Jeff Warner PHOTOGRAPHIC, Golden, Colorado, USA

Friday, August 26, 2011

8/25/11 Arrivée Montreal

We woke at about 0600 on the 25th to such gentle swaying of the MV Explorer that Heidi thought we were already docked, but we were still approaching the Port of Montreal at about 5 knots. During dusk of the 24th, we were able to see Quebec City; a beautiful location right on the Saint Lawrence, a big waterfall nearby, and a ski area within driving distance to the east, the runs of which go right down near the water. We saw a pod of whales, and I saw a seal in an area where the greenish waters of the St. Lawrence suddenly turned blackish-brown, for some reason.

Crossing underneath a bridge just west of Quebec City.

The MV Explorer
Aft decks, where all the action is.

The afternoon of the 24th I sat in on the closing address of the Forum for Global Engagement, which featured J. Stapleton Roy, former U.S. Ambassador to China, who talked about the future of relations with China. Fascinating to hear him talk, as he lived in China for decades, and has a tremendous amount of foreign affairs experience. Similar to Thomas Friedman in 'The World is Flat', he advocates for both accepting and responding to globalization issues, and is very concerned with the U.S. standing in the world, economic, academic, and otherwise. He said that China will soon undergo a virtual complete replacement of the ruling party, as China has strict term limits (sure wish we did!). Mr. Roy said there was literally no way to know how the new administration would respond to the issues facing China: over-rampant economic growth benefitting a minority of the population, military engagement issues ('flexing' their new muscle, which all developing countries do, sooner or later), moving toward technological innovation rather than just fabrication, and a government structure that is rather antiquated (i.e. hundreds and hundreds of years old). I couldn't help but see parallels between the U.S. government's 200-odd year old challenges and China's nearly millenium-old challenges. We both have government structures that were predicated on now-antiquated global conditions (in our case the cold war, even our own independence from Britain), and Mr. Roy sees China either allowing the people to move toward more democratic means, or a complete smackdown of the population to keep the status quo, with few realistic options in between. Our government (me talking now), on the other hand, is paralyzed by our own internal fears of the 'other 50%' of the country, whom should be much, MUCH less concerning than the other 85% of the world. We stand getting swallowed up and spit out the back end if we don't immediately embrace the globalization that will occur with, or without our self-indulgent 'blessing'.

Anyway, we docked at 0715 on the 25th, and it began to rain. We proceeded to change cabins to our new digs one floor up, above which much of the faculty are now housed. Our 'staff' cabin is pretty much exactly like the student cabin we were in on the third floor, and Reade and Tate again have an interior room right across the hall. It is incredibly tight with all the camera and computer equipment I brought, but it'll do. Luckily we convinced the hotel director that two single beds in our room might not work out so well for four months, and they jammed two twins together into the corner of the room for us. Some cabins (even these relatively small ones) are arranged in a way that make it easier to change bed configurations, though this cabin doesn't appear to be one of them. I digress…

Luckily the rain let up, and once we moved our bags the four of us and another family walked to Costco, fortuitously only about 2 km away. We hadn't been able to horde snacks for the kids yet, so the location of the 'eastern' Port was a great thing, and we returned to the ship with our duffel bag full of loot. After running across a cab in the parking lot of Costco we took advantage of it and avoided the walk, since it had decided to rain again. After Heidi's cabbie experience in Boston, I think she's afraid of them all, so I handled the tip. LOL

Reade and I then headed into Montreal to search out the butt-saving Simon's Camera, incredibly only about 6 blocks from the ship. Leave it to me to have a major lens snafu 6 days into the trip, but luckily it didn't occur 2 days later, as I would have been without a super-wide lens for the entirety of the voyage, and I couldn't reasonably fathom that. The dollar certainly ain't strong here, and the taxes were an impressive portion of the bill. Add to that the fact that I was starting to get Reade's 6-day cold, and I hadn't had a great last 24 hours. Time to start going with the flow, something we've been trying to hard to teach Tate, and a concept that SAS tries to impart to the college students from Day One. By nightfall my voice was starting to squeak and I was feeling pretty meek; hopefully this won't last the 6 days that it gave Reade fits. 

Reade and Tate have already made some friends, and they are really enjoying the ping pong table, though they are anticipating it getting harder to play with the college students on board. I assured them that the college students will enjoy interacting with them, and I'm sure Tate will know many of their names within the first week. I found the boys at the piano bar a couple of hours ago, and it was cool to see the college students walking by and smiling at them. I truly believe that Reade and Tate are about to have the time of their lives.

It finally happened, Reade dissed Mommy and sat down with his friend Scott to eat dinner!

It's currently the 26th at 10:45, and the college students are now boarding. Heidi and 'Dr. Phil' are in The Union, the large lecture auditorium where they have the embarking students stopping at tables to get information relevant to the next four months of their lives. It's funny to see them so reserved and tentative; something tells me that after Morocco, it will be a very different story. While walking through the 5th deck, I overheard one student asking where the casino was, and I stopped and pointed at the library and said: "It's right there, you guys already hit the jackpot." Heidi is going to be so, so good at this. I'm sure she'll quickly develop rapports with the students that many practitioners often struggle with. Gosh I'm lucky!

The tug that pulled us away from the dock in Montreal.

Tonight at 1700 the MV Explorer will depart the Port of Montreal, and the Fall 2011 voyage will be underway, with Morocco being the first destination. 

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