Monday, April 30, 2007

I'd rather be....

As I'm ending my day (and I'll explain why I'm glad to see the last of it below) I was thinking that instead of the goings on, I'd rather be....just crawling under my mosquito net in a very warm tropical country where I've spent the day in some kind of primary health care activity feeling I've really made a difference. This sleep of the exhausted is the kind where you don't even turn over. I'm thinking that my life partner is along for some of the logistics involved in this kind of mission - he's such a multi talented guy that he could assisting with construction of buildings or boats, planning either to do with the fishery, business, fixing or designing just about anything or doing some other kind of community work. Now that would be a satisfying existence.

The reality of my day was that I was awakened at 4 a.m. by the #1 son’s alarm insistent beeping which was leading me to believe that I was going to have to investigate as to whether he was unconscious next to it when it was finally silenced with a thump. Then a pause as I waited for other signs of life, hoping he hadn’t slipped back to sleep, but there was a groan followed by feet hitting the floor. Proving yet again that four hours of sleep is not enough with which to start your day when your social life claims more hours than its share. Another 30 minutes later and the king of the castle stirred and started his morning routine of scratching in the bureau for insulated socks etc. so he could head out to his traps. When the alarm rang at 6:15 for me, then shortly after for daughter # 3 the cats were so confused they didn’t which direction to turn for kitty treats. The felines however are nocturnal so not that annoyed at being up frequently in the dark, myself I felt it was a rather short night.

On the road by 7:30 a.m. as the 103 is being resurfaced so not sure of the delays and a detour down through Port LaTour is a better option. Into Yarmouth in time to run the previously mentioned errand for the chain saw. It seemed like $4.31 was a lot for a very small piece of plastic but…if the saw won’t run without it, what can you do? The men at the shop explain to me that mister didn’t need to take the case apart and I reply that he knows that now, that’s what made him so ticked. But I figure it’s worth the $4.31 just to have him admit he was wrong as it’s kind of like him not asking for directions - they didn’t approve of my talk but did agree this was probably the case.

In to do the orientation session and everyone in my path is set on the frantic setting. My nerves. I gather the materials and head on down to start the session. Now there have been ongoing issues with the laptop which HR uses for the presentations and each week presents a different problem to be solved, today however takes the cake. I plug my flash stick in and… there is no mouse, one of the more technical of the students attempts to assist me and we agree that the laptop is locked up tight, can’t even ctrl/alt/delete out of it, have to shut down the power but then the projector won't work. I call the owner of another laptop to assist and she arrives shortly bearing the technology which then has to be switched over to the projector. In the meantime I answer the phone in the presentation room a total of three times as there is a man who repeatedly calls back after being told this is not Ext 153. I finally unplug the phone in frustration and assure the participants that if there is a fire an announcement will be made no one will be phoning to let us know. I begin the presentation about 10 minutes behind but the group is well behaved so we make good time.

The afternoon is spent working on a newsletter, answering the phone and trying to sort lab reports. I head home an hour late, have to back track from the parking lot to retrieve my cell phone from the office where I’ve left it. Get caught in the construction, call home to find the man of the house has arrived but has to leave shortly to ‘chase lobsters’ and head out to a Directors meeting. Daughter # 3 and her main squeeze are on site but putting pizza pops in their faces so don’t figure in supper plans. Mister starts supper and I make it home in time to finish up the meal and we grab a quick bite in between the phone calls. The income taxes have to be mailed this evening as they've just been picked up today so that's another task completed.

Now the fun begins. I make a lobstering lunch for tomorrow, clear away the kitchen and sort the mail. The # 1 son needs to find a truck and trailer to tow his vehicle home from where he was forced to abandon it last night (something to do with the gas thing he says) so he’s working the phone and finally arranges the tow after bumming gas money from the Bank of Mother. Daughter # 3 and her ‘friend’ are filling the remaining space. I head out (in the drizzle) to walk the fur daughter to have some space of my own. Maybe empty nest syndrome will be a problem but I’m willing to risk it!

Sunday, April 29, 2007


Do you have logizomechanophobia? Not likely as you’re reading this online and it’s …. the fear of computers! Now wouldn’t a website which spells all out all the phobias really come in handy? Well someone has thought so - here’s the link: You just never know when you might need this information. I'm sure there's not much fear of technology with my loyal blog readers as I know that quite a few countries, professions, age groups and relationshops are represented but the majority are female gender.

Now tomorrow I have to head off to Yarmouth to do an orientation session for new employees and run some errands. This is because my life partner is someone who if you name anywhere in Nova Scotia (or beyond really) can find an errand he’d like you to run. Oh, you’re going to Shelburne - I need you to go to the machine shop - that sort of deal. Well tomorrow I’m in search of the chain saw repair shop because….he tried to fix the pull cord on his Stihl chainsaw himself. This means it wasn’t like the Husquavarna he used to have and fix in 2minutes, it flew apart when he opened it and… a small plastic piece crucial to it’s operating has mysteriously disappeared on his very cluttered work bench. I assisted in the search for a bit when I happened upon him on his hands and knees muttering as I returned from walking the dog but both Keely and I quickly tired of the game and so I have promised to be the courier tomorrow. Much easier to fix it himself eh? Not.

My travel partner is just finishing up her first of two weeks in Cuba. I’m thinking that’s a good transition from the cruise, a few days home to catch up on the laundry as you really just have to wash and repack not really switch wardrobes and you’re off again. Now that is something I could aspire to. Much more fun than being a courier of chainsaws. I was packing away my passport today (as I’m not the frequent traveler my partner is) and was thinking that a cruise really is quite the fantasy as….your passport doesn’t even get taken out of the safe or stamped in the countries you visit and you don’t even have to change your funds from US dollars as all the countries use it as currency for the cruise passengers. But as I review the fantasy it reminds me that I must call the photographer to arrange for my photo shoot for my publicity photo (stop laughing I am serious) to start the cruise ship speaking process.

I’ve decided that I’m a bag lady. I have one bag for work, one for the beach, one for writing, one for scrap booking, one for first aid teaching - you name it, I have a bag for it and it’s likely packed and ready to go somewhere. Occasionally I sort out a bag, combine a couple of them or find a new place to stash one but I never seem to be without one. At least I’m not carrying a diaper bag! I cannot imagine being one of these late in life mothers that are becoming more usual now due to establishing careers etc. Mind you I was born when my mother was 42 and my sister came along when she was 46 - but I simply cannot wrap my head around the thought of having a four year old at my age - the two thoughts just don’t go together in one person - you’re either 50 or you have the four year old. My baby is graduating from high school on June 28th, there are some things to be grateful for it seems.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Reality as I know it

Well now it’s back to the reality of the domestic life after all the ‘gallivanting around’ I’ve done during the month of April. From vacation, to teaching to conference it’s been quite a whirlwind of (albeit very positive but hectic) activity. It’s always a professional and personal boost to meet with others in your practice area as OHNs work for the most part in isolation. And it’s always nice to get to Halifax - great to discover some Thai food on Wed. and try out the Soho on Argyle Street on Thursday - both would be worth repeating. Now after a bit of recharging this weekend it will be straight ahead as I’m off to Yarmouth on Monday etc.

It was wonderful to see my former boss (best one I’ve ever had in the past 30 yrs) who was a presenter at the conference and get caught up a bit on all the changes - she has a new partner (blended family) in her life and this has meant a move to a new (his) home. She was describing the challenges in transition to entering his space - he’s self employed so occupying the space all/most of the time, he has definite ideas about the design/décor and absolute veto power about what goes where etc. There was an instant rush of recognition as I described my exact feelings over the past year as we’ve moved to this new house. Now granted we have lived together 30 years as of June 4th but… the as I described the feeling of moving into HIS house, the approval required for what would could be moved in, where it would go and the need (after at least four months) to have an extreme fit to have the aforementioned approved pictures hung on the walls just got my blood boiling even in remembering it. I explained that it was really only over the Christmas holidays when I was home for the 10 days that I even got to the point of liking the new house let alone feeling settled in it. It is difficult to live in a space with men with definite design ideas. One of the drawbacks of them making such great choices on the colors, set up etc. Sigh.

