I had read that there was a tailor on board who could whip up something for you in a matter of days. But I don't "do" specially tailored clothes, so I didn't even think about it, until I saw the sorts of things he could make. I fell in love with a black jacket with a red design on it and, remembering that I decided against buying a necklace in Russia last year, decided I would never be here again, would never have this opportunity again, so I got myself fitted for a jacket, which is supposed to be ready for me the day after tomorrow.
I'm very excited about it. I hope that it really DOES fit like it was made especially for me. I might actually have a good "thing" to wear to the theater.
Several of us are getting things made and young Jen, who is on this trip from Canada with her mother, to celebrate her graduation from college, offered to take pictures while I was being fitted. She just missed this guy's head buried in my stomach as he tried to get the measuring tape around me. I joked that he might need a longer tape.
I swear this place is like a floating Wal-Mart, though given the price of everything, probably more accurate to say a floating Neiman Marcus. We had a small gift shop on the Viking Kirov last year, in Russia, but there are at least two shops on 3 of the 6 floors here, selling everything from shaving gear and batteries, to fine jewelry.
I had been up since 2:30 a.m., first writing my last journal entry, and then, with a nice man named Tom, who is from Virginia, and a ship computer guy -- we all just happened to be at the "Internet cafe" at 3:30 a.m. -- finally had some success with the internet connection. It took me two hours of frustration with computers that wouldn't connect and then would drop connection, but by golly, I did get an entry uploaded. Tom was still trying to get Comcast to accept his password when I finally left, having decided that I was never going to be able to get back to G-mail (because now it wasn't recognizing Google).
By the time I returned to the cabin, it was getting light outside and we got our first taste of the Yangtze River (since it was dark when we left Wuhan yesterday). People talk about the "beautiful Yangtze" but it isn't...at least not what we've seen so far. I finally realized that the smoky smell is probably just from all the pollution in the air. We are breathing this:
The smoky smell is still with us and smokestacks on shore pump lots of smoke into the air, boats, big and small, passing us on the river are belching out black yucky smoke. I never really appreciated our country's strict emission standards before today!
Today was a pretty laid-back day. We only had one excursion, and that to a Viking-sponsored grammar school in a town called Yueyang. Viking began sponsoring schools in China in the early part of this decade. I think Jenna said that they started sponsoring this particular school in 2004. I'm not 100% sure what "sponsoring" means, but definitely helping them with desks and supplies and upkeep on the building. They bring tourists by a couple of times a month and I suspect we all felt this was a very special day.
I had misgivings when we pulled up at this dock, tied up next to a working ship and then had to climb this hill to get to the bus.
My heart sank when I saw how long and steep it was, but I am determined to keep up this time. I put my head down and just put one foot in front of the other and never even paused until I was almost at the top. I suspect it might not have been that easy if the weather were warmer, but it was a reasonably comfortable temperature and, by golly, I did it!!! Walt was gobsmacked.
There were children greeting us with drums as we entered the school's courtyard, and other children waving to us from the upper floors of the building. Obviously high excitement for the kids to have foreigners arrive.
The kids put on a wonderful show, MC'd by two of the students. The first guy to perform was this little martial artist who was so incredibly intense that all I could think of as he did his moves was Ned at the same age!
This group did dances while the little girl with the mic sang. Very sweet.
When the show was over, we all were invited into a classroom. Our room happened to be on the 3rd floor, but I tackled the stairs pretty much the way I did the boat ramp earlier. As we entered the room, each child was to grab a visitor and take us to their desks to share some one on one time and to watch another little show that was done by this particular class.
Sadly, for me, this was like really being back in grammar school and watching all the others get picked for teams, while I stood there waiting. Three different girls came up near me, took a look at me and backed off. I was the big fat scary white woman. But having no kid of my own allowed me to maybe get better pictures of all the children, but I have to admit I was a little teary at one point because I had so looked forward to the one on one time with a school child.
But this was my favorite picture of the day.
It was time to leave and there were high-fives and big hugs all around. I got out of there quickly before I could become emotional again and went to leave a donation in their gift box.
We returned to the ship in time for lunch. I had some of the "typical Chinese fish" that was served and it was delicious.
We had an orientation lecture about safety and other features of this ship after lunch and then a lecture on the Yangtze River. I went up to the library and got roped into a mah jong lesson. They are "officially" teaching mah jong tomorrow, but some woman got Royce, from the ship's crew, to teach her how to play and then invited me to join in. I was the 5th wheel, so I just watched, but then Royce had to leave and invited me to take his place. I didn't win, but I didn't do badly either. My mother will be so proud.
I took a nap in the afternoon, fully intending to go to the "tea ceremony" at 5, but when the alarm went off it just felt too good to keep sleeping, so I skipped it, which is why I knew nothing about terra cotta peeing babies, but I did shower and dress to attend the welcoming champagne reception.
Dinner tonight was a Chinese dinner, though created for Western tastes by my old pal, Martin Yan. Actually, though it was delicious, it was a bit bland and one-dimensional...not that there's anything wrong with that. Our tour guide Jenna and the ship's videographer, Alexy (from the Ural Mountains) joined us for dinner, and it was nice talking outside of the ship excursions.
The evening ended with a show about various ethnic costumes in China, all performed by the members of the crew. Our waitress Joly seemed to have a rather large role.
Now it's time to get some sleep and hope I wake up at 2:30 again so I can have all the time I want trying to get THIS entry to post!
(P.S...no internet connection at 3 a.m.; or 5 a.m....)