Monday, June 28, 2010
And it is really hot and humid already, at night, so I think we can expect some pretty sweaty weather in the next few days.
Our beta-testing country of Spain is out of the way, and we’re now full-fledged travelers with a two-year-old. We have discovered how to plan for only one or two big things a day, and everything else is bonus. I used to be able to absorb every single detail that tour guides would give me about a place, but now I’m content with getting, oh, say 20 percent of the information on the first go-around, because one eye is on Elise all the time. Which is just fine – it means we get to stroll around a lot of neighborhoods, meet all the local kids at the playgrounds (which have been plentiful so far), and enjoy the food at a lovely pace. It’s completely different from any travel I’ve ever done, and in many ways, it is richer. And I love it. I’m definitely looking forward to filling up the holes I missed on all these tours. I mean… when was that statue built again? Is that Church Romanesque or Gothic? Where’s the surreal roof with all the chimney? What’s a Spanish tortilla again? It goes on and on.
(Though we’re developing a pretty good system where we take turns listening to the tour guide and watching Elise, and just summarizing what the other one missed on the last go-around. We’d make great study partners).
We were lucky that, as in most ports, the ship docks right next to the action. So from the first day, we were able to get off the ship, walk to the famous Las Ramblas, and mostly enjoy the Old Town of Barcelona, walking down the narrow alleyways, looking for playgrounds, and enjoying the open spaces.
The day we arrived was a major holiday (St. Joan), so everything was closed and quiet, and Barcelona was hungover from the celebrations the night before. But after strolling with a couple of the other parents and kids, we found a nice little place to get some juices and beer and take a break from the sun.
It was a pretty nice break, though at one point, a drunk man came into the bar, and seeing that some of us had beers, demanded that he be served a beer as well. The bartender said no, that we were his family, and that he didn’t serve beer in the morning. That caused the drunk man to start screaming, threaten the bartender, and the result was an altercation between the two of them that almost got very ugly, as the bartender shoved him out of the bar, then grabbed and iron rod when he thought the drunk man was coming back to join us. The guy was escorted away by a friend of the bartender.
It was a lovely sight for all the children present. I’m not sure they noticed what was happening. We continued on with the stroll.
Most days went on that way. We would pick a place to go to, then try to time the longer distances with Elise’s naps, then stop to get food, or find a place for her to run around, when she was awake. It worked extremely well, especially when we visited Gaudi’s Casa Mila (with the chimneys on the roof) and Familia Sagrada (if you’re not familiar with Barcelona, Gaudi is a surrealist architect that created many of the defining structures of the city. They are certainly something to behold. Imagine if Cirque du Soleil built houses and churches).
Both those were very far from the ship, but we walked all the way to both and back, and it all worked out perfectly. We didn’t go into those, as the lines were too big to wait with Elise in the sun. But, because we had been building up everything we do to her, especially the night before (she prefers predictability), we had to explain why we weren’t going on the roof of Casa Mila after we made such a big deal about it. We told her the lines were too big. She seemed to get it right away, enthusiastic that the “lines were so BIIIG!”
Not much later, we understand why she is enthusiastic. She said, “I’m scared.” And we asked her why, and she said because the “Lions were too big” on the roof, so we couldn’t go there. So now she’s convinced there are lions on every tourist attraction that has a queue. Good times.
On the second day, we visited the monastery at Montserrat, about an hour away from Barcelona. It was our first SAS trip after we gave away our tickets to the city orientation (knowing Elise would not want to sit on a bus after 10 days at sea). If you don’t know what Montserrat is, take a look at our pictures at http://picasaweb.google.com/randrade . It’s pretty impressive, originally build in a serrated mountain centuries ago (but rebuilt several times over the years), and still going strong as one of the major tourist attractions in Catalonia.
We made it up with Elise, and started perfecting our tag-team over there. I mean, the hard part about taking a kid is that they get so excited, you know, but going up and down the three steps to the gift shop. And I love her watching her do that. But we’re succeeding in getting her to be excited to see the things WE want to see as well. We even managed to take her on a short hike up the mountain, in the hot sun. She really is a trooper.