My next projects are getting my head wrapped around all the changes in the first aid curriculum as I have a course to teach next week for the local hardware store and…..a memoir writing workshop which is being held next weekend. The yard work will have to wait. My excuse is that it’s been too wet and the ground is too soggy - not entirely untrue - but the birds are singing, the spring bulbs are flowering, it’s very mild (sweatshirt only) to walk the dog and the lawn on the old place is a nice green. Still can’t believe that we managed to miss the 8 inches of snow which the Easter blizzard dumped locally while we applying sunscreen in Miami. I have contacted a local neighborhood boy (who doesn’t drive that - this being a prerequisite to catch one) to dig the remaining space in front of the house for the flowerbed. The left hand side was done last fall by the two in-house males but it will be next spring and I’ll still be nagging about that flowerbed if I leave it to them.

The boat was launched last week just after I returned from vacation. It was a huge relief to see the empty boat shop through the open front door when I was on my way home from work and find that once it was launched they just steamed her over to the plant in Smithsville. There are still lots of odds and ends to finish up but over ¾ of the traps are in the water, so getting there. This means that whatever time is left over in HRHs day goes towards overhauling gear or working on the ‘newly modified’ boat. The price per pound of lobster has fallen to a more usual price of $8 with talk of it falling to $7 on Monday (from an unprecedented high of $15 per lb. just a few weeks ago) as supply / demand balance. I see lots of pacing and arm waving as I look up towards the stack of gear by the barn - apparently the man of the house (insulated coveralls) and one of the neighbours (insulated shirt) who has dropped by are catching lobsters or dealing with some new issues in the regulatory aspect of the fishery as is the usual practice. At least with better weather coming these loud (most commercial fishermen have some % of noise induced hearing loss due to NOT wearing hearing protection) recycled conversations don’t have to be held inside the house. They can solve the problems of the world without me as an audience.

Must run, the man of the house has decided that since the April showers have cleared it's now barbeque weather so I must find some vittles. Later.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Back to life in the fast lane

So now that we're back to reality and life in the fast lane and since last Wednesday I have:

prepared and coordinated a Leadership Skills for LPN course in Bridgewater for 18 students

driven back and forth to said course, leaving at 6:30 a.m. and returning by 5:30 p.m. Mon/Tues

made a huge effort at work to (unsuccessfully) get out from under a pile of work from absence

developed and organized trip photos into an album - finally got life partner to look at them

blogged the trip for the world to experience and it was like being there all over again - yeehaw

handled my routine and seasonal domestic duties as expected including making a key lime pie

took my mother for dental surgery - she did well but an interesting a.m for me for sure

enjoyed the beautiful spring weather we've been having - peepers at full volume last p.m.

packed and organized the house for another two day absence of this domestic engineer

started back into my fitness routine, not as traumatic as at first so haven't lost much ground

proof read an essay for a bursary submission for the soon to be graduate of 2007

How's this to entertain you as I'll be away until Friday - it's My Pet Peeves link enjoy:

Hasta leugo

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Day 10 - Home

Up at 5 a.m. to drag our bags down to the lobby, flag a cab and head out to the airport. We're trying to think positively but... LaGuardia cancelled 550 + flights yesterday, there is major flooding and wind all along the coast. We manage the check in process and wait for the (fully booked) flight to be called. We board and have two delays on the runway (what a disheartening sound when those engines are shut down) of 45 and 30 minutes but we're finally in the air. At some point in the flight we realize that we have a female pilot - a first for both of us. My travel mate states "you know she has to be twice as good as any man, she can multitask and be flexible" so this is a good thing we're with her. I couldn't agree more. I speak to the flight attendant about possibly making our connection (at this point we're only 15 minutes out of time) and shes says that with all the delays we might be ok. We have an amazingly smooth flight to New York, a bit of a delay getting down due to the mess on the runways and then the fun starts...

As we land there is an announcement that flight 4797 to Halifax is leaving late, they're sending a bus to pick us up at gate D1 to make the connection. We get out, scramble to find the gate - long lineups, impatient passengers who have been stranded for over 24 hrs, and agents on ignore. We're being paged on a final boarding call as we frantically search for the gate. Desperate to make that flight (I HAVE to be at work in the a.m.) I make eye contact with a passenger in a lineup "where is D1? that is us they are paging!" he points to the right and I make an aerobic sprint for the gate. No room to manouver with the terminal bulging with passengers - full speed ahead with my chair hammock from Belize in hand to fend off the oncoming pedestrian traffic - I'm dressed for running with my jeans and sneakers my more fashionable travel mate on platform sandals is bringing up in the rear. No problem, it will only take one of us to get a foot in the door to hold that flight. I sprint to the gate where two agents are serving a long line of disgruntled passengers. I make eye contact with the more approachable of the two and say "you were paging us, we're here for flight 4797" so she phones, makes the bus turn around and pick us up and we are personally escorted through private security and onto the plane. I say to my partner "we are going to be as popular as ants at a picnic if they've held that flight long" as I can already feel those pairs of eyes following me as we make our way down the aisle. The loaded passengers are just relieved to be finally leaving after almost two days stuck in NY and they've had to wait for a pilot as he was flooded out at home and had to be picked up. We thank everyone for their patience and are rewarded with grins and sink into our seats. What a great feeling that is until.... my partner says "you realize our luggage didn't make it with us don't you?" We make good time with a strong tail wind on the very turbulent flight and actually arrive on time. We are dismayed to see remnants of snow near the airport. I'm holding my chair hammock (my only luggage) as we clear customs and the officer asks if I have any wood products? The wooden frame extends above the counter but I make eye contact and say "no" in a tone that clearly indicates this is the hill I am willing to die on if he should consider confiscating my article. He sighs, looks down and says "get going" as I thank him and move on to file a lost baggage claim and find daughter # 2 with the car. No one can believe we made it home through this major nor easter.

P.S. Our bags were driven down the next morning as soon as they arrived from LaGuardia completely intact - great service from American Eagle.

Day 9 - Disembarkation in Miami

Disembarkation starts at 6:15 a.m. and we are scheduled for 10 - 10:30 so we head off for a final breakfast in the Windjammer. Folks are already in an exit mode and things move along so quickly that we’re actually off the ship by 9:30 a.m. Down through Customs and Immigration then off to collect the luggage. Not much of a struggle, so good so far, we snag a porter who stacks our bags on a cart and we head outside to find a cab. This is where it starts to fall apart.

In the heat and humidity the porter weaves in and out of the cabs pulling up to the curb while gesturing at us to get back on the sidewalk. This continues on as we make our way down the pier at least 1/2 kilometer. In the steamy heat tempers begin to fray as at least 8 or 9 cabs pull up then leave as we reach for them. The porter is becoming frustrated and we are frantic to keep our eyes on our luggage. Finally my travel mate decides 'this is enough' and as a threatening porter waves the cab off which has just pulled up and points menacingly at our porter what does she do but open the back door of the moving cab and throw herself into the back seat. I am left speechless (not a common event) on the sidewalk as she yells "get in". I am momentarily mesmerized by the yelling match between our cab driver, our porter and 'the enforcer' who is threatening the first two. The cabbie yells "what was I supposed to do? The passenger jumped in and wouldn't get out, she's crazy" I'm not disagreeing with his version of events because in the fracas my partner has told the cabbie "dont' you move"and the enforcer and his assistant "you shut up, you shut up, if I have to get out of this cab you'll be sorry" and more things that are not printable in a public blog while shaking her fist at the enforcers and threatening them in a way which caused them to jump away from the window. Meanwhile our porter is tentatively placing our luggage in the trunk of the cab as no one is paying attention to him and the cabbie has slouched down in his seat below the level of the headrest so as not to whacked again up back of the head. My travel mate threatens me "don't you move, I'm getting out to see about the luggage" At this point I recovered my power of speech and convinced her not to exit the vehicle as they might throw our bags out, she grudginly removes her hand from the door handle but continues to yell loud threats at all parties. Almost unbelievably a Scottish couple (well actually the wife with a very reluctant spouse in tow) approaches the taxi - yes while the oscar winning performance is taking place - to ask if they can share the cab. "Jump in" my partner says and the wife does but her husband requires some convincing and finally gingerly slides into the front seat next to cabbie with a look on his face that says clearly he does not feel this is a good idea. Our porter has the tenacity / presence of mind to stick his hand in through the window (albeit on my side of the cab) for the tip - goodness knows he earned it. We head over the Hyatt Regency with my travel mate giving the NS tourism pitch and the Scottish wife comparing travel notes while the husband and myself sit in relieved silence although I did manage to sputter "this is Miami" meaning that the approach was probably not a good thing to do here. This brought the response from the two now soul sisters that you could have walked to South Beach before you got a cab at that rate something had to be done. At one point my partner recovers herself enough to apologize to the cabbie for her behavior / the situation and he graciously accepts. I can only imagine the story he told his wife at supper that night about the crazy tourists he dealt with today.

