communication, condescending twatbags, stupid people, travel

“I’m really sorry about your head injury!” ;-)

The featured photo is a screenshot of a “laugh reaction” I received from some poor soul who is humor challenged and probably has brain damage. Based on the person’s handle, I assume that the person comes from southwest Florida. That explains a whole lot, actually… I’m sure DeSantis benefits from his or her largesse… This is not going to be a particularly “nice” post, so consider that before you read it.

It’s already just past noon on Sunday, a full week after we arrived home following a long vacation. I don’t usually spend a lot of time on Cruise Critic, because I don’t do a lot of cruising. However, when I do cruise, I will sometimes visit the message boards and share my experiences, while gleaning wisdom from other travelers.

Because we cruised on Regent Seven Seas on our most recent voyage, I’ve been visiting that board more often than my usual boards– SeaDream Yacht Club and Hebridean Island Cruises. But, although we really did have a good time on Regent Splendor, I think the experience just drove home to us that we much prefer smaller cruise ships. In fact, being on Regent Splendor made me realize that maybe I’d like to do another SeaDream cruise at some point. So, in the interest of solidarity with fellow SeaDream fans, I started a thread about wanting to go back to a smaller ship.

A decent discussion ensued, albeit with comments from people who haven’t been following that forum for as long as some posters have. About ten or twelve years ago, someone started a very popular thread about “cheating” on SeaDream by using other cruise lines. It got so popular that SeaDream actually used it for their own personal blog (which I’m not sure still exists). I referenced “cheating” on SeaDream, and one of the newer posters– likely unaware of the old joke– reassured me that I wasn’t “cheating” on SeaDream, just trying out different products. Fair enough, and I didn’t bother to explain.

But then some posters got into a discussion about how crowded ports can get when there are a few ships docked. One person– someone who apparently thinks a whole lot about money over all else– commented that the communities who are served by cruise ships “love” it, because it means a lot of cash gets flushed into their economies.

Frankly, I don’t think that’s always true. Yes, an influx of money is a great thing for a lot of people, especially in economically challenged areas. However, I have read about some places not liking cruise ships at all. For instance, in Norway, there’s a campaign going on that actually shames cruisers for being “parasites”, and not taking a “proper holiday” in the countries they visit. Many cruise companies pay “slave wages” and don’t pay taxes to the countries they visit.

Norway, in fact, is going to ban most cruise ships by 2026, unless they meet stringent environmental standards that most ships won’t be able to meet. When we were there, I noticed most cars were electric. The train we took from Oslo to Bergen was also electric, as are the cruise ship/ferries run by Hurtigruten and Havila.

Venice, Italy no longer allows large cruise ships to dock in the city. Instead, they have to dock in ports nearby. It’s because the large ships damage the fragile ecosystem around Venice and make it more likely that the city will be destroyed sooner, rather than later.

Bill and I also had a rather hostile experience when we visited Carriacou, Grenada, back in 2011. I had never heard of the place before we visited there, so I had no idea of how difficult life is there. There we were, getting off our fancy “mega yacht”. I believe I was even wearing a SeaDream baseball hat, because I neglected to carry a hat in my luggage and my poor white skin and blonde hair were taking a beating. In fact, I remember being VERY sunburned on that trip.

We decided not to take the offered excursion, and instead, walked around the town, which was very depressed looking. We stumbled across a museum, which gave us something to do, but was also very interesting. We walked around, looking at the artistic impressions of what had happened to the people on that island. I distinctly remember seeing a painting of a Black person shackled to a tree. It made me feel awful to see that, but I’m sure that was the point. Looking at art is a great way to learn about history, especially the ugliest parts.

There was another white couple in the museum at the same time we were there. They looked like vegan backpackers who slept outside. The man had dreadlocks, and the strawberry-blonde woman, who had a British accent, was very freckled. I remember her asking the young Black woman behind the counter about the history of the island. She was very interested, and the lady was explaining it well. I was glad to overhear what she was saying, in spite of my SeaDream ballcap.

