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Thursday, July 20, 2017

Baltic Cruise - A Rough Beginning

Dear Family and Friends,

By the time we boarded the ship we were both so tired all we did was want to sleep.

The next day the ship was in Kiel, Germany.  I chose to stay on board the ship, I still needed to get rest and heal.  I took these pictures from the veranda of our cabin but honestly, I do not remember even doing that.



It is my best guess that these are pictures of Kiel.  Luckily, I had been to Kiel just about three or four years ago so it wasn't so bad that I missed it this time.



The seagulls are fishing as our ship stirred up the water.




Here are our wonderful travel companions, Jim, our brother in law


and Chuck's sister, Audrey.


I guess staying on board helped me out.  I don't look too sick in this picture.


The next day was a day at sea.  This gave me another day to get over all those flights.  We went to Tallinn, Estonia and I will be sharing it with you next time.

Love,
Nancy

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Health Issues

Dear Family and Friends,

One thing I forgot in the posts I did about Japan is that the very day we arrived in Tokyo we received an email to join a group on a cruise of the Baltic and the North Sea.  We were a bit hesitant to accept because we would not be back home in Ecuador until May 25th.  The cruise started out of Copenhagen, Denmark on June 10th.  The price was right and at that time I was feeling great, so we decided to do a quick turn around in Ecuador and take the cruise.  Chuck emailed his sister, Audrey and she and Jim signed on for the cruise also.

We have racked up quite a bit of sky miles so we decided to use them for the flight to Copenhagen.  I called Delta from Tokyo via Skype.  They booked us out of Quito on KLM.  A direct Quito to Amsterdam flight and then a short flight to Copenhagen.  Great!!  We booked the flight to arrive in Copenhagen a couple of days before the cruise started so we could see the city a bit.

In the second half of the cruise from Tokyo to Vancouver I started feeling more dizzy.  I also felt a little bit of constant nausea.  I tended to take a nap every day.  I just didn't feel up to par.

We docked in Vancouver on Sunday, May 21st.  We got off the ship early and took a taxi to the airport.  When we arrived in Vancouver, I still felt under the weather so Matt and Chuck handled my luggage along with theirs.

We flew two short flights to get to Richland, WA.  Vancouver to Seattle and then Seattle to Pasco.  The first flight took about an hour and the second flight about half that.

When we arrived at the airport in Pasco, Chuck went to the car rental and Matt and I waited for our luggage to be thrown.  As we waited I started feeling really weird.

Chuck got our rental car and we got our luggage.  It was a little walk to get to where our rental car was parked.  I got my roll aboard and started towards the car park.  All of a sudden I couldn't control anything.  I felt like my head was about a foot in front of my body and I felt like I was walking at an angle to keep up.  I couldn't stop or even slow down.  As I went by a pole I put my arm out and caught myself on that.  There was a bench there and Chuck had me sit there while he went to get the car.

Chuck and Matt helped me get into the car.  We went directly to the hotel and I got into bed.  I couldn't control any of my body movements.  It was such an awful feeling.

We were due to fly back to Ecuador three days later on Wednesday the 24th. Even though I had no pain, I knew my problems were in my ears.  I felt awful, but really wanted to get back home.

Wednesday morning we were at the airport for 6AM flight but I could not do it.  I felt like I had the flu, maybe I even had fever.  I knew if I flew all the way to Ecuador with my ear problem no telling what shape I would be in when I finally got home.

Chuck rescheduled our return to Ecuador for the following Monday.  Delta was great about it and didn't charge us anything for the change of dates.

Chuck made sure I would have wheelchair access all the way to Ecuador on Monday.

We had already checked out of our hotel, but we went back and they were kind enough to let us have our room until check out time...noon.  I slept for awhile and when I woke up we went to a doc-in-a-box clinic to get me some help.

Yes, I did have fever and after examining my right ear, the doctor said I had an inner ear infection.  He didn't look in my left ear because he said there was too much wax.

He gave me a prescription for an antibiotic to be taken for 10 days.  He said I should feel better in a few days but to continue with the antibiotic for the full 10 days.

