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Sunday, June 19, 2011

ON THE BLACK SEA, PART 1

REMINDER - CLICK ON THE TITLE TO GET TO MY PHOTOBUCKET WITH PICTURES OF THE TRIP



DAY TWO (THURSDAY)

I was lying in bed, groggily wondering why I was awake in the midle of the night. My alarm I had set went off telling me it was time to get up, shower and head to breakfast. This is the disadvantage of not having a cabin with a portal - it is perpetual night. I suppose that's much better if you are a night shift worker.

My roommate had left a bag and a pair of leather shoes. I had heard him use the restroom while I was asleep as well. This is the only evidence I've seen thus far of my roommate. I figure that if I didn't see him much all voyage, this could be either a lucky or unlucky thing. [As it turns out, I think it's a lucky thing.] Later, he left his ticket (in Cyrillic) and phone to charge. His bed was not slept in. I haven't a clue if or where he is sleeping. I don't know if he came in while I was sleeping and was disheartened at the noise or if he has some other mysterious schedule he is keeping. Agatha Christie would doubtless make him a red herring in one of her murder mystery books. If she was still alive. Which she isn't. Hence, you won't see him in one of her books. Sorry.

I eventually found my roommate crashed out on his bunk during the daytime with his back to me (Andy Capp style). If he is wanting to sleep in shifts different from mine, I'm totally comfortable with that.

On Western sea going ships, the bar seems to be open from morning till late in the evening. The actual hours it is closed are relatively small. Due to wanting to earn all of the money possible for their wildly over priced goods, the people who run the ship staff the bars pretty much non-stop. This is not the case on the ship I now find myself. There are some hours when only the bar is open. Others when only the dining room is open. Some hours when both are inexplicably closed. It is (again) as though the people have a general concept of capitalism but don't quite get it. Or, the bartender is the only one that works here [Later note: He is... Weird. His name is Oleg and his English is passable with respect to 'bar stuff'.] and needs breaks and sleep. Or is pressed into other mysterious duties.


While on a boat, your choices of things to do seems to be narrowed to the following:

Talk to other people
Play games (usually with other people)
Sit
Sit and stare mindlessly at TV in a language you don't understand
Sit and read
Sunbathing (weather permitting and skin cancer optional)
Sleep

I suppose their are other strange activities you could do. I suppose I could come up with a list of ridiculous things such as sit in the shower for hours, mastrubate wildly and hope your roommate doesn't wander in, exercise, try to take over the ship, take a refreshing dip in the Black Sea and hope you get rescued before you drown, etc - but none of these has any appeal for me.

Naturally, any time you get a lot of people on a ship, you will have some completely out of control kids. These kids like to do things like play kick ball in the common areas, striking random passengers with the ball, bouncing it off of full ashtrays, TV's, etc. The parents seem to watch on rather indulgently. These are the same kind of kids that seem to be getting raised in America where the parents don't spank the shit out of them. The parents don't seem to know what 'preemptive consideration' is. That's what happens when people aren't forced to read this blog.

Eventually, dinner came. I thought that it was bad fish but according to my fellow passengers it was actually bad chicken. I think simply not knowing whether it is chicken or fish illustrates what I think of the food. I think carrying a bottle of Tabasco (big enough to share, of course) would help with the food as would ritualistically beating the cooks after every meal.

After dinner, we went out and watched a brilliant purple and blue sea sunset - the majesty of which my camera utterly failed to capture.

As the sun was setting, we saw the submerged island of Rse'll - sister island of R'yell - emerge like a beheamoth from the cold depths of the black sea. The island was covered with angular buildings of non-Euclidian design. I tried to get the ship to stop but the captain said he had a schedule to maintain so I couldn't stop to attempt to rip a hole in space and time and summon the Elder Gods to enslave humanity. Fortunately, phrases for these things (as opposed to different types of water I want to order) were in my Russian-English phrase book. Unable to bring about the End Times, we chugged on.



DAY THREE (FRIDAY)

I've finally gotten to see my roommate awake, and perhaps cracked the mystery of why he is always gone. He was staggeringly, forget to lock the door, I smell like shit, drunk. I don't recognize him of anyone I've spoken (or attempted to speak) to. It appears he is working on drinking his way heavily across the Black Sea.

I've finished reading the biography on Sean Connery I'd bought and passed it on to Andries. Personally, I thought it was the kind of reading you have to do on a boat. You wouldn't sit through it otherwise. Also, it ended in the 1980's, making the book horribly outdated. [This is written in 2011.] The next book I'll be either re-reading or reading (spotty Logan memory) is Crichton's 'Timeline'. I doubt I'll finish it before we make port. I've heard we may make port either tomorrow morning or tomorrow afternoon but nobody seems sure. I've spent about half the morning and half of the afternoon typing (to here) my notes thus far. Making a blog is difficult.

