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under way

Jul. 19th, 2010 | 04:11 pm

I crawled into bed but decided that since it's only 20 'till 11 and I had a pleasant nap this afternoon I could forfeit enough sleep to zip off a post. What to say? It's hump day. 19th July. The voyage, and the season, are half over. Which means in 5 days I take over as HM, in 25 days the passengers go home, and in a exactly a month I am looking for a job. Or needing one, if not looking.

We spent the day in Hinlopen Strait. Last night we were bow-in on a huge pan of sea ice. There was a bear. Then rain, then fog, and the bear disappeared into the mists. All this while we slept. Made for a lovely evening, though. I spent some time up on the bow freezing, watching, straining into the whiteness to see anything besides water, ice, fog, and guillemots. One ivory gull flew past. Maybe there was a skua or two.

So yes, the Hinlopen today, and hopeful of progress south to Freemansundet but with no ice chart over the weekend and unfavorable winds, we turned back. Mere hours later, updated ice chart, and had we carried on we would have made it. Oh well. You make the best call you can with the data available. No sense second-guessing after the fact. So at the moment we're sailing west along the northern edge of Spitsbergen, probably still north of 80 (?). There have been whales *everywhere during the afternoon and evening, heaps of fins feeding as far as the eye can see. Which in the fog isn't terribly far.

The ice cruising in the fog last night was awesome. Love that stuff. But I bear none of the stress of it. I wonder how many hours the captain has spent on the bridge over the last day and a half? We saw the remains of a seal on a small pan of ice this morning, and a bear in the distance at one point. Was reviewing my photos from our first bear encounter early in the season a day or two ago and I have some AWESOME PHOTOS (!). He was literally walking underneath the bow at one point.

There's not a lot else going on. Dinner tonight was grilled pork involtinis on a wild mushroom risotto and they were delectable. And dessert: walnut ice cream on a honey-black sesame seed shell with raspberry something-or-other and a mulled wine reduction. Awesome. I tried to resist, I really did, but in the end I caved.

I was in the bar a bit ago and did for a bottle of Laphroaig with Tony; more recently in the sauna with the daily news. Am now to bed to read the Monocle I borrowed from Teymur and then get some sleep. Late breakfast tomorrow but I'm on early...

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Worsleyneset

Jun. 28th, 2010 | 04:20 am

Quiet moment, pax are out zodiac cruising... Love it when the ship is empty. Can get those behind the scenes things done. Like have a coffee and...

We're at: 79.39.90N, 013.30.97E

...expecting to make 80N this evening. EL wants to head to Moffit Island after dinner. Which will mean drinks on the bow, probably hot chocolate and a shot of something, but maybe champagne. And another late night.

Yesterday we were under way in the morning and arrived Fairhavn just at lunch. Rumor of a dozen polar bears feeding on a whale carcass from a week ago. IOF found it two days ago. Even *I went out for the zodiac cruise. There were polar bears aplenty but, alas, no carnage - no carcass. Three mothers & cubs and three more solitary adults, but very little interaction amongst them, mostly sleeping, saw a good poo, some gulls cleaning up the mess, sea ice, glacier, mountains, snow, fog. Monochromatic. And I get bored as a passenger in someone else's zodiac...zzz...

Service ... galley is still finding their stride. Dinner was a bit rough. ~60 pax went back out again after dinner and were out until MIDNIGHT bear watching. Which is exciting, yes, especially if you're seeing it all for the first time, but damn it's cold out there, and that's late! I had a Dalwhinnie & went to the sauna :).

Am in my cabin listening to the incipient VAVarc10 playlist. So far this season has GaGa, Best of the Lemonheads, and a dance mix that I found in the CD drive of the laptop I picked up in TO.

Back to work? Lunch prep or something, cleaning a store room ... signs for the gift shop? It's 11.

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Storfjorden

Jun. 26th, 2010 | 04:36 am

Day two, bear #2. Awesome encounter (!) swimming, came right under the bow, out on the ice, walking to investigate, up on his hind paws, great views, great shots. But it's cold. Cold cold cold. And suddenly foggy after a gorgeous morning.

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lovely day

Jun. 20th, 2010 | 02:04 pm

More. Water. Dinner was simple but delicious - bruschetta. Prosciutto and pesto, two sorts, both scrumptious, if rather light for the evening meal after a full day. And wine.

Am in my cabin listening to GaGa and enjoying the low evening light through the porthole. Warmth. Vitamin D. Craving both. Just showered and am all squeaky, smelly clean. It was an ordinary day. G/S is finished save the pricing/signage; expecting further guidance tomorrow TO time.