We’ve hit Barcelona in the middle of World Cup fever, with the spaniards doing a good job making it to the second round after losing its first game. So we got to see the game out at a Tapas bar, with good people like Dave, Tanya, Tom, Rebecca, and Emily, and still took some time during the game to see more of the city in celebration. It was also pride week over there, and we saw what must have been the smallest pride parade in the world. I’m really curious what the homosexual culture is like over there.
Our last day in the city was Sunday, and there were a lot of celebrations going on… we managed to take in the Picasso Museum while Elise napped (which was surprisingly good – showed a lot of his student work, which you could see a definitive progression of his skill as an artist. So much energy). There was a lot of dancing on the streets, and at noon, we caught this human tower competition – seven stories up, with the tiniest of kids, maybe 4-6 climbing up to make up the top of the tower some 40 ft in the air. And the tower is trembling the entire time. It is truly dangerous stuff, though I must admit that if I were a kid growing up in Barcelona, I would most certainly have been one of the kids dying to participate in the tower every weekend.
It was one of my favorite parts of the weekend, though I found out later that we missed the last tower, which fell with the kids on top. I don’t know if anyone got hurt, but I think we left at the right time.
So that was Barcelona in a few paragraphs. We had a wonderful time, and it was a perfect place to hone in our on-location parenting skills. We had a quick all-Italy day on the ship (since we had 10 days to prepare for Spain, but only one for Italy, so it was non-stop Italy lectures today). The best part was that they asked us, being from California, to share earthquake safety tips to students, since Italy is seismically active.
Enter Monika Nagy, Italian Geologist, who shared the tips she learned from having survived the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989. Everybody left thinking that all Californians as versed in earthquake safety as she is. Did you know that you shoudn’t necessarily stand in the door frame during an earthquake? On some buildings, it may be the strongest part of the building, but on some buildings, it’s the weakest! Bet you didn’t know that.
So we arrive tomorrow in Civitavecchia, and will take a train to meet with Tom and Karen Nagy in Rome. We really look forward to it. Elise will see Mimi and Baba, and we will get few hours to ourselves over there… which hasn’t happened since we left.
Other than the "Lion is so BIIIG", here is a quick round of Elisey-isms:
When getting ready for a boob, Elise exclaimed, really loudly, "OH, JESUS! I GOT A BOOBIE!"
When asked if she wanted to sit on the potty, she said, "No, dadda. I'm too small. I'll fall in."
We're trying to break her of the habit of the binky, so we ask her to keep her binky and froggy in the cabin whenever we go out. So as we're getting ready to take her swimming, she starts singing, very happily, "We're taking the binky to the pool... I'm taking the binky to the pool.... we're taking the binky and froggy to the pool... we're taking the binky to the pool..." To which I say, "No, love, we're keeping the froggie here." She looks at me as if I'm crazy, and says, "It's just a song."
She really likes these bunny crackers, so one morning, she says, "I want some bunny crackers." We didn't have any, so Mon tells her so. She intently replies, "But I want some!" Mon calmly says, "They're all gone." She exclaims, "Let's get them at the store!" Mon responds, "The store doesn't have any."
She very calmly looks at us, pauses for a second, and says, "Oh. I guess they're all gone."
You can almost see here wheels spinning. We really have to explain everything to her.
Alright, off to bed, but pictures are up here: http://picasaweb.google.com/randrade
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
Now, most of the time, a simple, “I’m sorry, you sent this in error” to me is enough to not get emails again, but there is a small, persistent, and vocal minority that do not believe that I’m not the person they are trying to reach, and in fact, argue with me to knock it off. With gmail, this becomes even more problematic because of the “chat” function, so I often find myself chatting with people, trying to convince them that I am not, in fact the person they think I am. And two of these threads have been going on for over two years.
The first is from a guy Marlison in Brazil who thinks I’m his college buddy Romario. Apparently, Romario always arrives on campus first, and the buddy wants to find out what the upcoming classes are like. And apparently, Romario must be quite the joker, because no matter how much I argue that I’m not Romario, even offering to do video chats and phone calls on my US cell phone number, Marlison thinks that I’m pulling his leg. So after a while, I usually just give in and make up information about the classes I’m supposedly taking. Here’s a transcription of a typical chat with this guy, translated from the portuguese:
marlisonhbsi: Hey Romario!
