We are truly, truly blessed!
Here I sit in the tiny backyard of our Italy home. Before me dozens of shades of green and yellow colour the small valley, at the bottom of which an unseen stream melodiously flows. Behind me, the 800 year old house that for its first half millennium of existence served as a bishop's home, proudly stands. Inside, each member of the family is busy: my mother is preparing food, my father is updating our financial records, Charlie is reading the final book in the Mark of the Lion Trilogy and Dawie is somewhere in Dawie-world. We are content!
Before I continue, let me elaborate a little on contentment...my favourite emotion. It's a sense of knowing where you are, of being absolutely certain that is exactly where you want to be and being completely happy with it. It is something that is interconnected with your surroundings, yet strangely independent of them. A strange combination of overwhelming peace and overflowing joy, despite (and yet because of) everything that happens around you. (If you do not at all understand, I blame it on the fact that I am a high "C" and should therefore be incapable of effectively communicating my emotions. J)
Contentment is a way of life that enhances living. It is therefore something to be practiced ceaselessly. Yet, there are times when it just overtakes you and you cannot help but feel entirely content! These times are those that I never forget and treasure most dearly in my life. They are not necessarily the times that I learn or accomplish the most, but they are the moments that I know God just smiles on me and delivers a big box of chocolates...not to be analysed or efficiently used, but to simply be enjoyed in His presence. They are times of sanctuary.
Though most of this tour is characterised by contentment, 3 times of sanctuary I'll remember above the rest: The week at Redstone lake and the two Cruises. Though they were doubtlessly periods deemed by God to just (in Afrikaans: "sommer") bless me, there are certain things they have in common. Things I did or did not do, I mean. By highlighting these things and practicing them in my day to day life, my mathematical and logical mind tells me that I can raise the overall level of contentment (and of pleasing God) in my life. Now, understand that I might not get the result to the same degree that I receive it in times of sanctuary, but even in seasons of hard work and even hardship, I believe I have the capacity for more. More blessings. More pleasing God. More love. More joy. More peace. More contentment.
But, more on that later. Right now, I'm bursting to tell of all He's done!!!
I'll start with a quick mention of my birthday. Boy, was it blessed!!! I got up to the (not all to perfect, but yet lovely) sound of my family's attempt at singing. I enjoyed a fast-paced run beside the Mediterranean. (Please don't criticise my choice of morning pastime on my birthday. I've been looking forward to a decent run since our half marathon in Chicago.) A BIG breakfast was dished up next, followed by presents! The highlight: my Swiss army knife that was lost and now is found. A wonderful swim in the salty sea (pardon me, extremely, tremendously, enormously, particularly, exceptionally, exceedingly salty sea) preceded our journey to Vieux Port. The sightseeing and meal there was divine. There also, did I finally have access to the internet and could I quickly copy and paste all greetings and best wishes from everyone to read later.
A few hours playing Tradewinds back home (again, please don't criticise my boyish taste) and a last couple of hugs from the family ended the day (for them at least.) With the family asleep, I went through everyone's greetings and wishes and was I blessed! Finally, I sat in the small courtyard by our front door, gazing at the full moon and praising the Lord to the tunes of the African Children's Choir till 12.
Thank you to everyone who made my day so GREAT!
That was Thursday. On Saturday, we embarked on our second cruise of the tour. This time cruising the Western Mediterranean aboard the MSC Fantasia.
The ship is one of MSC's newest - and largest – vessels. Her 18 deck, 333,3m long bulk has curves at all the right places and is by far the most beautiful ship I have ever laid eyes on. Decks 7, 14, 15, 16 and 18 are public decks, decks 8 to 13 (and 17) cabin decks and decks 5 and 6 a little bit of both.
Deck 14 from stern to bow houses the brilliantly decorated L'Africana and Zanzibar Cafeterias, the out- and in-door pools, as well as the spa and fitness centre (Looking out the front windows of a 150 ton ship does motivate you while you're pumping iron or raking in the miles). Decks 15, 16 and 18 (the solarium) are mainly speckled with sunbathing beds. Deck 15 astern is the no-noisy-children allowed "zen-zone".
Deck 16 is the sports deck, with ping-pong, squash, fussball, shuffleboard and a small soccer field. It also contains the poorly located disco. Why an area used only at night (and closed during the day) is located on the one place on the ship with the best view of both the ship itself and the oceans she cruises, I fail to understand. But that's Europeans for you. J
Time to venture down below. On deck 7 the L'Insolito Lounge takes up the stern. Nestled between it and the ships atrium a little forward is a speciality restaurant with a red wine feel to it, a tex-mex restaurant and the photo shop.
The atrium is directly beneath the outdoor pool. It is an open space from deck 9 to deck 5. On deck 5 are the reception and Fantasia bar, where the music in the evenings consists of either violin, piano or an extremely popular Spanish trio. Up the Swarovski stairs another green bar graces deck 6. Up yet another flight of crystal steps, deck 7 contains a cappuccino bar.
Further to the front on the same deck, the portside sports bar and starboard side Manhattan jazzbar are to be found.
After them are the Il'Atlantico bar and the L'Anguardia Theatre. The theatre consumes the bow from deck 7 to 5. Walking backwards on deck 6 from the theatre, you pass through the casino, shopping island, atrium and dual-deck Red Velvet Restaurant.
Our evening restaurant, the Something-something d'oro (all those Italian names confuse me) looks out the stern of deck 6, but can only be accessed via deck 7. The ships library and business centre is between the Red Velvet and atrium on deck 5.
And that is the MSC Fantasia in a nutshell.
Now, as far as I can remember, this is where I stopped in my recollection of our Alaskan Cruise. Keeping to tradition, this shall be partly true now. This time round, however, you are most certainly going to get a Med Cruise Volume 2. As far as my mention of contentment is concerned, I shall elaborate in my "What I've learned" post on Marseille. (Which should not be too far in this future, since I am already drafting Singapore...)