Odyssey to "Down Under" – Emotional Pro

September 28th, 2008

Sunday, September 28, 2008       Today marks our third full day of traveling on the MS Volendam (Holland America) atop the massive Pacific Ocean.  For most of the voyage it has been cool and overcast.  This early morning (6 a.m.), there are large breaks in the cumulus clouds where light pink hues are showing through.  Behind us we can see the makings of a sunrise, far, far behind us.  We are en route to Hawaii, where Honolulu will be our first stop.  As of three hours ago, we were halfway there!  We left Long Beach (California) Harbor at 5 p.m. Thursday night; we’ll arrive in Honolulu at noon on Tuesday.  And if there is one thing that has come fully to my awareness so far, it is that though I have often reminded myself that our planet is ¾ covered with water, I have never felt the full impact the way I have with days of plodding through nothing but water, with water as far as I can see in any direction!  It certainly makes me respect early explorers who set out upon the ocean without even knowing what was “out there,” on ships much smaller than ours, hoping to live long enough to tell someone of their adventures and discoveries.


Thus far, we have escaped most of the hoopla the cruise line creates to distract people from the apparent tediousness of the voyage.  We have not attended the cooking demonstration, the tennis serve competition, daily Bingo, the jewelry sale, or taken a turn at gambling in the on-board casino!  We have participated in the early morning exercise program, attended the lectures on natural and cultural history related to Hawaii, gone to a couple of evening shows, and taken a dip in the saltwater-filled pool on deck 8!  My husband plans to attend Mass this morning, while I commune with All-That-Is on the deck of our Verandah cabin.  And that, BTW, is what we have mostly done—sit on our private balcony and listen to the water being pushed from the prow of the ship, watching the endless movement of the sea, while we talked, read or just sat.  After all the hubbub of the last few months, getting prepared to be away from home for nearly two months, we have welcomed the opportunity to be at peace, be quiet, and just “be.”


We have also enjoyed really good food, and the company of many interesting people from around the globe.  Thus far we have met many Canadians, English, Australians and New Zealanders, in addition to Americans and the German couple with whom we dined last night.  (I tried my rusty German and did a tolerable job of communicating!)  There have been a lot of doctors among them, people who have worked hard and are now retired and taking life back in instead of constantly serving others.  There are other occupations represented, too.  Last night we dined with an Industrial Arts teacher and his wife from Australia; the previous night our companions were an English postmaster and his wife, a retired purchasing agent for a large company.  We also were joined at our big table by the University of Hawaii professor, George Losey, who is offering the cultural and natural history lectures, along with a man from New Zealand and his engaging Beijing-born wife.  It’s delightful to get to know people from all walks of life, most of whom are terribly proud of their children and grandchildren, who are out enjoying themselves in the waning years of life.  And what a difference a generation of two makes!  In my childhood, people in their 70’s and 80’s would have been very unlikely to be globe-trotting.


And we do have CNN, so we watched the Presidential Candidate Debate.  We have to live closely with each other for the next month, so I notice that few people are vociferous in their partisanship here aboard the Volendam.  Our International travelers are very curious when they inquire.  Performers on stage reassure the mostly-American audience that they are sure our United States will regain itself as a result of this upcoming election and get back to the country most people outside of our shores recognize as the US!


It’s great to be trapped on a floating ship with 1400 people whose focus is rest, relaxation, having a good time and just “being.”  The attitude is positive.  One of the most charming things I have observed is the number of people populating the “Explorations Café,” a place lined with shelves of books, sitting about reading together as we slowly progress toward the center of the Pacific Ocean.  One of our dinner companions last night, a retired US Navy man who is a dedicated Geek, informed us that he put his GPS in such a position that he could measure our speed—25 miles per hour.  At this point, we are half-way to the half-way-in-the-middle-of-the-Pacific spot, and loving every minute!

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