides, the line has definitely gone down, and it is time for us to return to the ship so that Madam doesn’t grow concerned.”

“She won’t be worried,” Nicholas replied with confidence.

“Oh really?” I said, wondering how he was so sure.

Both brothers laughed and pointed and then took off in a rush over to the taxi where Madam and Miss Hayworth were emerging … with several large bags and assorted packages.

“Oh my,” I said thinking that my small bag of perfume bottles looked pretty pitiful compared to their haul.

Miss Hayworth said jovially, “Goodness, thank you Frankie. I was beginning to wonder if we would need to pay a porter to help out.”

Vit and I both got called in to help get a few more things out of the back of the taxi and I did my best to keep my mouth shut and Miss Hayworth took care of the tip. I know for a fact they’d already mailed off a great many packages when we were in San Diego which helped to clean and organize their suite. I can only imagine if they continue to shop like this how their rooms will look until they can get to their next “mail” point.

Madam wasn’t the only one with packages. Security for getting back on the ship was backed up considerably just putting all the packages and things through the converyor belt. I did hear a few people gumbling, saying they wished they had purchased personal necessities when they were in the States. It made me even more thankful that I’d done that very thing when I had the chance. Vit had heard the grumbling about prices as well and gave me a kiss (once we got to our cabin) for thinking of him during my shopping trip.

Frankie had gotten quite a workout at the lagoon and beach and was content to eat dinner, do a few lessons, upload his day’s photos to Traveling Marchand, and then fall asleep in front of a video. I left him that way for a bit and then got him up and to his cabin just in time to see Nicholas coming down the hall.

“I’ll take him,” he told me quietly.

“Everything okay?”

“Just getting a little tired of the freak out.”

I sighed. “Still talking about the government shut down?”

“That and other stuff.”

“Um … how’s Madam?”

“Grandmother says you must be prepared for big swings or you aren’t prepared. She’s not freaking out but … she’s a little … er … testy. Miss Hayworth told me she wouldn’t mind if I ended the evening early. Oh … and Mr. Vit said to tell you he’d be late. He’s in the Sports Bar with Mr. O’Rourke and some of the other couples like that.”

“Thank you for telling me. I will leave a light on for him.”

“Er … Miss Veta?”

“Yes?”

“I guess this is kinda a stupid question but … are you and Mr. Vit … a … uh … a thing?”

I didn’t quite know how to answer that and just sort of stood there with my mouth open.

“Forget it. It was a stupid question. I’ll just …”

“Nicholas … I don’t want to insult your intelligence, so I’ll just say that Mr. Vit and I are … private … individuals. And other people could take their … assumptions … of our friendship and … harm our ability to … to do our jobs. We really enjoy helping you and your brother and …”

“Oh … yeah … hey … um … I’ll keep my mouth shut. Just … it’s cool. So, if you and Mr. Vit want to … you know … spend some time together … it isn’t a problem.”

“Thank you but the truth is that you and your brother take priority. Vit and I take our responsibilities and promises very seriously. If … if things are meant to be then they will … when the time is appropriate.”

He gave me a serious look. “Yeah. I think I’m getting that. And thanks … for … you know … all that stuff. Sometimes I look at Frankie and … I think maybe it took someone outside to come in and see him for who he is. And … thanks for including my mother in on things. None of us ever thought that … look, it’s like one of those stupid miracles they always put in stories. It’s just … I’m glad things are a lot better … for all of us. Mr. Vit has a way of helping me to … think about things and see things different. And I guess if you help Mr. Vit … it’s cool.”

“And thank you for noticing. It … helps … when things get … frustrating in life to know that at least one other person sees and tries to understand.”

“Yeah. I just wanted you to know … that I saw … but seeing isn’t a bad thing or that I’m gonna rat you out or anything. But … maybe Frankie is too young to really understand so … I won’t be saying anything to him.”

“And thank you for that understanding as well.”

We nodded to each other and as Nicholas went over to Frankie to encourage him to change into night clothes, I left their cabin and returned to my own. I decided not to be anxious about Nicholas knowing that Vit and I are more than just friends. He is eighteen, nearly nineteen, and notices a lot more now that he is maturing into the young man he can be.

Instead, I did a load of delicates and put away the new postcards and prepared the lessons for the next two days, both of which are sea days. And now here I sit finishing today’s journal entry. Vit is still out so I will leave a lamp on and go to bed.
 

Kathy in FL

TB Fanatic
World Cruise Day 142: Jan 19 – Cruise the South Pacific Ocean

Spent most of my day trying to avoid being drawn into circular conversations. Was mostly successful at it. Except for a conversation with Suzanne. Basically she and her husband are uber middle class, maybe a little better off than my parents but that’s because they only had two kids and they are both grown and out of the house, and while one is married neither has kids of their own yet.

“We’ve been cruising most of our married lives, starting with our honeymoon. We’ve taken a few expensive cruises but mostly they were last minute deals or discounted fares. We’ve always wanted to do something like this and then two years ago I was diagnosed with breast cancer.”

“Suzanne … I had no idea!”

“Which is a great compliment. But we started making a lot of life and lifestyle changes. We’ve been saving for a trip like this for years and John decided that he was going to retire at 62 instead of waiting until he is 65. Me getting sick … scared him. He still keeps his pilot’s license valid … he had 20 years in the military and then 20 years flying commercially … but we just needed …” She stopped and then whispered, “You never know. You just never know for sure what tomorrow is going to bring.” She shook herself and then said, “I’m clean – chose a complete double mastectomy to be safe and then reconstruction – or the doctor wouldn’t have signed off on me traveling like this. One of the three days we were in LA was spent at the doctor’s office having another scan and I’m not only in remission but the docs all say I’m cancer free.”

I gave her a spontaneous hug and she smiled brightly. “Thank you. But … what John and I have been through the last couple of years … I guess it is giving me a different perspective than some of our fellow passengers. You seem … to have had your own life events that shaped your outlook differently as well.”

Since I had already shared a bit during our yoga/exercise sessions I didn’t go over it all but I did confirm, “My father may have been a doctor – and a good one, with international connections and all the rest – but my parents were also older, had a lot of kids, devoted a lot of their time to pro bono activities, so while I know we were rich in many respects, not in the same league as some of the people we’ve met on board.”

“Exactly. So, call me nosey if you want, but how are you handling all this upheaval? Has Madam Marchand said anything?”

I wasn’t about to go tattling my employers’ business, so I shrugged and answered, “I started this job doing things the only way I knew how … frugally. It hasn’t been a problem and I don’t think it will ever be a problem. The Marchand family has a lot of responsibilities of course with their wide-ranging businesses but none of that overlaps with my job duties so count me clueless. Personally, how am I dealing with it? The same way I’ve always lived. I only spend what I budget for, save the rest, and don’t waste what is in either column on that spread sheet. That’s how Momma expected all her children to be. Beyond that? When this job is over, I’ll return to the family home and take care of it and some really long past due repairs and maintenance for all of us siblings. A couple of my brothers are getting the supplies, so I’ll have something to work with when the time comes. A couple of my sisters are making sure that they keep an eye out for sales and will have the pantry stocked so when I get back that’s not the first thing I must do.”

“How long do you think that is going to take?”

“Huh?”

“Our son is doing all right, but our daughter is on commission and contract work. She is struggling to think beyond the end of her current job. Actually, I suspect it is that she won’t think beyond that point because she is scared. She hasn’t been out on her own very long and she struggled a long time after college graduation to find a job in her career path. John and I are thinking that selling our house was a mistake. We downsized to a two-bed condo after the five-bedroom on a huge lot just became too much for either one of us to keep up with. I guess I’m a little worried that Marlo is going to need to move home and … it sounds so selfish to say … but that would force John and I to change all our plans again.”

“I don’t know your daughter, but I’ll say this, adversity is what made me grow up. I know it doesn’t work with everyone, but it did for me. There were a few times that I wanted to give up, but I had some help to keep me going. At the same time, I knew that certain things really weren’t a healthy option so I didn’t think of them as possible … like leaving college and moving home to become the … er … weird auntie type.”

“I hope my daughter will stay strong. I honestly think John and I made it too easy on her for too long. We thought we were doing our jobs as parents but … hindsight is 20/20.”

“And now that you and your husband are retired you know that there are things you have to prioritize that you maybe didn’t before.”

“Exactly. So … can you even guess what you’ll be doing?”

“I’d like to teach, or something similar. I’ve considered becoming a nanny. I’m doing my best to widen my career options. I have a second degree in linguistics and I’ve been brushing up. I’d like to be able to stay in the area all my siblings are in, but it may not be possible. For now, I’m focusing on this job, building my resume, getting home to take care of some familial obligations, and just … keeping my head on straight. I’ve got options, there is also just a lot of time and benchmarks between me and when I can get my crystal ball out of the repair shop.”

She laughed a bit at my phrasing and then changed the subject when two of the other ladies in the exercise group spotted us and came over to talk. Gotta love the Cruise Director. He knew exactly what to do to shake up the anxiety and redirect that energy elsewhere. There were a lot of activities scheduled through out today and according to the daily newsletter there are just as many tomorrow: Yoga classes, Zumba, trivia, dancing, lectures, some deck sports, music … and of course food.

Frankie thinks the adults are being strange. He is still not old enough to really comprehend some of the deeper nuances of his family financial circumstances. He has never had to live without or experience cultures that are typically “without” on a daily basis. He understands a little better now that he’s been exposed on this cruise, but I need to include more of that in his lessons and excursions. I don’t want him to feel guilty for what he has, but he needs to understand that it is also his responsibility to steward what he is given. But that is another subject entirely and I need to give it thought before putting it into effect. Madam may have some of her own ideas.

Vit encourages Nicholas to go with him to the Sports Bar and get a little exposure … but in a group that would be careful to help him understand rather than pounding on him when he doesn’t. I am missing spending the evenings with Vit, but things are what they are. One more Sea Day and then Frankie and I can get off this ship.
 

Lake Lili

Veteran Member
Thanks Kathy!
Just got to the end of chapter 215 of Veta (Book 2) - still an excellent read. I can only hope that when you bring it over, Vit & Veta will continue their trip.

Lili
 

Kathy in FL

TB Fanatic
Thanks Kathy!
Just got to the end of chapter 215 of Veta (Book 2) - still an excellent read. I can only hope that when you bring it over, Vit & Veta will continue their trip.

Lili

Plan on it. Trying to secure the stories between trying to secure our real life is just getting plain real interesting making me getting any real sleep really unlikely. LOL
 

Kathy in FL

TB Fanatic
World Cruise Day 143: Jan 21 – Cruise across the International Dateline

Crossed the International Date Line today and lost a day. Yes, you heard that right. I lost a day. I am a day older without getting to enjoy the passage of time. January 20th simply never happened. There was even a special event to celebrate as we crossed the imaginary line with champagne and everything. I asked Vit how many times he’s crossed the Line and he said he can’t remember. Hmph.

I know I sound cranky but actually it was kinda fun and certainly gave me an excuse for one of Frankie’s lessons. It sits on the 180th degree line of longitude except for where it deviates around some of the island groups rather than split them, similar to how zip code and timelines do in the States.

Had a much better day today than yesterday. People seem to be shaking off whatever they were feeding on. It isn’t that the world-wide economic situation has changed but people’s ability to absorb what is going on has improved. I got a quick note from Charlie letting me know that things were going as well as could be expected. He was able to move things to “cash” and that he would do what he could from there. Family is doing okay as a whole for the most part though there are a couple that are hurting. Some surprising developments. Lena’s doctors have asked Derrick and the boys to stay away and dis-involve themselves … for her mental health and theirs. Whatever Lena did to herself has become organic and the structure of her brain is suffering as a result of some thus-far undiagnosed disease. She has become quite violent except when heavily sedated. And Christine and her daughter have moved in with Derrick, with the blessing of both families – hers and ours. The boys … well I got my first email from Christine.


Dear Veta, I hope you don’t mind me writing to you out of the blue like this, but I don’t want you to feel slighted or upset. I’m not Lena. I’m not going to make the mistake she did that you and Derrick have an inappropriate closeness. I had a much older brother until I was twenty-five. He was like a second father to me. There’s nothing wrong with that at all. So, just telling you that I get the situation. And I will never try and interfere. I do want to say though that I care deeply for your brother. I didn’t think I would ever feel this way again … and in fact the way I feel for your brother highlights how immature my first marriage was. But there are the boys and my daughter Leanna to think of first. We aren’t sharing a bedroom, we aren’t ready for that. But this makes sense economically. With the government shut down, the pension I depended on has stopped. I just want to be upfront about all this so pardon how discombobulated I must sound. I’ve never been in this position and I’m more than a little embarrassed, but your sister Angelia also says that God lets things happen for a reason and sometimes that is so that we see the providential solution. I hope this is what this is. What I am asking is that you give me time and if I make a mistake that we talk it out rather than allowing it to fester. I know this is a lot for you to take in and I wish I could say more and in person, but they are restricting message size and I think I may be getting close. Love (Really, even though I haven’t met you), Christine.


Well, didn’t that shock me … but not. Angelia has been hinting broadly and so have a couple of the others. I said a quick prayer and then answered her immediately.


Dear Christine, this may be short, but I want to make sure that it gets through. I will love anyone that makes Derrick happy. Even Charlie thinks your little girl is a hoot and fits in as well. I trust Derrick. He would not have invited you into his home if he wasn’t sure. And I am happy to hear that both of our families are on board and working together. Thank you for your acceptance. Thank you for not having a problem with me being a little sister. I have already added you and your daughter to my prayers, but I will also add your brother that is the sheriff. Crazy days we are living in. I am just glad to know that Derrick and you are blessed to have good things come from it. Let me know if there is anything I can do. And get Reggie to show you the vlog which might be an easier way to reach me. Love, Veta


I am very happy for Derrick. I know that I am missing some of the story. Just a month ago the boys were having a rough time of it. Christmas really challenged them. And now these two life changing events are another thing they will have to absorb into their reality. It makes me itch to be there for them, but it looks like it isn’t my place this time. But I will make more of an effort to reach out to them, even if Aunt Veta is too far away to give them a hug.

I sent an email to Reggie and Benji and I need to remember to send them one every couple of days, if I do nothing else. Perhaps sharing the lessons that I am teaching. But I need to make sure that Christine doesn’t think that I am checking up on her, or trying to compete with her. That’s going to need to be said up front. I’ll do it in my next email to her and I’ll also have Angelia and some of the others reinforce it.

I think I am going to sleep early … relatively early … tonight. Vit is still out. But I need to escape for a bit.
 

Kathy in FL

TB Fanatic
World Cruise Day 144: Jan 22 – Tongatapu (Nukualofa), Tonga

Today we arrived in Nuku’alofa, the capital of Tonga. Tonga is both a kingdom and an archipelago. It encompasses 169 islands! Only 36 of those islands are inhabited, or that is what one of our guides claimed. All the islands are small and very spread out. The kingdom covers 270,000 square miles, but the land within the kingdom only covers 290 square miles. Outrageous!

Tongatapu, the island that Nuku’alofa is on, has a protected lagoon very similar to Rarotonga. We were all eager to get off the ship after two sea days and there was a bit of a mash up as everyone tried to get to the tender boats at the same time. Lucky for us, Madam’s cabin status (and ours) gave us early dibs on seats. I am glad as I had made the mistake of allowing Frankie to have a waffle piled way too high with strawberries and cream for breakfast. He was experiencing a sugar high. Luckily our first excursion was something right up his ally.

The highest elevation of Tongatapu is 213 feet, setting it apart from other South Pacific islands that feature soaring and jagged mountain peaks. It was nearly flat as a pancake compared to the other islands we have been on. At the same time, the flatness gives it a very tranquil feel. Our guide was calling for us even before the tender docked. He was a very jolly man and immediately enjoyed bringing Frankie into his act. We drove toward the West Coast of the island, and admired the panoramas, mangroves, and lagoons as they passed. We didn’t just drive by them however, we stopped numerous times for photos. There was even a two-headed coconut tree, which is one of those tourist must-see’s … or so we were told. Another photo stop was the Houma blowholes. They whistle when the water is forced up through them. We were lucky to be there right at the best part of tide, so the whistle was unusually loud.

Frankie’s favorite part was when we visited Kolovai, home to the island’s renowned flying foxes, or peka. Only they weren’t foxes at all but fruit bats. A ranger there was tending to an injured kit and allowed Frankie a particularly up close and personal viewing. I got plenty of pictures and he was practically floating. The fruit bats cling to the village’s trees by the hundreds and make for an astounding sight. I mean truly amazing, but all good things must come to an end and our guide transported us back to the pier.

For the first time we ran into an excursion not being there when we expected it to be, so I found the tourist office called Friend’s that was recommended by a young boy that heard me wondering where to go. There I grabbed a map and some advice and was happy to also find that there was a self-guided walking tour available. We started at the Royal Palace, built entirely of wood in 1867 and the residence of the King of Tonga. It is one of the most easily visible royal palaces in the world. And when I say easily visible, I mean it was right there in town and just there. We also saw the Royal Tombs, final resting place of past kings.

In the same area was the Tonga Free Church and Basilica of Saint Anthony. And from there we visited the Talamahu Market. I love traditional markets and it gave me a chance to really expose Frankie to local culture. The people were so kind to him … and to me. My senses were on overload, but I was still careful to not assume anything and to be situationally aware. Everywhere we looked there was fresh produce piled high in woven baskets. There were also stalls containing local arts and crafts priced much more affordably than what I had seen on our morning excursion.

We learned a lot and one of the interesting things is that there are eight types of yams on Tonga; some are purple, and some are white. The yam is a mainstay, similar to other starches like rice and pasta. Another root crop is taro and there are three types of that. Then there is cassava … sort of like the tapioca root that would be familiar to people in the US. Cassava grows in Florida as well though usually only for specialty or international markets as expected given the high percentage of ethnically Spanish and Caribbean people in the state.

We also learned the different ways to eat coconut. The first way is to climb up the coconut tree and freshly pick it and drink the juice, then break open the coconut husk and shell and scrape the soft flesh out and eat it. The coconut flesh at this stage is quite soft. The second way is when the coconut falls from the tree onto the ground on its own accord. If it has been lying on the ground for a while it starts to slowly degrade over time and then starts to dry up. The coconut can be eaten at this stage, but it has a different taste and texture with less juice in it and the flesh has gone harder (crunchy and drier). That stage of the coconut is what most westerners are familiar with. Also at this stage, the harder drier coconut flesh can be scraped out with a coconut scraper/shaver and then these shavings are collected and put into a coconut husk siv and manually squeezed to get the coconut cream out of the coconut shavings. This is not the coconut juice but coconut cream (loloi niu). The third and final way involves the final cycle of the coconut. The coconut is the actual seed of the coconut tree and when the coconut has been sitting on the ground for quite a long time it starts to put roots into the ground and starts to sprout into a new young coconut tree. Even at this sprouting stage the coconut can be eaten. The juice has totally disappeared from the center of the coconut and turned into a seed with a moist pavalova texture that has a very strong coconut flavor. Amazing what you can learn when you chose to actively listen.

I was in the middle of trying a local food called Lo’i Feke (Octopus in Coconut Cream) when I heard gagging. I looked up and there was Nicholas looking at me. I slurped the octopus leg into my mouth and everyone just laughed.

I wiped my mouth and asked, “Want to try?”

Nicholas backed up but Vit stepped forward and opened his mouth for a bite. I grinned in approval and gave him a taste and he got a very happy look on his face. “Mmmm. I did not know you would eat such things.”

I chuckled but Frankie said, “Miss Veta will eat anything. You should see some of the stuff that we’ve tried.”

At Vit’s raised eyebrow I explained, “When Poppa and Derrick took me on mission trips, we ate what the locals ate. Not to mention, this is simply delicious. I love good sushi and if you do you should try this stuff called Ota ‘Ika … or something like that. It is fish or some other kind of seafood marinated in citrus juice and then served with mixed vegetables. Oo la la.”

We made the vendors happy buying enough to have a mini picnic. It seems that Nicholas and Vit had had their own challenging afternoon excursion. We later found out that there was a mistake about when we were to leave port, so it caused a mix up in the afternoon excursions. The ship made arrangements as quick as they could for as many as they could, but naturally some would fall through the cracks. I explained how we’d passed our afternoon and they told us the same … they’d gone to whale watch and they had some amazing video. I was a little jealous but happy they’d had such a good outing.

We debated going back to the ship early but then decided to stop by the Langafonua Handicrafts Center which is a nonprofit cooperative supporting local artists. The prices were higher than at the local market, but they had things that the market did not. They had body oil and massage lotion made of virgin coconut oil (I serrupticiously got a few bottles to use on Vit). Jewelry made from coconut shells. Then there was the vanilla … oh my goodness. Vanilla powder, vanilla syrup, vanilla paste, vanilla sugar, and real vanilla beans. I was trying to decide what I could afford when Vit whispered, “Get what you think will be good for your kitchen. I know you like vanilla sugar in your tea.”

“Vit …”

Quietly he said, “Remember what Charlie said. It is truer now. We may only get to do this once in our lives. So, let us do it well and use the unexpected bonus we received.”

Slowly I nodded and got a good sampling of the vanilla products. Vit added a bag of green coffee beans to the pile and then went over to a different counter. I paid for what I had in front of me, including the coffee beans, and then helped the brothers pay for their purchases to make sure the exchange rate matched correctly. Tonga is a sovereign state so has its own currency which they call the Tonga Pa’anga. The exchange rate was one US$ equals about 2.5 TOP but since there is a certain amount of inflation the exchange rate isn’t as good as it sounds … but it is still good. And cash is king on Tonga with vendors willingly take dollars … US, AUS, pounds, euros, etc. If I understand the economics, the stores mae a good margin that improves their bottom line even after giving a favorable exchange rate to tourists.

Vit came to help me with the two additional bags I had on top of what I had purchased at the market. From there we leisurely walked back to the tender port and then stood in line. I noticed he was relaxed and satisfied, not something I was used to seeing except after certain evenings we spent together.

We got back to the ship, dropped the brothers off to dress for dinner after finding a note they were invited to dine with Madam, and then went to our cabin to find we had the evening off. Vit stared at the note and then at me. And then he was on me so fast I never could have gotten away … if I had wanted to get away that is.

“I have missed you Veta.”

I grinned and said, “I hope so. It would be awful to be the only one feeling like this.”

An hour later his stomach grumbled. I laughed as he groaned. “Room service or buffet?”

He sighed, “We … should go to dinner. I … I need to hear the latest news.”

I nodded against his chest and sat up taking the blanket with me. “Just give me a sec …”

“Veta? Are you sure that you can do this?”

I looked at his face and saw something he didn’t want to say. “Vit, I may not like the manic … whatever was going on at first. But I can handle it if need be. But my personal opinions lean heavily towards the conservative, as you know. It might be better if I act vacuous if someone tries to draw me into a conversation … or do you need me to stay here?”

“No. I am not going to see you relegated to the cabin like a servant,” he said a little angrily.

“I don’t happen to be ashamed of being a servant. It is honest work.”

He checked himself and then said, “Perhaps that did not come out as I meant. I just … it is unjust to expect you to remain in the cabin with no options.”

“I’ve had options all along Vit. Just tell me if you would prefer me to stay here. It really won’t bother …”

“No. But we must both be … circumspect … with our personal opinions. Too often I have seen conversations end on a sour note when it would be better to pool knowledge to make us all more successful.”

“What are you doing? It has something to do with Dylan and Charlie doesn’t it. And don’t look like that. I know my brothers quite well thank you very much. I told them not to drag you into their schemes.” Yes I was angry.

“They did not … drag me. I am benefitting from their help. This is a small thing to give in return.”

I snorted letting him to make his own choices. “Just don’t let them use you. I love them but they are all about whatever goal they have at any given scheme.”

Off to dinner we went and then we circulated and socialized. I was surprised to find that I did understand a lot of the talk but at the same time didn’t really know anything about the companies in question. When the dancing started Vit and I quietly returned to our cabin and he asked to compare notes and then sat, and using a special email that Dylan had given to him, he sent off the information we had gathered.

“Isn’t this insider trading?”

“No. We have no fiduciary responsibility. Give me a moment and if you wish to speak of this …”

“No. I trust you … and Dylan … not to do anything illegal. I was just making sure that I understand.”

About that moment Dylan responded and asked a few questions, but I gave them some privacy by going to shower. Before I could finish and get out, I had a guest in there with me.

“Vit …”

“Shhh … I just wish to torture myself.”

“Well you’re torturing me as well.”

He groaned but we did quickly finish and return to the living area. “I become distracted.”

I was putting lotion on my legs and thought that is what he was talking about. But then I felt something go around my neck. “Vit!”

“I know. But I saw it and I had to get it for you.”

“You keep saying things like that,” I told him while looking at the newest gift.

It was a large pearl set in a square of sterling silver hung on a silver chain. He also gave me earrings made of black coral. I should tell him to stop but I can’t. He seems to gain such pleasure from giving me things. I know I’ve mentioned this before, but I think giving gifts is somehow part of Vit’s love language. So long as he understands that he doesn’t have to, that my feelings are not predicated on him giving me things, I will not fuss. There was some mutual appreciation and then Vit went off to shower and bed. I have now finished recording my day and I will crawl in bed as well. Hopefully Vit will be asleep so I will not be tempted to crawl in his bed with him.
 

Kathy in FL

TB Fanatic
World Cruise Day 145: Jan 23 – Cruise the South Pacific Ocean

Another sea day. Then a day in Fiji (bucket list!), two days at sea, and then we are doing a port intensive week in New Zealand (bucket list!). After that comes Australia (bucket list!) then Indonesia, Java, and then the South China Sea. Do I need to say bucket list, bucket list, bucket list? I am getting the shivers just thinking of it.

Why am I so focused on what comes next all of a sudden? Besides all the bucket list items I mean. I just realized that there are only 100 days remaining … on this cruise and for this job. That’s about the same amount of days of a semester of school. It seems close to impossible to believe that I’ve been on this job as long as I have. But what comes next? Really shouldn’t waste time worrying about it right now but at the same time I know my reprieve will only last so long and Vit will need to have some kind of job as well to keep his green card. He can’t just sit around like a tourist. And neither can I. Okay, tableing the problem for now. It is making me too fritzy and it is too late at night to get that way. I’ll never sleep.

Spent a lot of time today with Frankie in the pool, promenade for a constitutional, and then on the Sports Deck so he could draw after reviewing a few self-defense moves. I noticed he seems to be having fewer problems with his hands. I noted it and included the need to continue his “physical therapy” of casual exercise like swimming.

Vit has been with Nicholas all day today training … or that is what they call it. Mostly I think Nicholas just needed to get out from under some of the attention he gets from the older ladies on the ship. Poor Nicholas, old enough to get noticed but too old to appreciate it.

I kept my ears open and relayed what I heard to Vit so he could do with it what ever it is he does. Not really enjoying what feels like some type of espionage. I know why Charlie wants to know … it is the economic data. I’m less sure what Dylan does with the information. Gah! Another thing I don’t necessarily want to think about right before bed.

Vit seems to sense that I am uncomfortable with what we are doing. He said to think of it as data mining. That’s all well and good but it still seems somewhat disloyal. On the other hand, I am pretty sure that the group that Vit meets with in the Sports Lounge is essentially doing the same thing as a way to further their own economic situation, or at least secure it.

Bah! I am off to bed. It is not that I don’t care so much as what it says that this kind of subterfuge is necessary. Things must really be bad at home if the information that Vit and I provide can make a difference.
 

Kathy in FL

TB Fanatic
World Cruise Day 146: Jan 24 – Suva, Fiji

Pulled into Suva, Fiji a little earlier than normal at 6:30 am. Because we are early risers, we got a jump on the tender boats and in the long run I’ve been happy about that. Not so happy that we had an earlier than normal sailaway at 2 pm. It didn’t seem enough time for such a beautiful place.

Fiji is different. It is still Polynesia but the island itself has its own unique feel to it. It really isn’t Polynesia though in the strictest sense. Fiji is a republic within Melanesia which itself is part of Oceania in the South Pacific. Within this area are approximately 330 islands and 500 islets with 110 of them being officially and permanently inhabited. Suva, the capital, is located on Viti Levu which is one of the two largest islands and between it and the other island Vanua Levu they have about 90% of the entire population of the islands’ 900,000 people which should tell you how sparsely populated the other islands are.

It would have taken less time had the boat for our first excursion simply picked us up like a tender, but that’s not how things worked. We had to tender over to a pier and then board another boat. They called the tour “Snorkeling in Paradise” and I’m pretty sure we all agreed.

Fiji is known as the “Soft Coral Capital of the World” and with good reason. A network of coral reefs surrounds Fiji's islands and atolls. Given the number of islands and islets we are talking about that means that the network is quite extensive. There are more than a thousand species of fish and several hundred types of coral and sponges within the reefs making for a huge biosphere. This makes snorkeling on Fiji … or should I say in the Republic of Fiji since it is more than just a single dot on the map … one of the top attractions. But they are very protective of the reefs and between the safety speech and then the speech about using coral and reef friendly sunscreen, we were longer than usual getting to our snorkeling location. But trust me, it was worth the wait.

