Friday, December 31, 2010

Update from the South China Sea

We’re on our way back to Hong Kong, today. One of the couples at our table have a really nice suite, which comes with free Internet access. They invited my colleague and I over for the morning to come and use the Internet. Nice! Here’s a short update from the trip, and some photos to enjoy. Will connect again in Hong Kong.

Good morning from a nice and c-c-cold Shanghai! In the past week, we’ve cruised from our cozy equatorial weather (high 80s/30C year round) to the crisp weather in Shanghai. The majority of the passengers on board the ship have moved from their daily perches by the pool to my favorite spot on the ship, the library.

I’ve been having a wonderful time so far! I’ve met delightful people from all over the world (including very many South Africans, most of whom live in Australia). I’ve eaten more than usual. I’ve also exercised more than I usually do in Jakarta. And I’ve been reading.

Perhaps one shouldn’t be reading a book on poverty (The Hole in Our Gospel by World Vision president, Richard Stearns) when you’re on a luxury cruise liner. Or perhaps that’s exactly the time to read it! Let me just say that I’m really blessed to have this opportunity to do something this far out of my league, and I’m especially blessed that it cost me one fifth (literally) of what it cost my neighbors! (Got talking to a hilarious old lady at breakfast yesterday, and she bluntly asked the other table guests how much they paid for their packages. I think she would’ve had a stroke on the spot had she heard what a steal we had gotten!)

So, what does a person do on a cruise? There are lots to do. There’s a guy on board who’s teaching advanced bridge classes and a lady teaching tai-chi and dancing. There’s a kids program for the 60 kids on board. There are games like putt-putt, shuffle board and ping-pong. There’s the pool and Jacuzzis. There’s an outdoor walking/running track, and quite a big gym. And there’s my favorite spot on the ship, the library.

Kiptoo and I have been enjoying our time in the library
We've also been enjoying playing Scrabble
Driving around Manila, Philippines. It's always fun to explore different cities, especially when you have friends to show you around
My classmate Cesar and his family showed me around Manila, and took us to Intramuros, which contains a memorial to Rizal, their national hero

These are the footsteps of Rizal as he was taken to be executed

Waiting to depart from Manila

The seas between Manila and Xiamen were really rough. I was glad not to get sick, but many people (including crew) were really seasick

Watching the sunrise as we headed into Xiamen port

We were met by a colleague in Xiamen who showed us around. This statue faces Taiwan, and is part of the unification ideal...
The goddess Matsu, facing Taiwan-owned Matsu island

At a market in Xiamen, a picture of Jesus next to one of Mao and one of a dragon... Interesting...

Having lunch in Xiamen. Shaun insisted we have to eat!

A roadside doctor's office next to our restaurant, where the "doctor" was cleaning a guy's ear!
This vendor was selling cigarettes. His not-yet-1-year-old kid was "playing" with a cigarette
Down an alley in Xiamen
Vegetable vendor in Xiamen
Next stop: Shanghai. Here you could buy bok choi on the side of the road
Kiptoo and I hung out with a South African family who live in Australia. I as the translator for the day. Kiptoo made some new friends in the art district
My friends and I at the "M on Bund." It was freezing!
A view of the deck while in Shanghai
The Shanghai skyline

Shanghai's a beautiful city, and we had a WONDERFUL day
 OK, signing off for now and seeing what the day holds.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Kiptoo's going on a cruise

I've never had a burning desire to go on a cruise. Not sure why. I've lived at/very close to the coast for most of my life, and I love the ocean. Yet, I've never yearned to go on a cruise. But when one plan after another fell through for this Christmas holidays and a colleague asked if I'd consider going along on a cruise through Asia, it sounded like a fun thing to do.

So, tomorrow morning early, I'm off to Singapore. From there, we'll board the Ocean Princess, setting sail for Manila, Philippines, where we'll arrive on December 26.

12/26: In Manila, I'll spend the morning exploring with Cesar (a classmate from BGU) and his family. Then it's back on the boat and head to China.

12/28: Arrive in Xiamen, where a colleague from school will show us around his city. I've never been to Xiamen, so this'll be a fun chance to see the city through a local's eyes. Then it's back on the ship and head further north, to an even colder city, Shanghai.

12/30: Though I have several friends in Shanghai, all of them are traveling for the holidays, so I'll likely go to a museum or simply walk around the Bund. Then, head south to warmer waters. We'll bring in the New Year somewhere between Shanghai and Hong Kong.

1/2: Looking forward to seeing the Eitemiller family in Hong Kong. Jessica was in my youth group in Taiwan, and by now, she's married and has a baby! I'll also get to see her sister Joelle (who's also in college by now) and hang out with their wonderful family at their home for the day. Then set sail further south, back toward the equator.

1/4: This'll be my first time to visit Vietnam, so I'm looking forward to seeing Nha Trang. If the temples that this area's most famous for is too far, I'll see if I can get a dive in!

1/5: Next stop: Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. I bet there'll be plenty to see in this city before we set sail to return to Singapore.

1/7: Back in Singapore, and hop on a plane back to Jakarta.

Kiptoo's going along, and I think he's excited. He's not been doing much exploring lately, so he made sure he's got everything ready to have some fun. He and I will post updates as/when we are able.