November 2007 Archives

returning to reality at 43

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Upon rereading this post I insert a warning that it is a real meanderings of thought which further demonstrates how scattered I am right now. Backposts of our trip to follow.

Today I am 43. After arriving home after midnight on thanksgiving eve, celebrating thanksgiving, and then taking the next day to basically unpack, I find myself at today amidst the mess that is what was left of our house and my studio in the wake of preparing for a conference and extended trip.

can you say, psychological whiplash?

What would normally be a day of introspection and reflection and projection toward the next year of my life has been replaced with the basic desire to clean up the mess.

In the last post I expressed that our avp show went well, in truth it was just o.k. A few new opportunities were the real fruit, but the original goal of more subscribers came up woefully short for the expense of the show and all the advertising. Other vendors that had exhibited previously complained that this show was not as good because of the new location being a new building far removed from the normal foot traffic. But I knew going in that it was going to be a bit of a calculated risk, but with many unknowns. So my expectations weren't high, but hopeful.

ah well, live and learn.

At least I may get a book deal out of the deal.

But I was again reminded of how much big business there is in the church business. In fact the first day in which we set up the show I felt like running away screaming. Especially when the booth next to ours cost the vendors fifty thousand dollars.(they were pretty proud of their business success)

In contrast our little display fit into a golf bag and a suitcase and took approximately 20 minutes to set up. Nonetheless, we still managed to look pretty professional even on a shoestring. And I would have a serious crisis of conscience spending oodles of dough on something that didn't either feed, clothe or directly help someone, and you can't eat a booth display. (but our promotional t-shirts ended up in an unexpected place that could never have been planned or predicted)

I was grateful however, that the unconventional multiface image that I chose for our booth banner, advertising, t-shirts, etc. was what seemed to attract attention, even enough to prompt an interview from Rev magazine.

And there were glimpses of real ministry in the buzz and whirl of the business. A woman approached us admiring our t-shirts said that she lead a group that helped to transition young women out of prison into a new life by giving them a place to stay, a stable job all while giving them the tools not to go back to their addict boyfriends, abusive fathers, or whatever evils lead them to prison in the first place. It later became clear to me when no subscribers were materializing (to get a free t-shirt) that no one would appreciate our t-shirts more than her and her girls, so that is where the whole lot of them went.

So, in a nutshell...
lots of conversation
one interview,
three potential publishers for "art for worship basics"
reconnected potential partnerships
and one annionting with oil (another post)

All in all an interesting foray into what has become an industry of outreach. Lot's of good people doing their best to do what they think is important or morally right in a world that pivots on a pinhead of commercialism. It is a bag full of paradox.

and now I am home.

our show display
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display packed

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day six: mazatlan (part four...night)

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Time for dinner.

One of the many interesting things about ship life is the fact that you lose track of what day it is. The elevators helped you counter this with carpets labeled with the day of the week which the crew changed out accordingly.

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Tonight was the "Master Chef's extravaganza," which apparently included a mandatory napkin waving ceremony.

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Tuna Tartare

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Back at our stateroom we are greeted by a towel elephant.

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Leaving NidArt and wanting to immerse ourselves even deeper into the normal rhythm of the town we headed toward the central market. Again, the fundamentals of life tend to show how cultures are more similar than they are different. I love this.

And I am realizing that this immersion is exactly what is missing when you take a tour. Along with the fact that you can't take your time stopping for the perfect photo.

Lesson learned.

Perusing the market with all it's great sights and smells, I wanted to sample everything. But silly, me we had just eaten...

so we will just look.

One of the things you often find in these markets is comfy cotton clothing. It isn't hand made or anything, but it is sort of signature mexico. I had tried on something several days before at a quick stop (from our tour) but can't make decisions that quickly so I kind of had an eye out for something similar. Then I spotted something that would look great on Bryan. I encouraged him..."this would be great for you"... just as a girl approached us to make a sale. Now unlike our friend Rak at NidArt most vendors (especially at the local market) don't take credit cards. Bryan realized after leaving the ship that he had left most of his cash onboard, and we had already used some for the taxi into town. As we spoke appologetically to the girl about our limited cash she thought that we were bargaining...the shirt was priced at 23 dollars.

Bryan had twenty and change and we needed to get a taxi back. So we started to walk away.

