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|Wednesday, February 1st, 2017|
|Returning to Tristan da Cunha
In September and October of this year I will be returning to the island of Tristan da Cunha in the south Atlantic Ocean, the most isolated inhabited place on the planet. I will be spending close to four weeks exploring the island and catching up with my host family and friends.
Four years ago, before my first visit to Tristan, I asked people to write to me so that I would have mail waiting for me when I arrived on the island. On September 13, 2013 I walked into the Tristan post office on my first full day on the island and the staff had mail waiting for me. What a thrill it was to receive mail on Tristan da Cunha.
May I please ask if you could write to me again? If you want to write to me, I ask you please to do so now. Tristan will only get five mail deliveries by the time I arrive on the island this September. With such infrequent mail service, it is imperative to get your letter or postcard sent off as it already takes many months for letters to arrive. If you wait until April or May to write I might not even get it. Please address your envelope or postcard as such:
S. A. Agulhas II passenger visitor
Tristan da Cunha
South Atlantic Ocean
TDCU 1ZZvia Cape Town, South Africa
Please include your own mailing address as well or send it to me via E-mail reply.
I promise to write to everyone who writes to me. Your postcard will be covered in stamps. Why send a postcard with only one stamp on it when I can cover it with six?
I love the philatelic arts and sending postcards covered in stamps from out-of-the-way locations. Please write to me and I promise to send you a postcard from Tristan da Cunha.
|Wednesday, December 21st, 2016|
|New LiveJournal blog
Once again I have exceeded my space limit at LiveJournal. I am amazed that it has lasted up until now, as for the past several months I had been creeping ever so close to the 100% capacity mark. With each new book review cover scan the decimal past 99.0% would increase ever so slightly. Now that I have finally finished decorating my house for Christmas, and found the time to take pictures of it, I am ready to upload my annual Christmas At My House photo show.
Not so fast. All it took was one more photo to bust my space limit. So, as when I was in Cape Town three years ago and had to announce my new LiveJournal at wrongradical2
, I mark the time of Christmas 2016 as the beginning of wrongradical3
If you are interested in reading my journal, with its book reviews, travelogues and occasional whines about my struggles with technology, please join me at wrongradical3
All three of my LiveJournals are open and do not require you to register with LiveJournal in order to read or comment on them.
|Wednesday, November 16th, 2016|
|Mom, two years later
On November 12 at 11.45 p.m. I rode my bike to my mother's condo and relived the moment two years ago when I discovered that she had died in her sleep. I rode to the back of the condo where our unit was and I looked up at the apartment. It was all dark except for the living room window. Although we had sold the condo in January 2015, I do not know who lives there or if anyone ever did. (We sold it to a real estate agent who may or may not have occupied it herself or sold it.) I gazed up and looked at all the windows, including my brother's room and my own bedroom and my mother's room which were around the corner. Two years ago I went upstairs and found my mother dead in her bed. I will finally write out what happened that night. My mother died in her sleep when she went to bed on November 11, 2014. After my brother Grant could not get ahold of her by phone he was worried where she might be. He and his wife Evelyn both called me that night to see if I knew where she was. My mother usually visited her friend Linda in Scarborough on Tuesdays and sometimes was out very late, however if she ever decided to visit Linda on a different day of the week, my mother always phoned me to let me know her whereabouts. That she hadn't done so for a possible Wednesday visit was strange. When Grant called I was editing some photos from my 2013 trip to Tristan da Cunha and when I was done I told him I would ride down to mom's place. I was certain that she had gone out somewhere and I was going to wait for her till she got in. "Where have you been?" I'd say, in a role-reversal where I would be acting like the worried parent. Although I was worried about her, I knew that I would be the one giving her a scare because once she put the key in the door she'd hear her TV on. It would be me, waiting up for her. I knew that I would be a tad annoyed at her for not telling either Grant or me where she was. I rode down to her condo on my bike at 11.45 p.m. Although my brother had popped in at my mom's place from 5:00-7:00 p.m. that night after work, he did not go into my mother's bedroom, where she had already died in her sleep. My mother lives close by and the bike ride would only take five minutes. I remember thinking during my ride that I was prepared to stay up all night waiting for her if I had to. It was chilly that night, and I was dressed only in a thin tank top (as I had been to the Y earlier that night after a brief stop at City Hall to pick up a new security pass and then to Square One to buy some red shoelaces), sweater and jacket. I did not keep my eyes focussed ahead of me as I kept on glancing to my left, hoping to see mom walking south on Confederation from the Dundas bus stop. I entered her building by the moving room and although bikes are not permitted in the elevators I thought that it was almost midnight and no one was around so I'd take it up anyway.My mother always put the chain lock on at night, and rarely put it on when she left to go out during the day. When I unlocked her front door the chain was still on. I panicked and all my calm and rational thinking went out the window. When the door was prevented from opening because the chain was still on I thought only one thing: my mother was still inside and hadn't left the apartment the entire day. I only realized after the fact that I should not have been thinking that way at all since Grant himself had been over there only five hours earlier. When I relayed this story to Grant later on, he told me that he thought it was strange when he arrived to find the chain still attached. For fear that our mother would freak out when she got home to find that the chain lock was no longer attached, Grant put the chain back on when he left at 7 p.m. Nevertheless, when I unlocked the door and it was caught by the chain, my rational thinking evaporated. The chain lock told me that my mom had never left her