|Week before leaving
-- (Jan 11-20)
Week 1 --
(Jan 23-Feb 1 Puerto Rico)
2 -- (Feb 3-9 Salvador,
-- (Feb 10-16 On the way to
4 -- (Feb 19-24 Cape Town
and African Safari)
5,6 -- (Feb 25-March 8 Mauritius)
Week 7 --
(March 9-15 Chennai, India)
8 -- (March 16-22
Penang, Malaysia and Singapore)
9 -- (March 23-31 Ho Chi
Minh City, VietNam)
Week 10 --
(April 1-6 Hong Kong, Guilin Shanghai, China)
Week 11 --
(April 7-13 Kobe, Japan)
Week 12 --
(April 14-20 On the way to Hawaii)
Week 13 --
(April 21-27 Honolulu, Hawaii)
Week 14 --
(April 28-May 8 Puntarenas, Costa Rica)
Week Eight -- Journeywoman's
Semester At Sea...
16 -- Kids write the darndest things
there are little kiddies on board the MV Explorer. I like
seeing their sweet little faces especially when they take
part in some of the all-ship programs. There's a teacher on
board to tutor these young people and to supervise their recreational
activities. One of these kids is Eric, the delightful nine
year old son of Craig, the ship's Assistant Dean and his wife,
Stacey. After each port, Eric has been writing a postcard
for his class back in the USA. I thought his postcard about
India was right on. I asked Eric if I could take a photo of
him to publish along with his postcard. He agreed. His delicious
smile is as a result of me asking him to think of the funniest
thing his dog has ever done.
Greeting from India. There are billions of little auto carts
that are called wrigshaws.
It's like a motor cycle but bigger and the streets are really
dangerous so we almost got killed!
The food was spicy. It stinked so bad and it was really HOT.
I'll see you in 50 days. Bye!!!!
Kids write the
19 -- Hello Penang, Malaysia
Since I hadn't planned to get as far as Penang
on this journey, I didn't really prepare in advance for my
visit. In fact, I realized later in the trip that I never
took my malaria pills when I was there. Hopefully, that will
not come back to haunt me (actually ... I never really went
deep into the countryside ... but, still, that's no excuse...).
This port was different from all the others. The main harbour
was being renovated so we had to anchor outside and come into
the port by tender. That meant you had to time your return
to the ship carefully. If you missed one boat you waited at
least 20 minutes for the next. If you were waiting in the
noon day sun it was brutal. That's when an umbrella really
came in handy.
a little bit of quick research I learned that Penang's Malays
comprise about 30% of the population, 66% is Chinese, and
Indian, Malaysians make-up about 9% of the population. Yes
... I know these numbers add up to more than 100% but we're
only out by 5% so please give me a break. Since I knew so
little about this port and since I would be here for only
a few days, I decided to take an Island Orientation Tour.
Good move! Everywhere we went I found juicy evidence of these
three cultures living peacefully side by side. We visited
a Khoo Kongsi clan house (a rickshaw driver parked outside
the clan house let me use his vehicle as a photo prop), we
stopped at the Chor-su Kong Temple where poisonous snakes
are supposed to adorn the alter (Very false advertising! We
saw one snake that was sleeping, drugged out of his mind).
We stopped at the Kek Lok Si Temple (loved it!) and ended
with lunch at a seafood restaurant and a short tour of the
Botanical Gardens. Everybody (students and staff included)
made such a big fuss about the monkeys roaming the grounds.
Not sure why. They were really very ugly monkeys.
Loading the ship's
Checked out by the
Rickshaw driver spoke
Kek Lok Si Temple
tiles to raise money for a new temple
snake in Chor-su Kong Temple
Coming back from Penang's
20 -- Singapore Disappoints
I was really looking forward to flying to Singapore
from Penang. It was a city that I hadn't visited before and
I was curious. The folks in the SAS field office worked hard
to get me on this trip. I now feel like an ungrateful wretch
writing this report but, honestly, I think Singapore sucks.
Yes, it's clean. Yes, it's safe. Yes, there are a million
shops for you to buy, buy, buy from. But, then what? Singapore
is like the beautifully dressed woman who looks worldly and
sophisticated. Of course, you're interested in interacting
with her, chatting, exchanging ideas. Surprise! When you start
digging below her highly polished veneer there is very little
she says or does that interests you. Compare that to Salvadore
(Brazil) and Chennai (India). Yes, they're dirty, disheveled,
and can be dangerous but, oh ... the secrets that unfold when
you start exploring are definitely worth working for.
if it hadn't been so hot (32C/94F) I wouldn't have been so
cranky about my visit. I should have known that there wasn't
a lot to see when our tour guide walked us around and around
the same three downtown statues at the hottest time of the
day. I suspect he was too early for our next stop, the 'self-important'
Raffles Hotel where we were warned not to walk on their driveway
and not to ask their doormen to pose for pictures. After a
very brief tour of the facilities we were herded into a sub-room
of their coffee shop for chocolate cake (excellent) and coffee.
My sense was they were holding their nose long enough to feed
us, take our money and get us out with as little disturbance
to the 'real guests' as possible.
We explored the waterfront which is also the dining/entertainment
part of the city and that (I admit) was very picturesque with
open-air restaurants sitting right on the water's edge. As
one local told me (and many of the students echoed over the
next three days), 'the night life in Singapore is brilliant.'