Our room isn't ready yet at the hotel so we decide to head out to South Beach. We get directions from the desk and head out to catch a bus - better to spend $3 return than $40 for a cab we decide. The bus ride past Biscayne Bay is beautiful with yachts, mansions, cigar boats, and the cruise ships. One of the ships crew going to wire money home to Turkey helps us find our way and we head out on Washington Avenue. Cafes along the streets, mansions, hotels, expensive boutiques (a $289 tank top?) a tent with music, antique cars and muscle trucks cruising by - what a happening place. We stop for an ice cream and have a philosophical discussion with Rocco who tells my partner she's a 'hot woman' and to come back anytime to visit. We shop at Armani's,Ritchie's etc. and finally make our way to Bongo's (Gloria Estafan's place) for lunch. What a place to watch the action from the patio. The mojitios are great, the tostones are delicious and teh pork sandwiches we can't even finish. What an amazing alive place this is. A brief shower doesn't even dampen our enthusiasm. We catch the bus back and find the Hyatt (nice room, decent food) after a bit of walking. The wind is starting to pick up, hmm maybe a storm is coming.

As my travel partner catches a few z z z s to recover from her sleep deprivation I discover on CNN that a major storm has cancelled air travel on the east coast, especially in New York. LaGuardia has cancelled 350 + flights already. We make calls home to warn that we may not make it through tomorrow but our flight is still on.

Day 8 - At Sea to Miami

Finally a chance to sleep in this morning on the final (bittersweet) end of the cruise. The pace has changed on the ship as folks are getting ready to go back to the real world and are already acting differently. Up to the Windjammer Grill for breakfast (although why in hindsight we did that as we ate all day I have no idea).

Off to Dizzy Gillespie’s on the 14th deck at 11 a.m. for the Platinum (those who have cruised + + times before) brunch which was made possible for us as Mario’s guests. This was an unbelievable spread of every kind of food from smoked salmon, salads, breads etc. followed by chocolate dipped strawberries, éclairs - you name it. There was even an ice sculpture (of the Royal Caribbean logo) created by the artist they carry with them. The drink choices were bloody mary’s, screwdrivers, champagne or mimosas. A jazz band played to set the mood as we looked out over the pool deck and sparkling blue water as we made our way up into the Atlantic. The Hotel Director spoke of the staff, their countries of origin, the move of the Rhapsody of the Seas to China and Chinese staff on board for training etc.

Then down to Portofino’s for a Savor luncheon, again a perk of the Platinum and Diamond guests. I told Mario I felt like I was on an Embassy tour with all the perks. The Savor luncheon was a specialty meal prepared by the Executive Chefs (following a galley tour we had opted out of in order to brunch) and complete with white, then red wine (Australian called Alice White which we were led in a tasting of by the wine steward) and champagne. I was seated next to the Executive Chef (originally from Germany) who explained the galley etc. The meal was excellent, the service impeccable, the setting elegant and the staff knowledgeable and we were stuffed! We each received a keepsake Royal Caribbean recipe book which the chef autographed. When we had to make excuses and leave before dessert (for a surprise) it was not difficult.

The surprise (for which I am entitled to lunch at Charlotte Lane courtesy of my travel mate, when it opens, as I won the bet) was a tour of the bridge. Since 911 there has been enhanced security equal to the flight deck of an airplane so this was a special honor reserved for only a few. Although my partner and I decided we had seen plenty of wheelhouses we had never seen the flight deck of the Starship Enterprise. I took lots of notes and photos for the boys. The Captain told us that they’d done 27 knots on the way to New Jersey repositioning and all the crew ‘walked on the walls’ as they made the turns. Apparently they can stop in one ship’s length (even quicker if he turns a circle). The Captain was interested in the commercial fishery in the Maritimes as the ship is heading up here for the summer months and was comparing it to Norway.

Just a few final minutes to catch the last of the sun on the pool deck . You can sure feel the difference in the air as we are into the Atlantic now and making 20 knots. A quick shower, packing, paperwork and then off for a glass of champagne in the VIP lounge. I head down to the dining room to say our farewells to the great staff and our fellow guests. The couples from the Bronx are concerned about a major storm heading up the coast on Sunday - more on that later.

Up to the stateroom to drag suitcases out into the hall (have to remember to leave out clothes to wear in the morning. Mario tells us of a man who woke up in the morning with all his things gone in the luggage who had to wear only a towel through Customs and said “I have nothing to declare”. Off to say goodbye to Mario and thank him for all the special perks this week as we made good use of the gentleman hosts perks. He’s off for the next week on the Freedom of the Seas. Hard to believe that back to back cruising would not be a good thing. Need to get some shut eye as we head out early in the a.m.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Day 7 - Georgetown, Grand Cayman

* A note before I get into today's review - usually difficulties with computers involve some kind of human error and where I mentioned I wasn't able to post photos well.... I had the popup blocker on - arggh. So have gone back and inserted photos for the past three days.

Up at 7 a.m. to head down for breakfast and get started on the day as I'm getting kind of excited to visit The Pines. The air is warm (26c) but not as humid as earlier stops so more comfortable. After waiting on deck 3 for the first tender it's a short boat trip into the pier.

We search for a taxi and $12 takes us on a 5 min. drive to The Pines Retirment Home. It's a pale green sructure with a metal roof, nice grounds and cheerful friendly staff. They suffered hurricane damage a few years ago and so they need to rebuild and the 28 residents are in the meantime in every available space. The administrative assistant Haleema (she's orginally from Nigeria) tells me she's been here 7 months with her husband who's English and a surveyor (he's also a dive nerd having once spent 2 wks. doing a dive tour of Grand, Little Cayman and Cayman Brac). She says she's settled into the ex-pat community here and enjoys the life. There is some discussion with the receptionist (Darlene from Edmonton) about the cost of living (rent is $850 to over $2000 for the more upscale apartments) and the logistics of visas for working or visiting only spouses. Most of the staff are Jamaican, with a few Canadian or British. I gather all the details on the residents (age 65 - 75 or so) and the duties of the job (not many meds, no night shifts, staffing pattern) and the contract (2 yrs can be renewed). The facility is immaculately clean and smells great, there are lots of recreation activities, two vans for outings, weekly physician visits and a nearby hospital.

Having all the info on board we ask about walking back to the pier or a bus and are generously offered a lift in the truck by Haleema who drops us off for lunch at a harbour front restaurant called Paradise where we discuss the visit. My travel partner (who has been recruited as an objective observer) confirms that this would not be a good fit for me and I have to agree. This would be a great place to visit but not to work here. I'm momentarily disappointed but also relieved to have checked it out first. And the lunch of conch fritters and turtle soup is a nice touch while we watch snorkelers off the deck with the cruise ship in the background. We're told that yesterday there were 7 ships in port so we have a better day today.

We stroll over to the pier to catch our tour (find it's been moved to 11 a.m so we missed it) get offered a refund by a guest relations staff when we both return to the ship and find another tour (saving $50 between us) to Stingray City leaving in 5 minutes. We head out in a van past Seven Mile Beach, passing lots of construction, upscale accomodations and many fast food outlets - driving on the English side of the road is a bit unnerving. Everything is very clean, well kept and .... expensive!

We catch a small speedboat with 13 other passengers and a captain who reminds us of Captain Ron in the movie of the same name (kind of rough around the edges) as we watch him put away a few Caymanian beers on the way out. The water is a beautiful blue, it's a warm windy day and he tells us it's the best day they've had all week as it's been really rough and the water hasn't been clear. After a 15 min. steam we notice a brilliant aqua patch of water up ahead which is the sandbar of Stingray City. As soon as the rays (all female) hear the engine of the boat stop and the floating bait bucket go in the water they rush over for lunch. The water is up to our chest/necks and we're told not to wear our fins and just stand still so we don't step on the barb in the tail (easier said than done) with the waves pushing you around a bit. The stingrays are impatient and swoop around our legs causing screeches all around - some are 8 - 10 ft. across down to very small. We all have a chance to gently hold one (we must relax our arms first so we don't upset her the captain says) born without a barb - the captain says she's 40 yrs old and they live to be 70. They feel like a halibut with a smooth (young are slimy) underbelly and sandpapery top side. If you hold your hand out flat with the squid on the palm they will suction it right off and they help themselves to the bait in the bucket if no one is watching. They come really close to look you in the eyes with their big eyes. After the photo shoot we climb back aboard the boat. This is the one place in the world you can swim in the ocean with the stingrays - we would not have missed this for anything!