Heeeeyyy... do you know when class starts?
me: I'm not romario. I'm Ricardo
marlisonhbsi: There you go with your kidding
me: No, really. I live in the United States. I'm Ricardo Andrade
marlisonhbsi: so, Romario Ricardo Andrade
and the classes?
me: Dude - you're talking to the wrong person. firstname.lastname@example.org : http://www.gostanford.com/sports/m-gym/mtt/andrade_rico00.html
marlisonhbsi: yes, romario ricardo
and the classes?
me: Do you want to do a video chat or skype to prove I'm not Romario?
Call me in the U.S. now . 650-793-3537
marlisonhbsi: I don't want to know if you are romario ou ricardo I want to know about the classes
me: what classes?
marlisonhbsi: the classes
Don't you study?
marlisonhbsi: you think I don't know you?
me: Where do I know you from?
marlisonhbsi: is your car working better
me: it's much better
marlisonhbsi: thought it'd get worse
yes, and the classes?
quit kidding around
since you're there
The second one is even better, because apparently I’m a very important man in Southern Chile, who is holding off some sort of civil project because I refuse to sign the documents. I’m not kidding. A guy by the name of Christian has been emailing me for over two years, very politely asking me to please sign the documents, so they came move on with this project. He’s even gone as far as writing me a long philosophical letters addressed to the “Esteemed Don Ricardo” flattering me and my services in every way possible in hundreds of words, only to finish off saying that “as you can see, this is very important, and your cooperation in this matter is urgently needed.” One letter started, in spanish, as “Dear Esteemed Don Ricardo. I would like to share with you some of my reflections regarding the Garcia letter.”
He even comes on chat every once in a while. One time, he chatted that he was waiting his meeting with “me” in the auditorium, so he must have been surprised when he saw “me” come online at the time of this meeting. This was one of the many times that I argued with Christian that I’m not Don Ricardo, and the general response is always, “Ah, yes, very funny, Don Ricardo. But please, Don Ricardo. We need those documents.”
And I keep having to tell him that I don’t speak Spanish, but it doesn’t matter. He thinks I’m kidding.
So I’m picturing that Christian is an eager young intern that has been assigned to deal with the jokester of Don Ricardo, the town’s Marlon Brando in the later years. Because the only reason I think this has continued on for so long is that 1) Don Ricardo is the kind of guy who hides whoopee cushions during important meetings, so pretending he’s not Don Ricardo on emails is not beyond him, and 2) He’s a powerful and intimidating enough person that no one dares question him – kind of like no one questioned Brando when he made some cookey acting decisions in his later years.
From what I understand, the project has to do with preparing the city for its 100-year celebration of its founding, with a few public works. And based on the emails that came into my inbox for so long, I’m assuming that the celebration came and went without any festivities, and that somewhere, there is a fuming, real Don Ricardo wondering why no one asked him to sign any documents…
Anyway, that has nothing to do with SAS, but I was reminded of it because we’re heading to Barcelona tomorrow, and the word “Don” comes up quite a bit, especially since we have an actual Spanish Knight, Don David Gies, aboard the ship. We sailed through the Straits of Gibraltar yesterday, and could easily see Spain and Morocco at the same time (well, I have deep set eyes with terrible peripheral vision, so not technically at the same time. But I could if I had a mirror. You get the picture. I’m a hunter, not a gatherer).
At this point, the two countries are only seven or so miles apart, and the terrain is fairly dramatic. There are very large letters written on a Moroccan mountain that says, in Arabic, “God, Country, King.”, and what appears to be a fairly large fort of some kind, but I have no idea at this point. It’s pretty easy to see why the Strait (Straits? There’s only one) inspired the Gates of Hercules at one time. I was almost anticipating sailing through two large statues a-la Lord of the Rings at any time. We’ll be refueling at the Rock of Gibraltar
But it was pretty awesome. We were greeted by a bunch of dolphins out our window again, and ship traffic was pretty heavy as everyone is funneled into this area. They also have jumping swordfish out here too, which we saw out of our window. Which is nice.
