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HALF A LEAGUE ONWARD

6 September 2013

Sleep was terrible last night.  Both my knee and my back were bothering me, and I knew it was all that walking without my cane yesterday.  I was up at 3 but decided it was too early to go out into the lounge and read, so forced myself back to sleep, for another 45 minutes.  I crashed around trying to find something to wear other than shorts and an Obama t-shirt and finally did.  Not sure whom my propaganda shirt would offend, so best to keep it in the privacy of my cabin!  (But I wear it to sleep most nights, since he's not going to run again and I might as well get some use out of it!)

At 7, we went to breakfast, before which Walt and I both looked through the cabin for my cane again.  I was trying to decide if I felt brave enough to go out onto the dock and into the shops close to the ship and look for some place that might sell something that would work (but then we changed docks are are now on the opposite side of the water here)

Because of the walking and the problems from yesterday, I had decided not to go on either of the excursions today, so I was saying goodbye to Walt when he leaned down and when he turned around he had my cane in his hand! It had gotten to where it was lying parallel with and touching the wall, and the curtains covered it up.  But it's back and I am once again a happy camper.

But I still decided not to go on the excursions, figuring I could use some free hours (if for no other reason than to write yesterday's journal entry!).  There is at least one other man on the ship with me, a guy from So. Australia, whose back and knees are hurting him too and who also gave up the excursions.

So, since I'm not going anywhere and won't have a bunch of photos today, I thought I would write about our fellow passengers, those whom we are getting to know.  In past cruises we have had nodding acquaintances with familiar faces, but this time we seem to know more people, to nod to more people. and to chat with more people.  It is delightful that there isn't anybody from whom I want to hide.  Everyone seems so friendly.

We don't really know "day glow" guy, but nod at him  I heard him on a Skype call yesterday and I guess he's of some Slavic ethnicity.  Probably Russian.  He looks like a weight lifter and his muscles bulge out of his sleeveless shirts.  He usually wears some eye-blinding color combinations.  It was electric orange and red yesterday, it has been yellow and green and I can't remember the others.  Today he's in white and black, which seems startlingly out of character!

We had a fun lunch with the 4 sisters one day.  They are four out of 7 in the family and realized that they aren't getting any younger and if they want to spend time together, they needed to do it now.  Delightful women and seem to be devoted to each other.  I don't know their age range, but the oldest may be pushing 80.

We seem to spend most time with Bob and Linda from Dallas, a delightful pair of newly weds (3 yrs now), both on their second marriages after the death(s) of the original spouses.  I think Linda said that Bob was 10 yrs her senior and he's senior to all of the rest of us, but a very nice guy.  He and Mike have good conversations together.

There is also a young couple we ate with, who are sorely missing the ability to go to the gym and exercise.  They do laps around the deck.  I was sitting with Linda and Bob one day when they breezed past us and Bob, leaning on his cane, growled, good naturedly, "I hate those people."

Yesterday we had lunch with Ann, who has lived in the US for 45 yrs, but is originally from France.  In fact, she will leave this cruise and fly to Paris to celebrate her 55th anniversary with her husband, who is flying over to meet her.  She reminds me of my mother's friend Paula, who is French-Canadian.  You never have to worry about filling any awkward gaps in the conversation.  She asked me what Mike did for a living and said that he "seems scholarly."

When she finishes her dinner, she cuts her leftovers into tiny pieces to wrap in paper and keep for excursions because she "always finds dogs" whenever she goes out.

B and C had lunch with us one day and I enjoyed them very much, though they seem to have found other more desirable lunch partners.  I think B said it was their first cruise, but she seems to be working very hard at being likeable...and succeeding.

Lorraine and her friend Barbara are, I think, from New Orleans...or not.  Somewhere southern any way.  Lorraine is the one for whom a trip to Russia has been a lifelong dream, so they toured some places in Russia before joining this cruise.  She's having the time of her life, wringing every drop of experience she can from this trip.

I didn't get the name of the English guy and his wife.  He's the one who said that they had parks where he lives, but they had grass in them.  His wife reminds me very much of a friend of ours, who is the mother of the mayor of Emeryville (California). They are both very likeable people.

Then there is Owen and his wife Margo, who were the first people we met in Kiev.  Owen is amazing.  Hunched over, clutching his cane and determined not to miss a thing.  He barrels off down the street and I have to rush to keep up with him.

We had dinner tonight with a couple of women who are making their 23rd cruise, though mostly not on Viking.  Amazing.

The morning's excursion was to a sultan's palace that I have no information about, but en route they passed through the site of the Charge of the Light Brigade, in the 1854 Battle of Balaclava, during the Crimean War.  I imagine the experience is kind of like looking at the site of any of the Civil War battles.  Tennyson wrote his poem "The Charge of the Light Brigade" just a few weeks after the battle (Half a league, half a league / Half a league onward / All in the valley of Death / Rode the six hundred...), and 40 years later Kipling wrote a moving poem trying to shame the British into acknowledging the aging survivors of the battle.  Like Tennyson's poem, it, too, was largely ignored.

There were thirty million English who talked of England's might,
There were twenty broken troopers who lacked a bed for the night.
They had neither food nor money, they had neither service nor trade;
They were only shiftless soldiers, the last of the Light Brigade.

The afternoon's excursion was to some nuclear submarine tunnels about a 2 hr drive from here. I spent most of the time Walt was gone sleeping! This napping stuff is really starting to become one of my favorite things!

They returned home about time for dinner, which was an International menu. 

I started in the top left with Baba Ghanoush, an eggplant spread that I've heard of forever, but don't know that I've ever had.  It was served with a chick pea mousse.  Then there was a cabbage soup and the main course for me was Weiner Schnitzel (Austrian).  Walt had Chinese noodles, which may have been a mistake to order for someone who is so familiar with Chinese food.  It was too bland.  We both had German Chocolate Cake ice cream for dessert, which tasted as good as it looks here.

After dinner was the vodka tasting.  I remember our vodka tasting in Russia as being a raucous affair with the guy leading it quite a showman.  This was quite different.  Frank is a sommelier and so took a more scholarly approach to the tasting, though after 4 shots, his stories got funnier.

I don't know what is going on with the ship right now.  It's rocking a lot and there is a lot of banging.  It's the sort of thing that I would sleep peacefully through if I were in bed, but I'm awake, so I'm worrying instead.  I think I'll post this and see if I can get to that peaceful blissful state or if I'll wrap myself in a lifejacket before hand!

When I wake up, assuming all is normal with the ship, we will be docking in Yalta.
 

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This is entry #4911