place all day. I was prepared to bust the door down, however I did in fact have the lock for the chain on my keychain. When I got in, the phone was ringing. It rang several times--of course it was Grant and Evelyn, although by now they had ceased to leave messages. I did not answer the phone. I feared that I would find my mother collapsed somewhere. I was scared to walk from room to room. Now I know this whole way of thinking, getting myself into a freaked-out state, was so wrong--since Grant had been over earlier that evening--but when I was met with the door still on its chain lock I totally forgot about Grant's earlier visit. In my mind right there and then, that chain lock told me that my mother was still at home. I was genuinely scared to go any further. I peered around the walls slowly. When I entered the large bathroom, I was afraid I might find my mother dead on the toilet or slipped in the shower. The last room I checked was the master bedroom at the end of the hall. I pushed the door open, and saw my mother in bed."Oh mom!" I whispered. She had died. There was nothing I could have done, as she had been gone for a long time. She was on her right side with one arm raised above her head. She appeared to be peacefully still asleep. Although we did not request an autopsy, the coroner and we believe that my mother probably died of a heart attack. There were no messed-up sheets as if she had struggled with the pain of a cardiac arrest. She was gone.I phoned Grant and Evelyn answered. I was calm and told her what had happened. Evelyn screamed and brought Grant to the phone. They would leave immediately. Then I called Mark. He asked if I would like him to come over and this is where I really lost my mind. During the shock of discovering that my mother had just died I could not say what I really wanted, which was "Yes! Please come over!". Instead, what went through my mind was that Mark would have to go to work tomorrow and he wouldn't get any sleep if he came over here at this hour. Mark even asked me twice if I wanted him to come over and I hemmed and hawed, until accepting his offer. I even wondered if I should call 911. I knew that 911 did not like frivolous calls, and since my mother was already dead and that there wasn't anything anyone could do to save her, I didn't think 911 was a necessary call. After I called Grant and discussed it with him I decided not to call. Then I discussed this with Mark and I decided to call. But first I thought I should call my Uncle Gary, my mother's brother, next.My Aunt Lynda answered. She was in bed but still up. I told her the news and I will never forget how she broke the news to my uncle. If there is anything that can trigger the saddest memory about the immediate discovery of my dead mother, it's to replay my aunt's words: "Gary, your sister has died." is how my aunt calmly and slowly broke the news to my uncle. I can hear her say those words as if it was just seconds ago. My aunt was very nervous about answering the phone, because her own mother was not doing very well and she feared the worst news especially from a post-midnight phone call. I spoke to my uncle briefly and then I decided to call 911.When I did, I was sheepish, and worried that I was wasting their time. I told the operator that my mother had died and wondered if this was a worthwhile call since she was dead and certainly not in dire straits. The operator assured me that "whenever there's a dead body, you have to call us". I gave a few details and then waited.My mind was all over the place and I totally lost all sense of time. The phone rang only a few minutes later. Guests buzz down in the lobby and it triggers the phone to ring. I thought it was Mark, since he only had to drive in from Toronto, and it wouldn't be Grant and Evelyn yet since they had to drive in from Guelph. You can imagine how surprised I was when two policemen and two policewomen were at the door. I was not even thinking straight: how could I have thought Mark would be here yet? How could I not be expecting emergency personnel only minutes after my 911 call? They interrogated me and wondered about my mother's state of health. I was being interrogated by four police officers so I told them everything, including my mother's various battles with cancer, but she had beaten breast cancer over thirty years ago so no, it wasn't cancer that killed her. They were inclined to go with that explanation, I believed. The officers asked my own details and I couldn't even remember my own phone number--twice. I had a nightmarish moment of feeling singularly guilty. While I am sure the officers have all dealt with traumatic situations like my own, I couldn't concentrate on my own phone number as my head was racing all over the place and I twice told them a wrong phone number, which I then corrected.
|Friday, November 13th, 2015|
|Mom, one year later
Yesterday marked the first anniversary of my mother's sudden death. I can still remember everything that happened that night, and one day I will post about it. Mark and I took a drive down to my mother's old condo last night to have a look outside the building (her condo itself was sold back in January) and I wanted to relive the moment when I cycled down to her place to look for her. My life changed that night.
|Thursday, March 20th, 2014|
|I made the papers
I am giving a photo presentation of my trip to Tristan da Cunha at the Mississauga Central Library on Tuesday 29 April. The library's publicity department sent out a press release and last Thursday I gave a telephone interview with a reporter from the Mississauga News
. I was told that the article would appear on the paper's website first, then would run in the print edition closer to the presentation date. The on-line article appeared on Tuesday evening:http://www.mississauga.com/whatson-story/4417743-librarian-checks-out-remote-places/
|Sunday, October 27th, 2013|
|The Western Lands
I read The Western Lands by William S. Burroughs while aboard S. A. Agulhas II en route to Cape Town from Tristan da Cunha. I associate it with the trip of a lifetime, 23 days on the island. As soon as I started the novel I had a sense of déjà vu, as within the first chapter Burroughs discusses the seven souls of the ancient Egyptians. I had heard about these seven souls before, since I own the 1989 album Burroughs recorded with the group Material which bears the title of none other than Seven Souls. It is on this album that Burroughs recites passages from this very same novel. I know the sound of Burroughs's voice and I read The Western Lands as if the author himself was reading it to me. It was thus a haunting read since I associate it with the ambient and trancy music of Material.