Another 15 min. steam and we stop in crystal clear 80 F water over a reef for snorkeling. Some of the whitest sand, georgeous coral and the best selection of tropical creatures (3 ft across starfish, spiny lobster, tube and brain corals, schools of snapper, grouper, lots of angelfish and jacks - breath taking) I've seen outside of an aquarium. My partner at first was telling me she was nervous about snorkeling off the boat in 10 ft of water but...she takes right off as she's so enthralled with the sights. What a trip. A quick bumpy ride across the harbour, into the dock (spot a blue iguana on a post) and into the waiting van to catch the last tender of the day to the ship passing yachts, a tourist pirate ship replica and other tenders. No time to pick up rum cakes or other delicacies but what a day!

Time to quickly get ready for formal night and we hit the Windjammer Grill deciding that the food is actually better here than in the dining room. The competitive dance team heads down for a formal portrait (good quality but fairly expensive at $20 for a 8x10) and then they're off to catch the latin music.The gentleman host tells us that he dove with Hans Jost today and they were discussing Nova Scotian shipwrecks and he was able to ask "do you mean Sable Island or Cape Sable Island?" due to his tourism lesson earlier in the week. I select a scrapbook with the Royal Caribbean logo and Explorer of the Seas package - I am going to have fun putting this together at home. Hard to think that this fantasy week will soon be ending. Sigh.

Day 6 - Cozumel, Mexico

Day 6 - Cozumel

Breakfast at 8 a.m. as we get ready for our shop till you drop excursion in San Miguel, Cozumel. We head down the pier with lists in hand after checking with the shopping consultant on places that are recommended. We spend a great morning picking out a skirt, some jewelry, an a wrap. I chatted with a businessman who relocated from Michigan and now has a phone center and drugstore in the back of jewelry shop. He was selling viagra, Retin A, motrin, tequila, penicillin (everything to have a good time on the town) as you can see below but not painkillers he said although he got requests every day for narcotics. Apparently it’s common for Americans to come on medication shopping trips and buy several hundred dollars at a time of drugs.My partner negotiates a deal on a diamond ankle bracelet and while the sale is being closed and two bracelets are being made into a pair of earrings, a pendant and an ankle bracelet by the gemologist we are plied with marguerites (oh senorita it’s only Mexican lemonade - have another one) After consuming a few (quite a few for this early in the day) of the drinks it led to some difficulties in the rest of the shopping but… we’re professionals so not to worry. A small carved onyx bird as a present for Mario as they’d found a bird last night which was resting after catching a ride on the cruise ship . The gentleman host told me “we saved a life” as they’d given it food and water and tucked it onto a ledge to recover - so this was a memento of the occasion.

It was extremely warm and humid today (even the locals were minding the environmental conditions) and downtown Cozumel was full of cruise ship tourists as there were six large ships in port. Managed to struggle back to the ship with our purchases in hand , grab some lunch and head to the solarium, pool, hot tub and pool deck. Our departure is delayed as we wait for 200 passengers who have not returned yet. Listening to Jimmy Buffet, Rolling Stones while catching a few rays as Mario conducts marine species identification lessons for my partner with his dive photos and she does a tour of our local area with the map we picked up at the airport on departure - does it get any better than this?

We head to the VIP lounge (courtesy of the frequent floater aka gentleman host) for pre-dinner champagne and canapés. We score tender tickets from the concierge to ensure an early trip to Grand Cayman in the morning. I head down to supper in the Columbus dining room where it’s crab cake, thai soup, spinach salad, grilled chicken, baked potato, green beans and apple crisp for dessert. I waddle off to the aquarium bar where the latin music is located this evening to meet up with the dance class. I tire of being a ‘bar fly’ and entertaining the Jamaican bartender while the dance lessons continue so I decide a pre-midnight bedtime is just what is required.

Day 5 - Costa Maya, Mexico

Up at 7:15 a.m. to start our day early and check out Costa Maya which was created a few years ago for the cruise ship industry. It has a pavilion with shops and waterfront activities from a lido pool, to bungee jumping and lots of bars - the shops being the only thing we eventually checked out. The Captain tells us that it’s already 26 c at 8 a.m. and warns us “it’s warm out there” No kidding.

We make our way down the 1 mile pier, through the pavilion and out to the tour bus. We’re off to the Mayan ruins at Chacchoben with our tour guide Lizbeth and a geography, culture and history lesson along the way. Lizbeth tells me that for a tourism diploma they study 500 hrs in the classroom and 270 hrs. in the field but she has a degree in tourism as well - her professionalism shows. The coconut palms, jungle, red mangrove swamps, ceiba trees, thatched huts and dusty villages fly by the windows of our air conditioned bus. No jaguars but lots of egrets, toucans and other birds during the 1 hr. drive.It is 100 F today with 85% humidity and you sure know it when you’re climbing the steps of the Mayan structures. Words can’t describe the feeling that civilization existed for centuries here. These ruins were discovered in 1972, excavated 1994 - 1996 and opened to the public in 2000. We learned about the Mayan civilization and it’s practices including sacrifices, the archeological digs etc. A shopping area with crafts, jewelry and carvings completed our trip. An onyx chess set for the veranda, pure vanilla, onyx turtles for the collectors, and my partner got a beautiful azul sundress. A relaxing return trip to the pier. What a great idea this was.

My better half would love this and I’d decided by the first day in Belize that it was a mistake to come on vacation without him (certainly not because my travel partner is a problem - far from it - the most fun I’ve had for some time) because my life partner would really enjoy this and I would enjoy having him here. My room mate and I discuss why people travel without their spouses and decide that it’s either because a) the spouses don’t travel well - get sick, complain, won’t try new things, don’t like different food, act badly etc. or b) because they don’t like them. Since neither of these defines my situation and because he is such a good travel partner this girls only trip will have to be a one off.

Back to the ship to grab a bite to eat at the Windjammer Café. Of course we have to try everything - now we know why there are platters instead of plates in the buffet line (it’s only the first day when you would ask yourself that before sampling the goodies). Reprovisioned we head back down the pier (catching a wagon being towed) and head out to catch a cab to Majahual.
The village of 400 is overwhelmed with the three large cruise ships burping out a possible 10,000 passengers. The main street (a sand strip) is flanked by tourist shops, bars, and beach sports all of which are fronted by very aggressive salesmen “senorita, senorita, I show you something” while chasing us down the street. One of the best lines of the afternoon uttered by a plump Mexican in his lawn chair with a grin was “come on in and let me rip you off” as he played to the stereotype. The sign on the shop above saying Mexican Wol Mart isn't too bad either. The open air massage tables did a brisk business for the non sunburned tourists. My room mate (a former jewelry store owner) proved to be quite the aggressive haggler - I just couldn’t bring myself to be that tough - so I scored some nice jewelry and a bottle of tequila. We catch a cab and straggle through security - that air conditioning sure feels great!

Just in time to get spiffed up and have our gentleman host escort us to Studio B for Planet Ice - a very professional ice show - what great entertainment. A quick hustle to the Maharajas lounge where there is a special reception for ’frequent floaters’ being held. Mario is the star of the evening (apparently after 99 cruises with Royal Caribbean the 100th one is free) and we enjoy champagne and caviar while we’re introduced to the senior officers. Then it’s time for our 9 p.m. reservation at Portofino’s and what a place/meal that is. If you’re ever on a cruise and there is a specialty restaurant - try it! The $20 cover charge is really a token (and besides the gentleman host was footing the bill anyway so we weren’t out of pocket) . We had scallops over saffron risotto, greens with walnuts, pears and gorgonzola with house dressing, seafood shish kebabs and veggies and dessert was a sinful flourless chocolate cake and chocolate dipped strawberries. The gentleman host chose an excellent merlot to accompany the meal and the service was impeccable. What an experience!