So the girl started coming down in price...

"No, no, you don't understand, we don't mean to be negotiating, we are really honesty short on cash and don't want to short change you..." We expressed. This was embarrasing.

So the girl went down in price again...

Now we are feeling kind of guilty when the girl lands at fifteen dollars...

"That's ok", she says, "I sell it for that much all the time".

We laugh, suddenly guilt free. Neither one of us make good bargainers. The last time we bargained for something was a trip several years ago in Marida, the item was a hammock and we got a great deal because the shop owner mistook Bryan's urgent need to find a bathroom (yes we got really sick that trip) for holding out on the best price.

Apparently it takes forces beyond our control for us to get a good deal.

Anyway, the girl seemed happy with the fifteen dollars, and we were thrilled with Bryan's new shirt.

The sun was beginning to get low and it was time to find a taxi back to the ship.

What a fun day... and we still had dinner on the ship to look forward to.

produce.
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cheese.
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pig.(who apparently died happy)
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seeing me snapping the previous picture, the butcher grabbed another "head" to pose for a picture.

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Our taxi driver whisks us back to "balco touristico". I have found (with very few exceptions) taxi drivers are the best people in the world. In florence, rome, dublin and now mexico, they continue to impress me as the most warm, friendly, and genuinely interested in you, often giving the best history of their region than any tour guide ever could(ok I know I need to get over the tour thing).

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day six: mazatlan (part two...afternoon)

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After parting ways with the school children we wandered further down the street taking in some of the amazing architecture. Some being restored and some reduced to rubble it made for some great photo subjects. One of the beautifully restored homes we encountered had been turned into a gallery called NidArt. (nest of artisans)

A family of leather artists lived here and showed their work and the work of other local artists. I was enchanted immediately. Not just because the father, Rak, was so proud of his work and gallery, but because we were seeing something original and with heart. It is easy to recognize a kindred spirit. He had accomplished here what we hoped to do (sort of) in the bahamas. We even described our dream to him and watched his eyes light up.

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www.nidart.com


The real challenge was selecting something from all the beautiful work this family did. Because (I expect) of their proximity to the historic theatre they created masks, mostly. But their one deviation from this was scuptures of the female figure. Swirled in different colors of leather each one was a little different. They also incorporated snake skin and even snapper skin(yes the fish) that they had dyed. I fell in love with two of the works but couldn't decide. Explaining what had me torn to Bryan he proceeded to speak to Rak...

"We have a problem," he said sort of in jest... and continued to explain how much we liked one but it lacked the snapper skin that the other one had.

I cringed... hating to ever put my personal preference against another artist's creation.

Rak expressed cheerfully that he could incorporate that extra detail without compromising the original design. And he could have it for us in a few hours.

wow.

But it didn't stop there. Rak was also very helpful in steering us toward a great place to eat...

"Something, NOT touristy"? Bryan inquired. Having walked through the center of the historic downtown we saw what appeared to be oodles of good looking restaurants...

Mentioning these to Rak, he politely shook his head in the negative while scrunching his nose...

message received.

He directed us toward the water, about four blocks walking distance, to La Copa La Leche.

We were so glad that he did.

Along the way we encountered other great little places that held tempting promise of treasure, but it was time to find food...
And if you haven't figured it out yet...

it is always about the food.
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Having amazing seafood on the ocean is always a good thing. And there is nothing better than the perfect margarita. (Although this one isn't as big as it looks...being in the forground made it look like I could stick my whole head in the glass and wear it like a hat).

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Making friendly conversation with the restaurant people and finishing with flan... we headed back to see our final artwork by Rak.

Perfect.


More images of the studio and gallery of NidArt.

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day six: mazatlan (part one...morning)

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Our sixth day took us to the port of mazatlan. And no tendering(thankfully) as we are docked. Getting off the boat we are greeted by a gauntlet of folk aggressively vying for our attention to buy or book whatever they happen to be selling. This particular day we are resolute and a little wiser. We wade our way through them trying to politely decline all their offers (truly you feel as if you are carrion recently discovered by a flock of vultures) until we find a simple taxi driver. Here the taxis are golf carts, and in just a few minutes we are wisked away to the historic center of town.

Free to wander at last.