The woman behind the counter was not nearly as engaging with us. In fact, she seemed downright hostile. We decided to buy one of the wood carvings hanging on the wall. She sold it to us in a distinctly unfriendly way. I left that museum feeling depressed and unwelcome… which I probably was, come to think of it. I’m sure that woman thought she knew everything about us… or our “type”. I could excuse that reaction in her, to an extent. It probably is demoralizing to see well fed white people touring an island where people are obviously struggling.

I have never forgotten that experience, and I’m reminded of it every time I look at the carving we bought at the museum that day. It was a good reminder to me that not everyone appreciates holiday makers/cruisers/people with money, especially when they are loudmouthed Americans. We did have a different, more positive experience later, when we bought another carving from a guy who was whittling wood by the pier.

When the person on Cruise Critic made the statement about how locals in the ports love it when cruisers come to town, I was reminded of that day in Grenada, and the bad vibes I got from that woman. My mom, who also visited the Caribbean more than a few times, also had experiences with people that were kind of unfriendly. It occurred to me that maybe we do look like assholes to them. Anyway, that was a humbling experience, although it also made me not ever want to visit Carriacou again.

I briefly related that story on my Cruise Critic thread, and someone wrote that it was good that we went to those places, since they increased “awareness”, that would maybe inspire cruisers to offer help. The cynic in me thinks that’s a long shot, although I do know some folks with money are also generous with it and donate to charity.

I mentioned that maybe I’m more sensitive to people’s local reactions because I was in the Peace Corps. I added more to the comment, trying hard to be even-handed about it because I didn’t want to start an argument, even though I kind of disagreed with the idea that locals love cruisers because of money. And while my comment about the Peace Corps might come off as “humble bragging” or whatever, the fact is, that experience DID make me a lot more sensitive to how locals react. I can’t help that. I was simply stating the truth about how I changed after I spent two years in a developing nation. Excuse me for living.

As expected, someone thought my comment was just hilarious. They left me a laugh reaction. I was left a little puzzled, since I didn’t write anything that I thought was obviously funny. Since I wasn’t being funny, I was left to assume that the person who left that reaction is either intellectually disabled, or completely lacking in manners and decorum.

I like to think the best of people, so I figured that they probably have a head injury of some sort. That made me feel some pity for them, instead of irritation at the inappropriate reaction. I briefly considered calling them out with condolences for their obvious head injury and the suffering it’s causing for everyone in their midst… but I figured that would only escalate things. It’s tempting to fight rudeness with counter rudeness, but in the interest of being a more evolved person… 😉 (that pesky humanitarian streak I have, thanks to my life changing experiences in the Peace Corps), I decided to simply ignore the slight at the source and just rant about it here, instead. Few people will read this.

I get that people– especially the types who sail on luxury cruise ships– don’t like it when there’s a hint of “wokeness” afoot. To be honest, maybe it is hypocritical of me to notice the unhappy locals when I take cruises. After all, if I really cared about the locals, I wouldn’t have even gotten on a cruise ship, right? Especially an all inclusive luxury vessel like SeaDream I. I’d donate the money we spent on the cruise to UNICEF or CARE or something similar.

Maybe this is a sign that I shouldn’t cruise on SeaDream again, after all. Wouldn’t want to rub elbows with people who not only resent me for taking a vacation on a luxury ship, but also resent me for mentioning that I was in the Peace Corps. Those same people, by the way, usually don’t mind telling me what THEY do for a living… and implying that they have lots of wealth, as they flaunt their wives with obvious “bolt ons” and facelifts. But, what can I say? SeaDream offers a really nice product, and we do genuinely enjoy our cruises with them, even if some of the other passengers can be jerks.

People are always looking for reasons to tear other folks down. They usually do it by making judgments about the external. Since we can’t usually see each other on Internet messageboards, that leaves people to judge what others write in their posts and assume things that aren’t necessarily there.