Down to the pool party just to see the midnight buffet complete with ice sculptures and every imaginable type of food - no room to even smell the offerings but fun to watch - and a live band as well. The dancers catch dance fever and head to the disco for latin music but these feet need to get into bed as Cozumel awaits in the morning. Now when crawling into bed at 1:30 a.m. is getting to bed early that’s pretty bad - good thing I ordered breakfast before crashing unconscious. While we’re steaming at night to make up time there’s a gentle rocking sensation as you lie in bed (sort of like on a train but not as pronounced) which lulls you to sleep but certainly nothing to remind you that you’re at sea - not sure why folks are concerned about the mal de mer.

Day 4 - Belize

We discovered today that the day of the week is changed as an insert in the carpet of the floors of the ship’s elevators - a good thing so you know what’s going on. If it’s Tuesday we must be in Belize. Awakened this morning by the phone (once we discovered what the music was - our cabin attendant Joel had appeared last evening at our door and asked us why we didn’t answer the phone shortly after ‘the music’ played so we finally put it together) First I had to rouse my room mate (actually several times “the phone, that’s the phone, answer the phone, pick up the phone” until she finally engaged). A confused conversation ensued where she asked the caller to repeat several times and as she put the phone down she says “I think our breakfast might be late, it was something about breakfast” She was attempting to attribute it to the staff’s accent but I’m guessing it had more to do with what time she finally took off her dancing shoes early this a.m. Apparently the kitchen calls to tell you room service is on the way, supposedly to speed up the process by waking passengers and hopefully prevent unpleasant surprises of naked guests opening doors (sorry the visual on that one was too graphic) And our delicious breakfast did arrive several minutes later.

Opening the sliding door to the balcony a blast of heat and humidity is just what we need to take our breakfasts with. The Carnival Glory has slipped in alongside us early this a.m. and is starting the tendering to shore process as we anchor. Then the frenzied activity of getting off the ship and into Belize City or on to other tours begins in earnest. We trot up to the buffet to ‘pack our lunch’ as our snorkeling tour includes only drinks and then head down to wait to be picked up directly from the ship. As we sit waiting an announcement tells us we must have photo ID to get back on the ship so we have an aerobic workout getting via stairs from deck 1 to deck 8. We have a 45 min. wait after that so our heart rates return to normal as the catamaran waits for it’s turn to come alongside. But here it is.

Captain Kirk (I swear that’s his name as he showed me his marine license when I asked about his studies - I wasn’t questioning his credentials, just wanted to compare it to what the boys do here for qualifications) takes us on a 45 min. trip (15 mi. SE of the ship) to Rendezvous Caye in the 63 ft. catamaran through 82 F water - yeehaw! Past lush islands with a few small homes tucked in at the edge of the water, and mostly just green jungle down to the blue, blue ocean. There’s the private island - it looks like one of those satires where two guys are marooned on a desert island with four palm trees and it’s only a couple of hundred feet long. We’re told the island was created when fishermen cleaned conchs there and the shells and coral are what formed the sparkling white base.My travel partner managed to attract the Captain’s attention and got an extended private snorkeling lesson due to her anxiety level (apparently she at first had trouble disentangling her intense grip from his hand to point to the plastic card of fishes they were seeing) But she did manage to conquer the basics so is now a convert to the underwater voyeurism. Since she was in the ‘special class’ I was free to snorkel with the advanced group on the L shaped reef. The snorkeling was amazing although the staff thought the water was cloudier than usual. Saw all the usual Caribbean fish including brilliant parrot fish, angelfish etc. in a 90 min. swim which only felt like 15 min. Back to the catamaran for some rum punches and off to check out Rendezvous Caye. Almost got set up with a shell from another tourist (not only was it stinky but you can’t remove shells from Belize as they’re protected) so it was good the Captain was looking out for us.

I learn from the snorkel tour manager (an ex pat from northern England who holds dual citizenship) who is also a mechanic and stone mason during the off season that he has lived here 12 years and considers it paradise. Says he loves his job as he gets to look at lots of women (what a Caribbean man he's become) and he clears $600 Belizean dollars per week during the high season while his wife does crafts (she was originally a teacher when the British base was here). He tells me that the fishery is protected in Belize with a 12 mile limit but a recent survey showed that at night only 5 out of 35 boats fishing were from Belize - the remainder were from Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua and they don’t care what they take or what happens to the resource.

We'd taken bagels and cream cheese for our lunch but my travel partner can't find hers, sits in mine and kicks over my rum punch - not that I needed it anyway. Better to have eaten our lunch though than swilling all the included rum punch in the heat as we didn't even have our wits about us enough to think to bring $ for a tip - tourists! The Captain is gracious and tells us he's had a wonderful day with us as the entertainment. What a great trip even though we can't convince the Captain to take us over to Belize City for some shopping instead of straight back to the ship.

As we're returning to the ship there's a small communication error where one of the security with an accent asked my partner to put her bag on the scanner (security is equal to the airport) and she says "pardon?" He repeats himself and points to her bag. When she tells him that she thought she heard him say "put your butt on the scanner" and she was trying to figure out how to do that (and why he would be asking) He says "well, you do have a nice looking butt but that's the first time in the 7 months I've been doing this job that anyone's made that mistake". We were nervous to return again but needn't have worried because if those two made eye contact on check ins after that there were complete bilateral hysterics when the bag got put on the scanner!

A quick change of clothes and down to catch a tender into Belize City as we have a couple of hours before onboard time. A quick ride in and we're standing on the dock where the heat and humidity were both higher than on the caye. We do some shopping at the 'mall' and find some jewelry, t-shirts, Belekin beer for the life partner and the find of the day.... a chair hammock which I'll have to convince the home decorator CEO to hang in the veranda. A band playing on the waterfront so a CD to buy and then it's time to catch the tender back.

We get in line on the pier but decide to ask which ship this line is for? "Carnival" the passenger in front of us says "oops" so we try another queque and this one has an Explorer of the Seas sign for the unobservant like us. A chat with the Captain on the run back who tells us they just shut down Belize if it blows over 15 knots as 3 - 4 ft. seas are wild weather. Sometimes in the 'winter' when it storms (Dec and Jan) it goes to 50 F at night. He is amazed at our description of North American marine weather, lobstering etc. Security is seamless as our 'friend of the scanner' isn't there and his female partner is very business like.

As we're waiting for the elevator one of the security (there's a whole police force on board) is waiting for the elevator and says with glee "you see this elevator coming here, I've been chasing these kids for half an hour, they've been riding up and down, sitting down on the floor, not letting anyone on" When the door opens he says with authority "ok guys, end of the ride, everyone off" to howls of protest from the 10 - 12 teenagers exiting. This is the last week of spring break in the US so + + students but I'm guessing their keepers assumed they were in the arcade, up by the pool or playing ping pong not being pains in the patooties.

We're making 11 knots as we leave Belize City harbour so we decide the balcony is more exciting than flopping in the stateroom as the pilot boat is coming alongside to retrieve the harbour pilot. There's also another speed boat bringing some ? lost luggage and a passenger who is either joining us or missed the last tender - now that transfer would be worth capturing on video. We pass beautiful islands with aquaculture sites, mansions and yachts as we leave.

We find our way to supper and have scallop risotto, roasted garlic soup, tiger shrimp, rice and veggies and tea with strawberry panna cotta for dessert. We stop at a lounge but although the banana daquiri is great, the singer comedian isn't to our liking so we head to the theatre to see Tony Tillman's show. He used to open for Bill Cosby, is very high energy, great singer, impressionist and dancer - if you ever get the chance to catch his act it's well worth it. After latin music (dancing for the roommate) we do not keep the best intentions to get to bed early and it's 1:30 before we crawl in and another 30 minutes of recapping the day. We decide that from what we've seen the people of Belize ar are gentle, polite and have a good sense of humour - it would be a good place to retire in paradise to.

Am not holding out on the photos to post but there seems to be some kind of glitch in the blog as I can't upload photos this past two days. Will try to catch up when the service is back on.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Day 3 - At Sea to Belize

Well morning came early after shutting down the ship late last night but it also brought a piping hot breakfast from room service of omelets, hash browns, jucie, grilled tomato, tea, danish and roll. We enjoyed the feast sitting on the balcony watching the ocean with only a passing sister cruise ship in view as we made our way past Cuba. There is an announcement (which you can't even hear in the cabins so not disturbing at all) where the Captain says that we're making 25 knots in 4 - 5 ft. seas. Your really can't even tell we're moving let alone on the water.A quick shower so that we can head to the mall for the tanzanite sale. We didn't win a piece of tanzanite but my partner knew which to guess was the fake gem and could handle drinking blue champagne at 10 a.m. I'm certainly more educated as I didn't even know tanzanite existed before this. The gem was discovered and marketed in the 1960s and apparently is a good investment as there is only one functioning mine in the world in South Africa now. The jewelry store manager is very knowledgeable about the products but also about life aboard the ship as she says "this is fantasy not reality so you can only do it for a few years" when discussing her future plans.