The Spanish side had a lot of windmills (and we had a great lecture today on how Spain is a leader in developing renewable energy today). It has been really neat learning about Spanish history the last several days, particularly the fact that because of the Islamic invasion, Spain continued advancing as a civilization while the rest of Europe fell into the Dark Ages after the fall of Rome. I miss school.
That’s it. I’m off to take Elise to the pool, and tomorrow we’ll hit Barcelona, so there may be silence on our end for a few days.
Monday, June 21, 2010
And because we were near some islands, we encountered quite a few birds and dolphins the last few days. They are right out our window – I managed to get a little video of a school going by: http://picasaweb.google.com/randrade/AtlanticCrossing#5485364524783557554
I posted some new pictures here: http://picasaweb.google.com/randrade/AtlanticCrossing
I’m off to the staffulty lounge to finish off the night, more tomorrow.
Saturday, June 19, 2010
Last time, I survived our 23-hour days (because of the constant time changes), by fitting naps in there… and it’s a little harder to fit in naps this time around. Elise, however, seems to be adjusting to the schedule just fine, when everything’s ok. (She had a little freak accident where her eye was poked yesterday, so she was up a lot of the night. She seems to be fine now.)
Once classes are set up and I respond to the professor requests, I’m mostly on call, so it gives me a good opportunity to sit, read, write, and watch the sea go by. We are smack-dab in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, and though the ship could make it to Barcelona much quicker, we’re moving at a snail’s pace to accommodate the class schedule. Hard to believe we’ll have several more days before we see any land.
And somehow, hundreds of miles away from shore, we see birds flying alongside the ship quite often. My favorite things to do (which hasn’t happened on this trip yet), was to go to the outside front of deck 7, and look down to see the schools flying fish spooked by the ship, gliding away some 50ft or so for dear lives, only to see the seagulls and boobies that why along the ship dive at them as soon the fish hit the water again. It’s pretty impressive, if not somewhat funny to see the fish jump out. You can almost hear them screaming, “Get awaaaaaaayyyyyyy!”
So after a hectic start to get settled into a rhythm of classes, here’s hoping for a predictable second half of the crossing. Aside from the eye-poke, Elise seems to be doing just great, and when she gets excited about something, such as going to the pool, she makes sure to stop and let everyone know what her current plans are.
So I leave you with a quick list of Elisey-isms I’ve witnessed so far. I’m sure Monika has more to add:
- Elise was eating on Monika’s lap, and looks at something on her hand. She asks, “Mamma, what’s this?” while quickly sticking it in Monika’s mouth. Before Monika gets a chance to respond, Elise elaborates. “It came from my nose.”
- When the ship very slowly made its way away from Halifax, I told Elise, “Look, we’re moving!” To which she corrected, “NO DADDA! The water’s moving.”
She’s not wrong.
- Monika mentioned this in one of the comments, but the night that Elise lead the dining hall in siging “Twinkle twinkle” (then later screamed, “EVERYBODY, SING!”), she calmly states to our table that, “Daddy’s pepito is in his shorts”. To which no one responds, so she says it again, louder, “Daddy’s pepito is in his shorts!”, puts her arms up, then points right at me. Our good friend Tanya (Cash and Cal’s mom, and ship doctor), but just reacts by wisely smiling and nodding, so Elise helpfully tells her, “Only daddy has a pepito.”
(Other than blushing, the only thought a parent goes through at a moment like that is think what the other parents are thinking. And I was imagining something like, “What kind of parent calls it a ‘pepito’?”)
- Tanya, also pointed to her eyebrow and asked Elise what it was. Elise, excited, exclaimed, “That’s a mustache!” So I think we haven’t taught her body parts too well.
- Cash (2), and Cal (4), have their own room (and are like a little comedy troop – more on stories on putting them to bed later). So Tanya puts Cash down to sleep, then Monika and Elise of over to Tanya and Dave’s room across the hall to hang out.
