The ship's first and only stop in Peru was in a port city called Callao---the same name of a very small town in Virginia.
Callao, Peru, is a lot older, though, founded in 1537 (70 years before Jamestown, Virginia). And it is so large, that it is now part of Greater Lima, the capital of Peru---and Greater Lima has TEN million people living in it.
When we got off the ship, there were police officers telling us to be VERY careful, that it was dangerous to walk around and that we should take care of our things and the children (us!), which scared me.
Callao, Peru, is dusty and dirty. We drove through it as we went to downtown Lima in a taxi. We visited the central plaza in Lima (the "Plaza de Armas"), where a military band was marching.
There were nice old buildings around downtown, and they were all very clean and with fresh paint on them.
There were also people advertising tours to "Cerro San Cristóbal," just like in Santiago, where there is a Cerro San Cristóbal, too.
But we didn't have time for tours and rode the taxi right back to the ship. The driver asked us for 40 soles for the round-trip ride ("sol" in Spanish means sun, and that is the name of Peruvian money).
So: 40 suns for the ride. One dollar is about 2.75 soles, and since we had no Peruvian money with us, Dad paid the man with U.S. dollars, and the nice taxi driver gave us a couple of soles to keep. This is the one sol coin:
After that, when we got back on the ship, there was a show of folkloric music and dance from Peru---local artists who were very good. At the end of their show, they were selling DVDs of their performance. We bought one. You can visit their website here.
Late on my birthday, I did get a gift after all. It was from the kids' counselors, and they just shoved all the things that they give out from the cruise, like T-shirts, mugs, frisbees, little toys, etc., into a nice backpack for me.
We also went to an Italian restaurant for dinner. It was a lot nicer than the buffet. I had pizza and, for dessert, an Italian sweet called Tiramisu (layers of chocolate cake and cream).
On Monday, 21 April, at around 9:30 p.m., we crossed the Equator to the Northern Hemisphere. The next day, the ship organized a silly "Crossing the Equator" ceremony where passengers got whipped cream smeared on their faces. It was fun.
After three days at sea, we arrived at the Pacific entrance of the Panama Canal early in the morning.
The sun was coming up and there were already many ships waiting to cross.
The Canal is like a river with green, jungly islands all around, and some small boats and tugboats in the water, ready to help the big ships pass through.
At the beginning, they hook up the ship to some locomotives with metal ropes...
...and they help you into a chamber called a lock. Once you are in the lock, if you look behind the ship, you see this:
And then, they close the doors:
And the ship starts rising as they fill the chamber with millions of gallons of lake water in just a few minutes. This is what it looks like once the chamber is full:
Then you go into another chamber, and they do the same thing. And then another, and finally, at 85 feet above sea level, they let you into a cut called Culebra (snake):
After the cut, the ship arrived at the main lake, called Gatún Lake.
Below, you can see (from right to left), how we got to Gatún Lake at the center of the Panama Canal, going up from the Pacific Ocean:
After the lake, we reached another lock with three chambers to go down the 85 feet back to sea level, on the Atlantic Ocean side.
As we went through the Canal (it took 12 hours!), a lady narrated the history and details:
When we finally made it through the last chamber and reached the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea, it was already dark:
The other night, the entertainment show on the ship was the "Skinny German Juggler," whom we had seen before on the other ship.
He is very good, and he tells jokes while juggling---on a unicycle, a juggling pin, a dagger with a piece of gum stuck on the end of it, and a plunger! He finished by eating the piece of gum.
The next day, he gave juggling classes, and I went. We started with one handkerchief---just throwing it from one hand to the other, then with two, throwing one diagonally in the air and then the other.
Finally, with three handkerchiefs, starting with two in one hand and one in the other. It worked for me then, but when I tried it later with rolled-up socks instead of handkerchiefs, I couldn't catch them in time.
On this cruise I also had some friends my age. We played soccer with a beach ball in the hallways until other passengers started to complain.
We also played basketball on the court (until it got too windy to play), rode the elevators (until it got boring), pretended we were triplets from Connecticut, and made little shoes out of napkins and put them in the elevators until we were all out of things to do.
We usually had breakfast and lunch together, and stayed up late, going to the disco (not REALLY my thing, but I just went anyway). My friends were always talking about what they were going to wear for dinner, for the disco, this dress and these boots would match, etc.
Finally, we had a fun sleepover on the next-to-last night of the trip.
After the Panama Canal, we stopped in Puerto Limon, Costa Rica. It is a very tropical place full of tourists.
There wasn't much to do there, though. But we did see a sloth on a tree in the central plaza:
It was very hot that day, and for refreshment, people sold fresh coconut milk on the street:
The last stop before Boston was Key West, Florida, and since my Chilean grandparents, aunt, and uncle live in Florida, they all came to Key West to meet us and have lunch together.
My aunt and grandparents gave me a compass (a golden one!), some books in Spanish for both of us, a board game, a dress, and a bathing suit.
We spoke in Spanish, which was fun after speaking all English on the ship. To keep it up and practice, I have been calling my best friend in Chile and reading lots in Spanish. I plan to keep doing that.
One of the first things we saw when we got off the ship in Key West:
There are many roosters like this one roaming around the city.
We also saw a very nice neighborhood called Truman Annex, where we found "The Little White House," a place where some presidents of the USA have spent time:
Also, there was some kind of art museum with huge sculptures outside:
Dad said that this one is based on a famous painting called "American Gothic." You can learn more about it here.
And in Key West, the taxis are pink!
The ship arrived in Boston on the first of May, and everyone got off, even the crew on vacation because it is the end of the season.
Mom, RJE, and I had to wait out on the street for THREE hours while Dad got lost in downtown Boston trying to get a rental car back to the port to drive south.
We drove to my American grandparents' home in Maryland and, on the way, saw parts of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware.
We are in Maryland now and happy to be here. I went shopping with my grandmother and got two of the "Spiderwick Chronicles" books. The movie I went to see with my friends for my goodbye party in Santiago was about one of these books.
Well, I think this is it for RatSoap! It's the end of our journey.
I have finished all the "Anna Karenina" drawings, but they won't be on RatSoap for a little while because Dad still has to get them ready in Photoshop and add the text adaptation (he's the expert on all that).
There are two more groups of drawings to finish the story, and Dad hopes to have them ready soon.
When that happens, we will have one last posting on RatSoap, to finish the story of "Anna Karenina."
Thank you for reading RatSoap during all these months!
May 3, 2008
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The RatSoap™ Project is a work in progress, 2006-2008