We checked into a hotel to rest for the next couple of days.  I had no appetite and slept a lot.  On Wednesday morning I felt a small bit better so we went to airport to give it another try.

I successfully got to Quito with wheelchair assistance.  We stayed in the airport lounge until our flight the following morning.  It was a miserable night for me. The next morning, Thursday, we took the early flight to Cuenca.

When we arrived home I went straight to bed and slept the rest of the day.

Friday, I felt no better. I had been on the antibiotics for almost a week and I was not getting better.

We went to the Monte Sani hospital emergency room.

They took me right away.  I explained to the nurse that I was sick because of my ear.  That I was on medication but I it wasn't helping.  She took my blood pressure and left for a moment.  She came back and said an ear specialist would be seeing me in about twenty minutes.

When the doctor came I told him about the antibiotics I had been on. He looked into my ears and said he wanted to do some tests.  He said the antibiotics were not doing me any good because I had an inflammation, not an infection. He sent me to a laboratory across the street.  They tested my hearing and balance.  They even cleaned the wax out of my left ear so they could see inside. When the tests were over they came with a wheelchair to take me to his office.

He told me that I had a severe viral inflammation in my ears...the left ear was worse than my right ear.

I told him about our plans to go to Copenhagen, Denmark in about a week. I had decided to not go on the trip.

He told me there was no reason not to go.  He said he would put me in the hospital over night and give me medication via IV that would kick start my recovery and I would feel much better by morning.

We went back across the street to the hospital and they put me in a room and started the IV.  I was there over night with the medicine going into my vein.  By morning I did indeed feel better.

The doctor came by and released me.  He said go on your trip and have fun.  He gave me tons of medicine to start taking.  He said that this would take a long time to heal but I was now on the road to recovery.

This was on a Friday and our flight to Quito was on Monday. We were scheduled to fly out of Quito on Tuesday, arriving in Copenhagen on Wednesday. Our cruise left on Saturday.

I called Delta once again and asked to change the reservation so that we arrived in Copenhagen on Friday.

The changes were made and we now were leaving Cuenca on Wednesday.  I had time, with the help of Lourdes, to get the laundry done and repack for the next cruise.  Each day I was feeling a little better.

On Wednesday, we flew to Quito. We stayed in a hotel downtown, but instead of acting like tourists, we just took it easy.  Had a nice dinner out.  The next day, Thursday, we headed to the airport for our 4:00pm KLM flight.

When we went to check in at the KLM counter, they could not find where we were returning to Quito.  I told them I had email confirmation from Delta about our return flight, but that did not work.  They closed the counter one hour before the flight and we were not able to get on it.

We decided to go across the street from the airport to regroup and get a bite to eat.  I called Delta again using Skype.  Again, they were very understanding and rerouted us through the U.S.  We were now on the midnight Delta flight out of Quito to Atlanta.  Then Atlanta to New York, and after a six hour lay over, from NY to Copenhagen.

The new routing had us arriving in Copenhagen about 7 am on Saturday, the day our cruise was leaving.

We had already booked a hotel at the Copenhagen airport for Friday night.

We left Quito around midnight on Thursday and arrived in Atlanta, went through immigration and rechecked our luggage.  Neither one of us were able to sleep on the flight.  We were starting to get pretty tired.  We went and had breakfast and then it was time to board the plane for New York.

Again, not able to sleep on this flight either.  Now we are in New York with a 6 hour lay over.  We are both very tired.  I knew I was too exhausted to sit around for 6 hours so we went to the SkyClub and asked if we could use it even though we were flying on Sky Miles.  To our surprise and delight they said sure.

I went over to a nice lounge chair and immediately fell asleep.  I slept for about 3 hours.  It was enough to help me make it to next flight.

We flew from New York to Copenhagen which is an 8 hour flight.  During this flight I got sick again.  I felt like I had a bad flu.  I knew what it was, I felt this way just the week before.  I think all the changes in air pressure on so many different flights was taking it's toll. Neither Chuck or I got any sleep on the way to Copenhagen.

