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Location: Upper Canada

Thursday, February 24, 2005

More from Carl and Annie

thought I would post some of the correspondence from Carl and Annie as they send it along, to provide a place for people to comment and chat about what sounds like a trip of a lifetime... although Carl should be blogging it himself...

bon voyage, mon amis... et bon chance...


Tue, Feb 1
... Well, we were off on an
adventure and it certainly was more than we had
bargained for. When we left Vancouver, the evening of
the 18th, it was calm and nice, but as soon as we got
to the open ocean, it was high seas (15 feet or so)
and lots of folks not feeling well. I was ok and able
to teach my classes as we began the semester at sea.
Annie is a major sailor and had no problems at all.

On the 21st we had a major storm (20-25 foot waves)
and I wrote in my diary as the opening sentence: "Woke
about 1 a.m., have never seen anything like this.
Things were literally flying around the room--class
papers, books, suitcases from under the bed. Hard to
describe, boat just rocking hard from side to side,
scattering anything that was not put away securely. We
were awake most of the night, lots of banging."

In the morning still taught my classes, but chairs and
desks would slide across the room with the movement of
the boat. As the day went on, the seas calmed a bit
and we were able to go along, although acting a lot
like drunken sailers. Teaching going well, I like my
students. We are going along at around 40 degrees N.
latitude, pretty rough but manageable. We both have a
bit of an appetite, so all is well at this point. We
have our sealegs, even in the 15-20 foot swells. We
cross the international dateline and lose the 26th, go
from 25th to 27th.

Then, on the new morning of the 27th (Thursday), all
hell broke loose, literally. The previous storm was
nothing, and again I will quote from my diary: "I feel
fortuneate to be able to write this down. About 1
a.m., the boat took a huge jolt and all of a sudden we
were in a major storm--very high winds and huge waves
in the ocean. Everything rolling around, we could not
even stay in our beds, being thrown around. The beds
were just rolling around and banging into walls and
cabinets. About then the captain came on the ship
intercom to reassure us and to indicate he would be
trying to skirt the storm. No sleep possible as the
ship motion was just in a major turmoil, everything
literally just bouncing and sliding around. I was
thrown out of my bed and slid across the floor--rug
burns on my elbows. Annie fell and got a bit of a
wrenched knee. I have any early class and slid into
the bathroom about 6 a.m. to take a shower--holding on
for dear life. I was just getting out, with a careful
balancing act, and the emergency alarm bell sounded.
We were all instructed to dress, put on our life
jackets, and go into the hall area immediately. Our
room is in absolute shambles, even the heavy glass
table has been turned over and shattered into a
million pieces. When we got out of the room, the other
faculty were in the hall, life vests on and all more
than a little frightened. We told stories, jokes,
sang songs--the crew went back in forth trying to get
things going. Then an announcement--the ship bridge
window had been broken (we found out later by a 55
foot wave--with over 100 mph winds pushing it)and all
of the navigation equipment soaked by the sea water,
and one of the engines out. Captain trying to find the
best and safest way out of the storm, indicated to the
South. We spent 6 hours in the on the deck hall, had
water and trail mix--some crew brought fruit. They
have been just marvelous. Another announcement--not
possible to go on toward Japan--have to go South and
probably to Midway Island, about 3 days to the South."

It was really amazing, such power in nature that can
just throw that huge ship around. As we went South the
seas were still high but in a day more manageable.
Taught classes the next day amid all of the rubble.
Pretty amazing, everything just trashed--the library,
computer room , glass everywhere. And, the crew had it
pretty well cleaned up in 48 hours. Still, the
devastation is hard to describe. In effect, we were in
a hurricane and managed to survive. Really a great
community here, we all got back to our business and it
still works. A day or so later (lots of time running
together here), we heard from the captain that Midway
would not have the facilities to repair the ship, and
the next nearest place is Hawaii, and so, here we go
"home." How ironic, hard to imagine. Back across the
dateline, so not really sure what day it is. Calmer
and calmer, and yesterday morning, Oahu was in the
distance. Such a wonderful sight. All of the kids are
so anxious to get off the ship and just be young
people again.

