Sunday, November 23, 2008

Saturday Highlights

SATURDAY HIGHLIGHTS: During dinner with the captain on Monday, he invited all of us to come see the bridge later in the week. So on Saturday, we went to join the tour. We expected a lot of people and were surprised to see only 15 or so. We were told later that we were the only group the Captain dined with that week, and that bridge tours were very rare since 9/11. So it was a real treat to get to see how things were run.

The bridge was full of cool gizmos and gadgets. Best of all, there was an actual Captain's Chair, though nobody was sitting in it. We spent over 45 minutes looking around at everything. I have to say that Kevin was looking a little green by the end of the tour; it's a lot easier to feel the rocking of the ship from the very front.

You'll notice that I didn't say that this was the highlight of the day. That's because Saturday's highlight was actually the highlight of the entire cruise, and it only lasted about 30 seconds.

Saturday's highlight was when we went to look at Lisa's e-mail and found out that the surgery and all of the tests on our friend Jim had come back very good. Doctors had found a tumor in Jim's wrist not long ago and he was up in Davis getting everything taken care of. Finding out that the tumor was benign, that the surgery went as well as possible, and that his prognosis was excellent was far and away the best moment of the entire week.

We were blessed to be able to do all of the things we did during this week, but they all paled in comparison to remembering how diligently God cares for His children and seeing how wonderfully He answered all of our prayers for our friend. Lisa and I (and the Nelson's too) would have traded 100 cruises for a healthy friend.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Friday Highlights

FRIDAY: We spent Friday and Saturday at sea and we were grateful for the time to relax and rest up from our adventures on land. One of the things I really enjoyed about the cruise was that I actually came back more rested than when I left. That's rare for a vacation.

We were blessed to meet some really great people on board. Our favorites were the people we got to see every day who were working so hard. The picture above is of our Assistant Waiter, Enebis, and our Waiter, Dickson. They were great fun to talk to every day.

Our Cabin Steward's name was Steve and he really made the trip for us. I'm not sure if people realize how hard these guys work. Life on board a cruise ship is not fun and games. It's late nights and early mornings and not many breaks in between. All of the workers we met were full of joy and smiles.

So, Friday's highlight? Easy. LOBSTER! Dickson, always on the ball, brought me my second lobster tail before I was finished with my first. The food was very good almost every night, but lobster night was easily my favorite.

Moral of the day: The most important person at your job is often the person who makes the least money.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Thursday Highlights

Snorkeling in Puerto Vallarta was Thursday's highlight. We got up early and boated with the Nelson's out to Marietta Islands. The islands are an ecological preserve and are the home to some beautiful birds and other wildlife. The weather was perfect and the scenery was breathtaking.

The snorkeling itself wasn't as good as we experienced in Hawaii earlier this year. The water was a little choppier and a lot murkier. Our equipment wasn't as good either and both Lisa and Marla ended up going back to the boat fairly early. I had trouble getting a good seal on my mask so I went back soon after Lisa. After losing the mask, snorkel, and fins, I had a wonderful idea. We had plenty of time left, the water temperature was ideal, and we were right in the middle of one of the most beautiful areas on the planet. So I jumped in the ocean. The best part of the day was just swimming and floating around in God's creation.

Later, we took a speed boat up onto a stretch of beach, the only area on the islands that humans are allowed to touch. We spent some time relaxing and even more time watching the hermit crabs crawl all over each other. Soon, sadly, it was time to go. We felt so blessed to be able to immerse ourselves in this part of God's handiwork.

Moral of the day: When snorkeling, you spend most of your time face down in the water. Therefore, you will want to reapply your sunscreen!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Wednesday Highlights

Our second stop on the cruise was Mazatlan. We left the ship in the morning and took an absolutely terrifying cab ride to the "Golden Zone." There we were assailed left and right by many, many (many) shopkeepers. They were willing to sell us lots of things we didn't want for very reasonable prices. We escaped and fled to the beach.

The beach was beautiful, but the merchants followed us. They toted their wares and quoted prices that were only for us. Lisa and I ditched the Nelson's and took a (slightly) less terrifying cab ride back to the ship. We spent the day relaxing and wondering what the highlight would be. Turns out it was later that the magic show!