The Western Lands
was not my first Burroughs read by far, although I had only read one of his novels, Queer
since I started writing book reviews. Typical of Burroughs is to make references to characters without antecedents, throwing names around as though the reader was already familiar with them. We only get to learn who these people are after reading through various non sequitur paragraphs. For the most part The Western Lands
seemed an exercise in turning pages, and since I was on a week-long boat trip I could only look upon the novel as a way to occupy my time. It is difficult to discuss what the novel was about since all I could imagine was Burroughs writing it after getting high on yage. He does issue a rant against literary critics:
"Julian Chandler, book reviewer for a prestigious New York daily, knows all the tricks. He has chosen for his professional rancor the so-called Beat Movement, and perfected the art of antiwriting. Writers use words to evoke images. He uses words to obscure and destroy images."
I like Burroughs for his imagery and use of simile, as he often comes up with comparisons that I read over and over, such as:
"The first train back to London is jammed, and the writer takes a first-class seat. Every seat in his compartment is taken. Sitting opposite him is a youngish man, reading Officers and Gentlemen. As the train pulls into Victoria Station, the man looks at him, eyes contracted in spitting hate like a poison toad."
Phallic imagery is prevalent in The Western Lands which for Burroughs seems par for the course. The more you read it, the more you accept that it is the preoccupation of a crusty stoned closet case. The short paragraphs that compose each chapter reveal a mind wandering in a haze of hallucinogenic smoke. This was a trippy read through the journey of the seven Egyptian souls. It seemed mildly interesting--I later got past the point where all I felt I was doing was reading words on the page for the sole purpose of eventually turning them--but nothing much happens in this book nonetheless.
|Friday, October 11th, 2013|
|Tristan da Cunha photos
I am finally able to upload photos from my 23-day trip to Tristan da Cunha. The Internet on the island left me with very s-l-o-w connections and I could not post any photos along with my travelogues. While I am in Cape Town for the next few days I will add new travelogues accompanied with photos from this incredible journey to the most isolated inhabited community on the planet.
My Tristan da Cunha blog continues at my WrongRadical2 LiveJournal, and you can see the first instalment of photos here: http://wrongradical2.livejournal.com/4269.html
|Be My Guest
I picked up Be My Guest
by Conrad Hilton when I stayed at the Milwaukee Hilton several years ago. Guests of Hilton hotels in addition to finding the standard free soap and shampoo also receive a complimentary copy of Hilton's memoir, originally written in 1957. I started reading Be My Guest
while aboard S. A. Agulhas II en route from Cape Town, South Africa to Tristan da Cunha. I finished the book on board and while I wanted to leave it in the ship's library when I had finished it, the lack of Internet on board, both on my way to Tristan as well as coming back, precluded me from posting this review from the ship. Thus I have waited until my return to Cape Town to post this.Be My Guest
was an engaging story that I enjoyed reading each night. It was a can't-put-down book, wherein Hilton documented his family story, often with humorous anecdotes, from the courtship of his parents and his boyhood growing up in New Mexico to his founding of one of the greatest hotel chains worldwide.
Each of Hilton's parents instilled in him a guiding principle that he has followed all of his life. From his mother, Mary Laufersweiler Hilton, he learned the power of prayer and from his father Gus he learned the value of work. In addition to these principles Hilton added his own: that one must never be afraid to dream. And to dream big
. And big is exactly how Conrad Hilton dreamt.
Hilton got his first taste of the hotel industry when a currency panic in October 1907 left his father nearly broke. His family soon realized that they had been literally sitting on a moneymaker:
"We had the biggest, ramblingest adobe house in New Mexico directly facing a railroad station on a main line. And we had my mother's cooking. This added up to only one thing--a Hilton Hotel."Be My Guest
had plenty of humorous moments and I can imagine Hilton himself laughing out loud as he recalled some moments from his childhood. I'll bet he had a good time writing (or dictating) his story. Having such a devoutly Catholic mother kept a young Connie always on his toes:
"Almost as much as going to church or playing hooky, I liked going down the road to talk with Charles Hislie, the carpenter, or Carl Jenks, the village blacksmith and dentist. Mr. Jenks shoed horses or pulled teeth, whichever service was required at the moment. My brother Carl, after an extraction, claimed that he used the same instruments for both operations, but I have no first-hand knowledge of that.