As we sailed along, we enjoyed panoramic views of the islands. Then we arrived at the submerged extinct volcano crater known as the Beqa Lagoon. Wow. We were surrounded by one of the world's largest and most spectacular barrier reefs. The water was clear and very warm. The day was a good one and visibility reached nearly 100 feet according to our guide. I must admit looking down gave me a bit of agoraphobia. Everything felt so big. It also made me a little nervous of keep track of Frankie but Vit and Nicholas both helped with that.

The current was mild, and the water temperature was 80 degrees; warm as bathwater. A little disconcerting as I was used to colder water, but it made for a comfortable swim. We saw an amazing variety of fish, stingrays, and dolphins. One particular dolphin was very curious and kept swimming over to me like it wanted some attention. We’d been given strict instructions about not touching anything and not encouraging the wild creatures, so I didn’t try anything, but it did. It seemed to want to play. It eventually swam off after its dolphin buddies came back.

Dolphins are a bit like dogs in my opinion. They are smarter than your average animal, but they are still something to be cautious of. You also don’t just stick your hand out because they bite. I met a girl in school that had scars on her hand where she’d made the mistake of trying to pet a wild dolphin. The dolphin may not have meant to hurt her, but it still scared her, and she always told the story to try and spread the word about wild creatures in the sea.

The snorkeling time seemed too short to me but that’s the way it is. It certainly seemed to take it out of some of our fellow passengers. Yes, they were exilerated but at the same time swimming uses a lot of energy and calories and many hadn’t eaten breakfast before hurrying to shore because of the short day. Luckily on the way back water and refreshments were provided. Even more luckily for us our next excursion included lunch.

Most passengers were only on one excursion or were simply relaxing for the day. I was happier keeping the brothers active and on the move. It helped with the minor claustrophobia that would sometimes come on them if they were on the ship too long.

Our next excursion was a hike in the Colo-i-Suva National Park. Pronounced “tholo-ee-soo-va," it is a national heritage park and a beautiful rainforest refuge. The crystal clear Waisila Creek winds its way to the Waimanu River, forming several swimming holes along the way. Our guide took us to several and we enjoyed a brief dip, saw more than one stunning waterfall, and strolled leasurely enough to enjoy the beauty of this incredible rainforest oasis. We stopped midway for the picnic and we were all ready for it as we’d worked up an appetite.

Once again, I didn’t feel like we’d had enough time to truly appreciate the area, but we had to hurry back to the ship. We weren’t the last ones on, but we were on the next to last tender boat. We saw the O’Rourkes and I saw Mr. O’Rourke pass a package off to Vit. I let it pass. Vit is a grown man and his own person and he would either tell me, or not. And in fact, I did find out when we got to the cabin to change.

“Thank you for not asking.”

I looked at Vit and didn’t even pretend I didn’t know what he was talking about. “If I need to know you will tell me and if not … I’m okay with that.”

“Hmmm. It is not that mysterious, but I do not want the transaction to be fodder for the gossips.” All I could do was blink. He finished by saying, “I won a good hand in a poker game. I gave the winnings to O’Rourke and asked him to purchase some pearls with it.”

“Gambling? That’s what you’ve been doing in the Sports Bar at night?!”

“Only some nights. There is a crowd on this ship that like to play deep. I got in and … it turned out well.”

“Why do I feel there is a story there.”

“There is … but not one from this time but before. My previous employer had deep pockets and was addicted to gambling. Lucky for him he was good at it and I learned a great deal by watching him. Since he didn’t consider me in his league, he was willing to impart some of his hard-earned knowledge and so long as I am judicious in the play and only win on occasion, and not win to wipe anyone out, there is no problem.”

I shrugged, not knowing what else to say except, “Just be careful. It seems a risky thing to do on top of everything else.”

“I agree. That is why when asked to play I usually say it is … what is the term … beyond my pay grade?”

“Something like that I think. I trust you, just … just be careful.”

“You are thinking of your brother Anderson.”

Startled I didn’t get a chance to respond before Vit said, “Dylan told me when he found out I play.” Vit came over and kissed me. “I am sorry you lost your brother to such an addiction. His suicide because he could not face what he did to his family must have been very hard. But it will not be the same with me. I have a very strict limit. I refuse to play beyond that limit.”

Taking a deep breath I said, “It happened when I was still pretty young. But it left an impression. Poppa blamed himself. Anderson was one of the adopted children and Poppa always felt guilty for not being more aware of his family background and tendencies toward that type of behavior. His bio father was also a gambler, though small time. Anderson got in way over his head and borrowed money he had no way to repay from people that … weren’t exactly the most legitimate on the planet. Momma … it broke her heart and that alone kept most of the others on the straight and narrow. Just don’t let Angelia know, she really will come unglued. She and Anderson’s wife were really close … and still are though she remarried and moved away. It was very rough on the family and there was some anger and recriminations for a while. Derrick was furious from what I remember. It wasn’t at the gambling but … but Anderson killing himself. I wonder if … some of what he is going through with Lena brought up those memories.”

“Possibly. And … if you really dislike …”

“Vit when I said I trust you I mean just that. All I’m asking is that you be careful. I’m not as naïve as some in the family think of me. And certainly, this job has broadened my horizons and experiences. You know what you are doing. We’ll leave it at that.”

I received some appreciation and then he showed me the pearls … Fiji brown pearls. Very unusual.

I do trust Vit but sometimes I worry for him too. How will he ever convert these things he is buying into a future I’m not sure. Perhaps it is a bit like when Charlie buys gold and silver ingots. They aren’t for immediate use but are a way to transfer wealth down the road. Lots to think about … but not here at bed time.
 

Kathy in FL

TB Fanatic
World Cruise Day 147 and 148: Jan 25 & 26 – Cruise South Pacific Ocean

Frankie was a bit of a pistol yesterday and wore me out, so I didn’t feel much like writing last night. Today was better. He was calmer. I don’t think he got all the wiggles out on Fiji and being bottled up here on the ship wasn’t easy. Today he got attention from Madam in the form of being her trivia partner. That more than all the exercise I had him doing yesterday is primarily what worked today. That and he was very interested in the lessons I had for New Zealand. Tonight, he fell asleep watching a video on the birds of New Zealand.

While Frankie spent the afternoon with Madam, I spent time in the Spa. Vit and Nicholas joined me, and it was a nice relaxing time. I’m so relaxed in fact that I am going to bed early. Vit said not to wait up for him so I am not. And I refuse to worry about it.
 

Kathy in FL

TB Fanatic
World Cruise Day 149: Jan 27 – Bay of Islands (Waitangi), New Zealand

I … am … in … New Zealand!!! Whheeeeeee!!! We arrived in Waitangi at seven this morning. I sent a mass email to the family and got some laughs for acting like a loon. It was nice to share some silliness with.

The family wasn’t the only one that was being silly. Vit caught me from behind and rubbed his unshaven face on the back of my neck while kissing me making me nearly squeal. Last night was another good night for Vit. He won a good pot in a game of poker … very good if I understand though he didn’t tell me exactly how good. He has some idea that if he brags about how much he wins he will no longer win. I let him have his superstition. I told him that I was happy for him, but he said, “Be happy for us Veta. This will be used for our future.”

I decided not to fight the inevitable. Momma and Angelia both taught me that sometimes you just have to let the man be the man and accept what he wants to do and just be there to support him in case it doesn’t work after all. I gave him a hug and didn’t say another word about the gambling. I will if he started to lose more than we could afford but until then I just let it go. We left the cabin and picked up the brothers and went to eat a hearty breakfast as we had a full day ahead of us.

Waitangi is located in the far north of New Zealand’s North Island and its name translates “weeping waters” in Māori. It was there that the Treaty of Waitangi was signed in 1840, an act that was considered the founding of New Zealand as a nation. I gave a short lesson on what I had learned as we waited to go ashore and once there, we quickly found our guide for our first excursion.

Glow worms. Yep, I said glow worms. We got on a bus and took a scenic 30-minute ride to the Kawiti Caves. Formerly known as the Waiomio Caves, the location is a series of caverns set in a massive limestone outcrop located on private property owned by descendants of Māori chieftain Kawiti and is still operated by the Kawiti family. The caves are home to thousands of glow worms. We took a 30-minute guided tour on a wooden boardwalk. Once we were in the caverns, we were told to look up and it was like looking at the milkyway. It was icky and scientifically fascinating at the same time. And yes, “icky” is an educational term.

After an exploration of the cave we made our way to the town of Kawakawa that is nicknamed “Train Town” because the Bay of Islands Vintage Railway runs down the middle of its main street on the way to Opua. Kawakawa is also known for its ornate public bathrooms designed by Austrian architect Friedensreich Hundertwasser, a former resident of the town. Seriously, how can you not have a good time in a place famous for its bathrooms?

We had some free time to wander around and explore before we had to get back to the port area. Once there we picked up the next excursion. It was a boat ride to explore deep caves and view island cliffs. The tour took us to the remote side of the outer islands. We saw Black Rocks, a stunning and extremely rare basalt rock formation. We enjoyed a short stopover at one of the beautiful islands and explored on our own for views of the Bay of Islands. Once we got back on the boat we passed sheltered inner-island beaches, including Army Bay, Waewaetoria Island and the stunning jewel in the Bay’s crown—Roberton Island, first discovered in 1769 by renowned explorer Captain Cook, who anchored at the island on his infamous world voyage. It felt like a very quick two-hour excursion.

The next excursion wasn’t much longer but our day in port was winding down. I was surprised that our guide was a legitimate member of the Ngāpuhi tribe, a Maori. We donned a life jacket with the requisite safety talk and then climbed on board a waka, a type of 50-foot replica canoe. Our guide regaled us with tales of the past as he pointed out significant sights and heritage landscapes along the way. We glided through indescribably gorgeous scenery. We heard stories about Māori culture and traditions, learned Māori songs and chants and still managed to keep our eyes peeled for local wildlife. Frankie had forgotten to empty his memory card on his phone and ran out but luckily Miss Veta had room on hers to share.

Upon our return we were directed through a type of cruise market. The brothers (and I) bought Whitaker’s chocolate and something called Pineapple Lump, recommended by anyone that bothers to have an opinion. Pineapple Lump is essentially candied pineapple squares covered in a thin layer of chocolate. Sounds delish and I can’t wait to try it, but I have tucked it away in the luggage for a treat later on, or perhaps even to save until we return to Pembroke. Vit spent his share by picking up several bottles of New Zealand wine as well as several bottles of 42 Below Vodka. As I have said, I am not a fan of vodka but each to his own. I also picked up some Manuka honey and Nicholas got a rugby jersey. I grabbed some postcards and I saw Vit buying some Greenstone which is New Zealand’s version of jade.

From there we had to hurry back aboard ship. The rest of the day after our five o’clock sailaway has been … well not mundane but in line with the normal of Frankie doing a few lessons, dinner, uploading our pictures and clearing out the memory for the next round of photos, a little down time and then Frankie off to bed. Vit is out late again tonight. He said he will not join a poker match if there is one. He is serious about his strategy. He said from this point forward he will only play with money he has won and not anything from his paycheck. He also tries to make sure that the other players consider him “small potatoes” with just the occasional bit of luck. I hope this is true.

I have a short email to send to Angelia and then I will close down the computer and go to bed. Tomorrow we have an overnight in port at Aukland. I am in New Zealond! Wheeeeeeee!
 

Kathy in FL

TB Fanatic
World Cruise Day 150: Jan 28 – Auckland, New Zealand (Day 1)

Good gracious this has been a full day. Not particularly strenuous but just long. Frankie nearly face-planted in his dinner so I encouraged him to go to bed early. We have another full day tomorrow.

We arrived in port and docked shortly before 7 am. I wouldn’t say downtown Aukland is particularly inspiring. It really isn’t anything like going into the capital port in Australia. Not that I would know but with a lot of Aussies and Kiwis aboard I got an earful whether I wanted one or not. For me, looking across the harbor to downtown, concrete is the word that springs to mind. Even though most of the buildings are new they remind me more of pictures from the 1970s than they do the glass and metal architectural preferences of today. There is the “space needle” that they call Sky Tower that reminds me a bit of the one in Seattle but that’s about it as far as unusual architecture in my opinion. I was therefore glad that our first excursion took us into the countryside first.

We met our guide and traveled through the wine regions of Kumeu and Huapai to Muriwai Beach. We saw vistas of black sand, rugged terrain, pounding surf and the bright red flowers of the pōhutukawa tree, New Zealand’s version of a Christmas tree. It reminds me a lot of the bottle brush trees back home; or, maybe the Mimosa trees. Better yet, a combination of the two. Whatever, I just know it seemed familiar and not as alien looking as some people tried to make them seem.

From the cliffs overlooking the beach, we walked to a viewing area, where we got close-up views of the seabird colony. I thought Frankie was going to have a conniption as it is something he hadn’t expected. Good heavens he was ecstatic. The guide saw this and called over a couple of university students there studying ornithology. It made his day and the students got a good laugh and promised to send him some pictures (through me) so I hope they follow through. I, of everyone, should know that students get busy and sometimes forget things like that.

The views of the black-sand coastline of the Tasman Sea (yes, I collected a “shoe sample”) were spectacular and from there we continued our tour to the family-run Haumoana Farm where we met our hosts. At the farm we watched a sheep-shearing demonstration and a sheepdog exhibition of skill followed by a very welcome cup of tea. We had a few moments of free time to stroll through the farm’s flower gardens – and the ubiquitous artwork for sale – before returning to the pier.

There were simply no good places to get a quick lunch, not even a lunch truck, so Frankie and I went back aboard for a quick bite at the pool grill. I would have preferred to wait for one of our later excursions that was a type of “foodie tour” but I had to consider Frankie’s comfort and nine-year-old growing boys need regular meals, not the haphazard schedule that I had grown comfortable with during my university years. There were a lot of people relaxing around the pool. It was then I realized that for many of them New Zealand and Australia was home so it wasn’t quite as exciting as it was for the rest of us. After lunch we re-disembarked and caught the bus for our next excursion, a scenic drive through the capital.

First came a drive across Auckland Harbor Bridge, which had sweeping views of Westhaven Marina and the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron, reportedly Auckland’s most prestigious yacht club. The tour focused on the waterfront where we were asked to admire the bays and vessels of all shapes and sizes bobbing on the tide. We also drove passed Bastion Point, which afforded vistas of the islands of the Hauraki Gulf. A midway point on the two-hour drive was the suburb of Parnell, settled in 1841, where we viewed colonial-style shops and boutiques before passing the historic Auckland War Memorial Museum with its neoclassical facade. Towards the end came the business district. It was exciting to be in Auckland, but I have to say again that the architecture just really wasn’t awe inspiring.

I was glad when the bus ride was over. I’ve grown use to more physical activity, even aboard ship, and Frankie was getting a bit antsy as well. There hadn’t been but two photo stops and we were both eager for the next excursion … the foodie tour.

The tour was only two-miles long (on foot) but it was through some of the city's most vibrant neighborhoods. We started walking right at the pier then made our way to the downtown section of the city. Yes, it was a little repetitious but at the same time not. It is different to see a place from on foot as opposed to being stuck in a vehicle. We slowly meandered through the historic alleys and lanes giving me a different feel for the city. There is an eclectic mix of cafés, fine restaurants and trendy bars set within some of Auckland's oldest buildings, a nice change from the overbearing concrete modern structures that dominate the skyline. In the revitalized Wynyard Quarter, we discovered streets lined with new eateries, taverns and open picnic spaces. It was at that point that we got to sample various local food and beverage specialties, such as bakery goods, cheese, honey, coffee and artisan produce. Most of us had a cup of coffee or tea in our hand as we finished the walk, and if not that some type of baked good (Frankie required a wet nap). From there we went to the Auckland Fish Market for a behind-the-scenes look and a taste of fresh seafood paired with premium New Zealand wine. Frankie did not have the wine, but he did get his fair share of shrimp and I also purchased him a slice of seafood pizza which he nearly inhaled. I chose some Polynesian poke from this place called Ika Bowl. Yum.

The tour ended there, and we were expected to find our own way back to the pier, a relatively easy feat. With a little time to kill we stopped in a couple of touristy shops on the way back and I picked up some more postcards and Frankie fell in love with a little wooden Kiwi bird that now sits with some of his other prized possessions like his tankard and Sir Chopsalot. I was glad that I had purchased a full meal for Frankie as there wasn’t time to go back aboard and eat dinner before our final excursion of the day, this one an “after dark” visit to an observatory.

At the observatory and planetarium, we learned about the astronomic and cultural relevance of the Matariki constellation to the Māori. Matariki is their name for the Pleiades constellation, whose rising before sunrise between late May and early July marks the Māori New Year. It was much more than a dry lecture. We traveled by bus to the Stardome Observatory Planetarium where we were greeted with a drink. I chose tea and Frankie got hot chocolate. Then we reclined in our seat to enjoy the “Matariki Dawn,” a show in a 360° theater. It covers the Māori tales of creation. I was happy to see that it wasn’t beyond Frankie’s level – I was a little concerned at first – and as we watched an animated depiction of the creation myth of the embrace and separation of the primal couple Rangi and Papa I saw he was actually enjoying it. During the program’s interlude, we were provided with a selection of New Zealand wines and cheeses. We also got to use the available telescopes to get a closer look at the planets and stars in the sky above us. The second part of the show was a bit more mature but still suitable for students as it was a virtual tour of New Zealand’s night sky.

At the conclusion of the show we headed back to the ship and once we arrived Frankie wasn’t exactly tired, but he was content to go to his own cabin and curl up with a video on New Zealand’s birds … and to wait for Nicholas. It was an unusual day that the four of us spent so much time apart and I must admit that I missed them a bit today myself. It was when I walked into my own cabin that I came to an abrupt stop.

“What … on … earth?!”

Nicholas said, “You should have seen him Miss Veta! The guy didn’t stand a chance!”

Vit said, “Nicholas, you are … not helping.”

“Huh? Oh. Miss Veta … don’t be a girl about this. Mr. Vit really did save a couple of old birds from getting mugged.”

Correcting his charge Vit said, “Not mugged … he was trying to pick their pocket purses.”

Trying to regain my balance I asked, “Has that eye received medical attention?”

“Yes, I am fine.” His tone was enough to interpret. I’d heard my brothers use the same one that said he did not wish a fuss.

Checking myself I nodded. “I am sure you are, I was simply enquiring. Nicholas, perhaps you will go let your brother know if you are in for the night or going to dinner? He is in your cabin.”

“Er … sure … I mean yes ma’am. Think he is up for getting some ice cream and then crashing in front of the boob tube for a while?”

I rolled my eyes. “Have you ever known your brother not to be able to partake of copious amounts of ice cream?”

He laughed and took off for their cabin. Once the door shut, I went to go put my backpack and its content away.

“Veta … I should not have snapped.”

“You didn’t. Not really. You are just … a guy. A self-sufficient guy. And just to get this out of the way, I know you have lots of experience starting with your time in the militia, and probably before then in the forced fights. You’ve fended off pirates for heaven’s sake. Nor do I want to smother you with mothering. Your eye does however look painful. Would you like a compress?”

“Nii. The doctor said not to get the stitches wet.”

“You … look angry. Want to talk about it?”

“Nii. It was a lucky shot that he should not have gotten in.”

“And the … er … old birds?”

“Two elderly women. Locals. But dressed as tourists are which is why the man said he targeted them.”

“He mistook them for tourists?”

“Yes.”

“What about tea? Would you like a cup or do you need to go out?”

“Hmm?”

“I said …”

Vit sighed tiredly before sitting on the sofa. “I would like you to sit with me. It has been a long day. And if you will do that rubbing that you do to my neck … it would be … nice.”

Vit rarely asks for anything quite so bluntly so I put my backpack down and kicked my shoes off and had him move so I could massage his neck and shoulders. It only took a minute before I felt him beginning to relax.

“They questioned my passport. I had to call Dylan. He contacted the American Embassy and they brought over certified copies of some papers. Then they brought up my record. It was … uncomfortable. They treated me like …”

“They were rude?!”

“Nii. The opposite. They treated me as if I was some hero. I … found it … distasteful. Men died. My friends … some of them died. And then the rest …” I could hear him swallow before repeating, “I did not like it.”

“Not surprising. You are a private man. When confronted by situations such as the one today, you do what you can and must to be an honorable person. You don’t do it for accolades. You do it because it is essential to remain true to who you are striving to be. But think of this Vit … sometimes people need to recognize when someone else is honorable. Not for bragging rights or anything like that, but because it reminds them they too need to be striving for honor and that it is a thing worth striving for in and of itself.”

He finally consented to take a couple of ibuprofen tablets with a cup of chamomile tea. He would not go to bed but is all but dozing still while I changed, prepped what I needed for tomorrow, and recorded this in my traveling journal. I think I’ll stop here and see if Vit is wound down enough to fall asleep. If not … perhaps I can do something that will help him relax.
 

Kathy in FL

TB Fanatic
World Cruise Day 151: Jan 29 – Auckland, New Zealand (Day 2)

Slow start to the day and most of it was at a pace that was less than what our port days normally are. Some of it may have been that Madam had Frankie with her during the afternoon excursion but let me record things in order.

Poor Vit had a raging headache this morning. His split eyebrow joined a sunrise-colored eye. I applied some arnica cream to it being very careful not to get any in the broken skin or too close to his eye. I also applied some to the knuckles of his right hand as they too were bruised. Another pair of ibuprofens and he declared he was fit for duty which was accompanying Nicholas to some rugby exhibition.

“Psst. Nicholas.”

He came over and recognized that I didn’t want our conversation to be noticed.

“I put a small bottle of headache pills in Vit’s backpack. Just in case.”

He grinned. “Since I’ve used some of your just-in-case before, I’ll say something if he really starts showing it, but I doubt he’ll say something outright. He’s a tough guy … a lot tougher than he looks. Did he tell you about yesterday?”

“A man tried to accost two older women.”

“The guy was huge and messed up … you know, jacked up on drugs. Mr. D took him down in two. The punch the other guy got in was just lucky and because Mr. D was trying not to hurt him.”

“I do not think Mr. Dymtrus would really like a lot of attention brought to his actions.”

“Yeah. I get that. I just thought you should know.”

“Thank you for telling me. Just …”

“Keep my eye on him. Got it. Depending on the workout I get today I might be the one needing the ibuprofen.”

Vit came over suspiciously and Nicholas was a little too good at subterfuge when he said, “Miss Veta said she stuck some stuff in your pack in case I get wrecked up on the field today. Guess that is payback for not taking them last time.” He rolled his eyes making me want to roll mine. “Ready Mr. D?”

As Nicholas walked away Vit said, “You do not need to baby him.”

“I wasn’t trying to,” I said in exasperation. “The entire male species can suffer testosterone poisoning for all I care. Now where’s Frankie?”

He touched my arm. “I will take something if my head begins to pain again.”

I nodded, refusing to be irritated. Some guys just can’t seem to help themselves. “If you insist on playing, just try and avoid splitting that open again. It will be worse stitching it up the second time.”

He grimaced and let me go.

Finding my charge, we got into the group that would take us to our morning’s excursion. It was only a short walk up the pier to reach the Viaduct Basin where the America’s Cup racing yachts are based. After reaching that destination the Viking crewmember leading us turned us over to our guide where we received a safety briefing. Next, we boarded an America’s Cup yacht that was built for the 1995 challenge in San Diego. The expert crew soon had us gliding out into the waters of Auckland Harbor and the Hauraki Gulf. Those of us physical able were invited and encouraged to participate as a crew member. Frankie stayed at the helm and received particular attention and I noted that the Captain was gratified to see he was appreciative of it and paid excellent attention. The rest of us helped with the grinders; it certainly required some strength and agility. I am told we reached speeds of up to 12 knots. We were certainly slicing through the water fast enough.

After we returned to shore and then back to the pier, I found that Frankie was starving. I had a hard time keeping his surprise a secret and when we “bumped” into Madam after eating at the buffet she asked if he was ready to go.

“Go?” he asked looking at her and then at me. When he found out Madam and Miss Hayworth were taking him with them to see the Skytower and the Sea Life Aquarium you would have thought he had won the lottery.

Sailaway wasn’t until 6 pm and I was suddenly at loose ends with no idea what to do with my time since I had only found out about the change in plans moments before we disembarked.

I thought about using a hop on hop off bus but I found they stopped running at four o’clock so I wouldn’t get much use out of a ticket. That’s when I saw Mrs. O’Rourke.

“You look lost Dear. The little lad hasn’t gone missing has he?”

“No ma’am. He has the afternoon with Madam.”

“Ah, and so you’re the one that’s lost. Time on your hands must feel strange.”

I laughed. “Exactly. But to be honest I don’t feel like sitting on the ship the rest of the afternoon.”

“So don’t. A group of us are heading over to the Auckland Bridge. Come along if you want.”

“I don’t want to impose.”

“Wouldn’t be imposing or I wouldn’t have asked ye. We’ve already paid the shot and there’s room for one more. You’ll be doing us a favor by evening out the numbers. Come along, I’ll make sure they don’t shock ye too much.”

Mrs. O’Rourke and the rest of the ladies were a hoot for the whole afternoon. We didn’t just visit the bridge, we climbed the structure.

We started the climb at the operator’s office at Westhaven Marina. After the required briefing to prepare us for our climb, we suited up with the provided all-weather outerwear and safety equipment. That clued me in as nothing else did that we were in for an adventure. From the base of the 200-foot-tall (67-meter) bridge, we followed our guide along specially engineered walkways that led to the summit. The walk wasn’t necessarily strenuous as it followed the gently curved arches of the bridge that made for an easy climb suitable for a range of ages and fitness levels. But it wasn’t just a walk in the park either. We had to clip onto a safety rail for security.

We saw the bridge span both from underneath and above, stopping several times en route to hear fascinating facts about the history and construction of Auckland’s landmark. The Sky Tower and other highlights of the city skyline across Waitemata Harbour were easily photographed without anything getting in the way. We all enjoyed the aerial perspective from the bungy jump platform where you can witness one of New Zealand’s favorite activities. Uh … no. I like my adrenaline levels right where they are at thank you very much.

After we made our descent, we received a certificate as evidence of completing the climb. I even got suckered into buying the “for additional charge” DVD and souvenir photos. I have a stash of those things from our plane and helicopter rides that I need to get backed up just in case something happens to the memory stick.

Since none of us were driving the ladies decided a cocktail was in order and then about an hour of shopping. I had a glass of pinot noir and paired it with a raisin roll to have something on my stomach. That was about as adventurous as I felt after the climb on the bridge. On the other hand, the ladies somehow convinced me to purchase several new blouses from a discount store that was known to a couple of them. I must be nuts. The last thing I need is more clothes.

Our taxi was waiting on us when we returned to the pick-up point and then it was back to the ship. I helped to contribute to the cabby’s tip and we were all soon back aboard and heading for our cabins.

I walk into mine and a very gumpy Cossack demanded, “Where have you been?”

“Oh no! Is something wrong with Frankie?!”

“Nii. He is with Madam for the evening.”

I sighed in relief and then decided to breeze through his mood, putting it down to another headache.

He groused, “You have been gone all afternoon and you left no note.”

“I didn’t know I was going to be going someplace until I ran into Mrs. O’Rourke.”

“O’Rourke?”

“Yes. She and a couple of ladies asked me to go along as they had a vacant spot. Oh my goodness Vit, we climbed Auckland Bridge,” I laughed. “I had no idea what they had planned until we were there.” I shook my head and laughed some more and then handed him the pictures.

“And then they wanted cocktails and to do a bit of shopping. I cannot believe I bought two more blouses. Two. What on earth do I need more clothes for?! It is ridiculous,” I said pulling out the blouses in question.

“You … had a good time.”

“Yes I did. It was the only thing that took my mind off wondering what you were doing and how your head felt. And you can growl if you want to. It isn’t worry … it is commiseration as I’ve been there.”

“What?!”

“I’ve taken falls from horses. I didn’t always walk away cleanly. Although I must say,” looking at his eyebrow now that he had stopped pacing. “You must be a fast healer. It is already looking better.”

“Hmph. It is that cream you put on it.”

“So, what did you and Nicholas do today, and did he get as bruised up as he suspected he might?”

Vit shook his head. “He worries needlessly. If he decides to leave soccer, he could train for rugby. He is a natural on the field and just wants to play, regardless of the game. He is tired and will likely make an early night of it … but only after he plows through a meal to replace the calories he spent today. Come. Change and I will take you to dinner.”

I nearly saluted but let it go. It was obvious to anyone that he wasn’t feeling his best. I asked if he preferred that we take room service so I could massage his neck again.

“Nii unless you wish to be ravished. I am missing you greatly right now.”

Seeing the dangerous look on his face I decided that the dining room was a safer place for both of us. It isn’t exactly that I don’t want to be ravished … or at least ravished by Vit … but we need to be careful. There are still months to go before we are free from our job responsibilities and temptations can be sweet but they can also bring problems if you give into them, or give into them too soon.

Thankfully he seemed to relax more during dinner and then by the end of it he was willing to see the latest production show before returning to the cabin for the evening when we escorted our charges to their cabin. I suspect it may have been the toddie that he ordered during the show. I don’t really think he meant to go to sleep, but I was grateful that he did as it allowed me to clean up and do my end of day chores.