I was asked by the ship class director to give a talk
on Hawaii to all of the community, about 700 of us. I
gave a bit of history, and shared my love and aloha
for the islands, a few photos, and my hour "lecture"
was well received. And then, when I said the essense
of the islands was the music and the dance, I invited
Annie up to do the hula. A good thing it was toward
the end, but she was so wonderful, just brought the
house down literally, people standing and applauding.
It was just so wonderful--she is now the celebrity on
board. That magic was just what we all needed.

And now here we are in Honolulu, not sure how long we
will be there as the ship gets repaired. Annie and I
got on the bus and made our way to John and Mary's
house in Waikiki. Wonderful to see these
old friends, so glad to be here. But then, as the old
saying goes, we are glad to be anywhere. Right now
John and David (his brother) playing the ukeleles and
Annie and Mary are singing, and Mary T just arrived,
so I will cut this off. We are fine, healthy (a few
bumps and bruises) and thankful. So, pass the word
that all is well and we will be talking again soon.
Love and Aloha, Carl and Annie.

Wed, Feb 16
The official word around
Semester at Sea is the "F" word--flexible. And, it is
essential. We were suppose to fly out of Honolulu to
Shanghai on a charter on Feb 10, but turned out that
the crew did not have Chinese visas, so it was a mad
scramble to get 800 people onto regular flights. Annie
and I stayed in Honolulu for two extra days, which was
wonderful and allowed us to spend time with Gary and
Mary T and Mary and John, and to have
dinner with Alex and Betty - such a grand old
couple they are--early 90's and mid 80's and still going
strong.

Anyway, we left finally on the evening of Feb 11 and
took the red eye to San Francisco, and then a long 12
hour flight to Beijing on the 12th--crossing the date
line so really the 13th. Where are we? But also
wonderful times in San Francisco for a couple of hours
when Laura and Sweet Chella came down to see us at the
airport--they drove two hours from Sacramento. So
special to see them, our little girl is growing up so
strong and smart. We just marvel at her, and at her
Mom. To see some family after the ordeal at sea was
more than we can say.

On the flights, I am reading papers for class, and
evaluating exams. The show must go on. And finally in
Beijing, 17 million people in the heart of the new
China. And, we are impressed. Not the downtrodden,
poor repressed city, but alive and bustling, cars
everywhere and people on the move. China is the
country of the future--it just shows everywhere in
terms of the atmosphere. We were met by some local
university folks and taken to a nice hotel pretty
close to downtown. Students anxious to get out and see
the city--Annie and I pretty exhausted and into bed
fairly early. Small hotel, but quite nice--good hard
bed and hot, hard shower. Two for two.

Chinese breakfast with lots of veggies and rice and
eggs. And then a day to tour--such a gorgeous place.
First to Tian'enmen Square and the Mao masuleum(?).
Very impressive, a student/government battleground in
1989. The guide told us that military folks not well
received these days in Beijing because of the
brutality that happen that time 15 years ago.

Then across the square to the Forbidden City. No words
can do it justice, so we took many photos. The beauty
and grandeur of imperial China was amazing. The
current regime taking restoration and preservation
seriously--a wonder of the world here. A buffet lunch
(all local, all Chinese), and then to what is called
the Temple of Heaven. Impressive in a lovely park
setting. Then to a market centre where we bought a
nice Jade piece--going to keep the shopping to a
minimum, everything has to be carried. Things are
inexpensive and lots of bargaining--I am in my
element. Back to the hotel for about an hour and then
out to see a Chinese Acrobat Show. Wow, just unreal
what those folks can do with their bodies. Very
civilized, served beer in the theatre. Then a nice
meal in a local spot--students made friends with many
of the Chinese folks there. We even had a very good
bottle of wine.

More adventure--we woke to a couple of inches of snow
on the ground, not really prepared, wore our runners.
Today we headed for the great wall of China, one of
the wonders of the world. Roads were tough, many cars
sliding around in the snow and off the road--our bus
plowed right through. A couple of hours and on the
magic wall--snow everywhere and students just having a
ball. Annie and I walked to the top on one enbankment,
sliding and laughing all the way, up and down. Bought
some more jade at a government shop--again lots of
bargaining. Hard to describe the majesty of this site,
especially in these winter conditions. Local people
there and having just a ball. We left after noon and
back to an American restaurant (of a sort) where pizza
was the order of the day for the young folks. A cold
day, so it is nice to be inside for the warmth for a
bit.