This ended up being my favorite day of the cruise. Aside from the diving experience, wandering around mazatlan was perfect.

We checked out the church first and proceeded inside just before a service. Beautiful and serene, we sat down in one of the pews to take it in. In front of us an older woman greeted a younger man, crossing him and kissing him on the cheek. Mother and son. A beautiful moment. We sat for a while and then quietly got up and took a few pictures.

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As we exited the church a large group was entering. Narrator loudly leading a tour of folk....

all wearing bright green stickers.

I smiled to myself as we left.

We headed for the historic district where we found an interesting arts area and noticed big posters with dates on them advertising various arts events. Tonight there was a ballet...

But the boat left at seven. That is too bad.

Curious we crept into the theatre building and was first discouraged by an elderly man, but then tried another entrance and was met by a woman. Broken Spanish and English brought us to the understanding that there was a performance of tonight's ballet going on right now for all the school children.

Can we see?

Sure... so we entered the theatre and went up to one of the balconies. Opening the door to a darkened theatre was weird and seemed almost illegal...but we had permission. A few vacant chair among a sea of school children.... we took the seats and began to watch.

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very cool. Now I was enjoying the trip and feeling very sorry for the people we had seen earlier on the tour.

We watched the ballet feeling very priveliged to be the only foreigners in the building. Exiting with scads of kids we looked a little out of place, but no body seemed to mind.

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I was reminded that the fundamental things that people care about seem to be universal. School kids are school kids in any culture (although these seemed to be much more well behaved than their american counterparts). The need for education and how that is accomplished is pretty much the same. We watched as the teachers guided the children out of the theatre and down the street back to school.

This morning was filled with anticipation. Today we would be going diving. If you have read previous posts of mine regarding this you know that the idea of diving carries a certain amount of anxiety with it. Fear is one of the reasons that I got certified in the first place. My hope was that some day I might not be so afraid, but we don't get to do it enough to erase that and so each time is always a little scary. This time was no exception.

But the site we were going to was extra special, a colony of sea lions that would swim and play around you. And the group of divers was small which helps take the pressure off because diving is always a bit of a group event sometimes leaving a less experienced diver feeling inadequate.

like me.

Although this would be around my eighteenth dive, that is like infancy in scuba years and so I still struggle with some of my basic skills.

like breathing.

But really it is always like another test due to the time span between the last one. Our dive master was very patient as I paused when he told me to jump off the boat...

"no ladder'?

"Haven't you jumped before?" He asked me.

Of course I had but it had been a while. And for some reason I was the first one off the boat this time (which was really freaking me out) instead of someone going before me so I could at least watch...

so I bucked up, grabbed hold of my regulator and jumped.

(I am freaking out right now just typing this)

I know that any dive master worth his salt probably wouldn't let me dive if they knew how nervous I got before a dive. Determination tends to be the tool of the day to go from step to step...Getting in the water, then releasing the air from your bcd making you sink... feeling the slight drag as you breath in from the air tank(its harder than breathing normally), and then regulating your bouyancy by how much air you keep in your lungs. That is how you control your depth which unfortunately on my second dive went completely haywire.

At any rate this would be a shallow dive of only 30-40 feet which was of some comfort...

until the dive master lead us into a cave.

Now cave diving takes another level of testing and certification which neither Bryan and I have so I was kind of shocked that he was leading us into a cave. Until I realized that the top of the cave was above the surface line which made it technically not a cave.

But it felt like one at first. Until the sea lions.

This is where the sea lions came to play. We were six divers and not all of us could fit at one time but took turns. Quite a magical experience being inches away from these amazing creatures. The dive master would spin and they would swim around him. The snorklers above us could actually pet the pups (although one lady confessed to me that she got belly bonked by a big mama out to protect them).

More magic was the sardines. The giant school dodged and weaved around us like a flock of birds. (mom this would have really freaked you out). Athough they were often inches from you they never encrouched completely into your space, almost as if there was an imaginary line they couldn't cross.

An then there were all sorts of variety of fish, eel, and sea coral.

beautiful.


prepping the gear.

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trying to get into my wetsuit.

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me with the video camera.

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Bryan with some aquatic friends.

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Bryan with a sea lion.

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sardines anyone?