The truth is, I am rather “proud” of my Peace Corps experience. It completely changed my life and my world view, and it really was a challenging thing for me to do. But I’m not going to tell you that I joined the Peace Corps because I had visions of saving anyone but myself. I certainly didn’t join because I thought I’d save the world, nor do I think I actually did that much for the cause. I joined because I was trying to find a pathway into meaningful employment. I didn’t end up finding that from my Peace Corps experience, but I did learn a lot. I did come away from that experience with a tendency to pay more attention to how Americans look outside their own habitats. And while some people might not believe it, I think my Peace Corps experience made me into less of an asshole than I might have otherwise been. 😉

Take that comment as you will, since I know a lot of people think I am an asshole. Most of them, like that “brain damaged” laugh reactor on Cruise Critic, and that judgmental local woman in Grenada, don’t know a fucking thing about me and would never deign to try to know anything about me. That’s because most of them are focused on themselves, and to a lesser extent, people in their immediate orbits. But, I’m also not going to tell you that I don’t have that problem, too. I think we all do, to some extent. For the vast majority of people, it’s simply part of being human. Especially the ones who have lots of money.

That’s just my opinion, of course. It’s good that I have a blog for moments like these.

No good deed goes unpunished. I was trying to do something good when I started that Cruise Critic thread. I guess I fucked it up by just being myself. 😉 Lesson learned.

Maybe I should look into booking a trip where I don’t have to interact with anyone else. I seem to be a complete failure at relating to other people. And to the jerk on Cruise Critic with the “head injury”, here’s something to make you feel better… Take two of these and don’t call me in the morning.


Repost: Shukraan… شكرا

I’m reposting a blog entry I wrote December 10, 2017. Bill, Parker (MIL), and I had done a “Blind Booking” to Berlin. While we were there, we met an awesome bartender named Awsam, and I was inspired to blog about him. I am sharing this again, because MIL has an awesome picture of Awsam. She showed it to me and I was reminded of his story.

I wasn’t going to blog about our trip to Berlin as it’s in progress because when I write, I like to be alone and able to do some thinking.  But something happened last night that has prompted me to write.  What happened isn’t so much about Berlin as it is about the state of the world today and how Donald Trump is affecting people near and far.

On Friday night, Bill, Parker (Bill’s mom), and I decided to have dinner at the hotel restaurant.  We had ventured out after our arrival, but it was already dark at 4:30pm and the weather was dreadful.  It was cold and there was a rain/snow mix.  I was hungry and cranky and, having unsuccessfully tried a place that was booked for a Christmas party, didn’t feel like searching for another place to eat.  So that’s how we found ourselves sitting at the bar in our (rather awesome) hotel.

I noticed the swarthy man tending the bar was very hard working and industrious.  He gave us drink menus.  Originally, I just wanted a glass of wine, but I was getting so hangry that a cocktail was in order.  Bill ordered us Gin Smashes and the bartender brought us little plates of munchies.  I began to relax after the first cocktail and ordered a Long Island Iced Tea next.  I don’t know what got into me.  I don’t usually drink Long Island Iced Teas, but was probably inspired to get one after reading about Applebee’s latest gimmick.  When I asked for the Long Island Iced Tea, the bartender laughed and said, “That is not a lady’s drink.”  Good thing I’m no lady… 

We ordered dinner, which was surprisingly good.  I’ll post pictures and commentary on my travel blog.  For now, I’ll just say that I had duck and it came with collard greens, which really excited Bill.  Bill had a steak sandwich.  Parker had a bowl of pumpkin soup.

As the evening wore on, the bartender struck up a conversation with us.  He asked us to fill out feedback surveys.  I liked him, so I called him a “gem”.  He let Parker take his picture and I took note of his name, which was Awsam.  I thought that was awesome and we shared a laugh over that.  Bill tipped him generously, which made Awsam beam awesomely.  He gave us a couple of bottles of water and we went on our way.

The weather was similarly crappy yesterday.  We walked around Berlin, got thoroughly cold, and decided we wanted to be in for the night.  Actually, I spotted a Domino’s Pizza outlet and decided I really wanted a Domino’s pizza.  Bill wasn’t so hot on the idea, so we went back to the bar.  Awsam was there, working hard.  We waited patiently while he tended to his duties.  It took several minutes before he was able to get to us.  When he was ready to take our orders, Bill chose beer and Parker and I had wine.  Awsam told Bill that he might like the dark ones he had available.   

We were sitting there, listening to the pop music that was playing and watching the 80s era videos that were playing on mute on the television.  Awsam then gave us each tiny oranges, which apparently you’re supposed to eat whole.  We all peeled the rind off anyway (ETA: my German friend, Susanne, confirms that Awsam gave us kumquats.  Bill had asked if that was what they were.  I think a lot of Americans are put off by the name.) 