Then, the best part of all, a visit to the Summer
Palace of the Emperor--all of these emperor type areas
are around 600 years old. This is on a lake, at a
large hill, 1,000 acres of trees and flowers--in
season. Kids were out on the frozen lake, making
snowpeople and just having fun. Such beauty and
splendor, lots of colour and intricate patterns on the
walls and ceilings. We climbed the hill and had a
pretty treacherous but exciting walk down the steep
and slippery stairs. Taking lots of pictures to share
with all of you one day.

We went to the Business University and met some
students, both local and international. They joined us
for a very wonderful, colourful dinner at a nearby
local place. Food is excellent and more than
plentiful. Eating too much, gaining weight--but worth
it to experience all of the culinary delights. Wine
not so good here so drank beer which was fine. Into
bed fairly late, exhausted from the hiking and the
cold.

We packed the next morning (the 16th) and loaded up
our two busses. Students have been great--fun loving
but responsible. And, we are all still here, healthy
and ready for whatever. Went to a market for some
shopping and then to the airport for our late
afternoon flight to Hong Kong. The airline is called
Dragon Air and I have never been on such a first class
trip. Just excellent service and food and atmosphere.
Our travel industry could learn a bunch from these
folks. Into Hong Kong after dark and today we are on a
long trip to see the city. Will keep you updated,
probably next from Viet Nam. Miss and love you guys.
Aloha, Carl and Annie.

Wed, Feb 23
Hong Kong - a big, bustling, Western city with some of the orient
thrown in. We took some tours and just browsed
around--I had teaching days and so pretty busy. Hard
to see the students for a few days and then we go on
our separate ways for a week or more, on field trips.

On Feb. 20, we arose at the ungodly time of 4 a.m. and
took the bus to the airport for our flight to Viet
Nam. We are flying on Cathay Pacific, first class for
Faculty (RHIP--rank has its privilege). After three
hours, we found ourselves in hot, humid Ho Chi Minh
City. What an experience this half hour drive to our
hotel. People and traffic, mainly motor bikes, are
just everywhere and literally going in every
direction. Few lights but somehow they are seem to
weave in and out and be successful at not killing
anyone. As the days went on, we found it a true
adventure to even cross the busy streets. The whole
atmosphere reminds us a great deal of Mexico--emerging
country with a mixture of the urban and rural, both in
terms of behaviour and attitude. And in the warm
climate, everyone out and on the streets. We like it a
lot.

Our hotel is called the New World, very nice--we have
a good room on the exercise floor, need to get a
little body beating in. We walked down through a huge
open market, again, much like Mexico. We walked about
a mile past the Opera House and lots of folks wanting
to sell various goods. We had lunch at our central
hotel and then went to the War Museum--as the
Vietnamese call it, "The American War." Thousands of
photos of what went on here in the 60s and 70s, just
breaks our hearts to see all of the destruction and
death that went on for basically nothing. Lots of our
young students were crying, from both sorrow and
shame. Such a bloody period--60,000 U.S. soldiers
died, around 2 million Vietnamese. Just does not seem
we can ever learn--such a waste of property and
people, a slaughter of the innocents. Back to the
hotel for a shower and then took a "cyclo"--little
bicyle drawn carriage--to the main hotel for dinner.
What a blast out in all of that traffic, and the
driver just know how to negotiate, both you and the
traffice. 15 minutes of pure fun.

No rest for the wicked, the next day we all organized
(there are 59 of us going to Cambodia) and at around
noon made our way to the airport for the short flight
to Phnom Penh. I am a bus leader so have to keep track
of my half of the travelers--primarily students who
signed up for this field trip (Annie a big help, and
as all of you know, she has just won the hearts of all
of these kids--they worship her). Passport the main
thing, have to guard them with our lives--and
inevitably someone leaves a passport somewhere. But,
all really smooth. Easy flight, our guide (Virag) met
us at the airport and into the city we travelled. A
couple of hours at the King's Palace and the Silver
Pagoda. Just such a special site, and we took lots of
photos. Shoes off when in the temples, shoulders
covered and no shorts. People are so friendly to us,
and they are very handsome and easy to like. We then
went for a nice, easy boat ride on the Mekong
River--huge body of pretty muddy water, lots of shanty
towns along the edge. It is a third world area, make
no mistake. Lots of development yet to come, and
tourism a recent adventure for them. In general, it
has been a bloody past for these folks with first the
French, then the rise of the really nasty Kymer Rouge
(murdered millions of their own people), American
bombs and Viet Namese attacks. Now fairly peaceful and
working toward a democratic govt. People outspoken,
seems corruption is the major hurdle right now. We had
a great Thai/Cambodia dinner and then to just about
the nicest hotel I have every been in, The Phnom Penh.
First class all the way. We are exhausted, had a
drink with some of the students and then to bed for an
early day tomorrow.