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dolphins at eve

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Today we are docked. Although rumored to be a port that is not worth getting off at I can't quite understand why the cruise line would port her for no reason.

I later found out.

The fact that the name of the city has five "o"s in it should have been a clue.

But determined to get off and have a free day to explore, rest, and possibly get some beach time we disembarked. By now I was in some serious need of water after seeing two days worth of desert.

So there was talk of a "free shuttle" to the beach provided by the locals so Bryan inquired to a lovely young woman that seemed to have all the info. It is free but you need a ticket (which I didn't quite get, but oh well I guess it is their way to keep a count of passengers.)

Although our wait may be an hour we got a ticket for the next available time...

Garnering what we thought was enough info about the "shuttle" what we understood was that it went into the downtown but would eventually get to the beach.

I envisioned a loop like a lot of cities do providing courtesy transportation.

I am convinced now and after the last couple of days that I must learn spanish. Shuttle doesn't translate well apparently as we were to soon find out.

The next shuttle was filling up and not wanting to wait a whole hour we thought we would be smart and stand next to the door in case there just happened to be a few extra seats.

There were. The seats weren't together, but one at the very front (jump seat) and one in the center at the very back.

That's fine, what will it be... fifteen minutes maybe...we thought. We can sit apart for that long (I had been playfully calling this trip a second honeymoon). And I can stand a bus for just a short time...it is not like it is a tour... it is a "shuttle".

So I took the back seat, the doors closed and we were off. Wearing my swimsuit I was so ready for a little beach time.

Then the lovely young lady at the front of the bus began to narrate.

No problem, I thought, she just wants to keep us informed as we get on and get off at our various destinations.

Not so.

As I watched us drive away from the port and straight inland I started to get a funny feeling. Wedged between to very elderly men I leaned forward to speak to one of their wives inquiring about "how long do you think the ride is to the beach".

"Oh, I don't think this goes to the beach," she said. "I do know that it is two and a half hours long".

Suddenly I couldn't breath.

Meanwhile upfront Bryan was getting some similar information.

So here we are, not even sitting together stuck on a bus for a "free tour" of downtown topolobompo...

complete with burger king and walmart.

Now normally I can find something good in every situation, but the cumulation of little things at this point, magnified by having been sick after a hard work week at a trade show...

I was pissed.

(And by now you are wondering if I complained throughout the entire trip. Usually pretty uncharacteristic of me...the trip does get better. Again, glad for the ten day cruise.)

For some unknown reason the mexico government thought this "tour" would be a good idea, but I am not sure why because it wasn't informative, they weren't making money on tickets, and it ultimately didn't drop you anywhere to spend your tourist dollars therefore boosting their economy.

I couldn't figure out the logic. The tour took you through the most unattractive city and deposited you back at the ship at the end. They did make two stops that didn't warrant sight seeing, or shopping. One stop was a park, one was a "light house". When I heard this I thought, Ok... let's make the best of it, maybe good photo opps... I can dodge and weave... when you get lemons make lemonade and all that.

Well, the "light house" was a leveled brick monument covered with graffiti (no, not even good graffiti or I would have photographed that).

Believe me I was looking for anything to redeem this "tour" and it just wasn't happening.

Back on the bus as the young woman attempted to narrate over a sound system that was flawed (I found out later that Bryan having the seat upfront was literally holding the worn out mic cable in place so the woman could be heard...he's such a sport) we endured the drive back to where we started.

We did find out later that this was only the tenth time (in total) that a cruise ship came here, and only Holland America. So that shed some light on things.


Back at the dock wanting desperately to redeem the day and not just give up by getting back on the boat (I could get a massage)... we grabbed a taxi. Five minutes and ten dollars later we hit sand...

what a relief.

And we had what was one of the best meals of the whole trip (including ship cuisine). This little hut on the ocean served fresh snapper. Willing to please and working so hard was "Sergio" our cook, waiter, and bartender. After placing our order with his recommendation I asked if he served wine. He said he didn't have any but could see if they had some next door. Barely a split second after my reply he was running down the beach kicking up sand while heading to the establishment next door. I was a little embarrassed at the uber willingness to serve, but it was a nice contrast to being trapped on a bus.

He came back with two bottles but was unsure of the price because the owner wasn't there...he had to charge us an outrageous sum so I appologized for his effort and declined...

and settled for a corona.

