Thursday, March 24, 2011

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Between a Rock and a Hard Place

We docked around 7;00 this morning at Mindelo [MIN-dello], Cape Verde, and were cleared to go ashore at 8:00. HAH! We were still in bed, enjoying the luxury before we have to start getting up at 6:30 to start touring at 8:00.

We arrived at the MDR a few minutes earlier than normal but were still shown to what has become our regular table. It is in a corner as far from everyone else as it could be. Are they trying to tell us something? Once again, we were joined by the same couple with whom we have had breakfast several times, always in the “bad children’s” corner.[See the entry for March 15]. We have been passing the time talking about the Trivia and other matters of little importance.

We decided to venture into town to see what there was here. While the ship or the locals were offering a shuttle to town, the 10-passenger mini-van filled quickly with the truly needy, so we began walking. And walking. And walking. We thought the shuttle was going as far as then end of the pier [like Martinique], but it went all the way to what passes for downtown. After walking about a mile, we turned around and came back to the ship. Others we met returning when we were outbound said there wasn’t much to Mindelo; folks who made it [via the shuttle] told us the same thing. As someone said of the market, “I’ve seen plenty of vegetables before.”

Cape Verde is really a series of volcanic islands in the eastern Atlantic off the coast of Africa. It reminded us of Lanzarote in the Canary Islands [which we will visit in a week or so] in that it is barren to look at. All we can see from the ship is bare mountainsides and the strata of rock pushed up by tectonic action. It looks like a giant cinder. It is a rock between the Caribbean and Africa with little to offer except geography.

Back on the ship, we grabbed a cream soda and went to the Lido where we sat outside in the breeze and read and wrote. Trivia was early today, scheduled for 2:30 instead of the usual 3:30 we’ve come to expect on port days. We scored 10/17 which was good enough for a second place tie with Ken & Lois and one other team. We told K&L today that Ed and Roxanne are boarding in Venice and plan to join our Trivia team [say “goodbye” to Gordon] and they were really put out. They presumed that everyone would be fighting for them to join their team. We set them straight when MA pointed out that we already have team hats which our future teammates bought.
Among the questions today:

1. What is the northernmost landlocked country in Europe?
2. Which of these presidents is/was the tallest; Obama, Bush II, Clinton, Carter, Bush I?
3. Who wrote the lyrics to “West Side Story” and “Gypsy?”
4. Whose slogan was, “Even your best friend won’t tell you?”
5. Which was the first movie studio to ban smoking from its films?
6. Which was the first state in the United States?
7. What is the most quoted line from “Gone with the Wind?”
8. In which sport did Johnny Wiesmuller win 5 gold medals?
9. For a short time in the 19th Century, what South American city was the capital of a European country?
10. All three current female associate justices of the Supreme Court were born in the same city. Name it.
11. The Global Seed Bank is located in Svalbard. In which country is Svalbard located?
12. [Bonus] What do the J and D stand for in J. D. Salinger?

Because we played Trivia at 2:30, it was 3:00 when we finished and there was a local folkloric show set for 3:30 by the Lido pool. We hustled up there but were only able to find seats in the corner by the temporary bar which was mass producing margaritas. Our view of the staging area was slightly obstructed [especially when passengers went to the bar for nachos], so D went up to the next deck where he could get some pictures and video of the show. He returned to MA and shot more video and took more pix as the performance continued. There were three sets of dancers who combined local flavor with Latin rhythms; the dancing seemed to combine salsa, tango and samba although not at the same time. There was also a small band consisting of 3 guitars and a violin player plus a female singer. It was a highly enjoyable 45 minutes and was the highlight of our stay in Mindelo.

After dinner [vegetarian again/barramundi], we went to the show lounge for a performance by a Cuban-born pianist. His fingers flew through such numbers as Brasil, Malaguena, Tico Tico and a Gershwin fantasy as well as Leroy Anderson’s Typewriter during which he played both the piano and the typewriter simultaneously. It was so enjoyable that D bought one of his CDs after the show.

Tomorrow is another sea day, then on to Africa!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

A Little Bit Rock and Roll

The captain told us at 1:00 p.m. that we had Force 5 winds and 10 – 12 foot swells. We thought it was swell, too. There was just enough motion to remind us that we were aboard an ocean-going vessel. The elevators made noises like a New York subway car, so we jiggled a little pretending to be on the IRT.

We had new people at breakfast this morning; then it was off to the Ocean Bar around 10:30. We schmoozed with worthy opponents and with Fermin who had wandered through. D cleared out the e-mail and booked a tour in Ashdod, Israel, for April 20, the day which was added in lieu of Egypt. He also e-mailed a copy of the tour meeting chart to himself so he could print it using the ship’s computers. Then he went to the computer area to print it. A stop by the Front Desk yielded enough copies to distribute to all the people joining us on a variety of shore excursions starting with Dakar, Senegal, in two days.

1. Which US president was an engineer?
2. What Chinese city is the richest?
3. What tennis term is an anagram of lovely?
4. What aspiring track star abandoned sports to become a professional singer?
5. What branch of science deals with the study of liquids in pipes?
6. Whose slogan was, “Where’s the beef?”
7. The citizens of what country each the most beef per capita?
8. Who was the first female to appear on a Wheaties box.
9. Which of these has the most potassium – tomato, potato, banana or artichoke?
10. Which continent has received the most meteor strikes?
11. Victoria’s Secret opened its first store in the 1970s at a Stanford mall. For 2 points give both the city and state.
12. According to a recent article, what per cent of women would rather reveal their age than their weight? [within 5%]
13. [bonus] there are 8 USDA grades of meat. Name the three highest grades.
We improved to 10 correct today, but there was a 4-way tie for first at 13 points. We had skipped over 3 answers which were ultimately right but weren’t close on the tie-breaker, so it didn’t matter.

As usual, we are surrounded by “characters.” There is the couple we call Boris and Natasha. There is no logical reason and no foreign accents, but we think of them this way based solely on appearance. We are sailing once again with the dancing fools we call Boogie and Mrs. Boogie. They look like refugees from the 60s [with a little ZZ Topp thrown in], but they are on the dance floor every night. He now uses a cane but that has not affected his dancing. The ship’s rabbi is a bit loud and talkative; his wife reminds us of a tall version of D’s sister. And her name really is Linda. They set the religious threshold pretty low by ordering shrimp and lobster whenever it is offered.

And there is Virginia. She and her husband John sat next to us for a few nights before they went to the big dining room. Now that they are back, they have managed to get a table for four, like ours, at which they entertain different guests and staff members each night. We think Virginia, the controller, may be trying to host a different couple every night. When they went to the big dining room, we declined an offer to join them for even one night. Now we know we would have felt cheap if we had.

Tomorrow – Banjul, the Gambia

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