Elise looks at Tanya and asks, “Where’s Cal?” Tanya says that he’s taking a nap.
A few minutes go by, and Elise, unbeknownst to the adults, had quietly scanned the entire room, and something didn’t make sense to her. She goes back to Tanya, and very pointedly asks, “Did you put him under the bed?”
- Every once in a while, when Elise sees a somewhat scantily-clad student, she goes up to them, cocks her head to the side, and asks, “Are you wearing a swimming suit?” The answer, so far, has always been no.
- Apparently, I always introduce myself the same way to students, by engaging in a conversation (usually initiated by Elise in some way), followed by me saying, “I’m Rico, by the way.” I know this because Elise says “I’m Rico, by the way” all the time now. To everybody. So now I’m totally self-conscious and try to vary the way I say it, like “Hello, my name is Rico,” at random spots in the conversation.
- And she really does repeat everything we say, and I mean everything. She was playing with Cash and Cal in the other cabin, and I called them on the phone from our cabin since I know she likes to talk on the phone. She picks up, and then, this is what she says, without a pause to breathe: “Hello? Hello? Can you hear me? Hold on. Ok, can you hear me now? How are you?!! It’s so good to talk to you?!!! I’m good!! Oh, can you hear me now? Hold on, let me put you on speakerphone. One sec. Ok, you’re on speaker. Is everything good?....”
This went on non-stop for several minutes. She even pretended to put a blue-tooth on at one point. Good times all around.
Alright, I’m feeling like I’m THAT parent, and these might not be that interesting. But I’m writing this as much for us as anyone else.
Gotta go set up for the next class, so more later…
P.S. For those of you who sailed in Fall 05, I’m really appreciating what Kevin Murphy did with his class. He really hit a grand slam out of the park.
Wednesday, June 16, 2010
The students, all 739 of them, are onboard the ship, and they sure look a lot younger than I remember them five years ago (I can’t believe it was that long). There’s quite a bit of excitement in the air, with everyone giddy to be aboard, and we’re trying to settle into a routine as classes start tomorrow.
We’re getting a few more swells right now but nothing too bad. Luckily, Monika is no longer seasick, and the squeaky laughing dolphin outside our cabin at night now has a name – Billy Jean. Something must be really funny because that dude is pretty loud right now.
We also uploaded a bunch of pictures and videos to Picasa at http://picasaweb.google.com/randrade. A sample:
So this voyage is obviously completely different from the last one. Here’s a blurb from the blog last time, when they sent us a plan to rescued from a blockade in the Venezuelan jungle:
“Right away we knew things weren’t quite right. At every military stop along this solitary road that connects Brazil with northern Venezuela, they are telling us that the locals were staging a protest and have blocked the road in Las Claritas. We were hopeful that by the time we arrived in town, things would have calmed down and we would be on our way. That wouldn’t be so."
And this is what a blurb looks like now:
“We had a wonderful time in Halifax. After Elise fell asleep at the amazing Public Gardens, we went to a grocery store so we could stock up on diapers for the trip. Luckily, we found a playground only a block away from the ship, with a nice variety of options for Elise. There’s nothing like discovering a new sandbox to play with after a few days after a few days at sea.”
Alright, we actually did get to walk the city a bit, but I’m pretty sure that while there may not be any “they sent a rescue plane to save us from the jungle blockade” or "I'm riding a moped at night left side of the road in crazy Mauritian traffic and my headlight went out" stories this time around, we’ll certainly be experts in Mediterranean playgrounds by the end of the trip. Which is great, by the way – I really could hang out with Elise at a playground all day long.
I’m off to bed now. We’re keeping track of Elisey-isms, so I’ll post them tomorrow night sometime.
Sunday, June 13, 2010
There was a somewhat formal Captain’s Dinner with the Global Forum on Engagement that is aboard the ship with us (the one that brought Julian Bond and Sandra-Day O’Connor aboard with us). For those of us with kids, and others who didn’t feel like dressing up (a relatively significant group), we ate at the smaller of the two dining halls, in Deck 6.