Off to check out Portofino's (oh, guess we'll have to dress up a bit for Wednesday evening) and then off to sun seek - oh I hate that sunscreen! Great Caribbean music and those deck chairs are a fine place to plan our shore excursions. It's decided - we'll snorkel in Belize at a private island, see the Mayan ruins in Costa Maya, shop in Cozumel and hit Stingray City in Grand Cayman. Have to book them through the TV before 3 p.m. (which turns out to be a two person operation) but first some self serve low fat frozen yogurt and t-shirt shopping.

Must be time to eat again as it's been a couple of hours so we investigate the Windjammer Grill which has amazing views of the ship's wake and two cruise ships following us, great staff and delicious food. The infection control practices are strict - you don't get into the place without sanitizing your hands first. The food is from every country in the world, fast food, carved pork, noodles tossed - you name it! The dessert bar is so hard to choose from but someone has to do it.

A quick trip to the pool deck, a dip to cool off, a visit to the solarium to try the hot tub and then it's time to get ready for the Captain's reception as this is the first formal night. We get all gussied up and head down to the Promenade for some people watching and champagne, mimosas or champagne cocktails while the Captain introduces the officers and highlights the trip telling us the ship is 1034 ft. long and the staff are from 46 countries. There are formal portraits being taken as we head to supper. Lobster bisque, cesear salad, beef filet, potatoes, asparagus and mushrooms, tea and cherries jubilee for dessert. Where is that hoist to get us out of our chairs? A great evening of conversation and laughter.

A wardrobe change and we head for one of the lounges but although the Bahama Mamas were great the karaoke sucked so we headed for the latin music. We decided that our dinner table should get the 'most entertaining' award as one couple sang and played an instrument and the both couples danced the night away while my room mate continued with merengue lessons. Fun this is, a beach holiday where you can read 4 or 5 novels a week it isn't!

Friday, April 20, 2007

Day 2 - Sail Away

Are you still with us in Miami? We’re up early this a.m. to watch a beautiful sunrise until we decide to check the outdoor pool out. As we stand waiting for the elevator we glance out of the casement window and see...a large crocodile lazily swimming his way up the canal between the pool area and the golf course next door. Now that’s a start to your day! A quick dip in the pool which can only be described as bracing but the sun tempts us so we decide to perch here after checkout until it’s time to make our way to the pier. We get a start on our vitamin D enhancement, have a delicious lunch (chicken quesadillas and discover that our new favorite food is key lime pie) as the Wyndham has great food. A brief stop at the lobby internet stand to send a short message home - hope there’s not too much snow. He He. When we go to retrieve our bags the clerk is a philosopher who tells us “there is no happiness, only happy moments” We decide there is as much Spanish spoken in Miami as in Cuba. A quick change like Superman in the booth and we’re off. A Haitian cab driver (all taxi drivers are Haitian we’re told) who gives us the history of Haiti on the way to the ship.

There is the cruise ship pier - now we’re getting excited. The check in experience is very well organized and efficient so it’s onto the ship. It’s immense, a floating city of approximately 3,800 passengers and 1250 crew. We check out the Promenade (mall) bars and restaurants (very classy) and wander a bit. It took us a while to find our stateroom but it was worth it - what a set up. Take a look - here is stateroom 8310 our new home away from home for the week, complete with balcony and a huge king size bed.

We retire to the balcony to do some fun planning and review our information. My travel mate says “oh it says to sign your Sea Pass Card” and grabs it signing her name on the back. In the meantime I am frantically searching the room for my Sea Pass. After locating her reading glasses it’s apparent that my room mate has signed MY card - one of the hazards of 50 year old females traveling together! Thank goodness one of us can see close up and the other far away - what a team we make.

Our suitcases arrive in stages thanks to our stateroom attendant (Joel from St. Vincents) so we can get things put away. We assure him we're not married so we don't need the large bed but decide in the end it's too much work for him to take it apart. First order of business is a safety drill at the muster stations and then a quick tour of the ship to try and orientate ourselves. The pool deck was the place to be for sail away - great live music and frozen marguerites - yeehaw! Checking out the man made islands as we leave Miami harbour - how the other half lives. What a beautiful sunset.

A tour of the spa, fitness center, bars and promenade (window shopping for end of season sales) and then checking out our dining room. Back to get ready for the show and supper. We share our table with two couples originally from Puerto Rico who now live in the Bronx. Had a great time getting to know them and the food is great - onion tart, spinach salad, prime rib, baked potatoes, veggies, roll and a squarin (dessert) and tea. Thank goodness for elastic waistbands.

Off to Dizzy Gillespie’s bar to listen to Latin music (those table mates sure can dance salsa) and enjoy the view. The musicians introduce a passenger named Mario Salcedo who is on his 100th cruise with Royal Caribbean. We decide we have to find out how he does it. We can't decide if he's a 'gentleman host without a name tag' or just someone who cruises to pick up chicks but he says he’s semi retired and cruises one week (he’s a dive nerd) and works the next. Mind you, guys on cruise ships say lots of things and deciding what to believe is always the problem. He has lots of info about the cruise though and we have tickets to the ice show and Portofino’s (Italian restaurant) for Wednesday by the end of the discussion so we're pleased with our efforts. An expresso in the V.I.P. lounge at 2 a.m. leaves my travel mate so wired she’s shopping from the onboard catalogue at 3:30 a.m. My nerves.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Day 1 - To Miami

All ready to go? As many times as I’ve traveled and as many times as I’ve packed, I promised myself I’d be all set and get a good night’s sleep before the trip but… there I was still packing at midnight and I spent the whole night packing and repacking my suitcases in my dreams. We decided to leave early to make sure our chauffeurs made it back home before the predicted snowstorm, so there was an intense flurry of last minute activity. This was not helped by the fact that the zipper busted as I closed the carry on bag I had so carefully packed and weighed to make sure it met airline requirements. A quick switch to my knapsack and we’re off.

Arriving early at the airport we shop a bit (have to practice for Mexico) and buy a dressy watch for moi and a life changing book (Secrets) for my travel partner, grab a bite to eat and check in for our American Eagle flight to LaGuardia and on to Miami. A great trip with a flight attendant who had been flying since 1967 (began with TWA) and gave us a wonderful aviation history. He was an absolute scream and got us so wound up that we were breathless by the time we landed in New York. We met one of the Trailer Park Boy’s mothers as she was enroute to Nicaragua via Miami to visit with another son who runs a feeding program there. Was she ever spry for her age and gave us hope of a graceful retirement.

A quick transfer at LaGuardia and on to Miami. An hour spent in the steamy baggage carousel area but... all the suitcases made it! A shuttle to the Wyndham Airport Hotel and we were deposited with a group of disgruntled airline passengers who were stuck due to weather. If you have to be stuck, Miami is tops on our list - just feel that warm air hitting you in the face instead of hail! We had a bell hop from (can you believe it?) Santiago de Cuba so we caught up on the Cuban news. Wow - what a room - great value for the $. Down to try to get something to eat (1½ hr. wait we’re told) while we sip our very expensive drinks so we try room service with a 20 min. wait - go figure. Good thing the pizza wasn’t long arriving as we crashed unconscious by midnight.

Now contrast the above to the reality of a rotten work day where everyone was needy (myself included) I had to take Mom for dental surgery at 9:30 a.m. (she did very well but is getting much frailer physically) and I had myself convinced today was pay day (boy was I disappointed - it's next week) the phone rang off the hook and my do list was longer than the accomplished one. Errand running after work, photos of the boat (it MAY come out of the boat shop tomorrow and it's been in over a month after a 2 wk time estimate - remember that twice as long, twice as much theory?) then supper and the usual chores. The dog and I made it out for a long walk, she sure missed those outings with me it seemed and I actually didn't have to wear gloves as it was 10c. Then the life partner decided he needed some administrative support - this included me taking a red neck photo for his firearms certificate (the last one made him look like PeeWee Herman so I did at least that well) which had to be sized and printed, his application for the moose license draw (had to be researched online) and two applications he wanted my legible printing on but.. they weren't the correct forms so with a loud arrghhh he retired to his historical novel. Ahh, back to life in the fast lane.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Wow - what a trip!

