Archive for the 'Travel' category

I don’t really enjoy the cruising culture which consists of boozing, gluttony and other forms of self-indulgence.

My latest cruise on the Carnival Paradise did not have nearly the amount of boozing that cruises typically have, possibly because so many of the young people were high schoolers who were celebrating graduating but not old enough to legally drink.

Carnival Cruise Hairy Man Contest Also I did enjoy one offshoot of this culture, the hairy chest contest.  Actually I didn’t enjoy the contest, I just enjoyed the fact that a small Indian man with no shame and the hairiest chest and back won.  I found out he won after seeing all the replays shown throughout the ship.

When I congratulated the winner later he humbly replied “Oh thank you.  You should have done it.  It was so much fun.”

I replied “I can’t dance like you.”

Still there’s just this sense of heightened self-indulgence.  I must admit that though I found it somewhat unsettling I participated fully in it as a complete glutton.

In the end I realized that if the only reason I like cruising is the buffet then maybe I should just stay local and visit a different buffet every meal.  I would save a lot of money and not risk getting seasick.

At least none of us gained weight.

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Carnival Paradise

Ji Seon and I recognize most cruise ship employees are very low paid.  Each employee’s name tag shows where the employee is from as if to advertise what a diverse, international crew the cruise line employs.  But the countries of origin are typically Romania, Ukraine, India, Philippines, Thailand and other poor countries.  We did not meet a single employee from the United States, Canada, Japan, South Corea or any western European country.

Ji Seon told me that cruise lines are always incorporated internationally in countries with poor labor laws so that they can pay their workers extremely low wages and make them work many long hours.

Recently Ji Seon and I have been learning about modern slavery through the Not For Sale series that our church, GrX, is running.  We asked ourselves a few times if any of the employees on this cruise could be slaves but decided they are probably not since a large corporation is their employer and they are free to leave.  However after coming back from the cruise I did a search and found this article, a cruise ship can be like a slave ship.

Larger cruise lines hire third world workers and even charge them a $2,000 fee or more to get the job. In Indonesia or India this is so much money that workers mortgage everything they own and/or they take out loans at exorbitant rates of interest… Then once he has his contract in his hand, he will only be offered a job like a potato peeler or a person stacking deck chairs. The pay will be lower than he anticipated. He will work continuously at least twelve hours a day for eight months or so. His airline ticket home will be deducted first, and after that he can be fired with any infraction of the rules and sent home at his own expense. He must, in other words, work as an indentured servant for three or four months, before financially breaking even.

"a cruise ship like a slave ship." open salon. January 4, 2009.

On the last dinner of our latest cruise on the Carnival Paradise I noticed my waiter was not being nearly as friendly as he usually is.  I asked him at the end of dinner how he was doing and that I noticed he seemed a bit down.  He said he was just tired because he had been working since 6 AM.

It becomes more and more depressing to try to be an aware consumer.

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Carnival Cruise on Paradise - June 15 to 19

Last week my family went on a Carnival Cruise on the Paradise ship.  Our itinerary was pretty simple.

  1. Monday – board ship at Long Beach, CA
  2. Tuesday – Catalina Island, CA
  3. Wednesday – Ensenada, Mexico
  4. Thursday – day at sea
  5. Friday – go home

Almost immediately after boarding I remembered why I don’t like cruises – too many people.

But that was not the only reason I did not enjoy this cruise.

  1. The time I had to be a lifeguard.
  2. spilt lemonade incident
  3. mini golf accident
  4. Isaac becoming sick.  When we came home the rest of the family got sick.
  5. lack of fun supervised children’s activities
  6. Unable to attend any adult activities such as shows.
  7. Did not get to play basketball or even swim
  8. Ensenada is an ugly industrial port where the cruise ship dumped all its human waste.  It added to the overall unattractiveness of this destination.
  9. Workers are low paid and overworked.
  10. self-indulgent cruising culture
  11. No access to the internet. 🙂

Dylan, Isaac and Victoria though really enjoyed spending time with their Seattle grandparents and uncle.  All three of our cabins were adjacent and the kids loved running over and seeing their relatives.