Finished an Economist last night. I think I'll move on to Monocle tonight and see what I think of that. 'night all -

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Norwegian Sea

Jun. 19th, 2010 | 01:34 pm

Hello, dear journal. Am up in the bar on Deck 6 watching the chart and weather data cycle, listening to the aircon, the waves out the door, watching the sea slip by. The chefs are talking World Cup, another staff member is on email, some are playing with new GPSs, cameras, having a smoke. Down time after a long work day. No passengers yet; we're nearly half way through our journey from Copenhagen and due into Longyearbyen on the 23rd.

My big project has been the gift shop; just sunk a third full day, most of it with help, and I still have another day's work tomorrow. But it's mostly cleaning and desk work; the heavy lifting, sorting, folding, organizing: it's finished. At least until we open for the first time :).

Seas are improving but it's been a somewhat unpleasant day. Rested terribly last night, and yesterday was gross, too.

I came up here to send a few emails and to sort out my expenses. So far I've accomplished 1/2 of what I set out to do... More later -

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Sail-up

Jun. 17th, 2010 | 03:36 pm

Hello again, LJ. Am going to have a go at keeping in touch this season. We'll see how that turns out :). Have just rejoined the VAV after 15 days in Paris, Brussels, Brugges, Amsterdam, Copenhagen. Oy! And have just heard the first word about my between-contracts; it sounds like I'll be spending 6 days in Reykjavik / Iceland. Super fun.

Weather got rough mid-day but has calmed down again. Weird, little low must have blown through. It's 1030, foggy, and pre-twilight out still. Makes for high energy, I guess. I'm tired, but there is so much to do. Went back to the gift shop after dinner to start inventory on the new arrivals; worked 'till 10 counting 11 boxes and am about 1/2 finished with that. Then must inventory all of the items still onboard since we're transitioning to this new point-of-sale / barcode system. It's a lot to do. And it's not like the gift shop is even my primary responsibility onboard, it's just in need of the most attention at the moment.

But for now I sleep. Maybe an article or two in The Economist... Morning comes at ~730. Nite -

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Park Ave Coffee

Apr. 22nd, 2010 | 07:02 pm
location: St. Louis
mood: contentcontent

Am home - and slacking on posting again. Just a sec - must dash out to the car for a phone cable. And ... it doesn't work with the computer. Alas. Had to buy a car charger for the iPhone today because the battery life is AWFUL.

Start at the beginning, or the end? Today? Ok. Am at Park Avenue Coffee and mid-way through a small latte, skim. And no, not especially healthy, because with the latte I ate a square of chocolate key-lime gooey butter coffee cake. Deliciously indulgent and oh-so-sweet. I feel a little fat. Just have come from the AT&T wireless store for the aforementioned charger, and before that my storage unit. Had five months of bills to file and needed to pick up some tax docs. And clothing, because I left most of what I have on the ship. Tomorrow I need to renew my tags and I have a meeting with H&R Block about my over-due taxes [ :( ]. Bruce and I lunched at Pi, excellent as always. Their ingredients are so fresh! I had a really nice glass of white wine, a Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand: Marlborough: Hawes Bay.

My arm feels funny - like I've pinched a nerve.

It's just come on, all of the sudden.

Before lunch I stopped by the airport - I have British pounds to exchange but am having trouble finding someone to take them. I think I may have to resort to exchange-by-mail via my credit union. Spent an hour this morning at Ed Napleton having a safety & emissions inspection done. Picked up last year's personal property tax receipt this afternoon and I have proof of insurance - is there anything else I need to renew? I'm going to try and do it tomorrow, I think. New tags!

Yesterday I sat up at Rendezvous on Main Street in O'Fallon for hours sorting through my mail / bills and gulping gallons of coffee. I'm on a big password-update kick. Kevin has shown me this app for the iPhone that stores everything for you ... but now I've changed my iTunes / Apple password and I can't download apps (!!??) so I need to figure out what I've done.

It has begun to rain. Love it. Smells great! Spring showers...

Met up with Kevin in the evening, glass of wine, reconnect, drove by the new house, dinner at Arcelia's and then met a new friend of his. Wasn't quite ready to go home so I stopped for a drink at Just John. Driving back to O'Fallon sucks.

Tuesday I landed! Dad was my ride. Arrived +/-7am, which made for an entire day post-flights. My bags missed my plane from Atlanta. I stood at the carousel for ... awhile ... waiting ... and eventually gave up. No worries, though - they delivered mid day. Had a bit of a scare with my storage unit: was opening mail and found a 'delinquent' notice from public storage. Eek! Called immediately and my card for auto-pay had expired. Lady on the phone was like "you need to come in immediately, we are going to cut your lock tomorrow." WTF! So I jumped in the car and went and settled up. But wow, timing... Lunch afternoon was sandwiches from Rendezvous - love that place. Dad spent the day working in the yard and washing the car. I opened mail, unpacked, washed laundry. Aaron, Holly, Colton and Ellie stopped by in early evening to drop off the car. First time to meet Ellie, new niece, born December 29! Dinner at McGurk's with Dad, Sue, and Linda. I had one of the night's specials, pork with pappardelle noodles? Delicious, but a huge portion. Their patio is beautiful! And so spacious! I'd never been out there before. Does a great job hiding the street traffic. Lovely evening.

