Saturday, October 22, 2011

Intermission, Entry 8

Intermission Entry 8, October 23rd,2011, 11:07am (GMT +1)

Alright. Welcome back, blog.

The past eighteen days have been quitean adventure . . . five new countries, three new languages, andseveral new favorite foods. I'll be adding on bits from my travel notebook at the end of each entry, but for now I'm going to pick up in the present.

I've been on board the Independence of the Seas for three days now. She's a very different ship than the Grandeur. The Independence is nearly twice the size of my old home, with a crew population that is more than three times the size of my high school. It's a much newer ship, too – the Independence is on voyage 125, while the day I signed off the Grandeur was beginning
voyage 800. Even taking into account the longer 14 day and 18 day cruises that the Independence does, that's a pretty big difference.

She's a beautiful ship. The promenade deck has been lowered a level from the old Vision class ships, leaving a lot more room for balcony cabins. There is a flow rider, a
movie theater, two auditoriums, more restaurants than I can remember, a chapel, and an ice rink. Amidships on deck 5 there is a promenade, an interior street that runs a third the length of the vessel and stretches up several decks. Here there are shops, bars, restaurants, and entrances to the various clubs and theaters that the Independence offers. People have cabins that overlook the promenade and you can see them sitting in their windows watching the action. There's even a little bit where they lower the senior staff from the ceiling during the captain's cocktail dinner.

Is it as cool as an actual city block in a place like Barcelona? Of course not. But from an engineering standpoint, it's pretty impressive, especially since it floats,
travels at twenty knots, and the pool is sitting right above your head. Imagine Disneyland's main street encased in one hundred and forty thousand tons of steel, plumbing, and diesel powerplants. I heard a story about the captain on the Allure of the Seas . . . he bought a Harley Davidson motorcycle and rides it around up and down the street when he feels like it.

But what I'm most tickled about is that I'm crewing a ship named after Admiral Ackbar's flagship at the Battle of Endor. Nerd much?

Today we were in Vigo, Spain (although I spent several hours convinced that we were in Vigo, Portugal, and wondering why everyone was speaking Spanish). The city sits astride the Vigo estuary, where the river empties into the sea. Upon exiting the ship (on one of the four gangways . . . gonna have to get used to that) it became immediately apparent that I had returned to the land of warmth and light. London was bright, but cold, Paris was rainy and overcast for an entire week, and Vienna was blustery and brisk . . . I've been wearing a scarf for the past three weeks, but here in Spain it feels like the beginning of Spring. Vigo is an hour behind ship time, and was still smelling of fresh morning flowers as I strolled through town. I took a trip up to the fortress, which has been turned into a series of parks and gardens with fountains in various stages of disrepair. At the top of the hill in the innermost
series of walls is a great view of the city. A sign shows the location of different hill forts that used to mark the beginning of civilization on the Iberian peninsula . . . there were more than
twenty listed on the sign. I imagined standing at the top of the hill, looking around and being able to see my neighbors from miles away; little wisps of gray smoke curling up from wooden palisades, with acres of wild forest and scrub land between us. Very different than how the landscape looks now – suburbs stretching into the distance, a freeway overpass thrown across the valley in the distance. Spain is just as beautiful here as it was on the Mediterranean coast – I'm looking forward to walking the Camino de Santiago more and more.

On the way back to the ship, I decided to cut through some back alleys. They were in worse shape than I anticipated – while the roads were smooth and well maintained, some of the buildings were in the midst of getting the wrecking ball. The extent of Spain's financial woes was about to be shown to me.

I came into a plaza at one point were several women were sitting talking. When I came into view, something passed between them in Spanish – this is were I should have taken notice, but I paid it no mind. Two of them, both beautifully dressed, were ahead of me; an Anglo woman and a Spanish woman. The Anglo woman started walking in my direction; I changed paths to avoid her, but she did the same.

This is when the first switch tripped in my head. She said hello, and asked me if I was in a hurry. I didn't quite know what was going on yet, but I greeted her politely and pushed past despite the way she grasped my arm. The second woman (the Spanish one) then came up to me more forcefully. “Espere un poco, espere un poco!” (“Wait a little, wait a little!”). She took hold of me with a much stronger grip and started pushing me towards a little door in a building nearby. The room was pitch black inside.

Here I smiled; I'd figured out their game. “No, senorita, gracias,” I replied, pushing past her as well. They left me alone after that, with only a bit of cursing in frustration as I walked away. There wasn't a chance in hell that I was about to “wait a moment.” Less than twenty seconds later, I was on the main street with all the British tourists and their families. I doubt they had quite the shore side experience that I did. It was 1pm.

I don't know if the women were prostitutes or if they were just bait for a group of thieves inside the building. They weren't dressed particularly extravagantly, although they were both very attractive. I'm happy with how I reacted (through the entire situation it was like I was watching someone else walk down the street), but I'm glad that I'd had a couple months of traveling the world to prepare for this sort of thing. My safety depended on my strength of will being stronger than theirs; if the same thing had happened early in my first contract I might have been in trouble. It is good to see that I have matured enough to stay calm and trust my instincts.

I didn't notice until later that one of them had grabbed me hard enough to draw blood and that I was bleeding all down my arm. I washed it out very carefully when I got back to the ship – you never know with these sorts of things.

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