Retire Mechanical engineer. Student at California State university Channel Island studiyingAbout Me

July 26, 2015

Alaska Cruise - Part One

Our first stop was the city of Vancouver, Canada.

We did not find it difficult, customs was a breeze and our taxi driver took us to our hotel, the Century Plaza on Bourard Boulevard in downtown.

Vancouver is a beautiful city and cultured.

I noticed the way the young people dressed and how polite the people were, giving way to my wife walking with her cane. I was also pleasantly surprised at the view from our hotel suite. It was like magic, viewing the city from the 22nd floor.

I sat myself down in one of the comfortable chairs in the living room and just took it all in. My mind began running a hundred ideas all at once.

I was fantasizing about how I could stay in this one bedroom suite and complete my fourth novel, Body in the Woods, similar to what Ernest Hemingway did in a hotel room in Havana.

The voice over my shoulder kept insisting I should stay here for at least a week, but my wife was already re-packing our suitcases for our cruise leaving tomorrow.

I loved the view and I knew I could easily live here and write.

Too many thoughts were whizzing in my head. I was swamped with these ideas, while wifey continued packing.

So many clothes, so many toiletry items, and we are only gone a week.

To me, with this luggage, it was like we were going to be away for a year, but I zipped my mouth.

I didn't want to get into a conflict though, as I need her so much. She is my manager, editor, proofreader, in charge of what I am supposed to wear for what occasion, but this seemed like so much complication.

There was so much to say, and the killer view of skyscrapers kept calling.

I thought I had better stop jabbering, but I continued fantasizing about that month stay, finishing the novel, and my agent flying in to meet us before I submitted the manuscript to my editor. My agent likes my raw writing, calling it rugged, uncensored, erotic and literary.

It's like liberal comedians discussing unedited versions of politics in private.

I fantasized that my agent completed reading the novel in one day, and then arranged theatre tickets for us to see a play. I fantasized that my wife and my agent had disagreements on the manuscript, my wife insisting that the manuscript should be mailed immediately to my editor Lisa.

In my mind I heard them arguing.

"I won't have my husband's writing turned into porno trash."

"Oh grow up. This is not the 1800s, this is the twenty-first century."

Ahh, but now back to reality.

Hungry for dinner, we went downstairs and asked where we could have a nice dinner. The recommendation was a Thai restaurant right down the street.

The restaurant had an upscale interior design. Everything complemented everything else with wood floors and chairs intricately designed by the world's best.

The service was first-class, given by a beautiful Tai girl in traditional garb. This was my first experience with Tai cuisine and to my amazement is was very tasty and the food plentiful.

The first course was a delicious soup. I have never tasted such a soup, but there was something I kept chewing on that had the consistency of wood, so I spit it out. I noticed there were more pieces of this hard stuff and when our waitress came to take away the dishes, I asked her what it was. She remarked that it was bamboo, giving the soup the unique flavor that it had.

When I told her that I had chewed on a piece, almost swallowed it, but then spit it out, she burst into laughter, telling me I was not supposed to eat it. I motioned for her to come closer and I began whispering in her ear, taking in her unusual perfume and the pleasant aroma of her clean hair.

She listened attentively, but I became aware of my wife watching us. I knew she knew my moments when I was in that mood and she lets me be because the ideas and words pouring out of me need to be dealt with.

When we had finished our meal and had eaten all we could, there were still mounds of food left on the platters. I asked our waitress what she would think of us if we took the remaining food to go. She cracked a wide smile, showing off her beautiful white teeth, perfect enough for a toothpaste commercial.

"I will take the food and package it for you," was her reply.

I must say, my wife and I thoroughly enjoyed our evening. When it came time for me to sign my name on the bill, our waitress made the comment that I had a very nice signature. I replied that yes, I supposed it was, I practiced a million times. She asked me to spell my name and I told her that she could find it easily by Googling me.

"Why? Are you a famous person?" There came that killer smile again. When she smiled, her cheeks created dimples and she looked gorgeous with her small, round nose very suited to her symmetrical face.

"Yes, I suppose. I am an author."

With that she produced her personal notebook and asked me to write down my web address and I told her she could find all my books on my website.

She hurried away again.

After about fifteen minutes, she returned with our take home boxes and started chatting with my wife. They talked about how we met and how long I have been writing, you know, typical girl talk.  I separated my mind, returning to my faraway place, thinking and formulating what to write.

The next morning we enjoyed our breakfast of delicious leftovers from last night's dinner, finished our packing and found a taxi.

The taxi driver turned right out of the hotel taking us up to the next street parallel to Bourard, and then turned in the opposite direction of the docks.

I wasn't sure what the cab driver was doing, and was about say something nasty.

In my mind I flashed back to last year when we took a taxi from our hotel in Madrid to the airport.

The hotel manager had personally arranged a taxi for us and it turned out the cab driver pocketed the money, arguing with his dispatcher all the way to the airport.

Thank God I held back from saying anything to this taxi driver because I soon realized that he could not just cross and make a left to head towards to ship due to one-way streets.

The boarding process for our ship, the Grand Princess, was smooth, although at first we wondered why we were going through U.S. customs and immigration.