Hey it's mexico.

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saved by snapper.

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a much happier blair.

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day three: Loreto (evening)

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Back to the ship for a lovely dinner.

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day three: Loreto (part two)

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Loreto, a 300-year-old town that was California's first Capital. So it is around one thirty and we have been in this lovely village for probably half an hour when we are approached by some fellow cruisers wondering if we would like to see the old San Javier mission and share a taxi to get there.

The mission had been an excursion offered on the ship which sounded interesting except for the outrageous ticket price. Sharing a taxi to the same destination seemed a good idea. We would still have some control and it would be considerably cheaper, and not "canned". Even though I was feeling a bit reluctant to get in any vehicle of any kind at that moment, we agreed and headed for the taxi van. We had read that the mission was only about 30 minutes away which I figured I could handle.

Our taxi mates Jeff and Joyce had negotiated terms and that our driver would indeed stay around while once at our destination. When asking the taxi driver if he would stay with us for two hours, he replied four and a half.

This should have rung a bell in my head that the language difference may have been clouding the details, but everyone seemed set and we piled into a van heading for the mission.

Friendly chatting while we traveled first on the highway, then turned onto a winding dirt road that then landed us driving down a dry river bed.

interesting.

Gleaning some info from the driver and after viewing several "pit stops" that seemed weird in the middle of nowhere we discovered that we were traveling on the baja 1000 raceway! And the race was going on!

http://www.score-international.com/baja1000/index.ihtml

And the driver of the taxi seemed to enjoy this very much as we sped along, dust and rocks flying.

At one point he stopped to point out that there were cave paintings and would we like to see them.

yes.

So we piled out and checked out these interesting markings, took some pictures and got back into the taxi. At this point I am sure that the mission must be just around the next corner.

We drove and drove and drove. As we went further up into the hills at some point we looked back an saw the Ryndam way off in the distance. As fun as this drive had been I began to feel a little uncertain about our communication skills and whether the taxi driver meant the trip would take four and a half hours total, or that he would wait for us for that amount of time.

Well, you can guess which one it was.

It took approximately an hour and forty five minutes to get to the mission. When we finally came upon it I felt such a sense of relief. Even though the adventure of driving on the riverbed had been fun I was still hoping to get back to the town to wander before the ship left at seven.

But the mission was well worth it. Begun in 1699 with a chapel, the mission building was completed in 1759 making it the second oldest but most well preserved in all the Californias.

our taxi mates Jeff and Joyce, and our baja raceway driver.
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me filming the mission through these lovely bouganvilla.

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Once our filming and sightseeing was done we piled back into the trusty taxi. This time knowing how long the return trip was I relaxed and enjoyed the rough ride back. The taxi driver enjoyed passing other drivers which became a bit of a game. We were all amazed that his van didn't fly apart in the rough terrain. Even with the miscommunication this was still much better than a bus tour. And we didn't have to wear a silly sticker.

We arrived back in the town in time to take a few more pictures before boarding.

Quite the adventure.


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day three: Loreto (part one)

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This morning we emerged from our stateroom in search of breakfast only to discover that we were too late for main dining. The alternative was a buffet style on the Lido Deck which was fine.

If you have never cruised before then you might feel a bit like everyone knows something you don't as life on a boat has a lot of structure. As flexible as you might think it is there is a system of time in which things are done, and in order to enjoy your trip it is good to be informed.

I thought I was.

But each day brought on a new knowledge of the way things are done and today was no exception. Since the ship was not docked and we had not selected and paid for a shore excursion that day(which gets preferential treatment) we had to wait to be "tendered" off of the ship.

This was a new term for me. I found that getting "tendered" is getting transported off of the ship by a smaller boat(life boat) to a pier.

And in order to do this you had to meet at a particular place on the ship, get a ticket, and wait for your number to be called for you to then go down to the gangway to board the "tender".

What surprised me is that this excercise took about forty five minutes. Wanting to get going and not lose a day in port, this was a wee bit frustrating and I had to fight the notion that this was a passive way to punish passengers for not buying a shore excursion. After feeling somewhat trapped on the bus the day before, I was now feeling a bit trapped on the boat.

But sitting with all the others while CNN was playing on a big screen tv we waited for our turn.

