Welcome to Mr Bob’s Blog!

BOBWelcome to Mr Bob’s Blog!

Welcome to Mr Bob’s Blog!  This is an adventure in interacting with YOU, so we can get acquainted, share experiences, and have fun together. Hit the “Reply” button and share your experience or comment on what I’ve written.

The Blog idea started with a question posed at my 80th birthday party. “80 years old?  Really?  How did you get to be 80?”

I answered the question by sharing how God has protected, provided for, and “pushed” me through the years to prepare me for His purpose to be a children’s author.  I sensed a feeling of purpose when I discovered that my gift for rhyming can help children learn to read.

I’ll add some unique experiences that most people wouldn’t know about that gave my life extra adventure and additional value.  And I’d like to hear what adventures and experiences have added value to YOUR life!

Let’s throw in fun things along the way – to build a “community”, or “family” of people who love the Lord and are enjoying life.

“Reply” and let’s enjoy the journey!

90. Aboard the Royal Caribbean

90.   Aboard the Royal Caribbean Visions of the Sea

Life aboard Visions of the Sea, a 900 ft+ Royal Caribbean cruise ship sailing the “Love Boat Route” from San Diego California to Puerto Vallarta Mexico, seems like a week-long fantasy!

Consistent with cruising lore, food and the dining ambiance was a major element.  The food was gourmet, and elegantly presented.  Buffets had “floral” displays made with fruit and vegetables.

Our cabin was a short elevator ride right below the “Windjammer Cafe”, the ship’s alternative smorgasbord.  For breakfast, Betty just rode up the elevator and returned to our cabin in minutes with fruit, oatmeal, scrambled eggs, pancakes and a Belgian waffle.  The Windjammer was a circular restaurant with a grand view over the bow of the ship.  Large beautiful models of classic windjammer sailing ships graced the entrance.

For dinner, we sat near the spiral staircase in the two-story main dining room, the Aquarius.  Many, if not most of the waiters appeared to be from the Middle East or India.  Our waiter was Ismael from Turkey.  The live dinner music close to our table alternated between a string trio and David, the piano player who caught our attention with old favorites of our time — romantic music by Mancini.

Imagine sitting down in a 5 star hotel restaurant with a menu of International cuisine.  Gourmet appetizers of fruit, salads, soups both hot and cold, topped by entrees that were both unusually elegant, and elegantly served.  You can order anything, as much as you want.  Betty asked our waiter if they had papaya — “yes,” he could get it.  He brought a saucer with two long slices of papaya; obviously from a “watermelon” papaya, from its appearance and taste.  We ended up with a saucer of 4 slices of papaya waiting at our places for a pre-appetizer every night.

I read the exotic entrees, and then spotted the Ala Carte “always available” section — broiled Norwegian salmon, baked or mashed potatoes, and Caesar salad.  That’s what I had most nights except the night I had a Burrito as well, and the trout almandine.  The meals were always delicious! Macadamia nut and butter pecan ice cream were impossible to resist!

One of the fun things we enjoyed doing that enhanced our cruise experiences was to get acquainted with crew members. We met some interesting people.  A lady playing piano bar was a retired music teacher, “playing” her way around the world by playing on cruise ships.  Our cabin housekeeper was from San Salvador.  He said he could work two years, and then be able to take care of his family.  The executive chef was from Croatia, and was a career cruise crewman.  We actually saw him on another cruise where he was promoted to Maitre ‘de.  His plan was to work on board for twenty years, and then he and his family would get a sailboat and cruise on their own.

89. Puerto Rico

89. Puerto Rico

Bienvenido a Puerto Rico! (Welcome to Puerto Rico!)

Betty and I stepped off our cruise ship, the Paradise, just to look around.   A taxi driver saw us and came over and said he would give us an hour tour of Old San Juan for $30.  There was time, so off we went.

San Juan is the capital and largest city in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, an unincorporated territory of the United States.  “Old San Juan,” was the original colonial settlement with narrow, blue cobblestone streets.  The cobblestones were furnace slag used by the Spanish as ballast on their ships.