Andries and Inga keep a blog but their belief is that nobody wants to spend over five minutes reading it - hence they keep it brief. I prefer to go the other way and keep a lot of information in mine for two different reasons. First, this blog is for me as much as it is you, the reader. This is my surrogate memory. If I am old, tired and wanting to relive my adventures I can reread about specifics rather than entries like "Crossed the Black Sea - took three days in a cargo ship." Not really gripping narraitive. Not that I'm saying anything else I write could really be described as 'gripping' but I hope that it does paint an accurate (from my point of view) life aboard an East European ship. An experience unlikely to be had by any of the twenty percent of Americans that actually bother to own a current passport.

For lunch, we again had soup with some sort of dead brown animal in it which was described by my fellow diners as 'more bones than meat'. Since I'm not a big fan of something that looked like road kill with very small bones in my soup, I managed to get rid of most of the animal and just focused on the ever present rice and potatoes that are the standard filler.

The Italians who were sitting at our table agreed that this is the exact sort of food which is available in the afterlife. in one of the two possible destinations, anyway.

This is the best diet food ever. Inga said the cookies were probably good - last year.

The weather has been ideal for the journey. There is no real wind, no waves, the sun is shining and the sky is cloudless. My fellow passengers have kept themselves locked to Russian TV.

My playing of the card game 'Hearts' has gotten much better as we've played it for hours. I would avoid playing Andries in chess as he is a nasty, tricky opponent. And that is in 'speed chess'. I have no idea how nasty he would be if we were doing the boring 'taking forever' chess move thing.

Well, my roommates towel and such is still at it's initial starting location on his bed. this tells me that despite the clothing he presumably brought in this bag, he's choosing not to bath. Kind of a bummer - it's a good reason to travel in even numbered groups.

Andries has fulfilled one of his goals in learning backgammon from someone who spoke no English though I was there giving him what knowledge I had on the game. Who would have thought that when I was learning Backgammon in Blacksburg, VA the first chance I'd really have to use it was a cargo ship plowing through the Black Sea? From the number of Georgians playing it, Backgammon seems popular there. While I have no delusions that I am still very much a beginner, I win an occassional match due to luck. Who knows - perhaps some day I will be in Jamaca and get to play Kevin who initially taught me the game.

This morning, my roommate who had been looking rougher and rougher the longer the trip progressed came to me. He wanted to borrow my key. Oh, hell no. I had to turn in my passport and I didn't want the drunken lout to cost me the passport. I needed that. I took him the two meters to reception. They said to get back your passport, you need to have your key. [Note that later this proved to be a lie.] I figure my roommate wanted his passport back. He had lost his key. I figured rather than having my 'stay drunk and not bathe for the trip' roommate have my key, we'd get a spare from reception. Turns out he'd already lost that one and there was only one spare. No more keys. Weird.

How would I describe Ukranian transport? In a train, a clean white linen cloth over a dirty table. On this boat, a floor clean enough to go barefoot on but food crumbs on the unused chairs.

On shipboard, they have some games to keep the passengers fromm going insane. They have two ancient backgammon boards, a couple decks of cards not quite worn enough to be transparent and the slow opium drip of TV for the mindless. To prevent any possibility of conversation, the TV's are played at monstrous volume.

The ship was registered in Panama. According to Andres, there are a few ports that charge minimal or no tax for flying their flag. Panama (and the Netherlands) are among them.



MAX FROM UKRAINE

I was speaking to Max - his English is excellent. He was saying that he felt life in the USA must be rather boring. Everything is set. In Eastern Europe, every day brings with it a new problem/challenge. There are always new strange laws from the government, a mishutka (small bus) driver who is completely insane, etc that you have to deal with. I told him that it is my belief that in the USA this tedium is what causes us to concentrate on (making and consuming) culture. People get into movies, music, books, video games, TV and such to distract them because they don't have to worry about some new problem/obstacle/challenge on a daily basis.

Max had an unusual opinion on what the best thing about the former USSR was and that was 'children's lives'. Kids were very happy and well taken care of in the USSR. They had free camps, lots of activities, teachers and such. The biggest problem of course is that everyone gets the same status/level/money. You couldn't really get paid a very much more to be a doctor than a factory worker, hence no incentive to excel.