Once "tendered" we could explore to our hearts content, and I was so ready for a little freedom to wander. Loreto promised to be a "gem" according to the cruise director's narration that had been repeating itself on our stateroom tv.

it was.

Finally feeling like we could really enjoy our setting and wander this lovely town, Bryan and I pulled out our cameras and began taking pictures and film.

us newly "tendered" with the Ryndam in the background

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some sort of festival that day...the children were performing.

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day two: hotel california

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The first day in port had us at Cabos San Lucas which probably has many fine features but because we had two whole days scheduled later in the trip as dive excursions we felt the need to balance out the trip by booking an inland excursion...

to Hotel Callifornia.

no, I am not kidding.... it isn't a glib joke, I am referring to the real Hotel Califormia.

It seemed like a novel idea and apparently the cruisline thought so too and is why it was included as a "shore excursion". Up in the desert, an hour plus busride away from the waters of Cabo brought us to Todos Santos the location for the famed spot that the Eagles creatively wrote into a hit song.

I learned that day that an important mantra when confronted with a travel choice involving a bus is...

"just say no".

But I didn't really learn this fully until it was really reinforced later in the trip (yes this means you have to read a later post).

What can I say, I am a slow learner. And apparently have a cockeyed optimism that thinks that the next time will be different.

This is how more experienced people become set in their ways...for good reason.

So... back to the trip...

Bumpety, bumpety on a dirt road in a bus as the beautiful coastline disappears in the distance behind us we head toward a small mexican village with the promise of artisans, history, an ancient church, and the famed, "Hotel California".

On the way, the narator, Armando Cortez regaled us with all the untrained trivia he could muster including the building of the new Wal-mart.

They are so proud of their walmarts.

hmmm.

So... for an hour and a half he talked of the terain, and other less interesting tidbits of the desert before we parked at our dusty destination, Todos Santos.

At this point while sitting in my cushy bus seat I was getting a sinking feeling that I would never get back the next eight hours spent on this excursion.

I like quaint small towns where you get a sense of something removed from the world, something unique and special, pristine and untouched by the masses.

ha.

Instead of that, I got a bit of a canned experience. Hey, should I be suprised? Scads of elderly travelers pay big money to have someone put them on a comfy, air conditioned bus and deposit them at a perfectly packaged concept of local culture.

Painless and palatable.

Nothing risked and nothing learned.

boring as hell.

and not real.

So was my first entry into the cruising industries' gift of deception. Maybe that is too harsh, because what the industry tries to do is meet demand. Which often means diminshing a cultural experience into the equvalent of vanilla. But if your job is to supply what people want, and people want vanilla...

you get my point.

Although our little family hasn't traveled the world we have traveled. And the point of that travel has been to enter in to a culture and experience it as it is, not as we would want it to be. I think part of the reason americans have a bad world travel reputation is that they(in general) expect every other culture to somehow cater to their needs or expectations. We saw glaring(and embarassing) examples of this when traveling in europe. Part of traveling in a larger group probably diminishes the ability for individuals to interact and a group can be perceived as a bit of a threat, or an insult, even though it is coveted for its economic value.

So, getting off the bus, at this point recognizing that this would be a " canned " experience, we tried to graciously follow the bus driver around the displays designed to convey the "culture". Then we were ushered to our hotel california breakfast which was a packaged plate that may have impressed someone never to have tasted mexican cuisine. Bryan and I spotted the restaurant's actual menu that held major promise only for those not commited to a "tour". The food looked amazing. but what we got was disappointing.

But we ate, and enjoyed and quickly got up to take a quick independent tour of the town.

key word...independent. Mental note for me...this is what we always need to do.

We walked past stalls and stalls of "artisan wares", the kind that may infact be made somewhere in mexico, but probably not by anyone local then finally bumped into a cool gallery where the husband of the gallery owner happened to be a belgian chef teaching the chefs at...

Hotel California.

"They let you out"? He joked with us implying the lyrics of the song. We had a wonderful interaction with this man who worked part time at the hotel. We talked of our Bahamas dream while watching his eyes light up. He gave us his card, "call me".

Walking further with limited time now because we had a bus to catch...

grrr....

we stepped into the "ancient church" which is one of the reasons we picked the tour only to find out that it had been remodeled two years before.

no wonder it didn't look like the pictures.

