Saturday, December 3, 2011

On Boat Trips

[A sidebar: I am developing serious amounts of aggression as everyone tries to pet, tickle, play funny games with, pick up, or take my child by the hand. And Noah is getting less and less friendly as he feels more and more threatened, hopefully not permanently. Even as I understand that each person on their own is just being sweet. The price of having the only baby on board a boat.]

We've been on the boat 14 days, with 4 days to go. I've been hesitant to write about the experience, because as you may know I get very judgey very fast. So maybe I'll start there. Because we're usually most judgey when we're most insecure, right?

One of the main callings in my life has been a call to justice, broadly defined. This includes a call to generosity and frugality (while believing this should always allow one to continue to feel God's abundance- like in Milan when our friends treated us to the best meal of our lives). Generosity and frugality can also be translated fairly broadly when one has a spouse and a baby and another baby half-way grown. My personality makes me extremely cautious with budgets and such, to the point of keeping resources we don't really need because we're thinking retirement or loss of limbs or moving back to the U.S.. So there's the contradiction.

Enter an 18-day cruise, which is firmly a form of transportation for us. It's also part of this picture of abundance, where we are given gifts at surprising times that made this the best and most exciting way to get to SA.

Two weeks in, I'd say cruises are probably not part of the life I hope for. With a small son, staying on a boat for 18 days is hard. Environmentally this cruise was better than flying. Eating from the buffet is likely about the same environmentally as cooking at home, except we find ourselves eating more meat and wasting more food. We use about the same amount of water, and we're in a small space. I'm not entertaining any guilt over being on the cruise-- which I think we absolutely should be on-- just reflecting.

But inequality and racism is never more stark than on the boat. Cleaning and maintenance staff are from Madagascar and Mauritius and India; wait staff are Indonesian and Eastern European; beauty staff Cuban, entertainment staff W. European and South African, and captains and supervisors are white men- mainly Italian but some white South Africans. Everything is designed to make you spend money on alcohol, or even just soda or ice-cream or internet or DVDs about your experiences.

I've really enjoyed the day-long stops, mainly because our choices were greatly simplified by our tiny son who wants nothing more than to swim (even in the freezing cold). I never realized how big the world is, and how vast the ocean (air travel is deceptively fast). Boat travel requires incredible planning on the part of the crew- how many fruits to buy, what kind, how much water to stock, when to cook what, how to keep people happy when there's 7 days between stops. And The inequality and wealth we see on the boat is a reflection of the world.

So I'm finding it a good moment to be reminded of what we are called to, and to the ways we're not quite sure of how our calling should be lived out, only what our very next step should be. It may include hotels and traveling (I very much like hotels, at least right now) or it may not. But it'll be good.

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