Friday, November 28, 2014

Back to the Desert

Monday, I disembarked in Fort Lauderdale and now I am just outside Tucson spending holiday time with Monsieur. Since the cruise, I have been waking even earlier than usual so I am able to watch the sunrise on the desert. The sky has been such a brilliant blue each day and the bougainvillaea is blooming by our patio. A hummingbird whizzes past my ear as I read.
the reading spot
As I get older, I resist the urge to bring a suitcase of books on holiday. Airline weight restrictions and the availability of both paper and online literature make the bag of books an unnecessary burden.
an airport purchase
However, I had a wait of 8 hours in Fort Lauderdale airport. I purchased Under the Wide and Starry Sky
by Nancy Horan. It is a novel based on the relationship of Robert Louis Stevenson and his wife, Fanny.
Although Fanny and RLS are passionate about each other, Fanny's insecurities, Louis' ill-health and the continuing struggle to live within their means cause the couple to constantly seek new lands and new beginnings. While RLS is healthiest at sea, Fanny is desperately ill. Louis is belongs to a group of "creatives" while Fanny's aspirations as an artist and as a writer are always undermined by her role as her husband's caregiver.  

Monsieur and I have marvelled at the presence of RLS throughout our travels in California and in the Marquesas Islands. This year, in Scotland, I visited one of the lighthouses designed by his father.
view from my reading spot
I will be leaving Robert Louis Stevenson and Fanny in Tucson. In our casita, which is owned by a very nice lady called Ellen, there are many books and CD's. I rent a few "homes away from home" in a year and I am always amazed at the treasures that I find.
How appropriate!
After finishing RLS and Fanny, I started on Barbara Kingsolver's High Tide in Tucson. Barbara Kingsolver left Kentucky to live in the desert near Tucson. Her essays combine her scientific background as a biologist with her personal experiences. Certainly, I am a lot like Buster, the stowaway crab. My habits and routines are carried with me from place to place. Time zones change, temperatures change but I am always me!

“The very least you can do in your life is to figure out what you hope for. And the most you can do is live inside that hope. Not admire it from a distance but live right in it, under its roof. What I want is so simple I almost can’t say it: elementary kindness. Enough to eat, enough to go around. The possibility that kids might one day grow up to be neither the destroyers nor the destroyed. That’s about it. Right now I'm living in that hope, running down its hallway and touching the walls on both sides.” Barbara Kingsolver

This bush is full of butterflies.
The sun is streaming into the casita and Monsieur's sister is coming to visit for a few days. I'd better put on the coffee and roust Monsieur from the bed.

Keep hoping!

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Caribbean Blues

blue through the stateroom window
I've been away from Canada for about 4 weeks and have been experiencing a lot of blue(s). My last year's cruising companion won another cruise!!! She invited me to accompany her as it was for two people. Since we were paying for airfare (points), we decided to extend the cruise to visit Martinique and the Netherland Antilles.
Saint Lucia
The islands that we visited were colourful and every day the temperatures reached 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Rain only fell during my sleeping hours. Whenever I spoke to Maman or Monsieur, it seemed to be cold or raining at home.
I met the captain and received a medal.
Although I appreciate the beauty of these islands, there is a sadness that I feel. Probably because I am a First World woman who thinks too much. The indigenous people (Arawaks and Caribs) died out after a few years of European contact. Slaves were brought from Africa to work the plantations under conditions of heat and humidity that would have been difficult to endure.  Most agriculture on the islands is no longer economically feasible. Today's inhabitants (except for the very rich) are descendants of those slaves. Most are employed in the tourist industry which caters to wealthy Americans and Europeans. Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.

a home in Bonair
Fortunately, in the Dutch islands, there is a social safety net and there are no homeless people. This is a typical house in the countryside. Smaller state provided rentals are available and the payments can be applied to ownership.

I loved the colours of Curaçao.
The city of Curaçao was very European with waterways, a swing bridge and colourful buildings. As in many European cities, the shops were closed on Sunday.
I visited some old friends in the library in Fort-de-France. Can you read their names?
I felt at home when I reached Martinique which is a department of France, not a colony. I bought some Caudalie toner, visited the library, church and Galéries Lafayette. I was happy to stroll about and to speak French.
Hôtel de Ville
My version of cruise ship life is quite different from that of many other people. I am an early riser who values solitude. You can find me on a chaise longue at 6:30 am with my fresh fruit and yogurt. I leave to read in the ship's library at about 9:30am when the poolside starts to be crowded. I don't travel with my own books and always enjoy reading the nonfiction onboard ship. At home, I am a fiction reader but on ships, I like to learn about history and culture.

There are many food choices onboard cruise ships but I tried to eat fresh fruits and salads during the day so that I could enjoy a dining room meal in the evening. Although my friend didn't come to the dining room, I mustered up the courage to go alone. To my good fortune, I met 3 ladies from Québec whose travelling companion was ill and I found dining friends with whom I could speak French. Quelle chance!
end of day on St. Lucia

There is a part of me that is uncomfortable with cruising. I need a lot of quiet and personal space and I would prefer to spend longer in a port so that I could understand the culture a little better. But there are so many places and so little time, I guess that sometimes I just have to be a tourist.