Semi Good Day…

The past few days have been really hard for me, but yesterday was a semi-good day.

One of the guys that works at the casino Sean and I are Facebook friends.  He is an incredibly talented artist who often posts photos of his work on his page.  I showed some of his work to Mom, who subsequently paid him a number of compliments – to the point where the poor man was blushing.  He asked me if he could paint me something as a “thank you” gift and while I kept telling him it wasn’t necessary, he insisted.  I eventually gave in and asked him to paint me black and white arum lilies.  I got my painting yesterday!  I have taken it to Cousin Lara to be framed, which is going to cost R500 (so I am saving).  This is what the painting looks like.  Once it is framed, I shall post another pic.

From there Mom and I popped on to the post office where there was a letter for me.  What a pleasant surprise that was.  It was from Ken Cornish, one of my dinner companions during our recent cruise on the MSC Sinfonia.  He can be seen in the photo on this post.  I can’t remember when last I received a real letter.  Ken says he is too old for “this new fangled e-mail.”

Last night my stepsister Benita and her daughter Alexa joined us for dinner (they are busy with training in the area), along with Aunty Carol and Uncle Barry.  I had such a headache by the end of the night, and I didn’t even have any wine…

Well, I had best go do something constructive, like continuing the job search.

‘Til later…

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Our Last Day on Board…

…was filled with sunshine and many activities to keep young and old busy.

For those who didn’t feel like doing anything that required much energy, the pool was a welcome reprieve from the heat.  Mom, Dad, Aunty Carol and Uncle Barry opted for this,

 while I splurged the last of my cash on a spa treatment combo – a full body Balinese massage (by genuine Balinese therapists), a facial and a session in the thermal suite…it was absolute bliss.  I felt like a million dollars afterwards.

Feeling the need for some sunshine, I joined the folks next to the pool, with a cold Brutal Fruit in hand and soaked up the rays – I ended up looking like an ostrich on heat because my legs, particularly my shins, were burnt a bright shade of lobster pink.  Fortunately the sun burns up that end of the world, without the pain.  In the 31 years I’ve been around, I don’t think I have ever had as much colour as I do now.

The afternoon I popped into one of the lounges  where I competed for the title of the ship’s Brainbox.  I came fourth, missing out on a prize :-(, but it was fun nevertheless.

Our last supper on board was incredible, as usual – but it was a subdued occassion.  I think the realization that our holiday was coming to a close was getting to everyone.  Ken told us that he would be sailing onboard the MSC Sinfonia again, when it goes back to Europe later this year.  I must admit, I was quite envious at the thought, but he is such a wonderful person – he deserves it.

After dinner, there was an election of Miss Sinfonia’s partner – Mister Sinfonia.  The election of this suitor for Mom was less raunchy than hers had been, but equally as funny. 

The gents that were selected as semi-finalists had to serande Miss Sinfonia – but the catch was that a member of the Dream Team was holding up props that had to feature in their seranade – Uncle Barry was one of them, and his seranade was very memorable:

(Props shown up were a mannequin’s breasts, a white sandal and a beer can).

“Juliet, you have big breasts and you smell like and old shoe.  I can only be with you when I am inebriated.”

Dad was up next, but being a bit deaf, he didn’t hear the instruction about making a seranade using the props.  He let rip with a brilliant rhetoric which had everyone in stitches (and his poor daughter quite embarrassed and scarred for life!).

The last potential suitor was a well-built bloke called Edward – I don’t remember his entire seranade, but when he was shown tennis balls, he told Miss Sinfonia, “I look forward to you making my balls bounce tonight.”  I laughed so much half my drink went up my nose!

The second part of the assignment was to collect as many bras as they could from ladies in the audience.  Dad and Edward collected quite a few, but Uncle Barry sadly couldn’t lay his hands on one.  Aunty Carol got hers loose, but she couldn’t get it off under her top…some lady in the audience felt sorry for him eventually and “donated” hers for him.

The final part of the election exercise was for the potential suitors was for them to perform a strip show.  (Just when I thought I was already scarred for life, I found out, things can get a lot worse!)

The applause-o-meter was a bit faulty, so the decision was left to the judges and it was decided that each one of them deserved a sash. 

The folks opted to call it a night, but I was far from tired.  I went to the theatre to watch the final show of the trip, where I bumped into Mom and daughter, Charlotte and Madelein and sat with them for the performance.

The dancers and other entertainers had definitely saved the best show for last:

Still not wanting to go to bed, and thereby admitting that my holiday was virtually over, I went to the Pasha Club Disco, where I finally got to enjoy the drink Chief Engineer Guiseppe Balzano had been trying to get me to join him for the entire week. 