We had no idea that Old San Juan contained so many museums and historical sites.  San Juan was founded by Spanish colonists led by Ponce de León in 1521, who called it Ciudad de Puerto Rico (“Rich Port City”).  Ponce de Leon was appointed the first governor of Puerto Rico.  One historical site is the Casa Blanca, (White house).  Built in 1521, it served as the first fortification of the San Juan islet, and was the residence for Ponce de León and his family.

In 1493, during his second voyage to The New World, Christopher Columbus landed in Puerto Rico.  He named the island “San Juan Bautista” in honor of John the Baptist.(Saint John)  One of the museums in San Juan is the Casa del Libro (House of the Book).  It is an 18th-century house that is now a book museum holding a rare collection of early manuscripts and books (nearly 5,000 works), dating back to the 15th-century.  Among the museum’s most precious possessions are two royal mandates signed by Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain in 1493 for provisioning Columbus’ fleet for his second voyage.

What I enjoyed most was seeing the old forts.

The imposing Castillo San Felipe del Morro, or el Morro, a 6-story-tall complex with 65-foot-high, 18-foot-thick walls rising 150 feet above the Atlantic Ocean, protected the harbor.  San Cristobal, another immense fortress, built to protect the city from attacks on land, is a prime example of Spanish colonial military architecture.  The forts did the job and repulsed numerous attacks.

We were able to see el Morro from a distance from the taxi, but we drove up to the entrance ramp of San Cristobal.

Spain ceded Puerto Rico to the United States at the end of the Spanish American War in 1898.  Because Spain was able to maintain control of Puerto Rico so long, the population is mainly hispanic, and the country has two official languages of Spanish and English.

Our driver ended our tour by driving down the very narrow, colorful main street of Old San Juan.  The street was jammed bumper-to-bumper with slow moving cars carrying tourists leaning out windows to take pictures.
Whenever I rolled down the window to take a picture, the driver turned off the air conditioning and moaned about the heat, because it was a hot day!

After that slow ride through town, I was glad we got back to the ship before departure time.

 

88. Nassau

88.  Nassau

The PARADISE set sail from Miami, so we had a brief visit with my nephew before departing for Nassau.

The Commonwealth of the Bahamas is a chain of islands, and Nassau is the capital and largest city on Providence Island.  A popular cruise-ship stop, the city has a hilly landscape and is known for beaches as well as its offshore coral reefs, popular for diving and snorkeling.  It retains many of its typical pastel-colored British colonial buildings, like the pink-hued Government House.

Our cruise ship group was treated to a complimentary limousine tour.  One highlight stop for us was at Fort Fincastle, built in 1793 on a hill to protect the town and the harbor.  We were able to go to the top of the adjacent water tower which was built in 1928.  The tallest structure in Nassau at 126 feet, it gave us a panorama view of the city.  In the background of our picture, you can see Atlantis, the plush resort on Paradise Island.

Nassau has an interesting and colorful history.  It was originally known as Charles Town; founded in 1670 by British Noblemen who built a fort and named the town in honor of England’s King Charles II.  The town was burned to the ground by the Spanish in 1684 during one of their frequent wars with the English.  It was rebuilt and renamed Nassau in honor of the then King of England, William III from the Dutch House of Orange-Nassau.

In 1703 Spanish and French forces briefly occupied Nassau. By 1713, the sparsely settled Bahamas had become a pirate haven.  The pirates, led by the infamous Edward Teach, better know as“Blackbeard,” proclaimed Nassau a pirate republic, establishing themselves as “governors”.

In 1718, the British regained control of the islands and appointed Captain Woodes Rogers as Royal governor.  Rogers cleaned up the city, and rebuilt the fort, using his own wealth.

The population of African descent grew significantly when Britain abolished slavery in 1802, and after the American Civil War in the 1860’s.

Next — Puerto Rico

87. Sailing in the Virgin Islands

 87.  Sailing in the Virgin Islands

I pushed the camera out as far as my arm would reach, so the fish could read KODAK, and wouldn’t scoot away behind the rocks, colorful coral, and reef vegetation.  The gentle waves rolled me off balance so it was impossible to see through the viewfinder to center on the fish meandering around fans, purple rocks, and stirred up silt.  By a miracle I was able to get these pictures of the coral.

