Sunday, May 22, 2011

Q & A, part II

We're back!  Let's see what the mailbag has for us today.

Question: hindsight
What would you have done differently, or better, so far?  Would you have kept the same route and timing?

This is a tough question.  Although it was no picnic coming down the Chesapeake in fall (so, so cold), we did get a lot of practice in fairly calm conditions.  It also gave us time to discover some issues before we hit Fort Lauderdale in December.  There are places I would have liked more time in and place I could have skipped, but all in all, I’m pretty happy.

Question: togetherness
I love my spouse, but that sounds like pretty constant close quarters.  Should we be worried about you two?  Do you ever wish there were other adults to talk with besides each other?

First, let’s take a step back and see who we are dealing with.

This is Erik:

Look at me!  Look at me!  Look at me now!

As you can see, he is fun, happy, and likes to juggle many projects.  Erik is a classic over-achieving extrovert.

On the other hand, here I am:

One was Johnny who lived by himself, and liked it like that!

I am quiet.  I like to read, I like to write.  I am about as big an introvert as you’ll find outside a hermitage.

The girls take strongly after their father.

The wonderful thing about Tiggers is Tiggers are wonderful things

This is a boisterous and noisy boat.  There is no lack of company, even though there are only four of us.  I certainly had to adjust when we moved aboard, as there is no place to hide.  But now it all feels pretty normal, and we have all gotten good at respecting each other’s space, both physical and psychological.

But I’m not going to lie to you.  There have been days when I could have quietly sidled up to Erik on deck, given him a sharp shove overboard, and then practiced my crying face for when we encountered the authorities.  He has felt the same way about me.  This is normal, and neither of us takes it personally.  For many years we have followed a strategy of, “vent early and don’t stew.”  This means we get grievances out while they are still small, and nothing grows into A Big Issue.  In general, we get annoyed, bicker, glare, then forget the whole thing.  It works for us.

As for talking to other people, that is no problem.  We are always anchored out with tons of other boats, or in the marina with neighbours right beside us.  Any time we want to talk to retired white men, we can throw a stone and hit one.  (Do you see how I subtly gave you some information there?  I’m tricky some days.)

Not to digress too far, but this does bring up a point about cruising.  The people we have met are kind, generous, delightful company and generally all-around Good People.  We’ve had people show up with banana bread, lend us apartments, and watch the girls.  Strangers ran to get ice for Indy when she took a nasty spill.  Cruisers are made of awesome, in my opinion.  Anyone is doubt as to the inherent worth of their fellow man should live on a boat for a while.

However – and you knew there would be a “however” – cruisers are homogeneous.  This is what the cruising community looks like:

The Cruising Community: very nice, but very the same

It is white.  It is older.  It is mostly male.  In short, it lacks diversity.  Delightful people, but there it is.

Question: adversity
What has been the hardest thing to overcome?

There has been less to overcome than one might expect.  We’ve had to learn to be sparing with our fresh water.  I miss having laundry handy, and this whole top-lid fridge nonsense gets to me some days.  Even the seasickness isn’t so bad; Dramamine turned me into a zombie, and I developed an allergy to the scopolamine patch, but a friend put us on to some Mexican medication that I’m sure will do the trick.  Eternal optimism!

If I had to choose, I’d say our toughest problem is finding other kids, but that is improving.

Question: joys
What good things have you done?  What is the coolest thing you have seen on land and on water during the trip thus far?

We toured the Kennedy Space Center, met an astronaut and saw a rocket launch.  I did a night watch on a calm, cloudless, moonless night, and saw what the night sky should really look like.  We’ve seen dolphins and manatees, caught a tuna, and seen flying fish zoom hundreds of meters over the waves.  We climbed a Mayan pyramid and saw ruins still hidden in the jungle.  We’ve played in parks all over the US and Mexico.  We saw a baby goat minutes after it was born.  I get to read to my girls whenever the mood strikes us.  And we’ve done it as a family.  Even when we are driving each other bananas, I wouldn’t trade it.

