Cruising the Mediterranean: The Journey to Pisa, Italy

I didn’t sleep very long that first night on the cruise ship. I woke up two hours after I went to sleep. I recognized the signs of jet lag. I also recognized the signs of rough seas. We were sailing from Rome to the Pisa/Florence area and that big ship was rolling from side to side. I don’t get motion sick, but I was curious so I cautiously walked out on our balcony. It’s a good thing I was cautious. High wind and waves.

I came back inside and attempted to get online. We had free Wifi. HA! Yes, we did, but that did not include web access so I couldn’t blog while I was gone! I could send the briefest of messages or emails only. I could read, but I was still too anxious to focus. The ship had many lounges for many things – a coffee bar, a library, a reading room, and much more. Up on the 15th deck, it had the Horizons Lounge. It was open all night for those of us who couldn’t sleep and those of you who know me well know that I can never sleep, so I headed up to the Horizons Lounge. It was there I found my people, my tribe!

There was a panoramic view of the Mediterranean, lit by the ships lights. There were people, all of us with a book in our hands, who were sleepless. Everyone started introducing themselves and we suddenly had a whole host of new friends from many nationalities. A woman from New York City and I instantly liked each other and hung out together all week. She had never known anyone from the southern US and loved to listen to my accent. I’ve known many people from New York, but few women since I worked with mostly men. I liked her so much because she was brash and knew how to get what she wanted. I also met a woman from South Africa who was deep in culture shock and listened more than she talked.

Now I am NOT usually a drinker. But at 2 a.m., in the middle of the Mediterranean, with a bunch of interesting strangers who were drinking, what does a girl do? When I was working and had to travel extensively, my drink of choice was one of two things – tequila shots or champagne cocktails. I decided I would be wise to avoid tequila shots! Since this was a pretty high-end lounge, champagne cocktails WERE on the menu, so that’s what I started drinking. Much less dangerous.

We all sat there until 5 a.m., talking. The Americans, like me, seemed to be the target for questions and most of the questions were – you guessed it – about American politics. The Europeans were exceptionally nice, but very curious about American politics, not a subject easy to defend at this point in the life of U.S. politics, but I did my best to explain. I’m sure my bias did show. There was quite a contrast and compare discussion with their respective political systems.

At 5 a.m., we all finally went back to our staterooms to get ready to go into Pisa as the ship was docking. The next blog post has pictures and a discussion of Pisa. The picture above shows a bit of how the Sea looked on this rough night.

Cruising the Mediterranean: Getting Prepared

We’re really excited! We’re leaving on an 8 day cruise on the Mediterranean tomorrow. We board the ship at an Italian port. We fly into Rome from Cincinnati, boarding our international flight in Philadelphia. We get to Rome in the early afternoon, their time. I’m not sure if the time difference is six hours or seven hours. They are on daylight savings time as we are, but we change back to standard time tonight. I’m not sure when they change back. But, we’ll be either six or seven hours ahead of Eastern Standard time, where we live. The port where our ship is docked is about one and one half hours by bus from the Rome airport. We have an extra one and one-half hours in case of delays. Not a lot!

Today, we are packing and trying to remember everything you have to remember for an international trip as well as for a trip where you will be on board a ship and on land. Also, the weather is variable at this time of year. It is usually in the 60s in the day and 40s at night, but it could be hot or cold, so packing is a challenge. Whew!

Our cruise line is the Oceania, which is heavily used for group tours. Our’s is a group tour through my university. Other universities are on the ship as well, but no one else. I’ll give you a report on this cruise line. The travel agent between the university and the cruise line is GoNext and I’ll also report in on their services.

My biggest concern is my dog and cat. My dog, Clarabella, does just fine when boarded at the kennel. My husband’s cat – not so much. He is terribly bonded to my husband and suffers when he isn’t with him. This will be the longest we’ve ever left him.

That’s it for now. The next time I will write will be our first night on the cruise ship as there will be no time until then. That will be Monday evening, whatever time zone Italy is in!  I’ll try to be more specific after I get oriented. Our first stop after Rome is beautiful Florence, Italy.

Oh! Ladies! There is a Canyon Ranch Spa on board the ship and I plan to take full advantage of it! 🙂

Back soon!