A difficult and wonderful day. Checked out and drove
to the school in town where the Kymer Rouge had made a
prison and interrogated the people. Bloody indeed,
really sobering to see it. Then our for a couple of
hours in the Killing Fields--mass graves where
literally thousands of dissidents were
murdered--primarily because they made had had some
Western influence like education. A really scary time
for these folks--25 percent of the population was
killed the the four years from 1975. From this horror,
we went on to the airport and the flight to central
Cambodia to Siem Reap where we will visit the temples
of Angkor Wat for the next couple of days. Built in
the 12th century, the temples are just unreal in both
their immensity and their detail. We all wandered
around with eyes bulging at the ancient splendor, and
it has survived reasonably well--restoration also
going on. Our guide (Manay) kind of adopted Annie and
me and so we had more or less a personal tour. Very
knowledgeable, it was wonderful. Climbed steep steps,
lots of sculpture--amazing. Students very good about
being on time and on the bus when they are suppose to
be. We went to our hotel (The Lotus Angkor--nice, but
we are spoiled) to shower and get ready for dinner and
a cultural dance. Always good food, healthy so far.
Annie took a fall and scraped her arm, but not bad and
we plug around. Always a bit of a stomach issue for me
but nothing to slow us down. The dancing was special,
very familar and at the same time exotic--we loved it.
Home in time to fall into bed before sleep overtook
us.

Full moon time, lights the morning sky. Up at five for
a sunrise to the Angkor Wat, but Annie and I missed
the bus (everyone had a hotel wake-up call, but we did
it on our own--and when all the wake-up call folks
were there, they just left). So, the bus leader left
behind. We rented a tuktuk (motorbike drawn carriage)
and made it out to the site not far behind the bus.
Had to get Manay to come out and get us--we had no
ticket. Lots of photos, and the back to the hotel for
breakfast. And then a different kind of trip, we went
to Tonle Sap Lake to see a rural village and boat
houses. I have seen poverty in many places, but
nothing quite like this. Just filthy water and kids
trying to make a living and adults trying to fish. Our
hearts went out to them. We went out in an old boat
with an old engine(remined me of one of my old
cars)and just sat in silence as we went by the truly
difficult life style these folks have to contend with.
So little in the way of "things"--but again there is a
sense of life going on here, and it is important for
all of us to see this kind of world--as Doug says, "If
you are born in North America, you have already won
the lottery."

Back to the hotel to check out and a long afternoon at
more of the temples in Angkor region--these are in
less good condition but still impressive. Took lots of
photos one day we will share--probably more even than
you would want. Even saw some monkeys in the trees. To
the airport just as the full moon rose--we were at it
from sunrise so more than a full day. Flight back to
Viet Nam fairly easy and it now seems like a much more
modern place after Cambodia. A huge surprise--Annie
and I and another couple of folks were put up in the
Presidential Suite--Georgie Boy and Bill Clinton had
stayed here. Pretty fancy indeed. But, we were so
tired we just fell into bed. Have a bit of the
quickstep, but it goes with the territory.

This morning we are going to just hang out, do some
exercise and running, eat a bit and just walk around
the city. So that is our rather long story, and we are
loving it. We are suppose to be back on our ship
tomorrow, the 25th. It will be good to stop living
out of a suitcase. We will stay in touch. Love and
aloha, Annie and Carl

4 Comments:

Blogger Sluggo said...

my goodness, seeing it all in one place makes it even more jaw-dropping...

February 24, 2005 2:15 PM  
Anonymous clown said...

wow, what a story, can't wait to see the next installment...

February 24, 2005 5:15 PM  
Anonymous DB said...

makes tripping to NY state to ski seem mundane - but still good!

February 25, 2005 10:14 AM  
Blogger Sluggo said...

to paraphrase one D. Rumsfeld,
"you have to got ski at the mountains you have, not the mountains you want"

have reserved for Tremblant end of March, though...

February 25, 2005 10:52 AM  

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