Tuesday being Showtunes of course I had to go out :). Bumped into Mark and then Stephen and had a pleasant night but for the cigarette smoke. Uruguay and Buenos Aires are both entirely smoke-free, or are intended to be, anyway. Rude awakening to have someone exhaling a plume of acrid fumes in your face. How can they inhale that shit? And there's a new guy on the video spin so there were some new tunes in the mix. Good times.

Flights were great. Best I've had in recent memory, I'd say. Eduardo had Monday off for a holiday. I showered, shaved, finished packing, and scrambled some eggs. Taxi at 10 - it's a good 40 minute ride from the city center to the airport. Got there in plenty of time. The facility is new and we did a bit of exploring. There's a broad promenade above the ticket counters / gates with massive windows overlooking the runway. It was full of families watching the planes come and go. Montevideo does not have a busy runway... Said our goodbyes and slipped through security only to discover that my flight was delayed, but no worry. Had some chicken crepes and a latte and then the plane was ready. The flight to Buenos Aires is only ~1/2 an hour in the air, maybe? Lovely day for a flight, sunny and calm. Retrieved my bag upon arrival to BsAs and repacked / redistributed the weight / precious items (wine). Did a good job, too, as both bags were about evenly weighted when it came time to weigh.

My taxi ride was an adventure. Last time I went from EZE to AEP I jumped in a taxi and told the driver $30 and he said OK. But this guy was like, dude, no way, $40! and we had a conversation which I lost. But come to find out the main highway is closed and I got the cross-town ride, entire length of 9 de Julio, which was interesting for the relief of the skyline and the bustling activity along the sidewalks. And hey, I had hours to kill. Got to the int'l airport and staked out the Delta office; my receipt was not a "ticket," the issuing agent had told me, and I needed to confirm my seat. Totally lucked out - row of three to myself! So it was long wait but I had a glass of malbec and a toasted ham and cheese and did some skyping. Read a bit of Economist, had dinner and another glass of wine, popped an ambien, and awoke in the morning just as the stewards were distributing the pre-breakfast moist towelette. My eye-shade is new and really tight - I bruised the bridge of my nose :( but slept like a rock. Short layover in Atlanta and a long wait at immigration but breezed through baggage claim, customs, terminal shuttle, and had time for a coffee before we were off the ground again. All in all a relatively stress-free day of travel.

Must carry on further but Carrie and Brent are in the car and bound for Tuckers, so I must hie away now!

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El Diario

Apr. 14th, 2010 | 10:07 pm
location: Montevideo
mood: contentcontent

Winding down for the evening. Barcelona is playing ... and, yeah. Dinner: scrambled omelets with red onion, green olive, ham, cheese = delicious, plus the left-overs from the pork chops and fried apples the other night. Very tasty. And ice cream later, I suspect :).

Another great day in class. I am so much more satisfied as a member of a group than I was 1:1, night and day difference. It keeps me more engaged, more competitive (?), more communicative, I just am digging it. Would stay another week - month! But no.

This morning I filed for an extension on my taxes. H&R Block online. Federal, not state. Basically I've waited too long and am screwed, but I'll sort it out when I get home. I'm not trying to shirk anything...just not engaged with the process. Or interested, really.

Varying the route, I was walking along Maldonado around the lunch hour and found a little place to duck out of the rain - Chicote (?). I think I read about it somewhere, the red & white checked table cloths. Nothing but a coffee and some little empanadas but it was dry and friendly. Until the guy started spraying insecticide at the foot of my table trying to murder a moth.

And then walking to class along Soriano and Juan Carlos Gomez not one but two more cafes caught my eye! So after class it was off to El Diario, this arty, moody, cafe-bar-music venue for a bit more reading. My book is great, totally sold on a small boat trip through the Greek Islands. Oh, Eduardo was out of class early tonight and got stuck waiting for me for the better part of 40 minutes. We weren't due to rendez-vous until 8, so it was a surprise to walk up at 7:40 and find him in the lobby. Felt awful but I didn't know (!), although there was a "blocked" call on my phone earlier in the evening, which in retrospect was his. Alas. Felt awful.

Dinner last night was simple. Stopped by the butcher shop on the way home and picked up some milanesas de la casa (beef?) which we ate with rice and some carrots a la Mom. Simple, quick, delicious. Oh, and I made a tomato-red onion-basil sauce, too, yum.

