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Abandon Ship (Drill)!!


Oh, yeah--it's windy here.


Nov. 4, 5:37pm


Everyone looks like an idiot during the mandatory life boat drills. We sit, stodgy and dull, in our unusually hard life jackets, and wait to be told what to do when panic sets in. We are obedient. And yet I feel that the kinda sleepy presentation we’re prepared for will have a great deal more adrenaline if push came to shove…


While sitting in the main lounge, all of us buckled into obdurate chunks of—what? What’s in here?—they had us watch a safety video. This made me feel like a sucker and a patsy, for when I checked into my room, the TV was on and the screen said WELCOME PRUDENCE do you want to watch the safety video now or later?


And I chose now, because it seemed to be important to them.


So then I had to watch it again, sitting in a chair because if I’d sat on one of the sofas, I would have fallen asleep and not understood how to get to my lifeboat should the captain announce ABANDON SHIP ABANDON SHIP ABANDON SHIP.


Even though we all knew it was a drill, hearing those words make us all titter nervously. Oh, damn. And the captain didn’t like saying them either. His reluctance was audible. But that tension was spoiled when the captain then immediately called off the drill (no filing out placidly behind Steve or Elena or whoever was holding the large number I was supposed to follow) BECAUSE IT WAS RAINING.


And in my fatigue, that made me giggle. You might face the unthinkable—forced to wedge yourself into one of four covered lifeboats, clutching our prescription medicine and the hands of our loved ones, and be launched into the sea, there no doubt to listen as the good ship foundered and sank to the bottom of the sea, never to be seen again until Bob Ballard sent a remotely operated sub down to marvel at my polar fleece shirts, still hanging in the tiny wardrobe…BUT NOT IF IT’S RAINING. If it’s raining, don’t worry about it.


So I kind of loved that.


We had a guide on the bus from the airport who gave us a brief history of Punto Arenas—including that the body of water I’m sitting on right now is the Straits of Magellan. This right here, remarkably clear water with kelp and impermanent patterns etched on the surface by the “I’ve been working out” wind, is where the Pacific and the Atlantic come together on this side. And that is pretty dang cool!


The guide cleared up a question I’d idly wondered but had been too lazy to investigate myself; the name Punto Arenas. Why isn’t it Porto Arenas? And what are Arenas? Is it a place with lots of stadiums? Surely not.


The only thing I could think is that Marta the all-Spanish nanny who took care of Rusty when he was a baby—Marta used to call kitty litter “harena.” Back then when I was young and vigorous, I DID look things up. Harena means “sand.” I liked it; my cat was creating those horrific stinks not in plain old kitty litter, but in the sand I provided for her. It’s so…Egyptian. A land that understood how to value a cat.


(In retrospect, I can’t remember how Marta and I came to be discussing harena in the first place, since I’m pretty sure I never persuaded her to change the sand…)


And Francisco the guide told us that Punto Arenas translates to “Sandy Point.” And (a) that’s an adorable name for a town plopped right down there in the Straits of Magellan, plus (b) it WAS sand after all!! I was bouncing in my seat, clam-happy.


I’m waiting until the 7pm “presentation” by the photo manager about life on the ship plus what’s on tap for tomorrow. In an effort to not fall asleep during this time, I am quite obviously babbling. Ah, but it’s CHILEAN babble, and that’s the best kind. Dig me?


I took an 8-second video of my fellow passengers looking like idiots in our life vests. (NOPE—NOT UPLOADING IT; the internets won’t stand it.) We are OLD, we are WHITE, and we are COMPLACENT. I say, Greta—shall we abandon ship? Oh, I don’t know, Terry. I’m not sure I like the looks of that sky. Well, then—cappuccino? Delighted.


Nov. 4, 9:33


We were at dinner—sleepy dinner—when the engines fired up. Without announcement, we left the dock at Punto Kitty Litter. Everyone cleared their PVC test (even Angela) and Chile let us go. FREEDOM!


Had a very nice dinner with Marianne, Song, and Sandy. Marianne and Song are friends, they adopted Sandy last night, and allowed me to horn my way in tonight. We have all been through the death of our husbands, except for Sandy who went through the death of his wife. A jolly evening all the same!


And now I’m going to go to sleep. It’s unclear exactly where we’re going; Lucho the expedition leader said it would take too long to explain; he’ll tell us tomorrow—but we WILL be in Zokiaks. Also, the numbers were wrong; there are only 61 passengers. And 91 crew. It’s going to be a very luxurious expedition!

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