And the food was great.  Here is a photo of Ji Seon and Victoria during our first dinner.

Ji Seon and Victoria cruising

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I remembered about an hour into our cruise why I don’t like cruises.

On the Carnival Cruise Paradise ship we were doing the mandatory emergency seminar and I was crammed in with hundreds of people in a lounge.  TitanicMy Titanic jokes weren’t working and the staff seemed unusually surly.  Then I realized why I don’t like cruises, too many people!

This cruise is sold out and our cruise, which had been rerouted away from Mexico because of the swine flu scare, is now back on course to Ensenada, Mexico.  There are 3500 happy-there-is-no-swine-flu customers crammed into this boat, searching for food, sun, booze and there is plenty of all three.

On top of the 3500 people are the hundreds of staff.  I have cruised Royal Caribbean and Norwegian before and am used to the staff being at least courteous.  However on this Carnival cruise some of the staff are courteous, some are nonchalant and a few are just not polite.  Ji Seon said she is not surprised since Carnival Cruises is the cheapest of the three.  Maybe it’s because they’re working so hard for so little money.

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Fried Shrimp Galore

On the first night, Monday night, all I ordered was the fried shrimp appetizer.  The waiter tried to get me to order more but I wasn’t feeling hungry and thought I’d end up eating a lot of the kids’ leftovers.

The waiter warned me that the appetizer only has three shrimps but I said that’s fine.  He then brought me five shrimps and said he would get me even more.  Then later he brought me ten more.  Pretty nice guy, Levente from Romania.

Ji Seon enjoyed her snapper filet.  Dylan had his favorite, baked potato with parmesan cheese since no other shredded cheese was available.  Victoria ate three hot dogs while Isaac had one.  All three kids enjoyed the french fries.

carnival cruises hot dog

Grilled Lobster Tail and Tiger Shrimp

Tuesday night everyone ordered the grilled lobster tail and tiger shrimp.  It wasn’t as good as fresh New England lobster but it’s still always nice to eat lobster.  I also enjoyed my Indian roasted pumpkin soup.

Dylan ate his baked potato, Victoria had bow tie pasta, Isaac ate mostly french fries with some sliced hot dog.

carnival cruises grilled lobster tail and tiger shrimp

More Fried Shrimp

Wednesday afternoon we went to the sushi bar before dinner.  It wasn’t bad, I never had mackerel sushi before.

Later Isaac took a late nap because, which we didn’t realize at the time, he was starting to get sick.  Since he wasn’t awake when dinner began in the formal dining room I waited for him to wake up and the rest of the family went to the buffet cafe.

At the cafe I ended up again gorging on fried shrimps.  The first night’s fried shrimps were smaller and had a batter coating.  These shrimps were bigger, somehow straightened, and had a breaded coating.

Indian Veggie and Seafood Pasta

Thursday afternoon we went to tea.  The desserts were good, especially the fruit tart, but we really did not want to eat too much.

Thursday night most of us ordered the crab cake appetizer.  Everyone enjoyed it except me, I never seem to like crab cakes but I always think I will.  I also ordered the wild mushroom soup.  Ji Seon asked me after why would I order mushroom soup and I told her this was much better than your plain mushroom soup, that it was thinner and much more tasty.

Then I ordered the Indian vegetarian plate and after a recommendation from my brother-in-law, the penne with shrimp, calamari and scallops.  I was hoping the Indian food would be good since the head chef is Indian and it was superb.  In fact I wish I could remember what exactly I ate since I have never eaten anything like it in a restaurant.  In fact the last time I ate something like that it was made by a friend.  The penne was also the best Italian seafood pasta dish I have had since the seafood linguine dish I ate at La Groceria in Cambridge, MA.  I went to that restaurant a few times after and never could find that dish again.  Maybe that’s why they closed.

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Rancho San Antonio

 | June 10, 2009 7:28 PM

In the last week we have gone to Rancho San Antonio three times including today.  Rancho San Antonio is this wonderful open space preserve located in Mountain View and Los Altos.