It was interesting to talk to him – he is married, has been sailing for 25 years, has three grown up children (two daughters and a son if memory serves correctly).  I asked him why his wife didn’t join him onboard – he says that she does indeed sail with him when the ship returns to Europe.  He says though that he has contact with his family daily – pretty much like we do with Dad when he is working at sea.  He was extremely polite asking me about my life, my parents, my education, my job.  We chatted for quite a long time, but then there was no more putting off of the inevitable.  I had to return to my cabin and pack. 

I excused myself, but gentleman that he was, he again escorted me to my cabin, kissing me on the cheek as he had the night before and bade me “Arrivederci”.  It was a bittersweet end to a fabulous holiday.

As I zipped up my suitcase, I actually shed a few tears – this holiday had done my mental state of late the world of good.  I needed the break from reality, and that is exactly what I got.  I recommend a cruise holiday to anyone…

Sleep didn’t come as easily as I had expected, given the late hour – I guess I was hoping if I managed to stay awake, Friday morning wouldn’t dawn and I could stay on board, but alas, it did and soon the familiar beep of an sms coming through on my cellphone meant that we were within cell phone range, and so too…the reality of regular life.

Wednesday Night…

…on board was a fun-filled evening…Tropical Carnival night.

After another losing round of Bingo, I got dressed in my most sparkliest dress for dinner.  Here I am, along with my fellow diners:

On the left is Yours Truly, Yolanda, her parents, Johanna and Coen and on the far right, Ken Cornish – a fascinating gentleman who survied the Second World War.  He tells stories that can engage you for hours.  He gave all of us his postal address (he says he is too old for this new fangled e-mail) and I sent him a postcard yesterday.

From dinner we went to another show – again an amazing array of costumes were on display with superb dance- and acrobatic routines.

From there I went back to my cabin to get changed – my killer silver heels were killing me!  I opted for my black pants and a hankerchief top.  Up to the aft deck where the Tropical Carnival party was already in full swing.  Some members of the Dream Team were giving a Merengue lesson, but I just couldn’t get it down pat, so I opted to just soak up the party atmosphere.

For those partygoers who had worked up an appetite with all the dancing, there was a magnificent buffet served at midnight. 



Many stories are rife about many members of staff (officers included) who try to take advantage of single women on board, but this theory was proved wrong…after having a bite to eat, I bumped into Chief Engineer Guiseppe Balzano who asked me if I still wanted to join him for a drink.  I declined, feeling positively exhausted, and without argument, he took my by the arm and escorted me to my cabin and with a polite kiss on the cheek, bade me goodnight.  So, there are still some gentlemen in the world…

I was so exhausted, I slept in my clothes (without my shoes of course…)

Barra Lodge…

…welcomed us with pouring rain!

We boarded the Zodiac rubber ducks about an hour after breakfast – the sun was still gloriously high in the sky.  Mom was extremely nervous about the 12 minute journey from the ship to the beach, but her fears were soon allayed once she was seated and safely dressed in her life jacket.

Dad and Uncle Barry sat next to each other, on the outer edge of the boat.

We set foot off the Zodiac when I, along with my bag, containing my entire life, got knocked over by a wave.  I was suitably drenched, but fortunately the camera was dry and the rest of the stuff inside was only slightly damp.

As we started heading up to the Lodge, it started to rain…

but it didn’t dampen our spirits – we swam in the rain.  The ocean’s temperature was like tepid bathwater.  If the water in Mossel Bay was like that, I would swim eveyr single day of my life.

As most of the excursions had been sold out by the time we decided we were going ashore, we were left with only two options – a Village Walk (thank goodness we passed on it, because we would have got even more soaked!) or a bus trip into the town of Inhambane.  We opted for the latter, which was a three-hour round trip, with some interesting things learned along the way.

One thing that struck me during the trip was that there wasn’t one single pothole on the road from Barra Lodge to Inhambane – definitely better than South Africa.

Our guide was a local gent called Lino

who told us many interesting facts about Inhambane.  Along the road, he stopped the bus and fought with a tree until he got this off.  It is a Cashew fruit – with the renowned nut on the top.  However the nut is not edible like this, it must be roasted first.  The fruit is used in the fermentation of local “hot stuff” (beer).

From there we made our way through the rural villages

When we eventually got to the town of Inhambane, we stopped at a local museu (yes, it’s spelt like that there), where we saw some interesting things, like the popular dhows that are used for fishing, an olden-day beehive and a “hot stuff” still:

We stopped at two churches, but the rain had caught up with us again, so we did not get off the bus.  We also stopped at a statue of Vasco da Gama – there is a statue of him in our local museum too.

Our last stop on the tour was at a local market.  Not wishing to be mobbed by vendors again as I had in Maputo, I opted again to stay on the bus with Mom.  Aunty Carol, Uncle Barry and Dad got off, but they weren’t gone too long – apparently the smell of the fresh fish was a little too much to handle.