We arrived about 7am and went across the street and checked into our prepaid hotel room.  We both fell into the bed and slept until about 10:30am.  Jumped up, showered and met the tour bus at 11am to take us to the ship.

I will start sharing about our next trip in the next post.

Love,
Nancy















Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Matt's Vacation - Petropavlovsk, Russia

Dear Family and Friends,

After two more days at sea, we made our final port before crossing the Bering sea to Vancouver, Canada.  Our last stop was in Petropavlovsk, Russia, a city located on the Kamchatskt peninsular.  It is located just above Japan on the far eastern side of Russia.

We did not have to worry about having a visa in our U.S. passports to visit this city because it is the second largest city in the world that is not reachable by road.  You can fly there, or come as we did, by boat.  It is surrounded by high mountains.

We took a tour from the ship.  We were taken by bus to their local attractions. Below is a statue of St. Nicholas.


We went to their local museum which told about the wildlife and early life in this part of the world.

Below, you can see actual mastodon tusks that have been found. The tusks are a minimum of 10,000 years old.  The sever cold ground kept them from decaying.


We went up a mountain to get a view of the city below.  Here is Matt pointing out where we came from, Tokyo.


Here is one of the two volcanos visible from the city.  I thought we were in Siberia, but our tour guide said NO.  I think I may have offended her.  It is quite cold there.  It was middle of May and there was still snow in a lot of places.


We saw their new Russian Orthodox church.  It has just been completed and they are deservedly very proud of it.


The weather, being severe, makes fresh fruits and vegetables quite scarce.  This is a town of 200,000 residents and this is the market.  The prices were very high.


We were able to go into their small shopping mall.  Matt found this warm Russian hat.  He put it on and wore it until we were back on the ship.  He was so happy to find it because he walks to work and in the winter it is quite cold in eastern Washington.


Here is a statue of Peter and Paul.  The town Petropavlovsk is named after them.
You can see another volcano in the background.


Yes, Matt, that head of yours is going to stay toasty warm next winter.


I have been to Russia numerous times.  I have watched as it has evolved from the early post Soviet era to the beautiful buildings of today in St. Petersburg and Moscow.  I felt Petropavlovsk has been left behind and I had a since of the earlier times, lot of Soviet style, drab looking, block housing.  This is probably because of it's isolation.

We spent the next five days sailing to Vancouver, Canada.  Well, maybe it was five days, we crossed the international date line and ended up having two Mondays in a row.

I will share about my health issues in the next post.

Love,
Nancy

Monday, July 17, 2017

Matt's Vacation - Hakodate and Sapporo Japan

Dear Family and Friends,

Our first stop was in Hakodate, Japan.  We had the warmest welcome by local school girls.  They practiced their English with us and welcomed us to their city.


We went on a ship tour to Onuma National Park.  We had a fun hike along the wooded trails.  The park has several lakes.




You can rent a paddle boat for a do-it-yourself lake tour.


Or, you can take a mini cruise on a river boat. That is what we did.




It was an overcast, grey day, but we enjoyed the tour in spite of the weather.


After our boat trip, we had a wonderful Japanese hibachi salmon lunch.


From there, we went into the town of Hakodate.  We went up Goryokaku Tower that let us overlook a old star shaped fortress that has been turned into a beautiful park.


Lastly, we went up a cable car to Mt. Hakodate's observatory and had some fantastic views, again, in spite of the heavy overcast skies.



After a sea day we stopped in Sapporo, Japan.  We had the opportunity to go on a brewery tour but decided to check out the local Dalso store. (same as a dollar store)  We wanted to shop there before we left Japan and this was our last opportunity.

After shopping we went to the local fish market and had a delightful lunch of king crab.  Of course there was Sapporo beer involved.



After lunch we toured the market before making our way back to the ship.




My dizzy spells seemed to be better.  I was able to do all the tours and get by.

Love,
Nancy

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Matt's Vacation - The Cruise Begins

Dear Family and Friends,

Sunday morning, we gathered our things and went out on the street, hailed a taxi and went to Yokohama to board our ship.