 

We were snorkeling in the clear shallow water of Hawk’s Nest Bay, St. John Island, US Virgin Islands. Hawk’s Nest Bay was a horseshoe of sand  beach with no houses visible through the trees.  We were the only boat anchored inside, and no one was visible on the beach.  It was a perfect beautiful place.

 

We were on a weeklong cruise of the Caribbean on the CARNIVAL ship PARADISE visiting the Bahamas, Puerto Rico, and St Thomas in the US Virgin Islands.

The ship docked at Charlotte Amalie, where we and four of our friends, grabbed a taxi van and were driven to the end of the island to Red Hook and the American Yacht Harbor where we had chartered a 36′ sailboat for the day.  We were welcomed by a large iguana and the charter boat captain.

Captain Omar and his wife sailed us the four miles across to the island of St. John.  I got to take the helm sailing into Hawk’s Nest Bay where we anchored.  The captain’s wife, Sharon and Debbie went ashore to look for shells along the beach, while Dale, Betty and I snorkeled.  The ladies wandered further than expected, and we had to motor around the end of the island to pick them up.  With gray clouds forming off in the distance, we took a straight course back to St. Thomas.

I asked the captain, who was a retired Canadian air force officer, why he picked the U.S. Virgin Islands for his retirement business instead of the British.  He said, “Because it is the United States.”  That made me proud.

Back on board the ship, we showered and went for dinner.  It had been a tiring day, but super fun, and another “once in a lifetime experience!”

Next up:  Nassau

86. Cruising

86.  Cruising

Our first experience cruising was a Sunrider leadership cruise of the western Caribbean out of Ft Lauderdale.  We invited my sister Jan to go with us.  There were eight days on board the Crown Princess, the “Love Boat” to Grand Cayman, Jamaica, Cozumel Mexico, and back. They piped the theme music from the Love Boat TV show as we left port.

This was the first of five cruises we had with Sunrider.  One high point was a snorkeling outIng at Grand Cayman, which turned out to be a test for us because we did okay in cold, rough water near a reef.  The other high point was at Cozumel, where we and Jan rented a cab for a tour along the coast.  The driver took us into a small town for shopping, and I bought a beautiful onyx chess set.

Perhaps our biggest discovery was that we enjoyed being on the ship more than the shore excursions.  There was non-stop activity which seems to be the common element for cruises.  There were Broadway-class shows in the large forward theater, games, contests, dancing, travel lectures, swimming, and hot tubs, and eating, eating, eating fabulous food!

There were times to relax and dream while sipping juice and enjoying our favorite songs played by the lounge piano maestro.  I even made it twice to the well equipped gym to exercise!

Remember, this was a business cruise!  We had to work by going to Sunrider meetings! Tough business! Sunder paid for most of the cost of the cruise, and, it was tax deductible too!

Shipboard food is legendary!  One could eat the typical breakfast, lunch and dinner in the main dining room.  But we found the large buffet on the Lido deck had more variety for brunch and lunch.  And we went a few times for midnight snacks at the bar on the aft deck.

Dinner on the Princess was an experience in elegant international dining and cuisine.  Each night was a different nationality menu or vegetarian, English, French, Italian, and American.  For example, English Night was Royal Pheasant, caviar, and Cherries Jubilee.  The last night was formal attire, helium balloons all over, and a climax of a waiter’s parade with Flaming Baked Alaska!

The last night crossing the Gulf of Mexico in a rain storm was a “treat”.  I was pushing a wheelchair to balance better as the deck moved, and when a 803 ft.ship lurches, you know you’ve been over a wave!  When Betty & I went across stage that night to receive our trophy for business performance, I had an usher holding on to me so I wouldn’t be dancing and “rocking” with the others!

We knew the ship was rolling, because when we showered that night, the water washed back and forth across the floor.  We were rocked to sleep that night by the gentle rolling of the ship.  Fun experience — and a neat climax for our cruise!  We fell in love with cruising!

85. Dining Out in Hong Kong

85.  Dining Out in Hong Kong

Our first outing in Hong Kong was to the Jumbo Floating Restaurant.  The restaurant is a large double-story boat, requiring groups of us to be ferried out in small boats.  

The Jumbo Floating Restaurant is known for the Cantonese–style seafood cooked and served on board.  It was perfect for us, because Cantonese style is distinguished by lightly cooked fresh vegetables and meat, and sweet sauces.  Even with high-quality food, the ornate dining atmosphere is the main attraction of the restaurant.