From there we headed back to the lodge, where we caught a Zodiac back to the ship.  This time I managed to stay dry!

Upon getting onto the gangway, I was greeted by a friendly face – that of Chief Engineer Guiseppe Balzano, who asked me to join him for a drink after midnight at the Pasha Disco Club.  I told him I would see if I could make it as I knew there was a serious party planned on board as it was Tropical-Carnival night, but…more about that and the cabaret at a later stage (probably Sunday) as I have to get ready for a G.N.O with Elizabeth and her sisters.

Have a great weekend everyone!

Maputo…

…was once a thriving city known as Lourenco Marques – and when Mom and Aunty Carol it was one of the places to go on holiday.   By the time we had eaten breakfast, we had already berthed at port.

Sadly, civil war has left many parts of the city ravaged.  The buildings are falling apart, and those that aren’t are in dire need of a coat of paint.  Going into the city was a thought-provoking exercise, but not something I would do again.

Initially I hadn’t planned on going ashore, but because Aunty Carol and Uncle Barry wanted to go, I opted to join them.  We didn’t book an excursion as such, but caught a shuttle bus that took us to two different drop-off points, where we could walk and see at our own pace.

Parts of the city where tourists, like ourselves, are bussed through are kept tidy, but the unseen areas are squalid.

At the first stop we saw a big white cathedral and popped onto what was meant to be the botanical garden.  If there was care in place, the garden would be a thriving oasis, instead it is a forlorn park area with the grass reaching knee height in some areas.

Terribly sad.

We got off at the second stop, intent on visiting one of the markets, but the humidity, combined with vendors in one’s face all the time made it so unpleasant, that we got back on the bus and went back to the ship.

The afternoon on board was filled with many activities, including The Bingo Show, with Stephen, our fabulous cruise director,

 

and the Bingo Boys.  I bought three bingo cards and treated myself to an orgasmic cocktail called a Choc Mint Stinger – Cape Velvet, Nachtmusik, White Creme de Menthe and Cream.

The Bingo Boys were made to do a short performance every time a number in the B-column was  called.  Some skits were really funny, others challenging and others downright painful…

After Bingo, losing with two numbers to spare, I joined the family upstairs on the deck for a buffet dinner, just because none of us felt like getting all dressed up for the dining room.

After dinner, another show awaited us – this time it was Twilight

After the show, which left me with quite a few chills down my spine, we headed up to one of the lounges for karaoke, which in itself was super-entertaining.  I was first up with Jailhouse Rock, but some of my successors were a lot worse that I had been – it’s amazing how easily liquor turns people into idiots…

It was an exhausting day, so after karaoke was over, we all went to bed…after all, we had an early day planned – Barra Lodge was next on our itinerary.

 

Bye-Bye Durban…

…Hello four days of 5-star floating luxury!

Geri and Dan dropped us off at the harbour just before nine, where we got our luggage booked in (I forgot to take my bottle of wine out, so was forced to unpack it, only to be told, “seeing that it is a small one, you can take it.” 

We sat in the N-Shed waiting for our boarding call, which came after two hours.  Here are some pics of us, patiently waiting our turn.

Passport control was an absolute breeze and soon we were onboard what was to be our luxurious home for the next four nights.  I was escorted to my cabin and quickly trotted upstairs to the pool deck, where the party was already hopping.  We set sail just after 14:30 and soon everyone was enjoying the entertainment.

From there it was off to the Captain’s Gala Cocktail (I am waiting for Aunty Carol to scan the photos that the professional photographers on board took as I don’t have a single one).  Not one of the family joined me at the event, which meant I had a front row seat, where I met a mother and daughter named Charlotte and Madelein.  They had in actual fact been on the cruise the weekend before, enjoyed it so much, that they just stayed on!  The Master of the Vessel Commandante Ciro Pinto selected Madelein to join him on stage for a dance and Yours Truly was selected by the Chief Engineer Guiseppe Balzano.  It was enjoyable despite that fact that I was more than a head taller than him in my killer silver heels.

Once that was over, I headed of to the restuarant for dinner.  The food was amazing.  I had a shrimp started, butterfish for main, and the most sublime coffee and chocolate gateau for dessert. Our waiter tried to tempt me with a second helping of dessert, and while I was seriously tempted, I passed.  My dinner companions were Coen and Johanna Marais, their daughter Yolanda and an elderly gentleman, Ken Cornish.  I have got details for all of them, and will definitely keep in touch. 

From there I went to the cabaret show entitled Destination Nowhere.  It was fabulous! 