Catching the bus and taking our seats I secretly hoped that our trip back would be in silence but that was not to be. Armando was intent in giving us our money's worth of narrated trivia. Unfortunately it would be the same content that he gave on the trip up.

At least we were sitting closer to the back of the bus.

So, our first port experience was not that special, but we still had several days left. And getting back to the ship it was time to get dressed for dinner.


Bryan playing air guitar to the eagles hit "hotel california"(yes the hotel plays eagles hits 24/7). Notice the cute little green sticker that he is wearing. Apparently branding tourists this way gives the locals a way of distinguishing them from other travelers while making them feel silly at the same time.

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unlike the creepy lyrics of the song, the inside of the hotel was actually really charming and hip.

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day one: at sea

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Coming off of a trade show that involved three days of standing (one for ten hours) while fighting off flu symptoms and jet lag and (for some reason) inability to sleep well brought both Bryan and I to a ready place for some R&R. Packing our gear up, getting a taxi, and heading for the cruise terminal should have been exciting, but I was feeling a deep sense of exhaustion that at a point of reflection in our taxi, had me wishing we were going home.

This is only because the hoops that one often has to jump through while traveling just seemed overwhelming at that moment.

But, gratefully, upon getting out of the taxi we were greeted by someone willing to deal with our excessive luggage, and because I had filled out all of our cruise immigration info online the process of getting on the ship took about fifteen minutes.

miracle.

This is when I started to get excited.

This evening, however, needed to remain low key as Bryan was burning off some bug that had him running a fever that night in our stateroom.

This is when it is really great that you are on a ten day cruise instead of a wimpy 4 day or even 7 day. You feel as if you have a few spares to burn on "off" days, or seasickness, or whatever.

The next day was a day at sea which was absolutely perfect except for the very early room service that I ordered to surprise my mate (oh yea there was an hour time change at sea). He seemed pleased even with the early hour as we relished breakfast in bed at 5:30 am and then went back to sleep to awaken to a leisurely day at sea. The rest of the week would have us enjoying breakfast this way with the exception of one day not having an order card available to hang on our door and another day wanting to see what breakfast in the dining room might be. A few extra items on the menu but apparent by the rest of our trip spent getting room service, wasn't worth getting out of bed for.

Seriously, I would go on another cruise, just to have someone serve me breakfast in bed again for ten days in a row.... personally I think that is what heaven will be like.

A day at sea represented a "you don't have to do nothin'" day in my mind. It is weird, but when you purchase tickets for a cruise, if you are like me, you may be tempted to cram every thing the ship offers in "included" whether you want to do it or not. For instance, there were broadway style shows every night. We caught part of only one in our 10 days. Again the duration seemed to give us permission to just chill and not feel pressured to catch every event.

We did, however attend the art auction, which I am particularly fond of after doing it on Princess. I love these things, I don't know why...

could be the free champagne.

But on such a small ship it became clear who would be at the art events and wine tasting, or the chipping challenges(golf), or the sing-alongs.

Ok, it was definitely an older clientele, but we knew that going in.

We fit into two catagories. Art auction, wine-tasting, library-lurking, cappucinno drinking clientelle. And, scuba divers...

which pretty much put us in a class by ourselves.


here is bryan in our stateroom getting fitted for his tuxedo. three nights were formal.

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show was good

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In the hotel room between show and boarding our boat. The show was interesting. No sign ups but lots of interest and good connection. An interview from Rev magazine which was nice (good advertising), and a publisher that agreed to look at my manuscript.

yea.

So by this time tomorrow we will be sitting on deck chairs nursing the colds that we picked up at the show. Hopefuly they are gone by the time we dive.;-)

ahoy!

Leaving soon for an all or nothing style marketing, ditch effort to put avisualplanet back on the radar for potentially new subscribers (Outreach Conference in San Diego) Bryan and I have been poking at all the last minute things that need to be done for such an event. Just like any other business trade show, there are all sorts of media-ish things that need to produce, one of which is the booth design. This presented a few challenges as I really wanted everything to be as portable as possible. So (being a media resource company) we needed a small projector and a screen that could go on the plane. We also ordered large banner signage that compact into a carry-on. Of course a person can get a really spiffy full-blown trade show booth set up at the conference site if you are bathing in moula...

we are not.