Hello again. We made it back from a wonderful vacation. Actually we made it back Monday night in the middle of the major storm pounding the eastern side of North America but… life has been very hectic since then. It seems that on the domestic front I (or at least the tasks I usually perform) was somewhat missed. And I certainly missed my usual travel partner as much as he regretted being left behind. As to whether the substitute was a problem, au contraire - we had a great time - I haven’t released that many endorphins since I don’t know when.

I’ve decided that to review the nine days of bliss for you, I’ll just start with Day 1 and recap then Day 2 etc. as if you’re all along for the trip one day at a time. Sure wish that you had been, it was fantastic. So get ready to pack up and head out to the airport tomorrow. I’ll try to stick some photos in as I go. I have the pics on CD so I can take them to a high speed venue and save myself some grief.

But that plan is for starting tomorrow because… I have to get myself organized for a course I’m teaching on Monday and Tuesday. One of the voice mail messages I had waiting was from the Community Education Training Officer at the NSCC just confirming that I had 12 students for the LPN Leadership Skills course. This is something I promised last fall “if you can’t find anyone else” which sounded like a good idea at the time. It is also something that I didn’t transfer into my 2007 date book so it came as an (almost) complete surprise and was a conflict with a regional meeting for work. I had a near panic attack when checking messages on Tuesday afternoon in my post vacation haze after a horrible morning spent doing orientation for a group of very badly behaved students who will be doing clerical experience. But I’ve since recovered, plan to take the cell phone from work and use my overtime and am looking forward to the course now. It really is something I believe strongly in, will be a nice break from the routine (after I’ve been back at work three whole days) and it’s a challenge to move experienced staff forward in these rough healthcare times.

It of course is coming during a week when I will only be in the office on Wednesday - I have a conference the end of the week in Halifax. Makes you really look forward (not) to that one day in house as the past two days have been a blur. There must have been a lookout at my door just awaiting my arrival because the phone didn’t stop ringing and every time I looked up there was a face in the doorway of the office. "Aren't you glad you came back eh?" one of the managers asked me about 2 p.m. That was the easiest question of the day to answer - no! Who would trade 28 c temperatures for 2 degrees? My nerves.

Friday, April 6, 2007

Bon Voyage

Well with a few minor crises settled in the past few days and….we’re off in the morning. The past two days have been more than 24 hours it seems with last minute vacation details, wrapping up at work, visits to ER, a hair cut and brow waxing, birthday celebrations etc. I haven’t had time to be excited yet.

As I mentioned I had an irritated left eye which I noticed late Wednesday night. So it was a trip to the Emergency Dept. at work on Thursday morning to get it checked out. The Dr. on call said it was likely a speck of something I’d rubbed in my eye (likely fiberglas dust I’m guessing from the boat shop) or the uveitis (inflammation of the iris) which I’d had years ago returning. He wanted to wait to see if anything developed (so I had visions of sitting in the ER on Good Friday for hours then the pharmacy) and I could be rechecked. I was relieved to wake up this a.m. with the redness faded. Just my old dry eyes I guess.

So this morning I was off to Yarmouth to meet a classmate home on vacation. Had a wonderful visit and got caught up on all the class news. Then off to Universite Ste Anne to pick up the birthday girl (daughter # 2 was 21 today) and home in time to pick up the ice cream cake, walk the dog and get supper ready for the family. We numbered 10 with all of us and a couple of extra family friends and grandparents. Had a nice Easter supper, birthday celebration and bon voyage party all in one. Don’t get together often enough.

However, in between the all the visiting, packing and generally getting things in place to be away 10 days there was a transportation crises. The travel partner had left a frantic voice mail saying that her car had no brakes and couldn’t be repaired until Tuesday due to the holiday weekend. We had planned that she would drive and leave her car at the airport so my car would be available for the daughter needing to write her exam, and attend dental appointments etc. She was unable to think of anything other than renting a car each way. So the crises was solved by daughter # 2 and her boyfriend chauffeuring the two vacationers to and from the airport. Now since there is a winter weather watch with 15 cm of snow for tomorrow (I swear to you - read the date) night they have strict instructions to drop us off and make straight for home, unless it starts early and they end up spending the night in Halifax.

But the most unnerving situation of the past two days has been that the life partner did not seem to be aware I was leaving on a trip. He asked Thursday morning if I had Easter Monday off and when I gave him a strange look and said “yes” he said “that’s good” so I’m thinking ‘I’ve been a bit too discreet with my preparations so I didn’t upset him, I’ll have to have the discussion with him’. So this afternoon I said “you do realize that I’m leaving tomorrow on that trip I mentioned and you agreed to a while ago don’t you?” and he said (with a very surprised look on his face) “oh, I thought you’d give up on that idea because you didn’t say anything about it” I assured him he was working so hard on the boat I didn’t want to make him feel bad, so he says “oh so you waited until today to do that did you?” I told him it was better than him wondering where I was on Saturday night. But of course I’m leaving with a healthy dose of guilt as he’s not accompanying and he is a good travel partner.

With daughter # 2 in place to run the household, things should go smoothly enough. She was telling me about her feminist studies class this term and how she was explaining to the professor that she was care taking of her father as he was working hard and wouldn’t have to come home and make supper and she said her prof said “and if your mother was working and he went away would someone be sent to make sure she didn’t have to make supper when she came from work?” Talk about a teachable moment eh? We both giggled at that one and it has relieved a bit of the aforementioned guilt.

At any rate, here it is almost midnight and I’ve finally finished packing, weighing suitcases and getting supplies ready for a proxy Easter Bunny on Sunday morning. We’re off at 8:45 a.m. so I must crash. We’ve decided we’re not going to make any attempt at emailing while we’re away so it’ll be April 16th before you get a WOW we’re back email with a trip briefing. Enjoy the snow while we’re gone!

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Not much longer now

Well since we’re into the countdown now… it’s getting difficult to concentrate on the every day details such as work etc. The listless situation was encouraged as well by the email message I received from the Manager of the The Pines Retirement Home in Grand Cayman about a tour of the facility on April 13th - retirement planning 101. One of those days when I just didn’t feel like starting a big new project so I was tying up loose ends in the office. I spoke to one of the managers at lunch time and she mentioned that my boss was coming to our site for a presentation at 1 p.m. “so clean yourself up” she tells me. I was on my best behavior by the time she arrived. However shortly after she left by 3 p.m. I’d called it in, decided to ‘flex’ my day by taking an hour of time in lieu and blew that Popsicle stand.

When I arrived at the boat shop to be the official photographer my spouse says “what’s this, are you on a work to rule campaign today, it’s only 4 p.m.? “Reached my limit an hour before my day was done” I admitted so here I am. Thought I should take a photo to document the boat building process. The air was thick with ground fiberglas dust and the smell of resin and the noise levels were well above legislated OH&S allowable limits. There is no way I’d make it through the weeks required to do this retrofit. When I asked about the schedule for completion the man of the hour tells me that they’ll relaunch the boat the end of next week and by the next weekend he’ll be lobstering. Now you have a look at the state of affairs and tell me that he’s not delusional. Can’t do it can you?

I contacted the travel agent today regarding an emergency number to leave and she tells me that it’s about $8 per minute for someone to call you ship to shore and $13 per minute for calling off the ship, much cheaper to do shore side. I advised her I was just looking for an emergency contact number and I NEVER call home for the past 15 years or so. When I was doing my first aid instructor course in Dartmouth in 1991 and staying with my brother and his family for a week he encouraged me to call home on Wednesday evening. The kids were aged two to six years old. I phoned home and you couldn’t hear yourself think, I’m sure the man of the house never even knew the phone had rung. The oldest answered and said “this is awful, when are you coming home?” I advised her on Friday and she says “Bub sat on the chair and pooped in his pants and Dad spanked all of us, this is not good”.. So, I reassured her, quietly put down the phone and made myself a promise which I’ve had no trouble keeping to NOT phone home.

Just now I had a look in the mirror when washing my face and… I have managed somehow (since I returned home) to develop a conjunctival hemorrhage in the inside corner of my left eye. Isn’t affecting my vision but sure looks awful. And here I was concerned about the spot on my face. My best guess it was the exercise routine that did it - must have been the torture or maybe all that awful air quality at the boat shop, my eye does resemble my spouse's. Hopefully that will clear somewhat before we head out on our big adventure. Must head off to bed to rest the eyes.