Balefire – #writephoto

“Ladd, come along, we’ll be late. They are lighting the balefire for Wizard tonight,” Mercy said.

“That old goat,” replied Ladd, Mercy’s older brother. “I didn’t like him anyway. The way he crept around, watching all of us. Making his silly predictions.”

“Oh, Ladd, hush,” Mercy cried. “Wizard is powerful. We dare not say things like that. Come, let’s run. We must get to the funeral. Mama is waiting and will be angry with us.”

Ladd and Mercy set off from their hut in the village through the woods toward the funeral pyre. The people of the village were all frightened. They didn’t know that wizards could die. After a session in the street when Wizard was making a series of predictions for his people, he suddenly crumbled and dropped to the dirt. The people left him there for three days. They thought he would rise again. Finally, the medicine woman who served the village examined Wizard and determined that he was dead.

There was much weeping and wailing among the people of the village. They had never heard of a wizard dying and they thought they had done something wicked to cause it. The men started building a funeral pyre outside of the village. The women prepared Wizard’s body, including Knowledge, Ladd and Mercy’s mother.

Knowledge told the children that she had heard from the other women that one of Wizard’s predictions was going to come true. The Grand Wizard from the King was coming to the village to talk to the people. She didn’t know when the visit would take place, but she was very uneasy about it.

Within a few days, the funeral pyre was ready for the balefire to be lit and for Wizard’s funeral to take place. Knowledge told Ladd and Mercy it would be that evening and they were expected to be there. She and the other women had to accompany Wizard’s body.

When Ladd and Mercy reached the funeral pyre, the balefire had been lit and was beginning to burn high. The people were standing back. They were fearful of what a balefire meant for a wizard.

Then, someone appeared from the shadows. Everyone gasped. It was the Grand Wizard sent from the King. He roared as he stood in front of the funeral pyre. He said that a wizard would be dispatched from the kingdom to the village to train someone to take Wizard’s place. The people of the village all looked at each other, wondering who would be the chosen one that would be trained.

The Grand Wizard raised his arms to the sky and a lightning bolt struck the ground right next to Ladd. The Grand Wizard declared that Ladd was the chosen one and that he should prepare himself for training to be the next wizard. Knowledge swooned and fell to the ground. Ladd stood there in shock, not knowing what to do. He didn’t want to be the wizard, but he was struck dumb.

The Grand Wizard disappeared, leaving the people of the village to the funeral and Ladd and his family to absorb the news. Mercy, standing off to the side, contemplated the trouble that would likely follow.

#SoCS – Ground

Linda’s Stream of Consciousness prompt this week is the word “ground.” As that word crossed my mind, it was easy to find something to write about. Going to “ground” to me is just about the same as “going to the well.” It means that, for me, it’s time to center myself, steady myself, and stand firmly on the ground in order to decide where life is going to take me next. I’m rather at a crossroads in my life with regard to this second career that I have carved out. I have to decide which direction I want to go.

The Universe is giving me, or maybe forcing me, to take some time to make my decisions. My husband and I are going to take a big trip very soon. We live in the U.S. and we’re going to Europe; specifically, the Mediterranean. I have been all over northern and Central Europe, but never to Southern Europe. We’re taking a wonderful cruise around Italy, France, and Spain and some of the islands in the sea. We’ll, of course, be on the ground in Europe some as we stop at ports of call. I can’t really make any decisions about my career or start anything new until we return. It will give me some time to do some thinking. This will be valuable, I think. I’ll take pictures and share them with al of you when we return.

Stillness – #writephoto

There were always a few tourists hanging around the cliff at the end of the day. If they noticed the old man sitting there, on the rocks, no one paid much attention to him. The tourists were there to see the sunset. It was a spot known for its spectacular sunsets. The old man was there every day, for every sunset.

He sat tall with exceptionally good posture. His father had taught him that. He had a full head of white hair. You couldn’t see his face since he was looking down, but you could see his rather rugged profile. He wasn’t a handsome man, but he was someone you would instantly notice. His arms were stiffly supporting him on either side.

This was the place John came to for serenity, to find stillness. The older he got, the more life overwhelmed him. He and his wife had made a pact to try to get back to simplicity, to even become minimalists. It seemed that life interfered with their plans at every turn. Being a minimalist didn’t just mean having a home that was stark with little furniture and no clutter. It was also a way of thinking. Just living in today’s world almost would not let them live their lives in a simple manner.