"As I seldom had a toothache I loved to hang around Mr. Jenks' emporium and smell the pungent hot smell and listen to the hammer ringing on the anvil. I also liked to hear Mr. Jenks cuss. He was very talented in that direction and to this day I believe he had as extensive a vocabulary as any man I ever met.
"This hero worship was rudely interrupted when an unsuitable word escaped my lips at dinner table. Mother was shocked. Gus paused in carving the roast only long enough to glare at me and say, 'You stay away from the smithy.' From that time I did, except on dental business when I was accompanied by my lady mother."
Mrs. Hilton also features in an amusing story after her son had made his fortune in the hotel business. She could not accustom herself to having others do for her what she had proudly always done herself:
"My mother, I might add, never did modernize her views on tipping. When she lived for some years at the El Paso Hilton, this was a source of some amusement and much conniving on the part of her children. I, myself, would take her twenty or thirty quarters with specific instructions that she was to give one or two to any bellboy, any waiter, anyone, indeed, who gave her special service, depending on the extra amount of trouble it gave him.
"'I'll try, Connie,' she'd say.
"And I would find out from my sister Helen that, as soon as my back was turned, she'd trot down to the cashier and have the quarters converted into dimes, with which she reluctantly rewarded any service she absolutely could not do herself. Ten cents remained all her life the most she could bring herself to tip."Be My Guest
traces Hilton's shift from buying banks to buying hotels. At first he took over older hotels and transformed them according to his vision. The Hilton empire of new hotels was not his immediate intention. Only after his frustration in having to renovate yet another older building did he consider starting to build his next hotel from the ground up.
It was however not a new hotel but the palatial Queen of all hotels, the Waldorf Astoria, that was his prime target for many years. Its prestige as the height of luxurious hotel accommodation and reputation for unparallelled service made it the diamond in the eye of the Big Apple. He dreamt of owning it one day, and this big dream of his would one day become true. Hilton wrote of his many offers and counteroffers, and offered his insights into the skills of negotiation and the honour in keeping your word with a handshake.
The Waldorf Astoria may be the Queen of his "dowager" hotels, yet he still had to revitalize it to meet Hilton standards. However even when confronted with a rather unfortunate reality of hotel ownership, Hilton can still elicit a smile:
"A wire from Carl at the Waldorf pinpointed this vague feeling. 'Fellow in 202 bumped himself off last night. After looking at his room I don't blame him. We have got to fix up those rooms.'
"I somehow doubted that the décor in 202 had driven the poor fellow to suicide. Unfortunately tired people, discouraged people have sought the impersonal solitude of a hotel for their unhappy business since time immemorial."
One of the pleasures of reading Be My Guest
were its stories away from the wheeling and dealing and cornerstone laying. I was absorbed not only in the stories of Hilton's boyhood but also in the tales about his wives and children. Hilton's second marriage was to Zsa Zsa Gabor which in retrospect he could see "was doomed before it started". He recounted with heaving exasperation the countless times he tried to curb her spending habits:
"Glamour, I found, is expensive, and Zsa Zsa was glamour raised to the last degree. She also knew more days on which gifts could be given than appear on any holiday calendar. And then, of course, you could always give gifts because it was no special day at all and thereby transform it."
"I have tried to instill sound business principles into my beautiful Circe, but I might as well have practiced on a statue in the park."Be My Guest
, being that it was published in 1957 at the end of the communist red scare of McCarthyism, ends its final chapters with Hilton vowing to fight communism. The anti-communist tone seems like a time warp of a read for today's reader, yet at the time the red menace was seen as a legitimate threat and proud Americans showed their patriotism by publicly fighting against it. To Hilton, his hotels bridged cultures by bringing the peoples of the world together as a united front against communism.
Hilton ends his book by listing his ten ingredients for successful living. His words of wisdom may help others realize their dreams. Herewith are the Hilton top ten:
Find your own particular talent.
Live with enthusiasm.
Don't let your possessions possess you.
Don't worry about your problems.
Don't cling to the past.
Look up to people when you can--down to no one.
Assume your full share of responsibility for the world in which you live.
Play consistently and confidently.
|Wednesday, September 4th, 2013|
|Go to WrongRadical2
Today I boarded S. A. Agulhas II and saw my cabin, and took photos of the ship. I also walked around the old Muslim community of Bo-Kaap which clings to the side of Signal Hill. I took many photos, too many to upload in this entry without blowing my photo capacity. To see what my next six days' accommodation at sea will be like, and to see where the best views of Table Mountain are in Cape Town, please visit my wrongradical2
|New LiveJournal blog
Over the last few months I have been alerted by LiveJournal that the remaining available memory in my photo scrapbook has been dwindling. Very recently, when I attempted to upload a photo with a new journal entry, I was alerted that my memory quota had been used up. I managed to increase my memory bank by either deleting duplicate photos from my scrapbook archive, or by deleting large photos from old posts and uploading smaller images in their place. It was, I realized, only a matter of time before my photo memory would be completely used up. I could see the writing on the wall last night as I was uploading photos with my Cape Town post. I will probably go over the limit upon my next journal travel entry, which I will post later this evening.