Question: leaving civilization behind:
What do you miss most from home, after us of course?

When we moved, we got rid of many carloads of stuff to charity.  I am still waiting for the day when one of the girls asks about something that has been given away.  I know I haven’t missed our things.

I miss the Miele – the world’s greatest washing machine.  I miss my neighbourhood.  I’m hard-pressed to think of anything else, aside from friends and family.  I do not miss my car.  I do not miss having the haul the kids out of bed at an ungodly hour, stuff them full of breakfast and hustle them out the door and onto the school bus.  I don’t miss TV, newspapers or advertising of any description.  I don’t miss feeling I need to acquire things.  At all.

Question: food, glorious food
What is your favourite meal on the boat?  Do you eat ice cream and treats on the boat?

I polled the crew for favourite meals.  Stylish: lasagne.  Erik: hot dogs (or le ‘ot dog, as he calls it).  Indy: gummy worms.  Amy: anything I don’t have to prepare myself.  (Boy, I think I am going to have to monitor our eating habits.)  Yes, we have occasional treats.  Gelato is a favourite, as it is so hot down here. 

Question: gettin’ educated
How long does Stylish spend in school?  What days and times?  What does Indy do during school? Does Indy go to school too?  What are they learning?

We do school most mornings, weekends, too, unless we have something else going on.  We tend to slow down or stop when we have visitors.  I intend to continue school through the summer, so there is no need to race ahead.  I have Stylish’s books for next year already, so one day we will discover we have started grade two.  We follow the curriculum from Stylish’s school back home in terms of math, reading and so forth, and supplement with our own projects.  We’ve done Leonardo DaVinci and Space, for example.  Right now we are doing the Mayas, since there are lots of ruins in the area.

Indy insists on attending school, too.  Her letters and numbers are quite good, and now she is starting to identify words.  She looks for “a” and “the” in magazines and writable books, and circles them.  She is keen to read like her sister.

Question: houseguests
When can we visit?

We love visitors.  Reading this blog, it may seem like we are all alone all the time, but that it not the case.  We have met friends and family along the way since the early days of our trip.  I don’t tend to write about them because, well, I like my friends and family, and they deserve their privacy.  I tend to write humourous stories about our experiences, and I don’t want to use my people as story-fodder.  They didn’t sign up for that.  This is a failure on my part – a writer should serve the story at all costs – but I am willing to take that hit.  Our visitors are part of the hidden life of Papillon.

Question: time
What time do you get up in the morning?  When do you go to bed?

All too early on both counts.  Indy is a morning person, and arrives in bed with us by 0630 demanding juice and breakfast.  Stylish and Erik would stay up all night if they could.  Some nights, I’m so tired by the time I get the young people to bed that I am asleep myself ten minutes later.  Other nights I do better.

Question: flora and fauna
Do you have any pets or plants on the boat?

Afraid not.  Papillon is critter-free.  We have encountered a lot of boats that have a dog or cat, though.  Plants are a bigger problem, as countries don’t like you taking that stuff across borders, so not many people have plants.

Question: girls just wanna have fun
Do you ever get to go to the movies?  What games do you play on the boat?

We haven’t been out to the movies, but we do have a little DVD player on board which gets occasional use.  We have board games like Monopoly jr, snakes & ladders, and Sorry!  Stylish and I play modified Scrabble.  Mainly, the girls like playing with Duplo, bristle blocks, Little People, race cars and Barbies.  We make up more games than anything.  They also love drawing and writing in notebooks.

Whew!  That was a big list.  I hope that gives you all a bit of insight into Papillon.  And feel free to send further questions; I’ll do this again sometime.


bunny9 said...

I concur re the white men. Kind of scary. Loved my visit! See you soon.

Carol P said...

Once again, another "beautiful" day in Ontario, you are missing nothing with the weather here. This is, or seems like, our 100th day of rain, the ark is being constructed. I guess you are already on it!!
I enjoy the blog, waiting for the book! All the best!