So, as always we get creative in the approach.

Like finding that a hard case designed for transporting golf clubs would work to carry our projector screen and banners.

And finding the office depot iron on transfers that you run through your ink-jet make really spifffy t-shirts (these are give aways at the show).

But things came to a halt when we decided to take an imac along to show off our website remotely.

How do you pack that?

And throw into the mix that we are jumping onto a boat after the show (with all of our stuff in tow).

I have gotten very intimate with airline luggage requirements.

So last night we run out to costco (don't laugh) because of some inexpensive luggage that we remember seeing there and think that it will do the trick for the imac and our cruise clothes, 30 show-tshirts, etc...

Except when we get there the luggage seems a little flimsy... could work but maybe we will find something better (really quick). So we head toward the mall to find a luggage store and find some great hard cases that might has well have been a million dollars.

But looking over this luggage with the clock ticking (things are about to close) we are approached by a short, cheerful salesman that starts trying to be helpful.

key word...trying.

Because he wants to fulfill what ever need we have he starts drilling down to what we are using this for.

Because, as usual we are not being conventional, this could be a long conversation, in order to hopefully shut down the conversation when the guy (and his name was Guy which made me laugh later) asked what conference this was, Bryan answered...

It is a church conference.

Typically this can be a conversation stopper, but depending on where a person is at with "church" you can have the reverse response.

which we did.

Of course it may have helped if we would have noticed that the "guy" was wearing a "Bless the Lord" neck tie.

You can imagine what happened next.

It seems when you show your "C" card (and I am not referering to the scuba kind, but I do have one of those as well) that people make lots of assumptions about what flavor of "C" you are. And in this particular instance the salesperson's concern to fulfill our luggage needs morphed into telling us his life story along with the recent close call with an anuerism that he was miraculously cured from- doctors couldn't explain it-praise jesus.

sigh.

Recognizing that we were not getting luggage tonight (unless god intervened with a miracle;-) I sort of settled into the old "pastor's wife mode". Listening intently to this dear man's faith language trying very hard not to be put off by some of the tell-tale signs of us-vrs them, saved vrs-lost speak. But finding myself putting on the gloves of what his flavor was and dusting off the christianese in order to communicate with this man based on his needs. I think I have developed a sensor that detects when someone is searching for you to "use the right words" in order to size you up.

It is kinda like parachuting into a remote village and trying to remember the five native words you know to prove you are friendly before they cut your head off.

And what I have found in our journey outside the church is that the subcultures of "C" can be a bit of a hoot.

You have your weekenders. These are the people who feel that stepping into a church on sunday is "just the right thing to do" and this pretty much takes care of the rest of the week. Their speech is very general and probably has a very low quotient of "jesus" sprinkled in. They throw up the occasional prayer and life motors on.

The other end of the spectrum are the people that tend to apply a hightened, almost melodramatic approach. They tend to see the face of jesus floating in their morning cheerios. Their christianese is a finely tuned dialect that is recognized mostly by their own kind (think appalachian twang vrs bostontonian). The "jesus" quotient is very high with these folk and as much as they think that more is better in order to get their message across they really just need you to sound like them in order for them to feel secure in their mission and in your salvation. They tend to illicit a gag reflex from anyone outside their circle. Even other "C"s.

miraculously, both have a "C" card.

In a similar way you might have two people who love mountain climbing. One may get the chance to climb during his vacation and rents his gear while the other has a climbing wall on his back porch and owns all the latest in climbing toys...

but both are climbers and love to climb.

And sort of like with climbing, "C" has every flavor and intensity in between.

So after telling all about the survival of his premature daughter, "Guy" finally realized that the mall was soon to close and actually tried to help our situation by phoning another store that was open even later. I found myself saying all the right words finishing off with a sincere "God Bless You", before running out the door.

Bryan and I walked out reminded that in just a few days we will be surrounded by those like "Guy" who speak a certain dialect that we once knew so well. We may not use the same lingo any more but we still carry the "C" card. Fortunately Jesus trandscends all of the flavors of "C". If only we could all recognize that and not just be poised to hear our own language spoken, dismissing those that don't sound the same...

Time to dust off the phrase book.


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