And now I think I am ready to kick it off for the night. I do need to answer a couple of family emails that came in but nothing pressing. I got a note from Christine asking if Derrick or the boys had any favorite dishes as she was trying to put together a menu plan and budget for food stuffs in the house. I told her I would upload the family recipe book/file that I had created from Momma’s files at her request the last couple of months she was alive. If I have it on the Vlog, then it won’t take up the little bit of file size allotted for emails. I am waiting on the last of the file to upload and then I’ll turn the computer off. I also got an email from Charlie that the file size limitation was making it impossible for him to send me copies of my year end report, plus he didn’t like to put that kind of info online these days. I need to think of my reply to that.

There’s the ding that says the file is done and now so am I. Another port day tomorrow and a few more after that before the next sea day. Need to keep my strength up.
 

Kathy in FL

TB Fanatic
World Cruise Day 152: Jan 30 – Rotorua (Tauranga), New Zealand

We sailed into the Bay of Plenty to visit the port of Tauranga at 6 o’clock in the morning. I saw it from the Varandah. There was the dramatic Mt. Maunganui, an extinct volcano that helped shape the region. The white-sand beaches. The turquoise waters. It was all beautiful. Vit joined me when he was finished in the shower. He put his hand on my shoulder and we both just looked for a few minutes before we headed out to collect the brothers and go to breakfast.

Vit and Nicholas were with us today since our excursions were more high adventure and active. First, we explored New Zealand’s geothermal region along with Māori culture on a cycling tour. Our guide explained the unique geology and volcanic history of the area as we biked, mainly off-road, for approximately 6-7 miles. Man oh man were my gluts sore. The port of Rotorua and its surroundings is bike-friendly and world famous for its Whakarewarewa Forest (no, my fingers did not spazz on the keys, that is really the name), and a plethora of mountain biking trails to suit everybody, from complete beginners to experts, but that didn’t always diminish the bouncing the bike did along the trails. Ugh. Thank goodness the trail was as solid as it was because our group had a wide-range of experience as far as biking went. There was one couple that had definitely overshot their abilities, but we all had fun encouraging them and by the end of the excursion they felt really good about themselves which was nice for all of us.

There were plenty of interesting stops where we took photos, and Vit also had the GoPro out with the brothers also taking their turn with it. During our stops we learned about Rotorua’s natural and cultural sites and their significance to the Māori people. The trip also included visiting a modern-day Māori community and witnessing geothermal activity all around us as we cycled around bubbling mud pools, steaming vents, cooking pits, and boiling waterholes. The landmarks we stopped at included St. Faith’s Church, the Rotorua Lakefront, Blue Baths and the Malfroy Geysers. It was like a bike-friendly version of Yellowstone National Park … the geothermal just wasn’t quite so violent. To top it off we had lunch at a local café before returning to the pier.

The meal was called a steambox lunch. The contents mimic’d the Maori tradition of cooking over geothermal steam vents … either directly with steam or by placing pots of water to boil both vegetables and meat in. In the box I chose was “Pork and Puha” and included potatoes, puha (watercress) and spinach cooked in pork stock. There were also dumplings. And then as a side I added Paua Fritters (abalone). There wasn’t time to do much more at that point than hop on the bus to our next activity … flying.

We are getting to be old hands at this and I’m no longer quite so nervous in small aircraft. We hopped on our transfer to get to Tauranga Airport for a helicopter ride. As with the other, similar, excursions there was a safety briefing before lift-off. After a 30-minute flight to White Island, or Whakaari as it is called locally, we landed on the crater floor and enjoyed a one-hour exploratory walk of the volcano for more geothermal sights. We got up close and personal with roaring steam vents, bubbling pits of mud, hot volcanic streams, and a frankly terrifying lake of steaming acid. I told Frankie I didn’t care if it did make me look like a scaredy-cat, I was holding onto the back of his shirt and that was that.

“You’re just lucky I don’t need you to hold my hand. As it is, please don’t tell Benji. It will get all over the family if you do.” My strategy worked and instead of putting up a fuss, Frankie believed he was helping me by sticking close. Six of one, half a dozen of the other. There are days that Frankie is so adventurous I get acid reflux. I did not like the idea of today being one of those days.

Along with impressive geothermal activity, the island boasts an important breeding colony for about 3,000 Australasian gannets. Frankie forgot all about the geology when he heard that. It took all three of us to make sure he was watching where he put his feet as he did his best to take pictures and make a couple of quick sketches of the birds. Yes, I’ve learned to keep a drawing pad and pencils in my backpack just in case the urge hits him. We “discovered” the the remains of a sulphur mine, which has survived multiple eruptions since being abandoned in the 1930’s, fascinating. The smell wasn’t great but we have sulfur water in Florida in many areas so it isn’t like I’m unfamiliar with it. The return trip was actually relaxing. Or at least it was until I found out we were running late. Sailaway time was 4:45 pm and we barely made it back aboard at 4:40. Ugh. I hope that doesn’t happen again. It was very stressful for me, even though they said the ship would wait since it was a ship-sponsored excursion.

The brothers both had been invited to dinner by their grandmother. It meant that I spent an hour tonight rearranging my lesson plan … again … but I included the excursions today under physical science & geology. It also meant that I was alone again as Vit had already scheduled evening activities. He later said I should have said something, but it is no biggie. I figure it was more info gathering or whatever he is doing for Dylan and he felt he owed him for helping with the passport issue. I needed to wash my hair anyway.

While my hair dried, I took care of correspondence, some professional and some personal. I sent off the monthly report to Frankie’s parents as well as sending a copy for Madam’s files. I updated a few things on my teaching profile. Closed down a couple of social media accounts that I hadn’t used since breaking up with Robert after making sure that I had copies of all of the media from those accounts that I wanted, as well as referring some of them to my remaining few accounts. In addition to closing some accounts, on the ones I chose to maintain I finally got around to deleting the last of the old pictures of Robert and I that I have no idea why I had continued to hang on to. Sent emails off to Derrick, Reggie, Benji, and Christine and her daughter, as well as Angelia and Charlie asking them both to thank Dylan for me since I wasn’t sure if sending him a note directly would be appropriate. Then I sat down and started cleaning up the hard drive of my lap top and organizing everything onto my external hard drive. I keep both backed up and encrypted on a cloud service, but it still needs a little more housekeeping which I plan on getting to tomorrow evening.

I was in the middle of repacking my backpack when Vit came in and found I had been here all evening.

Mildly agitated he asked, “Alone? Again? Why did you not say something?”

“Because I knew you had plans and if they weren’t important in some way you wouldn’t have made them. Relax, I got a lot of personal housekeeping done. Do you want me to press your shirt for tomorrow?”

“You are not my maid Veta. If I want the blin shirt pressed I can do it myself.”

His curse startled me, and I just looked at him.

He wiped his face, grimacing when he brushed his sore eye, then snapped, “Chort viz’my!”

Throwing some litter I had dug out of the pack into the trash can I asked, “Ok, what did I do wrong?”

“Nothing.”

“It doesn’t sound like nothing.”

He sighed and then shook his head. “It is not you.”

“Then what is it? Is this whatever it is you are doing for Dylan getting to be too much?”

“Nii. It is not that.” He shook his head and then growled, “I have spent years deriding elitist pigs with more money than sense. And yet here I am, acting the same while my zhyttya i sertse [life and heart] is stuck in this cabin like a maid not good enough to be seen above stairs. What kind of man does that make me?”

I shook my head. “You are making too much of this. One, the people that I’ve met on this ship – barring a few pointed examples that aren’t even around any longer – may be part of the elite financially but most of them worked for it. Look at the O’Rourkes.”

“Bah!”

“You sound like a sheep,” I told him coming up and giving him a hug. “Stop trying to paint yourself in a bad light. Had I really wanted to go to the dining room or anywhere else on the ship I am not restricted from doing so. I just didn’t really think about it. Plus, I don’t want to smother you. I used to be very bad about clinging to people so tightly I strangled the friendship. If this job has done nothing more for me, it has helped me mature beyond that point in my personal development. My insecurities are now more under my control.” Making sure he was looking at me I said, “I trust you Vit. I trust you enough that you having a life does not automatically make me wonder if I am still part of that life. Admit at least I have that part correct.”

He relaxed a bit and put his arm around me and drew me close. “You have and do many things correct. It does still bother me that you spend so much time here in the cabin alone.”

“Why? It isn’t hurting anything.”

“Because … regrets. I likely will never be able to give something like this to you.”

“So? We’ll do other things together … even if it is just having a little house to take care of.”

He kissed me and said, “Because this time is important … for both of us. I am not the same man I was. You say you have grown as well. That is to the good. But I do not wish there to be another day when I look back with regret. I have had too many such days in this life already. And you … still so young …”

“Vit.”

“It is true Veta, admit it. You still deserve to be young. Soon enough we may not have such a luxury. We should both be taking advantage of what is before us … not just me but both of us, even if we do so separately much of the time. Perhaps it is wrong but I … I do enjoy this life we are leading. I would not wish to do it for much longer than is left but for now … it is a good place in life to be. Come out and enjoy it with me.”

“And if I put my foot in it?”

“Huh?”

“I mean what if I make mistakes and cause talk. I still haven’t forgotten the Harringtons and some of the nonsense I got up to because of them. Playing the violin in public like it was a competition. The ridiculous incident with the Pisco. And we don’t need people … talking.”

He shrugged. “If they were going to talk, they would have already done so.”

“They don’t talk because I’ve done my best not to give them anything to think about.”

“Ah. You are … embarrassed.”

“Not of you, this, us, what we do … any of it. But it isn’t something I am comfortable with people gossiping about either.”

“The sky would fall if people didn’t gossip enough hot air to keep it up.”

I nearly laughed at the mixed metaphors but didn’t because I understood what he meant. “Probably,” I admitted. “But …”

“I am not asking you to do the tango on the dance floor.”

“Good lord I hope not. I wouldn’t have a clue how.”

He grinned. “Nor I. But if for no other reason than to fend away potential regrets you should come out a bit more. If you insist that the boy is your first priority, then at least for meals take him to the buffet more often. Go to a port lecture with him. Something.”

“I don’t want to take those opportunities away from Madam.”

“Then don’t. Go when they do and if you are uncomfortable sitting with them then chose another row to sit in. Moya Lyuba, it is not healthy to always be hiding yourself away.”

I told him I would try but I had simply come to enjoy the solitude even if admitting that would have shocked most of my family who knew me as someone that always had to be up in under someone to feel secure. Perhaps I am finally outgrowing the insecurities of my beginnings. Or perhaps it is those insecurities that have given me a better appreciation of the possibilities and potential in my life. Regardless, Vit gave me something to think about but first I insisted on giving him a neck and back message. He enjoyed it well enough that he nearly fell asleep and then grumbled that he had meant to pay some attention to me.

I told him, “You did. Perhaps just not the kind of attention you originally imagined.” I kissed him and sent him off to shower to get the coconut oil off before he climbed in bed. Ever since I have been finishing this journal entry. I believe I am at a point I can put my thoughts to rest for the night. And a good thing as tomorrow is Napier. We don’t arrive until noon, but the excursion of the day is to a bird colony and keeping Frankie from getting over excited until we get there I suspect is going to be a challenge.
 

Kathy in FL

TB Fanatic
World Cruise Day 153: Jan 31 – Napier, New Zealand

This morning wasn’t as difficult as I anticipated, mostly because Vit and I decided to let the brothers sleep in for a change. Normally we had them up early even on Sea Days but one sleep-in wasn’t going to hurt anything. When we passed Madam and Miss Hayworth on deck, they both agreed.

When we did get them up, they were famished, and we quickly made sure they ate a hardy brunch and then dressed for our separate excursions. Frankie and I took a tender to visit the nesting side of the Gannet Colony and Vit and Nicholas went off to bike the River Valley. Madam, Miss Hayworth, and the O’Rourkes went to the Hawke’s Bay Wine Trail to visit New Zealand’s largest winery and a few of the smaller satellite wineries that exist in its shadow.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from our tour, but I hope it satisfied Frankie’s fascination. We met our guide and then drove along Napier’s scenic Marine Parade (where Vit and Nicholas were biking) and Hawke’s Bay (where the others would be tippling), passing stands of tall Norfolk pines. From a place called Cape Kidnappers Station, we followed an unpaved road (uncomfortably bumpy) across rolling pastures, riverbeds and gullies. Finally, we stopped allowing my stomach to feel like something other than a milkshake machine. We were just a few yards from the gannet colony to get a close-up look at the birds.

Gannets are easily recognized by their distinctive black eye markings and pale gold crown. They arrive in late July, and their chicks hatch about four months later. During our visit, we watched as gannets swooped and dived for food, preened themselves or performed their ritual mating dance. A rather silly display if you ask me. After we had spent quite some time “marveling” at the bird colony we went back down the bumpy road to a small shop and got to enjoy a very welcome cup of tea. It also – of course – had a few souvenirs and Frankie bought a book on the birds of New Zealand and I got post cards as well as an interesting cookbook of all things. From there we headed back to the ship by way of the Art Deco District of Napier.
Four and a half hours of birds. And as I have noted before, Frankie isn’t the only bird nut onboard ship. I am not anti-bird, but some of these people are a little beyond obsessed. I tried to act politely interested but when they got to discussing the consistency of bird poop based on diet I was out of there. Unfortunately, I agreed to accompany Frankie to one of the lecture rooms so they could trade photos and talk about birds even more. I was about ready to cough up feathers when everyone realized it was time for dinner.

I dropped Frankie off at which time I found a note that the boys were to attend dinner and then a lecture with Madam. Frankie was on cloud nine, Nicholas who had obviously recently showered shrugged in a resigned manner. I headed to my cabin to see if Vit was also finished with the shower as I was beginning to wonder as I couldn’t get “bird smell” out of my nose. I found out why when I walked in and Vit plucked a couple of small feathers out of my hair.

“Ew!”

“I take it this was not a fashion statement?”

“No,” I said heading straight for the shower he’d just recently vacated.

Finally feeling more myself I came out to find that Vit had pulled out one of my dresses.

“Is that an order my stubborn Cossack?”

Seeing from my face I was only funning with him he growled playfully and said, “Nii. A strongly worded request.” I laughed and wordlessly agreed with his “request” by getting dressed for dinner.

We were lucky and got a table by a window in the buffet dining area so we could eat, and watch land disappear as the sun set.

After telling him of my day I asked after his and I wished I’d been with them. It was ten miles of mostly an unpaved trail on a touring bike, so the seats were fairly comfortable. The first leg of the journey was on a shared walking and biking path along what is called the Marine’s Parade, a coastal area. After approximately seven miles the ride turned inland at Awatoto, where they cycled on a raised limestone trail that led along the beautiful Tutaekuri River to the quiet suburb of Taradale. Before they transferred back to port, they had the opportunity to put their feet in the clear river water where they enjoyed beautiful views of the Ōtātara Pā Māori site, one of the earliest and most remarkable pā (fortified settlement) complexes in New Zealand.

“It sounds wonderful,” I sighed.

“Too much bird?” he asked kindly
.

Quietly I admitted, “On the other side of too much. All we did was look at gannets … they remind me of seagulls … and talk about gannets and take pictures of gannets and … on and on and on about gannets. I’m glad for Frankie’s sake and I must admit I did learn somethings but …”

Smiling his said, “Too much bird.”

“Definitely too much.”

“Tomorrow I will be saying the same thing about biking. Nicholas suggested that we bring pillows.”

I covered my mouth with my napkin as I had just taken a bite of tilapia. “Ah … just so.”

“Indeed,” he said with a wry grin. “I have looked at the itinerary and we are to share a helicopter ride tomorrow.”

“Nice,” I said. “So you have a bike and helicopter ride.”

“And you?”

I answered, “Nature and a helicopter ride.”

“Such hardships we suffer for our charges.”

Vit really does have a dry wit when he allows it to be seen. I nearly started laughing at the expression in his eyes, but I was afraid of drawing comments from our fellow diners. And we both agreed to forego the lecture and just take a walk on deck and maybe sit with some dessert and a glass of wine. It was wonderful and relaxing until Vit got called to participate in some discussion. Trying not to appear like a couple we quietly separated, and I returned to the cabin by way of the salon where I made an appointment to get my hair trimmed on the next sea day.

When I got here, I found several emails awaiting my attention. First, I read Derrick’s.

“Thank you. You’ve made something difficult into something so easy.”

Apparently everyone in the family, and some not, keep wondering how I am going to come to terms with Derrick living with a woman even before the ink on his divorce papers is dry. Like that is really any of their business. Or mine for that matter. I told Derrick all I wanted was his happiness and the same for the boys as well. I was more grateful to Christine than I could express that she is there for him and that they are both finding some contentment out of the difficulties life has thrown at them.

Being honest with myself I sometimes wonder if it is easier because I am not there … and that I may feel differently when I am. I hope I am not so selfish. And I hope everyone is correct … that Christine is just what Derrick needs and vice versa.

Angelia’s note was a reflection of my own thoughts. Christine is different from Lena, so I’ll need to interact differently, but Angie has confidence in me she says. She says Derrick will also have to learn to deal with me differently than he has in the past because I am going to be different than the near-child I was when I left. It hasn’t even been six months, but she is correct, I am not the same girl I was. And her hinted meaning that Derrick will have to get used to me having Vit in my life may also be true. But I have confidence in Vit and Derrick that we can all work things out. It is just going to take some getting used to and being careful of the other people in our lives we care about so much.

Charlie’s email held news as well. He has made a couple of bulk orders but that prices are so high, and so many items on backorder, that right now it is Angie’s idea of having a communal family garden that is saving everyone’s bacon, including his. He used a portion of my income to purchase some trees (he has Reggie and a couple of the other boys planting them because he says he’d rather spread the money around in the family than give it to strangers) to maintain the agricultural exemption on Pembroke House. He also went in shares on seeds and such so Angie had something to start with until the rest of the family pitches in, which they will do as their income tax refunds happen … but that won’t be until after the government shut down is over. And while there are now plans in place for a partial re-open, many non-essential government employees are going to find their hours cut or their position phased out. Many others are being converted to performance basis pay; or, contracting by the job and not by the hour.


“This crap going on is like shaving by pulling one hair at a time. You girls used to freeze me to death tweezing your eyebrows. This feels like the same thing. Angie has given me a list of items to stock up on so you can do all of that canning stuff you and Mom used to do but you need to send me a list if you want to do anything else. And my sister-in-law Martha, the one you did all that babysitting for before Mom got sick, is moving Portland to be near the family of her new husband (don’t even get me started on that Vettie). She’s leaving all her old crap to you because she is ‘starting a fresh new life’ and wants to leave all the old behind. Not to mention the cost of having it shipped to the new location wasn’t appealing at all. I have no freaking idea what all it is. I just shoved everything in two of the downstairs rooms. One room has all that IKEA crap she used to love and the other is boxes of who knows what. You can go through it when you get home.”


I liked Martha a lot. Her first husband took off to find himself – he was an artist – and left her in a lot of credit card debt that took a long time to dig out from under. I liked her kids too. They didn’t really need to be babysat as they were twelve and thirteen, but I picked them up from school, helped them with their homework, and kept them from turning into VR addicts which is what was happening to a couple of their close friends so we all counted it a win. On the other hand, she could think the strangest things were important, so I’ll guess I’ll just have to see when I get home what kind of mess I have on my hands. Charlie mentioned “IKEA crap” which probably means shelving units, organizers, and all of the other scandanavian accessories she liked to get organized with. On the other hand, she never quite seemed to get organized; half the stuff she bought would sit around forever in the packaging it came in.

From Barbie I found out that Florida at least is really pushing the virtual school program to combat rising educational costs. FLVS has been a thing since even before I started school. Doing your school online doesn’t work for everyone but it works for more than was originally expected. The other thing that has been mentioned is the same thing they do in college … large lecture rooms. But with every seat converted to FLVS and students working at their own pace, that means fewer teachers to pay. Extracurricular activities like sports and band are still going to be there, but they are going to be more expensive than purely academic pursuits. Same thing for clubs. The elementary grades will retain the same traditional settings, at least until fourth grade, but after that they want the students moving in the direction of FLVS as well. Computer screens and keyboards logged into a mainframe will still be cheaper than books and endless printed handouts … and teachers. It will be a groundbreaking shift if it can be pulled off. But what that will mean for me I am afraid to contemplate. Perhaps I need to start looking into the tutoring companies or even the companies that teach students how to take the SATs and other college placement tests. Translating can be a side job if I can hook up with a lawyer or the university again. Going to have to put the issue to the side for now as it is giving me the shakes.

So much going on back home and I feel like an observer rather than a participater. It is a really odd feeling and I don’t like it. On the other hand, it has made me think that maybe I am doing the same thing here on the ship … observer rather than participater.

It was nice to be out and about with Vit, but I still didn’t really interact with the other passengers too much if at all. I left that up to Vit. Maybe I need to exert myself more. There is the morning exercise group, but it is rare that I see them in any other setting. The universe doesn’t revolve around me or however you want to say it. Anyway, it is something to think about. But not right now. A bubble bath is calling my name.
 

Kathy in FL

TB Fanatic
World Cruise Day 154: Feb 1 – Wellington, New Zealand

Learned a couple of unique trivia answers today. New Zealand was named in honor of “Zeeland” which is the western most province of the Netherlands. Wellington, NZ was once named Britannia and is called the “coolest little capital in the world” by people in the know because it is brimming with all sorts of cultural stuff like museums and the like. The name Wellington came from the First Duke of Wellington who was Prime Minister between 1828 and 1830. Another fun fact: According to Maori legend, the two main islands of New Zealand are actually the great canoe of the god Maui (the South Island) and the giant fish he caught (the North Island). Wellington Harbour is the mouth of the fish.

And that’s where we were today; Wellington, New Zealand. We arrived at roughly nine o’clock this morning, docked at Queen’s Wharf, right in the heart of town, and quickly disembarked for a ride in a Land Cruiser to observe fur seals and other wildlife. Our tour was across the wide-open spaces of a large coastal ranch. Our guide was quite humorous and told us tall tales of the area’s early farmers. Our first “wildlife” were the animals being raised on the ranch … goats and horses, as well as deer, ostriches and cattle. Yes, I said ostriches. These were raised for their meat and “leather” which is apparently what the skin on their large legs is used for. While the famous Leaning Lighthouse and spectacular vistas certainly captured our attention, the main attraction there were the seals. We made our way onto the beach of Tongue Point, and watched the adorable New Zealand fur seals basking in the sun and slipping into the water for a swim. I mean they were just so cute, but we were cautioned against approaching them as their parental units could be rather … parental in response. An invigorating walk, and use of commonsense, let us observe the seals close up. It was also a joy to take in the beauty of the landscape.

The one thing that I didn’t really enjoy today was the rather intense winds that seem to come out of no where and dart into embarrassing and uncomfortable places. I was glad that I brought our windbreakers, not everyone had come as prepared. I’m also glad that I opted for jeans for a change. A couple of ladies were wearing capris and skirts and the winds … never mind, I’m sure the picture my thoughts make are obvious.

I really liked the New Zealand hospitality that was on display today. Everywhere we turned people were smiling and welcoming, warm and helpful, and there were refreshments. Always a good thing refreshemnts.

The ride back to the pier wasn’t bad and as soon as we got there Vit was hailing us to hurry and join the group they were in … the helicopter group. Each helicopter only holds four people, so the group was small … only twelve of us. The ride was also going to be correspondingly short, from start to finish it was only supposed to take an hour. I didn’t see spending the money myself but then again it was Miss Hayworth and Madam who made the plans and the brothers certainly enjoyed themselves. The flight time was only fifteen minutes, the rest of it was travel time and the required safety briefing. Oh yes, and the upsale to purchase a recording of the flight.

New Zealand is part of a largely submerged continent that was later uplifted by the activity of the Earth’s crust. Great addition to our recent history and geology lessons. The views over the Cook Straits, where ferries shuttle between the North and South islands, were stunning. We also saw Matiu/Somes Island and the snowcapped Kaikoura Ranges, which were visible across the strait on the South Island. At the end of the flight we got a glimpse of some of Wellington’s landmarks that we had seen from the ground, including the Parliament buildings and the Te Papa Museum.

We had the option to explore the city at leisure before heading back to the ship, but Frankie and I had one more excursion to go on. Vit and Nicholas were going carousing … okay not exactly … but they were going to hit a pub before heading back. They put Frankie and I in a taxi and we were off to the Zealandia Ecoreserve.

At the entrance to the 550-acre sanctuary we met our guide and a few others to explore the modern conservation movement in a world-class interactive museum. Frankie was nearly as thrilled there as he had been at the bird colony. Okay maybe not that thrilled but it was close. We saw some of New Zealand’s rarest species starting with the saddleback and hihi birds, back from the brink of extinction. Locals often refer to Zealandia as “Jurassic Park,” as it is the only place in mainland New Zealand where you can see the famous “living fossil”—the tuatara, whose Māori name means “peaks on the back.” Over 200 prehistoric-looking creatures live in Zealandia, many of which have changed little for millenia.

According to what we learned at the Reserve, New Zealand’s flora and fauna differs from every other large land-mass on earth due to its long isolation and uniqueness as a nearly mammal-free environment. The isolated species living here were affected dramatically around 800 years ago, when humans from Polynesia settled in New Zealand. Not long after that the first Europeans arrived and both, with the help of introduced pests, began to deplete species around them and clear vast tracts of land. Fast forward, and with Wellington suffering many near local extinctions in addition not the nearly 100 actual species extinctions, Zealandia was born to push back the ecodisaster that was taking place.

Following the tour, we enjoyed refreshments at the café (Frankie and I enjoyed banana fritters) before returning to the ship. I wanted to do a little shopping but it was too close to sailaway time so we hurried back to the ship and climbed aboard.

No invitation to join Madam so Frankie and I decided to dine in the buffet and then he would return to my cabin and upload his pictures … at least those he hadn’t already done as downtown Wellington had free wifi all over the place, nice for both of us. While we were in line at the buffet Nicholas found us and asked Frankie if he wanted to catch a movie in their cabin with ice cream and junk food after he finished doing some free weights since he’d gotten a night off from Grandmother as well as she was having some kind of card party.

After Frankie gave me a hopeful look I asked Nicholas, “What is the special occasion?”

“Huh? Oh … I wanted to watch that old Lord of the Rings movie. We won’t finish the trilogy but maybe we’ll get through one. I kinda remember they’re cool and we’re on some big LOTR excursion tomorrow.”

I nodded, “As are we.” Turning to my charge I said, “Yes you may … but please don’t make yourself sick. And don’t stay up too late. You’ll be sorry to miss what is planned for tomorrow.”

“Yes Miss Veta!”

Well as you can imagine dinner was a quick affair and I followed Frankie back to his cabin and turned him over to his brother. I was rearranging my evening when I walked into the cabin to find Vit pulling something out of a shopping bag.

He made a face and said, “It is not my size so it must be yours.”

“Vit.”

It was a halterneck cocktail dress in a solid seagreen. Simple, classic, and a little dressier than I normally wore on ship.

“Wear it for me. And do your hair in that crown. We will go to the bar and sit and listen to the jazz band that is playing.”

“Are … are you sure? This dress will cause talk.”

He took me in his arms and proceeded to kiss me before whispering, “If we do not leave this cabin, I may cause talk with all the noise we will make.”

“And that’s supposed to be incentive?”

He groaned and put me from him. “Dress. Then let us go. I will be on the verandah. Getting air.”

I grinned but turned to dress as he had all but ordered, but it was with a grin on my face.

I will admit it was a bit like playing dress up but at least I no longer feel like Cinderella going to the ball. The band was very good. I stuck with a glass of pinot noir and avoided the harder stuff that was flowing rather freely around me. Conversation was also flowing freely with the exception of three topics that everyone seemed to avoid by mutual agreeement … money, politics, and religion; a far cry from what was occurring not that many days ago. Perhaps everyone has decided to get their crazy under control.

When the band took a break Vit and I decided to take a walk on the promenade. I was surprised at how few people were out there enjoying it until I realized what time it was. “Goodness, I had no idea it was so late.”

“Hmmm. Did you have a good time?”

“Tonight? Yes. Of course.”

“Good,” he said tucking my hand into the crook of his arm.

“Vit …”

“Let them talk. We are doing nothing wrong.”

“But will you feel like that in the morning?”

“Yes.” Then in Ukrainian he continued, “And every morning after that. We are not behaving inappropriately. We are not lurking in dark corners ravishing each other. We are not staggering drunk. Nor are we acting above our station. We are enjoying a night off and each other’s company.”

“I agree … but people talk.”

“And Madam has said to ignore them.”

I would have stumbled had Vit not been there, “What?”

“I believe she and Fraulein Hayworth are enjoying their quiet game of matchmaking. Let them. So long as we continue to do our job – and we will – and the brothers do not suffer for it. But I am through treating you as anything less than what you are.”

“And that is?”

He looked at me and said, “Mine.”