LiveJournal offered me a remedy to increase my photo memory bank--for a fee. I am not willing to pay for anything that I can get on-line for free. So, before I left on my European vacation with Mark I had already created a new LiveJournal, wrongradical2. I am still capable of posting entries to the journal you are reading now, provided they are text-only. Many of my entries have accompanying photos, whether they are for book reviews or travel stories. I want my journals to be chronologically in sequence and I am not optimistic that this evening's entry will be viewed here. If there is no room at the LiveJournal Inn I will announce that the ship has sailed for wrongradical2.
If you are interested in reading my journal, with its book reviews, occasional whines about my struggles with technology, and my travelogues, please join me at wrongradical2.
Both of my LiveJournals are open and do not require you to register with LiveJournal in order to read or comment on them.
|Tuesday, September 3rd, 2013|
|I have arrived in Cape Town
On Monday morning I awoke to my alarm. I was using a different alarm clock as the smaller one I usually use was already packed for my vacation. I worried that since I was getting up so early (I had set it for 3:30 a.m.) I might forget to pack it. The one I had set was chunky and octagonal in shape, and when I picked it up, I was startled when I saw the clock face read 8:45. Oh no--my flight to New York was at 6:30! Did I sleep in? I lay in bed, puzzling over how come the alarm didn't go off when I set it. I didn't panic and make a fuss, but in my daze of only four hours sleep I had the sense not to get all worked up about it until I had put my contact lenses in. It was then that I realized I had been looking at the clock upside down. The alarm had gone off at 3:15, not 8:45.
I had breakfast and then spent a few minutes composing the previous LiveJournal message. Mark drove me to the airport. I am usually choked up when I say goodbye to my budgies and then when I call Mark at work from the departure lounge. This trip was different in that Mark generously drove me to the airport and I was cool and coherent when I said my goodbyes. I wonder if a later departure time would have turned me into a blubbering frownypants.
At 4:55 the airport was empty and there was no lineup to check in. Good thing there wasn't anyone around because the agent told me that my suitcase was seven pounds overweight and that I would need to repack. I couldn't believe it. I had packed no books in my suitcase; they were all in my carry-on backpack. I was dumbfounded. Really. I could not figure out why my new suitcase--which on its own when empty weighed about thirteen pounds--could have been overweight. And I had deliberately packed fewer clothes than usual, since the Tristanian family I am staying with will be doing my laundry (this service is included in my home stay fee). A different agent told me to take out any shoes or jeans, as next to books they are heavy weight. What I ended up doing was emptying out every one of the seven boxes of cookies from my second carry-on bag, and stuffing them into the suitcase. I took out my new hiking shoes, my bag of three pairs of jeans, my clunky battery adapter, the bag of gifts for the Tristanian family's children, a box of moist wipes and my second camera. Ever since a fellow traveller's camera broke down on our trip to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, I have worried about what I would do if I was in a situation where I could not buy a replacement camera easily, or at all. After this transferral of goods from suitcase to carry-on, I was within the weight limit and proceeded through check-in.
My initial flight to New York (JFK) had been cancelled and I was given a flight to LaGuardia two hours earlier than my JFK flight. I was needless to say not pleased at all to receive this news shortly after I returned home from Norway. I have commuted by shuttle between LGA and JFK before and hated it, so I was not keen on travelling that way again. I was ready to hail the first cab I saw. While speaking to the US customs agent in Toronto about the purpose of my trip, he reminded me that today was Labour Day, and there would hardly be any traffic in New York City at 8 a.m. The flight landed on time and my suitcase was already on the carousel after I made a bathroom stop so I was out of LaGuardia by 8:15. It was then that I decided to take a $13 shuttle to JFK versus a way more expensive cab. The shuttle was practically a personal cab anyway, since there was only one other passenger and his terminal came up first. I had to sit back as the shuttle snaked throughout JFK from terminal seven to four in what seemed like an unnecessarily circuitous route.
At each leg of this trip I have had to claim my baggage and go through security again. Going through security at JFK after LGA is obvious. However I was surprised that I would have to pick up my suitcase in Johannesburg and go through security again before proceeding to Cape Town. The airlines are only doing their best to keep everyone safe, and I did have the peace of mind knowing that my suitcase had arrived at each of the stopover destinations.