So at some point during dinner, Elise starts singing “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” under her breath, like she often does. And each time she finished the song, she would sing it again, a little bit louder. And louder.
Finally, Elise was belting “Twinkle Twinkle” so loudly that everyone in the dining hall stopped talking. For a minute, we all paused to listen do her best impression of Mariah Carey.
Until someone joined in. And then everybody joined in.
So for a few moments tonight, on a ship somewhere in the North Atlantic, a dining room-ful of people sang an impromptu version of “Twinkle Twinkle” led by a two-year-old girl. And all was well in the world.
We’ll wake up to a rainy Nova Scotia out our window in the moning. I’m off to bed.
P.S. It was sea sickness, not morning sickness.
Saturday, June 12, 2010
It wouldn’t take too much to convince me that this voyage is simply a continuation of Fall 05. The whole five years in between were just an extra-long port in our itinerary. The same crew is still here, the AV job hasn’t been updated at all, and I keep waiting for Chris, Jason, Karen, Yas, John, Gail, and everyone else to show up to the Staffulty lounge on the Seventh deck for a few drinks before going to bed. Because they wouldn’t miss a beat and fit right into the group that’s here right now. There’s a really good bunch of people here. I just really love being on the ship.
The only difference, of course, is that we now have a two-year old amongst us, and boy, does that change everything. It is a lot of work, and luckily, Elise isn’t the only kid here. There are five kids about her age, with really fun parents, and 20 kids total, some of the nicest kids in the world. Really – you should see them around Elise. They take her everywhere, they play with her, and they make signs for our door with her name on it. So she’s having the time of her life, running around the endless hallways on the fourth deck, and playing in the waves of the kiddie pool as the ship sways from side-to-side.
But she is a lot of work, and I can’t wait to get into the rhythm of classes so we can figure out exactly how to give Monika some relief of caring for Elise. Because you need to keep an eye on her every single minute on the ship… the railings around the deck of the ship are a lot wider than I remember them to be. We’re doing our best… we think she’s gotten the message that she can’t get anywhere close to them. She stops 5-10 feet from the edges, just like she does at intersections. And we’ll still keep an eye on her.
They tells us that it gets a lot easier when the students arrive, because there will be hundreds willing of babysitters, so perhaps Monika and I will be able to leave the room for extended periods of time after Elise is asleep after all. Though, I have to say, this whole thing is a giant Snooze Cruise for her anyway, so whenever she’s in bed, she’s been out, so I think we may take longer and longer excursions together out of the cabin, like we did tonight, which has been my favorite part of the trip so far.
The cabin is feeling pretty cozy right now. There are two twin beds with a huge window not far from the water with a great view of the horizon. When the swells get bigger, metal creaking of the ship sounds exactly as if there a dolphin laughing outside our window, and as far as we’re concerned, that’s exactly the source of the noise. Elise is sleeping on a travel crib that somehow manages to fit at the foot of my bed. We’ve put up a bunch of decorations… Elise’s alphabet magnets, since the walls are metallic in here, as well as these pictures of portholes that Monika’s dad took of an actual porthole that he purchased and gave to us prior to the voyage.
Seriously, he purchased a porthole at some point, then before we sailed, the printed out pictures of the sea, and of some trees at the Stanford foothills, placed them behind the porthole, took of picture of that setup, then laminated and gave it to us, in case we go an inside cabin with now view. But we do have a great view, and the portholes went up anyway.
We are starting to see a few more swells, and Monika has been pretty seasick a few times, which is miserable. We’re really hoping it goes away soon, and if it doesn’t, I’ll ask her to take a pregnancy test.
The main fun fact of the day is that Sandra-Day O’Connor has been sailing with us to Halifax, and she gave an hour-long talk today that really gave us a good sense of her colorful character. Judge Judy has nothing on her. If she’s this fast-talking, quick-witted, and sharp-tongued at 85, I can’t imagine what she was like when she was on the Supreme Court. In fact, Supreme Court justices tend to have as strong a personality as she does, I can only imagine what the table was like when they had to debate a case in front of them..
Alright, Monika is already asleep, so I’m off to bed. I should have gone to bed sooner… long days coming ahead of us…