Yesterday, when I was headed to board the MSC Poesia in Barcelona, there were two large buses shuttling passengers to the harbor. I stood in line next these absolutely beautiful Spanish girls and just thought, “Awesome.” Then when I showed the bus driver my ticket, he said, “No, no, your bus is the next bus. We’re going to a different ship.” Okay, slight disappointment. But that’s okay. This is still a good sign.
I climbed onto the bus to realize almost immediately that I was the only person on the bus under about 45 years-old. And I’d put the average age closer to, I dunno, maybe 65. I couldn’t stop laughing. Here I was, a lone American on an elderly person’s cruise ship. And all I could think was, “Awesome.”
I am probably not your average cruise-goer. I don’t really drink. I generally tend to think twelve hours in a country isn’t long enough to really appreciate it. I’ve no interest in playing bingo or really any of the ship’s activities. [Although, there was a lecture today on the history of Morocco, since the ship arrives at the Port of Casablanca tomorrow morning, and that was a really nice capstone to my past two years.]
Still, each night, when the “daily schedule” is delivered to my room, I sit down and plan out the entire day, the majority of which is spent sitting somewhere on board with a view of the sea and working hard on my most recent novel. That’s what this trip is to me: an opportunity to romanticize this experience just enough to let it work my creative juices. After all, I have six thirty-page manuscripts to clean up for graduate school applications.
What time isn’t spent writing will be spent dealing with culture shock. Tonight’s dinner, for example, is formal attire (suggested by the Captain). However, I do not own a tuxedo or a tie. I have to say, I have had this incredible fear that someone will smell me and think I smell like sheep or goat. Dinner is assigned seating, and I am the only American at a table of seven Brits – Fiona, John, Nigel, Patsy, and I don’t remember the other three. As we sat there discussing the super yacht’s they had toured in Barcelona (which cost 475,000 quid to rent per week), all of us with our own forks and knives, I couldn’t help but think of Driss or Omar, of eating with Ahmed – one dish, no utensils. Two weeks ago, I was sitting on the floor of Allal’s house to eat lunch. Now, I’m surrounded by carpet and cushions, and everything is perfectly upholstered and clean, so painfully clean. And everyone is dressed like we’re going to a wedding or something.
The only escape I have is the bow, really more to the starboard side, where I like to stand and look out at the open sea. It’s quiet and no matter how fancy the ship is, nature brings it all back for me. It always has.
The open sea is not the hues of blue you might expect. That color is a lie crafted by those who never ventured far from the shore. Instead, the waves are a thick, rich black abyss as far as the eye can see, and as they ebb-and-flow, the color shifts from a lighter black to a darker black. This, of course, changes depending on the location of the sun, and in the distance – particularly closer to the horizon – those deep black tones fade into a grey and eventually a white or yellow where they meet the sky. The only other place the sea is not this darkened color is next to the ship as she moves swiftly cutting through the waves and churning up a thousand blue-and-white ripples and bubbles. If I’ll see any dolphins on this trip, that’s where I’m expecting them to play.
Tomorrow morning, I’ll be back in Morocco. I have not made plans to get off the boat. My time with Morocco has ended for now. When I say goodbye one last time tomorrow, I’ll do so the same way my grandfather did some 70 years ago, leaving Casablanca by boat. In the meantime, I’m going to sort through what few clothes I have that are not completely disgusting and try to put on something half-decent for dinner and the Gala.