Day 15 - Ferry

Saturday, September 8th, 2007

Our lives are pretty much governed by the mealtimes. Breakfast is between 8:00 and 9:00, lunch between 12:00 and 13:00 and dinner is between 18:00 and 19:30. The bar is open after dinner ends to about 21:00 though we have not really stuck along to really pay it a visit (not drinking/smoking tends to make a visit to a bar a bit pointless).

We tend to be the first in the queue for eating as it is really the most exciting thing to do. Mind you, with the food on offer I need not look forward to it too much. Breakfast was free but it basically consists of a rice gruel (not even as tasty as a similar dish in Hong Kong/Southern China – congee – which is a rice soup but quite tasty and always with a bit of meat in it or something) and some steamed buns (with no filling, and no taste). At lunch we were joined by a large number of what appears to be young Chinese girls who seem to have free lunch coupons. I do not recall seeing them at any of the meals yesterday though (they are so noisy I can think they would be hard to miss). I guess because they have these coupons they do without or eat their own food at other times…

We have met a few young British men on board the boat. I have been spending a bit of time talking with them over eating and just outside on the deck. One has been teaching English in Japan for a few years and I have been particularly interested to hear what he has to say as it sounds quite appealing to me.

View of the Islands

I am amazed we can still see land and islands all around us. I would have thought that we would be leaving Japan fairly quickly but I am learning that it is quite a big island. According to the ship's map we are travelling along the east coast of Japan then cutting across just below South Korea then across to China. The amount of time we are in truly open ocean is quite small.

More Islands

Life aboard the constantly rolling ship (not rolling that much but still enough to notice as you walk around) is not terribly exciting. Having a shower in our small shower stall was alright with hot water (hurray!) I felt a bit human. Without a shower in the morning I do not really feel awake so it is my morning ritual. I slept alright, actually, only awaking a couple of times in the night but I do that anyway. The motion did not appear to bother me at all and appeared to really help getting to sleep.

I never know where mother is so when I want to find out I end up hunting around for her. She has found a place just behind the smokestack on the first floor (the “A” deck evidently) where the wind is not quite so bad and she can sit in the plastic lawn chair and put her feet up on the railing still doing her Sudoku (surely she must have finished the ones she brought with her by now?). That spot also has a good view of the ocean all around us towards the back of the boat. It is a bit warm though with the exhaust from the engine right there…

The top deck is just a flat area on the roof of the ship. You can't really see too much from up there since there are the lifeboats suspended on arms all around that deck. Even looking towards the front of the ship you can't see that either since the area is “off limits” (a locked railing sealing it off from us). The weather has been very good with sun pretty much all the time. When we left Kobe yesterday I was a bit worried about the monsoon that was heading towards Tokyo at the time (Kobe is not really that far from Tokyo). The dark clouds followed us well into the evening to our east but now appear to be gone. I do actually find the heat of the sun quite oppressive so have spent a lot of my time in the cabin reading or out on the deck talking to our new British friends. They have a lot of interesting things to say and are helping me to think about what I want to do next (teach English in Japan for six months? Sounds appealing…). The one is now heading back to home in England. He is going to go from China, by land, through Mongolia then catch the Trans-Siberian Express to western Russia then work his way across to England. Sounds like a scary trip by yourself but another of the young men is talking about joining him for at least part of the way. I suppose it is youth…Ah, I remember that! A few years ago for me though…

We don't really see too much of any of the other passengers except at lunch. Many of them are on the main deck (the “B” deck) which has the communal rooms but they do not appear to spend much time out on the decks. I guess they are doing things in their rooms – perhaps simply lying down. Not much else to do, really.

I do see a few people around the television on the main foyer “A” deck landing. They were showing some very violent Chinese movie last night that I gave a miss particularly since, as I have already said, my Mandarin is practically non-existent. Yeah, and don't give me that “it would be good for you to learn the language that way” nonsense – I need a lot more than simply listening to foreign films! I guess this television is on satellite. The one in our room is not so lucky so out here on the ocean the reception is pretty bad. I have given up on trying to find something to see in any detail never mind trying to find a channel in English, a picture would be nice! But, I am not one to sit in front of the television all day anyway.

I do tend to wander around a bit through the dull red-carpeted corridors of the ship but there is nothing really to see. The ocean is there and I can spend a lot of time just looking into the dark blue waters counting jellyfish – I have taken to trying to count them in Mandarin. I have brought with me some Chinese lessons on my MP3 player along with some phrasebooks. I have tried to memorise the numbers and counting the jellyfish does appear to help as you really have to count fast! Some of them are also very big. They look so pretty yet I know they are quite deadly as well. Perhaps this is some sort of allegory?

I won't bore you with my appraisal of the meals. I don't really have to say anything, do I? Expensive, really, for what we are getting…One of our fellow English travellers did bring some spices or something in a packet that he sprinkled over his rice – I think the spices are a Japanese thing. I guess they are probably quite tasty (can't be any worse than what we have on offer). After dinner we had an ice-cream from the snack shop. Tasty. A bit of flavour, at last.

Now, back to that book…


Day 16 - Beijing Arrival