Also, according to Max, some Turkish hostels won't deal with Russians because Russians have what they call a 'White Soul'. The meaning of this seems to be 'party animal'. Oddly though, a lot of Europeans seem to be falling into this same idiotic behavior due to the phenomina of the 'all inclusive vacation' packages. In other words, you pay a fixed amount for your vacation. Whether you drink one beer or one hundred, you aren't getting charged any more or less - hence people tend to go wild.



BLACK HUMOR AND CULTURAL DIFFERENCES

Europeans find it deeply offensive if you joke about accidents they could have. While I was fairly drunk, I made an off joke about Max needing a lifeguard (max is a swimmer). In American, you can cheerfully joke about someone needing to avoid cutting off their hands in a machine they are working with but this is out of bounds in Europe. I'm speculating that this came about due to unsafe conditions, inadequate medical care and perhaps even some sort of superstition - but that's just speculating. Just know that if you use that sort of humor you may as well threaten them.

After that, moods and attitudes cooled distinctly and the evening wound down.



FROM FACEBOOK

I think it was TJ who gave out the link to this wonderful children's book.

1 comment:

  1. One of your more entertaining posts, Logan. Thanks for sharing!

    ReplyDelete

PICTURES

{{2011}} London, GB | Rail N Sail | Amsterdam, Netherlands | Prague, Czech Republic | Budapest, Hungary | Sarajevo, Bosnia | Romania | Chisinau, Moldova | Ukraine: Odessa - Sevastopol | Crossed Black Sea by ship | Georgia: Batumi - Tbilisi - Telavi - Sighnaghi - Chabukiani | Turkey: Kars - Lost City of Ani - Goreme - Istanbul | Jordan: Amman - Wadi Rum | Israel | Egypt: Neweiba - Luxor - Karnak - Cairo | Thailand: Bangkok - Pattaya - Chaing Mai - Chaing Rei | Laos: Luang Prabang - Pakse | Cambodia: Phnom Penh | Vietnam: Vung Tau - Saigon aka Ho Chi Minh City

{{2012}} Cambodia: Kampot - Sihanoukville - Siem Reap - Angkor Wat | Thailand: Bangkok | India: Rishikesh - Ajmer - Pushkar - Bundi - Udaipur - Jodhpur - Jasalmer - Bikaner - Jaipur - Agra - Varanasi | Nepal: Kathmandu - Chitwan - Pokhara - Bhaktapur - (Rafting) - Dharan | India: Darjeeling - Calcutta Panaji | Thailand: Bangkok - again - Krabi Town | Malaysia, Malaka | Indonesia: Dumas - Bukittinggi - Kuta - Ubud - 'Full Throttle' - Gili Islands - Senggigi | Cambodia: Siem Reap | Thailand: Trat | Turkey: Istanbul | Georgia: Tbilisi

{{2013}} Latvia: Riga | Germany: Berlin | Spain: Malaga - Grenada | Morocco: Marrakech - Essauira - Casablanca - Chefchawen - Fes | Germany: Frankfurt | Logan's Home Invasion USA: Virginia - Michigan - Indiana - Illinois - Illinois - Colorado | Guatemala: Antigua - San Pedro | Honduras: Copan Ruinas - Utila | Nicaragua: Granada | Colombia: Cartagena | Ecuador: Otavalo - Quito - Banos - Samari (a spa outside of Banos) - Puyo - Mera

{{2014}} Peru: Lima - Nasca - Cusco | Dominican Republic | Ukraine: Odessa | Bulgaria: Varna - Plovdiv | Macedonia: Skopje - Bitola - Ohrid - Struga | Albania: Berat - Sarande | Greece: Athens | Italy: Naples - Pompeii - Salerno | Tunisia: Hammamet 1

{{2015}} Hammamet 2 | South Africa: Johnnesburg | Thailand: Hua Hin - Hat Yai | Malaysia: Georgetown | Thailand: Krabi Town | Indonesia:
Sabang Island | Bulgaria: Plovdiv | Romania: Ploiesti - Targu Mures | Poland: Warsaw | Czech Republic: Prague | Germany: Munich | Netherlands: Groningen | England: Slough | Thailand: Ayutthaya - Khon Kaen - Vang Vieng | Cambodia: Siem Reap

{{2016}} Thailand: Kanchanaburi - Chumphon | Malaysia: Ipoh - Kuala Lumpur - Kuching - Miri | Ukraine: Kiev | Romania: Targu Mures - Barsov | Morocco: Tetouan

{{2017}} Portugal: Faro | USA: Virginia - Michigan - Illinois - Colorado | England: Slough - Lancaster | Thailand: Bangkok | Cambodia: Siem Reap |

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