I am staying at the Breakwater Lodge at the Waterfront, part of the Protea Hotels chain. It is not far from the East Pier, where the S. A. Agulhas II is docked. After I settled in to my room, I walked to the pier to find the ship. It took only fifteen minutes. Here is the ship I will be aboard as of noon on Thursday. We set off for Tristan at 2 p.m. but all passengers have to be on board by noon:
I walked around Victoria Wharf after and browsed in the bookstore Exclusive Books (or, as they stylize it, Exclus1ve Books) looking at all the language materials on Afrikaans, Xhosa, Sesotho and Zulu. I enquired about translations of Le Petit Prince
in these languages since I could not find any. A clerk told me he could order an Afrikaans edition and I could pick it up after I return from Tristan in October. I stopped by the Wharf's post office and naturally took a couple photos of the mailbox outside:
And in case you're curious as to what that "warning" is all about:
After I send this, I will eat some sushi and salad I picked up at the Victoria Wharf Pick and Pay, write a couple postcards, then get to bed. I have a lot to do tomorrow, the most important task being paying for my passage aboard the S. A. Agulhas II.
|Monday, September 2nd, 2013|
|Leaving for Cape Town
It is a few minutes before 4 a.m. as I write this on Monday, and I am getting ready to leave for the airport. Mark and my mother came over yesterday night for dinner, and Mark stayed over and will be driving me to the airport. I have a 6:30 flight to LaGuardia in New York. As a result of a regretted last-minute flight change beyond my control, my former booking of flying to JFK on an 8:30 a.m. flight was cancelled. In its place I was given a flight two hours earlier to NYC's other airport. No one wants to travel this early, then have to crisscross the city at rush hour and go through airport security a second time. I will not be at peace until I am on my 11:15 flight out of JFK for Johannesburg. I am scheduled to arrive in Cape Town at 14:15 on Tuesday. Wednesday will be a day of rest where I won't do any sightseeing but I do have to take care of some very important business. I will first head to the bank to pay for my ship passage, then transmit the receipt to the ship's office headquarters (my hotel office staff can help me with that) and then I will visit the S. A. Agulhas II in port at East Pier and surrender my passport. I have to give up my passport 24 hours before departure. I will walk to East Pier to get an idea how far it is from the hotel. I must be at the Pier by noon on Thursday with departure for Tristan at 14:00 (or 8 a.m. Eastern Standard Time). I do not know if the S. A. Agulhas II will have a public Internet station on board like M. S. Finnmarken during our Norwegian cruise (since the Agulhas after all is a private research vessel and not a public cruise ship) but I definitely will write aboard the ship if I can.
The journey to Tristan da Cunha commences!
|Thursday, August 29th, 2013|
|More translations of Le Petit Prince
I have just photographed the covers of all the books I picked up while on holiday. When I have more time (perhaps while I am on Tristan) I will write an entry about all of them. I probably will write about the books I acquired in each country, thus in five separate entries. By far the most books I bought were in Luxembourg, where I went crazy shopping for Lëtzebuergesch grammars and audio materials.
The first of my holiday book entries, however, will be about my four new translations of Le Petit Prince
. In the order that I bought them, they are:Litli prinsinn
in Icelandic (hardcover). This was the only copy I saw in Reykjavík and was glad to find it at all.De Kleine Prins
in Dutch (paperback). I saw the paperback first in a large Amsterdam store and grabbed it. Only after I bought it did I find hardcovers as well as the Dutch pop-up book and also a puzzle version. I don't collect any of these novelty editions but I would have bought the hardcover if I had seen it first. While in Belgium, by the way, I saw the exact same editions.De Klenge Prënz
in Lëtzebuergesch (paperback). I only saw paperback editions in Luxembourg. Because I am so interested in Luxembourgish and enjoyed listening to it being spoken, I bought an audio version of the story:
and finally:Den lille prinsen
in Norwegian (hardcover). I got this one in Oslo and it like the Icelandic translation was the only hardcover edition I saw in the shops. Whereas the Icelandic hardcover edition was the one and only edition I found be it hardcover or paperback, I did see paperback copies of Den lille prinsen
|Tuesday, August 27th, 2013|
|Packing for Tristan
One thing I learned about taking a cruise of the fjords of Norway in the middle of the summer is that being on board a ship can be quite cold. Some of the passengers had past experience cruising the northern waterways and came prepared with toques and gloves. I only had a thin jacket with a hood. I had brought no long-sleeve shirts at all on that trip. I was never freezing to death while on deck, but it was cold and I appreciated the loan of one of Mark's hooded sweatshirts (as well as all the coffee I could drink). When I travel to Tristan next week, I will be prepared for the rough windy seas of the south Atlantic and will err on the side of overpacking my suitcase with plenty of warm clothes. I am going to bring a light hooded jacket, a sweater, some long-sleeve shirts and my cycling raincoat and rain pants. This time of year the temperature ranges between 10°C and 15°C and it is at the end of the rainy season. An umbrella is useless on Tristan because the wind would tear it to pieces, so overall rainwear, such that I use when cycling, is best.
Ever since Mark and I lost our luggage for three days during a flight to Florida, I have had the foresight to pack some clothes and other necessities into my carry-on luggage. I did this for several years but I did not do this during our recent European trip. I certainly will stuff my backpack with extra clothes should the unthinkable occur and I lose my luggage en route to Cape Town. Passengers aboard the S. A. Agulhas II however will not have room in their cabins for all their luggage. We have received instructions that we may bring only one bag into our cabins. That bag will have to contain all that we will need for the week's voyage at sea. Thus all clothing, toiletries, books and so on will have to fit into one carry-on bag. I will use my backpack. The rest of our luggage will be placed in ship's storage. We will have permission to retrieve things from our stored luggage if need be, however we will have to be accompanied by the purser on board. Although no one has told me otherwise, I believe it would be a great inconvenience if the purser had to traipse down to the storage area every time a passenger forgot his dental floss, so I will plan for my week at sea without needing to see my luggage again until arrival at Tristan.