We had to wait our turn to check in.  Somebody was extremely happy to be boarding the ship



Some of the luggage waiting to be transported to the ship.


Although we boarded the ship, the Celebrity Millennium, on Sunday, we did not leave on the cruise until Monday afternoon.

We took a day tour, offered by the ship, to Kamakura.

First we visited the Kotokuin Temple to see the Great Buddha of Kamakura, 36 feet tall.


The Great Buddha is made of bronze. It is the second largest bronze buddha statue in Japan.

The statue was cast in 1252 and was originally located inside a large temple. The temple was destroyed by a tsunami in1495.  Since then the Buddha has been out in the open.

Buddha one and Buddha two.


Next we went to see the Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine.

Below is one of several gates to the Shrine.


Inside the grounds, was this structure.  It is a place to wash your hands and face before entering the Shrine.



Here is Chuck doing his duty.


Below is a wires with O-mikuji tied on them. O-mikuji are random fortunes written on strips of paper at most Japanese Shrines. People pay a small amount of money, select a strip of paper from a box which has their fortune written on it. They can then tie the fortune to a tree or, as in this case, a wire to ensure the fortune has a greater effect.

Stairs way leading to the Shrine.


Matt paying respect inside the Shrine.


On our way back to the ship, we passed a China town.  Wow! I had never thought that there might be a China town in Japan.  This China town in located in Yokohama and is the largest one in Japan.


We boarded the ship and awaited our departure.

As the ship sailed away from the port, there were several people waving us off.


I think this is a tug boat.


We had a room located at the back of the ship.  I was standing, looking out the back of the ship, when I realized within a few moments that I was feeling dizzy.
It was the first time ever I have felt seasick.


It seemed to be better when I went inside our cabin.  I did not know that this was only the beginning.  More about that later.

Love,
Nancy

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Matt's Vacation - See No Evil, Hear No Evil and Speak No Evil

Dear Family and Friends,

Matt wanted to take the bullet train somewhere just for the experience, but since it was Golden Week and the Japanese were on vacation, all the bullet trains were already booked.

We decided to take the regular train to Nikko.  Nikko is a small tourist town, located about a two hour train ride, in the wooded hills north of Tokyo. It is an excellent place to go on a day trip from the big city.

The train we took was very crowded with tourists, all Japanese.  When we got to Nikko we asked at the information desk in the train station how to get to the famous Toshugu shrine nearby.  He said normally you would take the tourist bus, but there is so much car traffic, you would probably do better to walk.

It was about a 30 minute uphill walk on the main road out of town.  Since I am gravity enhanced it took us a longer.  Sure enough, just as we walked out of the little town there were cars bumper to bumper with the tourist bus just sitting in the line. We finally arrived at the entrance of the Toshugu Shrine.

This is the Shinkyo bridge, it stands at the entrance to the shrine. This bridge was constructed in 1636.


The walk ways inside the shrine were well paved, but again, all uphill.  The towering cedars were beautiful to see along the walk.


There are Toshugu shrines all over Japan, but this one outside of Nikko is the most famous.


At the shrine is the 300 year old carving of the "three wise monkeys" in their "see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil" pose. I learned this ancient carving is where the famous monkeys covering their eyes, ears and mouth originated.


Going downhill back to the Nikko train station was breeze since it was all downhill.

The next day we we went on a boat cruse of the Sumida river in Tokyo.  Here are three other monkeys waiting to board the boat.


The tour boat had a glass top and big glass windows along the side.  We found ourselves in a sea of Japanese tourists.  Chuck rented us an audio guide so we could get the narration in English.


Seeing Tokyo's river front was very enjoyable.  We had just missed the cherry blossoms by just a couple of weeks but the flowers were beautiful along the river walk.




After the river tour, we had a fun lunch at a traditional Japanese sushi house.


We went home and packed our bags because the next day we were boarding our cruise ship for our two week journey across the Bering sea to Vancouver, Canada.