That nearly took my composure, but I smiled and started us walking again. But we both agreed the direction would be towards the cabin. His shower is over and he is asleep now. I suppose I should go myself. I just wonder how far he wants to take these new public displays? I’m worried and exhilarated at the same time.
 

Kathy in FL

TB Fanatic
World Cruise Day 155: Feb 2 – Christchurch, New Zealand

Christchurch, New Zealand. Site of a terrible massacre not that long ago. As bad as the loss of life was that the event set off a polarizing influence in the entire country for a few years. Things are beginning to settle down but some of the Kiwis on the ship confessed that it hasn’t been the same in Christchurch since that day. I was torn between wanting to explore the town and wanting to enjoy the excursion that was planned. All through breakfast Vit and I were treated to a synopsis of the plot of the Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy by both brothers.

Nicholas said, “I forgot what a good story it was. Pretty cool CGI too for such old stuff.”

Right at eight o’clock we docked, but it wasn’t at Christchurch but at Lyttleton Port which was an 8-minute shuttle ride away. Back in 2011 there was a devastating earthquake in New Zealand and essentially the entire port became unusuable by any cruise line.

Rather than take a shuttle into Christchurch, we were picked up by a unique, four-wheel drive, mini-bus to visit the area known as the Southern Alps. We traveled west over the farmland of the Canterbury Plains to the country town of Rakaia and stopped there for refreshments and photographs before heading inland from Mt. Somers toward the heart of the Southern Alps and Lake Clearwater. On a clear day, this spectacular alpine lake features stunning views over the mountain chain that forms the backbone of South Island. We bumped along the rocky terrain and traversed narrow streams en route to Edoras. On arrival at the movie site, there was a trail to follow in the footsteps of the noblewoman Eowyn at the end of which we could stand at the summit for 360-degree views over alpine lakes, mountain peaks and high-country farmland below.

Edoras was the home of Tolkein’s imagined Riders of Rohan. We were there on a clear day which isn’t always something that happens! The views were indescribable. Vit used the GoPro and the rest of us used our phones trying to capture the time we spent there. It was easy to imagine why this remote location was chosen for filming the epic Lord of the Rings trilogy.

It wasn’t all about the views though that would have been enough for me. Our guide was an out of work actor, but it wasn’t for lack of talent that he was out of work. The way he handled everyone as he told stories and trivia of the area, the movies, and the books they were based on was genius. He was also a JRR Tolkien fan and included bits and pieces about the author on top of everything else. He shared exclusive behind the scenes photos of Edoras under construction which gave us a different perspective. And we got to hold movie replicas such as King Theoden’s sword, Gimli’s axe and the flag of Rohan. No one minded if we took pictures holding them either which was very nice. Angelia who is a LOTR devotee was so jealous! I didn’t tell her I picked up a few mementos for her. She’ll get them on her next birthday.

After the long day of exploring, we had some that fell asleep on the way back to the ship. But instead of taking us all the way back to the ship they dropped us off near the shuttle bus in Christchurch which just happened to also have a stop by the Christchurch Gondola. It was on the must-do list for tourists, and though it meant really pushing the limit, we bought tickets and took the cable card ride to the summit, then did the Time Tunnel Ride which was essentially a presentation of the area’s history. We even bought the hokie picture they have you take at the bottom as well as some postcards in the “Shop at the Top”.

We weren’t the only ones that were pushing the envelope but that was mostly because the shuttles had been inadequate since there was more than one ship in port, and they serviced all of them. We were laughing as we all hustled up the gangway and then through security. As we moved through the ship to get to our cabin area we heard, “My, you four look like you had a good day.”

Vit and I turned and tried to compose ourselves but Frankie launched himself towards his grandmother and Nicholas draped his arm around Miss Hayworth both of them blathering all of the exciting things we’d done that day. Mr. and Mrs. O’Rourke looked on indulgently. Then Frankie beat it all by saying, “Grandmother I wish you had been there! I missed you!”

Well the older ladies all melted and Madam surprised me by hugging Frankie back and saying, “I missed you too Rascal. How about we meet for ice cream and trivia after dinner? Assuming your lessons are completed in time. Nicholas, you’re free to do as you wish. I believe there is some type of sporting match being shown in the sports bar tonight.”

Frankie looked at me and Nicholas looked at Vit and we both grinned and nodded. So that is what occurred though Vit was less certain when he realized I would be alone again.

“Will you stop worrying about that? And I do have some lesson planning and reporting that needs to be dealt with. Day after tomorrow will be three sea days in a row and I need to prepare. But …”

“But?”

“Do you think you could watch Frankie for a couple of hours on the 4th? I have an appointment at the salon and …”

“You are not cutting your hair.”

Startled at his tone I responded, “Not that much you grumpy Cossack.”

“Er …”

“A trim. The ends are drying out and last time I tried to do it myself you saw the results. It looked like a weed whacker had gotten that one side.”

“Is … this what you do at home?”

“No,” I snorted on a laugh. “I would get Derrick or Charlie to do it, like Poppa had done it before them.”

“Your … brats … cut your hair?”

I shrugged. “Momma’s arthritis made it too difficult so Poppa would do it. Then …” I shrugged again.

“Did … the man … your fiancé ever cut your hair?”

“Robert?! Good lord no.”

“Then why … I do not understand. Explain it to me.”

He was serious so I tried for his sake even though I thought he was making a bigger deal out of it than it was worth.

“I don’t know if this will make sense or not but here it is. Poppa and Momma were … old-fashioned. But it was hit or miss … I mean they kind of picked and chose what they were old-fashioned about. One of Poppa’s things was that girls didn’t cut their hair until they left home. That’s just the way it was. But because it was, with me there were challenges. In the early days bathing … well I told you of my fear of bathing. And then I fell in love with it when Momma showed me it could be a nice thing. I was the same way about my hair. My hair was kept in tight, painful braids in the orphanage … because as soon as they came towards me with scissors I fought like a wild thing. It was just easier and my hair – because of poor nutrition – wasn’t especially long then anyway. But life changes. I learned Momma would put flowers in my hair if I let her take care of it. I loved that. But then her arthritis became crippling in her hands so I would take care of my hair and Momma would place flowers or clips in my hair. And when I traveled with Poppa and Derrick, they became the defacto caregiver. Derrick said he felt silly putting flowers in my hair so he would get ribbons or colorful clips or combs instead. So essentially, I trusted Momma and Poppa and Derrick. I didn’t fear them being in my personal space. But as I grew, my personal needs changed. One time I went to the salon to have my hair trimmed. It was supposed to be special, but it wound up being a nightmare. Momma told her to take off all my split ends and … the woman cut nearly twelve inches off my hair. Poppa was furious, Momma upset as well, and I thought it was at me. I was devastated and cried for days. To me I looked like the young Cossack boys in the village, not Poppa’s girl. From that day forward Poppa and Derrick trimmed my hair. You see they said they were surgeons so they should certainly be able to cut hair. When … when first Momma then Poppa … died … I was very needy and clingy with Derrick. It … caused problems with Lena.”

“You were little more than a grieving child.”

“Depends who you talk to and which yardstick you use to measure childhood. Either way … Lena and I fought. And I wasn’t comfortable going to Derrick for a while for the simple things that I had always taken for granted. I was a mess. And then I went away to school and was a bigger mess. Charlie surprised me at school one day … for no reason, he was just in town and … and he was shocked at the shape I was in. He’d kind of abdicated his role he’d had when he still lived at home. He’d gone through his own rough patch and … look, Charlie just stepped up and tried to help in ways I needed. He also spoke some truth to me that I needed to hear that … that Derrick maybe wasn’t able to say, or say the way I needed to hear. Derrick, Angelia, Devin, Charlie, and Dylan. They most out of all of us … they became parental unit stand ins and helped me to learn to navigate the world on my own. Derrick was the Poppa. Angelia the Momma. Those two are simple to define. The others are … more complicated. Devin taught me survival skills and how to keep myself physically strong and had started that before I was a teenager, as that was just his way of doing things. Charlie was the truth dealer and taught me about personal finances. And taught me that being angry wasn’t always a bad thing. Dylan … a little of all the above but mostly how to navigate without bringing a lot of attention to myself, but when I did need attention who to call on to get it done soonest and right. But Derrick and Charlie … they …” I stopped and shrugged. “To Derrick I am the little girl that he would have adopted but gets to call Little Sister instead. To Charlie I am Vettie … more than the world ever thought I would be only out of all of them he was never surprised by it. So, when Derrick is … unreachable for some reason I know that Charlie will be there like he always is and that day when he found out I was too afraid to go to a salon he asked, ‘What’s all the fuss for? Hand me the scissors. Measure twice, cut once, there you go. Now dry those tears and let’s go get a taco.’ And that’s just Charlie being Charlie.”

I felt a little foolish trying to explain but then Vit surprised me by saying, “I wish to be part of your family.”

I hugged him and said, “You already are. The brats consider you one of them.”

“Hmph.” Was my only reply. I wasn’t sure if that meant agreement or not. But soon he was off so that Nicholas could be in the bar to watch whatever the sporting event was. Frankie was with Madam. And it was time for me to do a little reorganizing.

I put away the latest bunch of postcards. Refilled the snacks in my backpack. Used the last of my charcoal mud to give myself a facial. Moisturized all of my bendy places; heels, elbows, knees, etc. Worked on lessons plans and reports. Went over my wardrobe to see what needed washing on the next sea day. Then sat down to write this entry. Vit should be in shortly but I think I will go to bed anyway. If he is in the mood, he knows he can wake me with a whisper. I suspect however he will be grateful not to have to worry about temptation … at least not for tonight.
 

Kathy in FL

TB Fanatic
World Cruise Day 156: Feb 3 – Dunedin (Port Chalmers), New Zealand

Arriving at 8 am we found we were not docking in Dunedin as expected but in the small port town of Port Chalmers, 10 miles NE of Dunedin. There was a mad scramble by some passengers to figure out the taxi, shuttle, and bus schedule and I had to calm a worried Frankie that we wouldn’t make the first excursion which was to see a penguin colony. Not to worry, the excursion company had quickly arranged to meet us at Port Chalmers instead.

Frankie was so concerned because we were to go to Natures Wonders for a chance to observe the endangered yellow-eyed penguin in its undisturbed habitat. The wildlife park is located on the headlands of the Otago Peninsula, and its mission is to protect the penguins, fur seals and other wildlife that call the area home. We took a scenic drive by bus to Taiaroa Head at the tip of the peninsula. There we transferred from the bus to an eight-wheel-drive Argo – a vehicle that looked like it could have been used to storm the beaches of Normandy – and headed off-road into the wilderness. Upon arrival at Penguin Beach, we received binoculars at the viewing platform so you can get an up-close look at the yellow-eyed penguin—the world’s rarest. I had a really difficult time not laughing at some of the bird-crazy people on the tour. The looks of blissful concentration on their faces was nearly more than my equanimity could stand. I was informed that the birds were easy to spot because of the pale-yellow band encircling their heads. I dutifully ooo’d and ahhh’d with the rest of them and even took some better than decent photos but still … birds. I will never be able to look at another one in the same way without thinking of some of the people I have met.

We also saw the diminutive blue penguin, seals, sea lions and cormorants. Cormorants are a common bird in Florida and a couple of people told me how lucky I was. I just smiled and agreed. Afterwards we had a refreshing tea and a brief scenic drive through Dunedin en route back to the ship. I left Frankie to speak to all of the other feather-lovers on the bus and contemplated whether I should find some lunch before the next excursion. Luckily, I didn’t have to do any such thing because as we climbed down from the bus I spotted Nicholas merrily waving a bag lunch to get our attention.

Nicholas handed a bag to Frankie who eagerly tore into the sandwich it contained and Vit handed a similar one to me that held a fruit and yogurt cup.

“Better?”

Gratefully I said, “Yes. Thank you. This is perfect.”

I was still finishing my impromptu cup when our conveyance pulled in. Vit took our tickets and got us signed in and after disposing of our trash in the proper recycling receptical we boarded our transfer to the Mt. Cargill Walk, the starting point for our hike. The best place to start the hike, so we were told, is at Mount Cargill Road, as this route takes you past the Organ Pipes. The track started off quite steep but flattened out after a while. We heard and saw lots of native birds, including fantails and wood pigeons. There aren’t many views to speak of on this section of the track but it mad for a nice, mostly shaded stroll.

The cluster of hexagonal basalt columns known as the Organ Pipes is one of Dunedin’s most unique natural landmarks. We were told that after scrambling to the top of the pipes there were awesome views to be had. It looked scarier than it actually was, but we made sure to take it slow and watch our step. If you’ve never heard of this place before – and I hadn’t - you’re probably a bit confused by the name. Dunedin’s “Organ Pipes” are hexagonal basalt columns which rise out of the ground in abundance on a hill outside the city. The view from the top is worth the climb. The basalt reminded me strongly of the Giant’s Causeway in Ireland.

After climbing the Organ Pipes the track continued up through the bush. The trail eventually climbed above the trees and opened out to some awesome views of Otago Harbour, as well as Dunedin’s northern coastline. Not long after those views we came to a sign pointing to Butters Peak which is where we stopped for some light refreshments. The views from this rugged little hill are great, and the rock formations made for some interesting foregrounds. Butters Peak is also a good place to view Mount Cargill and its massive transmission tower.

It was another 20 – 30 minutes from Butters Peak to the top of Mount Cargill. Once at the top we found the vantage gave different viewpoints. The views really were incredible, especially on our clear day. From Mount Cargill you can see over Otago Harbour and Peninsula. If you walk under the transmission tower and past the building you can also get a cool view of the city, the end of the harbour and St Clair / St Kilda Beach. In total it took us around three hours to hike to the top of Mount Cargill and back to the car park as our group were all seasoned hikers. Our hiking shoes were a bit muddy so when we got back to the pier, I had everyone take them off and knocked them against a handy piling to keep from tracking things back onto the ship.

I met Miss Hayworth and she informed me that Madam was having a bit of an early night as she’d over extended herself for the last couple of days. She also suggested (in the kindest way possible) to allow the brothers to sleep in the next few days since there were no pressing excursions planned. I was not against it as the next, nearly two weeks was going to be all about Australia and after that came an area of the world I hadn’t much considered possible to travel in until this job … Asia.

I relayed the “suggestion” to Vit and he shrugged, unsure whether Nicholas would agree. “He is eighteen and should be allowed to make such a decision for himself.”

I nodded and then went to inform Frankie that he had a choice of room service or buffet. He chose buffet and then wanted to know if he could swim afterwards. He had no lessons to complete so I agreed. It was a bit breezy so not quite as enjoyable as I suspect he thought it would be, but it did use up the last of his energy and he made an early night of it. Nicholas asked if he minded if he watched the next LOTR movie in the trilogy and Frankie readily agreed. As for myself I was rather tired but came back to the cabin to find Vit settling in for the night.

“You’re back early.”

“Hmmm. And you look like you could stand some attention.”

A little surprised I was nevertheless willing to be “appreciated” and we nearly fell asleep in each other’s arms and would have but for the narrowness of the bed. The temptation has become a constant companion that we are enjoying for the moment. But we are still using commonsense and not falling over the precipiece. Vit did go take a shower and I took up my usual position of journaling. But now I’ve heard his first snore and I need to get some sleep myself. Tomorrow may be a sea day, but I am still on the clock.
 

Kathy in FL

TB Fanatic
World Cruise Day 157: Feb 4 – Cruise the Doubtful Sound

Today we cruised through the deepest (1381 feet) and second longest (almost 25 miles) of New Zealand’s fjords. It is also knicknamed the “Sound of Silence” because of the serenity of the fjord. I guess it was serene, but it was difficult to really tell between the sound of the ship and all of the talking that was going on. The fjord was first named by Capt. James Cook who decided not to sail into it because it looked a bit tight for his ship. The really interesting thing thing about the fjords in this area – or least it is to me – is that they have two distinctive layers of water. A shallow top layer (only a few meters deep) of fresh water and then the remainder of the depth is salt water. And the two really don’t mix which seems really odd to me and I need to look up the science behind that, I simply haven’t had the time when I’ve had an internet connection. We have areas of brackish water in Florida (where salt and fresh water meet and mix) but I don’t think it comes in layers.

Doubtful Sound is one of fourteen fjords in Fjordland National Park of New Zealand. The scenery was nearly pristine. In descriptions people give of the area I keep hearing the term “untouched” and I agree, it looks like man has rarely if ever been in the area. But of course that is not true. However, we as a species seem to have left it unspoilt; at least for now.

Doubtful Sound is very remote. The closet towns are on nearby lakes Te Anau and Manapouri. Pods of dolphins cruise through the water, along with the occasional whale. I guess the top layer of fresh water doesn’t really bother them. Same for the Fur seals, penguins and several varieties of birds such as puffins that also call this area home. The mountains surrounding the sound seem to end right at the water’s edge. And thanks to the high number of rainy days in the national park, waterfalls are pretty common. The two most famous are See 2000-foot Browne Falls in Hall Arm and 720-foot Helena Falls at Deep Cove.

Vit and Nicholas agreed to keep an eye on Frankie long enough for me to go to the salon. I spoke with Madam and asked her permission first.

“Veta, you’ve proven to be one of the most reliable employees I’ve ever had. You haven’t asked for a day off since taking charge of my grandson. Of course you can have a few hours to yourself. I’m surprised you haven’t done so before now.”

“I wouldn’t have except It has been almost six months since my last trim and the ends are getting a bit brittle. Thank you. Mr. Dymtrus and Nicholas both have him up on the sports deck so he can sketch while they do calesthenics.”

Madam apprised of who was watching Frankie and his whereabouts, I felt free to attend to the whole salon thing. I really dislike people I don’t know touching my hair. I’m not sure if it is a personal space issue or if it is leftover trauma from my earliest years. Either way I felt very self-conscious.

“Veta Petric. I have an appointment.”

“Yes! Of course. Right this way!”

What I didn’t know is that my appointment wasn’t just hair but was a mani/pedi as well as a wash, trim, and highlights. It had been since highschool that I had highlights in my hair, and I wasn’t sure how Vit was going to react to them, but I did it anyway. I asked for subtle, just something to brighten up the plain brown of my hair. The girl was very, very good. Wow. I doubt even Derrick will notice and he is very picky. My manicure was subtle as well with a nude nail polish over my natural nail and a tough acrylic top coat that gave strength as well as shine. They offered to style my hair, but I preferred to do that myself, so I ran back to the cabin and was trying to decide what to wear for dinner when Vit came in.

“Veta?”

“In here. Give me a …” Vit walked in and then stopped and stared. “… sec.” I kept waiting for him to say something and then worried that he didn’t. “You … don’t like it.”

“What did they do?”

“Excuse me? I had the ends trimmed … I haven’t even put my hair up yet so you could see. It was just a trim, not a style.”

“Nii. There is something … different.”

“Oh. I got a few subtle highlights. Just to … you know … do something about the ordinary brown. I haven’t done it in years. I just wanted to be … pretty … not ordinary … for you. Just not a completely different color. I didn’t think you would notice.”

He walked towards me and then said, “I notice everything about you. And you are not an ordinary woman. You are my woman and you are beautiful.” He reached out then drew his hand back. “Does this make you feel … beautiful?”

I shrugged. Then because I read something on his face I said, “You make me feel beautiful … I just wanted there to be a reason for you to see me that way.” I shrugged again, unsure if I had addressed whatever he wasn’t saying.

“Veta … you are beautiful because you are. I like your … what was it that Nicholas said. Hmmm. Yes. I like your whole package. You do it for me … I think that that is the phrase. You do not need to …” He waved his hand at my hair. “All I ask … please do not … cut your hair. I like the volossya kosy.” [hair braids]

“Yeah, well the package needed a little spiffing up.” At his confused look I said, “Momma used to say that there was nothing wrong with freshening the paint on the barn, it kept the farmer proud.”

After a moment he said, “Ahhh. So long as other farmers do not … er …” He changed tack midstream. “You are not a barn, you are a woman. My beautiful woman.”

I didn’t mention the jealous slip and said, “Good. I plan on it staying that way.” The conversation changed to other things and I let it go. I think it is going to take me a longer time, years perhaps, to help him with his worry that he will lose me. I don’t think it is me or anything I’m doing to create those feelings, just life has not been very kind to Vit. Even with healthy relationships after I was adopted, I did not always behave like I was completely healthy. I need to remember that when his feelings inadvertently insult me.
 

Kathy in FL

TB Fanatic
World Cruise Day 158 and 159: Feb 5 & 6 – Cruise the Tasman Sea

We’ve been “crossing the ditch” for the last two days. It is the same thing as “hopping the pond” when crossing the Atlantic only the body of water we have been crossing is the Tasman Sea. I understand it is a colloquial term that is in common use in New Zealand and Australia, but it is nothing that I’ve ever heard and Vit had to explain it.

Fun trivia … The Tasman Sea is the body of water that separates Australia and New Zealand. It flows into the Coral Sea to the north and was named after the medieval navigator Abel Tasman (a Dutchman) who crossed it in 1642. Tasmania in Australia was named after the same man.

In addition to helping Frankie (and therefore Madam) win trivia contests, I’ve been doing some general housekeeping. Rather than waiting for the last second, I have decided to start packing up the things that I plan on sending to Pembroke. Since I hope to get rid of most of the educational materials anyway I am using the trunk to start packing things up in. I’ve been keeping the plastic and paper bags my purchases came in to wrap anything breakable or “wet” (like the perfumes and jams). Vit asked if I thought there would be room enough to put his clothes in there as well as the other.

“I hope so. Some of it is going to be determined by weight and if we have to send anything back by freight rather than on the plane in the luggage.”

“It is good we start thinking about this now. We should reserve the most expensive items for our carry on luggage.”

“And a change of clothing and toiletries just in case.”

He nodded. “Before taking this job all I had would fit in a duffle bag.” He sighed. “Customs may be a problem. If it were not such a risk I would say we should send packages back sooner than England.”

“I am going to ask Miss Hayworth what her plans are. I assume she and Madam have considered what to do with all of the purchases they are making lately. If we can’t do similar then I will ask Dylan to think about it. We got rid of most of the liquor in San Diego but there are already bottles in our names that the Steward is holding. And then there are the things we’ve both got in the room safe,” I said referring to Vit’s collection of precious stones and metals and the jewelry pieces he purchased for me.

“Yes, we need to make plans. As you know I sent much of it to Pembroke with Dylan but there will be other things to invest in. Some we will be able to say is your jewelry and not have to declare it. But …”

“We definitely need to start planning for those ‘buts’,” I told him with an eye roll. He grinned and I kept packing and cleaning.

I am thinking that some of my clothes will not have enough life in them to be worth trying to pack them at the end of the cruise. I also think some I may simply be too sick of. My black flats for instance. I wear them almost every day and I’ve already had to change the inserts twice and repair the uppers with some strategically placed shoe polish. I wish I had spent a little more money on a better pair but at the time I thought economizing was more important. Vit’s dinner shoes are made of Italian leather and are a careless hand-me-down from the yacht owner, a pair he had only worn once. He has a pair of casual day shoes he wears on the ship and the pair that he wears for excursions. He also has a pair that he wears poolside and the room slippers that I made for him. In comparison I am a shoe hog and that doesn’t include the ones that are waiting back home. I took Vit’s foot size in LA and I sent it to Charlie and Angelia so they can be on the look out for some work clothes and shoes for him. I hope he doesn’t get too offended. What am I saying? I hope he doesn’t get offended at all.

I have been working on my lists. It makes me feel very accomplished and thoughtful. On the other hand, I caught myself biting my nails while I did it. Ugh. I just hope I am not forgetting anything obvious. Vit keeps calling me very wifely … or that is what it boils down to. A manager of the home. Momma made this look so easy. What am I missing?
 

Kathy in FL

TB Fanatic
World Cruise Day 160: Feb 7 – Tasmania (Hobart), Australia

Holy smokes! I am in Australia!! I must keep pinching myself occasionally to make sure that I am not living some self-induced fantasy of a life. And also to keep myself from being jaded and uncaring about all the wonders that I am being exposed to. Vit, despite already being a world traveler, says that seeing it all again through the brothers’ and my eyes makes it all new. Sweet of him to say. Sometimes I feel so naïve compared to Vit. It isn’t just about age because he isn’t that much older, it is about his life experiences. I’m not complaining, I just don’t want to give him anything to complain about either.

Today we were in Tasmania, Australia’s smallest state. The excursion part of the day was not any longer than most others, but when we reboarded I was glad to relax in the cabin where it was quiet. Frankie and I toured without Vit and Nicholas and that may be part of what was stressing me out. I mean I enjoyed the day, but at the same time I felt bombarded from all sides with depressing news that blared from every speaker, every video screen, and every magazine cover and newspaper. The world is going to hell in a handbasket if the media is to be believed. But I look around the ports and while there are areas of strife, it isn’t the WW3 that seems to fall from ever reporters’ lips or fingertips. It is difficult to keep in perspective.

We arrived in port at 8 am and it seemed like everyone on the ship was awake and ready to get off the ship at the same time. The Australian passengers, many of whom carried boxes and pieces of luggage, appeared to be intent on doing the same sort of thing I did in San Diego and LA. It was their turn to start off-loading many of their purchases and/or belongings that they no longer needed.

We had three excursions today; one in the morning and two in the afternoon. The morning excursion was to a wildlife sanctuary. We left the dock and via a scenic drive that crossed the oldest bridge in Australia – Richmon Bridge completed in 1825 – we arrived at the Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary. And what were we there to see? The famous Tasmanian Devil. Charlie has a dog named Taz. Trust me, the name fits. We also learned about other native wildlife, including wombats, emus and kangaroos. The morning went quickly, and not just for Frankie. We were nearly late to get to our next excursion. Good thing for the magic backpack.

The next excursion was essentially a historical walking tour where we were to imagine we were walking in convicts’ shoes as we made our way to the former gallows at Hobart Convict Penitentiary. I thought that a very odd sort of excursion but I was told that as convicts were some of the first Europeans to colonize the continent that it was a very important part of who they are as a nation and people. We left the pier by foot and headed towards what was once Hobart’s colorful Wapping district. It is an odd name. Wapping. It was named after a district in London that essentially had the same social profile … the poorest of the poort lived there. The area’s bar-lined streets were frequented by sailors, soldiers and prostitutes leaving Wapping a well-earned reputation for violence and debauchery. However, in the 20th century the area was pretty much steamed rolled by industrial expansion. There are a few structures stilling standing from that bygone era and as we passed them our guide told tales of the hardscrabble lives of the people who once occupied the tenements and bars. Finally we reached the imposing stone facade of the Penitentiary Chapel for an exclusive viewing of the gallows that were used to execute 32 convicts from 1857 to 1946. The guide was a little over the top with the gorey stories that included tales of vicious murderers and desperate bushrangers while we explored the excessively atmospheric underground solitary confinement cells and the execution yard. It was immediately back to the ship after that and the guide turned quite borning during that stretch which told me that he was only doing things for effect … and tips.

That excursion only lasted two hours but I was eager to have it over and done. It didn’t look like it was doing Frankie any good at all, and he wasn’t the only one. I noticed a couple of other people with us seemed to be getting depressed. I don’t know what the others did to shake the depressing stories off, but Frankie perked up during our last excursion of the day.

Hobart is the second oldest capital in Australia, after Sydney and has a great deal to offer in the way of heritage, scenery and culture. We once again did some exploring but this time by bus through the city, enjoying the contrast of the older sandstone structures next to modern architecture. We passed Anglesea Barracks—the oldest Australian army barracks, and one of Australia’s most significant historic military precincts. The next leg was through the suburb of South Hobart to the gardens of the Cascade Brewery Company, Australia’s oldest operating brewery, located at the foot of the majestic Mt. Wellington. Then beyond that was the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens, where we escaped with some free time to explore the collection of conifers and cool temperate trees, as well as the extensive gardens that embrace the flora of the Southern Hemisphere.

The RTBT as it is called was founded in 1818. It started as a repository for plants and trees that provided food and those of commercial importance. In the 1850s it was one of the major distributor of both plants and pines both in Australia and for export. In the last few years its focus has been on plant collection ns … and collecting … in order to showcase both native and imported species. It also functions as a seed repository … or more correctly, a seed bank.

It was so nice to get out of the city proper and explore amongst all the greenery and the big lake. The only regret is that we didn’t have enough time there. I’ve sung that particular song before so maybe I should just appreciate what I did get a chance to do. I love going to bontanical gardens and we have some very nice ones in Florida. Similar to how I “collected” state and national parks as a child, I have “collected” botanical gardens, going so far as to visit them alone when I couldn’t get anyone to go with me. Robert used to act tolerant but in hindsight I realize he merely considered it an exchange so that I would then give him something or help him to make contacts or whatever.

Unlike on days when we have back to back to back excursions, I was able to do a little shopping as at the botanical garden they had booths set up. I almost didn’t get to but there was an ATM there that worked with my debit card and if I understand the exchange rate was on par with what I would have gotten at a bank. After a number of years in parity, surprisingly the latest round of economic data has the US dollar strengthening as investors take flight from other currencies looking for a “safe haven” to park their cash. And no, I don’t necessarily understand all of that. I mean I get the concept, just not the finer details. I always left that sort of thing to Charlie. That has been a mistake. All I know is that right now every US dollar equals approximately $1.42AUS after a percentage is taken off for the exchange.