Parker told Awsam that she had come to Germany to visit her son and daughter-in-law.  She hadn’t seen us in three years and her visit has been great, although not without its tensions. 

Awsam smiled and said, “Oh yes, I can tell by the body language.”  He’d noticed I’d turned away from Bill and his mom a bit.  I spend most of my time alone and, as much as we love each other, it can be hard to get used to being in a group of three.  I was impressed by Awsam’s powers of observation.  A lot of communication is non-verbal, after all.

Somehow, the topic of Texas came up and Bill and I said we didn’t want to go back there.  I mentioned that there was too much weird religion there.  Bill flashed me a warning look, reminding me that religion is a sensitive topic.  I shut up and sipped more wine.  Next thing I know, the subject of Donald Trump somehow came up.  So much for avoiding sensitive topics! 

It turned out our bartender had a lot to say about 45.  Awsam said that Trump’s decision to recognize Israel’s capital as Jerusalem was causing a lot of strife in the Middle East.  Trump’s decision resulted in a “day of rage”, with protests that have ended with at least two people dead, 800 injured, and scores arrested. 

Awsam told us that he’s from Egypt and had moved to Germany because things had fallen apart so much in his homeland.  I heard him mention that he’d been to law school in Egypt and his father had died in 2001, when he was in the university.  He and his brother lived at home with their parents until they were quite mature.  They both left Egypt because the quality of life there has become very dire.  Awsam’s brother lives in Doha, Qatar, while Awsam, who went to law school, was slinging drinks in a hotel bar.  He mentioned that he’s Muslim.  I wondered how observant he is and if it bothers him to sell alcohol. 

Clearly, though Awsam seems to be doing relatively well in Germany, Germany isn’t home.  I have to admit, Bill and I have similar feelings about Germany.  It’s not home, although we’re doing well here.  And although the United States is not yet as bad off as Egypt is, it’s upsetting to see what’s happening in our homeland.  It’s distressing to see how what our president says and does causes major negative ripple effects in faraway lands.  People are getting hurt and actually dying over Trump’s stupidity.

For several uncomfortable minutes, we listened to this man rant about the conditions in Egypt and how policies made by ignorant politicians like Trump have personally affected people in the Middle East.  There were a couple of times during Awsam’s speech that I thought he might burst into tears.  At one point, Awsam told us that if a person gets sick in Egypt, it’s almost better to just die.  We told Awsam that we did not vote for Mr. Trump and we were sorry that he and his cronies were exacerbating tensions in the Middle East.  I felt helpless and, maybe for the first time in my life, rather ashamed to be from the United States. 

I could see that Awsam was very upset.  After he told us about what life is like in Egypt and how much better life is in Germany, he set back to work.  His body language radiated angry energy.  His face was tense.  He moved about the bar and the dining room with determined purpose, as if he was trying very hard to focus on the job and not on the plight of his country of origin.  When I asked for another glass of wine, he handed me the bottle and I poured myself a glass.

I’d like to think that we tried to set a good example as Americans, but I must admit that situations like last night’s drive home how people around the world see us.  So many Americans and other privileged people lack empathy and awareness of what life is like in other parts of the world.  In many places, even culturally significant countries like Egypt, things are really bad.  And, like those of us in the Western world, the people living in places where life is difficult love their families, too.  Most of them want what we want– to live safely and peacefully among their friends and loved ones. 

When we were finished with our wine, we decided to leave.  Bill asked Awsam for the check and he said he wanted us to be his guests.  Bill protested, but Awsam insisted and handed us two more bottles of water.  Bill said, “Shukraan… شكرا” (thank you) and put his right hand over his heart.  Awsam’s face lit up.  He beamed and gave Bill a thumbs up.

I wonder how he’s doing…

Bill learned how to say “thank you” in Arabic when he visited Morocco a couple of months ago.  Watching that simple interaction between our Egyptian bartender and my American husband really drove home the benefits of cultural sensitivity.   

Parker asked Awsam how to say “thank you” in Arabic and Awsam said, “Your son knows.”