We are tribal

First Find Your Tribe posted 9 May 2019

As I open this page to write I have no motivating thought but a vague heading, “First find your tribe.” Today we are in Dubai. It has been an extremely busy day for the staff. Possibly as many as two hundred suites had to be spring cleaned to house the new passengers alighting almost at the time  as as many disembarked. And as we breakfasted the busy army removed everything left behind by the vacating horde.

By the time we wove our way back to our suite we stepped around half consumed bottles of alcohol, glasses, books removed from the library, empty boxes, discarded property, general waste, linen, and staff with cleaning appliances and chemicals. It was really chaotic. 

Maria, a regular room’s maid, said she started work at six and had made up her first bed at seven. She apologised for looking disheveled she said, when I spoke with her, she only had one room left to complete and when I saw her at lunch she would be neat and spry with her makeup on. I haven’t seen her since but I am sure she would have been true to her word.

In starting this note I am aware all passengers are fairly similar. At least it is so when talking about the people we have travelled with in the Singapore leg this was generally true. The first difference was  the way those from countries with small representation tended to stick together. We had a strong group of Mexicans and they met as a group everywhere they congregated. The same could be said of those from Singapore. A group of LGBT people on board met formally a few times and those traveling as couples tended to meet and talk with other couples at public functions.

I had a reservation many of those from America would be Republicans. Some were. Fortunately many were not.  We did find ourselves seated with a couple from Texas one late busy afternoon. And we did exchange some pleasant thoughts with them and then the woman asked, What do you think of Trump? My answer was another question, “Before answering that, tell us, what do you think?” “Well we wish he wouldn’t tweet so much. We like him because things are so much better. He has done a lot. But someone should take that cell phone away from him.” Richard, the retired  British lieutenant colonel said, “You mean the wall and all that?  And from that point the conversation dwindled away to a quiet politeness.

Friends, who travel a lot, met by chance on this tour. The group in question were the Qantas people. Noel our next door neighbour is a case in point. He was settling down in a chair and he remarked to his wife Joanne, “it would be funny if Brian was on this tour.” And his point was proved within a hour. Brian his best man 47 seven years before was indeed on the ship with his wife and within a day they met another couple. All three were retired captains, further, Shirley – my memory may be faulty on her name – was the woman in charge of their rosters and she too was on the tour. All of them disembarked today.

Sometimes we are not eating. When we are our preference is to enjoy our own company.  Yet  such is life aboard conversations run into meal times and then we eat with our companions. In those times we had several meals with girl guide commissioner Pat from Glasgow. She and her husband Bill almost need water wings because they sail so often. Bill made his money from sports reporting and his career started at school. He started to report on local matches sending in his copy without any expectation. As it does, serendipity intervened, and he was soon writing permanently. His interest expanded and his business did too just writing about the little round ball game. In their many voyages they met Americans Susan and Michael and now a booking leads to a conversation and they travel together. Pat is a natural story teller and she often uses mimicry to tell her tales. Many times she had us laughing with jokes sparked by the topic being discussed. Sometimes her jokes were risqué so it was all good fun.

Oil men seem to sail too. The fellows we spoke to had worked all over the world. Telling us tales of cultural differences they shared with their wives who were traveling with them. We also had interesting talks about the methods of extraction as well. These men were clearly knowledgeable, well educated – one a PhD- yet men of simple pleasures. Neither knew of the other or was interested in the past experience they possibly shared.

Seabourn likes to advertise luxury. One luxury ignored by the passengers we have travelled  with to date has been ignored. To get away from the madness they offer a special space to 15 couples prepared to outlay an extra US $150  a day. In this space is a central pool. It is surrounded by lounges, tables and chairs and curtains for extra privacy. This  space provides the patrons with a private butler to attend to their every wish. Everyone I have spoken to thinks it would be stupid to be so silly as all this is all available to us all elsewhere on the ship except for the “privacy” of sharing your life with 14 other couples. As it is every suite has a private verandah. So far no one wants to join this club so it is vacant every day. Judging by the jewellery many of the women wear in the evenings it is not money preventing them for joining either.

Such are the ways people filter out who their “friends-for-the-day” will be on board. To quote the term used by Jennifer Hermecz.   Interest in the other is fascinating here abroad.

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