I should point out here that Kevin is one of my best friends in the world. Lisa likes to call us "BFF's" and I like to pretend I don't know what that means. The first time we met, some fifteen years ago or so, I found out that he liked poker, Star Wars, baseball, and the art of Bev Doolittle. Once I got past the Red Sox hat, we became fast friends.

Lisa and I were so glad that Kevin and Marla took the week off to join us on the cruise. We wouldn't have had nearly as much fun without them. We shared meals together, played games together, and just generally hung out. I even got to see Kevin dance. A little.

As soon as we saw that Ken the Magician was using lots of audience members in his show, we were quick to volunteer Kevin. His reluctance seemed to fade a bit when he was given the task of tying down Misty the Magician's Assistant. After he (and some other dude) secured Misty in place, Ken covered her up and drove a blade through her. Then he thrust several swords through her before pulling her apart. At least, that's what it looked like. And that's what he said. He wouldn't lie to us, would he?

We had a blast watching Kevin up on stage and the show was actually quite good. Later we had another great dinner and played "Apples to Apples." Lisa even took that incredible sunset picture up top, but seeing my buddy in a magic show was Wednesday's highlight.

Moral of the day: If you're ever in a taxi in Mexico, use your seatbelt.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Tuesday Highlights

TUESDAY: The ship anchored outside of Cabo San Lucas and we took a tender boat to shore. I was a little nervous about the zip-lining excursion. I don't have a bad fear of heights, but I don't consciously seek them out either. A van drove us for about an hour and fifteen minutes up to base camp where we were fitted with harnesses and helmets. Then the adventure began.

We went across seven different zip-lines of distances up to almost 500 feet. They stretched more than 100 feet high over a dry rocky riverbed. We crossed a single-rope bridge, climbed up rock faces, and even rappelled about 80 feet down. We weren't allowed to take pictures (they wanted you to buy their's for 12 bucks each) so you'll just have to take my word for it that we did all this. There was a lot of hiking and we were pretty sore and tired when we got back. But it was easily the highlight for Tuesday.

Moral of the day: When the guide tells you to brake...brake.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Monday Highlights

Back in
my day, when a family returned from a nice vacation they would subject visiting guests to a slide show. It was usually too long, too boring, and full of pictures that only the people actually in the pictures cared about. This blog is just like that except, instead of lasting an evening, it will last a whole week. Probably nobody will care aside from Lisa and I and our friends, the Nelson's, who joined us. But I'll forget all this stuff unless I write it down somewhere. That's sort of the point behind the whole "web log" thingy anyway.

So, with apologies, here are the highlights of each and every day we spent on our wonderful cruise.

SUNDAY: Unbeknownst to us, our friends The Ogle's departed The Vision of the Seas on Sunday morning and we boarded her on Sunday afternoon. During our first of many wonderful dinners, Roscoe the headwaiter asked us to come see him before we left the dining room. We couldn't find him when we were done, figured it was nothing important, and left to tour the ship a bit. Fortunately, Roscoe was persistent, so...

MONDAY: ...the next morning we got a call inviting us to dinner at the Captain's table that evening. I've only cruised twice (Lisa thrice) so most of my knowledge of these things comes straight from The Love Boat. There it seemed like everybody got to eat at the Captain's table at least once (more often for Charo). So we were surprised later to find out that we and the two other couples who joined us were the only people fortunate enough to have this experience all week. And there were about 2400 on board. So these odds were sort of like me winning at slots. Which I also did later in the week! Ten bucks, no big, but still!

Dining with Captain Anders was an amazing experience. It was formal night, so we were dressed to the nines. Lisa was dressed to the tens. Zowie. We were escorted in to the center table, just below the grand piano. The men held the chairs for their ladies and, shortly, stood again when the captain arrived. Everything was incredibly elegant and there was much peeking to see which fork to use. The ladies were always served first and always from the correct side. There was great conversation and even greater food. The filet mignon was probably the best cut of meat I've ever had in my life. The captain shared some liqueur from his private stock. And when dessert came, nine waiters surrounded the table in single file and simultaneously served each of us.