That’s why John came here every day. It was meditation, he supposed. This was the only place where he could empty his mind completely and have a half hour of peace. When that half hour had passed, it was if he had awakened from a trance. He was refreshed. It was much better than sleep. He felt he could survive.

The Savior

They would stand in the rain as long as necessary. They followed him, wherever he went. The rallies, they found them addictive. They touched something inside of them. Something they hadn’t known was there until they heard him speak. He said the same things every time he spoke and he enraged them, but they felt they needed to be enraged. Why didn’t the entire country realize that? Realize how much sense he made?

He was the Savior. He was going to help them out of their difficult lives. Never mind those who doubted him. They didn’t hear what they heard.

Thanks to Rochelle! Photo Prompt @ Na’ama Yehuda

Timeless – #writephoto

She often came this way. She stopped and sat on the fence, looking at the single, timeless standing stone. It always caused her carefully controlled mind to wander. Back and forward. Backwards, she wondered where they came from. What they meant? Were other stones buried by the sands of time somewhere deep around this one, perhaps in a circle? Maybe this was a lone stone. Perhaps meant to cure sick children? How will we ever know, she wondered, what the prehistoric people who raised these stones really were doing.

Then there was that other theory. The one that some thought explained the pyramids as well as the standing stones. The theory that said that we weren’t alone in the universe. Perhaps other beings had helped those prehistoric people build these complex stone structures. Most discounted that theory of course, but she found herself thinking of it. It seemed so impossible that the prehistoric citizens could have done it themselves.

A timeless mystery of the universe. She started walking again, her imagination making her smile.

Appalachia: Pearl Harbor – #100WW

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The news ran up and down Burning Fork and Birch Branch roads in Magoffin County, Kentucky faster than the water in the creeks. The family ran into the house to turn on the radio, their only means of communication with the outside world. The address by the President of the United States was playing. The Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor in Hawaii and the U.S. had entered World War II.

The young man from Michigan enlisted in the Navy. He was to be sent to Kentucky where his fate would intertwine with that Appalachian family because of this Great War.

100 words

Picture credit to @Bikurgurl

#Avenue – #writephoto

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Against her own will, she takes a different route than usual for her morning walk. It is bright and sunny outside. One of the first sunny days after a brutal winter. It seems that the weather has jumped from the dead of winter right into summer. It even seems hot. She vows to cut her morning walk a little short.

Then she sees a tree-lined avenue to her right. Its beauty astounds her. Her feet take her toward the avenue and she spots park benches all along the way. She craves the shade-lined portion of the avenue. She sits on one of the benches. Recently, she hasn’t enjoyed the sun. She feels the sun reveals too much about her. The tired face, the slumped posture, the aging. Those are private things. She doesn’t want anyone to look too closely. They might figure her out.

Beyond the shade is the wondrous sunny part of the avenue. It’s lined with cherry-blossoms. The scent wafts toward her and is sweet. People are meandering along the sunny avenue admiring the cherry trees. She doesn’t feel she has a right to the cherry blossoms, to the sunny portion of the avenue. That is for the young, the people with life ahead of them. Those who still have hopes and dreams. Not someone like her. Someone whose hopes and dreams have been stolen away.

She sits and enjoys the shade for a while. She pulls herself up and starts for home. That’s where she belongs. Behind the draperies. Where the sun doesn’t shine.

Thanks to Sue Vincent

Carnage

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A small crowd of protestors formed in a midwestern town in the U.S. They were taking a chance of being arrested by the roaming police of the U.S. government.

“Aaron, I’m terrified that we’re actually doing this,” Mandy said.

Aaron replied, “We have to be brave or we will never get our freedom back.”

The crowd was protesting the discontinued social programs, particularly those that provided them food and medical attention. The President had all social programs abolished in 2017. Since then, the disabled and the elderly people in their community had suffered and many had died.

Now it was 2019. There were few jobs. People tried to farm, but the change in the climate made it almost impossible. Aaron had organized this small protest.

A young girl was carrying a sign that said, “Love.”

They heard the police before they saw them marching in. They stood their ground. The police began the carnage by knocking the sign out of the young girl’s hands.

162 words

Photo credit to Elaine Farrington Johnson