We laughed when we realized we were in Canada and by boarding the ship we were returning to the U.S.

Before we knew it we were on board and found our cabin on deck 8.

With several hours before sailing, we enjoyed a leisurely lunch, began unpacking suitcases and attended the mandatory muster drill.

As the ship began its departure, we grabbed our cameras and headed up to deck 16 to watch the sail-away, staying on deck until we passed under Lions Gate Bridge.

My wife was perhaps a little more excited than I was; years ago she had driven over the same bridge and was now seeing it from a totally different perspective.

As we dressed for our first dinner aboard, we both wondered aloud as to who our table mates might be, but knowing full well that it could never live up to our table mates from last year on our transatlantic cruise.

It had been one of those serendipitous life experiences when five couples all meshed and each night was an enjoyable treat.

"Chin," "chong," "chang," "douee," "doodah" and so on, and so on, and so on. Those were the first sounds we heard as we approached our table and discovered, much to our dismay, we were assigned to a table of six and that two of our table mates were a Chinese couple who spoke very little English.

We were soon joined by two other Chinese women who spoke no English at all.

All through dinner, the two Chinese women held their I-phones, texting and taking photos of each course as it was served. The four continued to converse in Chinese, the sounds of "cooome," "chaa," "situ," "ma" and "hanga" echoing across the room, and with no attempt to converse with us.

At one point, one of the women speared a whole pat of butter with her fork and swallowed it in one gulp. My wife tried to ease me from my disgust, thinking perhaps the woman did not know what it was, but even now, it makes me nauseated even to think about it.

Then came their four bowls of soup and the slurping sound overcame the soft classical music being played in the dining room. It was in perfect rhythm, frrrrrit frrrropt, with one hand holding the bowl and other hand laboring arduously to carry the soup spoon to the mouth, back and forth, back and forth.

Yes, this was so strange to us, but what if our so-called civilized customs seemed strange to them?

I remember my younger brother telling stories about central Asian Turkic customs. When one visits their home, they cook the sheep head and offer the eyes of the animal to the guest as the highest honor. Yes, it is disgusting to us, but revered to them.

On that thought, as I was staring at our Chinese dinner companions' hands and noticing all the obviously expensive gold jewelry, I was reminded of my Chinese friend, Laura, who I met years ago at a Toastmasters meeting.

Laura was a very romantic and beautiful woman, who had graduated from a graphic design university in Shanghai. It was so strange to me to learn that she and many other Chinese women and men attended Toastmasters to learn English. Yes, it seemed odd to me.

Just like many other Chinese, Laura had the same problem with R's and L's. She told me stories about her friends in China. As they got richer, they bought expensive gold jewelry, diamonds and cars.

She once remarked, "With all that money I spent on diamonds and expensive jewelry, I could have had two years of writing and dreaming."

Laura never understood how capitalism worked. In all her thirty years in America she never opened an IRA account. Despite my asking her what will happen to her when she was older, her answer was always the same; Social Security would suffice for her.

Our first full day of the cruise was spent at sea. We relaxed, read, walked the deck, swam in the pool and sat in the Jacuzzi.

That night was our first formal dinner night.

My wife, as usual, insisted that we dress appropriately, meaning that what I wore must be complementary to her dress.

But she is always right and when we go out all dressed up to her liking, we always get compliments.

So, we were having dinner, sharing the same table with four Chinese folks.

My wife tried her best to have conversation with our dinner table companions.  She did not succeed all that well, although she did manage to find out the two women were from the Republic of China.

All through dinner, we were subjected the same sounds, "doohee," "da boo," "hocimo," "mucheda," etc., etc., etc. With respect to the Chinese language, that is how we received the sounds, but I am sure they may have received ours in much the same way.

As my wife had made her attempt, I too made mine. I asked the man, "Where are you guys from?" His reply was, "Lo Angees." I understood that to be Los Angeles.

"Where in Los Angeles?" He said, "Aahh haaam aaa." I tried very hard to figure out where that might be, but could not. I was staring at his expensive gold rings on his fingers and his wrist watch with its many apps, not sure what to say. He must have guessed that I did not understand him and he tried again, "Aahh haaam aaa."

I told him I never heard of that place before and he said, “Shuuuu you have. It is paath of Lo Angees." I finally figured it out. "Alhambra!"

"Yees, Aahh haaam aaa!"

While I am writing this adventure, it has dawned on me why we were seated with the Chinese folks. My last name of Kaya is perceived as being Oriental.

In reality it is, as my distant ancestors came from that part of the world, but I am a Turk married to an all-American girl. And, I know now why, years ago, I was called for audition for American airlines commercial. They thought I was Japanese.

When the casting director interviewed me on the phone she said, "You don’t sound Japanese." I said, "No, I don’t because I am not Japanese." She then told me they thought Kaya was a Japanese name.

You may ask why we didn't request to have our table changed, but we enjoyed our waiter, Gary, and our wine steward, Carolina, so much that we decided to stay where we were. We are both glad we did, as Gary and Carolina helped make each dinner a memorable one.

Part Two