I now have sufficient cash to last for the remainder of the Australian leg of the cruise … or should I say I think I do. Or did … until Vit and I discussed it but that came later. At the botanical garden, while Frankie was enthralled at some bird demonstration a docent was giving on a Fairy Wren, I stepped over to a table to give all the kids there a chance to be at the front. At one table they were selling leatherwood honey and at another they were selling some books on the flora and fauna of Australia. I got a book for Frankie and some honey for Vit and I who has picked up my habit of preferring honey in his tea when it needs sweetening. I also bought a small ornament of the Fairy Wren and Frankie’s eyes nearly fell out of his head when I suggested that he could put it on his display shelf with his other bric-a-brack.

“But … but isn’t this yours Miss Veta?”

“No. I thought since you’ve proven yourself truly interested in birds and appreciative of …”

“Oh yes!” I didn’t even have to finish my sentence or wonder if I had done the right thing. He really can be a sweet boy. I think he will always be a bit different but different isn’t a bad thing. Look at me?

Back to the bus and a traffic snarl then back to the ship. I really did want to stop in the cruise market but there simply wasn’t time. I refused to pout, and it was a good thing because after I dropped Frankie off and made my way back to the cabin Vit swooped on me.

“You’re late,” he said with a concerned glance.

“Nothing bad,” I told him answering his unspoken question whether there was trouble. “A traffic snarl around some unscheduled road work. How did your day go?”

“I felt … alone.”

“Oh Vit.”

“Nii. It is just … it would have been better had you been there, but the boy would not have enjoyed it. I had thought it was a disaster for Nicholas but he met a young man who called his younger brother to come over to the wine shop. It was a good thing. They talked shop.”

“Shop?”

“Sports … coaching and coaches. It worked out. I just … I know Madam and Miss Hayworth are trying to prepare him for the family business but they also need to understand he is 18 and still needs other outlets to stay balanced and receptive.”

I nodded in understanding. “This time it worked out. Maybe next time it doesn’t he will at least have enough tolerance to believe that for every time it doesn’t sometimes it will. Let me make you a cup of tea? And a massage? Or do you need to dine in company tonight?”

“I wish … but a … er … rain check? That is how you say it?”

I grinned and nodded. Sometimes Vit tries a little too hard.

“Going to the sports bar?”

“A … game. A man on the excursion … there was no polite way to turn him down. He thinks he is doing me a favor, but he also wants a distraction for the other players. I will extricate myself as soon as possible, then listen to the other people talk, then return here. Yes?”

I nodded, trying not to care. I had been lonely today as well.

Frankie’s lessons and dinner were complete and then he went to his cabin when Nicholas stopped by unexpectedly to ask if he wanted ice cream and a movie in their cabin. Of course Frankie was all over that. I was cleaning up and working on my lists when Vit returned.

“That was faster than I expected,” I told him.

“Yes. The play became very deep, very fast. I got out after winning back what I had lost the first hand. I found out the man and his wife are leaving the ship at Sydney as they were only signed on for part of this cruise. We will lose several and pick up a few new ones as well.”

“That explains that. I thought it strange – always have – that over 900 people could take a nearly 250 day cruise.”

“Exactly.” He glanced at the papers on the table and realized it was not school work but my lists and budget. “Hmm. Add to that I bought another case of wine but some will be for here on the ship. We’ll keep it here in the cabin. And I purchased half a case of some local whiskey as well. Would you like to try the wine? It is a Pinot noir. I notice that is what you drink most often.”

“So long as the bottle is already open.”

“It is. I sampled it before I bought too many bottles.”

It has a very nice flavor. I am not a wine snob, but I know what I like and what I don’t. This, I liked.

“Mmmm.”

“Good yes?”

“Yes,” I answered. Then I told him about the honey. And from there we began discussing what we should be on the look out for since the rate of exchange is in our favor.

“I will continue to look for the wine. I am told there is some very good brands in Australia and each area has its own unique flavor.”

Making notes I asked, “Anything else in particular?”

Rather bashfully he said, “There … is a candy that I am fond of.”

Since he’d never said something like that before I glanced up and his ears grew red. “They are called Tim Tam.”

“I think I saw them in a gift shop today.”

“Nii. Just … should you see a grocery they should be there. If you can …?”

“Of course. They look like chocolate wafers if I remember. And come in different flavors?”

“Yes. If … if you see the honeycomb flavor? But any will do.”

Again, Vit so rarely asks for things directly that I determined there and then to make a special trip if I had to. We also spoke of money and that is when we decided that he would use his debit card as much as possible, as would I, and we would split the cash.

“I … do not wish you to think …”

“Vit, you aren’t going to go all strange about the money are you?”

“Hmm?”

“Because if you can buy those lovely pieces of jewelry for me, and we are buying things to have a home together, then I fail to see the logic of any objection to this.”

Disagreement avoided I offered to make good on the rain check but he wanted … er … a little more than that to “express how much he had missed me today.” Uh huh. Whew. But now he is asleep and I can put this away and head to bed myself. Tomorrow is a Sea Day. Frankie is spending the afternoon with Madam on some trivia game and Vit and Nicholas will be “training.” That is going to give me time to go over the lists that Charlie was finally able to get me (he had to upload them to my vlog via a private chat option) and also answer some other correspondence that is pending.
 

Kathy in FL

TB Fanatic
World Cruise Day 161: Feb 8 – Scenic Cruising: Bass Strait

Crossed the Bass Straight today. It is the stretch of water that separates the island of Tasmania and the Australian continent. It was named in 1798 for the surgeon-explorer George Bass. Today it is known for off-shore natural gas sources. Lovely scenery, but in the morning I was too focused on making sure that Frankie finished his lessons so I could send him to Madam with a clear conscience. And this afternoon I have been too busy, sitting on the veranda, catching up family news, not all of it pleasant. Bad news first.

Charlie says that the awful economy in the USA (and the rest of the world) is the “new normal.” Every time the White House keeps saying that they will tax the rich to help the poor and make things “fair,” the economy jiggles into the down position before slowly inching its way back up, but never as high as before. Every time the economy jiggles down some of the protestors get a little more vehement that it is all the fault of the rich … instead of taking into account that when the rich start pulling their assets out of the market due to threats they see coming, the “anti-rich” are the ones creating at least some of the situation. No one with any sense is going to stand still while someone is aiming a weapon at you and promising to pull the trigger. Wealthy politicians are only just now getting the picture that the new world they thought to build means that they will no longer be the elites as expected. On the other hand, you push one side or the other too far and they are going to fight back. The pendulum is swinging too hard, too fast, and it is sending shock waves across the globe. Ugh. Nasty.

Dylan says we should be happy to have gotten Vit’s visa taken care of early. He was using a secure line so I knew it was important. Vit is grandfathered in to the old rules because the new rules … are quite … distressing. I also had to answer some very … strange questions from Dylan. And doing it via chat made it feel even stranger.


Dylan: “Veta, I swear this is just between the two of us. This isn’t really family business … per se. But, are you serious enough about this guy to make it permanent? Or at least … fake it for a while?”

Me: “What?!”

Dylan: “No joke Baby Sis. I need to know.”

Me: “For your job need-to-know or just because you are a nosy old thing?” I asked him, completely irritated.


It was hard to tell his emotion but it looked serious as he responded,

Dylan: “For the job. And don’t say anything to Vit. Or anyone else for that matter.”

I sighed.

Me: “Yes. We are serious. But Vit is … beyond old-fashioned. He wants to talk to Derrick and the rest of you brats before … well before anything.”

Dylan: “And what if I could arrange for something permanent before he enters the country? And … it would make things a lot easier on him?”

Me: “Dylan, don’t play.”

Dylan: “I’m not. For now, the visa is secure. It is going to stay as secure as I and my bosses can keep it. He gave us a heads up … never you mind. The situation no longer concerns you but I’m just glad that it is that way and that is all you need to know so don’t ask.” I knew better than to push Dylan when he used that “tone,” even when he is just typing. “But if it comes down to it, could you make the sacrifice?”


Without hesitation I typed,

Me: “It wouldn’t be a sacrifice. And it is what we are working towards to begin with. We just wanted to do it in front of family.”

Dylan: “I know Kiddo. But you can still have the whole enchilada in front of family when you get here either way. Let’s not say anything to Vit unless things have to change. He strikes me as someone so straight he squeaks when he walks.”


I snorted then typed,

Me: “You have no idea.”

Dylan also gave me a message to pass to Vit that we shouldn’t be walking around without any cash … just in case.

Dylan: “Have a day’s wages on you at all times if you can. Then dump it before you leave port … either by spending it or by converting it or re-depositing it or something along those lines. Even if you lose a little in the transaction.”

Me: “Why?” I asked suspiciously.

Dylan: “Because … the possibility exists that those little plastic cards that people depend on so much might stop working.”

Me: “Dylan …”

Dylan: “I’m not saying the funds will disappear, I’m saying the cards might stop working or stop working consistently or not work where you are at or … any number of possibilities. You know how Mom and Dad always kept cash on them, even if it was just taxi money or enough for a tank of gas or a meal. It is just … precautionary. Also, I know Charlie has mentioned this, but you need to start thinking of items for the House.”

Me: “Yeah. We’re working on a plan and have a list but … and give it to me straight … is the house that stripped out? I’ve got my stuff from Jacksonville and Charlie mentioned that his sister in law left her stuff to me to get it off her hands so she could start over out west or something like that. And neither Vit nor I are used to luxury … calling Vit spartan might even be an understatement. He takes minimalism … look, he’s just not into stuff per se. And I’ve lived with hand me downs my entire life. And for the first time in like ever Charlie won’t just spit it out. So … you give it to me straight. And I mean straight Dylan. I can’t figure out things if I don’t have facts to work with.”


There was a pause in the chat and then he said,

Dylan: “I keep forgetting you aren’t the same kid you were when you went off to school.”

Me: “I’m not the same person I was last year. Big whoop. So tell me what is going on.”


I could almost hear him sigh.

Dylan: “Kiddo things are rough. We all wanted to try and make this transition as easy as possible, do our part to deal with Dad and Mom’s leftover legacy or whatever you want to call it. However, a bunch in the family are really getting pinched because they didn’t listen to Charlie before it got too late.”

Me: “Yeah, I know. The whole tinfoil hat thing. But he was never as hard and heavy as Momma was there for a while.”

Dylan: “True, but no one wants to hear it.”

Me: “Are they blaming Charlie because they didn’t follow Poppa’s five P’s?”

Dylan: “Prior planning prevents poor performance. Good one Kiddo. And no one is mad exactly.”

Me: “Define not exactly.”

Dylan: “They aren’t mad at him.”

Me: “But they want him to come up with some magic way of fixing a situation he didn’t cause?”


There was another pause in typing then,

Dylan: “Er … yeah … something like that. But I wouldn’t express it quite that way with the others. And Charlie is under a lot of stress trying to do the very thing they want from him … and beating himself up because it is essentially an impossible task.”

Me: “And how do I fit into that equation? I haven’t thought Charlie wears spandex and a cap in his spare time since I started talking. Plus, he has his own wife and kids to think about. So do you for that matter.”

Dylan: “Hah! But here is the thing, we promised Poppa and Derrick we would look after you. And if Dymtrus is part of that, we both agree that we’ll do what we can to make it happen. But money is tight Veta.”

Me: “Tell me about it. I’m not asking for anyone to pay my way on this. I’ve done what was necessary after that first year where everyone helped me avoid getting loans. I appreciated the cash at birthdays and Christmas but I would have managed … somehow some way I would have followed the example you guys always set and figured it out. I’ll – Vit and I – will figure it out this time.”

Dylan: “I hope so Kiddo. Right now we are all having to shore up our own houses … and some are finding it very difficult to do more than talk about it. Too few are taking advantage of what Angelia is offering.”

Me: “The garden thing? Is she short seeds and stuff? Tell Charlie to pull out what is needed from my savings.”

Dylan: “You sure? ‘Cause it may come to that.”

Me: “I’m sure. Vit and I are going to benefit from it.”

Dylan: “We’ll make sure you do.”

Me: “Then what is with the list making? Supplies for the house repairs aren’t exactly something I can get here and transport home.”

Dylan: “That’s taking longer to acquire as well.”

Me: “Tell Charlie to hit the thrift stores or the Habitat for Humanity type places.”

Dylan: “Come again?”

Me: “Dylan, when I say I did what I had to to get by in college that’s one of the strategies I learned. Second hand stores, estate sales, flea markets, yard sales, you name it … I don’t have to have new although sometimes you can even find that there. Even most of my ‘new’ clothes were never really new but from consignment stores or hand offs from friends or thrift stores or whatever.”

Dylan: “My little sister shops at the Salvation Army?! Uh uh. Not happening.”

Me: “Don’t be a snob. You’d be surprised what you find in those places. Remember that Yves St. Laurent dress I wore to Trish’s wedding?”

Dylan: “Er … I’ll take your word for it.”

Me: “LOL. I picked that up at Goodwill. I just had to fix a cuff, collar, and a couple of buttons and put the hem back in it, then get it dry cleaned. I paid $10 for it. You want to know what it originally sold for?”

Dylan: “I don’t know … a hundred?”

Me: “Try ten times that. And no, you hardly ever make finds like that, but it does happen. Marsha Clooney bought her wedding dress like that. Paid fifty bucks for a dress that went for almost three grand brand new. She had to pay good money to get it cleaned and fix the zipper and train on it but still …”

Dylan: “Okay, you’ve convinced me. I doubt I could convince my wife and girls to shop that way but maybe the idea will help some of them. But that’s what I’m talking about. No one really has the money to help out, Charlie is letting the stress get to him, and Derrick …”

Me: “What about Derrick?”

Dylan: “He’s gotten … oblivious. Too wound up in his own problems at the moment. He’s trying but … Shorty the crap load he already has to deal with is just a half crap load too much. And this thing with Lena being sick is really twisting him up and making him second guess the choices that have been made.”

Me: “One, Lena is beyond his help. And them not being together may actually be the only way for her parents to get her the help she needs. I’ve tried to tell Derrick this already but a little reinforcing by the rest of the family wouldn’t hurt.”

Dylan: “Sweetheart … they found a tumor. It is cancerous.”


Having already suspected as much when I looked up false pregnancies and the dangers of hormone therapy online I responded,

Me: “What stage?”

Dylan: “You don’t seem shocked.”

Me: “I did some research. So what stage?”

Dylan: “3”

Me: “Then they should be able to treat it unless it metastacizes too fast.”

Dylan: “Maybe. But she’s refusing treatment because of the mental stuff … she thinks they are trying to kill her baby. Her parents are trying to force the judge to move faster. It is just a big mess.”

Me: “Did Derek get the divorce papers finalized?”

Dylan: “Yesterday.”

Me: “Then he is off the hook. And I’m not being flippant or cruel or vengeful or anything else. Just truthful. But there are consequences for the kind of choices that Lena made. And as much as it sucks for Lena, Derrick, the boys, and her family … it is the way it is. Make sure Christine gets some support to help Derrick not to fall down a dark hole. Been there done that and it took all of you to pull me out.”


Dylan: “Kiddo …”

Me: “Lena may be crazy now … but she wasn’t when she made the choice to do that stuff behind Derrick’s back. And if she was mentally unstable back then … that’s still not Derrick’s fault and no one better say it was. She was the sanest crazy I’ve ever seen.”

Dylan: “Okay. Down Momma Bear. No one is blaming Derrick.”

Me: “Better not.”

Dylan: “And I’ll see if some of the girls will give Christine a hand, but she is a capable woman. I think you’re going to like her.”

Me: “As long as she is what Derrick and the boys need, my liking her or not is immaterial. But if she is … I’ll love her if for no other reason than that.”


Dylan needed to break off after that … time change difference and he needed to get some sleep. But I dropped an email to both Derrick and Christine and told them a thing or three about my feelings and let them know that I supported them just in case it needed stating in black and white.

And now for the good news … such as it is. Charlie says my portfolio may not be gaining but it isn’t losing either. And I’m young enough that even with an economic blip, I still have time to recover. Fine. And I told him not to get so stressed out; he’s my brother not my freaking Fairy Godfather running around in a leotard, tutu, and wand at the ready. I was going to do my part on my end and gave him the same suggestions I gave Dylan. I also gave him a list of a few places in Jacksonville he might want to check out. “Call ahead then make a day trip of it. You know Angelia and some of the other girls would be all over that.”

I got a sweet reply from Christine … she said she was up anyway. Her brother was shot in the line of duty. Very minor thank goodness, but he is staying in Derrick’s guest room for a couple of days since he is single and didn’t have a room mate. She wanted to know if I had a problem if she introduced him to Cherry.

“Taft’s sister?” Taft is a foster brother and Cherry his sister that was was never removed from the home (but should have been).

A little hesitantly she said, “Yes.”

“Geez. That’s up to you. I gave up my cupid bow a long time ago. It was a compromise to keep the others off my back. LOL. If you think it will do any good, be my guest. Cherry is a hard sale. I guess Taft told you she had it rough being the one that was left in the home.”

“I know. And for the record, it will take someone tough. I love my brother but his job … and his stubborness … he just can’t have anyone that is supersensitive and prone to hysterics. Which is what his ex turned out to be. “

“Why ask me though? Ask Angelia or one of the others.”

“Angie said you … look, I just don’t want to step on toes.”

“Stop worrying about that. This last year I’ve grown up a lot. I had to. I’ll admit I was a mess when I was younger but … I’m not that kid anymore. And if Derrick and Angie think you are a good soul then you have my confidence. I suspect it will take a while to convince the others of that but let’s start off on more equal footing. I want Derrick to be happy. And the boys. And you and your daughter too. And Angie, Donna, and Rachel have all had good things to say … like you have boat loads of common sense. Karen, Rhonda, and Barbie just get wrapped up in their own chaos, but they haven’t said anything less than complementary either.”

“You don’t know what this means to me.”

We avoided the mushy stuff when she had to go give her brother his next pain med and I needed to take Frankie to dinner at that point. For my own peace of mind I’ve been trying not to give the bad stuff too much headspace. There’s nothing I can do about it but pray for my family. But I will start looking ahead and trying to plan out what to buy and where will be the best place to get it. I also want Vit to really give some consideration to the ordinary stuff he will need to live comfortably. I already have Angelia getting him clothes that he won’t stand out in … if that is possible … but just like with the Tim Tam candies he wants, I need to know some of the other stuff. This can’t just be all about me.
 

Kathy in FL

TB Fanatic
World Cruise Day 162: Feb 9 – Melbourne (Geelong), Australia

Holy Hopping Marsupials Batman, I had no idea there were over 55 million kangaroos in Australia. Good grief. And only 3.5 million are “harvested” each year. Yes, that is what it is called; like “harvesting” cattle. At that rate they’ll never even come close to being endangered. As a matter of fact, they are turning into a nuisance animal because of overpopulation; they’re overgrazing their own habitat, and hurting other species that live in the same environment. That’s why when an opportunity came to buy some kangaroo jerky and kangaroo leather, I wasn’t squeamish. Human beings are top of the pointy food chain, but we are also supposed to be good stewards of the world we live in. Honestly some people were acting like eating kangaroo was akin to eating scrambled bald eagle eggs. I wish if people were going to have an opinion on something, they’d at least have an informed one.

All of that to say that today we were in Melbourne. Australia that is. There is also a Melbourne, Florida but I think the name is merely coincidence. It is something worth looking up if I’m bored but that’s about it. Melbourne is the capital of the Australian state of Victoria. No small place this. Our morning excursion would have shown me that if I hadn’t already been prepared by a port lecture last week.

We took a helicopter tour of the entire Shipwreck Coast, soaring above more than few local landmarks including The Arch and London Bridge. Among the most unusual sights we saw were the dramatic Twelve Apostles, a collection of limestone stacks. They used to be sea caves and archways, but then harsh weather conditions eroded the cliff face, causing it to collapse and leave behind stacks reaching up to 160 feet in height. More than a little impressive. We were lectured on Australia’s surfing culture though there were any surfers out on the water today; the water was too calm. We also flew over the Cape Otway Lighthouse, Australia’s oldest mainland lighthouse, and we instructed to marvel at the beauty of the rugged coastline, ocean surf and forest landscapes. Yes, our helicopter pilot kind of lectured us, like we were a little too dim to be allowed off the ship. But then we touched down in Port Campbell National Park and had a chance to enjoy a tour of the lookout with a different guide who described the geological history of the surrounding sandstone rock formations in a much friendlier manner than the pilot. After the tour, we climbed back on board the helicopter for the return flight back to Geelong.

Even though we started the four-hour excursion as soon as we walked off the ship at 7:15, we were still cutting it short to grab a bite to eat. And by we, I mean the four of us but though we were together in the morning we parted in the afternoon. Nicholas and Vit had a private tour while Frankie and I had one of those interminable panoramic bus rides. I shouldn’t complain, I sound like a spoiled princess, but I wished for something a little more active for my charge. He isn’t bad but he does get the fidgets on those long drives. And frankly, so do I.

The subject of the tour was a bit odd in my opinion. Frankie reminded me he’d had stranger field trips in school which didn’t comfort me like he probably thought it would. The subject of the tour was to discover wool’s importance to Australia’s economy and visit an old prison built by convicts during the Australian gold rush. To that end we took a panoramic drive through Geelong—the second largest city in Victoria with around 200,000 residents. We drove past a lively waterfront district and another botanical garden (wish we could have stopped) en route to our destination, the National Wool Museum.

The first sheep arrived in Australia in 1788 with what is called the First Fleet. However, it was not until the 1840s that the wool industry started and became a very important part of Australia’s economy. At the museum we learned the history of sheep farming, wool processing and textile production. There were several galleries outlining each stage and there was also a sheep-shearing demonstration. There were a large number of woolen products in the museum’s gift shop but wool isn’t something that you think of when you think of Florida. I still was a sucker and got Vit a pair of wool socks in case he goes on hunting trips with the brats up in Georgia where it can get significantly cooler in the winter. What I did buy was high grade lanolin. It is a component is several cleaning products Momma preferred and it was also a component in the hand lotion she used the most.

After the wool museum we got back on the bus and traveled to the Old Geelong jail, a former Victorian-era maximum-security prison that was closed in 1991. Ew. I know that Australia has a real history with convicts colonizing the continent but some of the stories we heard were pretty gut wrenching. The prison was built in several stages from 1849 to 1864 by convicts, who slept on high-security barges during the construction. We saw the gallows, solitary confinement cells, exercise yard and a prisoner-painted mural called “Window to Freedom.” I did my best to make it a history lesson for Frankie, but I am putting in my notes that I wasn’t sure that it had been age appropriate.

The bus didn’t drop us directly off at the ship but at the beginning of a narrow hall that had been turned into a cruise market. We didn’t have a lot of time to lollygag around, but we did get a bit of shopping accomplished. Frankie bought a decorative boomerang … or I bought it as he was under 18 and couldn’t purchase it on his own. And yes, the outrage at that injustice was discussed at length. I remember feeling the same a few times, so I let him go on for a bit then did my best to distract him with a wall full of exotic jerky … alligator, ostrich, kangaroom, alpaca, and some “ordinary” ones as well like wild boar and buffalo. He’s a boy so yeah, distraction effective.

Another distraction, though it served my purposes, was when I asked him to help me pick out flavors of a local specialty brand. Bickford’s crafted their original lime juice cordial as a cure for scurvy back in 1874. Yes, I said scurvy. As in, “Argh, ye scurvy dog.” All the best pirates say it during Gaspairilla back in Tampa. Sorry. I know that is a terrible joke, pun, or whatever you want to call it. I’m a little silly tonight I guess. Anyway, History 101 is that scurvy is a disease caused by a lack of Vitamin C and that sailors were synonymous for suffering with it because of their narrow diet. It also affected landlovers as well. So much so that as soon as possible food companies started adding supplements to food. They also did it with Vitamin D because of the prevalence of rickets (another disease). But the cordials were created to address scurvy. Anyway back to the present.

I am told that Cordials are a very popular non-alcoholic drink in Australia. You can add alcohol, or use it in cocktails, but mostly people drink them plain mixed with water or carbonated water. They are also very popular for “mocktails,” or the non-alcoholic versions of cocktails. The most popular flavor in Australia is lime. Mmmm. I tried it today and it is soooo good. My favorite bottled water flavor is lime (fizzy but no artificial sugars or anything else made by a company out of Zephyrhills, FL). But Bickford’s also has a wide range of other flavors. There was no way for me to get cases of the stuff so I had to pick a few of the best. I now have cordials in the following flavors: lime, lemon, cloudy apple, raspberry, black currant, and pink grapefruit. And bonus, I get to keep them in our cabin since they don’t contain liquor of any kind.

I got two other items and then we hurried back onto the ship; a sampler of Lucas’ Papaw Ointment products and a cookbook of Australian specialties whose cover was made of kangaroo leather. The Papaw Ointment brand has been around over a hundred years and remains popular to this day. It is used for a wide range of things from lip balm to diaper rash to minor burns and scapes to chaffing to some symptoms of escema and dermatitis to insect bites to on and on and on. The ingredients are pretty simple … fermented papaya, high grade petroleum jelly as a base, a minute amount of preservative, and a minute amount of natural perfume to cove the smell of the petroleum jelly. I’ve already used it on a splinter I picked up a couple of days ago that was trying to fester and the redness has all but disappeared and it isn’t as sore. As Charlie would say, “Good deal Lucille.”

I finally made it back to the cabin after dropping Frankie off at his (no brother in sight which concerned me at first) while juggling my packages. I was struggling with the cruise card to get the door open when it was opened for me by Nicholas.

“Oh!”

“Hang on Miss Veta,” he said, grabbing the bag with the cordials in them right before it fell.

“Thank you!”

“Frankie in?”

“Yes. He has something for you.”

“Yeah? I got something for the Squirt too.” Over his shoulder he called, “See ya Mr. D!”

I muttered, “Now I know why that always irritated Momma. He is missing his volume knob.”

I came around to find Vit had changed clothes and was chuckling. “It was a good afternoon.”

From the look on his face I gathered not just for Nicholas. Then he asked, “What is in the bags?”

“Cordials.”

“Which flavors? The lime is very good.”

I pulled out the bottle and held it up with a smile. He went to the little frig and pulled out a bottle of seltzer water but then stopped. “Perhaps you meant it for …”

I opened the bottle before he could get any more embarrassed and said, “Don’t be silly. It’s for us!”

“Ah … it is good. I enjoyed it when the yacht was in port here.”

“Why didn’t you say something? Next port I will pick up some more. We’ll savor these bottles and I’ll put the others away to take home so we’ll have good memories. Then I’ll pull out Momma’s recipes and see if I can make the cordials she used to make before …”

“Before?”

“The arthritis … got bad. I did what I could to take over the jobs but sometimes it made her sad, me doing everything for her and not being able to do any herself. Then the pain meds … just kinda took her caring away.”

“Ahh,” he said before kissing me. “It is hard when we cannot fix those we care about.”

I gave him a kiss back for understanding (Anichka) and then got us glasses and ice then allowed him to mix our drinks since he was already familiar.

“Goodness, that’s really good,” I said after getting my first taste.

“Not too tart? I know you do not like sour.”

“It isn’t sour, just nice and tart. Like me,” I added, feeling a little silly for some reason.

“Ah. Yes. Tart and … sweet,” he said right before taking my glass and then taking me into his arms for his vesion of appreciation.

“Mmmm.” Then he sighed. “I am promised to a dinner with Nicholas. I would make my excuses, but I have caught some of the older men … who should know better … trying to draw him into the poker games. This I will not allow.”

“Grown men …” I said shaking my head. “Is Nicholas tempted?”

“No. The opposite. But he must learn to turn them away without creating a scene.”

“Oh no, has he?”

“Not yet, but he grows impatient with their near badgering to join them. I think they believe they are complimenting him … drawing him into the adult world … but he is not ready for such deep play and he has no inclination. He says it is a problem for some professional ball players and he does not wish to get a reputation before he even gets his start.”

“Commonsense.”

“As I have said, he is a different person onfield. It is finally following him off the field. A good thing.”

Vit left to change and I called Frankie and asked what his preference was for dinner. He chose the buffet but it wasn’t a long night. Frankie was getting the sniffles and was really only interested in uploading his pictures and then going back to his cabin to watch a documentary. I still watch his online access but it is agreed upon to be online he must be under my direct supervision. So far so good. Eventually he will have more freedom but much like Vit is protecting Nicholas from dealing with too much too soon and being taken advantage of, I am doing the same thing for Frankie.

The evening was a short one. Apparently Frankie isn’t the only one with the sniffles. There’s something going around the ship and tomorrow we have all been asked, if we are ill, to remain in our cabins. Both Madam and Miss Hayworth are showing signs. Frankie. Both of the O’Rourkes and several other passengers of my acquaintance. I’m not worried about Frankie; he’s young with a strong constitution. I am concerned for some of the elderly passengers. Tomorrow is a sea day and it looks like it will be a quiet one.

“You do not feel ill?” Vit asked me concerned.