Our typical day at Rancho San Antonio is me pushing our two person stroller with all three children sitting in it.  The kids will then jump off to either chase a bird or explore a section of the creek or climb a hill.  And I get tired pushing the stroller, feeding the kids, helping them across the creek or up a hill, and reassuring them that it’s okay if they got wet.

Using the wonderful world of Flickr I found numerous photos of this glorious space.

The first time we went was a week ago, Wednesday, June 3 and the first thing we saw were the numerous wild turkeys standing on the road in front of us.  I said to the kids to say hello to the turkeys.  They then unexpectedly starting running towards the turkeys yelling “Hi turkeys!”

Wild Turkey-IMG_6190-Rancho San Antonio-Crop by gimlack.

The second time we went was on Saturday, June 7.  Near the end of our time we saw a beautiful family of deer, a mother, a father and a fawn.

Black-tailed Deer-IMG_6003-Rancho San Antonio-crop by gimlack.

The third time we went was today.  We climbed up a hill and at the top of the hill was a beautiful California quail which was calmly watching us.  I think it would have stayed there until Isaac scared it away.

California Quail-IMG_5890-Rancho San Antonio-crop by gimlack.

What is interesting is how many older Chinese and Korean people like this place.  Almost half of the hikers are speaking Chinese or Korean, mostly Chinese.

I am looking forward to when the kids are older and we can try some of the longer trails.  It’s just a wonderful park.

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I am wondering if anyone has suggestions what we can do around Cotati, CA which is apparently wine country?  Our grass fed beef is ready to be picked up but since it is such a long drive up there I figured we might as well make a day of it and do something fun.

I thought of going to the Charles M. Schulz Museum in Santa Rosa or maybe Point Reyes National Seashore.

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Women walking in downtown CairoAccording to this Reuters article, Two-thirds of Egyptian men harass women?,

Nearly two-thirds of Egyptian men admit to having sexually harassed women in the most populous Arab country, and a majority say women themselves are to blame for their maltreatment, a survey showed Thursday.

The article talks about the possible negative effects on tourism.

The behavior could have repercussions on Egypt’s tourism industry, a major foreign income earner, with 98 percent of foreign women saying they had experienced harassment in the country, the survey said.

The article seems to be surprised that something like this could happen in Egypt.

Egyptian women and female visitors frequently complain of persistent sexual harassment on Egyptian streets, despite the socially conservative nature of this traditional Muslim society.

I think that the author is equating Judeo-Christian conservatism with Muslim conservatism when the two are not necessarily the same.

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Boston Sports Scene

 | June 21, 2008 6:29 AM

In the past seven years Boston has witnessed six victory parades.

  1. February 2002 – New England Patriots
  2. February 2004 – New England Patriots
  3. October 2004 – Boston Red Sox
  4. February 2005 – New England Patriots
  5. October 2007 – Boston Red Sox
  6. June 2008 – Boston Celtics

As my friend Alan says, this is the “golden age of sports” for Boston.

Having lived in Boston for almost twenty years and being a sports fan I feel like I have gotten a pretty good read of the Boston sports scene. And honestly, though I am happy for the fans I would say that in general the Boston sports scene is a bit too “fantastic”.

Boston sports fan take their sports incredibly seriously.

Benefits:

  • raucous, sometimes entertaining sports radio
  • excellent local sports journalism
  • loud and enthusiastic sports crowds

Handicaps

  • fans are rarely satisfied
  • emotions run incredibly high
  • demands create an almost poisonous atmosphere

I have seen all the major sports teams in Boston and I think the Red Sox fans are the worst  I remember being shocked at my first game at Fenway Park with how fans acted. They were literally angry if the Red Sox were losing. I must admit I have not gone since their 2004 championship, maybe they have lightened up.

In contrast here in Silicon Valley, California people enjoy their sports but they don’t really care.  The sports scene really is the opposite of Boston’s but I prefer it.  I think it’s healthier, sports is just a game.  Unfortunately sports radio here is so boring. 🙂

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