The Jumbo Floating Restaurant is located in the Aberdeen Floating Village in Aberdeen Harbor in the southern district of Hong Kong.   There are approximately 500 junks housing 6000 people.  The rise in tourism has increased the demand for fresh fish, and been a boon for the villagers.  Many have moved ashore, and fish on their boats during the day.

The next day we took a young Chinese couple to the hotel next to the Shangra La for dinner.  We were put in touch with them by his brother who was one of one of my students in Hawaii.  He and his fiancee were delighted to have an opportunity to practice their English.  Since the menu was in Chinese, we asked him to make the selection.  He asked if I liked eggs.  Whew!  Of course.  Eggs!  What could they do wrong with eggs?

Here comes the waiter with our main dish — a huge bowl of noodles with an egg perched in the middle, a raw egg, which was slowly coagulating as the heat from the noodles warmed the egg white.  Our new friend stirred the egg into the noodles, and served us. It was fine. I could not taste the egg.

In addition to being the shopping destination of the world, Hong Kong is also a place where a culinary connoisseur could experience an amazing diversity of cuisine from around the world.

84. Hong Kong – Again

84.  Hong Kong – Again

Certainly by Divine provision and protection, Dragon Air brought us into Hong Kong early enough to escape the first winds of the Typhoon that brushed by Hong Kong that night.  This time, we were left on the plane and told to wait, someone will come for you.  I kept saying I could get down the stairs with the others and walk to the terminal – but again, “Wait.”  Everybody left, even the pilots and flight attendants, and we waited.

Eventually, a bus drove out from the terminal, and the whole bus lifted up on a scissor lift to the door of the plane.  It was a people transport with no seats, only grab poles, and entirely empty except for us.  We were then escorted through customs to the front of the terminal where our tour buses waited to take us to the Shangra La Hotel downtown.  Talk about VIP treatment Chinese style!

Our friends who flew in from Beijing later told us they had a turbulent flight and a scary landing in gusty winds.

We had a great time in China!  It was also nice to be back in the familiar comfort of the luxurious Kowloon Shangra La Hotel, where we stayed three years ago.

Another note from the tour packager informed us, that to compensate for our “inconvenience” in being separated from the main group, he had arranged for us to have a room with a view of the harbor.

A notice under our room door advised us of the typhoon alert, and a storm watch center had been set up in the lobby.  Some tours were canceled.

Betty and I chose to enjoy the storm from the luxury of the hotel, and lingered over a two hour lunch overlooking Hong Kong Harbor from the top floor restaurant.  We were intrigued by small sampans and junks sharing the middle of the harbor with huge ocean liners and freighters.  We thought it would be a captain’s nightmare to avoid hitting some tiny fishing boat.  One sampan fisherman was going back and forth putting down a fishing net, then going back to pick it up.  He had to get back to pick up the net before a passing ship went close by.

Our room faced the harbor, so we watched “the busiest harbor in the world” gradually empty until there was not a boat in sight!

Then we sat up late, thrilled by the midnight display of lightning and harbor lights as the storm passed at its peak!

 

 

83. Tianjin

83. Tianjin

Our Sunrider convention was in Tianjin, three hours by bus from Beijing.  We passed miles and miles of rice paddies, and other crops growing.  Vendors by the road sold watermelons and bottles of water, and Pepsi.  We saw Kentucky Fried Chicken, and brick and stone huts where farmers lived in little villages.  The roads were good, and there were many trucks, all owned by the government.

The huge gymnasium at Tianjin held 6000 excited Sunders from all over the world!  Lion dancers and acrobats entertained us, and hundreds of Sunriders received awards.  An inspiring time!

We received a note from the tour packager apologizing for separating the Hawaii group from the rest.  We would have to stay in Tianjin overnight instead of going by bus back to Beijing.  “Tough break!”  We would miss the tiring three hour bus ride back to Beijing, and have to stay overnight in a really nice hotel, the Crystal Palace, and then fly to Hong Kong well ahead of the main group.

The Crystal Palace Hotel apparently catered to International visitors.  They had a fantastic American style buffet breakfast.  I had oatmeal, an omelet, and pancakes!