Anyway, I think that's about it. Lots of food... The rain was a bit of a bother but I got to wear my new hoodie - a spot of shopping yesterday before class. My feet are dry! Life is good.

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El Copacabana

Apr. 13th, 2010 | 12:42 pm
location: El Copacabana
mood: annoyedannoyed

Lunch crowd is quickly infiltrating the sidewalk patio on Sarandi. I wanted a bottle of wine, and since I like the lady who sold to me last time I walked nearly to the port to find her again. So now I am with gift for Eduardo when I depart. He likes it white and sweet.

Stopped for lunch at El Rincon Empanadas. I actually had had in mind to go to a place around the corner (Rincon de Zabala) but decided upon arrival that I lacked the confidence to navigate the cafeteria line. The empanadas were quick but disappointing in comparison to what I had the other day - pre-made for sure, and maybe frozen?? They looked like they came out of the freezer section at a grocer. And they served no coffee! Must be the first place I've been down here with no coffee. But that's fine because El Copacabana is only two blocks away. Stopped at the bank for dinero and then made my way over here. And they have free wifi. So they served me te instead of ca*fe. Meh.

Dinner last night (it's always food, isn't it!) I made pork chops. Stopped at the butcher on the way home from class for bread & meat. Marinated them in some whole-grain mustard and curry and then sauteed them with mushrooms & chives (using what's available) and also made up some apple sauce like Mom used to do :) and baked sweet potatoes. It was delicious. And there were left-overs.

I read yesterday over lunch and again after class. My new book is a memory trip through the Greek islands and Greek mythology & history. Am loving it. Basically I raided everything the bookshop had that wasn't a romance novel or a murder mystery, a sum total of two books.

Ugh, people around me are smoking, gag! It's illegal indoors here (everywhere, whole country, yay) but Uruguayos love their cigarillos.

Class yesterday was excellent. I am on my third teacher and I now have two classmates; both of these being positive developments. I studied (studied!) over the weekend and so consolidated my vocab and grammar from last week. And since these two are new to the Adacemia we are reviewing material I've already seen. Am definitely feeling more comfortable vocalizing my thoughts - having the opportunity to think while someone else is asked a question is a huge benefit. Takes off the pressure/stress/frustration of 1:1 lessons.

OK I am seriously about to expire from second-hand smoke. I think I may go shop before class. I have destroyed one of my button down shirts, which means I have even less to wear. Maybe a pair of jeans and something on top?

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Church bells

Apr. 11th, 2010 | 11:33 am
location: Montevideo
mood: hungryhungry

It's just after 11 on a lovely, sunny Sunday morning in Montevideo. Have been reading on RCP and clearing out my inbox(es). I set my alarm for 8 to work on orders, but ... sigh. I am really having trouble getting motivated. Anyway, I'm thinking that in a bit I may start slicing & cracking for some omelets :).

Tango Friday night was fun. There's a little bar a few blocks up called the Museo de Vino. We had a reservation and arrived 10-ish; the place was comfortably full with a few standing at the back. Warmish room but the music was distracting; I only understood about 5% of the lyrics l'amour est universal. Chanteuse was a women, supported by double bass, electric keyboard, and bandoneon, all talented musicians who clearly have played together for a long time. Their menu is limited (except for the wine...) but we had a tasty pizza. My tannat reserve was smooth and Eduardo seemed happy with whatever they were pouring as a sweet white.

Yesterday was slow, really. We went over to the western-ish supermarket down La Rambla and bought food for a few meals. Lunch yesterday I made sausages with a whole-grain mustard and a really attractive (if I must say!) ensalate caprese - fresh roma tomatoes, fresh basil, fresh mozzarella, and fresh brown mushrooms (because I like mushrooms). Alas, no olive oil in the house, but we managed. It was delicious, and more than the two of us could eat.

Yesterday afternoon there was a big match on TV - Real Madrid @ Barcelona. I, let's face it, what I know about football would struggle to fill a thimble, but he's in to it and I just kind of watched along and downloaded music off iTunes. Had planned to run but never managed to make it out.

Last night we took the bus to Pocitos or another of the neighborhoods to the east, no, Punta Carretas, and went shopping. My only purchase was a chocolate cappuccino from McCafe (groan, yes) and it was dissatisfying in so many ways. Specifically: it tasted bad, I spilled it all over myself, and there was a massive lump of viscous, shiny chocolate syrup congealed in the bottom when I finally chugged it. Eww.

So after a stop back at the house to change we walked to centro and Baar FunFun, where they've been tearing up the rug since 1895. Or singing, rather, because we haven't actually seen any dancing. The place was packed but Eduardo managed to talk the doorman to letting us in. The place was really crowded but we got to listen to a set and then could actually see the last one. Nibbles, wine, tiny pizza, and, yeah, another fun night.

Ok. Omelets!

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