“No. You know I’m OCD about taking my vitamins, washing my hands, and using …”

“Hand sanitizer. Yes. It is good.

“Are you starting to feel bad?”

“No. But it will not hurt to get some extra rest tomorrow. I know you want to check on some of the passengers but I ask you to … er …”

“Use commonsense. And I will. Trust me, Poppa and Derrick pounded that into my head at a very young age. And if I couldn’t do it for myself, I learned to do it for Momma. She became fragile as she got older.”

“Yes.” He sighed. “I had thought to … but under the circumstances … I suppose …”

“Wanna cuddle?” I asked him with a smile.

“Yes … and not just that. But …”

“Then how about a shower? Together? Or a soak in the tub?”

He looked at me hungrily and said, “Are you sure?”

A soak it was. Nothing really happened, no I’m not kidding. We mostly just wanted to be with each other, not necessarily BE with each other. I know that sounds absolutely ridiculous. It sounds like something out of one of those stupid books that Angelia reads. But it was nice. And while there may not have been fireworks, the buzz helped us both to relax. We got out and wanted to make some notes but Vit fell asleep in the middle of reading what we’d already worked on. My hair is dry so I am going to wake him up and get us to our beds. And try not to worry that things are going right for us. Veta, there is no shoe that is going to suddenly drop.
 

Kathy in FL

TB Fanatic
World Cruise Day 163: Feb 10 – Cruise the Gippsland Coast

The coast that we sailed by today was once an Aboriginal seal hunting area. Today it is mostly just scenic, with crazy-stunning beaches backed up to old-growth forests. Not that I got to see too much of it. Today, most of my time was split between checking on Frankie, Madam’s cabin, and the O’Rourkes and along the way relaying messages to those that didn’t want to be exposed to the germs. Tonight it seems that a full day of rest, chicken soup, and doing nothing but puttering has done them all good. However, I’m exhausted. Emotionally drained as well. Both Vit and Nicholas were full of energy with nothing really to use it on. The gym and pools were closed so they could be cleaned and sanitized. I finally had enough and snapped, “I could always dose you with benedril and you can sleep the rest of the day away and give my ears and nerves a rest.”

They stepped a little lighter after that but then I felt bad and apologized. I could make excuses – like how this was reminding me too much of when Momma got frail – but I wasn’t going to use that. It was true, but not their problem either.

I’ve done my last check for the night and everyone is asleep. I think I am going to crawl in bed as well. I just hate when I let my emotions get out of my control. It feels too much like I used to be.
 

Kathy in FL

TB Fanatic
World Cruise Day 164: Feb 11 – Sydney, Australia (Day 1)

Sydney. Australia. A place I nearly never dared to think I would go. Yet, here I am. We are overnight in port, a rarity on this voyage, and it has been an incredible day. We were no sooner docked at 7 am than our group was hustled off the ship and onto our waiting small bus for a full-day (9-hour) excursion.

Australia's Blue Mountains, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, was our goal and focus as we drove along. At Echo Point, we had our first stop – some of the passengers had to be woken up, can you imagine – we had the opportunity to take in breathtaking views and check out the unique rock formations that make up the Blue Mountains, including the famous Three Sisters. Another stop allowed us to take in some spectacular pictures of the rugged Australian bushland before heading into the township of Leura where we had a delicious two-course lunch and got a little free time to explore. From there it was onto a place called Scenic World.

Scenic World is my idea of a theme park. Too bad Vit and Nicholas weren’t with us but I think Madam is trying to make sure both brothers get to experience as much age appropriate activities as possible. Nicholas has done a lot of maturing in our time on this cruise, but he still should be allowed other activities … but that is my opinion which I will keep to myself. Vit thinks that it is about time for Nicholas to … ugh. Not my monkey, not my circus. My monkey is named Frankie, and for today the circus thrilled him greatly.

When we arrived at Scenic World, we were handed our unlimited passes and pretty much set free with only a time that we were expected to be back at the bus. I’m almost certain that at first Frankie and I didn’t know what to do with ourselves, but then I spotted the Skyway and said, “Head ‘em up and move ‘em out!”

Lucky for me Frankie was game, so we took the Skyway to East Station. The Skyway was amazing. We glided 885 feet between cliff tops and gazed through the glass floor of the car! With 360° views, the half-mile journey provided the best views of Katoomba Falls, the Three Sisters, and Jamison Valley of the day … or at least from that angle. I am glad we got to do it more than once. Wow. We captured the incredible views of all of them plus the rainforest canopy. From East Station we headed to Echo Point which took us about ten to fifteen minutes. We walked passed a variety of lookouts, one of which allowed us to see the Three Sisters. From there it was back to the Skyway which allowed us to view the Jamison Valley from a different perspective. We hopped back on the Skyway and this time took it to the Main Building where we took a restroom break at the Terrace Café. The Café also gave us a view from Mary’s Lookout. The lookout was named for Mary Hammon, wife of Scenic World founder Harry Hammon. We got another spectacular view of the Three Sisters from there. My backpack was full of snacks so all I had to do was grab a couple bottles of water for our next activity.

From the Lookout we took the Scenic Railway. The Railway had a 52-degree incline (128% incline) and is the steepest passenger railway in the world. You can adjust your seats so it isn’t quite so intimidating, but Frankie and I opted for the maximum experience. The Railway descends 1000 feet through a cliff-side tunnel, emerging into ancient rainforest at the Jamison Valley. It has been operating since 1945 and has moved over 25-million passengers. Yes, we have a math problem in the works. Once on the floor of the Valley we walked along roughly 1.5 miles of elevated boardwalk through an ancient rainforest. The pictures the two of us took were complately postcard worthy and I plan on printing them off when I can find my photo paper for my printer. I know I packed it, so where the heck is it? I hope I didn’t send it back home. Grrr. I’ll keep looking but for now I am too tired to pull everything apart; will have to wait until the next sea day. That’s a shame too. We captured sunbeams and dappled light breaking through the rainforest canopy from various angles. Frankie “caught” some birds. We made another bathroom break at the Rainforest Room because the railings we’d had our hands on werenn’t what you would call clean. Then we took the Lillipilli Link.

After the walkway we reached the Cableway Bottom Station where we took a less dramatic return trip to the top. An 1800-feet return trip once again took us over the rainforest canopy as we went up the cliff face. The views of the Three Sisters and Orphan Rock were incredible. Before taking the Furbur Stairs we stopped at the café called EATS270 for views across the valley. From the forecourt of the Main Building, we followed the Walks & Trails signs to the Furber Stairs where we it took us about 15 minutes to reach the Katoomba Falls lookout for a close up perspective of Katoomba Falls. After that we continued down all 996 steps of the Furber Stairs and returned to Scenic World on the Scenic Railway.

Frankie and I were both wiped out afterwards – although we did manage to spend a few minutes in the gift shop waiting for the guide to arrive where I purchased a couple of bottles of eucalyptus honey. It was a relief to get back on the bus and return to the ship. However, about half-way back I got a text from Vit.


Veta, please to not reboard. There was a plumbing leak in the cabin above ours and a ship’s mechanic and a cleaning crew will be some hours repairing the damage. Arrangements have been made for us to take an evening dinner cruise. We will meet you at the cruise port entrance.

I looked over at Frankie and explained the situation. He seemed intrigued and asked who all would be going and I said that it was something we would have to wait and see, just like we did not always know who we would be on an excursion with. He shrugged and it left me wondering if he wanted anyone in particular to be there, the opposite, or if I was reading something into it that wasn’t there.

“Hey Squirt!”

“Nicholas!”

The older brother laughed and eventually Frankie did as well. He smiled even bigger when he saw Madam coming down the gangway. Happily he did not jump all over her even though he was acting like a happy puppy. But then he saw the transfer vehicle and he cut Nicholas out by offering his arm to Madam before he could. Nicholas, trying not to laugh offered his arm to Miss Hayworth who was doing her best not to laugh at Frankie’s shenanigan as well. That is something we may need to nip in the bud but for now we’ll put it down to a little bit of overeager competition with his big brother. Vit all but rolled his eyes and we followed behind.

Soon we were all seated and on our way to a sunset cruise through Sydney Harbor. Immediately after being welcomed aboard, there was a brief safety talk – required by maritime law – and then we set sail and glided past landmarks such as Sydney Harbor Bridge and the world-famous Sydney Opera House. We were all taking turns at the railing to take pictures and Madam enjoyed taking pictures with the brothers so I tried to make them as professional as possible while also getting some casual ones as well. The dinner was delicious. There was a vast array of delicious dishes, primarily seafood in nature. The brothers ate at an eight-top with Madam, Miss Hayworth, the O’Rourkes and another couple I only knew by sight. Vit and I were offered an outside table and we took it gratefully. The views were much better and the air decidedly fresher. After dinner we all strolled along the observation deck and soaked up the sights and sounds of Sydney as the evening unfolded and night descended. It was lovely. I wish Vit and I could have behaved more casually but we remain circumspect.

When we returned to the ship Miss Hayworth pulled us aside as the brothers escorted Madam for ice cream. Where they put it I have no idea.

“We hadn’t expected the boat to be quite so crowded. I hope you didn’t feel … relegated to … er …”

Vit answered for both of us when he said, “We had no designs on interfering in family time.”

She patted him on his arm and said, “I know Dear. We had hoped to give the two of you a little privacy. Perhaps next time. And Veta, please do share those photos. I had no idea how much fun those two rapscallions were going to become. What memories! Nick and Ann have no idea what they are missing.” She walked away laughing.

Vit gave me a sardonic look and said, “I begin to think the Fraulein has much more … mmm … on the ball … than she lets most get a glimpse of.”

I snorted. “I know she does. Considering her age and background she is very talented when it comes to tech. And catering to Madam and the schedule she keeps, and making sure everything runs smoothly … she has enormous skills of diplomacy. Not to mention she has a sneaky streak.”

“Ah,” Vit said with a cough to cover a laugh to keep people from looking at us. “Let me help with those packages and we will see if they have finished in the cabin. If not, would you care to sit on deck?”

“So long as I can unload these bags, I’ll follow you anywhere.”

“Do not tempted me with such talk,” he whispered.

The brothers both met us before we could get to the cabin and apologized for leaving us to carry their packages. They were polite with their regrets so Vit let it slide as did I, and they turned to go to their own cabin for the evening.

Our steward was passing in the hallway and suggested that we give the room another hour to air out because the deodorizer was still a bit strong and they were steam cleaning it out of the carpet. We walked into the cabin and my eyes immediately watered. Vit took the packages, set them in the closet and then got me back out of there.

He told the steward, “They didn’t dilute the deodorizer. Or they put it in the steamer.”

“I did the carpet myself so it wasn’t in the steamer. And it wasn’t that strong when I left the cabin a half hour ago.” He was all apologies and said he would discover the problem immediately. I was still wheezing but finally stopped when we got out on deck and I had a chance to sit.

About thirty minutes later Vit was paged and it turns out the smell was coming from the cabin above. The occupants had “borrowed” some of the deodorizer to make sure the smell was gone from their bathroom and didn’t realize you had to dilute it. It took another hour before we could get into our cabin and even then Vit and I opted to sit on the veranda until we were ready for bed since the smell was in the ventilation ducts. It still smells but more like an excessively antiseptic hospital than an unsanitary morgue with sewer issues.

Some time later Vit admitted, “Veta, I must sleep if I am to hold my patience with Nicholas tomorrow.”

“Not that I am not sympathetic, but anything in particular going to be troublesome?”

“We climb the Sydney Bridge … and he is much the daredevil at times. Even if it does make me sound like an old man … my nerves are not equal to such idiocy at those heights.”

Trying to comfort him I said, “If it is like the bridge I climbed with Mrs. O’Rourke and the other ladies there will be no foolishness. And everyone is tied into a guideline with a safety harness and multiple other safety checks. Hopefully he’ll be too in awe of the view to act the fool.”

“Let us hope. And you do not mind?”

“What? You going to bed? No. Of course not. I just can’t stand that smell yet Vit. How you can I don’t know.”

“I can barely smell it.”

I shuddered. “Normally I have a cast iron stomach but that stuff is just worse than what it is supposed to fix.”

He nodded sympathetically but said, “Do not fall asleep out here. You will catch a chill.”

“I won’t. I’m just going to finish this journal entry and finish uploading the pictures.”

“Very good,” he said before going into the cabin.

And that’s what I’ve been doing. I really do hope that the smell has abated more. The idea of that miasma settling into my lungs is just nightmare inducing.
 

Kathy in FL

TB Fanatic
World Cruise Day 165: Feb 12 – Sydney, Australia (Day 2)

I woke with a headache and a stuffy nose. Vit was also bleery-eyed. We looked at each other and croaked, “Tea.” It was not the best morning on record. I could still smell the disinfectant just a little bit but Vit said he couldn’t at all. Sometimes I think his nose sensor must be broken.

Had a thing happened that has never happened before, but I think in retrospect it was a good thing. We got bumped from a planned excursion. It was replaced with another one, but I was a little disappointed not to get the chance to tour the Sydney Opera house. On the other hand, the excursion we did go on was much more up Frankie’s alley. We set sail on board the Mari Nawi for an immersive and educational experience where we learned about Aboriginal culture as we cruised through Sydney Harbor. The Mari Nawi is owned by Tribal Warrior Aboriginal Corporation, a not-for-profit community organization initiated and directed by Aboriginal people with Aboriginal elders. The Tribal Warrior Aboriginal Corporation uses the gaff-rigged ketch Tribal Warrior and the Mari Nawi to train Aboriginal people to attain their Master Class V commercial maritime certificate and other qualifications including Radar certificate, and Marine Engineer certificate.

We met our host, a member of an Aboriginal tribe, and heard tales of local traditions during our cruise. We heard stories of the Cadigal, Guringai, Wangal, Gammeraigal and Wallumedegal people of Sydney Harbour and learned the Aboriginal names and meanings of significant Sydney landmarks, before stepping ashore on Be-Lang-Le-Wool Island, or Clark Island (its English name), located in Sydney Harbor National Park, where we enjoyed a warm welcome. Next we invited to view a sacred “smoking ceremony,” in which leaves, bark and fungi are burned. Those three sources of smoke are believed to cleanse the spirit and show respect for those present, or those from the past. Then it was on to a cultural performance of song and dance done in native costume. And after that we were given the opportunity to sample what is called a “bush tucker,” which is basically a lunch of native foods including morsels of various meats along with native flora.

It was a quick trip back to the ship from that point and it wasn’t a bad thing that there wasn’t time to go back aboard and have lunch because our afternoon excursion was one of those foodie tours. Surprise, surprise (or not) … Vit and Nicholas were joining us.

While the brothers were occupied sharing their mornings I asked Vit, “So how did it go?”

“Much better than I anticipated. It was not Nicholas that the guides had to keep reminding and watching. It was good time.”

His syntax was off which told me something but I wasn’t sure what. When I caught him casually rubbing his stomach as I asked, “Need a Rolaid?”

He grunted then sighed. “Yes.”

I gave him the roll I always keep handy and then told him to keep them but not to eat too many. If one or two didn’t work I would get him a container of milk to put the fire out in his stomach. He nodded curtly but knew it wasn’t in irritation at me so much as having to admit the weakness.

It was a fine day for a walk but first our group had to climb into a van to get to our starting point at Sydney’s Inner West. From there we tasted our way through mostly multicultural, gourmet eateries from the Orient to the Mediterranean. From an Italian deli we sampled salamis, cheeses, and antipasti; we tasted tarts from a Portuguese bakery; and at another stop there was Baklava followed by a shot of traditional Lebanese coffee. The buttons on my trousers and skirts were screaming in fear in anticipation of the stretching they were going to have to do. We cleansed our palate with a sip of Green Tea and some Vietnamese nibbles in a restaurant I barely even realized was there it was so small. We topped off the tour with a call at Sydney's one and only winery, a stop at a boutique brewery and tasting at a family-owned chocolatier. The winery and chocolate shop also kept some of our money.

Besides sampling the scrumptious fare we met the producers, provisioners, chefs and families that owned the various locations. For Frankie I have included the excursion under social studies (culture) and math (consumer and practical math) and geopraphy. Nicholas also received some reinforcement in the issue of owning a business creates some responsibilities to those dependent on you. I was surprised at some of the questions he asked and the proprieters seemed appreciative that he was thinking beyond the entertainment level.

I could write more but the fact of the matter is the evening wasn’t all that different from those that have come before. Sailaway was at six o’clock. Frankie and I had dinner and lessons in the cabin which was thankfully aired out. Vit accompanied Nicholas about for the evening, steering him clear of a couple of the older men who didn’t have the boundaries Vit wished that they did. Since Frankie had completed all of the assigned lessons I allowed as how a small bowl of sorbet wouldn’t hurt and we ate it sitting out on the pool deck, listening to a band playing in one of the clubs.

Everyone is tucked up for the night and now it is time for me to head that way. Tomorrow is a sea day and the brothers are going to be allowed a later than normal morning call. I would as well except that I’ve promised to join Suzanne and a few others for morning yoga. I’m hoping that Vit will allow himself to sleep in, his stomach is bothering him again. I’ll let it go for now, but if this keeps up I’m going to ask him if something in particular is bothering him … or if he should go see the ship’s doctor to see if it isn’t something more serious.
 

Kathy in FL

TB Fanatic
World Cruise Day 166: Feb 13 – Cruise the Australia Coast

I love my brats, I do. But there are also days that I wish I was the Queen of Hearts with the authority to say “off with their heads!” I decided it was time to have a serious conversation with them – and Angelia to play moderator.

After some noise I got their attention by saying, “Anyone hang up on me on this group chat and I will find every baby picture Momma ever had of you guys and post them all over the internet, you got me?!”

“Easy Vettie.”

“Don’t you ‘easy Vettie’ me Charles Petric. I have been telling you all and telling you all that Vit is super serious about honor, his honor, my honor, his promises, and …”

Angelia tried to come down on the sides of the brats at first. “Yelysaveta …”

“Angie I am really hacked right now so don’t use my whole name trying to drown out just how hacked I am. And I’m singing this song to you too Derrick.”

I must have shocked them that time because they all got quiet.

“Look, I love you. You all mean the world and more to me. But this has got to stop. There are too many of you and only one of Vit. I understand you are going to do what you feel you have to do … just remember what you are doing has consequences.”

Rather forbiddingly Derrick asked, “What is that supposed to mean?”

“It means every one of you to a man and woman wanted me to take this job. Some of you weren’t as obvious about the reason as others were but, the bottom line and we all know it, was it wasn’t primarily economic but so I could finish growing up and not be a burden to the family.” Derrick tried to take over the conversation; I was having none of it. “No, you asked a reasonable question now you are going to have to hear the answer. First … hurray for you … you were right, again. This job has done what none of you thought I would … I’ve grown up. I also got lucky and discovered a man who is every bit as hard headed, stubborn as you are … and honorable, kind, faithful, and true to his principles like Poppa and Momma raised us all to be. And I’m very grateful for your support and giving me … Vit and I … a chance to figure things out. At the same time, you’ve forgotten a major component here. He had a crappy start in life, as bad if not worse than my own, and a difficult young adulthood that … that left him scarred and sensitive to things that only some of us come close to really understanding. And while I know you haven’t meant things to wind up where we are right now, they have. Each of you … look, Vit doesn’t resent what you are asking of him. On the contrary, it seems to make him feel like he is being given the opportunity to prove his worth to the family. On the other hand … you have to start communicating with each other. Make one list, one reasonable list, of things for him to hunt for or do for you. Or even if it winds up two or three lists on different topics … just use commonsense and remember Vit and I aren’t made of money. Do you have any idea how much he has spent trying to get all of the things people are asking him for? He doesn’t know I took a peek inside his duffle bag … oh my stars and garters! Everything is labled who asked for what, where it came from, etc. … but no price. And I can guess he has already sent two boxes for Angie to piece out to people. Am I right?”

Angelia answered, “Yes. I … didn’t realize he was still doing it or … being asked for some things.”

“Don’t feel bad Angie, I didn’t have the whole picture until today. I suspected some stuff was going on but I didn’t know how out of proportion it was.”

Charlie asked, “He say something?”

“No. He’s just as bad, if not worse, than you when it comes to that sort of thing and don’t start denying it. I got the rundown on your own stress level and what it is over. You can’t be all to all, and definitely not all to all, all the time. Dylan … look, I know Vit needs to do the work he is doing for you for multiple reasons, just … don’t get him in trouble. I won’t come home until he can come with me.”

It was Derrick who yelped, “What?!”

Putting my foot down I asked, “What would you do in my place? Not what people expect you to do, but what would you really do?” Shaking my head I said, “In the culture I was born into and the one that Vit identifies with, the bride price is very real. It isn’t a dowry … that is money paid to the groom or his family and is what to a certain extent allows a family to approve a marriage. Bride price is the opposite, it is money the groom pays to the bride’s family to make his courtship and pursuit of the bride acceptable.”

“What dowry do you have?” Charlie asked suspiciously.

“Are you playing at being a sudovyy shepot [court jester]?”

“Er … probably not, whatever that means. So instead of throwing the snark Baby Sister, how about you explain things.”

I was used to Charlie being Charlie. He didn’t really mean to sound like he was putting me in my place in the pecking order, but he wasn’t far off from taking that road either.

“Fine. But it isn’t pretty. What would Vit see as my dowry? The question is bigger than that. I am the one with the family, not Vit. To Vit that is a huge deal. I have people to speak for me, of me, protect me … including protect me from any and all, including potential applicants for my hand. Are you with me so far.”

Angelia got it immediately but let me finish explaining it to the brats. “Vit has nothing and no one of that nature. As a matter of fact he feels as if he, because of his past, has less than nothing to offer therefore has more to prove to be worthy. He also has some idea that because Poppa was a doctor I’m used to the kind of things in life that … look, he just thought I was raised affluently. And in some respects we all were, at least compared to how Vit had it growing up an orphan. I can’t tell you how surprised he was to find out I worked, not just because I wanted to but because I had to. All he has experience with is the American stereotype … most of which comes from grossly exaggerated television shows and one shipmate that sounds as if he was three-quarters crazy and idolized the lifestyles of pro-football players.”

“Er …”

“Yeah,” I said, trying to stay on track. “But all of that is mixed up with Vit’s own cultural backgroup … and the bride price. For me the dowry equates with the family that has always taken care of me and the fact that the family will be allowing us to live in Pembroke House so long as we take care of it and pitch in for everyone else’s benefit. The fact that people like Dylan are helping him get his visa and all of the necessary paperwork. But on his side is the idea that he somehow needs to not only be grateful for that in a demonstrable way, but he has to pass every test … even when they aren’t meant as tests. Charlie, did you know that Barbie’s kid asked for opal earrings?”

It was Angelia that yelped, “She what?!”

“I know she didn’t likely know what she was asking … at least in terms of the cost … but what I want to know is how she knew how to ask him and she got his number to text the request to him in the first place. And whether Barbie knows or not.”

Even with the small size caused by the split screen I could see Dylan get a concerned look on his face. “That’s a question I need answered,” he said. “I cannot afford to have Vit compromised.”

And I can say right now that didn’t give me a warm and fuzzy feeling. And from the look on the others’ faces they caught the undercurrent as well. Derrick tried to say, “Dylan …”

“We’ll talk. Just not online.” And that was the end of that. Even Derrick blinked at how abrupt Dylan was. All of them, even Charlie, blinked in surprise when Dyland said, “I’ve got this Veta. I’m sure it was all just accidental and a comedy of errors type thing but you are correct, it needs to stop.”

“Dylan …”

“I said I’ll take care of it.”

“I know you will, but let Derrick do some of the talking. Not everyone in the family has a firm grasp of the … complications … that you sometimes run into in your line of work.”

“And you are?”

“Let’s just say after watching Poppa work his magic during some of the diplomatic issues with Medical Missions I have a good understanding in general, even if I don’t know specifics with your … projects. I’m content with that and have no desire to get into your business one way or the other. But I don’t want Vit coerced because anyone has him thinking that doing favors for you is required. If he chooses to for his own reasons then I’ll live with it but … the kind of messes that can be made with what is happening can be big, loud, messy … and heartbreaking. So please, don’t drag him through the mud. And don’t ask of him anything you wouldn’t ask from the rest of us.”

Dylan was silent for a long moment then said, “Vit is a good guy Veta. He is also … skillful … in ways some people aren’t because of, not in spite of, how hard he has had it and the kind of circumspect he has had to be in previous employment. But you’re right … I’ll watch that he doesn’t get taken advantage of because he does squeak when he walks and doesn’t always know when to say no. And that includes with the family. When it was just piddly stuff it was okay, maybe even a little funny, but … are those earrings the only thing?”

“No,” I told them all listing out a few things I consider a little outrageous. “The trick is going to be to get Vit to not take a sudden lessening of requests the wrong way … that somehow he is failing the family. So however you all approach this, and I’m done getting in the middle … hopefully … just do it gently for everyone’s sake. I don’t think there was any malicious intent, but some people were just not thinking. And Cassie … not going there as I know Barbie has enough issues as it is. Just everyone, kinda try and do better at playing nice. Vit is not Robert or any version of him. As a matter of fact Vit is the man that Robert likely never would have been. So … are we good?”

I hate confronting family but I couldn’t let it pass and Angie is the one that got everything calmed down. Except Derrick asked to speak to me as the others all rang off.

“I didn’t know Veta.”

Mentally shrugging I told him, “You’ve had present and necessary priorities. But now you do, let’s not run cross purposes. I … am choosing not to be mad about what has been going on. We can leave it at that. And I’m sorry if anyone, including you, took me as being disrespectful.”

“No. Surprising perhaps but not disrespectful. You sure Vit has his past under control?”

“Yes. He was forced to face it and deal with it a long time ago. But that doesn’t mean he isn’t occasionally vulnerable … and you know what I mean.”

Derrick sighed, “Better than I’d like to.”

“So … live and let live then. If there is a real need let Vit and I know. If it is just a want, maybe we can help with that too … lets just keep it to one, reasonable list. Dylan is correct about one thing at least, I don’t think Vit has any desire to tell anyone in the family no. And unintentionally or not, some will take advantage of that.”

“You’re thinking of Charlie and Dylan?”

“Maybe. But they are all grown men and are going to have to work that out amongst themselves. I know they mean well. At least now Charlie and Dylan can’t say they don’t know, and if they choose to continue doing it then …” I gave another mental shrug. “Then I’ll at least know that too.”

“Vit did not strike me as your typical innocent.”

“He’s not. He’s very experienced in the world; however, he has no defenses against family. I showed him that picture from the last family reunion … the one taken in the front yard at Pembroke.” At Derrick’s nod I said, “He’s completely fascinated and still likes to try and put names to faces and identities to names. Sometimes …”

“Sometimes?”

“If we do get married … and that is the end game for both of us … I think that maybe it is the family that is the deciding factor for that. And … I’m okay with it.”

“You sure?”

“Yeah. I really am. Robert was always ‘in spite of your family’ and Vit is nearly the opposite.”

After a pause Derrick said, “I’ll get with Dylan. I’m not thrilled that he is involving Vit in some project he has going. That is too close to dragging you into it. But … as you say they are grown men and I trust Dylan not to ask if he wasn’t certain it was important. Regardless, I want you to stay out of it.”

“I don’t have any plans in that direction. Just …”

“Just?”

“I feel … kind of bad. I don’t want any of you to think I’m being disrespectful. But …”

“Stop worrying it to death Veta. You were right to bring your concerns to us. I’m glad that you felt you could. I’m just sorry … look I’m sure no one in the family intended for it to get to this point.”

Weighing my words carefully I said, “I accept that Derrick, or am choosing to believe it or however it needs to be phrased. At the same time, I know how I used to be in some way plays into the way things are now. But … I’m no longer the emotional kid I used to be. It might have taken me a little longer to grow up but I have and Vit … he’s a good man that could have been something else entirely had he allowed the things in his past to destroy him as they could have. I don’t want him being treated badly because I used to be a certain way. Does that make any sense?”

I heard a smile, though it wasn’t mocking or dismissive, when he said, “Some what.”

We ended the chat not long after that. Ugh, I hate confrontation, but I think it was simply necessary this time. I hope that if it does get back to Vit he doesn’t get offended or anything.
 

Kathy in FL

TB Fanatic
World Cruise Day 167: Feb 14 – Brisbane, Australia

Well if I was concerned that I would spend the day worrying over yesterday’s conversations … or dealing with an angry Vit – I needn’t have even wasted the time. I came out of my early morning shower to find Vit in a particularly “appreciative” mood.

“Ty moya zhinka. You are my woman.”

He was kissing me on my neck which he knows is ticklish so all I could do was all but giggle, “Yes. I am. With all my heart. But did I do something particularly pleasing to warrant this much attention?”

“Yes. But we need not speak of it. Dylan said you would be upset if you knew that he told me.”

That had me sitting up. “And he would be correct.”

“Ah, do not be. I just wanted you to know that your brats took you seriously. I know that sometimes you do not think they do.”

“That’s my problem, not yours. Vit … I didn’t mean to … to …”

“If you are worried that I will be upset that you spoke with your family I will say only this.” He took a breath. “I was thinking to bring it up to you but … I am glad I did not have to, that you saw it and were moved to act on my behalf. I have worked things out with your brats. They understand. I have a responsibility to you … to us … before the others.”