Just one more work day and then it's straight ahead for ten days off!

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

It's gone

Yeehaw! The brown spot is gone… I was getting kind of tired of the scab on my face and yesterday when I sought reassurance from the life partner as to whether it was noticeable, he says in his usual renaissance man NOT style “well it isn’t any worse than lots of things other people walk around with on their faces” How’s that for Mr. Sensitivity eh? Now I have a toonie sized circle of pink, tender new skin on the upper left side of my cheek, just under my eye. And boy is it ever tender. The final remnant of scab was ‘encouraged’ to detach today (it was Day 13 after all and time to go) and this is the result. Think I can camouflage the difference in color until the epidermis regrows. The circle isn’t raised and the edges of the two layers of skin will likely smooth out so I shouldn’t be left with a permanent reminder of my encounter with the dermatologist. Guess this is what they go to medical school for all those years, to be able to keep the promises they make. I’m pretty impressed. Mind you, it will likely require 120 SPF sunscreen, a hat and shade seeking to not get a nasty sunburn on it in the Caribbean.

Today at work I was paper shredding extensively with the personal shredder I keep in my office. One of my co-workers hearing the whirring came to the door smiling and asked if I was “preventing identify theft?” I told her if anyone assumed my identity they wouldn’t be long returning it - it’s too much work, too little money and way too much angst in one package for anyone else to put up with. I don’t think that had occurred to her, but upon reflection she agreed and retreated.

Apparently the reno work today at the boat shop went well with the # 1 son describing it as now ‘looking like a boat’ Not sure what it’s been looking like previous to this but I must arrange to head down with the camera tomorrow after work for an update. The ‘boy’ had a offer of a site fishing today which met with his approval as it will lead to an apprenticeship for his Master Class IV and as I told his father “it’s a good thing we have nine feet ceilings here in the house as he’s floating about two feet off the floor and is almost six feet tall”

Tonight for the first time in a while (since the ‘burn’ had healed) I indulged in one of our decadences splurged on when we were building the house - the sauna. It's a radiant heat sauna (so no steam) which plugs into a regular 110 V outlet (they can be moved but we built ours in) and they are supposed to have all kinds of health benefits. Soul benefits I say. Decadent doesn’t begin to describe a Patricia Cornwell novel, a glass of wine and 30 minutes of relaxation at 140 F in a cedar scented sauna. Bliss. The only wrinkle were two attempts at break and enter by a 14 pound cat who made a valiant attempt at opening the door. Well near bliss then.

I've had responses from some loyal readers saying they weren't able to leave a comment on the blog. Since I risked appearing like a journalist who doesn't entertain opposing views I investigated and discovered that I had inadvertently disallowed comments. Think I have that setting adjusted now. It's one thing to be a benevolent dictator but another to censor others views.

Am just thinking, this day next week I’ll have just finished visiting Costa Maya in Mexico (likely a shore excursion to Mayan ruins) and will be finishing up a late supper and getting ready for a show. Getting close now.

Monday, April 2, 2007

Into the countdown

Although it's one work day down and three to go this week...I have decided that working six hours per day (and getting paid for 7.5) is about right as that's what I did today when I took two hours of time in lieu this afternoon. It enabled me to pick up some last minute items (cannot argue with the .94 price in the Superstore bin of a white bucket hat that even my fashion consultant approved of to shade my face with it's new pink spot in place of the former skin lesion), buy my US dollars at the bank (only 17 cents on the dollar - good for travel, bad for exporting) get supper and a loaf of brown bread started (in part required because the baby took two buttered slices of brown bread with her to her room after school - contravening the house rules of NO food and drink past the archway to the bedrooms - and the dog wolfed them down in two gulps when she left them unattended) then a walk with the dog (she's got to burn those carbs off somehow) before the King of the Castle arrived home. Now if only this was my regular reduced work schedule. Sigh.

I think that daughter # 3 is well on the way to thinking like a nurse as one of the requirements is to be caring but firm at work and tough at home. "Don't look for sympathy for yourself from a nurse" says my other half (and many other nurse spouses) I think it has something to do with working with patients/families who are dealing with life and death issues moment by moment then coming home to someone with a hangnail or sniffle who are thinking they need palliative care. Today's issue was my life partner sharing at supper that he "ached all over and just didn't feel good all day" while he forces out a cough. So the future nurse looks her father in the eye and says "oh I hate it when you're sick, you're such a baby" There really is no response for that so he just sighed, feeling he was outnumbered by nurses I guess. He's spent the evening whining on the couch and being admonished to "cough in your sleeve" by both his caregivers and threated with sleeping in the prodigal son's bedroom as it's already contaminated (he having been the first victim of the 'dog ail' as his Grawmp used to call it) by his bed partner. The latest update is the very caring daughter has just presented herself at the door to say "I've been barked on so much, now I think I'm getting it, my head feels this big" and exited to her room. Should these microbes be passed along to yours truly to take with her on the trip there will be war or at least a family feud!

A regular blog reader shared that when her mother traveled she always took her worst looking underwear with her and threw them away as she went along, leaving more room as she returned. The exact opposite of the 'take your best' approach I'm applying. I'm thinking my morbid fear of raggedy drawers stems from viewing busted suitcases circling the baggage carousel with lacy panties poofing out the side for all to witness or watching gloved customs officials fingering someone else's undies as they search for contraband. Don't let that be me, don't let that be me. I'm reminded of checking our youngest daughter the last thing as we went out the door to school up until senior elementary "do you have panties on? let me see" was the standard exit line. "They don't feel good" was her usual complaint when she was discovered going commando. Thank goodness she's outgrown that stage and it's not a necessary morning check now at almost age 18.

So the forecast in SW Nova Scotia for two days this week is rain or snow with temperatures of 2 c while the forecast for Miami on Sunday is partly sunny with highs in the lower 80s. Belize is for 28 Costa Maya is 27 c and this photo is what Google brought me for doing a weather search - I guess figuring a picture is worth a thousand words, well least this one eh?. Can't hardly wait. For Cozumel it's 28 c and Grand Cayman is 26 c so that's next week taken care of. Not much of a choice really is there?

Off to read my novel (got to get in practice) on the contaminated couch before I subject myself to the barking chamber. Hasta manana.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Monday arrives whether we like it or not

Although today was another lovely weather day I wouldn't want to confuse anyone with the photo of the 'old house' yesterday showing a green lawn - we're not there yet - it was a real estate photo from last year. I was over cleaning the old place out a bit this afternoon (from our dirty renters) which made me think it was this time of year we'd moved down 21 years ago. That first spring was pretty hectic with an 18 month old and a new baby (a screamer no less - although she's pretty mellow now) with the move to a new community and not working outside the home. But the move to this village of 20 something houses has been one we certainly do not regret.

Our new home is beautiful, but it was tough to leave the old place with all the memories, easy living and big veranda. It's funny how folks come to things in their own time and I have come to really like this new house now, but it has taken a while. Not sure if it was because of all the work and hustle to get in, the unsettled feeling of moving or just all the changes with work, construction etc. happening at the same time. It's been a gradual settling in with the first Christmas especially having the time to enjoy it, the beautiful sunsets and amazing view, the quieter location off the road, finding spots for the precious things and now the promise of summer to relax in. I asked the life partner today about the transition and said "you've loved this place right from the start haven't you?" to which he agreed. But like some parents who need the time to fall in love with their offspring it's taken me a bit longer to adjust to the 'place across the road'.

Haven't stopped all weekend and really don't have much to show for my efforts, except a rejuvenated body and soul. Looking ahead to grown up responsibilities this week there are positives - like a four day work week, taking tomorrow afternoon off in overtime to run errands (pretty bad when you need to take time off to get ready for taking time off) visiting with a nursing school classmate on Friday then a birthday for daughter # 2 and of course Saturday being THE big day of departure.

Had a chat with the travel partner tonight to finalize some details. I was explaining she was expected to be my bodyguard as there was some media coverage about the dangers of being assaulted on cruise ships. We decided we were likely past the age of being a target for being attacked and could handle ourselves if mistaken for 20 year olds in the dark (by an attacker with limited vision) so not going to worry about that.

Off to get ready for another Monday which as we all know arrives whether we like it or not.