I will not be buying much in Tristan. The island's website sells souvenirs
and one can also find these in the island's shop. I already own several books and maps that are for sale. In fact, Conrad Glass, the author of Rockhopper Copper: The Life and Times of the People of the Most Remote Inhabited Island on Earth, Tristan da Cunha
will be on the island and I am taking my book over to get autographed. I have also found out that Karen Lavarello-Schreier, coauthor of Tristan da Cunha: History, People, Language
will be on board the ship that takes me to Tristan. The souvenirs I plan to buy are postcards, stamps, bookmarks and maybe a T-shirt or fleece pullover. I am taking over however boxes and boxes of cookies and chocolates. My contact on the island has recommended that I bring biscuits and chocolates as they are always welcome gifts. I just bought five boxes of cookies yesterday and I will buy the chocolates on Thursday. A small zipped shoulder bag can hold all of them and they may take up as much capacity as all the books I usually buy, but they certainly don't weigh as much. I cannot foresee that I will be replacing the volume of cookie and chocolate boxes with Tristan souvenirs. Aside from postcards and fridge magnets, the only souvenirs I am interested in getting while in Cape Town, on the other hand, are books on any of the click languages. I am hoping to get some with audio components. Even then, I don't see myself replacing my Tristan goodie bag with souvenirs for myself so I might arrive home with less than I left with. We'll just have to wait and see about that.
Tristan da Cunha has an Internet cafe. The rate for the duration of my 26-day visit is £25, or roughly one pound a day. I plan to write about both of my vacations while I am there, as I have had no time at all since I got home from Europe to write about it or even to look at the hundreds of photos I took. I however do not plan to spend my entire time on Tristan sitting in front of a computer terminal. It would be fun though to post photos from Tristan while I am actually on the island. Tristan is four hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time, the time zone where I live, so it might even be possible to chat via Gmail or to have real-time E-mail exchanges.
|Monday, August 26th, 2013|
|OutGames opening ceremony
On 3 August Mark and I attended the opening ceremony of the third World OutGames in Antwerp, Belgium. I recognized a few Canadian faces as we assembled under the maple leaf before we all marched in together. One of those faces was Steven Bereznai, a journalist for Xtra
magazine who himself was competing in water polo. Steven took our photo and said that it might appear in the magazine. I had forgotten about that picture until this evening, when all I had to do was type in "xtra antwerp" into Google, select photos, and guess who popped up:
I do not know if our photo ever appeared in the print edition, and it would be too late to look for back issues now, but I am pleasantly surprised to see that it made the on-line edition. Isn't Mark the cutest?
|Thursday, August 22nd, 2013|
|Sailing to Tristan da Cunha
I have just returned from a vacation to Europe and I'm going out again, this time to a faraway island known as the most isolated inhabited place on the planet: Tristan da Cunha. (The last word in the island's name is pronounced COO-na, as this is a British dependency and they do not pronounce the name with the nasal as COON-ya.) Where is Tristan da Cunha? Take out an atlas and look at the south Atlantic, and look for a speck in the ocean midway between South America and southern Africa. That dot in the middle of all that swirling ocean is Tristan da Cunha, population 259. The only way to get to Tristan is by boat, as there is no airport on the island. I will be sailing from Cape Town on September 5 aboard the South African research vessel S. A. Agulhas II
, with an estimated date of arrival September 10.
The only scheduled ships that visit Tristan are either fishing or research vessels. There are nine scheduled visits this year. The Agulhas II makes its annual journey from Cape Town to Tristan da Cunha en route to Gough [goff] Island where it stays to restock and re-staff a South African meteorological station located there. When it has finished its mission at Gough, the ship returns to Tristan to pick up passengers before heading back to Cape Town. A lot of planning is needed before you can go to Tristan, as you can't just grab a boat and sail for a week halfway across the Atlantic and expect someone to greet you at the harbour. I worked for several weeks with island authorities before I made a public announcement about my trip in June of last year here. I plan to write regular travel reports while I am on Tristan da Cunha. There are already about a dozen reports in my Tristan LiveJournal about the planning one needs to undertake in order to go to the island.
Tristan da Cunha has its own website
, full of links about the latest island news, its history, shipping schedules and how to go about planning a trip there. Last year the website administrator listed all the passengers aboard the maiden voyage of the brand-new S. A. Agulhas II as it was en route to Tristan. Maybe you will read my own name on the passenger list before I can get to a computer to read it for myself. While on the island I will do a lot of supervised exploring, reading and writing. If the locals let me I will gladly help out planting potatoes or doing other farm or field work. I will be staying with a local family, as there are no hotels on the island.
I will be on Tristan until October 5, with an estimated date of arrival back in Cape Town October 10. Any postcards I write will be on the ship that takes me off the island, so it will not matter if you're the first person I write to or the last: postcards won't be leaving the island until I do.
