Thursday, November 28, 2019

Heading Home

Tuesday Night - November 26th

Before I write about today, I have to share our conversation with our last night's dinner guests.  We were joined by Nikita and Victor.  Victor only spoke Russian, but Nikita's English was quite good.  They live in San Francisco having come from their homeland of Ukraine eight years ago.  Their son lives with them in San Francisco, but their daughter lives in Ukraine.  It is very hard for their daughter and 21 year old grand son,  "Ukraine is a hard country."  They are very anti-Putin and Nikita says he is trying to grab all of Ukraine back.  I asked her if she liked the new president and she said no- he is a terrible man.  Her daughter teaches Latin and Greek and her grandson is a baritone in the opera and is in the Netherlands touring with Aida right now and then will go to Spain.  Her eyes lit up when she mentioned her grandson.  We asked if her daughter might be able to come to San Francisco and she said no.  "Everyone wants to come to America, but it is impossible."  Then I asked "what about Trump?"  and I sensed fear cross Nikita's eyes as if she didn't want to say anything about him.
We asked if they liked San Francisco and they said, "Oh yes.  America is the best country in the world."  We also asked them if this was their first cruise.  "Oh no, this is our 5th.  We have been to Alaska, Mexico, The California coast and Hawaii two times."

It's fascinating to think Ukranian immigrants have lived in this country for 8 years and gone on 5 cruises!!

After dinner we went to hear an Elton John concert performed by an Irishman who was very good.  Then we watched the beginning of the Voice of the Ocean auditions.  There was a line of twenty or more people who are auditioning tonight and then the finals will move to the theater where they will have actual chairs that will turn around just like on the real Voice.  It's really fun seeing older people enjoying themselves.  The place was packed for the auditions!  Stay tuned for the finals- apparently they even have judges in the swivel chairs!

Wednesday- November 27:

OMG! IT'S THE PEOPLE STUPID! - Are you ready? . . . There was no free table for breakfast, so we asked if we could join a couple at a table by the window.  They were from Bayshore, NY on Long Island - originally from Colombia.  They both had thick Spanish accents, and but Blanco spoke better English than her husband.  We asked how long they had lived in Bayshore and the husband, (I can't recall his name) launched in to an emotional story about how he got his house.  They had originally lived in Queens, but they could never find a parking place in Queens and there is no restricted parking in Long Island, so the real estate agent brought them to this house.  "My wife looked at this house and said, 'No! Oh No!'"  It was falling apart and had been owned by an old lady who did nothing to fix it up.  But when he opened the front door and saw the huge living room, he knew he had to have it.  There were two dining rooms, and it was "beautiful" -even though there were leaks and paint peeling and it needed a lot of work.  This was in 2002 and the price of the house was $380,000.  He knew it would need about $100,000 to fix up, so he told the agent he wanted the house but could only pay $300,000 for it.  The owner would not negotiate so they forgot about it.  Then months later he gets a call from his agent, "Are you still interested in the house?"

"Yeah, I'm still interested in the house, but not in the price!"  Well the owner will take his offer!  He wsa so excited,  but there he was with a house he couldn't move in to because he put $80,000 down for the downpayment to keep his payments lower and he didn't have any money to fix up the house.

But a friend told him that there was a bank that when you got a credit card, they would give you free interest for six months.  Free interest for six months - why that's a miracle.  I can borrow $20,000 and fix up the bedroom and move in, and that's just what he did.

Then a neighbor saw him fixing up the stairs and asked what he was doing.  He told him he didn't have the money to fix up things so he was trying to do some of it himself.  Why don't you just go down to the bank- they are giving loans- it's easy.  When he went to the bank and the banker asked him how much money he wanted, he didn't want to screthe guy off so he said, $20,000.

"$20,000!!  Why waste our time with $20,000.  We make money when we loan to you, but you need to ask for more."

Well, what do you suggest, he asked?  When the banker said, $100,000 he choked.  $100,000- you will give me $100,000?  Okay, Okay!  So he took the $100,000 and paid off the free interest credit card that had come due, and used the rest to fix up his house!

He ended his story by saying, "Only in America!  This is the greatest country on earth!"

Blanco and her husband have gone on a lot of cruises, but they don't go in the winter time because they have to stay home to shovel their walk when it snows.  If they don't, they get fined.  They have a young boy do it, but he does a lousy job, so they need to stay home from cruises in the winter to shovel their walk!  (Only in America!)

After they left, we were joined by a couple from Southern California.  She had been a librarian, So we got to talking about books and the changes technology had brought.  He said, well I know the power of words and reading.  He had gotten a $450.00 ticket for going through a red-light.  He went to the library and looked up everything he could and discovered that the Town of San Mateo had not asked for the proper permit to install the cameras, and they had not notified the public when they installed them.  So he told this to the judge and got his ticket erased.  When he told this to a friend of his, his friend told him that he had used the 7th amendment to got out of a ticket.  The 7th amendment states that if a fine is over $20.00, we have the right to a trial by jury.  So this friend insisted on a jury trial, and his case was thrown out.

So who our breakfast mate got a second ticket for going through a red light, he used his 7th amendment rights and asked for a trial by jury.  He was denied twice, but this guy persisted and resubmitted his claim for a jury saying he was being denied his constitutional rights and his case was thrown out.  When I said maybe he should just stop when the light turns yellow next time, he laughed, but he was clearly proud of avoiding paying his first two tickets - and it was only because he could read and research that allowed him to do so.

Loren went off to a lecture about Picasso after breakfast, and I sat out on the deck and watched a movie.  We met at the Crown Grill for an English Pub lunch where we had beer and fish and chips.  We were joined by a Chinese couple who were from San Mateo, CA.  They had been on cruises with their family, but this was the first they have taken by themselves.  They don't like to fly, so they only take cruises that they can drive to- so they have been on this Hawaiian cruise four times!  The British luncheon was very popular and we had to wait in line for about 15 minutes before we found a table.  This couple said they don't usually share because they like to sample a lot fo the food and they need room on the table.  She went on to order fish and chips and shrimp and chips.  Since the food is "free" you are allowed to order whatever you want.  I wonder how many other people take two or three appetizers, entrees or desserts just to try them.  Seems incredibly wasteful, but...

We had dinner at the little pizzeria, then went to hear a new singer in the theater who was very good.  Since we had been crashing around 10:00 or so every evening, Luke wanted to stay awake to see what the night life was like on the ship.  We wandered the ship from fore to aft.  There was Karioke just finishing up in the Vista lounge;  The Crooners Bar was quite full as people sat in their lunge chairs and listened to a kind of Tom Jones look alike.

As we passed through the mid-ship, a few hearty souls were watching the Lion King under the stars in the outdoor pool area.  A live band with a singer played in the Wheelhouse Bar and there were lots of couples on the dance floor.  We talked with a couple who used to live in San Francisco - on Telegraph Hill.  He owned a corner grocery store, but when he retired, they had to move because it was too expensive.  They now lie in Fremont, but here again is an immigrant couple who ran a little corner store for their whole lives who are now on The Grand Princess on a 15 day Hawaiian cruise.  (Only in America!).

At the 115 Lounge on the top deck at the stern of the ship  there was a crowd of young people who were all doing a kind of line dancing to the various DJ songs.  It had disco style lighting, and they all seemed to know the different steps to each song and it was fun to watch.

It was about 11:30 when I gave out, but there were definitely party revelers who had more in the tank!  Tomorrow is Thanksgiving.  I wonder what they'll do for that!  Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

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