Eventually, Captain Anders made his excuses and we gentlemen again stood as he left. We all chatted a bit before reluctantly acknowledging that the meal was over. I'm proud to say that I wasn't so overwhelmed by the formality of the occasion that I neglected to make the Devil's Tower from Close Encounters out of my mashed potatoes. The couple to our right were from Mission Viejo and were 20-year members of the Saddleback Church. They were on their 55th cruise yet still had no idea why any of us were invited to this incredible meal. We agreed to just accept the blessing as it was. The week was off to a perfect start.

Moral of the day: If your headwaiter ever asks you to see him before you leave, I encourage you to follow up on that.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Oh, Have I Mentioned...?

Back during the several months that I was paid a stipend for preaching, I socked much of it away to help pay for something special. Next week, my wife will be rewarded for putting up with me during 10 years of marriage with a cruise to Mexico. Part of her reward is that I will be going along as well. A bit of a paradox, isn't it?

We will be leaving Sunday with our good friends, Kevin and Marla. We will stop in Cabo San Lucas, Puerto Vallarta, and Mazatlan. We will all snorkel together one day. Another day, Lisa and I will get to take some zip lines over the jungle. There will be much eating and relaxing and very little school work.

The actual school week next week is only Wednesday, Thursday, and I am actually going to take a week off and miss only three days of work. Upon return, I will have a week of work and then another week off for Thanksgiving. Then three more weeks and three weeks off for Christmas. I've been working very (VERY) hard lately, so I'm not feeling the least bit guilty about all that. Seriously. Not the teensiest little bit.

I doubt if I'll be blogging much from the big boat. But I'll catch up when we get back.

Vaya con Dios!

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Important Matters

Last night my wonderful wife asked me a question that comes up in our relationship every now and then. "When," she inquired, "are you going to update your blog???"

And so today, I take a break from my 5-page essay on Kingdom models and reflect on the world around me. America has an African-American President-elect...a double-hyphenate (triple if you count that last one). We have come a long way and mustn't lose sight of the fact that we have far to go. We are embroiled in two wars and in the midst of a global economic crisis. Our ecology is threatened as never before. And my home state is sharply divided over a proposition concerning same-sex marriage.

It is in that light that I reflect on what deeply concerns me today:

Why was the new Batman movie so good while the new Indiana Jones movie was so bad?

I shall answer that question with several comparisons.

Dark Knight: Amazing performances by Christian Bale, Morgan Freeman, and Aaron Eckhart were completely overshadowed by that of Heath Ledger, who made cinematic history with his portrayal of the Joker.

Crystal Skull: I am too biased to objectively assess Harrison Ford's acting. But Cate Blanchett made for a very silly Russian: "I vant to know. I VANT to KNOW!!"

Dark Knight: The corruption of goodness and question of ends vs. means is heady stuff for a superhero movie. Wait, movies can be entertaining AND make you think??

Crystal Skull: Was humankind seeded by aliens?

Dark Knight: There's a guy dressed in a bat costume and he's fighting for justice and all I'm thinking is how we really need some of those guys. Nolan never treated it like a "superhero movie." Start to finish it was just an alternate reality.

Crystal Skull: Indy escaped a nuclear blast by hiding inside a refrigerator. Later, his kid swung through the jungle on vines.

Dark Knight: Great soundtrack. The music played when the Joker was about to do something made the hair on the back of your neck stand up.

Crystal Skull: Yeah, okay, great soundtrack. Whaddaya want? It's John Williams!

Dark Knight: A group of master craftsmen got together and poured their hearts and souls into making a movie about Batman that may very well be nominated for a Best Picture Oscar.

Crystal Skull: A group of master craftsmen got together and made millions of dollars so they could buy new stuff.

It may have been unreasonable to expect the new Indy to be as good as the old Indy's. It may even have been unreasonable to expect it to be as good as what Nolan and Co. are doing with The Bat these days. But it seemed reasonable to think it might be as good as Iron Man...or at least as Kung Fu Panda! Nope. Months later I am still, as Kevin Kline said in A Fish Called Wanda, disaPOINTedddddd!!!

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