Join me as I sail to Tristan da Cunha!
|Saturday, August 17th, 2013|
|We have just arrived in Kirkenes
It is a little after 10:00 in Kirkenes, Norway, and our fjord cruise has just ended. This morning at 03:45 I woke up to see the arrival in Vardø, the most eastern town in Norway where I visited in January 2002. It was a moment of extreme beauty. Mark got up and two hours later we saw Vadsø, where I also visited eleven years ago. Now we are watching the passengers disembark for the buses to take them into Kirkenes. Mark and I are going to walk to town and stay on board until the crowds have thinned out. We are going to the border museum this afternoon, as Kirkenes lies very close to the Russian frontier and a border museum is the perfect attraction.
|Friday, August 16th, 2013|
|Sun on the seventieth
I have just had breakfast and in a couple hours we will dock at Honningsvåg. Honningsvåg is slightly further north than Vardø, which I visited in 2002, yet not as north as Mehamn, which lies just north of the 71st parallel. Mehamn is a village we will see later on today. Yesterday we spent the day walking around Tromsø, a major town of 70.000 situated on an island. My first stop in Tromsø was the public library, where I was pleasantly surprised to see signs in both Norwegian and Northern Sami. Northern Sami, also known as Tunturi Sami (in Finland) or Fell Sami, is in the minority here yet I have not been able to find any Sami books except for Norwegian-Sami and Sami-Norwegian dictionaries.
The sun is out again and before I came to the ship's small Internet station I walked outside on the uppermost outside deck with only a T-shirt, yet I am still wearing long pants and haven't put shorts on the entire time since we left Bergen. It is a cloudless day, quite unlike the start of this voyage when it was rainy, grey and cloudy all day and all night long. Tromsø had a very long bridge connecting it to the mainland where the Ishavskatedralen (www.ishavskatedralen.no
) is located. (I can't insert links in this post.) The crossing of the bridge reminded me of the frigid windy time I had while crossing the Golden Gate Bridge: even though I crossed both bridges in the middle of the summer, the wind by the time you reach the central high arch of the bridge--high enough to allow cruise ships to pass through--whips you into numbness.
The polar museum Polaria (http://www.polaria.no/home.155300.en.html
) resembles the Ishavskatedralen in its stylized iceberg shape. I did not visit this museum but did spend a lot of time and money in its gift shop, where one can buy countless books on the Norwegian Arctic polar regions. I came out with a new English guide to Svalbard as well as a large-scale map of the archipelago. While talking with Mark about making a return visit to the Norwegian Arctic, I mentioned that Svalbard (as well as Jan Mayen, an island you need permission to visit from the coast guard) was on my list. Mark did not seem put off by this suggestion, so who knows. We might be in Longyearbyen sometime soon.
Time to prepare for Honningsvåg, then tomorrow very early in the morning I make a return visit, this time in the summer, to Vardø and Vadsø. I can't wait to see those towns again.
|Wednesday, August 14th, 2013|
The sun has finally come out during this fjord cruise. We awoke to a shaft of strong sunlight slicing through our cabin window and when I opened the curtains it blinded me. Up to now we have had rainy weather all day. Yesterday the ship had a lengthy stopover in Trondheim and Mark and I stopped into the information centre and got a book in English about the local architecture. Mark loves regional architecture and city planning, and whenever I go on holiday I always pick up books on these topics for him. The book he got yesterday included a self-guided walking tour so we walked about the old and new buildings in this major city, which was once the capital of Norway. Late last night we had a brief half-hour stopover in Rørvik, to the far north of Trondheim, not the Rørvik literally across the bay from Trondheim.
Around noon today we have a long stopover in Bodø. The first sunny pictures will be from north of the Arctic Circle. Our dinner companions yesterday were Mark and Martine, a couple from just south of Antwerp. Can you believe it? How did the dinner planners know that this couple would be perfect for us as table mates? As it turned out, they knew all about the Out Games. Martine is--get ready for this--a trivia buff and plays in pub quizzes all the time and has even won big money: her biggest prize yet as an individual player was 2500 euros. I told her all about the team I play with on Wednesday nights and about our winning streak at the Drake Hotel in Toronto. Martine is also a sports lover and she enjoyed hearing all about Mark's two events and was excited to hear about his gold medal. Mark and I do not recall filling out a personal profile for the cruise seating planners, but this match was ideal, as Martine and Mark joined us for breakfast this morning, where there is no set seating.
The islands and fjords certainly look different when they are bathed in sunlight. For one: they're green, not grey. The MS Finnmarken cruises through some very narrow fjords. The highlight of yesterday's trip was a tight squeeze between two islands only 42 metres apart. Mark and I went to the enclosed upper viewing area and, with dozens of other passengers, clenched our jaws and bolted our feet to the floor as the ship glided through, with cliffs so close I joked that had we been on an open outside deck on any of the lower levels, we could have painted graffiti on the rocky sides. The water therefore must be deep enough to allow a big cruise ship to pass through.