Next day, at the gate of Dragon Air for check in, I told the clerk we had requested wheelchair assistance.  She made a face, and said, “We don’t have a wheelchair.  Let me see what I can do.”  It was wobbly, but it had wheels, so I was wheeled to ground level by an attendant, and told to wait.  I keep insisting that I could climb the stairs, but the attendant said, “wait,” and disappeared.

We waited — and watched the other passengers climbing the stairs to the plane parked some distance away.  Finally, a wheelchair transport van arrived, and took me to the cargo entrance of the plane, where the van telescoped up and I was loaded on the plane with the cargo!

Hong Kong again! This time to sit out a typhoon, and enjoy other unique experiences.

Join us next week for more…

82. Climbing The Great Wall of China

82.  Climbing THE GREAT WALL of China

At the bottom of the steps leading up to THE GREAT WALL, I waved at Dale, for help.  I grabbed the back of his belt, and we began walking up with me balancing with one hand on the side of the wall.  At the first tower, Dale and Debbie took off, and I stood alone.  I looked at the steel step ladder leading to the top of the guard tower, and wondered, “Have I  come far enough?”   Then I remembered the words of Pian, saw my chance, and climbed the ladder!  I stepped out on rough stones and gazed at one of the great wonders of the world, THE GREAT WALL of China!

From the top of the tower we had a magnificent view in both directions.  Guard towers were spread out about every 100 yards, and interrupted the ant-like flow of thousands of people from all over the world, including hundreds of our fellow Sunriders.  Then the sun broke through the haze to highlight our incredible experience!  Betty took a picture of me from below, then climbed up to join me.

Time to leave, and the ladder was jammed with people.  How would we get down the ladder?  Two portly Japanese tourists loaded with cameras and bags were jockeying to get on the ladder.  As one man started down the ladder, he said something that the other did not like.  The second man followed down the ladder and started a fight.  Security guards intervened, but for the moment, the ladder was empty, and Betty and I got down easily.

There were no Sunders in sight, and I was having trouble negotiating the steeper walk down with my cane, but help was nearby.  Betty motioned to a couple of security guards that I needed help.  They grabbed my arms, and helped me all the way back down to the foot of THE WALL.  Betty took a picture of me being helped by the guards on THE GREAT WALL of China!

Our bus driver Pian was horrified when Betty shared about her taking a picture of the guards helping me down THE WALL.  “You did what! They didn’t take your camera?  You could have been arrested!  You never take pictures of the police!”

Another day with an amazing experience of climbing THE GREAT WALL OF CHINA, one of the seven wonders of the world!  We had some Divine provision to make it up and down the tower ladder, and guards standing by to help me walk down the steep incline to the bottom of THE WALL!

81. Going to THE GREAT WALL

81.  Going to THE GREAT WALL

We liked being in the front seat of the lead bus of our eight bus convoy on the way to THE GREAT WALL OF CHINA.  Pian was our driver again.

Maneuvering through traffic of bicycles as cars – we were glad to have a police escort that led the way with sirens wailing, flashing lights, and policemen waving their arms out the windows.  Radio-alerted police stopped traffic at intersections all the way for forty-eight miles!

At one point the lanes ahead were full, so the police car crossed over into on-coming traffic waving to oncoming traffic to merge into one lane.  What an exciting ride!

Part way there, we passed a tourist souvenir store, then discovered we were supposed to stop there.  The police waved us through a U-turn — all eight buses, and back to the FRIENDSHIP STORE.

The store had some amazing things for sale.  Paintings, huge vases, sculptures, and life-size figures.  A ship carved out of green jade was an example of the craftsmanship of the Chinese people.  This store catered to well-to-do tourists!

We could see THE WALL from the bus as we approached.  THE WALL snaked up the ridges and along the top of the mountains and disappeared in the haze in the distance, miles away.  Guard towers commanded THE WALL every hundred yards or so.  THE Wall is 4000 miles long, took 300 years to build, 200 years before Christ, when ancient Greece was flourishing.

At the base of  THE WALL, I left my walker at the bus and took my cane.  I looked at the steps leading up to THE WALL, and the steep incline up, and wondered how I would get up since there was no handrail?

Next week: Climbing THE GREAT WALL for an amazing experience!