I relaxed a little. “It isn’t that I don’t think you are capable, because I do. That’s why I tried to interfere as little as possible.”

“We will speak no more of it. Derrick says that we will take care of things like men and the younger ones need to learn the difference between wants and needs. I suggested we could still do things, but they would not get them until a holiday and it would be smaller so not to cause jealousy.”

So that matter is settled, and much better than I had been concerned that it would be. Vit is much more secure about these kinds of things than I was giving him credit for being. I need to watch that. And when Dylan and Derrick say they are going to move on a subject they are certainly true to their word. I’m glad things worked out as well as they did because it would have been awkward otherwise. Awkward? It would have been awful. The last thing I want is for any of us to be at odds. It made for a much more pleasant day.

Vit and I, together with our charges, were on the same excursion all day and it was a moderately strenuous one. We docked in Brisbane at a respectable eight o’clock in the morning and immediately shuttled to transfer bus where we prepared for a scenic off-road drive that included a pit stop for lunch and wine tasting for the adults.

We hopped off the transfer bus and met our guide for the first leg of our journey which was to drive an hour out of Brisbane to ascend Tamborine Mountain. The mountain is named for the finger lime trees (goombireen in the Aboriginal language) growing on its slopes. We saw some of the fruit and they look a bit like pickles growing on trees. The fruit is different from the limes I know as well. Instead of the pulp being in segments, it looks like beads shoved all higglety pigglety inside the skin.

Apparently, the trek we followed was used by some of the original pioneers and it went deep into the rainforest. We got a chance to stretch our legs and then took a short break for morning tea. The mountain air was invigorating and some of our co-passengers got a little silly. Our charges were behaving with more decorum than they were. After tea, we “stretched” even more by taking a guided nature walk to plummeting waterfalls and overlooks offering sweeping panoramas. All four of us got some spectacular pictures and I made sure to take several of the brothers together. The educational part was learning about the ecosystems that comprise the forests of the Tamborine Plateau. We also kept watch for koalas, which which we were told often sleep in gum trees beside the paths. We saw a couple, thanks to Frankie’s sharp eyes, but it took using a telephoto lense on my camera phone to get a good picture as they were shy and were quite far off the ground. While still out on the trail we took a refreshing swim in a crystal-clear stream in the company of wallabies and kangaroos. We were given instructions to stay away from both, especially the kangaroos; their hind legs are quite strong and have sharp claws. It is not uncommon for “Roos” to kill smaller animals if they feel threatened and they have also been known to injure adult men. They don’t go looking for fights, but they will defend themselves if feeling threatened in some way.

After the swim we had a delicious barbecue lunch and then strolled to a local vineyard to sample some of its latest wines. And they also got more than few orders which the driver was more than happy to put in the “boot” while we all rode back to the ship.

I was running short of the Australian currency and stopped at an ATM but Vit shook his head. I got out of line, hoping that I’d read his signal correctly. When I walked over to him he said, “I will explain once we reach the cabin but for now, let me pay for your parcels.”

“I don’t have any. I was just going to get a little cash for the next few ports in case Frankie needed anything.”

“And for yourself?”

I shrugged, “That too though I’m trying to limit it to necessities.”

“Veta …”

“Not because what I got onto the brats about, you already dealt with that. I just realized that space is going to be at a premium and I want to save room for some linens once we get to the Orient. We have a list, we may have about 75 days remaining on this cruise, but that is still over two months. I have donated what I can, and will donate more if necessary, but there is not going to be any significant point that we can ship things to Pembroke.”

“Dylan is looking for a way.”

“Hope isn’t a plan. Better for me to try and deal with what is the most probable scenario. I think we should begin packing the trunk I had the school supplies in. I will bring my microscopes back in my carry on … or ship them separately from the airport. If Dylan can perform his magic somehow we’ll still be that much more prepared in how much we’ll need to send with whatever he might manage to set up.”

“Oshchadlyva drushyna,” he whispered for me alone to hear. I’m glad it was crowded enough for anyone mistaking my face for being flushed by the crowd because I knew I was red as a beet. Vit called me a thrifty wife. And all he did was smile in a very satisfied male way.

Since the line to get through security was quite long, we decided to mill about the cruise market for a few moments. I got some post cards and a cookbook with some unusual recipes in it (“Roo Vindaloo” or “Kanga Curry” anyone?). I also got a scarf decorated with Australian animals. The brothers picked up a few things, Vit must have gotten something as he traded some cash to Mr. O’Rourke in a very discreet way. I didn’t say anything. I had to act on the trust I claim to have for him as far as financial matters go. He’ll tell me eventually. It just better not be the brats – or any of the others – still trying to ask him for things.

The evening has been calm which is welcome. As we pulled out of port we watched the ferries and water taxis busily trying to get commuters to and fro. It could have been much busier I suppose but only us and the Sea Princess were in port today. Usually the port is reserved for ships of the P&O line.

After the sailaway we all went off to dinner. Frankie asked to eat at the Pool Side Grill as he was in the mood for a giant salad. Not that I wasn’t pleased but it was somewhat surprising. Turns out what he really wanted was fresh air so I told him to eat his salad and then he could get something from the buffet if he was still hungry and beyond that he could have dessert.

“I can really do my homework up here? Seriously?”

“Yes. Seriously. However, that means staying focused so eat, do your work, and if there is time we’ll go up on Deck 9 and see about pictures or sketching or something of that nature.”

“We don’t have to stay in the cabin?”

“You aren’t a prisoner Frankie.”

“But you don’t go about much.”

“I try and use the time to get my work completed. I’m easily distracted.”

“Oh. But if I don’t get distracted we can try it this time.”

“Got it in one. So if you want time for everything … eat.”

In the end we both agreed it was a nice change but even when we tried to stay on task, other people tried to get us off task by talking to us or making a lot of noise. We’ll undoubtedly try it again, but not every day or we’d get nothing accomplished.

All day outside made it easy to suggest he return to his cabin to watch a documentary and do a little sketching if he chose. I offered for him to stay in my cabin and work on Traveling Marchand but he said he would save it for tomorrow which is a sea day. Good choice. And now that I’ve caught up on my own work I am going to start what I suggested to Vit. I’m going to reinventory my purchases and see what should be going into the trunk … and perhaps have a better idea of what I will be able to donate at the end of the cruise.
 

Kathy in FL

TB Fanatic
World Cruise Day 168: Feb 15 – Cruise the Australian Coast

Lazy day. Exercising with the Yoga Group. Krav maga with Vit. Morning lessons. Lunch and break time. One lesson after lunch. Vit and I teaching the brothers a few rudimentary krav maga moves. Then the rest of the day free. Vit suggested that Frankie join he and Nicholas for some strength training and surprisingly Frankie was eager for it. He was one tired boy by the time dinner was finished and didn’t even notice that Madam did not ask him to join her. Madam and some of the others (including Vit and Nicholas) were discussing financial matters. I don’t really feel much like writing beyond answering a few emails from the family so I will finish my evening taking care of all of the minor sewing I have been putting off. So, goodnight.
 

Kathy in FL

TB Fanatic
World Cruise Day 169: Feb 16 – Whitsunday Islands (Hamilton Island), Australia

The only other cruise ship in port today was the Seven Seas Navigator. It made for a pleasant port despite having to tender over. Hamilton Island is part of the Whitsunday Islands, an archipelago off of the Great Barrier Reef. And speaking of reefs, today was a short day and we spent most of it snorkeling and sailing.

We anchored at 7:30 am and tendered over immediately to catch a ride on a sail boat. Vit and Nicholas were with us again which was nice. Nicholas was a bit preoccupied at first but he shook it off as the day wore on but I was to later find out that the young lady that he’s been corresponding with had to go live with her father (she was living with her mother and step-father) because they both worked for the same firm – different divisions – and were laid off. The company was part of some community organization internet and news platform. No warning or anything and the Board of the organization have all “left the country on extended vacations to find themselves” or some such nonsense.

Getting the entire sad story since Nicholas needed someone to listen to him and Vit … let’s just say he has little tolerance for that sort of thing never having been given the opportunity to participate in that type of adolescent experience … Nicholas explained that her father was happy to have her but was under some financial burdens of his own. There’s a younger brother which means he is still paying child support and the girl’s mother looks like she is trying to get more since her income stream went down when the girl turned eighteen. Rather than go to the university she had planned she has to choose going to a public college or taking a gap year and hoping she can qualify for a student loan. I told him the most economical way of doing it would be for her to get her AA or AS from a state college and then she can hopefully qualify for some scholarships to the four year of her choice to finish out her Bachelor’s.

“How did you do it?” Nicholas asked like it was something he’d never considered before.

“I dual enrolled all through highschool and walked at graduation with both a highschool diploma and an AA. I went straight into a university after that but was only able to stay because my siblings helped, because I took minimum credits to stay a full-time student, and because I worked two and three jobs at a time. I double majored … education and linguistics but only could afford Education into graduate school. My master’s took two years to earn so I graduated about when I would have anyway. Tell her the tests for clepping classes are still cheaper than the cost per credit hour and if she has any credits from AP or IB course work to take those tests and make sure she passes so she can have those credits as well.”

“Er …”

“Nicholas I’m telling you how I had to do it. She … and you … are going to have to figure out how you are going to do it. What if your sports scholarship falls through?”

“Don’t even want to think about it.”

“You better, and have a back up plan. You are already taking a gap year. Talk to your grandmother and Miss Hayworth, they should be able to help you navigate the resources your family has available.”

“The parents already spent a chunk on Francine and she still has student loans waiting on pay-back and she’s working on her doctorate too. That’s being off-set by the fact she’s doing free scut-work for everyone in the department … basically a scholarship that let’s her trade manual labor for credit hours. She just has to be careful not to act in a way that makes everyone accuse the faculty of favoritism because of you know the whole nepotism thing.”

“It’s a legitimate concern.” I patted his arm. “There are ways to make things work Nicholas, your friend just has to be willing to do them. She can’t let her background get in the way of maybe having to take a different path to reach her goals than she had planned.”

“I … just feel bad. We might not be seeing each other like we had planned. She’s bummed about it.”

“Are you … er … bummed?”

“Kinda. But … I don’t know … I like her but … she’s seems … younger than she used to be only I know that isn’t possible. And my first year is going to be a butt-kicker because I gotta make the team and prove myself and all the yada yada. But Tiff is really nice and kinda gets me when the other girls just wanted to use me.”

“Then stay friends. See where it goes. If there is anything there it will only get stronger with both of you experiencing life in a way that helps you to grow up smart, not just grow up. And yes, I know I sound a million years old … and I’m not.”

He finally laughed. “Nah. Just … older but not so old I can’t say things and know you’ll understand because you haven’t forgotten what it’s like. Just … you know … don’t tell Mr. D. I don’t want him riding my case about girls and stuff. He already does that enough.”

“That’s because he’s already been through the ‘girls and stuff’ and knows the kind of trouble and distraction they can cause.”

“TMI. Def TMI.”

We both laughed and he seemed less preoccupied. But that conversation came after the excursion. First we had to sail among the Whitsunday Islands on the Providence V, a 62-foot gaff-rigged schooner. Our destinations were a scenic beach and coral reef. As we cruised on the schooner we did a bit of sunbathing. Then we stopped at Whitehaven Beach where we had time to stroll along the shore or relax on its inviting white-sand beach. Of course the brothers wanted to stroll so that is what Vit and I did. After a surprisingly tasty lunch on board the Providence V, we headed to a nearby coral reef that was teeming with colorful fish for some snorkeling.

Today’s sailaway was early – 2:30 pm – so there was only one excursion. And due to the length of the morning excursion there wasn’t time for anything else. Once again I had to grit my teeth and say nothing. I’m not paying the bill but I would have enjoyed more time in the area.

Evening was once again relaxing even with lessons getting completed. And a quiet one for me as Madam sent for Frankie to join her for one of the shows. Nicholas went as well which allowed Vit and I to stroll on the Promenade Deck before heading back to the cabin for some … appreciation time. He has showered and gone to bed. Tomorrow is Cairns. I’m going to go take care of a bit of vanity and hygiene and then head to bed as well.
 

Kathy in FL

TB Fanatic
World Cruise Day 170: Feb 17 – Cairns, Australia

Long day. Incredibly long day. We just sailed at 11 pm. I would be in bed if I hadn’t made the mistake of looking at my emails. Ugh. I’ll deal with it tomorrow. After I call Dylan and ask his advice how to move forward with it. For now, I’m just going to put it away and focus on today.

We arrived in Cairns at 8:30 am and from that moment on we were off and running. All four of us. I really enjoy when Vit and Nicholas join us but sometimes I wonder if we hold them back. I don’t want either of them to have any regrets as this kind of trip will only come once I in a lifetime. They’ll grow up, move on with their lives, and the kind of memories they’ll be able to make will be different. They are building their relationship as brothers but at the same time Nicholas needs space to find himself as a man who will soon be navigating the world on his own. Vit has already spoken to me about it but more along the lines that I shouldn’t have regrets. Maybe I am making this too complicated because of my own past with my siblings. I should probably just keep my nose out of it and stop overanalyzing everything.

So, as I said … 8:30 arrival and we were off and running. The port was incredibly busy and as I was to find out, is one of the busiest in Australia for the cruise industry. The terminal was located nearly in the heart of the city with downtown being an easy walk from the docks and piers that support not just the large cruise ships, but numerous commercial reef vessels.

Our first excursion was an incredible fly-over of the Great Barrier Reef which is the Earth’s largest living structure. It is composed of more than 3,000 individual reefs and 900 islands and stretches more than 1,400 miles. The GBR is so massive it can even be seen from space. Our transfer picked us up at the pier and we headed to the airfield, where we will meet our pilot and, dare I need say it, received a short safety briefing before climbing on board a helicopter. Once airborne, we headed out and swooped over the colorful corals of Arlington Reef. The pilot was a very good guide – quite funny while at the same time maintaining a professional demeanor as far as his flying went – and pointed out lots of landmarks. There was Green Island, Michaelmas Reef, and Vlasoff Cay. We were in luck and got a chance to see dolphins and sea turtles and we were amazed at how easy they were to see given the water’s depth. Forty minutes seemed like four minutes, but it was soon back to the landing field and off to our next excursion.

It was good thing that I’d repacked my snack selection as this excursion lasted six hours and didn’t have a specific time for a meal. We took a transfer to Kuranda National Park to experience its tropical rainforest as well as exploring a local village. The park is home to extraordinary biodiversity and a rich profusion of wildlife. Obviously Frankie was in hog heaven. At the end of the bus ride we met our guide for the breathtaking 75-minute Kuranda Scenic Railway. I had no idea what we would be seeing along the route – I was thinking mostly jungle – but we passed plummeting waterfalls and tunnels carved into mountainsides in addition to lots of greenery. At the end of the ride we spent time at a quaint Kuranda village where we browsed craft markets, followed hiking trails, visited some of the village’s other points of interest, and picked up some “to go” food for the brothers and Vit who quite frankly were starving by that point.

At our appointed ticket time we got another treat when we boarded the Skyrail, a cable car spanning about 4.5 miles over the forest below. The views were intense and so worth waiting in line for as we saw the surrounding countryside, mountain ranges, and glimpsed life in the treetops. The fun part was disembarking at stations along the way to explore the forest at ground level. When the Skyrail got to its last station we hopped on the bus and returned to the pier.

About the only thing we had time for when we got back to the ship was to quickly go to our cabins and change for dinner which was a third and final excursion of the day. Madam, Miss Hayworth, the O’Rourkes, Suzanne and her husband, and a few other couples I’d come in contact with were on the same excursion. The description was “enjoy a magical, multiple-award-winning dining and cultural experience in a candlelit rainforest setting. This unique evening offers you the opportunity to embrace Australia’s Aboriginal culture in the heart of tropical North Queensland, while enjoying a delicious, five-course meal in pristine surroundings.”

After our transfer dropped us off, we walked along a tiki-torch lit trail through the forest. The sky was very clear and looking up I knew we were on the other side of the world as the constellations were so different from what I was used to. Our hosts for the night were two Aboriginal brothers who grew up in the area, and their storytelling was a treat as we dined beneath a black silk marquee illuminated by candles and handmade crystal chandeliers. There was also music, some played by our guides. Our hosts shared tales of their customs, and entertained us with didgeridoo playing. The menu was plentiful, varied, and delicious. Frankie was as happy with some of the options as were the adults from all of the different cultures represented in our passenger list. There were local Australian wines, beers and even soft drinks for those of us abstaining. Vit offered to abstain as well but I shook my head to let him know it was a personal choice and not because I felt constrained.

After four hours I was ready to go back to the ship and relax a bit but that is when … ugh, no. Vit asked me if I wanted him to call the brats and I said I needed to sleep on it before I had my say. I can’t believe the temerity … to. I need to put it up for the night and get some sleep. Tomorrow is soon enough to deal with this.
 

Kathy in FL

TB Fanatic
World Cruise Day 171: Feb 18 – Cruise the Coral Sea

Sailing the Coral Sea and I wish I could say I was able to enjoy it but that would be a lie. I mostly just wanted to be left alone to deal with my mad and Vit obliged me by keeping Frankie busy most of the morning. The boy enjoyed himself immensely though I nearly scolded him for not putting on enough sunscreen. He is a patchwork of pink where he only paid a half measure of attention to making sure the sunscreen covered everything and wasn’t just hit or miss.

Why was I mad? That two-bit lawyer the court assigned to Lena’s case emailed me asking some incredibly inappropriate questions. The reason why I had to deal with it on my own is because the flu is running through the family and Dylan has it big time. Everyone is trying to stay away from Derrick because he simply can’t afford to get ill again until his immune system has time to recoup from all the stress. That left me with no choice but to figure it out on my own, but I ran it by Vit since he’s had some experience being questioned himself.


To Whom It May Concern:

I am in receipt of your email dated February 17th. I have been out of the country since early August of last year. My employment contract does not come to an end for some time yet. I will not be returning until May of this year at the earliest. Those dates already prove most of the alegations being made against me are false. Also, please be advised that this is my last communication on this subject by this means. As you are no doubt aware, email is not a secure form of communication. An appropriately witnessed deposition in a legal setting will have to await my return Stateside when legal representatives for all parties can be present.

Yelysaveta K. A. B. Petric, M.A.Ed.

I was hesitant to even raise the issue with Vit, but he knew I was upset. He surprised me by being so matter of fact. “Of course there is nothing inappropriate between you and Der-rick.” When I all but wilted in relief he hugged me. “There are people in this life with nothing better to do than tear other people down to suit their own ends. Der-rick’s ex was ill long before anyone knew. And it is perhaps the jealousy that started the illness. Charlie is very … frank … when speaking of her. I am sorry that you must go through this. Is there anything that I can do?” That’s when I asked him to take Frankie for the morning to give me time to deal with things and calm myself.

With Dylan and all of the others unavailable I was only able to reach Barbie and her only because she was home taking care of kids.

“Veta I am really sorry. I had no idea what was going on. We’re … dealing with some changes here at home. Mark’s hours were cut again.”

“Oh no.”

“We’re fine. There just isn’t a lot of extra and Maddie wasn’t thinking. Mark has the kids spoiled – you know how he was raised – and it’s just been challenging to get all our expectations realigned to fit our new reality.”

“I’m sorry Barbie. Maybe I shouldn’t have …”

“No. Don’t even start. It was necessary and I’m glad it happened before a true situation occurred. It woke Mark up like nothing else has. Hon, I hate to rush, but you said it was important.”

I explained things and while she wasn’t shocked, she was angry that it had gotten around to me.

“Sweety, I wish I knew what to tell you. I guess we were all hoping it wouldn’t come to this. All I can say is do what you think best, and I’ll get word to Dylan when he is well enough. A couple of hours ago he had a raging fever and wasn’t making a lot of sense.”

“That bad?!”

“It seems to be a symptom of this flu. For a couple of hours you just go loopy. But once you get beyond that you are on the downside of the peek and it is just a matter of recovering.”

“Isn’t the flu shot helping at all?”

“It is keeping the death toll lower.”

“Death toll?!”

“It’s bad Veta so you just keep an eye on things in your area. Though if I’m understanding the docs, this clade of the flu has already been through the areas you are heading into. Asia always gets hit first. Just take precautions.”

“Who is looking after Derrick?”

“Christine practically has them barricaded in. She and Angie are the only ones keeping the garden up and running right now so they are both exhausted. We all are. On the other hand, Derrick is going to town on his tomato garden and is gaining strength. He’s had his flu shot same as the rest of us and with limited exposure and only when necessary he should be fine. I …”

I heard one of the kids calling in the background and I told her, “Go. I’ll adult my way out of this.”

She gave a tired chuckle and went to shoulder mom-duty. That’s when I finally decided to write the non-answer type email and then spend time balancing myself. By lunch time I was in a better frame of mind, but it wasn’t easy to keep it that way. I kept second-guessing the content of the email and tried to avoid hearing some of the “private” discussions people were having about the economic situation back home, whereever “home” was for them.

Frankie spent the evening with Madam and I spent the evening in the gym and on the Sports Deck tiring myself out. I’m done in and I’m going to finish this glass of wine then go to sleep and hope the sharks stay in their pens and leave us all alone.
 

Kathy in FL

TB Fanatic
World Cruise Day 172: Feb 19 – Thursday Island, Australia

Today has been a very small place called Thursday Island which is Australia’s northern most town. Thursday Island is located 39 kilometers north of the Cape York Peninsula, Queensland, Australia in the Torres Strait. It is a small island of just 1.4 square miles, with the highest point just 341 feet above sea level. Its population is barely over 2500; quite a contrast to all the ports we’ve been since Greenland.

It was very warm today; the upper 80s and I really felt it as I didn’t sleep well last night. I thought I was hiding it quite well but mid-day Vit pulled me to the side and asked if I wanted to return to the ship. Part of me did but I have a job to do and I will not fail if only to spite those nasty minded people.

We anchored promptly at eight and then began tendering over to Thursday Island. We only had a short excursion and the rest of the day has been catch as catch can as Momma would say. After arriving at the pier, it was only a short walk to begin a study of the indigenous cultures living on the Torres Straight. The first step on the walk was the Bayo Blue gallery, a center focused on traditional artwork and culture-sharing by the Aboriginal people of the Torres Strait and Cape York region. There we were met by a custodian, or Elder, who performed the “Welcome to Country” ceremony—a greeting meant to introduce people to Aboriginal culture and history. Next, we were treated to an outdoor dance show, allowing us to immerse ourselves in the rhythm of the dancers, drummers, singers and rattles made from kulap seeds. Even after breakfast aboard ship the delicious samples of local delicacies, including freshly caught seafood and a mix of tropical fruit, bush kaikai and fresh coconut water, were very welcome and tasty. We browsed the gallery’s selection of artwork and then walked back to the pier where we were cut loose and given free time, although several couples took a tender back to the ship.

Sailaway wasn’t until 6 pm and I knew that Frankie needed to burn off some energy. The next two days are sea days and I want him cooperative to his lessons. It was also our next to last day in Australia so I wanted it to be a good time for him. We are in high-season for Australia, their summertime when a lot of locals go on holiday. I was just wondering what to do what I was halloooo’d by Suzanne.

“Kinda stuck what to do?” she asked.

“A bit,” I said trying to keep an eye on Frankie who was watching some sea birds.

“Would you mind an introduction to my godson?”

“Excuse me?”

“My cousin married an Aussie and lives in Queensland. Her son is my godson and lives here part of the year as a fisherman but the ship he normally serves on is in drydock with a hull breach and he is trying to make a temp living as a tourguide. Only problem is that he has a smallish vehicle. Um …”

“Can he get us back to the ship on time?”

“He has to,” she laughed. “His parents are here today, and they need him to drive them to the ferry. So? Are you game? I mean I know it is an imposition but …”

“Let’s see what he can do.”

I met him, he showed me his license and I also got to meet his parents. I could tell he was a bit embarrassed, but I’ve handled more than one male with pride issues and said I would just appreciate something that would keep Frankie from getting the fidgets.

It turned out to be a pretty good three-hour tour. We got an indepth tour of Green Hill Fort. It was built in the early 1890s and was originally constructed to defend againt a Russian invasion of all things. That event never materialized and the fort was decommissioned in the 1920s but was recommissioned for WW2, not as a fort but as a communication center. Lots of great history and if Samuel (the man’s name) ever gets tired of fishing he should seriously investigate teaching. He kept Frankie thoroughly entertained. He also told us about the pearl diving that used to thrive on “TI” as the locals call it. We were soon back at the pier when we were spotted by Vit.

Let’s just say I miscalculated but it didn’t turn out as bad as it could have. Samuel is charming … and married with two children. I suspect he is also perceptive because after being introduced he went out of his way to make those facts known and then to ask Vit if he’d care for direction for a seasfood buffet sort of thing one of the small hotels put on as that is where he was about to take his parents and godparents.

“Veta …”

“I feel like an old woman,” I growled in a foul whisper before he could get started on his mood.

“Er …”

“I met his parents for heaven’s sake and was treated like an old-maid teacher or nanny. If you had been there I’m sure it wouldn’t have bothered you in the least but I felt ridiculous. His parents are nice but I felt like I was being interviewed to make sure I wouldn’t take advantage of him or something like that.”

“Ah …”

“Er and ah all you want but … just …” I sighed. “Sorry. I’m … I didn’t get much sleep last night and I’m still out of sorts. Please ignore the preceding snit as an act of a stupid mind.”

“Kokhana, do not be so upset with yourself. I … er … I saw a man and … was not … uh …”

“I apologize for that as well. Under the circumstances it would have been smarter to at least have left a message to let you know what Frankie and I would be doing.”

“Yes,” he agreed. “But as you said, the connection with another passenger and then meeting his parents … and has Frankie been this … active … since we got off the tender?”

I looked over to find Frankie running to try and keep up with the birds he was taking pictures of. And keeping up with some other kids running around as well. They were younger than Frankie, but it seemed they were all having a good time which did nothing for the incipient headache I felt coming on.

“I swear I am going to chain him to the railing when we get back on the ship.”

“That answers my question,” he said.

“I don’t know what is going on. It has just been one of those days.”

Nicholas overheard and said, “It is the Komodo dragons. Grandmother spilled the beans that if he behaved she would sign the age waiver and let him go with us on the 24th.”

“This is the first I’ve heard of this.”

“Yeah,” he said a little apologetically. “Miss Hayworth didn’t think he’d be able to go but the tour group said that he was close enough to ten that they’d let him slide so long as Grandmother signed some kind of waiver saying he would have one-on-one supervision at all times and would behave.”

We were finally at the head of the line and given plates to get food. I called Frankie over and he came bounding and accepted the restriction that I would have to hold and fill his plate until we were taken to a table. There were a lot of traditional foods of northern Australia but the dishes that caught my eye were shovel-nosed lobsters, marron (a prehistoric-looking freshwater crayfish), and amazing oysters. Oysters I expected due to the pearl diving in the area, but lobsters and marrons were a surprised … a very delicious surprise.

We took another walk after the meal to settle the rich food and for the first time in a while Vit didn’t need a “tablet.” I also started to relax as the carb-rich food was enough to zap some of the energy Frankie had been showing off with. I still had things to deal with after getting back to the cabin, but it was no longer quite as overwhelming.

The tender crossing was a little rough but that only slowed Frankie down even more. He had lessons then after a bowl of ice cream with Madam, was ready to really settle down in front of a documentary on what else … birds … and to finish some of his biology sketches using a program I found that he could do with the tablet and Bluetooth sketching pen that he’d gotten from his parents for Christmas. It had taken me this long to configure a program that optimized all the tools at his disposal.

With Frankie finally keeping his feet on the ground for more than two or three seconds at a time I could finally think. I opened my email to find a rather nasty letter from the lawyer rather upset that I didn’t jump at the chance to answer his questions. He made it seem like since I didn’t do so that the suspicions were obviouslyl correct. I tried for an hour to ignore it then just couldn’t. I sent an email off to someone that I had met through Robert and hadn’t thought to see again. His cousin Julia.


Me: “Julia I really should have contacted you before now. I was just given the impression that the family … just needed to close some doors.”

Julia: “Oh man, I knew you’d be hurt.”

Me: “No! No, that’s not it at all. I completely understand why Robert’s parents needed to do some of that. Everything just got so toxic so fast and … there wasn’t a thing they could have done differently. Robert just … he just got mixed up in something that got out of his control.”

She was quiet for a moment. Julia: “Thanks. A lot of people … just won’t give him any credit at all. For some in the family it is like he never even existed.”

Feeling guilty because I had almost done the same thing I typed, “Maybe not that but … it is a lot of wasted potential and not easy to deal with.”

Julia: “Yeah. And I know you are out of the country on some job and wouldn’t be connecting and taking this kind of risk unless it is something serious.”


Taking the bull by the horns I explained and she was somewhat aware of the entire Lena situation because her fiancé works for the Foundation.

Julia: “Wow. I know some people who are going to totally freak that they are taking it this far. Would you mind forwarding a copy of the three emails to my work email? I work for Crandell and Mitchum and it is Mr. Don Crandell Jr. that is working on the case.”