After that there was even more entertainment in store.  The election of the ship’s celebrity Miss Sinfonia.  Aunty Carol and Uncle Barry opted to give it a miss because they thought it would be all young girls.  How terribly wrong they were…

The entertainment team (fondly called the Dream Team) selected a number of random ladies from the audience, of all ages, sizes and colours (including Mom and I) and proceeded to introduce them to Miss Sinfonia 2010 – a very busty babe called Petronella.

 

All the contestants had to do what Petronella did and then the finalists were selected.

I didn’t make it through to the finals, but Mom did – and then the hysterical fun started!  The Dream Team selected random blokes from the audience and the finalists had to pop balloons against the poor blokes. 

First chest-to-chest, then “happy place” to “happy place”, then the bloke on a chair and the finalist facing away from him, and then on the chair again, this time facing him.  When it came to the facing away from him, Petronella naughtily moved the balloon and Mom, wanting to burst it as quickly as possible, leapt onto the poor guy!  I’m sure she deballed him in the process.  I was hysterical with laughter.  I have never known my mom to do something so “out there” – she is quite stated.

The winner was selected by an applause-o-meter.  I was stunned at the roaring applause Mom received, winning her the title of Miss Sinfonia 2011.  She won a bottle of lovely champagne, a backpack, a blanket, a T-shirt and a real satin banner.



But…there was more in store for the ship’s newest beauty queen, a show by the resident hot-bods called the Shippendale…

After all that excitement, Miss Sinfonia 2011 and Dad headed off to their cabin.  I wasn’t at all tired, so I popped in at the disco, but it was still dead quiet, so I headed down to the Manhattan Lounge where I had a cocktail, listened to some music and eventually trotted off to bed.

What a fabulous first day!   

Bloem to Durban…

…was a different kettle of fish altogether…

We hit the road after eight, thanks to the GPS on my phone telling us that Durban was a mere 486 Km from Bloemfontein.  Needless to say, it wasn’t.

It was pouring when we left and the rain didn’t let up at all by the time we got to Bethlehem for the mandatory Wimpy coffee stop.  As none of the women in the car was able to pinch their bladders until we arrived there, we stopped off in some obscure little town called Senekal, where we went to the loo (not that we used them because they were beyond filthy!).  With great difficulty we clamped our bladders shut until we got to Bethlehem.

Once again, leaving in the pouring rain we continued our journey East.  Just past another obscure little town called Kestell, we aquaplaned, while Dad was behind the wheel and had an accident – landing meters away from a large, gushing storm water culvert.  We spun around three times before actually leaving the road and skidding down a steep embankment where we finally came to a stop, centimetres from a barbed-wire farm fence.  Had I been driving we would more than likely have rolled, and been badly injured, or worse, dead.  He controlled the spin like a pro.

Fortunately nobody was hurt – but Mom was in such shock, that I had to slap her – just like they do in the movies.  I must admit that I did get some satisfaction out of it.  Poor Uncle Barry got absolutely drenched trying to flag down some help, but as can only be expected in this day and age, people are not keen to stop, let alone help.

Being stuck in the sinking mud, cellphone signal was nil, so I clambered my way up and contacted MTN emergency who cut me off not once, but twice.  I then opted for Geri and Dan who told us to sit tight and that they would get us all sorted out.  Minutes later I was on the phone with a police officer from Kestell who dispatched an ambulance, just to make sure we were all unhurt and who gave me the number of a towing company.  Upon contacting them, I was told that they would come and pull us out of the culvert as soon as we put R1100 in the hand of the driver.  Between five of us we had quite a bit of money…in US DOLLARS!  Again, on the phone to Geri and Dan who got hold of the towing company, transferred the money and got us sorted.  What we would have done without them the Lord alone knows.

About a half hour after that, we were being pulled out back onto the road, and were taken to Harrismith where the car was put on the lift and checked.  No serious harm done, except (as we only found out on our trip home) that the rear shocks were shot.

By the time we eventually arrived at Geri and Dan’s place in Amanzimtoti, we were too exhausted to do anything – a braai had been planned, but it was still raining, so we ordered pizza instead and just chilled at home.  I was stunned to see just how big their children have become. 

James

 is five already and

little Lulu is not so little anymore,

 turning three this March. 

They are gorgeous children, who managed to creep into my heart in a matter of minutes.

After dinner, my folks, Aunty Carol and Uncle Barry headed off to their guest house just up the road and I helped Geri with the washing up.  They went to bath James and Lulu and put them to bed.  While they were busy I took some photos of the view from their verandah

and phoned Jay – I just needed to hear his voice.  I told him quite honestly that not a day had passed since his visit that I hadn’t thought of him.  He was relieved to hear that we were all safe and told me to really enjoy my holiday.  I rang off feeling better.

I spent some time catching up with Geri and Dan, but by 22:30 I just couldn’t keep my eyes open anymore.  The day’s events had really taken my oomph out of me.  I went to bed, again not even remembering putting the light off.