Antigua and Guatemala City, Guatemala
2 October 2006
We arrived on time in Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala this morning. Ayse and I slept in a little since this port would give us a two day reprise from ship-life. We went directly to the bus terminal and got on a bus en route to Antigua. It had been a long time since I travelled on a local hicken bus?and I felt right at home being back in the land of the Mayans. We changed buses in a small town called Escuintla and continued on until we arrived in Antigua. It was a beautiful colonial town in the hills with a much more comfortable climate than on the coast where we arrived. We spent the afternoon eating lunch at a local restaurant and then found a hotel. Surprisingly we instantly fell asleep for a solid three hours. We spent the evening walking around the plaza, having an Italian dinner and strolling around the town.
This morning we woke up bright and early at 5:00am to set out on our adventure of visiting Lake Aticl嫕. We met Cesar and some others the night before and they invited us to join them. However we waited outside their hotel for ages with no sign of life until about an hour later one of them showed up. We all met up at a caf?and took a bus headed for the lake. However, half-way through it broke down and I was convinced that we would never be able to do all our plans before the boarding deadline. We decided to turn back and go to Guatemala City instead. The city was a typical Latin American city with a plaza, a parque central and a market. I bought a few gifts for some people I will be meeting up with soon and ate some familiar tasting food at a comedor.
We headed back a bit early and got a little lost in the city trying to find the right bus but finally we were on our way to Puerto Quetzal. We ended up being dropped off too early on the motor-way and had a bit of a walk back to the port. I was amazed at how many people were carrying hand pistols on their bicycles and motorcycles. I think we were lucky not to have been robbed. We got back to the port to hear lots of stories from others during their two day adventures.
Life on Board
Today after uest Teacher Day?where we switch classes and teach another teacher, we had the Water boys and girls syncronised swimming competition. There were a lot of teams competing and I am happy to say that Leah and I won second place with our sycronised comedy version of the Titanic. We did a few dramatic moves.
29 September 2006
Passing through the Panama canal was like stopping in a port. It was a big event on the ship as the Panama Canal pilot came aboard and took us through the first lock. The system of the canal is a fascinating piece of technology.
Panama Canal Cross Section
This cross section shows the route of a ship through the Panama Canal. From the Atlantic Ocean, a ship is raised 26 m (85 ft) through three sets of locks to the level of Gat Lake. It travels through the lake and Gaillard Cut, the narrowest section of the canal. It is then lowered through a lock to Miraflores Lake, and passes through two more locks before reaching the Pacific Ocean.
A lock is a section of a waterway enclosed by gates at either end to allow ships to be raised or lowered to a different water level. In this example, a ship enters the upper level and the gates close behind it. The water is then allowed to drain into the lower level, lowering the water level of the lock and the ship. When the water level of the lock equals the level of the lower canal, the lower gates will open and the ship can proceed.
28 September 2006
Our shortest distance from one port to the next, 19 hours on the ship seems like a very short time! I remember when I lived in Amami Oshima and the common 11 hour ride to Kagoshima seemed to take long…
We had such a nice day in Panama. This was supposedly the most dangerous port we visit during this voyage. Most passengers stayed within the confines of the port and didn pass the gates. The port disgusted me. It was a warped little tourist world. Inside was craft booths with overpriced junk, naked ative?dancers jumping around, an American freak making announcements about buying these air-trade?products and a weird environment to give some sort of Panamanian circus for cruise ship passengers.
We started walking out of the port and got a car-hire right away. We drove 40 kilometres to the seaside town of Portobello. It was a pretty little village with some interesting history as a fort that stored the gold of the new world under heavy cannon protection. What a random place to be in!
After exploring the village, we headed back to Col鏮. We stopped at a restaurant on the sea which looked like a lake in a small tropical bay. Although I don enjoy the travel with such a big group, we had fun swimming and eating. Somehow in this dangerous place we found complete safety and joy.
27 September 2006
Today was like visiting old times. Although I haven been to Cartagena, Colombia before, it was very similar to Ecuador and I felt right at home. We got off the ship and saw Maria family. We went together to the Torre del reloj and Ayse and I went off. We must have spent at least two hours at an internet caf?using the fastest connection wee had since the beginning. What a novelty the internet has become! We went for lunch and enjoyed the typical men? After that we just walked around eating and drinking. It was such a nice feeling to return to Latin America. I feel like Ie never left.
25, September 2006
After 10 days crossing the Atlantic we have finally arrived in the Americas. I was quite busy over the last 10 days teaching the second term of my classes. Yesterday was the Cultural Festival and I participated in a fashion show as an Eritrean housewife with some moves. I wonder if I can get some footage from that…
Last night I randomly decided to get on a tour for Jamaica. Usually a tour would be the opposite of what I want but I my favourite student told me she was going on it and also my friend, Kyoko, was interpreting for it so it seemed like a relaxing option to not worry about the port hustle. Well it ended up being a stressful morning in Montego Bay as there was a mistake in the English schedule and I missed the bus. They happily left without me so I decided to get my own transportation to Negril. A taxi was too expensive so I decided to venture out on a bus. It was hard to get any taxi driver to agree to get me to the station or to find anyone to change my dollars for Jamaican dollars. I was in the midst of giving up when some Peace Boat passengers came by and told me they were hiring a car and needed an extra person. It was fate because I got to Negril by noon.
In Negril I found Kyoko on the gorgeous beach under a parasol. I went swimming and then went for the Jamaican jerk chicken lunch. The tour group was all elderly and I was happy to find my student.
My favourite student is Yoshiko Kosukegawa, known as Kosuke, and is said to be 80 years-old. She doesn have a single wrinkle on her face. She is from Hokkaido, Japan, and speaks English extremely well. I must admit that some of my best memories on the ship so far have been chatting with her over lunch or sushi at the bar. She is an avid skier and hits the slopes everyday during the winter season. She also travels all around the world looking for the best snow conditions. Recently, her best friend, a 101 year-old famous skier, passed away. I think that she was so stunned by his death that she suddenly decided to go around the world on Peace Boat with her younger sister, Keiko. The first time I met Kosuke I heard about her passion for skiing. Then when she found out she would be my student she said ow don be hard on me, teacher? it was so classic. When I am with her, I feel like I am with somebody connected to Hiroya and Tomiko. My apanese parents?in Kyushu taught me the world of Japan over the years I spent there. Kosuke has so much in common with them. She is an artist, she has such an active lifestyle, she likes to teach me about the old ways of Japan and she is just one of the most fascinating people I have encountered. I wish so much I could introduce her to them.
I spent the rest of the afternoon in the sea with Kyoko and Kosuke. Kosuke and I chased around some fish and had some swimming races. It was such a beautiful afternoon. We then left Negril in the bus and headed back to Montego Bay. Being on a tour you really don have to deal with anything. It not my travel method of choice but sometimes it fun to sit back, relax and swim with the people who matter to you. Even when the tour bus leaves you behind, you better go fast and try to catch up with it.