Me: “Who?”

Julia: “Crandell and Mitchum. I forget you were never involved in the Foundation on that side. They’re the Foundation’s lawyers. Mr. Crandell Sr. is head partner in the firm. Don Crandell Jr. is his grandson and specializes in family law, as well as legal and financial conservatorships, but it is normally for elderly clients but legally it isn’t any different for someone younger. He is already flipping a switch that the judge in this case has basically put it all in the hands of that law firm the guardian ad litem hired. The case is supposed to be sealed but we keep getting calls from people that shouldn’t know a thing yet do. Mr. Crandell is pretty sure that correspondence is not being handled properly. This would definitely prove that privacy mandates aren’t been met.”

Me: “Julia, this … look, just because Derrick and Lena are divorced doesn’t mean that we don’t want her protected. The divorce was the only way to get Lena the help and protection she really needs given the circumstances and her denial and all the rest of it. If I send the emails, I don’t want it being used against my brother.”

Julia: “Trust me, that won’t be happening. And they may be the nails Mr. Crandell is looking for to seal the other fim’s coffin. They’ve got a really hinky reputation.”


So I forwarded the emails.

Julia: “Holy crap! And they did this in an unsecured email?! Geez Veta, I’m really sorry you are dealing with this.”

Me: “It’s not me I’m worried about. I’m not even there to take any of the heat. I … look, Derrick’s health and … I’m just … scared Julia. I’m not home. I don’t know what I can do. But this is just unreasonable and when I tried to … anyway you saw my response and then what they came back with. And my connection is getting bad again. Just pass this along to who you think it needs to go to and … and tell your parents that I understand, that they’re no hard feelings, or whatever else they need to hear. I trust you to know what to say.”

Julia: “Thanks. I will. And … and in case you haven’t heard. That girl … the baby wasn’t Robert’s.”

Me: “What?!”

Julia: “Yeah. It has been a mess. And I’ll pass this along.”


We lost connection right after that and I’ve been sitting here second-guessing whether I should have done anything at all. Frankie has been oblivious thank goodness, but I need to get him to his cabin for the evening so I can go to the Fitness Center and run some of these feelings off.
 

Kathy in FL

TB Fanatic
World Cruise Day 173 and 174: Feb 20 & 21 – Cruise the Arafura Sea

I really need to bone up on my geography. I don’t think I have ever heard of the Arafura Sea which is where we’ve been sailing the last two days. It is west of the Pacific Ocean and overlays the continental shelf between Australia and New Guinea. It has been a quiet two days. It is always quiet on sea days but it has seemed a little more so than usual. I think a lot of people are in the midst of preparing for the next part of the cruise. I know I’m certainly going to be leaving my comfort zone and entering into uncharted waters.

Yesterday I got an email with a link so I could go to a secure server and digitally sign a deposition about the emails and some of the other yada yada concerning Lena. I made sure to include the last date I had seen her, under what circumstances, the last date that I had been in contact with her, under what circumstances, the dates of my employment and general location and when I had been back in the states and who had known about my meeting with Derrick in Boston and who witnessed it, and some other yada yada. My privacy was thoroughly invaded but I’d rather have it done by someone that I knew was on Derrick’s and Lena’s side, a known quantity, than by some law firm that obviously was not.

Today Derrick tried to call but the connection wouldn’t go through, so we had to chat instead and when I got a little sick of his mea culpas I finally told him to stop.


Me: “Derrick I’m not a little kid and neither are you and Lena. This is family business and is something we just have to deal with. It is none of our fault that that lawyer has a dirty mind and is a jerk. I’m just waiting for Dylan to blow a gasket when he finds out I did it without asking his permission first.”

Derrick: “I haven’t told him and don’t plan to until he can actually walk to the bathroom under his own steam.”

Me: “Still that bad?!”

Derrick: “He’s on the mend but he wouldn’t listen to medical advice and didn’t take to his bed as soon as he should have. He thought he could work through it.”

Me: “Idiot. I hope Nichelle lays into him big time.”

Derrick: “I’m sure she will as soon as she gets up the strength to do it. She’s been down with this too and so have the kids. Once you have one infected in your house it makes the rounds pretty fast. Luckily the kids bounced right back but they are all quarantined.”

Me: “Then who …”

Derrick: “His boss has a home health nurse stopping by daily. I may not agree with all that Dylan gets up to but I have to admit that the company he works for does take care of their employees.”


We spoke of a few more things, including that he and Christine are getting serious now that the divorce has been finalized. But they are also making sure all three kids are fully on board. Benji is surprisingly happy about it. So is Christine’s daughter. Reggie is taking a wait and see attitude but isn’t opposed, just a little shell-shocked still about his mother’s mental and physical condition. Lena is still fighting treatment and Derrick believes that without immediate intervention they won’t catch the tumor in time before surgery becomes a moot issue. The severe flu going around could also be problematic as she’ll have to be put in quarantine because of how compromised her immune system will likely become due to any cancer treatments.

I had the shakes for a bit and hunted Vit down and asked if he was in the mood for some sparring. After about thirty minutes he ended our session.

“Kokhana, you are not blocking as you should. I will hurt you.”

He was right. But I still needed to do something. Frankie was spending the day with Madam, to both of their pleasures, and being at loose ends just wasn’t doing me any good. I returned to the cabin thinking to do some meditation yoga but instead spotted the violin and realized it had been almost a week since I had touched the instrument. I only meant to take it out and condition the wood and check the strings and bows but thirty minutes later I came to myself to find Vit watching me as I finish Bach’s Chaconne from Partita in D Minor.

It was like part of the ship had gone silent.

“Oh Lord. I forgot to close the sliders.”

“Nii. There are times we all need to hear music such as this played by a soft-hearted soul. But come, you are shaking and have … expressed yourself enough. Put the instrument aside for a bit and drink some tea.”

I did and then Vit insisted on walking on the Promenade deck and that cleared the last of the blackness that had been engulfing me. We returned to the cabin because I could feel people watching me.

“Thank you.”

“Next time … talk to me Kokhana. I knew the family things were bothering you, but not this badly.”

“Anxiety.”

“Hmm?”

A little shamefully I admitted, “I told you I used to have a lot of problems with anxiety. This was just a small taste.”

“Ah. But I am here now. You are not alone. You are not alone in this.”

“I know. Just this time … it got away from me. Not as bad as it did when I was a kid but then again …”

“Nii. You will not say things to make yourself feel worse.” After a quiet moment he said, “For me … it was anger. For a while … it was not only the suspicion by the investigators that made it hard for me to find a job. A lot of things … I was angry. My childhood. Anichka. My injuries. The questions against my honor. Coming back I did not … could not … always not let the anger rule me. University helped. It gave me a focus, a distraction, but it also gave me an excuse not to deal with what had happened. After university, when I could not get a job, I became angry again … then despondent. As troublesome as working for the yacht owner could be, it still required a discipline of me that helped me to rein in that which would take me out of control. And the reining in then became habit and … natural. That does not mean however that I do not still suffer from anger at times. I am sorry when it has come at you. Such as on Thursday Island”

“You don’t mean it. And I didn’t exactly act sunny and happy that day either.”

“So we will agree we understand each other.”

It was as much a question as a statement and I knew I needed to say something. “Yes we do.”

“Good. So we should understand each other and speak when our feelings come close to the line. Yes?”

“Yes.”

“And we should be honest with each other.”

“Yes,” I answered again, but was wondering where the conversation was going.

“Then understand me when I say you need to eat a meal and then make an early night of it. You have lost weight … and not because you were trying to. You need to … make space in your head. Yes? So eat and then rest. And not just because of this situation.” He took a breath then almost seemed to debate with himself whether to continue but finally did. “The ports coming from here on out will have challenges different from what you perhaps are used to. You may … Veta please do not take this the wrong way but I have observed that American women are very independent. But in some of the ports we go to that independence … will not always be appreciated. I am unsure how many of our excursions will overlap and … I need to sit down and speak with Miss Hayworth because the idea of two elderly American women going unescorted … it chills me. The idea of you and the boy on your own in some of the ports … it makes me … feel ill. Do you understand what I am saying?”

Taking him seriously I thought about it then answered, “I need to focus. There are going to be challenges and being emotionally worn out could undermine my ability to take care of my charge and not create situations that don’t need to be created.”

“You … are angry with me for saying this.”

“Nii,” I told him. “I am not angry with you … more with myself. I am not weak Vit. I know how I’ve been acting but I’m …”

“Nii! Kokhana. I do not think you are weak. Soft-hearted yes, but that is not a weakness. And I do not seek to … er … clip your wings.”

I forced myself to calm down. “I know Vit. You are just like Poppa and the brats. But I have a job to do and not all the excursions are of my choice. In fact several we have taken were not age appropriate in my opinion and some were challenging for other reasons. I will look at the list that Miss Hayworth said she will give me tomorrow or the next day and we can see how much overlap there is going to be. If you have concerns about any of it, we’ll talk it out and I’ll try and … make as many accommodations as I can. Can we at least take it on a case-by-case basis?”

I felt him relax where he had his arms around me. “You have much more sense than many women. You do not automatically fight but try to … as you call it accommodate. I simply know these places, have been to many. And have watched the yacht owner’s friends and mistresses make mistakes that I do not wish to see anyone repeat. I want us all to enjoy ourselves, not spend time dealing with the authorities.”

“You are concerned that Nicholas’ earlier prejudices may return?” I asked thinking of the conversation we had the day we went to Paris.

“You have a long memory,” he said with an ironic twist to his mouth. “And yes, though less now than then. I do worry that Frankie will not realize he cannot be as … er ... energetic as he has been the last few ports. We go into a different area of the world and the social mores are not what he is used to. Nor do I wish either of them to pick up bad habits.”

I looked the question at him and he explained, “The arrogance, prejudices, and entitlement built into some of the cultures will be problematic. Add to that they will be targets as wealthy, American youths. Either more will be required of them to make up for those that showed a lack of consideration before them, or they will perhaps be targets for … cultivation. I wish you to be particularly mindful of Frankie when we go to Thailand. There are men there that …”

Interrupting I said, “I’m aware of the issue of human trafficking. Poppa and Derrick rarely showed their emotions in order to be careful of their witness and association with Medical Missions, but on that topic they were both capable of getting furious and not caring who knew it. And Dylan … don’t get me started. His wife Nichelle … was a runaway when she was a young teen and … was exploited. It took her years to break free of it and their kids are adopted because of some things that happened to Nichelle. She can’t carry babies to term.”

“He told me. He was explaining some things he found out about Anichka that I did not know … and how he understood.”

“Oh … Vit … I’m …”

“Shhh. I am at peace. And Nichelle is … hmmm … she is very …”

I snorted. And all I said was, “She is. ‘Nuff said.”

“Yes.”

He held me a few moments and then asked, “You will eat and then rest?”

“I need to make sure that Frankie is taken care of.”

“He is. Nicholas has the evening off and wishes to only eat and then watch a movie in the cabin. I believe there is a young woman he is corresponding with.”

He had a sour look on his face. To allay some of his feelings I said, “If it is who I am thinking of, they are just friends. He thinks there are possibilities, but he has his future he wants to secure first, and the young lady has had a change of fortune in her family that she needs to work her way through. He likes her enough to be concerned for, but he has matured enough that he sees the problems that must be address before anything can come of it.”

“You are certain? And why do I not know this and you do?”

“I am certain. And it is because he needed a ‘big sister’ to make sure he didn’t make a fool of himself with his mentor kind of thing. I’m a girl and that’s the kind of perspective he needed. Plus, he asked me how I went to college and was looking for some ideas he could pass along to her.”

“Ah. Then I will not lecture him so long as he does not become … as he was when I first met him.” Vit made a face that almost … almost … had me laughing. And now that my tea is finished, I am at the end of the page, and I am sure that Frankie is in his cabin I will take Vit’s advice and get some sleep.
 

Kathy in FL

TB Fanatic
World Cruise Day 175: Feb 22 – Darwin, Australia

Darwin, Australia. Named after a man whose theory of evolution has taken over every aspect of modern science. There is an urban legend that Darwin recanted evolution in later life but there is no proof of it. He did soften his stance towards Christianity in a general sense but still held fast to the idea of evolution in general, though he is quoted as saying it brought him no peace or satisfaction and even found the theory distasteful.

Darwin, the location not the man, is known as the cultural hub of the “Top End” of the Australian continent. It was a short day in port but we started early so that somewhat offset the loss of hours on land. After my anxiety of the last couple of days, (I didn’t mention that Vit and I had gone over our budget and list of wants and needs), I had a difficult time settling. I suspect Vit did as well as in the middle of the night he woke me briefly when he joined me in my bed. Neither one of us said anything but it was easier to sleep after that. Or maybe it was simply exhaustion. Either way a 7 am anchorage felt early. We both almost dared the brothers to say anything until after we had a strong cup of black tea in us. The brothers weren’t exactly fresh as a daisy themselves. Even with a warning they were both up late last night watching not one movie but two.

Luckily for them, and us, we had the same half-day excursion. After a quick transfer to the dock we took off from Darwin on board a seaplane. We received a panoramic flight to a lagoon in the remote Finniss Floodplains, where we made a spectacular water landing. That’s one way to wake up. What a rush. Then we took a leisurely (at least in comparison to that landing) boat cruise on the lagoon famed for once being the home of a 16-foot-long crocodile named Sweetheart. Our “leisure” craft was an airboat that gave us an invigorating tour through the wetlands and the ancient monsoon rainforest.

The forest in that area is home to a variety of animals, including flying foxes, bats and bird species such as the yellow oriole and great bowerbird. Frankie was enthralled and “caught” as many of them as he could. I had to help him download them onto a separate thumb drive so he could take it to the birding meeting they had this afternoon. Yes, it has become a thing. I’ve had to reschedule more than one lesson because of it but the opportunity for Frankie to increase his social skills is just not something that I can justify turning down.

The Outback tour concluded with a mouth-watering barbecue lunch. For those that wanted, and you know all four of us did, there was an opportunity to take a refreshing dip in a crocodile-safe pool. Let me emphasize crocodile-safe. Those toothsome beasties are even more of a nuisance in every body of water than they are back home.

The return flight was just as exciting as the going had been and we spent the last hour before returning to the ship purchasing some odds and ends and eating Lamington which is a cube-shaped dessert of Australian origin. It is a sponge cake which is dipped into chocolate coating then covered with desiccated coconut. They are also served with a layer of strawberry jam or cream in between two halves. I got the last handful of postcards from Australia, the brothers got a couple of odd keepsakes, Vit got a casual shirt, and we all took the time to take some wonderful photos individually and together. Yum, yum. I got the recipe so that I can try and replicate it when we get back to Pembroke.

Back on the ship Vit and Nicholas decided to hit the gym for some strength and resistance training while I helped Frankie prepare for the bird meeting. I waited just outside the group working on my notes and was only called on once to show a couple of landscape pictures that would reveal the environment the bird photo was taken in.

I was nearly startled to hear Madam ask from behind me, “When will his lessons be complete for the day?”

“Madam?”

“I’d like for him to join me for trivia, but not if it interferes with his lessons.”

I smiled. “I count the trivia events in with his lessons. They are like quizzes. He has started to make a habit of showing me his trivia answer sheet and depending what the subject is I can call them a pre- or post-quiz for geography, culture, science, or history.”

She sat down and we had an impromptu meeting and then she said, “I was never a fan of the idea of home schooling, doubted that you could produce a balanced individual without teacher oversight, but you have changed my mind. I’ve done a little research as well. I may not be able to home school Frankie but I’m seriously considering highering a dedicated tutor, at least for the next year or two, if he continues to thrive with the kind of attention that you’ve given him.”

“I thought the plan was to send him to a parochial school?”

“You are against the idea of home schooling him?” she asked with interest.

“No. Not as long as his social growth continues to be encouraged. I would plug into any local home school support groups and then perhaps find extracurricular activies … like a birding club or similar … that will keep him actively involved with people his age but also socialized with a wide range of ages and backgrounds. Evaluate it from year to year and … but then I shouldn’t be telling you what to do Madam. My apologies.”

“Nonsense. I asked. You have both the personal experience and the training. I have a great nephew, about Vit’s age though not quite as worldly, who might fit the bill. He has a younger half-brother Francis’ age that has had his own traumas this past year for whom he has become responsible for. With Nicholas going to college this could be the answer to several questions I’ve been pondering. Let me think on this and if I may – since this is outside of the job I hired you for – I’d like to pick your brain when I come up with a better set of questions.”

I was flattered and automatically said, “Of course.” I may regret it, but it at least makes me feel like I’m not being completely cast aside at this end of this job.

I did get the list of excursions from Miss Hayworth, but it wasn’t until late and I’m not going to look at them until tomorrow. Vit won’t get his list until tomorrow anyway. For now, I believe I will make another early night of it. Frankie is off to his cabin … and an audio book instead of the television. Nicholas and Vit are out and about and won’t be in until later. Tomorrow is a Sea Day and the brothers will have a later rise time. No correspondence from the family … but I am trying to think no news is good news. Either way … extra sleep will not hurt.
 

Kathy in FL

TB Fanatic
World Cruise Day 176: Feb 23 – Cruise the Timor Sea

Been quiet today. I’ve needed quiet. Vit has been invited to a poker game. He is about to teach someone a lesson that will not leave Nicholas alone. Vit thinks he is trying to scalp him, or something like that. I think Vit plays a lot better than he lets on that he can. To be able to fool experienced players as he seems to do means that his skills are more than theirs. It is more difficult to pretend to be less than you are than you would think. It requires a lot of control. I just hope he can prevent the man from creating a scene. I saw the man during dinner and he is a heavy drinker and reminds me a little too much of Mr. Harrington. He is one of the new passengers we picked up in Australia. I’m not quite sure what to make of his wife but she seems more long-suffering than supportive of her husband’s behavior.

Finally had a decent sparring match with Vit. He was very happy even though I landed a couple of blows on him he wasn’t expecting.

“Ah. You are back in fighting form.”

I stuck my tongue out at him and he laughed … right before I swiped his legs from under him which made him laugh more. I think, in a counterintuitive way, it makes him feel more secure about me going about with Frankie when he is now around.

Laundry has backed up. The boys sent theirs out, but that is what Madam pays for. Vit and I could as well, however we both prefer taking care of such personal chores ourselves. This time Vit did not object when I took some of his clothes and mixed them with mine. He insists he will put them away himself – he is rather particular – but letting me do the laundry was a big step for him.

Got a brief email from Charlie and he included a note from Dylan and they both seemed to be surprised I handled the lawyer issue as well as I did. In fact, Dylan wants me to cultivate those connections so long as it isn’t a personal issue for me. There are days when I can do without Dylan’s blasted 007 persona. Charlie let me know new cases of the flu are finally stabilizing in the area, but everyone remains on guard. There was a short scare that Benji might have come down with it, but it turned out to be allergies to the live oak pollen that has been bad this spring. Charlie also thanked me for the address of a couple of consignment and second-hand shops as they’ve had exactly the items that were needed for repairs and refurbs to Pembroke House. There is a lot more carpentry that needs to be done than at first anticipated. No termites but some serious wood rot in the kitchen and bathroom cabinets as well as some of the railing supports on the porch and stair bannisters. He and Angie’s husband are going to prevent any further deterioration – or at least as much as possible – but that means more tear-out which in turn means more work to be done when we get home.

I mentioned it all to Vit and he shrugged. “It is the same way on ships. Upkeep and repair is constant. I have some carpentry experience as maintenance is where I began on the yacht. We will figure it out.”

Gotta love a man who it is almost impossible to ruffle with stuff like that.
 

Kathy in FL

TB Fanatic
World Cruise Day 177: Feb 24 – Komodo, Indonesia

I cannot believe it. I mean I can, but it is still wild. We are in Indonesia. I am in Indonesia. Really. It was a very “whoa” kind of moment when I stepped on the tender and into a world so different from what I grew up in.

Today’s activity was a private tour that lasted all day. Vit and Nicholas joined us. Madam and Miss Hayworth were in another, less vigorous excursion on the same subject. And what might that be? Dragons. Komodo dragons that is.

The first activity on the excursion was a trek to and on Komodo Island. Komodo National Park, located in the center of the archipelago, encompasses twenty-six islands and is home to about 5,700 of the “dragons.” They aren’t really dagons but are more correctly termed a monitor lizard. The Komodos are indigenous no place else in the world and are the world’s largest lizard, able to reach lengths of over ten feet and typically weighing about 150 pounds. What an incredible biology lesson these animals are. Their tails being as long as their bodies is just the start of it. According to a couple of websites that I read prior to the cruise, the dragons that live up in the hills are very dangerous with a couple of human deaths every year, but the ones in town and along the tourist trails are supposed to be “fat, lazy, pussycats.” Oh really. Let’s just say I took that description with a grain of salt and threatened Frankie with dance lessons, baby pictures spread throughout the universe, never eating ice cream again until he is forty-two, and loss of privileges until Jesus comes again if he didn’t follow the rules. He got the picture and was all but angelic the entire day.

Our ranger guide was very knowledgeable and told us many interesting facts as we trekked among the tamarind and palm trees of the Tamarind Woods. There was one point of biology that was slightly embarrassing for some of us. Guests who had any open wounds or were on their menstrual cycle must inform the guide before departing on the tour. Komodo dragons have an exceptional sense of smell, and the park ranger requested that guests who fit those parameters stay by their side for the duration of the tour. I didn’t fall into that category but there was one man there that had skinned his knee a couple of days prior that did. And we found out why when the ranger called for back up when a couple of the large lizards started paralleling our trail. It is how they pick out prey and we were all tense for a few moments before the lizards decided to find something else to prey on.

It is the Komodo dragon’s bite that it is its main tool. You don’t really get poisoned per se, there is no venom, but the bite is so full of bacteria that it is toxic … similar to an alligator’s bite … and that is what slows the prey down enough – if it doesn’t kill it outright within hours – for the dragon to do what dragons do to eat their prey. I keep comparing them to alligators and that is not completely correct, but our guide did agree that there were a lot of similarities between the two animals.

If that part of the tour wasn’t exciting enough next came snorkeling at Pink Beach. There are only seven true pink beaches in the world., Komodo National Park's Pink Beach is one of them. The beach gets its color from microscopic animals called foraminifera, which deposit a red pigment on the undersea coral. When the coral particles mix with white sand, they produce a reddish-pink color on the beach. The color is not really visible if you are standing on the beach, but there is a bluff nearby that allows the human eye to see the light refracting and pink color to appear.

The crystal blue waters at the beach are full of tropical fish making it a spot ideal for snorkeling. The water is also shallow and dotted with what our guide called coral gardens. That meant that I was doubly glad that I had insisted everyone bring their water shoes. A few people got scraped on the coral and out came the Magic Backpack’s first aid kit. Coral injuries can get infected easily and they’re really painful … like a gazillion papercuts with salt in them.

Vit remembered to put his GoPro in the waterproof case and we captured some great memories. My only “uh” moment was when someone asked if we would see the Komodos swimming at the beach. The rangers assured us that while the dragons swim, and quite well, they don’t swim in that area. Whew. The last thing I wanted to come in contact with was a swimming dragon nearly twice as long as I was tall. Ugh. Worse than sharks and alligators combined.

And yes, I got a shoe sample of the sand for Frankie. He grinned but didn’t rat me out for which I am thankful after another passenger was taken to task for attempting to take a Ziploc bag of the sand. The other ranger tried to destract and down play the first’s rather … er … forceful reaction by telling us about Krakatoa that erupted in 1883. Frankie was so fascinated, as was I, that we found a documentary to download and watch on the subject. I know YouTube has a terrible reputation, but you can find almost anything you are looking for on its servers.

But wait … there’s more, said the salesman to the disbelieving audience. I know. Silly. But when we got back to the jetty, we took a short bus ride to where a buffet was set up and we got to sample real Indonesian food. If I had to describe the dishes on display it was basically a giant food swap with dishes from China, Portugal, and dishes brought to the islands by traders, all mixed together and influenced by the flavors of hot chilis. Afterwards I caught Vit rubbing his stomach and without a word handed him a roll of antacids. My stomach is castiron but Vit wasn’t the only one downing bottles of water to try and quench the fire.

We had a little free time to souvenir shop but the only things I got were a few postcards, a book on Komodo dragons, and a small silver charm of a Komodo. Vit was suffering and the boys were both spent from the snorkeling. And the day’s excitement. When we got back to the pier, rather than walk around we immediately got on a tender and got back to the ship. For me it was the crowds. We are here in the low season which runs from October through April. I can’t even imagine the crowds during high season which is July and August.

Everyone seems to have made a quiet night of it. We have another exciting port tomorrow and as I understand it will require a lot of walking. We won’t get into port until Noon but then we are there until late. Vit wanted to go over our future excursions but he is miserable. I finally got him to drink a tall glass of milk and that has helped somewhat but he is already in bed trying to rest after asking me to play something soothing.

I looked over our lists and I think there are some things we should be able to cross out in the next couple of weeks. I think I’ll spend an hour going over the lists and then I will go to bed as well.
 

Kathy in FL

TB Fanatic
World Cruise Day 178: Feb 25 – Bali (Benoa), Indonesia

Arrived in port promptly at noon. Found out earlier in the day that our steward has family in Bali and we told him not to bother cleaning our room as family was more important. It meant he would be able to disembark sooner. He was rather choked up. He is such a nice man. Turns out that his family surprised him by making sure his wife and daughter were there. He just beamed for the remainder of the night.

There was some concern that we wouldn’t be able to make port as the winds had been a little high at breakfast. Providence was with us and we were able to dock, and the rest of the day was glorious with weather in the mid 80s and only a light sprinkling of rain. That was nice since we were told February normally gets almost twelve inches of rain.

The first thing we did was visit the busy markets of Denpasar. At the end of the dock we met our guide and drove to the capital, Bali. The city has a rich history dating back to the Badung Empire and we heard a lot of it as the day wore on which was a great prep for tonight. The Badung Empire once controlled the southern region of Bali.

Walking through the market was like color overload. There were sarongs, batik cloth and stone carvings – among a great many other things – nearly everywhere we looked. It wasn’t just one market but many markets and many stalls. For instance at the Bali Museum, we had time to browse galleries featuring local art and history. I fell for several different yardages of batik cloth, the kind of stuff that you can’t find in the states because it is all machine made. The batik in the market was the real, handpainted kind. Vit purchased some spools of silver wire … real silver. I noticed that Nicholas followed his lead, even asking his opinion on a few things. Frankie on the other hand was on visual overload and the crowd was beginning to cause him some anxiety. He stuck close to Vit and I both and nearly panicked when he lost sight of his brother for a moment.

As much fun as I had at the market, I was ready to get Frankie out of there as we walked to Denpasar’s north side to visit the temple of Jagatnatha, the most important Hindu Kahyangan temple in the city. It isn’t one of the ancient temples but was built in 1953 and dedicated to the existence of the supreme God, Sanghyang Widi. It is elaborately decorated with carvings symbolizing Balinese Hinduism. It was still crowded there but the crowds behaved a bit more respectfully and were not quite so loud. We had a little time to explore the temple at our leisure before returning to the ship.

As soon as we did however, we needed to change for dinner. Vit had bought me a sarong while at the market and that is what I wore. It is a bit like a wrap worn as a long skirt and was secured in place by tying it at the waist. I paired it with with a short-sleeve fitted t-shirt in a matching color and then wore sandals instead of my usual black flats. Vit and the brothers wore comfortable linen slacks with a short-sleeved, button down batik shirt. All three were very handsome and I told them so. I took pictures of the brothers to send to their parents and to give to Madam who surprised all of us by also wearing a sarong as she and Miss Hayworth came to after dak activity with us. I became the official photographer for our group, and I think I have enough to make a decent slideshow for everyone.

The excursion was a twilight dinner and dance show. It was very nice and even Vit found some dishes he could eat without worrying about going to bed with a volcano in his stomach. We dined alfresco at a place called Batubulan. It is a park that plays a key role in more protecting endangered avian populations in Indonesia. It is divided into regions that recreate the natural habitats right down to the correct flora.

After the traditional dinner came the Kecak, a ritual dance from Hindu Ramayana. The only light was from torches. It was very interesting, beautiful even, and unlike anything I have seen before. The story was a little hard to follow because of the shadows being thrown and because of my partially obscured view but even without a story the dance itself was worth watching. It was very rhythmic. It nearly put Frankie to sleep at one point from all the chanting.

We went directly back to the ship afterwards and then to our cabins. I could tell Madam and Miss Hayworth were both quite fatigued. Frankie was as well. Nicholas wasn’t tired exactly, but he did seem to be trying to absorb all the differences in an unfamiliar culture. For all our sakes I am glad that tomorrow is a sea day. We need a day for a personal adjustment reaction to truly appreciate the area we are traveling through. And I want to try and learn some polite phrases in Indonesian. It felt very strange not understanding anything at all of what was being said around me. I can normally pick out a word here, a word there but not today. I must admit it was a little unsettling. And now Vit is asking if I am wiling to look at our lists so I’ll put this away and refocus on another priority.
 
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