I believe them. The heat and humidity during the day can be
absolutely oppressive so people wait till the sun goes down
to play outdoors. Locals and tourists alike are out strolling
and shops are open for business until 11 PM. My roommate went
out at 9 o'clock to eat and shop on her own and she reported
that she felt perfectly safe and had a fun time (she loved
the shoes in Singapore, inexpensive and a little more formal
that she could find in the U.S.). I tried shopping for electronics.
The discounting that goes on in this city is mind boggling.
Everybody offers you a deal but, buyer beware. Sure they'll
sell you a cheaper Canon battery but what they don't tell
you is that you're not getting the real thing. What you are
being sold is a copy that has absolutely no guarantee. Beside,
I didn't come to Singapore to shop for batteries. See? I told
you I was cranky.
My first glimpse of
The restaurants were
right on the water
Signs, shops and
'stuff to buy' everywhere
Singapore is very sleek
but also very shallow.
21 -- Heat, humidity and hyperventilation
two was not more satisfying than day one. This time I take
all responsibility for the mess. Perhaps the Tourism Goddess
was punishing me for my negative attitude. Walking into the
hotel I caught my sandal on one of the stone steps and I went
flying. Luckily I broke my fall with the palms of my hands
and just bruised my knee. After testing all my moveable parts
for malfunction I went to the bar and asked for a bag of ice
which I then applied to all my sore spots. If I could have
rested and gotten over the shock of flying through the air
all might have been fine. In the midst of this mess my phone
rang. The lovely woman (Marianne) that I met through HERmail.net
was waiting downstairs eager to show me her city. What an
introduction! She (kind lady) arrived with gift in hand, sat
with me while I iced my knee and even though I still felt
a little shaky off we went. It was really HOT but we decided
not to take an (air-conditioned) cab to the Indian and Malaysian
markets. We were travellers, not tourists, right? Marianne
felt that the markets were close enough to the hotel and that
I should experience what the local transportation was like.
What were we thinking?
We did get to the Indian Market quickly and worked hard
to find a chic outfit suitable for the Ambassador's Ball (the
one dress-up event of the voyage). It's hard to fall in love
with 'anything' when you're sweltering in the heat. Next we
were directed by the locals to the Malay part of town and
that turned out to be a longer bus ride than expected. I was
getting hotter and hotter and there seemed to be less and
less air available in the packed bus. I didn't complain because
I thought we'd be there any minute. By the time we actually
got there I felt weak and knew I was definitely dehydrated.
If it was 94 degrees outside it was way over 100 inside the
vehicle. Even the bottle of water I had with me had become
warm from the intense heat. I found the nearest air-conditioned
shop, bought a huge bottle of water, sat on a chair, rested,
and drank a lot. I had some salted crackers in my purse and
ate those (to help replenish the salt my body lost). We gave
up on our shopping excursion and decided to taxi back to the
hotel and just relax. A few hours later I still wasn't feeling
better so we went to the nearest medical clinic (thank goodness
for my new friend, Marianne who knew where to go). I chatted
with the doctor, told him I thought I was just having a panic
attack (falling, heat, crowded buses, etc). He examined me,
agreed with my diagnosis, chatted about Semester At Sea (took
the SAS website URL) and then Marianne and I went back to
the hotel. Poor woman. She felt so badly for taking me on
a bus but as a local she was used to the heat and humidity
(no kidding... she was wearing a long-sleeved black t-shirt
and was fine). There was really no harm done. I told her our
adventure would make a really great travel story for my SAS
blog. With the drama behind us, Marianne and I had a lovely
dim sum/high tea at the hotel before we said our goodbyes.
I'm sure she had lots of stories to tell her friends about
the foreigner who couldn't 'take the heat.'
Chatting with locals
on city bus
Marianne & I shopped
for a dress for the Ball
Shoes in the Indian
22, 2008 -- Meeting friends and family in Singapore
may not have liked the city of Singapore but I so enjoyed
the people I met there. First it was Marianne who treated
me with such kindness and consideration when I wasn't feeling
well. Then it was my ex son-in-law, Richie (my pet name for
him) who lives in Singapore with his lovely wife and two sweet
daughters. They visited twice, took me to dinner at a funny
little Greek restaurant and we used our time together to fill
each other in on the adventures of our respective families.
Even after ten years of not seeing each other, Richie still
calls me 'Mama' and I still love him, dearly. Best of all
... what a special treat to have his little ones call me,
Twenty years ago I met Soo-Tsu Leng on a train going from
Chicago to Albuquerque. He and his family were from Malaysia;
Soo-Tsu had just graduated from university in the USA. He
was twenty-two then and I was fifty-eight. Despite our age
difference we spoke for three days as the train crossed the
country. I remember how intelligent and gentle he was then.
The next time I met Soo-Tsu was when he was travelling through
Canada. Without hesitation I offered him accommodation in
my home and he was just as pleasant then as had been during
our first encounter. Many years passed and we kept in touch
sporadically. Several years ago Soo-Tsu, who is now living
in Singapore, read about me in a local magazine. He contacted
me via email and I, in turn, promised to call him if my travels
ever took me to Singapore. We met for breakfast before I flew
back to Penang. Soo-Tsu is now 42 years old, much more worldly
than the young student I first encountered. He has already
earned a bit of gray in his hair; he is as polite, clever
and considerate as I remembered him to be many years ago.
Once again there were no silences in our conversation.
I'm so glad I went to Singapore.
Richie and his
Flying to Penang
with Singapore Airlines
End of Week